Sunday, August 28, 2016

Emmett Till, 61 Years Later: Let's Stop Pretending We'll Never Forget

It was 61 years ago this past weekend  on August 28, 1955 that two white men, carrying guns, pulled 14-year-old Emmett Till out of his grandparents’ home in Money, Mississippi.
The teenager’s body was discovered in the Tallahatchie River three days later.
It was revealed that he had been severely beaten, his eye had been gouged out, and he had been shot in the head; then a 70-pound cotton gin fan was attached to his neck by barb wire and his body was thrown in the river.

The two men Roy Bryant and J. W. Milam who had pulled him out of the house were charged with kidnapping and murder. 
The defendants were allowed to sit with their families, even bouncing toddlers on their lap while testimony was being given.
It took the all-white jury just one hour and seven minutes to find the men not guilty. One juror later said they would have come back with the verdict sooner if they had not stopped to get a pop; they wanted to stretch it out in order to make it look good.

One year later, both men admitted their guilt in a Look Magazine interview. Milam told the writer, William Bradford Huie, that their intentions were just to scare Till. Push him around a little, pistol whip him, and then let him go. But, Milam, said, Till took the whipping but remained unrepentant even told his persecutors that he was unafraid of them, and that he was just as good as them.
“Well, what else could we do? He was hopeless. I’m no bully; I never hurt a nigger in my life. I like niggers in their place I know how to work ‘em. But I just decided it was time a few people got put on notice. As long as I live and can do anything about it, niggers are gonna stay in their place.”
So Roy Bryant and J. W. Milam happily committed kidnapping, torture, and murder and got away with it.
Emmett Till, on the other hand, was murdered for the crime of... oh, that’s right, I didn’t say . . .

