On Friday June 13th, 2008, Curtis Theodore was found dead in Elizabeth, New Jersey.
What’s up fam? We never got the chance to meet but it’s Elijah one of the cousins on your mom’s side. Sad that I just heard the news but it’s been over 7 years since you passed away. I wish I could have met you, you sounded like a good guy. I’m glad I got to meet your sister and the rest of the family though. They seem to be doing well. If there is one thing about our family, it is that we’re huge. You probably didn’t even know I existed at the time you departed.
Your sister is out in Massachusetts where I stay and that’s how we were able to connect. We got up one day to hang out and celebrate our Haitian heritage at the Boston Carnival. On our way back we noticed a pretty heavy police presence at the end of the parade. It made sense as to why they were there but we couldn’t help but feel an air of suspicion and resentment when we cast our eyes on them. Things down here are getting bad for our black and brown brothers and sisters. I might have to back track on that one. There is a lot of light being shed on what is happening to our brothers and sisters thanks to the internet, social media, and smart phones. The darkness of police brutality and excessive force is a plague that pops up on my twitter feed, flashes on the news, or is read in the paper every week. You left us in 2008 and since then I can name too many names of people killed by police or other law enforcement agencies. DJ Henry, Burrell Anthony Ramsey White, Mike Brown, little Aiyana Stanley-Jones, Eric Garner, and Walter Scott just to name a miniscule amount. We are still trying to figure out what happened to Sandra Bland down in Texas.
But it’s not like all these killings and news of these killings have gone unnoticed. Out of the death and despair has risen a movement giving a voice to the voiceless. People have been taking the streets screaming Black Lives Matter because every other day it seems that is not the case. Your cousin isn’t taking this news lightly either. I put together a march and protest in my hometown last year to show people in my area that Black life must be protected just like any other person’s. I’m furthering my education at the moment but I’m doing whatever I can even if a small part to shed light on these atrocities that have taken our communities hostage.
Which leads me back to why I’m writing you this letter. Coming back from the parade your sis and I were just talking about how police take it too far. How white people can never understand how it feels to be a victim of constant harassment and suspicion. Or the anxiety of living with the thought that a bad incident with a cop could leave you dead. When she told me about you getting beat up by the cops one night when you were walking home, I got angry. When she told me you were arrested and brought to the county jail, I got angry. When she told me my sweet aunty, your mom had to go down there screaming and yelling to get you out for literally walking down the street, I got angry.
After that I heard you and aunty decided to file a suit against those rotten cops, and I was happy. When I heard you guys had gotten a really good lawyer to put some fire underneath those crooked cops, I was happy. When I heard the cops weren’t showing up to hearings out of fear, I was happy.
Then she told me you started to get picked up by cops when you were walking home during the suit, and I listened. She told me the cops would threaten your life, ask you to drop the case, and I listened. She told me you started to crack under the pressure and considered dropping to case in a real fear of your life, and sympathetically, I listened.
Then she told me about the day some officers came to your house to let your mother know that you were found dead, and I was silent. She told me the night your family and friends held a vigil for you cops came and shut it down, and I was silent. She told me they beat on your mom, your uncle, your sister, mased the entire house, ended up arresting some of the family, and the goosebumps rose on my skin.
The truth is every time I see another black life murdered the question in the back of my head is: “What if it was me or my family?” I just never knew that you passed away in the way you did. I didn’t know that you lay in an unmarked grave awaiting the day you get justice to be honored with a headstone. I didn’t know your family had to move away from the city you were murdered in to ease some of the pain and agony that they’ve been dealing with.
When I heard the story it hit me in a place I didn’t want to get hit. I was at a loss for words. But I write this letter to you because I found some of what I wanted to say. Despite what a few articles might say about the way you died I have seen too often in one year alone that the cop’s word is not the golden truth. I wish your mom didn’t have to bury her son. No parent should have to go through that. I wish your siblings still had a brother they could call on. I wish I could have had a real conversation with you. Get to know an older cousin, laugh, and maybe kick some knowledge. But that won’t happen. I’m left penning this letter to a family member that was taken before his time by those same people sworn to serve and protect. I’m thinking about you Curtis and your family is still in the process of seeking justice for you 7 years later. I pray God has a place for you and you’re doing well. Until the day we get to finally meet. Rest in power Curtis Theodore.