URL Media’s The Intersection
Saturday, May 13, 2023
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This is URL Media’s Saturday newsletter where we lift the veil and analyze the most pressing issues facing our communities.

Protesters march down 6th Avenue in Manhattan, seeking justice for Jordan Neely who was killed May 1 on the F Train. Credit: Hari Adivarekar for Epicenter-NYC

Along with poverty, Neely’s death was also a failure of humanity

Jordan Neely, a 30-year-old Black man, was killed May 1 after reportedly yelling out, “I don’t have food, I don’t have a drink, I’m fed up. I don’t mind going to jail and getting life in prison. I’m ready to die.”

Instead of offering help, 24-year-old Daniel Penny, a white ex-marine, held Neely in a chokehold for 15 minutes as two other men helped to hold him down and other subway riders looked on. Juan Alberto Vazquez, a freelance journalist who filmed and posted video of Neely’s death to social media, said Neely did not assault or threaten anyone on the train.

Neely was a Michael Jackson impersonator who used to busk on the subways up until a year ago when the New York City Police Department began cracking down on fare evasion at subway stations throughout the city. In 2007, at just 18 years old, Neely had to testify at the trial of the man accused of murdering his mother, Christie Neely. 

Neely was unhoused at the time of his murder.

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According to The Bowery Mission, a nonprofit serving homeless New Yorkers, there are approximately 70,000 homeless people living in New York City — or almost one in every 120 New Yorkers is unhoused. Of those, an estimated 3,400 people live unsheltered in the city’s subways or on the streets.

But it doesn’t have to be this way.

In June 2021, the Center for American Progress published a list of the top 12 things that can be done to cut poverty in the United States

The list included expanding safety net programs; creating good-paying jobs; raising the minimum wage; providing permanent paid sick leave; increasing worker power; permanently increasing the child tax and earned income tax credits, and supporting pay equity to name a few.

“Poverty is preventable,” the authors wrote. “America has the power and ability to ensure that all people residing within its borders can build financial stability and live their lives with dignity.”

Just think of how much better Neely’s life would have been had the system actually supported him in getting the resources he so desperately needed. In the wealthiest country in the nation, there is no reason for anybody to be hungry or thirsty or without shelter.

But beyond the failures of our nation as a whole to provide meaningful support for our country’s most vulnerable populations, Neely’s death was also a failure of humanity.

“No disrespect to anyone here, but everyone’s talking about the system, the governor, the mayor, but not about the people on the train that day,” Leo Mutanba, a DoorDash delivery person, told Epicenter-NYC during a protest calling for justice for Neely’s death. “Not to be a superman but if you had any iota or any ounce of humanity in you. The man wasn’t even resisting, and for people to put a camera on a man getting choked out or dying. I wasn’t there, and don’t want to judge, but you would think somebody would try to save the man. 

“And that was the saddest thing for me,” he continued. “Regardless of the intentions of the killer, everybody was complicit in that act. It happens all the time. People take out their cameras to film but they don’t try to intervene. They just watched a man get murdered in front of them.”

This, for me, is probably the most tragic part of Neely’s death. The majority of those on the train car did nothing to help him. They watched silently, or worse, filmed and shared his final moments on this planet. 

And, in death, he still has no peace. His name has been dragged through the mud as if his past actions justify his killing, while his killer will seemingly face zero consequences for his actions.

“Neely deserved to be saved, he deserved money, and he deserved food and water,” Prism Editorial Director Laura Witt wrote for the outlet. “Neely deserved warmth, community, and tenderness. Neely deserved to live.” —Alicia Ramirez

Uplift. Respect. Love.

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