Here we go again!!!!
Once again I am sitting at my laptop, struggling to articulate in words the feelings, frustration, and emotions of a community where ANOTHER unarmed Black Man was killed by the police. But Im not writing about Eric Garner being choked to death in Staten Island, a vigilante stalking and killing Trayvon Martin in Florida, or a white police officer with his knee on the neck of George Floyd until he utter the unforgettable words, I Cant Breathe and then cry out for his mother a number of times before his last breath was taking from him.
I’m talking about here in Westchester County – one of the wealthiest counties in the state of New York – where we act like it cannot happen here, well guess what Westchester County has its own George Floyds. In the city of New Rochelle, on the day before this nation celebrates its independence, an unarmed mentally challenged Black man was murdered by a white detective in the New Rochelle Police Department.
Jerrell Garris, say his name. The media will often dehumanize the victim. They referred to him as an emotionally disturbed individual or as someone with a mental illness. What the media doesn’t tell you is that Jerrell was a father as you can see in the picture below, they don’t tell you he was a son, a brother, a cousin, a nephew, and a friend to many. He was much more than just another Black man dealing with mental health he was loved by family and friends and he loved them
The historical fear of a Black man in this country kicked in when three, count them, three officers of the law, could not defuse the situation and arrest if needed, one man without threatening the tase him and eventually killing him. Play judge, jury, and executioner in the street. His crime, eating a few pieces of fruit (some grapes and possibly a banana) less than 99 cents worth of fruit. He received a death sentence for eating less than 99 cent worth of fruit. Did the punishment fit the alleged crime? The call for alleged shoplifting, a misdemeanor that in most cases will just earn a desk appearance ticket. But this young man received a death sentence.
The age-old justification, ‘He’s Got A Gun.’ The after-action police report will state that Detective Steven Conn feared for his life. It doesn’t;t have to be true but if you include that in your report, most of the time it will eventually be ruled a justified shooting. Gun or He’s Got A Gun is an all-access pass to shoot a Black man in the ass. Not shoot to wound, but shoot to kill. And we watch all these heavily armed white people who shoot shit up at a school, a mall, a graduation, a park, killing and injuring multiple people, we watch these individuals be taken into custody and arrested simply because they have the completion for the protection.
We march, we protest, we say never again, we may even burn up some shit, it makes the news, and politicians give us pretty words afterward and again when they are running for office and want our votes. Does anything change NO! We hear choruses of police reform, promises of training, talks of community policing, and how this will not be tolerated anymore, not in this city (we have heard this in every city where these summary executions have taken place.) It gets quiet, officers may get suspended and lo and behold another negro shot dead in the street in another city where white people say this doesn’t happen here or police administrators and politicians tell us there is no racism in their departments.
Rinse and repeat, the cycle continues and no law enforcement goes to jail but… to quote the late great Marvin Gaye;
‘mother mother, there’s far too many of you crying
brother brother brother there’s far too many of you dying…’
My heart broke Tuesday night when I saw resident after resident, stakeholder after stakeholder, Black person after Black person expressing their frustration in the New Rochelle City Council Chambers over the killing of another Black Man.
The difference was unlike watching Eric Garner’s family and friends, Trayvon Martin’s parents’ family, and friends of George Floyd, I personally knew or knew of these individuals expressing their pain and frustration. Jerrell was shot in front of the church I used to go to with my mom. The church where I was in charge of the sound. This happened on a block I spent many days and nights. My dad lived in the building next to the church. One of the speakers about 39 or 40 minutes into the video named three cops including my uncle George Moffett, my dad’s best friend (RIP), they would have said I will pay for the fruit. That choked me up to hear an example of the right kind of cop was my uncle, that especially since both my uncle George and my dad are no longer with us. Again this one hits close to home for me!
I did not know Jerrell but I knew many people who did know him. While my heart broke hearing his sister cry out why at the press conference Friday, a video no one could watch without getting choked up. While this is far from the first coverage of a Black or brown individual killed by the police in Westchester, this one hits closer to home. This is traditionally not the type of thing you hear or see in New Rochelle and now this is the second Black Man killed by the New Rochelle police since George Floyd!
