Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Beyonce': Where is the old school love?

Call me old fashioned.  As open minded as I am about some things, there are others that reflect my age, social conditioning, and unwillingness to bend so hard that stuff begins to break.

So, forgive me for saying it, I prefer that my potential girlfriend or wife wears clothes while in public space.  I appreciate the female body, and understand why people lose their minds at the sight of a beautiful woman shaking her groove thang.  I’m no prude, but I’d rather keep some things between the two of us.

I’d rather not talk nasty while others are listening. It’s no one’s business what happens after Luther and Smokey set the stage with candles burning, and an empty glass of wine to set the mood.  Some things need to be left for those grown enough to handle that type of situation.

You feel me? 

So, let me make it perfectly clear, I’m not hating on Beyoncé’ and her Boo for dragging their personal sex biz before the world to hear.  Jay-Z has every right to play games with Queen B with lines like “I'm Ike, Turner, turn up Baby no I don't play, now eat the cake, Annie Mae Said, "Eat the cake, Annie Mae!"

The last time I checked, that’s not funny, but what a couple conceives as humorous is between him and her.  Put another way, do your thang Hova, but don’t expect me to endorse that line of bull stank.

The clear references to domestic violence aside, I’m not a fan of couples broadcasting what they do, when they do, what they do. My old school ways demand a different approach to celebrating the woman I claim as my Queen.

She deserved to be wooed Jeffery Osborne style.

That you should be mine.

Anything you want

You've got to fortify my love, you fortify me,

You should be mine. Anything you want

You've got to fortify my love

Or, experience a man on his knees begging for another chance.  Sing Lenny!

I said, "You know, sometimes you get lonely

You get lonely, you get lonely"

Oh, oh, oh and I cry, I cry

Oh, oh, oh

Whatever happened to baby, I love you music, and baby, baby, please give me one more chance music? The masses seem more interested in let’s get nasty music.

I celebrate Beyoncé‘s desire to express her sexual freedom as a way to promote her version of new age feminism.  I support a woman’s right to shake her coke bottle curves like an upper cut in the face of patriarchy.  Women have every right to clutch their sexuality like a thug with sagging pants.  What’s good for the goose is good for the woman sick and tired of those double standards.

But please, baby, baby, please, don’t forget the love music.  Don’t forget men like me interested in more than a short term memory.  Talk to me about falling so deep in love that every love song makes you call her name and wish she was there to hear you say “I love you”.

Forgive me for being an old school dude in search of real love. Forgive me for getting angry when men objectify women, and desire no more than to hit it for a night. I suppose that makes me a dinosaur of sorts.  Maybe that makes me the type of man too blind to acknowledge my love affair with patriarchy.  Maybe it could be said my position proves a subconscious desire to control a woman’s vagina.  Or, maybe I’m expressing my willingness to embrace a woman for more than what she looks like when naked.

I’m an old school dude searching for old school love.  Memo to my future wife, the freaky stuff is for me and you.

I’m looking for love in all the right places.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Is Christmas for white kids?

News alert! Christmas is for white people.

Santa Claus is white and so is Jesus. It’s a fact. So, stop complaining black people.  Stick with Kwanza to express your need to be affirmed.

The news flash came from Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly.  Kelly blasted a blogger for sharing the angst she felt seeing a white Santa Claus as a child and a black Santa at home.
Aisha Harris, a blogger with Slate, argued for an all-inclusive Santa due to changes in the cultural makeup of society.
“Santa is one of the first iconic figures foisted upon you: He exists as an incredibly powerful image in the imaginations of children across the country (and beyond, of course), Harris writes. “That this genial, jolly man can only be seen as white—and consequently, that a Santa of any other hue is merely a  “joke” or a chance to trudge out racist stereotypes—helps perpetuate the whole “white-as-default” notion endemic to American culture (and, of course, not just American culture).”

Kelly’s response proved both a lack of sensitivity and knowledge related to the identity of the historical Jesus.

