Wednesday, July 31, 2013

NC Gov. Pat McCrory delivers a plate of cookies to abortion rights advocates: It's not TV

North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory watches too much television. It’s a sad day when you lower yourself to taking cues from a television show.

He should have kept those cookies to himself. 

A group of abortion rights protesters outside the Executive Mansion were stunned on Tuesday when McCrory hand-delivered them a plate of chocolate chip cookies.  What was he thinking?  Maybe it was a gesture suggesting they needed to get back in the kitchen to bake cookie for Beaver.

Maybe he was confused when he saw protesters dressed in 1950s outfits.  It was their way to symbolize days before the burning of bras, and Gloria Steinman co-founding Ms. Magazine. It may have helped if McCrory had read Steinman's article "After Black Power, Women's Liberation" which catapulted Steinman as a national feminist leader.

Did he really think a plate of cookies would silence a group intent on not going back to the days when patriarchy meant being barefoot and pregnant?

Or, has Patrick been overly persuaded by pop culture?

Fans of the EMMY Award winning show House of Cards have made the connection. In the fifth episode, Rep. Frank Underwood, played by Kevin Space, is confronted by protest from education advocates outside a fundraiser organized by his wife.  Underwood leaves the event with leftover food and beer.

"Don't take the food. We'll feed you later," says the leader of the union.

"Marty, you know that old saying, 'The most dangerous spot in the world is between a Teamster and free food,' " Underwood replies.

 "I'll take it!" says one protester, bringing an end to the protest.  

Did McCrory think abortion advocates would compromise their cause for a plate of cookies?  That stuff works on television, but in the real world you’ll find those cookies stuffed up your ass.

Maybe McCrory is watching too much Sesame Street.  Those women dressed like June Evelyn Bronson Cleaver, Beaver’s mom, shouldn’t be confused to be the Cookie Monster.  Wrong show Gov.

A spokesperson for the Gov. says he was just offering a bit of Southern hospitality.  The least he could have done is bring some milk with the cookies.  Better still, it would have been more hospitable for him to follow through on his campaign promise not to enforce restrictions on abortion.

Or, he could have answered questions.

Or, he could have at least read the bill before signing the darn thing.

Oh, did I fail to mention ole Gov. didn’t read the bill that restricts abortions in North Carolina. What fool would make that public?

Maybe Art Pope has become for McCrory what Cheney was for George Dub – Master.

Maybe McCrory is so busy baking cookies that he has no time to read.

At least he said God bless you, before handing the cookies over.  I’m sure a lot of prayer went into that decision.

Instead of jamming the cookies up McCrory’s a-hole, they slipped them under the mansion’s gate with a note requesting women’s health over cookies.

The governor’s communication director released a response which said, "Sometimes a plate of cookies is just a plate of cookies."

Yeah, and sometimes a plate of cookies is an insult. 

It’s hard for me to believe anyone can be that stupid. Could those cookies be a hidden message to pro-life advocates that he gave them some cookies to remind them of their proper place? He’ll probably pass out some fried chicken and collard greens for Rev. William Barber, president of North Carolina’s NAACP, and protesters at Moral Monday.  I wonder how that would go over.

It might help if someone took a look to see if Pope’s hand is lodged up McCrory’s back like a ventriloquist running things.  One thing is certain, McCrory is a dummy.

I bet the cookies were stale.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Ruffin's retirement announcement raises issues with honesty

Durham County Manager Mike Ruffin made it official at the end of last night’s County Commissioners meeting.  He’s retiring effective Jan. 31.

The Rev-elution reported in April that Ruffin planned to retire at the end of July.  Ruffin refuted it in an interview with Ray Gronberg of the Herald-Sun.  Members of the Board of County Commissioners denied conversations with Ruffin regarding a pending announcement of Ruffin’s intent to retire.

What changed since the April report of Ruffin’s intent to retire?  Should Durham residents assume that Ruffin experienced a deep moment of reflection that led to a change of heart, or should we call him to task for lying about his plans to retire?

Does it matter?  Should we offer leniency for those who vehemently deny plans to walk away?  Is it none of our business?

Should we hold members of the Board of County Commissioners accountable for denying what they knew to be true, while continuing to suggest they had no conversations with Ruffin regarding retirement?  Should we give them all a pass for not telling the truth because it’s a personal matter?

This is a sensitive issue.  Members of the Board of County Commissioners aren’t allowed to discuss what takes place in private session.  Not sharing the details of those meetings is one thing.  Lying about having those discussions gets at the character of those who denied any knowledge of Ruffin’s plans.  To say they knew it was coming, but not knowing when is not true.

