TheVillageCelebration http://www.thevillagecelebration.com Mon, 14 Aug 2017 08:45:17 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.8 The Two White Women Who’ve Died Standing Up For Justice http://www.thevillagecelebration.com/two-white-women-whove-died-standing-justice/ Mon, 14 Aug 2017 08:45:17 +0000 http://www.thevillagecelebration.com/?p=18183 The weekend provided the most visible sign of the nation’s increasingly violent white supremacist movement when some of its members and neo-Nazis descended on Charlottesville, Virginia to rally against the removal of a statute of Confederate General Robert E. Lee from a state park. In its wake, many Whites could no longer ignore the dangerous […]

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The weekend provided the most visible sign of the nation’s increasingly violent white supremacist movement when some of its members and neo-Nazis descended on Charlottesville, Virginia to rally against the removal of a statute of Confederate General Robert E. Lee from a state park. In its wake, many Whites could no longer ignore the dangerous byproduct of the divisive speech spewed by Donald Trump and his complicity in the growth of racism. And, when the angry white nationalists and neo-Nazis faced off with peaceful demonstrators and one of them later drove a car into the crowd, the President of the United States failed to condemn them, instead indicting violence “on many sides.”

One person died when the driver of the gray Dodge Challenger drove into the crowd. Heather Heyer, a 32-year-old paralegal at a Charlottesville law firm, attended the “Unite the Right” rally to stand against racism.

“Somehow, I almost feel that this is what she was born to be, is a focal point for change,” Susan Bro, Heyer’s mother, said to reporters. “I’m proud that what she was doing was peaceful, she wasn’t there fighting with people.”

In November Heyer posted her feelings about the political climate on her Facebook page. She posted, “If you’re not outraged, you’re not paying attention.” Heyer’s mother said, “No mother wants to lose a child, but I’m proud of her. I’m proud of what she did.”

On the Sunday news programs, moderators and reporters decried the lack of a strong statement from the President or members of his administration. Belatedly, the White House released a statement and the Department of Justice announced there would be a civil rights investigation of the incident that claimed Heyer’s life and injured more than a dozen others, some critically.

It’s been 52 years since a white woman lost her life fighting racism. Viola Liuzzo, a mother of five, worked as an activist in the 1960s and was the only known white female to die during the Civil Rights Movement. She traveled from her home in Detroit to Selma to help the Southern Christian Leadership Conference with its efforts to register African-American voters. Liuzzo had only been in Selma a few days when she was murdered by members of the Ku Klux Klan while driving a black civil rights worker from Montgomery to Selma.

The events of “Bloody Sunday” compelled Liuzzo to go to Alabama. She had spent part of her childhood in the South and watched on television as the peaceful marchers tried to make their way from Selma to Montgomery only to be beaten bloody by police as they crossed the Edmund Pettus Bridge. Liuzzo was a member of the Detroit chapter of the NAACP, and she is one of the 40 martyrs listed at the Civil Rights Memorial in Montgomery.

Amid calls for white Americans to break their silence in the face of racism, Megan Frank is one of the founders of a social justice group that traces its genesis to the unrest in Ferguson. Frank, who is a public relations executive at a firm she co-owns with her husband, joined forces with a mother she knew from her daughter’s school. Together, they formed the group “Ladue Cares” named for the affluent St. Louis enclave and organized to target racial inequalities in education.

Frank is unambiguous about where she stands. “Over the past three years since Michael Brown was killed, it has become increasingly clear to me that I have been called to serve my family, my community and my God by standing up against racism. And, not merely the overt and obvious, but most importantly the silent and sequestered,” she said. “As a white, Christian mother, especially in the wake of the most recent loss of life, I feel it is my duty to my children and the world I will pass onto them to speak up and speak out. This hatred cannot be dispelled unless it is named and condemned within our circles of influence and across racial lines.”

From homes like Frank’s in Missouri and all around the country, conversations were held about the violent weekend unlike any in recent memory. Protestors marched peacefully Sunday night in some cities as a show of solidarity with those in Charlottesville and a tribute to Heather Heyer. But, Charlottesville authorities canceled a planned vigil there in response to “credible” threats of more violence from white supremacists.

In 1965 Viola Liuzzo said, “We’re going to change the world. One day they’ll write about us. You’ll see.”

It’s doubtful she thought the story would have changed so little.   

 

For more information about Ladue Cares, please visit www.laduecares.org.

