Apr 28 2015

On Showing Up, Erasing Myself, and Lifting Up the Choir…

photo by Bob Simpson (Chicago, 4/21/15)

photo by Bob Simpson (Chicago, 4/21/15)

It was unlikely that we would come to know her by her first name: Rekia. She was a 22 year old young Black woman when Dante Servin, a CPD detective, shot her in the head. In the political economy of memorials and public grieving, being a young Black woman is not advantageous. The names that we lift up (when we memorialize Black lives at all) are usually attached to cis heterosexual men. Sean, Rodney, Amadou, Mike, Tamir and now Freddie…

I was at the Nashville airport last Monday when my phone started ringing. Friends who were at Dante Servin’s trial were calling and texting to relay the news. Judge Porter granted the defense’s motion for a directed finding and dismissed the case against Servin. I was not surprised. I only felt sad for Rekia Boyd’s family. They did not get the justice that they sought. They waited three years for Servin’s day in court. They fought for over 18 months just for an indictment. No cop had been tried for killing someone in Cook County for 17 years. And last Monday, Dante Servin walked out of 26th & California a ‘free man’ ready to carry a gun and to patrol the streets again.

In Chicago, Servin’s acquittal led to a couple of small, heart-felt protests and some limited outrage.

A couple of weeks ago, I lamented how few people attended a rally on the first day of Dante Servin’s trial:

I can’t lie. I was disappointed in the turnout. I know, I know that there are hundreds of reasons people didn’t show up in numbers. A friend mentioned that perhaps the rain had kept them away. I stared at him. We both knew the truth. For all of the talk of Black Lives mattering, all evidence points to the opposite. Rekia’s life surely mattered to her family and friends. It matters to the small but determined group that showed up in solidarity with her family today. Beyond that though, no, Rekia’s life doesn’t matter in this country.

There is in fact a hierarchy of oppression as Black women, Black trans and gender nonconforming people have even less access to limited sympathy than do cis heterosexual Black men. To deny this is to be a liar. When we call out ‘who will keep our sisters?’ too often we are greeted with one or two lone voices in the wilderness but usually with silence.

Partly in response to my words & as a balm for my and others’ demoralization, some friends and comrades organized a beautiful show of support and solidarity for Rekia. My friend Kelly, one of the organizers of the light action, wrote:

But tonight, after a great deal of discussion and reflection, my friends and I decided to offer what we could to those who are mourning, discouraged, and in need of hope. We decided to offer a bit of light and action, in the hopes that seeing a message for Rekia projected in the night sky, in the heart of our city, might make them feel a little less disheartened, and a little less alone. It’s a small offering, to be sure, but it is one that is made with love, and with a great deal of hope.

photo by Kelly Hayes (4/10/15)

photo by Kelly Hayes (4/10/15)

I was very moved by the light action. I have struggled for a couple of weeks to adequately convey my emotions. I found some words after reading a post titled “No One Showed Up To Rally For Rekia.” While the title suggested an absence of people at the rally, the post began with this sentence: “Last night in New York City’s Union Square, a modest crowd of between 30 and 50 people (depending on who you ask) showed up to rally for Rekia Boyd and Black women and girls who’ve been killed by police.” So, in fact, some people (albeit a small number) did attend the rally.

The title of the post grated. I thought of those few dozen people who took the time to show up for Rekia and her family. Perhaps they were members of the choir so to speak but they were definitely somebody. One of the organizers of the rally noted on social media that she was frustrated that those people who did show up (mostly black women) were being dismissed and overlooked. She suggested that this was both an erasure of black women’s labor as organizers and a discounting of the fact that we regularly show up for each other even when others do not for us. She was right on both counts.

I often remind others of the importance of lifting up the choir, of insuring that those who do show up know that we are grateful for and value them. I’ve lectured others on the importance of never taking the choir for granted. Yet as I struggled with my demoralization, I disregarded my own admonition. Those of us who show up matter and as Kelly has written: “…what we are doing together matters, and must continue.” In a sense, I had written myself out of the story of resistance against Rekia’s killing. I had erased myself as a Black woman who shows up for other Black women across the spectrum and who understands that I cannot live without my life.

