When the news broke that an American Army veteran, Everett Palmer, had died while in police custody and that an autopsy revealed that his brain, throat, and heart were missing, I shuddered. Continue reading “The Evil of Organ Trafficking”
Here’s a new name of a young black man who has been victimized by police: Leon Ford.
Yesterday, I wrote that “we the people” need to be aware of what is going on as concerns the plight of young black men in this country, and that we need to step up and fight for justice for these young men who are being criminalized, demonized, and worse.
Yesterday’s post was about three African-American males who, while waiting for a school bus to take them to a basketball scrimmage, were arrested by police officers and charged with disorderly conduct. Their coach who showed up and saw them in handcuffs, defended them to police, but he was told that if he did not be quiet he would be arrested, too. In fact, the coach said, officers threatened to arrest the entire team. (http://rolandmartinreports.com/blog/2013/12/coach-defends-students-arrested-at-bus-stop/).
Today, I listened to a story posted on the site of The Root about a young African-American male who was shot and paralyzed by police officers one year ago in Pittsburgh. It was a routine traffic stop. The young man, Leon Ford, was asked by police officers to produce his driver’s license and registration, which he did. Police were looking for a “young black man wearing a white tee-shirt,” the story said. Leon fit that description …just like any number of black males can fit on any given day. The man they were looking for had done something …but officers didn’t bother to verify if Leon was the man they were looking for; he was a black man who fit their paltry description. The video on the site shows police officers trying to physically pull Leon out of his car. There is another officer on the passenger side. Police said that it looked like there was something bulging from Leon’s waist, and so the officer on the passenger side of the car jumped into the car as the frightened youth sped off. Officers shot the young man five times, resulting in his paralysis. Not only is he severely injured, but is facing charges related to the incident that could land him in prison for 20 years. (http://www.theroot.com/articles/culture/2013/12/shot_by_pittsburgh_cops_leon_ford_tells_his_story.html?wpisrc=newsletter_jcr:content)
I literally wept when I read the story.
I just finished putting together a report for the Samuel Dewitt Proctor Conference, Inc, led by General Secretary Iva Carruthers, on the phenomenon of mass incarceration in this country, something that has resulted in more African-Americans being locked up than we even realize. I have done some work with Ruby Sales, the director of the Spirit House Project, talking with parents of youth who have been terrorized, harassed, jailed and yes, killed by white officers and vigilantes. The problem is not getting better! It is getting worse. With the growth of the Prison Industrial Complex and its need to keep prisons filled, there is little incentive for this type of vigilante injustice to stop. Our young men are being drawn to the slaughter…and it is getting worse!
There are the names we know: Trayvon Martin, Kendrick Johnson, Oscar Grant, and a woman, Renisha McBride and now, Leon Ford…but for every one of them for whom we know their names and stories, there are probably scores of young black people who have been murdered or imprisoned unjustly. The number grows. Young black men are helping to fuel American corporations – from food pantries to phone companies – and because of the demonization of black people which American society has bought into, nobody says anything.
I looked at the faces of the parents of Leon Ford. I met the parents of Kendrick Johnson and remember their faces. I can still see the face of Sybrina Fulton, Trayvon Martin’s mother …and it is heartbreaking. It makes me want to scream, “Dammit! OUR KIDS COUNT!” When shootings occur in white schools, news reports say that counselors are sent in to help students cope, but when shootings occur in black schools or black neighborhoods, we don’t hear of that intervention. Who is helping the parents of these young people to cope? Who is helping young Ford cope with his new reality of not being able to walk?
Justice work is long and hard. People and institutions in power are not easily moved, and yet, we who believe in justice cannot just sit by. It was Kendrick Johnson earlier this year and Leon Ford last year; tomorrow it may be one of our own children.