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A Simple “Good Morning” Will Do http://www.thevillagecelebration.com/simple-good-morning-will/ Fri, 11 Aug 2017 02:55:05 +0000 http://www.thevillagecelebration.com/?p=18177 A few years ago, I stood in the hallway of a high school to meet with the principal. I waited as he greeted students, including a young man and his mother. Without warning the boy angrily spewed profanities at the principal and headed toward the door. There stood his mother, the principal, students, me, and […]

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A few years ago, I stood in the hallway of a high school to meet with the principal. I waited as he greeted students, including a young man and his mother. Without warning the boy angrily spewed profanities at the principal and headed toward the door. There stood his mother, the principal, students, me, and three resource officers. Otherwise known as security guards.

The mother apologized and headed toward the door. Her son was long gone.

I met briefly with the principal and found the mother standing in the door on her phone searching for a ride. By the time I reached my car, she was walking in the snow, apparently unsuccessful. Her son, despite his healthy lead, was actually waiting around the corner of the building, peeking to see if she would rescue him. He took off again, just enough to stay in view.

I stopped and offered the mother a ride. I overheard her need to get to work, her missed wages wasted on a failed attempt to get her son back in school. As we passed her son, I slowed down and had her call him to the car. He promptly got in the back seat escaping the snow and bitter wind. He spoke, calmly, and politely. At one point, he made a disrespectful comment in recounting the scene but when I turned and looked at him, he didn’t hesitate to apologize. Like most people I meet, whether mentally ill, impoverished, or angry, they still know basic manners.

The two began to explain his predicament. He did not want to be in an alternative school and had come to ask for a second chance. He failed miserably. Cussing out the principal you’re trying to convince you will do better is not the path to a second chance. But before the principal had said good morning, he turned to the young man and snapped, “Take off that cap!” The disrespect was too much. A simple good morning would have done.

I convinced them to go back with me, to meet with the principal, explain what set him off and to apologize. They agreed. As part of a charter committee, I had helped choose and hire the principal. I was confident he would as well.

As we waited for the principal to complete a previously scheduled meeting, we had time for a lengthy talk. The young man had the support of a family much different than one may have thought. He was raised with discipline, he was taught manners. He was loved and cared for. But the traumas and oppression faced daily by many Black children, the day to day defeats were too much.

I sat down for the initial part of the meeting, just long enough to be assured the principal understood his mistake as well. He did and he apologized. Being back to the original playing field, I left them alone to do what they came to do.

It’s unlikely I’ll ever know what happened to that young man. He was certainly given a second chance, but sitting on a powder keg of anger, frustration, and oppression, he was likely ignited again. After all, the hallways of our schools are filled with children similarly harmed. But one thing I know for sure, there is a principal in the world somewhere that learned one thing that day, sometimes a simple good morning will do.

 

Dr. Christi Griffin is the Founder and President of The Ethics Project and the National Youth Summit. To learn more about the National Youth Summit, visit www.thenys.com.

 

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Three Years After Michael Brown and the Past is Prologue http://www.thevillagecelebration.com/three-years-michael-brown-past-prologue/ Wed, 09 Aug 2017 00:58:55 +0000 http://www.thevillagecelebration.com/?p=18172 Richard Williams woke to piercing pain and the glare of the angry cop who had just clipped him in the forehead with his gun. For the first time in his life, the Oakwood College student felt suffocating fear. He was part of a musical group on tour and they had been stopped on the side […]

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Richard Williams woke to piercing pain and the glare of the angry cop who had just clipped him in the forehead with his gun. For the first time in his life, the Oakwood College student felt suffocating fear.

He was part of a musical group on tour and they had been stopped on the side of the road in Alabama. It was 1956. It was during the midst of the Montgomery Bus Boycott and months after the brutal murder of 14-year-old Emmett Till.

Till was on Williams’ mind as the two white cops harassed him and his friends. The teen’s murder brought to light the brutality of Jim Crow segregation in the south and was one of the stimulus of the Civil Rights Movement.

“I was scared,” Williams admitted. He knew if they did to him what had been done to Till they would get away with it. But as the officers kept calling them the n-word, Williams grew angry.

It was the first time Williams had an encounter with the police. But it was far from the last. In fact, they were stopped again on that trip by other officers and forced to walk to the police station miles away. Williams, who went on to become an educator and author, came to understand that police harassment was part of the reality of being black in America.

Now 80 years old and a church elder, Williams has a license to carry a weapon. He believes if he or his family is in danger he should fight back — even if it’s against the police.

Lawyers and activists agree that’s his right and the right of anyone who is being threatened or unlawfully arrested by the police. But it’s a right they warn against upholding.

“Legally yes, you have the right to resist an unlawful arrest,” Civil Rights Attorney Muwali Davis said. “But technically, it’s a dangerous, slippery slope.”

Davis, of Atlanta, said he doesn’t recommend resisting.