One year later, both men admitted their guilt in a Look Magazine interview. Milam told the writer, William Bradford Huie, that their intentions were just to scare Till. Push him around a little, pistol whip him, and then let him go. But, Milam, said, Till took the whipping but remained unrepentant even told his persecutors that he was unafraid of them, and that he was just as good as them.
“Well, what else could we do? He was hopeless. I’m no bully; I never hurt a nigger in my life. I like niggers in their place I know how to work ‘em. But I just decided it was time a few people got put on notice. As long as I live and can do anything about it, niggers are gonna stay in their place.”
So Roy Bryant and J. W. Milam happily committed kidnapping, torture, and murder and got away with it.
Emmett Till, on the other hand, was murdered for the crime of... oh, that’s right, I didn’t say . . .
His alleged crime, was whistling at a white woman Carolyn Bryant, the wife of Till’s murderer Roy Bryant.
Emmett Till was killed before he could marry or have children, but writer Bernice McFadden author of 14 books including “Gathering of Waters,” a novel based on Till’s tragic demise  maintains that he still has a long line of descendants. 
Not necessarily related to him by a shared bloodline, she explains, but descendants nonetheless.
 “His descendants are the hundreds of Black men and women who’ve had their lives taken by racist civilians and police officers in the sixty-one years since Emmett Till was murdered,” says McFadden, seen in the above video discussing “Gathering of Waters” which made The New York Times 100 Notable Books list at the Center for Fiction in New York.
Oh, let me assure you there was an outcry from the African-American community about Emmett Till’s lynching, of course. We’re soooo good at public outcries.
Don’t you think? 
But, hmm, I wonder why rapper Lil Wayne felt so comfortable using Emmett Till’s name in a most vulgar way in a guest verse on fellow rapper Future’s 2013 song, Karate Chop. In the verse, which was pulled from the song by Epic Records before it went on sale in retail stores, Lil Wayne raps about his sexual prowess, and him “beating that pussy up like Emmett Till.” 
Oh, of course he apologized a couple of weeks after there was a public outcry (there we go again!), but would he even have done it if we were really serious about we’ll never forget?
OK, let me bring up some sore points.
Remember 17-year-old Trayvon Martin? You should. He was killed in 2012, not some sixty years ago. He didn’t do anything as awful as whistling at a white woman. All he did was wear a hoodie in the rain while walking home after buying a package of  Skittles.
His killer was identified, and was acquitted.
Yeah, public outcry. HUGE public outcry. 
And yet, just a year later there was Tamir Rice. Wow, he was even younger than Till only 12-years-old! Shot by a Cleveland police officer while holding a toy gun. Thankfully his murderer was put on trial, found guilty and locked up. 
Oh, wait a minute, he wasn’t. 
“The point of remembering is to remind ourselves we don’t live in a colorblind society,” Sharlia Lebreton Gulley, a friend of my daughter, told me in a recent conversation.
To forget, continued Gulley a 27-year old postgraduate candidate at Florida International University  is to run the risk “of drinking the kool-aid,” and pretending the murder of Tamir Rice had nothing to do with race.
 “We’d starting thinking we really do have equal opportunities, and that black lives actually matter.”  
I don’t know... but it seems that we really have that a great track record when it comes to remembering. The murders stay in the media, and in our minds for a few weeks, a few months and now, perhaps because of the Black Lives Matter movement, maybe even a few years. 
But only a few years if that much.
When the Lil Wayne verse controversy occurred in 2013, I talked to about 20 people under the age of 30, but only seven of them knew who Emmett Till was, and, of those, only three thought it was a big deal that Lil Wayne associated his horrific death with sexual encounters. 
Ironic, because Mamie Till Bradley, the murdered teenager’s mother, insisted on having an open-casket funeral, so that people around the country could see what the murderers had done to their son.  Photos of his body were printed in African-American newspapers around the country, as well as in Ebony and Jet Magazine.
But you know how it is. After a while, we just forget.
Like we forgot about Jesse Washington, a 17-year-old lynched in Waco, Texas in 1916 after being found guilty of murdering a white woman though some have questioned the authenticity of his confession. 
After the verdict was announced, a white mob of more than 500 men dragged him through the streets, and cut off his testicles before tying him to a tree. They then lowered him over a bonfire, and then raised him back up, only to lower him again.
They did this for two hours, while a crowd of about 15,000 cheered... though not quite loud enough to drown out Washington’s screams.
Lowering and raising him over the dancing flames. Lowering and raising him until his Black body was charcoal, and the screaming finally stopped. It took two hours for the screaming to stop.
And there were photographs! Some even made into postcards and sold as souvenirs. 
An outraged W.E.B. Du Bois led the outcry (yes, even 100 years ago we were out crying. Oh! Uh, I mean, outcrying.), and ran the photographs in the Crisis Magazine, and like the Emmett Till lynching, the story and picture was picked up by newspapers around the country. 
But, yeah, the 100-year anniversary of Mr. Washington’s lynching was just a few months ago, but it barely received a mention in either mainstream or social media. Even though the photograph is one of the most well-known lynching photos in American history. 
Here it is. You’ve seen it before, haven’t you? I thought so. 
So, yeah, we remember the photograph, but not the person killed who we keep vowing we’ll never forget. 
I don’t know... is that our memories are really that bad? 

Oh, maybe, it takes more than a long memory to bring about change?

Thursday, August 04, 2016

Don't Let Media Nor Police Define Korryn Gaines. The Truth is She's A Warrior!

“The media's the most powerful entity on earth. They have the power to make the innocent guilty and to make the guilty innocent, and that's power. Because they control the minds of the masses.” 
Malcolm X

Who was Korryn Gaines, the 23-year old woman who was shot and killed by Baltimore County Police on Monday, after a six-hour standoff? An incident that also resulted in her 5-year old son also being shot, though he’s reportedly in fair condition.

I know the media is portraying her as some mentally deranged woman with brain damage due to lead poisoning who both hated and wanted to kill police, but who also had a death wish.


In a story posted by the Baltimore Sun, the reporter wrote about a 2012 lawsuit which Gaines had brought against two landlords because of her being exposed to lead paint. According the Sun, the suit – which is still pending – claimed the exposure lowered Gaines’ IQ and went on to say that because of the paint Gaines had issues with “anger and impulsive behavior.”

