India Cummings was a 27-year-old African American female who died in the Erie County Holding Center in Downtown Buffalo. According to officials in the holding center, India Cummings was denied life-saving medical attention because she was ” high on weed.”
It’s been three weeks since she passed and her death, like countless others, and thanks to the public outcry that ensued, has prompted an internal investigation to look into many complaints of negligence and misconduct.
In the snowless yet freezing temperatures of mid-February, roughly thirty to forty Buffalonains showed up to pay their respect to India Cummings and her family. With a handful of her relatives, friends, and lawyer, each holding various signs and thought-provoking canvases, demonstrators formed a large circle and chanted ” No justice, No Peace! No Justice, No Peace! No justice, No Peace!.”
My best friend, Lee invited me last night to be here. All he told was that a young African American female was found brutalized and unresponsive in her jail cell at the holding center…and that when they finally transferred her to the hospital, it was too late. she had died at the hospital. Naturally, I was disgusted at the system that allowed such cruel transgressions to take place, that I agreed, by leaving work two hours early, to offer my body and time for India and her family. However, and I’m sad to say this, but I had heard about the vagaries surrounding her death via local news, but I never gave it a thought, like putting together a group to demonstrate or contacting our local officials to yell at them. Her life did not matter. And because India’s death did not effect my family I didn’t feel remorseful. Also, her death felt typical to me and carried an air of triviality.
Fortunately, however, once I was there, braving the cold temperatures with some familiar and strange faces, dejectedly, observing the tearful, discombobulated, and grieving faces of India’s relatives, the tonnage of the situation came over me. I became weak in the spirit and felt terrible that for a brief moment, and because I was miles away in suburbia—-safe from all the abnormalities of the city—I couldn’t see the injustice done to India Cummings as something that could be done to me or some I cared deeply about, like my family and friends. At that very moment, I was reminded of how much—not just India Cummings—the lives of so many black lives mattered.
Despite our obvious differences, like her being a female and I, a male, we share a common similarity that makes us a threat and, simultaneously, unsafe in a predominantly euro-centric country. That is, we are both black and young. And as the unflattering side of American history has shown us, over and over again, the great Republic Of America has been especially violent and down right barbaric in her many, and color attempts to accommodate my pedigree. It is a tragic history that somehow managed to escape the watchful eyes of abolitionists, progressives, and revolutionaries alike…..to only continue, in these contemporary times, in a more subtle and milder fashion. Like, the school to prison pipelines that exists in many impoverished communities of color, mass incarceration of black bodies, redlining and segregation of black communities from the dominate class structures, and racial profiling of ordinary black citizens. These subtle and milder forms of reality, can, and at any moment, sweep our bodies into the trashcans of nonexistence. Such a domain makes it plausible for terrorists of the state, also known as police officers, to shoot and kill black lives with absolute impunity, and also, makes it status quo for institutions to detain us without proper due process and representation—-instantly, people of my pedigree are assumed guilty before proven innocent. India’s death was a(n) aggregation of being in the wrong place at the wrong time…..and sadly, being black and young.
As I prepare to retire for the night, the image of that small child who was holding a sign that read, “ THE WHOLE SYSTEM IS GUILTY,” keeps appearing in my mind. “Look how brave he’s being, does he have the slightest clue of how cruel and unusual this system can really be…is such a thought abstract or something he can conceptualize? look how sad and cold his face looks…and what are other children his age doing right now?,” are some of the thoughts that are racing through my mind. This child may never trully understand what barbarism transpired behind those cold, brick walls behind him, until he is much older, but unlike other children his age, and some young adults, he is not waiting around for change to come….he’s chosen to be here to do something about it, now. That is so inspiring. I may not have the answers and I may not be old enough to make the prescription of what an entire generation needs for there to be the type of future….that we can believe in, but to me that child is the pontification that the struggle to make BLACK LIVES MATTER is bigger than myself.