Read Chapters 1, 2, 3, and 4 of Dorothy Holmes’s book, Life After Death: Losing a Child to Police Murder
We were sitting and talking at a Justice for Families meeting. Just a regular meeting. Toward the end, Arewa Karen Winters, aunt of Pierre Loury, stood up and brought out a glass statue in the shape of a long teardrop.
“This award goes to Dorothy Holmes ’cause she is a fighter. She did what Mamie Till did for Emmett Till.” They presented me with the 2021 Mamie Till Mobley Award.
I was shocked.
Everyone said, “You deserve it. You’re still fighting. You never give up.”
When I think of how Mamie Till fought for Emmett Till, I’ve said it several times: I’m gonna fight like Mamie Till. October 12, 2021 marked seven years since my son was taken by the CPD. Still no justice, and I’m still fighting.
Mamie Till was a single mother, too. She had Emmett when she was nineteen years old. I had RonnieMan when I was nineteen. I had support from his grandparents. It really wasn’t hard raising him. He was my parents’ first grandchild so as he got older, things got rough, but even when I wasn’t with his father anymore, I had that grandparent support. They all helped take care of him.
Mamie Till was scared to let her son go to the South. Her family had to convince her to let him go visit his family in Mississippi. Nowadays, we got the same fear right here on the South Side of Chicago. People want to blame the parents when people lose their lives, like it’s their fault just for being there.
Your kids could be playing in front of the house, and anything could happen. They could leave and go out to a different neighborhood and people give them trouble just because they don’t know them. You can be overprotective, but stuff can happen in the blink of an eye.
I talked to my son all that day. Then to get that phone call at 12:30 in the morning saying that he had been shot. Nothing could prepare me for that. People kept calling me, saying, “I heard RonnieMan is dead!” All I could say was, “I don’t know.”
Now I’m even more cautious about where my grandkids go, where my daughters go. They tell me, “I’m all right, I’m all right.” But I’ve heard that before, and my son is gone. They’re grown now, and I still ask them all the time, “Where are you going? Who are you going with?” And I always tell them to let me keep the grandkids home with me. I would rather be safe than sorry.
But I’m trying to do what I can about the bigger problems. I’ve been out here, speaking out about police, demanding accountability, trying to take care of people in my community, to do something real about all the violence. People say, “Watch what you say,” but I can say whatever I want to.
The police even tried to sanction me, but I have my right to free speech. What right did George Hernandez have when he jumped out of that police car and killed my son? What was he thinking? He murdered my son in cold blood. I’m not going to sit back and be quiet. Not gonna happen.
When Emmett Till’s killers were on trial, their lawyer tried to say Mamie Till was just speaking out for all the attention, tried to say she was making herself rich and famous. But she refused to be silenced. Even when she received prank calls, threats on her life.
I found a Facebook page where all these cops were talking about the parents of people they killed. They were saying, “Oh, Ronald Johnson’s mama is wild, she threatens police,” all sorts of lies. I didn’t reply back. I just keep doing what I’m doing. But I know they talk about us.
Just like Carolyn Bryant lied. She finally came out sixty years too late and told a historian writing a book about her that the story she told had never really happened. I feel like she should have been put on trial. This young boy’s life was taken from him, taken from his mama. These racist white people raced out to grab him, kill him, throw him in the river, all because of what she said.
But even though the people responsible for that loss were never brought to justice, Mamie Till made her own justice by refusing to be intimidated.
I don’t know if George Hernandez will ever be convicted of murdering my son. But I keep organizing. I want that officer off the streets. I want to know he’s never going to jump out of his car and open fire on someone else’s son.
I don’t understand how you can take a person’s life and still walk around, knowing that the person’s family will never see them again. You get to leave work every day and go home and see your family. There are so many people who played a role in the cover-up of my son’s murder. Anita. Rahm. The FBI who helped “enhance” the tape so Anita could dismiss charges. I get through it by keeping my son’s memory alive, by trying to make my community stronger.
So many parents are still losing their kids to police. It’s hard to say what we can do to ever put a stop to it. None of these police are really ever going to have to serve hard time for what they do, so they just keep doing it. I watch the news announce another “police-involved shooting.” It’s like a flashback for me, every time I see another life lost, the parents blamed, the lies that follow. It’s like a virus that’s worse than COVID.
Something’s got to change. It goes all the way back to when they killed Fred Hampton, Sr. He was a Black Panther leader who did everything for his community, made sure the kids ate, tried to make a better world. He was assassinated by the police because he was a threat to the whole system.
Because he could get everybody to come together from different communities. They need to know there’s no separate justice for some in this city. They got the FOP and all their money to bail them out, but no one has our backs when we’re in need except each other. We don’t get to just resign when we get caught up in trouble. We’ll be in jail.
The system keeps rewarding the same people. They want to make Rahm Emanuel an ambassador for the United States when he covered up murders? They could put me in to represent the United States. But as it is now, I don’t even get out and vote most of the time because there’s no one to vote for who doesn’t have blood on their hands.
The struggle is real. Some days just be so hard, I just turn off my phone. When it gets close to his memorial, I just want to shut down. I’m so tired, so restless. But I know I gotta get up, and I refuse to let it get the best of me. I’ve got my daughters, my grandkids, and I’ve got to tell his story. I’m going to always speak his name. I want everyone to always remember who Ronald Johnson was. The fight continues.