Barrington Salmon has been writing professionally in the United States, Ethiopia, the US Virgin Islands and elsewhere for more than 25 years. Barrington has written for publications as varied as Voice of America, BET.com, The Washington Times, Convergence and Diverse Issues in Education, ACUMEN Magazine and the Washington Times. He writes for several newspapers and publications including The Final Call, The Washington Informer, Black Press USA and Trice Edney Newswire. One of the highlights of his writing career was serving as Mayor Marion S. Barry’s speechwriter for about three years. His website is BarringtonSalmonWrites.com and Barrington is on social media, including Twitter and Facebook.
Black women have proven over time to be the most dependable and consistent bloc of voters for the Democratic party, powering candidates to victories in Alabama, Virginia, New Jersey and other states and cities in 2017, the 2018 midterms and 2019.
Ally or Adversary? Democrats, Black folks and The Latest Presidential Debate
Yet, that loyalty has not often been reciprocated, as Black women have been ignored by the Democratic establishment; been sidelined; have had to fight for their voice to be heard; demanded a place at the table; and pushed and prodded reluctant party brass to focus on their myriad issues, needs and concerns.
The Nov. 20 Democratic debate in Atlanta, Georgia, illustrated for a number of Black women interviewed by The Final Call, the tensions and unease that have frayed the alliance.
“Senators (Kamala) Harris and (Cory) Booker elevated issues of concern to Black people,” said Dr. Melanie Campbell, who spoke to a reporter while waiting at Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport for a flight home after watching the debate. “Cory and Kamala carried it the strongest. This is the challenge. The candidates haven’t spoken much about race, racism, voting and not a lot about criminal justice or policing reforms to any degree.” Dr. Campbell, president and CEO of the National Coalition on Black Civic Participation and convener of the Black Women’s Roundtable Public Policy Network, said what she feels is missing is a debate with members of the Black press as moderators.
“The debate forum should focus on criminal justice and social reform issues, voting rights, domestic issues, economic justice, the attacks on Black people and things affecting people in their everyday life,” she explained.
But that hasn’t happened, said activist and organizer Zakiya Sankara-Jabar, because Democrats treat Blacks as pawns and fodder. “There are no real policies and practices showing that Democrats want to deal seriously with African Americans. They blame Black people when they lose and they will not talk about material conditions that people are dealing with,” said Ms. Sankara-Jabar, a resident of Silver Spring, Md., and co-founder of Racial Justice Now! “Every day working class people are hurting. We are not well. The Democratic Party has not done enough to remedy this or the courts dismantling Civil Rights and Affirmative Action,” she argued.
“The Executive Branch has failed us, the Legislative Branch has failed us and we’re about to get our ass kicked by the courts which Trump has been packing. That’s why we have to build our own party.” For Black people, voting and voting for the Democrats is harm reduction, said Ms. Sankara-Jabar.
“It’s a strategy, but it will never get us where we need to be,” she said. “People are suffering, dying, not having their basic needs met. It’s worse now than in the ‘90s economy. When White folks catch a cold, we catch pneumonia. We need to stop bleeding then deal with the underlying trauma.”
Kristal L. High Taylor, a Millennial activist, lawyer, policy advocate and entrepreneur, said there is a tension between Black people and the Democratic Party, an interesting dichotomy, she said, where party officials have never addressed “a full and complete reckoning of the issues.”
“More broadly I would say that the system works if the goal is to keep in power the vested interests who have always controlled the country—wealthy White men,” the Raleigh, North Carolina resident said. “The party mechanism has to change, and a new definition of the party process has to be made clear.”
That means replacing the current system of “retail politics” with one that accommodates people who are diverse, committed, have fresh ideas and a solid work ethic, she said. It is also critically important to reform the campaign finance structure so that people other than the very wealthy or those tied to wealthy donors have a chance to run for office and win.
“Given the demographic shifts and the people who vote for them, you’d think Democrats would focus on this but that’s the ‘challenge,’” Mrs. Taylor said. “There’s a tension between engagement and where you’re seeking strategic counsel. How are Democratic leaders leveraging this bloc?”
They’re not, Ms. Taylor said, because the Democratic establishment continues to cling to the misguided belief that attracting the White working class and Reagan Democrats back to the party is a winning strategy.
