Al Flowers stepped to the press conference microphone and led with a tone of levity and appreciation. This was the response coming from a man recently thumped by several police officers late at night in his own home.
On July 29th a community press conference was held at the Minneapolis Urban League (MUL) and broadcast on KMOJ (89.9 FM), to rally in the wake of Flowers’ recent brutish assault by Minneapolis police. While the process of police investigation progresses through its’ initial stages, the unique assembly of the community at this event represented a refreshing unity, coupled with measured intolerance. The presence of a profound cross-section of community advocates, leaders, organizers, and clergy provided a comforting, and organizationally intent laden tone, for the message moving forward in pursuit of justice and overall resolutions with regards to police brutality.
“Al means a lot to all of us,” community and event organizer Spike Moss emoted to a capacity room. Aligned alongside him was a critical group of active leaders from a key mix of community organizations. Moss resolutely opened with calls for the African-American community at large to “…stand with your village” and “Stand with your leaders.”
Minneapolis NAACP President Rev. Jerry McAfee delivered a poignant summary of the greater goal at hand as being “a fight to change this climate.” The term “climate” being apt to describe the long-term history of violence and inequities in community policing, noted by each speaker.
“We got to put an end to this,” propounded MUL President Scott Gray. “For a man to be beat down in his own home is a reminder of how far we haven’t come in this community and this country,” expanded Gray. “This representation of people showing up today, is really what’s going to help us get the justice that we need,” and “This has got to be about every day…,” Gray added as measures of covenant and commitment with the audience at hand.
Actionably, Turning Point CEO Peter Hayden stipulated, “We can’t continue to run our mouths and show emotion, we have to put it on paper.”
The accord and messages offered by each leader as they spoke provided a palpable feeling of successful organization towards a goal. “The organization of this group is powerful,” asserted MUL Chairman of the Board Al McFarlane in reflection on the press conference event. “It is a watershed moment to bring about change to oppression, arrogance and abuse,” McFarlane said.
Emblematic of the uniquely constituted gathering and opportunity were the presence and words from Abdirizak Bihi, Director of the Somali Education and Social Advocacy Center. Bihi quickly related the challenges and developments within the Somali community, and the actionable relationship held with Flowers and the other leaders present. “If Al Flowers is not safe in our community, then we are not safe,” Bihi relayed as the collective response from the local Somali community.
Frequently Bihi used the term “trust” as a tie between the event and overall relationships of stakeholders involved.
Powerfully, Moss brought together a timeless message about brutality and the persecution of those who serve the underprivileged by relating the story of Jesus Christ’s crucifixion. Moss also spoke to the notion of anti-Black attitudes within the African-American community, stating, “To you Blacks talking about, ‘Al got what he had coming…’ Well, wait ’til your turn comes!”
Al Flowers Jr. spoke wisely, incorporating the words of Martin Luther King Jr. along with establishing Flowers as a father of five and grandfather of six children.
Flowers Jr. said, “The community seems stronger than ever,” in response to the palpable feeling of unity at the press conference.
Al Flowers expressed continued appreciation to all, and an open door to all inquiries.
“I felt every blow,” Flowers explained, identifying thirty to forty strikes to his body and his subsequent awareness to ensure pictures were taken to document the damages.
“We will win this battle,” Flowers said.