By Joan Hoch
Garrett Foster, murdered while fighting against racist police brutality last July, would have turned 30 years old on December 4. Last week, Tribune spoke with his fiancee and partner of 10 years, Whitney Mitchell, to celebrate and commemorate his life. Mitchell spoke on the need to remember Foster’s profound selflessness, his sense of humor, and his drive to make the world a better place.
The couple were inseparable, and had been together on the front lines of the fight for Black lives for almost 50 days straight before US Army sergeant Daniel Perry drove into a march in downtown Austin on July 25, 2020, in an attempt to intimidate protesters standing up against the racism of the imperialist US State. When Foster, who was acting as defense for the march, approached Perry’s vehicle, Perry opened fire and killed him. The ruling class, through the monopoly press and police, have since made an effort to defame Foster and defend the actions of Perry, which Mitchell sees as unacceptable.
“I see so much dehumanization of him. It’s really painful when you read things about someone that you know and you care about and it’s all these disgusting things being said by people who have no clue and didn’t know him at all. … The person that they are talking about is not the same person that I knew. … I want people to know the truth of him and who he was.”
The two met when they were both seventeen. “He was the love of my life, my first boyfriend ever,” Mitchell said. “I remember staying up super late talking to him on the phone every night. He was one of the most amazing guys I ever met in my life. Every time I was with him it felt like a movie. I would tell him that all the time.”
Shortly into their relationship, Mitchell was hospitalized due to an illness that would eventually result in the amputation of her legs and arms, requiring a wheelchair for mobility. At protests, Foster was always found faithfully behind Mitchell, just as he stood with her throughout their lives together.
“I can’t tell you how sweet he was. I think about how when I got sick and I lost my limbs, we had only been together for a year. I honestly didn’t expect him to still be there, because we were young and we hadn’t been together that long,” said Mitchell. “There wasn’t a day that went by where he wasn’t by my side, even when I was asleep. I went through so much, and he saw me go through that. … We were kids. I remember opening my eyes and I was in pain, and he would be holding my hand.”
Foster served a brief time in the military, which he had enlisted in shortly before Mitchell became ill. He was honorably discharged and went on to become her full-time caretaker.
“After I got out of the hospital, I was trying to get adjusted to my life completely changing and he had to adjust too. But he said, ‘I’m going to be here for you and I know this is hard, I can’t imagine how hard this is for you, but I’m going to be there with you every step of the way,’ which he was,” Mitchell said.
They spent the next ten years together, and moved to Austin in 2019. Foster loved tabletop role-playing games, hot sauce, and practical jokes. He was a great cook and a devoted partner. The couple had originally bonded over a shared love of music, and frequented music festivals and clubs.
“He wasn’t into dancing, but he would do it because I enjoyed it. He learned how to do my hair, how to do Black hair. … He was patient with me, with learning things I needed. He was one of the warmest, kindest, and most patient people I ever met, and I really want people to know that.”
Since childhood, Foster loved animals, an interest which he imparted to Mitchell. “He got me to actually like snakes. I never thought that would happen. He grew up having snakes, and we eventually ended up getting a snake. … He would be walking around the house with the snake on, wrapped around him cooking or hanging out or playing video games. … He got me used to being around reptiles, and that’s where we got Beetlejuice, the giant tegu we have. Garrett loved him so much. … He used to joke that he took care of Beetlejuice better than he took care of himself. He really loved animals and was just the sweetest person in the world.”
“I feel like I was so lucky to find someone like him, to find a love like him,” Mitchell said. “It’s so rare to find someone like that. It’s hard to try to adjust. … His 30th birthday came, which I thought he would be there to celebrate it. He should be.”
Foster lived and died in service of others, defending Mitchell, other protesters, and the movement for Black Lives. Mitchell wants to see him remembered for his values and how he lived, and for others to carry on the fight in his memory:
“He cared about people deeply. I want him to be honored as someone who believed in fighting for people’s right to live their life in the way they should and be respected. That’s something he believed in. … All he wanted was for people to be treated as human beings and be respected as human beings.
“He was there, and he was fighting with the rest of us and standing up for something that he really, truly believed in. … [We need] to keep fighting, not let people deter us from fighting for what we should already have, what should already exist.”
Editors’ note: As we celebrate Garrett Foster’s life, we stand with his loved ones and activists who raise the ongoing call to fight for people’s justice for Foster. In July, US Army sergeant Daniel Perry was indicted for murder charges for killing Foster. As seen in the case of Kyle Rittenhouse, the imperialist State will not hesitate to let reactionary murderers go free. Regardless of the State’s machinations, the people must fight for Foster, to defend his legacy and strengthen the people’s forces towards the long-term goal of conquering Power, in order to build a new society where murderers like Perry and Rittenhouse will face people’s justice for their crimes.
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