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


Criminalizing Our Children in Schools and Classrooms – A Tragedy and Pattern

Schools, and the communities that sanction their policies and practices, are increasingly criminalizing our children and adolescents.

From yesterday's Democracy Now...

Cops in the Classroom: South Carolina Incident Highlights Growing Police Presence in Schools

We turn now to shocking new videos that have surfaced from inside a South Carolina high school where a police officer has been caught on camera slamming a teenage girl to the ground and dragging the student out of the classroom. The videos, which went viral on Monday, appear to show Deputy Sheriff Ben Fields approaching the student, who is seated at her desk, then wrapping his arm around her neck and flipping her and her desk to the ground. He then appears to drag her out of the classroom. The student was arrested. Another student who filmed the assault was also arrested and held on a $1,000 bail. The incident reportedly began when the student refused to give her teacher her phone. The incident is the latest in a series of cases of police officers in schools using excessive force against students. - Update: South Carolina authorities have announced the officer, Ben Fields, has been fired from his position.  (approximately 12 minutes)

Texas Student Spent 52 Days in Coma After Being Tased by Police at School

In one of the most shocking cases of police brutality inside a school, 17-year-old Noe Niño de Rivera spent 52 days in a medically induced coma after police tased him at school in November 2013. He was permanently brain injured. Last year Bastrop County in Texas settled a federal lawsuit for $775,000 with his family. We speak to his attorney, Adam Loewy.  (approximately 6 minutes)

Criminalizing the Classroom: Inside the School-to-Prison Pipeline

New York City has more than 5,000 police officers patrolling the city’s schools—that’s more than the combined number of school guidance counselors and social workers. Nationwide, more than 17,000 officers work in the school. What happens when students are arrested in the classroom? We look at what many experts call the "school-to-prison pipeline." (approximately 13 minutes)


Sandra Bland Laid to Rest; First Black Judge in Waller County Demands Sheriff Resign over Her Death

The discussion below is really interesting. In this interview, DeWayne Charleston, the first African American judge in Waller County, Texas, shares far more perspective about the historical context of Waller County and their current sheriff, Glenn Smith.

I'd like to say this is unbelievable, but it's clearly not. This seems entirely consistent with the gradual picture that is evolving of the really racist space in which Sandra Bland met her death. The brazen racism and intimidation that is depicted in numerous accounts of people's encounters with the power structure in Waller County has to be illegal.

I just hope the Justice Department opens a Ferguson-style investigation into the power center in this county, even if only to do justice to Sandra Bland's memory and the many other folks who have experienced the racist and heavy hand of "the law" in this place. The growing evidence, I should add, is that the same should be done throughout the country.

As for Mr. Charleston, this brother's remarks and perspectives are important to hear and consider.

Hundreds gathered Saturday to remember Sandra Bland at the suburban Chicago church she attended for decades before moving to Waller County, Texas, where she was set to begin a new job but was then discovered dead in her jail cell after a traffic stop escalated into an arrest. The 28-year-old African-American woman’s family members stood before her open casket as they continued to dispute law enforcement claims she hung herself with the liner of a trashcan. Illinois Senator Dick Durbin and Congressman Bill Foster have sent letters to U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch calling for a federal investigation into Bland’s death. We go to Texas to discuss the history of racial profiling in Waller County, and police relations with the African-American community, with DeWayne Charleston, who served as the first African-American judge in Waller County, Texas. He also responds to how Bland was arrested and the investigation into her death has been handled, and calls on Sheriff Glenn Smith to resign. Charleston is the author of "The United States v. Waller County, Then Me."

From Democracy Now; Monday, July 27, 2015

Approx. 20 mins.


Affirming Our Humanity in the Face of Police Brutality and a Society that Condones It – Another Monday Meditation

MMM - Logo 6

It pains me to watch video after video, from incident after incident, involving the brutal treatment of African American children and adults - both women and men - by law enforcement officials and others acting in a similar spirit or capacity.

