Brady, Kevin and Mitchell, Genevieve Oral History Interview
Participant Kevin Brady (KB): OK, I’m going go ahead and get started. I noticed there is something going on with the police…within the year 2000. It’s like…they never bothered me while I was in my thirties or forties…it’s just until my late forties…it was something that was just going on…I used to live on the west side of Cleveland by metro hospital and it’s like the police were just getting worse and worse. I mean…there was one time I got at least three tickets in a period of less than four months and that’s very unusual because I lived in the neighborhood for eleven years without getting tickets. So in my mind, I think they over-watch me. I’m not paranoid or anything, I’m just coming to a logical conclusion about all this…at least I think it was a logical conclusion. So anyway, after I got my car stolen, I wasn’t even looking for another car because it’s like this: right now the police don’t say anything to me, I move on the east side now, most of the police are black, they don’t bother me…yet…[laughs] and that second district is probably the most racist district in Cleveland. I mean, I talked to other people…I more or less do the same thing you do, but I talk to people on the bus line…people I see on the street, police in general…and I’ve been getting all kinds of responses and sometimes I hear horror story or two…and it’s just getting worse out there too. Because you can look at a person’s face and tell whether they tell the truth about the police…you can see the pain and you can see the emotion in their face.
Interviewer Jarrett Drake (JD): Do you have a memory of any of those horror stories?
KB: Oh yes…I’m going to get to the point. Ok with me, it was like…always in the back of my mind but I…like never paid attention until one day…I was working at the casino. I did part time security work. It was during the Trayvon Martin time…about three years ago and it was a short-term project…doing the casino, they were renovating it and it was like three or fourth month project. So near the end of the project I was telling my supervisor, you know, everything was wrapping up, it was to the final weekend so I was telling my supervisor if you need any more help or anything I’ll come in this weekend. So I told him that more than once, because it was easy money and it was a second job. So anyway, he called me on good Friday, and I wasn’t feeling well that day, I think I might have even had the flu that day, I was sick and I was in bed and I didn’t want to come. But I gave my word and so I said let me go ahead and tough it out and show up down there. When I showed up down there, and this….this is where I can’t say no names…there was a police officer, a deputy sheriff, and my supervisor who met me at the door, and I just wasn’t thinking, you know, I was tired, and I just wanted to get the day over with. So anyway, the police officer took over and talked about we going to go to the fifth floor, the Hickabee building, and…that should have raised flags, but I just wasn’t thinking. And then we got up there, he give me some crap story about some woman getting harassed and the person on the phone said his name was Kevin Brady and I went into shock. It’s like…I don’t do things like that. I know you don’t know me from Adam, ok, but it would be two things that I’d be doing in life that would probably get me thrown in jail. Number one: find a lot of money somewhere and don’t return it. Or number two: revenge. So anyway, what happened that day…I mentioned a statement about that…I just went into shock about what happened because they caught me off guard. You know…and plus I was tired and everything too. So anyway, before I knew it the police officer…trying not to say his name…it might slip out…so anyway, he gonna start hollerin and screaming at me like he lost his mind. When somebody does something to you like that…ok…your mind start reeling, ok…or you’re like…in the Twilight Zone…and then he gonna try to escalate things on top of that. And then he gonna start hollerin and screaming at me, you don’t want to fuck with me, you don’t want to fuck with me....wait is it ok if I use swear words?
JD: It’s fine.
KB: OK. So I try to tell him fuck you, you know…and then he gonna grab me by my throat and push me up against the wall, and before, I aint gonna lie to you, I was gonna punch him right in his face, but I see the Deputy Sheriff is already making his move and as I said before, my fighting days are long gone and I’m not gonna take on two men with guns, ok. I aint’ that good. In my heyday I was that good. So when he pushed me, I said to myself, we are gonna see what happens from here. I just thought in my mind, I just gotta come back. After that he placed me under arrest, supposedly and me and him sat down side by side and you know…and I said “Look.” And he started talking stupid you know…it’s like, he was just trying to egg me on. “I got you now” talking all kinds of garbage like “precious two boyfriends” about the other two guys that were there so, anyway, what happened…I said, “Look. Just shut up and tell me what happened. That’s all I want to hear.” And I did say that…I don’t care what happens…I’m fifty years old….I thought I was going to die up there ot be honest with you. And if I have to die in these certain situations, I’m going out with a bang. So, anyway, I told him to just shut up and tell me what happened. So finally, he got around to saying what happened. First,he says stuff like, “You think your tough, huh? You think you’re smart...” all that kind of stuff. And here I’m handcuffed and I mean the guy cut off my circulation, I was so angry I didn’t even know it…until that following weekend….ok, let me finish up…
JD: Take your time
KB: It’s so much to get out at one time…if I’m going too fast, let me know, I’ll slow it down…
JD: Your speed, your time…
KB: Ok, so we were sitting side by side and he told me about this one girl and if you want me to, I’ll give you a copy of the report I gave to the Department of Justice, too, to make it more clear.
JD: You can upload it to the archive itself, actually.
