March 16, 2017
By Brian W. Carter
“Activism is the ability to act on a cause or an issue that you are passionate about,” said Linda Jay. “Basically your decision that you are not going to sit on it but act on it by any means necessary.”
Jay has always had a heart for civic duty especially being born a child of the civil rights era. Her dedication would grow through working as a court clerk and witnessing the horrors of the Rodney King beating by LAPD in the 90s among other injustices.
A mother of three, Jay’s daughter Britany would attend many trial cases with her. It’s unfortunate that the untimely death of her daughter due to gang violence would be the clarion call to the activist she is today. Jay channels that outrage and pain into fighting for the Black community which has become besieged by law enforcement and gang violence.
“When I went to Ferguson, Mo and protested in the snow with other local activists shortly after the killing of Michael Brown… each night we were met with resistance by the National Guard,” said Jay. “We were secretly strategic in our demonstrations in disrupting and shutting down businesses in surrounding local large department stores and streets.
“Since then there has been many changes in city governance because of it.”
Jay would tell you one of the key factors to being an activist is persistence. She recounted another local case that yielded results due to persistent meetings that she along with community members, activists and civic-minded individuals attended.
“Eleven leaders including myself convened and formed an organization called CCAA (Community Call to Action and Accountability), press conferences and attended weekly police commissioner meetings in the attempt to bring about drastic changes to the deadly policy of the police department that were bestowed upon our fellow citizens and even our underage children such as 13-year-old Devon Brown who was killed for joy riding,” said Jay.
“After 5 years of consistently meeting at Bethel AME church, we were able to force the Justice Dept. to implement the consent decree that would require data on the activities of the LAPD and put in place guidelines that they would have to adhere to by federal instead of their own local inept guidelines. That consent decree made a difference in the way officers treated, responded and profiled ordinary citizens because it served as a watchdog and it produced checks and balances. So we were very proud to have accomplished that change in policy.”
Police brutality and killings of unarmed Black men and women have created a counter-culture of young activists. Black Lives Matter is at the forefront of this new movement which is giving voices to a no longer faceless community. Jay had some advice on those who are seeking to become activists in their community.
“First of all, I would like to applaud anyone who is seriously devoting their precious time to becoming an activist,” said Jay.
“I always take it upon myself when allowed to speak to acknowledge and applaud new faces especially new young faces. The only perquisites are that you must have love for people, love for your brother man while you are fighting for freedom justice and equality.
“It is a job that you don’t get paid to do, you don’t clock in but you show up. I truly live by that quote that says ‘all there is for evil to prevail is for good men to do NOTHING’.”
Jay also shared one of her most challenging moments and how she overcomes struggles in her own life.
One of my most challenging moments was in Simi Valley on April 29, 1992,” said Jay. “The infamous day of the Rodney King verdicts.
“Shortly after stepping out of that very freezing courtroom, I was met by cameras and reporters requesting my opinion concerning what had just happened. I felt hopeless as I stood there alone to tell the world how I felt about the verdict but I was able to make a successful plea for a truce between the feuding Crips and the Bloods that day on live broadcast before I was abruptly cut off.”
On addressing personal challenges, “I overcome struggles by having a close relationship with my Heavenly Father.
“If it not had been for my faith in God, when my daughter Britany was murdered at 16 years old, I would not be here or in my right state of mind. That was a devastating blow but God brought me through it.
“He said I’ll never leave you nor forsake you, I’ll be with you always even until the end of the world. I believe that. “
So where does a dynamic woman like Jay get her inspiration and gusto? Well, she gives that credit to her mother, grandmother and a couple of heavyweights who were trailblazers in their own rights.
“My biggest inspiration in life was my mother and grandmother who were very strong Black women who saw a lot of injustices and went through a lot of the struggles of Jim Crow South,” said Jay.
On activists that inspire her, “I admire an activist by the name of Fannie Lou Hammer because she was from our recent past and her activism changed the voting rights laws for Black people during the sixties. She is famously known for the phrase “I’m sick and tired of being sick and tired. She fought tirelessly for the right for us to vote and she protested voter nullification that was rampant at the time, even going before congress to speak on behalf of the voting rights bill of 1964.
“Of course Harriet Tubman was very special to me because if it had not been for her courage and brevity, none of my ancestors would have made it through from the south to the north to become a free citizen.
“I love the way that she was so bold and fearless that she took up the banner and independently took control to help so many folks who were slaves as she helped them to freedom.”