“An officer can allege that they had to increase the level of force to subdue the suspect,” Davis said. There is no safe way to resist, he said. “I think it just becomes increasingly dangerous.”

Defense Attorney Keith Adams agreed.

“If an officer is hellbent on arresting you, you run an extreme risk by resisting,” Adams said. “In that situation only one person has a Taser, a baton and a gun and it’s not you.

“Don’t endanger your life.”

But what happens when your life is already in danger?

Williams said he doesn’t advocate violence, but he’ll do whatever it takes to protect himself and his family.

“If someone comes to hurt me, I will respond,” Williams said. “And I will advocate that from the pulpit.”

The Lives Stolen

During the past few years, police killings of African-Americans across the country have sparked outrage, prompted protest and inspired debates about what should be done. So far, more than 660 people have been killed by police, placing this year on the path to becoming the deadliest on record for such slayings since national databases began keeping track in 2013, according to Shaun King of the New York Daily News.

In 2015, American police killed more black people than were lynched during the height of segregation, according to Quartz. In 1892, the worst year under Jim Crow, police killed 161 black Americans. In 2015, they killed 258, the publication reported.

But it was the deadly shooting of Michael Brown by a white police officer in a St. Louis suburb that placed a spotlight on police brutality. Today marks three years since the shooting of the unarmed teen and the repercussions are still being felt.

That year the Justice Department released a scathing assessment of the police and the courts in Ferguson, concluding that the town was characterized by deep-seated racism. The assessment revealed that local authorities targeted black residents, arresting them disproportionately and fining them excessively.

But many say that’s a problem across America. Brown’s death and the acquittal of the officer who shot him led thousands to the streets across the country to protest.

His death became a lesson, a warning, a reminder of what is common to black people. The legacy that America richly bestows is one of detainments and beatings. One of illegal searches and imprisonments. One of humiliation and death.

And the deaths sometimes come with little or no warning: Eric Garner was choked to death for selling cigarettes in Staten Island, New York. John Crawford was browsing in a department store outside Dayton, Ohio. Twelve-year-old Tamir Rice was holding a toy gun in a park in Cleveland and Cordale Handy had an unloaded gun.

Handy, 29, died after being shot multiple times by St. Paul police in Minnesota in March. Before the shooting, his girlfriend and a friend of the couple reportedly pleaded with officers to understand that the gun was unloaded. He had fired the gun until it was empty into his apartment wall, the girlfriend told their friend.

The friend told the Twin Cities Pioneer Press she last saw Handy with the gun when they were in the hall of their Dayton’s Bluff apartment building.

“When I walked into the hallway, he had the gun in his hand, his eyes were glossed over, and he was not coherent,” the publication reported. “It was like he thought someone was trying to kill him; that’s why I think he was maybe hallucinating.”

He was shot multiple times. Police said he pointed the gun at them. Now the case is in litigation.

“My son was one of my heartbeats and he brought me so much joy as a mother,” Kimberly Handy-Jones said. “Cordale had an infectious smile that when he walked into the room he would lighten it up. He was very free-hearted. He would give you the shirt off his back.”

He was loved by many, she said.

“We have been plagued with the disheartening truth that our children may not make it home because they are constantly being harassed and racially profiled because of the color of their skin,” Handy-Jones said. “We watched this time after time with Trayvon Martin, Sandra Bland, Alton Sterling, Michael Brown, Philando Castile, Laquan McDonald, etc. The list can go on and on. None of these police were held accountable by the law.”

That’s because the law gives police all the power and all the authority, but none of the responsibility, activists said.

Ta-Nehisi Coates, in his book, “Between the World and Me,” writing about impact of incidents like the Brown shooting, said, “You know now, if you did not know before, that the police departments of your country have been endowed with the authority to destroy your body.

“It does not matter if the destruction is the result of an unfortunate overreaction. It does not matter if it originates in a misunderstanding.” Coates also notes, “There is nothing uniquely evil in these destroyers or even in this moment. The destroyers are merely men enforcing the whims of our country.”

And that’s how it’s always been.

“Police in general are biased by culture,” Williams said. “This country is biased by culture. The purpose of police officers is to serve the constituency and to protect the constituency. This covers all citizens.”

But for the police, only one set of citizens matter. This he said stems from slavery when blacks were forced under the law to comply to whites.

“During the Civil Rights Movement when blacks were marching peacefully, who went out to attack them? It was the police,” Williams said. “The police feel it’s their right to protect the white community. That’s not correct. They are supposed to protect everyone.”

Most of them don’t know their role, Williams said.

“They think their role is to protect the white community from the blacks. They are the instrument that racism uses.”

