Say Their Names

Over the past couple of weeks Evan and I hosted the Say Their Names Memorial here at Tate Farms.

Say Their Names Memorial is a memorial to honor Black lives lost to racial injustice and systemic racism.

The aim is to facilitate conversation around systemic racism while honoring those whose lives that have been taken by it.

NAACP President Derrick Johnson calls systemic racism “systems and structures that have procedures or processes that disadvantage African Americans.” Wikipedia defines the term as “the formalization of a set of institutional, historical, cultural and interpersonal practices within a society that more often than not puts one social or ethnic group in a better position to succeed, and at the same time disadvantages other groups in a consistent and constant manner that disparities develop between the groups over a period of time.” 

The chapel could only hold about 120 photos. After reaching out to the originator of Say Their Names Memorial and getting her approval to display only a portion of the photos, myself and a few others began to research each and every person on those photos. We wanted to include stories that represented every form of racial injustice… lives lost to white supremacists, lives lost during mental crisis, lives lost to police brutality, lives lost to implicit bias… men, women, children, persons of the LGBTQ community.

photo by Kelly Alexander of Christopher Kalonji

Between the memorial’s soft opening on September 26 and it’s public opening on October 5 we had to add 3 more photos.

Antonio Robinson, Jonathan Price, Darius Tarver

On September 27, Antonio Robinson was killed by his neighbor in Ft Worth. The family had been having issues with their neighbor, Edward Murray, for the past year. He called them racial slurs and yelled at the couple and their children anytime they opened their door. Murray was a convicted felon. He spent time in prison for child molestation. He shouldn’t have even owned a hand gun due to his felony status. He was arrested later, charged with murder and set for bond. A convicted child molester, convicted felon, charged with murder and he can be bonded out of the Ft Worth jail for $10,000.

On October 3, Jonathan Price was killed by a Wolfe City police officer. He had broken up a fight between a man and woman and approached the officer when he arrived with his hand stuck out for a hand shake. He can be heard on the body cam asking the officer “You good?” Minutes later he had been tased, shot and lay dying on the concrete of a gas station in the town he grew up and was considered a “Hometown Hero”. He worked for the city at the time, was unarmed and not under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

Earlier this year, Darius Tarver was killed during a mental crisis. He had been in a terrible car accident the week before. Was in ICU and then released within 24 hours. His mother monitored him over the week and then he went back to his campus apartment in Denton. Later that evening he started having a mental episode, they believe due to brain bleeding. His dad and I talked as he showed me the police body cam video they gave him. Darrius had a frying pan in his hand was saying “the Lord is my shield”. Within a few moments they tased and shot him. The frying pan hit the floor. He laid there still saying “the Lord is my shield” for 45 seconds. He struggled to get up. They could have detained him at any time in those 45 seconds. He was unarmed and shot, laying on the ground. He got up. They shot him 2 more times and killed him. He was a criminal justice major at UNT. He was 23 years old.

Each man’s story is different.

Completely different.

The only thing they have in common is the color of their skin.

Black men are undoubtedly, statistically proven to be at higher risk of being killed.

On the first day that the memorial was open Channel 5 news showed up for an interview.

The interview aired at 10:15pm and by 10:23pm we had an email in our inbox stating that we had lost their business and we should expect to lose more.

Hosting the Say Their Names Memorial is not a sacrifice for us. It is not a risk. It is not something we contemplated.

It is literally the least we can do. The bare minimum.

To honor lives lost over the past 100+ years to racial injustice and systemic racism. To bring that memorial here, to Rockwall County, an area that doesn’t get much exposure to memorials of this type.

To start and encourage conversations about systemic racism, racial injustice, implicit bias, white supremacy…

The bare minimum.

Our good friend, Rob Ziegler, came out and made this beautiful video.

We plan to host the Say Their Names Memorial again at Tate Farms.

If you have any questions, concerns, comments… please feel free to reach out. You can contact me directly at melissatatetx@gmail.com. I would love to talk to you.

If you would like to host a Say Their Names Memorial in your community you can reach out to Joy Proctor through their website at http://saytheirnamesmemorials.com

I would like to end with this. Yes… there were some negative emails and phone calls but the positive phone calls, emails, messages and comments outweighed them and for that we are hopeful and thankful.

Each day that the memorial was open, I read this prayer as I walked the room and opened the doors. I would imagine it is a prayer we can all benefit from adding into our routine.

Fell free to save this image and pass on…

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