Friday, June 28, 2013

Carlos Riley, Jr. says he had to fight for his life after Officer Stewart pulled his gun

Carlos Riley, Jr. claims his life was at risk.  The evidence supports his assertion.

We shouldn’t assume he’s telling a lie.

Why would we? Should we take the word of Kelly Stewart, the police officer shot in the foot after a scuffle with Riley?

The logical response is to side with Stewart.  It’s built within the mentality of most of us to honor and respect law enforcement officers.  We’re taught as children to trust the men and women who carry a badge. That’s what we’re taught, and anyone who questions the authority of a police officer must be telling lies.

It’s not always that cut and dry.  There are too many examples of rogue police officers to validate their report in all cases.  Durham has its share of overzealous men and women in blue who use power like a weapon of mass destruction.

The arrest of Riley came after the horrific case of Stephanie Nickerson.  Nickerson was beaten by Cpl. Brian Schnee when police responded to a noise complaint on Oct. 28, 2012. Pictures of Nickerson’s battered face rapidly spread on the internet. Nickerson was charged with resisting an officer and assaulting a government official.

Charges were dropped on Jan 24 and Schnee resigned from the police department after it was discovered he had used excessive force.  

Riley’s arrest raises serious questions regarding the credibility of Durham’s Police Department. Is there a culture of police brutality aimed at black men and women?

Riley was arrested on December 18 at 10:00 am shortly after dropping his girlfriend off at work.  Without reason, he was stopped by Stewart who was driving an unmarked police vehicle and wearing street clothes.

Not knowing Stewart was an officer, Riley drove off.  Stewart chased Riley and turned on his lights.  Riley stops after seeing the lights.

Stewart approaches the car and accused Riley of smoking marijuana.  Riley denies the accusation.  Riley claims Stewart jumps into the car and begins to choke and punch him.  He says he couldn’t breathe. 

Riley alleges that Stewart threatened to kill him and began to draw his gun.

Stewart shot himself in the leg.

Riley says he was afraid he would be killed.  He grabbed Stewart’s gun and pulled it away.  He helped Stewart out of the car and fled to protect himself.

He was afraid the next bullet would be for him. I would fear the same.  Wouldn’t you?

Within a few hours, Riley turned himself in.  He’s facing state and federal charges.

Riley claims Stewart choked him.  Riley claims Stewart drew his gun.  He jumped into his car. He had no reason to stop Riley.  He wasn’t smoking marijuana.  Does any of this make sense to you?

Should we assume Riley is telling lies, or is it possible that his life was in danger that day?

Riley is the nephew of Walter P. Riley, a Durham native noted for his work as an attorney in the San Francisco Bay area.  The Riley family will gather today at the Durham Police department to protest the arrest of Carlos Riley, Jr. 

Nia Wilson, executive director of SpiritHouse, is helping the family in their quest for justice.  She emailed the following statement:

A 10 year study by UNC political science professor Frank Baumgartner, found that Durham has the highest racial profiling, racial disparity divide among any of North Carolina’s 100 counties.  Black motorists, in Durham, are unjustly stopped, searched, and are 900% more likely to be incarcerated for criminal conduct than whites suspects. Yet, when we hear of cases like Stephanie Nickerson and Carlos Riley Jr., the assumption and general opinion, is that they must have done something wrong. It makes it easy for people to walk away, rather than to do the hard work of confronting a systemic problem that heavily impacts the African American community. Carlos, like Stephanie, did nothing wrong on December 18. On the contrary exercised his constitutional right to stand up for himself and protect his life.

 Last night I attended a film viewing, at the Hayti Heritage center, of a new documentary about Mumia Abul Jamal. Mumia has served over 30 years in a Philadelphia prison for a crime that he did not commit. Mumia, who continues to declares his innocence, has said countless times, “My only crime is that I survived.”  Carlos Riley Jr. could say the same.

The rally takes place today in front of the police department at 505 W. Chapel Hill Street.  It begins at 4:30 pm. 

It could be assumed that Carlos Riley, Jr. is just telling lies.  What are the consequences if he is telling the truth?

Are we willing to uphold the integrity of a badge when there are too many examples of tainted police? And, what happens when the word of the police outweighs the evidence?

I’m going to the rally.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Paula Deen exposes the racism of the "New South"

I’m struggling to express my thoughts regarding Paula Deen.  Now that I’m past my “no she didn’t” moment, I can share how I really feel about Deen and Southern living.

On center stage is Southern culture and how closely connected we remain to an ideology that assumes blacks are inferior to whites

Deen’s ouster as a Food Network host attempts to cover common thoughts and tendencies among those born and reared in a segregated society.  Although Deen, and many like her, have done the hard work to distance themselves from the mean spirited ways of their ancestors, some of it still lingers.

Ostracizing Deen by making her a rogue promoting a racist agenda fails to censure the culture that cultivates that racism.  Convicting Deen as a racist may take the covers off the charisma that made her the darling of Southern culture, but it doesn’t give space to the need for deeper reflection on what remains after she goes away.

