Friday, May 29, 2015

Will Anyone Demand Justice for Jennifer Jeffrey-Browne and Kester "Tony" Browne?


The Baltimore Sun reports that:
Mother and her 7-year-old son were found shot to death Thursday in their Southwest Baltimore home — the latest victims in the city's deadliest month in nearly two decades.

Shaken family members identified the victims as Jennifer Jeffrey-Browne, 31, and Kester "Tony" Browne. The two lived on a quiet block of rowhouses in the city's Uplands neighborhood, which was roped off with crime-scene tape for much of the day as detectives investigated.

"I cannot think of who would want her dead," said Danielle Wilder, Jeffrey-Browne's sister.

"You gotta be really evil," said Wilder's husband, Seamea Cammue. "You gotta have no soul."

Police and city leaders, meanwhile, denounced the killings as the latest acts of violence in a month that has seen more homicides — 38 — than any since 1996.

The deaths of Jeffrey-Browne and her son brought the number of killings in the city this year to 111, well ahead of last year's pace. Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake called it an "unspeakable tragedy."
There is no end in sight to the violence in Baltimore. Someone knows who killed Jennifer Jeffrey-Browne and her 7-year-old son. Someone in that neighborhood probably saw the killer enter the house and/or leave the house.

Will any of the witnesses have the courage to step forward? Will the community and the police protect the witnesses from retaliation? Baltimore, you marched for Freddie Gray. Will you march for Jennifer and Tony and the countless other victims of violence? Will you demand justice for them? This senseless violence will continue as long as we tolerate it by our silence.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

History Will Absolve Cornel West




The Obama Era will be noted as the era of black silence. For the most part, the black professional "left" is virtually silent and passive in its approach toward President Obama. Instead of speaking out and aggressive demanding more from the President, they became Obama's surrogates and mouthpieces. They sold their integrity for access to the President. Instead of speaking truth to power, they surrender to power.  They have been co-oped by power.

Of his peers, Cornel West was one of the few to maintain his integrity and consistency. For that, I commend him. West speaks the truth about the Obama Administration's failure to adequately address many issues impacting black and poor people. West speaks the truth about Obama's pro-Wall Street policies. West speaks the truth about America's brutal and merciless drone policy. He speaks the truth about America's relentless imperialism under the first black president.

Decades and centuries later, history will absolve West and question people like Michael Eric Dyson.

Baltimore Police Seek a Change of Venue


The Baltimore Sun reports that:

Defense attorneys for six police officers facing criminal charges in the Freddie Gray case are seeking to have the case tried elsewhere in Maryland, saying their clients can't get a "fair and impartial trial" in Baltimore.

In an 85-page document filed Wednesday with the court seeking a change of venue, the lawyers argued that a "presumption of prejudice" exists in the city.

Gray, 25, was arrested April 12 after running from officers patrolling West Baltimore and suffered a severed spinal cord and other injuries in police custody. His death a week later led to widespread protests and rioting that prompted a curfew and a National Guard deployment.

The case has drawn international attention and intense media coverage, and defense attorneys contend that not enough time has passed to permit "the type of healing and reconciliation in the community that would be needed to dampen the effects of the events surrounding the case."

The attorneys also sought to contrast the Gray case with other high-profile trials that weren't moved, including the case against the Boston marathon bomber. They argued that Baltimore City draws from a much smaller jury pool than those larger cities.

"Based on the relative size and characteristics of Baltimore City, the prejudicial information that has penetrated every form of online, printed and broadcast media, and the short time between the alleged crimes and the trial(s), the presumption of prejudice prevents the Officers in this case from receiving fair trials," the attorneys wrote.

The state's attorney's office did not respond to a request for comment on the filing.

Caesar Goodson, the driver of the van used to transport Gray, is charged with second-degree depraved heart murder, the most serious charge among the six officers. He also faces manslaughter, second-degree assault, two counts of vehicular manslaughter and misconduct in office.

William Porter, Brian Rice and Alicia White face manslaughter, second-degree assault and misconduct in office charges. Edward Nero and Garrett Miller are charged with second-degree assault and misconduct in office. All of the officers have been charged with reckless endangerment.

Read more here.

This move is no surprise. It was expected. If the court moves the case from Baltimore City to one of the nearby predominately white suburban counties, a conviction will be far less likely. We will probably see a repeat of what happened in Sanford, Ferguson, Chicago, Cleveland and so many other cities. Another dead black person and his family will be denied justice. The divide and hostility between the police and the black community will continue to expand.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

When Will the Violence in Baltimore End?


The Baltimore Sun reports that:

Hours after Baltimore's mayor huddled with police officials to discuss the recent spike in violence, two more people were killed Monday — making May the city's deadliest month since 1999.

The two homicides increased this month's total to 35. There have been 108 homicides across the city this year...

In addition to the homicides, eight other people were shot since late Sunday and another three overnight Monday, bringing the number of shootings over the three-day holiday weekend to 32. Among them was a 9-year-old boy shot in the leg in the 2900 block of Arunah Ave. in Southwest Baltimore. Police did not identify any of victims or release information about any potential suspects or motives...

