Friday, March 20, 2015

Were Black Men Lynched in Mississippi and North Carolina?


Raw Story reports that:

Officials in Claiborne County, Mississippi confirmed on Thursday that a missing black resident’s body was found hanging from a tree, WLOX-TV reported.

Members of the local chapter of the NAACP had identified the man as 54-year-old Otis Byrd, who had been reported missing. According to the Jackson Clarion-Ledger, Byrd was last seen being dropped off at a casino in Vicksburg by a friend earlier this month.

WJTV-TV reported that, according to state and FBI officials, Byrd was found “in the woods near Old Rodney Road,” about a half-mile away from his home, by officials from both the local sheriff’s office and state wildlife department.

Authorities are looking into the specific cause of Byrd’s death. The NAACP has subsequently asked the Justice Department to conduct its own investigation into the matter.



This story reminded me of something that I saw on Hidden Colors 3.  In that important documentary, Dr. Joy DeGruy stated that several black police officers approached her and told her about several dead African American men being found hanging. I wonder if Mr. Byrd's death is a part of a criminal pattern.

Not too long ago, activists called for an investigation of another hanging in North Carolina. As reported in the New York Times,
ATLANTA — The Federal Bureau of Investigation said Friday that it had joined the inquiry into the August death of a black teenager in North Carolina, where family members and their supporters have questioned the finding by the state authorities that he committed suicide.

A spokeswoman for the F.B.I., Shelley Lynch, said agents were “reviewing the investigation” that followed the Aug. 29 death of Lennon Lacy, 17, whose body was found hanging from a swing set in a trailer park in Bladen County, North Carolina.

Thomas G. Walker, the United States attorney for the Eastern District of North Carolina, requested the F.B.I.’s involvement, Ms. Lynch said in an email. A spokesman for Mr. Walker, Don Connelly, declined to comment beyond saying that federal officials agreed to review the case after Mr. Lacy’s family and the North Carolina chapter of the N.A.A.C.P. had asked them to intervene.
Both Mr. Lacy and Mr. Byrd died in southern states with a long history of lynching black people. Both men died under suspicious circumstances. Sadly, even in this age of Obama, I would not be surprised if these brothers were lynched. For now, I will not make any conclusions until the investigations are complete.




"Why Does This Keep Happening?"




The Huffington Post reports that:
[Martese] Johnson was standing near the Trinity Irish Pub around 12:30 a.m. Wednesday, Watkins said, when "an employee of the establishment approached him and asked for his license."

The employee quizzed Johnson about his zip code, and Johnson provided his mother's current zip code, Watkins said. The number is different from the one listed on his current Illinois license. Watkins said that at that point, Virginia ABC agents questioned Johnson about being in possession of false identification.

Johnson is originally from Chicago, where his mother still lives. He was never in possession of a fake ID, Watkins said.

The Virginia ABC agents then forced Johnson to the ground, where they handcuffed him while "his face and skull [were] bleeding and needing surgery, all of this over two alleged offenses," Watkins said.

Virginia ABC declined to comment further about the incident to The Huffington Post on Thursday. Trinity Irish Pub told HuffPost it had no comment. Watkins declined to take questions Thursday.

"I'm shocked that my face was slammed into the brick pavement just across the street from where I go to school," Johnson said in a statement, read by Watkins. As Johnson was on the ground, he added, "One thought raced through my mind: How could this happen? I still believe in our community. I know this community will support me during this time."

UVA students marched on campus Wednesday night and Thursday in protest of what they believe was excessive force used by Virginia ABC agents. Johnson has asked for activists to remain civil in their protests.



A couple of days ago, my daughter and I were watching Martese Johnson's story on the Today Show. While watching the news segment, my daughter asked me, "Why does this keeps happening?" When a Staten Island police officer choked Eric Garner death, she asked the same question. Both times, I was rendered speechless. Her question was simple, yet profound. Today, in this blog post, I will try to explain why this keeps happening.

It keeps happening because America fears and hates the black man. We are perceived as a menace to society. It does not matter if one is an honor student like Martese Johnson at a prestigious university. The news constantly shows African American men and women as wanted or arrested violent, criminal suspects. When we turn on the radio or watch television, the black man is depicted as a gun toting, pants sagging, drug dealing, hyper sexual, thuggish animal plaguing society.