And there needs to be a change, Williams said.

“If society demanded something different, it would be different,” Williams said. “Police sit on the sidelines. The church sits on the sidelines. A few people are protesting. If society is not affected, then the protest is not effective. The police will do what society demands.”

Until there is a change, the police will continue to violate their role, he said. They will continue to have one set of rules for white people and another set of rules for black people.

And what are the rules?

Two Separate Americas

Biology professor Amy Bishop was upset that she had been denied tenure. On February 12, 2010, during a routine faculty meeting at the University of Alabama, the 44-year-old white woman stood and began shooting those closest to her with a 9-millimeter handgun. She killed three colleagues and wounded three others.

The police talked her into surrendering.

Dylann Roof, a young white supremacist, opened fire in Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina in 2015, killing nine including the pastor.  Police arrested the 21-year-old without incident. And they even reportedly stopped on the way to jail to get Roof something to eat.

“They didn’t gun him down,” said Meanes, who has been working with the Mothers Against Police Brutality organization and serves as general counsel for the Michael Brown Foundation.

But Tamir Rice, who was playing with a pellet gun, was different.

“They saw an African American teen in the park and in less than a minute they shot him,” Meanes said. “That tells me there is a difference. We don’t get the same treatment.

“There is two separate America.”

Meanes, a partner at Thompson Coburn, LLP in St. Louis understands it’s historical. “It came from slavery and proceeded up to Jim Crow,” she said.

To be black meant to be constantly in peril of having your body broken and your life stolen.

“Police have consistently targeted the black or brown men and women, having no regard about their right to life,” Handy-Jones said. “But when it comes to white men or women they can successfully disengage the pattern and practices of shoot to kill and successfully de-escalate the situation.

“We have to rewrite the laws and we have to do it with getting reforms in place,” Handy-Jones said.

Meanes agreed.

“There are things you can do to help yourself if you’re a person of color because there is a fear of people of color,” she said.

Meanes, a former president of the National Bar Association, said the NBA has proposed certain solutions such as legislative reform and educating the black community on how to handle police encounters.

The group advocated for several measures: local ordinance that requires police undergo diversity training and ban racial profiling; a state statute that would require the state attorney general’s office investigate and prosecute police shootings; federal de-escalation legislation as well as a federal and state body camera’s law with penalties.

But she admits, “You can know your rights, abide by them and still find yourself in a situation where you’re shot.”

In an encounter with police, an assault can take other forms, according to former police officer Redditt Hudson.

“There is assault on the body. There is assault on your dignity and there is assault on your rights,” he said.

 

The Right to Resist

Katie McCrary, a homeless woman, was begging money from customers at a gas station when someone called the police to complain.

It’s unclear what prompted the police officer to attack in the June 4 incident in Decatur, Georgia. Only the assault was captured on a cell phone video.

The woman was on the floor while the police struck her with his baton.

At one point, he placed the baton on the back of her neck and pinned her down with his knee on her back. When she grabbed his baton, he said twice, “Let it go, or I’m going to shoot you.”

A bystander begged him not to shoot.

Attorney Adams said he has seen the video. “The officer is giving her commands,” Adams said. “He tells her to put her hands behind her back, to lay down and he’s hitting her after each command.”

Near the end of the video, the officer placed her in handcuffs.

McCrary asked repeatedly, “What did I do? What did I do wrong?”

The DeKalb County police said they are investigating the incident to see if the officer’s use of force was justified. Adams said there are many questions to be answered in that incident.

“She is on her back and kicking at the officer,” Adams said. “Is she putting her leg up to avoid being hit or is she fighting the officer?

“She appears to be relatively small framed. Was there a less aggressive way to subdue her rather than striking her 15 or 20 times?”

During an arrest, officers need to take into account the crime, the person’s age and physical ability, Adams said.

“Citizens have rights,” Adams said. But he added, “Police have rights and authority. In a fight, the officer is the guy to win that fight.”

Instead of resisting, he recommends complying and then, if it’s an unlawful arrest, fighting in court.

“Conduct yourself appropriately, go on down to the station,” he said. “At least, you’ll be alive.”

He tells the same thing to his children. “The person who has the authority is the one in law enforcement. The only person you have control over is yourself. Comply, even if you feel the officer doesn’t have the right to do what they are doing.”

But, he said, he doesn’t believe they should kowtow and allow themselves to be abused. They have to speak up for themselves, he said. But he understands there is a risk.

“Sometime when you speak up for yourself, it lands you in a bad place,” Adams said.

Like Adams, Williams said he began speaking to his children when they were young about police encounters.

