BY WENDELL LUNDY
July 2016 marked the beginning of a movement in Hampton Roads. It’s when – spurred to action by the slaying of Philando Castile by a police officer in Minnesota – activists shut down major highways and tunnels in our own community to bring awareness to police brutality against Black bodies.
That was when Black Lives Matter 757 was born.
Often, Japharii Jones, the president and founder of BLM757, has spoken about how the horror of seeing a man who was in the process of cooperating with a police officer senselessly slain in front of his girlfriend and daughter shook him to the core.
Understandably so. Jones’ own son was the same age as Castile’s daughter at the time, and Jones told me he faced the reality that an overzealous or racist police officer could rip him away from his own child in the same manner.
“Honestly, it’s the first time I’ve ever cried watching the news,” Jones said. He was moved to turn his worry into action and organize a peaceful protest when a friend reached out to him with a simple question.
What are we going to do about this?
Fast forward four years, and another senseless killing of a Black man, George Floyd, has catalyzed our nation to demand justice and fight systemic racism. In that time, BLM757 has grown as an organization and become more active than ever in the community.
I am proudly among its members, and I understand many people have questions about our movement.
Who is BLM, and what are its goals? The most important thing to know about the BLM movement is that most local organizations, BLM757 included, are independent of any national organization. I can’t speak for every chapter in the country, but for us, the answer is in our name – 757.Ours is a unique region of the country, and BLM757 recognizes that the solutions for our community should come out of this community – not from any national organization. We seek solutions that will work here.
Despite the commonly held generalization that all inner cities are the same, each locale where BLM operates has its own issues that are endemic to the community they serve. In other words, the methods of addressing police brutality that could work in Minneapolis, New York or Chicago may produce antithetical results in the 757 and vice versa.
One way that BLM757 differs from some other organizations around the country is that we support Second Amendment rights. We also do our best to remain an apolitical organization that focuses more on getting people to vote than on convincing them to vote one way or the other.
In addition to supporting gun rights and registering people to vote, BLM757 is also a major proponent of community policing. As citizens, we have more latitude than the police when it comes to handling certain tasks that would normally rest in the hands of law enforcement. We can be advocates – a real voice – for people in our community.
For example, when grown people go missing in the community, precious time is lost as officers aren’t allowed to consider an adult missing until after two days. While the 48-hour waiting period is about respecting the privacy and autonomy of adults, it certainly does the missing person no favors if they’re in real danger. That’s why BLM757 goes looking for these missing persons the moment that the family rings the alarm, whether it’s been two days or two hours.
Under the leadership of Jones, our organization has grown in numbers and the scope of issues we tackle in its four-year span. We are operating under the ethos of moving at the will of the community and being the change that they want to see.
It stands to reason that BLM757 will continue to grow over the next four years.
The author is a search engine optimization, or SEO, content writer who is an active member of BLM757 and serves as the organization’s historian. Learn more about BLM757 by following it via @blm757 on Facebook and Twitter.
© 2020 Pungo Publishing Co., LLC