I Care

I care for Sandra Bland. I care what happened to her. I want to know what happened to this young woman. I want to know if she did in fact take her own life or was she murdered. The questions are many and the answers are few, but if it was your child, your sister, your mother, your wife or your friend wouldn’t you want to know? Wouldn’t you want to know the truth?

Yes, you would. I’m no expert on jail house protocol, but I thought that jails have procedures in place to prevent people from hanging themselves? With a plastic bag too? I’m not saying that it’s not possible, but I think a full investigation of her death is warranted. Too many questionable acts of violence against my black brothers and sisters. We can’t take no more.

We do know that the FBI has joined the Texas Rangers in investigating the circumstances surrounding her death and that the arresting officer violated the department’s procedures regarding traffic stops and the department’s courtesy policy. He’s on administrative leave. According to the officer she was charged with assaulting an officer when she became argumentative and uncooperative. Umm, I would too if I was asked to get out of my car because I didn’t want to put out my cigarette. It’s not against the law.

Here is a clip of the video from the arresting officer’s dashboard camera:

Here is the video that a good Samaritan shot of the arrest:

The official video from the trooper’s dash camera leaves more questioning. No editing was ever mentioned and it appears to have been edited. How can people trust those in charge when there seems to be a cover-up? What happened to Sandra Bland? The LA Times author, Ryan Parker, discusses some of these seen anomalies by stating that:

In the video, which is more than 52 minutes long, there are several spots in which cars and people disappear and reappear. When it released the video, the Public Safety Department did not mention any editing. The audio ends more than a minute before the video images do.

One of the more conspicuous anomalies comes 25 minutes and five seconds into the video, when a man walks from a truck off screen and then reappears suddenly at the spot where he began walking. The image flutters for a moment before resuming. – Ryan Parker

Was she argumentative? Yes, as the video clearly shows. But, is that against the law? Is there a crime to be argumentative with an officer? No. However, did she deserved to be slammed to the ground? Did she deserve to hear the officers tell her “good” and “I don’t care” when she told them that she had a medical condition – epilepsy. No.

Here is a photo of Sandra Bland. She was 28. Let’s remember her. Let’s not forget that we need answers to her death. We need to know that there was no heinous and illegal acts of violence that were committed. I am my sister’s keeper and I am saying…we need justice.

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Until next time loves!

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Happy Birthday MLK!

“We must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools.” – Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Today is Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday. He would have been 87. He was an activist, humanitarian and a leader in the Civil Rights movement. He was a part of history. A brilliant but flawed man that believed in equal rights in a non-violent way.

I saw Selma last month and I am encouraging each of you to see and support this wonderful film. From the opening to the closing of this film, you will be moved. It is a film that speaks relevance to things that are occurring today in this world.

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October is Domestic Violence Awareness

Not sure if you know it or not, but October is Domestic Violence Awareness month too. I realized that many may overlook it because it’s easier to remember to wear pink and show support for an equally worthy cause, breast cancer. But when I read this article on USA Today about the National Football League (NFL), I was in agreement with the author and decided to do something about it. So, I will spend some time each week bringing light to domestic violence in hopes of educating and encouraging us to recognize the signs and to hopefully seek help to get out of unhealthy situations. It’s not just women that are abused. Men too.

It’s about control. Plain and simple. I witnessed domestic violence first hand as a child. As a young woman in relationships, I was a victim too it. Not to the physical violence, but the emotional, psychological and sexual violence. I am the face of domestic violence. But, I didn’t know it was domestic violence. No one ever told me.

October is not just Breast Cancer Awareness month but also Domestic Violence Awareness month. Although I don’t know anyone who has ever been diagnosed with breast cancer, I still support it. But, as a victim of domestic violence, I think I have to take a stand and promote this awareness. Not just for me, but for my friends, family and others who may be suffering.

So, each week I will dedicate one post to hopefully bring about awareness to this serious and just as worthy cause.

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Is Ferguson a case of class warfare?

