Malik Perry Davis — On climbing the Nathaniel Greene statue
When Malik Perry Davis walked out of his apartment on June 1, he knew he was going to climb the Gen. Nathanael Greene statue in downtown Greensboro.
“I picked this location because it was downtown and because it’s Nathanael Greene, a general in the revolutionary army,” Davis said in an interview at the statue. “I was pretty much saying, this is a revolution; the time for all of this is over.”
Davis, who protested a few days before he climbed the statue, was arrested on the evening of June 1 for violating the curfew that had been put in place that day. He and three other individuals were arrested that day, two for curfew violations and one for bringing weapons of mass destruction. And although three of the individuals were arrested for the same crime and Davis did not have any prior convictions, Davis’ bail was the most expensive at $500 compared to the $100 set for a white protester and $300 set for an Asian protester.
Davis said he sat peacefully on top of the statue for hours to send a message.
“I realized that the curfew had nothing to do with looting,” he said. “It had more to do with trying to silence the peaceful protests that were going on. I wanted to distinguish between the fact that there are peaceful protests.”
Davis said that he deliberately smoked marijuana while he was up on the statue too, although he was never charged with possession in the end, to protest the thousands of black individuals in jail for nonviolent drug offenses. Davis also wrote the words of the Constitution on his stomach before he climbed up.
“In this country, it seems that the Constitution doesn’t mean anything for African Americans or people of color or minorities,” he said. “We don’t have any of the same liberties or civil rights.”
Davis, who is mixed race, said he’s been pulled over by police multiple times in the past but has never been charged with anything. He also said that he is perceived differently in society during the summer when his skin gets darker than in the winter, when he is lighter.
“I have had so many encounters with the police that never should have happened,” he said. “I can’t count how many times I’ve had a cop point a gun in my face.”
Davis said he’s learned how to cope in situations like that and has learned to keep his emotions stable and calm.
“I know one of the first things is always keeping your hands in sight but it’s more about keeping your emotions in check,” he said. “From my experience, they really do try to bait you…. I have to be as calm and polite as possible but I’m screaming to do the exact opposite. But I have to do that for my own personal safety and the safety of whoever’s with me.”
In a video by WFMY that captured his arrest, officers can be seen aggressively pulling Davis’ arms and hair even though he remained calm and was not resisting. And that’s the kind of thing that Davis said he’s protesting.
“They were showing themselves to be who they are,” he said. “There’s absolutely nothing wrong with fighting back against an oppressive regime.”
Terrell Dungee — On bringing the fight to work
Terrell Dungee brought the fight for justice from the streets to his job.
On June 7, Dungee decided to write messages in support of the Black Lives Matter movement on the inside of Papa John’s pizza boxes meant for the Guilford County Sheriff’s Office.
“I thought it would be a beautiful time to send a message,” Dungee said in an interview. “The climate that we’re living in right now and the inaction that the black community has felt for so long from their government on issues like this, I’ve gotten so tired of waiting for people to do the right thing. I thought this was the right thing to do.”
Dungee, who is a delivery driver for Papa John’s, was called in to work at about 8 p.m. when a large order by the Guilford County sheriff’s office came in. Dungee and one of his white coworkers, wrote messages like, “Black lives matter” and, “Stop killing us” on the inside of the lids of the pizza boxes.
“I thought that if they saw it coming from somewhere they weren’t expecting it, it would shock them into action,” Dungee said. “I might not be downtown with the protests, but it’s an issue that I think about every time I walk out of the house as a black queer male. I shouldn’t have to fear other people just because of the color of my skin.”
After he wrote the messages, Dungee and his coworker were reprimanded by management and in the end, new pizza boxes were used for the order. But when the officer from the sheriff’s office came inside to pick up the order, Dungee said he decided to have a conversation with him. In a video posted by Dungee, the officer, who was white, can be seen getting flustered and uncomfortable, and eventually leaving the store while Dungee was trying to talk to him.
“I ended up going out and talking to him,” Dungee recalled. “I let him know my relationship with cops. I told him how my mom was a single parent and when my brother and I would get out of hand, she would call the cops. They were stern with us but tried to let us know right from wrong.”
Still, the officer remained noticeably uncomfortable, Dungee said.
Afterwards, one of the other officers who came to pick up the order called the Papa John’s headquarters and filed a complaint, according to Dungee.
