Update: 25-35 people were at the vigil this afternoon, some creating art in the heat. They are more than 48 hours into the 135-hour sit-in organized by Black Lives Matter 5280.
Members of Black Lives Matter 5280 are gathering in Civic Center Park across from the Denver City and County Building for the next 135 hours, an hour for each of the lives lost to police violence this year.
There has been an outpouring of grief and anger around the country as two more names join the roster of hashtags: Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and Philando Castile in Falcon Heights, Minnesota.
Amy E. Emery-Brown, co-lead of Black Lives Matter 5280, said there is a powerful need to be present.
She spoke to Denverite’s Kevin J. Beaty in Civic Center Park Thursday afternoon before others had arrived. Here, slightly edited for clarity and length, is what she had to say:
Right now, I think what’s happening is a community of people that has been in a state of generational trauma and over-functioning through trauma and grief and terror, that community has hit the wall. And people who have known it’s enough, it’s too much, it’s more than too much for a long time. With the murders in Baton Rouge, with the murder in Minnesota, the murders every 28 hours, everything, it’s just, it’s too much.
And I think in Denver, with black people deliberately dispersed, it’s hard to know where to go and where to be and what to do. And personally, I knew that I needed to stare at this building, that supposedly stands for justice in this city, that supposedly stands for the people of this city, I needed to stare at it and have this building stare at me as I sit and process at least 135 black deaths at the hands of police this year, as I mourn, as I grieve, as I fear for my life, my husband’s — my beautiful dark black-skinned husband’s life. I needed to sit here and stare at this building and stare at that flag, and create a space for black people to come and experience the myriad of complex beautiful black emotion that’s being felt in our community right now. That’s what I think is happening.
Thursday is Emery-Brown’s birthday, and this is how she is choosing to spend it:
I woke up and it’s my birthday and I was looking at the news and it just came into my heart that I personally needed to do this as an individual. And as co-lead of Black Lives Matter 5280, (I) spoke with our leadership, and we agreed it’s in alignment with our values and … it’s organic and it’s gonna flow as it flows. Luckily we have 135 hours to tweak the plan as it needs tweaking.
I’m dedicating my birthday to my people who don’t get birthdays anymore.
Emery-Brown said Black Lives Matter 5280 hopes to make a space for people of color to express their feelings and that white allies will respect that space.
I would like people of color to know this space is for them. This is a people of color space. They are welcome to come here, bring fruit, bring flowers, create an alter, bring music. This is a safe space for trans people and queer people. And we will be here for them. This is a space for them, and we invite them here to make it whatever they need. And for other folks, for white folks who would like to assist or be in solidarity in this moment and take action against white terrorism in this nation, we’d ask them to reach out to allied organizations like SURJ, perhaps their church, perhaps college organizations to figure out how they can plug in and help this action, but to honor that this is a people of color space.
Hear the extended interview here: