Carl W. Kenney II is an award winning columnist and novelist. He is committed to engaging readers into a meaningful discussion related to matters that impact faith and society. He grapples with pondering the impact faith has on public space while seeking to understand how public space both hinders and enhances the walk of faith.
That’s what came to mind after taking a long stroll
through the neighborhood I called home before moving to Durham, NC to attend
graduate school at Duke University.The
journey down memory lane played like rewind.
Not much has changed.
The feeling of despair that ran me away has settled in
like the seconds before a heart attack.There’s a mood that strips one of their dreams and reminds them to stay
in an assigned place.That ache I felt
before leaving came back. It shocked me.The tears came after I turned right on Worley.Each step stirred a memory of being broken by
the covert racism in Columbia, MO.
Why did they force us to walk to West Jr. High School?
I moaned as flashbacks of cold days
walking to school came to mind. Why? Why no bus for us?
That question stirred a deeper frustration related to
the gaps that fed inferiority.The tears
poured faster and deeper as the truth emerged to take me back.
I never felt good enough.I never felt equal to my white peers. I
never, I never – the list inflated until I couldn’t take anymore.I stopped walking, closed my eyes, inhaled,
exhaled, and took another step.
What is it about Columbia that robs black people of
Langston Hughes asked a similar question. “What
happens to a dream deferred? Does it dry up like a raisin in the sun?” Is
anyone considering the significance of withering dreams?
The Mayor’s Task Force on Community Violence has begun
the arduous task of tackling crime in Columbia.The 13 members have been split into groups - one to talk to people
affected by violence; another to analyze police reports and court files; one to
talk with nonprofits and social service agencies to measure what they are doing
about crime; and the fourth to examine news site and social media accounts for
information surrounding previous violent crimes.
The process of reducing crime begins with gauging what
is being done. It’s an important step
that must be taken along the way.Measuring the response of those empowered to prevent, protect and report
crime is essential.Those commissioned
to serve must be held accountable when appropriate, and celebrated when successful.
But, what about those dreams rotting in the sun?
What are the causes of crime?Are those reasons reflective of broader
societal ills, or are there cultural impediments indigenous to Columbia? If so,
are we willing to go deeper than the traditional blame game to form strategies
to shift that feeling that forced my feet to stop moving after considering the
pain in the streets?
Some will say crime in Columbia is the result of an
antagonistic police department.Others
will condemn social agencies, churches and other nonprofits. A large group will
point a disparaging finger at parents.There’s a measure of truth in each position, but what about the wilting
It took my leaving Columbia to discern that woeful
sensation that kept me walking slower than my potential.Departing freed me from the clutch of
internalized inferiority.The deficiency
of black owned and operated businesses, the absence of a who’s who list of
blacks from Columbia recognized nationally, and a weak history of blacks
elected to serve on the city council, reflect a deep void that withers
Dreams can’t thrive when power isn’t shared. Hope
can’t be found when the capacity for more has no role models to lead the
way.Life can’t be found when you are
limited to the welfares on your side of the street.
I’m back home after being away for 27 years.Columbia has grown since I left, but not much
has changed on the blocks that made raisins out of dreams.
I wasn’t surprised that a jury found Crystal Mangum
guilty of second-degree murder for stabbing and killing her boyfriend, Reginald
Daye. Her life has been on a collision course since she accused three Duke
University lacrosse players of raping her in 2006.
I can’t help but think the jury may have protected
Mangum from further misery.Maybe she’ll
be able to find peace away from what happened on Buchannan Street in Durham,
“I can’t find a job,” Mangum told me during our last
interaction. “All I want is a job to take care of my children.”
I listened to the spirit beyond her words.We talked about her past issues with men.
“I don’t know how to love a man,” she said. “Men go
crazy because I’m not able to give them what they want.”
I sensed that she wanted to find more in life. Love
and being loved in returned was beyond her comprehension.Something deep and painful has robbed her of
the ability to escape what happened long ago.There was an innocence there begging to find a safe place to heal.I felt an inner tremble too weak to take a
She was trying to find her way.I prayed it wasn’t too late.
Her story is one that refused to go away.When Superior Court Judge Paul Ridgeway
sentenced Mangum to 14 years and two months to 18 years in prison, it felt like
the end of a story with more twist and turns than reality television.