"I believe that every creature on this Earth, every one of God's creatures, was created equal," she told NBC's "Today" show. "... I believe that everyone ought to be treated equal."

Deen has a different understanding of truth.  In her mind, she’s not a racist.  In her mind she has been misunderstood and lies have been told.  Deen believes she’s a victim of a conspiracy to undermine her work and reputation.

In other words, it’s not her fault.   

The national debate on Deen involves court documents that support allegations that she and people in her restaurant have been insensitive to blacks, women and other minorities.  She confessed to calling a man Nigger and to having used the word more than once.

The discrimination lawsuit filed by Lisa T. Jackson, a white woman, contends racial slurs about women, Jews and blacks were common in Uncle Bubba’s Oyster House, a restaurant run by Deen’s brother in Savannah, GA.  Lawyers for Deen’s brother filed a motion in the case arguing Jackson is pursuing race-based claims, but has no standing because she is white.

The unraveling of Deen’s empire bares before the public the behind the scenes culture of a Southern restaurant.  It’s clear that something is amiss in Deen’s kitchen, but could it be that the work environment in many Southern kitchens follows a long legacy of mistreatment of black employees?

Is the culture of “The Help” still enforced in the South?

If so, on trial here is Southern culture and the assumptions regarding race and privilege.  Maybe Deen, and others like her, believe their contention that they are removed from the grip of race.  Maybe Deen doesn’t believe she is a racist because her form of racism deviates from the form she knew as a child.  Maybe the movement away from the old model of racism leaves many convinced they aren’t racist.

She’s not racist, she just calls people Nigger.

Racism doesn’t look and act like it did when Deen was a young person growing up in the South. But if it looks like a racist, it is a…..You know the rest.

Racism hides under positions of privilege and power.  It robs people of their culture and voice and claims it as its own.  Southern cooking is the creation of the former slaves.  Deen’s wealth entrenched in a long history of black cooks who fed those who kept them entrapped to protect their power and privilege.  Those old cooks watch as people like Deen take ownership of their culture as if they crafted it themselves.

Racism is about owning what doesn’t belong to you due to the power and privilege needed to promote it in a way that separates you from those on the bottom.  Racism is calling people Nigger when your wealth and reputation is built on what they have given.

Racism is the celebration of a culture of exclusion.  Jackson's lawsuit claims Deen wanted to plan a party in the style of a Southern plantation, staffed with black waiters dressed to resemble slaves.  Racism is not knowing that desire is racist because Southern culture makes that fantasy normative.

Today’s racism doesn’t know it’s racist.  It places Southern culture and white pride above thoughts involving race.  Deen doesn’t know she’s a racist because racism is adjusted to feel normal.

On trial is the evolution of racism. Transformed racism is found among white liberals unable to concede their racism.  They invest time to prove they’re not racist, while refusing to acknowledge how their position of power and privilege discounts the contribution and work of black people.  They take the fried chicken and make it their own.  They reap the advantages that come with race while preventing a black person from getting what they receive.

All while refusing to concede the benefits afforded them due to their racial privilege.  This is the new racism.

Deen is a good white woman who loves black folks.  Behind closed doors she calls them Niggers and wishes for days when she was served by black people.

She’s not a racist. She’s a Southern woman living within a culture that continues to take advantage of the power and privilege afforded her because she’s white.

"I believe that every creature on this Earth, every one of God's creatures, was created equal," she told ... I believe that everyone ought to be treated equal."

Now, get back in the kitchen.

Welcome to the “New South”.

Monday, June 24, 2013

All-boys academy for black and brown boys attacks culture that negates importance of education

The critics of an all-boys academy claim the proposed school are sexist, cost too much and is counterintuitive to the intent of Brown vs. Board of Education. Each appears as a vital argument; however, none take into account the troubling culture that makes an all-boys academy the best solution for Durham’s black and brown boys.

“The ‘extensive data’ that Kenney refers to goes unexplained,” Tim Tyson, State Education Chair for the NAACP, responded to my recent blog supporting a proposal for an all-boys academy. “This assertion certainly does not represent any consensus of the scholarly literature. People of good intentions can differ. But to pretend that the research shows a deafening roar in favor of academies segregated by race and gender are unjustified. “

Tyson’s thesis, along with the assessment of others, fails to take seriously the stack of research and statistics that give credibility to an alternative approach.  Research suggests an inner-city culture that regards education in negative ways, which guides poor academic performance and dropouts among minority boys.

The Metropolitan Center for Urban Education at New York University’s Theories of Change among Single-Sex Schools for Black and Latino Boys: An Intervention in Search of Theory was published in 2010. The study examines the work of six all-boy schools and offers a strong argument in support of their relevancy. 

