One Step, Miles to Go

April 22, 2021

Community Justice, News

This week our nation held a collective breath as we awaited the verdict of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, haunted by the final words of George Floyd, appealing to his assailant, “I can’t breathe.” Then we exhaled, but we did not necessarily breathe easier. For while ex-Officer Chauvin was found guilty on all counts, the verdict did not bring justice. Some accountability has been achieved — but at what cost?

This accountability only followed body-worn camera footage and videos collected by residents of Minneapolis, and a global movement sparked by George Floyd’s murder. It should not take death, sickening recordings, and sustained direct action for us to collectively exercise the conviction that Black Lives Absolutely Matter.

NYLPI is in solidarity with the family of George Floyd, the people of Minnesota, and all Black people who had to endure this ghastly violence and the court proceedings that made them relive it. At the same time, we recognize that this moment of acute catharsis must not be conflated with a notion of lasting peace. As Mariame Kaba reminds us, “Transformative justice is not a flowery phrase for a court proceeding that delivers an outcome we like. It is a community process developed by activists of color to create responses to violence that do what the criminal punishment systems fail to do: build support and more safety for the people harmed, figure out how the broader context was set up for this harm to happen, and how the context can be changed so this harm is less likely to happen again.”

NYLPI continues to work every day to turn accountability into justice. NYLPI has successfully litigated to secure the release of police body-worn camera videos in cases where police have killed New Yorkers experiencing mental health crises, the vast majority of whom are Black or other people of color. While videos can make a difference in outcomes that lead to accountability, it will take much more to arrive at an outcome of justice — preventing the loss of life at the hands of police officers and the state at large. Each case and campaign serves as a step along a larger trajectory that bends the arc and leads to the mutual justice of systemic and transformative change.

Changing the context of harm requires deep partnerships, organizational humility, and sustained advocacy for change. The struggle against white supremacy, anti-Blackness, and bigotry in all forms is a journey to which NYLPI is committed. We may not experience the desired endpoint in our lifetimes, but we will continue to do our part to pave the road that gets us there.

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