Voices from August 27... A Challenge to Everyone

“Come to New York City on October 24”
STOP Police Terror!

Updated September 12, 2015 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us


On August 27, 2015, hundreds of people packed the First Corinthian Baptist Church (FCBC) in Harlem, New York City to take up Rise Up October.

People came together this night—families whose loved ones have been murdered by the police; folks from the religious community; college and high school students; people from the neighborhoods; activists, revolutionary communists; and many others—to put out the call and challenge:

WHICH SIDE ARE YOU ON? WHERE WILL YOU BE ON OCTOBER 22-24? Get organized. Come to New York City. Come one, come all. Be part of standing up and saying no more! Change history.

The whole evening provided a dynamic expression of the diversity of outlooks, agendas and philosophical frameworks of those coming together for Rise Up October and of the powerful love, unity, and determination to STOP police terror and make October 22-24 a serious step towards changing everything. Here are voices from those who spoke this night. The full webcast is available at revcom.us and at stopmassincarceration.net.























Get organized.
Come to New York.

Families of those murdered by police... people from the neighborhoods...faith communities... college and high school students...Come one, come all. Be part of standing up and saying no more! Change history.

This will draw a big dividing line in society, posing the question for millions of people: Which Side Are You On? This will give heart to those who suffer this brutality and murder 24-7. And it will open the eyes of many more people in this society who don't suffer this brutality—and challenge them to join in acting to stop it.

Get organizing materials & comprehensive coverage here and at stopmassincarceration.net

Co-MC Nkosi Anderson, graduate student at Union Theological Seminary, #RiseUpOctober Steering Committee

I wish that I could say that we are gathered here tonight for a celebration. But that is not the case. In fact it is quite the opposite. We are in a state of emergency in this country. Broken windows type policing and mass incarceration and the police killings of Black and Brown people are terrorizing our communities. These injustices cannot continue. And so, we are all here tonight to stand together to say: NO MORE. THIS STOPS NOW….

Now I want to emphasize the network component. Tonight’s speakers represent the wide range of perspectives, backgrounds and orientations towards this problem of unjust policing. But here tonight we stand together to fight it. The Stop Mass Incarceration Network is part of the larger movement in this country and around the world to stop police terror. And so are various organizations and individuals in this fight, activists like Black Lives Matter, religious groups, student organizations, etc. We need all hands on deck in this fight. And only by working together can we ever hope to overcome, but overcome we shall. The purpose of this evening is to build momentum for Rise Up October.

Reverend Willie Francois III, assistant pastor at First Corinthian Baptist Church

It is a joy to welcome you to First Corinthian Baptist Church. We open this space to the real moral architects of America, people who are able to see through the smoke and see through the blood and the fire, to see and fight for a world that is feasible, a world where all people are free. That’s why this is a sacred space. And I welcome you to this sacred space. And it is not sacred because of the name that is affixed on the outside, it is not sacred because of the symbols that surround it. But it is sacred because of the work of freedom and justice that it is committed to. Because in this place we know that we cannot say Jesus without also saying justice simultaneously. So we welcome you to this space. This is a sacred space. It is sacred because of the work that it does. So it is important for you to be here today…. And so we welcome you to this place, a sacred place that is sacred because you are here today, and the divinity that is in you, and the power that is in you, and the sacredness that is in you will now add another flame to this movement to end mass incarceration. Because we know police brutality and policing is the front door of mass incarceration. So we’re here today to shut the front door of mass incarceration.

Noche Diaz, Revolution Club, New York City

This has got to stop! This is why we got these shirts on that say “BA Speaks: REVOLUTION—NOTHING LESS!” We’re talking about going up against these monsters and taking this system down without becoming the monsters that we’re fighting... Speaking of monsters, we’re coming up on the 60-year anniversary of the lynching murder of Emmett Till. I remember when I heard Bob Avakian tell the story of Emmett Till when I was 15 years old. I had tears flowing down my cheeks. When I heard about Mamie Till preparing her son to go down to Mississippi, and I heard echoes of my own mother and my own family telling me how I had to walk the streets, right here in New York, in the Bronx, to not be seen as a threat, to not be seen as a “criminal” or a “thug.”

This is a veil of terror that generations have been strangled and suffocated with. And this is what began to be dragged into the light when people began to rise up, starting in Ferguson when the youth took to the streets and said no, not this time, we’re not taking this anymore—and then spreading everywhere. All throughout society, including people who aren’t facing this everyday, standing with them, stepping out with them, saying this has got to stop. And we learned some things about how people have to live in what they tell us is the “great USA.” We learned that we don’t even know the half of how many people they kill every year. The youth who cannot even walk the streets or leave their own homes because of the fear of this police terror. This has got to be the mission of a generation to stop this. Lines began to form in the ashes of the rebellions and that needs to be taken to a whole other level in October where “which side are you on?” becomes the message all throughout society and a whole new generation begins to shake everything up.