Need for Changing Boys’ Ideas of What is a Man

The Metropolitan Center study discovered the importance of framing the social/emotional need for a masculine identity based on their understanding of ―street‖ images and the absence of male figures that often surround boys of color

“I think that this notion of manhood that a lot of your urban youth experience is pretty one-sided,” a member of the staff at an all-boy school says.  “It pretty much looks at this aspect of strength and power and equates them solely with sexual prowess, the ability to earn money, and the ability to defend.”

The study uncovered how students are bombarded with imagery and the identity of being a thug, being a gangster, being hard, as defining what qualifies one as a man.

School is referred to as something that ―girls‖ do, and it is for this reason that some administrators claim it is necessary to separate the boys from female students – to give them a space where they do not have to ―compete‖ or feel the need to show off as ―men‖ who are ―too cool for school.‖

Bilson &Mansini’s Cool Pose is informative in unlocking the implications related to inner-city culture.

Need for an Academic Identity in their Social Identities

Minority boys face the acting White stigma.  Cook & Ludwig address this matter in their book The Burden of Acting White. 

“Due to the history of racial discrimination in the United States, African Americans began to doubt their intellectual ability, began to define academic success as White people’s prerogative and began to discourage their peers from emulating White people in academic striving, i.e., from acting white,” the book concludes.

All-boys schools confront the negative perceptions of education among minority boys by establishing a brotherhood among students that instills the resilience to develop and sustain their emerging academic identities.

Need for Future and Leadership

Those interviewed in the study expressed it was through this identity work that they could begin the work of transforming black and brown boys into ―leaders.‖

“These single-sex schools transmit the message that their Black and Latino male students should become examples in their own right and find ways to ―give back to their communities,” the study states. “The young men are being primed to lead the next generation in transformational change for their communities. Rather than sit back and be influenced by the negativity of street culture, the schools direct their students to take positive control of their own lives and take what they learn back to ―the community.”

Need for High Expectations

An administrator suggested that the structural issue of racism prevents Black students, in particular, from making educational gains:

“I would say social issues just from the standpoint of being a young Black male, dealing with racism,” the administrator said. “And so, you’re going to have to converse with people who have low expectations of you, who have no expectations of you. Or you might be in an environment where they don’t want you to be.”

Core in the analysis of public education is how the biases of school administrators and teachers impact their ability to teach minority boys.

Need for Relevant Curriculum and Instruction

The schools in the study expressed the need to center teaching and the curriculum around the educational needs of their students, with careful attention given to the social, emotional, and academic challenges minority boys face.

There is massive evidence that points to how the culture of minority youth clashes with the academic goals of the traditional public school setting.  As admirable as the goal to embrace an integrated school may be, the body of evidence clearly speaks to cultural dynamics that make it problematic to teach those who regard education as a thing that black and brown boys don’t need.

Durham’s statistics make the case – 3,002 black male and 560 Hispanic male short term suspensions in 2011-2012, compared to 249 white male students.  233 black male and 68 Hispanic male dropouts out of a total of 363 for all students.  47% reading proficiency among black males compared to 81% among white males.  64% math proficiency among black males compared to 90.6 compared to white males.

Add to the pot unemployment, incarceration and metal health concerns and you have an increasing divide between black and brown males and their white counterparts.

Tyson argues the affirming of Brown vs. Board of Education. His is a valid claim when taken outside the context of the current plight of black and brown boys.  This is what John Stuart Mills called Experiments in Living.  There are times when the conceptions of good must be tested by the experiences we have in living them out, not merely by comparing them with ethical institutions.

Is it possible that the integration of public school has fostered a population left fractured by the internalized inferiority created by a well-intentioned union?  If so, we, as a society, are obligated to undo a culture that makes education a bad thing among black and brown boys.

They have the right to achieve.  Our failure to respond in an affirming way is paramount to casting them to the wolves to continue their journey toward low achievement and incarceration. 

Is that the message we want them to hear?

Friday, June 21, 2013

Lack of support for all-male academy for black and Hispanic boys may trigger racial divide in Durham, NC

Photo from

The back and forth bickering between members of Durham’s Board of Education could be the prelude to impassioned racial division.

The board is split, on racial lines, over a proposal to create an all-male academy to target black and Hispanic students. White board members are expressing concerns that the academy is too costly.  Black board members consider the approach essential given the current state of black and Hispanic male students.

The board will vote on June 27, and many feel the proposal will fail given the 4 to 3 white majority.

The concerns of white board members are perceived as further validation that they don’t care about black students.  It’s an old cry that forged a wedge in Durham that landed the city the label black sheep of North Carolina by the Greensboro News & Record.  It was an era of extreme tension that resulted in people being arrested during school board meetings for protesting against an assumed racist agenda.

Things could get worse if the current board refuses to see beyond counting the cost related to the forming of an all-male school.  If white board members want to make this about cost, they will reap the fury of a community disgusted with a lack of response to growing problems among black and brown boys.

