Eric Garner’s death and a grand jury’s decision not to indict the police officer who was seen on video putting him in a chokehold has sparked tons of reaction and cries for justice across the nation.
As protestors began to hit the streets in New York City to rally against racial inequity and police brutality on Wednesday, Mack Wilds granted an interview to MTV News to discuss his fears, frustrations and the death of Eric Garner, the man from his Staten Island hood that he knew as “Big E.”
MTV News: When you first heard about the death of Eric Garner, what went through your mind?
Mack Wilds: Honestly, I was messed up man, because it was wrong. I knew that dude. We knew him from around the hood; he was Big E. So, I guess the cops, they kept on trying to defame his name, saying he sold loosies — but all of that for breaking up a fight, a past history of selling loosies — that makes no sense. It definitely hurt.
MTV: Today we get the news that a grand jury decided not to indict officer Daniel Pantaleo. When you heard that news, what went through your head? People were looking for some kind of justice.
Wilds: Absolutely. As an American, you would pray. It doesn’t matter what skin color you are: a loss is a loss. As an American citizen, you would pray that there would be some sort of justice shown for this man’s life. Same thing with Mike Brown, same thing with Trayvon. It doesn’t matter the skin color, you would just pray that, that because of these lives lost that there would be some type of justice shown for the loss of these lives.
For people to be acquitted and for people to not even be indicted, it kind of brings us back to a place that we were marching for. It brings us back to the ’60s where we had Martin Luther King and Malcolm X marching and literally fighting and rallying and hollering as much as possible. And in Selma, Alabama, and in all of these places that we definitely needed that rallying. It feels like we need that again.
MTV: We’ve seen it in Ferguson and right now we’re seeing protests in New York City, what do you think the next step is for the community, the youth and people who are fed up with things? Where do we go from here?
Wilds: I think we’re in a really messed up place and I’m not even going to lie to you, I’ve spent plenty of nights trying to figure out what would make this better. What could we possibly do to try to make this better? What could someone do to make my nephew feel more comfortable going outside or make my cousins feel like they’re not a mark every time they walk outside? And it sucks because I really don’t have an answer. I don’t know what we could possibly do.
I remember thinking, OK cool, things are changing: We got a black president, we got this, we got that, things are looking so much easier. I don’t know it just feels like– I’m in a place of loss. I don’t know, I really don’t know what to do from here and that’s what scares the hell out of me.
MTV: Before you and I got on the phone, you were on the phone with your mom. Can you share what you and her spoke about today?
Wilds: My mom, a half-spanish, half-black woman, she’s terrified. She’s literally terrified of the world that we live in now — the country that we’re in — considering she has black sons who walk through America every day. And at any time, from what we’ve seen, we’re liable to be a victim of anything. Of random stop and search, anything, leading all the way up to [losing] our own lives. She just called me breaking down crying. Just like how do we teach my nephew how to be strong in situations like this. She’s like, “I’m scared to tell your older brother… to just go outside and if the cops stop him, don’t show any force.”
“It sucks that we’re in a place that I have to give different instructions to my black sons and my black grandsons and daughters and granddaughters, rather than the parents on the other side of Staten Island — the kids that are a little more fortunate.”
I’m talking about the color of our skin. It just sucks to have your mother call your phone in the middle of a recording session, breaking down crying because she’s scared for her black sons’ lives. Not because of something that they’ve done, but because of something that can be in the hands of anybody wearing a badge.
MTV: If you had to say anything to young people out there who are struggling to make sense of what’s going on, what would it be?
Wilds: Just stay strong. We’re literally built from greatness. We’re made from kings and queens, from Gods and Goddesses. That is our lineage. We come from places made of gold. Stay strong, understand your worth and understand that we do matter. It may not seem like it, but we do matter, we matter a lot. More than people know.
I’m praying for all of the families that are losing kids every day to the different struggles and strifes that we have to go through as young black Americas, be it police brutality or something else. I’m praying for every family and every person that has to deal with that.