KB: I was about to do that, but I just want to make sure it’s coming. I don’t want it to be lost out there forever. So anyway, he told me this girl…I mean she was like the contact person for the security company. And she was in charge of the account. And her name is ----oops. Sorry. So she’s probably like twenty something years old and I guess she got a little position or whatever…there are no feelings between us whatsoever. Other than saying hi or bye or that kind of thing…me and her never communicated. I know who she was, but I mean…I didn’t even know her name until it was almost time for the assignment to be completed. So anyway, what happened…she told she was getting harassed, getting threats, everything, and they used my name…and the whole thing sounded fishy ok. And right away, I thought about frame. And then he came up with some credible story that he…how do you say this…it was found out that the person got my name was…the person called her at a certain time and when he called her I wasn’t there I was at my second job about the time he called. And so anyway, her boyfriend answered the phone, and he called the police right away, and the police called the number and supposedly got ahold of me even though I’m at work. The guy was trying to say my name, say the location of the spot of the post I was working out. So anyway…the whole thing was just strange, ok, because to me if you had all that, why not just go down there and get him? Instead, wait till the next day and set me up, it just didn’t make any sense. I mean, I had a lot of questions regarding that, I put down on paper, at least ten or fifteen different questions. Like how did I get her number? Why didn’t they just tell her to get a different phone? Because I guarantee if I went to a police officer and said someone is harassing me by phone, if they ever DO listen they would tell me to get a different phone. I mean…lots of it just don’t make no sense. So anyway, of course I didn’t do it. But the way I was totally disrespected…humiliated…and I was there for two hours, like I said before, the person who was the police officer gonna try to put on a show in front of the other two guys. The strange part was, even when he brought her and her boss up there, and I’ve never seen anybody bring the victim up there…and her boss…it didn’t make any sense and her boss started doing a lot of talking…you know all tough and everything…and I’m thinking in the back of my mind, he had to be a police officer wearing a hard hat! The way he was talking, he knew all the stuff to say at that time. So anyway, with her, I said, “Look for one thing, the few conversations we did have I never said anything disrespectful towards you.” And I forgot what else I said to her, what else….I basically left it at that. She was still up there. I’m gonna give you a copy of the report to keep things in better order, if you have any questions after you read the report, you can call me, I’m going to give you my telephone number so you can still call me and ask me. I know there’s not gonna be any action or anything but I want to make sure that if something like this ever happens to me again, I’m not gonna lie to you, I’m gonna fight…I don’t have no criminal record, but I do fear…or I’m concerned that I might get shot by the police one day. But as I said before, I’ma fight. I’m serious, I’m not gonna run or anything else like that. I know they got all kinds of weapons and everything, but um I mean…he better not flinch. I’ve not a violent person, but I can’t live like this. I’m sorry, this is not like Germany, or the Gestapo, or the KKK in Mississippi in 1935….
Participant Genevieve Mitchell (GM): Yes, it is.
KB: Yeah, actually it is…I know what your saying, and I agree with you. I call this city “Cleveganistan.” I know what you are saying.
GM: For black people and brown people, yes it is.
KB: But that’s only because we accepted it. Because tell the truth…when was the last time you sent a student to the mafia or hells angels?
GM: Well you know, what I say is nowhere in the parallel universe is there a situation that exists where….someone made a comment last night. They said, you know, black lives matter, all lives matter. And I was like, “all lives matter only if we’re not talking about police brutality because in the context of police brutality, only black and brown lives matter and poor white lives matter. Only in the case of the prison industrial complex do black and brown and poor white lives matter…all lives don’t matter in those contexts in the poverty-to-military industrial complex all lives don’t matter. The sons of senators and congressman matter more in a military deployment than the sons and daughters of the rank and file black and brown and poor whites. Those are the ones that go fight rich white men’s wars. Our children do…not their children. In the case of being able to access institutions of higher learning like….Princetons and Harvards and the Yales and the Stanfords…wealthy white lives matter. Poor black lives don’t matter. They don’t care whether poor black males and females obtain a college education. Or its not important for them to have a job or learn how to run a multi-national corporation. Welfare matters only to poor black, brown, and white lives to form the foundational economic system that propogates empire building for the land of gentry. Not for us. And so those are things that we need to understand and get clear in our minds. Roger B. Taney clarified our relationship during the Dredd Scott decision when he said not only are we not citizens…killing a black person is akin to killing a chicken. He said, “They can never be citizens because they are not human.” We are not human. Once we understand the premise and the mindset of the individuals who run this country and have set up the systems and codify the systems in this country, we can understand clearly why we are treated in the manner in which we are treated. We only confused in so far as…our inability to really internalize and understand those historical premise – once you understand a redwood and a Tulsa and the gangs of new York, and the riots of new York, and the St. Louis riots which was the precedent for the Rodney King riot in California and Ferguson and what happened all across this country over the last year and a half, um, then you can put things into historical context, then they have rational, logical, pathological context with regard to the modus operandi…the operating systems of this country. And the relationship they have with poor black people and poor white people and poor brown people and we ought to begin to understand more clearly why we are the ones who occupy the prisons and the cemeteries, and why white police officers are exonerated and even black police officers are exonerated for killing black people and why white people don’t die with the same propensity at the hands of the police. We understand that, and it becomes crystal clear when we have a historical understanding of what has taken place here.
JD: And so, to connect back into what you said earlier, and your point about …sort of humiliated and dehumanized, which is one of the final, last points you make…do you have any experiences or observations in this more recent memory locally in Cleveland?
