The Grio — The sound of a mother’s wailing cry is an alert that a great injustice has occurred. I have experienced that cry many times throughout my career in the social justice movement.
The very first time I truly experienced it was in 1984 while organizing in Jackson, Mississippi. I was out in a supermarket area handing out leaflets when a store manager came to me to tell me I was wanted on the phone. My initial reaction was that the owners of the store were going to advise me that if I didn’t leave the premises or stop leafleting I would be arrested.
When I got to the phone it was something much worse; it was the wailing cry of a woman, whose sound was unmistakable to me. It was my mother; who had just been informed that her daughter, her eldest child and best friend at the time, had been murdered by a stalker who the police had refused to arrest. So it was this week when I was on the phone with organizers and heard a woman’s wailing cry in the background.
This time it was Constance Malcolm, the mother of Ramarley Graham, an 18-year-old black teenager who was unarmed and in his own home when he was shot and killed by a New York City Police Officer. The wailing cry of Constance was yet another alert that a great injustice had occurred.
On February 2, 2012 Ramarley Graham was on his way home in the Bronx when he somehow became identified by NYPD Street Narcotics Team as a possible drug suspect who was also armed with a gun. The world would soon learn, that combination of description means death for young black men.
The officers followed Graham to his home and without a warrant, probable cause or an exigent circumstance they entered his home and found him in the bathroom with the door closed. His grandmother and six-year-old brother were both present and she was asking what was going on.
Suddenly there was the sound of gun fire and Ramarley Graham lay dead from a gunshot from police officer Richard Haste.
What happened and why no one knew immediately, but many, including Ramarley’s parents, had hoped to find out because Officer Richard Haste would have to stand trial as he was indicted by a Bronx Grand Jury for manslaughter.
This past week, Constance Malcolm exploded in the Bronx Courtroom of Justice Steven Barrett when he dismissed the indictment as defective based upon an instruction given to the Grand Jury by the prosecutors.
Once again, a mother and father of a young black man in urban America are wondering whether this is justice denied.