While my heart broke, I couldn’t help but feel a sense of pride watching younger brothers close to me or my family step up and speak truth to power. Watch a woman who was close to my mom express her frustration in a manner a parent might express disappointment to a child who did something they shouldn’t have. Again cries of enough, cries for justice, cries for training, and police reform. Once again I almost allow myself to wonder if this will be the watershed moment, but while I’m cautiously optimistic, we have been here before.
Yes, we have been here before. To everyone who attended the press conference and the rally, everyone who attempted to shut down or call for a boycott of New Rochelle Farms, everyone who expressed their frustration in the City Council Chambers, and everyone who was moved by all of this, what are you going to do now.
I know you are pissed off, I’m mad as hell too, but let me let you in on a secret. There are people in power that are waiting for you to act out, destroy shit and do what we have always done before so they can be justified in their actions. So they can lock you up or shoot, shoot at, or kill you. There are those that expect you to make a lot of noise and then go about life, Business as usual.
It’s easy to curse out and scream at a cop or put that man who owns the store out of business and nothing changes. Will you continue to do the same thing and expect a different result? You know that’s the definition of insanity, right?
This can be yet another moment or this can be a movement. You can shut down the store another one will open up. We have to collectively channel all our frustration and as Martin Luther King Jr said in Memphis before he died, redistribute the pain.
We have to change the law, change legislation. People in power are counting on you to not know collectively you are more powerful. Elections are coming up, when candidates ask you for your vote and tell you what they will do, you have to demand change.
We have to change the law locally, countywide, statewide, and federally. Any elected officials who are not doing what we need, we need to vote their asses out of office the way you voted them in.
First, you have to know where to channel your frustration. Your city council makes legislation locally, your county Legislators make legislation for the county. We need to collectively channel all this frustration and demand change.
Lastly, let me say, everyone in Westchester County who stood out and stood up against the killing of George Floyd, Eric Garner, and Trayvon Martin needs to organize and emerge on New Rochelle. We have to stop speaking up for people killed 1000 miles away if we are going to be quiet when it happens in our own backyard. I repeat Westchester has its own George Floyds. And for you saying oh that’s just New Rochelle, it can happen in your municipality next.
I was actually pleased to see dozens of residents and supporters for Justice For Jarrell marching down North Avenue as I write this. You cannot let the moment fade and many more need to join them, you just need to let the people know when and where, and how they can help your fight!
Jarrell Garris joins a long list of Black and Brown individuals shot, shot at, or killed in Westchester at the hands of police or died in police custody that includes Kenneth Chamberlain Sr, (White Plains), Felix Kumi (an innocent bystander who was killed by undercover NYPD officers who crossed the border chasing suspect into Mount Vernon), Danroy DJ Henry (Pace University student killed in Mount Pleasant), and sisters too, while everyone was shouting out Sandra Bland, Raynette Turner of Mount Vernon was one of five Black women who died in police custody in July of 2015 over stealing $35 worth of crab legs), Kamal Flowers (killed by New Rochelle Police), Jonathan Maldonado (killed by Greenburgh Police), MVPD Detective Christopher Ridley (killed by County Police in White Plains across the street from the County Executive’s office and the County Legislators Chambers), Anthony Smith (Mount Vernon, NY), Dario Tena (Yonkers, NY), Samuel Cruz (New Rochelle), Alvin Flowers (New Rochelle in 1984 by the same cop who killed Kamal Flowers 36 years later, NRPD Officer Alec McKenna, holder of one of the worst disciplinary records in the department who was then was honored by the New Rochelle Police Department) and several others. #SayTheirNames!!!
Do not wait until someone from your city or town is killed at the hands of law enforcement to get into the fight for police reform. Like I said this can be another MOMENT or it can be a MOVEMENT, the choice is yours!
It’s time for some REAL TALK about some REAL SOLUTIONS!!!