The last march with Ray Jackson

Ray Jackson's memorial at Redfern Community Centre on May 1.

More than 300 people packed the Redfern Community Centre on May 1 to pay their respects to Wiradjuri warrior Ray Jackson, who passed away on April 23. Jackson was the president of the Indigenous Social Justice Association (ISJA) and spent decades campaigning against black deaths in custody.

Jackson’s family gave moving messages of thanks to a loving, intelligent father. His granddaughter, Oki, moved the crowd when she said, crying: “I know that if I want to be like you I have to be confident.”

Gail Hickey and her family gave thanks for Jackson’s tireless efforts in fighting for justice for their son, TJ Hickey. A song, The One so True, written by Letty and Nathan Scott, wife and son of Douglas Scott, who was found hanging by a bed sheet in his prison cell in 1985, was played to the crowd:

"The tears are many/The tears of our people/In this land flows/Great with pain/Oh, Great with pain/Pain that never goes/The deaths of our people/In white man's cells/Is all we know/Is all we know/No justice found/For how hard we fought/In this land we call our home

"Jackson is his name/The one who stayed/No matter how tired/We fought side by side/It was always you/The one so true/Brother Ray we’ll never forget you

"I looked around in my despair/No one was there, only you cared/Comforted your people for so long/You gave them strength to carry on/Gave your life/To fight the fight/To stop the murders/So we'd have life

"This world must know/The fight you fought/It will never die in vain/We will never forget you/Brother Ray."

Political tributes came from Debbie Kilroy from prison advocates Sisters Inside, who noted Angela Davis had sent a tribute that morning. Professor Joseph Pugilese from Macquarie University, noted Ray and ISJA organised public forums to seek justice for the families, that also allowed families to express their grief and rage about the gross injustices inflicted upon them and their loved ones.

Raul Bassi from ISJA reminded the audience that while Jackson was irreplaceable, ISJA was committed to carrying on the campaigns he had begun.

A representative from the French embassy recalled giving Jackson and ISJA the French Human Rights Award in 2013 and spoke of being humbled by learning of his decades of hard work. The Redfern Tent Embassy's Jenny Munro spoke, as did a representative of the Maritime Union of Australia. Other comrades and colleagues gave thanks.

Long-term deaths in custody campaigners John Murray, Cath McFarlane and others worked hard to pull the event together. After food was served, the event opened up for other friends, family and comrades to comment. People marched together to the WA Community closure protests where tributes were again given to Ray.

In Melbourne, Gary Foley passed his respect on to a fallen warrior. At the May Day rally, a moving recognition of Jackson was given, and newly elected NSW Greens MP Jenny Leong dedicated the first section of her inaugural speech to recognising Jackson's legacy.

She said: “The police continue to prevent his family from placing a plaque in Redfern to commemorate his [TJ Hickey’s] death. So until his family's wish for a plaque can be realised, and as a mark of respect to Ray's work, I will read the words on the plaque onto the public record of the New South Wales Parliament: ‘On the 14 February, 2004, TJ Hickey, aged 17, was impaled upon the metal fence above arising from a police pursuit. The young man died as a result of his wounds the next day.’”

A Facebook tribute page continues to host photos, poems and video footage of Jackson.

NITV ran a story on Jackson's memorial.

Like the article? Subscribe to Green Left now! You can also like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.