Baltimore: 30 Black People Murdered in Past Month — Where Are the Marches for These Tragedies?

Charles E. “Charlie” Cobb Jr., 71, was a SNCC organizer in Mississippi from 1962 to 1967. (Courtesy of Charles Cobb )
Charles E. “Charlie” Cobb Jr., 71, was a SNCC organizer in Mississippi from 1962 to 1967. (Courtesy of Charles Cobb )

by Courtland Milloy

Charles E. “Charlie” Cobb Jr. wrote a book last year titled “This Nonviolent Stuff’ll Get You Killed: How Guns Made the Civil Rights Movement Possible.” Quite an assertion from Cobb, a District native and former member of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, the civil rights group also known as SNCC.

In the face of state-sanctioned violence against blacks during the 1950s and ’60s civil rights era, Cobb points out, not everybody responded with marches and boycotts the way the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. did.

Some black residents used guns to protect their neighborhoods and homes from attacks by the Ku Klux Klan.

“There was a time when you could kill blacks with impunity,” said Cobb, 71, who was a SNCC organizer in Mississippi from 1962 to 1967. “But the nighttime marauders were learning that the people they were shooting at were increasingly inclined to shoot back.”

These days, it appears that black people are being killed with impunity again but far more often by other black people.

Baltimore is a shockingly sad example. After a black man died while in police custody, local activists protested, some people rioted, and eventually six police officers were charged in connection with the death of Freddie Gray. In the weeks since then, homicides shot up in the city, with more than 30 in less than a month.

The deadly spectacle has presented a challenge that few activists seem able to meet.

“What I talk about” in the book, Cobb said, “is when a mother or father in a depressed neighborhood sends a child down the street for bread, they are more worried about the kid getting hit by a stray bullet than about the police.”

What is to be done? Although SNCC organizers seldom had to deal with internal threats to black communities that were greater than anything the Klan could muster, they did gain insight that could be helpful to this younger generation of civil rights activists.

“The great lessons of the Southern civil rights movement was that there is something more important for us to deal with than white supremacy,” Cobb said. He said that the lesson was personified by Fannie Lou Hamer, a civil rights icon and political organizer from Mississippi. “She was constantly challenging black people to ‘get up off your (behind) and do something,’ ” recalled Cobb, who left Howard University to join SNCC. “She believed that it was absolutely essential that we hold each other accountable, and that is still one of the most difficult things for us to do.”

Certainly the homicides of at least 30 black people in as many days ought to warrant more than a few words of exasperation. After all, the death of one man in the custody of police led to massive protests.

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SOURCE: The Washington Post

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