GM: Personally, no, thank god. I have three sons, who…yes. And it seems to be…you know, I would not like to say, but it appears that black men are the more immediate target but it has happened with greater propensity to black women. We’ve had Tanisha Anderson. It’s happening to black children. We’ve had Tamir Rice, a boy playing with a toy gun in a recreational….a playground center from which she could stand on her porch and look at the gazebo where he was shot. It just so happens she didn’t know the danger that her son was in that day. And, um, so she did not see Tamir being gunned down. As a matter of fact, the day that Tamir was gunned down, a friend of mine and I….we had been to three vigils…that was the third death within a period of like two weeks. The first was a horrific murder of five people in the Wave Park area. These people were shot by someone who had broken into the house, and killed the man upstairs and the two younger people…the teenagers or adolescents downstairs…and then came out through the back when the ten year old came through the house and shot her. She did not die. And then the mother, who was pregnant, they shot and killed the mother. So the mother was carrying a child, and whoever this was did not care. And they have not apprehended anybody at this point…well maybe they did…there is so many murders…but I think they did apprehend somebody for that. So we went to that vigil with about forty young people standing around because this was a woman who was pregnant and from the young people’s account, she used to feed people in the community, she was like a counselor, not that she was an actual counselor but she provided good counsel to the young people and so they stood there crying, and we prayed for this family who had been gunned down. When we left there, we went over to Tanisha Anderson…can I say that?
JD: Yes, yes….
GM: Tanisha Anderson was a young, mentally ill Black woman, who was taken…the police had been called to the home to deal with her episode…she had a mental episode.
KB: Excuse me, I heard they didn’t call the police at all and the police showed up?
GM: Well, right, they called 911. And they sent the police. And so they had come earlier and been to the house. I guess she got calmed down or whatever and then they left. And then they had to come back, they wanted her to be taken in for…whatever…the police came. And this woman was slammed to the ground in her nightgown…she wasn’t properly dressed…outside…someone kneed her in her back. And she apparently went into cardiac arrest.
KB: Don’t forget it’s less than twenty degrees outside…
GM: And put on the gurney and she…died…by the time they got her to a hospital she was dead. So after leaving that vigil with the media there and about two hundred people praying for this woman and this family, two women came up to me and said, “did you hear that there’s been a shooting on the west side, a twelve year old boy has been shot.” And I was just…flabbergasted. I was like…god we’ve been to two vigils. So we went over there, and just out of respect, to see what had happened. And the tape was there, the ambulance was there, I Imagine the young Tamir was in that ambulance and he was dying probably. You know they took him to the hospital and he died. But three in a day…it’s just like….it’s becoming…its happening with increasing regularity. Every day we turn the television on and there’s two or three people murdered
KB: And he didn’t get any kind of treatment or CPR….that didn’t happen.
GM: It was delayed. Well, the ambulance didn’t get there until…it came later. Because if you look at the time lapse, I mean, it took a while for the ambulance to get there.
KB: it had to have been longer than ten minutes.
GM: Well, they gave him forty pints of blood, the family by their own admission said the Family Metro Health tried to do everything they could to save him. You know, one of the family members said that at a public event, and that it just didn’t help, his abdomen was blown out by two bullets from a glock, he’s twelve years old and it happened within less than two seconds….the car actually drove UP into the rec center and the officer exited the car and just exploded on this child and undid him. And it turns out it was a toy gun. His mother is still devastated. And there’s been no follow up. Actually, the city originally…the law director…well I’ll just say the city issued a statement that the child was responsible for his own death. You know…So after that, Tamir’s body had to be held out for a number of months, and it deteriorated. And he had to be cremated. And he’s powder in a can. That’s her son. Wow, what a horrible ending for a baby boy. For a young man.
KB: I have to say a couple of things right now. Just to finish my case, what happened was, I never went to jail and what he was trying to do was intimidate me into a false confession and I wasn’t going for it. And I know the police can lie to you while they interrogate you. And he must have thought I was stupid or something. And I don’t know how I look or how I sound but I don’t play that. I know about police doing crimes. I’m on reddit.com Bad cop No donut and all the horror stories that police do all over this country on a daily basis and it’s just getting worse. Before when I go on the website you’d get maybe three or four stories a day. Now like twenty stories a day it’s hard to even keep up with it now.
JD: What kinds of stories? Are they local to Cleveland?
KB: National. I mean….it’s just one thing after another. I just make it a point to pay attention to Cleveland stories for obvious reasons because these police…nothing is happening to them. One thing I forgot to mention on the two cops….one was fired from Independence because he was too mentally unstable or emotionally unstable. The second one cost the city one hundred thousand dollars…that was the driver. And what happened was….some woman called and said a car blocked her driveway, and he was the one who showed up…the driver…and I don’t know what happened…but her face was out like this….and he’s the one who beat the hell out of her…excuse my language and I mean…you call the police and this is what you get? I mean you can just go over there and say something and get that same treatment.
GM: One of the biggest problems, I think, is that these killings are happening with total impunity on the part of the individuals that cause these murders. I have sons…other women….
KB: I did lose my job…after five years…with no complaints, no write ups, perfect attendance, because….first, I ain’t gonna lie, I didn’t know what to think, so…I said to myself let me wait for this report to come out. I was going to see if it was objective or subjective or what. So of course it was totally objective. So if you read the report, you’d believe I’d did it. So naturally, I lost my job, it really teed off though, because I’d been on the job for like four or five years…no complaints…no history of anything like that…and I’m already forty seven years old at that time…if I hadn’t done that in forty seven years why the hell would I start at that time? That’s stupid. And it was just….it really teed me off.
GM: And the question is, if you did something…even if you did….does it require an extrajudicial killing or an ass beating? If there’s some kind of complaint or concern, simply deal with it within the scope of authority you’ve been given as opposed to determining on the spot what you need to do. You don’t have the authority to do that. And if you do, we need to rethink that as civilians.
KB: Another problem is, people don’t tell people what to do in case they do run into the police. And all types of situations...to tell you the truth, I believe black men do have the right to defend themselves…when you hear these news stories and talk to people on the radio…on talk shows…it’s like no one mentions that! And where’s the black shield at? And that’s another thing. We do have black cops who pay union dues…how come they can’t say, “Not my money.”
