May 20 2015

We Do This For Damo…

It’s been a year since Dominique Franklin Jr’s death. Last May, Damo was a stranger to me. The first time that I heard his name was when a young person I love told me that he was in a coma. Shortly after, he was dead. I remember the pain of watching his friends wrestle with his loss. They were racked with grief and later I would learn with guilt. I remember a pervasive sense of helplessness engulfing me. Then a dawning glimmer of an idea pierced my consciousness. What if we organized an effort that would bring an international charge of genocide against the U.S. government for killing Damo and torturing other young Black and Brown people in Chicago? How about if we revived the 1951 We Charge Genocide petition for the 21st century? Perhaps such an effort could serve as a container for our collective pain. Maybe we could transform our devastation into righteous and purposeful collective action.

It’s been a year since Damo’s death and he is not forgotten. In fact, his friends and community have written his name into history. Most young Black people who are killed by police are lucky if they become social media hashtags. Usually, their deaths are unremarkable. Their lives are only memorialized by those who knew and loved them. Damo’s killing by the Chicago Police Department has registered beyond the circle of those who knew him. Out of the tragedy of his unnecessary death, We Charge Genocide was born.

photo by Page May (5/17/15)

photo by Page May (5/17/15)

Out of the despair of his friends, a social and political quilt to resist racist policing was created. Damo’s friends and peers traveled to Geneva to charge the U.S. with genocide. They came together to support a successful struggle for reparations for Burge police torture survivors. They organized protests, actions, Copwatch workshops, and many other events. They have spoken across the country about state violence. Most importantly, they have forged new relationships rooted in love and respect with many others across the city and have become a more powerful force to resist oppression. They (we) have done all of this in Damo’s name.

We Charge Genocide at UN in Geneva

We Charge Genocide at UN in Geneva

It’s been a year since Damo’s death and I am reminded that it’s possible to feel connected to someone you’ve never met. It’s possible to even come to love them. Damo’s friends have organized an event happening this afternoon to commemorate his death.


Ethan is a friend of Damo. He has worked tirelessly to co-organize today’s commemoration. He explained the nature and purpose of the event from his perspective:

“Damo Day is really a celebration. I’ve been going to protests all the time. I’m going to another one tomorrow. From what I’ve gotten from a lot of young people, and young people of color specifically, is that they get tired of going out in the streets and yelling at a system, yelling at the police department that has no inkling of change, has no positive intentions in their work. It’s like are we angry because the system is broken or angry because the system is working and doing what it is supposed to? So, I’m no longer trying to facilitate spaces for young people where we are asking the system to do something for us. I instead want to meet the death and the destruction that the system perpetuates with love, with gathering, with reason, with voice. We’re going to do a short march then we’re going to do a rally around the area where he was killed and then move on to a park. We rented a space and we’ll have music and dance and peace circles and talks. We have some prominent artists from the city coming out showing love and support.”

This afternoon, I will join Damo’s friends, family, and community “to meet the death and the destruction that the system perpetuates with love, with gathering, with reason, [and] with voice.” It’s been a year since Damo’s death and he’s no longer a stranger to me and many others. We do this for Damo…