Racially/Disabled Profiled in Ottawa, Canada

Tiny - Posted on 19 June 2015

Leroy Moore

Leroy Moore interviewed Sulekha Ali, who is speaking out after her autistic brother was profiled by police. The transcript is below.

Leroy Moore: First welcome to Krip-Hop Nation & Poor Magazine on Hard Knock Radio KPFA here in Berkeley, CA and tell your brother, Abby, a belated birthday. You are talking from Ottawa, Canada. Tell us about yourself, family and brother and what happen to him on June 3rd.

Sulekha, Ali: Thank you Leroy. It's an absolute delight, and sincerely thanks for that. Yes. I'm located in Ottawa, Ontario.

Sulekha, Ali: Right. Well, I don't even know where to start as it relates to telling you about my family. But what I will say is that my parents immigrated from wartime Somalia back in 1990. They came here with literally nothing in their pockets.  I would say that I'm always, I was so grateful for what they instilled within us the wisdom to understand that there's more purpose to your life than anybody could ever tell you.  And that you have to actually find it for yourself. So my parents have seven children. I'm the youngest. Abdullahi aka Abby is actually the third child. He's autistic and he was diagnosed with autism when he was four years old. And he's severely autistic. So, he's mute. He cannot communicate through-- he communicates through touch and sound. And that's the way that he's able to, to uh, voice his concerns, as much as he can.

But what happened on June 3 is something that I'm still truly baffled about, but I'll speak to things that I can actually speak to, because these police officers won't give us any more information. What they stated is that they received a tip- OK. So on June 3, the police officers, the tactical squad came into my house with force. They had a warrant, because they received a tip stating that they had reason to believe that somebody in this household has a gun. So that is all that they will provide us in reference to any sort of information as they-- there was three people present at home at the time. My brother, Abbey, was one of them and he is 22 years old. My two other brothers were at home at the time as well. All three of them were arrested.

And, one thing that I really want to address is that, I'm not upset about the reason why they came into my house, because they have to do their job. They are notified. They have to-- if a tip comes in, it is their duty. We as citizens have to be protected by them. And I have absolutely no qualms about that whatsoever. What I have an issue with is that if you're going to investigate a household that you claim has a firearm, you should look into that house with information, including all the people that live in that house. So you should have known that somebody with autism could be present in the household at that time. What I'm upset about is the lack of expectation on their part, once on the premise, prior to when they were even in my household, and then even more so, once they had Abdullahi, aka Abby, in custody. So they arrested my brother. My other brother was in the household at the time. He was screaming. He was trying to tell them that Abbey can not understand their commands. They, the police officers, kept telling "Abby, to get on the ground" but he,was not, you know, reciprocating to their demands, because again, he's not understanding them. He's mute. So my brother's yelling at them, saying, "he can't understand. He's autistic!"  Well now, they have my other brother in handcuffs. They yelled at him, they say "why is he not listening, and have to repeat it for the third time."  And finally they moved Abby outside on the stairs with his other brothers. And his brother had to calm Abdullahi down and told him, no, do not come downstairs Abby, it's going to be OK.

 So the officer had Abby in cuffs at this point. Walking him down the stairs. And then they got my other brother in the cop car. And then, so all, two of the boys that are not autistic are in the cop car at this time. Finally the third one out of the house is Abby and he's barefoot!

They put him in the back of the cop car. All three are in there for an hour and a half. My older brother who is essentially the caregiver for him, Abby, during the daytime while we're all at work, is acting for his well-being. Questions starts to come out like, Does he have water, is he OK? I'm worried about him, can you communicate? The cops are not responding to him, they're not allowing him to speak to my brother. Nothing at all, there's no communication. There's no air conditioner. He has on, uh, a wet diaper. Uh, it's already an hour and a half into the investigation, that they call my dad to come pick up Abby from the back of the cop car. All charges were dropped within the same day, because they found nothing. They left the house in complete dismay. They will not provide any further, uh, information. I went to the police station to ask them for a report, they stated that they don't have one ready for me. I asked them why they don't, and they can't speak to why they don't. I even contacted the local newspaper and she, uh, as a journalist said that it was really baffling to her because when she called and inquired about it, the police didn't have any information for her. And she said it was really bizarre. Nothing has been in the media about this. And that's what bothers me because if they did find anything, of course it'd be all over the air. Is it, because they're at fault, nothing is in the media. And nobody wants to listen to the story. There's money missing from my house. We have property missing. They've damaged everything, they're not willing to pay. And I really cannot tell you how much this has fueled me to ensure that people with disabilities do not go through something like this ever again. Ever.

Leroy Moore: Definitely. Definitely. I'm so glad you're telling your story. I'm a person with a disability, and I'm African American so I totally understand, you know, your cause and stuff. I'm a poet, you know, I do poetry and I do activism. And I wrote this poem called Disabled Profile. Because I've been profiled a lot. You know. Like, your brother. You know, tell us, you know, has your brother got support from both communities, from the black community and the disabled community?

Sulekha, Ali: They did. One thing that I will say is that I've reached out to his advocacy worker. I reached out to him on numerous occasions, because I want to get him legal representation. And I still have not heard back from them. I've left them numerous voicemails, I've emailed him. And I have not heard back from him. But I'm hoping to get that as soon as I can. They, the community, in Ottawa here is amazing. Like my brother grew up until the age of 18 at Cooper Valley. And they have been nothing but supportive. They've been sharing his story on Facebook, they've been asking if there's anything that they can do, wanting to volunteer to help clean the house. So to me, those people have been truly the light at the end of the tunnel. Because it's just nice to know that your brother is supported outside of the people within his household.

Leroy Moore: Yeah! As you know in the US we have Black Lives Matter what can Black Lives Matter happen to your brother? What can Black Lives Matter learn from what happened to your brother.

