"A New York Treasure" --Village Voice

BGS: Occupied Territory


And here’s another piece I’m honored to present–James Baldwin’s 1966 story about police brutality and racism:

On April 17, 1964, in Harlem, New York City, a young salesman, father of two, left a customer’s apartment and went into the streets. There was a great commotion in the streets, which, especially since it was a spring day, involved many people, including running, frightened, little boys. They were running from the police. Other people, in windows, left their windows, in terror of the police because the police had their guns out, and were aiming the guns at the roofs. Then the salesman noticed that two of the policemen were beating up a kid: “So I spoke up and asked them, ‘why are you beating him like that?’ Police jump up and start swinging on me. He put the gun on me and said, ‘get over there.’ I said, ‘what for?’ ”

An unwise question. Three of the policemen beat up the salesman in the streets. Then they took the young salesman, whose hands had been handcuffed behind his back, along with four others, much younger than the salesman, who were handcuffed in the same way, to the police station. There: “About thirty-five I’d say came into the room, and started beating, punching us in the jaw, in the stomach, in the chest, beating us with a padded club—spit on us, call us niggers, dogs, animals—they call us dogs and animals when I don’t see why we are the dogs and animals the way they are beating us. Like they beat me they beat the other kids and the elderly fellow. They throw him almost through one of the radiators. I thought he was dead over there.”

[Photo Via: Renata Cherlise]

Categories:  1: Featured  4: Gold

Tags:  james baldwin  occupied territory

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1 Dimelo   ~  Jan 19, 2015 11:54 am

Loved this, Alex. Thanks for sharing.

2 Alex Belth   ~  Jan 19, 2015 8:52 pm

You bet, D. He was a beautiful writer.

3 RagingTartabull   ~  Jan 20, 2015 2:26 pm

shameful confession: I tried, and couldn't get through, "Go Tell It On The Mountain" a few months back.

4 seamus   ~  Jan 20, 2015 10:37 pm

[3] I never got through it either, though it was years ago when I tried. Not sure why.

5 Alex Belth   ~  Jan 21, 2015 10:00 am

3) I don't think there is anything shameful about not finishing--or liking--what is considered to be a great book, movie, play, etc. I hear where you are coming from but hey, man, it's cool.

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"This ain't football. We do this every day."
--Earl Weaver