For better or worse, the New York Police Department [NYPD] is a very visible force in communities of color across the city and East Flatbush, Brooklyn in the 67th Precinct is no different.
For worse, names like Kimani Gray and Shantel Davis come to mind. They were both killed by NYPD officers from the 67th Precinct. Gray’s family refutes claims made by the NYPD that he had a weapon on him at the time of his killing and Davis was also reportedly unarmed at her death.
For better, their are people like Rev. Terry Lee of By-Ways and Hedges Church. Over the summer, Rev. Lee and members of the NYPD completed the 20th Annual Unity Walk. Yet, even another high profile and racially charged incident involving the NYPD inspired Lee to do the first walk years ago.
“I just saw the need, that the NYPD and the citizens [who] were fighting needed to come together,” Rev. Lee explained at this year’s walk after seeing the community riot in the wake of the Abner Louima incident in 1997. Louima was sodomized by NYPD officers with a broomstick at the 70th Precinct station house.
But 20 years later and several police assaults and killings later, Lee still believes the community and police force can be united.
“All lives matter… now we gotta strengthen the relationship with the police because they protect us. Not all of them is good and not all of them is bad. In my congregation, I deal with good people and bad people. Help those who are not doing right, to do right,” he said.
However, New York State Assemblyman Charles Barron (D-60) who said he never heard of the Unity Walk does not see the issue of good cop vs. bad cop that simply, especially when dealing with the Black community.
“You can’t say some are good and some are bad. Any good cop that watches a bad cop brutalize us, cuss us out, or kill us with impunity is bad,” he said.
Barron also believes that the Unity Walk and similar efforts do not solve anything.
“Right after all the walks, all of the basketball games, all of the “night out” against crime, police kill us, beat us, [and] cuss us out with impunity. I think the best signal we could give to the police department is that you will be punished to the fullest extent of the law if you violate the human rights of people in our community. Until they suffer consequences; they are going to continue doing what they’ve been doing,” Barron said.
“When they use deadly force that is not justified, they should go to jail for the rest of their lives. When they brutalize us and beat us and push us and call us names and choke us and punch us and kick us and say ‘eff you this’ and ‘eff you that’ and when they stop and frisk us for no reason, they should lose their job. If they hit us, they should go to jail for assault. If they murder us, they should go to jail for the rest of their lives. They must pay consequences. Anything, short of that is ineffective,” he continued.
On July 29, the Unity Walk began at the intersection of Empire and Flatbush Avenues, then it continued along Flatbush Avenue and ended at the corner of Church and Utica Avenues in Brooklyn. The event concluded with a rally that was attended by elected officials such as New York State Assemblywoman Diana Richardson (D-43), community leaders and 67th Precinct Clergy Council. Attendees were also treated to entertainment from gospel singers, musicians, a poet and games for the children.
An excerpt of the poem called “Don’t Run” by Poet Janelle Jolly which she read at the ‘Walk’ follows:
Don’t run from the cops, they’re to protect and serve
Don’t run when you’re wrong, have some nerve
Don’t run to violence, it makes no sense
Don’t run to crime, it’s at your own expense
Don’t run police officer, you answered a call
To serve your community, we know you risk it all
Don’t run from the challenge, the unknown, the bad talk
Draw you weapons when you must, but don’t forget to use your heart
Don’t run young people, help build your land
Don’t run, Don’t Run, just take a stand
Stand for peace, stand for justice
Just do what is right
Stand for Love.
Stand for Oneness.
In Unity there’s Strength.
To participate in the next Unity Walk or find out more information, follow Rev. Lee on Twitter @byhedges