Reverend Stephen Phelps

I had an opportunity to meet with [former commissioner of the NYPD] Ray Kelly in his massive offices at One Police Plaza, and I was rather annoyed by my fellow clergy and the softballs they were lobbing at the Commissioner. And I said to him, Commissioner, members of my church, members of my staff—I was then at Riverside Church—are terrified to see your men in blue. Just terrified. This is degrading the whole social fabric. And he said, “Somebody’s gotta pay for safety in this city. Somebody’s gotta pay.” Well, we got rid of him, but we did not get rid of police terrorism....

One of the things that God says according to the traditions is that he hates brutality against the oppressed… What’s it mean if god hates that? Does that mean that we forgive and sit back and wait? I don’t think so. Does it mean “vengeance is mine,” sayeth the Lord, therefore we sit back and wait? Does it mean doom is coming? Sit back and wait for doom? I don’t think so. No, I think there is only one thing that we really need to get into about what God hates. God hates it when people are shaken and refuse to wake up.

Jamal Joseph, former Black Panther, prosecuted as one of the Black Panther 21, Columbia University professor, artist and activist

[After talking about the 1985 NYPD murder of 66-year-old grandmother, Eleanor Bumpurs; the 1973 police murder of 10-year-old Clifford Glover; and a Black man coming home from WW2 in 1943 shot by police in Harlem…]

The history lesson is to say that nothing has changed in terms of state violence and state terror. There has been resistance… But nothing has changed in the way that our Black and Brown boys, men and women, in this case our grandmothers, our girls being slammed on the ground with no respect for their humanity. We are dealing with a state that doesn’t consider us humans, brothers and sisters. Human beings who have treated other human beings like dogs. Slavery has built this country. Built it because it was free labor and people got rich. They got rich off the slave trade…

Police are not here to protect us, they are here to protect property, and so we have to engage this idea. We have to engage this of this insanity that makes the young men and the young women in this room at risk when they step outside of the door. It is insane, it is crazy. We are in an insane asylum. But this is what we are saying. On October 22 to 24, the inmates are about to take over the insane asylum. Sweeping and dynamic change is going to come because from this night we spread forward, and we show the police, we show the state, we show state violence that we are human. All power to the people.

Marsha Coleman-Adebayo, a former senior policy analyst for, and whistle-blower on, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), activist with the DC Hands Up Coalition

I’m so happy to be here. This is a wonderful spiritual moment for us to recommit to our fight for justice… I’d like to tell you why I am supporting Rise Up October. You see, I am the mother of a son who has been stopped by police over 30 times. That means my son’s life has been threatened over 30 times. He has been terrorized by the police in the Washington, DC area. He has suffered severe depression and anxiety. You see, I am every Black mother. Because I don’t know a Black mother whose son has not been terrorized by police. I don’t even think we have the right to call ourselves mothers if we don’t stand up and protect our children. I don’t think we have the right to call ourselves fathers unless we stand up and protect our children… As parents we need to stand up and say either you are going to either take us out or you’re going to stop harassing our children. But you gotta make a choice because it cannot be both.

The mayor of Washington, DC two days ago announced that under a new program, it’s really under a pretext because of the rising crime rate in DC, she’s going to hire 500 more police. She didn’t say: I’m going to create 500 new jobs. No, what she’s doing is she’s putting in place structure to kill and to incarcerate and to terrorize our children. And so the streets of Washington, yesterday and today, we have been in the streets protesting this program. The program will allow police to search the homes of “ex-offenders”—and in Washington, DC, one out of every five Black guys are ex-offenders. Which means that all Black men in DC, essentially, will be covered under this law. So once you are labeled an offender, you are always an offender, there is never an “ex” before your name. So this program will amount to the reactivation of the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850. But instead it will be the Fugitive Slave Act of 2015.

Gina Belafonte, co-director of the SANKOFA Foundation founded by Harry Belafonte

I’m a human being. I come from a legacy of freedom fighters, a legacy that I carry and share with everyone in this room… I come from a family that is rich and multi-cultural. I am unapologetically Black... I am unapologetically WHAT? [audience answers: Black!] Unapologetically? [audience: Black!] We ready, we coming. We ready, we coming.

