Reclaiming Our Way promoting the well-being of African American children & families

6Sep/140

A Victory over Justice System’s Failure: Wrongly Convicted Brothers Freed After 31 Years in Prison

From Democracy Now, Thursday, September 4, 2014.

Two African-American half-brothers have been exonerated of rape and murder after more than 30 years behind bars in North Carolina. Henry Lee McCollum and Leon Brown were found guilty in 1984 of the rape and murder of an 11-year-old girl. There was no physical evidence tying them to the crime, but police obtained confessions that McCollum and Brown have always said were coerced. Police at the time failed to investigate another man, Roscoe Artis, who lived near the crime scene and had admitted to a similar rape and murder at around the same time. After three decades, the case saw a major breakthrough last month when testing by North Carolina’s Innocence Inquiry Commission tied Artis’ DNA to the crime scene. After a hearing presenting the new evidence Tuesday, the two brothers were declared innocent and ordered freed.

Over the years, death penalty supporters have cited the brothers’ case in order to back capital punishment. In 2010, the North Carolina Republican Party pasted McCollum’s mug shot on campaign mailers. In 1994, Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia pointed to McCollum as an example of why the death penalty is just. We are joined by two guests: Vernetta Alston, one of the lawyers representing Henry Lee McCollum, and a staff attorney with the Center for Death Penalty Litigation; and Steven Drizin, clinical professor at Northwestern Law School and assistant dean of the Bluhm Legal Clinic, where for more than a decade he was legal director of the Center on Wrongful Convictions.

Video of interview is approximately 28 minutes...

5Sep/140

Justice for Every Other Michael Brown… Remembering Ramarley Graham

A discussion about the secrecy behind police misconduct investigations, from HuffPost Live...

Two years before Michael Brown's death, Ramarley Graham - another black, unarmed teenager - was shot and killed in his own home by a police officer. His mother Constance Malcolm joins Nancy to discuss her son's life, death and the pursuit of justice.

Originally aired on September 4, 2014

Guests:

  • Constance Malcom (New York, NY) Mother of Ramarley Graham
  • Andy King  (New York, NY) New York City Council Member, District 12
  • Jocelyn Simonson (New York, NY) Acting Assistant Professor of Lawyering, NYU School of Law

26Aug/140

‘When you fit the description’

charles belk - beverly hills

Here's yet another example of a highly "respectable" African American man being stopped by the police in Beverly Hills, California, precisely because he 'fit the description'.  On Friday afternoon (August 22), Charles Belk was stopped by Beverly Hills police officers because they suspected his involvement in a reported bank robbery.

The problem, of course, is that he didn't 'fit the description' after all. Unfortunately, and typically it would seem, the officers were reluctant to even review the footage from the bank, which eventually revealed that he really didn't fit the description.

I'm sharing this because it's yet another case of a Black person being racially profiled, and treated dismissively by police officers for hours, until they finally realized their mistake and let him go.  Belk describes his experience in more detail via his Facebook page, and reprinted at Daily Kos.  It's another tragic example of Black folks of all stripes - including those very successful and 'respectable' by this society's standards, who are subject to similar kinds of racial profiling and mistreatment by law enforcement.

I still feel compelled to refer folks to a previous article and post arguing that this sort of treatment is unacceptable, whether the person on the receiving end is "respectable" or not in the eyes of folks within this larger American society. Everyone is entitled to due process, and should be completely free from the nonsensical profiling and brutality that too often passes for policing with Black and brown communities.

This madness has to end!  And only we can make that happen!

 

22Aug/140

Remembering Dr. Asa G. Hilliard III – We Must Continue to Reclaim Our History!

Remembering...

Dr. Asa G. Hilliard
August 22, 1933 - August 13, 2007

asa hilliard

Historian, Educator, Psychologist
Master Teacher

Today marks the 81st anniversary of Dr. Asa G. Hilliard's birth. We celebrate Dr. Hilliard on this day by revisiting one of his brilliant lectures, and suggesting the reading or re-reading of any of his classic texts (two featured below).

Don't just listen to the lecture, however. We have to do our homework, and do the additional reading that more fully explores the importance of African history in the socialization of African / African American children and youth. We have to do our homework and read, read, read!

We miss your physical presence, Dr. Hilliard, and your example and influence continues to live on.