“I know they have to encounter it and I didn’t want them to get blindsided,” Williams said. At first, they couldn’t accept what he had to say. They couldn’t see what he saw.

“’Papa, that’s in your time,’” they told him. “’Now people are different.’”

But then they learn of racism in its visceral form. Now the conversation is different, he said. Instead of a debate, it’s a discussion.

“You have to know that every stop can turn into a tragedy if you’re black and a police officer stops you,” Williams said. He warns against aggravating the situation.

“Be polite, make sure your hands are visible and make sure you see who it is,” Williams said. “Get their badge number and make sure you don’t initiate anything. Don’t get into an argument, but get enough information so if anything happens you can report it.”

But Hudson said that’s often when the situation becomes the most dangerous.

“A lot of time the situation escalates when you ask an officer for his information,” Hudson said.

Hudson was an officer with the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department for five years. He wanted to make a difference in his community from an empowered position, he said. But he left after witnessing his colleagues abuse that power.

They saw black and brown men as targets and would use force, even in minor offenses, Hudson said. He recalled one incident in which he and another officer responded to a home where a teenage boy answered the door.

The other officer accused the teen of harboring a robbery suspect. She demanded to search the home, but the boy refused.

The officer yanked him onto the porch by his throat and began punching him, Hudson said. He pulled the officer off the boy, but then another officer arrived and told the boy to stand. The teen said he couldn’t.

The officer slammed him against the house and cuffed him. When the boy again said he couldn’t walk, the officer grabbed him by his ankles and dragged him to the car.

The teen, as it turned out, had been on crutches when he answered the door, and couldn’t walk.

His colleagues didn’t worry about the consequences, Hudson said. They didn’t have to. They knew no one would hold them accountable.

“You can’t win on the street against a police officer,” said Hudson, who has since worked for the NAACP and the ACLU. “The state, the law is on their side.”

But Hudson, who lives about 10 minutes from where Michael Brown was killed, said if it’s a situation where the officer is wrongfully trying to take your life, then it’s time to fight back.

“Then you have to make the best decision based on the situation you’re in to survive,” Hudson said. “And hopefully your decision results in no loss of life.”

But he said be prepared for the aftermath.

“The law and the court tend to favor the officer.”

 

Kimathi Lewis is a veteran journalist with more than 20 years of experience writing for national and local publications. The Clark-Atlanta University honor graduate has written for Upscale magazine, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, and The Plain Dealer in Cleveland. Lewis founded Nature Kleen, a company built on her commitment to the environment and sourced by products she created. But, her passion for reporting crime and investigating injustice led her back to journalism.

 

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Coretta Scott King Warned Us About DOJ’s Jeff Sessions http://www.thevillagecelebration.com/coretta-scott-king-warned-us-dojs-jeff-sessions/ Mon, 07 Aug 2017 04:48:14 +0000 http://www.thevillagecelebration.com/?p=18168 For years we’ve been fooled into believing that affirmative action is about our dark faces. This fallacy is no cause for alarm. It’s the same case being argued by President Trump, the reality TV star who grew his political resume by claiming the nation’s first ebony president was not from this soil. Using twitter as […]

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For years we’ve been fooled into believing that affirmative action is about our dark faces. This fallacy is no cause for alarm. It’s the same case being argued by President Trump, the reality TV star who grew his political resume by claiming the nation’s first ebony president was not from this soil. Using twitter as a big-league weapon with the sole purpose of convincing his all-white base that he is busy “making America great again” or more to the point, Trump is reassuring white America that their hands will forever control the levers of power.  

Now, add an historic racist to this already toxic formula and charge him with defending the very institutional advances he detests, and we will see affirmative action is the smallest of our fears. However, it is where we find ourselves. So, let us address it within the proper context.

For the sake of this argument, let’s use a taller definition of affirmative action. By doing so, we will detect that it is not only mandatory, but it must be fortified to correct this country’s original and persistent sin: racism.

Even a minimal level of research will reveal the documented history of affirmative action in the United States of America. However, for most of that history these programs were federally mandated programs, and the benefactors of said programs were not blacks. Black Americans were not allowed to participate in these programs.  They were reserved for whites.

America, as a nation, should not be allowed to pretend that this information is new for it is beyond uncouth. It is plain and elementary history about which many scholars have penned bestselling books. One of the most articulate arguments presented is by Ira Katznelson, who held no punches in describing the very graphic economic harm done to black families at the expense of these “whites-only” affirmative action programs.

Without excavating beyond the 20th century, let me share a couple of accounts that express with summer-sky clarity the dirty history of this country’s “whites-only” affirmative action.

