US Human Rights Network Blog

US Human Rights Network Blog



"Who Were They?" Event Celebrates Black Lives

Sep 2, 2020

On August 22, the US Human Rights Network, alongside the Jordan Davis Foundation,, Gathering for Justice, Donkeysaddle Projects, the Mamie Till Mobley Memorial Foundation, and the Artists & Activists Coalition hosted the first-ever Who Were They? An Era of Untold Stories from Emmett Till to George Floyd Facebook Live event.  Watch the event here.

Our intention for this event was to provide a space for our community and family-members to come together to celebrate, uplift, and see the wholeness of members of our community who were killed by police and racist vigilante violence, including cis and trans black women.  

We are honored and humbled to have been joined by Cephus “Uncle Bobby X” Johnson, uncle of Oscar Grant, Wanda Cooper-Jones, mother of Ahmaud Arbery, Michael Brown Sr., father of Michael Brown Jr., Shante Needham, sister of Sandra Bland, Gwen Carr, mother of Eric Garner, Martinez Sutton, brother of Rekia Boyd, William and Valerie Bell, parents of Sean Bell, Ollie Gordon, cousin of Emmett Till, and our event co-host Ron Davis, father of Jordan Davis and founder of the Jordan Davis Foundation. We are thankful for our thoughtful moderator, Carmen Perez-Jordan of the Gathering for Justice, as well as Gina Belafonte, Jamilah Lamieux, and Salimah Hankins who engaged in meaningful and healing conversations with the family members during the event.

We are also grateful for Ifa priest and coach trainer,  Damon Azali-Rojas for opening up and setting the tone for the event, and the artists whose contributions ushered us through the event with love and care, including: Sequoiia, Tiombé Lockhart, Vivianne A. Njoku, LaFrae Sci a.k.a Frae-Frae: Daughter of Drexciya, Jennifer Johns, as well as Aisha Shillingford and Terry Marshall of Intelligent Mischief.

Make sure to watch the full event, which can be found on Facebook Live. We’ve provided some memorable quotes below:

  • "It's so difficult to heal when the same thing happens time after time after time. When will it stop?" Shante Needham, remembering Sandra Bland
  • “Jordan was a miracle child." Ron Davis, remembering Jordan Davis
  • “You have life before you have death. In order for us to live through losing a loved one, we have to remember the joyful times, the happy times.” Ollie Gordon, remembering Emmett Till

We hope this event gives our members and audience a new understanding of and gratitude for the people whose names so often become hashtags, getting a glimpse into who they were as they lived, what brought them joy, their favorite foods and songs, and the full lives that they lived with their families, friends, and communities -- stories not often told by the media or the public at large. We were honored to hear about the ongoing healing work in their communities, and to reaffirm that Black Lives Matter.

We encourage our community to continue with the spirit of "Who Were They?" by uplifting folks whose stories are often left out of the spotlight through platforms like Mothers Against Police Brutality, where loved ones can upload and share their stories with the world.