Justice for Mubi: Police Brutality and Race in America

Kabelo Motsoeneng ’20

Contributing Writer

Mariyann Soulemane graduated in May 2019 with a B.A in International Studies and a French minor and was named Fulbright grant recipient. Soulemane studied abroad in France and South Africa, immersing herself in communities all around her. Unbeknownst to Soulemane, her arrival in Malaysia for Fulbright would be marked by the tragic death of her brother Mubarak “Mubi” Soulemane. Mubi’s death could have been avoided—but he was shot seven times by a Connecticut state trooper on Jan. 15, making him the third person to die in Connecticut from state-enabled murder this year.

Prior to Mubi’s tragic murder, the Soulemane family had notified local police in New Haven that Mubi was missing, and that he struggles with schizophrenia—a condition that, for four years, Mubi had been getting help for but his disappearance had caused the family to worry that he was, indeed, off his medication. When the police tailed him and barricaded him—inside the vehicle he had allegedly stolen—there was documented evidence that Mubi was a missing person with a severe mental health condition, and what he needed was not to be caged as though he was an animal but to receive help. According to police reports, Mubi had a knife with him. But who was really at risk—the troopers surrounding Mubi or Mubi who was in fear? For what is a knife to guns? What is a Black African man with a knife to white men who have murdered since the beginning of the world?

What Mubi needed, when surrounded by an army of officers, was not seven gunshots fired by one Brian North to his body. Mubi needed help. It is not as though this was a mere local police issue, but the involvement of state troopers made it a Connecticut state issue. That suggests that the troopers had access to more information and more resources for Mubi. They were in the right position to get him the necessary help. Had the instinct been not to reduce Mubi to a beast and tame him with seven gunshot wounds, but to call in an expert in the field to talk to Mubi—to hear him, understand him, and make him less afraid, then Mubarak Soulemane wouldn’t have died at Yale-New Haven hospital.

The question of race with regards to Mubi’s death is so palpable it makes the mind weep. Had Mubi been a white teenager, struggling with the same mental health condition, and had a terrible episode that led him ‘stealing’ a vehicle—would he have died? Our world—especially in the West—is ordered from the sensibilities of white men, that white men are the superior human beings then followed by white women and then other races of white adjacency. A white Mubi would have been found shortly after a missing report had been filed for him. And a white Mubi, if found in a stolen vehicle, his entire record would have been found and he would have received treatment that make sure that he ends up in the care of his family and further medical support. The Western world constructed itself to ensure that everyone can die but the life of a man must be spared, albeit white men and their whiteness being the cause of bygone and current injustices of the world. Mubi died because—though we the people who live around the margins of the world knew he mattered—white supremacists didn’t see him as a person.

Local media outlets have been persistent in their reporting of this story, yet national media has barely caught on. We shouldn’t be surprised: Mubi’s story isn’t a cookie-cutter narrative of police brutality—he is a child of Black immigrants from Ghana. This story requires a nuanced approach that should consider how Black Africans die due to police brutality and rarely have their names known.

Mubi will be dearly missed by his sister Mariyann and the rest of his family.