They knew and they deceived the public.

Tell me it’s a matter you can’t address. Avoid the question.  I respect the right not to answer, but lying is off the table.

Take note at how members of the board will respond over the next few weeks.  They will pretend to be surprised.  They will tell us they knew Ruffin planned to retire, but didn’t know when.  You have the right to believe them. I’m telling you it’s not true.

If you believe them, have you minimized your expectation for honesty among those you elect to serve? You can say it’s no big deal.  You may be right.  That is if you have no issues with lies.  If they will lie about plans of Ruffin’s retirement, what else has been denied?

Ruffin and commissioners will tell you it’s all a coincidence.  It’s not.

That’s the truth. The rest is up to you.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Jackie Wagstaff removed as Chair of the Political Committee of the Durham Committee of the Affairs of Black People

The Executive Committee of the Durham Committee on the Affairs of Black People has censured Jackie Wagstaff, chair of the groups Political Committee.  The decision came during an emergency Executive Committee meeting held on July 27th.

“The Executive Committee concluded that her behavior has been insubordinate, uncollaborative, extremely impolite and inappropriate for the setting of our meeting,” Randal Rogers, chair of the Durham Committee, stated in a press release.

The Executive Committee voted to suspend Wagstaff from participating in any activities of the Durham Committee as its Chair of the Political Committee and in representing herself as the Chair until a vote by the General Body.

Wagstaff has been criticized for actions during recent Durham Committee meetings.  Wagstaff has, on numerous occasions, questioned the input of members based on her assumptions of elitism.  Members of the Durham Committee say Wagstaff’s outbursts set the tone for a class divide within the Durham Committee.

Senator Floyd McKissick, Jr., vice-chair of the Durham Committee’s Political Committee, has assumed the role of Political Chair.  McKissick will preside over the interviews of candidates for Mayor and City Council to be held at the St. Joseph AME Church tonight through Wednesday.

The censure of Wagstaff is the first major move of Randal Rogers, chair of the Durham Committee.  Rogers became Chair after Philip Cousin moved to San Francisco to become pastor of Bethel AME Church.  Rogers, an unknown in local politics, is highly respected by members of the Durham Committee, and the move to censure Wagstaff has added to the credibility of his leadership.

Members of the Durham Committee say the move to oust Wagstaff is proof that the organization is headed in the right direction.  Many were not happy when Wagstaff was appointed to Chair the Political Committee, and efforts to remove her have been underway for months.

Outsiders criticized the Durham Committee for selecting Wagstaff.  The Rev-elution defended the Durham Committee’s right to select leaders they consider best to serve.  I argued that Wagstaff has a long history of activism and political involvement that more than qualified her for the position.

The Rev-elution’s position assumed a gentler more refined Wagstaff.  Comments came on the heels of a volatile campaign to elect commissioners to the Durham County Board of Commissioners and the controversial 751 project.  Wagstaff was said to be in the center of hostile exchanges at voting precincts that forced the Board of Elections to call a special meeting to address verbal abuse.

Roger’s decision to push for the censure of Wagstaff sends a message related to the internal affairs of the Durham Committee.  The organization no longer wants to be limited by the type of activity that has long defined the group.  The discord that has kept so many away has been challenged in a way that rekindles credibility to arguably the most powerful local black organization in North Carolina.

It is also notable that Rogers didn’t stray from informing the press of the decision to censure Wagstaff.  In the past, the Durham Committee has worked tirelessly to keep its affairs limited to membership.  As embarrassing as the censure of Wagstaff may be, the way it has been handled, and the willingness to communicate with the public, combines to send a strong message regarding the future of the Durham Committee.

It’s critical that Wagstaff not be demonized for her actions.  As controversial as she has been, Wagstaff is that rare leader in Durham.  She has carried the torch for the poor and maligned for a long time.  Her concerns are legitimate – we should never forget the needs and affairs of the least of these.  They too must be heard.  The flame that fuels Wagstaff is rooted in good intentions.

Maybe she has made assumptions.  That’s what happens to a person fighting for the marginalized.  Hopefully, a place can be found for Wagstaff to serve.  Maybe that will be with the Durham Committee.  Maybe her place is somewhere closer to those she knows best.

At the end of the day, Durham is made better because of the Durham Committee’s decision to find that place in the middle.  There’s far too much work to be done to limit things to the voices of a few.  The decision not to compromise unity has to be respected.  The decision to share it with the rest of Durham should be celebrated.