Ferguson, Missouri the scene of Michael Brown’s death last week has been put on the map. The New York Times reported that Ferguson has about 21,000 residents, in which 63% are black. There are 33% white and 3% other. What is interesting about this town (which is 20 minutes outside of St. Louis) is the fact that 92% of arrests are black residents and 86% of all stops are black residents. Astounding statistics, but I’m not surprised. In any small town populated by majority of blacks you probably will see the trend where the color of the police force doesn’t match the residents. With all the things that have happened and continue to happen in Ferguson since Michael Brown’s death, I’m left wondering is the bigger issue more of class than race?

The situation in Ferguson has escalated since the August 9th shooting. Last week the police chief released a video showing a “robbery” that the victim, Michael Brown, allegedly committed before he was shot. Michael Brown hadn’t even been buried yet. The police chief was trying to show cause for the officer shooting Brown. But, that video did nothing but escalate the tensions in an already ticking time bomb city. People were angry. The fact that the police chief seems incompetent has furthered their rage. So, in comes the governor trying to restore the order of things and he in fact makes it worse. He decides to set a curfew. He wanted to curb the civil unrest. But, tear gas and smoke into the crowds only made matters worse. On Sunday night, some protesters became violent and attacked the officers with firebombs and gunfire. Why? Don’t we need to focus on the issue? So, of course the governor announced yesterday that he will deploy the National Guard to restore order.

Last week, I was having a conversation with a friend of mine and I asked the question, what do you think about the situation in Ferguson? I told him, that I dread having to teach my son that he should always be respectful of others, but especially officers because I don’t want him “viewed as a suspect” and gunned down. His response…

“The problem with the “making sure our young men are respectable” argument is that Police target Black youth regardless. In fact they are targeting anyone they don’t think comes from wealth. While the media has made many of these incidents simply about race it points to a bigger problem of class warfare against lower income citizens. It just so happens that in this country the Black community for the most part is on the low end of the economic scale. This is why many Police have little regard for us. They’ll think someone White is more likely to have a higher income than a minority regardless of appearance. Go to any country and the citizens the Police abuse the most are poor people.

The only way Blacks can help stop these attacks and protect our civil rights is to have a greater economic base as a community that wields more influence on the Political Landscape and Legal system. The community is always so divided and selfish on so many levels that anything that would require cooperation and sharing is virtually impossible for us.

I just had a debate with a young guy on twitter. He doesn’t agree it’s about economics and thinks it’s just about skin color. I tried to explain that it’s deeper than that. If we had more power as a community then police would have to reform 1.Hiring practices 2.Police Procedures 3.Punishments for misconduct. A community only can push to get reforms through if they have economic weight. We don’t have any. We’re still the red headed stepchild of the US. We just have sprinkles of wealth among a few individuals but that’s it. We have trillions of dollars in spending power but it gets wasted on short term materialistic nonsense instead of being put to long term viable use. We’ve been playing Checkers for years and reacting instead of playing Chess and thinking steps ahead trying to proactively nip things in the bud.”

Deep huh? I thought so too. Another conversation with my girlfriends last night about Ferguson had me thinking that maybe my friend’s point of view had merit. She said, “The situation in Ferguson is being tainted by all the looters instead of the real issue which is the fact that this young man was shot. These people are not exercising their judicial rights of voting the people that they want in office. They can always write a letter to their attorney general for all the problems that they are facing with regards to the police.” I pondered her statement and then responded, “But how many black people know that?” I told her what my friend said, “This is a bigger issue than race, it is a class issue and how many of us in the middle class are doing enough to educate the lower class on their rights?”

Black people have gotten away from the grassroots efforts that we use to utilize in the 1950’s and 1960’s when we were fighting for Civil Rights and fair housing in our own communities. We began to create silos and sectioned ourselves from those who didn’t have as much as we did: money, education, connections. We became the haves and have nots. Our education became the fundamental difference between us and others. We moved into our big homes in neighborhoods that weren’t predominately black and started going to exclusive black clubs. We became bougie and disengaged from our brethren who couldn’t move out of the hood. Whether it be lack of economics or education, we didn’t try to bridge the gap of each one teach one.