From a group of former lacrosse players intent on
suing everyone connected with Mangum’s deception, to a series of bouts with the
law that kept Mangum in court, it seems to be over now.
On November, 11, the U.S Supreme Court refused to hear
the case of Ryan McFadyen, Matthew Wilson and Breck Archer, three former
members of Duke’s lacrosse team who sued Duke University; Durham police
investigators and city officials; Mike Nifong; and nurses who examined Crystal
Federal courts had narrowed the scope of the player’s
complaint.Enough never seemed to be
enough for those still aching from having their names and reputations dragged
into the court of public opinion. As others endured the burden of Mangum’s dishonesty,
she continued to escape fate with justice.Mike Nifong, the Durham district attorney who called for justice before
considering reasonable doubt, lost his job, was stripped of his credentials by
the NC Bar Association, and has faded into obscurity.
Durham – in –
Wonderland, a blog offering commentary
and analysis regarding Mangum alleging rape, continues to poke at the Group of
88 - the Duke Professors who called for justice before the facts related to the
case were presented.
“The paper has no comment from any member of the Group
of 88, nor have I seen any comments elsewhere on the web from any Group members,”
KC Johnson, owner of the blog writes. “Presumably
few if any of the Group continue to find Mangum credible, but it's worth
reiterating that all except Arlie Petters have not in any way distanced
themselves from their 2006 statement”.
Punishing Mangum, and anyone associated with her,
became the mission of many.They couldn’t
rest until punishment was given for that malicious lie.They cried foul after Mangum was found
innocent of arson, injury to personal property, contributing to the abuse and
neglect of her children and resisting arrest. Mangum smashed her boyfriend Milton
Walker’s windshield with a vacuum cleaner, slashed his tires and set his
clothes on fire because she says he punched her in the face repeatedly.
The details of that case weren’t allowed into evidence
during the recent trial.Despite not
being allowed to use those facts, prosecution was able to show a pattern. Mangum has problems with men.She has a temper.She has issues with being faithful – a fact
that has led to confrontations with her boyfriends.
Mangum shared her story with the jury. Prior to her testimony,
they heard from the victim. Daye spoke to an investigator twice before he died.
Daye told the investigator he felt
disrespected when Mangum brought men to his apartment. He admitted to kicking
the bathroom door when Mangum locked herself inside.He admitted to grabbing Mangum’s hair and continuing
to fight after she stabbed him in the side.
Mangum claims it was self-defense.The jury found her guilty of second-degree
murder.First-degree murder was an
option. Her attorney says he will appeal.
She asked me for help that day in the basement at the
Market Street Coffee House.I placed my
role as a journalist on the backburner and prayed for a way to help her find
peace.She wanted better for her
children. She wanted a way to escape her pattern with men. She wanted something
much deeper than I could find words to express.
Mangum reached out to me before I left North Carolina.She told me she heard I was leaving.She was still searching for work.More than any of that, I felt her need for
acceptance and freedom away from the assumptions people make.
I pray for the Daye family.I’m saddened that no verdict will bring him
back to them.
I pray for Crystal Mangum.There is more to her than most people will
ever now. Maybe she can find peace away from the glares of her critics.
Maybe others will be able to release their need to
punish what happened long ago. Maybe this story has come to an end.
Today is the 50th anniversary of John F.
Kennedy’s assassination. The past week has been jam-packed with images and commentaries
on the event. From trhe new book written by the secret service agent who was
there when it happened, to the ESPN report regarding the NFL’s decision to play
games the following Sunday, this week has been a trip down memory lane.
Kennedy’s assassination, on November 22, 1963, was the
first among five that exposed a critical divide concerning America’s communal
image.Medger Evers was killed on June
12, 1963. Malcolm X was killed on February 21, 1965.Martin Luther King, Jr. died on April 4,
1968, and Robert “Bobby” Kennedy, Jr. was killed on June 6, 1968.
It was an era of both domestic and global
confusion.America’s persona as the
world’s body ground against all forms of tyranny was juxtaposed against bloody
battles regarding race. The nation was engulfed in redefining its
identity.The melting pot experiment was
exposed as a colossal contradiction.