GM: it is a club. I mean not just here. It is an organization and again, there concern is how much, black or white, political capital am I willing to risk to do the right thing? Am I willing to be called on the carpet for not backing up a lie because my co-worker is doing something improprieties….should I just go along with it? Should I agree with him? Or should I stand on merit? They are not willing to do that because it could affect jobs…promotions…payroll. They are looking at all that.
KB: Let’s put it all out in the open then! That’s the thing about it. You just can’t keep it to yourself. I’m not gonna lie…if I worked for the police department, you know when they are around me, and god forbid, if you and me rode together and you got that reputation…
GM: I’m sure that’s a problem that a lot of the ones who have engaged in things that are not right…wound up having to deal with …other officers who were like “I don’t need that. I don’t want to be on television. I don’t want to be demoted. I don’t want to lose my pension. I don’t want to be fired.” You know…they could make conscious decisions. Because you do have some individuals within the ranks who have integrity.
KB: They want to come with that mentality…one of this could be one of their relatives….and see how they feel then.
GM: The problems are deeper and more systemic. It deals with…and you know....don’t let me say this name, but XXXXXX is a journalist who did an investigation into the training hours that are required. A nail tech and a hairdresser have to take fifteen-hundred hours of training to be certified. Police officers only have to do like five hundred hours of training to be able to carry a loaded glock with bullets, mace, rubber mullets, handcuffs, and you know…a gun…to have authorities to kill people with impunity. He said, “Let’s take a look at that” and he looked at some of the areas that are really deficient and sent his report….his findings to the attorney general of Ohio to really look at this as a training board. You know…it takes five-hundred hours to become a police officer and be able to shoot somebody and write tickets and what have you. It takes fifteen hundred hours to cut somebody’s hair and comb somebody’s hair. What is wrong with that?
JD: What do you think is one of the impacts of that sort of imbalance and the ease with which people can be empowered and deputized to use their force?
GM: Well, my girlfriend for instance, went down to a salon in a department store and got her hair done, and it fell out, because the chemicals were too strong. And she was able to sue and get restitution. You can kill somebody in this town with five hundred dollar badge and gun and go back to work the next day or be put on paid administrative leave. There’s a problem with that. You can tackle a woman or shoot a child’s abdomen out or shoot somebody in the head…there’s no repercussion for that. And most of the individuals they have found that have done those things are promoted. You know…they are not looking at the psychological aspects of that job. Just the nature of what it is. Some people say we are over policed…there are absolutely too many police. And it’s ironic when those kinds of topics come up…there is a spike in homicides and murders and beatings.
KB: I have to mention one other thing, that kid that got shot on Public Square, it was two Saturdays ago, on Puerto Rican day, it was eleven thirty at night and there were no police on Public Square that night, I was out there and once again, response time seemed like it took longer than ten minutes and I found that very strange…on Puerto Rican day, you got people all over the place, and there were no police on Public Square? Trust me, that’s a very rare thing nowadays and I just find it very suspicious. It took longer than ten minutes before the deputy sheriff showed up finally to see what was going on…and another thing that bothered me too…at first they said it was a fire but when the kids started stampeding, they started seeking shelter inside Tower City or around Tower City where they felt safe at, the security guards came outside and kicked off the property and put em right back out there. No one knew what was going on, they knew there was a gunman out there, and they gonna throw the kids out there with the gunman and of course everybody was black. So that’s why I’m bringing that up to.
JD: Interesting point. So the project is focusing on police violence but one of the things we say in Florida with Trayvon Martin or in other cases with vigilantes…
GM: ---- Jackson, George Llewdavis
JD: And so security guards think they are carrying loaded weapons. And remember a few weeks ago in Cleveland people who were here for the Movement for Black Lives were maced by Cleveland State Police.
KB: Actually it was RTA Police.
JD: Ah, a lower rank….
GM: There is too many police, first of all. There are too many weapons on the street. Too many armed people. We live under a military occupation.
KB: Ok, I’m not defending the police or anything, but we got a ton of poverty in Cleveland.
GM: I was getting to that. There are too many police. There are too many weapons in the city, just everywhere, there’s just…my train of thought got broken. There’s those problems. There is poverty. Why are people ass-scratching poor? This is ridiculous. The foreclosure crisis here is raging. And the problems we are talking about are not just endemic to Cleveland, it’s across the board….across the United States. It is poverty…it’s the underpinnings of the military industrial complex, the education industrial complex…we are over policed, there are too many guns, there’s too little opportunities.
KB: Institutionalized racism.
GM: All of this comes under that umbrella, because that’s exactly what it is.
KB: Cause I’m not gonna lie to you….the problem with police in Cleveland…it’s been going back 100 years and like I said before, you can catch him on Youtube, but he’s given a speech on Cleveland’s poverty and how things have been since the great migration. It’s only like a twenty minute video he made back in 1982. And it’s pretty accurate and it explains why we have the problems we have today why we have the mindsets and I’m fifty years old, I’ve lived here all my life, I don’t recognize the city anymore. Downtown used to be a nice place to go to, now it’s all business. The streets out here are riding and you got crime all over the place…it’s the poverty that makes it bad. Two things are gonna solve this problem with the police or in general. You gotta acknowledge that racism is a mental illness which it is and number two you gotta get rid of the poverty.
