From the beginning of this modern era, non-White people have been targeted through gang wars, drugs, disease, poverty and illiteracy. In this country, whether Black music, Black art or Black politics, there’s always a plan to devalue our opinions and ultimately our lives.
The No. 1 cause of death for a Black man in America is by the hands of a police officer. With this upcoming election, we must push for stricter police brutality policies as well as for laws severely punishing officers who use their weapons to kill civilian citizens.
Since 2017, 7,000 Black men and women have been killed after a police interaction. Tragically, three-fourths of those 7,000 were unarmed. Police brutality and police abuse is a long-running tradition in the Black community. We’re told to “Get over it,” or “He should’ve complied.” But what happens when the danger happens in your own backyard?
On August 22, 2017 here in Daytona Beach, a young man was killed by a Daytona Beach police officer in his grandma’s yard. However, despite multiple media reports from CNN, the Washington Post, the officer admitting to shooting him and even the key witness seeing every second of it, the police ruled it as a suicide.
Six shots were fired directly at Shakyri. However, the official documentation wants us to naively believe he shot himself in the neck. Considering the circumstances, his entire scalp would have been blown off if he were to pull the gun on himself.
Knew him well
All around the country we hear about police brutality and the deaths of Black men and women due to trigger-happy cops. His name was Shakyri Willis, and he was truly an asset to our community. Despite what that officer thought, we knew his spirit, his positive energy and that he would NEVER hurt a fly.
Willis, who had been released prematurely from Halifax Medical Center under psychiatric evaluation, was suffering from mental health issues, according to medical documents. It is disturbing that our issues get swept under the rug because of how we look or carry ourselves. Our lives still matter!
To honor his legacy and his innocence, my organization hosted a “Remembrance Walk” throughout our city. Unfortunately for the family, they still haven’t received justice, an accurate copy of the bodycam video or even a knock on the door and a hug.
Not a call from Mayor Derrick Henry, our city commissioners or the officer who committed the homicide. Two years and the Willis family continues to have restless nights and tear-filled mornings. Meanwhile, that same officer was placed on administrative leave (with paid time off) and the good ol’ boy system went right into effect.
As an activist and social justice warrior, I made it my mission to get the full details from Mr. Willis’ family as well as information from media outlets and local neighbors. The most tragic part is that two years later, the case is swept under the rug and completely forgotten about. With the upcoming election year, it’s time to reopen this case and do further investigation, maybe through an outside firm with no connections to any Florida-based police force.
Trayvon Martin, Eric Garner, Alton Sterling, Tamir Rice, Mike Brown, Sandra Bland, Emmitt Till, Sean Bell and Shakyri Willis are amongst the thousands of names that have been taken away due to open racism and police brutality.
A long struggle
From the early beginning of slave patrollers, police and the Black community have always been in a long-standing struggle. In the 1950s and ‘60s, officers would hose down Black protestors and even attack them with dogs. Cops would harass, intimidate and attack everything Black.
We hear these stories on local news and become emotionally distraught. We create social media hashtags and do everything we can to demand justice. Protesting, calls from community leaders and mass media outrage have allowed this dangerous occurrence to be broadcast more than ever.
This epidemic must not continue into the next decade! Contact your local officials and state reps and DEMAND JUSTICE for families and victims everywhere!
Rell Black is an award-winning activist, blogger and the founder of Community Healing Project Inc.