Public servants imitated the message of Hitler
In 1963, the world watched as Theophilus Eugene
"Bull" Connor , commissioner of public safety for the city of
Birmingham, Alabama, authorized the use of fire hoses and police attack dogs
against peaceful demonstrators, including children.
The nation and world took notice on January 14, 1963, as
George Wallace stood on the gold star where Jefferson Davis took oath, 102
years earlier, to become president of the Confederate States.Wallace boldly stood to take his oath of
office as Governor of Alabama.
“In the name of the greatest people that have ever
trod this earth, I draw the line in the dust and toss the gauntlet before the
feet of tyranny, and I say segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation
forever,” he said.
In North Carolina, Jesse Helms emerged as a critic of
the civil rights movement.His columns
in the News & Observer reflected
a growing view among southern whites. Helms claimed he civil rights movement
was infested by communist and “moral degenerates”, and argued that Medicaid was
a "step over into the swampy field of socialized medicine".
The deaths of the Kennedy brothers, Medger, Martin and
Malcolm are imbrued within a context were the battle to celebrate particular perspectives
is hindered by a universal mandate.Those clinging to Dixiecrat views were forced to concede a world were
black people exist beyond functioning as their servants. Democracy was tested in a way that reflected
the rationale for the Civil War.
The deaths of John and Robert Kennedy, Medgar Evers, Dr.
Martin Luther King, Jr., and Malcolm X are, in part, about America’s unresolved
issues with race. It was also about the fear of Communism and liberalism. They
all died due to America’s ongoing dilemma with dreading the unknown.The years between 1963 and 1968 reflected the
nation’s fear of the other.
Are we a nation that kills the best of what we could
Remembering JFK uncovers the agony related to being
nurtured in an era of assassins. The phantasmagoria of better days was quickly eradicated
by the deaths of those who tried to lead the way.The subtle message regulated the ambitions of
those who followed - be careful when you challenge America’s
The essential question for today regards the lessons
learned since the assassinations of those who tried to make a difference.Has America changed since then, or are we
quick to kill those who expose the things we fear?
Jesse Helms argued that Medicaid is socialized
medicine. Sounds familiar.States should
be allowed to enforce laws consistent with the views of its citizenry.He’s a communist.He’s a liberal intent on destroying
The force of rhetoric stirs the unruly ways of
lunatics. That’s a lesson taught by the death of President John F. Kennedy.We will never be a diverse union until we
celebrate the message of those we fear.
I watched in amazement NBC’s Dateline feature on the release of Ryan Ferguson.I watched the Ferguson family scuffle as Ryan
waited to be set free after being convicted of the death of Kent Heitholt, a
sports editor killed in the parking lot at the Columbia Daily Tribune.
It happened in my home town.I returned just weeks before the Western
District Court of Appeals vacated Ferguson’s 40 year sentence.Charles Erickson, who had claimed he and
Ferguson killed Heitholt, testified he couldn’t remember what happened. He was
too intoxicated to remember what happened.Erickson is serving a 25 year sentence after cooperating with the prosecution.
The district court ruled that Ferguson’s original
trial was flawed and that a new trial without key evidence would have to
determine guilt of evidence. The state
decided against a new trial.
I was moved by Ferguson’s release.I celebrate parents who never questioned
their son’s innocence, and a defense attorney who pressed to the end.Kathleen Zellner, the Chicago based attorney
who worked the case pro bono, refused to allow Ferguson to remain incarcerated
for 40 years.
“It’s easy to be falsely convicted,” Ferguson told the
crowd after he was released at the Boone County jail.He mentioned the masses of others caught up
in a system despite mounds of evidence to prove their innocence.
The story reminded me of Mumia Abu-Jamal – another case
with sketchy and circumstantial evidence that led to a conviction.Ferguson’s case sheds light on a judicial system
that often fails to get things right.Years were taken from Ferguson’s life.He’s forced to contend with the transition back into life of
freedom.That’s not as easy as one might
Mumia Abu-Jamal was convicted for the 1981 murder of
Philadelphia police officer Daniel Faulkner.He was originally sentenced to death.That sentence was commuted to life imprisonment in 2012.The New York Times described Mumia as
"perhaps the world's best known death-row inmate" Supporters from around
disagree with his conviction.