 

History of Whites-Only Affirmative Action

There are very few examples available to express iniquity like the truth of the Black women who worked at a resort often frequented by President Roosevelt. They were excluded from the protections outlined in the minimum wage law which was part of his New Deal. As Katnelson’s wrote in When Affirmative Action Was White, the women were forced to work long hours as domestics for less than $5.00 per week.

I would argue that none of them saw Roosevelt’s work as a new deal. It was just more rhetoric to better situate the whites around them. This form of “new” oppression is easily explained by Roosevelt himself who admitted making concessions to “good ole boys” during the negotiations.

Another account of America’s willingness to act affirmatively when whites were in need is on display when we look at the history of Black veterans returning home from WWII. Black veterans were not benefactors of the four (4) billion dollars allocated between 1944-1949 for unemployment compensation included in G.I. Bill. Black veterans were not included among the 10 million veterans who received education and training paid for by the federal government. And, Black WWII veterans were definitely not included in the $50 billion of government insured home loans that were also part of the G.I. Bill.

With this “new” knowledge, we are obligated to marry this history with what is happening [now] at the federal level of this country’s government, and the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice to be more specific. The words of the nation’s top cop remind us that he himself is a direct descendant of the same ilk of southern culture that required the racist concessions from Roosevelt during the New Deal. For it was Dr. King’s widow who first warned us of Jeff Sessions’ evil(s) in 1986, and Mrs. Coretta Scott King’s deepest fears have grown gnarly bat-like wings and begun to take flight.

We cannot, for one second, believe the Justice Department’s claim that recent articles about new investigations into race-based admission policies at universities are inaccurate. After all, Sessions believes the voting rights act is intrusive; Jeff Sessions is the same man who tried and convicted civil right workers for assisting elderly blacks with voting. He was born and raised alongside this country’s fields where people who looked like you and me were enslaved, beaten, raped, and murdered. From where I am sitting, he seems dead set on protecting that legacy.

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Actress Jasmine Guy Tells the Life Story of Tupac’s Mother http://www.thevillagecelebration.com/actress-jasmine-guy-tells-life-story-tupacs-mom/ Fri, 28 Jul 2017 14:47:26 +0000 http://www.thevillagecelebration.com/?p=18159 This summer’s movie about megastar, Tupac Shakur, followed the rapper from his early career through his incarceration to his rise as one of hip hop’s most prolific stars. Actress Jasmine Guy, famously known for her southern belle character from the comedy “A Different World”, became friends with Tupac and his mother. In an exclusive interview, […]

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This summer’s movie about megastar, Tupac Shakur, followed the rapper from his early career through his incarceration to his rise as one of hip hop’s most prolific stars.
Actress Jasmine Guy, famously known for her southern belle character from the comedy “A Different World”, became friends with Tupac and his mother. In an exclusive interview, Guy talks about her book chronicling the life of Afeni Shakur.

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The Village Celebration Podcast July 14, 2017 http://www.thevillagecelebration.com/village-celebration-podcast-july-14-2017/ Fri, 14 Jul 2017 16:22:39 +0000 http://www.thevillagecelebration.com/?p=18156 Do All Lives Really Matter? TheVillage Contributor Jonathan Clarke Breaking the Code of Silence: Redditt Hudson, Racial Justice Manager at ACLU All Eyez On Black Youth: Reverends Arthur Hunt and Jesse Turner

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Do All Lives Really Matter? TheVillage Contributor Jonathan Clarke
Breaking the Code of Silence: Redditt Hudson, Racial Justice Manager at ACLU
All Eyez On Black Youth: Reverends Arthur Hunt and Jesse Turner

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The Village Celebration Podcast July 7, 2017 http://www.thevillagecelebration.com/village-celebration-podcast-july-7-2017/ Fri, 14 Jul 2017 16:20:22 +0000 http://www.thevillagecelebration.com/?p=18154 Find Our Missing Girls: TheVillage Contributor Jonathan Clarke The Adultification of Black Girls: LaKeisha Gray-Sewell, Founder of “Girls Like Me”

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Find Our Missing Girls: TheVillage Contributor Jonathan Clarke
The Adultification of Black Girls: LaKeisha Gray-Sewell, Founder of “Girls Like Me”

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Michael Brown’s Mother Graduates and Achieves Longtime Goal http://www.thevillagecelebration.com/michael-browns-mother-graduates-achieves-longtime-goal/ Fri, 07 Jul 2017 18:34:34 +0000 http://www.thevillagecelebration.com/?p=17985 The most famous graduate at the commencement celebration for Jennings High School in the St. Louis area touched hearts around the world three years ago when she uttered these pain-soaked words, “You took my son away from me.” When Lezley McSpadden made that statement, she had just learned that a Ferguson police officer had shot […]

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The most famous graduate at the commencement celebration for Jennings High School in the St. Louis area touched hearts around the world three years ago when she uttered these pain-soaked words, “You took my son away from me.”

