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Thursday, February 29, 2024

Remembering Tyre Nichols: A father, a son, an artist, a skateboarder, a friend

It’s important to celebrate Black lives, not just remember victims of violence

 

By THE EDITORIAL BOARD

 

Content warning: this article contains discussions of police brutality and race-based violence, which may be sensitive topics for some readers.

 

On Jan. 7, five police officers in Memphis, Tennessee, pulled Tyre Nichols, a 29-year-old Black man, from his car during a traffic stop and beat him severely. Three days later, he succumbed to his injuries in the hospital.

Tyre Nichols’ murder has sparked national outrage and inspired continued discussions of police reform and ending state-sponsored violence against Black people. But amid protests and political action, Tyre’s family and friends have said that they mostly wish to celebrate who he was when he was alive rather than focus on his death.

Tyre grew up in Sacramento, California, and spent much of his time skateboarding with friends at the Regency Community Skatepark. He had a close relationship with his mother, RowVaughn Wells, and had a tattoo of her name on his arm. Tyre was also a father to a four-year-old son and he was always striving to be a better dad. Tyre loved taking photos of the sunset and had a website, called This California Kid, where he shared his photography. People who knew him describe him as sweet, kind, positive and a good person.

Accounts of Black men being brutally murdered by the police make headlines too often, and they tend to outweigh the number of positive stories celebrating Black lives in major publications. Black people are often only shown in the media in reports of violence or racial justice movements. Bringing awareness to police brutality and racial justice activism is important, but these should not be the only stories that are told about Black communities.

Contributing to this one-sided depiction is a horrifying video of Tyre’s murder, which has been circulating the internet since it was released on Jan. 27. While video footage is important for understanding police violence and making sure police officers are held accountable, it also deeply traumatizes Black communities who already have to face tremendous feelings of grief and fear. Tyre’s mother had to look away when she was shown the video, and according to a CBS News article, Lora Dene King, the daughter of Rodney King, who was killed by police in 1991, said the video and Tyre’s death “brought tears all over again.”

Sharing details of Tyre’s murder is not a substitute for political activism, nor is it contributing in a meaningful way to the conversation. Instead, if you wish to spread awareness, consider sharing his photography or videos of him skateboarding to remember him for more than just his death. If you want to get more actively involved, join protests, sign petitions and urge your local representatives to support police reform.

Beyond this, we need to uplift Black communities and celebrate Black lives. February is Black History Month, but some prefer to call it Black Futures Month, a time to envision a better society and celebrate Blackness by “loving ourselves and each other, and basking in our excellence,” according to The Movement For Black Lives website. The celebration of Black Futures and Black History Month calls on us to spotlight stories of happiness and resilience in addition to reflecting on Black history in the U.S.

For the many Black men murdered by police every year, we are told to say their names, but we need to remember that means to celebrate their lives, too. We need to show up for the Black community all the time, not just when acts of violence occur. Be angry for Tyre and mourn his death, but don’t let racial violence be the only stories that you read about Black communities.

 

Written by: The Editorial Board