Rest in Power: Erica Garner

On December 29, activist Erica Garner, daughter of murdered Staten Island citizen Eric Gardner, suffered a massive heart attack, and the 27-year-olds condition quickly deteriorated.  She died days later. Social media was ablaze with condolences and heartfelt outpourings of grief. 

In August, the mother of two suffered a heart attack following an asthmatic episode. During this initial hospital stay doctors discovered that her heart was enlarged.  Her most recent cardiac incident caused physicians to place her in a medically-induced coma, and she suffered severe brain damage.  Garner died at Woodhull Hospital in Brooklyn, surrounded by family.

Blackstar Flower on Twitter

Yo I just dug this one up… I’ve never put it out. Love this! @es_snipes

Erica Garner was thrust into the fight for human rights for people of African descent in America upon the death of her father.  However, by all accounts from sources intimate and familiar with the deceased freedom fighter, Erica Garner was primed for the fight from the very beginning. 

Erica jumped into the fray to fight against police brutality and was one of the NYPDs most vocal critics throughout the span of her work. She also pointedly criticized New York mayor Bill DeBlasio.

Starting a month after her fathers burial, Erica marched to the site of her fathers death twice a week for a year.  The media would dub it a die in. 

Though not an actual member of Black Lives Matter, Garner would participate in many of their demonstrations, as well as ally herself with other groups with similar agendas as her own.  Garner also created the Garner Way Foundation with the aim to engage communities all over the world in social justice issues through political awareness, music, arts and activism.

Erica Garner was only active within the sphere of social justice for three years, but her diligence and fire were apparent to all who knew her.   

However, when all the tricks of the reigning power structure are brought to bear against a single individual, it is only a matter of time before the flesh fails.  Erica had this to say about the physical toll activism was taking on her body during a recent interview with Benjamin Dixon, the host of a progressive podcast and YouTube show, Ms. Garner described the frustrations and physical toll of her activism.

Im struggling right now with the stress and everything, she said. This thing, it beats you down. The system beats you down to where you cant win.

Though I hadnt frequented rallies, marches or protests with the same frequency with which I did during my collegiate and high school years, I made a point to attend more events promoting social justice and equality in the New York metropolitan area following Trayvon Martins murder in 2012. 

After her father was killed, and the story became national news, I began to see Erica here and there, being interviewed, giving a speech or simply galvanizing marches onward at one rally or another.  I regret not having the opportunity to interview her.  Either it was a throng of reporters creating an insurmountable obstacle course between us, an unresponsive connect that didnt return emails or any of a number of logistical hang ups, we never got a chance to speak.

Etan Thomas on Twitter

Here is a link to a panel discussion I did in Harlem with Erica garner @es_snipes emerald snipes @emerald_snipes @ShaunKing @jahvaris_martin @SwinCash The young people were so inspired that day. Rest In Peace Erica we will continue the work https://t.co/7Ngy0c4OoN

Even with my own heartbreak, when I demand justice, its never just for Eric Garner, she wrote in The Washington Post in 2016. Its for my daughter; its for the next generation of African-Americans.

The legacy of Erica Garner mirrors that of many other African American women freedom fighters in that the catalyst for her actions was the untimely death of a black man.  Emmitt Tills mother Mamie and Erica Garner are kindred in this paradigm.  Historically, black males in America have been the primary victims of lynchings, police shootings, mass incarceration and black-on-black violence.  As a result, black women have long been the binding sinew of every black movement for social justiceperhaps even predating Harriet Tubman. The punishment for men who speak is often death, but the women who remain are also made to suffer the pain of loss, of suffering and of disenfranchisement. 

Ericas legacy is that of a fighter, an avenging daughter and a loving mother.  Despite infiltrators, political grandstanders and poverty pimps continually trying to stop her grind, Erica Garner fought on.

For your fight, your words and your time, we thank you.