Ferguson is not just a race issue but one of class warfare. Class warfare is defined on Dictionary.com as “the struggle for political and economic power carried on between capitalists and workers.” Isn’t this what my friend was just saying? Isn’t that the point of my girlfriend’s argument? Deeper than race. It’s economics and politics. Just last week, Peter Mccoy, wrote an article for Bloomberg Businessweek in which he said

“The map of St. Louis County, the home of Ferguson, looks like a shattered pot. It’s broken into 91 municipalities that range from small to tiny, along with clots of population in unincorporated areas. Dating as far back as the 19th century, communities set themselves up as municipalities to capture control of tax revenue from local businesses, to avoid paying taxes to support poorer neighbors, or to exclude blacks. Their behavior has ranged from somewhat parochial to flatly illegal.”

Class warfare right? But is there anything that we can do to change this? Probably not, because the issue is deeper than the poor blacks or poor whites in this country but one that unites us based on income levels. The richer have better opportunities to ensuring that their voices are being met because more money = more political power. I read this great article by Bill Moyers titled “The Great American Class War” whereby he talked about interviewing former Supreme Court Justice William Brennan about a documentary that he was doing for public television and how Justice Brennan worried about the “looming size of government”. This quote in the article about a speech that Justice Brennan made that went to the heart of the matter. He said:

“We do not yet have justice, equal and practical, for the poor, for the members of minority groups, for the criminally accused, for the displaced persons of the technological revolution, for alienated youth, for the urban masses… Ugly inequities continue to mar the face of the nation. We are surely nearer the beginning than the end of the struggle.”

So, can anything be done? Are we stuck in a class war that is brewing over and showing its ugly head in small town America? In an area, like Ferguson, will we continue to see the problems that America keeps trying to sweep under it’s rug because poor blacks don’t have the financial backing to ensure that their government elected officials are working for them? In an urban area, do we have to institute more grassroots efforts to educate the poorer classes on their rights and not just during election time?

We can’t let what we know and perceive to be true push us as a community to loot or be involved in illegal activities in spite of the misguided efforts of the elected government officials. Don’t resort to violence or you will forget that the point of the peaceful protests is to shed light on the injustices that occurred in that small town. The wheels of justice are slow, but they work as long as we are diligent and active and not combative to law enforcement. Remember, united as one, we shall overcome someday.

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Open Letter to a Friend

There are many titles that describe me:

Woman, Mother, Feminist, Womanist, Career Oriented, Ambitious, God fearing, Black.

Too many more to name, but I wear many hats daily. Life is not simple. History teaches us that if we don’t know our history we are doomed to repeat it. That is a fundamental fact. God is in everything we do and breathe, but that doesn’t mean that because I love God I can’t love my race and want us to be better. Race separates us and Gender separates us. That is the point that I’ve always tried to make. You can’t speak about being a woman just because you love God and treat everyone the same. You are a man. You will never know what it is like to give birth, have breasts or a cycle every month. Doesn’t mean you can’t empathize with me about these things, but you can’t speak on them from experience because you haven’t experienced them for yourself. And I can’t speak on being a man. I can’t speak on being Jewish. I can’t speak on being gay. I am none of those things. But, I can empathize with injustices that are done to each and every group. Because I am human. However, I can speak on being black and being a woman because I am both.

I’ve spent most of my life knowing that I had two strikes against me: the color of my skin (black) and my gender (a woman). I have always told you that the difference between me and the next person is that I wanted it bad enough. Doesn’t make me better than someone else. It just shows that I am ambitious with a fighting spirit. I get discouraged at disappointments. I get heartbroken, but I keep pushing forward. I love and respect everyone, but I will always want my people, black people, to do better. I don’t blame the “man” for anything, nor do I believe that every person who is not black is against me. That is not true.

Belief. What do I believe? I believe that we are still fighting in some areas to be heard and to be treated equally and fairly as black people and as women. I believe that there are many myths that black women are trying to change, avoid and defunct on a regular basis. These include being ghetto, angry, a chicken head and promiscuous. I don’t believe that everything is equal and that racism doesn’t exist. We are better than yesterday and I pray that we continue to get better. But, alas we are human. I know you may say that I seem to have a great career and make decent money, but I had to fight and prove my worth in everything. Nothing was ever given to me. I earned it, but I believe that Affirmative Action is part of the reason and wonder where I would be had there been no Affirmative Action?

