In Memory of a Tireless Fighter for Justice!
Nicholas Heyward Sr.—Presente!

by Carl Dix

| Revolution Newspaper |


With the passing of Nicholas Heyward Sr., everybody who yearns to see an end to the terror police enforce on Black people, Latino people, and others have lost a determined fighter. And I have lost a good friend.

Nicholas showed this determination in doggedly working to get the cop who murdered Nicholas Jr. in 1994 put on trial for stealing his son’s life. When the system exonerated the killer cop, Nicholas collected witness statements and other evidence. He took this to the district attorney and the mayor, hounding them and other politicians. He got the story of what happened to his son into the media at every opportunity, and he mobilized people to join him in fighting for Justice for Nicholas Jr., holding an annual day of remembrance in the neighborhood that combined speeches from family members of police murder victims and activists and youth-oriented activities like a basketball tournament, face painting and a books-for-toy-guns exchange. When a new district attorney was elected in 2016 on a platform of reopening cases where injustices had been perpetrated, Nicholas met with him and pressed him to reopen this case.

Nicholas learned as he sought justice. He came to see that police getting away with murder wasn’t an isolated incident, but a nationwide epidemic. He told me a few years after we met in 1996 that when his son was killed, no one could’ve told him that the killer cop wasn’t going to be sent to jail. By then he had seen that not only did the system let this cop go without any punishment, cops across the country have brutalized and murdered people and continue to brutalize and murder people and almost never go to jail. With all this happening he couldn’t understand how the politicians still tell people how great this country is. And he couldn’t understand why so many people continue to listen to them.

But this didn’t lead to Nicholas giving up the fight for justice. Instead he broadened his approach to it, going from the tireless fighter for justice for his son to a fighter for justice for all of the victims of brutal, murdering police. He welcomed the opportunity to join with other family members of victims of police murder and with activists who wanted to stop this horror.

He was one of the people who initiated the Stolen Lives Project, which documented the bitter reality of how police across the country killed more than 2,000 people in the 1990s, most of them Black or Latino, most of them young, and many of them unarmed and doing nothing wrong when their lives were stolen by those who were sworn to protect and serve. After the book Stolen Lives came out, he told me that with the pictures and stories of people killed by the police, it looked like a high school yearbook because so many of the victims were youths.

Nicholas was for real. And he was a radical guy, a seeker. He hated what this system has done to Black people since the first Africans were dragged to these shores in slave chains 400 years ago, and he came to hate all the injustices inflicted on people here and around the world. He hated this so much that he was wanting and willing to dig deeper to do something about it. He didn’t just want to know that the system was perpetrating injustices against the people, he wanted to know why and what could be done to stop it.

He searched for answers to these questions, and he found a lot in Bob Avakian, the leader of the Revolutionary Communist Party, and the talks and writing he has done to bring to the masses of people the root cause of the problems the people face and why only an actual revolution could end all these horrors and bring about a radically different and better world.

In 2011 Nicholas was part of the host committee for the launch of BAsics—a book of quotations and short essays from the writings of Bob Avakian that is a handbook for revolution. As he put it in a statement:

“I remember hearing Bob Avakian talking about Revolution and speaking up for poor people. And I love how he speaks the truth about what’s going on and backs it up with facts, and mixes in a little humor. In today’s fucked up world, I need what Bob Avakian brings to the situation—the whole world does.”

And: “The book BAsics is a reality call to all the horrible things that the people are forced to live under. ... It is time for the people to Get, Read and Talk about the Book BAsics and ask yourself: Do I we want our children living in a world like this, fighting the same battles that we and our ancestors have already fought for? Come on my People Let’s Get Down With the BASICS!

Nicholas was also part of the host committee for Revolution and Religion—the dialogue between Bob Avakian and Cornel West over the role of religion in the fight for human emancipation that was held at Riverside Church in 2014.

Nicholas will be sorely missed. We will miss his fierce determination to Stop Police Terror, his smile and sense of humor. There will be a hole in our hearts in the weeks, months, and even years to come.

Our response to this loss needs to be to remember Nicholas and to join with his wife, Donna, his son, Quentin, and the rest of his family and friends in grieving over having lost him. We have to take up the fight that Nicholas was so dedicated to, the fight to Stop Police Terror. And we have to connect that fight to the struggle to make revolution and end all the horrors humanity suffers around the world and in this country. We have to draw from Nicholas’s words about the devastation suffered by those who lose a loved one at the hands of the police, who are supposed to protect and serve, and decide that we too don’t want to live in, or pass onto future generations, a world where this and other such horrors are routine occurrences.

Nicholas Heyward Sr.—Presente.

Graphic contributed to Translation:

“Nicholas Heyward
You are part of the fire that will end the police terror and its damn system!
We are grateful”

Nicholas Heyward, Sr.
June 24, 1957 – December 31, 2018

Kimberlé Crenshaw, Eve Ensler, Carl Dix, Nicholas Heyward, Sr., and Cornel West at Columbia University, October 7, 2015, at an event building for the protest of Rise Up October—an outpouring of resistance to police terror in NYC in 2015. Photo: Alex Seel


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