Say Her Name: Women who showed us how to fight; Erica Garner


Erica Garner, the daughter of Eric Garner leads a chant at a protest and candlelight vigil outside the 120th police precinct in the Staten Island borough of New York City
Erica Garner doing what she did best encouraging people to fight on as she leads chants at a rally

Last year the system pushed and many simply gave ground, threw their hands up and walked away, but a few brave souls pushed back.  There were some who pushed back in ways that inspired us all to stand up and fight back, Erica Garner was one of those people.

Erica’s heart was stopped at the young age of 27. One’s heart should not turn against them at such an early age. Heart attacks are normally reserved for those along in years that have experienced unresolved stress, ups and downs, and pain sometimes compounded by a pedantry life.

But there was nothing pedestrian about Erica Garner; she seemed to live life at a trot. She was not an activist before her father’s death, but it woke her up. She picked up the mantle and never put it down.  According to friends, her mother recently told her she should slow down. She told her she couldn’t: too much work to be done.

Her father’s death at the hands of the New York police department is well known to most as he struggled for all to see to catch his breath telling his captives to no avail that, “I can’t breathe.”  “I can’t breathe,” became a rallying cry for those in the nation opposed to what happened to Eric Garner and police violence in general.

The callousness, cold, insensitivity and barbarity of the act, was shocking. It brought many to tears, while others were stuck in disbelief. Erica had all those emotions and feelings and more. The blatant inhumanity, followed up by the system’s absolute inability and lack of desire to do the right thing, (despite all of its protestations about liberty and justice for all) was enough to break anyone’s heart.

But Erica gathered herself, grabbed a bullhorn and every platform she could find, to demand justice for her father. And she didn’t just fight for her father, she stood for every other family thrust suddenly into this predicament by an American law enforcement designed to show which class is boss.

She exposed the limits of liberalism as embodied in New York mayor Bill de Blasio and former president Barack Obama, forcing them to show their true loyalties, as they ultimately chose the system over justice. De Blasio refused to make any real changes in police practice and patterns. When she put the question of justice for her father to Obama, he stuttered, while falsely implying that reforms of the police were taking place under his administration.

She was perceptive and rightfully interpreted the cost of fighting for what’s right. In one of her last interviews she commented on the death of the mother of Kalief Browder and foretold what would be the cause of her undoing as well.

[Venida Browder] died of a broken heart. She had heart problems because she kept on fighting for her son. Like, I’m struggling right now, with the stress and everything, ’cause this thing, it beats you down. The system beats you down  … I felt the same pain that my father felt on that day when he was screaming, “I can’t breathe,” Erica said.

Ultimately, the system took Erica’s breathe away as well; it killed her as sure as she was living. But as Fred Hampton once said, “you can kill a revolutionary but you can’t kill a revolution.”

No she hadn’t quite come to that point, but she was on that road to recognizing that it is this system; this social/ political/ economic system, with all of its tricks and tricksters, smoke and mirrors, promises and prevarications, that is the root of our problem.

Before finally taking Erica’s breath, that system broke her heart. Her heartbreak was brought about by dashed hopes, in this case hope against hope. It was wrought by the infidelity of a system which betrayed the values it purports to hold dear. And it was accentuated by the lies and false promises of those claiming reasonableness, rationality and reason.

Like her father, she had asthma, (an asthma attack led to her heart attack) but she kept on fighting anyway!

Doctors reported that she had an enlarged heart, but she kept on fighting anyway!

She was told there was no way the system would convict her father’s killers, but she kept on fighting anyway!

People told her she was too young and too Black to make a difference, but she kept on fighting anyway!

Some reminded her that she was just a Black woman, but she kept on fighting anyway!

Middle class folks said she didn’t have the proper diction, a large enough vocabulary and was too hood, but she kept on fighting anyway!

The press accused her of being too confrontational, too raw, but she kept on fighting anyway!

 At the end she didn’t see a lot of light at the end of this tunnel but she kept on fighting anyway

“I’m not giving up, and this is the fight. I’m in this fight forever,” Erica said in her last interview. “No matter how long it takes, we deserve justice, and I want justice for other people. And I want other families to know, it’s hard, but you gotta keep going.”

No this writer never met Sister Erica, but my soul, my spirit knew her.  Erica will live on in our memories.

Erica Garner, Presente!

justice then peace


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