After years of advocating for racial justice and calling out police brutality and seeing little change in law enforcement and our justice system, some people are rightfully fed up. When complaints are met with inaction, protests are met with inaction, and direct action is met with inaction, maybe it’s time to get specific in who needs to be held accountable for issues in law enforcement.
That’s exactly what Keiajah (KJ) Brooks did at a Board of Police Commissioners meeting in her hometown of Kansas City this week. The 20-year-old used her approximately four minutes with the microphone—and with the commissioners’ undivided attention—to unequivocally lay out her position to each and every one of the officials in that room.
“Fair warning, I’m not nice and I don’t seek to be respectable,” she began. “I’m not asking y’all for anything because y’all can’t and won’t be both my savior and my oppressor. I don’t want reform. I want to turn this building into luxury low-cost housing. These would make some really nice apartments.”
“Firstly, stop using Black children as photo opportunities, ’cause they’re cute now, but in 10 years, they’re Black male suspects in red shirts and khaki shorts,” she said. “Eating cookies and drinking milk with children does not absolve you of your complicity in their oppression and denigration…” she added, before looking directly at the police chief and pointedly calling him out by name, “…Rick Smith.”
She pointed out that Kansas City spends more on the police than on education, “and then try to encourage children to feast with their oppressors.”
“Y’all are really weird,” she added.
“It’s asinine to be called radical or a homegrown terrorist for not wanting government employees to kill people in any instance,” she went on. “So, I’m not here begging anything of soulless white folks and self-preserving Black folks. You get one life, and you all in this room have chosen profits over people. And that’s pathetic. So, I’m going to spend the next two minutes reading y’all for filth, something I’m sure nobody has ever done.”
And that’s exactly what she did. One by one, Ms. Brooks named and shamed each member of the Board of Police Commissioners, in a dragging for the ages.
She addressed the “former FBI Agent who exudes white privilege and is the epitome of mediocrity” who “spent most of this meeting looking away and holding his head in his hands.” She called out “another rich, and white, and out of touch, and disconnected old white person with nothing but pure apathy seeping through the bulging veins of his paper colored skin,” adding, “You age like trash when you are racist and subject others to violence.” She even took a pastor who preaches “a message of hope and faith through God’s Holy word in the building” while “subjecting Black people to terrorism and un-Christ-like behavior at the hands of KCPD outside of the building” to church.
Ms. Brooks did not come to play.
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Finally, to Police Chief Rick Smith, Brooks said, “I don’t even care enough about you to start, but you will have to spend overtime in a chapel at the end of your life. You have blood on your hands, and while these idiots hold you on a pedestal, God does not honor injustice and murder.”
After she finished with the individual verbal takedowns, Brooks left the board—whom she referred to as “soulless, profit-driven, avaricious, greedy, God-forsaken humans”—with a Bible verse. Claiming that Jesus himself was an “unarmed Black man murdered by authorities,” she quoted Mark 8:36: “What does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul?”
Whether you agree with everything Ms. Brooks said or not, it takes a great deal of courage to speak truth to power. It’s impressive to see a young woman speak her mind so clearly and boldly, not just publicly, but to the faces of the people she’s addressing. Ms. Brooks has obviously done her homework on the individuals she’s calling out, and while her speech may come across as harsh to some, her passion for and dedication to justice is palpable.
A video shared on Brooks’ Instagram shows the reactions of the commissioners as she was speaking, if you want to see it from another angle.
The video of her speech has been viewed more than seven million times on social media and has been met with resounding virtual applause from people who are tired of seeing calls for justice and action met with continuing injustice and inaction.
You can’t change what you don’t acknowledge, and Ms. Brooks is making sure acknowledgement is crystal clear.