When Lezley McSpadden made that statement, she had just learned that a Ferguson police officer had shot and killed her unarmed teenage son, Michael Brown. The death of her son and the civil unrest in Ferguson and around the nation that followed ignited a new dialogue about police brutality in America. It also left her and her family devastated.

“I had been beating up on myself,” McSpadden explains.

In her book Tell the Truth & Shame the Devil, McSpadden wrote about the day she brought her son home from the hospital after his birth:

“I thought my family was going to be really disappointed in me, but when my Auntie Bobbie, picked up Mike Mike, and held him gently in her arms she looked in his eyes and said, “You better not keep my niece up all night ‘cause she gotta go to school,” I was nearly brought to tears by her powerful words.”

But even with her fierce commitment to school, the responsibilities and challenges of being a teenage parent overshadowed McSpadden’s resolve. She quit school but vowed to return someday. And, she did.

“I think a cap and gown is one of my favorite outfits,” McSpadden said laughingly. “And to have my kids see me in my strong moments because they’ve seen me broken down in my weak moments means so much.”

For a woman who needed to call upon her inner fortitude to survive the past few years, McSpadden returned to that place again to fuel her desire to graduate. But, she also tapped into some new resources.

Her instructor at the adult education program became a friend. According to McSpadden, “I had my days where I would shut down, but I still showed up. My instructor could relate because she too had lost a child. She related to being there physically but not mentally.”

There were also days the math lessons were difficult and her 12-year-old son served as a tutor. “I laughed about it,” the proud mother said. Her son and other children along with “those who wanted me to rise from the ashes” motivated her to stay focused.

Her determination stirred up memories connected to the pep talks she had given Michael during his senior year of high school. McSpadden said, “Instead of having to take up a trade, I explained to him, ‘You can take this diploma anywhere. This piece of paper is just that powerful.’”

Her voice is tinged with sadness, but McSpadden didn’t allow it to overpower her. She turned to her daughter, Deja, who also graduated this year. “She lost her best friend and to see her do so brilliantly…just to see her focus and not let everything going on around her be a distraction, I commend her more than anything,” McSpadden pointed out softly.

While Deja plans to attend Tennessee State University this fall, McSpadden looks forward to motivating others and speaking out against injustice. But, for now, she wants to savor the satisfaction of achieving a goal she set years ago. “It’s such a feel-good moment. I felt myself beginning to heal,” she admitted. “I think I deserve that, and I want other people who have been hurt…if it’s something you didn’t conquer in life, go back and conquer it.”

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The “Adultification” of Black Girls http://www.thevillagecelebration.com/adultification-black-girls/ Fri, 07 Jul 2017 12:28:10 +0000 http://www.thevillagecelebration.com/?p=18113 Georgetown Law’s Center on Poverty and Inequality released a new study revealing a significant bias against Black girls starting as early as age five. Those surveyed in the study viewed Black girls as not as innocent as White. They did not think Black girls needed as much protecting or nurturing. For a look at the […]

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Georgetown Law’s Center on Poverty and Inequality released a new study revealing a significant bias against Black girls starting as early as age five. Those surveyed in the study viewed Black girls as not as innocent as White. They did not think Black girls needed as much protecting or nurturing. For a look at the damage caused by such perceptions, TheVillageCelebration turned to LaKeisha Gray-Sewell, the founder of “Girls Like Me” a Chicago-based organization dedicated to helping urban girls.

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Missouri NAACP Issues Travel Advisory http://www.thevillagecelebration.com/missouri-naacp-issues-travel-advisory/ Fri, 07 Jul 2017 04:35:03 +0000 http://www.thevillagecelebration.com/?p=18141 At the peak of the summer travel season, the Missouri State NAACP is warning African Americans to exercise caution when visiting the Show-Me State. “We hope individuals in the state or visiting or traveling through will be aware of what they’re entering into. In Missouri people of color are stopped 75 percent more often than […]

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At the peak of the summer travel season, the Missouri State NAACP is warning African Americans to exercise caution when visiting the Show-Me State.

“We hope individuals in the state or visiting or traveling through will be aware of what they’re entering into. In Missouri people of color are stopped 75 percent more often than other motorists, and that is based on 16 years of data. It is incredible, and the only other thing is it’s getting worse each year,” says the state’s NAACP President, Rod Chapel.

