Once again Black people in America find themselves coping with the trauma of police brutality, in the wake of the recent deaths of Tyre Nichols in Memphis, Tenn., Jaheim McMillan in Gulfport, Miss., and Keenan Anderson in Los Angeles. The video footage of the last moments of Tyre Nichols’ life, released on Jan. 27, prompted Cephus “Uncle Bobby” X Johnson and his wife, Beatrice X Johnson, to host a virtual healing circle via Zoom.
The two co-founded the Love Not Blood Campaign and helped unite families impacted by police violence under the Families United 4 Justice Network.
Clinical psychologist Theopia Jackson and psychotherapist Michael Roosevelt attended the healing circle. Family members of police brutality victims included Greta Willis, mother of Kevin Cooper; Mona and Dinelle Hardin, mother and sister of Ronald Greene; Elaine Simons, former foster mother of Jesse Sarey; Katrina Mateen, mother of Jaheim McMillan; and James Hudson, spokesperson for the Joshua Johnson family out of Houston. The discussion was moderated by clinical psychologist Dr. Tony Jackson.
“I’m 13 years into this and sadly have witnessed over and over and over the pain of Black and Brown bodies being murdered egregiously by the police,” said Mr. Cephus X. “I still watch videos. And it troubled me last night when I watched that video and looking at Tyre and the way things were handled with him, and it set me back. And I thought you know what, I need to at least call this moment for the families that may want to come on to deal with their struggle with what they saw or even heard concerning the murder of Tyre.”
Ms. Beatrice X did not watch the video of Mr. Nichols due to the daily trauma she already experiences as she works on issues related to injustice. She remarked on the importance of love in the Black community.
“How do we love each other? Let’s talk about loving our beautiful Black selves, talk about loving each other,” she said. “We have to move forward with love so that this doesn’t happen again because it’s very heartbreaking to see us do this to us.”
There was a heaviness in the air as participants expressed their pain, grief, sadness and anger over the death of Mr. Nichols and their own family members.
“I’m all over the place. It hurt like hell because watching the family is like watching all of us,” Mona Hardin shared. She has been fighting for justice for her son, Ronald Greene, who was killed after being arrested by Louisiana State Police on May 10, 2019. Five officers were indicted, most of the charges being malfeasance and obstruction of justice. Ms. Hardin expressed that the family is upset over the measly charges.
The video of Mr. Nichols reminded Dinelle Hardin of her brother’s death. “From the time the officer got out the car, he’s like ‘put your hands up.’ Everything was so on the same page, same exact thing. ‘Get out the car.’ I could not watch it,” she said.
Dr. Theopia Jackson advised participants to make “sure you’re breathing in this space now. Pay attention to how you’re feeling in your body in this moment, ensuring that you’re in a comfortable spot.”
She noted the importance of being intentional about “when and how we’re going to watch these things,” regarding the video of Mr. Nichols.
Cat Brooks, co-founder of the Anti Police-Terror Project, echoed her sentiments. “You don’t have to watch this. We know what happened. There’s no reason to compound your trauma. Do not feel obligated,” she said.
Towards the end of the call, participants engaged in an exercise of “light, life and love.”
“As you say the word ‘light,’ I’d like you to see an aura around you. And when you say the word life, I’d like you to take the energy and the light of that aura and bring it right into your heart. And when you say the word love, I’d like you to extend that to your entire family and see that light bursting from your heart,” said Dr. Tony Jackson.
As he voiced the words aloud, he guided listeners through the motions of breathing in, exhaling and sweeping their hands.
Dr. Theopia Jackson reminded participants to acknowledge their feelings and embrace their anger. “Let the anger be (the) part that sustains you in the work, and (do) not let the anger be so big that it then takes away your own power and begins to hurt you,” she said.
—Anisah Muhammad, Contributing Writer