Watch out.  The Durham Committee on the Affairs of Black People is back!

We missed you.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Single black mothers: Putting life on hold for your children

Carolyn Rhodes, 40, paused after taking a sip of coffee.  Her silence reflected years of carrying a promise she made 20 years-ago.

“As a parent, it is a must that you now have to put your life on hold for the sake of your child,” Rhodes says. “This can range anywhere from putting a degree on hold, taking a promotion that causes you to travel a lot, and dating.”

In two years her son expects to graduate from Duke University. Raising a black son as a single parent requires all a mother has to give.  We talked about the pain black mothers carry. We talked about death in the streets and incarceration.  She told me she made her promise to protect her son from becoming what she has seen.

Rhodes is the Office Manager for the Southern Coalition for Social Justice. Her passion is working with single mothers. In 2010, Rhodes founded Overcoming Obstacles, a nonprofit that helped single mothers become self-sufficient through job training, financial management parental education, and self-esteem building.  Rhodes disbanded the nonprofit due to the strain to raise funds to support the work.

“I see other women who just need a helping hand and a role model in their lives,” Rhodes says.   “Why can’t I set the standards high enough to make another mother want to achieve and accomplish the same things in life? 

Another pause followed the next sip.  I searched for lingering disappointment – not completing her college degree, a missed chance at love or a job in another city.  The theme of her message was unwavering.  Mothers of black boys have to give so much more to shield their sons from the obstacles they face.

 “There are not enough educational resources about parenting.   Not enough financial resources for single mothers,” she said.  “One may assume that because a mother works 40 hours a week, that this is enough to provide for a family.   Not enough family support.  There is a “leave it, to beaver” mentality that has been the biggest obstacles for single mothers.”

The maladies of black boys are often blamed on broken families and inadequate parenting. Children conceived from relationships devoid of love have produced a generation of children grappling to find love.  Many mothers who love their children are left alone to contend with raising children without the resources to offer what is needed to achieve.

Single mothers need more to help them raise their children.  When there’s not enough to go around, Rhodes says mothers have to dig deeper to make a way.  It would help if more was done to support single mothers.

 “Our community needs to go back to the basics of sharing, giving, taking time out for one another,” Rhodes says.  “My grandmother was on a fixed income and was a domestic worker.  However, she never received government assistance and had enough money to buy fresh vegetables, create her own garden, and feed the children in the neighborhood as well as her grandchildren.  She could borrow an egg or a loaf of bread from her neighbor without being judged by the community. This was the spirit of a good community by meeting the needs of the people.”

It’s a lesson Rhodes continues to teach whenever she’s given a chance to speak.

 “Every day, I see a person that looks like me. I see a person that wants the same out of life that I do. I see a person that is looking at me through the same lenses as the world sees me,” Rhodes says.  “So, the passion that I maintain to continue the tenacious drive is that I have someone depending on me.  As a mother, I am the biggest role model for my child regardless of how society tries to shape him.”

Her son will graduate in two years.  Two more years of sacrificing to protect her son from the agony in the streets. Love has carried Rhodes this far.  Faith has guided each footstep.

A few breaths followed the last sip of coffee. She closed her eyes in that gentle way mothers do when considering the love that traveled through the womb.  A smile followed.

Black mothers carry the love of their sons. They know the potential that can be harmed by improper influence.  There’s little time to rest. Often, they have to work alone. Sometimes, they receive the gift of a helping hand.

No time to rest.  Too much is at risk.

The gift of a mother’s love is sacrifice.

Thanks Mama!


Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Black women carry the pain of black men in ways that deserves attention

Photograph courtesy of the blog

I listened as a 61 year-old grandmother wept after witnessing the arrest of her grandson.  It was the second time authorities entered her house to take him away.

“I wish they didn’t have to handcuff him with me there,” she said as the thoughts forced her to consider so much more.
She talked about her son who is serving a sentence for possession of marijuana.  He violated the terms of his probation after starting a new business.  He was headed in the right direction when old mistakes took him away.

“He has three strikes,” she told me.  “Each was a minor charge, but when they added them all up he’s forced to serve time.”
She asked me not to share her name. Maybe it’s the frustration that comes after witnessing both her son and grandson go back to prison.  Maybe it’s hard to bare the guilt lodged so deep that it’s hard to say the rest.

“They both have so much to offer,” you could hear the shouts coming from that place beyond the surface.  “I don’t understand.”
No one does.

What is happening to black men?  Why are so many trapped in the criminal justice system?
The cries of black men are being heard as America processes the days following the George Zimmerman verdict.  Divergent views regarding the relevancy of race has opened wounds once marked with band aids used to soothe America’s need for unity.

Some criticized President Barack Obama for sharing how it feels to walk in a black man’s body.  Some condemned him for waiting too long to speak.  Others are hostile that he simply spoke.
Shouldn’t black men keep those feelings to themselves?

Something is wrong.  It’s the truth that few will refute.  At issue is who to blame for the vast list of maladies that make black men America’s biggest problem.
That’s how it feels to be a black man - like we keep getting in the way.  Maybe that’s why so much energy has gone into putting so many black men in prison.

Has anyone heard the tears of the countless black women in search of answers?  What went wrong with my son?  What did I do wrong?  What can I do to change things?
Sadly, no one has the answers.  All we have are questions with massive commentary and blame.

I listened to a mother and grandmother cry over her children.  She talked about her son’s father and the father of her daughter’s son.  Both men have spent time in prison. It’s a story too many have shared.
Glenda Jones has witnessed the death of cousins due to gun violence.   One of her teenage cousins was shot in the head.  Many friends have been killed. 

“It all makes we think about taking up arms to fight with them,” Jones, the owner of Sincerely Yours Salon, said after being asked to express her emotions related to watching so many black men go to prison.
Jones talked about the war against black men.  After crying and praying, Jones says it’s time to fight back.

Is Jones alone?  Are black women fed up with the attacks against the men they love so much?
Is it a war, or has the black community imploded? 

The death of Trayvon and the Zimmerman verdict unearths things too agonizing to be limited to words on a page.  These are matters assembled from generations of disillusionment.  It all comes after watching so many go off to prison and more killed due to hustling in the streets.  It comes from witnessing the power of hypocrisy and claiming ownership of things much deeper than a few mistakes.
It comes after becoming fed up with asking why.

What is wrong with the black man?
“You feel heartbroken because of the murder of children we bore from our womb and being stripped of the protection of the men we look for in our black men who are not there,” said Deborah Dalton, executive assistant to Dr. Robert C. Scott, Senior Pastor at the Central Baptist Church in St. Louis, MO.

Dalton talked about the lonely feeling that comes after enduring so many deaths and incarcerations.  How do you stop the pain of women standing in wait of son’s becoming the men they can adore? What happens when the smiles of black women fades each time they watch another relative go to prison?
America needs to pause to listen to black men as they tell their stories.  As we affirm the witness of their pain, don’t forget the grandmothers, mothers, aunts, daughters, nieces and cousins who carry more than they are able to share.

They often cry alone at night.
Black women are carrying loads of pain.

Listen. Just listen

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Rush Limbaugh says he has the right to say Nigga

Rush Limbaugh wants the right to use that word.  He says since black folks use it, why can’t he.

Go ahead and use it Rush.

“What’s up my Nigga?”

How does it feel?  Liberating?  Justified?  Affirmed” 

Does it renew days with two entries – one with Black on the door and the other with White?

Do you get excited at the thought of all-white schools and work settings with only white men wearing suits and ties with a grin that declares “Nigga take your ass down the street?’

Deep breath Rush.  Does it feel good?

I could replay, “kiss my ass cracker” or  “you racist mother…shut your mouth.”

My mama taught me the lesson about sticks and stones and breaking bones.  Words can only penetrate so deep.  The real power of words comes when we give them power.

That’s what Nigger does.  It resurrects memories like the first time I saw a burning cross.  I’m reminded of the time three white kids threw me into a tree, kicked me in the side, spit on me after calling me Nigger.

I have a long history with the N-word.  It’s interesting that despite how much I’ve heard it over the years it’s a taboo for people to say Nigger.  It’s too dreadful to say.  Saying it takes people back to a time when the word brought the type of pain that felt like an ass whipping for no reason.

Nigger had power back then.

“Get out of my way Nigger,”  you hear that?

“Yessum,” followed by an obedient step to the side. You feel that?

“What you doing here Nigger,” followed by fast moving feet to avoid the bullets launched in your direction.

“You no count Nigger.”

“You dumb ass Nigger.”

“You worthless black trash Nigger,” been there.  Heard that.  Remember all of that.

The word is locked deep in that place that fights the urge to start a revolution. My ears know the sound of the words forced through the lips of racist white men and women.  I’ve heard the word enough to know the thoughts of those who use the word when I’m not in the room.

That’s why it hurts me when I hear black youth use the word.  The say it’s different because they have changed the spelling.  Nigger has grown up to become Nigga.

Translation – nigger is a man.

Limbaugh played the audio clip of Rachel Jeantel’s interview on the Piers Morgan show.  Jeantel gave key testimony during the George Zimmerman trial.

"So was there anything you wished you'd said when you were in there,” Morgan asked

 JEANTEL: Nigga.


 JEANTEL: People, the whole world say it's a racist word. Mind you, around 2000, they changed it around, I think. It starts spelling "n-i-g-g-a."

 MORGAN: What does that mean to you, that way of spelling it? What does that word mean to you?

 JEANTEL: That means a male.

 MORGAN: A black male?

 JEANTEL: No, any kind of male.

 MORGAN: Black or white?

 JEANTEL: Any kind. Chinese you can say "nigga." That's my Chino, "nigga." They can say that.

 [End of CNN clip]

“This was between 9 and 10 p.m. last night on CNN, who is in a quest to become the, again, most respected news organization in the country, perhaps even in the world. So, "nigga," with an "a" on the end, well I think I can now. Isn't that the point? 'Cause it's not racist. That's the point. I could be talking about a male, a Chinese male, a guy at the Laundromat,” Limbaugh said.

Limbaugh asserts his right to use the word based on the views of Jeantel, who is only 19.  She hasn’t felt the spite of the word.  She’s unversed of the sentiment felt by those forced to respond to Nigger in a way that made them bow to the power of white privilege.

Her generation doesn’t know what Nigger conjures.  Changing the R to an A doesn’t change any of that. Nigga is still Nigger, no matter how you spell the word.

With that being said, I’m willing to grant Limbaugh and his cohorts the right to use the word.  Go ahead, tell us how you feel.  Don’t hide your racism – use the word that defines racism.

Call me Nigger.  Call me Nigga. Either version will serve the intent of its usage – the separation of the bigots from the people fighting for justice.

I must warn you Limbaugh.  Saying Nigger comes with a cost.  Black folks aren’t afraid anymore.  We’ll slap you in the mouth, kick you, spit on you and call you a cracker for calling us Nigger.

Times have changed.  Young people aren’t aware of the pain the word Nigga stirs, and people of my generation refuse to step to the side after you call us Nigger.

I call that freedom.    

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

The death of Trayvon Martin is not about black on black crime

It’s a connection that should not be made.  It’s insensitive. It’s rooted in an unfair assumption.  It’s grounded in the type of hyperbole that led to the acquittal of George Zimmerman.

Across the nation, people are connecting the ghastly rise of black on black homicide with the death of Trayvon Martin.  The common assertion is to reflect on our need, as a black community, to place emphasis on what is happening locally rather becoming overly consumed with one case.

This form of bombast plays into the conclusion of those who agree with the ruling to acquit Zimmerman.  By combining the death of Trayvon with the deaths of other black men, we give credence to Zimmerman’s actions that night.

In other words, Zimmerman was right to fear for his life.  In other words, it is proper to assert that most black boys are thugs and crooks in search of a place to rob.  Yes, in other words, why are you poking holes at Zimmerman when it is common for black men to commit crimes?

The two do not belong in the same conversation.  Doing so disgraces the life of Trayvon and feeds into the negative stereotypes prevalent within mainline culture.  It establishes a place to continue the bashing of black men based on the evidence of delinquency among the rest.

What happened to Trayvon is not about what happens among other black youth.  To make his death about black on black crime is insulting to parents begging us to see Trayvon’s humanity beyond the actions of other black men.  He should not be used to promote a larger agenda, but should be viewed within the context of the facts and emotions that come with his own death.

Trayvon wasn’t killed by a gang of black youth.  It’s imperative that we separate him from conversations related to fixing those woes.  It’s not the same discussion.

That’s not to imply that we can’t have that conversation.  Both can be had in a way that doesn’t compromise the merit of the other.  Trayvon was killed for being caught in the crossfire of dysfunction among black men.  He was assumed guilty due to being viewed as an offender.  We continue that trend whenever we offer insight to his death that uses him as an example of black on black crime versus being killed due to massive assumptions.

Communities across the country need to call summits on the stake of black males.  These conversations should be led by and informed from the insight of black men.  Black men need to be heard, and communities should respond in ways that celebrate their perception and journey.

These conversations should force integrity around the humanity of those who speak.  Black men should join forces and demand the end of grouping stories in ways that paint all of us as the same.  Black men are a collective of stories that deserve being heard within their individualized contexts versus adding to proof of the maddening ways of all black men.

Trayvon’s death is not about black on black crime.  It is not about the deaths in our local communities.  His death should not be used to reflect on those deaths.

It’s not the same.

What is the message of Trayvon’s death?

He died at 17.  He was minding his business.  He was walking with Skittles and tea in hand. 

He had no gun.  He was not involved in gang activity.  He was not shot by a black youth.

Don’t feed into the stereotypes that aid in the forfeiting of those facts.  We play the same game whenever we shift the emphasis away from those facts.

His parents deserve better.  He deserves better.

Yes, black youth die every day. Yes, black boys are killing one another.

All of that is true, but it has nothing to do with the death of innocent children.

That’s what the jury assumed. Don't do the same.

Monday, July 15, 2013

What does it take for the black man to get an invitation to the American Dream?

Why all the tears?  Why are so many people outraged after the verdict to acquit George Zimmerman?

What’s the big deal? Right?  We should get over it. Right?


We can’t get over it.  We refuse to let the death of Trayvon Martin go away after the jury set his killer free.  Some will say it’s the law. Deal with it.

Sorry.  It’s not that simple.  People are hurting.  Keep your need to convince me it’s not a case about race to yourself.  Stop the posturing aimed at limiting the conversation about the law.  Not buying it.  Keep your eloquent summation of the legal definition of self-defense and the imperfections of Florida’s law to yourself. Please, keep that to yourself.

I’m angry.  Stay out of my way.  I need space to reflect as I contemplate what it means to be a black man in America.

Do you want to hear how I feel? Really? Do you care? If so, sit back and listen.  Don’t say a word.  Just listen.

My temperament has radically shifted.  My patience is dwindling.  My hope has been fractured in a way that paralyzes my speech and damages my passion. Excuse me for being rude.  I’m sensitive. 

So, don’t tell me it’s not about race.  I’ve heard that too much over the years.  I tried to accept that contention.  I fed on the dream of a colorblind society.  I did my best to play by the rules.  I accepted the rules and played the game.

Today, I’m fed up.  I’m angry at the lies told.  My eyes are open wide. I’m forced to face the truth.

What is that truth?

You hate me.  I’m a black man.  You hate my strength.  You’re envious of my passion.  You hate all that I stand for and the things I kindle within you whenever I show up in a room.

You despise me.  Maybe it’s because you fear me.  Maybe it’s because you know what will happen if you gave me a chance to play in a way that allows me to flourish devoid of restrictions.  You hold most of the toys and dangle them before me like a ruthless ruler.  You keep telling me I’m not good enough to play in your world. 


Is that why you keep forming laws and policies to keep us on the bottom?  You say it’s our fault.  You blame us for the madness in our own communities.  Do you see us there? Have you watched us attempt to climb from the deep hole you placed us in long ago?  Do you hear yourself mutter madness when you attempt to speak to the plight of our community?  Do you recognize the absurdity you spew whenever you part your lips to talk about the absence of morality and strong families in our communities?

Who are you to blame us?  Do you understand what you have created?  Do you judge our ruin based on the presumption that we crave inferiority?  Do you think we are bred to cover pain with intoxication and brutality?

You don’t know us.  You judge us like we’re roaches to be stomped away.  Our very presence raises your contempt.  You use our disadvantage to maintain your advantage.  You use your status to command our destiny.

You watch over us like the slave master whipping slaves.  You employ laws like a whip.  Your jails and prisons keep us enchained. 

The truth hurts.

You treat us like slaves.  Your venom rises whenever we try to leave the places you design for us to stay. You control where we go and how fast we move.

You use your power to keep me from what you control.  All while pretending to offer access to your glamorous plantation.  You reward us for entertaining you.  You reward us for keeping the rest in check.  You partner with Uncle Tom and Aunt Sally.  You use them as evidence of equality while chastising those outraged by the truth.

You don’t care about the black man.  You reward those who kill us.  You attack those who speak the truth.  You assume we aren’t good enough to walk in your space.  You give us just enough, while keeping the best portion for yourself.

America, you kill us every day.  Like animals hunted for play.

Yes, I’m hurt and disgusted.  There are too many stories and heartaches to deny that truth.  I’m tired of this.  I’m fed up with knowing my very words will be used against me in the court of public opinion.  I’m not free to think devoid of retribution. 

Yes, we’re angry.  Sadly, no one is willing to listen.

The black man has two options. Stay on the plantation or pretend that none of it matters.  Either way, you forfeit a part of who you are to survive with what is left after making that decision.

In death we rise.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

The Zimmerman decision exposes deep-rooted assumptions regarding black men.

Now the hard part begins.  Black America has to contend with what we know to be true.

We know that look of disdain that keeps many at a safe distance.  We know the look of judgment when all we seek is to purchase a bag of Skittles.

We’re not surprised by the verdict to acquit George Zimmerman.  We saw it coming.  We know the elaborate ploys to protect the interest of those invested in keeping black men in their proper place.  The hard part is not in hearing the verdict, but in listening to commentary aimed at convincing us it’s not about race.

We’re forced to listen to ceaseless narrative that will blame prosecutors for failing to prove their case.  The trial will be taken apart, piece by piece, in hope of persuading us it was a lack of evidence rather than race that freed Zimmerman.  We’re expected to concede the errors of prosecution while ending the racial pontificating at the root of the story.

Are we to approve the summation of legal expert’s intent on deflating the angst that has black parents afraid to allow their boys to walk alone at night?  Are we to refute the mounting evidence of rulings that discredits the value of black life taken by a person who makes a judgment before saying hello?

Should we accept the notion that prosecutors failed to prove their case, or should we question assumptions surrounding the evidence?

What is implied in jurors rejecting a lesser verdict of manslaughter?  Should we decry the suggestion that Zimmerman acted in a reasonable way to protect his own life when the evidence proves he put himself in danger by following Martin?  Shouldn’t he be punished for racial profiling and failing to honor the recommendation of the 911 dispatcher?

This case rationalizes racial profiling.  In claiming the absolute innocence of Zimmerman, the jury has added muscle to those who presume guilt based on a profile.  That position is rooted in racism, yet we are asked to discount its significance in Martin’s death

A mostly white jury believed Zimmerman had the right to defend himself because he was afraid.  That fear didn’t prevent him from stalking Martin.  He had a gun.  He was trained to use that gun.  Martin was unarmed.  Zimmerman’s harassing of Martin was enough to trigger Martin’s fear; however, the jury brought into Zimmerman’s fear.

Why wouldn’t they? Most people fear black men.  Accepting Zimmerman’s argument of fear played into conceptions of race.

The jury downplayed Zimmerman’s pattern of “profiling”. Prosecutors played five calls to police made months before the shooting.  The phone calls made to the dispatcher that night wasn’t enough to prove “profiling” and “ill-will”. 

“These a------ always get away,” Zimmerman said followed by, according to prosecutors, Zimmerman muttering “f----- punks” under his breath.

His comments assumed guilt.  Those words suggested intent, but the evidence was not enough.  Why?

Maybe the jurors view Zimmerman as a hero for protecting people from the “f ------- punks”.  Maybe the jury agrees with his assessment – they always get away.  Who are they?

Isn’t that a position based on a racial stereotype? If so, isn’t this about race?

Isn’t it troubling that the age of Trayvon was disregarded? Shouldn’t we consider the youth and innocence when discussing the matter of fear? Rachel Jeantel, 18, was on the phone with Trayvon at the time of the shooting. Trayvon told her he was being followed.

Trayvon told her of a “creepy-ass cracker” was watching him as he walked home from the convenience store. She heard Zimmerman angrily demand to know what Trayvon was doing in the neighborhood.  She heard a bump – the sound of Trayvon’s cell phone headset hitting the ground.

She heard Trayvon’s voice: “Get off! Get off!”

Isn’t that enough to prove aggression?

She’s only 18.  Legal experts say she was not polished or articulate.  Her testimony never changed, yet we are told to discredit her testimony because it failed to impress.  Isn’t the unwillingness to concede her testimony rooted in notions regarding race? Has her testimony been minimized by those who make judgments of black people?

The jury was asked to rule based on Florida’s Stand Your Ground Law.  The law eliminates a citizen’s “duty to retreat” before using lethal force.  We are asked to buy into the argument that it was Zimmerman, not Martin, who was at risk while all the evidence suggests the opposite claim.

Lead Detective Chris Serino refuted Zimmerman claim that he never “followed” Trayvon. Zimmerman’s statement to the police was full of inconsistences, a point that failed to sway the jury.  What is implied by their decision not to consider those discrepancies when weighed against other testimonies?

What about the 911 call made by the neighbor near the scene? Sybrina Fulton, Trayvon’s mother, and Jahvaris Fulton, Trayvon’s older brother, identified the voice on the recording as Trayvon.

The defense called eight witnesses who claimed the voice was Zimmerman’s, including his mother.  In the end, it came down to who the jury believed – the mother and brother of Trayvon or the friends and family of the man who, according to the evidence, chased the 17-year-old while assuming his guilt.

