Never Let Me Down: Sit-Ins Still Work

Garrick McFadden
11 min readNov 11, 2022

“I get down for my grandfather
Who took my mama, made her sit in that seat
Where white folks ain’t want us to eat
At the tender age of six she was arrested for the sit-ins
And with that in my blood, I was born to be different” — Never Let Me Down, Kanye West.

About seven years ago I staged a sit-in at the Yuma County Attorney’s Office (“YCAO”). It was just me and my play uncle. For nonblack people who might be unfamiliar with the term of art, a play person is a person who is so close to the family that they are considered family. My play uncle had been away visiting his family when someone stole his truck and used it in the commission of a crime. It had been over nine weeks and he still did not have this truck back. The culprits had been caught. The vehicle had been processed by the crime lab and the police placed the blame on the YCAO for not returning his truck to him. It was my play uncle's only source of transportation. He had called, emailed, and even showed up to the office requesting that it be returned. They ignored his reasonable pleas. Since I am the family lawyer and my dad had now assumed the position of patriarch of the family, he summoned me to call, fax letters, and email YCAO for the return of his play brother’s truck. I was mired in two weeks' worth of futility. Finally, I admitted that we were at an impasse. There was only one thing left to do: journey to Yuma, Arizona to get justice. The only thing I could do was stage a sit-in, and that is what I did. My play uncle and I invaded their space. We corrupted their air with our blackness.

I am reminded of this story because my mother told me that my father staged his own sit-in after my mother had suffered a debilitating spell of pain in a medical lab facility. She was reduced to a howling and slobbering mess as the sudden onset of pain besieged her. She had previously been prescribed medicine for her condition. Despite my parents’ best efforts, they were unable to get the prescription filled. Distraught by seeing his bride of 60-plus years immobilized by excruciating pain, he dropped her off at home and made a bee-line to the doctor’s office that had prescribed the required medication to stave off any other attacks. My mother was beaming with pride as she explained what he did for her: he staged a sit-in at her doctor’s office.

Garrick McFadden

I am a civil-rights attorney. I write about #whiteness, #racism, #hiphop, policing & politics.