GM: And the police and the poverty are byproducts of the racism. Because that is what they do to provide social control over individuals when they refuse via benign neglect and political will or lack the resources…and it’s usually benign neglect and political will because there is plenty of resources when they are building empire but very few resources when you talk about what is required to maintain safe, healthy communities and individuals in the neighborhood. But the poverty and the violence and the police aggression are all byproducts that work hand in hand…they are like fingers on the same hand to provide the levels of social control that the robber barons and the people that are in charge of the city require to maintain it. When it elevates to a crescendo…that means they are utilizing all the risk management tools at their disposal to ensure that people don’t rise up. It’s also been implemented during black power movements or periods of elucidation during the black community where they were working toward their own liberation and that’s when they saw them spike or increase the levels of police violence is to scare people…it’s like the ass whooping in the barnyard for the slaves…you keep them in control by gutting a pregnant woman upside down over a fire or you beat someone and quarter their skin in the back in full view of the other slaves so that you can put fear in them. It’s always been a mechanism to inculcate fear at times when they felt black people were reaching a renaissance or waking up.
JD: That’s powerful.
KB: We’ve had five riots in Cleveland…Glenville, Hough, Euclid Beach, Collinwood…four of those five were racial.
JD: Can you elaborate on any of those riots and how they connect or do not connect with contemporary violence?
KB: The one in Hough, it started in a bar….the bar was white-owned, a black man went inside, I don’t know what happened in there but someone said the N word and one thing led to another and that’s when the sparks flew. And the one in Glenville you had a group called the Black Nationalists….I can’t remember the leader’s name at that time, he died in prison. I mean, he was using public money to buy weapons to use against the police. And that was in 1968, two years after the Hough riots. And he killed two police men that day. And it was crazy. I was like maybe two years old at that time or three years old, and Euclid Beach, that was in nineteen forty six and they didn’t allow no blacks on the beach and it was fresh after World War II and we were just getting our rights here after fighting a world war. And a black police officer was almost beat half to death out there at Euclid Beach back in 1946. I can’t remember his name right now, I’m pretty sure he passed away. What else…Collinwood? Collinwood has been a white area…working class area for whites…I used to go to Collinwood for one year. So anyway what happened there were some white kids who started busting out windows, and there were like two hundred black students inside the school at the time, it was nineteen seventy and when the police were called it seemed like they were focused on the black kids instead of the white kids and that was all four of them real quick.
GM: The Glenville riots happened during the Carl Stokes tenure – you had the Black Liberation Movement, Black Panthers and Nationalists were deployed to protect their own community. You also had the Black Muslims who were active in the community …what sparked them were a number of things…having to do with Fred Ahmet Evans and Rabbi David Hill who owned one of the McDonalds and was trying to open the McDonalds franchise to black owners at that time because there were…he was like the only one. Of course, they didn’t really want blacks to do anything but eat there…buy their hamburgers in the drive through and don’t go there. I shouldn’t say McDonalds money…fast food industry and there was…I don’t have a history of the political fights but I do know that Carl Stokes, who was mayor at the time, when the violence was elevating, he denied the white police officer’s the right to go in there, because he did not want a bloodbath and he told them to stand down. I wish Jim Barrett was here, because he could tell the story – he was the safety director at the time and he could definitely ….he was one of Stoke’s top lieutenants and he could tell the story of what actually transpired – I was about eight years old.
KB: One other thing to jump back in… he kept on saying to me during the interrogation, if I confess I can go…that type of thing….like everything is gonna be ok if I confess to the crime…naturally I didn’t confess…of course I didn’t confess to it…because I never did it. [Officer’s name mentioned and discussion of redacting name from recordings ensues]
JD: But also if there are court documents
KB: I went to two lawyers, I went to the NAACP…I even contacted the Office of Professional Standards…it was like a joke.
JD: So that’s one of the main thrusts behind this documentation project is because….the official narrative that gets out….whether it be in a particular case or a series of cases…tends to leave the outsider with the thought that, wow, the person with the badge was right one hundred percent of the time and the person without the badge was wrong one hundred percent of the time. And so we wanted to give people a space in which they could reclaim that narrative…and have power over that narrative…because there is power in narrative. And you spoke earlier about social control….one of the key functions…what feeds social control is the way information and knowledge is passed on. What becomes fact in a police report in the killing of Tamir Rice doesn’t appear to be fact once you watch the video. So, I just wanted to throw that out as a discussion point about how narratives…how you two have observed the way the narrative in the city feeds police violence.
GM: I mean, even people along those lines, people will question how things are written up in the media, in the papers. Which categorically justify the killings, by in large. They are never written up in a way that causes one to say…hmmm maybe….that didn’t happen like that. It’s always in a way that fortifies the official version, whatever that is. There is just…there are so many problems. I have sons….one who came home from the military who was stopped over in a community not far from home, and he was…they drove up on him, he was visiting a house and they made him get on the ground…he had just gotten home from Iraq.
KB: Was he in uniform?
GM: No, he was in civilian clothes so they didn’t know whether he was, you know…but they went to the wrong house. He was at the house he was supposed to be at, but they went to the wrong house because they saw him going up there and drew guns on him. They even drew guns on me one night, when I was walking across the street at my mother’s house, lot of kids were outside having a wild…they were just acting foolish, and police officer came and one particular officer got out and pointed a shot gun at my head and told everybody to get on the ground.
KB: What year was this, about what year?
GM: This was…around 1996. Maybe 1996.
JD: How did that situation diffuse itself?