The convictions of Ferguson and Abu-Jamal, and their
public support, end the tie between the two.Ferguson is white.Abu-Jamal is
black.Ferguson was young with no
political agenda.Abu-Jamal is a black
nationalist who fought on behalf of MOVE, a radical movement in Philadelphia.
Dateline’s report reflected the power of the press and community
support in shifting unfair convictions.Many documentaries have been produced to expose Abu-Jamal’s case.The most recent could lead to the release of
the man with the golden voice.His radio
show From Death Row continues to air
on prison radio.He was celebrated as a
journalist before his arrest and conviction.The most recent documentary may be the one that forces his release.
Distance Revolutionary qualifies for Academy Awards consideration.Director Stephen
Vittoria deserves recognition for presenting a compelling glimpse at the humanity
of Abu-Jamal.While in Durham, NC, I
helped bring the documentary to the Carolina Theatre and Hayti Heritage Center.
Rachel Wolkenstein, one of Abu-Jamal’s attorney’s, made a strong case for his
innocence after the viewing of Manufacturing
of Guilt, a short film that examine the evidence associated with the case..Noelle Hanrahan, the producer of Abu-Jamal’s
radio broadcast, shared her experiences with the man and her role in making the
I’m close friends with Keith Cook, Adu-Jamal’s
brother.I met Jamal Hart, Abu-Jamal’s
son.I listened as Keith talked about
carrying his brother around as a child.I was moved when Jamal shared stories from his childhood.I cried him Abu-Jamal called from prison to
thank us for supporting him.
Beyond being an amazing documentary, Mumia: Long Distance Revolutionary
educates viewers.Those who watch it
leave convinced of Abu-Jamal’s innocence.Holding an Academy Award may be enough to set Mumia free.
Ferguson proves innocent people are going to
prison.Lapses in the judicial system
transcend the burden of race.It may be
true that most falsely convicted are black.It may also be true that it’s harder to prove innocence when race is a
factor.It’s saddening that Ferguson had
to endure the loss of years.Mumia is still
May this Oscar go to Mumia.
Free Mumia. Free Mumia
That’s taking Dateline
to another level of exposure.
Note: I use Nigger versus N-word to add emphasis to problems related to saying the word
Charles Barkley says he will continue to say
Nigger.He defended Matt Barnes for calling
teammates Nigger in a tweet following a scuffle with Serge Ibaka. Barnes was upset after being ejected for “standing
up for these Niggers.”
“’I’m a black man,” Barkley said during the pregame
show on TNT. “I use the N-word. I will continue to use the N-word among my
black friends and my white friends.”
Barnes called his LA Clipper teammates Nigger weeks
after Ritchie Incognito was exposed for leaving a Nigger laced voice message confronting
Jonathan Martin.Incognito was suspended
by the Miami Dolphins for calling Martin a half-Nigger, and threatening to
punch him and his mother.
Martin left the team to pursue therapy, and claims
being bullied by Incognito and other members of the team.Teammates are standing behind Incognito, declaring
him an honorary Nigger.
Jason Whitlock, columnist for ESPN.com, blasted those teammates
for nurturing a culture in common with prison nation.Whitlock chastised black men for questioning
the manhood of a black man with a Stanford degree and Harvard educated parents,
while affirming the thug ways of a white man designated to help toughen up the “half-Nigger.”
That’s yesterday’s news.Barnes refused to apologize for writing
Nigger.He says it’s commonly used
during games and in the locker room.Barnes says he will continue to use it, and there’s nothing that can be
said to change his mind.
ESPN's Michael Wilbon quickly defended Barnes.
"People can be upset with me if they want,"
he said on "Pardon the Interruption." "I, like a whole lot of
people, use the N-word all day every day my whole life. ... I have a problem
with white people framing the discussion for the use of the N-word."
Barkley’s comments echoed Wilbon’s.“What I do with my black friends is not up to
white America to dictate to me,” Barkley said.
Whitlock took issue with Barkley’s defense of Banes. He
called for a ban of Nigger in the NBA and NFL.
“The N-word is a not a generational issue. The N-word
was never a fad. It was a primary tool in the enslavement, disenfranchisement
and cultural destruction of a race of people,” Whitlock states.
