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“In Our DNA”: Jacob Blake's Father & Uncle on the Family's Long History of Racial Justice Activism – Democracy Now!

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Please join us for a special virtual celebration of Democracy Now!’s 25th anniversary on December 7 with Angela Davis, Greta Thunberg, Noam Chomsky, Arundhati Roy, Winona LaDuke, Martín Espada, Danny DeVito & many more! Your donation today will help keep this event free for our worldwide audience and will support our fearless, independent journalism throughout the year. Your donation of $10 would go a long way right now. If you can give $50 or more, you’ll get to choose from some great 25th anniversary gifts! Thank you so much and we look forward to celebrating with you on December 7 at 8 p.m. ET at democracynow.org.
-Amy Goodman
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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.”
AMY GOODMAN:: I wanted to talk with you both. 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 Garvey knight, on my father’s side, a Marcus Garvey knight, UNIA. On the other side, my great grandfather was a Pullman porter. We have been living in our house over 75 years because of my grandfather being a Pullman porter who purchased the house. 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. 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: Jacob Blake Sr., your father, who you are named for, that housing militancy, activism, as a reverend in Evanston outside Chicago?
JACOB BLAKE SR. 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 Garvey knight. My other great grandfather, not a porter; my great grandfather was one of the first Black Pullman conductors. 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. Then when this happened to my son, we became activists for everyone who has been affected. 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, the Reverend Jacob Blake, with the Reverend Eustis 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 Eustis 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. 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 is why we fight to change laws, Amy. We are not in this just to be walking, just to be protesting. Our objective is to get to Congress, change these laws. We are lobbying like everyone else because Black Lives Matter, because white lives matter. If Black lives don’t matter, then everything is thrown off kilter. There is 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 are all over the country fighting for families. I will 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: Your comment, Justin Blake, on this moment that your brother Jacob is talking about? You have 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: It is time for us all to forge on. We, the Blake family, Bianca Austin and Tez [sp] went down to the Federal Building in Chicago to stand with the Haitians when they were being abused on the border. We are going to bring about unity to our people. You must understand, we made this country the richest country in the world by 300, 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. We are going to unite the Nigerians, the Ghanians, the African Americans, the Jamaicans, the Belizeans and the Haitians, all in one. We won’t have to ask for much; we will be demanding our needs.
We are in the midst of putting together our platform that we will be operating on and our directives and what actually our ask will be. I don’t think we have ever in the United States really done that before. We have to do that because that is 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 the last couple weeks. We must do something about it. We have to be direct about it. If it is not good for us, it is not good for anybody else. 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 1979. It is 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: 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.

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