"By the way, for you kids watching at home, Santa is white. But this person is arguing that maybe we should also have a black Santa. But you know, Santa is what he is, and just so you know, we're just debating this because someone wrote about it, kids," Kelly said.

Maybe it would have helped if Kelly prefaced her comments with “white kids.”  “By the way, for you white kids watching at home...”  That would make it easier for the rest of us to swallow the hyperbole she spewed like proven fact.

Kelly’s insistence in protecting the traditional American spin on the Christmas story may reflect an even deeper concern regarding the way Christianity is understood as a valuation of white privilege.  Affirming Jesus and St. Nick as white men distances white people as the esteemed race of Christianity. 

Don’t get upset white kids.  Santa and Jesus are white.  Don’t worry; you are the chosen of God.  Our white skin proves our place among the rest, and there’s nothing anyone can say to change our special place among the rest.

That’s what I read between the lines.

It’s presuppositions like these that have led to deep pondering related to the practice of Christianity within the context of white privilege.  Theologians like James Cone, Gayarud Wilmore and J. Deotis Roberts forced questions that led to the study of Black Theology. It’s why Robert E. Wood asked Must God Remain Greek? 

It’s why Katie G. Cannon, Jacquelyn Grant, and Delores Williams considered the oppression of black women to develop Womanist Theology.  Grant writes about the threefold oppression of racism, sexism and classism in White Woman's Christ Black Women's Jesus.

Put another way, black scholars maintain substantial divergence with the way Christianity is avowed as an endorsement of American culture and white privilege.  These scholars grapple with how the study of black radicalism is sacrificed in the celebration of Dr. King’s dream. Nonviolent resistance, and the love ethic, take center stage, while the grip of historical, institutionalized evils becomes a conversation related to days before this post-race era.

There’s no place to discuss race. Santa is white, and so is Jesus.  So, shut up black people!

Got that White Kids?

As for Black Kids, deal with it.  Bow to our white God! Pray that our white Jesus hears your prayers and that white Santa has time to throw a few crumbs over in your neighborhood.  The Christmas story isn’t about you, or any other race of people. 

Christmas is for white people!

It gives new meaning to dreaming of a “white Christmas”. 

Is Kelly dreaming for the ghost of Christmas past?  Does she want a Christmas with Bing Cosby singing with no black people on the set to remind her of life on the other side of the tracks?  Does she want a world devoid of black people and their issues, and reminders of thoughts of her quest for supremacy? 

Memo to FOX TV:  Christmas is for black people.  It’s also for Asian, Latino and people of mixed race.

As for Jesus, he wasn’t white. He was made white by those who fashioned him into their own image to justify their hatred for others.  Do your homework before giving lecture to children. And, please remember, black and brown children are watching

Thank God for the Black Messiah.  By the way, God is a God of the oppressed.

Homework courtesy of James Cone.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Memories like a raisin in the sun

I’ve been down this street before. 

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 their dreams?

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 of dreams?

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 potential dreams.

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.



Sunday, November 24, 2013

Mangum's guilty verdict may set her free

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, NC.

“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 chance.

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 Mangum.

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.

If so, Mangum can begin writing a new story.

Friday, November 22, 2013

President John F. Kennedy: Five years of assassinations

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 be?

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 contradictions. 

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 America. 

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 wonder if we will ever learn from our mistakes.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Academy Awards and Dateline: Two cases of falsely accused

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 think.

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.

Mumia: Long 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 documentary.

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 there.

May this Oscar go to Mumia. 

Free Mumia. Free Mumia

That’s taking Dateline to another level of exposure.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Charles Barkley defends using the N-Word

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, 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 personal confession. 

“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.

 “Good riddance. 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.
Confusion abounds

Friday, November 1, 2013

FBI begins investigation into Brandon Colemans death

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 charges.

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 law”.
Brandon Coleman

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 fo murder.

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 assumptions.

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 feds  States 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 uneasy.

Four bullets later he’s another reminder of what happens to black men who forget their proper place.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Looking for justice in Columbia Missouri

Photograph by 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 civil rights.
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 since then.”
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 filed.
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 claims.
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.
No justice, no peace.  Welcome home.