Are we ready? Are we coming? Are we rising up in October? Which side are you on? You really need to take a look in the mirror and make a very clear and precise choice. You need to educate yourselves and prepare yourselves for this movement. I’m going to get emotional because I went down to Ferguson. I was not prepared. It’s no joke. They think it’s a game, they think it’s a joke. We need to prepare ourselves for this moment. We need to look, truthfully look into the eyes and see another human being there. We need to uplift and shine a light on the most marginalized, our transgendered and gay women; Black gay and transgendered gay women are the most marginalized. Say their names. We need to somehow figure out the way for all of us to deeply understand that as human beings, as long as we are not hurting anyone else, we need to allow ourselves to be all that we choose to be. I want to thank you all…for helping me, to guide me in this struggle, to help me carry on this legacy. I support Rise Up October…. This has got to stop.

Co-MC Kimberli Diaz

When you came in you were handed a rolled-up poster called the Stolen Lives Poster. Can you please open that up and take a look? Now, as you see, on that posters are the names and photos of just a small, small portion of lives that have been stolen across this country for many, many years. Now lift those posters up in the air. This is to symbolically lift up the names and the lives of these beautiful souls that are no longer with us. They are no longer with us because their lives were stolen by police murder and police terror. As we look over these posters, I’m sure you noticed that some of the names and dates that are there are from a long time ago. As some of the other speakers have noted, this isn’t something new. This isn’t something that just started last year with the murder of Michael Brown. This is something that has been going on entirely too long. And this tonight is a declaration that we’re all going to join together to make sure that it stops once and for all. October 24 will be an even bigger gathering to show that this must stop once and for all.

Juanita Young, mother of Malcolm Ferguson, murdered by NYC police March 1, 2000

I’m still trying to get Rivera put away for my son’s murder. In 2000, my son Malcolm, Ferguson was murdered in the Bronx by police officer Luis Rivera, he blew my son’s brains out. The DA Robert Johnson refused to indict this cop. I took the case to civil court. In civil court my attorney was able to get Luis Rivera to truthfully admit what really happened. According to Rivera, he murdered Malcolm for no reason. When you ask why did he shoot him, he says he don’t know. But why is this man still out on the streets today? That’s why I have to keep asking for justice because there is no way this man is still able to walk and be a police officer. And I have to cry everyday because I can’t touch, see or hear my son. My family is destroyed by the loss of their brother… We need to rise up in October. We need to let the people know, we have had enough. We have had enough of y’all coming into our communities and destroying our families. If there's any way possible you can help bring some more families to New York for October 22, 23, and 24th, please do. I come to you as a mother, as a family member. And we as families up here ask you to stand with us.

Mertilla Jones, grandmother of seven-year-old Aiyana Stanley-Jones,
murdered by Detroit cops May 16, 2010

I want to see what side people are on. Aiyana, seven-years-old, asleep—they came in and automatically blew my granddaughter’s brains out in front of me. Like I said, I seen the light of life leave out of Aiyana’s eyes. I never seen anything like this in my life. I don’t care how ghetto they say I am, how hood they say I am. I’ve never seen nothing like that in my life and I hope to never see it again. And I shouldn’t have had to see it on my seven-year-old sleeping. I traveled all the way from Detroit, Michigan to ask everybody: which side are you on?

Sharon Irwin, grandmother of Tony Robinson, killed by Madison, Wisconsin police March 6, 2015

This is my grandson. He was 19. He’s young. He is Black and he is beautiful. And I am here to tell you that they took his life with seven bullets. [The cop] shot him three times, dropped his flashlight, picked it up, shot him three more times, looked at him and shot him again. Tony was unarmed and nothing he did deserved that. I’m looking at all these people, the human side of this. I cry every day. I have to go through hundreds of pages of evidence because they didn’t indict him—they said, no, he didn’t do anything wrong. And I say to you, if you lie to justify your actions, are they justifiable? No. And he lied, and the Madison police lied, and the DA lied. And they disgraced my family, they made us the criminals, they made my grandson a criminal that he was not. And I’m telling you, I’m tired and I’m not standing for this anymore. We are one people. We are the human race. But they are targeting Black folk. I’m sorry, I get very emotional. I feel this this every day. My daughter feels this every day. Our grandchildren feel this every day. Yes, I am from a rich and multicultural family and like she said, I am unapologetically [hands mic to Tony Robinson’s aunt] Black.

We have, as a people, been taught to stay divided, because they can control us easier. Hey, if we stood up, there’s seven billion of us! If we stood up, what could anybody do? It is time to wake up. It is time to see we are not different. We are a people with different cultures and different ways to live. But we are human! And it is time!