There is a lot of pain and anger about the invisibility of Black women, trans and gender-non conforming people in struggles against state and interpersonal violence. Rightly so. It hurts to be erased and overlooked. But it’s important, I think, to simultaneously recognize those who do, in fact, insist on making these lives matter too. It’s always both/and.

Later today, some of us in Chicago will show our solidarity for our comrades in Baltimore and also for Rekia and others killed in our own city. Join us if you can! We’ll be lifting up the choir.

ChicagoTuesday, April 286 PM - Police

Apr 26 2015

Poem of the Day: “I Can’t Breathe” by Ebony

I am very happy to publish this poem by Ebony Delaney. Ebony is a woman who is currently incarcerated in a California men’s prison. Her poem came to me via a reader of this blog named Tyler who corresponds with Ebony. They share poetry, books, and short stories with each other. I am honored to share Ebony’s work here.

I can't breathe ebony delaney

Apr 22 2015

Guest Post: The Dante Servin Acquittal

An attorney friend of mine was kind enough to break down the Dante Servin acquittal for me.  I am a lay person and not a lawyer. If you are like me, you were likely confused about all of the information that has been circulating regarding this case. My friend has generously agreed to allow me to post these thoughts anonymously. This helped me better understand the issues in this acquittal. I hope it helps others.

Update: If you are in Chicago, you are invited to the Legal Teach-in for Rekia Boyd on April 29th at 6 pm. Details are HERE.

The Dante Servin Acquittal

Issue #1: Judge Porter’s Decision to Grant the Directed Verdict is Shocking and Rare

Judge Porter granted the defendant’s motion for directed verdict at the conclusion of the State’s case.  This means that after the State closed their case, before the defense put on their case, the defendant asked the judge to find that the State’s case was so weak that the case should not move forward.  When ruling on a defendant’s motion for directed verdict, the judge must look at the facts presented in the State’s case in the light most favorable to the State, assuming inferences in the light most favorable to the State, and then determine that a reasonable person could not find that the State could prove their case beyond a reasonable doubt.  See People v. McCord, 46 Ill.App.3d 389, 392 (1977).  It’s a very high standard and motions for a directed verdict are almost never granted.  If a judge grants a directed verdict, the defense doesn’t even need to put forth their own evidence to challenge the State’s case.  The judge evaluates the case on the State’s facts only, in the light most favorable to the State, and then finds that it’s impossible for the State to succeed.  In a case involving the shooting death of a young female, it’s shocking that the judge granted the defendant’s motion for directed verdict, acquitting Servin of all charges.  The result was that Officer Servin did not have to testify and prosecutors were never able to cross-examine him.  This is unsettling both because the judge prevented the prosecution from supporting their case in cross-examination of the defense witnesses, and because he failed to provide the emotional benefit to the family of having Officer Servin explain his actions on the stand.

Issue #2: Judge Porter’s Legal Reasoning is Questionable

Judge Porter granted the defense’s motion for a directed verdict based on Illinois law that supports a bizarre outcome.  Even though this bizarre legal support exists, the judge had other options to support a different ruling.  I’ll first explain his ruling, then explore the other options.

The judge accurately noted that all of the charges the State brought against Servin required the State to prove Servin acted recklessly.  The judge then found that the State only introduced evidence that Dante Servin acted intentionally (not recklessly).  As a result, the judge ruled as a matter of law that the State could not succeed in their case because Servin acted intentionally, not recklessly.  The logic of this ruling is based on a technical matter of law; if someone intentionally shoots someone, they did not act recklessly, and vice versa (if they shot recklessly, they didn’t do so intentionally).  There is support for saying this is the law in Illinois.  See People vs. Sipp, 378 Ill.App.3d 157 (2007).  The bizarre outcome of the application of this law in this context is that a defendant (like Servin) could assert first degree murder as a defense to any charges regarding reckless behavior (freely admitting that he intentionally killed Rekia Boyd) and then be acquitted of all charges (more serious murder charges would then be prevented under double jeopardy).  This is obviously a bizarre outcome, particularly when considering that the law has long found that intentional conduct is more culpable then reckless conduct (intentionally killing someone versus accidentally doing so because of reckless conduct).

