Posts Tagged ‘human rights’

Troy Davis-Why I care pt. 1

All the way up until the announcement that the state of Georgia had indeed killed Troy Davis, I prayed and hoped against hope for a miracle. That miracle being that the United States of America would prove itself to be everything she has ever claimed to be in the name of justice and humanity. I had scanty logical reasons fueling my hope. After all, our Country has paid major lip service to being the home of the free and the brave; yet all too often our actions just don’t measure up. Yet I am human, and with my humanity comes an inherent hope for the good and righteous to prevail.

The following post is merely my first and most base reaction to the tragedy that has befallen us all.

Let me state upfront how impossibly catastrophic it is that a human being lost his life simply doing his job as Mark Allen MacPhail did in 1989. My heart hurts for his wife and children who never got to rush into his arms when he returned home that fateful night.

While we know Troy Davis was the man convicted for taking Officer MacPhail’s life, I don’t purport to know Troy Davis’ full history. Admittedly, from my limited familiarity with this case dating back only three years ago, it may appear his alleged activities and personal choices on that monumental day of August 19, 1989 put him in a place that ultimately may have been the determining factor in his fate. This is all debatable, and really neither here nor there when getting to the heart of the matter.

And where does the heart lie in this matter? Well, all over the place actually.

First, it is in the fact that the most industrialized country in the western hemisphere, a land that proclaims to be a republic for the people by the people; and with the might and money to rule the entire world, citizens are legally murdered at the hands of their own government. It is a practice borne centuries ago for us, one as inhumane as any atrocity we can imagine on distant shores.

As much as we like to pretty up history, conveniently ignoring the deep scars on our historical psyche, the truth is America has reigned supreme in executing the calculated and deliberate murder against its own citizens. In fact it has been given a very strident name, “capitol punishment,” surviving variations of its delivery methods throughout history, the practice that had first been used by law-enforcers as punishment soon became widely used by extremists for revenge and as domestic terror.

There was a time, that children growing up in post Civil War America through our Civil Rights victories in the 1960s had at the least a very valid fear or even greater an intimate understanding of a loved one or neighbor accused of a crime (real or imagined; just or exaggerated) taken from their homes to be found dead later, body swaying from a tree with toes, fingers, genitalia or ears missing. Sometimes a faint wind would blow the stench of burnt flesh that gave away the scene of the crime.

Alleged victims and their families ceremoniously gathered along with those seeking blood for sport and overall disdain for Blacks (those who were overwhelmingly on the other end of the rope) watched the lynching and celebrated.

It’s no secret or great historical find. It is common knowledge. In fact, my shero, Ida B. Wells, dedicated her life to advocating around the globe to bring attention and an end to that particular brand of barbaric insanity heartily adopted here.

But this is where I find myself choking back tears at the insanity. Where I have to put the laptop down and walk into my kitchen to wash a lone dish, or drink a glass of water attempting to drown reality. No matter the strides Ida B. Wells made along with others like Walter White and the NAACP; Leonidas Dyer; and press outlets like the Chicago Defender, the system always finds a way to mock what is right and just…to shake a stick at our presumption of freedom.

Never did I expect that my children would be witness to the same sadistic blood hunt reminiscent of the terror which prompted the second wave of the great migration from the south. Today, sitting “up north,” none of us can escape the ugly embarassment that our moral compass remains stuck in the woods of hate as more than half of these United States still uphold capitol punishment….modern day lynching. It finds a way to add satire to our view of patriotic pride.

Because, after this latest tragic misstep, we must ask ourselves are we really free? Are you truly proud to be an American?

Secondly, the real painful heart wrenching reality is that I have to take a deep breath and despondently answer those questions with a sheepish no. No, I am not free when I walk everyday in the recognition that my husband can be stopped by a police officer for mistaken identity, accused of an unspeakable crime, then taken to prison- and in our current economic station, not afforded a fair and just trial. Same is true for my son at just 13 years of age.

My space as a Black mother provides the inherent understanding that I have to arm my CHILD with tools that will help navigate away from unsolicited contact with the police, lest be wary of wrongful charges and subsequent conviction. That more than likely his expereince with law enforcement will not yeild a favorable interaction. That justice in this country will elude him most of the time.

There is not enough bandwidth to list ALL the names of the wrongfully convicted held captive in the penal systems of this country. An overwhelming majority of them are there simply because of a lack of good counsel and a fair trial. The sadder fact is that so many layers of state law and federal meanderings and policies and damn near any convoluted sentence structure can be used as justification to deny justice.

So what is the point of all this. I don’t know where I’m going. It is hard to see through the tears. Even harder to think through the rage and mourning. Trying to add weight to the emptiness I feel. But make no mistake, what I do know is Troy Anthony Davis was yet another victim of our justified killing system. They lay him down strapped to a gurney, shot toxic chemicals in his body that took away his living breath. In my mind, they may as well have hung him from a tree, sent him to a guillotine, or placed him in a building with suicide bombers. It all paints the same savage picture, and America still has the blood on its hands.

I’ll be posting more thoughts on how a mother explains the unexplainable; the death penalty; acting out activism; and what happens when you don’t know Poli-ish or Poli-Sci.

Stay tuned.

For mow, please continuing fighting in Troy Davis’ name.

