Erica Garner died Saturday at the age of 27. She was an outspoken activist against police brutality following her father Eric Garner’s death in 2014, after a white NYPD officer put him in a chokehold.
Here & Now‘s Robin Young remembers Erica Garner’s role in the debate over race and police use of force with activist DeRay Mckesson (@deray), a leader of Black Lives Matter.
On Erica Garner’s work as an activist
“It was clear from the moment that her father was killed — and there wasn’t a guilty verdict or charges that were sustained against the officer who killed Eric Garner — she became a tireless advocate. What I can say about all of my experiences with Erica, either seeing her on TV or on social media or in person, is that she took the truth with her everywhere, that she made sure that she was going to be a truth-teller, whether it was to the mayor, the president, to the news, to the public. And you remember right after Eric Garner was killed she did those weekly protests in Staten Island, and she did whether two people showed up or 200 people showed up because she wanted to make a point about remembering his life.”
On her legacy
“She showed that we have to take the truth with us into every room, that the fear of being silenced can’t stop us from telling the truth, and she did that. So that’s one of the things that I’ll take with me when I think about her. The other thing that her death reminds us all about is the maternal mortality of black women. She had a heart attack when when she gave birth to her son. This is the second heart attack she had, as it’s been reported. Black women have the highest maternal mortality of any population in the country, and that is not only due to the lack of access to high quality health care, but it’s also due to the incredible impact of stress. And the stress in Erica Garner’s life was monumental, not only because of the circumstances of her father’s death and in her work in activism, but also because of the institutional racism that she just experienced as a black woman in this country. So I’m hopeful that people will start to talk about these things more so that we can get to a place to think about solutions.”
On how she related to her father
“In all of the interviews that I’ve seen … she was really insistent on reminding people that her father was a nice, ordinary person — that while he might have made mistakes he should be alive, that death was not a consequence of any of the mistakes that he made and that we all make mistakes. That we aren’t perfect people, none of us are, but that when black men and black women and black trans members of our community make mistakes, that the consequence is often much more severe than other people in the community, and she was really clear about that. And I think that comes across in so many of her conversations. She helped to remind us of the humanity of this work and of the impact of it. And I think that that has not gone forgotten.”
On continuing Erica Garner’s work
“I think that she helped show so many people that we have to be involved at every level, that it is about being in the streets, it’s about being at the boardroom, it’s about being on committees, it’s about being at the ballot box, too. And I think she helped people realize it systems and structures have to change and if all we’ve done is change the conversation that is not yet the win.”