White board members can’t hide behind the net of cost restraints.  The perception of racial insensitivity is the subject of a U.S. Department of Education Office for Civil Rights investigation into whether Durham Public Schools disciplines black students and students with disabilities more than others.  The mounting of evidence suggest the need for an alternative approach, and the failure to consider the all-mail academy will send a message that will hamper the board’s ability to function beyond the assumption of racism.

The lawsuit against DPS was filed by the Advocates for Children’s Services, a project of Legal Aid of North Carolina, and the Center for Civil Rights Remedies at the Civil Rights Project of UCLA.  The lawsuit alleges that DPS suspends black students at more than four times the rate of white students.  The complaint also claims DPS suspended 17 percent of all students with disabilities, compared with 8.4 percent of students without disabilities.

The lawsuit addresses a 15-year old eighth-grader who started failing classes after being suspended 24 days during the 2011-12 school year due to behavior linked to mental issues.

"At no point did DPS discuss or consider substantive ways to address his problem behaviors without resorting to the punitive measure of out-of-school suspension. The school also failed to provide (him) with any education services while he was suspended, resulting in his falling even farther behind," the complaint states.

An all-male academy could be used to offset some of the concerns stated in the complaint.

“This is a very resource-intensive endeavor that would require more money than what follows a student,” Leigh Bordley, member of the school board, stated at a recent town meeting to discuss the proposal. “To be true to the success of these types of schools, we’ll need that additional funding.”

Bordley went on to claim the R.N. Harris Integrated Arts/Core Knowledge Magnet School serves the same purpose as the proposed all-male academy.

“We are doing it,” Bordley argued. “We’re having success there and we’re not replicating it. I want our resources to go to our neediest children. It takes more than the funds that follow a student to make this successful.”

Bordley’s conjecture is rooted in the type of hyperbole that leaves one wondering if she lives with her head in the sand.  Discussions related to the education of black boys in Durham are held within a context that assumes black boys are playing on an equal playing field.  Something is wrong, and Bordley and her cohorts are making things worse by making assumptions that make it seem they have never taken a step into the world of black male youth.

Eric Becoats, DPS superintendent, stressed the importance of taking extra steps to assure black and brown boys don’t fall through the cracks. Heidi Carter, board chair for DPS, stated she needs more data before moving forward. 

Excuse me.  More data? Suspensions, dropouts and low academic performance aren’t enough data to support pulling your head from the sand to seek a way to rescue these boys.

The school board was handed extensive data that proves the success of all-male schools across the county.  Carter asked for more.  Why do black boys always need more to get a chance to succeed?

 Minnie Forte-Brown, the normally calm and reconciliatory board vice chair, almost busted a fuse when begging board members to think outside the box.

“We know that we have children who are drowning. But what are we going to do to help them?” Forte-Brown said. “I want you to think and stop being scared. You’ve got to step out on faith. We’ve had kitchen table conversations, but we’ve never had the community that’s before you today.”


Forte-Brown asked the board to do something. “If it works, it works. If it fails, it fails. But to not do it is unconscionable.”

Board member Omega Curtis Parker asked members not to discount the plan based on cost.

“We can’t stop living or educating these children because times are hard,” she said. “It’s our responsibility to do what we can for our constituency. It’s been presented to us and funds have been identified. But there is a particular segment of our community that needs to be serves, who tend to be minority. Why are we so much against what’s good for our children?”

Becoats continues to emphasize the money is there to support the all-male academy, and that money will not be pulled from existing schools.  He says the school will mirror the Durham School of the Arts and City Medicine Academy in offering small classes with themed instruction.

It hasn’t been enough to sway white board members to consider what the black community has been feeling for years.  From Bill Bell, the mayor, to countless black community leaders – something has to be done before it is too late.

It may not be racist for the white board members to vote against this proposal, but, if they do, it will be virtually impossible for the black community to ever support their right to speak on the behalf of black children.

Look for the turning back of the clock.


Thursday, June 20, 2013

The Eulogy of a black man's dream

The film Mumia - Long Distance Revolutionary will be shown at the Hayti Heritage Center on Thursday, June 27 at 5:30 pm.  The short film The Manfacturing of Guilt will be shown at 7:45 pm.  Join The Rev-elution, Rachel Wolkenstein (a member of Mumia's defense team and legal consultant for The Manufacturing of Guilt), Jamal Hart (Mumia's son), Keith Cook (Mumia's brother) and local activist for a discusion following both films.

A donation of $5 will go toward supporting the work at the Hayti Heritage Center.

This essay reflects on the underlying emotions associated with the incarceration of Mumia Abu-Jamal

I stepped on the bus draped in black.  I was wearing my death clothes.

Three deaths in one week – two men who mentored me into manhood and a cousin who was more like a sister.  My head remained bowed to hide the tears as bus 9B left the downtown terminal.  The sense of doom filled the air as I struggled to find room for my legs in a seat intended for someone much shorter.

