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Emerald Garner, Daughter of Eric Garner, and Etan Thomas Speak on Police Brutality, Social Injustice

Reverend Jonathan L. Walton, pictured here at an October 2018 event, moderated a panel featuring activist Emerald Garner and former NBA player Etan Thomas.
Reverend Jonathan L. Walton, pictured here at an October 2018 event, moderated a panel featuring activist Emerald Garner and former NBA player Etan Thomas. By Amy Y. Li
By Andrea M. Bossi, Crimson Staff Writer

Activist Emerald Garner — whose father died after being held in a chokehold by police officers in 2014 — spoke about her work surrounding social injustice and police brutality at a event Friday at the Smith Campus Center.

The event, titled “No More Names: A Conversation about Community Activism and Criminal Justice,” featured Garner and former NBA player Etan Thomas in a panel moderated by Reverend Jonathan L. Walton, a professor at the Divinity School. No More Names — a student group focused on inspiring young activism surrounding criminal justice — organized the event in conjunction with the Office of the Arts.

Garner opened the panel by speaking about the loss of her father, Eric Garner, whose death inspired slogans in the Black Lives Matter Movement such as “I can’t breathe.” These slogans appeared in demonstrations and die-ins in Harvard Square and Boston Common following the 2014 incident, which took place in New York City. Emerald Garner said she became an activist in the wake of her father’s death.

“Speaking engagements are what really opened my eyes,” she said. “People really want to know what I have to say.”

Garner said that despite finding the new platform, she experienced challenges in seeing the media coverage of her father’s death, which she said neglected that she was a “real human being.”

“I watch TV shows, and it’s a whole reenactment of what the video was or reenactment of what happened in my life, or what they think is my life. They take what they want to take, not the real. I am a real person,” she said.

Thomas, whose book “We Matter” discusses the intersection of activism and athletics, said he has seen a lack of empathy in treatment of victims of police brutality and their families. Walton also said there is a lack of attention to persistent injustice in today’s society.

“There seems to be this kind of collective attention deficit disorder in our society. We go from one thing to the other,” Walton said. “Somebody else comes along and all the attention moves, and communities are still grieving. Injustice is still burgeoning.”

The event also featured student performances by MJangles, Lincoln Hart, and 21 Colorful Crimson, a musical group comprised of 21 Harvard sophomores.

No More Names co-founder Meshaal Bannerman ’21 said the organization reached out to Garner and Thomas to promote the group’s goal ending the “cycle of criminalization of black bodies and the brutality of black bodies.”

“We’re trying to form a coalition where we can have different campuses and different young activists come together to raise awareness for problems we truly believe haven’t gone away for years,” Bannerman said.

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