The danger of being silent when so much injustice is going on cannot be overstated. Politicians can be moved by the power and presence of an energized populace. We elect them, remember? It is time for us to see how we can act and help and bring attention to what is going on. If we are silent, the forces that are bringing such heinous destruction are going to keep on going. The justice system, including juries, are still too eager to buy into the notion that black people are bad and deserve what they get. George Zimmerman was acquitted, remember? And the officers who shot Leon Ford …are still working, on the streets, with pay.
Just last evening, I read a statement by the late Ella Baker, who organized the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee, and who said, as regards the sit-ins that were being conducted by students that the problem was “much bigger than a hamburger and even a giant-sized Coke.” She said that the students were working to “eliminate racial discrimination and segregation not only at lunch counters but in every aspect of life.”
What is clear is that the battle has not yet been won. There has been declared open warfare on black youths …and it must stop. I am afraid that only the constant and persistent attention given to what is going on by people who believe in justice will be the only way the tide will stem. We cannot be silent or unwilling to take this issue on!
To be in touch with organizations that are working on this issue, go to http://sdpconference.info/2013-samuel-dewitt-proctor-conference/ or to http://www.spirithouseproject.org/.
We who believe in freedom and justice …cannot stop.
A candid observation ..
Behold the innocent murdered …
I am involved in the work of SpiritHouse Project, which has been investigating cases of systemic violence against black people for some time now.
The names keep popping up: Trayvon Martin, Kendrick Johnson, Jonathan Ferrell …and now, a 19-year old black woman, Renisha McBride – young, innocent black people who have been gunned down or beaten to death, victims of systemic violence in this nation.
Why does it keep on happening? Why are the innocent continuously slaughtered – either by police or vigilantes – and so few people express outrage?
It is clear that nobody can fight injustice alone. No, there is needed a cadre of people with different skills and gifts and talents, in order to challenge “the system,” to shake it at its core. There is needed people who are in “the struggle” for the long haul, who are willing to do what it takes to make policy makers know that “we the people” are their bosses. “We the people” have power, the power, to change corrupt and/or apathetic governments and lawmakers.
We just don’t realize it.
Part of what made people aware of how despicable lynching was was the refusal of Emmett Till‘s mother, Mamie Tills, to let authorities sweep the issue under the rug. She made people see the face of her battered son, and people began to be moved. Sybrina Fulton, Trayvon Martin’s mother, pushed the system, which did not want to finagle with a trial against George Zimmerman. The parents of Kendrick Johnson, along with supporters, have been sitting outside municipal offices in Valdosta, Georgia, pushing “the system” to listen to them. The United States Justice Department has decided to further investigate Johnson’s death.
In the work I am doing with SpiritHouse, I am talking with mothers and relatives of murdered young people, getting the facts and the stories, wiping away my own tears as I watch tears fall from the eyes of distressed parents. One woman, the mother of a young man slain in Florida, and left to die on the side of the road by law enforcement officers, says her own health has suffered as she pushes against “the system.” She has seizures now …and is sometimes hospitalized …but she will not give up.
What we don’t see ourselves, we distance ourselves from. But these murders, which have never stopped happening, seem to be getting more and more frequent. Is it really the case that a black person had better not knock on the door of a home if he/she needs help if that home happens to be in a white neighborhood? And will the justice system really keep jamming in the faces of “us” the people that certain people just do not matter?
I hope not. I hope there is justice in the case of Jonathan Ferrell, Kendrick Johnson, and now, Renisha McBride. I hope the families with which Ruby Sales and SpiritHouse Project and myself are working will get justice.
It is time. It is so time that America, which fights for human rights everywhere else, fights as hard for human rights right here on the mainland.
Behold the innocent, murdered. And God help us if we don’t push for justice. There but for the grace of God go ourselves, our children, our lives …
A candid observation …
God bless the parents.
God bless the parents of children who have been wronged, misunderstood, who have disappeared…and who have been murdered.
God bless them because they will not give up.
Their quest for justice is Biblical in its tenacity. It is so powerful to watch, but it is a space, a place, that no parent wants.
