“What does Black Lives Matter mean?”
This is the question that attorney Ben Crump, author of “Open Season,” tried to answer on Saturday afternoon, during a panel discussion with Nyesha Barre, Allissa Findlay, Lee Merritt, and Kendrick Sampson.
Both Ms. Barre and Ms. Findlay have personal experience with the lack of concern for the lives of Black people, as both lost their brothers to police violence. Ms. Barre’s brother, Joshua Barre, was killed by Tulsa police in 2017 while in a mental health crisis. Ms. Findlay’s brother, Botham Jean of Dallas, Texas, was killed in 2018 in his home by a police officer who had mistakenly wandered into the wrong apartment.
Going from attorney to Attorney General
Mr. Merritt is currently running for Texas attorney general, and if he wins, will be the first Black attorney general in that state. Mr. Sampson is an actor and social justice advocate.
Reminding the standing-room-only crowd that Black Lives Matter, Mr. Crump spoke openly about the violence and murders committed during the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre, repeatedly stating, “Never forget, and never again.”
He then turned to the panel for discussion of how to remind America that Black Lives Matter. Mr. Merritt said that Black Lives Matter is about accountability; while Mr. Sampson noted it’s an abolitionist movement. Ms. Barre, holding back tears, said that BLM is not just about police brutality, but also that Black lives matter every single day. Ms. Findlay referred to BLM as a response to the injustices inflicted upon black lives each and every day, and emphatically stated that black voices will no longer be silenced.
Going from pain to purpose
Both Ms. Barre and Ms. Findlay have started non-profit foundations since their brothers’ murders. Ms. Barre heads up “Help Them Don’t Hurt Them,” a call to action for de-stigmatizing mental health crises, particularly for people of color. Ms. Findlay began an organization called “Sisters of the Movement,” which provides support to siblings of black victims of police brutality.
Ending the discussion, Mr. Crump asked each panelist what they would say to a victim of police violence, specifically referencing Terence Crutcher, whose sister Dr. Tiffany Crutcher was recognized by Mr. Crump, followed by Tatiana Jefferson, Joshua Barre, and Botham Jean.
Mr. Merritt said he would tell Ms. Jefferson that she did not die in vain, and “What you do in life echoes through eternity.” Mr. Sampson said he would tell George Floyd, “We will continue dismantling the systems that allowed you to be murdered.” Both Ms. Barre and Ms. Findlay became emotional when asked about their brothers. Ms. Barre, whose brother Joshua died in the midst of a mental health crisis, said through tears she would tell him that he did nothing wrong, and did not deserve to be murdered. Ms. Findlay, who briefly was unable to speak due to the intensity of the moment, simply stated she would tell Botham Jean that she loved him.