By Mel Reeves
It is understandable that parents of those killed by the police ask that there be no protest during their funeral and sometimes they ask, (or are pressured to ask) that no protest be held on the day of the funeral, as was Mike Brown Sr, after his son was needlessly killed by the coward Darren Wilson. And its right that the family’s wishes are honored. But what they in their grief fail to recognize, is that the funeral of those gunned down by the authorities is a protest in and of itself.
Attending the funeral of those who have been deemed unworthy of respect, or life and expendable by the occupying force we refer to as law enforcement, is a protest, because we come to say Philando Castile was our brother, a fellow citizen, a HUMAN BEING.
It was a protest because we came to say we deem him worthy, even more worthy than you. Try as you might to convince us of your legitimacy and the rightness of this wrong:we prefer him over you. We choose this working class, everyday brother, over you and your system.
So it was right that the first person who spoke today kept repeating his name and the crowd stood to their feet and gave him a standing ovation, as if it was a protest, a rally. Some put their fist in the air as the family and the body processed to the front of the church. They were right to put the fist in the air because it is an acknowledgement : we are still here!
“The Sounds of Blackness,”which originated in St Paul sang “Optimistic” which was fitting.“Don’t give up and don’t give in, although it seems you never win… be optimistic,” they sang. We can win, indeed we can if we don’t give up or give in.
Not allowing the officials in attendance to speak (Governor Dayton, Senator Franken, or Rep Keith Ellison) was a protest. Shutting them out, said we know you didn’t do this, but you are a part (like it or not) of a system that did. One that only offers platitudes, hallow apologies and insincere promises and talk of change and more cups of tea with the president.
Even the press was kept out, oh yeah this was a sort of protest. It pushed back on the corporate media’s feeling of entitlement their right to sensationalize our lives even our grief.
Reverend Steve Daniels Jr. of Shiloh Baptist Church in St Paul, tried to strike a middle chord by saying we have to overcome our divisions. But to say this is about division is to obscure the fact that Philando was killed by the State. IT’S NOT US versus THE POLICE. IT’S THE POLICE versus US! I would say we want them to do their job and stop the profiling and terrorizing and killing our folks, but judging from the number of funerals, that appears to be part of their job.
The eulogist hit some right chords dismissing the idea that so-called black crime should be focused on when there is white and black crime. I would take it further and call it law-breaking. The real crime is committed by those who run this country, who allow us to be overworked, overtaxed, overcharged, over- imprisoned, over-policed and overlooked, while at same time under-utilizing, underserving and undermining our humanity.
He rightfully pointed out that Philando had done nothing to deserve his fate.
But the reverend struck a sour note when he gave a nod to law enforcement, saying they are here “to serve and protect us.” Well this funeral and so many others should have dispelled him of that notion by now. He also said “we have to respect the law;” there was little to no applause.
James Baldwin once said that, “to respect the law, in the context in which the American Negro finds himself, is simply to surrender his self-respect.”
“His death is not in vain. It is a catalyst that will bring about reformation, justice and peace,” wrote his Aunt Shirley in the obituary. His mother wrote, “Philando you were quiet in life, but you making some noise now Baby!!!
We might be crying now during the night of our perilous journey, but we if we keep fighting, our mourning will come and our tears too will be dried.
Philando Casile: Presente!
justice then peace