Louisville residents, local artists and celebrity-activists mixed at a barbecue in Shawnee Park Sunday honoring Breonna Taylor and calling for racial justice.
The event, organized by the New York City-based activist group Until Freedom, drew a couple hundred people, and featured activities for children, product giveaways, food trucks and performances by local and national music artists and poets. It was part of “BreonnaCon,” a weekend of events and action organizers say will culminate in a big demonstration Tuesday.
Until Freedom co-founder Angelo Pinto said Taylor’s family told the group they wanted Until Freedom’s action to be about “the joy and the life of Breonna Taylor,” in addition to calls for social change.
“Part of what we wanted to do is also to celebrate her and celebrate the family, and ask the community to participate in what we’re calling a celebration and a fight for justice,” Pinto said.
The direct action and civil disobedience planned for Tuesday “may not be as joyful,” and the barbecue was a way to offer a “balanced approach,” Pinto said.
Until Freedom has taken heat on social media for organizing a conference that some say fails to center on Taylor, and even capitalizes on her death. One source of derision has been the flyer for Sunday’s “Bre-B-Q,” which feature organizers’ and performers’ photographs against a faded image of Taylor.
But on Sunday, Louisville artist and poet Hannah Drake pushed back against those criticisms.
“A lot of you all have it twisted, and you’re upset about who is on the flyer, and you’re upset about who’s on the mic, and you’re upset because it’s not you,” Drake told the crowd gathered in Shawnee. “It’s not about a flyer, and it’s not about social media influence. It’s about what you can do for justice.”
Taylor’s family was at the barbecue, including Taylor’s mother Tamika Palmer. The family’s attorney, Lonita Baker, said the family supported Until Freedom’s decisions about the conference, including the names of the events.
Performers included Hannah Drake, local hip hop artist Sasha Renee, Rapsody and Trae the Truth.
In the crowd was Brandon Williams, the nephew of George Floyd. Floyd’s brutal death in May at the hands of Minneapolis police sparked nationwide outrage and protests.
Williams came in for BreonnaCon and said he feels a sense of solidarity with the Louisville community and the Taylor family.
“We feel like our families went through similar situations, and you know I can’t say that I can feel their pain, because you know, you can’t feel nobody’s pain. But I know what it’s like,” Williams said. “I want to be here to show support. To see everybody out here for the cause and standing for what’s right, it means a lot.”
Pinto said Until Freedom will hold a press conference at Simmons College on Monday with families who have been impacted by police violence and racist violence, including the families of Trayvon Martin and Ahmaud Arbery.