“They made a comment about how we were verbally abusive and how they were scared to eat the food now,” Dungee said.
The next day, Dungee got a call from an employee at the sheriff’s office, who apologized to him for reporting him to Papa John’s.
“I told him that this has nothing to do with you personally, this has to do with the structural of policing in our society,” Dungee said.
Dungee has not lost his job at Papa John’s, but he said he was fully prepared for that possibility when he made the choice to write the messages.
“To me, this moment is bigger than a paycheck,” he said. “At the end of the day, we have constantly put profit before African Americans in this country and I couldn’t do that for one more day…. I am aware of how much the company doesn’t care about me. There was no hazard pay during coronavirus, while they are still making a huge profit. All they sent us was a shirt that said, ‘We’re essential.’ That let me know where I stood with Papa John’s.”
Dungee hosted a virtual “smoke in” protest on Saturday in which attendees could talk about the impact of policing on black and brown communities while smoking marijuana at home. He plans to host more events in the future to keep fighting injustice.
“I’m challenging everyone that’s going to participate to talk about systematic racism,” Dungee said. “Honestly this whole issue with the black community and police is not going to heal overnight…. I grew up hating my blackness. I had to be seen as nonthreatening, and even as nonthreatening as I’ve been, I’ve just been another n***** to them. This shows that I can’t play their game. For 400 years we’ve been in their custody and they’ve blatantly abused us at every turn.”
Cherizar Crippen — On organizing and centering black LGBTQ+ voices
Cherizar Crippen learned how to organize from her childhood as a Jehovah’s Witness.
“They are some of the best organizers in the whole world,” she said in an interview. “They do canvassing, one-on-ones, Bible study, public speaking, scholarship — we studied a book every year. All the things I learned from that.”
For the last decade, Crippen has been using the skills she gained from when she was younger to organize and protest for black lives.
“When Trayvon Martin died was when I got involved,” she said. “You can’t just sit on the couch and let your people perish, especially the youth.”
Crippen, a bisexual black woman with indigenous heritage, is one of the organizers with Greensboro Rising, and laments the fact that black LGBTQ+ individuals are not always recognized for their work in grassroots movements.
“We can go back to the ’60s and ’70s to see that,” she said. “We can look at MLK and Malcolm X, but you don’t see the queer folks or the women that were behind them doing all the work.”
Crippen points out the fact that many of the leaders in the movement, including the founders of Black Lives Matter, are black women or black queer individuals.
She said that to move forward, she wants black men to understand the struggles that black women and black LGBTQ+ individuals go through.
“The black transgender migrant is the most vulnerable person in our society,” Crippen said.
And despite the fact that women make less money than men and transgender individuals live significantly shorter lives than heterosexual individuals, Crippen points out that most of the people engaging with Black Lives Matter on Facebook are women and so are the people that donate to mutual funds.
“I cannot see why men cannot be bothered,” she said. “We are still waiting on them…Some black men do show up, just not in the same numbers we show up for them. What helps me helps black men, and what helps black people helps white people…. It’s a question of whether they are able to not be in a leadership role but in a support role instead.”
As one of the organizers who is a part of Greensboro Rising, Crippen and others have been advocating for police reforms within the city.
“I would love to abolish the police,” she said. “I would love to abolish prisons…. We’re not saying we’re going to have the answers tomorrow. It’s also about defunding the police. I know that it ruffles feathers. People think of all of the worst things possible… but we want the county to stop funding police officers in schools. We’ve seen models that were replaced with therapy and yoga. We see these things in action for white people at white schools all the time. That’s what I want is more access for people.”
As someone who has been protesting and organizing for black lives for the last five years, Crippen said she believes this moment is different because so many things are compounded at one time.
“We have every state protesting, we have every country protesting,” she said. “We were in a pandemic and we saw that our government can’t take care of us. All of these promises of upward mobility came crashing down on everyone. They woke up and see that everything we’ve been told is a lie. And then you couldn’t be outside…. The mental health toll was so immense, and then when I turn on the TV and see that white people did not take a day off racism, it’s a powder keg.”
And even though it’s hard and it’s tiring and it’s seemingly never-ending, Crippen said she’s prepared and willing to keep fighting.
“I’m going to meditate, I’m going to take a shower,” she said. “And I’m not going anywhere. I’m going to fight. I’m not going to leave. I’m not going to fall apart.”