Statements Regarding The Black Lives Matter Protests

“For a moment, the world stopped – April 13, 2022”

Image of Patrick Lyola

A statement from our Executive Director 

The average human being can hold their breath for 30-90 seconds. 

But on April 13th, 2022 thousands of citizens in Grand Rapids, Michigan held their breath for more than an hour. 

Many of us knew what we were going to see; some so much so that they refused to even watch it. Others tuned in to see if what they were hearing was true; some to reinforce their belief that if someone died by the hands of an officer, well then “surely they deserved it”. 

I watched because I wanted the gasoline to pour through my veins-I wanted fuel for the fire I knows lies ahead, I didn’t expect my reaction to be THIS visceral though; but this isn’t about me. It is about the murder of Patrick Lyoya. Patrick and his family came here (from the Democratic Republic of the Congo) for refuge, and found the chicanery that is embedded within our city.

Regardless of the beliefs of those tuning in, everyone in Grand Rapids knew what was coming at 3pm. 

Organizations, businesses, news outlets, churches, and non-profits across the city were and are – now releasing “statements” about what happened on Monday, April 4th in our neighborhood; many of which are using words like “incident.”

The news release started with more “intentional language” like “Graciousness” –

A word used by a city official to describe their admiration for our city’s law enforcement at this time; “Appreciative of their graciousness” was the verbiage used to be exact. 

Keep in mind, the only people that appreciate murderers are the ones who see the slain as unworthy of life. 

For those that didn’t watch the footage as a form of self-preservation, I’ll spare you the violent details. 

Instead, I have questions: 

  1. Is it civil, as an officer, to patronize someone with “do – you – speak – English” while simultaneously using your hand to imitate a mouth in the face of someone you just pulled over? 
  2. Why not ask “would you like an interpreter, sir”? 
  3. When someone is complying with little understanding, and attempting to walk to the passenger side of the vehicle for identification, is it protocol to grab them by the arm and push them against the car while they are complying?
  4. Is it common procedure, when a passenger is in the car, and your person of focus is running circles in a front yard (not trying to run away) to focus on detaining said individual instead of awaiting backup or allowing them to flee while you are alone? 
  5. Were the multiple knees from you (the officer) standard procedure? 
  6. What about the elbows? 
  7. When this person (Patrick) not once, not twice, but NEVER struck you (the officer) back, tried to slam you, kick you, bite you, or do physical harm to you after you did it to them, at what point is a taser justified? 
  8. Does this not show the character of Patrick, that even when being attacked he chose to be non-violent? 
  9. At what point as an officer, did you realize the people around you FEAR YOU SO MUCH? 
  10. Did you see that neighbors stand idle, the passenger stands frozen by terror, and everyone was pleading for you to stop? 
  11. Why did you decide “no, I NEED to continue”? 
  12. At what point, as you pull your gun, did you decide not to stand up and wait for back up, but instead point-blank – clutch it against his head, and choose to play god?
  13. At what point as an officer did you feel it was appropriate to execute someone’s friend in front of them? Then, after they have obeyed you, stayed still, and watched the entire scene, did you feel it was important or necessary to have them walk backwards to your vehicle? 
  14. Had you even considered how traumatizing what you did might be for the passenger? 
  15. At what point is Patrick seen as a survivor, as someone who came here for sanctuary, someone who wanted to live? Will he be referred to as a leader, or did they notice that he had a smile that could light up a room before they doused his spark? 
  16. At any point in this process, did you see the officer treat Patrick as an equal; as a member of the community- and not a problem he got tired of dealing with? 

Today, before soaking this tragedy in, I sought answers from my ancestors who have walked through this fire. I tuned in to a 1971 dialogue between James Baldwin and Nikki Giovanni in which Giovanni said [paraphrasing]: “The only people we hate more than masters in America, is Slaves.” To which Baldwin said: “Well that depends, because when a master has a child with a Slave; Only when the master can make money off of his son is he truly valuable.”

I couldn’t help but think about the organizations making statements about this tragedy when Baldwin said that. The politicians that have worked in tandem year round with these tyrannical overse are now trying to steal the spotlight from young activists who have been warning us this would happen for years. 

