Say Their Names, Too

Ideas and Issues
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Pearl River      For years the tag line on my blogs and podcasts has been, “You take it from here to there.”  It’s time to raise up the names of some of the people who have done exactly that in trying to make sure there was justice when it came to police brutality and racism.  The crimes they witnessed were horrific, but their courage was heroic.  Their weapon of circumstance as much as choice has been the advancing features of video on cameras and smartphones.

We’ve talked about this before.  My advice has been simple.  Stay alert in your communities.  Make sure your camera is on the front face of your phone.  Practice with it.  Make sure your trigger finger is ready to hit that program feature so you can hold history in your hands.  Take the next step and protect what you have recorded and get it out to the public, either in your name or whatever way works for you, because we’re dealing with fear and potential retaliation.  However, you do it, get it done.

I’ve been wondering about this, but Joanna Stern, the personal tech columnist for the Wall Street Journal, did me and all of us the favor of reminding us about the people who have pressed the button so that justice might be done and police brutality could be witnessed by everyone, both believers and nonbelievers.  As her headline said, “They Used Smartphones to Record Police Brutality – and Change History.”  The old saying was always that “a picture is worth a thousand words.”  The new slogan might be that “a video is worth a thousand lives.”

Let’s thank Darnella Frazier, as Stern tells her story…

…17-year-old Darnella Frazier found herself standing on a sidewalk in Minneapolis, swiping on her purple iPhone 11 lock screen to launch the video camera as fast as possible.  She hit the red circle and for the next 10 minutes and 9 seconds she held her phone as steady as she could, capturing George Floyd, a black man crying for his mother as his face was smashed into the pavement by white police officer Derek Chauvin. “I opened my phone and I started recording because I knew if I didn’t, no one would believe me,” Ms. Frazier said in a statement provided by her lawyer, Seth Cobin.  A day later, May 26, she opened up the Facebook app, and tapped the video of Mr. Floyd to upload it. The world now knows his name.

Let’s thank…

Karina Vargas, who had her Fujifilm Finepix digital camera the night of Jan. 1, 2009, when she witnessed officer Johannes Mehserle shooting 22-year-old Oscar Grant III at the Fruitvale BART transit station in Oakland, Calif.  Ms. Vargas also had a Motorola Razr cellphone, but she turned on her 10-megapixel Fujifilm because it could record better quality video.  In a series of clips, many of them pixelated and shaky, she captured the officers surrounding Grant and eventually the sounds of the gunshots.

Let’s thank…

Ramsey Orta and his 2011 Samsung Galaxy phone [that] captured 720p high-definition video of Eric Garner, surrounded by New York City police officers [in 2014]. Mr. Orta filmed police wrestling Mr. Garner to the pavement and putting him in a chokehold. On the video, he said he couldn’t breathe 11 times before he died.  Mr. Orta originally shared the video with the New York Daily News, and it quickly spread across Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. The phrase “I can’t breathe” became a slogan of the Black Lives Matter movement.

Let’s thank…

Feidin Santana in North Charleston, S.C., [who] had just gotten a new one from a friend, a Samsung Galaxy S5 with a 16-megapixel camera. He happened to be walking to his job when he saw Mr. [Walter] Scott being chased by officer Michael Slager. Mr. Santana tapped the camera app and began recording for three minutes, capturing Slager shooting Mr. Scott five times as he tried to run.

Let’s not only thank Feidin Santana, Ramsey Orta, Karina Vargas, and Darnella Frazier, but also Brandon Brooks, and then the anonymous videographers who filmed Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge, and let’s not foregt George Holliday for filming the beating of Rodney King in Los Angeles in 1991.  Let’s thank all of them and many more who have stood up and done right by our people, our communities, and showed the courage and character that once was a hallmark of America.  Weep about these tragedies, but celebrate the young men and women who have taken it from here to there, and then be ready to join them and do likewise.