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We Do This for Rekia

Sunday, April 12, 2015 By Kelly Hayes, Transformative Spaces | Op-Ed
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Chicago Light Brigade action at the Art Institute of Chicago. (Photo: Kelly Hayes)Chicago Light Brigade action at the Art Institute of Chicago. (Photo: Kelly Hayes)

"We do this for Marissa! We do this for Tanesha! We do this for Mike Brown! We do this for Rekia! We do this for Damo! We do this till We Free Us!" – Black Youth Project 100 protest chant

This week, the trial of Dante Servin began in Chicago. Of the many people who are shuffled through our courts each week, Servin has the unlikely distinction of being a Chicago police detective who was actually charged with a crime after gunning down a Black woman. No reasonable person could question the egregiousness of Servin's behavior. Upset about the amount of noise he claimed a group of young people were making in a nearby park, Servin recklessly fired over his shoulder at a crowd while sitting in his car. Rekia Boyd died less than 24 hours after being struck in the head by one of the five rounds Servin fired.

It is important to note that the even these circumstances, by themselves, would not have been enough to bring Servin to trial. It has taken years of advocacy and struggle on the part of Rekia's family, and their supporters, to bring this matter to the brink of some legal resolution. Their dedication in pursuing this case has been unwavering, but even with the facts and the law on their side, they have entered this stage of the legal process knowing that facts and the law are rarely enough to convict a police officer. All the same, they remain steadfast in their commitment to taking their fight, waged in Rekia's name, the last mile of the way.

Not long before the trial began, members of The Chicago Light Brigade and local organizer Brit Schulte spoke to Rekia's brother, Martinez, about how his family was coping, and how we could best honor their struggle. "My sister was murdered," he said. "Murdered right behind the detective's house. And the only thing that they can tell us is that she's innocent. It hurts every time we talk about it because we miss her so much. She was such a lively and vibrant spirit."

Yesterday, I read a piece by my friend Mariame Kaba, who had attended a rally for Rekia earlier in the day, just before Servin's trial began. Her words struck a painful chord with me, and with many who organize around issues of police violence:

"There is in fact a hierarchy of oppression as Black women, Black trans and gender nonconforming people have even less access to limited sympathy than do cis heterosexual Black men. To deny this is to be a liar. When we call out 'who will keep our sisters?' too often we are greeted with one or two lone voices in the wilderness but usually with silence."

As an indigenous woman, whose murdered sisters are far too easily forgotten, and as someone who worries daily for my Black friends in this city, I felt those words deeply. I wanted to reach out to Mariame, and offer her some words of comfort. I wanted to say something to comfort us all, as we continue to process so much violence and resist so much forgetting. But I could not. If there were any words for such a moment, they weren't mine to say.

But tonight, after a great deal of discussion and reflection, my friends and I decided to offer what we could to those who are mourning, discouraged, and in need of hope. We decided to offer a bit of light and action, in the hopes that seeing a message for Rekia projected in the night sky, in the heart of our city, might make them feel a little less disheartened, and a little less alone. It's a small offering, to be sure, but it is one that is made with love, and with a great deal of hope.

(Photo: Kelly Hayes)(Photo: Kelly Hayes)

We know our friends and allies are tired, and that our shared struggles can strain even the most resilient among us, but we also know that what we are doing together matters, and must continue. As the young organizers of Black Youth Project 100 so poetically remind us, "We do this till We free us."

This piece was reprinted by Truthout with permission or license. It may not be reproduced in any form without permission or license from the source.

Kelly Hayes

Kelly Hayes is Truthout's social media strategist, as well as a contributing writer. She is also a direct action trainer and a cofounder of The Chicago Light Brigade and the direct action collective Lifted Voices. Kelly's contribution to Truthout's anthology Who Do You Serve, Who Do You Protect? stems from her work as an organizer and her ongoing analysis of movements in the United States. Her work can also be found on her blog, Transformative Spaces, in Yes! Magazine, BGD and the BGD anthology The Solidarity Struggle: How People of Color Succeed and Fail At Showing Up For Each Other In the Fight For Freedom. Kelly is also a movement photographer whose work is featured in the "Freedom and Resistance" exhibit of the DuSable Museum of African American History.

