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Change Has to Come

Just like you I was saddened and sickened at the hearing of the Brelo verdict. In my heart I knew what the outcome would be but in my mind I wanted to hear something different. What will it take for us to realize that we must address all of the issues outlined in the Department of Justice Report dated December 4, 2014? When will African Americans get justice instead of JUST-US?

This isn’t new for my community or me, in 1975 my uncles best friend Wayne Hawkins was gunned down on his front porch by police after his mother called for assistance after a disturbance between Wayne and his stepfather. At 19 he was gone. That loving smile will be forever embedded in my mind as a 7-year-old child I was in shock. Why?

I have also lost my mother, brother and best friend to violence. We have so many families that are hurt and hurting. The community is broken. Trust is lost. The lack of justice in law enforcement is spiraling toward a tipping point. We are supposed to be the “Land of the Free and Home of the Brave” but many of us don’t feel free. The polarizing and stigmatizing effects of unequal treatment by law enforcement has produced fear for the safety of family and friends at the hands of those who take an oath to protect and serve and silence is constructed as community apathy.

We know that mental health, drug abuse and fear disproportionately impacts communities of color, it concerns me that our police are not trained to work with at risk populations. When the officers that are suppose to be patrolling my community fear the very people that they have sworn under oath to protect and serve that is problematic.

Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. stated, “Law and order exist for the purpose of establishing justice and when they fail in this purpose they become the dangerous structured dams that block the flow of social progress.” Passively waiting for change continues to be the enemy of justice.

To my community we must remember “every step toward the goal of justice requires sacrifice, suffering and struggle; the tireless exertions and passionate concern of dedicated individuals” We must work to change Cleveland for our children and grandchildren we should not pass them a baton that is on fire. We must stand because we can no longer sit. We have very little power individually but we are a force to be reckoned with collectively. Please stand with the Northeast Ohio Black Health Coalition as we work to address disparities in health, education, housing and employment.


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