GM: Oh the kids got on the ground and they left peacefully after that because it appeared that nobody wanted to get shot that night. I think it was more machismo than anything else but still, what is wrong with you? What is wrong with you? If someone did that in a white community, they would be fired. I can think of another time they came and scooped my son up and took him on the top of the VA parking structure which wasn’t even completed yet and when I came outside from my mom’s house to go back across the street, because they came and got him off the steps, they said, “We’re looking for a black male with a red shirt witch black pants,” and I was like, “Well, are you prepared to stop every n------ that’s out here, that’ swearing a black shirt?” He said, “Ma’am, you can’t follow, you can’t talk to us, you can’t ask us any questions about our investigation.” So and so and so and so. “If you do you’ll be interfering with an official police investigation and that’s not….” You know. And so I stood back and my neighbor, my ninety year old neighbor said well whatever it is you better make it stick because he’s been sitting on the steps all afternoon I’ve been here, so…they took in a car, he said they took on top of the structure that wasn’t even finished, there was a white female police officer up there getting right in his face. He couldn’t see anything but her hair, saying, “Is this the one?” because they said he had carjacked a car….and it’s like, really? He doesn’t even have a license.” So she said no, that’s not him. My son told me that. And then they took him in the car, drove him many, many blocks away from the house and they dropped him and said, “We made a mistake. Get out and walk home.” Yeah. That’s how they do black men. That’s how they do black kids. I couldn’t understand why there were so many black males…I’m just trying to stay out the way, and I kept wondering, “Well, what are you talking about? What do you mean staying out the way?” It’s just minding my own business enough to stay in my lane where no one will even think that I’m doing something….even have the perception that I am doing something.
KB: I’ve never been arrested, I have no criminal background - you can check my record right now. I mean, I never seen that coming…I always thought it happened to other people. I never thought that something like that would happen to me. Like I said before, that police officer…the police have a way of changing people’s perception of reality. I have a bunch of cliques thanks to the police.
JD: Can you talk about the way that officers alter reality?
KB: Yeah, another example. One time I was going to work at night, they always bother me at work…so anyway, I used to work third shift, in wintertime, in January. And I always walk out the back door because the snow pile up so high and plus I don’t wanna see people, and you know just like in my neighborhood, you can’t just have a pattern, you gotta keep on changing. So anyway, I was coming out the backdoor we have an alleyway behind the house. And sometime police cars do park back there, and they go up and down back there…and no one ever did anything stupid until that day, and this is over ten years ago. So anyway, there was a police car back there, I was locking my door and I see someone put a spot light on me. I’m like…ok I’m not on Broadway, what’s going on. So I turn around in the alley, and there’s a police car just having a light on me. And I don’t like nobody putting a spotlight on me when I leave the house. So Anyway, I just stared at him, and I was going to walk up to him but the snow was already that high. And I didn’t want to mess up my shoes. Anyway I just stood there and stared at him, it was a good three or four minutes. So finally, he turned off his lights and he started driving down the rest of the alleyway, there was another house he could turn down before, so I was walking down from my house to my car warming it up, so I seen him going this direction toward downtown and he made a u turn drove back, pulled up next to me, I thought he was gonna say something, he shined the light in my office, and then drive off! And I got out the car…I remember his plates…that was all that was on my mind was his plates.
GM: I can remember a detective who lived next door to me in a duplex and I guess whose husband had been harassing her, they were separated or something other, so they got a call to come one night, and I lived on the other side, single parent with my kids, and two cars came with multiple officers and it was pitch black in the driveway, we had an easement driveway in between these houses and so they rang the doorbell, and I opened the side door and they said, “Does so and so live here?” and I said, “No, she lives on the other side.” …meaning the detective. And they said, “Well open the door, we’ve gotta come in.” I was like, “Really?” I said, “The door is jammed.” The lock was jammed for some reason, thank god. The officers….one was standing there shining a spotlight/flashlight in my face, and the other one was standing nearby…but all I could see was this bright light shining in my face, and the next morning my neighbor who lives in the eavesment house next door she says, “Are you aware that those two officers…” because we were talking about what had happened, “those two officers that were standing there, one of them had a loaded glock pointed at your head?” And I couldn’t see that. I was on the School Board at the time this happened. When the door jammed, you know, I’m not dressed, I have a t-shirt and a pair of slacks and I said, I can’t get it to open…they just left. I guess they went around the other side, but my kids were at home, they were little guys. What if you had just come in there and did a Brandon McCloud on my kids or something….something unnecessary…I already told you that that person does not live here. You are at the wrong house. You know, I could see I wasn’t that person. It was just…bizarre. I can think of another time in that house, I was upstairs, I was taking a bath and it was about time for my kids to get home and I heard a motor running and I looked at the bathroom window and there was my sixth grader, two detectives had him up against the car, he was coming home from school at that time, up against the car, searching him for drugs he said. We had just moved from out of state back to Cleveland but Cleveland is CRAZY. It’s crazy. You live with that foolishness every day. White people don’t get up thinking about this shit. White people don’t think about this. They don’t think, Oh I gotta talk to my kids about how to behave with the police, and oh my god if I do XY and Z and I’m wondering if someone will shoot me…they don’t get up with that in the morning! No they don’t even think about that stuff.
JD: Sounds like…as the conversation has gone on, there have been more and more stories that have come out…it’s almost as a survival tactic….either one) we’re told that our stories aren’t true or that they are false, or this official narrative comes out and so when that erasure happens, when that creation of a false reality happens, it’s almost like….you repress those memories almost as a way to move on.
GM: You do, because I didn’t even think about telling you those things, until I heard his story, and then I thought well I have a story like that.