Batts last week said police are struggling to stop violence in West Baltimore, where officers have been routinely surrounded by dozens of people, video cameras and hostility while performing basic police work since the death of Freddie Gray, the 25-year-old who died after suffering a spinal cord injury while in police custody. The Western District, the site of Gray's arrest and the epicenter of the protests and rioting that followed his death, has seen the majority of the city's recent shootings and homicides, which are coming faster than they have in eight years.
When will the violence in Baltimore and other inner cities finally end? Aside from effective law enforcement strategies and the imposition of a curfew for children under 18 years old, there are other actions that must be taken.  The violence will end when real black men stand up and take back our communities. Marches and vigils are good for raising awareness. However, they are not enough. As other communities have done, black community groups must receive professional martial arts and firearms training. We must patrol and protect our neighborhoods against enemies within and without. We cannot allow a small minority of criminals to terrorize our communities. We cannot just proclaim that black lives matter. We must demonstrate to the world through our actions that black lives matter.

The violence will end when more professional and working class black men return to the hood and serve as mentors to at-risk youth. The erosion of the two parent household is a contributing factor to the violence. Too often, when the father are gone, many of our young men are without proper guidance and the streets become their daddy. We must provide that guidance. We must be role models that they need.

The violence will end when the politicians renew the fight to end poverty. We must invest in summer jobs programs and recreation centers. If our youth have an opportunity to earn decent wages working legitimate jobs, involvement in the violent drug trade will be less likely. In addition, if our youth are preoccupied playing sports at recreation centers, they will have less time to be involved in crime and violence.

The violence will end when we invest in more schools and less prisons. As reported in Baltimore Sun, the Baltimore city schools CEO Gregory Thorton "warned that at least 120 positions and about 100 people would be eliminated this year as he closed a $108 million gap in the fiscal year 2016 budget, which begins July 1." In addition, "he has also said that more than 200 educators and staff in the district's “surplus” pool — meaning they are still paid by the school system but don't have permanent placements — would be cut." Despite financial difficulties, somehow the City has $30 million to build a new juvenile jail. The Baltimore Sun also reports that Maryland Governor Larry Hogan "decided to take $68 million that lawmakers set aside for schools and use it to shore up the state's pension system instead — disappointing school officials in Baltimore and other large districts around the state." This is completely unacceptable. The failure to adequately fund our schools only exacerbates the violence that plagues Baltimore. We must demand better from our politicians.

The violence will end when we end the war on drugs. The war on drugs perpetuates mass incarceration of nonviolent offenders. Mass incarceration further destabilizes black families and makes communities less safe. We must decriminalize drugs and address drug addiction as a health issue.  Most of the violence is fueled by the illegal drug trade. If drugs were legal, there would be less violence associated with the trade. The drug trade should be regulated and controlled just like the alcohol and cigarettes trade.  Instead of using church money for airplanes, mansions and magnificent church buildings, our churches must use their resources to fight drug addiction and violence in Baltimore.

The violence will end when community groups, churches and local politicians bring drug cartels and gangs to the negotiation table. If peace can be achieved in Ireland and South Africa, it be achieved in Baltimore.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Don't Be Pacified By the Cleveland PD Settlement Agreement


The Washington Post reports that:

The city of Cleveland has agreed to have its police department overseen by an independent monitor and subject its officers to strict and explicit new rules on the use of force, under a settlement with the Justice Department that was announced Tuesday.

The agreement, which follows the Justice Department’s finding that Cleveland police engaged in unnecessary and excessive use of force, imposes some of the toughest standards in the nation on the department. It lays out an array of prohibitions in an effort to reduce violent encounters between the police and the community — particularly its minorities — and ingrain “bias-free policing principles” throughout the department.

The police department, according to the agreement, is now expected to “deliver police services with the goal of ensuring that they are equitable, respectful, and free of unlawful bias, in a manner that promotes broad community engagement and confidence.”

The city, for instance, must document every time an officer unholsters a gun, which the agreement says is a reportable use of force and should be investigated as such. “Officers will not unholster and display a firearm unless the circumstances create a reasonable belief that lethal force may become necessary,” according to the rules.

Cleveland officers are now explicitly barred from using neck holds. They can use force against people who are handcuffed or restrained only when it is “objectively reasonable and necessary” to prevent an assault or an escape. And they are instructed not to use retaliatory force, such as punishing “an individual for disrespecting officers,” or use force against people “who only verbally confront them.”

Officers are also not allowed to fire a warning shot, and they are prohibited from firing from or at a moving vehicle unless they can justify the use of lethal force by something other than the threat from the moving car.

The settlement further requires that before resorting to force officers use “de-escalation techniques,” such as verbal persuasion and creating distance between the officer and the threat, whenever possible.

The city also will be required to provide medical care to residents who have been the subjects of force. The agreement does not require the use of body cameras by officers.