“People of color show up but instead of acknowledging this group, Democrats have moved in the opposite direction,” said Ms. Taylor. “In some ways it’s weird but it’s predicated on fear. The idea exists that the only way White people can survive and thrive is by oppressing others. Some level of that has always been engrained in America.”
Tamieka Atkins told The Final Call she didn’t watch the debate because she customarily catches up a day or two later. But she said she’s read all the think pieces and analysis in the debate’s aftermath.
“It’s more an exercise in futility and posturing,” she said of the debates. “There’s some good talk but not good plans. Healthcare is very important to African Americans and a big part of their quality of life but no one’s talking about it in a way to help those listening. Folks are looking for easy comparisons but they’re not getting it.”
The Atlanta resident said she’s completely non-partisan but added, “the Democratic Party doesn’t take us seriously.” Ms. Atkins is executive director of Pro-Georgia, Georgia’s state-based non-partisan voter engagement advocacy organization. She was the founding director of the National Domestic Workers Alliance, Atlanta Chapter.
She is one of a cadre of organizations and individuals in the South who well before 2017 ratcheted up the ground game—crisscrossing the state, knocking on doors in neighborhoods and communities where some Democratic politicians and operatives never thought to go, talking to residents, listening and encouraging them to register and then making sure they made it to the polls.
“We registered 24,000 people in 2019 and 8,000 in 2017,” said Ms. Atkins, a member of the State Voices National Network of Tables. “When I knock on doors as a part of these grassroots programs, people aren’t demoralized. People are definitely engaged. They have a deeper curiosity and make the decision to stay involved. Folks are asking a lot more questions about voting machines, polling stations and other things.”
Ms. Atkins is working on voter mobilization and organizing in Georgia, which is widely acknowledged as the epicenter of voter suppression and voter manipulation by the Republican Party, aided and abetted by Gov. Brian Kemp. As Secretary of State, Mr. Kemp orchestrated voter purges and blatantly used other forms of voter manipulation and intimidation. For example, his office struck more than 1.5 million voters from the rolls between 2012 and 2016.
He was able to do that because Republican legislators, since 2013, doubled down on the opportunity to roll back voting rights for Blacks after the U.S. Supreme Court gutted a key provision of the landmark 1965 Voting Rights Act. This removed Department of Justice oversight of Georgia and its 159 counties and eliminated the need for pre-clearance from the federal government of any changes to the voting apparatus and/ or procedures. Mr. Kemp and state election officials cut back early voting, closed 214 polling stations— the majority in Black districts—and blocked 53,000 voters from casting a ballot in 2018 because of the “exact match” program.
Ms. Atkins said she and members of the Domestic Workers Alliance have been on the frontlines of the fight to secure affordable health care for Georgia residents who qualify. She said Georgians have two options, private healthcare insurance and Medicaid waivers that are offered to one-third of the residents who quality. Georgia is one of 14 states where state officials refuse to expand Medicaid.
“They took the power to expand Medicaid from the governor and gave it to the Legislature and now two-thirds of the legislature would have to vote for expansion for it to be implemented,” she said. “Who gives away power? We were pissed because we (the Domestic Workers Alliance) had been working on this for three years.”
Dr. Monique Gamble said she appreciated Sens. Harris and Booker picking up the slack and articulating the issues of concerns that resonate with Black people. She singled out Julian Castro for also centering his campaign on race and racial issues, saying what few of his colleagues have uttered or articulated.
Mr. Castro, former Housing and Urban Development Secretary in the Obama administration and former mayor of San Antonio, Texas did not qualify for the recent debate. “The Democratic Party is supposed to be the big tent but there are unique challenges,” said Dr. Gamble, visiting assistant professor of political science at the University of the District of Columbia. “We need challenges, but this is a blessing and a curse. Being a big tent is a good thing but if you have tough issues you’re wrestling with, that makes it more difficult,” she said.
“There’s nobility in embracing a diverse group of people and it is respectable, but it also could inspire cowardice. Diverse groups have diverse issues and it takes courage to face and deal with them.”
Dr. Gamble also faulted the Democratic Party for reaching backwards for Reagan Democrats and wished aloud that more Democrats would take former Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams’ political tack and adjust to the current political climate where Republicans are doing whatever they need to stay in power, while Democrats call for politeness, civility and unity.