My black Perry Ellis suit, black English Landry shirt and black Kenneth Cole shoes stood in contrast of the attire of the others on the bus.  Hidden beneath my garments was the soul of a hurting man.  The cloud over my head served as a warning that a thunderstorm of tears could come at any moment – like a flashflood.

The bus turned right onto Pettigrew Street. 400 yards later we stopped at that intersection – the one that exposes the best of Durham and the worst of Durham. I gazed at the Durham Performing Arts Center.  Thoughts of past dates flickered in my mind like a movie trailer. I remembered dancing with the group Brick and feeling something deep when Chaka Khan took off her shoes.

A quick moment away from the pending inner rain was shaken by the building across the street.  It reminded me of dismay.  It forced me to contemplate the deep misery begging to break free. The image of black faces hardened by disappointment took center stage.

The county jail.

Thoughts of mentors now dead.  Thoughts of close calls avoided for reasons I will never understand. Thoughts of old games played while pretending to be tough.  Thoughts of black men playing games in a world consumed with making the jail their home.

Could have been me.

Deeper thoughts now.  I wonder how many don’t belong there.  How may didn’t commit the crimes? How many are assumed guilty until proven innocent?

Welcome to the black man’s world.

The jail is the abode for those presumed guilty despite the evidence. The proof of guilt is race.  All of them are that way.  All of them.  Put him away.

The sound of steel bars slamming in my face.  Guilty.  Guilty of being a black man in America.

No, that can’t be true.  What about the American Dream?  What about the lessons I learned from my mentors?  Was it for nothing?  What happens when a black man fights for freedom in a way that counters the interest of the protectors of the white American Dream?

Are you discounted for sharing frustration?  Are you censured for refusing to walk the line of mainline suitability? What happens to those who decry injustice and demand to be heard? What profit is there for those pleading for space in a room controlled by a divergent view?

What happens when you scream for justice?

Do they lock you up? Do they deny you work until you assimilate within a larger culture that defines merit by class?

What happens if you scream?

My mentors taught me to survive based on the assumption that education would level the playing field. They weren’t prepared for this.  They underestimated the hostility among some that keeps a foot on black men’s necks. Too many can’t feel the rage that traps black men in a cycle leading to escalating dysfunction.

They say black men are making excuses. It’s their fault.

I call it death.  What else could it be? Black men watch as others pass them by. They watch as others reap benefits denied them for reasons hard to understand.  They fight to be seen and heard.  They play the game until they discover a set of different rules.

Go to jail.  That’s where you belong.

Madness everywhere you look. Don’t speak. Fit in. Pretend you are just like me. Don’t complain. It’s your fault.  No one is to blame but you.

Pray more. Go to church.  Strip yourself of all that pride.  Get over the truth of a racist history.  Others have made it.  Why can’t you?

The bus turns left onto Roxboro Street. Glasses in my hand in wait of the tears. 

“Mumia Abu-Jamal, they locked you up for telling the truth,” whispers. “They fight against your freedom to deny efforts to keep us back.”

Eyes closed harder now. Head hurting to fight the pain.

“Release us from the pain associated with proving we belong,” more whispers. “Create a place that grants us the freedom to be.”

The jail is behind me now.  We turned right onto Dowd Street, one of Durham’s inner city havens of blues.  Black men crammed the bus headed to the recycling of pain.  Another day of disappointment.  No plan of escape.


We lay to rest the lives of those who believed in better days. They leave behind countless failures.  Their work is left to those who made it to the river.

They’re still waiting for the parting of the river to pave way for the crossing to the other side.

Rest in peace dreams.

Welcome to the nightmare.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

"Manufacturing of Guilt", a short film that proves the innocence of Mumia Abu Jamal, to be shown at the Hayti Heritage Center

The case has been made for the innocence of Mumia Abu-Jamal. Despite the mound of evidence that proves a severe miscarriage of justice, Mumia remains in prison.

Filmmaker Stephen Vittoria has written and directed a short film that shows how the case against Mumia was manufactured by the Philadelphia Police and District Attorney. Manufacturing of Guilt will be shown at the Hayti Heritage Center on Thursday, June 27 at 7:45 p.m.

The showing of Manufacturing of Guilt will follow Mumia – Long Distance Revolutionary, another film written and directed by Vittoria. Mumia – Long Distance Revolutionary will be shown at 5:30 p.m. It returns to Durham after a successful run at the Carolina Theatre.  For more on Long Distance Revolutionary, visit these postings.

A panel discussion will follow the showing of Manufacturing Guilt. Rachel Wolkenstein, a former member of Mumia’s defense team and longtime advocate for his release, will share more regarding efforts to release Mumia.  Wolkenstein worked closely with Vittoria on Manufacturing of Guilt as the legal consultant.

Jamal Hart, Mumia’s son, and Keith Cook, Mumia’s brother will be present to provide insight on the case and Mumia.

Manufacturing of Guilt was produced after the completion of Mumia –Long Distance Revolutionary to address viewers questions regarding Mumia’ arrest, trial and conviction.  Mumia is serving a life sentence for the 1981 murder of Philadelphia officer Daniel Faulkner. His original sentence of death was commuted to life imprisonment in 2012.