It pains me just as much to see people, everyday citizens and people in positions of influence and "leadership", offering the typical rationale for why such horrendous behavior among law enforcement officials shouldn't be second guessed on one hand, and that the people on the receiving end of such abusive behavior must have done something to deserve it on the other.

While I support the calls for changes in the polices and procedures that shape the professional requirements and expectations of law enforcement officials, and also calls for more police accountability, I'm sorry to say that those cries will continue to fall on deaf ears.

The brutality and barbarism we see playing on our television screens day after day is not in its essence a function of poorly trained law enforcement officials.  The same law enforcement officials, and certainly the larger departments they are a part of, do in fact apply a different sort of law enforcement approach when working with other groups of citizens.  What many African Americans experience in our interactions with law enforcement officials is a consciously applied policing strategy, one developed and applied deliberately, and with the implicit (and many times explicit) support of the larger community.

It's repetitive at this stage to point out the vastly different versions of law enforcement experienced by many or most white Americans - including those involved in criminal activity - and that experienced by African Americans involved in no criminal activity at all.  The two recent incidents in Texas alone show the contrasting approaches well - insanely well I might add.  You had officers coddling violent white thugs riding around and shooting each other up in Waco, while out-of-control cops were terrorizing and manhandling Black teenagers at a pool party, most notably a young African American girl wearing her bathing suit, in the small suburb of McKinney.

Since African American emancipation, the law enforcement apparatus in this country has always had as a primary component of its operation the control and ordering of Black movement and conduct, especially in our relationship with and proximity to white people and the spaces they'd like to claim as their own.  This has been true throughout our history in this country, and is certainly just as true today.

The reality is that this dynamic will likely continue to escalate as white people continue to wrestle with the reality that their idea of what it means to be white, and to be superior, was always a fabrication.  The same is true for the declining spaces they are able to control for their exclusive use and enjoyment.  My best sense of it is that for centuries now, they have been sold a fake bill of goods, and so many of them don't know what to do now that the curtain is rapidly falling.

What we must continue to do (I'm speaking of African Americans) is to rediscover our fundamental humanity and the many centuries worth of examples of us affirming such in the presence of our inhumane counterparts, begin to affirm the same in our interactions with one another today, and continue to demand it in our interactions with others.  Some white folks get it, but way too few.

When our humanity is fully appreciated, it will be reflected in our interactions with each other, with other groups, and in our interactions with all of society's institutions.

The good thing is that the activists among our younger generations get it.  Our struggle will continue.  And our humanity will be affirmed.


Being Black in America: Policing and African American Communities in Minneapolis, Minnesota

MN - Picking Up the Pieces Graphic 2

A new ACLU report details the racialized policing practices of and experiences in Minneapolis, MN. The new report, Picking Up the Pieces, provides an in-depth analysis of the data and the lived experience of racially targeted policing practices in one of this nation's larger metropolitan areas.

The data is summarized in the following graphics, although the full report is very much worth reading in its entirety.  A companion video appears further below.

MN - Picking Up the Pieces Graphic 1


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Below is the 7 minute companion video for the just-released ACLU report and case study on policing in Minneapolis, MN... Picking Up the Pieces - Policing in America: A Minneapolis Case Study.

Published by the ACLU on May 27, 2015.  For more information, go to:

When Officer Rod Webber quickly approached the car that Hamza Jeylani was sitting in, the 17-year-old hit record on his cell phone. Moments earlier, Jeylani and three friends were pulled over by the officer after making a U-turn in a church parking lot in South Minneapolis after playing basketball at the local YMCA. After Jeylani and two friends were ordered out of the car, Webber threatened Jeylani as he handcuffed him.

“Plain and simple, if you fuck with me,” says Webber on the video, “I’m going to break your leg before you get the chance to run.” “Can you tell me why I’m getting arrested?” asks Jeylani. “Because I feel like arresting you,” replies Webber.

