“We’re still fighting to be free. Every once in a while it looks like we’re gonna get there – and then it all gets killed” – J.C. Faulk, community organiser in Baltimore
For African Americans like J.C. Faulk, the great civil rights movement of the 1950s and ’60s was unfinished business. Battles were bravely fought and won, but somewhere along the way the ball got dropped.
Now, black America is rising up again over the mounting death toll of unarmed civilians killed in encounters with police, and the incomprehensibly routine atrocities that torment gang-infested neighbourhoods.
“What we’re seeing is the birth of a mass movement” – Melina Abdullah, #BlackLivesMatter
This time there’s no Martin Luther King. #BlackLivesMatter is a leaderless movement that wants to shake up America by harnessing direct protest and the mobilising power of social media.
One third of black men in the US are likely to go to jail at some time in their lives;
Unarmed black Americans are twice as likely as whites to be killed by police;
In Chicago more than 2500 people were shot last year – one every three hours. Most were black;
In South Side Chicago special safe passage zones have been set up so children don’t get shot walking to and from school.
“Long live Freddie, Black Lives Matter, f… the police!” – young man on Baltimore street
Reporter Sally Sara encounters a Baltimore still simmering over the death of Freddie Gray, 25, whose face looms from murals at the corner where police arrested him in April. Angry protests erupted when he died of spinal injuries after being taken into custody.
Among those who took to the streets was Tawanda Jones. Every Wednesday night for 114 consecutive weeks she has run her own protest for her brother Tyrone – another who died after being stopped by police.
“I will never give up. The day I give up is when killer cops are in cellblocks” – Tawanda Jones
#BlackLivesMatter is not just about changing policing. It is also pursuing real reform in places like Chicago’s South Side, where 40 per cent of kids grow up in poverty, gangs run rampant and violence is nearly all black on black. Here it’s easier to get a gun than a job.
“All the damn demons and devils are running free here” – Nortasha Stingley, whose teenage daughter Marissa was shot dead by a man in a passing car
At Nortasha Stingley’s church nearly every worshipper has lost a friend or relative to gun violence. When Foreign Correspondent follows Nortasha home after church she discovers that her neighbour’s 14-year-old son Tyjuan has been killed in a random drive-by shooting.
“I’m scared to grow up. If I have kids I’d be scared to bring them into the neighbourhood” – teenage girl at Tyjuan’s vigil
Incredibly, Tyjuan’s was just one of more than 50 shootings in Chicago in the single weekend that Sally Sara was there.
In a one-hour Foreign Correspondent special, the people who must live in this pall of violence express their fury and their fear. Amid the mayhem though, a rich and vibrant street culture thrives; so too does the optimism of the individuals who dedicate themselves to changing and saving lives.
Reporter: Sally Sara
Producer: Matt Davis
Cameras: Greg Nelson, Matt Davis
Editor: Stuart Miller
Illustrations: Erik Rodriguez and Darryl Holliday @ Illustrated Press
Graphics: Lodi Kramer