“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” – Martin Luther King, Jr
On January 27, 2016, Janet Wilson, a 31 year old African American female, was shot and killed by a Dearborn police officer outside of the Fairlane Mall. Currently, there is an ongoing investigation by the Michigan State Police (the results of which have not been made public.) Although the investigation remains unfinished, it is hard to comprehend the death of this young woman described by friends and family as joyous, peaceful and religious. Especially, where there is no suggestion of criminal conduct or wrongdoing.
This all too familiar tragedy of a young black person at the hands of the police has once again brought scrutiny on a department that is still reeling from the killing of another black male just over a month ago. Janet’s death is unquestionably a tragedy we as a society should mourn. Perhaps emblematic, this incident has come at the commencement of black history month, a time to reflect and remember those who have been lost in the struggle. Onlookers at a recent press conference, held outside of police headquarters, could only shudder at the words of Janet’s niece, Cassie Bass, who cried out, “an injustice for one, is an injustice for all.
Every time a citizen dies at the hands of law enforcement, we must recognize this is indicative of the larger trends within our society. If we do nothing more than count the dead, we are doomed to repeat an endless cycle of awareness of a longstanding problem. The recent death of Janet Wilson, as well as other individuals must be a call to arms. The Washington Post reports that 1,073 people were fatally shot by police officers from 2015 to the present, with 275 cases involving African-American victims and 263 cases involving signs of mental illness. Recent cases such as the deaths of Tamir Rice, Michael Brown, and Eric Garner further indicate that we as society must ask the important questions: Why did these deaths occur? How could they have been avoided? We must ensure that we are not avoiding the cost of proper police training by converting this cost from dollars and hours to bodies and lives. We must do more.
That is the journey ahead of us. As part of this journey, I would ask that we come together as a community and help the family of Janet Wilson in their time of need. Currently, the family is struggling to pay the funeral expenses associated with Janet’s death. Janet is one of five children, with her father having previously passed away.
The family has set up a fund to defer the costs of funeral expenses, which is located at the link here: https://www.gofundme.com/JUSTICEFORJANET. Any support from the outstanding community would be greatly appreciated in the time of need. As a society, now is the time for action. To learn more about what you can do as part of your local community, we would also ask that you visit the Detroit Coalition against Police Brutality’s website, located at: http://detroitcoalition.org/