60 Years Later: Ron Davis Reflects on Emmett Till
August 28, 1955.
That is the last day that the family and loved ones of Emmett Till saw him alive.
We know the horrific story, but it bears repeating. Till was only 14 years old when he was kidnapped and dragged from his relatives’ Mississippi home in the middle of the night for allegedly whistling at a white woman. His death was brutal and beyond comprehension. His body broken, battered and swollen when he was finally found. His attackers went free and remained free, even after boldly admitting to the murder in a magazine years later.
JET magazine made history when it published photos of his open casket and has continued to provide significant coverage of his legacy and what his life stands for.
As race-related crimes peak and continue to claim the lives of so many unarmed Black men, women and children, the time to unify, organize and progressively act is yelling out louder than ever.
The 60th Anniversary of Till’s murder is upon us. In his honor, the family of Emmett Till and The Mamie Till Mobley Memorial Foundation will host a weekend (schedule here) filled with commemorative events across Chicago with a focus to educate the community on the impact of Emmett Till’s death and to also serve as a reminder to never forget the families victimized by impulsive racial acts of violence.
In addition, the weekend will bring together a significant group of grieving parents-turned-activists, who are using their voices to share the stories of their children and efforts to restructure laws. On this list is Ron Davis, father of Jordan Russell Davis, who was fatally shot by Michael Dunn at a gas station in Jacksonville, Florida on November 23, 2012.
JET spoke with Davis about the upcoming commemorative events in honor of Emmett Till along with the importance of his presence at such events and steps needed to improve the legal system. He also shared about whether or not he has experienced any sort of “closure” after Dunn was convicted.
JET: With all that’s happening in society and the work that you and other parents are doing in the fight for justice, explain the importance of your presence in the commemoration of Emmett Till and the events of weekend.
Ron Davis: It’s going to be a big weekend. The main thing for me is Saturday. We have Youth Empowerment Day and that, to me, is the center of everything because that’s what we do. We try to set a path for the younger generation and that’s why I speak out — to touch the younger generation and let them know the pitfalls that are out here and what they’re facing. People that think we’re living in a post-racial society, you are so wrong. Every time a light comes behind us — the police come behind us, there’s a shudder that we go through as African Americans because they’re not there to protect and serve us. We know that no matter how trivial the situation, it can go south very easily. Why should we have to live like that as Americans? Why should we have to worry every time our children go out? That’s what we lived under [then] and right now.
JET: When do you think significant change will happen in the way Blacks are treated in the legal system?
Ron Davis: I think we have to demand, as people of color , that there are body cameras on each and every controller that is going to engage communities with a population of at least 2-3 percent Black people. The problem is that every time you get with a police department, they say [body cameras] are expensive. How much is our life worth?! Many times, the only thing that’s keeping you from death is the body camera. If not for the dash cam, you would have to go by the word of the policeman. So I think we need to talk more about it and try to amend “Stand Your Ground.” I’m hoping that we get something started with the legislature around it. For you to go into court for the death of your child or loved one and the jury listens to the account of the policeman in fear of his or her life, they can always make that story and make that stick. That’s the first thing the police say, even though they’re the ones with the badge and the gun. They know that’s going to get them off.
To me this is domestic terrorism and I’ve been talking to a lot of legislators — asking a question that they cannot answer. The first thing they say is when something like what happened in Charleston [occurs] and they killed nine people, they arrest the shooter and prosecute him. When citizens of the United States want to join Isis, before they get on the plane to leave the country, you take away their rights as American citizens and you arrest them and take their computers and just by the language you take from their computers, you arrest them before they physically do anything. Why can’t that same thought and arrest pattern be done for domestic terrorism?