by Marsha Coleman-Abedayo, published on Black Agenda Report, September 9, 2020
The human rights community mourns veteran activist Kevin Zeese, my friend and comrade.
“He stood his ground and left an indelible mark in our memory and the landscape of the fight for human decency and liberation of the human spirit.”
“For the Anniversary of My Death”
by W.S. Merwin
Every year without knowing it I have passed the day
When the last fires will wave to me
And the silence will set out
Like the beam of a lightless star
Then I will no longer
Find myself in life as in a strange garment
Surprised at the earth
And the love of one woman
And the shamelessness of men
As today writing after three days of rain
Hearing the wren sing and the falling cease
And bowing not knowing to what
Having met Kevin Zeese during the Occupy movement in September of 2011, by Merwin’s metric we passed unknowing the day that had finally come for Kevin nine times. Nine times we, (Kevin, Margaret Flowers -his loving partner, and I) were engaged in the struggle in one way or another. Occupy DC, Occupy the EPA, Hands Up Don’t Shoot, Justice Mondays at the Department of Justice to name a few and lastly only hours before his transition — the fight to stop the desecration of Moses African Cemetery in Bethesda, Maryland.
And there, always present, always willing, always gentle in his manner and generous with his wisdom, his strength, his courage—was Kevin. Passionate. Articulate. Good-natured.
I remember the first time I saw his T-shirt, emblazoned with his campaign slogan during his run for the US Senate: Zeese and Resist! That was Kevin. And the courtroom artist’s rendering of him when he argued before the Supreme Court, displayed among the many mementos that one with his penchant for advocacy acquires in the years, in the decades, in the long pull of history.
“Always willing, always gentle in his manner and generous with his wisdom.”
After this shock and all of the pain, what I will remember is Kevin’s voice last Friday, his patience, and the calm demeanor he carried with him in the heat of our struggle to save Moses African Cemetery, in the heat of the road in Bethesda on a hot September day when he stood and reasoned with the police who had arrayed themselves again against our non-violent protests as though we were the ones threatening violence, as though we were the ones hurling invective, curses, and threats. There, at the side of River Road, stood Kevin Zeese, nodding, listening, offering alternatives, presenting our case that resulted in no-arrests.
The Bethesda African Cemetery Coalition (BACC) “Save Moses African Cemetery” protests last Thursday and Friday would be his last stand as an activist, a warrior for liberation of the human family, while securing a promise from the police that they would not be arresting any of the hundred-plus activists that had come to stand with us on what we would all learn with sadness was Kevin’s last day as an activist.
The youth of BACC, in particular worked closely with Kevin, as he provided instruction on Thursday Night in techniques of non-violent resistance that they might need during the Friday action.
Over the years, I’ve worked with Kevin and Margaret on a number of political actions. We worked closely together on a project called: “Justice Monday” in the aftermath of the murder of Trayvon Martin. We organized demonstrations in front of the Department of Justice (DOJ) every Monday afternoon. The goal of “Justice Monday” was to force DOJ to release the Report of Investigation (ROI) that we were certain would exonerate George Zimmerman for violating the civil rights of Trayvon Martin. We instinctively knew that the Obama Administration’s Attorney General Eric Holder was going to exonerate Zimmerman but wanted to soft pedal their decision. Through protests and demonstrations, Justice Monday succeeded in forcing the DOJ to release the ROI, that in fact, exonerated Zimmerman.
Our Friend, a Fighter for the People
Years later, Kevin and Margaret were among the first to answer the call to battle against developers and their enablers in the Montgomery County Maryland Planning Board and our local government. Their experience and moral support enabled the fledgling organization to grow and make “good trouble.” Kevin and Margaret gifted BACC with its very first banner. Kevin and Margaret have not spared time and energy in driving more than two hours time after time to support and help with our struggle. His inner strength is reflected in humility and gentleness, ever so kind and patient.
On a personal level, I came to deeply trust Kevin’s advice and keen ability to deconstruct the pitfalls of fighting injustice.
Kevin was a devoted supporter of Black Agenda Report. Kevin and Margaret would attend the yearly fundraiser and provide articles to BAR. In addition, they both supported the Left Forum, a yearly gathering of progressives from around the world that meet in New York.
Kevin died the way he lived, in the midst of struggle for racial justice and the dismantling of the architecture of white supremacy. The Friday before his transition, he stood his ground and left an indelible mark in our memory and the landscape of the fight for human decency and liberation of the human spirit. He is missed and he left a light to guide us through the challenges that lay ahead. Valiant warrior Rest in Power- our Ancestor!
There will be an online tribute to Kevin on Saturday, September 19 at 3:00 pm Eastern/12:00 pm Pacific on Zoom. Click here to register . This event will also be livestreamed atFacebook.com/PopularResistanceOrg andYouTube.com/PopularResistanceOrg .
Tributes to Kevin are already being posted. Here are a few:
Please see below a link to the BACC demonstration discussed above.
Dr. Marsha Adebayo is the author of the Pulitzer Prize nominated: No FEAR: A Whistleblowers Triumph over Corruption and Retaliation at the EPA . She worked at the EPA for 18 years and blew the whistle on a US multinational corporation that endangered South African vanadium mine workers. Marsha’s successful lawsuit led to the introduction and passage of the first civil rights and whistleblower law of the 21st century: the Notification of Federal Employees Anti-discrimination and Retaliation Act of 2002 (No FEAR Act). Marsha was inducted into the Maryland Women’s Hall of Fame, March 2017. Currently, she is working to stop the Housing Opportunities Commission (HOC) and the Bethesda Self-Storage Company/1784 Holdings from its continue desecration of Moses African Cemetery in Bethesda, Maryland.