The Hayti Heritage Center is at 804 Old Fayetteville Street in Durham.  Admission is $5, and all proceeds go toward supporting the Hayti Heritage Center (

Monday, June 17, 2013

Brian Banks is not the only victim of Wanetta Gibson's lie

Wanetta Gibson told a lie that cost Brian Banks the chance to play football at the University of Southern California.  That lie landed Banks in prison and helped Gibson garner a $750,000 settlement.

Gibson has been ordered to pay the Long Beach Unified School District $2.6 million for telling that lie.  Banks is still fighting to resurrect his promising football career. 

It happened in 2002. Gibson was 15 when she claimed Banks raped her.  Banks was a star middle linebacker at Long Beach Polytechnic High School.  He had just made a verbal commitment to receive a full scholarship to attend USC.    Gibson’s lie led to Banks serving five years in prison and five years on parole where he was forced to register as a sex offender.

Banks accepted a plea bargain after facing a possible 41 years to life in prison. Gibson and her mother Wanda Rhodes sued the Long Beach Unified School District claiming the school was not a safe environment.  They were awarded a $1.5 million settlement.

It was a profitable lie.

Wanetta Gibson contacted Banks in 2011 on Facebook.  The two met, and she admitted to fabricating the story of being raped.  Banks secretly recorded Gibson’s confession. The taped confession led Los Angeles County prosecutors to overturn the charges against Banks.

The lie was uncovered.  Gibson was ordered to repay the $750,000 settlement she received, attorneys’ fees, interest and $1 million in punitive damages to the school district.  The district will receive money from Gibson’s future wages and property.

"The court recognizes that our school district was a victim in this case," Long Beach Unified Superintendent Christopher J. Steinhauser said. "This judgment demonstrates that when people attempt to defraud our school system, they will feel the full force of the law."

Who’s the real victim?

The school district is able to recoup the money lost. Meanwhile, Banks, now 27, has been offered a chance to compete for a spot on the Atlanta Falcons roster.  There’s no guarantee he’ll make the team.  Lost was the chance for a college education and university experience.  Lost is the benefit of sound coaching to boast his playing resume.  Lost are years of learning and growing outside the confines of the brick walls and bars of the prison.

What payment is there for Brian Banks beyond the promise to prove he still has what it takes to play football?

Banks has the potential to earn enough money to shed the pain associated with all those lost years. No pro contract will be enough to make this right.  A lie destroyed what could have and should have been.

It’s sad what has happened to Banks, but he’s not the only causality if Gibson’s lie. 

Lost in the mix are the victims of rape who remain silent because of the presumption that they too are liars.  Lost in the conversation related to Gibson’s gross negation of Banks humanity is how her action impacts the voices of real victims.

Her lie will be used as yet another example of how women lie about being raped. She will be added to the list of others who are assumed to have lied to receive attention. Add Gibson to the list headed by Twana Brawley and Crystal Mangum.

Gibson’s deception may lead to dialogue concerning punishment of those who fabricate being raped.  Currently, there are no formal negative consequences for those who file a false report.  The accusers never have to fully admit that the report was a lie.  It is rare that legal actions are brought against the accuser.  When done, in most places, the charge is only a misdemeanor.

There is considerable support for establishing guidelines to define a “false rape accusation” and the criteria for proof of prior acts.  Many want to make the filing of a false report of rape a felony, rather than a misdemeanor, and to institute the possibility of a “not guilty and not credible” verdict as a warning to those who file a false complaint.

Efforts to institutionalize a policy against those who cry rape will make it harder for victims of rape to come forward.  Any law to punish the few who lie will strike fear among those who have been raped.  Not only will those charged of rape be forced to prove innocence; those who claim being raped will be forced to sustain the credibility of the charge.  Failure to establish the claim could lead to time served for failing to tell the truth.

Banks has suffered a lot due to Gibson’s lie. It’s shameful what has happened to Banks.  Gibson’s lie has harmed Banks, but it has also hindered the countless women who are raped each day in America.

Beyond the innocence of those charged with rape is the question of the merit of those who are raped but assumed guilty of telling a lie

This lie has hurt more than one man.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Superintendent Eric Becoats proposes all-boys academy

I’m sick of looking at the numbers.

3,002 black males were handed short term suspensions during the 2011-12 academic year.  That’s compared to 560 Hispanic and 259 white males.  Of the 363 students who dropped out of Durham Public Schools that year, 233 were black.

There are enough statistics to make you upchuck. The worst part is the continuing widening of the gap between white and black academic achievement.  Even more frustrating is how the hard work and dedication of countless people seems futile in crushing the trends.  There have been successes, but not enough.

The cries from the community boom the ache of the nation.  No, Durham is not alone, but Durham is entrusted with addressing the dismal state of black and brown males. The rise in incarceration, crime and poor academic performance combine in a way that forces a deeper dialogue related to a more active response.

