The video has been released. Seven officers have been terminated and five charged. The Scorpion Unit has been disbanded. Two EMTs have been terminated along with a supervisor. The district attorney says more charges may be forthcoming. The attorney for Tyre Nichols’ family says never again can authorities stall releasing footage.
However, while faster reaction time and responsiveness to public outrage is encouraging, it doesn’t make this any easier. A precious life was lost. The mother of Tyre Nichols said on MSNBC: “I feel like my son was sacrificed for the greater good. And there’s going to be a lot of good that comes from this. Hopefully we can help another kid and another family not go through something like this.”
It breaks my heart that this mother must lose her kid for us to learn a lesson we too often have refused to learn.
“This is a bucket full of bad apples, and the bucket is compromised as well.”
Black lives matter. Law enforcement culture does not seem to uphold this core value. This isn’t a bad apple situation; this is a bucket full of bad apples, and the bucket is compromised as well. Unfortunately, until we believe it is the job of law enforcement to protect life and earn the trust of Black and indigenous people, there will be more mothers grieving for their Black sons.
I live in a suburb of Memphis, so my social media feeds and local news programs have been filled with images of Tyre. Three stand out to me as important.
The first is a graphic that includes a photo of a smiling Tyre. It lists the demands of the family and the demands of the community with #BlackLivesMatter at the bottom. It clearly communicates the humanity of Tyre, his family and the need for change. It gives us, the community, real, tangible actions to take. It was shared quite often by folks in Memphis. Many of those demands have been met, and hopefully more will come.
The second image all over my feed was a beautiful photo of the Hernando De Soto bridge at sunset, a Memphis landmark. This photograph (shown at the top of this column) was taken by Tyre Nichols. Often there is a link to click that takes you to his photography website. Local news has reported on Tyre’s love for life and photography and that his favorite subject was sunsets. Read Tyre’s introduction below:
My name is Tyre D. Nichols. I am an aspiring photographer. Well, I mostly do this stuff for fun but I enjoy it very much. Photography helps me look at the world in a more creative way. It expresses me in ways I cannot write down for people. I take different types of photography, anywhere from action sports to rural photos, to bodies of water and my favorite … landscape photography. My vision is to bring my viewers deep into what I am seeing through my eye and out through my lens. People have a story to tell. Why not capture it instead of doing the “norm” and writing it down or speaking it. I hope to one day let people see what I see and to hopefully admire my work based on the quality and ideals of my work. So on that note enjoy my page and let me know what you think. — Your friend, Tyre D. Nichols
The third image is a photograph of graffiti. Simple spray-painted black text on a boarded-up building reads, “All mothers were summoned when he called out for his mama.” This image was shared around the time when George Floyd was murdered. It is tragic that it applies once again in Memphis. Tyre’s mother has been a leader for our community. Even in her grief, she has asked people to protest peacefully, saying that is what her son would have wanted. Her heroism is a key factor in how the community and law enforcement have responded to demands for justice.
I remember that one of the most powerful disruptions for change in the Civil Rights movement was the images. The images that showed humans being attacked with dogs, fire hoses and police batons were hard to ignore. These images disturbed enough people from believing the status quo that separate but equal was acceptable, and the country was able to find ways to make much needed change. It wasn’t perfect, and perhaps not enough change has been achieved to protect the lives of Black men and others with less power.
For those who have the capacity to view the video clips, do so with the beautiful three images above centered in your mind, for Tyre Nichols’ life was much more than those violent and incomprehensible images that resulted in ending his life.
“Tyre Nichols’ life was much more than those violent and incomprehensible images that resulted in ending his life.”
The images of Tyre Nichols remain. They teach us. They speak to us and beg us to see humanity in each other. They demand that all be equal and afforded equal rights in our country. Our patriotism, our belief in freedom and our core value that all persons are created in the image of God demand that each of us take action as our conscience leads to change our own minds and the minds of our neighbors.
Spend some time with these three images. It is my prayer that you will be moved and changed by them, for they have a powerful story to tell.
Julia Goldie Day is an ordained minister within the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship and lives in Memphis, Tenn. She is a painter and proud mother to Jasper, Barak and Jillian. Learn more at her website or follow her on socials @JuliaGoldieDay.
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