Monday, October 21, 2013

The football team at Grambling St. University refuses to play because of poor conditions

It’s about time it happened.  I’m not shocked.  Football players from Gambling State University refused to suit up and play this weekend.

Enough is enough.  Players are fed up with long trips on a bus, poor facility conditions and a tumultuous coaching situation.  They decided not to make the trip to play Jackson State University.

Way to go team.

It hurts that I happened at Grambling – the school Eddie Robinson coached 57 years on his way to becoming the second winningest coach in Division I (NCAA) history.  Robinson exposed the world to the gifted athletes playing on the campuses of historically black universities.  Robinson began coaching in 1941, long before black players were allowed to play for major college programs.  He retired in 1997 with a record of 408 wins, 15 losses, and 15 ties.

Robinson coached hundreds who played in the NFL.  Three –Willie Brown, Buck Buchanan and Willie Davis – are members of the Pro Football Hall of Fame.  Doug Williams is the first and only black quarterback to lead a team to a Super Bowl win.  Williams led the Washington Redskins in a 42-10 rout over John Elway and the Denver Broncos in Super Bowl XXII.

Williams returned home to succeed Robinson in 1998.  He resigned in 2002, after three Southwestern Conference titles from 2000-2002, to become a personal executive with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the team that drafted him in the first round in 1978.  Williams returned to Grambling in 2011 after serving as the General Manager of the Virginia Destroyers of the United Football League. 

Williams was fired in September after a battle with administrator over mats in the weight room.

The program Robinson built deserves better than this. Williams deserves better than this, but, more than any of that, players deserve better than this.

On Thursday, the school relieved George Ragsdale of his duties as interim coach and replaced him with defensive coordinator Dennis "Dirt" Winston.  Winston was on the list of coaches the team is willing to accept as their coach.

Removing Ragsdale wasn’t enough to convince the team to get on the bus headed to play Jackson State.  They want to know why Williams was fired.

Before his termination, Williams had raised funds through an alumni group and purchased new mats for the weight room.  According to Sport’s Illustrated, the old mats presented safety hazards, but since the raised money had not gone through the school's foundation, the school president and athletic director ordered the new mats to be stored in another building.

Williams was fired a week later.

The letter from the players said they had to pay for their own Gatorade and poorly cleaned uniforms have contributed to several players suffering multiple cases of staph infection.

In the letter, players said the athletic complex "is in horrible condition, and has many hazards that may contribute to our overall health. First, the complex is filled with mildew and mold. Mildew and mold can be seen on the ceiling, walls and floor, and are contributing to water leaks because of faltering walls and ceilings."

Players rode on bus 750-miles to a neutral-site game in Indianapolis, reported that the team left campus at 6 p.m. on a Thursday and arrived in Indianapolis at 9 a.m. Friday. Grambling lost 48-0 to Alcorn State the next day. Alcorn State, based in Mississippi, flew to the game.  The game at Jackson State is a 160 mile trip from Grambling, La.

This is not what they agreed to when they signed a national letter of intent.  They enrolled at Grambling because it’s an HBCU with a rich legacy.  They came because of Robinson, Williams and the hundreds who played at Grambling. 

It’s a sickening story that is hard to report. Who should we blame - school administrators, the coaches, the players or the alumni.

I point the finger at all of us for failing our nation’s HBCU’s.  The problems with Grambling’s football team reflect a broader issue related to the financial stability of HBCU’s.

On June 2, Saint Paul’s College officials announced that it planned to close its doors.  After 125 years, the school in Lawrenceville, VA was forced to terminate 75 employees and tell students to seek an education at another school. Atlanta’s Morris Brown College is $35 million in debt and has been struggling to stay open for years. Morris Brown has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.

A board member from Howard University wrote a letter presenting financial problems, and John Silvanus Wilson Jr., president of Morehouse College, shared his concerns with National Public Radio’s Michel Martin.

The problems at Grambling transcend football. HBCU’s aren’t making the revenue to stay afloat. The University of Texas football program made a profit of $68,830,484 last year. Louisiana State University, a school in the same state as Grambling, profited $43,253,286.

