A BRONX TALE: One Family’s Fight for Victims of Violence
BY: GEORGE ADDISON
In 2016 there were at least 308 black people killed in the United States by police. In 2017, the number is currently around 139, and black people are being killed at a persistently high rate. Black people are three times more likely to be killed by police than white people. In 2015, 30% were unarmed compared to 19% of white victims.
Where you live also matters, for example blacks have a seven times greater chance to be killed by police in Oklahoma versus Georgia. Police in 17 of the largest U.S. cities killed black men at higher rates than the U.S. murder rate in 2014.
Fewer than 1-3 black people killed by police this year were suspected of a violent crime or allegedly armed. 69% were non-violent / unarmed while 31% were allegedly armed / violent. It’s daunting statistics like these compiled and illustrated by mappingpoliceviolence.org that raises high levels of concern from black and non-black communities alike.
The current climate of political division, the rise in Klan, and White Supremacist activities in and outside of law enforcement, as well as efforts of police associations to shield officers from scrutiny and accountability, have energized individuals like Noel Munoz and his wife Tyease to engage and counter the message of hate and murder by any means necessary.
Their weapon of choice has been the internet via twitter and other online sites. In typical raw, genuine and unbridled Bronx swagger, they have taken on the battle to amplify the names and memories of victims of police brutality and violence. Just like parents searching for the missing, they remind people that victims of police brutality and violence are not forgotten and are more than just a sound bite on the news. They help surviving family members and friends by encouraging them, listening to them and seeking other support that may be beneficial to the families.
I became aware of Noel and his wife Tyease while reporting the story of Antwynette Houston ,a victim of police brutality, who has since become an advocate for others
seeking justice. Munoz said, “We saw the video and felt so bad for her son having to watch him manhandle her like that, we didn’t like that at all. We’re strongly aware that Black Women do not get the support or respect they deserve. It’s true they’re a lot of black men who are being killed and put in jail, but also the black woman needs help too. And, we need stronger black families; that’s something we strive for and advocate.
Antwynette has been a follower of ours and we followed her story, and even though she’s gone through her ordeal, she still has time to help us and help others. We are very encouraged by her and won’t stop supporting her until she gets the justice she deserves.”
Houston is not the only person to be supported by Noel and his wife on Twitter. Others include Mary Stewart the mother of Darrius Stewart, Tyler Gebhard’s grandmother Marlene Gebhard, the mother of Christopher Kalonji, Irene Kalonji, India Kager’s mother Gina Best, Jackie Johnson and Kenneth Johnson parents of Kendrick Johnson, Constance Malcolm mother of Ramarley Graham, Eric Garner’s daughter Erica Garner,
Noel added, “We’ve been in this fight advocating for justice since 2012. Some of the best advice we got was from Glenda Michelle, whose son Jahi Lateef Collins was murdered. She helped us a lot by explaining that justice does take some time.. it took her twenty years. That’s why we’re in this fight. We try to reach out to a number of mothers and fathers who’ve lost family members. There have been about twelve families we’ve had contact with, some we have reached out to and others have reached out to us.
We try to give them a chance to let everybody know that they are seeking justice. Because these names are not household names, they are not at the forefront of the mainstream press. The goal is to help further their story. Trayvon Martin’s case resonated and hit home with us because, at the time, our son was 16. He was exactly 1 year and two days younger than Trayvon Martin and he is dark complected and we felt that it was our duty to not only protect him, but other children.
In addition, we wanted to increase awareness about Trayvon and all the other young boys and girls who were murdered unjustly by cops, vigilantes, white supremacist and others. Again, we felt it our duty to advocate accountability on behalf of these victims and to stop the violence.”
Noel said the fight has not been without its negative moments adding, “My family supports us and there are people and white supremacist groups that do not like us. We have been harassed, which has its negative affect. We wanted to take a break but refused to because these families depend on us. One thing that we’ve always been able to do is separate our home life from our efforts on the internet.
We make sure our children understand what we are doing because they will have to fight the same fight if things in this society continue to happen and go unchanged. Our children see what’s going on and they understand and ask questions. They’re young and getting older; they’ve seen the beginning and are getting a better understanding of why we do certain things and why we advocate the cause. I think overall, its been more positive than it is negative; we’ve learned to handle the negative and bring positive results by not responding to it or being consumed by it.”
Noel says the response for his efforts from the public are gradually improving. The victims’ family members help by retweeting their tweets which in turn further helps expand the circulation of the stories. He further stated, “Our tweets show the pictures of these victims so people can remember that these are real people we are talking about, that have been taken away from their families, and its so hard for these families to get justice; especially families like Michael Brown. We also create hashtags to further amplify these stories from an ever-growing list of names, and that reflects a problem with no end in sight.”
Noel and Tyease understand that the justice system in America has always been indifferent to non-whites. Basically, the fact remains that black and brown people do not get the justice they deserve. And, if justice is truly what we are striving for in America, then the words of the Pledge of Allegiance “One Nation indivisible, with Liberty and Justice for all” is exactly what it should be. But it’s not.