 

SBA: The Reawakening of the African Mind - Dr. Asa G. Hillaird, III

SBA: The Reawakening of the African Mind - Dr. Asa G. Hilliard, III

 

maroon within us - asa hilliard

The Maroon Within Us: Selected Essays on African American Community Socialization - Dr. Asa G. Hilliard, III

 

21Aug/140

Ms. Lauryn Hill… “Black Rage” & Peace for Missouri

Powerful.  Lyrics available... Visit Ms. Lauryn Hill

21Aug/140

Raw Video from North St. Louis, Missouri – Tuesday’s Public Police Execution of Kaijeme Powell

This is extremely hard to watch, but people have to begin to realize what this pattern looks and sounds like. This is what Black folks are so angry about. There are other ways to "protect and serve", and most other communities experience those other non-lethal policing strategies.

These officers were on the scene no more than 13-16 seconds before they started shooting.  And at least 9 shots were fired - likely more.  Over a butter knife at worst.

And from the brief write-up about the incident (also below), it's clear that these were pretty-much junior officers on the force, with few years of service and obviously very little capacity for discernment in these kinds of situations. I think I can appreciate the perspective of officers who find themselves in crazy situations. But I don't buy that this was one of those situations. Not after watching this extended video clip. There have to be non-lethal strategies used to disable and apprehend individuals who are believed to be a threat to their own and other people's' safety.

This madness has to stop. There are more effective ways of policing, especially when responding to individuals who are obviously suffering from some form of mental illness.

But be clear... This is not only about law enforcement policies and practices. The kind of change that has always been needed is the fundamental shift that allows people in this country - especially white people in this country - to see the essential humanity of Black life. That's what has to inform any policy and practice changes - be it related to law enforcement, education, employment, criminal/juvenile justice, as well as the judicial system.

This here, however, is unconscionable.

Also check out this article that revisits the earlier statements by St. Louis police officials, which is at odds with the video footage.

From the Huffington Post:  St. Louis Police Release Video Of Kajieme Powell Killing That Appears At Odds With Their Story

20Aug/140

This is Not New: Pastors, Activists and Everyday People All Fed Up with Ferguson and St. Louis Racism

Interesting discussion from Democracy Now on Tuesday. This is an old pattern and problem, but - fortunately - new and younger people are now beginning to understand more clearly the ugly persistence of white racism and state-sanctioned oppression of Black people.

Ferguson is the most recent and most naked example, between the actual execution of Michael Brown and the subsequent (and continuing) state occupation of the Black community in Ferguson, but be clear that there are many "Ferguson" communities all around the country that must get our attention.

Broken into 4 separate segments...

  1. Pastor: In Ferguson Police Crackdown, I Need a Gas Mask More Than My Clerical Collar (approx. 15 min.)
  2. Activist: For a New Generation, Ferguson Marks Historic Nonviolent Resistance to Police Repression (approx. 10 min.)
  3. St. Louis Activist: Decades After 1968 Urban Uprisings, Key Economic & Race Issues Remain Unresolved (approx. 10 min.)
  4. "Overpoliced & Underprotected": In Michael Brown Killing, Neglect of Black Communities Laid Bare (approx. 3 min.)

Segment #1:  Pastor: In Ferguson Police Crackdown, I Need a Gas Mask More Than My Clerical Collar

We go to the streets of Ferguson to speak with Rev. Osagyefo Sekou, a pastor from the First Baptist Church in Jamaica Plain, Massachusetts, who was dispatched to Missouri by the Fellowship of Reconciliation. "It is a tragedy that as a clergyperson I need a tear gas mask more than I need a collar to be able to do the work that I feel called to do," Sekou says.

Approximately 15 minutes

Segment #2:  Activist: For a New Generation, Ferguson Marks Historic Nonviolent Resistance to Police Repression

As protests continue in Ferguson, activists are traveling to Missouri to join the movement in solidarity. We speak with one activist who has just arrived to Ferguson from Florida, Phillip Agnew, the executive director of Dream Defenders, a network of youth of color and their allies who engage in nonviolent civil disobedience and civic engagement to bring about social change. "I came here to be part of resistance," Agnew says. "We have not seen a reaction of nonviolent civil disobedience [to] officers of the state like this in my lifetime." Agnew helped organize protests to the 2012 shooting of unarmed, African-American teenager Trayvon Martin in Sanford, Florida.

