Insight from a Black lawyer doing pro bono work to support BLM protesters and the queer community.
Words by Nichole Shaw
“You are your ancestor’s wildest dream.”
The new Jim Crow is upon us, as it continues to shapeshift before our eyes. It began as a series of overt, anti-Black laws in the South, including racial segregation and deadly violence against Black folk. It prohibited us from voting, getting and keeping jobs, receiving an education, and more. It allowed for Black children to be snatched from their mothers for labor purposes. It controlled where they lived. Jim Crow was an indentured servitude forced upon Black people after the ratification of the 13th Amendment of the United States Constitution. Now, White America is perhaps waking up to the fact that Jim Crow never actually ended in 1968, contrary to what they learned in their history classes.
Today, Black folk are still prohibited in some capacity from voting through voter suppression tactics, and not just in the South. This has happened in 2019 and 2020 in Georgia, Wisconsin, and Texas. Preceding 2019, voter suppression happened in these states, as well as Virginia, Michigan, Minnesota, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Maryland, Kansas, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Alabama, and Indiana. Today, Black folk find it harder to hold jobs than their white counterparts, with higher unemployment rates and widespread financial burdens, less access to jobs, fewer jobs with benefits and a stable income, and of course, a growing wealth gap. Today, Black folk have a pipeline from subpar education systems that are underfunded to prison, the new slavery. Today, Black Americans are racially segregated into specific neighborhoods, so as to not tinge the White community and their schools. Just take a look at Chicago’s legacy of segregation and some of its suburbs.
Today, Black people are hanging from trees, shot dead in their own homes, and suffocated on the street in front of crowds. We are assaulted on the daily, with our very lives being snatched away from us and captured in the pixels and drives of smartphones. That is why it is important we understand the resources we have to protect ourselves in the wake of this revolution.
This is how I came to know Javaron Buckley, a Chicago lawyer from a small town called Bassfield in Mississippi. He’s been on the frontlines of this movement since he learned of George Floyd’s death at the knee of Derek Chauvin. When he first saw the video he didn’t think twice, figuring it was just another instance of everyday police brutality against Black people—something we regard with a duality of experience, as we both feel a part of ourselves die with the death of another one of our people, while it has become so regular an occurrence that we force ourselves into a state of numbness to survive.
After finding out Floyd died Monday morning, Buckley hopped on the next flight to Minneapolis. Less than an hour after landings, he went to Cup Foods, the location where Floyd was arrested. “I went alone,” Buckley said. “But when I got there, I did not feel like I was alone. The way the community embraced me, the support they showed, it was outstanding. I immediately took to the ground and started helping.”
He grilled over 200 hot dogs and hamburgers with the people and spoke at a protest. The site where Floyd was murdered is sacred. While precincts were rioted against and buildings were burning, you went to the site Floyd gasped for his last breaths to find peace, calm, and quiet. It was a place to be nurtured and to nurture others.
“I felt like I had to do something, because I’m a Black man,” Buckley said. “I have a son, and he’s gonna grow up to be a Black man. I don’t want him to endure some of the things that we’re enduring, at least [not] on the level we are.”
Thus, Javaron Buckley returned to Chicago after receiving immediate responses to his post about representing peaceful protesters who have been arrested for free with the Chicago-based practice called Buckley Law Group, a P.C. that he owns and operates. His city was on fire. As soon as he touched down, he went straight to the police precinct and freed people after proving he was there to represent them as their lawyer. For the people that he couldn’t have freed, he went into the precinct, spoke to them as their attorney, and let them know that their family members were outside and waiting for them. On the second day of Buckley’s pro bono work, he gets a call from locals about Malcolm London, a Chicago poet, educator, activist, organizer, and musician. How ironic that he was arrested at the brutal hands of police, when he was previously part of a historic youth delegation to the United Nations in Geneva that addressed police violence in Chicago.
After receiving numerous calls that night—one of them being London’s girlfriend Indya Moore, better known as an American actor for the TV show Pose, Buckley went down to 5101 Wentworth to see him. Although Buckley arrived to find what looked like a SWAT barricade outside the precinct, although they were actually regular CPD officers, he managed to get through after quarreling about his position as an attorney. After making his way inside, Buckley found that London was actually at the St. Bernard Hospital, because police officers had beat him so extensively. Upon arriving at the hospital, Buckley found London cuffed to a wheelchair with his back and hands bruised, as well as what looked like a sprained wrist. Buckley was told by CPD officers that London had already been processed back at the jail, and that when he leaves the hospital, they would transfer him back to the precinct. Buckley learned later that CPD tried to charge him with Class 2 Aggravated Battery to a police officer, which is a Class 2 felony.
“I looked him in his eye. He was in the cell when I spoke to him,” Buckley said. “I said, ‘Hey man, I’m not going anywhere until you get out of here. You have my word. I’m not going.’ And there I was, my second day without sleep, minimum food, surviving off God’s grace and fighting to get this man free.”
He kept his word. Today, Malcom London is free.
Buckley has not only represented London but dozens of other people in the Chicago area. While on a conference with me, he received a call, as well as another one right before we connected. He’s been answering every call, every email, and every text message he can, because he aims to support his people and ensure everyone receives their constitutional right to an attorney.
“I’m showing up with my sweats, because I may get arrested. I come to be there with the people and for the people. I’m not coming for clout or press conferences. In fact, I turned down dozens of press conferences when I was at the precinct. I did not leave the precinct until Malcolm came out,” Buckley said.