Chapel cited the data released by the state’s attorney general and anecdotal evidence as compelling reasons for the unusual decision to warn motorists, saying they are “not safe on the roads.” Chapel, who is a lawyer, points to examples of African American motorists being harassed and murdered.

The most recent example involves a young Black man who took a wrong turn on Interstate 55 while driving from his home in Nashville to Memphis. 28-year-old Tory Sanders ended up in the Mississippi County jail in the Missouri Bootheel. Days later, authorities say Sanders “became combative” and fought six officers before he was taken to the hospital where he was pronounced dead.

Chapel says, “Tory ran out of gas outside of Charleston, Missouri. He called his mother who suggested he contact the police for help. Tory was never arrested but ended up in a jail cell where he died. How did that happen? The individual who took the last charge who literally ran into the cell where he was…had no business handling inmates or anyone else.”

That individual was the sheriff in Mississippi County, Cory Hutcheson, whose allegations of criminal wrongdoing already cast doubt on his ability to lead a law enforcement agency. Since then the state Attorney General has removed Hutcherson’s and is promising an investigation into Sanders’ death.

But, during those days in May while Sanders remained in the custody of Hutcheson and his deputies, there were numerous phone calls between Sanders and his mother. Chapel says Sanders’ mother told investigators her son said, ‘They’re trying to kill me in here.’

An autopsy revealed there were no bruises on Sanders’ body, but there were marks from tasers. And, at one point, the sheriff’s department called in a mental health expert to evaluate Sanders, who suffered from depression. The expert reportedly determined that Sanders was fine and should be released. But, Sanders was not released. His family met with authorities and returned to Tennessee to bury their loved one while the cause of death is still undetermined.

Missouri Governor Eric Greitens is also under fire for contributing to a racially biased climate by signing legislation making it more difficult to sue for workplace discrimination. Chappell and a trio of ecumenical clergy met with the Republican governor in hopes of dissuading him by posing an argument based, in part, on one of the tenets shared by most religions. “They said, ‘We have an obligation to look out for the least of these…who are historically disadvantaged and now have lost civil rights protections long fought for,’” recalls Chapel.

Despite the meeting and a rally at the Capitol, Greitens signed the legislation the Friday before the Fourth of July and did so in private. Senate Bill 43 allows lawsuits against employers but not the individuals accused of workplace discrimination, places a cap on damage awards, and applies to discrimination lawsuit involving housing and public accommodations.

Chapel says, “This flies in the face of what we believe to be justice and equality, not only in Missouri, but in the United States.”

The ACLU says Senate Bill 43 will “usher in a new era of ‘acceptable’ racism, sexism and xenophobia in Missouri. This bill makes workplaces potentially more hostile for Missouri’s women, people of color and religious minorities.”

 

Missouri’s Record on Race   

Missouri’s history is a recitation of referendums on race. It was Missouri’s request in 1819 to enter the United States as a slave state that triggered the Missouri Compromise. To maintain the balance of power between the slave and free states, Congress admitted Maine as a free state and Missouri as a slave state. Legislators also passed an amendment establishing a boundary between free and slave regions that were part of the Louisiana Purchase. The effort staved off The Civil War, but tensions continued to escalate between pro-slavery and anti-slavery states.

Decades later in 1857, the Dred Scott case thrust Missouri back into the spotlight. Dred Scott argued that he was a free man because his slave owner had taken him into Illinois, a free state, and Wisconsin which was a free territory. Most of the Supreme Court Justices were from slave states, and the Court ruled that Scott was not a citizen and the Missouri Compromise was unconstitutional. The decision outraged Northerners and further inflamed tensions, setting the stage for the Civil War.

Chapel remembers the stories his family passed down through generations, chronicling their participation in the ongoing struggle for civil rights and social justice. “My family’s been involved with the NAACP since well before Brown v. The Board of Education. They picked cotton on a neighbor’s land to send money to fund the litigation that became Brown v. the Board of Education,” he says. “And, they mailed the money from a different town to avoid attracting attention from the KKK which would have had significant and swift reprisal.”

Ironically, Chapel is leading the NAACP in Missouri at a time when race relations in America are strained and the country is deeply divided along racial lines. As a frontline advocate in a state with Missouri’s history and the nation’s current climate, Chapel admits there are some major challenges.

Marshalling the spirit of advocacy learned from his family’s legacy, he insists, “Informing the public about the attacks is critical. And for people who are concerned, Americans and Missourians who may or may not be people of color but believe in the Golden Rule as a spiritual guidepost or moral underpinning or at least have a fundamental understanding of Constitutional rights, must come together whether it’s the NAACP or a faith-based organization or another civic organization to insist that protections are made or to seek redress when violations occur.”

 

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