ABOVE: Atatiana “Tay” Jefferson was fatally shot through the window of her family’s home by a Fort Worth police officer.
In the 1960s, the Rev. James Cleveland delivered to the world a very popular gospel song entitled “I Don’t Feel No Ways Tired”, which featured the lyrics:
I don’t feel no ways tired
I’ve come too far from where I started from
Nobody told me that the road would be easy
I don’t believe He brought me this far to leave me
The song itself encourages individuals to look past their frustrations and fatigue and focus on God in the midst of dealing with difficult circumstances in life, having faith that things will change for the better.
As we continue to witness unconscionable events happening to African American people, day after day, it can be overwhelming and hard to digest when dealing with the consistent injustice and systematic, institutionalized racism that continues to plague African Americans.
For many, it is frustrating, but for others, they remain steadfast and unmovable. There are many active and engaged individuals who remain on the frontline, refusing to remain quiet about the key issues that impact African Americans on a daily basis. They demand change until the circumstances change, regardless of what things currently look like.
Which brings us to where we are now. African Americans are in the midst of an ongoing attack on their safety and quality of life, being murdered in their own homes and racially profiled in plain sight for the entire world to see. Sadly, as much as members of the African American community complain and protest, it seems as if the system does not provide the same level of support, equity and justice that other communities regularly receive.
This past week, 28-year-old Atatiana Jefferson was at her Fort Worth home babysitting and playing video games with her 8-year-old nephew, when she was fatally shot by Fort Worth Police Officer Aaron Dean. Dean, who has since resigned and been charged with murder, fatally shot Jefferson after her neighbor called the Fort Worth Police Department’s nonemergency line to request a wellness check when he happened to notice her front door was slightly open. Within seconds of Officer Dean sneaking up on Jefferson unannounced, he shouted some verbal commands and shot her to death.
Just a few weeks prior, former Dallas police officer Amber Guyger was found guilty of murder and sentenced to only 10 years in prison for the murder of Botham Jean, 26, after she admitted on the stand that she intended to kill Jean because she mistakenly entered into the wrong apartment and thought he was an intruder. She failed to administer any first aid to Jean and left him for dead.
Unlike the response in Dallas, which has been deemed questionable and there have been calls for investigations to address alleged corruption and a cover up, the response from Fort Worth has been entirely different from the top brass of the city.
Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price addressed the situation by releasing a statement, stating:
“On behalf of the entire City of Fort Worth – I am sorry. To Atatiana’s family – I am sorry. There is nothing to justify or explain what happened on Saturday morning. Nothing.”
“To Mr. James Smith, I know you are hurting today as well. You called police to check on your neighbor because you cared about her safety and wellbeing. You were being a wonderful neighbor and doing the right thing to make sure she was ok. You are the type of person we all want living next door, watching out for us. Atatiana’s death has eroded your own your sense of safety and trust in law enforcement. I’m truly sorry.”
“To Atatiana’s nephew, who has witnessed an unspeakable loss — sorry doesn’t really cut it. This entire city needs to surround him with prayers, support, and anything his family needs.”
“Lastly, I want to address the images that were released picturing the gun inside Ms. Jefferson’s home. A gun is irrelevant. Atatiana was in her own home, caring for her 8-year-old nephew. She was a victim. And she was taken from her family in circumstances that are unthinkable.”
“As Mayor, I am asking the City Manager, David Cooke, to hire a third-party panel of national experts to review the department. Everything from top to bottom. City Manager David Cooke will lead this effort and will present any findings to the City Council as well as the Police Department for review.”
“Justice is crucial here, but it will not bring back the life a young woman who was taken too soon. This is a pivotal moment in our city, and we will act swiftly with transparency.”
Those were strong words coming from a high-ranking elected official, and it will take that level of advocacy and use of the bully pulpit for African Americans to get justice and for there to be systematic change at all levels of government, especially local government.
Every week in America, we see many concerned individuals and groups holding protests, rallies and marches all over the United States. These individuals and groups have consistently been a voice for the disenfranchised and have called on elected officials to use their platforms to speak up about the injustice African Americans continue to experience in this country.
While it is sad that a tragedy like the one involving Atatiana Jefferson was the catalyst that led Mayor Betsy Price to call for a third-party review of the Fort Worth Police Department, it was something that the mayor chose to proactively do in order to get answers.
This level of accountability and proactive leadership should be consistent from all elected officials across the board relative to how all issues that impact the African American community are looked into and addressed.
During the 1960s, Black people were fighting for the right to legally vote without being oppressed and disenfranchised by those who chose to deny that inalienable right. People were arrested, beaten, had water hoses drawn on them, had dogs unleashed on them and were even brutally and violently murdered so that they could legally obtain that right to vote.
Every major decision that has impacted African Americans in this country was made by someone in elected office who had the power to pass a law, appoint an official or enact an ordinance that impacted their community. The 13th Amendment, Dred Scott, the Constitution, the Civil Rights Act, the Voting Rights Act, Jim Crow, sharecropping, poll taxes, etc., are just a few examples of laws that have impacted African Americans.
Abolitionists, lawyers, freedom fighters, activists, ministers and select elected officials all found themselves on the right side of history, seeking to get laws changed in order to help African Americans.
Fast forward to modern day and we see African Americans are still fighting against unjust laws that negatively impact the African American community at every level of government.
Many of these laws are passed by elected officials you chose to vote for, or who you chose not to vote for. In essence, your non-vote was really a vote in the favor of the person who won and against the person who lost, simply because you did nothing to influence the outcome.
Saying things like: “I don’t vote, because they are going to do what they want anyway,” or “I’m only one vote,” or “My vote doesn’t matter,” could not be further from the truth.
The only way to ensure that those statements ring true is by refusing to vote altogether, which will in turn, ensure that those who are running for office get to do whatever they want to do without accountability or awareness on your part.
Adults and voting-aged young adults cannot be apathetic when it comes to voting. If adults are not involved in the political process, chances are their children won’t be. If adults don’t know care enough about who will represent them and make important and life-altering decisions on their behalf, then chances are their children won’t either.
Now is the time to make changes and ensure the future of this country is favorable towards the African American community, relative to laws and justice.
Now that African Americans have the freedom to vote, it is important that the right to vote is actually exercised and not squandered or ignored.
These are some extremely important upcoming elections in the Greater Houston area, across the state and across the country. This is not the time out for political, social and economic apathy.
There are No Excuses…..Your Voice is Your Vote!
Do something about it this November and in 2020…go vote and make a difference!