by Amanda Zhang
One year ago, liberal Madison experienced a brutal awakening that brought to light many of the racial issues that affect communities of color. Tony Terrell Robinson, a graduate of Sun Prairie High School, was only nineteen when he was shot and killed by officer Matt Kenney on March 6 of last year.
Organized by the Young, Gifted, and Black Coalition (YGB), the Anniversary March, held last Friday, March 4, symbolically invoked a sense of progress to “march forth.” Rev. David Smith began things by starting with a prayer. The event was overwhelming peaceful, drawing family, friends, passionate activists, and allies for whom Tony Robinson could not be so easily forgotten.
At the forefront of the procession was a large banner with the words “Black Lives Matter” painted across its length. YGB also organized a weekend-long memorial dedicated to Tony. The weekend events included a celebration dinner in memory of Tony’s life. Moments of bittersweet happiness were interspersed with an air of anguish and pain.
Andrea Irwin, Tony’s mother, said, “Since a year from this day, we still have not received justice… It was identified as a justifiable shooting as he was unarmed and not lucid to make proper decisions… He was my son. He was my baby … and he is no longer here.”
Officer Matt Kenney is still employed with the Madison Police Department, having received no serious consequences for his actions. YGB explains, “The community continues to be impacted by the loss of one of our children. WE continue to cry out for justice. We continue to reject the notion that it is acceptable for a person to murder a child without consequence… The implications of a man being found JUST in murdering a Black boy without due process is a tell tale sign of the state of Madison, WI.”
For those not living the reality of being Black in Madison, it may be easy to forget the constant plight of racial minorities. After all, Madison is primarily known as one of the best cities in the country to live — for white folks. The shooting of Tony Robinson brought attention, both local and national, to a problem that has always existed. Racial disparity exists in and affects all aspects of life for people of color.
Dane County continues to have one of the highest incarceration rates for Black folks while maintaining an alarmingly low graduation rate for Black high school students. As shocking as Tony’s early death was for Madison, he was only one amongst countless others killed at the hands of law enforcement across the country.
But, there is hope. Since Tony’s death, Black leaders and allies have prevented a new Dane County Jail from being constructed, a significant win for the over-policed and over-incarcerated Black community. The momentum of the movement depends on community members continuing to become aware of and confront systemic issues of racism that may often times make them uncomfortable. And so, we march forth.