Although Judge Porter’s opinion is written to make it look like his hands were tied by the above law, the judge had several other options to deny the defendant’s motion for directed verdict.  First, the judge could have done what all lawyers are trained to do:  instead of rely on the cases that he relied on in his ruling, he could have distinguished those cases from the present case in front of him (if the judge wanted to find a hook, they are distinguishable).  For example, the legal issue in front of him was a directed verdict, whereas the cases cited in his ruling dealt with jury instructions.  Those are different legal issues and he could have distinguished those cases on that ground.  Similarly, the judge could have ruled that as a matter of law, if the defendant’s self-defense claim turned out to be unreasonable, “unreasonable self-defense” equates to reckless conduct.  In addition, the facts in the cases cited in his ruling are different than the facts in the Servin case.  For example, in the Sipp case, the defendant shot and killed his intended target, whereas Servin shot and killed an unintended victim. The defendant in Sipp also looked at the intended target as he shot him, whereas Servin shot over his shoulder and behind him while driving away.  He could have distinguished this case on that ground.  These are hooks that judges often use to distinguish prior cases from the present case to rule that those cases do not apply to the present case.  In the end, all he needed was something to say that a reasonable person could support reckless charges based on the facts of this unique case.

Read more »

Apr 17 2015

Parent-Led Restorative Justice Efforts in Chicago Schools

For over 10 years now, my friends and comrades at POWER-PAC have been transforming school cultures through parent-led peace rooms. Below is a new video recently released by the City of Chicago – Mayor’s Commission for a Safer Chicago that highlights their work.

Apr 14 2015

Interrupting The Death-Making: Notes from Chicago

Driven to a deserted field on the far Southside of Chicago, Darrell Cannon was scared to death. It was 1983 and the police wanted a confession. Darrell was terrorized with Russian roulette while being called a nigger. Officers attached cattle prods to his genitals and electrically shocked him. After hours of torture, he confessed to murder and spent over 20 years in prison. Fourteen of those caged inside a torture chamber called TAMMS supermax.

There isn’t enough money on earth to make up for such violence and torture. Apologies don’t erase the impact(s) of state-sanctioned violence. These things are true and yet such transgressions demand redress. Over the past few months, I’ve written about a re-animated campaign to pass a reparations ordinance for Burge torture survivors. The ordinance was introduced in October 2013 and had been stalled in the Chicago City Council. I’m on the advisory board of Chicago Torture Justice Memorials (CTJM) which is the group that introduced the ordinance. I’ve had a long-standing interest in the Burge police torture cases but only fully engaged over the past 6 months to pass the ordinance.

Today, CTJM announced the framework of a deal with the City of Chicago on the reparations ordinance. “Rooted in a restorative framework and reflecting critical provisions of the original Reparations Ordinance filed in October of 2013, the reparations package the City has agreed to includes a myriad of remedies that aim to meet the concrete needs of the Burge torture survivors and their family members. It will include:

1. A formal apology from the Mayor and City Council for the torture and abuse committed by Chicago Police Commander Jon Burge and police officers under his command;
2. A permanent public memorial acknowledging the torture committed by Burge and his men;
3. Inclusion of a lesson in the Chicago Public Schools 8th and 10th grade U.S. History curriculum on the Burge torture cases;
4. Provision of trauma and other counseling services to the Burge torture survivors and family members at a dedicated facility on the South Side of Chicago based on the model of services provided by the Marjorie Kovler Center and Heartland Alliance;
5. Free tuition or job training at Chicago’s City Colleges for Burge torture survivors, their family members, including grandchildren;
6. Job placement for Burge torture survivors in programs designated for formerly incarcerated people;
7. Priority access to City of Chicago’s re-entry support services, including: job training and placement, counseling, food, housing & transportation assistance, senior care, health care, and small business support services;
8. Financial compensation to the Burge torture survivors who are still with us today.

