May 26 2014

Damo’s Dead & Other Reasons to Fight…

Dominique died last week…

He was 23 years old. The details of his death are in dispute but here’s how the Chicago Tribune described them:

A man has died two weeks after police used a Taser on him as he was arrested in the Old Town Triangle neighborhood.

Dominique Franklin Jr., 23, who had lived in the 21000 block of Olivia Avenue in Sauk Village, was pronounced dead at Northwestern Memorial Hospital at 4:49 p.m. Tuesday, according to the Cook County medical examiner’s office.

Franklin was taken to Northwestern in critical condition on May 7 after a police officer used a Taser while trying to arrest him for retail theft about 12:10 a.m. in the 200 block of West North Avenue, authorities said.

Witnesses said Franklin had started to run away from the officer and fell against a light pole after the officer Tased him.

I didn’t know Dominique or Damo as he was known to his friends. However, our lives intersected because he participated in a program that my organization incubated and until recently sponsored. He was a friend to several young people who I know and love. Their pain at his injury and then death has been devastating to witness. Their anger has been incandescent.

Watch as one of his friends, Ethan, performed a spoken word piece last Monday dedicated to Damo as he lay in a coma (start at the 10:50 minute mark).

Damo died the next day.

Hear the hurt, pain, and fury in Ethan’s words. Understand that Damo is part of a long legacy of death at the hands of police. The Chicago police shoot black people. In 2012, CPD shot 57 people and 50 were black. They also tase, target, torture, and kill people of color.

Dr. Delores D. Jones-Brown surveyed 125 high school African American males regarding attitudes toward and contacts with the police. Her findings unsurprisingly suggest that a majority of the males report experiencing the police as a repressive rather than facilitative agent in their own lives and in the lives of their friends and relatives. The young respondents in her study complained of being stopped because they were suspected of dealing drugs or because they were out past curfew or because they were in the “wrong” neighborhood.

Yet because young people like Damo are deemed disposable, they aren’t seen as deserving of love, care, and support. Damo was in fact loved and cherished by his chosen family but he was marked as a threat by society at large. He was managed throughout his life through the lens of repression, crime, and punishment. And now he dead and those of us left behind must find a way to heal while building more justice.

We’ll continue to fight in Damo’s memory because we won’t allow his death to have been in vain…