Sulekha, Ali: So one of the things that people can learn is that there needs to be more conversations.  There needs to be transparency that relates to information about cases of this nature. Why has this not been told? Why is this story not out there? Why is it that, if only they had found a firearm, which we have never been criminals. Like, I've used my words to empower people and I was never raised in way my parents spoke to violence.

Violence is not the answer to anything. I've never seen a gun. I barely even know how to pronounce the word gun, to be honest with you. But to me, what I want people to know about this is that, we need to have the tools to understand, what power do these people have? And when I say these people, the cops. Why is it that they are not protecting people with disabilities when it comes to them doing their job? There has to be some news. There has to be a happy medium. I understand you have a job to do. My brother also has a right to be protected by you and against you.

Leroy Moore: Yeah, yeah, definitely. So what do you want activists in Ottawa and here in the Bay Area to do to highlight the injustice toward your brother.

Sulekha, Ali: I think that awareness is key. If we collectively can come together to shed light on this, then maybe they will listen and understand that there's something that they need to do to better themselves. And again, I want to keep saying that I don't want to be seen as though I'm attacking the police force.  Because that's not my mandate. I really want to empower them to empower themselves to do better by us. Because we're living in a world now where I see more bad than good.

And is it because that's all I'm prone to searching online? Perhaps. But it bothers me because there is something we're going through that I have to speak on. And I, I write music. And I try to write music so that I can get people to put themselves in someone else's shoes. Just for a second. Because our story is not the only story that's being told. And I think there is something profound with that very notion itself.

Leroy Moore: Yeah you know. I really believe in the power and healing of culture work. Your are an artist/singer. Will you write a song about what happened to your family and your brother?

Sulekha, Ali: I think sub-consciously I've already written one. And I don't know if it's foreshadowing. For me, the poetry that comes from the songs that I write comes from life experiences. So I can only speak to what I have written. And I can say that a lot of it has to do with atrocities against, like-- I have a song titled, Somalia.

Leroy Moore: Yeah, I love that song.

Sulekha, Ali: Thank you so much. And you know, I've never, let me very briefly, I've never been violated as a woman. I feel, I've been there. But in that song I took on that role, of seeing that at a young age. And because those are the lessons that other people have taught me, um, about going to things like that and how it is important for them to heal.

Through us, using words that are powerful. Like, the word rape is a powerful word. But it's how we use it, it's the context we use it in, right. So we have to use it in a way that allows them to feel empowered. Yes, it is a hurtful word, because rape is not something that anybody wants to raise their kid with. But, use it. If you've been raped, empower yourself to be able to say, I have been a victim of rape, but I will not allow it to define me. So my brother is a disabled individual, but he does not allow it define him. It is not the core of who he is. It's a part of him, but it's not everything that he is. So for me, it's about protecting each other. And I really, I want to protect his legacy.

Leroy Moore: Yeah, and I want to, as Krip-Hop, put your story out there and really tell you, your brother and others that disability is a culture. It has a history, it has a community. And you know, being in the US I would love to keep on supporting him, your brother through Krip-Hop Nation and all the work I do. What does justice look like to you, in your definition right now? 

Sulekha, Ali: Justice, to me, is somebody being able to be themselves freely. So my brother should freely be everything that he is without somebody imposing on that. And that's what they did on June 3. They imposed on his right to be a person who can not communicate. When you forced him outside of the realm of what he's capable of doing. So they attacked him in a way that he did not deserve to. And they lied, really, really. I am like, completely shocked still. But he hasn't been himself since. He really hasn't. He hasn't slept.  I noticed that he's, he's not as affectionate as he used to be. And again, it's still very new, right. And I shouldn't expect him to bounce back quickly. But freedom to me, is - and justice rather, I should say--to me, would be for him to be himself even when somebody tries to take that, or take that away from him.

Leroy Moore: Now tell me what is next for you, and tell us one more time how can we help in the US and around the world.

Sulekha, Ali: Well, I think youve already done it just by allowing me to share the story. Um, what's next for me is that I am going to use this as a pillar of really propelling this newfound love that I have for advocacy. And it's not only limited to individuals with disabilities but it's about humanity. We have a right to be protected, and we have agreed to protect one another. But for me, I found a new sense of purpose. Behind every tragedy lies some sort of light. And I think that I found that within-this, as sad as that is. So I'm grateful.

Leroy Moore: Now tell us how people can contact you.

Sulekha, Ali: People can contact me, um, I'm on Facebook. My name is Sulekha Ali on Facebook. You can also contact me by email, connectwithsulekha@gmail.com.

Leroy Moore: Is there a Facebook page for your brother?

Sulekha, Ali: No. I do have an artist page, uh, which I've been posting, you know, things that are related to what he went through on June 3. However, I have made a vow to start a non-profit organization called Do It For Abbey with the premise to create awareness for children and adults with disabilities, and how police have a duty to ensure that they are protecting them from any sort of thing that they have to take on. So ultimately this is still brand new. I'm searching on how-- because this is still very new for me. An idea that relates to a non-profit organization. So I don't really know where to start, but I do know that I have purpose. And I think that's all I need at this point in time. But as soon as I get more information on that, I'd be more than happy to provide that to you.

Leroy Moore: That's great, that's great. You know, Krip-Hop is doing a film documentary on police brutality against people with disabilities, so we would love to add your story to it. You know.

Sulekha Ali: Absolutely, I'd love that. And I really, really can't thank you enough Leroy, for everything that you've done. I just really appreciate it.

Leroy Moore: Well thank you so much, and we'll stay in contact.

Sulekha, Ali: Sounds good, will do, and if you need anything from me at any point in time don't hesitate to reach out. OK?

Leroy Moore: All right.

To Hear the Full radio interview click here
















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