Activists, organizers and supporters of Kendrick “KJ” Johnson and his family are continuing a push by the Johnson family, their attorneys and community to find out why and how the 17-year-old died. National and grassroots organizations and their representatives want the truth and Alexis Bell, is one of them.
“We know that something happened,” said Ms. Bell, a mass communications and Spanish major at Valdosta State University. She is also the campus NAACP president.
Kendrick’s body was found Jan. 11, 2013, rolled up inside a gym mat in Lowndes High School in Valdosta, Ga. Officials ruled the teen’s death an accident concluding he fell head first inside the upright mat and suffocated after trying to retrieve a shoe.
Others suspect foul play pointing to results of a second independent autopsy attributing Kendrick’s death to blunt force trauma. It was also discovered several of his organs were missing during the second autopsy. (See coverage in The Final Call, Vol. 33, No. 3 and Vol. 33, No. 6.)
Attorneys for Mr. and Mrs. Johnson fought to have video footage from several cameras in and around the gymnasium released, hoping it would provide clues on exactly how Kendrick died.
In November, a video expert hired by CNN reviewed footage from cameras mounted in the school called the footage “suspicious,” due to an hour of missing footage reported media outlets. Time stamps on footage were also missing.
"Just like with the tapes, a forensic person was able to evaluate them and see that something had been done to the tapes. Everything that we’ve found out up until this point has only posed more and more questions. I feel like they think that giving us these little bits and jots of information is going to shut us up and going to keep us quiet but its only pacifying the situation,” said Ms. Bell. “We just want the answers. What happened to him? Because everything that they’ve given us is pieces of the puzzle, we want to see the bigger picture,” she added.
Ms. Bell said young people have been inspired and energized with a determination to pressure lawmakers and others to make sure justice is served. She has participated in several rallies; many of them held in front of the courthouse in Valdosta and she is one several featured speakers at the planned Dec. 11 rally. Kendrick’s family and supporters were converging in his honor at the Georgia State Capitol in Atlanta.
“You always hear about these kinds of stories happening in places that aren’t really close to you. But being that I am the NAACP president, this happened in my school’s backyard; it made it more serious for me. It put fire to me to make me want to be more active in the case.”
Other featured speakers at the rally include according to organizers, civil rights pioneer Rev. Joseph Lowery, Rev. Al Sharpton of the National Action Network, Martin Luther King III, activist and media personality Jeff Johnson, Dr. Michael Eric Dyson, Johnson family attorney’s Chevene B. King and Benjamin Crump and many more.
For more information, visit the Justice for Kendrick Johnson Movement at www.justiceforkendrickjohnson.com.