Caribbean Americans rally for justice in Brooklyn Sunday

People inspired by a speaker raise their hands during a Caribbean-led Black Lives Matter rally at Brooklyn's Grand Army Plaza, Sunday, June 14, 2020.
Associated Press / Kathy Willens

Thousands of Caribbean Americans on Sunday honored organizers’ fervent call by participating in a massive march and rally for justice in Brooklyn.

The event, dubbed “Caribbean Americans For Justice” featured a march from Church and Flatbush avenues in Brooklyn, started at noon, and proceeded north along Flatbush Avenue to Grand Army Plaza, and culminated with the massive rally.

The march and rally were organized by Rickford Burke, president of the Brooklyn-based Caribbean Guyana Institute for Democracy (CGID); US Virgin Islands-born Pastor Gilford Monrose; Minna Lafortune, president of the Society for the Advancement of the Caribbean Diaspora (SACD); the Rev. Jamaican Terry Lee of the Byways and Hedges Church Organization; Haitian American community leader Rose Guerrier of International Cultures United (ICU);community activist and youth leader Chris Banks; and Grenadian Junior George, host of Ride Along Live.

In, clearly a scene reminiscent of the West Indian American Day Carnival Parade on Labor Day, on Brooklyn’s Eastern Parkway, Caribbean-Americans jammed Eastern Parkway, at Grand Army Plaza, waving national flags.

But they weren’t strictly celebrating their cultural pride, they resoundingly and vociferously added their voices to calls for justice for George Floyd, Breona Taylor and other victims of police brutality.

Protests have intensified and continued since the May 25 death of George Floyd, a Black man who died in police custody in Minneapolis after a white police officer kneed on Floyd’s neck for nearly nine minutes.

Perry shares a moment with a young protester, joining in the calls for reform.Frank Shea / Office of Assemblyman Nick Perry

Jamaican-born Assemblyman Nick Perry, fresh off an active and successful week in Albany – where three of the 10 major police reform laws signed last week into law by Gov. Andrew Cuomo were introduced and sponsored by Perry – joined the ebullient crowd at Grand Army Plaza in calls for justice and reform.

“It was a remarkable sight to see so many Caribbean-Americans of all ages gathered at Grand Army Plaza and in one voice call for justice and reform,” Perry, who represents the 58th Assembly District in Brooklyn, told Caribbean Life.

“No longer can we allow room to hide behind the blue wall of silence for any police officer who lacks the moral compass to serve and protect our community, and is not living up to his oath to serve and protect our communities,” said Perry, one of the featured speakers at the rally.

While addressing the crowd, Perry briefly outlined the three police reform bills he sponsored and were signed into law.

Assemblyman Nick Perry and Community Advocate and Nurse Mercedes Narcisse stand together in their call for police reform.Frank Shea / Office of Assemblyman Nick Perry

Perry’s “Special Prosecutor Bill” establishes a special prosecutor’s unit with the New York State Attorney General’s office to investigate and potentially prosecute incidents when a person dies in custody or after an encounter with a police officer.

His “Right to Monitor Act” codifies into law the right of an individual to record law enforcement activity in New York State, and to maintain custody of that recording and any device used to make the recording.

Another new law requires police officers to report, verbally to their supervisor, whenever they have to discharge their weapon in a manner that an individual could have been struck by a bullet. That report has to come within six hours.

Perry urged rally participants to continue their advocacy, noting that the protests of the previous weeks were instrumental in getting the Legislature in Albany to act and pass these bills into law.

He said he looked forward to returning soon to Albany to pass more bills he has sponsored, including efforts to set new use of force standards by police, increased oversight on prosecutors and a mechanism to remove bad police officers from the streets.

Franklyn “Supadex” Richards, a Vincentian-born graphic artist and community organizer in Brooklyn, told Caribbean Life that he could not miss the event.

Public Advocate Jumaane Williams addresses crowd.Frank Shea / Office of Assembly Nick Perry

“Black Lives Matter; that’s why I marched on Sunday — not only for me but for my only son, Franklyn M. Richards, my only daughter Falani D. Richards, my countless nieces and nephews, cousins, relatives and for all of our fallen soldiers who passed and for those who couldn’t make it,” said the former president of the Brooklyn-based group Vincy Cares.

“I marched because I, too, have been randomly stopped and searched by police,” he added. “I marched because I, too, have been pulled over countless times by the police — a Black man driving a BMW syndrome.

“I marched because we’ve done everything that they tell us to do and, yet still, our lives were cut short by racist cops,” Richards continued. “Sunday’s March was significant because, as a part of the Caribbean community within the Diaspora, we are unfairly targeted by cops, from racial profiling to shutting down our venues for entertainment.

“Our community has more bodegas, more liquor stores and more fast food joints than our counterpart,” he said. “Racism is not only police killing our unarmed Black men — it’s inadequate healthcare; it’s improper legal representation; it’s food deserts within our community; it’s predatory lending; it’s the huge amount of construction going on in our community, and our people are not being hired to benefit from the construction boom; it’s being the last to get hired and the first to get fired.”

On Sunday, marchers sang to, among others, Peter Tosh’s “Equal Rights and Justice,” and danced to Skinny Fabulous’ “Famalay.”

“Even for one day, we were all family, marching and protesting for a single cause — justice,” Richards said.

Marchers also chanted, among others: “What do we want – justice, when do we want it – now”; “No Justice, No Peace;” Say his name – George Floyd!” and “Say her name – Breonna Taylor.”

Burke said Sunday’s events demonstrated “Caribbean American solidarity with African Americans and other Americans who reject police brutality, racism and injustice.”

In addition, he said they provided the opportunity for the Caribbean community to “unreservedly embrace the movement for justice for George Floyd” and espoused its views on “the fight for equality, social justice, as well as respect for the civil and human rights, and dignity of people of color and all Americans.”

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