Whitlock’s call to ban Nigger was followed by a
“I still use the N-word privately. I'm not proud of
this fact. I would never defend my use of the word. I use it far less than I
did a decade ago,” Whitlock writes. “I've been battling for years to eliminate
it from my vocabulary.”
Barkley, Wilbon and Whitlock all admit using the
word.The only difference is with
Whitlock’s desire to dismiss the word from his vocabulary.Given Whitlock still uses the word, why does
he use it, what will it take to keep him from using it, and should white
Commissioners be empowered to force black men to stop using the word?
As distasteful as the word is for most of us, isn’t
that type of enforcement rooted in a position of privilege that denies black
men the right to establish and affirm their own terms of communication?
Nigger is a complex word.Who says it and why it is used adds to the
violence associated with the word.If
Barnes, Barkley, Wilbon and Whitlock can use it, why can’t Paula Deen.If black men in the locker room can use it,
why can Ritchie Incognito?
The NAACP attempted to end the debate in July of
2007.Thousands gathered in Detroit for
the funeral and burial of Nigger. A horse drawn carriage carried a wood coffin
to the grave. The word “nigga was displayed on a ribbon, and there were black
roses on the coffin.
Die, N-word,” Kwame Kilpatrick, then Mayor of Detroit, said. “We don’t want to
see you around here no more.”
Nigger rose from the grave 10 minutes later.It was heard when a car passed by with
windows rolled down with the sound of a Tupac groove.
Black men aren’t ready to put Nigger to rest.They know it’s wrong to summons memories of how
it was used to marginalize their ancestors.They changed it from Nigger to Nigga for a reason. It doesn’t feel the
same when the meaning behind the word has changed. In their minds, Nigga isn’t
Nigger when a black man uses the word.
Nigga may not carry the same force as Nigger, but when
a white person uses Nigga it all means the same.
The U.S. Department of Justice has begun an investigation
in the shooting death of Brandon Coleman.The decision came after a complaint was sent regarding Boone County Prosecuting
Attorney Dan Knight’s ruling not to press charges.
The complaint argues charges were not pressed due to a
racial bias. Agents from the FBI will
consult with the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division to decide on federal
Coleman was shot four times by Dustin Deacon on May 19.Deacon claims he was protecting Rolland
Deacon, his father, after witnessing Coleman point a gun at his head. Rolland
Deacon greeted Coleman carrying a machete.On Oct. 23, Knight said he wouldn’t file charges due to Missouri’s “castle
Winona Coleman-Broadus, Coleman’s mother, contacted
the Department of Justice to seek consideration of federal violations.FBI agents aren’t seeking to determine if
Knight’s ruling is wrong, but if Coleman’s civil rights were violated.
The FBI’s investigation of Deacon is significant
beyond the black communities desire to seek justice for the death of
Coleman.The failure to press charges
against Deacon is another example of how “stand your ground” and “castle laws”
have radically altered law enforcement across the nation.In addition, it reflects how America’s
position that we are living in a post-race society negates race as a motivation
Missouri is a castle doctrine state with a “stand-your-ground”
law. The state enacted its castle law in 2007. The law removes the duty to
retreat for persons who are attacked within their home or vehicle. The law
justifies the use of deadly force when victims reasonably believe their lives
to be in danger, and provides them immunity from civil and criminal action.
The death of Coleman follows a chain of cases that
forced prosecutors to dismiss how race served as a factor.The confrontation between Coleman and the
Deacons resulted in the interracial relationship with Rolland Deacon’s white
daughter.“Stand your ground” and “castle
laws” are being used to justify the murders of those attacked based on racist
Knight’s decision not to pursue the case is another
example of how prosecutions are undermined by laws that make it difficult to
find white men guilty when black men are killed. The prejudices of the jury, and culture of a
community, factor in leaning the scale of justice against black men.
On trial is a community with serious problems related
to race relations.Also on trial is a
state enamored with guns and protecting the rights of people to kill those
deemed a threat to their property, family or ideology.Could it be that Deacon killed Coleman to
protect the racial purity of the family?Is it possible that Coleman showed up that day to make amends, and found
himself face to face with a clan prepared to put a end to the Negro playing
games with their white daughter and sister?
