AUGUST 20, 2019
Interviews Curated by Colin Kaepernick
Photography by Shawn Theodore
Introductions by KYRC members:
Miabelle Bocicault, Dr. Ameer Hasan Loggins, Dr. Christopher Petrella
On October 15, 1966, Oakland-based activists Bobby Seale and Huey P. Newton drafted a roadmap to Black freedom. Originally known as the Black Panther Party's Ten-Point Platform and Program, the document articulated 10 demands and 10 beliefs that formed the basis of the organization. "Black people will not be free until we are able to determine our destiny," wrote Seale and Newton. Among the Panthers' demands were an "education that teaches us our true history and our role in the present-day society" and "an immediate end to police brutality and the murder of Black people."
"That was over 50 years ago. And what has changed?" Colin Kaepernick asks. "Oscar Grant, Rekia Boyd, Michael Brown, Tamir Rice. What has changed? Laquan McDonald, Sandra Bland, Freddie Gray. The Panthers' demands are still alive today because the police are still killing us today."
YOU HAVE THE RIGHT TO BE FREE
Thirty years ago, when Antron McCray, Kevin Richardson, Raymond Santana, Korey Wise and Yusef Salaam were teenagers, their right to be free was unjustly ripped away from them. Painted as blood-thirsty criminals and sentenced to prison after being coerced by corrupt law enforcement into making false confessions for a rape they did not commit, the five men were ultimately exonerated in 2002. Now, when you see them, you see the faces of free men. No longer are they forced to wear the lies that ruined their lives. No longer should they be known as the Central Park Five — forevermore they are known as the Exonerated Five. The truth has absolved them from the horrors of Central Park and 1989, and new generations are learning their story, thanks to Ava DuVernay's powerful Netflix miniseries, When They See Us. Today, Antron, Kevin, Raymond, Korey and Yusef are five free men committed to fighting against a legal system that robbed them of their right to be free.
YOU HAVE THE RIGHT TO BE HEALTHY
TARAJI P. HENSON
Many were introduced to Taraji P. Henson's concerns about the mental health crisis in the Black community when the actress spoke in front of the Congressional Black Caucus this past June. A year earlier, Henson had founded the Boris Lawrence Henson Foundation, a non-profit named after her late father, who struggled with mental illness in the wake of his service in the War in Vietnam. The organization's mission is to lend a healing hand in helping the Black community tackle mental health issues, including ending the stigma and raising awareness of how systemic oppression can lead to issues like anxiety and depression (and dealing with the damaging double-demonization of being both Black and struggling with mental illness).
YOU HAVE THE RIGHT TO BE BRILLIANT
DR. ANGELA DAVIS
Dr. Angela Davis' brilliance is politics in motion. Active in the struggle for Black liberation for over 50 years, Dr. Davis has pursued racial justice whatever the cost. From prison abolition to Black feminist theory to cultural critique to LGBTQ advocacy, she has championed the notion that a world of full human flourishing is worth pursuing. Dr. Davis blends theory and practice to live out her values in real time. Formerly on the FBI's 10 Most Wanted list in October 1970 for her political activism, and subject of then-California Governor Ronald Reagan's campaign to prevent her from teaching in the state university system, Davis is now a Distinguished Professor Emerita in U.C. Santa Cruz's History of Consciousness Department. The author of nine books and scores of articles, she also lectures regularly across the world. Throughout her career, Dr. Davis has used her intellectual acumen, voice and scholarship to uplift the brilliance of Black people across the diaspora. Dr. Davis represents the right to theorize the world in order to change it and the right to demand answers from the powerful to inconvenient questions in the present.
YOU HAVE THE RIGHT TO BE SAFE
As the founder of the #MeToo movement, Tarana Burke has given a voice to the underrepresented and started a global conversation on sexual abuse, harassment and assault against women that has increased the world's awareness of these issues and justice for its victims. And, as a survivor of sexual assault, Burke has used her own experiences to address tragedies that are typically buried in shame and humiliation and created a safe haven for women all over the world to come forward and do the same. But her fight for the lives of those who have suffered sexual violence did not begin with a hashtag in 2017 nor the Me Too mantra she first coined in 2006. Her activism and advocacy are rooted in the decades she has spent fighting systemic and structural forces that have contributed to racial and gender inequality and the creation of broken communities. It is work focused on bulldozing the building blocks of sexual terrorism: power and privilege. With each speech, each tweet, each personal interaction, Tarana Burke is fighting to let them know that you have a right to be safe.