According to police, the rationale for the March 18, 2015, arrest was suspicion that the four young Black teenagers had stolen the car. But Jeylani rejects this. “The driver had license and insurance, and that was his car.” Complicating matters more, police said the stolen car they were after was a blue Honda Civic. The teenagers, however, were driving a blue Toyota Camry. But Jeylani believes he knows the real reason for his arrest. He and his friends, all four of whom are of Somali descent, were driving while Black. “I felt like that was a racial profile,” he says.

The feeling that the Minneapolis Police Department treats people of color, particularly Black and Native American residents, differently than white Minneapolitans isn’t confined to Jeylani and his friends. It’s pervasive, and now it is documented. In late 2014, the ACLU obtained arrest data from the Minneapolis Police Department for low-level offenses, such as spitting, loitering, or driving without insurance, from January 1, 2012, to September 30, 2014.

The numbers show a startling disparity in the way police enforce low-level crimes, particularly in the low-income and minority communities of North Minneapolis and South Minneapolis. Black people in the city are 8.7 times more likely than White people to be arrested for low-level offenses, and Native Americans have it little better. They are 8.6 times more likely to be arrested for low-level offenses than White people.

"We've become the new South,” warns Anthony Newby. “We've become the new premiere example of how to systematically oppress people of color. And again, it's done through our legal system, and so low-level offenses, as an example, are just one of the many, many ways that Minnesota has perfected the art of suppressing and subjugating people of color."

“Picking Up the Pieces — Policing in America, a Minneapolis Case Study” digs into the data the ACLU received from the police department and explores the who, what, when, where, why, and how of low-level arrests occurring in a city known for its affluence and liberal politics over 33 months. The report also recommends reforms to begin the process of improving police-community relations and ensure that all Minneapolitans are policed fairly.

Filmed by Maisie Crow and Molly Kaplan.


Black Women Not Immune to Police Brutality and Unjustified Use of Force By Law Enforcement

For anyone who believes that tension and conflict between law enforcement and the general community is reserved for Black males...

The incident captured in this video reveals the sheer horror and terror experienced by Charlena Michelle Cooks, an African American woman who was eight months pregnant, at the hands of law enforcement. This happened in Barstow, California in January of this year, apparently after a white woman called the police complaining about the woman in a school parking lot.

The white woman appears to have experienced the 'protect and serve' version of law enforcement the public is socialized to believe in, while Ms. Cooks received the 'command and control' version of law enforcement that too many African Americans are more familiar with. Also note that this treatment is not reserved for Black folks in the inner city, as Barstow, California would not fit the profile.

Officers charged Ms. Cooks with resisting arrest, a charge quickly dismissed by a judge.

You can read more about this incident, including the enduring traumatic aftermath, here, here and here.

Please don't forget that some of our sisters, daughters, mothers, aunts, grandmothers are also subject to brutality at the hands of law enforcement.

Racism has never preferred some in our community more than others. We remain in this struggle for justice, together.


Refusing a Pathology Narrative re: Baltimore: Activist Deray McKesson Skillfully Shuts Down Wolf Blitzer

There are at least two major narratives coming out of the Baltimore Uprising. The major media narrative appears to be one that condemns everyone involved in violence, property destruction and confrontations with law enforcement. This narrative includes the frequent references to 'looters', 'vandals' and 'thugs'.

Another narrative is one that acknowledges the decades (centuries even in the greater scheme of time) of domestic terrorism inflicted on African American and other African diaspora communities. This narrative reflects a greater level of understanding and appreciation for the many lives lost to state-sanctioned extra-judicial killings of Black women, men and children, as well as the tremendous trauma endured by the millions of people who witness and endure these and many other forms of racial and structural violence, imposed or otherwise condoned by the government and its law enforcement arms.

With each passing day, however, I am more and more encouraged by the level of awareness and clarity with which we are collectively pushing back against the racist "thug" narrative, and affirming the right of Black folks in this country and beyond to be infuriated by this living condition, and expressing our determination to right these wrongs - to achieve justice and well-being for our families and community.

Below is one such example, featuring Deray McKesson pushing firmly against this pathology narrative, and affirming the dignity and humanity of our people in the face of such terrorizing conditions.


