The Cold Case Justice Initiative at Syracuse University College of Law joins all of you in honoring the victims of racial violence in Florida and across the nation. We remember the five men – Robert Walker, Marvin Walker, Lee Roy Holloway, John Sterling, and Lonnie Merritt – “The Atlanta Five” – who left their homes and families one day to enjoy such an ordinary past-time – fishing – and encountered an extraordinary end at the hands of murderers. We remember them because they were our sons, husbands, partners, brothers, fathers, and loved ones. We remember them because the failure to hold anyone responsible for their deaths reminds us of the great gulf between the promise of justice and its reality, especially when it comes to African American lives in the United States. We remember them and all the other sons, husbands, partners, brothers, fathers, and loved ones whose lives were ended and taken prematurely through racist violence that continues to permeate our society.
This weekend, as we remember those who faced racist violence here, our hearts ache profoundly for our brothers and sisters who were murdered in a place of worship in Charleston, SC, just last week. These beautiful members of our family tree were killed deliberately by an avowed racist who intended to kill Black people in their most sacred place. We mourn their loss and honor their lives. They are all among the Ancestors now and we express our gratitude for the gifts they have given us. Our struggle for justice on their behalf continues.
This country is at a defining moment once again. We will have to decide whether freedom, justice, and equality apply to everyone. CCJI is committed to making these ideals real for everyone. We will continue to work on investigations of cases, and advocate for change in the federal and state legislatures. We insist that the Emmett Till Act be implemented fully and that it be extended beyond the 2017 expiration date, and that it include the names of all victims of racially-motivated crimes for investigation and prosecution of their cases. We stand with and for families and communities from Charleston, Atlanta, Baltimore, Ferguson, Cleveland, Wisconsin, Staten Island, Sanford, Mariana, Pensacola and all across Florida and this country to insist that Black Lives Matter and to demand that the United States live up to its responsibilities for the civil rights, human rights, and fundamental human dignity of all people. We will hold love for each other in our hearts and memories of our loved ones forever on our minds, as we move forward together for justice.