This mess has to stop.  Not later, but as soon as possible.

Durham should be grateful for the leadership of Superintendent Eric Becoats.  Becoats has forced a conversation that may be viewed as counter to the agenda of an integrated public school system.  Becoats is pressing the creation of an all-boys academy. Becoats plans to open the academy during the 2014-15 academic year.

Due to state laws, DPS will open an all-girls academy to counter the argument of discrimination based on gender.  It’s certain that many parents will opt to send their daughter to that school, but the real need is for black and Hispanic boys in need of the type of attention and structure that an all-boys school provides.

Critics of the all-boys academy assert it segregates students.  It’s the same claim by those disputing the expansion of charter schools.  Many contend the charter system is a suitable endorsement of schools separated by class and race.  Those fighting for an all-boys academy contest the impression of enforcing a similar agenda.

On surface, it is difficult to dispute that assertion. Most people are invested in the notion of a public school system filled with students from every demographic.  Parents are also concerned that their children aren’t compromised by their endorsement of that agenda.  Selecting schools becomes a tussle between their vision for the community and concern for their own children.

Most parents have been granted options. Parents with resources are able to select from a long list of education options – from private, charter and home schooling.  The academic performance of their children is often measured by the force of their resources – be it knowledge of options, economics or the time to commit to offering the support their children require.

The cry for integration is relegated to talk regarding ways to encourage white parents not to walk away.  Integration is no longer about satisfying the needs of all children, but it has become more about conciliating the interest of white parents.

Thus, public schools have been rich in efforts to formulate strategies to segregate white students within the existing public school system. Magnet schools are designed to lure white students after countless threats to select among the numerous education options.  These magnets are packed with an overwhelming majority of white students while black and brown students continue to grapple within a system designed to maintain the status quo.

The claim of re-segregation is disingenuous when understood within the context of Durham’s ongoing labor to contend with the myriad of consequences regarding race, gender, class and cultural disparity.  We are credulous in thinking all systems mend all needs.  The history of Durham’s public education system since merger proves a willingness to adapt and concoct new ways to address the needs of those in danger of walking away.

Why not do the same for those being suspended and who dropout?  Why not strategize for those students most at risk of being lost due to poor academic performance and disciplinary problems?  Why not grant the same energy and support for those most troubled rather than to hide behind rhetoric that counters the work done to protect a few?

Becoats proposal was included in the strategic plan approved by the board of education in 2010.  “DPS will explore the feasibility of opening a college-preparatory/public boarding school to serve minority males in partnership with the Coalition of Schools Educating Boys of Color (COSEBOC),” the plan reads in goal 12.6. It’s time for the school board to honor its commitment to the strategic plan.

The original plan has been modified due to cost.  Becoats isn’t proposing a boarding school.  That would be nice, but the system can’t afford that option.  Although we can’t afford a boarding school, we can’t afford not to make minority boys a priority.

Let’s show them we care.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Eliot Battle: The man who saved my life

My bloodshot eyes exposed the brewing of smoke in my room.  The music of Marvin Gaye banged against the wall as I took one last puff of marijuana before answering the door.

“Come with me,” he ordered after I opened the door.  “You’re going with me.”

The unyielding gawk forced my response.  I closed the door and followed him. He took me back to the place I avoided because the pain was too deep to stay.  He knew my story.  Everyone knew.  He came to rescue me from myself.

It was months after Crystal, my sister, died after fighting brain cancer.  The pain of her death gripped me so deep that school was too much to imagine.  My days in class were boggled with thoughts of her last breath.  Memories of running to my room to curse God for taking her away kept my mind off homework and class projects.

Elliot Battle came to take me back.  He rescued me from the death lurking to pull me deeper into the world of lost souls.  He found me intoxicated with fumes meant to fight the tears. It never helped.

“Come with me.” Those words comforted the part of me begging to be noticed.  I wanted more than the drugs I used to keep my mind off my sisters last breath.  Days had passed with no thoughts of going back.  Each day became easier.  I wanted to go back.  I didn’t know how to take the first step.

“We are here for you,” Mr. Battle said as I sat in his office.  I felt tears bubbling from that deep place.  I held them back long enough to listen.  Each word felt like a promise.  Hope began to emerge as he shared the rest.

“We’re changing your class schedule,” he told me.  A group of teachers had met to plan my rescue.  A room was assigned for me to write.  I wrote my story.  The words poured on pages like freedom waiting to scream.

They assigned me to American Culture – a class that combined English and History.  I served as a student teacher.  I watched.  I offered support. More than anything, I healed.

They refused to allow me to fail.  All of them loved me through the pain.  Each teacher caught me when I was falling.  Soon, the steps became easier.  The pain was not lessened, but I knew I was not alone.

Fast forward, it’s today.  A quick gaze at the long list of unread emails reveals one from the editor of the Columbia Magazine. I opened it thinking I’d find a friendly reminder to complete my piece on Mr. Battle.

