On our first episode of the Live Katie Halper Show i front of an audience we talk to Jay Smooth, founder and host of The Underground Railroad and of the ill Doctrine video series. His videos have garnered millions of views and praise from people like Rachel Maddow who has called his work genius. Find out what Jay Smooth’s favorite drink and snack are, what he thinks of gun violence, Empire, gentrification and what his grandfather said about The Beatles in the New York Times.
Originally posted on December 3, 2015, on RawStory
It was exactly one year ago that a grand jury decided not to indict a NYPD officer who was caught on video putting Eric Garner into a chokehold, pulling him backwards and down onto the sidewalk, and pushing his face into the ground despite the fact that Garner stated, “I can’t breath,” eleven times. Garner was then left on the ground for 7 minutes. Neither Officer Daniel Pantaleo not the other officers nor the EMT performed CPR on the 43-year-old father of 6, who was pronounced dead an hour later. Why had Garner been approached by police in the first place? Because he had committed the crime of selling loose cigarettes.
The senseless and unpunished murder of her son, transformed Gwen Carr, a long-time MTA train operator, forever. She soon retired from the MTA to become a full-time activist. I spoke with Mrs. Carr this week on my WBAI radio show, about her life, her son, her family, and her justice work. Here is some of what she told me.
About the failure to indict:
I definitely did [expect an indictment]. My son’s death was caught on video. Full coverage. And there was no indictment. You mean the grand jury didn’t see any probable cause? Where is the justice in that? Nobody asked them to try the case. Just to look for probably cause. That’s what a grand jury does.
About her channeling her grief into something positive.
What really got me was when I start thinking about well my son is gone now. If I don’t do something about it, I can’t expect anyone else to do anything. So, I’m gonna get out there and I’m gonna keep his name alive. If it’s only me, I’m gonna keep his name alive. And when I found out about how many others that were out there, I said I’m gonna make a promise to be the voice of my son and the voice of the voiceless and the nameless. So, I’m gonna try to keep that promise by speaking out, walking, rallying, doing whatever it takes until my voice is heard, until we get justice.
Justice for me is to hold everyone accountable who was involved in my son’s death that day. Because it was a senseless killing. It did not have to happen. And when they did this to my son they went deep on me. They stole my joy, they killed my spirit and they ripped my heart out. So, I just want to see everyone stand accountable for what they did that day because if there’s a crime there should be accountability whether you wear blue jeans, a blue suit or a blue uniform.
About how to end police violence and murder:
I was thrilled to speak with journalist and writer Ta-Nehisi Coates on my WBAI radio show last week. Coates’ latest book Between The World and Me was called “required reading” by Toni Morrison, was nominated for a National Book Award, and earned him a MacCarthur Genius Grant. In the summer of 2014, Coates rekindled a national debate with his piece Atlantic cover article “The Case for Reparations.” Coates didn’t always believe that reparations were owed. When I asked him what changed his mind he responded:
I think I was a much more standard issue liberal in the sense that I thought that many of the problems in the African-American community could be fixed by class-based solutions. And then increasingly as I saw more research about segregation, as I saw more research about community poverty, it became clear that Black people themselves are a class in and of themselves, that one can’t sub in and out the Black middle class and the white middle class, that these are different groups of people, that racism itself is an injury, not just a different kind of classism, that it is an injury in and of itself, that Black people have been injured, that Black middle class people have been injured, that Black quote un quote rich people have been injured.
Coates compared the way class privilege doesn’t cancel out racism to the way class privilege doesn’t cancel out sexism: “In the way that sexism injures women… it doesn’t matter that some of these women are rich. Just being rich does not mean that you’re not injured, or that you can’t be injured by sexism. When I could recognize that as an interest in and of itself, well that changed things.”