DETROIT – People from across the country convened the first gathering of Families United 4 Justice at Wayne State University.
They held the June 15 event as part of Allied Media’s 19th Annual Conference to build power to achieve justice and reparations for all victims and families affected by police violence.
Key organizers were police reform advocates Cephus “Uncle Bobby” X Johnson of the Love Not Blood Campaign in Oakland, Vanissa “Nissa” Chan of New York, Jasmine Graves of New York, Allen Kwabena Frimpong of Movement Netlab and Black Lives Matter in New York, and Yolanda McNair of Protect Our Stolen Treasures (P.O.S.T.) in Detroit.
Workshops focused on issues including racial justice, addressing shock, obtaining legal assistance, conducting personal investigations, and how to deal with media.
Part of their goal was to build the foundation of a toolkit through the knowledge, wisdom, and experience of families affected by police violence. They want to help others avoid what they’ve experienced, and inform people on how to best advocate for themselves.
Johnson (uncle of Oscar Grant, III.) represented for families from the West Coast.
“This is really emotional for me, for all of you all to be here, under one roof, together,” said Johnson.
Building his momentum to raise awareness about the fight against police violence through FU4J’s first gathering was really profound, he stated.
“It created in me the desire to make sure that we all were connected in some kind of away across the United States,” Johnson continued.
He’s particularly eager to develop the toolkit, especially for others yet to come into their unenviable family unexpectedly, he said.
“All of you know, when it initially happens, what kind of confused state we go in, like myself. I was extremely angry, but somehow God revealed to me the blessing I had the night before Oscar was murdered, to text him, and tell him that I loved him. God loves him. God loves his family. An hour and a half later, he was murdered,” Johnson said.
He collapsed and passed out when he saw the video of when then BART Officer Johannes Mehserle shot his nephew, he shared.
“When I came to, I was so angry! It was that reckless anger, where I wanted to do something to strike them, like take Mehserle out. And I thank God for reminding me of that blessing, so for all of us, it’s important if our spirit is touched with someone that we love, that we reach out to them, and we connect with them, because we never know the hour, time, or minute that it may happen,” Johnson stated.
Nicholas Heyward, Sr. represented for his son, Nicholas, Jr., and gave remarks on behalf of the East Coast families. He said Brooklyn, NY police killed his son, who was playing cops and robbers with a colored toy gun and other children on Sep. 27, 1994.
He felt Johnson’s pain and traveled to L.A. to be with their family during the Mehserle trial. “That’s another thing we’ve got to remember and acknowledge and expose. These are murders. These are not justifiable killings. These are innocent, unarmed people, who are being gunned down by the people who are supposed to be protecting us,” Heyward stated.
Civil Rights Attorneys Angel Harris and Adante Pointer gave the families legal guidance, which included information on how to change legal standards, how, why, and when to call for special prosecutors, and why having community members on jury panels is important.
The dozens who attended FU4J’s conference included Krystal Brown, whose ex-husband Marlon was “executed in a vegetable garden,” said family attorney Benjamin Crump after seeing dash cam video of the May 8, 2013 incident in Deland, FLA.
Andrew Joseph, Jr. and his wife, Deanna’s son was killed Feb. 7, 2014, after he and about 100 teens were ejected from the Florida State Fair in Tampa reportedly after a stampede rushed through.
Law enforcement didn’t allow the 14-year-old to call his parents, nor did they call, the Josephs said. Andrew, III. was struck by an SUV and killed when he tried to cross the interstate to return to the safety of the fairgrounds.
“He was apprehended by the Hillsborough Sheriffs Department. They never charged him with a crime,” said Joseph. “There’s no feeling in the world like having to go to the graveyard to visit your child,” he said.