Consequently, our black skin is presumed to be a badge of criminality. Often, our historical greatness as people is blotted, negated or forgotten. When police see a black man or women, they do not see a fellow human being. They see a subhuman beast that must be subdued or killed. In the eyes of dominant culture, our lives simply do not matter.


In fact, as Tupac Shakur says in this song Changes, if you kill a black man, you are considered to be a hero. People will ask for your autograph and want to take a photo with you. If you're a police officer, you will get a paid vacation for doing the American people a service by killing or hurting a black man. News networks will pay you top dollar to tell them your story.

Unfortunately, there will be more cases of police brutality like Martese Johnson's case because not enough people are truly concerned about the issue. Sure, our people will get amped up and march around for a minute. The hand picked Negro spokespeople will fight for the television spotlight. Eventually, the story will die down. Then, it is business as usual until the next brother or sister is beaten or killed. Then, the cycle will repeat itself. Meanwhile, the racist police power structure will remain intact and fully operational.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Chickens Come Home to Roost in Ferguson



For years, the Ferguson Police Department has humiliated, harassed, profiled, abused and oppressed black people. When Ferguson Officer Darren Wilson shot and killed unarmed black teen Michael Brown, the police left Mike's body laying in the street for hours as if his life had no value. Instead of the prosecutor actually prosecuting the case, he essentially served as counsel for the killer. When the prosecutor announced the grand jury's decision not to indict Darren Wilson, that arrogant prosecutor practically gloated and talked down to the people of Ferguson.

Our elders tell us that what goes around comes around. Today, the Ferguson is reaping what it has sown. Following the release of the Department of Justice's report, the Police Chief and other officers have resigned. A municipal judge has resigned as well. Last night, two Ferguson police officers were shot. This is only the beginning. In the words of Malcolm X, the chickens are coming home to roost.

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Selma and the Embodiment of Hope


Good morning, family. When those protesters faced the police clubs and dogs in Selma in 1965, the idea of a black President of the United States of America was probably unimaginable. Yesterday, a black President, President Obama gave a powerful and inspiring speech at the foot of the Edmund Pettus Bridge to commemorated the 50th anniversary of the historic Selma March. In many ways, the election of Barack Obama is the embodiment of our hopes and aspirations.



Saturday, March 7, 2015

The Struggle for Voting Rights is Not Over



Today marks the 50th anniversary of the historic Selma March. American democracy is basically in its infancy. Fifty years is a relatively short period of time. Within that short period of time, African Americans have made great progress in the political arena. We have black city council members, black mayors, black governors, black Congress members and black senators. Now, we even have a black president. At one point, the idea of a black president was unimaginable. Today, it is a living and breathing reality. That progress is the result of struggle. Our elders and ancestors were beaten, gassed, bitten, shot and killed. They sacrificed everything for our right to vote.

Unfortunately, our struggle is not over. The U.S. Supreme Court gutted the Voting Rights Act by declaring Section 4 of the Act unconstitutional. Section 4 of the Voting Rights act established the formula for determining which states and jurisdictions are subject to preclearance. Under preclearance, the covered jurisdictions were required to submit all proposed voting rights law changes to the Department of Justice or to the federal district court in the District of Columbia. The covered jurisdiction included states and cities with a long history of using tests and other devices to prevent African American from voting. Covered states included Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina, Texas and Virginia. Parts of  California, Florida, Michigan, New York, North Carolina and South Dakota were also covered.
Sections 4 and 5 of the Voting Rights prevented discrimination before it could occur. Without lengthy and costly litigation, Sections 4 and 5 stopped discriminatory voting laws from being implemented.

Sadly, that safeguard is no longer in place. Immediately after the disastrous Shelby County v. Holder decision, formerly covered states and jurisdictions began erecting second generation barriers to voting such as voter ID laws, third party voter registration restrictions, elimination of early voting and other similar measures. In addition, right wing extremists continued deploying unscrupulous challengers at the polls to intimidate voters. They continued launching deceptive campaigns targeting black communities. All of those measures are designed to suppress black voters and others who tend to vote for the Democratic Party.

We have come too far to allow anyone to turn back the clock of progress. Instead of simply celebrating and reenacting the past, we must vigorously push for the passage of the Voting Rights Amendment Act. That Act will restore Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act. It will preserve what our parents and grandparents fought, bled and died for.  Also, we must use this moment to encourage our people to register and vote.


