In Episode 26 of Brooklyn Historical Society’s podcast Flatbush + Main, co-hosts Zaheer Ali and Julie Golia discuss the tragic 1978 killing of Crown Heights resident Arthur Miller Jr. by police, and consider his important legacy as a community leader, activist, and businessman.
03:21 Histories and Ideas
21:26 Into the Archives
40:10 Voices of Brooklyn
For complete show notes, go to brooklynhistory.org/flatbush-main.
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Segment 1: Histories and Ideas
In segment 1, Zaheer and Julie are joined by Amaka Okechukwu, Assistant Professor of Sociology at George Mason University and the former Project Coordinator for the Voices of Crown Heights oral history project at Brooklyn Historical Society. Amaka, Zaheer, and Julie discuss Arthur Miller Jr.’s remarkable biography and frame his life against the backdrop of 1970s Brooklyn – both the unprecedented financial crisis that cut city services during that decade, and the grassroots community-building undertaken by Miller and his contemporaries. They also discuss the circumstances around his death by chokehold at the hands of New York City police, and analyze parallels to the crisis of police violence across the country today.
To learn more about the NYC fiscal criss of the 1970s, check out Kim Phillips-Fein’s book Fear City: New York’s Fiscal Crisis and the Rise of Austerity Politics.
To learn more about the history of police violence, check out Paul Butler’s book Chokehold: Policing Black Men; and for a broader contextual analysis, Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor’s From #BlackLivesMatter to Black Liberation.
To learn more about Amaka Okechukwu’s work, visit her website.
To learn more about the efforts by Arthur Miller Jr.’s family to preserve his legacy, visit the Arthur Miller Jr. – A Daughter Never Forgets Foundation.
Segment 2: Into the Archives
Julie and Zaheer examine a series of documents from the Eastern Parkway Coalition Papers at Brooklyn Historical Society. Check out the finding aid here. This rich collection documents the plethora of rising community organizations in the neighborhood of Crown Heights in the 1970s and onward. Zaheer and Julie particularly highlight two organizations: the New Muse and the Nostrand Avenue Community Commerce Association – the latter of which was founded by Arthur Miller.
Here are pictures of the documents we examined.
Segment 3: Voices of Brooklyn
Zaheer and Julie listen to excerpts from the oral history of Florence Miller, the widow of Arthur Miller. You can listen to the entire interview on BHS’s Oral History Portal here.
Segment 4: Endorsements
This episode only scratches the surface of the story of Arthur Miller’s legacy and death. Julie endorsed a public program entitled “The Police Killing of Arthur Miller, 40 Years Later.” MSNBC’s Joy-Ann Reid leads a panel discussion featuring former New York City Council Member Al Vann, activist Thenjiwe McHarris, and NAACP representative Lumumba Akinwole-Bandele, who will discuss what has changed — and what has not — in the four decades since Arthur Miller’s death. Members of the Miller family – including Florence Miller – will be special guests. Zaheer and Amaka will kick off the program with a series of oral histories from Crown Heights residents who remember this tragic event.
The event will be held on Thursday, June 14, 2018 at 6:30pm at BHS’s Brooklyn Heights headquarters. Tickets are $5 and free for members; reserve them here.
Zaheer endorsed a public program entitled “The (New) Urban Resistance: Progressives Go Local.” With a federal government mired in dysfunction, cities across the nation are the new frontier of progressive change, presenting solutions to issues that range from income inequality to public health. The event will feature Democracy Now! co-host and former New York Daily News columnist Juan Gonzalez, NYC councilmember (and friend of the podcast) Brad Lander, civil rights and immigration supervisor at Make the Road New York Yaritza Mendez, and Philadelphia City councilperson Helen Gym, who will dig into the power of local advocacy and activism. The event is moderated by The Nation’s Lizzy Ratner and co-sponsored by The Nation magazine as part of its “Cities Rising” series.
The event will be held on Monday, June 25, 2018 at 6:30pm at BHS’s Brooklyn Heights headquarters. Tickets are $5 and free for members; reserve them here.