Brad Byrd: This is InDEPTH. We have lost count of the images of violence, and the absurdity and heartbreak a man dying by a police cruiser one week ago tonight. Peaceful protest is our right. But is it under attack from outside forces that don’t represent who we are? Is the issue of discrimination that has been with us for centuries being shoved aside? Joining me live is Courtney Johnson, founder and executive director of Young and Established. Courtney, good to see you. In some ways for you, this is deja vu. You went to Ferguson, Missouri, after the riots there some six years ago. We talked about that here in the studio. How are you processing what we have been seeing the past week since we saw that heartbreaking video of Mr. Floyd in Minneapolis.
Courtney Johnson: The video, it was hard to watch. To be honest, I cried. And it was a tough video to watch. And with everything that’s going on, you and I had just talked about the same thing last year ,and here we are again. So it’s tough to see things continue to happen. And I just have a lot of emotions right now. And it’s just, it’s tough. It’s a tough situation
BB: And Courtney, the looting and the rioting, has the tragedy been lost in this?
CJ: I know people are talking about the rioting, you know people are angry and I’m all for protesting. Of course the rioting and damaging people’s property, that’s tough. People are tired and people are angry. So it is hard to watch. These things continue to happen and I don’t agree with it, but I understand. I know people are frustrated. Again just it’s tough to see. And it’s hard to continue to talk about these things and not see anything happen.
BB: New York Governor Andrew Cuomo today said people have hijacked these demonstrations taking away the right to a peaceful protest. What do you think Courtney?
CJ: Evansville did a great job. We had a very peaceful protest, everybody that put that together. I’m speaking from my experience in Evansville, our community and what we’re doing to move forward because I live here. I know everything that’s taking place here in Evansville, and all across our nation right now is just, again, as far as the riots, I don’t agree with it. But I understand that people are frustrated so I know where that’s coming from. I hope people just have peaceful protests and people come together. And that’s what they did on Saturday. Evansville definitely came together. And I felt like we were united.
BB: mothers and fathers have said when their sons were young boys, they grew up fearing they could be in danger any time when they went out. Did you go through that?
CJ: Yes, sir. I still go through it. I’m 31 years old, and I still have my parents that are concerned and scared and I don’t have any kids on my own. But I mentor, young black men, and it’s scary for me to have these talks with them. I don’t want to see anything like this happen to them, or to my friends, or a loved one. And I saw some comments, I saw a few people say they’re tired of seeing Black Lives Matter. They’re tired of seeing this stuff. Can you imagine how we feel dealing with racism? I mean, we’re tired of it and we have to deal with this every day. These are things that I deal with right here in our community. I deal with racism every single day. And people don’t hear that side of me. I’m the positive guy. And I really do a lot of things in the community and I never really talk about some of the things that I deal with on a day to day basis here in Evansville. I’m 6’4, I’m black. I’m a threat. I’ve been told that before, from people here, right here in my community, that I’m a threat. And it’s scary that those are things that we have to face every single day and things that we have to deal with. Racism is something that has continued to just show his ugly face. And I don’t know, I’m just
tired of it, I’m tired.
BB: You know, Courtney, when we did that audio check about 45 minutes ago, and we brought you up on Skype, I could tell. I’ve known you for about six to seven years and I could just tell that this has really had an impact on you, that it all has an impact on you. But this in particular, and with that said, why would you tell a very agitated young man who is black or any young man or woman of color about the injustice of all that? And what advice would you give that person?
CJ: Let your voice be heard. I think it’s important for all of us to do our part, everybody. And that’s, that’s what I would tell you got to let your voice be heard. You have to stand up for what’s right. Whether people like you or support you or not, I know that I have a nonprofit, there were people that contacted me and were worried about some of those things. I don’t care about any of that. If you don’t want to support me because of my beliefs and what I stand for, then you shouldn’t support me at all. I don’t want that type of support and we don’t want that type of support at all, but I would just tell them to let your voice be heard.
BB: If there’s any ripple of hope, a ray of hope, we’ve seen images and we saw one again tonight. This one I believe up in Indianapolis where officers were joining protesters, peaceful protesters in unison, showing their support and showing you know, there can be love between them and the people that they are sworn to protect. How does that impact you?
CJ: Even though I’ve had my experiences with police brutality right here in Evansville, Indiana, I think I’ve shown that as well. Not just me, but Young and Established with Evansville Dustbowl, together with Stop the Violence rallies, things that we put together. Even though I’ve had my experiences and I still have my experiences and things that make me uncomfortable, but I still reach out and do my part. And again, I think it’s important for all of us to do our part and it’s just a tough situation.
BB: It is indeed. Courtney Johnson, young man, you take care of yourself, stay safe and we will talk to you soon.