Their quest for justice is driven by their love for their children, which will not be crushed by injustice and those who feed them paltry stories that they are supposed to take lying down.
It is Biblical.
In the Gospel of Luke, Chapter 18:1, the “parable of the persistent widow,” it reads, “Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up. 2He said: “In a certain town there was a judge who neither feared God nor cared what people thought. 3And there was a widow in that town who kept coming to him with the plea, ‘Grant me justice against my adversary.”
The parents of Kendrick Johnson have been praying and working for justice since their son died. The story of Kendrick squeezing his body into a rolled up wrestling mat just did not make sense. Authorities told them he had died accidentally and the case was closed. The authorities “neither feared God nor what people thought.” People in power are sometimes, perhaps often, like that, and in America, as concerns black people dying, authorities have been able to stonewall those who have sought justice and get away with it for years. “We the people” are really supposed to sit down and shut up and just take what we’re given, and many times, we acquiesce, probably most often because we do not have the financial resources to proceed.
But sometimes, no matter the cost, acquiescence is not an option. Sometimes, a situation screams for someone to fight for justice and truth. Sometimes, a crazy faith has to kick in that “the Lord will make a way” some way…and “we the people,” aka, “the persistent widow,” put ourselves out there and do what we must as we plead,”Grant me justice against my adversary.”
The parents of Kendrick Johnson have been sitting outside the state house in Valdosta, Georgia for months, “bothering” their adversary, the justice system of Lowndes County, for …justice. In a story which appeared on the CNN blog, reporters noted:
For months, the family’s quest for answers went nowhere. It took until May for autopsy results to be issued, and then the sheriff’s office said the investigation had been closed.
The sheriff’s office and school officials resisted the family’s request to obtain school surveillance images and other records, citing state law that exempts the release of “education records of a minor child.”
After months of pursuing official answers and getting nowhere, they began staging daily rallies. (http://www.cnn.com/2013/10/31/justice/georgia-gym-mat-death/)
Even as the Johnson parents seek justice, Sybrina Fulton is still seeking justice in the death of her son, Trayvon Martin. She, too, faced her adversary, a non-sympathetic House panel, asking that something be done about “stand your ground” laws. In what feels like a slap in the face to an outside observer, I can only wonder how Ms. Fulton “held on” as she listened to Sen. Cruz defend “stand your ground,” saying that the law protects black people, too. (http://www.theblaze.com/stories/2013/10/29/ted-cruz-explains-to-trayvon-martins-mother-how-stand-your-ground-laws-help-protect-the-black-community-at-senate-hearing/)
I guess he doesn’t know, or hasn’t heard, about Marissa Alexander. She is the African-American woman who got sentenced to 20 years in prison for “standing her ground” and firing a shot into the air to protect herself. That law did nothing to protect her.
But back to Sybrina Fulton, a mother whose heart must still burst with pain on a daily basis as she mourns the loss of her son, God bless her …God bless her because she will not stop. She is seeking justice.
There are other parents who have fought like gladiators for their children. Consider Beth Holloway, who fought for justice in the disappearance of her daughter, Natalie.
Their stories remind us, as Jesus said, that “we ought to always pray and not give up.” Prayer becomes not an isolated mumbling of words to a deity in these cases; prayer becomes dynamic action, driven by love and fueled by a faith that can only be called crazy.
Yes…I am referring to “crazy faith,” that which I wrote about in my last book, Crazy Faith: Ordinary People; Extraordinary Lives. I am seeing it more and more. “Crazy faith” means we “pray and not give up,” prayer that moves and causes others to move.
That’s what I am seeing in the parents of Kendrick Johnson and Trayvon Martin. I am sure there are others, many others. They are praying and not giving up. They will not faint. The prophet Isaiah wrote, “They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up on wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.”
That is Biblical. That is powerfully Biblical.
A candid observation …