KB: I’m just gonna get to the point right quick, I go through the proper channels the few times I ever deal with the police so anyway that time, I went to work that night, I did go to the police station in the morning, I filed a claim and the person behind the counter, he didn’t want to give it to me, so I blew up on him, and said, “Do I get it or not?” He asked me a ton of questions about what happened and I was like I ain’t going to repeat the same story twice. So I said, “Do I get it or not?” So they finally gave me the report. I went down there at eleven AM in the morning on purpose because I wanted it to just be me and him down there. Because they might have said the wrong thing to me or one thing would have led to another…they got complaint…I might have even been arrested. I was already angry when I went down there about what happened. So anyway, I fill out the report, they finally call me six months later for an interview, the Office of Professional Standards, I had the interview on Payne Avenue, I was there for maybe an hour or so. I told my side of the story, I was tape recorded and everything. So anyway, they replied another six months later…it’s been way over a year since the incident happened and they used the words “unfounded.” And I said it must be a very common phrase down there, because to me, unfounded…I made the whole thing up. I had nothing else better to do. And I described the guy to a tee.
GM: Just so you know there are a lot of people having the same hallucination. I’m sorry, verbatim, ditto. This is crazy. We shouldn’t have to live like this. It wasn’t always like this.
JD: When do you think it started to escalate?
GM: It’s always been like this, but it escalated…I would say over….my ex was undone in 97. That was just….there were other people, there were other things happening, you don’t really connect the dots until something happens to you. And then you start really making a conscientious…taking a conscientious look at all this stuff…I know for a fact that when that happened ….he was selling…he wasn’t doing things he wasn’t supposed to be particularly doing, but did it require an extrajudicial killing? And he was unarmed. That’s the thing. Nonetheless, after this happened, my little ones were so distraught, they were like, “wow” because they had just seen their dad the day before in perfect form. And the next day they see him and he’s laid out on the gurney with gunshot wounds. Machines attached to him and what have you. So a friend of mine who was going to a Carl Dix event in Detroit years ago, said, do you want to go? I said, yes, but I have the children. And he said bring them along. So we brought them to Detroit to Wayne State University, they had this tribunal of sorts on police brutality, only it was a national thing…and there were all these people from all over. That is the only thing that solidified in their young minds, that this was not just a …me problem. Nothing I could have said could have explained to them that this is not just a “me” problem. When they walked into that church and saw HUNDREDS of families with the same problem, white, black, Hispanic, Asian (a few), they understood intrinsically that this is something much deeper. That was in 97. And you know, one of the things that came out of that conference was, you know this is the autopsy book of all the victims and next year we are going to have a new and improved…a bigger book, and I’m like…wait a minute. Wait a minute. Oh fuck no. We need an endgame to this. We don’t need a new and improved edition of an autopsy book. And that was in 97. We need to come to some kind of conscientious conclusion about how to stop this altogether, because it’s real serious now and it’s not gonna get any better if we don’t. And the other thing is there was an officer, a retired officer he claimed, and he had this white t-shirt, it was huge, and on the front and the back it said, “Fuck the Police.” And I’m diametrically opposed…he said, we can pass these out and sell these, and make money all across…I said, “Our children don’t need to wear those. Nobody’s children need to wear those. That is only going to exacerbate and antagonize people that already want to do them harm.” I said, “Our children are black, they already have a bullseye on them by virtue of their color.” I said, “For you to suggest that they wear these shirts, is unconscionable. It’s unconscionable.” Well they scrapped that idea and I was glad because that’s not…I was not going to let that…as a parent…as a woman…as a black woman I couldn’t allow that to happen without saying something. And I used my power and I spoke up and said, “NO. You will not do this.”
KB: Can I mention two things really quickly? A month before Tamir Rice got shot, there was another guy who got shot and killed in Dayton, Ohio. He had a toy gun off the shelf…that ….
JD: That was Tony Robinson
KB: Oh, ok, you know about that already so I don’t have to mention. Ok. So as long as you have that poverty, it’s not going to end. I ain’t gonna lie, the police is a hard job, I was going to take the test back in 99. And I said to myself, there is just way too much poverty…if you take the drug dealers off the street, before the night is over with, somebody else gonna take their place.
GM: But it’s racial! Its racial too, I mean, poor white folks…white folks who are poor are not being killed with the propensity that poor blacks and Hispanics are. So it’s less a poverty thing and more a race thing. It’s a color…
KB: So…number one, get rid of the racism!
GM: But how do you logically do that? Laws are not gonna affect racism. Racism is a behavioral, systemic, control system that is inculcated into this…every fiber of this national community and has been…has a historic premise. We cannot legislate it out of control, we can’t do any of that. All we can do is modify it…
KB: I’m not gonna lie to you, you gotta acknowledge it’s a mental illness and we are gonna keep on having the problems until you control the poverty…
GM: Racism is a mental illness! Dr. Frances Cress Welsing. Medical doctor, lawyer, historian, yes…she said, “It is a form of mental illness and those who possess it need to go through therapy.” Serious psychotherapy. Why would the slave master tell the slave to acknowledge they have mental illness? Not gonna happen.
JD: So one last question – you mentioned that the poverty has risen alongside the rapid rates of police violence and that solving the poverty problem would alleviate that. I’m curious to know the extent to which….earlier in the conversation you mentioned, when Tanisha Anderson was having an episode, her family called the ambulance, but the police showed up, and this tends to happen…when social services needs to come, or maybe a housing authority or maybe a rehab…instead, people show up with drawn weapons. Can you talk about what that does to people who are actually seeking help? But instead when they seek help, they are facing the barrel of a gun? Because on the one hand if someone does want to uplift themselves and get out of a situation… but when they seek help they end up in a jail cell. What do you think that does to them and their feelings…their circumstances…?
