George Floyd. Breonna Taylor. Travyon Martin. Tamir Rice. Eric Garner. Bet you know those names. If you’re my age or older, you remember Sean Bell and Amadou Diallo. What about Akai Curley? Daniel Prude? Ousmane Zongo? Shem Walker? Shereese Francis? Shantel Davis? Reynaldo Cuevas? Saheed Vassell? Maybe Danroy Henry Jr., Kenneth Chamberlain, Ramarley Graham, Tamon Robinson, Noel Palanco, Kimani Gray, Kyam LIvingston, Carlos Alcis, Barrington Williams and Deborah Danner don’t ring a bell. Every name on this list was Black, unarmed and killed by the police. Every name from Garner through Danner was killed by New York police.
On February 23, 2020, a month before Kentucky police killed Taylor, three months before Minnesota police suffocated Floyd, 25-year-old Ahmaud Arbery went for a run under the Georgia sun. Three white men with multiple firearms drove after him in two trucks. They claimed to be attempting a citizen’s arrest. None were cops, though one was a retired police officer. For being Black in America, Arbery suffered two shotgun blasts at close range to his chest and a third to his wrist. For being Black in America, Ahmaud Arbery was murdered.
ESPN’s The Undefeated is set to premier a documentary dedicated to the legacy of Arbery’s killing. The documentary airs on ESPN+ on Friday, October 29 and will be narrated by former 3x-NFL Pro Bowler and former Atlanta Falcons star running back Warrick Dunn, who publicly spoke out against racial injustice for the first time in his career after Arbery’s killing. Other notable voices include Wanda Cooper-Jones (Ahmaud Arbery’s mother, Founder of the Ahmaud Arbery Foundation), Jerry Francois (Founder of “Black Miles Matter”), and Tony Reed (Founder of National Black Marathoners Association).
Here’s a trailer for the 26-min film.
You ever notice someone driving with a Puerto Rican flag on it? Bet you’ve seen more of those than Dominican flags or Thai flags or Nigerian flags. Know why? One reason is for 460 years, Puerto Ricans were only allowed to fly their flags if they were alongside a Spanish or American flag. If you’re from a land where such freedom is a given, you can’t imagine the necessary joy that sparks from proclaiming out loud something others have literally criminalized.
Imagine a land where for half a millennium — nearly 16 trillion heartbeats — being Black legally entitled someone else to enslave you. Buy and sell you. Torture you. Kill you. The bloodiest war in that land’s history is fought because millions and millions of people insist on you being a slave. The war ends, but the evil evolves. You can’t vote like others can. Can’t go to the same schools, work where your skill warrants, live where you like. Police are created to keep you down. There are separate Americas, and you’re forced to stay in the lesser one, the people either forget or don’t care about when they wax about when that land was “great.” The laws change; the evil evolves.
Imagine two people racing each other. One runs normally. The other is only allowed to run backwards, hopping on one foot with one arm tied behind their back, blindfolded. Imagine the first runner gets a 500-year head start. Then someone pauses the race and changes the rules so the second runner has the same opportunities as the first, and the reaction is disapproval and disgust. People talk about the second runner “needing” a “hand-out.” Reverse discrimination, they cry. They didn’t make a sound when the second runner was being treated unfairly, but now they won’t shut up about an attempt at restorative justice. Imagine this isn’t a race between two runners, but life and death for millions and millions and millions of people over trillions and trillions of heartbeats.
Black Lives Matter because ever since white Europeans arrived on this continent, they haven’t. Ahmaud Arbery is dead, the result of many sins by many people — the three men who ran him down, yes, but that’s not where it started. His death was last year, but its blood-soaked roots stretch back to the land’s original sin. Black Lives Matter. Nat Turner’s mattered. Emmitt Till’s mattered. Addie Mae Collins, Cynthia Wesley, Carole Robertson and Carol Denise McNair’s mattered. The lives of too many nameless forgotten, along the Middle Passage and all across this land it brought them to, matter.
Go watch/stream the documentary on ESPN+.