Reverend Sheri Amore Dickerson has used the rallying cry “Stop killing us” for years to call out police in Oklahoma for the disproportionate rate of police violence against Black and brown communities in the Sooner state.
“Our law enforcement institutions are militarized, and they routinely utilize violent force, with a discrepancy in the number of Black and brown individuals who are victims in those instances,” Dickerson stated.
According to a study published in the Lancet, Oklahoma had the highest rate of deadly police violence in the country between 1980 and 2019. This is especially concerning for the state’s Black residents, who account for 6 out of every 10 police homicide victims despite making up only 7% of the population.
Dickerson is the executive director of the Black Lives Matter chapter in Oklahoma City. She also offers spiritual guidance to Black families in Oklahoma who have lost loved ones to police violence.
In recent years, the state has seen a rash of police-related homicides, including Terence Crutcher, a 40-year-old unarmed Black man who was slain by Tulsa Police Officer Betty Shelby when his SUV stalled on a highway in 2016.
Crutcher’s death received widespread attention and outrage, although Shelby was found not guilty of manslaughter in his death. Bennie Edwards, 60, was slain by police in December 2020 after allegedly charging officers with a knife before fleeing and being shot in the back by officer Clifford Holman. Holman was charged with manslaughter later on.
Dickerson says that a year before George Floyd’s death, in May 2019, a similar incident involving Derrick Scott, 42, occurred in Oklahoma, where he was apprehended on the ground with an officer’s knee on his neck. “Mr. Scott was saying I can’t breathe,” Dickerson recalled, adding that he did not make it to the hospital for treatment. The officers involved were not charged criminally.
Isaiah Lewis, 17, was slain by police in April 2019 after allegedly breaking into a property. He was shot and killed while fleeing from police through a neighborhood while nude. The officer involved was not charged criminally.
While it’s no surprise that non-white people in Oklahoma have a history of having run-ins with the police, Dickerson says activists are experimenting with various strategies to effect change in addition to demonstrating. She is a member of a task force formed by other activists, community members, clergy, and law enforcement to address police violence in the state.
“We’re still trying to get everyone involved, especially law enforcement, to acknowledge that there is a problem with police violence,” she said. “Some of the only times they’ve even spoken up was when the term violence was actually used, and they objected, saying it’s not violence, and I said that’s exactly what it is even if you look at the core definition,” she said.
In a state where the population is 74 percent white, Dickerson and the Black Lives Matter movement have focused on ending police violence and repealing the death sentence. She understands how important it is to keep issues affecting Black, brown, and indigenous populations front and center.
“Our fundamental demand has been to stop killing us,” she added, adding that this applies to all sorts of state-sanctioned violence, including interactions with law enforcement and capital punishment.
The Oklahoma City Police Department’s spokesperson said it would be “inappropriate to comment” on the Lancet article because they are a municipality, and referred Atlanta Black Star to the Oklahoma Association of Chiefs of Police.
ABS reached out to the Oklahoma Association of Chiefs of Police and the Oklahoma Fraternal Order of Police for comment, but received no response at the time of publication.