Fred Hampton once said, “you can kill a revolutionary but you can never kill the revolution.” The words are powerful and tragic juxtaposed to the image of his slain, bloody body lying face-down in the doorway of his apartment where the Chicago police assassinated him. The image of the former Black Panther Party leader’s killing is still shocking 47 years later, even in the context of the then active struggle for justice during the civil rights movement. However, the killing of African American men by the police continues at an unprecedented rate in 2016 without the backdrop of revolution.
The recent police violence directed towards African American men in the United States is an alarming trend that sends a disturbing message to the citizens of this country. In essence it suggests that the unabated aggression towards African Americans, and in particular Black men, may become so common place that the public will be desensitized to the pervasive violence towards this segment of the population.
To put it in perspective, in 2015 African American males between the ages of 15 and 34 (the number one target of police aggression) make up only 2% of the total U.S. population but account for 15% of the deaths associated with police involved killings. That rate is five times higher than white males in the same age group. In fact, a study by “The Guardian” found that 1,134 black men were killed at the hands of law enforcement in 2015. What this means is that 1 out of every 65 deaths of black men could be contributed to police killing.
What is even more stunning is the number of African American victims killed by the police who were unarmed. A 2015 study on Mapping Police Violence reported over 100 deaths, and it is largely believed that this number may be under-reported. FBI Director, James Comey, was quoted to have said that the Bureau’s lack of comprehensive statistics related to this epidemic was “ridiculous and embarrassing,” and is somewhat reminiscent of a time not so long ago when this agency took a very hands-on approach to violence against African Americans.
While high profile cases like those of Michael Brown, Ezell Ford, Alton Sterling and Philando Castille have made national news sparking outrage, hundreds of other cases exist that have gone unnoticed. Cases like those of Felix Kumi, Wendell Hall, Jason Champion and Terry Chatman who were innocent victims killed by police negligence. For example, Jason Champion was a pedestrian killed in New Jersey by the crash of a state police car during a high-speed pursuit that did not involve him. In his case, along with the other 101 mentioned here, only 10 of these incidents have resulted in disciplinary action against police.
This egregious lack of accountability has sparked significant outrage in the black community as well as other communities across the nation that have reached a limit to the tolerance for injustice being perpetuated against black men by those entrusted to uphold the law. Movements like Black Lives Matter have given a voice to the frustration people feel through the mechanism of protest that increases awareness and paves the way for the work that must follow.
Over the last 10 years the African American Male Education Network and Development (A²MEND) has engaged in the work. The organization was founded on the premise of amending the inequities faced by black men to counteract the domestic terrorism against this most vulnerable population of American citizens. The organization abhors the violence and stands firm on the foundation of justice for these fallen brothers. In our roles as mentors we actively increase the preparedness for the young men who have put their trust in us as they move through the halls of academia and the neighborhoods where they live. Ours is a revolutionary struggle to keep African American men alive and on a path towards success. The struggle for African American male survival is real, and our role in the formulation of the future for these young brothers and ourselves is A²MEND’s contribution to a better world.
The African American Male Education Network and Development (A²MEND) organization is comprised of African American male administrators who utilize their scholarly and professional expertise to foster institutional change within the community college system. We aim to create an affirming academic and professional environment for African Americans with a particular focus on African American male students, faculty, staff, and administrators.