Tuesday night, Fox News host Megyn Kelley of the Kelley Files said on her show: “There is a question about her mental state . . . Police would not confirm whether she had a history of mental issues.”

Rapper David Banner
It seems the only reason it was
mentioned that Gaines follows the rapper
 on Instagram was because his new videos
"Black Fist," shows a police officer being
tortured. Banner is also followed by more
 450,000 people besides Gaines.

On Wednesday, The Washington Post – without giving any context – said Gaines “followed the rapper David Banner, who released a video called ‘Black Fist’ in which a police officer is tied up, beaten bloody and stabbed.”

Of course all the media also detailed the facts in the case; most of which was given to them by police authorities.  

ACCORDING TO POLICE at about 9:10 Monday morning, two police officers knocked on Gaines’ apartment door to serve arrest warrants on her and her 39-year old boyfriend, Kareem Courtney. No one answered but police could hear movement and voices, so they obtained a key from the apartment management office. After they unlocked the door they could still not gain entry because of an interior chain . . . but through the space they saw Gaines holding a gun which she then pointed at them. It was at that point they retreated further into the hallway and called in for backup.

ACCORDING TO POLICE Courtney left the apartment with a one-year old girl, and was arrested. 

ACCORDING TO GAINES’ MOTHER she arrived on the scene and asked police to be allowed to speak to her daughter. She was turned down.

ACCORDING TO POLICE they contacted Facebook, and asked them to suspend Gaines’ Facebook and Instagram accounts as she was trying to livestream the events as they unfolded, and some of her followers were egging her on.

ACCORDING TO POLICE, around 3:05 p.m., Gaines took aim at an officer and says, “I’m going to kill you.”

ACCORDING TO POLICE at that point an officer (it’s not clear if it’s the one she whom allegedly threatened or not) fired one round at Gaines.  Gaines fired two shots back at the police, who then fire three shots in her direction – one of which kills her.

ACCORDING TO POLICE when the officers then enter the apartment, they find that Gaines’ 5-year old son has also been shot. He was rushed to the hospital. Police say they don’t know if he was shot by Gaines or them.

How does a lawsuit, lead paint, mental illness, or the name of a rapper whom Gaines followed on
Instagram, fit into the story? What does the videotape she posted of her traffic stop in March have to do with her death on Monday? She didn’t point a gun at the police then.

Well, some might say the media added those details to give background or color, or suggest possible motives for the entire incident. The reality is it’s conjecture, supposition, and hyperbole.

If there’s something in the story that does not DIRECTLY relate the incident in question, you should pretty much ignore it while reading the article. Once you’ve finished reading, then go back and read it again – with the additional color and details the media adds. YOU decide how much weight those media additions should be given.

Right now what the media has done is strongly imply that Korryn Gaines was an insane woman with a hatred of police, who perhaps wanted to commit suicide by cop.

And a lot of people are buying it.

Still from video Korryn
Gaines posted. The Free
Thought Project says they
believe this Swat officer
might have a camera in
his helmet
Also, keep in mind, there’s really no videotape of the incident – the Baltimore County police force were given body cameras last month, but they claim they’re not sure if the officers involved were Gaines death were wearing one.

Which likely means they’re going to say they’re not, but they’re trying to wait to see if anyone can refute that by supplying cell phone footage showing they were.

Which also means almost all of the facts given to the media came from the police – who have a vested interest in making themselves look good.

Did Gaines really tell a police officer, “I’m going to kill you,” causing him to fire? If we’ve learned nothing over the past few years, we have learned that police lie when it comes to their actions.

Oh, and by the way . . . it was found out Wednesday night that police didn’t just unlock the door. They lied. Court documents indicated that after they used a key to unlock the door they were confronted with the chain lock. Seeing Gaines, they told her to come forward and unlatch it. When she refused they kicked the door in.  It was only at that point that Gaines aimed her gun at them in the first place.

As she posted to her Facebook page before her account was suspended . . . 
I'm home. Tell those gang members outside door to go away from my home and family.”

So we’ve seen how the media wants us to think of Korryn Gaines, let me tell you what I think of her.

