We gather here to fight for justice for Josiah.
I want to say a little bit about this thing we call Justice.
Justice is what we seek.
But first a bit about where we are at.
Black lives are cut short all over this country. Black and Brown folks are assaulted by the police physically and verbally and millions of our people are in the State’s cages at this very moment. Anti-black racism is at the foundation of our institutions, our language for thinking through the world and it is at the root of our criminal injustice system. The crux of prison activist scholar, Ruthie Gilmore’s, definition of racism is “ state-sanctioned vulnerability to premature death”… “ state-sanctioned vulnerability to premature death”and black folks around this country are leaving us too soon. Folks are dying prematurely because the healthcare system is indifferent to our pain. Folks are dying prematurely because they are left to die in prison cells, and folks are dying prematurely because ordinary people see black bodies as a threat to be eliminated. We must not forget that the State has a hand in black death.
The gifts that our people bring into this world are being stolen from us. Our children, our brothers, and our sisters are dying in the street and there is so much indifference to that by those that are comfortable. Coming together today is about combatting that indifference. Too often black death is just expected. As Audre Lorde said, “Some of us were not meant to survive.” But we survive for Josiah and the countless over people from our communities who were taken too soon. Our determination to build a better world is a continuation of their lives. Through us and our commitment to justice, Josiah’s spirit lives on.
So what is this elusive thing we are calling Justice? I want to suggest to you today, that the State may not be the primary source of justice. While the investigation continues, I want us to stop in this pain and grief and ask ourselves what justice is in this life. What in our history in this country would suggest that the State will offer anything approximating justice? From police participation in Jim Crow lynchings, to Stand Your Ground Laws that make black death legitimate, to the folks being tortured just north of here in Pelican Bay, the State has never offered us justice. And we should not be mistaken and think that the university is not also this same State that treats our people as disposable.
Photo credit: bobaliciouslondon via Foter.com / CC BY
Wanting the State to respond is the most human thing in the world right now because that is the acceptable way to seek justice… that is the justice the system offers us. But what if we consider for a moment that seeking recognition from the State isn’t in our interests? What if we demand another kind of justice not predicated on the State’s violence? If anti-blackness is what makes it thinkable to lock up millions of people in cages in this country, what happens when we rely on that very same logic when we seek justice? Maybe justice for Josiah lies elsewhere. Maybe we give Josiah’s power to the State when we think they can account for his death. We must do the accounting for our loved ones ourselves.
Perhaps there is another place to seek justice and it is right here with you and I, coming together in a different way. Our mothers and grandmothers have built justice for generations in spite of the state. What might it look like to fight violence in our communities without relying on the police and their prison cages?
Folks around the country are starting to think about justice outside of the state, a transformative justice. They are theorizing with the People, rather than on the people. We can do this too. We have to address how systemic oppression diminishes our ability to be hopeful and to have agency in our own lives. We also have to address how we can find healing and find new ways of living together. Housing scarcity, food insecurity, daily assaults on our sense of ourselves as human beings, stress, failing educational institutions and violence diminish our ability to bring our gifts to the world. Too often state policies, including those of the university create more violence, more stress and more trauma. What if justice isn’t an individual thing here, but something more collective? What if justice is about the radical act of healing ourselves and each other? Maybe justice isn’t the state recognizing our pain, but our recognition of each other and actually doing the work to make our communities more whole while changing the conditions that lead to Josiah’s death.
What if when we experience trauma and insecurity, we turn toward one another, instead of turning to this state that is so very violent? Together we can build the capacities necessary to take care of each other, to build teams for support during crisis, we can make space for the critical education that we need to survive in this world, we can build economic justice and healing justice where we are able to bring our full selves into the world and create lives of beauty, nourishment and freedom. Let’s build a new kind of justice for Josiah… a transformative, and healing justice that he may continue to be a proud leader for his community.