I see the “good ol’ boys” making money for the people murdering us, gutting our schools, and buying our neighborhoods. 

I see the Master’s sons allowed in the house, and I hope they wake up one day realizing that these issues have been going on for decades as their brothers and sisters die outside. 

We live within a harsh duality in Grand Rapids, where there is a marked difference between what we see & hear.

I hear non profits own hundreds of homes in our neighborhoods! We have a large philanthropic sector, maybe even the largest in America. 

But I see we have kids with lead levels higher than Flint, polluted natural resources running through our neighborhood, private companies buying up homes and commercial properties, leaving only makeshift “equity” and leftovers for “those struggling to adjust to the market.”

I hear we have countless schools in our neighborhood. 

But I see some are owned by the same people who own detention centers, some are public staples, some are vacant. 

I hear the people who live here are happy. 

But as the philanthropic capital of America, there is no reason this family should need a thing. Even though I see us being priced out as new neighbors move in by the day, and those  new neighbors call the police on us just for celebrating our birthdays, accomplishments, or simply living. 

I hear we love it here, and always have. 

Meanwhile, I see my neighborhood has a majority of the GRPD manpower patrolling here at any given time. 

Which is interesting, because even when calling for backup, on April 4th, East Grand Rapids Police Dept. arrived first on the scene?! 

By their logic, resisting and causing great bodily harm is a justification for DEATH. But with the climate these systems their white supremacy culture has created; we don’t have nearly enough cemeteries to hold the casualties that would be considered “just” if we lived by the same standard and chose to defend ourselves. 

But in the words of Kimberly Jones, people are lucky Black people want Equity and not revenge. 

Although 

It was said by one of THEIR proud Son’s. 

“It’s a difficult time for our officers, 

When a life ‘has’ to be taken.”

I disagree that a life, Patrick’s life, “HAD” to be. 

***

Below, is a collection of screenshots from news articles after the first two days of this atrocity. 

I heard many people say “This isn’t the Grand Rapids I know” but, we beg to differ. 

Grand Rapids, The #1 place to raise a family. I think the Lyoya family, and anyone who sees themselves as a target of these comments might disagree. 

As an organization that is completely ran by Black, Brown, and Queer folks working in West Michigan, please understand there is a certain level of danger in us creating statements like this. Especially in Grand Rapids. If you’d like to support our work, you can find ways to do so at www.TheDiatribe.org 

But for now we encourage you to

  1. Support Patrick’s family (https://gofund.me/7adec149)
  2. The dynamic young people on the ground (https://www.facebook.com/RBPPGR)
  3. Shine a light on the truly amazing human being that Patrick was, not perfect, as none of us are, but the community oriented, soccer loving, caring man; who even when shown nothing but aggression didn’t respond with the same. 

– Told in the voice of of The Diatribe’s  Executive Director Marcel Price, in collaboration with the collective voices of Diatribe team members. 

Are you asking yourself “What can I do to help”?

 

If you have extra dollars to spare, a great way to support marginalized folks currently exhausting themselves is to support them financially.
We have seen a lot of people, organizations, and influencers posting national organizations that are at the top of their list. While we agree, there are a ton of amazing organizations doing GREAT work, supporting LOCAL is a great way to keep that work going in our community.

The Diatribe Inc

Michigan Solidarity Bail Fund

GRCF African American Heritage Fund

NAACP Grand Rapids

Grand Rapids Center for Community Transformation

If you currently do not have any extra cash, get out and pound the pavement! Look for protests, rallies, and organizing being done by people of color and ask how you can help.

You can also:
• Write a letter to your commissioners that are making choices that do not seem ANTI-Racist.
• Write a letter to your Mayor if she is making choices that do not feel ANTI-Racist
• Push non-profits, your neighborhood associations, or businesses that you support to get more Black people in positions of power in their organizations.

Lastly, reach out to some of the Black folks you know and ask them if they need anything.

Buy them lunch, make them a cake (only if you are good at baking), or just let them know that you appreciate them, and ask them to let you know when you slip up.

Black folks, rest up.
We need you.

 

A phenomenal story to end on from Dustin Dwyer of Michigan Radio.

Reporter’s Notebook: Grand Rapids, this is us

 

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