For Charly Leundeu Keunang aka Charley Saturmin Robinet aka Brother Africa

A beautiful human being lost his life here! Homeless lives matter! Jail the killer cops!

Does a rose by any other name not smell as sweet?

Does a person that goes by another name cease to be a child of Mother Earth?

What do the words “serve” and “protect” mean?

serve: to be a servant, a person who is devoted to or guided by something
protect: to keep (someone or something) from being harmed, lost, etc.

No excuses.

If you’re charged with serving and protecting the people,
you put your own life on the line every day for them.
You’re devoted to the people.
You’re guided by your commitment to their well-being.
Your mission is to keep them from harm.
All of them. Period.

Yet, so many fall at the hands of the police.
So many served nothing more than a volley of bullets.
So many robbed of protection, and life.
So many stripped of their humanity.

Brother Africa was a fellow human being.
He’ll never be replaced.
He’ll never see his chance to shine on the silver screen.
He’ll never set foot back in his native Cameroon,
feel the African sun on his hopeful face.
Never again will friends and loved ones
bask in the majesty of his humanity.

Some of us never knew you,
but we won’t forget you.
And those who did will carry
those indelible marks,
only you could leave.

Farewell, Brother Africa!


People paying their respects.

p.s. — This was my humble attempt to speak poetically to this tragedy. Countless others have done so much more effectively and beautifully than I can muster. Here’s a link to a magnificently damning collection of poems I found at the Black & Blue blog:

And just to whet the appetite, here are a couple pieces I’ve cut and pasted from the collection:

Southern Cop
By Sterling Brown

Let us forgive Ty Kendricks.
The place was Darktown. He was young.
His nerves were jittery. The day was hot.
The Negro ran out of the alley.
And so Ty shot.

Let us understand Ty Kendricks.
The Negro must have been dangerous.
Because he ran;
And here was a rookie with a chance
To prove himself a man.

Let us condone Ty Kendricks
If we cannot decorate.
When he found what the Negro was running for,
It was too late;
And all we can say for the Negro is
It was unfortunate.

Let us pity Ty Kendricks.
He has been through enough,
Standing there, his big gun smoking,
Rabbit-scared, alone,
Having to hear the wenches wail
And the dying Negro moan.


Black Power
(For All the Beautiful Black Panthers East)
By Nikki Giovanni

But the whole thing is a miracle – See?

We were just standing there
talking – not touching or smoking
When this cop told
Move along buddy – take your whores
outa here

And this tremendous growl
From out of nowhere
Pounced on him

Nobody to this very day
Can explain
How it happened

And none of the zoos or circuses
Within fifty miles
Had reported
A panther

The Roots of L.A., or… Grandma Mason: 38 years a slave, a lifetime of humanity

Biddy "Grandma" Mason.
Right in the pulsing heart of downtown Los Angeles is an extraordinary memorial celebrating one of humanity’s greatest heroes: “Grandma” Bridget “Biddy” Mason. By sheer serendipity, I happened upon this commemoratory wall while taking an exploratory stroll (Dora would be proud). This is a monument not to be missed. Before proceeding to the images, which will speak for themselves, I’d like to make a brief commentary based on my observations.

Downtown L.A. is the living embodiment of the Dickensian “Two Cities” melded into one. The streets are teeming with our sisters and brothers who have been deemed “useless” by the modern global capitalist system. These humans without a home inhabit the vibrant streets below the soaring lofts above. In the plaza where the monument is located, between Broadway and Spring at 3rd Street (across the street from and just south of Grand Central Market), many Spanish-speaking folks congregate to enjoy a shady reprieve from the hustle-and-bustle of Broadway, mere feet away.

Biddy was a fluent Spanish speaker. How many Spanish speakers know her story? I’m guessing not that many. I’m assuming way too few English speakers know her story (and here my bias is evident, because I sure didn’t… I think I’d heard her name, but I certainly didn’t KNOW, y’know?). I didn’t take a survey to confirm this, but I’m not sure that the folks congregated there know her story, either (I’d be thrilled to be proven wrong on all these points).

We’ve all heard where assumptions lead, but empirical evidence, in the form of apparent lack of linguistic access (i.e. no evident Spanish translation), suggested that there may be an oversight in terms of the monument’s accessibility to those who occupy its space most frequently. There is an information desk in the plaza which may offer some kind of language service, but when I was passing through there wasn’t anyone there to answer my questions. Alas, I hope that someone reading this might be able to shed some light on this question. 🙂 A cursory Google advanced search for Spanish-language results for “biddy mason” is here. [Further links in English available here.]

Without further ado, a photographic tour of Biddy Mason Park:

1781: 26/44 settlers. 1821: LA is (independent) Mexico. 1836: Biddy (18) & sis prop of R. Smith in Miss. 1849: Ord survey for U.S.. 1856: Biddy fam free in CA. 1866: Biddy buys homestead for $250 (10 yrs' savings!). 1872: Biddy organizes First AME church/ delivers 100's of babies. 1880-1890: Biddy cares. | 1885: Biddy's grandsons start stable. 1900: L.A. mourns and reveres Grandma Mason. 1989: credit.