Black Grief, Black Rage

Seven family members of Kendrick Johnson were found guilty of misdemeanor charges following a 2013 protest at the Lowndes County Courthouse. In this protest, family members, including Kendrick Johnson’s parents, blocked the entrance to the courthouse and the security checkpoint to the building. These actions were in direct response to the lack of transparency and serious investigation following Kendrick’s death. According to a recently published CNN article, the family will not be jailed, fined, or placed on probation.

In 2013, the body of Kendrick Johnson was found in a rolled-up wrestling mat at Lowndes High School. The preliminary investigation and autopsy concluded that the death was accidental and somehow, Kendrick had slipped into the mat and suffocated to his death. After skepticism of this response, the family hired a private investigator who drastically concluded otherwise. With more media attention and outcry from grassroots organizations, such as Justice for KJ and social justice organizations such SCLC and NAACP, his death stands alongside other senseless killings of Black men and women. Since his death, the family has continuously sought justice for their son. There is an ongoing federal investigation led by the United States attorney for the Middle District of Georgia, Michael Moore.

For many students and former students, the death of Kendrick Johnson is close to home. In 2013 and 2014 the Morehouse NAACP chapter was active in assisting the movement for Justice for KJ. Former Morehouse NAACP president Stephen Green says, “The family of Kendrick Johnson has suffered enough attack and abuse over the last 25 months and I am eagerly looking forward to the response from US Attorney Michael Moore’s office.”

There has been no report from the office of the attorney since the announcement of an investigation.

Considering the trauma associated with the loss of a loved one and the unanswered questions surrounding his death, the family of Kendrick Johnson has faced insurmountable pain. Thus, I cannot understand how this conviction aids in ailing their pain in this slow process of justice. His family’s arrests symbolically represent the devaluing of Black lives even in their expressions of anger, hurt, and despair. A simple cry for justice from the Black mother cannot expedite the procedures of justice, but she still should have the space to publically grieve for the loss of her son.

How is it that the family of Kendrick Johnson is held accountable for a non-violent and peaceful protest yet the police respondents are not held accountable for the lack of transparency and urgency in the investigation? The failure of the Lowndes police department to respect the way that Black families grieve and demand for justice is yet another blow to the pursuit of justice for all those responding to injustices.

Christine Slaughter

Opinions Staff Writer

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