Every time a black man is killed in America, my mind goes to Emmett Till and I have been thinking about him a lot since the Sandra Bland and Samuel Dubose killings.
The circumstances are way different but the underlying current are the same; these people lost their lives for one simple reason; they were black which is why simple traffic offences have ended in homicides or suicide ruled homicide.
Who is Emmet Till? Well, here is a little history.
Emmet Till was a black American boy who was brutally murdered in the American South on August 28, 1955.
Emmett was fourteen when he was sent by his mother to spend the summer in Mississippi with his great Uncle Moses Wright. As he set out on that fateful journey from Chicago where he lived with his mother, Emmett was advised by his mother to “mind his manners” with white folk.
Emmett seemed not to have taken much stock of the warning because he was accused of whistling or making a pass at a married white woman while in a shop where he and other black youths had stopped by for refreshments after a hard day picking cotton.
When the woman’s husband returned from a trip and was informed of what happened, he and a cousin abducted the young boy and along with other unidentified accomplices beat the boy, gouged out an eye, shot him and then threw him into the Tallahatchie River after weighing him down with a cotton gin.
The lynching provoked widespread condemnation and when his mother laid him in state, an estimated 50,000 people were said to have paid their respects.
Rappers like David Banner and Nas have eulogized Emmet Til in their songs. Banner, who hails from Mississippi often calls attention to the story of Emmett Till as a means of bearing witness and saying Never Again! Others like Kanye West have referenced Emmett Till not for political reasons but as a reminder of the gruesome injuries West suffered in a career and life defining car crash. In “Through The Wire” Kanye West raps: “On the plane, scared as hell that her guy look like Emmett Till.”
Nobel Laureate Toni Morrison has a play, Dreaming Emmett based on the story of the fourteen year old Emmett Till. The play premiered January 4, 1986 at the Marketplace Theater in Albany.
American poet, Gwendolyn Brooks also has a poem dedicated to Emmett Till. In “The Last Quatrain of the Ballad of Emmett Till” Brooks writes:
After The Murder,
After The Burial…
Emmett’s mother is a pretty-faced thing;
the tint of pulled taffy.
She sits in a red room,
drinking black coffee.
She kisses her killed boy.
And she is sorry.
What has Emmett Till got to do with the killing of black folks by American police? Well, look at the disproportionate responses to alleged crimes by black people by white police and how those minor offences end up with the black person dead.
How does a woman who forgot to indicate a lane change end up on the kerb, manhandled and then dead a few days later from suicide. Sandra Bland in a recorded voice message to her friend expressed the same wonder at how everything had escalated out of control.
The Dubose killing and the lie by the police officer who said Dubose ‘dragged him’ along before he shot Dubose in the head has, once again thrust this issue to the font burner.
When will black blood stop watering American soil?
See below a bloody timeline for 2015.
|ZACHARY HAMMOND||JULY 26||SOUTH CAROLINA|
|SAMUEL DUBOSE||JULY 19||OHIO|
|SANDRA BLAND||JULY 13||TEXAS.|
|SPENCER MCCAIN||JUNE 25||MARYLAND|
|TAMARA SEIDLE||JUNE 16||NEW JERSEY|
|KRIS JACKSON||JUNE 15||CALIFORNIA|
|SAM HOLMES||MAY 8||MINNESOTA|
|WILLIAM CHAPMAN II||APRIL 22||VIRGINIA|
|WALTER SCOTT||APRIL 4||SOUTH CAROLINA|
|ERIC HARRIS||APRIL 2||OKLAHOMA|
|BRANDON JONES||MARCH 19||CLEVELAND|
|SALOME RODRIGUEZ||MARCH 13||CALIFORNIA|
|TONY ROBINSON||MARCH 6||WISCONSIN|
|DAVID KASSICK||FEB. 2||PENNSYLYVANIA|
|AUTUMN STEELE||JANUARY 6||IOWA|