In April 2018 The Pennsylvania Supreme Court in the USA ordered the release on bail of rapper, Meek Mill. This was after the Philadelphia District Attorney’s office said the artiste’s conviction on gun and drug charges should be overturned as the credibility of a police officer who was a key witness, was called to doubt.
Within that period, fellow artistes and thousands of fans across the world intensified a campaign for Meek’s release. They trended the hashtag #FreeMeekMill and put pressure on authorities, describing him as one of millions of victims of the wobbling justice system.
When thousands of Americans stood their grounds for Meek’s release, they weren’t denying his crimes and wrong turns. Arrested at the tender age of 19, his case had haunted him for 12 years.
What they were demanding, was an overhaul of the justice system and the need for integrity in the lives of those charged with maintaining law and order.
Same can be thought about those who stood up for Blanche Bailly in her hour of darkness. The artiste was arrested in her home on October 4, 2022, sparking widespread discontent and condemnation.
Even before the reason for her arrest could surface online, the campaign for her release had gained much traction due to the manner of her arrest. Hardly any cared to know the source of her issue with the security officers, or the person behind her arrest. What they sought, is a blissful world where the first thought that comes to mind when you see a security officer, will be comfort and not a racing heart.
Even when it was established that she was arrested for purchasing a contested (stolen?) fridge, the campaign for her release did not just end. Many did not agree that an act of that nature merited the amount of force it appeared to take to bring in the suspect.
Could they have been right?
Security officers have been in the news for the wrong reasons lately. The population of the same Buea where Blanche was arrested is yet to forget how the brains of 5-year-old Enondiale Carolaise were blown out on her way to school. Hearing Blanche Bailly’s child scream as his mother got arrested was sufficient ingredient to poke the abscess and let the emotions gush out.
Also, women have largely been victims of the Anglophone crisis and nursing mothers have not been spared. While many saw a lady being arrested, what they actually visualised was another child being shown the helplessness of its mother in the face of danger(?).
But the crux of the matter was yet to come. Rights groups have often raised concerns over procedure of arrest and Blanche’s case was to many, a classic demonstration.
Going by the live video of her arrest she streamed, the officers let themselves into her house without a warrant and without her permission. They went on to force her out and make the arrest.
The thought of many, fans and artistes alike was the same: it could have been me. Aligning with the proverbial move of helping a neighbor put out a fire so it doesn’t spread to your roof, many therefore sought to use Blanche’s case to demand a change. Many used the opportunity to recount their own unpleasant encounters with the men of the law especially in the North West and South West Regions.
Where we slipped
Yet, hardly anyone proposed a solution. Many were busy faulting the police force that they forgot lighting a candle gives you better right to curse the dark. What should law makers do? What should civilians do and what should the police officers themselves do?
Bobby Alyn described the #FreeMeekMill campaign as a lightening rod for “criminal justice reform”. The likes of Jay Z, T.I, and Kevin Hart rose to the occasion, writing op-eds, speaking at rallies and lobbying for a change.
One of the results of the movement was the creation of a criminal justice reform organization REFORM Alliance that by 2019, had raised $50 million dedicated to “changing the laws, policies and practices that perpetuate injustice,” starting with probation and parole.
Cameroonians don’t necessarily need to raise millions or stage protests and rallies as a starting point. History has taught better lessons. Among them, is the power of the metaverse. Still, even the success of the #endphonetax campaign was not enough to drive home the lesson. The tables turned but so did the seats and the status quo remains the same – hold everyone else down if you can’t rise.
A swipe or click is enough to stir the soup. But did it?
Blanche is not the first popular artiste or personality to be arrested. However, the multiple circumstances of her arrest served as lubricant for the rough dry path many fear to thread.
With these in mind, not only did multitudes thread the path, but they billowed through it, perhaps biting more than they could chew. At the receiving end of it all again, is Blanche, the very woman they had sought to protect.
Like a typical polygamous home, the fans act as if to say ‘another woman can’t beat my child. I own the exclusive rights to discipline her even if it means hurting her just to prove a point.’
Comments on her social media handles since the release have been filled with trolls pulling her legs and making comments about ‘the fridge’. Being the strong lady she is, Blanche has been ale to keep her cool so far. But for how long?
It is not the first time Cameroonian fans have trolled their fellow artistes. Even the mothers are not spared. The likes of Askia and Tilla would have a lot to say about this.
Even Cameroon’s most followed TikTok user, Diana Bouli with over 2 million followers couldn’t stand the trolls and is quiting social media.
One would argue that it is the eagerness to serve Blanche ‘vawulence’ that made fans quickly lose their interest in the anti police brutality campaign. Many were eager to make gest of the situation and accumulate likes and views on social media.
Chasing shadow in place of substance, they enjoyed the joke so much that they missed a date with history. Given that such chances like white peacocks don’t come often, they will have to trade their jokes for tears as they await the next available train to the destination of change.
Even with the sophisticated gadgets and high speed connectivity of modern times, there remains apt proof that we have learned nothing and forgotten nothing.
Lapiro was right. “Mumu di laugh, water di carry yi go”.