George Floyd Echoed in Pride Parade

By George Capsis

On the very hot humid Sunday of June 28th, Dusty offered me a seat right in front of the Stonewall Inn to watch the hour long informal Pride parade which was heavily intermixed with the Black Lives Matter messages. Walking home to Charles Street, I was surprised to see four police had set up a barrier to cut off vehicle traffic to Charles. The officer who pulled back the barrier to let us in was a young Hispanic woman and Dusty quickly started to ask her how she felt about the parade’s anti-police message and, that very day, a cut in the Police budget. She politely expressed pain with her eyes and a wan smile. When I asked her why she joined the police she mentioned three members of her family had joined before her and then volunteered she “grew up in Hell’s Kitchen,” implying she grew up poor with little choice but to join the police as her family had. The message I got was that being a cop was good pay, good benefits and a nice pension—security—that’s all.

SECTION OF A SLAVE SHIP, 1829. Illustration from Robert Walsh’s Notices of Brazil.

Perhaps one of the strongest voices in support of the newly energized black cause that day was Kambiz Shekdar, a PhD biochemist who is seeking a cure for AIDs who has purchased and designed at considerable expense huge helium balloons with the message “We’re Not Free Until Everybody’s Free.”

Indeed the parade hosted all of the now joined and once unspoken causes and a black transgender woman/man offered me the considerable expanse of her/his bare chest and two shriveled taped up breasts to “giggle”—I declined.

But it was not until the next morning that the black cause came together for me in a New York Times article by Charles M. Blow a professor of African American history at the University of Virginia. He offers a look at the writing of Rev. Robert Walsh recording the condition of enslaved people on board the Feloz (1829).

“The slaves were all enclosed under grated hatchways between decks. The space was so low that they sat between each other’s legs and were stowed so close together that there was no possibility of their lying down or at all changing their position by night or day.

But the circumstance which struck us most forcibly was how it was possible for such a number of human beings to exist, packed up and wedged together as tight as they could cram, in low cells three feet high, the greater part of which, except that immediately under the grated hatchways, was shut out from light or air, and this when the thermometer, exposed to the open sky, was standing in the shade, on our deck, at 89°. The space between decks was divided into two compartments 3 feet 3 inches high; the size of one was 16 feet by 18 and of the other 40 by 21; into the first were crammed the women and girls, into the second the men and boys: 226 fellow creatures were thus thrust into one space 288 feet square and 336 into another space 800 feet square, giving to the whole an average of 23 inches and to each of the women not more than 13 inches. We also found manacles and fetters of different kinds, but it appears that they had all been taken off before we boarded.

The heat of these horrid places was so great and the odour so offensive that it was quite impossible to enter them, even had there been room. They were measured as above when the slaves had left them.

This is the most horrendous account of human torture I have ever read and it tells how the whites of that time formed an image of black Africans who had to endure being treated as less than an animal. Now we have a white man who sits on the neck of a black man but he does not hear his cry for air.

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