Janelle Monae, and her Wondaland crew have been touring the U.S., marching against police brutality. I’ve been following their endeavors on Instagram, and at the very last minute decided to join them when they went to San Francisco. When I found out they were marching in San Francisco, I wondered why San Francisco, and not Oakland? But once I walked out of the 24th and Mission BART station, and stood amongst the mixed crowd in the gentrifying Mission, it made sense. The Mission needed to be reclaimed.
Activists and families of victims of police brutality shared their truths. Alex Nieto’s family had a big presence. Alex Nieto, is a man who was gunned down in the Bernal Heights neighborhood by San Francisco police in 2014. Someone called and reported that he had a tazor gun. He was about to report to his job as a Security Guard, and was gunned down by police. His family is seeking justice.
Oscar Grant’s family was also present. Oscar Grant was gunned down in 2009 at Fruitvale BART station in East Oakland in the early morning of New Years day. Someone reported there was a fight on BART. BART police pulled Oscar Grant off of the train, and though video recordings showed that he didn’t resist arrest, he was shot and killed. The officer claims he meant to taze him.
The afternoon focused on the families of victims who have lost their lives to police brutality. People shared their truths, along with activists, speaking and rapping about their experiences. There was also much needed focus on the many trans women’s lives that have been taken, but not spoken about enough.
Later, Janelle Monae, Jidenna and the rest of the Wondaland Crew came on stage with the families of victims and sang a song, “Hell You Talmabout,” naming the many people who have died because of police brutality. They then led us on a march to the San Francisco Police Station where we continued to sing.
Police were prepared for a riot, with their head gear on, but Janelle Monae and her crew led us in song, and played the trombone, New Orleans style. People sang and danced. Jidenna, a singer from the Wondaland crew, said they didn’t want this to be a gathering of mourning, but a gathering of celebrating that we will move forward. That we will fight and survive.
Many people are fighting this fight, and overall, the Black Lives Matter response to police brutality has been led by women. It was powerful to see a woman celebrity not only use her celebrity, but lead other artists in using their talents to support the fight against police brutality. It was very Nina Simone of her to organize a tour that specifically is in support of people of color’s lives, and I hope other celebrities follow.
(Below is a link to a performance of the song Janelle Monae sang with families as we marched. The recording below is from another performance in Philadelphia)