I wish the success of everyone, but as a black woman raising a black man, I will never let him believe that racism doesn’t exist. But, I want him to know that his attitude towards it and his people will play a part in his future. He can’t sit idle and watch his brothers take the wrong path without speaking up. He can’t be discriminated against in school without speaking up. He can’t go to medical school or travel the world without knowing that he is somebody divinely created by God, but that the color of his skin will always matter to some people. Martin Luther King Jr. said it best in his “I Have a Dream Speech.” He said, that “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.”

That day has still not come as long as there is racism in this nation. We have made significant strides as African Americans but there is still work to do. I will always fight for equal pay, equal education and benefits for those that don’t have them. We may not agree on what is important in this world, but I as a human being, a black woman can’t sit by and do nothing. I don’t ever want you to treat people differently as a supervisor. Hire and fire based on your company’s policy and not bias.

I want you to know that I support your ministry and you deserve to reach the masses from the pulpit. I will try to continue the footwork and knowing that in order for our churches to be successful, we as a people have to be successful. Not a black thing or white thing, a human thing. I just need you to understand and accept me as I am. A black woman fighting for her people and for God.

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My Black Son Has A Name

As many of you can probably tell from my previous posts that I immensely love my son Brennan. What mother wouldn’t?  He is my beautiful baby boy. A gift from God and each day I thank God for allowing me to be the vessel to carry and birth him knowing that he belongs to me for only a limited time, but he belongs to God for a lifetime.  But, I have a confession…I’m scared for my son.

Growing up in a post George Zimmerman/Michael Dunn era I fear for my son’s life.  I fear having to tell my loving 5 year old son when he grows up that there are rules he must follow because of the color of his skin.  I have to not only teach him how to read and write, but also how to look for verbal cues and to not respond.  See the color of his skin makes him a threat.  People may lock their doors and roll up their windows when they see him walking down the streets.  He can’t wear street clothes that show his individual style sense in some neighborhoods because he will be labeled a thug.  Keep your music low son and your smile friendly.  You are black and your skin color will make some people feel uncomfortable.  His skin, the color of caramel candy and my Venti iced coffee with so much cream will give some folks reason to pause.  His black skin, my black skin, his father’s black skin. Black. He is still black.

Blacks have made significant strides since slavery, but the struggle still continues.  Black boys are dying everyday with suspect circumstances and I won’t let that be him. His life means so much to me that I have to keep pressing him.  Keep him in school where he will learn to speak French fluently and Mandarin (hopefully) by the time he graduates.  Add physical activities such as soccer and swimming that will make him well rounded.  Begin horse back riding lessons this summer only to help him appear to be a well-rounded non-threatening IBM (Ideal Black Man). The kind that you want to hire after he graduates from Harvard or MIT.  The kind that you will find employable. Because let’s face it…times have changed.  He is growing up in a country post Enron and the Wall Street bailout where corporate corruption has left the little person struggling to find a break and the unemployment rate is higher for black males than any other group. I will not lose him to the streets has been my battle cry since I looked into his beautiful brown eyes for the first time and realized he was mine.  My black son.

I will keep up my vigilance to protest the injustices of our children all the while having to…

  • Teach Brennan that racism still exists and even though you are loved by friends and family that are not black, not everyone will love you. Some will even fear you…because you are black.
  • Stand by Brennan when he gets his driver’s license because I will have to explain racial profiling.
  • Check on Brennan throughout the night to make sure that he is soundly sleeping in his room because I will worry about him when he goes out with friends.
  • Downplay to Brennan the real reason that I pushed him into Tae Kwan Do and boxing at an early age.  (I wanted him to learn to walk away from all fights, but to use what you’ve learned as a last resort to defend himself against those who want to harm him).
  • Teach Brennan how to respect the police and bridle his tongue because I don’t want him beaten for anything that could be justified as resisting arrest.
  • Teach Brennan that even though he is a descendant of kings, he is a black boy who will grow up and become a black man with a bulls-eye on his back because of the color of his skin.

But, I won’t give up.  I will keep pushing forward to not only teach him about God, Martin Luther King Jr., Booker T. Washington, President Barack Obama and many more extraordinary black men who in history have made an impact, but to teach him that like James Baldwin said, “Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed unless it’s faced”.  My black son has a name and it’s Brennan.

 

This spoken word artist captures some of the feelings and fears that I face every day with knowledge that I’m raising a black son. Jasmine Mans – Black Son.

 

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