Approximately 10 minutes

Segment #3:  St. Louis Activist: Decades After 1968 Urban Uprisings, Key Economic & Race Issues Remain Unresolved

The upheaval in Ferguson, Missouri, has called to mind the racial divisions that split open in the 1960s with a series of uprisings in cities across the country. In 1967, President Lyndon Johnson established what became known as the Kerner Commission to investigate the causes of the unrest. In February 1968, the commission famously concluded: "Our nation is moving toward two societies — one black, one white — separate and unequal." Just a month later, the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. sparked uprisings in more than 100 cities across the United States, including Kansas City, Missouri, where the National Guard was deployed and at least five people were killed. We speak with Jamala Rogers, who was born in Kansas City, Missouri, and witnessed the 1968 uprisings. She recently did a commentary for St. Louis Public Radio titled "Kerner Commission Warning Comes True — Two Societies, Separate and Unequal." Rogers is a founder and past chair of the Organization for Black Struggle in St. Louis, Missouri. She joins us from the streets in Ferguson.

Approximately 10 minutes

Segment #4:  "Overpoliced & Underprotected": In Michael Brown Killing, Neglect of Black Communities Laid Bare

As we continue to discuss the developments since the fatal shooting of unarmed black teenager Michael Brown by a white police officer, we turn to john a. powell, professor of law, African American studies and ethnic studies at the University of California, Berkeley. He is the director of the Haas Institute for a Fair and Inclusive Society. "The black community tends be overpoliced and underprotected," powell says. "That’s a very serious problem."

Approximately 13 minutes

20Aug/140

Last Week Tonight with John Oliver: Ferguson, MO and Police Militarization (HBO)

This is from Sunday, yet the tragedy and the insanity continues...

Published on August 17, 2014

In the wake of the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, MO, John Oliver explores the racial inequality in treatment by police as well as the increasing militarization of America’s local police forces.

19Aug/140

Police Power, Race Riots, Urban (Suburban) Unrest

Below is a discussion from Saturday's Morning Journal television talk program on CSPAN. The primary guest is Cathy Schneider, author and associate professor who teaches at American University in Washington, DC.

While I appreciate Schneider's perspective, truth-telling and advocacy, the discussion is almost just as remarkable because of the sheer ignorance and racism that pours from the mouths of the call-in guests.  This notwithstanding, it's still important to have this perspective from white folks who aren't afraid to acknowledge the racism and pathology that drives (and has always driven) these abusive and terroristic experiences of Black folks in this country.

Cathy Schneider talked by remote video from New York City about how law enforcement reacted to protests following the police shooting of unarmed teenager Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, and the so-called “militarization” of local police forces. Professor Schneider, the author of Police Power and Race Riots: Urban Unrest in Paris and New York, talked about past riots, the psychology of these events, and lessons learned from them. She gave her views on police over-reaction and harsh tactics and what should be done in Ferguson. She responded to telephone calls and electronic communications, including a telephone line reserved for Missouri residents.

19Aug/140

Heartfelt and Emotional Letter from Trayvon Martin’s Mother, Sybrina Fulton, to the Brown Family #Ferguson

In the midst of the continuing journey of African / African American people in this country, our job - our responsibility - is to remember the individuals whose lives have been snatched away from us, and support the families who have been most directly impacted by this institutional violence.

We remember by keeping their stories alive, by telling the stories that affirm their (and our) humanity, and by fighting unceasingly for justice.

And as we continue to fight, we have to remain mindful of the reality that these incidents and tragedies are not isolated. They form and continue a pattern of abuse and terror inflicted on our children and families over many generations.

In the spirit of remembering, and as an example of our interconnected struggle, I encourage all to read the letter written by Sybrina Fulton, mother of Trayvon Martin, to the Brown Family. A brief excerpt follows, and the full letter can be read at Time.com.

I hate that you and your family must join this exclusive yet growing group of parents and relatives who have lost loved ones to senseless gun violence. Of particular concern is that so many of these gun violence cases involve children far too young. But Michael is much more than a police/gun violence case; Michael is your son. A son that barely had a chance to live. Our children are our future so whenever any of our children – black, white, brown, yellow, or red – are taken from us unnecessarily, it causes a never-ending pain that is unlike anything I could have imagined experiencing.

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But know this: neither of their lives shall be in vain. The galvanizations of our communities must be continued beyond the tragedies. While we fight injustice, we will also hold ourselves to an appropriate level of intelligent advocacy. If they refuse to hear us, we will make them feel us. Some will mistake that last statement as being negatively provocative. But feeling us means feeling our pain; imagining our plight as parents of slain children. We will no longer be ignored. We will bond, continue our fights for justice, and make them remember our children in an appropriate light. I would hate to think that our lawmakers and leaders would need to lose a child before protecting the rest of them and making the necessary changes NOW…

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