Henrietta Ricketts, recalling slain brother lost at Orlando’s Pulse nightclub shooting, calls on crowd to seek justice for those who were robbed of it in life

NewFM leader Henrietta RIcketts addresses the morning crowd at the People's Convention in Pittsburgh, PA. July 8, 2016. Credit: Jesus Gonzalez.
NewFM leader Henrietta Ricketts addresses the morning crowd at the People’s Convention in Pittsburgh, PA. July 8, 2016. Credit: Jesus Gonzalez.

Miami, Fl – Today as NewFM leaders convened in Pittsburgh with other progressive activists for the People’s Convention, their hearts remained heavy over the turmoil in Dallas and recent deaths of Philandro Castile and Alton Sterling.

“While we know that the insanity of escalating violence in Dallas can only be resolved through justice, we can’t stop but ferociously mourn with all of our hearts’ songs and tears for Philandro Castile, Alton Sterling, their families” said New FM Executive Director Gihan Perera.

The deaths of law enforcement and black citizens is just the latest in the wave of violence that includes the shooting of 49 mostly Black and Latinx LGBT community members in Orlando last month. These deaths, which have shocked many and angered thousands more, have a close personal meaning for NewFM leader Henrietta Ricketts, who lost her brother at Orlando’s PULSE nightclub shooting.

[CLICK HERE TO SEE VIDEO OF RICKETTS ADDRESSING THE MORNING PLENARY]

Reflecting on her brother and her own experience as a working class, black LGBT woman, Ricketts said the threat of violence and systematic discrimination had always been a part of her and partner’s life. Yet the painful destruction of those acts didn’t really hit home until she lost her brother.

“As our family struggles to come to terms with his loss and the senseless waste of so many promising lives, we join a growing list of other cities, towns and families that have been torn apart as discrimination, hateful rhetoric and unfettered access to guns breeds tragedy on a regular basis, said Rickets. “While there’s been some progress in the name of equality, the fight is far from over. Black and brown Americans are killed by law enforcement at disproportionate rates, in most states you can still be fired for being gay, and you can legally buy an assault rifle faster than you can pump a tank of gas.”

Ricketts said that as the news stories wane and the memories of the fallen begin to fade, it will be up to all of us to seek justice for those who were robbed of it in life.

“Until we are no longer gunned down for how we look, whom we love, or how we pray, there is no justice,” said Ricketts to a thunderous applause. “Until every community is able to live in dignity, free from fear and violence, we cannot relent.”

Perera said that while the institutional grip of white supremacy, and its intersections with sexuality, race, gender, and class presents a seemingly impossible obstacle to resolve, words from leaders like Ricketts gives him faith that key to moving forward lies in the untapped potential of our family, friends and neighbors.

“We stand with courage in that space with our full humanity and with the love that exist in our communities,” said Perrera. “Although these summer months have been shrouded in a cloud of violence, together with our partners we’re committed more than ever to turning anger into action, lifting the voice of the often-ignored and continuing the hard work of making Florida more equitable and just.”

“I can’t do it alone,” added Ricketts. “In the face of hate, now is the time to double-down on love, and stand together.”