Angela McKnight ‘kept it real’ about gang violence during impassioned June 2014 speech

On June 25th, 2014, Hudson County View documented a ten-minute long speech by Angela McKnight, the current Hudson County Democratic Organization candidate for NJ Assembly in LD-31, regarding gang violence affecting the black community.

Angela McKnight - Morticians That Care

In front of City Hall, during a council meeting, and in the aftermath of the Lavon King shooting, Morticians That Care staged a rally in Jersey City.

Among the speakers was Angela McKnight, an advocate for senior citizens and a community activist, but unknown as a political entity to most at the time.

Background of the Rally and Night

According to the website of Morticians That Care, founder Tyrone Muhammed “spearheaded his civic activism through discussions with families about ways to reduce crime in their respective communities.”

Muhammed is notable for organizing rallies to speak out against violence plaguing the black community in Newark, Jersey City, and other locations.

That June night, which included fiery speeches from multiple speakers, was infamous for a confrontation between Muhammed and Jersey City NAACP President William Braker.

The tension dealt with multiple issues, including who would pay for the funeral costs of Lavon King.

Muhammed, when speaking about the costs he incurs as a mortician, told Braker and the Jersey City NAACP to “put the money up for that young brother that just got shot by that goddamned crooked cop.”

Prior to that comment, Muhammed accused Braker of letting drug dealers operate in front of the branch’s office.

“Now, if the NAACP wanna do something, they would go in front of their damn headquarters and tell them negroes to stop selling drugs in front of [the Jersey City NAACP office]… If you ain’t got the courage to stand up and tell them young brothers that stand out in front of your office they can’t stop selling drugs in front of this place, well then damn it you ain’t got no backbone.”

At a recent Jersey City NAACP meeting, Braker detailed a ‘stop & frisk’ incident in front of the branch headquarters on MLK drive to Public Safety Director James Shea and accused plainclothes officers of stereotyping.

Angela McKnight “Keeping it Real” about gang violence plaguing the black community

McKnight started her speech with a question – “Where did we go wrong? One of the answers is we are too damn territorial.”

She then noted the upcoming eight year anniversary of her nephew’s death, which she had done at a similar rally two weeks prior at Salem Lafayette Court following the non-fatal shooting of a five-year-old boy.

“My nephew was shot in the ankles, and then shot in the head… he was gone from us due to gang violence.”

McKnight didn’t hide her frustration with the event’s relatively low turnout either, which she claimed occurred at the rally two weeks prior, saying “I give praise to everyone that’s here, because we can’t worry about who’s not here.”

She followed up by discussing her son, who had just graduated from the 8th grade the day prior, and his fear of going outside.

“It’s a shame he doesn’t want to go outside because he’s afraid. He catches the bus home everyday from school… my husband, his father, picks him up when gets off the bus because we are too afraid that a stray bullet may kill him.”

“He’s afraid to go play basketball because of the violence.. he’s only thirteen years old.. he’s going to high school in September, what can I do? The only thing I can do is pray.”

Moments later McKnight said that “we need our city officials, we need all those people on that Facebook Political Insider page (a local Facebook political group)” to support the rally, before ripping on people who talk about “what they can do… but I don’t see nothing.”

“I’m not here to knock anybody, but when I read ‘oh we should do this, oh we should do that’ and then I don’t see nothing, then why are you talking? Just because you want someone to hear you?”

McKnight then transitioned into talking about her choice to leave her job to help senior citizens.

“It’s been four years, I do not got paid not one dime. I done used my 401k. I done used my direct ING. I done used everything. I have nothing… But you know what? My mortgage is paid every month.”

“Money do not deter me from what I do… I do what I do because I care.”

McKnight then transitioned back to her issue with the lack of people at the rally, turning her attention to the Jersey City Council, Mayor Fulop, and other city officials.

“I think this meeting is more important than that City Council meeting, because there gonna have another one in two weeks.”

“Why can’t they come out here and tell us it’s going to be ok? We will march with you, we will walk with you, we will get our mayor down here, we’ll get the chief, hopefully by now we can get a new chief, but we will get the acting chief down here and say – let us work together.”

“Our black men are killing each other, and there’s other races that are killing our black men, but we are here tonight. Where’s everyone? Where are they?”

She followed up by going deeper into the issue of black-on-black violence, specifically the perceived inaction by the black community to address the problem.

“When Trayvon Martin passed away, and he was killed by that white cop, everybody was out… everybody was out, every church… everybody had those hoodies on. Why can’t we walk around with blood on our shirt? Let’s get some kool-aid and walk around with some blood on our shirts, to make a statement.”

McKnight added that the youth needed to hear the message directly, and that it was time to “start marching on MLK, and Ocean Avenue, and Bergen Avenue and start saying what is the matter? Maybe they are crying, but they don’t know how to.”

She added, “what is the issue? If there’s no jobs, alright lets create some jobs. I gotta job, but I don’t get paid! I gotta job! So what do we do as a community? It doesn’t matter if we’re black or white, or Hispanic, or Chinese, we are the human race.”

McKnight then added another personal story, the death of her cousin-in-law from gang violence.

“He got killed, not by a gun, but he got jumped. Just because he accidentally bumped someone, and said excuse me, and he got killed and all his friends ran… I know so many people that were killed by guns. I may not talk about it a lot, but I feel the pain… my nephew gunned down, shot in the head… my thirteen-year-old son can’t even go outside because he’s afraid.”

“So what do we do as a community? This is step two, so I applaud [Tyrone Muhammed] and [Antonio “Chill” Campbell] for having us, but I know there are other black men who saying ‘what they wanna do’ and they’re not here. I don’t see them, but later on when I go on Facebook I’m gonna read some crap about a political leader, and what he or she is not doing. I don’t care about what they’re doing, what are you doing? As [Takeisha “The Truth” Stewart] said – you point a finger out, you get four in.”

McKnight then offered a plan of action to deal with the violence, which she claimed has senior citizens living in fear, stating “what we have to do now, we have to go to our youth. We have to go on those corners.”

McKnight also referenced a conversation she had with someone who decided not to open a business on Martin Luther King Drive in Jersey City, which included the use of a racial epithet.

“I just spoke to someone, they said ‘you know what, I’m not gonna try to put a store on MLK because the n***ers are gonna be in front of the door.’ But we have to put those stores to tell those black men we not afraid. We have to put those stores on MLK, and say – you know what, let’s call 911, they’re loitering.”

Finally, McKnight added “we cannot continue to pacify the issue” and that she would continue to rally with Morticians That Care.

“We need more people, not just our black people, we need everyone out here because we are all humans. Because you know what, if the black keep killing the black, what’s going to happen next? They gonna start killing another race, and another race, and another race. So let’s unite, let’s continue to unite, and let’s do more.”

McKnight did not return a message seeking comment on this story.

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