The City will set aside $5.5 million to establish a Reparations Fund for Burge Torture Survivors. Every person found to have a credible claim of torture or abuse committed by Burge or his men at Area 2 and 3 Police Headquarters from 1972 to 1991 will receive the same exact amount from the fund.”

photo by Kelly Hayes (2/6/15)

photo by Kelly Hayes (2/6/15)

Though we did not obtain everything that we wanted (particularly in terms of the financial compensation), all of the provisions of the original reparations ordinance are reflected in the final deal. We wanted and want more. However, the reality is that most of the Burge torture survivors have no recourse to sue the City, some remain locked up today, and they are getting older. They have been left with nothing but their needs. This legislation will provide a path to address those material and other needs. The ordinance was conceived as a living memorial. It is an abolitionist document that asks us to imagine and enact different forms of justice.

Daily we are inundated with all kinds of violence, suffering and pain. This can lead, as Howard Thurman (1961) has written, to “a kind of devastated deadness.” We can begin to feel powerless, impotent. Organizing is how I interrupt the violence and death-making to catch my breath. Organizing is an attempted rupture of the oppressive and death-making status quo. Organizing is about contending with and building power. Organizing means never being satisfied and always demanding more. Organizing has its own grammar, cadence, and music. But above all, organizing is fueled by and creates hope. Marshall Ganz is right:

“Hope is not only audacious, it is substantial. Hope is what allows us to deal with problems creatively. In order to deal with fear, we have to mobilize hope. Hope is one of the most precious gifts we can give each other and the people we work with to make change.”

And I know that for some, hope is in short supply these days. And why should it not be? We are witness to and experience the daily annihilation of black people at the hands of the state. We know how disposable we are. We are always aware of the precarity of our existence. What does it mean to “win” within the strictures of an unjust oppressive society? Why bother to resist?

We resist, I think, because we are entitled to live, to breathe, to be. In his well-known 1966 speech at Berkeley, Stokely Carmichael said: “I am black, therefore I am.” Yes, exactly and also I resist, therefore I am. I’m blessed to know Darrell Cannon. His experience of torture has animated my organizing. Watching him speak at today’s hearing was both inspiring and gut-wrenching. As he recounted his torture, he cried. “I’m crying because I am mad,” he told a packed room, “I’m still mad.” I resist too because of Darrell.

I resist because of the torture survivors still caged in Illinois prisons. I resist because I want those who were tortured and are no longer with us to know that we have not forgotten. Refusing to forget is resistance. We remember through organizing and struggle. Julius Lester (1968) wrote that his slave ancestors’ “lives were lived on a spider web stretched over the mouth of hell.” I’ve always felt those words viscerally. I believe that Burge’s victims’ “lives were (also) lived on a spider web stretched over the mouth of hell.” So we owe them the fight for some justice. We owe it to them not to forget. We owe that to ourselves too.

Decades of struggle in Chicago have led to today. Small ‘victories’ have paved the road: getting Jon Burge fired from the police force, a perjury conviction, survivors telling their stories and being believed. Soon this ordinance will be a brick in the long road to justice. There is still more work ahead to pass the ordinance and beyond it. Organizing is a marathon.

Darrell Cannon says that he cannot forget his experience of torture. Now the history and legacy of that violence will be taught in Chicago Public Schools. The future will remember Darrell’s torture too. His life matters. In the words of Dr. Joy James, #BlackLivesMatter because we make them. Making #BlackLivesMatter is our work here in Chicago, the ordinance is a contribution to that goal.

Apr 13 2015

Video: Manifesting Prostitution

I wrote about Monica Jones’s case a year ago. The wonderfully talented Molly Crabapple has a new video for Fusion that addressing the charge of manifesting prostitution.

The video is introduced as follows:

In May 2013, Monica Jones, a student and LGBT activist at Arizona State University, was arrested for “manifesting prostitution.” Monica said she just accepted an undercover officer’s offer of a ride home from her favorite bar. Monica is among the tens of thousands of people arrested every year for prostitution-related offenses. According to the FBI, police arrested over 57,000 people on such charges in 2011. The vast majority were women.

