Photograph from NPR
Dear Justice Seekers
In reading the news about tragedies happening all around us, I often marvel at how families are able to pick up the pieces and move forward after catastrophic losses. It’s tough enough to lose a loved one to old age or a long illness, but when a death of a loved one results from injustice through inexplicable violent force how does any human being surpass this type of pain? How does one move forth with hope, sanity and even love?
In 2014, Erica Garner, through online video feeds, got to repeatedly witness her father’s murder at the hands of police. Eric Garner was tackled for selling loose cigarettes. Before he died in police custody Mr. Garner uttered the words, “I can’t breathe” eleven times. To this day I have not been able to watch the video more than once. His pleas for air and his life are forever etched into my memory. NO ONE should live to see anyone they love murdered, no one. Erica Garner, fueled by the immense injustice of her father’s death, became an activist. She openly criticized NYPD, would visit the scene of her father’ death several times a week and joined Black Lives Matter demonstrations. She even set up a foundation under her father’s name. I’m pretty sure she would have never imagined her life as an activist prior to her father’s murder, but after such a catastrophic loss I can only imagine you have two choices: lay down and turn away from the world or face it head-on and try to make a difference. She turned her family tragedy into hope for so many.
Yesterday, another tragedy touched the Garner family. Erica died after a heart attack at the young age of 27, leaving behind two small children. Again, I find myself asking how do families move forward after such deep loss? How will the Garner family pick up the pieces and move forward? How will the country, after witnessing and being touched by the injustice, feel hopeful again? To me, she symbolized a voice against police misconduct, a ray of hope, a fearless voice of sanity, the face of the many casualties of police injustice, and now she is gone. Perhaps, her passing so close to the beginning of a new year is an invitation for all of us to take on her conviction, her hopefulness, her sheer strength and her love into the new year. If she was able to find hope, fearlessness and a purpose while living the sheer nightmare of her father’s murder surely we can too. Rest in peace beautiful Erica Garner. #icantbreathe