Yesterday was my first day of face-to-face teaching for Fall 2020.

In order to make this as safe as possible, the lecture hall in which I teach has had most of its seats covered with black garbage bags, leaving only 36 uncovered seats set at lest 6 feet apart from each other. The campus has also instituted a policy of mandatory face masks in all indoor spaces, including my class.

And my first student of the first day of my first class in this new semester?

Walks in without a mask, and sits right in the middle of the lecture hall on one of the garbage-bag-covered spaces.

We are so going back to lock-down by September.

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Say their names. Rest in power.

Over the past seven weeks, I’ve shared the stories of forty-eight Black Americans who died unjustly, often at the hands of the police.

  • Oscar Grant, 22, killed 1/1/2009
  • Ayiana Stanley-Jones, 7, killed 5/16/2010
  • Trayvon Martin, 17, killed 2/26/2012
  • Rekia Boyd, 22, killed 3/21/2012
  • Renisha McBride, 19, killed 11/2/2013
  • Eric Garner, 43, killed 7/17/2014
  • John Crawford III, 22, killed 8/5/2014
  • Michael Brown, 18, killed 8/9/2014
  • Ezell Ford, 27, killed 8/11/2014
  • Laquan McDonald, 17, killed 10/20/2014
  • Tamir Rice, 12, killed 11/22/2014
  • Walter Scott, 50, killed 4/4/2015
  • Freddie Gray Jr, 25, killed 4/12/2015
  • Kalief Browder, 22, hanged 6/6/2015
  • Sharonda Coleman-Singleton, 45, killed 6/17/2015
  • Cythia Hurd, 54, killed 6/17/2015
  • Susie Jackson, 87, killed killed 6/17/2015
  • Ethel Lance, 70, killed 6/17/2015
  • DePayne Middleton Doctor, 49, killed 6/17/2015
  • Clementa Pinckney, 41, killed 6/17/2015
  • Tywanza Sanders, 26, killed 6/17/2015
  • Daniel Simmons, 74, killed 6/17/2015
  • Myra Thompson, 59, killed 6/17/2015
  • Sandra Bland, 28, hanged 7/13/2015
  • Samuel Dubose, 47, killed 7/19/2015
  • Corey Jones, 31, killed 10/18/2015
  • Terrill Thomas, 38, died of thirst 4/24/2016
  • Joseph Mann, 51, killed 7/11/2016
  • Alton Sterling, 37, killed 7/5/2016
  • Philando Castile, 32, killed 7/6/2016
  • Korryn Gaines, 23, killed 8/1/2016
  • Terence Crutcher, 40, killed 9/16/2016
  • Keith Lamont Scott, 43, killed 9/20/2016
  • Jordan Edwards, 15, killed 4/29/2017
  • Aaron Bailey, 45, killed 6/29/2017
  • Ronell Foster, 33, killed 2/13/2018
  • Stephon Clark, 22, killed 3/3/2018
  • Antwon Rose Jr, 17, killed 6/19/2018
  • Botham Jean, 26, killed 9/6/2018
  • Willie McCoy, 25, killed 2/9/2019
  • Pamela Turner, 44, killed 5/13/2019
  • Elijah McClain, 23, killed 8/24/2019
  • Atatiana Jefferson, 28, killed 10/12/2019
  • Christopher Whitfield, 31, killed 10/14/2019
  • Michael Lorenzo Dean, 27, killed 12/2/2019
  • Ahmaud Arbery, 25, killed 2/23/2020
  • Breonna Taylor, 26, killed 3/13/2020
  • George Floyd, 46, killed 5/25/2020

This list is not complete by any stretch of the imagination, and it will regrettably grow longer with time.  What I have written may also contain errors, for though I researched as much as I could about the lives of these people, news about them seems less focused on their lives than their deaths.

Though this project is not over, for the time being, both for my emotional well-being and the time requirements of my job, it will be on hiatus.

I hope they can help you work through your sadness and frustration and despair, and feel that clarifying anger that will not let you to allow this to continue.  To force us to confront police brutality and white supremacy and give us the will to end it.

Black lives matter.

