Updated: Sunday afternoon, February 14
The People's Organization for Progress has a proud history of battling oppression in Northern NJ, for well over a quarter-of-a-century. We've organized around the needs of the people: education, jobs, healthcare, racism, war, reparations, imperialism, and more for over 26 years. But POP "made its bones", has made some of it's greatest contributions, in the struggle against police violence in the African-American community.
The conviction and imprisonment of five Orange, NJ police officers for the death of Earl Faison, the settlement in the police murder of Stanton Crew, the financial fine imposed on East Orange, NJ for the police attack on senior-citizen Esmé Parchment in her own house, these are proud moments in POP's history of struggle.
But perhaps the most exciting achievement we get to experience as POP members is when a victim, through their pain, trauma and experiences, is transformed into not just a fighter, but a leader in the people's battles. Our recently elected Vice-Chair for Internal Affairs, Mary Weaver is one such leader. After losing her son to a police bullet, Mary joined POP to get justice. Over time however Mary became Recording-Secretary and then Secretary General as she helped build and transform POP as one of our leading members.
This past Saturday, February 13, Sharonda Smalls, aunt of Basire Farrell (who was beaten to death by Newark police on May 15 of last year), called for a demonstration at the site of her nephew's murder. But Sharonda, in the spirit of Mary Weaver and other victims whose experiences have transformed them into soldiers in the people's struggle, called for a demonstration for all victims. As she herself formulated the demand "to Protest the Vicious and Senseless Beating Death of Basire Farrell & All Victims of Police Brutality by Newark Police Officers."
Sharonda explains this transformation, "we are all family. At last Thursday's POP meeting, when I met the family of Darnell (murdered by a so-called law enforcement officer) I realized I'd gone to school with his mother." Local Democratic Party District Leader Lynda Lloyd became a member of Sharonda's POP family as well. Lloyd attended the rally to find out more about police brutality in the Clinton Hills neighborhood, because she herself had been beaten and arrested on January 27 by Booker's lawless storm troopers.
And even in the frigid cold weather, victim's families answered Sharonda's call. The families and friends of Jahqui Graham, Darnell McNeil, Basire Farrell, Amar McClean, and many many others came to Tillinghast St. at the corner of Clinton Place and Homestead Park in Newark in the spirit of linking these struggles. The family of one recent victim, Darnell McNeil, a slight young college tutor shot to death by an Essex County Sheriff's Deputy moonlighting as "muscle" at a club, announced that his funeral on Monday, February 15, would follow the South African model with a march afterward. Younger community residents also called for building a People's Organization for Progress youth-wing.
As People's Organization for Progress Chairman, Lawrence Hamm pointed out, "Grieving is necessary, we all need to mourn after tragedy. But the spirit of activists like our own Vice-Chair Mary Weaver and new POP member as well as developing new neighborhood leader Sharonda Smalls teaches us that our salvation is tied-up to the safety, health and vigor of the community. In fact, only by linking the battles to include ALL injustice can we achieve any real victories at alll!"