Unnamed Oral History Interview
Interviewee: Drake, Jarrett (JD)
Interviewer: Unnamed (B)
B: I watched this movie last night, NWA, standing for Niggers With Attitude. And they came out with this song, “Eff the police,” and he was speaking the truth, speaking the truth about brutality, and how they treat African American men no matter you were a rapper or if you had a job, they still came to you as if they was a thug out here on the street – nothing going on with your life. I respect that what these gentlemen are out here doing because you cannot judge me by my color, you cannot judge me they way I walk out here on the street. Yes, it is an issue, and it’s an issue that has been carrying on and on and on and on, is that gonna stop, we don’t know. It’s only gonna stop if we put all our effort into it and make it stop.
JD: And one of the ways, one of the reasons we are doing this project is to get people to tell more of their truths, to have new narratives. Did you see anything in that movie that related to here in Cleveland?
B: Yeah, I did. Yes, I did. Because you pull up on me because I’m walking the street. I can’t speak, I can’t say anything, I can’t talk. You just assume get down on the ground and put you hands behind your back. You grab me, you rough me up. You throw me up against the cars. Yes, yes it was the same thing. And I sat there and watched that movie and I said the same thing is happening here in the city of Cleveland. Nothing different about it.
And thing is, you cannot tell me that in this movie that really caught my eye. You cannot tell me that I cannot speak, and you cannot tell me that I cannot express my feelings. You can’t do this to me. I have the right to tell you that. What did I do to you to throw me up against a car - the police car, like you do?
JD: Is that an experience you had in particular?
B: No. It’s just an experience, period. Because this is how – if we don’t put our heads together and work together, they’re gonna keep doing what they’re doing to us. And we are allowing it to happen. You see what I’m saying? We are allowing this to happen.
JD: So what is your, uh…I know you’re on break so I know you got to leave, that’s fine. The last thing is, what do you think resistance looks like? You know, combatting this issue of brutality, of violence? Is it an organized struggle? Do people have to just do better by themselves? Some people have said, “well, the way I deal with it is, I just mind my own business.”
B: That’s true, too.
JD: But some people are like, “no, we need a more organized…” What’s needed so that these things stop happening, from your perspective?
B: The structure – more structure. More leadership. More guidance, and showing – especially our young men and young women how to handle it when they pull up on you, for whatever reason – and know how to handle it. And if you do your part then you would be fine. But if they come cocky, with an attitude and there’s nothing much you can really say, then who wins or loses? We’re losing, no matter what, because you can’t say anything now because I have the authority right up under you. You know, you can’t say anything, you’re going to do what I say or else you’re going to jail. So, I’m going to do what you say because I don’t want to go to jail.
JD: Yeah, and I don’t want to die, either.
B: Right. Exactly.
JD: That’s sad, that that’s what some people have to think about when they interact with police.
B: There’s no more trust in them. I have not done anything against the law for the police to attack me in that situation, but I have been stopped by them. Why are you stopping me? Why do I have to get out of the car? Why?
JD: So that’s a really important narrative. So when you’ve seen this a lot across the country. Police stop somebody and then they give them an arbitrary command, like, “get out of the car.” Did that happen to you?
B: Yes. I got pulled over for speeding. He said I was speeding. He pulls me over, I show him my, I show him – I didn’t have my driver’s license with me because I switched coats, switched jackets. So, he ran the plates and everything through. He tells me to get out of the car. Why do I have to get out of the car for being pulled over for speeding?
B: So now I get out of the car. Now the mentality is, you better be ready for this, because I don’t know what is going to happen. Because, first of all, I shouldn’t be getting out of the car for a speeding ticket. Well, get in the back of the police car. Why? Why? Why? So, yes – I feel like my rights was violated right then and there. You know what I’m saying? And the question at the end was, “Okay Ms. ______, you can go.”
JD: And that was it.
B: And that was it.
JD: So it was like – can you describe the weather that day?
B: It was sunny, sunny. It was nice out, I was just – you know what, my first mind set was to take the – get back on the freeway, but no – I’m gonna take the city because it’s nice and then stop and get me something to eat. Going down St. Clair and I’m going to tell you this, it was so weird of a pullover that I went to court and tell the judge, and the judge said, “well, he pulled you over, that’s all that counts.” But how can he pull me over if I’m going west and he’s facing east? So that means he did a complete u-turn getting ready to go after somebody else. He wasn’t coming after me.
JD: That reminds me of something that happened to me in Philly, where I live. I was on a highway, minding my business and I saw a police officer pulling someone over to the side and I got over, to get out of the way. And then, I was actually on a handset talking to my mother and then I saw these bright lights, just like zoom – going 100 miles an hour and I was just like, I feel bad for whomever he’s about to pull over – and it was me. And I remember, I just told my ma, “I love you, I’m going to call you back.” I haven’t been that shook in so long. And he said, he pulled me over because he saw my registration sticker was a month expired. I was like, really? But that whole experience – it was nerve-wracking. People shouldn’t have to do that – when they get stopped by police. They shouldn’t have to think about - will I actually survive this account?
B: I’m going to tell you something I experienced something yesterday that really shook my head and said, okay – so I know how you are. I took someone to court yesterday, and you know how the police stand out in the hallway. So I’m going in feeling real good, happy everything, “good morning, everybody – good afternoon – good morning.” Everyone spoke, except for the white cop that was standing up against the window. So, first thing came to my mind – okay, so that’s what type of person he is. You see what I’m saying?
JD: That’s not recognizing the humanity.
B: Everybody spoke, and you know, I made it to the point where I feel real good, the sun is shining, it’s a good day. This guy did not open his mouth one time, so you know what – I see what type of person he is. Don’t say nothing to him, just watch him. As I watched him, all while I was standing out there in that hallway, he did not open his mouth to say good morning or how you doing to one black person that walked past him that said hello. I don’t trust them anymore. I had trust in them. I don’t trust them because you don’t know who is who, or what they’re going to do.
JD: That’s one of the consistent things we heard said. The complete inability to recognize the humanity…
B: How can you protect and serve me? How can you protect and serve me - and you treat me like I had to call you if someone was doing this to me in the street that’s not even a police officer? So how can you protect and serve me? You can’t protect and serve me if you are out here doing the same thing someone else is out here doing. It’s not going to work. And it says, “protect and serve.” It don’t say, “protect and kick ass.” Or throw them all up against the cars and all this. It don’t say that. And I’m not trying to be racist or anything, but I watch things and I see things. When you get a call from another race and you handle them like you handle Black African Americans. No – no you don’t. And that’s just it. That’s life. We have to live life on life terms now. We have to live life day-by-day. Just like you said, hands up.
JD: Thank you so much for sharing your story.