I think of her as a young African-American woman who had a son, and who was tired of all the rhetoric, the marching, and the rallying – which had up no point made her son’s survival in this
society a sure thing.  A woman who, rightfully, had issues with the way police interacted with young African-Americans and Latinos. A woman who decided it was time for her to defend her home, her family and herself with more than just words.

SHE DID NOTHING WRONG. SHE DID NOTHING ILLEGAL. You are not obligated to let the police or anyone into your home unless they have a search warrant. Not an arrest warrant.

The gun she possessed was legally obtained, and she had a license to have it in her home.

And as far as pointing a gun at the police? In the climate in which we live, if police officers kicked my door in, I would point a gun at them too – because I would be fear for my life and the lives of my family.

This is the thing you need to spread the word about among our people wherever you go. Never let them be brainwashed into thinking that whenever they take steps to see that they're in a position to defend themselves that they’re being unlawful. The only time you're being unlawful is when you break the law. It's LAWFUL to have something to DEFEND yourself.
Malcolm X

Don’t let the media or the police or anyone make her out to be a crazy fanatic or a villain.

Man, I’m calling her a proud warrior. A soldier for the cause of justice. A martyr for African-American and Latino motherhood.

And shame on you if you allow the media, the police, or anyone else, to make you see it any other way. 

(a shortened version of this blogpost will appear in The Sunday Philadelphia Tribune on 8/7/2016)

Monday, August 01, 2016

Admit It! The System is Rigged . . . So Maybe The Next Move is Ours!

VOTE, THEY told us. We did that.

Stop rioting, they told us. We did that, too.
Let the justice system do their job, they told us. We even did that.
Be patient, they told us. Well, we've been doing that for more than a century.
And still . . .
And still . . .
And still, all of the charges have been dropped against the officers involved in the Freddie Gray case.
On April 12, 2015, Freddie Gray was walking in his Baltimore neighborhood, but when he saw police officers in the area, he started running.
The police gave chase, and tackled him to the ground. They found a knife, blade folded into the handle, clipped to the inside of Gray's front pocket and arrested him.
But 40 minutes later, when the van arrives at the police station, Gray is unresponsive and unconscious. After being taken to the hospital it's found that he has a broken neck, a crushed voice box, and a severed spine.
So what happened between his arrest at 8:43 a.m. and he being seen at the hospital at 9:43 a.m.?
The likely answer seems to be what's called a Rough Ride. It's a form of retaliation used against a suspect who officers deem too loud or argumentative. They simply handcuff/shackle the suspect and place him/her in the back of a police van. Then the driver of the van then starts speeding on bumpy roads, making series of sharp turns, coming to sudden stops - all designed to throw the bound and helpless suspect around in the unpadded metal van.
Cellphone video captured the driver stopping the van and other officers getting and pulling Gray from the vehicle to place flex cuffs on his wrists and leg shackles on his ankles. Then they place him - headfirst and on his stomach - back into the van.
The medical examiner ruled his death a homicide, adding it is "believed to be the result of a fatal injury that occurred when Mr. Gray was unrestrained by a seat belt while in the custody of the Baltimore Police Department wagon."
There were Baltimore citizens who held protests about Freddie Gray's death, but that didn't really get any media coverage or attention.
Then there was rioting.
That got national media attention. They got things rolling. Baltimore State's Attorney Marilyn Mosby announced six officers were being charged with Gray's death.
But then one officer's trial ended in a mistrial. Two other officers were tried and acquitted. The charges were dropped against all the officers last week.
Freddie Gray did not break his own neck, crush his own vocal box, and sever his own spine.
But no one was responsible for his death?
Not even a teeny-weeny bit responsible?
Give me a damn break!
Even Mosby, in the press conference announcing the dropping of the charges, was furious. She said there were police officers who were witnesses to the case, but still were appointed to the investigative team. Lead detectives, she said, were not only uncooperative, but actually started a counterinvestigation to disprove the state's case.
It's obvious the investigation was rigged; the bigger problem is the whole system seems to be rigged against us. There just is no way for us to win.
So, what would you have us do now?
Never mind, I think it's time we decide for ourselves.