We have a responsibility to keep this history because people like Eric and Erica Garner deserve to be remembered and heard.
This month, just one day before the five-year statute of limitations expired, the Justice Department announced their decision not to charge NYPD officer Daniel Pantaleo with violating the civil rights of Eric Garner when he held the 43-year-old father of six in an illegal chokehold which led to his death in 2014. The news was, of course, devastating and the Garner family has made it clear that they will continue to fight for some semblance of justice for Eric’s death.
Tomorrow, Garner’s youngest daughter, Emerald Garner, will host a memorial in Harlem with youth activist group, No More Names. The event will also serve as an opportunity to educate attendees about police brutality, state violence, and how to get involved in the fight against them. Meshaal Bannerman, a rising junior at Harvard and co-founder of No More Names, says that he and his classmate, Christopher Egi, were inspired to begin the organization after an instance of police brutality on campus in 2018.
“My freshman year at Harvard, a Black student, an immigrant from Ghana, was brutally beaten after a Spring Fling concert. This is a weekend when people come out to get lit and have a good time. A weekend that was supposed to be memorable and fun instead became memorable for the wrong reasons.”
No More Names is a student-led organization based at Harvard that looks towards the future by focusing on the youth. Bannerman praises their modest team and the impressive work they’ve been able to do so far. “There’s Chris and myself, and then there’s our core team — Andre Chatfield, Isaac Yearwood, Demi Stratmon, Vibhor Mathur who help to oversee general matters. We also have members working as reps on other campuses, facilitating their own events.” They hope to inspire high school students as well by using money raised from events for scholarships and integrating young activists with activists doing on the groundwork. “We want to blend art with activism and have a productive dialogue, through things like our concerts or spoken word events, and we want to find the best way to convey our message to different audiences.”
The organization began with a single event at Harvard, a Vic Mensa-led event, a talk on police brutality with CPR training in the morning and a concert performed by the Chicago rapper in the evening, which raised over $7k for Campaign Zero. After the success of this event, No More Names expanded to other Ivy League universities, with artists like Roy Woods at Dartmouth and Megan Thee Stallion at Brown. “What we’re trying to do as an organization is to build a coalition of youth activists,” Banner tells me. “This is where Emerald has come into play.”
Emerald spoke alongside former NBA player Etan Thomas at a Harvard event organized by No More Names during her college tour this year. She engaged with college students by sharing about her experience as an activist and how this generation of youth activists can make their voices heard through their own activism work. Now, No More Names is helping to organize tomorrow’s five-year memorial.
“I’m memorializing my father as well as my sister,” Emerald emphasizes. Her sister, Erica Garner, passed away in 2017 following a heart attack. “People should remember that they were victims of police brutality. Although my sister wasn’t killed by a police officer, what that police officer did to my father ultimately killed my sister.”
Emerald made her position exceedingly clear after the Justice Department’s announcement earlier this month. A video of her speaking passionately about the unjust decision and the stolen life of her father went viral in the days following. “Fire Pantaleo!” she projects from the courthouse steps.
During our conversation, she states plainly, “We want the cop fired, we want him to lose his pension. This is all just a slap in the face. We’ve been waiting all this time for an answer, and now, five years later, we get that answer and it’s basically nothing.”
Emerald is anticipating plenty of questions and community dialogue at the memorial, and she is ready to tackle it all. “I encourage people to bring their questions because we got answers,” she says. “A lot of people don’t really understand what’s going on. They just saw a video of me screaming and they know my father died, but they don’t really know much about the Eric Garner Law we’re trying to pass. They don’t really know what is supposed to happen when police conduct an arrest or what’s not supposed to happen during an arrest, or after an arrest, or what’s supposed to happen when someone dies during an arrest. We’ll be going into detail about those topics and more.”
I asked Emerald how we can best honor her father and her sister. She responded, without hesitation, that our obligation is to remember them and their story. “It’s to make sure that nobody ever forgets what happened to Eric Garner, and what happened as a follow up to Erica Garner.” It’s our duty, as survivors, to attend to the needs of those who did not survive. We have a responsibility to keep this history, ugly as it may be because people like Eric and Erica Garner deserve to be remembered and heard, to echo on for generations to come.
“Remember that her children are watching,” she adds. “And when they get older, they’ll read the words, and watch the videos, and hear the discussions that have been happening. I just want people to be mindful of what they say, because these babies are watching.” Emerald wants people to understand that these traumas reach across generations. It’s never just a singular event and the impact radiates through the victim’s family as well as those of us who bear witness. “People get that there was an injustice, but they don’t seem to understand that, at the end of the day, someone lost their father, someone lost their grandfather, and then someone lost their mother. I lost my sister. My mom lost her husband and then she lost her daughter. It’s not just about the injustice, it’s about the family as well.”
The memorial will be held at Canaan Baptist Church, 132 West 116th Street in Harlem on July 30th at 7:00 pm. You can support Emerald by following her on Twitter and Instagram and signing the petition to have Daniel Pantaleo fired from the NYPD. You can also follow No More Names on Twitter and Instagram.
Note from the editor: The tweet from @es_snipes (Official Erica Garner) originally included in “Emerald Garner Needs Us To Remember Eric and Erica Garner” has been removed. Emerald has informed us that the person tweeting from her late sister’s account has been repeatedly asked to stop and he refuses to do so.”Please do not quote my sister’s Twitter. I know many people are unaware but I want to spread the word that her Twitter was taken over from a non family member and to see a quote from my sister’s Twitter is disrespectful to me and my family. Thank you for understanding.” Please do not follow or RT @es_snipes.Thank you.