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We Do This for Rekia

Sunday, April 12, 2015 By Kelly Hayes, Transformative Spaces | Op-Ed
  • font size decrease font size decrease font size increase font size increase font size
  • Print

Chicago Light Brigade action at the Art Institute of Chicago. (Photo: Kelly Hayes)Chicago Light Brigade action at the Art Institute of Chicago. (Photo: Kelly Hayes)

"We do this for Marissa! We do this for Tanesha! We do this for Mike Brown! We do this for Rekia! We do this for Damo! We do this till We Free Us!" – Black Youth Project 100 protest chant

This week, the trial of Dante Servin began in Chicago. Of the many people who are shuffled through our courts each week, Servin has the unlikely distinction of being a Chicago police detective who was actually charged with a crime after gunning down a Black woman. No reasonable person could question the egregiousness of Servin's behavior. Upset about the amount of noise he claimed a group of young people were making in a nearby park, Servin recklessly fired over his shoulder at a crowd while sitting in his car. Rekia Boyd died less than 24 hours after being struck in the head by one of the five rounds Servin fired.

It is important to note that the even these circumstances, by themselves, would not have been enough to bring Servin to trial. It has taken years of advocacy and struggle on the part of Rekia's family, and their supporters, to bring this matter to the brink of some legal resolution. Their dedication in pursuing this case has been unwavering, but even with the facts and the law on their side, they have entered this stage of the legal process knowing that facts and the law are rarely enough to convict a police officer. All the same, they remain steadfast in their commitment to taking their fight, waged in Rekia's name, the last mile of the way.

Not long before the trial began, members of The Chicago Light Brigade and local organizer Brit Schulte spoke to Rekia's brother, Martinez, about how his family was coping, and how we could best honor their struggle. "My sister was murdered," he said. "Murdered right behind the detective's house. And the only thing that they can tell us is that she's innocent. It hurts every time we talk about it because we miss her so much. She was such a lively and vibrant spirit."

Yesterday, I read a piece by my friend Mariame Kaba, who had attended a rally for Rekia earlier in the day, just before Servin's trial began. Her words struck a painful chord with me, and with many who organize around issues of police violence:

"There is in fact a hierarchy of oppression as Black women, Black trans and gender nonconforming people have even less access to limited sympathy than do cis heterosexual Black men. To deny this is to be a liar. When we call out 'who will keep our sisters?' too often we are greeted with one or two lone voices in the wilderness but usually with silence."

As an indigenous woman, whose murdered sisters are far too easily forgotten, and as someone who worries daily for my Black friends in this city, I felt those words deeply. I wanted to reach out to Mariame, and offer her some words of comfort. I wanted to say something to comfort us all, as we continue to process so much violence and resist so much forgetting. But I could not. If there were any words for such a moment, they weren't mine to say.

But tonight, after a great deal of discussion and reflection, my friends and I decided to offer what we could to those who are mourning, discouraged, and in need of hope. We decided to offer a bit of light and action, in the hopes that seeing a message for Rekia projected in the night sky, in the heart of our city, might make them feel a little less disheartened, and a little less alone. It's a small offering, to be sure, but it is one that is made with love, and with a great deal of hope.

(Photo: Kelly Hayes)(Photo: Kelly Hayes)

We know our friends and allies are tired, and that our shared struggles can strain even the most resilient among us, but we also know that what we are doing together matters, and must continue. As the young organizers of Black Youth Project 100 so poetically remind us, "We do this till We free us."

This piece was reprinted by Truthout with permission or license. It may not be reproduced in any form without permission or license from the source.

Kelly Hayes

Kelly Hayes is Truthout's social media strategist, as well as a contributing writer. She is also a direct action trainer and a cofounder of The Chicago Light Brigade and the direct action collective Lifted Voices. Kelly's contribution to Truthout's anthology Who Do You Serve, Who Do You Protect? stems from her work as an organizer and her ongoing analysis of movements in the United States. Her work can also be found on her blog, Transformative Spaces, in Yes! Magazine, BGD and the BGD anthology The Solidarity Struggle: How People of Color Succeed and Fail At Showing Up For Each Other In the Fight For Freedom. Kelly is also a movement photographer whose work is featured in the "Freedom and Resistance" exhibit of the DuSable Museum of African American History.