Apr 11 2015

Guest Post: Court Day 1 #RekiaBoyd

My friend Crista Noel wrote a few words about the first day of Dante Servin’s trial for killing Rekia Boyd. Crista co-founded Women’s All Points Bulletin, a local organization focused on police violence against women. She has been a steadfast supporter of Rekia’s family for years. I appreciate that she has given me permission to publish this.

Court Day 1
by Crista Noel

For reasons unknown the rain reminded me of my grandfathers funeral.

Or maybe not


His death,

being shot in the head by the security guard he hired to protect the bowling alley he managed, was the revelation


My grandmothers old wives tale was true

when it rains on the day of a funeral

the Angels are crying

I was driving to a funeral,

and the Universe was storming.

As with all trials there is confusion and worry. They told Martinez it may be postponed because the Judges house flooded, but he did not disappoint.

The News crews filmed the family and the advocates, surrounding Martinez, they spoke passionately as I watched through the window.

Inside Angela expressed her grief, her anger barely subsided,

she will never forgive

or forget.

Mothers pain

Her sister sat quietly, as we all did, in the Courtroom as Dante’s face turned beet red as the charges and the punishment became real

to him

in that moment
and time


Icka testified she was angry that her sister was shot in the head and Antonio was only shot in the hand.

“How is that fair” she cried

They all ran from Dante’s bullets

and she cried

Over Rekia’s body

They wouldn’t let her ride to the hospital with Rekia

and Rekia hated being alone

She cried

For a moment Dante was alone with Rekia, talking on his cellphone when the cops arrived

What was he saying
How did he feel

This was caught on tape

Read more »

Apr 11 2015

Spelling Out The Names…

Grateful for good friends and comrades. Grateful to those who say and spell out the names. Grateful to my friend Kelly for her words and deeds.

photo by Kelly Hayes (4/10/15)

photo by Kelly Hayes (4/10/15)

Apr 09 2015

Downpours, Videotaped Executions & Mourning Our Dead

I’m writing this for myself and not as social commentary. I am writing to make sense and meaning. I am publishing these words not to invite comment but because perhaps others are struggling to make sense and meaning too.

I’ll admit that I am currently battling demoralization. I arrived to a pre-trial rally/gathering for Rekia Boyd during a downpour today. The skies opened and the rain came down mirroring my mood. I arrived late because I was supporting a young person who is on trial in juvenile court this morning. I ducked out and drove to Criminal Court to support Rekia’s family for a few minutes.

It was a small group when I arrived. Martinez Sutton, Rekia’s brother who has been steadfast in fighting to bring his sister’s killer to court, had just finished speaking. People held signs and images of Rekia and other women killed by police.

Rekia's brother and mother  photo by @minkumedia (4/9/15)

Rekia’s brother and mother
photo by @minkumedia (4/9/15)

I can’t lie. I was disappointed in the turnout. I know, I know that there are hundreds of reasons people didn’t show up in numbers. A friend mentioned that perhaps the rain had kept them away. I stared at him. We both knew the truth. For all of the talk of Black Lives mattering, all evidence points to the opposite. Rekia’s life surely mattered to her family and friends. It matters to the small but determined group that showed up in solidarity with her family today. Beyond that though, no, Rekia’s life doesn’t matter in this country.

There is in fact a hierarchy of oppression as Black women, Black trans and gender nonconforming people have even less access to limited sympathy than do cis heterosexual Black men. To deny this is to be a liar. When we call out ‘who will keep our sisters?’ too often we are greeted with one or two lone voices in the wilderness but usually with silence.

The prosecution opened its case against Dante Servin, the detective who killed Rekia Boyd, by saying: “She didn’t see it coming; she didn’t have a chance.” And so it is that too many Black people in this country don’t have a chance to live our lives free from terror.

There’s another videotaped execution of a Black man circulating. Some are calling it ‘shocking.’ It is not. According to reports, the video shows a 50 year old Black man fleeing from a white police officer who shoots him eight times. When the man is on the ground, the cops check his pulse presumably to make sure that he is dead. The dead man is then handcuffed. The dead man’s name is Walter Scott and I refuse to watch his killing. I don’t want to participate in the spectacle. That’s my choice and it won’t be everyone’s.