Join your local chapter of NAACP

Support independent media like Democracy Now (who has covered this case and others like it extensively for years)

Support Amnesty International Troy Davis Campaign

Learn more about Innocence Project and wrongful convictions

Register AND vote in all elections

And heed Stevie’s words…

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Driving While Black…The unlucky American reality

My family and I have spent this past Sunday being lazy and pretty much recuperating from my stepmother’s birthday celebration. As the day drew itself out and night rushed in, I realized I would not be cooking dinner. With it being All-Star weekend, I suggested my family of four go to Friday’s where we’d be able to eat and finish enjoying the game.

 

Afterwards, we were headed home in good spirits. But all was not that smooth, as I had to give my children their hourly reminder that sibling bickering and name-calling was absolutely inappropriate and against every spiritual law of family.  Deep into the discussion, I noticed a CPD unmarked detective’s car languishing on a side street about 2 miles away from our home.  in our neighborhood (where we CHOOSE to reside, you see a lot of those, yet the crime rate is ridiculously higher. One would presume more cops means less crime, but I digress).

 

At any rate, I instinctively got a small tug of anxiety and tenseness. After all, my husband was driving and for those of you who are unfamiliar with the scenario, something about a Black man driving after dark (well anytime, but surely if it is nightfall) alarms racist cops that this might be their lucky day. And the luck is certainly not on the Black hand side. All that to say, I was only mildly surprised when we were pulled over tonight. I became incensed when the pig comes up and demands ID without initially stating why we were pulled over. Furthermore, it was quite obvious when questioned about why we had been stopped,  he tried to intimidate and made up an obvious lie about a warrant. That is a bold-faced lie, my husband has NEVER been arrested, nor detained nor any criminal activity in his entire life! But on this night, my children became near hysterical as they witnessed their father falsely detained in the back of a police car, a place for criminals.

 

Next time you are out, count the number of drivers who are pulled over for “traffic stops.” Pay attention to the number of drivers asked to step out of their cars for such stops. Of those who are stopped, ask yourself what is the common factor? If that does not paint the picture for you, recall the lives of Latonya Haggerty, Robert Russ, Cornelius Ware, or even Sean Bell, Oscar Grant and the legions of others whose lives have been snuffed out over alleged probable cause.

It doesn’t matter what kind of car. The number of passengers, nor the very obvious fact that a man is driving his wife and children home will make any impression on the “officers.” There is an “us against them” mentality, and often times tax-paying, law-abiding citizens caught up in this game of numbers.

While in college, when my husband and I were home on school breaks, we drove everywhere in his Chevy Monte Carlo….nothing fancy, but def a popular car of the times. It was also a police magnet. I don’t have enough fingers to count the number of times we were pulled over, car seats ripped out, he and his friends searched. Never given a ticket (not like he was actually speeding or violating any traffic laws). Nobody ever hauled off to jail (not too much crime you can get into when everything you do is with family and close friends who all attend college with you). So what conclusion can we come to?

 

I’ve never been one to accept this assumption of power and authority inherent regarding most police forces. I’ve been a victim of police brutality myself too often, most memorable being slapped, arm twisted and handcuffed by an officer who was no less than 6ft tall 230lbs. All this as a 17yr. old who stood 5ft tall weighing 94lbs.  Not to mention the numerous occasions my teenage male friends were stopped and searched by police as we walked to/from the store or ran errands for our families. Some were standing on corners or sitting on our front porch. Only thing that deterred police from harassing them was another group of Black youth had caught their eyes first.

 

My past pushed me to understand my rights for myself and my community. I enrolled in more than 12 hours of criminal justice classes during my college career. I have always been involved in some capacity or another with groups who teach and advocate for social justice.

 

At the same time, I also speak out and work within my community to fight crime, even attending CAPS meetings or covering issues in my work. Nobody, regardless of race/affiliation gets a pass from me for wrongdoing and short-changing my community.

 

So it messes with me on a personal level when “officers of the law”  charged with protecting and serving, contrarily see their role to intimidate, and assume that we are all ignorant to our rights. Interrogating the very communities they should engage and partner with. How many police officers were shot and killed in recent months? Is there not a need  to befriend the community so that we can all keep each other safe?

 

Mayoral election day is here in Chicago, and there is a constant barrage of  campaign commercials where candidates laud their platform for more cops to combat the crime. Primarily I hear this from Rahm and Chico. What will be their directives? More racial profiling? More insensitive and detached detectives to harass Black citizens? More “justified” shootings by police?

Not only does our family live in Englewood, we own property. Our tax dollars pay the salaries for the very same racist cops who treat us as enemies. Crime is a reality everywhere. If it weren’t, police departments would not exist and cops would need a new career choice. At the same time, EVERYONE is not a criminal. If you approach your job with that outlook, the rapport you have with citizens will flourish. Trust will build and someday overshadow the historical justification for “no snitching” codes that are a detriment to our community and hamper closure to criminal cases.

 

Yet, if police keep conducting themselves as a gang and community terrorists, the level of empathy and community will further dissipate so that many will not find a sympathetic bone in their bodies when tragedy trumps honor.

 

That is the reality.

 

So we must ask of Weiss, Daley, Rahm, Chico and those who advocate for more officers: How can police effectively do their jobs serving the communities they work while turning from luck and embracing spiritual laws that always win?

 

Here’s something for Chicagoans to consider as you head out to vote for Mayor…

 

http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/chi-071205cops-htmlstory,0,2906787.htmlstory