The deaths that have gone before have defined the American civil rights movement.
Among the dead is Martin Luther King Jr., felled by an assassin’s bullet in Memphis on April 4, 1968. Fifteen months later, his younger brother A.D. King was found in a swimming pool with no water in his lungs and marks around his neck, according to the family. They believe he also was murdered.
And not just black men.
Among African-American women who have died in racially charged circumstances is Sandra Bland, arrested in Prairie View in July by a white state trooper for a minor traffic infraction and found dead three days later in her jail cell.
Black women need strategies not only to keep from dying but to thrive, said Kyev Tatum, president of the Tarrant County chapter of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. That was the genesis of the idea for the symposium titled Justice for Girls Because Black Women Matter, he said.
He arranged for two King relatives — A.D. King’s widow, Naomi King, 84, and her granddaughter, Celeste King Beal — to speak at the event. Naomi King canceled at the last minute because of her health.
Beal said Americans must learn that love can overcome death and the fear that surrounds it.
“People are upset by the Black Lives Matter movement because they don’t understand it,” Beal said. “They don’t understand why [the protesters] are screaming and interrupt other people.
“Instead of trying to put that fire out, we should be directing that fire so it can burn down the walls that people are afraid to tear down themselves.”
Larry Lewis, a longtime SCLC member from Deep Step, Ga., who marched with Martin Luther King, also spoke.
“I wish the youth, the people from Black Lives Matter, would have come so we could have explained to them that this struggle did not start yesterday but when we got off that boat [from Africa],” Lewis said.
A video shown early in the evening listed the names of African-American women who have died in police custody and the circumstances under which they died. It lasted for more than four minutes.
“The community has told us that this is not just a police issue, but a public health issue. And that they need our help to combat a whole host of issues,” Tatum said. “We have connected to Dr. King’s family and they have committed to work with us to organize Texas in a way that makes sense for everyone, and that’s huge.”
The symposium was at Tarrant County College Trinity River Campus.
Trina Baynes, also an SCLC official from Georgia, said that black women have been lied to.
“We have been besieged with a lot of lies,” Baynes said. “We have allowed ourselves to be hoodwinked into believing we don’t need divine spirit to guide us. Women are a product of divinity.”
For more information
Call the Tarrant County Southern Christian Leadership Conference, 817-966-7625