As the hands of the Big Clock on the wall mark down the time until the end of yet another year i find myself, like most photographers, looking back in review of the past twelve month wonder what, if anything, i have accomplished of any worth. In a few days i will no doubt post a collection of my favorite music shots as i have done every year since starting this blog and probably follow that up with another post of all my other favorite images from the year. But i still tend to consider myself a photojournalist at heart and find myself asking if i've done anything with any real journalistic merit in the past year. I do what i can to continue to make a career as a photographer and i am truly thankful for any paying jobs that come my way, but frankly, i didn't get into this field to shoot restaurant tours and charity pub crawls. What pays the bills doesn't always fulfill the soul. I guess i do still hold on to silly idealistic notions of actually capturing images that can make a difference in this world.
Michael Brown, Tamir Rice, Freddie Gray, Sandra Bland...these names of African-Americans have loomed large on our TV screens and social media news feeds in recent times, driving home the perceived inequalities that exists in the execution of our national policing policies. But this past year these issues were brought closer to home for me, first with QuanDavier Hick, shot dead on his own doorstep when he supposedly answered a knock from Cincinnati Police with a rifle in hand in my own neighborhood of Northside. About a month later an unarmed Samuel Dubose was also shot dead, this time by a University of Cincinnati officer who had stopped him well off-campus simply because he had no front license plate on his car. He was just blocks from his home. Suddenly Cincinnati was national news on this issue and it all became just a little bit more personal.
What became evident to me with these two tragedies striking so close to home was something beyond the media soundbites and obvious political considerations. Yes, both cases raised serious questions about how our police interact with Black men in our society. Those questions remain, though in the Dubose case body-cam video evidence left little doubt of police culpability and injustice. Yet at the end of the day what i found myself focussing on most were those left behind. These men were, after all, somebody's son, brother, cousin, friend...Sam Dubose left 12 children in his passing. Neither of these men should be dead.
I muse at bloggers and Facebook friends as they argue the virtue of #BlackLivesMatter vs. #AllLivesMatter. Yes, of course all lives should matter, but in a time of grief, standing amongst a gathering of yet another Black community who has lost yet another Black man or woman to police violence it is perhaps best to focus on the issue at hand. Still, i can't help occasionally slipping to that darker place where it seems that in our cold and insensitive universe the sad reality is often closer to #NoLivesMatter. What brings be back from this brink can be found in the faces of the people below, friends and family left behind, standing strong and determined in their grief and showing through that sorrow and that anger that indeed these lives really do matter.
On June 11, 2015 family, friends and members of the community turned out at Hoffner Park in the Cincinnati neighborhood of Northside demanding answers to the shooting death by police of QuanDavier Hicks two days earlier.
QuanDavier's mother, Erica Woods, admonishes a speaker at the rally whose speech she felt could incite violence, reminding everyone in earshot that this was her son that was killed and that the march would remain respectful and peaceful.
The march heads over the viaduct towards the District 5 police station.
Overwhelmed by grief and the heat of the day Erica Woods collapses on the viaduct and is eventually taken to the the hospital for further treatment.
Protestors call for answers and a further investigation into Quandavier Hicks' death at the District 5 police station.
Some marchers returned to the site of the shooting on Chase Ave. afterwards. This small child found my camera of great interest.
Friends and family gather in front of the house where QuanDavier Hicks was killed after the rally and march.
A week later a more composed Erica Woods was back in Hoffner Park still pressing the questions surrounding her son's death to supporters at a Black Lives Matter: Cincinnati rally and march.
A steady rain only added to the solemn mood of the occasion.
Once again the protestors brought their issues to the District 5 Police Station, marching from Hoffner Park over the viaduct unfazed by the rain.
On July 19, 2015 and unarmed Samuel Dubose was shot dead by U.C. police office Ray Tensing on Rice Street in Mt. Auburn during a traffic stop. Hundreds of protestors took to the streets to demand the release of the body cam video that would later show what appears to be Tensing's criminal responsibility in the incident. He has been charged with murder and voluntary manslaughter, but no trial date has been set yet.
Samuel Dubose's mother, Audrey Dubose, speaks to the protestors before a march to the site of the killing.
About 250 protestors make their way down Vine Street towards the place where the tragic incident took place.
DaShonda Reid, Samuel Dubose's fiancée with one of their children.
Rain began to fall as the marchers made their way to the scene of the killing.
The protestors remained standing in the pouring rain for more than a half hour around a shrine that had popped up at the corner where Sam Dubose's car had come to rest after the shooting as friends and family spoke of his life and their loss.
A woman places an offering on the shrine for Sam as two young boys look on.
Sam Dubose's son speaks to the crowd of his father and the plans they had for the day he was killed. I find myself thinking of this young man often and pray that he can find some way to turn the anger and the grief that he must now carry into something positive and powerful in his life. I don't image that path is an easy one.
Protestors stage a brief die-in on the corner of Vine and E. McMillen St.
As we tie up this year and look forward to the next we can only hope that we can grow and learn from these tragedies as we all seek a more just, sane and peaceful 2016.
You can view more images from these protests at the links below.
All images ©David Sorcher 2015
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED