Category Archives: Crime

What are the causes of crime in our community, and how can we lead our people away from crime?

Human Rights Organizations Speak Out on the Charleston Massacre

 

Dylann Roof Arrest 2By now, the news media have run out of excuses to insist that the massacre at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church was anything other than a hate crime.  Politicians from South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley to several US Congress Members have called for the Confederate Flag that still waves in front of the South Carolina State House, considered a key inspiration for the murderous rampage of Dylann Storm Roof, to be taken down.  Church leaders and prominent members of the Afrikan American community have spoken words of sympathy and healing for the families of the victims and for the communities of South Carolina and, frankly, across the South, as they struggle to come to grips with a yawning racial divide that they have ignored for far too long.

A number of Human Rights Organizations across the United States have made statements concerning the massacre of nine Afrikan people as they prayed in a Charleston, South Carolina church on Wednesday, June 17.  A few of these statements were sent to us, and we share them with you below.

A related post includes statements from several Pan-Afrikan organizations, and we will offer some of our thoughts in a separate post as well.

Heather Gray of the Justice Initiative wrote the following article for Counterpunch Magazine:

The Violent Roots of Southern Racism
The Massacre in Charleston:
“What Then Must We Do?” 
By Heather Gray
Counterpunch

On Wednesday, June 17th, 2015 three black men and six black women were killed by a white youth in Charleston, South Carolina’s renowned Emanuel AME Church. Below are their names:

Cynthia Hurd, 54 years old

Suzy Jackson, 87 years old

Ethel Lee Lance, 70 years old

Rev. De’Payne Middleton-Doctor, 49 years old

Rev. Clementa Pinckney, 41 years old

Tywanza Sanders, 26 years old

Rev. Daniel L. Simmons, 74 years old

Rev. Sharonda Coleman-Singleton, 45 years old

Myra Thompson, 59 years old

Regarding the loss of these remarkable community leaders at the Emanuel AME Church, I am reminded of the “Sweet Honey in the Rock” song named appropriately “Biko”. This was after the brutal 1977 killing of South Africa’s Steve Biko by the South African apartheid regime. Biko was the one of the major founders of the “Black Consciousness Movement” in South Africa. He was famous for his saying “black is beautiful!” Indeed. Sweet Honey sang “You can break one human body, I see ten thousand Bikos”.

Seeing ten thousand “Bikos”? Yes, I would say that we are already witnessing thousands of people expressing outrage at this painful killing in Charleston. So the fact is that there might be a killing of our leaders, but thousands or millions of people will honor them and continue their work for justice in whatever way they can.

This heartbreaking massacre did not occur in isolation. It has been identified as a hate crime. I frankly think it should be identified as domestic terrorism. And, unfortunately, this incident in Charleston was not unique. It is part of a long and painful white supremacist culture in America. The roots run deep. It keeps raising its ugly head.

But then, we can look for our enemy and often realize it is us. Those of us born and bred in the United States. In fact, when President George W. Bush said he was going after terrorists following 9/11 I thought “Good, that means he’ll need to go after the Klan and many right wing Christian groups in America.” It was, of course, wishful thinking on my part.

Here’s what Raw Story/Alternet had to say in its June 18, 2015 article by Alex Henderson:

When white males of the far right carry out violent attacks, neocons and Republicans typically describe them as lone-wolf extremists rather than people who are part of terrorist networks or well-organized terrorist movements. Yet many of the terrorist attacks in the United States have been carried out by people who had long histories of networking with other terrorists. In fact, most of the terrorist activity occurring in the United States in recent years has not come from Muslims, but from a combination of radical Christianists, white supremacists and far-right militia groups (Henderson)  

The problem, therefore, rests with those of us who are white and of European ancestry. We are the ones who created this culture and maintain it today. Most of us refuse to admit or acknowledge our racist past and the immorality of it much less to understand and teach its history of exploitation so that we can move beyond it. We keep our heads in the sand most of the time and it clouds our minds and distorts our vision. Generally, we also let other whites get away with too much when we should be stopping them in their tracks. Then many of us teach our youth that because they are white they are somehow special compared to others in the world. It’s a false and distorted pride and resides in a vacuous empty shell of lies.

I would venture to say that many whites, particularly in the South, are still of the opinion that there are different species of our modern humans. This is called racial essentialism, as in, there is different biological intellectual capacity or other characteristics such as industry and character between people of color and so-called whites.  

As Professor William Richman in 2006 has stated regarding his article on genetics: “This article answers that basic question (of racial essentialism) by resorting to the rapidly expanding field of molecular population genetics…There simply are no genetically-based pan-“racial” differences in character, intelligence, or any other set of traits crucial to individual or societal success or position; racial essentialism is intellectually bankrupt (Richman).     

I invite you to read Richman’s excellent and detailed article about recent genetics studies regarding the dispersal of humans from Africa – Genetic Residues Of Ancient Migrations: An End To Biological Essentialism And The Reification Of Race.

Our different colors are another issue often used to differentiate humans, yet we are all “homo sapiens” with different colors. The colors have to do with our closeness or not to the equator (please go to the footnote below for more detail on skin color.) Race differentiation? There is no such thing. It’s a myth. We are all of the same species with a variety of different colors (Robert Wald Sussman).   

The thing is, even if there were differences why would there be this oppression in the first place? Why this long lasting inhumane exploitive behavior by Americans?  All this rationale has been in place for centuries to justify slavery, then Jim Crow and now the current legacy of it all. The fact remains that, as was stated, these justifications are fallacies and cultural constructs by the western propagandists and the elite in the U.S. as a way to control the masses for their own intent, and that intent being greed.

All of the above have been tools used by the Southern elite, in particular, from the slavery era. They used the age-old divide and rule strategy of working class whites against the black community in order to achieve their goals. Greed is compelling!  

And, unfortunately, the Southern elite, ever since slavery, has instilled this deadly model that we have yet to bury in the dustbin of human history. I venture to say that more than likely the young Dylann Roof, who killed the nine AME pastors and members, was brought up in this distorted and white supremacist culture and/or he managed to find it easily through the media and internet.

It is also important to note also that the white working class in the South is the most marginalized in the region. They are not liked by the middle and upper class whites and have been trained keep their distance from blacks creating a conflict there as well. They are generally exceptionally poor and not engaged politically or civically except in the church, which is often exceptionally fundamentalist in the South. Please be mindful also that the late philosopher Leo Strauss, the godfather of the many on the right, said the people need to be controlled and religion, any religion, he said, is the best way to do this. Many organizers on the right have followed Strauss’ insidious “control” directive, although there has been a long history of using religion as a control tool in the South.

Furthermore, the South has never had the diverse economic system with labor rights that has, in the past, been the model in many parts of the country. But the South never really had a chance with this model compared to other areas. The southern elite simply never let businesses into the region if the business had labor union availability. (Read James Cobb’s “The Selling of the South” regarding actions of the southern elite and businesses coming into the South.) And now U.S. businesses have moved to other countries for cheaper labor and offering no benefits at all, if they can get away with it. Given this, the rural South is all the more desolate as opportunities are all the more bleak. This, of course, is all a part of the neoliberal business plan, being to seek cheap labor, again for greed.

In the rural South, this lack of a diverse economy, including lack of opportunities in the predominant agricultural system that is becoming more industrialized, along with concentrated elite wealth, has led to increased conflict, unsolved murders and drugs.

Finally, the South is, of course, unique in so many capacities regarding white supremacy largely thanks to our slave past and on-going oppressive culture. South Carolina particularly stands out because of its unique slave history and, of course, African resistance to it. Here are some facts from the excellent International African American Museum:

Slavery in South Carolina was different from anywhere else in America:

  • Over 40% of all enslaved Africans to the U.S. came in through Charleston
  • Population ratios could be as high as 9 enslaved persons to 1 white resident in the Lowcountry
  • Enslaved persons comprised nearly 50% of Charleston’s population before the Civil War

Today, nearly 80% of African Americans could potentially trace an ancestor who was brought through Charleston.

South Carolina was the only state founded exclusively as a slave colony.

Founded exclusively as a slave colony, South Carolina quickly grew to have the highest ratio of enslaved persons to free whites of any mainland colony, or later, state.

In the years preceding the Civil War, enslaved people comprised about half of Charleston‘s inhabitants. Population ratios in the Lowcountry were even more extreme, where some areas had 9 slaves to every 1 white resident.

In order to maintain control over the enslaved population, slave laws and methods of punishment were harsher in South Carolina than elsewhere in the country.

It’s important also to know that the primary slave work in South Carolina was in rice production. South Carolina slave owners opted for highly skilled rice growers from West Africa where rice had been grown for at least 3,000 years.

The South Carolina planters were, at first, completely ignorant of rice cultivation, and their early experiments with this specialized type of tropical agriculture were mostly failures. They soon recognized the advantage of importing slaves from the traditional rice-growing region of West Africa, and they generally showed far greater interest in the geographical origins of African slaves than did planters in other North American colonies (Yale). 

Furthermore, South Carolina was home – and understandably so – to the largest slave rebellion in U.S. history. Namely, the Stono Rebellion in 1739. This was almost a century before Denmark Vessey (who was associated with the Emanuel AME Church in Charleston) planned a slave rebellion on June17, 1822. Please note that the killings at the AME Church in Charleston took place on June 17, 2015 – a coincidence? Probably not.

And as Leo Tolstoy stated “What Then Must We Do?”

We need, I think, a new paradigm to recover from this sickness that serves only to destroy the other and ourselves as well. The responsibility of making this change rests with whites in partnership with the black community. The response from blacks and white groups joining with black groups the past year, however, around the killings of blacks by white police officers, is impressive; there are groups around the country beginning to address seriously the issue of white supremacy. The Quakers are, as always, noteworthy for their excellent work on this, as has been the case here in Atlanta. The “Black Lives Matter!” movement is taking on a life of its own throughout the country. I am sure these efforts will continue and/or we need to make sure that’s the case!

But most of us need to be more comprehensive in our efforts regarding education about the beginnings of and extent of white supremacist thoughts and action in our culture and ways to counter this, which includes finally learning about Africa and its profound history.

Two rather symbolic, yet important efforts, are, for one, to take the confederate flag from the statehouse grounds in South Carolina as is now being demanded by many South Carolinians. As a friend of mine said, “Having the confederate flag there is a disgrace”. I agree. The other symbolic gesture is that the U.S. Congress has yet to apologize for slavery and Jim Crow.

…just months after President Barack Obama took office, the Senate unanimously passed a resolution apologizing for slavery. The Senate acknowledged “the fundamental injustice, cruelty, brutality and inhumanity of slavery” and apologized “to African Americans, on behalf of the people of the United States, for the wrongs committed against them and their ancestors who suffered under slavery.”

The House of Representatives had passed a similar measure the previous year. But Congress could not resolve the two apologies because of differing views on how the resolution would be used in any discussion of reparations. The Senate version was insistent that an apology would not endorse any future claims. The House could not agree. Significantly, the office of the president of the United States has never issued an apology.

In other words, the United States has never given an unconditional apology for slavery. For a nation that can’t even agree on an apology, the recent conversation around reparations could be seen as little more than an exercise in oratory ().

These directives are but a start to rid ourselves of this white supremacist sickness in America. There are many other recommendations as well, of course. The time is now!

Heather Gray is a writer and radio producer in Atlanta, Georgia and has also lived in Canada, Australia, Singapore, briefly in the Philippines and has traveled in southern Africa. She served as the director of the Non-Violent Program for Coretta Scott King in the mid-1980’s in Atlanta; and for 24 years worked with the Federation of Southern Cooperatives/Land Assistance Fund focusing on Black farmer issues and cooperative economic development. She holds degrees in anthropology and sociology. She can be reached at hmcgray@earthlink.net.
________ 

Footnote: As humans left Africa and then further away from the equator our skin color changed and became more varied over time. Our black or white skin or variations of color have largely to do with our adaptation to heat – the closer we are to the equator the darker our skin as the melanin is an effective absorber of light; the (darker) pigment is able to dissipate over 99.9% of absorbed UV (ultraviolet) radiation” (Wikipedia) and in this way we can better survive in an exceptionally warm climate; consequently the further away from the equator, the lighter our skin because we need to absorb more heat and vitamin D (Smithsonian) in order to survive (see the world map of skin color below). There is also a third factor that effects our skin color and it has to do with diet combined with UV rays: 

….coastal peoples who eat diets rich in seafood enjoy this alternate source of vitamin D. That means that some Arctic peoples, such as native peoples of Alaska and Canada, can afford to remain dark-skinned even in low UV areas. In the summer they get high levels of UV rays reflected from the surface of snow and ice, and their dark skin protects them from this reflected light ().

Our different skin colors mean an environmental adaptation, with the exception of diet plus environment for Arctic peoples. That’s it! 

Emanuel AME Mourners 11

Statement from the Southern Poverty Law Center

Among several statements on their website, Morris Dees and Richard Cohen wrote the following commentary to the Opinion Page of the New York Times for the Southern Policy Law Center:

White Supremacists Without Borders
By MORRIS DEES and J. RICHARD COHEN Southern Poverty Law Center
JUNE 22, 2015
The Opinion Pages – New York Times

MONTGOMERY, Ala. – A VARIETY of clues to the motives of Dylan Storm Roof, the suspect in last week’s mass shooting at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, S.C., have emerged. First, we saw the patches he wore on his jacket in a Facebook photo: the flags of regimes in South Africa and Rhodesia that brutally enforced white minority rule. Then, a further cache of photos of Mr. Roof – seen in several bearing a Confederate flag – was discovered on a website, Last Rhodesian, registered in his name, together with a manifesto, a hodgepodge of white supremacist ideas. The author (most likely Mr. Roof) calls on whites to take “drastic action” to regain dominance in America and Europe. These themes, popular among white supremacists in the United States, are also signs of the growing globalization of white nationalism. When we think of the Islamist terrorism of groups like Al Qaeda and the Islamic State, we recognize their international dimension. When it comes to far-right domestic terrorism, we don’t. Americans tend to view attacks like the mass murder in Charleston as isolated hate crimes, the work of a deranged racist or group of zealots lashing out in anger, unconnected to a broader movement. This view we can no longer afford to indulge. When, according to survivors, Mr. Roof told the victims at the prayer meeting that black people were “taking over the country,” he was expressing sentiments that unite white nationalists from the United States and Canada to Europe, Australia and New Zealand. Unlike those of the civil rights era, whose main goal was to maintain Jim Crow in the American South, today’s white supremacists don’t see borders; they see a white tribe under attack by people of color across the globe. The end of white rule in Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) and South Africa, they believe, foreshadowed an apocalyptic future for all white people: a “white genocide” that must be stopped before it’s too late. To support this view, they cite the murders of white farmers in South Africa since the end of apartheid. In recent years, extremists have distilled the notion of white genocide to “the mantra,” parts of which show up on billboards throughout the South, as well as in Internet chat rooms. It proclaims “Diversity = White Genocide” and “Diversity Means Chasing Down the Last White Person,” blaming multiculturalism for undermining the “white race.” The white nationalist American Freedom Party has made the mantra’s author, a segregationist from South Carolina named Robert Whitaker, its vice-presidential candidate in 2016. White supremacists across the country, some displaying the apartheid South African flag, have participated in “White Man Marches” to raise awareness of the so-called white genocide. A neo-Confederate group, the League of the South, also uses the white genocide argument to call for laws against interracial marriage. White nationalist leaders are traveling abroad to strengthen their international networks. At the Southern Poverty Law Center, we have documented more than 30 instances in the past two years. In 2013, Jared Taylor of American Renaissance, a group that publishes pseudo-academic articles purporting to show the inferiority of black people, addressed groups of white nationalists in Britain and France on their common cause. “The fight in Europe is exactly the same as ours,” he said. The movement is bound to produce more violence, not necessarily from organized groups but from lone wolves like Anders Behring Breivik, the Norwegian terrorist who killed more than 70 people in his country in 2011 because he wanted “to save Europe from Islam.” Mr. Breivik had ties to American white nationalists as a registered user of Stormfront, a web forum founded by a former Ku Klux Klan leader that has more than 300,000 members (about two-thirds are American). Europe has also seen the rise of a powerful, far-right political movement that rejects multiculturalism. The anti-Semitic Jobbik Party in Hungary and the neo-fascist Golden Dawn in Greece are prime examples. In Germany, there has been a series of murders by neo-Nazis. Britain, too, is experiencing an upswing of nationalist, anti-immigrant politics. This month, S.P.L.C. staffers will join activists from the United States and Europe at a conference in Budapest about this transnational white supremacism that is emerging as the world grows more connected by technology. The message of white genocide is spreading. White nationalists look beyond borders for confirmation that their race is under attack, and they share their ideas in the echo chamber of racist websites. The days of thinking of domestic terrorism as the work of a few Klansmen or belligerent skinheads are over. We know Islamic terrorists are thinking globally, and we confront that threat. We’ve been too slow to realize that white supremacists are doing the same.

Morris Dees is the founder, and J. Richard Cohen the president, of the Southern Poverty Law Center.

 

Pan-Afrikan Organizations Speak Out on Charleston Massacre

 

 

 

Emanuel AME Mourners 6We include here statements from several Pan-Afrikan organizations as they express their sympathy for the victims, their analysis of what happened and their conviction that the slogan “Black Lives Matter” must translate to the commitment to defend the Pan-Afrikan Community, wherever we are found around the world, against oppression and violence.

These are clearly not all the statements that have been offered from our many and varied organizations and they do not represent the entirety of thought in the Pan-Afrikan activist community; they are but a sample.  We will share commentaries and analyses from human rights organizations in the general community in a separate article, and we will offer some of our own thoughts in a separate article as well.

Statement from the Clement Payne Movement, Barbados, The Caribbean

PRESS RELEASE

CARIBBEAN GOVERNMENTS MUST INTERVENE AND DEFEND OUR  AFRICAN-AMERICAN  BROTHERS

The critical importance of the United Nations International Decade For People of African Descent becomes more and more apparent with each passing day!

A case in point is the massacre which occurred [June 17] at the African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina, in the United States of America, in which nine African- American women, men and children were brutally shot to death by a White male.

This latest genocidal outrage comes at a time when right-thinking people all over the world are expressing shock and horror at the phenomenon of White American police officers callously killing literally hundreds of unarmed Black-American men and women, and the U S Criminal Justice system routinely declaring that the killers are not even required to stand trial for their wrong-doing.

Indeed, the U S Justice System recently sent such a loud and clear message that Black-American lives do NOT matter, that it is not surprising that an ordinary White civilian racist would get it into his head to enter the sanctuary of an historic African -American church and assassinate Black men, women and children who were in a posture of prayer!

But the inherent message of the UN International Decade For People Of African Descent – which began on 1st January 2015 – is that the African- American people of the United States of America are our Black Barbadian and Caribbean kith and kin!

The nine Black American men, women and children who were so brutally murdered [June 17] are our “brothers and sisters”. And they are our brothers and sisters because their African ancestors were brought to the Americas in the same slave ships that brought our African ancestors, and were subjected to the same architectonic socialisation experiences of chattel slavery and colonialism in “Plantation America” that our ancestors were subjected to on the plantations of the Caribbean.

The only truly significant difference between ourselves and our African-American brothers and sisters is that we are Blacks in a Black majority society, while they are Blacks in a White majority society.

This fundamental difference is responsible for the fact that we possess pre-dominantly Black governments, legislators, nation states, police forces, judicial officers, diplomatic representatives, and the list goes on, while they remain a relatively powerless and under-represented minority in the White majority institutions of the USA. Furthermore, it has now become absolutely clear that the traditional White American establishment that orchestrated the anti-Black slavery and slave trade of the 18th and 19th centuries has no intention of ever permitting the Black US-based descendants of their former slaves to ever be truly and fully free!

The very existence of the UN International Decade For People of African Descent impels us as Black people to come to this profound understanding of the predicament of our African-American brothers and sisters, and to the responsibilities that we must undertake as a result of that horrific predicament.

And the clearest such responsibility is that we Black Barbadian and Caribbean people who are racial majorities in our national societies, and who possess predominantly Black nation-states, national governments, and diplomatic seats at the United Nations and other high councils of international decision-making, are duty-bound to speak up for and to defend the rights of our African-American brothers and sisters! We simply can no longer allow our interest in our brothers’ plight to be restricted because they are supposedly citizens of a different nation! No! We who are joined together by deeply rooted ties of ancestry, kinship and affinity, must not permit artificial national barriers to keep us apart!

The time has therefore come when the Prime Ministers, the Ministers of Foreign Affairs, and the various Ambassadors and consular officers of our Caribbean nations must accept that they have a duty to speak up for and defend our African-American brothers and sisters.

Just as the American State Department, Secretary of State, President and Vice-President believe that they possess a right to intervene in and pass judgement on our national domestic affairs, our Caribbean high officials of state must assert an even greater right to intervene in and pass judgement on the existential predicament of our African-American brothers and sisters within the national arena of the USA.

And it is therefore high time that our premier officials of state intervene with US President Barack Obama and call upon him to do his duty to the African-American people of the USA!

The sad reality is that President Obama has spectacularly FAILED— during his Presidency— to address the issue of the deeply entrenched anti-Black racism that exists in the bowels of American society and in the very DNA of the institutions of the USA.

Even with this most recent racist massacre, President Obama shamelessly side-stepped his duty to represent the African-American cause and sought to characterize the massacre as being related to the ease of access to guns in the USA, rather than to pinpoint the fact that it was underpinned by the trenchant anti-Black racism that exists in U S society .

Way back in the 1960’s, the late Lyndon B Johnson, a white American president, distinguished himself on the race issue by establishing the Kerner Commission to enquire into the endemic racist conditions that were at the heart of the race-based civil disorders of the mid-1960’s and to propose possible solutions. What has President Obama done on the issue of anti-Black racism since becoming President? The tragic answer is:– nothing of consequence!

Truly, the time has come for us to move forward on this issue! The advent of the UN Decade For People of African Descent says to us that the time has come for us as Black people to express solidarity with each other right across the Black Diaspora! The time has come for us to collectively declare an attitude of zero tolerance towards all elements of anti-Black racism and racial discrimination!

The time has also come for us to address the U S Government about this issue of the racial oppression of our African-American brothers and sisters, and to use our political leaders and diplomats to take this issue before the United Nations organization and other international human rights bodies!

Quite frankly, in this UN International Decade For People of African Descent, the time has come for us to undertake powerful trans-national campaigns of activism to finally and permanently destroy the centuries- old demon of institutionalized anti-Black racism!

On behalf of the Clement Payne Movement of Barbados, I hereby call upon the political leaders and Governments of the Caribbean to accept and embrace this new understanding of their duty to our African-American brothers and sisters, and to act upon it with a sense of urgency!

May our recently martyred brothers and sisters rest in peace.

DAVID COMISSIONG
President, Clement Payne Movement

 

Statement from the Association for the Study of African American Life and History

Association for the Study of African American Life and History LogoAssociation for the Study of African American Life and History
The Howard Center, 2225 Georgia Avenue, NW, Suite 331 Washington, DC 20059
www.asalh.org

June 18, 2015

A Statement Concerning the Massacre at the Emanuel AME Church 

The Association for the Study of African American Life and History (ASALH) speaks out against the violence in Charleston, South Carolina, that took the lives of nine African Americans in the Emanuel AME Church. We extend our condolences to the families who lost their loved ones, the members of the Emanuel AME Church, and the entire Charleston community. May your faith sustain you through this storm.

As all Americans now know, this African Methodist Episcopal Church has been a rock in our community since the early days of this republic when the members of the congregation, enslaved and free, could not be citizens of either the state or this nation. The church itself was implicated in the Denmark Vessey plot to throw off the chains of slavery, and it has been a site for our struggle for racial justice and equality across the centuries. The congregation represents how slavery itself could not and cannot extinguish the human thirst for freedom and true citizenship.

This massacre strikes at the heart of our democracy. According to the witness Sylvia Johnson, a member of the church, the shooter told his victims, “You rape our women and you’re taking over our country – and you have to go.” As an expression of white nationalism, this slaughter of American citizens – for being citizens – is thus even more than a hate crime. The accused, Dylann Roof, assaulted our common democratic institutions and engaged in domestic terrorism. His purpose could have been none other than to foment greater racial strife, if not race war. We cannot let it stand.

We call on our elected officials at every level of government to denounce white supremacy as an ideology and to root out this form of terrorism. Our nation offers itself to the world as a beacon of racial progress, the hope of a true multi-racial society and we must uphold by this self-appointed mission. Moreover, the state of South Carolina–where the citizens can elect Nikki Haley, a South Asian woman, and Tim Scott, an African American man, as their Governor and United States Senator, respectively– cannot allow white nationalism to undermine our efforts to build and maintain a common democracy.

Daryl Michael Scott
President
Click here to view this statement on our website

 

Statement from Political Prisoner Mumia Abu-Jamal

Mumia Abu-Jamal

Charleston  

A young white man, barely at the age of his majority, walks into Charleston’s most storied Black church and, before he leaves, a new history is written.

Attending the Wednesday night Bible study, he sits for nearly an hour, but his mind isn’t on the life of Jesus nor his disciples. It’s on murder, mass murder. When the door shuts behind him, nine Black souls, elders mostly, had been slain, Bibles in hand.

The man, or boy more than man really, hadn’t come to learn about religion, for he had a belief, white supremacy, or the profound hatred of Black people.

White supremacy is the mother’s milk of Charleston, of South Carolina, of the South, of America. For surely as slavery funded and built America, the underlying principle was the devaluation, exploitation, and oppression of Black life. It’s the only thing that makes the church massacre in Charleston even remotely intelligible.

Nine Black people were sacrificed to the blind idol of white supremacy for the same reason that thousands of Black men and women were lynched on American elms and pines: as sacrifices to an idea, to perpetuate a system of economic injustice.

Dylan Roof, the 21 year old accused of this massacre, had no friends to speak of, no place to stay other than an associate’s couch, no job, and a tenuous relationship with his parents. Isolated, alienated, alone in the world, his sole remaining possession was his whiteness, the only thing that gave his existence meaning. That was the energy that fueled the massacre in Charleston, South Carolina.

It now sits like an incubus in the American soul, seething hatred and fear, waiting for more Black lives to consume.

 

Statement from The Newark Anti-Violence Coalition on the Mother Emanuel AME 9 Massacre: Calls Pinckney Killing an “Assassination”

The Newark Anti-Violence Coalition (NAVC)
(908) 605-NAVC
navc@googlegroups.com
Facebook.com/newarkantiviolencecoalition
Facebook.com/newarkanti-violencecoalition group

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE!

The Newark Anti-Violence Coalition speaks out on the Massacre of the Mother Emanuel AME 9 in Charleston, South Carolina, but unlike most condemnations of the heinous act, the NAVC asserts that the incident be also be treated as an ‘assassination’ of Rev. Clementa Pinckney for his leadership on police brutality!*

“Why are we not demanding that this act be treated as assassination of Rev. Pinckney,” asked media advocate Zayid Muhammad.

Rev. Dr. Clementa Pinckney

Rev. Dr. Clementa Pinckney

“Pinckney was not only that church’s beloved pastor, he was also a state legislator who got out in front of the highly contentious issue of police brutality, when he unified area elected [officials] to insist that all police officers wear body cameras as a basic, but critical, reform, in light of the videotaped police killing of [Walter] Scott in South Carolina.

“That reform, to his credit, passed, in spite of that area’s deep, dark baggage of racial oppression and terrorism.

“That reform was bound to have engendered some very real enemies, seen and unseen, as a consequence.

“We have to ask: ‘Was this man’s killing in particular a message to Black leadership, saying, do not dare get serious about pushing for serious police reform?

“We just wonder, if Rev. Pinckney were white, would this tragedy be dismissed simply as a crazed ‘lone gunman’ gone off on a rampage?”

The NAVC then insisted there be a full and complete federal investigation of the case along those lines.

They then related Pinckney’s police reform efforts to [Newark, NJ] Mayor Ras Baraka’s local police reform efforts. Mayor Baraka created the first civilian review board in the country to have subpoena power over the Newark police. He did this just several weeks ago by executive order.

“We cannot understand why Black electeds in cities allover the country have not applauded this move and have not followed his lead and done so in their own cities.”

The statement also challenged Black elected officials to emulate Pinckney’s leadership and Newark Mayor Baraka’s leadership on the issue of police brutality.

The NAVC also demanded that federal security anti-terrorism efforts be expanded to provide greater protections to elected officials pushing for police reform. The full text of the statement is annexed…

*Newark will be the site for a national march against police brutality on July 25th…


Statement from the UNIA-ACL

The Tragedy of White Hatred and Injustice in South Carolina
By Shaka Barak, Minister of Education 06-21-15

For over 100 years the Universal Negro Improvement Association and African Communities League (UNIA & ACL) has been trying to protect our race from the crimes against them, by whites and other alien races, not only in South Carolina, but all over the world. We wrote in our governing constitution and bylaws a provision that states our desire to establish commissionaires and agencies in the principle cities and countries of the world for the representation and protection of all Africans and people of African descent, irrespective of nationality. What has happened in South Carolina was bound to happen, and unfortunately will continue to happen more frequently and on a larger scale if we don’t unite. It happened in the United States to African men after World War I, when they returned to America from shedding their blood for so-called democracy. This was a time when African GI’s returning from the battle fields in France, wounded and battle torn, were lynched in their uniforms. Africans loved America so much that they not only lined up to fight for America, but the masses immediately raised hundreds of thousands of dollars by purchasing war bonds. This love was because of the promises of freedom, justice and equality President Woodrow Wilson alluded to when he said it was a “war for Democracy.”

During that WWI period from 1914-1918, and after, three United States Presidents were members of the Ku Klux Klan, including Wilson, Coolidge and Harrison. From the founding of the UNIA & ACL, by the Honorable Marcus Garvey to the President General the Honorable Senghor Jawara Baye, knowing how white supremacy destroys the minds of white people, they have tried to prepare our race so that we wouldn’t have to face these atrocities, but be so united and strong no white or any alien race would dare lay their hands on a Black man or woman anywhere in the world.

Since the Honorable Marcus Garvey has passed June 10, 1940 what has our race done? We have abandoned Universal African Nationalism and allowed the alien races who have attacked us since we became vulnerable 400 years ago, to now lead us. These whites and their surrogates have not sought to lead us on the course laid out for us in our constitution, and the course taught by the foremost Black Nationalist the Honorable Marcus Garvey and all his successors, but away from Garveyism. The others have led us away from Garveyism and nationalism on a course they would direct called integration because they could control that course. We have been on a course that would not lead to; racial pride and love; not to self-reliance; and not to self-determination and not to self-government. Without the proper preparation in South Carolina and other parts of the world, we were not ready to protect ourselves. Scattered throughout the world as a disunited race, in this weak state, we have been, could be and will be easily massacres by the enemy from without and the enemy’s surrogates from within. The divide and rule tactic is being used against us on every continent on earth.

We must understand the lesson of Marcus Garvey, and you can only get that truth in the UNIA & ACL. We had more respect as a race in 1920, by that generation of alien races than at any other time in America. Under the UNIA & ACL we were seen as more serious, bolder, and aggressive and determined when it came to pursuing our human rights. We had more measurable success as a race, when we built and supported our own Universal Grocery Stores, and Universal Restaurants. When the UNIA & ACL members launched the Black Star Line Steamship Corporation, it gave the then estimated 400 million Africans and people of African Descent pride, in that an accomplishment, but it also made other races either jealous or fearful as they saw the BSL as a competitor in the maritime industry.

One-hundred years later the same organization that launched those ships and gave our race the restaurants and grocery stores is still alive and pleading with our race to join us at the UNIA & ACL 58th International Convention. This is the place where we can come together and build the right economic, educational, and political structures to address all the problems of the 1.2 billion members of our race at home and abroad. We did not solve all the problems in the 1920’s because we cannot undo 400 years of slavery and colonialism in less than 175 years of emancipation, especially with powerful white forces fighting us with the deadly tools of their civilization every step of the way. We have not given up but are on the same course to get our people to replace the feeling of hope with the feeling of confidence. We need the confidence that makes us believe, to a man, that whatever other races and nations have done we can do. We need confidence that we can build and maintain a racial hierarchy, and a 1.2 billion member and growing racial empire.

Today’s leaders on the other hand have confidence in the white man, his just-us system, his military, his Supreme-mist Court, and his economic system. They find it hard to imagine a nationalistic program ran and controlled by and for Africans. So without the proper vision we see what has happened in South Carolina also happening in Libya, after Prime Minister Muammar Gaddafi was assassinated. It happened in Egypt, when President Muhammad Hosni El Sayed Mubarak Mabarrack was disposed. It happened to Africans in Syria, when Bashar al-Assad leadership was undermined. Africans are lured to sleep thinking it’s safe in the world without their shield of Universal African Nationalism to protect them in case things go south, which often happens. Let us remember, forget Black Wall Street in Tulsa Oklahoma, when all seemed well until that faithful evening when whites dropped bombs on innocent African in the Greenwood District.

Atrocities against our race instigated by whites are happening in Nigeria, in Angola, in South Africa, in Brazil, in Austria, in India, and in the Dominican Republic. Why are they happening in the far corners of the earth? It is because we lack unity. The UNIA & ACL can build its divisions all around the world, but to make that happen, and to show how it all that make sense we must come together at the 58th International Convention, and meet face to face. We must see those delegates not only from South Carolina, but see those who represent the members of our scattered race all over the world. We realize that the problems facing the Africans in Brazil cannot be solved by the Africans in Brazil alone. If the Africans in Brazil, Mexico, India, Japan, China, France, Spain, Germany and other countries, don’t unite, then they will be destroyed by being isolated and picked off one by one.

European countries, and states in the US are being led by their bankers into bankruptcy, and they will use the African as a scapegoat that will lead to whites rioting and massacring the Africans among them. The basis for a race war is when most whites are led to believe that, if there are jobs, they need to take those jobs even if it means murdering Africans and scaring them out of certain cities, and urban areas. It has been done before, because up until President Barack Obama, America has had nothing but racist white presidents that inherited a racist system of government. They have been men, backed up by white women, who nursed their babies with the doctrine of the survival of the fittest, and manifest destiny”. What they did to enslave each other, the indigenous populations worldwide, and the African is a long forgotten part of their history. They pursued the acquisition of wealth, land and power by any means necessary with the belief those future generations would either forget or forgive the acts of genocide and extermination. The white man especially hopes the victims of his barbarism forget or forgive.

Let’s take a close look at South Carolina, and how easily the white race has murdered other weak and unprepared nations in the past and the present. There were over 20 different native tribes in South Carolina before the white man came there from Spain in 1521. These so called Indians were not only the first there but in the majority until they were murdered or forced off that land. South Carolina has always been the leader of the racist southern states. It led southern states to question the Union, build southern nationalism, support slavery, seek a southern literature, seek southern religious nationalism, seek a southern nation through succession, and pushed for expansion through the ideology of “Manifest Destiny”.

In 1817 an independent African Association was organized in Charleston, South Carolina because Africans were tired of white preachers conducting their religious affairs. In 1817 the Immanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church was formed by Moorish Brown with 1000 organizers. Seventeen years prior in 1800 Denmark Vessey an AME member, who was freed in 1800, the same year the 24 year old Gabriel Prosser organized a rebellion, the same year Toussaint l. Overture organized the Haitian revolution, and 4 years after in 1804 the Underground Railroad was formed. So Vessey saw 6000 Africans leave white churches and go to the AME. Vessey also saw the founding of the American Colonization Society with the intent of taking free Africans to Liberia. Vessey seemingly had his mind made up to reject that offer and fight for freedom against the injustices in his own way. For just one example of these injustices, whites first had 469 Africans who wanted to pray, arrested in 1817 under false charge of disorderly conduct. Then they invoked the 1800 law prohibiting the assembling of enslaved Africans without a white person present. Breaking this law led to 140 free Africans being arrested, and the Bishops and ministers had to either go to jail for one month or leave the state and others were given the choices of 10 lashes with a whip or pay a $10 fine each. White legislators rejected any appeals made by Africans to conduct their own independent worship services. Enslaved Africans in South Carolina could not gather in groups of more than seven and sometimes even funerals were under suspicion.

The United States also embraced nationalism, especially when John C. Calhoun of South Carolina was Vice President. The founding fathers were nationalist. A Noah Webster of the famous Webster’s Dictionary was a nationalist who published nationalist educational material such as the American Reader, American Grammar, American spelling book and the American dictionary of the English Language. Likewise, at Harvard College in 1818 Edward T. Channing delivered an address entitled “Literary Independence.” America he said, “must establish a domestic literature upon what is peculiarly our own, our scenery, our institutions, our modes of life, our history and the antiquities of our country. “By 1810 to 1820 Blacks had surpassed whites in South Carolina. South Carolina was the spokesman for the slave holding states. A well-known nationalist and defender of slavery was Thomas Cooper, President of South Carolina College.

The deeper the south, the stronger were the UNIA & ACL Divisions. We had divisions in Anderson, Beaufort, Charleston, Chehan, Church Parish, Coosaw, Island, Georgetown, Green Pond, Labaco, Lake View, Midland Park, Mount Holly, Pineopiolis, Rock Hill, St. Andrew, Strawberry, Union Heights, and Yemassee. Had we maintained our divisions in South Carolina, there would have been no way [Roof] could have gotten into a prayer meeting where our elders and children were. We would have scanned him, frisked him, disarmed him, and then fed his behind to some alligators in a swamp, and told the police where to look for any of his remains.

In conclusion, the UNIA & ACL under President General Senghor Baye sends condolences and sympathy to those who lost loved ones in the mass murder by the white man Dylann Roof, of Columbia South Carolina. The names of those Africans he murdered include Rev. Clementa C. Pinckney, Cynthia Hurd, Myra Thompson, Ethel Lee Lance, Daniel L. Simmons, Susie Jackson, DePayne Middleton-Doctor, Tywanza Sanders, and Sharonda Coleman-Singleton. We will be extending an invitation for the family members, the church members and citizens of Charleston, South Carolina to send a delegate to attend the UNIA & ACL 58th International Convention. Inquiries can be made to Shaka Barak, UNIA & ACL Minister of Education, email: shakabarak1@yahoo.com, or those designated by the President General Senghor Baye.

Emanuel AME Mourners 3 

 

 

 

Annapolis Day of Action Against Police Brutality

Marshall Park 3The handwritten poster read, at the top, “Stolen Lives in Maryland 2014”, followed by a list of 25 names of people who had died in police custody or in altercations with Maryland law enforcement in one way or another during the year 2014.

A few of the names were people who most would consider to have been truly dangerous judging by the accounts in the news reports which we researched (and are not mentioned here), but most of them were individuals who seemed to have died under unclear, questionable or suspicious circumstances.  Some, like Perry Webb, Rajsaun McCray, Jameel Kareem Harrison, Briatay McDuffie and Arvel Williams, died after car chases, when they were either tased, shot or, according to the stories about Webb, may have shot themselves.  Some, like Hernan Milton Osorio and Darren Friedman, were apparently attempting suicide and the police, who were allegedly trying to stop them, killed them themselves when threatened, while Luis Arturo Hernandez Jr. was allegedly attempting suicide while holding his wife as a hostage.  Ryan Charles Deitrich and Donovan Bayton were reportedly behaving in a threatening manner (though not necessarily committing any crimes) while holding knives, and Mark Anthony Blocker simply would not drop his pellet gun.  Eric Harris was killed by police when his fake gun was apparently mistaken for the real thing.  Bernard Lofton was killed after a suspected burglary.  George King became unruly in a hospital and a Baltimore police officer tased him several times, which killed him.  Tyree Woodson was arrested on a murder charge and allegedly committed suicide in a police station bathroom with a gun that he somehow managed to get past a police search, while 78-year-old William R. Walls Sr. reportedly committed suicide during a gun battle with police in a hostage standoff at his home.  Angela Randolph fought with a Maryland Transit Administration police officer and was shot, while Antonio Moreno reportedly suffered a heart attack during a struggle with police on a bus.  And finally, Winfield Carlton Fisher III was killed in Salisbury under circumstances that were unknown, according to the news article.

The poster concluded with an alarming statistic: “In 2014 Maryland law enforcement killed someone every 14 days.”

The Sister who held that poster had boarded one of several buses from Baltimore City to participate in a rally in Thurgood Marshall Plaza, nicknamed “The People’s Plaza” because of its popularity as a gathering and rallying place for actions such as this one.  We were there in Annapolis, on January 15, 2015, what would have been the 86th birthday of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., in the shadows of the buildings that house the offices and meeting rooms of Maryland’s state senators and delegates in the legislature, to press for the enactment of reforms to the laws that regulate police conduct in the state.  Chief among the demands being pressed this day were the incorporation of body cameras for police, the creation of a Special Prosecutor’s Office for cases of alleged police misconduct, the empanelment of a Civilian Police Review Board and other key changes to be made in the Law Enforcement Officers’ Bill of Rights, a measure thought by several politicians, but more importantly the vast majority of community activists, to allow corrupt, racist and violent police officers to continuously commit acts of brutality and go unpunished.  One particularly objectionable provision in the original Bill is the establishment of a ten-day period after the launching of an investigation into police misconduct that would allow potential police defendants to formulate their alibis.  This provision evokes memories of the February 4, 1999 police murder of an unarmed Amadou Diallo in the entrance of his own New York City apartment and the two-day period during which the four police officers who had gunned him down had been able to construct the infamous “we feared for our lives” narrative that ultimately resulted in their acquittals at trial.  Not only had internal NYPD investigations concluded the officers had acted “within policy” (much as in the recent cases of Michael Brown and Eric Garner), but their claims of having feared for their safety may have set the stage for the use of this self-defense motive to escape criminal charges in future killings of civilians by police.

This particular weekend, there would be many rallies, protests and discussions across the United States centered around the juxtaposition of Dr. King’s birthday and the recent uprisings, in the spirit of Dr. King, against the police violence against civilians that seized the country’s attention starting with the killing of Ferguson’s Michael Brown this past summer.  Marches in New Jersey (one by the People’s Organization for Progress, http://njpop.org in Newark on Monday, January 19) and New York (the MLK “Dream 4 Justice” March at Malcolm X Blvd @ 110th Street in Harlem at 12 noon on Monday, January 19), rallies and teach-ins in Washington, DC (several of them sponsored by Black Lives Matter, http://blacklivesmatter.com and the Washington Peace Center, http://washingtonpeacecenter.net), and activities in Cleveland, Ohio, Ferguson, Missouri, Los Angeles, California and places across the country, show the potential for the anti-police brutality movement to morph into a new Civil Rights and Human Rights Movement that could continue for weeks, months or longer.  Demonstrations will be held.  Streets will be blocked.  Arrests will be made.  Politicians will make speeches.  Police union leaders will complain about disrespect of law enforcement.  Talk radio shows will bring the voices of the People to the airwaves.  Panels will provide analysis.  And in Annapolis, rallies were held directly in the faces of Maryland state law makers.  Perhaps some of them will listen.

The January 15 Day of Action Against Police Brutality at the Maryland State Legislature in Annapolis had been organized by the Rev. Dr. Heber Brown III, Pastor of Pleasant Hope Baptist Church in North Baltimore; Bro. Faraji Muhammad of WEAA-FM and the American Friends Service Committee; Bro. Davon Love of Leaders of a Beautiful Struggle; Bro. Tre Murphy of The Algebra Project; Sis. Towanda Jones and the Family of Tyrone West (who was killed by Baltimore City police in July 2013 and whose family still seeks justice); and several other activists who attended and assisted in the organization of the rally, march and planned meetings with members of the Maryland House of Delegates.  Special guests at the event included students from Connexions Charter School, who had come to see an example of “civics in action”.  Buses had been contracted to pick up participants from at least three meeting locations in Baltimore City and nearby areas of the state.

Rev. Dr. Heber Brown, III, Pastor of Pleasant Hope Baptist Church, called the rally toHeber Brown 1 order at 10:00 AM.  “I want to be clear, that if anybody has any questions about who the leaders are, do me a favor.  Because I want to introduce you to the leaders.  Look to your left.  Now look to your right.  You have just seen the new leaders of the movement for social justice in our generation.  We are the leaders.  We have our own spheres of influence, our own circles, where we are connected.  You have opportunity to lead where you are.  We are here this morning, bringing together all the leaders, from Baltimore City, from Anne Arundel County, Harford County, PG [Prince Georges County], Montgomery County.  We’re bringing together all the leaders to address the situation that addresses and challenges all of us.  We are here to stand against police violence and police brutality.  Can I give you a word of applause and encouragement right now?  Because I’m so proud of you.  Because they thought we’d sit down and shut up.  They thought after a few marches, after a few rallies, they thought that we’d just calm down again, get back to Scandal, get back to How To Get Away With Murder. … We’re tired of other people getting away with murder.  We’re tired of the scandal in our community.  Black and Brown people are being brutalized and terrorized by those abusing the powers afforded them. … After we rally right here, we’re going inside these buildings. … We’ve got some meetings to have today.  There are some elected officials that we need to meet with today, and be clear about some specific legislation.  We didn’t come this far to have a picture taking party. … We’ve got some work to do.  There’s some work that we must do; there’s some work that only we can do.”

Sis. Taya Angelou gave a song-and-spoken-word performance to rouse the crowd, which had grown by this time to about 100 people.

Bro. Tre Murphy of The Algebra Project reflected on the fact that this rally was being held on January 15, what would have been the 86th birthday of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.  “Look around.  About 100 people standing here today, who have marched on Annapolis today because the issues of police brutality and our communities being under attack stem from the underlying issues of systematic racism and systematic oppression. … The system of White Supremacy has undervalued and devalued the lives of Black people.  I wonder if MLK were still alive today, what would he say?  What would he do?  I can’t help but think that MLK would not appreciate the silence of the Black Church, that has not taken a stance onTre Murphy 2 these issues.  I can’t help but to wonder and to think that MLK would not appreciate that [there are] Elders who sit idly by while young people speak out against injustice.  I can’t help but to wonder and think that MLK would not appreciate that politicians and law enforcement, whose job is to protect and serve our communities, care more about protecting killer cops than they do about passing laws that adhere to bring justice to the Black community. 

“We are at a pivotal time in history.  A time in history where we have the opportunity to create a better future for generations to come than what was left for us.  It has the hope and reassurance that somewhere out there lies a bigger, better and brighter tomorrow.  And that it doesn’t just end with today.  That’s the vision that we must hold on to.  So, in closing, here’s my call to action in the spirit of MLK’s birthday today. 

“To every clergy member, I ask that you join us, for the silence of the Church has been insufficient to the work of creating a better life for God’s people.  I hope to convene a roundtable of religious and clergy leaders to talk about a long term strategy of what the roles of churches are in this work.

“To all of the older civil rights organizations, the ACLU, the NAACP, Rainbow-PUSH Coalition, Rev. Al Sharpton, whoever you are, this is my call to action for you.  Stand with us.  Support community-based organizations and people who are out here making a change.  For it is this work, the work of transforming communities, that will be the determining factor between us staying in the past of yesterday or moving forward into the bright visionary futures of tomorrow that MLK had envisioned. 

“To all the Black community members, who sit idly by while our communities are under attack, I say to you, get off the fence and join the Revolution.  The movement needs your energy and your spirit. 

“To our White counterparts, and other communities alike, I say to you, join our cause.  You want to be on the right side of history when this goes down in the history books.  This is the call to action, and I hope that all will answer to it.”

One Brother who was occasionally called upon to speak made appeals to the group to access that spiritual source that provides the courage to boldly confront the state’s lawmakers.  “We are not asking questions. … Questions are for yesteryear.  Now we are making demands.  We urge them … to give us answers. … We are not, we will not and we cannot continue to allow these injustices within our neighborhoods and our communities to continue.  All I want you all to know is, and I want the state of Maryland to know and I want the United States of America to know, the next funeral I go to is the funeral where we bury injustice, the funeral where we bury all violence, where we bury issues, where we bury all the mistrust.  We are here to forge forward, fortified, ready, standing strong, Black Power, togetherness, unity, we are tied together.  Malcolm said it, and Martin said it.  We are tied together by the garments of mutual destiny. … I am ready to reconnect this movement because we are lost, but today … we will bridge the gap that death created.  We are risen today.  Let’s forge forward.”

Pastor Stephen A. Tillett, President of the Annapolis Chapter of the Interdenominational Ministerial Alliance and President of the Anne Arundel County NAACP, pointed out that the Black Church was present this day, and then explained the agenda of the rally and visit to the legislative chamber that was to follow on this day.  “The Church is in the house.  I just wanted to point that out. … My assignment today is to state in clear terms what we want and why we are here. … All across the nation, communities are rising up in a new human rights movement, to demand constructive change from those who are elected to serve us, and from those Rev Tillett 1empowered to protect us.  And so we are here to demand that those who serve us do so in a moral, just and fair way.  The knee-jerk reflexive response to our protests has been to label us as anti-police.  Let me be clear.  In my congregation are local, county and federal law enforcement officers.  I’m a member of the United States Military.  So we are not anti-law enforcement.  This is not an anti-police protest, but it is an anti-excessive force protest.  It is an anti-police brutality protest.  But we unequivocally support the good cops doing their job the right way.

“The question Pastor Brown has asked me to address today is, What do we want.  What do we want?  Equal protection under the law.  What do we want?  Equal treatment under the law.  What do we want?  Equal justice under the law. 

“There are several things we can do immediately to ensure more equal protection, equal treatment and equal justice.  First, we want for Maryland to take advantage of the federal funding offered by President Obama for body cameras for the police, and we support passage of legislation to make that happen.  You see, when there is a body camera, that eliminates a lot of he-said-she-said, because it’s on film.  Of course that’s what we thought with Eric Garner, but at least we know what really happened.  Hello, somebody!

“Number two, we support legislation to establish an independent Special Prosecutor’s Office to adjudicate cases involving accusations of excessive force and police involved shootings.  We need a prosecutor who is not connected to and dependent upon the police on a daily basis to render unbiased decisions on prosecutions.  This eliminates the current conflict of interest that exists when close co-workers are involved.  Bottom line, what that means is, that right now the prosecutors who decide whether to take a case to the grand jury, what instructions to give the grand jury, are the same prosecutors who depend on police to win their cases.  That’s a conflict of interest.  So what we’re saying is that there should be an independent prosecutor who is not connected to that at all, and let him or her render decisions, bring cases to the grand jury if necessary, and the chips will fall where they may.

“Number three, we support legislation to create Civilian Police Review Boards throughout the state.  Our friends in law enforcement seem to oppose it because they feel that only police can accurately evaluate what happens in the line of police work.  Let me give you an illustration.  In the Church, let’s say that there’s some financial impropriety, and you bring that financial impropriety or accusation of financial impropriety to my attention, and I say ‘Well, the Deacons and I will look into it and we’ll get back to you.’  There’s some accusation of sexual impropriety in the Church, and you bring it to me and I say ‘The Deacons and I will look into it, and we’ll get back to you.’  That process is not transparent, and nobody’s going to believe what we come up with.  This Civilian Police Review Board is actually to the benefit of the police, because what it does is create a transparent process that some of you, or some of us, may be a part of, and when the decision is rendered, at least the people will be able to say, ‘Well, Pastor Brown is on that Review Board, so that’s what they came up with, I’ve got to trust Brown.’  You’re not going to get an outcome that you want all the time, but at least it will be a transparent outcome.

“Dr. King correctly said that injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.  It was true then, and it’s just as true today.  And only truly when we know justice, will we know peace.”

Pastor Brown thanked a number of organizations and communities who had come out to support the rally, including a Jewish organization named Repair the World Baltimore, several LGBT activists who had come out in support, the Christian Church Pastors, several of whom had attended the rally, the Muslim community, those from other faiths, the Agnostic and Atheist communities and a host of representatives from various cultural traditions.  He also mentioned that several hundred cards had been printed for the legislators that included a concise list of the group’s legislative demands “so they know quite clearly, that we didn’t come down here just to make noise, we came with an agenda, and the agenda is printed there on the back of the card.”

Marching to the Taylor Bldg 1At this point, the assembled crowd marched to the Casper Taylor legislative building, chanting a variety of call-and-responses, including “No justice, no peace/No racist police”, “Black lives matter”, “Hands up/Don’t shoot”, and “What do we want/Justice/When do we want it/Now”.

Outside the Casper Taylor building, Bro. Tre Murphy addressed the crowd again.

“We’re not taking this any more.  There’s not going to be one more Michael Brown.  There’s not going to be one more Tyrone West.  There’s not going to be one more Anthony Anderson.  There’s not going to be one more Tamir Rice.  There’s not going to be one more Ramarley Graham.  There’s not going to be one more Oscar Grant.  There’s not going to be one more Sean Bell.  There’s not going to be one more of our people from our community that has been assassinated, their lives having been taken, because of this system of oppression, because of police brutality, because of evil people who hide behind this system of injustice … and we’re here to say Not One More.

The crowd gathered inside the Casper Taylor building, in the hallway outside the conference room where the House Judiciary Committee, the committee that initially hears and votes on those pieces of legislation that will go to the full House of Delegates, was about to meet.  Rev. Brown gave the assembled protesters some final words of encouragement prior to entering the conference room.

“We don’t have to walk into these spaces like we need permission to be here. … You pay for these pretty lights in this building, and the wonderful carpet on this floor.  But beyond that, let me also let you know that as legislators and law makers are walking in, you are not looking at gods in flesh.  You are looking at everyday men and women. … We don’t have to cow and bow and curtsey like we’re meeting people who are gods.  Remember, they are here because people voted them here.  And if people don’t vote them in and vote them out they’ll be home, just like us.  So when we engage our law makers about specific policy demands, do it in the spirit of courage.  Do it in the spirit of confidence.  You don’t have to cow and bow and curtsey.  Because you are the ones with the power. … Remember, when we meet with them on this glorious day, the birthday of our Ancestor, Martin Luther King Jr., we’re giving him a gift today.  We’re giving him something more than just a Facebook status.  Something more than something to post on Twitter or Instagram.  Our Ancestor is smiling today.  Because if he was on this earth in the way that we are, he’d be right here with us, pushing the issue.  Remember, when you look at these pictures, when you look at him and so many others standing, they were standing just like we’re standing.  They were engaging in actions of courageous disobedience just like we are.  And so, when we’re talking about these legislative items, when we’re talking about amending the Law Enforcement Officers’ Bill of Rights, we’re not saying ‘Excuse me Sister, Brother Legislator, can you please, do you think it would be okay if, or would you mind if …?’  We’re saying, ‘This is what the People want.  We want you to change the laws that you were sent here to do, this is the will of the People, and if you do not do the will of the People, then you will be in retirement the next election.’  We’re here to strengthen the Civilian Review Board, and we’re going to push the envelope on that because there needs to be civilian oversight … and finally, other measures to make sure our communities are going to be protected.  Let’s be clear.  These things on this paper [the printed cards with the agenda items on the back], alone, are not going to be the answer to all of our issues.  This is a part of the answer.  We’re also doing stuff back home where we are.  In the city and the county, we are already working in other ways as well.  So I just want to make sure you’re encouraged. … This is your building.  These people work for you.  And guess who you are.  You’re the supervisors.  You set the rules.  You lay out the agenda.  You tell them what they’re going to do.  And if they don’t do Casper Taylor Bldg 1it, you organize and stay together and we change some people in these seats.  And there’s some nice seats in there too.  I’m sure somebody else would love to sit in those seats, if somebody doesn’t act right around this agenda. … We’ve got people who are not from Baltimore who are here.  And we’ve got to make sure that you all know that before there was Mike Brown, there was Tyrone West.  Tyrone West is our Mike Brown. … We want to make our way inside the hearing room now, and listen: walk in like you own the place, because guess what?  We do!”

Once inside the hearing room, Rev. Brown took the opportunity to briefly discuss what happens when the Maryland House Judiciary Committee meets here.  “This is the place where a lot of bills die, or they get the ‘green light’ to move forward.  That’s why we’re in this room.  Because the first leg of our battle … will be in this room.  So be real comfortable with this room, because we’re going to be here throughout this Session. … We’re going to give you a real Social Studies lesson this year, and let you see Social Studies, civics, in action.”  That brief “pep talk” should have been sufficient to prepare everyone for a variety of political tricks that could be employed by those in the halls of power who might not want to hear the protesters’ demands, but a relatively simple act, which may have been an innocent part of the original schedule for the committee or may have been a cynical ploy to avoid a direct confrontation with the protesters, seemed to then take some in the group by surprise.

Members of the House of Delegates who sat on the Judiciary Committee announced themselves in a ritual of reintroduction after their long vacation that took close to 20 minutes.  Then, in a move that surprised some of the protesters who thought they had come to directly address the delegates, the “law makers” got up and left the room.

A smaller group of organizers of the protest followed several of the delegates to a side room to discuss the agenda of the protest in detail.  This group included Rev. Brown, Bro. Davon Love, Bro. Faraji Muhammad and Towanda Jones, sister of Tyrone West.  Meanwhile, Bro. Tre Murphy explained what was happening, as several members of the group had become suspicious and frustrated about the Conf Room 1sudden departure of the delegates.  Jill Carter and Frank Conaway, Jr., two supportive delegates from Baltimore City, explained some of the political maneuvering that we needed to be prepared for and encouraged everyone to continue the struggle to be heard as Rev. Brown and his group held their meeting in close quarters with the delegates in the other room.

To be fair, there are a number of delegates who are committed to doing the People’s work.  Delegate Jill Carter, who personally interacted with the group during the rally and after the session in the hearing room, has been consistent as an “activist” legislator, speaking at community forums and meetings such as one that was held at the University of Baltimore on January 8 (along with outgoing delegate Aisha Braveboy), “friending” local activists on Facebook (including us), and supporting rallies such as this one.  Delegate Curtis Anderson was one legislator who has previously gone on record in support of efforts to amend the Law Enforcement Officers’ Bill of Rights.  Delegate Frank Conaway Jr. also spoke to the group after the rather curious-looking walkout, explaining that he wanted to hear the anti-police brutality agenda and become educated about it.

This rally had begun as rallies often do, with great energy, commitment and expectations that come from a renewed commitment by a mass of people to work for and achieve some measure of social justice through group struggle.  People from a wide variety of organizations and walks of life had come together to stand in the cold Annapolis winter in the hope of turning that rally into some concrete achievement by exercising their right to confront those who had been elected to look out for the People’s best interests.  That group, many of whom had not worked together before, had in one day been exposed to the warmth and euphoria that comes with the grand pronouncements of the speakers, the call-and-response that encourages group consensus, and the feeling that their elected officials would listen to them, this time.  Whether it was a procedural step that would have been taken anyway or a cynical move by legislators seeking to avoid bring forced to answer hard questions and agree to the demands of “rabble-rousers” who were taking democracy just a bit too seriously, the simple act of leaving the hearing room at the end brought home the stark reality that it would take much more than a feel-good rally in Annapolis to bring about real change in the lives of Afrikan people and those in marginalized communities in the state of Maryland.  It would take constant pressure, and it would take getting “real comfortable with this room”, as Rev. Brown was telling us in the hearing room before the delegates left.  It will also take much organizing that has little direct bearing on rallies in Downtown Baltimore, marches across the country or meetings with legislators in Annapolis.  It will take Grassroots Assemblies where the community comes together to decide what their priorities are, independent of the politicians and the business interests.  It will take the Pan-Afrikan activists and organizations to come together, put their often-trivial differences aside, and work out a common Pan-Afrikan Agenda and an Agenda of Truth and Justice for the larger community.  It will take the People organizing amongst themselves, determining their own priorities and making plans to develop the independent power to force uncooperative legislators and “law makers” to agree to do their jobs and to truly do the People’s business as they were elected to do.

I Am A Man