Extra-Judicial Lynchings: White Officer Charged with Murder in Killing of Walter Scott – North Charleston, South Carolina

Many people have now heard about the killing of Walter Scott in North Charleston, South Carolina on Saturday. He was shot and killed by Officer Michael Slager while running away from the officer after a traffic stop on Saturday morning. The officer fired eight shots while watching him run away, striking Scott five times - four of those five shots hitting Scott's back, with one of those hitting his heart.

The initial reports of this shooting repeated the same story line we always hear - suspect turns and begins confrontation with officer; officer fears for safety or life; officer shoots suspect; suspect dies. Fortunately in this case, a video surfaced by a bystander who was mindful enough to record what was happening. The video was shared with the attorney representing the family of Walter Scott, who then turned it over to law enforcement officials.

While we hope this incident ends in some level of justice for the officer, there is no undoing the tragic killing of Walter Scott. We need all officers who consider themselves to be good and community-supporting officers to stand up and stand against the culture that produces this kind of incident. It's clear to me from watching the video - and listening to the usual story line that followed - that this officer felt extremely comfortable shooting and then trying to get away with this. Given the usual outcome of these situations, and the typical way the media rallies around the officer, we can assume that he felt emboldened in his behavior.

The video can be seen online.

The front page of today's local paper, The Post and Courier, appears below.
SC Post and Courier - April 8 2015


Michelle Alexander Discussing Implications of Recent Ferguson Report by the DOJ

From Democracy Now, Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Part 1:  Michelle Alexander: Ferguson Shows Why Criminal Justice System of "Racial Control" Should Be Undone

The U.S. Justice Department has concluded that the police and city courts in Ferguson, Missouri, routinely engaged in a pattern and practice of discrimination against African Americans. Despite comprising about 66 percent of the local population, African Americans accounted for 93 percent of arrests, 88 percent of incidents where force was used, 90 percent of citations and 85 percent of traffic stops. The Justice Department, which launched its report after the police killing of Michael Brown, also uncovered at least three municipal Ferguson emails containing racist language or images. "The report does not give me hope. What gives me hope is that people across America are finally waking up," says Michelle Alexander, author of the best-selling book,The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness. "There is a system of racial and social control in communities of color across America. … What we see now is that we do have the power to make things change. The question is are we going to transition from protest politics to long-term, strategic movement building?”

Part 2:  Michelle Alexander: Roots of Today’s Mass Incarceration Crisis Date to Slavery, Jim Crow

As the Justice Department sheds new light on the racist criminal justice system in Ferguson, legal scholar Michelle Alexander looks at the historical roots of what she describes as "the new Jim Crow." From mass incarceration to police killings to the drug war, Alexander explores how the crisis is a nationwide issue facing communities of color. "Today we see millions of poor people and folks of color who are trapped, yet again, in a criminal justice system which are treating them like commodities, like people who are easily disposable," Alexander says. "We are not on the right path. … It’s not about making minor reforms and plodding along in the same direction. No, its about mustering the courage to have a major reassessment of where we are as America, reckon with our racial history as well as our present, and build a broad-based movement rooted in the awareness of the dignity and humanity of us all."


We remember the lives taken away

Every name below belongs to a real person, someone whose life was taken by a police officer between 1999 and 2014. Every one of these individuals belonged to a family, with parents, with children in many cases, and other close relatives who loved them dearly. Each one of these individuals is still loved and missed. Read brief statements about each person here.

Last Saturday, the nation and world listened and watched as the loved ones of several Black men killed in recent years spoke about the need for justice and police accountability. For any of you who are inclined, take a few minutes to say each one of the names below - both women and men who have been killed in recent years. And when you feel like it's getting to be a long and drawn out exercise, think about the family members of each one, and how the idea of "long and drawn out" now takes on a different kind of meaning for them. The process of seeking justice. The realization that their loved ones won't be coming back home for birthdays, for graduations, for marriages. They won't be coming back to offer a smile, to tell one more joke, to offer guidance and wisdom to the young people coming behind them, to console their husbands or wives, to tuck their children into bed at night, or to care for their mothers and fathers as they age. They won't be around to tell stories and reminisce during this coming holiday season, or the next. I hurt for their loss of life, and for the many grieving family members who will never see their loved ones again.