The judge’s decision not to allow the testimony of an audio expert may have decided the case.  The expert was ready to testify that the voice on the tape is Trayvon Martin. 

How should we feel about that exclusion of evidence?

What about the sound of the wind on Zimmerman’s call to police, suggesting he was chasing Trayvon? The defense claimed Martin was the aggressor, but all the evidence says otherwise.  That is for those capable of seeing how evidence can be tainted by those who bring their own notions of race to the case. The fact that Zimmerman may have been beaten by Martin doesn’t negate the truth related to Zimmerman’s aggression.  It merely proves that he approached the wrong person and took his beating poorly.  He pulled the trigger to end the beating.

At issue is who won the fight.  Shouldn’t the question be who started it and why?
Zimmerman was the aggressor with a gun.  Martin was on the phone when approached. Martin had no way of knowing Zimmerman’s intent.  He defended himself. He may have won the fight, but Zimmerman pulled the trigger.

Help me understand how this is not about race.

This is about the right to kill a black man after you start a fight and find yourself on the bad side of that decision.  This is about validating racial profiling.  This is about affirming the fear of a black teen when there is nothing to fear.

This is not about the law. It’s about the application of that law from the position of white fear.  The defense team used that fear to convince the jury Zimmerman had the right to kill.

What is the lesson?  Don’t assume I’m up to no good.  In your mind, I may look like a criminal. In my mind you look like a person looking for a fight.
Rest in peace Trayvon. Justice knows the truth.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Zimmerman trial about the value of a black man's life

The nation is standing on pens and needles as we wait for the jury to decide the fate of George Zimmerman.  The jury can convict him of second-degree murder of Trayvon Martin, convict him of manslaughter or declare him not guilty.

The Zimmerman case is this generation’s version of the O.J. Simpson trail. The dreadful death of Nicole Simpson forced deeper conversations related to domestic violence and race. Martin’s death exposes issues related to assumptions about black men and the value of their bodies.

On Trial is taking the life of a black man with little risk.

Are the lives of black man is not worth protecting?  Laws are created to make it difficult to punish those who take a black man’s life.  The criminal justice system is conceived in a way that keeps black men trapped. 

Those are a few of the underlying messages.

The Zimmerman case places America on trial for making it easy to take a black man’s life.  If acquitted, a message is Martin deserved to die.

He deserved to die for walking at night.  It’s his fault for wearing a hoodie.  He shouldn’t have been there.  He deserved to be followed and shot for not honoring Zimmerman’s role as a watch commander.

He should have stopped.  He should have trusted Zimmerman’s authority. Is there a different set of laws governing black men?

When followed I should assume the person following has good intentions.  I should discount the examples of black men being chased, robbed and killed.  I can’t run. I can’ fight back. If I’m killed, it’s my fault.

Zimmerman is a wannabe cop.  He had no badge. Are black men being told that we have to honor anyone who suspects us of a crime merely because of our race?  Do you expect me to accept a verdict based on a law designed to empower a person to kill based on their assumptions?

What do you say to black boys? Don’t walk at night.  Never wear a hoddie. Never run from a person following you. Don’t defend yourself if he comes at you with a gun.

"He automatically assumed Trayvon Martin was a criminal," Bernie de la Rionda, the prosecutor said. "And that’s why we’re here."

Martin was an “innocent 17-year-old kid” who had just celebrated his birthday three weeks earlier and was just walking back from buying Skittles and a drink a convenience store when Zimmerman started following him, de la Rionda said.

Zimmerman “decided he was up to no good,” the prosecutor said.

"He assumed things that weren’t true. Instead of waiting for the police to come and do their job, he did not. He, the defendant, wanted to make sure that Trayvon Martin didn’t get out of the neighborhood."

De la Rionda stressed what he said were inconsistencies in Zimmerman’s story, repeatedly focusing on the defendant’s statement to police that Martin hit him 20 to 30 times, even though witnesses said his injuries appeared minor.

"Why exaggerate them unless he’s lying about the whole thing?” the prosecutor asked.

The prosecutor addressed the dispute over who is heard yelling in the background of a 911 call during the struggle —  by showing jurors a slide that asked which item’s owner would be more like to scream for help above a picture of a gun and a picture of a juice drink.

Jurors were also shown Martin’s autopsy photo.

“They [Martin’s parents] can’t take any more photos and that’s true because of the actions of one person, the man before you, the defendant George Zimmerman, the man who is guilty of second-degree murder.”

Don’t send a message to black parents that the lives of their sons are disposable. 

How we feel about black boys in on trial.

Still standing on pens and needles.