With all that money being made on college football, shouldn’t we be upset that players at Grambling have to buy their own Gatorade and ride a bus 750 miles a play?

It’s shameful.  It’s disgusting.  All of us should be appalled.

There’s an answer.

Where do I send the check?

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

I left Durham with unresolved business

Moving from a community you love feels like the end of a long relationship.  Packing bags and moving on is tough to do when you have unfinished business.

That’s how I’m feeling today – like there’s too much in Durham, NC left unresolved. You see, I still love her.  She’s a city like no other, and I did marry her a few years back.

Don’t get me wrong, Columbia, MO has a lot to offer. It’s just not the same.   I keep comparing her to Durham. It’s not fair to limit my affection based on what used to be, but I still have feelings that make it hard to let go.

The coffee isn’t the same, there isn’t much diversity, I can’t find a Whole Foods, and, and.  My list is making me cry.  I have to let her go.  It’s difficult to see the good in the new when you’re trapped in loving the old.

Moving on is harder when you walk away with a bag of unresolved business.  There’s so much I wanted to say before leaving.  I didn’t get a chance to address a few matters that have haunted me since leaving. So, let me share what’s on my mind.

I left with concerns related to the mentally ill. The death of Derek Walker left a foul taste in my spirit. I never got a chance to share my disdain for the way he was gunned down by police after pleading to be killed with a gun to his head.  It troubles me that so many watched him die with tears flowing because he couldn’t find the courage to live.

I’m tormented that police officers had to pull the trigger. They didn’t want to see Walker die.  I worry about the mental health of the officers involved in the incident, and how people are quick to throw stones at those who did their very best not to kill Walker.  I’m hurting for everyone involved – his 5-year-old son, his mother, his family and a village grappling to understand why it had to end this way?

With that being said, what is going on with Durham’s Police Department. After a series of questionable actions by the police, one has to wonder if there is the emergence of a culture within the police department that assumes brute force and racial profiling as normative strategies in enforcing the law.

The death of Jose Adan Cruz, the uncalled for beating and arrest of Stephanie Nickerson, and the dubious arrest of Carlos Riley, Jr. hint that it may be time for new leadership at the police department.  It doesn’t help that Police Chief Jose Lopez is accused of saying Attorney David Hall deserved to be shot because he works as a public defender.

I have lots to say about Durham’s City Council election. The analysis on this election is loaded with potential lasting implications. Let me share a few.

What is the significance to Durham having political leaders that don’t reflect the age of the population they serve?  As the average age Durham decreases, and the hipster crowd reshapes the culture of the city, what does it say about the political machinery of Durham that youth are locked out due to the influence of Durham’s PAC’s?

Omar Beasley is positioned to add youth to the City Council, but faces stiff opposition from Eddie Davis who received 59% of the votes in the primary compared to Beasley’s 21%.  That gap advances speculation that black voters are opting to reject the endorsement of the Durham Committee on the Affairs of Black People due to issues with the organizations leadership.

The contest between Davis and Beasley continues the battle of supremacy between Durham’s PAC’s. If Davis wins, serious issues will follow the Durham Committee after a battle between two highly capable, black candidates.  Watch the black vote in Durham to quantify the hold the Durham Committee has on black voters.

Finally, what impact will the Rolling Hills development have on extending economic development beyond the downtown core? Even more pressing is the role North Carolina Central University will serve in revitalizing the area decimated by urban renewal.  The area known as Hayti reaped a death when the Durham Freeway was built to connect Durham to the Research Triangle Park.  Hundreds of black owned businesses were displaced.

What will happen next?

If downtown development can be used as a clue, Durham will witness massive gentrification that will shift the demographics of the inner city core.  The change will be celebrated as growth, but what are the consequences of all that change?

I have so much to talk about.  Maybe I can move on and love my new home the way she deserves.  Maybe I should start writing her love letters.  Not a bad thought.  That’s what commentary is for me – a love letter to the world about things that matter to me.

Love endures.