The agreement also calls for the creation of a community police commission, made up of 10 representatives from across the community, including from civil rights and student organizations, and one representative each from the Cleveland Police Patrolmen’s Association, the Fraternal Order of Police and the Black Shield police association.

This settlement agreement follows the acquittal of Officer Michael Brelo on charges of voluntary manslaughter and felonious assault for the killing of Timothy Russell and Malissa Williams, two unarmed African Americans. As reported on CNN,
Brelo, 31, was accused of firing the bullets that killed Timothy Russell, 43, and Malissa Williams, 30, on November 29, 2012, after a 22-mile police chase ended in a middle school parking lot. Authorities said Brelo stood on the hood of the car Russell was driving and fired 15 shots through the windshield.

Though about a dozen officers fired a total of 137 rounds at the car, no other officers were charged with manslaughter.

In explaining his verdict, Judge O'Donnell said it was reasonable for Brelo to think Russell and Williams still posed a threat to officers. The chase started after the car driven by Russell backfired -- a noise officers mistakenly thought was caused by gunshots. The judge also said he couldn't be sure Brelo fired the fatal rounds.
Additionally, the settlement agreement comes months after the killing of Tamir Rice, a 12 year old African American boy who was killed by police for having a pellet gun. The police killed Tamir a few seconds after they arrived on the scene.

Hopefully, the Justice Department's settlement agreement will bring about systemic and enduring change in the Cleveland Police Department. Perhaps, it will prevent these blatant examples of excessive force from occurring in the future.

Although this announcement is great news, activists should not allow this news to pacify them. Three black people are dead and justice for them is no where in sight. We must continue to demand justice for Tamir Rice, Timothy Russell, Malissa Williams and all other victims of police brutality in Cleveland and around this nation. We cannot forget them like many have forgotten Michael Brown and Trayvon Martin. Our struggle is far from over.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

The Disintegration of Integration


Nettie Hunt and daughter Nikie on steps of U.S. Supreme Court in 1954, Library of Congress

Further evidence of the disintegration of integration...
Black students are significantly more likely to attend high-poverty schools than white students, according to the Urban Institute. 
"In some metropolitan areas, the racial concentration of school poverty is so severe that black and white students effectively attend two different school systems: one for middle- and upper-middle-income white students, and the other for poor students and students of color," says an Urban Institute feature on the subject.
--The Huffington Post
Remember that little episode in history called Brown vs. Board of Education?  It was kind of important in a way because it laid the groundwork for the desegregation of public schools all across America thanks to the legal brilliance of one of America's greatest legal minds, Thurgood Marshall, who at the time was a lawyer for the NAACP. But saying that Thurgood Marshall was a lawyer for the NAACP is kind of like saying that Abraham Lincoln had something to do with the Civil War. If you even whispered Thurgood Marshall's name to black folk way back when, before the civil rights era really got under full steam, the reaction would be as if you had mentioned the name of Moses. Because just like Moses, Thurgood Marshall could part the bloody waters of racism just like...well...just like Moses. Just to hear that "Thurgood's coming" was, to so many terrorized black communities in the Deep South, like hearing the voice of hope itself. If Thurgood was coming that meant there was a chance. Which is why I say that, although I do understand why Dr. Martin Luther King is lionized as The One when it comes to civil rights warriors? Truth be told,  Thurgood Marshall is right up there with him. You don't believe me, study up on the man and then come back and tell me I'm wrong.

But here's the thing that's painful; now that we're recognizing 61 years' worth of 'progress' beyond that fateful day of May 17, 1954, when  Marshall won the day with his victorious - and unanimous - 9-0 Brown vs. Board of Education decision before the U.S. Supreme Court (the same Supreme Court where he would later be appointed as the first black Supreme Court Justice by President Lyndon Johnson on June 13, 1967) it almost seems as if Moses was never here. As if the waters, once parted, are now just as turbulent as they ever were, swallowing whole any evidence of racial reconciliation. From The Atlantic:
Brown's core mission of encouraging integration can best be defined as unfinished. Many civil-rights advocates, such as Gary Orfield, codirector of the Civil Rights Project at UCLA, argue that after gains through the late 1980s, the public-school system is undergoing a "resegregation" that has left African-American and Latino students "experiencing more isolation … [than] a generation ago." Other analysts question whether segregation is worsening, but no one denies that racial and economic isolation remains daunting: One recent study found that three-fourths of African-Americans and two-thirds of Hispanics attend schools where a majority of the students qualify as low-income.
I live in Detroit so you don't have to roll out any statistics to convince me of what's going on. All I have to do is walk into just about any public school in this city and see the evidence for myself. And I have to wonder not only what would  Marshall feel about the seeming rollback of such a monumental and hard-fought victory but..
What now..?

Monday, May 11, 2015

First Lady Michelle Speaks the Truth About Race




I salute First Lady Michelle Obama for speaking the truth about race and racism in America. America is not a post-racial society. It probably never will be. I know. The truth hurts. Here is what I think about Mrs. Obama's commencement speech.