As Black History Month commences, I want to express my appreciation and admiration for all the accomplishments and struggles that have paved the way for this month’s celebration.
I am pleased to usher in this year’s Black History Month as Mayor of Richmond. Richmond is a diverse city that has prospered as a direct result of the achievements of the African American community. We must continue to nourish and promote the progress of our African American community by way of equal rights, dignity, education, and employment. We must acknowledge the wrongs of the past as we move forward— in hopes of not only never repeating those wrongs, but also to live harmoniously with each other, enjoying equal protections and opportunities.
The contributions of African Americans to the United States is a vast and boundless collection— one that is often ignored or, at times, outright denied. Our country has sometimes accepted the triumphs of Black people, but it has not readily recognized their humanity. I understand that we cannot celebrate the accomplishments of this country without acknowledging the complex heritage of those who were forced to sacrifice their own lives for the economy of the United States.
It is not lost on me that the memorial for Tyre Nichols, the young photographer murdered by the Memphis Police Department, took place today. Anthony Lowe, a double amputee suffering from a mental health crisis, was killed by a Huntington Park police officer last week. I could go on, of course. Violent repression of black people by the state is not a relic of our past.
Police killings reached a record high in 2022, averaging about 100 people per day. Body cameras, which were touted as a major reform in policing and facilitated a huge cash injection into police budgets nationally, seem to only yield endless footage of police officers murdering people of color with relative impunity. Study after study clearly indicates that, “In any given kind of encounter with the police, a Black person [is] likelier to be killed than a white person.”
We must build a country in which Tyre Nichols, Anthony Lowe, George Floyd, Sandra Bland, Tamir Rice, Stephon Clark, Oscar Grant, Kayla Moore, and Miles Hall would still be alive. In Richmond, we can commit to public safety measures that are proven to work and don’t require a badge and a gun: gun violence prevention through the Office of Neighborhood Safety; mental health crisis response teams; homelessness support and housing stability; and reinvestment in youth employment.
So, I join the nation in the dual task of honoring Black History Month and mourning the tragic loss of Tyre Nichols. The senseless loss of this young black man, who was only beginning his journey in life, is horrifying and unacceptable. There is the loss of someone’s father, someone’s son, someone’s friend, coworker, and—above all—a human being. The trauma of police violence against black people reverberates throughout communities each and every time it happens.
Until every human life is deemed precious and sacred, there will continue to be these instances of injustice and death. Black History Month must therefore be a recognition— of the historical struggle for Black liberation and the right to everyday joys and dignity, and of our country’s urgent need to repair its racist foundations.