When there’s a call to action on issues of social justice, some people stand silent while others lead. One such person who is ready to act is Khalid Kamau. He is deeply involved in the Black Lives Matter movement in Atlanta. Rolling out recently spoke with the activist.
What motivated you to become a part of the Black Lives Matter movement?
Trayvon Martin and Jordan Davis. Had I a decent car when Ferguson happened, I would’ve driven straight there. In November of 2015, when it was announced that Atlanta was forming a Black Lives Matter chapter, I knew I had to be there. Like many folks, I was shocked by BLM’s intentional intersectionality: the idea that all oppression (race, class, gender, sexual orientation) is connected; therefore, our liberation is connected. This was a surprise, yet perfectly encapsulates the phrase, “Black Lives Matter.”
What is the name of your organization?
I work with multiple organizations, including #BlackLivesMatter, #ATLisReady, #Fightfor15, the Bernie Sanders campaign and the Democratic Party of Georgia.
What are the demands of your organization in the city of Atlanta?
#ATLisReady is a collection of organizations. The demands can be viewed at ATLisReady.black. I encourage everyone to read and research these ideas yourself, and discuss them with others.
Has there been any progress in reaching your goals?
Yes. Over 60 people have been killed by police in Georgia in the past 6 years. Only TWICE in those 60 cases have a police officers ever been brought to trial. Both were after continued demonstrations — in February, when protesters, lead by Rise Up Georgia slept outside the Dekalb County Courthouse for 4 days and nights for the Grand Jury Watch of Robert Olsen, who murdered #AnthonyHill; and July, when #ATLisReady lead over 10,000 people to take over Atlanta streets. It was after those 5 days in July that Fulton County DA Paul Howard announced the indictment of APD officer James Burns, who murdered #CainRogers weeks before.
What is your response when people say that Black Lives Matter activists are terrorists?
It’s dangerous. In his 1968 campaign, Richard Nixon declared himself “the law & order candidate.” He then labeled the Black Panthers a terrorist group, and literally shot up and blew up offices of Black Panthers. Those who survived were rounded up & locked up, including Atlanta’s own Jamil Al-Amin (H. Rap Brown). Others, like Assata Shakur, are living in exile in Cuba. This year, Donald Trump has declared himself “the law & order candidate” and is trying to sell the idea that groups like #BlackLivesMatter are instigating a “war on police) (even though police have killed over 600 people this year alone vs. around 32 officers killed). So this rhetoric has very real and deadly consequences.
In Atlanta, one emerging activist group called Black Lives Matter of Greater Atlanta has stirred controversy. Many BLM activists have disavowed this organization. Is there room for cooperation?
No. As reported by NPR, Sir Maejor is an actor looking for opportunities to advance his show business career. His political analysis is bootlegged from other organizers, and when he sits with politicians he can’t explicate it. On multiple occasions, he has threatened Atlanta activists who have disagreed with him with physical violence. In February, he came to the Grand Jury Watch for Robert Olsen and verbally attacked #AnthonyHill’s girlfriend. From that moment, I was done with him.
Overall, do you think the city of Atlanta has a good police force?
Yes. However, we are seeing increasing amounts of police officers hired from the ranks of soldiers returning from the wars in the Middle East. Many of them suffer from PTSD, and have been quoted as saying that the only time they feel “normal” is riding in the back of the police car or fire truck, because that high stress environment, surrounded by other vets, reminds them of being on the battlefield. This shared consciousness of being “in battle” and “under siege” is at the heart so many murders by police, who are operating in a state of fear and paranoia. Many of these “officers” have been conditioned to kill on sight on the battlefield. These fears are exacerbated by police academies, where recruits are shown hours of videos of unsuspecting officers killed in split seconds by aggressive assailants.
Do you work with the Atlanta Citizen’s Review Board? What is your opinion of the board’s effectiveness?
I am encouraged by the changes I have seen already being made, including the addition of subpoena powers. One of #ATLisReady’s recommendations is making sure that the people sitting in these board seats reflect the demographics of the people being arrested — Black and Brown people under age 40.
What would you like to say in closing?
We are willing to work with whatever elected officials are willing to work with the people, and to make sure that those who refuse to work the people are voted out of office.