It’s all the type of speculation that could have been
exposed in court. Sadly, “stand your ground” and “castle laws” aren’t designed
to ponder that type of conjecture.There’s
no place within the new law for an assessment of motives, or how racism factors
into the decision to pull the trigger – not once, twice or three times, but
four. Deacon shot his 12- gauge shotgun
until he was sure that coon was good and dead.
Yes, more speculation.
What can we conclude?It’s a longshot that the investigation will rule that Coleman’s civil
rights were violated. The force of state law precludes the power of the
fedsStates have effectively taken us
back to the days that empowered the confederacy in a way that minimizes a
national agenda.Could we be in the
midst of another Civil War?
It’s frightening to live in a state that gives racists
the right to bear arms.It’s even more perplexing
when they’re given the right to kill.
Sorry, I forgot.We can’t talk about race as a motive.Apparently, Coleman crossed that line that made the Deacon’s feel
Four bullets later he’s another reminder of what
happens to black men who forget their proper place.
Megan Donohue of the Columbia Missourian
“It’s like the people here are sleepwalking,” Harold
Warren, Sr. said as he clutched the stirring wheel of his car as if to keep
from shaking.“We have to fight for our
Warren was the first black person
elected to serve on Columbia, Missouri’s City Council.It took more than 30 years for residents to
elect another black person. Almeta
Crayton was the first black woman to serve on the city council
Crayton died last week at 53.
“I tell people it’s sad that I was the
first black person elected to the council,” Warren says. “Not much has changed
He parked in front of the Wendy’s near
the Columbia Mall. Memories of when it first opened came to mind as I reflected
on the massive growth since I left 25 years ago. So much has changed. Some
things are the same.
Warren then told me the story of Brandon Coleman’s
death.Coleman, a 25-year-old
groundskeeper at the University of Missouri, was killed on May 19 following a
confrontation over an interracial relationship.No arrest was ever made and, last week, Boone County prosecutor Dan
Knight declared the shooting “legally justified” and that no charges would be
Warren says an argument began when Broadus arrived at
the house to see his girlfriend.The
girl’s father came to the door holding a machete and threatened to use it if
Broadus refused to leave.
“He (Broadus) had a gun but he didn’t pull it out,”
Warren says the son of the man arguing with Broadus
opened fire on Broadus with a 12-gauge shotgun. Josiah Williams, a witness at
the scene, told a reporter with the Columbia Daily Tribune he heard three quick
gunshots, a pause and then a fourth gunshot.Williams said he went outside and overheard a man telling neighbors he
looked out the window to see his father being held at gunpoint and started shooting.
Williams told the Tribune he could see Coleman rolling
on the ground in pain. He said he called 911 four times but never spoke to a
dispatcher because the phone continued to ring or he was placed on hold. He
estimated it took 25 minutes for an ambulance to arrive.
Winona Coleman-Broadus, Brandon’s mother, claims racial
prejudice played a role in the decision not to file charges. Coleman-Broadus
has reached out to the U.S. Justice Department for help.
Coleman-Broadus said witnesses claim her son did not
fire a weapon at the person who shot. Coleman-Broadus believes authorities did
not act fast enough to save her son’s life.
“I don’t understand why trained, professional people
could not have tried to stop bleeding, start CPR and reassured and comforted
him.They could have at least allowed my
son to die in a humane fashion rather than like a damn animal because he is not
an animal.He was a good kid who made
some bad choices,” Coleman-Broadus told reporters with KRCG-TV.
Witnesses told Coleman-Broadus that police did nothing
to save her son’s life while they waited 30 minutes for an ambulance to make
the five minutes trip to the crime scene. Columbia police refused to respond to
what witnesses told family members.
The protest of black residents has fallen on deaf
ears.Coleman-Broadus and fewer than 50
gathered on the corner of Providence and Broadway to plead for justice. Their
signs and tears reflect the lack of change in community long divided along the
broad line that keeps blacks on the other side. For those begging for a day in
court, there is no daylight – just darkness.
Such is life in a city that has only elected two
blacks to the city council.
“It’s been this way for so long they don’t know how to
act another way,” Warren said.