About a dozen Northfield residents took to Bridge Square Friday morning. Using chalk, they wrote the names of African Americans who have been killed by police since 2014.
In those names, the artists saw evidence of police brutality and a system that is inherently unjust to people of color.
Although their work will likely only show for a few days, they plan to soon come again. They believe the continuous process is a way to consistently remind people of the importance of remembering the individual names of the dead to spark a movement for a more just future.
“We’re here today as a group, not about any of us individually, but as a group within Northfield to try to bring some awareness of what has been going on in the world in terms of police violence,” said Northfielder Hannah Hamalian.
“We’re writing down the names of black Americans who have been killed by the police since 2014, and we’re doing this to say their names, to bring awareness, to bring some kind of visibility to the fact that what’s happening here is happening everywhere, what’s happening everywhere is happening here.”
“I see it as my role to bring this to the attention of people,” added organizer Cecilia Cornejo.
One of the most recent incidents was the death of George Floyd in police custody May 25 in Minneapolis. Former Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin has been charged with second- and third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter in Floyd’s death. The incident sparked mass protests and riots throughout the U.S., along with calls to reform the way police operate and treat people of color.
Northfield organizers are undertaking other efforts to call attention to the issue. Activists are meeting from 5:15-6:15 p.m. Mondays at the intersection of the Fifth Street Bridge and Highway 3 to seek justice for African American lives lost to police brutality. A core belief of those assembled Friday is that white people share a responsibility in taking a deep look at how they are contributing to inequality, and speak out against perceived injustices. To some activists, not doing so is indicative of a system of white supremacy.
Hamalian believes oppression occurs when any group is de-humanized. Based on that, she said saying the names of victims is a way to end that destructive process. To her, the unjust system is everywhere— even if people feel like they can’t see it.
“The thing about racism is that it’s systemic,” she said. “So, racism happens when a system oppresses one group unequally over another, and in a country that was founded on slavery … it’s founded on genocide, it’s founded on all of these things. So even if someone is not intentionally seeking to unconsciously kill people because they are black, we live in a system that has this heritage, has this connection to what’s going on.”