The deaths are like computer wallpaper and serve as background noise on social media. The deaths are fodder for the continued traumatization and oppression of Black people. The deaths are daily terrorism. Who is next? Will it be a loved one? Will it be me? I’m opting out of the endless ghastly ritual to preserve my soul. Enough. I can’t control the circulation of images of Black death across the world. I can only resolve not to add to the trauma by sharing images myself.

Another Black person is dead at the hands of the police. I don’t care if Mr. Scott was armed or unarmed. I don’t care if he was a family man or a deadbeat parent. I don’t care if he had a record or not. I am gutted that he was killed. That’s enough. Now comes the contest, the fight to define & decide whether this is a Black person who can be, should be mourned. Perhaps some columnists or pundits (white or Black) will write that we should direct our grief to a more ‘worthy’ or ‘true’ victim. Those words will cause a minor uproar on social media that will quickly fade.

Some of us won’t easily move on from the deaths. Each one feels like a lash to our souls. Those wounds are always tender. They stay with us. They linger in our consciousness and hearts. Because this is true, we won’t be swayed by the attempts to humanize the un-human. We won’t spend time talking about dehumanizing the un-human either. We understand that the (white) gaze is unimportant so we don’t seek it out. We let them do their own work with each other. We welcome those who want to uproot structural oppression while understanding that we have all we need to save ourselves. So we focus intently on our own survival and we ignore the chatter about allyship in favor of co-strugglers. We make the daily decision to love each other as Black people even more and to protect each other by any means necessary. We worry about what it does to Black people to live always with trauma, to exist so precariously, to be always at risk of corpsehood. We remember to grieve within our communities of choice. We remember to take the time to mourn, for real. We embrace both the struggle and the love.

When the police repeat that ‘they are in fear for their lives’ every time they shoot and/or kill a Black person, I think that we must take them at their word. Blackness poses an existential threat which must be destroyed. History attests to this reality. How else are we to understand the relentless, consistent, unending obliteration of Black people by the state over decades and centuries? Even after being shot 8 times, checked to make sure we aren’t breathing, the cops still chain our dead bodies with handcuffs. That behavior can only make sense if we understand blackness to be a perpetual threat to whiteness.

Some will read my words and clamor for a 10 point plan. That’s all well and good they’ll say, but how do we “fix” this? To you, I say, come up with your own “fixes.” I am in mourning today…


Apr 03 2015

Guest Post: On Reparations, the Run-Off, and Confronting Police Torture in Chicago

The following is a post written by my friend and comrade Alice Kim. It is re-published from her blog “Dancing the Dialectic.”

Earlier this week at the last mayoral debate in Chicago’s unprecedented run-off election, the scene outside WTTW Studio was a strange mix of about 75 Rahm supporters from Local 73, mostly middle-aged white men some wearing hard hats, carrying their shiny blue “I’m for Rahm” placards, a larger group of residents from the northwest side of Chicago protesting airport noise, and then there was us.

We were a small, some would say rag tag, group of about a dozen activists armed with a beautiful “Reparations Now” banner made by local artists and a sound system. Among us were queer activists, long-time prison abolitionists, torture survivors, and an NEIU student who learned about the protest from one of his teachers. Thanks to the power of amplification and to the chagrin of the pro-Rahm contingent, we were able to drown out their “Four More Years” chants with “Mr. Mayor if you care, we want reparations, fair and square” – a chant we had repurposed from our friends demanding noise-free air.

photo by Andy Thayer (3/31/15)

photo by Andy Thayer (3/31/15)

No fans of Rahm were in our group, but our purpose at the debate was not to support one candidate over another. Since attendance inside WTTW was by invitation only (and none of us had been invited), we gathered outside waiting for the candidates to arrive. Flanked by union Rahm guys and angry homeowners fed up with airport noise, we had a very specific message for the candidates: reparations for Chicago Police torture survivors.