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Terrill Thomas

Terrill Thomas loved cars. The 38-year-old father of six had a passion for luxury cars, a world far removed from his relatively poor upbringing in Milwaukee. T-Buck, as he was known to his friends, was a joyous fellow who loved to help his neighbors. Unfortunately, he also suffered from bipolar disorder, and his struggles with his disability frequently found him on the wrong side of the law. After a 2008 stint in prison, Terrill started planning on a better future for his family. He opened a car lot, selling luxury cars.

Terrill Thomas died in police custody on April 24, 2016, of “profound dehydration.” A little more than a week previous, a Mercedes was stolen from Terrill’s auto lot, triggering a dissociative episode. Terrill pursued the supposed thief to a casino and shot at him. Cops arrested him and booked him at the Milwaukee County Jail. That night, Terrill flooded the cell by clogging the toilet with bedding. As punishment, he was moved to a solitary confinement cell and had the water shut off. He remained there, without water, for seven days. Eight days after being booked, Terrill was found naked on the floor of his cell, having lost 34 pounds, dead of thirst. Three of the jailors would plead guilty to felony neglect, while the sheriff in charge of the jail would go lead a pro-Trump super PAC.

Black lives matter.

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Renisha McBride

Renisha McBride was her daddy’s little baby. The 19-year-old was the younger of the two inseparable McBride sisters. Ne-Ne – as her friends and family knew her – was a 5-foot-4 bundle of energy, a cheerleader who had a knack of getting you to laugh even when you were mad at her. She’d figured out how to wrap her father around her finger early on, and she’d been able to convince him to buy her two cars (the second a replacement for the first, which she totaled). She was a doting auntie to her nephew, and had dreams of becoming a police officer one day.

Renisha McBride was murdered on November 2, 2013, for asking for help. She had been at a party when she got into a fight with a friend and left early. Driving with her blood-alcohol level three times the legal limit, she collided with a parked car around 1 AM. Renisha called a friend, telling her that she had been in an accident, but was lost, confused, and her face was bleeding; her phone battery died shortly after. A witness called 9-1-1 to report the crash, and noted the driver seemed “discombobulated” and in a “confused state.” The police marked this a low priority incident, and cops did not show up for forty minutes, and by then Renisha was gone. She wandered off for three hours, knocking on doors and looking for help. Around 3:40, her banging on a door of a tidy brick house awoke its single homeowner, a 54-year-old white man. He opened the door and shot her in the face with a shotgun through his screen. He was convicted of second-degree murder.

Black lives matter.

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Laquan McDonald

Laquan McDonald was resilient. Born to a single 14-year-old mother in Chicago’s dangerous West Side, he and his younger sister were second-generation wards of the state. They were shuttled in and out of foster homes, suffering from neglect, abuse, and sexual assault, all before the age of 6. Laquan eventually found a stable home living with his great-grandmother. He was a hugger and extremely protective of his sister; but he was also traumatized by his childhood, alternatively skittish and angry. He was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder. Over time, his replaced his PTSD meds with marijuana and other drugs. He spent much of his teens in and out of juvie for fighting and minor drug offenses. But he kept striving to be better: the word his teachers, therapists, and even judges most often used to describe him, again and again, was “resilient.” He was a jovial and hardworking student and had earned a scholarship for his work in an after-school youth advocacy program. He had learned to install and paint drywall, and was hoping to turn his part-time apprenticeship into a full time career.

Laquan McDonald was murdered by police on October 20, 2014 for carrying a knife. Responding to 9-1-1 calls about a man breaking into vehicles, cops confronted Laquan, who was carrying a 3-inch knife. Laquan slashed the tires of the cruiser and ran off, but more cops quickly caught up and lined the street. Laquan continued walking, moving away from the police cars. As cops discussed Tasing him, one cop instead simply walked forward and opened fire on Laquan as he walked by, unloading 16 rounds in 15 seconds, most striking the boy after he had already collapsed. The department attempted to hide the dash-cam footage and falsified the official report to claim the cop had given Laquan ample warning, and that kid had charged cops with the knife. When the dash-cam footage was released, the Department of Justice implicated the department in a cover-up. The shooter was convicted of murder, but the cops implicated in the cover-up were acquitted.

Black lives matter.

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