YOU HAVE THE RIGHT TO BE LOVED
Nessa — co-founder of the Know Your Rights Camp — embodies the spirit of Ubuntu, a term from the Nguni Bantu people of southern Africa often translated as "I am because we are." Her "humanity toward others" philosophy exemplifies the idea of service grounded in empathy and love. Whether using her platforms on NBC, MTV and HOT 97 to challenge the racial status quo or starting the Nessa On Air Scholarship Program at the Lower Eastside Girls Club, where she also pours her heart into the young women participating in their Center for Media and Social Justice, Nessa's life, work and commitment to the struggle show that the right to be loved reflects the right to thrive on one's own terms and the imperative to lift as one climbs. Simply put, to love is to liberate.
YOU HAVE THE RIGHT TO BE COURAGEOUS
The great poet Maya Angelou once said that "Courage is the most important of all the virtues, because without courage, you can't practice any other virtue consistently." Unwavering. Unrelenting. Unflinching. Unapologetic. Carolina Panthers safety Eric Reid is the living embodiment of courage. Understanding that courage isn't merely something someone has but something that someone does, Reid's commitment to the lives of Black people and their ability to thrive has been unshakeable. While on the San Francisco 49ers, he was the first professional athlete to join with teammate Colin Kaepernick in his protest. His representation of the right to be courageous serves as a reminder that courage is active and kinetic, premised on the power of conviction and the indefatigable urge to live a principled life by design, not merely by default.
YOU HAVE THE RIGHT TO BE ALIVE
In the midst of their thrilling rise in entertainment and fashion, model and Pose star Indya Moore hasn't wavered in their mission to protect the Black and Brown transgender community living under constant attack. In 2018, there were at least 26 confirmed cases of trans women killed in violent encounters, and so far this year, there have already been at least 12 women who have lost their lives. The vast majority of those killed are Black. Moore's activism — and the epidemic of homicides they are fighting against — embodies the intersectional nature of combating systemic oppression and the necessity of believing that everyone has the right to be alive and exist in their fullest form without any detriment, targeting or backlash.
YOU HAVE THE RIGHT TO BE TRUSTED
Throughout her career, Ava DuVernay has pursued projects that testify to the cohesive power of art and activism. Her work has covered everything from the civil rights struggles in Selma, in Selma, to the ways hypocrisy in the United States Constitution keeps slavery alive in the prison-industrial complex, in 13th. More recently, DuVernay's directorial work on the Emmy-nominated Netflix miniseries When They See Us is the personification of truth to power being executed, as it aided in the exoneration of five innocent Black and Brown men in the court of public opinion. A thread of righteousness runs throughout DuVernay's art of storytelling — that those who have been oppressed and ostracized have the right to be vindicated. That they have the right to be defended. That they have the right to be trusted.
YOU HAVE THE RIGHT TO BE EDUCATED
Yara Shahidi's presence on- and off-screen challenges many of the social stigmas stamped on the backs of young Black people. Off-screen, her efforts to engage with, inform and activate people in her peer group positions Shahidi as a paragon of the idea of "youth empowering the youth" to defeat poverty through education. It's a vision echoed in Yara's Club, her partnership with the Young Women's Leadership School that brings high school students together to discuss social issues and how to take action. On-screen in Black-ish, and its spinoff, Grown-ish, Shahidi has been one of the only actors of color that Black girls can turn to when they want to see themselves on television, much less on a television series set on a college campus. Whether it be the halls of Harvard University (where Shahidi is currently enrolled) or at the fictional Cal U as Zoey Johnson on the small screen, the 19-year-old Shahidi represents the possibility of accessing academia for many who have been told that they don't have the right to be educated.
YOU HAVE THE RIGHT TO KNOW YOUR RIGHTS
Countless court cases, stop-and-frisk police procedures and the disproportionate number of Black and Brown people incarcerated in the US all speak to a legal system that is infested with inequality and racial bias. Bryan Stevenson's work as a lawyer and as the founder of the Equal Justice Initiative (EJI) concentrates on combating racist injustices in our legal system and economic inequality in the United States. He has represented capital defendants and individuals on death row since 1985 and made history with Supreme Court rulings that changed the sentencing spectrum for juveniles convicted of non-homicide offenses. Through this work, he fights for Black and Brown people to know that their inalienable right — the right to know their rights — is foundational to their humanity.