Speech from the One Year After March
Editor’s note: Aura Rain Rosser would be 42 years old today. In honor of her birthday, we share with you a speech given by Maryam Aziz at the anniversary demonstration that took place in downtown Ann Arbor November 9, 2015. #DaysofAura
One year after, one year since. For one year, we have marched. We have marched all over this city, as is our right. We have been an unstoppable force in the landscape of Ann Arbor’s social and racial politics. We, you and I, have fought. We have stood on this plaza and fought to claim it for Aura Rosser, who, once we made the space, claimed it for herself. Don’t let them tell you that her memory doesn’t live on. We live on. She lives. Her Blackness has painted this pale city red with the colors of its own racist injustices. Her Blackness has shaded this city as the place of liberal hypocrisy that it is, masked by its own self-image of love and caring. They don’t care. The state doesn’t care. Our Mayor is colorblind and I mean that as the slur that it is. He cloaks his knives behind his words and defends abusive police action, claiming that mental illness and drug abuse caused Aura Rosser’s demise, not the cold steel that officer Ried cast when he took her life. Prosecutor Mackie is indignant, callous, and his pride over his biased investigative skills is more important than the truth, the truth that he absolved a system of the guilt of unremorsefully taking the life of a Black female citizens. Under former Chief Seto, the force saw no real changes. The approval in the city budget of purchasing body cameras is nothing but a shallow aid to justice when you not only refuse to make or name other changes, but also when you acknowledge that their use has a specific time and place. Now the University of Michigan has hired Seto, Officer Ried’s former boss, the man responsible for him, to head one of their departments of public safety. Where do you feel safe in Ann Arbor, Black family? The answer for me is nowhere.
We are 364 days, 14 hours, and seconds away from being one year since, one year since the murderous tragedy that we will make sure reshapes the narrative of this town’s history. We are here to indict on behalf of those who can’t and in spite of and to spite those who have not and will not. Let Officer Ried come to people’s court. Let him testify to indict the system that created him. By indicting this city, this town, its administrators, its prosecutor, and its city council, after we indict them by blazing the streets with our hurried feet and inescapable sense of urgent change, we expose and work to topple its racial projects that let Black, Brown, and Red bodies build this city from the bottom and still remain there, crushed by the weight of prejudice. As we are moments from one year since, we condemn those who testify to the dangers of being an armed, partnered policeman who must face the perils of Black women. We charge you with half-truths and deceit. If Aura Rosser was walking toward you officers as you claim, what right did you have to fire a gun instead of a taser? What danger was your life in? You were the danger. We charge the bystanders with continuing to ignore the fact that the police system, a part of the United States carceral state, selectively applauds and trains murderers. We are not necessarily anti-police, but we are most certainly anti-police state. We are not anti-officers, who we at least acknowledge as fellow human beings. We are against those who abuse their standing, take lives from the communities that pay their salaries, and paint their victims as monstrously unhuman.
The song “Seasons of Love” asks you, “How do you measure a year in the life?” I ask you to stand today because of the 525,600 minutes plus that Aura Rosser lost on this earth. I ask you to fight for the sunsets, midnights, cups of tea and coffee, and laughter that Aura Rosser is no longer privy to. As I ask you to fight, I ask you to fight for her life and love. Choose to remember her for the beauty of how she lived and not the gruesome image of how she died. Choose to remember the AAPD not for their forty years without a murder, but the one moment that their office took a life and all the moments that have come after it to sanction it as an appropriate form of state violence. This violence is indicative of a longstanding system built upon anti-Blackness, a system that has moved Black neighborhoods out of Ann Arbor and moved Black people out of sight and out of mind. Don’t let A2 off the hook. Don’t let one year after be one year only. Carry the spirit of #BlackWomensLivesMatter with you where ever you go. Press for the revisions that accompany Campaign Zero. And stay with us in city hall meetings, in busy streets, in classrooms, and households until that that time when we have demilitarization, fair police union contracts, the prosecution of civilian killers at the same rate as the prosecution of “cop killers,” and until we pick a police chief that will not defend his officer’s actions and will own up to training him improperly. Stand with us and take to the streets with us until the wanton use of deadly force shown by the police forces across the country is eradiated. Stand with us so that the rest of the city stands with us and that we never have to change the location of a march because a church decides that we are antithetical to everything that its members believe in.
One year since, one year after. One more year and I don’t know if I’ll be here. One year more and I don’t know if any of the Black people standing here will be here. One more year since is too many years. Six years since Oscar grant, 5 years from Aiyana Stanley-Jones, one year since Mike Brown, four months since Sandra bland, and one month since Kiesha Jenkins. One more year no more, because we, my siblings, have no more years to give.