GM: That’s what they used to do to slaves! That has a historical premise right there. They have always addressed physical problems with the slaves with a lack of concern. The only reason they gave them clothes and food, you know, improve the quality of their clothes and food, is because their economic investment was deteriorating at a rate where they had to replenish it with more people and they said, well the only way we can do this is we’ll give them more food. They allowed black women to breastfeed white babies. Why can’t you breastfeed your own babies? We reared their children, we cleaned their houses, we cooked their food, you know…we did everything for them. We built their empire, their railroad, they even created lease convict laws…peonage laws, vagrancy laws, to allow us to be reverted back after the civil war, after the emancipation proclamation when they saw that the Reconstruction period was going to provide some semblance of restitution for African slaves. What did they do? They created laws to re-enslave them through the penal system which is a parallel to the prison industrial complex which we are seeing today and in the course of that they have never addressed….did they attempt to address the violence and the terrorism that was endured as a result of the racist construct of this society. They have never attempted to do anything that made sense. And it’s not a question that they didn’t know. It’s a question that they didn’t care. They had the resources, they lacked the political will.
JD: And controlling the narrative, right? I was speaking with someone here this weekend, maybe in the context of a previous interview, about how the image of the slave and prior to John Blassingame, who wrote the book The Slave Community who talked about how slaves would try to resist their condition and that was such a counter culture and John Blassingame was perhaps the first historian to use the narratives of those who were enslaved to talk about their experiences. Because prior to that, for one hundred years historians did not accept slave narratives as historical evidence. They believed slave narratives had exaggerations, they couldn’t believe that people would be whipped like that…they couldn’t believe that families were separated…
GM: Mary B. Turner and the Georgia gang... They lynched her husband, she complained to the local authorities to try to get some restitution, she was overwrought with grief. The Valdosta Georgia gang took this woman, eight months pregnant, turned her upside down, stripped her, turned her upside down and hung her from a tree from her feet by a rope, started a fire under her head, took a gutting instrument used to gut a cow, split her womb open, and while she hung upside down, still alive, she saw her fetus attached to the umbilical cord fall to the ground, whereupon one of the members of the Valdosta Georgia gang took his foot and crushed the fetus’ head before she was burned alive. Alive. And what was her crime? Complaining because they had lynched her husband.
I mean….they used to boil slaves in a cauldron and turn em into soap….cut off their limbs for running away…thousands of people, closed the schools, invite busloads of children and trains, go to Emma Coleman Jordan, google her, the judicial law professor at Georgetown came to Cleveland State’s court and white people got up and walked out! Cause they didn’t want to hear what she had to say when she got going. But I was there. And she told about the lynching, she had done the research on the lynchings. And she told what happened….all across this country, she said she’s been in the archives, she has downloaded numerous news accounts and book accounts and oral histories that were taken and written down about how they boiled slaves alive and turned them into soap, hung them from their neck, this violence out here has historical root. It didn’t just crop out of a vacuum. And it’s got to STOP. It’s got to stop. Its economic terrorism, its social terrorism, its physical terrorism and violence, its political terrorism and violence, the bankers taking the houses of people, foreclosing on people being fortified by the courts, its economic terrorism.
JD: As you spoke earlier, this is before you went on the record, and I think I can say this in context of this being recorded because no names were taken, earlier in other parts of town, people had things to say but they were like actually legitimately afraid to say them. And they’re like…there’s a certain element of threat that’s perceived…number one with demands for black freedom or any kind of conversation about black freedom.
GM: Recrimination, they are afraid of it…
JD: But also…declaration of truths…right? The notion that the truth of an individual conflicts with the truth of the state…the state then comes at that individual with all kinds of things….so that was a….that is something I’ve observed listening to people in different cities talk about how that reprisal is real…and it doesn’t always materialize in physical violence but in other kinds of….in non-material ways…
GM: Right, through the phone, through the mail, whatever…through the utilities companies, through the eviction man, through the judge, that’s how it comes….even to declare you psychotic and insane, to have you committed, that’s…to put you in prison, to incarcerate you, to shut you up, to keep you from telling the truth.
KB One thing I want to say about your comment, things have to change…things are changing…they are not going to go back to the way they were. And it’s going to take some time too, because people coming from all different groups and angles from non-violent to violent about this problem. So everything is just getting started now but it’s going to change, maybe another fifty or sixty years, may not be here to see it, but it’s going to change somewhere down the road.
GM: Well, Professor Wilbert Nichols who was my Black History professor at Tri-C when I attended, he said, “A change is about to take place.” This was forty years ago. He said, “I will not live to see it.” Which he is deceased. He said, “You may not.” Because he expressed that there was going to be a great conflagration – but your children and your children’s children will live to see the day when black men and women are respected and protected around this world. He said, “They will live to see that day.” And his words have been prophetic. They have been prophetic.
KB: I wish we could talk more…you have a lot of knowledge and a lot of life experience…and you do a lot of reading…
JD: Well this has been a very rich interview and I thank both of you for being so candid and so open on this. I don’t know if either of you have lasting thoughts before…
KB: I do, the reason I’m doing this is….people tell me to forget about it and let it go and I ain’t gonna lie, I have a hard time letting it go, my tax dollar going to a situation like that, but my main thing is if something do happen to me in the future, I just want you to know that I’m a person who minds his own business, keeps to himself, have no prison record, yet I could get shot down by the police going to work.
GM: It doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter. They don’t care. If you’re black in America, if you’re brown in American, if you’re poor in America, you are nothing. You are nothing.