For anyone who so flippantly dismisses any of this loss of life as being 'justified' and somehow not the huge tragedy that it is, I can't help but assume a complete lack of humanity and compassion in that person's heart and spirit. Every one of these losses is a huge tragedy, and one that we should all be outraged about.

The underlying concept of policing and law enforcement, and how the officers in these institutions have come to view specific racial and ethnic communities in this country, appears to be a key part of the problem. Everything from the underlying mission of law enforcement to the face-to-face contact between officers and citizens has to be addressed.

To reiterate that not all police officers are bad is a distraction. The problem is that there are some - however many there are - who are, and that there are few to no accountability mechanisms in place to discourage the corrupt and brutal acts of violence too many officers inflict upon other people.

I agree with the folks I've heard call for felony criminal prosecution of officers who observe or otherwise know about the misconduct and brutality of officers and fail to intervene and/or report it. Some sort of drastic intervention will be needed to turn this historical pattern around.

And until this happens, let us continue to remember each one of these lives that have been taken away from us - and also those many whose names don't appear here.

Let us simultaneously continue to protect the lives of all our loved ones still here...

Gone too soon...

Rumain Brisbon, 34, Phoenix, Ariz.—Dec. 2, 2014

Tamir Rice, 12, Cleveland, Ohio—Nov. 22, 2014

Akai Gurley, 28, Brooklyn, NY—Nov. 20, 2014

Kajieme Powell, 25, St. Louis, Mo.—August 19, 2014

Ezell Ford, 25, Los Angeles, Calif.—August 12, 2014

Dante Parker, 36, San Bernardino County, Calif.—August 12, 2014

Michael Brown, 18, Ferguson, Mo.—August 9, 2014

John Crawford III, 22, Beavercreek, Ohio—August 5, 2014

Tyree Woodson, 38, Baltimore, Md.—August 2, 2014

Eric Garner, 43, New York, N.Y.—July 17, 2014

Victor White III, 22, Iberia Parish, La.—March 22, 2014

Yvette Smith, 47, Bastrop, Texas—February 16, 2014

McKenzie Cochran, 25, Southfield, Mich.—January 28, 2014

Jordan Baker, 26, Houston, Texas—January 16, 2014

Andy Lopez, 13, Santa Rosa, Calif.—October 22, 2013

Miriam Carey, 34, Washington, D.C.—October 3, 2013

Jonathan Ferrell, 24, Bradfield Farms, N.C.—September 14, 2013

Carlos Alcis, 43, New York, N.Y.—August 15, 2013

Larry Eugene Jackson, Jr., 32, Austin, Texas—July 26, 2013

Deion Fludd, 17, New York, N.Y.—May 5, 2013

Kimani Gray, 16, New York, N.Y.—March 9, 2013

Johnnie Kamahi Warren, 43, Dotham, Ala.—December 10, 2012

Malissa Williams, 30, Cleveland, Ohio—November 29, 2012

Timothy Russell, 43, Cleveland, Ohio—November 29, 2012

Reynaldo Cuevas, 20, New York, N.Y.—September 7, 2012

Chavis Carter, 21, Jonesboro, Ark.—July 29, 2012

Shantel Davis, 23, New York, N.Y.—June 14, 2012

Sharmel Edwards, 49, Las Vegas, Nev.—April 21, 2012

Tamon Robinson, 27, New York, N.Y.—April 18, 2012

Ervin Jefferson, 18, Atlanta, Ga.—March 24, 2012

Kendrec McDade, 19, Pasadena, Calif.—March 24, 2012

Rekia Boyd, 22, Chicago, Ill.—March 21, 2012

Shereese Francis, 30, New York, N.Y.—March 15, 2012

Wendell Allen, 20, New Orleans, La.—March 7, 2012

Nehemiah Dillard, 29, Gainesville, Fla.—March 5, 2012

Dante Price, 25, Dayton, Ohio—March 1, 2012

Raymond Allen, 34, Galveston, Texas—February 27, 2012

Sgt. Manuel Loggins, Jr., 31, Orange County, Calif.—February 7, 2012

Ramarley Graham, 18, New York, N.Y.—February 2, 2012

Kenneth Chamberlain, 68, White Plains, N.Y.—November 19, 2011

Alonzo Ashley, 29, Denver, Colo.—July 18, 2011

Kenneth Harding, 19, San Francisco, Calif.—July 16, 2011

Raheim Brown, 20, Oakland, Calif.—January 22, 2011

Reginald Doucet, 25, Los Angeles, Calif.—January 14, 2011

Derrick Jones, 37, Oakland, Calif.—November 8, 2010

Danroy Henry, 20, Thornwood, N.Y.—October 17, 2010

Aiyana Jones, 7, Detroit, Mich.—May 16, 2010

Steven Eugene Washington, 27, Los Angeles, CA—March 20, 2010

Aaron Campbell, 25, Portland, Ore.—January 29, 2010

Kiwane Carrington, 15, Champaign, Ill.—October 9, 2009

Victor Steen, 17, Pensacola, Fla.—October 3, 2009

Shem Walker, 49, New York, N.Y.—July 11, 2009

Oscar Grant, 22, Oakland, Calif.—January 1, 2009

Tarika Wilson, 26, Lima, Ohio—January 4, 2008

DeAunta Terrel Farrow, 12, West Memphis, Ark.—July 22, 2007

Sean Bell, 23, New York, N.Y.—November 25, 2006

Henry Glover, 31, New Orleans, La.—September 2, 2005

Ronald Madison, 40, New Orleans, La.—Sept. 4, 2005

James Brisette, 17, New Orleans, La.—Sept. 4, 2005

Timothy Stansbury, 19, New York, N.Y.—January 24, 2004

Alberta Spruill, 57, New York, N.Y.—May 16, 2003

Ousmane Zongo, 43, New York, N.Y.—May 22, 2003

Orlando Barlow, 28, Las Vegas, Nev.—February 28, 2003

Timothy Thomas, 19, Cincinnati, Ohio—April 7, 2001

Prince Jones, 25, Fairfax County, Va.—Sept. 1, 2000

Ronald Beasley, 36, Dellwood, Mo.—June 12, 2000

Earl Murray, 36, Dellwood, Mo.—June 12, 2000

Patrick Dorismond, 26, New York, NY—March 16, 2000

Malcolm Ferguson, 23, New York, N.Y.—March 1, 2000

Amadou Diallo, 23, New York, N.Y.—Feb. 4, 1999


The Root of this is Racism: Ferguson Activist Speaks Out on Police Abuses After Meeting Obama

From the Democracy Now broadcast on December 2, 2014:

One week after the grand jury decision in the Michael Brown case, President Obama has given his first major policy response to the protests from Ferguson and beyond over racial profiling and police brutality. At a meeting with activists and officials from around the country, Obama unveiled a process to address what he called "simmering distrust." The administration's response comes as protests continue nationwide over the non-indictment of former officer Darren Wilson over killing Brown. On Monday, demonstrators walked out of workplaces and classrooms in some 30 cities with their hands raised, the symbol of Brown's death and the movement that has emerged since. As the "Hands Up Walk Out" took place, some of the movement's key leaders were not out in the streets but inside the White House.

Obama's guests included seven young activists who have helped organize the protests in Ferguson and in other communities of color. We are joined by one of those activists:

Ashley Yates, an activist, poet and artist who is co-creator of Millennial Activists United. "While that is a step towards ending this real problem," Yates says of Obama's reforms, "the real root of it has to be addressed. And the real root of it is racism in America, the anti-black sentiments that exist. Until we begin to address that, we really can't have any real change — all we have are these small steps towards justice. We need leaps and bounds."

Powerful and clear perspective by Ashley Yates shared at approximately 4:15 into the video clip below.