“You may have already heard, but he passed away this morning following a car accident,” I paused. No! . “It’s a devastating loss to this community and all who knew and loved him.”

The tears came to fast to stop.  It didn’t matter that I was seated in a public place surrounded by people conducting business.  It didn’t matter that my mood shifted in the company of those who noticed my deep laughter after the waitress poured more coffee in my cup.

The thoughts were too many and too deep to stop.  Did I ever thank him?  Could I ever thank him enough? 

Deeper tears now. Each came with a special memory. Words appeared on my computer like magic.  So many thoughts.  Too many to count.

Mr. Battle, how can I say thank you for saving my life? You refused to allow me to fail.  You found me and brought me back.  Once you brought me back, you showed me what I couldn’t see.

Mr. Battle, you gave me my words.  You found me in the middle of getting high and grappling with the voices in my head.  You gave me a new voice.  You showed me the power within me, and the words lost under the shadow of pain.

More words and thoughts came to dissolve the tears

So much has happened since I left Columbia, MO in 1988 to attend graduate school at Duke University. They named a school after Muriel, Mr. Battle’s wife. The school open this academic year. Eliot and Muriel Battle began teaching in the Columbia Public Schools in 1956.  They led the charge for integration. Muriel served as Associate Superintendent of Columbia Public Schools from 1992 until she retired in 1996. She was the first female to hold that position.

Many accolades are called when people mention the Battles.  Both are dead now.  Eliot and Muriel Battle remind us of the fruit that comes from tending the earth.   You can’t just wait for fruit to grow.  You have to nurture the land when bad weather comes.

People will remember Mr. Battle as a great teacher and administrator.  I will forever remember him as the man who saved my life.

There’s one way to say thank you. Mr. Battle gave me my words.

I’m still writing.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

How did NSA whistle blower get his job?

Don’t take this the wrong way.  I’m troubled by the National Security Agency’s data-collecting program. I understand why both Democrats and Republicans want to throw the book at Edward Snowden for leaking the NSA’s internet and phone programs.  I also understand why people are troubled about protecting their Constitutional rights.

I get all of that, but I have a different question.  How did Snowden, 29, get the job?

I’ve been tussling with that question since I read the background of the North Carolina native. I don’t get it.  Could this be yet another case of white privilege?  Maybe his computer skills are way off the charts.  I don’t know.  I hate speculating, but I don’t know many people capable of obtaining the job he had with his shallow credentials.

Let’s start with his education.  Snowden never completed high school.  He did enroll at a community college to take computer classes and obtained a GED.

Not bad, but not impressive.  There’s no college degree. No bachelors in computer science or other course work to warrant an interview with the NSA. 

Wait. You haven’t gotten his salary yet.  Hold on.  Let me share the rest first.

Snowden spent four months in the Army reserves back in 2004.  He was enrolled as a special recruit to a 14-week course.  He failed to complete any of the training and did not receive any awards.  Snowden claims he was discharged after breaking his legs in an accident.

Conclusion. No special military experience.

 Snowden took a job with the NSA as a security guard.  From there he took a job with the CIA working in information-technology.  He was stationed in Geneva in 2007 and left the CIA in 2009 to work as a private contractor for Dell and Booz Allen.  His work with Booz Allen landed him the assignment with NSA in Hawaii.

Now the drum rolls.  Snowden says he was making about $200,000 a year.

Help me understand how he got the job. My techy friends tell me it’s not uncommon for people to make that high a salary without a college degree.  Really?  It’s normal for a dude with a GED to walk into that type of job without proving themselves beyond a few classes at the community college.

How do you get the interview?  Maybe it’s about connections. Maybe ole dude is just that good.

I don’t deny any of those possibilities, but something smells like spoiled fish.  Snowden left for Hong Kong to await the fallout from the leak.  He told the NSA that he was taking a break for treatment of epilepsy.  Snowden’s story reads more like I-Spy than the hero Libertarians want to make him out to be.

Snowden self-identifies as a spook.  "I've been a spy almost all of my adult life," he told a reporter at the Washington Post. He used a code name — "Verax," or truth-teller in Latin, and told a reporter with the Guardian he worried he's being watched and puts a red hood over his head and laptop when he enters passwords.

Strange as it may be, Snowden has described himself as one who suffers from paranoia.  I’m not saying he’s mentally ill, but isn’t his self-definition consistent with a mild form of mental illness?

Just asking, how did he get the job?

He’s classified as an entry level employee.  Keep in mind he’s claiming that whopping salary.  Could it be one among other embellishments?  Maybe it’s a case of liar, liar, pants on fire.

If not, how did he get the job? How did he pass the vetting process?  Who determined to grant that salary given his lack of formal education?

Maybe education only matters when determining the worth of a select few.  Maybe certain people get a free pass when the section on the application says GED.

Don’t look at me.  I’m just asking.

How did he get the job?