By Shirley Hawkins
LEIMERT PARK — It was billed as the People’s Justice Festival.
Hundreds of people gathered in the Leimert Park Plaza July 15 to celebrate the 10th anniversary of Black Lives Matter.
Radio personality Dominique DiPrima served as mistress of ceremonies for a variety of speakers that included Cornel West, Black Lives Matter Los Angeles co-founder Melina Abdullah, Tavis Smiley, Chuck D, the frontmman of Public Enemy, Los Angeles City Councilwoman Heather Hutt and Sybrina Fulton, the mother of Trayvon Martin, whose death in 2012 lit the spark that became the Black Lives Matter Movement.
Fulton came from Florida for the event.
“It’s important for me to be here because Black Lives Matter stood with me 10 years ago,” she said. “It’s important that we show support for one another. That’s what it’s all about — unity. It’s about us staying together.
“It’s because of [Trayvon] that we are here meeting today. Regardless of what’s going on, Black Lives Matter will endure. I lost my … son. I’m not going to let you give up.”
Fulton said her son would be 27 now.
“If he were here today, he would probably be at one of the food trucks buying something cold to drink or perhaps buying some chicken or ribs,” she said. “Trayvon was very affectionate and very family oriented. We used to go on trips together. He was just a teenager trying to grow up in this cruel world.”
Martin was 16 when he was shot and killed by George Zimmerman, a neighborhood watch vounteer, in Sanford, Florida, on Feb. 26, 2012.
Martin was walking to the store when confronted by Zimmerman, who felt the teen might be a potential burglar. Zimmerman shot and killed Martin, claiming self-defense and citing Florida’s controversial Stand Your Ground Law. He was acquitted of first degree and manslaughter charges, which sparked national outrage and led to the start of the Black Lives Matter movement.
West, a scholar and activist who is running for president on the Green Party ticket, fired up the audience with his words.
“We are a historical people who in the face of hatred can teach the world so much about what love appears and how to love,” he said. “No matter what kind of hatred comes at us, we just keep dishing out love warriors every generation.
“Here comes Harriet Tubman. Here comes Frederick Douglass. Here comes Ida B. Wells Barnett, here comes Marcus Garvey, here comes Martin Luther King Jr.. Someday we’ll all be free and we haven’t even gotten to Stevie Wonder’s ‘Loves’ in Need of Love Today’ yet.
“We have to keep the ‘Love Train’ moving from the older generation to the new.
West also questioned the motives of Black leaders.
“In the last 40 to 50 years, we’ve had many Black leaders who have become too well adjusted to injustice,” he said. “Too well adapted to indifference. Running around scared and intimidated and afraid and laughing when it ain’t funny. Poet Paul Lawrence Dunbar said ‘We wear the mask.’ But you’ll never get off the plantation by wearing a mask.
“We’ve got too many Black folks in high places that are just scared, intimidated and obsessed with their careers and the next opportunity rather than focusing on the precious brothers and sisters living with mass incarceration and the kids in the school system who are confronted by more police than they are by counselors and nurses.”
Abdullah recognized the different factions of Black Lives Matter that were present at the event.
“I just want you to look around at each other and see each other,” she said. “I want you to look around because everyone who’s here is here for the movement.
“Some of you might have heard that we got our money stolen, but that’s all right because when we started, we didn’t have a dollar or even an Instagram following. The movement is based on every single one of you committing to get free. We want you to put in a little more work.”
Like Sybring Fulton, Elaine Brown, former Black Panther party chairwoman, came from out of state for the event.
“Some people don’t get that we are not free and some people think that we are free,” she said. “Having a credit card, a leased car and a little job is not free.
“We have the highest poverty rate in America. We have the highest incarceration rate in America. We have the highest homelessness rate in America. We have the lowest education rate, the highest cancer death rate. Black Lives Matter, it’s time for a revolutionary change,” she said.
“We don’t need more allies or rap pieces or more murals,” she added. “We need some soldiers up in here.
“If Black Lives Matter, we need some helicopters to free our political prisoners. If Black Lives Matter, we need to punish the murderers of Trayvon Martin. If Black Lives Matter, we need to get rid of the Clarence Thomases.”
Brown was followed by Chuck D who launched into singing the hip-hop anthem “Fight the Power” by his group Public Enemy.
Chuck D said that he was concerned that technology was increasingly becoming more influential in people’s daily lives and that the constant surveillance of humans was already starting to occur in society.
“Be on top of technology, don’t let technology be on top of you,” he warned.
Referring to the ubiquitous cell phone, he added, “Most of the time, you have a stranger in your pocket. People want to know what’s up with Elon Musk and Mark Zuckerberg. They’re in your pocket and your screen has become a mirror. Watch yourselves.”
Shirley Hawkins is a freelance reporter for Wave Newspapers. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.