Jacob Blake Sr., whose son was shot by Kenosha police in 2020 and left partially paralyzed, says the family is part of a larger movement fighting for victims of police violence and racial injustice. “We were always pro-Black activists. And then, after this happened to my son, we’ve become activists for everyone who’s been affected,” he says. The Blake family has a long history of activism going back to the civil rights movement and beyond. Justin Blake, Jacob Blake’s uncle, says it’s in the family’s DNA. “We cannot sit down. We must make change.”
More from this Interview
- Part 1: The System Is Broken: Jacob Blake’s Dad & Uncle on Kyle Rittenhouse Acquittal for Vigilante Killings
- Part 2: Jacob Blake’s Family Hails Rare Conviction of KC Police Officer Who Shot Dead Cameron Lamb in 2019
- Part 3: “In Our DNA”: Jacob Blake’s Father & Uncle on the Family’s Long History of Racial Justice Activism
AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to talk with you both — I mean, this is an exclusive interview, the two of you at the same time; we have Justin Blake in the studio —
JACOB BLAKE SR. That hasn’t happened in a long time.
AMY GOODMAN: — in Milwaukee, and we have Jacob Blake in the studio in Charlotte, North Carolina, where he lives — about your family’s history, who Jacob Blake is named for, your son, Jacob Blake Sr., your father, both of your fathers, Jacob Blake Sr., the Reverend Jacob Blake, a civil rights activist in Evanston who led a movement for housing equality, worked with Dr. Martin Luther King. Can you talk about that history of activism through to what you both are doing today? Justin, why don’t we begin with you?
JUSTIN BLAKE: Well, they don’t understand that what got us up 9:00 in the morning every day, or 8:00, to be on the courtroom steps is my great-grandfather on one side was a Garveyite, on my father’s side, a Marcus Garveyite, UNIA. On the other side, my great-grandfather was a Pullman porter. We’ve been living in our house over 75 years because of my grandfather being a Pullman porter, who purchased the house. So, when you see Raisin in the Sun, that’s like our family. My grandfather was a Tuskegee Airman that helped train — all the gentlemen that went over to fly in the war were trained by my grandfather. We have it in our DNA. We cannot sit down. We must make change. So, our family, Jacob Blake, myself, and Bianca Austin and some members of the Floyd family want to be in every fight around this country that have anything to do with getting justice for our people.
AMY GOODMAN: And, Jacob Blake Sr., your father, who you’re named for, that housing militancy, activism, as a reverend in Evanston, outside Chicago?
JACOB BLAKE SR. Well, my father was definitely — he marched from Selma to Montgomery across the Edmund Pettus Bridge. He helped found Breadbasket with Jesse in Chicago. My great-grandfather, as my brother stated, was a Garveyite. My other great-grandfather, not a porter — my great-grandfather was one of the first Black Pullman conductors. So, understanding that civil rights flows in our blood, it was only God that chose this to happen to my son. We were already speaking activism before this happened to my son. We were always pro-Black activists. And then, when this happened to my son, we became activists for everyone who’s been affected. So it was only natural. What flows in your DNA comes out. And me and my brother — I would rather die fighting than be a slave.
AMY GOODMAN: Then you have your father, Reverend Jacob Blake, with the Reverend Eustace Blake —
JACOB BLAKE SR. Peace be on my father.
AMY GOODMAN: — leading a protest against police brutality in Newark, New Jersey.
JACOB BLAKE SR. And there’s a building in Newark, New Jersey, today that is called the Blake House. It has a huge picture of my uncle Eustace in it. When I was in college, I used to go to Newark, New Jersey, just to hang out with my friends that went to college with me, and we would walk past that house, and it said the Blake House. And they’d say, “Man, that’s” — they would tease me, not knowing that that was really named after my family. So, yes, Newark, New Jersey, plays a key role. Cory Booker is a dear friend.
That’s why we fight to change laws, Amy. We’re not in this just to be walking, just to be protesting. Our objective is to get to Congress, change these laws. We’re lobbying like everyone else, because Black lives matter, because white lives matter. So, if Black lives don’t matter, then everything is thrown off kilter. There’s no balance. We have to understand that Black people are just as important as my counterparts. We put in a lot of work, Amy. We’re all over the country fighting for families. I’ll be with Ahmaud Arbery’s mother this week, later on, waiting for the verdict, because we show unity. We show unity. We show direction. We will not be pushed off our path. We will stand strong on what this is built on, the foundation.
AMY GOODMAN: And your comment, Justin Blake, on this moment that your brother Jacob is talking about? You’ve got the white supremacy trial going on in Charlottesville. You’ve got the Ahmaud Arbery murder trial taking place. Three white men are on trial. One of them is a former police officer and police investigator. And, of course, you have the case of Kyle Rittenhouse. Your thoughts at this key moment in time?
JUSTIN BLAKE: Well, it’s time for us all to forge on. We, the Blake family, Bianca Austin and Tez [phon.] went down to the Federal Building in Chicago to stand with the Haitians when they were being abused on the border. We’re going to bring about unity to our people. You must understand, we made this country the richest country in the world by 300 and 400 years of free slavery. If anybody deserves to vote, we deserve to vote. If anybody deserves civil rights and liberties, we deserve those civil rights and liberties. So we’re going to unite the Nigerians, the Ghanians, the African Americans, the Jamaicans, the Belizeans and the Haitians, all in one. And we won’t have to ask for much; we’ll be demanding our needs.
We’re in the midst of putting together our platform that we’ll be operating on and our directives and what actually our ask will be. I don’t think we’ve ever in the United States really done that before. We have to do that, because that’s the proper way to demand and to ask what you’re looking to do and the changes. This system is broke, and we all know that now. This was a good look at that through this case that we just followed this last couple weeks. And we must do something about it. We have to be direct about it. If it’s not good for us, it’s not good for anybody else. And when the African American community is doing well, that city must be doing well, the county must be doing well, the state and the nation. So there doesn’t have to be a win-loss scenario. We want to develop and let people know there can be a win-win scenario, where we, as the African American community, do well.
Where has the money been? Why does it always go to downtowns and not to the South Side and to the West Side of Chicago? Chicago West Side and South Side looks like it did in '79. It's appalling. We cannot continue to do this. We deserve the resources that every other community gets. We pay the same taxes, and we deserve the same treatment.
AMY GOODMAN: Well, I want to thank you both for being with us, Justin Blake, joining us from Milwaukee, and Jacob Blake, joining us from Charlotte, North Carolina, the father and uncle of Jacob Blake, the young Black man shot by Kenosha police, sparking protests throughout Kenosha. I want to thank you so much for spending this time.
Next up, we’re going to speak to the lawyer representing the family of Anthony Huber, one of the two protesters shot dead by Kyle Rittenhouse. Stay with us.