The following remarks were made on Saturday, June 17, 2017 at an anti-nuclear weapons rally in St. Louis, Missouri:
I am here today as a peacemaker and a justice seeker to stand in solidarity with the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom commonly known as WILPF. But I am also here today as a Black man to commemorate the killing of Philando Castile. Yesterday Jeronimo Yanez, the St. Anthony Minnesota officer who killed Philando was acquitted of all charges. You may remember that Philando, a cafeteria worker loved by his community, was killed last year during a traffic stop for a broken taillight. Philando’s girlfriend live streamed the aftermath of the shooting on Facebook. Their young daughter was also in the car.
Why am I talking about the life of a Black man and announcing Black Lives Matter at a rally to ban the bomb? Let me share a few words with you from two men who are much more eloquent than I.
Fifty years ago, when asked about nuclear weapons, Dr. King Martin Luther King Jr. said, “I definitely feel that the development and use of nuclear weapons should be banned. It cannot be disputed that a full-scale nuclear war would be utterly catastrophic. Hundreds and millions of people would be killed outright by the blast and heat, and by the ionizing radiation produced at the instant of the explosion . . . Even countries not directly hit by bombs would suffer through global fall-outs. All of this leads me to say that the principal objective of all nations must be the total abolition of war. War must be finally eliminated or the whole of mankind will be plunged into the abyss of annihilation.”
In 1959, he is quoted as saying, “What will be the ultimate value of having established social justice in a context where all people, Negro and White, are merely free to face destruction by strontium 90 or atomic war?”
For King, Civil Rights was inextricably linked to peace. Remember the triple evils of war, poverty and racism.
On April 1, 1961, the prominent Black writer James Baldwin addressed a large group of peace activists at a rally focused on “Security Through World Disarmament.” When asked why he chose to speak at such an event, Baldwin responded: “What am I doing here? Only those who would fail to see the relationship between the fight for civil rights and the struggle for world peace would be surprised to see me. Both fights are the same. It is just as difficult for the white American to think of peace as it is of no color . . . Confrontation of both dilemmas demands inner courage.”
Baldwin considered both problems in the same breath because, “racial hatred and the atom bomb both threaten the destruction of man as created free by God.”
This makes it clear why I invoke Philando Castile’s name this morning. But I say to you that it goes much further than that. For us to win and by us, I mean all of us, including the bigots, sexists, religious intolerant and war mongers. For all of humanity to win, we as peacemakers and justice seekers must understand that all our struggles are inextricably linked. That your struggle is mine and mine is yours.
Fear is central to this struggle. It is one of the most powerful means to control us. To make us hate each other for war, religious intolerance or whatever the case may be.
Domination is the hallmark of patriarchy and is central to why the U.S. has the bomb as a nuclear umbrella to dominate and bully other nations.
And demonization is the hallmark of racism and all forms of bigotry which is central to war, for you must demonize a people to rationalize why it is OK to kill them.
I won’t go on, but you can easily see why it is critical for us to stand and struggle united across what I call a full spectrum movement for peace and justice, both at home and abroad. We must be hand in hand in this struggle to ban the bomb and to move forward all our struggles, not only because it is just and right, but because it is necessary for us to survive as a species.
This morning before I left my apartment, I saw in the news that Bill Cosby trial judge declared the jury hung. I don’t know how you feel about Bill Cosby, but I see the hung jury as another example of the denial of a people’s humanity. Yesterday it was Black people, today it is women. It is another example of why we must stand together in all our struggles.
Thank you for this opportunity to stand with you today in solidarity to remember and mourn Philando Castile. To proclaim Black Lives Matter and in the context of ending war and abolishing nuclear weapons, to say all life on the planet matters; and that we must work together for peace and justice to ensure it is more than a slogan or an aspiration. In the end, we—as in all of us—must make it so.