The story of former Chicago Police Commander Jon Burge and his torture practices is chilling: Burge and his detectives tortured 119 African American men and women in their custody using torture tactics ranging from electric shock and suffocation with a typewriter bag to mock executions. These brutal interrogations elicited confessions that were often the primary evidence that was used to convict these defendants. For decades, activists have organized to expose these torture practices; hold the officers responsible accountable; and seek justice for the survivors of torture.

In 2010, 17 years after Burge was fired from the Chicago Police Department, he was found guilty of obstruction of justice and lying about the torture and subsequently sentenced to four and a half years in prison. Yet, justice remained elusive for Burge’s victims who continued to suffer from the trauma of the torture they endured. Over a year and a half ago, the Chicago Torture Justice Memorials worked with Aldermen Joe Moreno and Howard Brookins to introduce the Reparations Ordinance in City Council as a means of offering holistic redress to Burge torture survivors. With this ordinance, we tried to articulate a more meaningful vision of justice by not only seeking financial restitution for the survivors but also a trauma center on the South Side of Chicago that offers counseling and job training for all those who have faced police violence; curriculum in Chicago Public Schools that teaches about Burge torture; free education in the city colleges; a public memorial; and an official apology by the City.

To date, 29 Aldermen, more than half the City Council, have signed on in support of the ordinance. Yet, until recently, the ordinance remained stalled in the Finance Committee without a hearing despite growing support. Finally, in the wake of renewed activism by a coalition of activists, the ordinance was granted a hearing. Dozens of supporters were present at the Finance Committee’s meeting last month when the hearing was announced. Indeed, since last October, reparations supporters of the ordinance have been a regular presence at City Hall. We have staged sing-ins and die-ins in the lobby of City Council chambers, held press conferences announcing developments in the Burge saga, delivered over 35,000 signed signatures on a petition supporting the ordinance to Mayor Rahm Emanuel, and set up pop-up memorials and exhibitions in front of the Mayor’s office.

photo by Sarah Jane Rhee (3/18/15)

photo by Sarah Jane Rhee (3/18/15)

The reverberations of the killing of Mike Brown in Ferguson were acutely felt here in Chicago where we have been confronting our city’s own brutal history of police violence. As the mayoral election unfolded, the deafening silence of nearly all of the candidates on issues of police misconduct was not lost on those of us who had been fighting for reparations. If we wanted the candidates to address Burge torture, it would be up to us to make it so.

We called on all of the candidates to support the ordinance and invited them to publicly declare their support at a citywide rally for reparations held on Valentine’s Day, the same day that Burge was released from his prison sentence. Former contender Dock Walls was the only candidate who showed; Chuy Garcia had previously issued a statement of support after multiple appeals by reparations activists; and Bob Fioretti acknowledged his support on the day of a rally at City Hall where activists were specifically calling out Council members who did not support the ordinance. We never heard back from Willie Wilson and only heard from Emanuel via media reports where he repeatedly made evasive and non-committal statements in response to reporters’ questions about the ordinance.

Emboldened by the Black Lives Matter movement, the reparations campaign – with CTJM and our friends at Amnesty International, Project NIA, and We Charge Genocide at the helm – has taken on new life in the last few months. In addition to our visits to City Hall, we have held marches, rallies, and teach-ins in multiple neighborhoods and communities. We have used the power of social media to build public support and we have tweeted thousands of messages to the mayor. We have called, e-mailed and lobbied our City Council through good old-fashioned meetings to discuss the ordinance. We even took our message the mayor’s home one evening, spelling out “REPARATIONS NOW” in bright lights, a creative tactic organized by the Chicago Light Brigade.

photo by Kelly Hayes (2/6/15)

photo by Kelly Hayes (2/6/15)

From Mayor Emanuel’s doorstep to the last runoff debate, we have insisted that the Reparations Ordinance is one tangible concrete way to show that Black Lives Matter. As we prepare for a public hearing on the ordinance, I am hopeful that we will win a measure of justice for Burge survivors who have already waited too long. Come April 7, I hope we will elect a mayor who is more receptive to the needs of torture survivors and all the people of Chicago. But I know that whoever is in office, reparations activists will continue to insist that the lives of torture survivors matter.