The Black Neighborhood I Live in Is My Own Neighborhood

Column: Karen Bass’ Latino-Black family is everything the ugly audiotape is not.

Karen Bass’ family is everything the ugly audiotape is not.

I first saw the tapes in 2003, on CNN, at the behest of my mother (whom I knew to be a strong feminist and who was also a black lesbian). I sat in the audience as I heard the tapes of family friends and neighbors who’d been killed in the same senseless way. The footage was so gut-wrenching, so raw, I couldn’t look away. I saw the police officers, who came out of a black neighborhood and beat people on the street. I saw the people who shot him and the people who did nothing to stop them. I heard the police union president say, on tape, he was “sorry” for what happened.

I heard from the people who actually lived in his neighborhood – neighbors who were there at the day he was killed – that they’d heard him yelling about the police and that he’d been threatened before. I heard them recount the day. And to hear those people tell their harrowing stories was the same feeling I felt watching those tapes. But I was also watching those tapes with my eyes wide, as if the black neighborhood I lived in were my own neighborhood.

I know Karen is in the audience, too, sitting with us here on the stage. If Karen were sitting there, I don’t think she would have been able to remain quiet – to stop the flow of stories. And the fact that she is sitting here today with us is an indication of the strength of our movement. We have her name here on the platform, so that’s a good sign. But you and I both know if Karen were still here, this platform is where she’d be speaking; this is her story.

Karen is a mother of three. She has a master’s degree in linguistics. She speaks fluently in Spanish and English. She was raised in a strong family, and she has the kind of love that comes from a home filled with love.

This is her story. Her name is

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