That kind of commitment is exhausting, but it’s a responsibility Buckley carries. When I asked him how he was really doing, he answered, “I’m tired, but it’s a necessary tired. Physically, I’m ready to get back up and get back out there. Mentally, I’m exhausted with what I’m seeing out here in the world. But, overall, I’m making it.” It’s a sentiment I share, as I am exhausted every day, traumatized by the images that flash across my screen and the screams of my brothers and sisters as videos play on loop. I have a responsibility, though, to provide information and resources to the public, to the community, and to my people, to support them and provide resources for them to further educate themselves and take action. We are tired, but it is a necessary tired. So, while the world turns its focus on to other things and resumes life as normal, whatever that means, we are still here, serving our communities, tired but here for the people, as this fight is not over.
It’s crucial for those of you reading to understand your rights amidst this revolution. #BlackLivesMatter and they matter to us:
- The constitutional right to freedom of speech
- The constitutional right of the people peaceably to assemble
- The constitutional right to petition the government for a redress of grievances
—The First Amendment.
Be sure to protest on public property,
It is on private property where you become vulnerable to arrest.
- The constitutional right to an attorney
- The constitutional right to remain silent
— The Fifth Amendment.
- The right to vote
—The Fifteenth, Sixteenth, Twenty-Fourth, and Twenty-Sixth Amendment.
Buckley has specific advice on how to proceed after an arrest: “The charges that they’ve been sticking people with are disorderly conduct. Do not plead guilty to it. A police officer cannot be a victim of disorderly conduct; by the very nature of his or her job, they are to deal with disorderly people. That’s what they do. Don’t plead. The city is throwing these charges at people, hoping that it sticks, because there are some people out there who cannot afford or find a lawyer. Do not plead guilty to the disorderly misconduct charge. They can’t prove it. It needs to be a civilian on the other end, not a police officer. You have the right to remain silent. Do not incriminate yourself. Don’t speak. Call a lawyer.”
While a lot of the coverage has focused on Black men and the injustices they’ve endured, we recognize that all Black people have been assaulted and traumatized as a direct result of systemic racism in America. Perhaps the group of people most targeted and abused, while also largely ignored in the narrative of Black Lives Matter, is Black trans women and Black, queer identifying individuals in general.
“I’ve seen a lot of the LGBTQ community out there at the hands of tyranny,” Buckley said. “So, throughout the month of June, Pride Month, my firm is representing members of the LGBT community for free. If I can do it, I’ll do it. I’m not looking to make money off these people. I just want to help them.”
Buckley already has three cases from people in the LGBTQ+ community, all suffering at the hands of a homophobic parnter in their own home who yells racial and homophobic slurs to them, to the point where they’re imprisoned in their own room. While George’s name is carrying the message, the fact is that we are protesting for a lot more in separate cities for different murders, for racial equality, and for equal treatment. The road to revolution has many lanes. What matters, Buckley says, is keeping your foot on the gas.
Javaron Buckley, on the revolution and the saying“I ain’t my ancestor”:
You are your ancestor’s wildest dream.
White people that showed up, your ancestors were the ones who hid us in their basements and in their attics to keep us from being lynched. They did it in a very secretive way for obvious reasons. They didn’t want to be lynched themselves by other whites, and they couldn’t come out and do what you do today. You are your ancestors’ wildest dreams. If they could be here, they would probably be right out here on the lines with us. And that goes the same for us black people.
We got to stop saying I ain’t my ancestor. I keep seeing that online: I ain’t my ancestor, I’ll do this to you. That’s an insult, a direct insult to your ancestor. You are your ancestor, you’re just more evolved. You got all those rights that they fought for, plus the ones that we are fighting for today.
Black lives are not just male lives—they are women and queer folk, too. As we move to hold our country to the standards of equality we demand, it is important to recognize and invest in Black people by acknowledging that there is a broken police system where departments across the country receive billions of dollars from city budget allocations.
“We need to reform the police. I’m not trying to be in solidarity with them, because being in solidarity with them could mean being on my neck for 8 minutes and 46 seconds. I don’t want that. I want reform,” Buckley said.
People say defunding the police is radical, but think about how radical it is that Black people have been defunded their entire life. People are understanding of a White kid who commits a mass shooting as a result of bullying, but black folk protesting centuries of oppression is somehow incomprehensible.
White people have weaponized their privilege and the police against us.
“People are fed up, and it’s time to get the wheels of justice turning swiftly,” Buckley said. “A couple years ago, it was a felony in most places to sell marijuana after Bill Clinton signed the Three Strikes law. There are businesses that are selling marijuana during the pandemic that are open, because they’re considered essential business. But how many of our brothers are in prison right now because of the dimebag they sold back in the mid 90s?”
There’s a problem with police culture. In the videos we see on social media, peaceful protesters are dragged out of crowds, thrown on to the ground, beaten with batons, kneeled on, maced in the face, and shot with rubber bullets that leave lasting physical impairments, nevermind the psychological ones. Met with this brutality is another form of injustice, coming in the form of charges as police fortify the blue wall of silence to mask the indecent and inhumane actions of their coworkers. Pleading guilty to these charges impacts people’s lives for a long time. The right kind of felony would keep you from getting financial aid. It keeps you from voting and keeps you from owning firearms. It keeps you from going to other countries. It keeps you from joining the military or going on a military base. The impact of these protests are going to have a lasting effect on people, and that’s why it’s important to have adequate representation when you’re going into the courtroom.
“Do not just go in there thinking that you’re gonna get a ticket, pay a fine, and be done,” Buckley said. “You need to go in there and fight. Make them work for it.”
Javaron Buckley is available 24/7. His cell phone number is 808-927-1621. His Instagram page is @buckleylawgroup. He wants you to know he is here for the people. “I’m not an opportunist, I’m not looking to get famous behind any of this. I just genuinely want to be there and help the people.”