Lorien Carter, aunt of Tony Robinson, killed by Madison, Wisconsin police March 6, 2015

The reason Rise Up October is so important is because there ain’t enough room in this church for all of the names. The reason why Rise Up October is so important is because in Madison, Wisconsin we are the number one worst place for minorities to live in this country and the number three “happiest place” in the country. We are the number one city in the entire country for minority youth incarceration, 18 and under. Our population of jail consists of three-fourths Black children. Meanwhile, our population outside consists of eight percent Black people. The truths that they are providing to you are not truths at all. The reason why Rise Up October is so important is because I neglected the facts and my nephew has paid. Because if any one of you, if it makes you feel uncomfortable I’m glad, it should. The blood of all of these people stains your hands, the same way it does mine. My nephew, yes he was biracial. It could be your nephew, it could be your grandchild. This is no longer polarized.

LaToya Howell, mother of 17-year-old Justus Howell, murdered by Zion, Illinois police April 4, 2015

I want you to all be aware of the realness of this tragedy. Every time I come up before all of y’all I don’t know what to say. But every time I look at a young face I think of my son and think of his demise. Every time I see little boys I shed a tear because I know that one day they can grow up and be killed—be killed, taken from us. That means all of our teaching, everything we told them not to do, everything he knew not to do, everything he was and was going to be, was stolen from him. And it’s all because of racist, coward police. It ain’t right. It’s not right. It’s not enough. I can’t stress this enough, it’s not enough to just press “like” on your Facebook status. It’s not enough to just tell somebody: Oh, did you hear about so-and-so, they got killed by the police?

But guess what’s next? We’re going to rise up together as one and fight it together. Otherwise that face that you see passing on the street could look like your boy, could look like your granddaughter, your children. And you could walk around feeling like something was snatched from you. When I heard it—have you ever felt scared and just knew something was wrong and then y’all took that breath and said, whew, I’m glad that wasn’t mine. I never got that chance to breathe. That was my boy laying there in the street. They wouldn’t even let me go back and see him. They wouldn’t let me go in the hospital, they told me repeatedly that he wasn’t in the hospital, that that wasn't my son. But it damn sure was. And that could be yours, you could be here just like me if you don’t stand up and tell the next person that the terror has to stop….

So I ask you all today, which side are you on? Would you stand by the way and watch another kid get gunned down, beaten? Another woman get raped? Would you stand by and act like it ain’t happening? I ask you today to stand up and choose your side. Power to the people. There is power in numbers. Put your fists in the air. Power to the people y’all!

Nicholas Heyward, Sr., father of 13-year-old Nicholas Heyward, Jr., murdered by NYC police September 22, 1994

Rise Up October is something that should have been done many, many Octobers ago. My son was killed—I use the word “killed,” but really he was murdered. Whenever you shoot and kill someone who is unarmed, committed no crimes, no threat to anyone and you shoot and kill that person, that is murder. My son was an honor student. Yesterday, August 26, he would have been 34. It was a very painful day for me, I cried just about half the day. The reality is that Nicholas Jr. is no longer here because of a cowardly cop who shot and killed him while he was playing with his friends an innocent game of cops-and-robbers with a plastic toy gun that didn’t look nothing like a real gun, they were all colorful guns and looked nothing close to a real gun.

Joanne Mickens, mother of Corey Mickens, murdered by NYPD March 13, 2007

My son Corey Mickens was killed in Manhattan, March 13, 2007. He was murdered while he was sitting in a restaurant eating. He was shot 12 times but they tried to say he had a gun. They shot him but it turned out he didn’t have a gun. And the person that murdered my son is the same officer involved in another shooting… I’m fighting for justice for my son. I’m going to be out here fighting for justice for all. Please don’t give up the fight, everybody. I’m still out here for the fight, for justice for my son.

Reverend Jerome McCorry, faith coordinator for Rise Up October Initiative and for
Stop Mass Incarceration Network

Tonight brother Reese is here with me because we have decided to be true to the cause. They taught me when I was ordained that you really have to serve in three ways. Your time, your talent and your tithe…. When you look at these family members—stand up and face the audience and give them a hand. We have put an unfair burden on these families… They tell their stories, but the truth of the matter is, if you rely on me to be real honest with you I’m going to tell you it’s the church that faces some condemnation. We don’t give money to pay nobody’s funeral, we don’t put folks on planes to get them to where their loved ones are, unless you’re a member in good standing. There is a role that all of us must play tonight to help these families on this tour, to help these families to get back here on October 22-24. To get the family of John Crawford III, from Beavercreek, Ohio, shot dead in a Walmart Store… It’s a broken system. Families after families, like that of Tamir Rice, a 12-year-old with a toy gun, playing in a park by himself, the police shot him down dead. These families have to travel, and they have been doing it at their own expense. We have to take that burden off of them. They shouldn’t worry where the next meal is coming from. They shouldn’t be concerned about where they’re going to stay when they travel. We at the Stop Mass Incarceration Network are going to be bringing 100 families representatives to New York in October, and we’re going to get them here. But we need your help in order to make that happen…. If you’re going to be here in October 24 put your hands together [applause]. And so to put that same hand that you clapped with and dig down deep and do what’s necessary to support this movement as you’ve never supported it before. Now there’s somebody in the audience here with that $500 gift, this is your time.