Wednesday, March 4, 2015

DOJ Report Shows Why Ferguson Exploded


The New York Times reported that:
Ferguson, Mo., is a third white, but the crime statistics compiled in the city over the past two years seemed to suggest that only black people were breaking the law. They accounted for 85 percent of traffic stops, 90 percent of tickets and 93 percent of arrests. In cases like jaywalking, which often hinge on police discretion, blacks accounted for 95 percent of all arrests.

The racial disparity in those statistics was so stark that the Justice Department has concluded in a report scheduled for release on Wednesday that there was only one explanation: The Ferguson Police Department was routinely violating the constitutional rights of its black residents.

The report, based on a six-month investigation, provides a glimpse into the roots of the racial tensions that boiled over in Ferguson last summer after a black teenager, Michael Brown, was fatally shot by a white police officer, making it a worldwide flash point in the debate over race and policing in America. It describes a city where the police used force almost exclusively on blacks and regularly stopped people without probable cause. Racial bias is so ingrained, the report said, that Ferguson officials circulated racist jokes on their government email accounts.

In a November 2008 email, a city official said Barack Obama would not be president long because “what black man holds a steady job for four years?” Another email included a cartoon depicting African-Americans as monkeys. A third described black women having abortions as a way to curb crime...

Those findings reinforce what the city’s black residents have been saying publicly since the shooting in August, that the criminal justice system in Ferguson works differently for blacks and whites. A black motorist who is pulled over is twice as likely to be searched as a white motorist, even though searches of white drivers are more likely to turn up drugs or other contraband, the report found.

Minor, largely discretionary offenses such as disturbing the peace and jaywalking were brought almost exclusively against blacks. When whites were charged with these crimes, they were 68 percent more likely to have their cases dismissed, the Justice Department found.
Ferguson is analogous to Soweto or Johannesburg during the Apartheid era. Although Ferguson is 67 percent black, most of the political power is in the hands of the white minority. The mayor and the police chief are white. Only one city council member is black. Only one school board member is black. Out of 53 police officers, only 3 are black. Similar to Apartheid South Africa, the lack of political power inevitably paved the way for racist oppression. The Justice Department report reveals the extent and nature of that oppression. Other than institutionalized racism, there simply is no rational explanation for the stark racial disparities in the force usage, arrests, vehicle stops and vehicle searches.

Now, one  understands why Ferguson literally exploded. For years, African Americans were alienated from power and racial profiled by the police, harassed by the police and brutalized by the police. Those explosive ingredients have been present in Ferguson for years. Ferguson was a powder keg waiting to be lit. The killing of Michael Brown and the grand jury's failure to indict were simply the sparks that the ignited the powder keg. Sadly, if things to do not change soon, there will be more rebellions in America's streets.

The Justice Department's report validates our outrage. It validates the marches and protests in Ferguson and around the country. It absolves the protesters who were arrested. If the people did not march, protest and raise hell, there would be no investigation. Contrary to the rhetoric of some, demonstrations are not outdated. They were still needed in the 21st century. Even relatively progressive administrations need to be pressured to affect social justice.

Elections matter as well. Moreover, if more African Americans voted in Ferguson, there would probably be a black mayor and a black police chief. Perhaps, there would be a predominately black city council and school board. Maybe, there would be no Mike Brown and Darren Wilson.  There would be real black power in Ferguson.  In addition, the election of President Obama made U.S. Attorney Eric Holder's appointment possible. Another administration may not have conducted such a thorough investigation of the Ferguson Police Department. A Romney Administration probably would not have issued such a report.

The Department of Justice's report has the potential to completely transform the Ferguson Police Department. Hopefully, it will eliminate the systemic and institutional racism that plagues the police department. Perhaps, it will prevent another senseless police killing. Justice for Mike Brown and everybody else.



Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Trayvon Martin, We Will Never Forget!!!






Yesterday, we received some extremely disappointing news. The U.S. Department of Justice determined that it did not have sufficient evidence to prove that George Zimmerman intended to violate Trayvon Martin's civil rights. In video below, I share my thoughts about the decision and I briefly discuss the continuing struggle for justice.



By the way, although George Zimmerman is not incarcerated, he will never be free. For the rest of his rotten life, he will be known as the real thug who followed and killed an unarmed African American teenager based on a false and racist assumption. In fact, given George Zimmerman frequent acts of violence and run in with the law, it is only a matter of time before he kills or hurts someone else. Sadly, the blood will be on the jurors' hands. The blood will be on the American criminal injustice system filthy hands.