Will Reese, the NYC Revolution Club

I want to tell you a story while you’re thinking about this $500. You’ve seen this poster [of people killed by the police]. You have it in your hand. Two weeks ago I was standing with an enlargement of this poster, and there was this kid who was about the same height as the poster, standing affixed in front of that poster. So I walked over to him and said, “You know what this is about, don’t you?” He looked up and he shook his head, “Yeah.” I said, “You think about this?” He said, “Yeah, I do.” He said, “The police kill people.” And then he said, “Did they kill the little girl too?” He was looking at Aiyana Stanley-Jones. And I told him the story of Aiyana Stanley-Jones. And he said, “The police are killing everyone.” I asked him, “How old are you?” He said, “I’m seven.”

Some people tonight have said tonight, it stops here. It begins here. And there are people across this country who are listening to what we do here today. There are people who are watching what we do here. And as we move forward, things have to be different. And I’m going to ask you as you’re thinking about whether you can do $500—what do you tell that seven-year-old? I’m not going to tell you what I told him. What do you tell him? “It’s going to be all right baby”? “It’s going to be all right, just do the right thing”? See what these people said about how they taught their children to do the right thing, and their children are dead. What are you going to tell that kid? It’s not some abstract question. What are you going to tell people across the country? Are you going to do something different? This is your chance to do something different. There is more than one $500 here. And I’ll tell you something else. Somebody always has to be first. And I want to know who the hell it is. I want to know who it is. There’s the hand. $500. There it is. Another $500. And another one…

Carl Dix, representative of the Revolutionary Communist Party, co-initiator of
Rise Up October

Don’t let people tell you we can’t do better than this... Don’t let anybody tell you that America is eternal, and that the best we can hope for is getting some itty-bitty changes in HOW they dog us. Don’t let them suck you into framing what you’re trying to do in the language and the terms of the system. Don’t let them tell you that we have to limit ourselves to working within the channels this system puts out there. We’ve seen this movie before, and the result is the whole genocidal situation we face right now—and yes, I said genocide. So I’m challenging everyone here, especially you young people—get into this revolution, get into Bob Avakian and what he’s brought forward about how to make revolution—keep your sights aimed where they need to be: on emancipating all of humanity. You can do this by going to our website—revcom.us—or come to our new bookstore opening up this fall in Harlem at 437 Malcolm X Blvd at 132nd Street... but do get into him.

Now, coming from where I’m coming from—the need for and possibility of revolution—I understand that we have to fight right now—we can’t let them beat people so far down that we could never rise up against the things they do to us. We have to mobilize everyone we can, wherever they’re coming from and however they see the problem and the solution, to fight this madness we face. Again, that’s why you came here tonight—to find out what we must do to stop police terror and murder.

Dr. Cornel West, Professor of Philosophy and Christian Practice at
Union Theological Seminary, co-initiator of Rise Up October

Black people at our best, a hated people, taught the world so much about love. Treated unjustly but taught the world so much about justice. Traumatized, but taught the world so much about how to be cool. Black people at our best have been truth tellers, which means we’ve been cross bearers before we were flag wavers.... The problem in the age of Obama is that once we got a Black president we got too many people more concerned by the breakthrough at the top, then lose sight of those stuck in the basement, those wretched of the earth that Franz Fanon talked about, in the midst of the American Empire. That’s what Stop Mass Incarceration is all about...

But how do we do it? It’s a spiritual question as well as a political one. For Black people, any time we decide to straighten our backs, to speak the truth, to bear witness, and be willing to live or die for something, any time we decide to do that, the powers-that-be start shaking.

[Pointing to the pictures of the faces of victims of police murder on the stage] Their afterlife [will] work through us. Because we gonna have Sankofa, which means we not gonna move forward till we first look back and remember the best of those who came before us. That constitutes wind at our back. That’s what Stop Mass Incarceration’s about. That’s why I call it the love train. Get on the love train! Curtis Mayfield said you don’t need no ticket, just get on board! Get on board! Stop mass incarceration, and decide what side you’re really on. And come with us.


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