“Hundreds of thousands of people who could use the attention are ignored,” said the Alabama native. “They have a preoccupation with the White working class which is illustrative of where the Democrats’ policies and interests are and what they’re focused on. Black and Brown people are most consistent— no one wants part-time love.”
Dr. Gamble said the centrist-progressive split is real and used her father as an example. He’s a centrist who voted for Reagan and George Bush. He’s a military veteran who is uncomfortable with the progressive agenda.
“I’m not where he is but I’m not as far left as Sen. Elizabeth Warren,” she said. “My healthcare position is Medicare for All while centrists prefer Obamacare. The overhaul of American institutions is scary for some people. For older Millennials and Gen Xers, life is harder. The problems we are inheriting are deep and big. Incremental bites is not enough.”
The interviewees agreed that Mr. Trump has ushered in an era of open racial hostility and aggression, has emboldened White nationalists and other hardline White people, embarked on dismantling the administrative state as he promised during his campaign and has opened a Pandora’s box of racial animus, hatred and White privilege that will continue to haunt this country long after he’s done.
Dr. Campbell said the Democratic Party must focus on diversity and inclusion, invest in the organizations and leadership and continue to hire Black staffers who are self-assured in their Blackness and their expertise. Ms. Taylor and Ms. Atkins spoke of the need to learn the lessons from the past and put a laser focus on local and municipal elections.
Ms. Atkins said she and her colleagues are paying close attention to voting, the 2020 census, the legalization of marijuana and the reduction in the incarceration rate.
“We’ve learned how quickly things can change after eight years,” Ms. Atkins said. “We’re living it. It should be a lesson to us. There are structures that allow White supremacy to flourish at the federal level. We have to challenge local positions of leadership where White men are over-represented.
“White political operatives came to us, but they have their own agenda. We’re just doing our own thing. We started the Women of Color Initiative and have been touring and having listening sessions. At the end of the day, we’ll develop our own agenda, develop our shared collective vision,” she said.
Dr. Gamble said she has concerns about the threat of the toxic racial environment on Black people. She doesn’t believe that Joe Biden is the answer and is fearful about the upcoming election because she’s not fully convinced someone won’t manipulate the electoral system again.
“Nothing has stopped since 2016,” she said. “We could have a viable candidate and someone could throw a bomb like (former FBI Director) James Comey did just before the 2016 election.” Mrs. Sankara- Jabar said she supported Sen. Bernie Sanders in 2016 and supports him now even though some parts of his platform and agenda does not completely align with hers. She fears that the Democratic Party might do in 2020 what it did 2016 and sabotage Sen. Sanders so he doesn’t get the party nomination.
“It’s complete bulls*** to say he’s too far left. This is really about neoliberalism,” she said. “People don’t want a … neoliberal. If Democrats chose this, they will continue to lose.”
Meanwhile, she said Africans in America need to build their own party.
“We need to strategically work together. I believe in theory and practice that we have to build Black independence and self-determination but still interact with our allies,” she said. “We don’t have a choice. I’m a supporter of reparations because we’ve never been made whole. We have to have a ‘two-ends’ strategy of building in the midst of White extremist terror as African Americans did during Reconstruction.
“Ultimately, my politics is about liberation. And we can learn from the past because we have the blueprint from which to learn.”
Money, Power, Respect and Major High Court Case
By Barrington M. Salmon -Contributing Writer
A $20 billion lawsuit is headed to the Supreme Court and a loss could mean erosion or loss of major civil rights tool
WASHINGTON—Entertainment mogul Byron Allen said the genesis of a $20 billion lawsuit he filed against Comcast Corp. came from a conversation and a question posed to him by Obama administration officials.
Disgusted with the racism—veiled and otherwise—and tired of the institutional barriers put in place to economically stifle Blacks in the business sphere, he said he decided to file a lawsuit against cable giant Comcast and Charter Communications.
That was in 2015. After a bruising four-year battle in the lower courts in which the Ninth Circuit court ruled twice in his favor, on Nov. 13 the case is slated to be heard in front of the justices in the U.S. Supreme Court.
“The Obama administration came to me and said some media companies wanted to get bigger, buy bigger assets,” Mr. Allen recently told the crew at The Breakfast Club, a hip hop-oriented radio and internet broadcast. “(They) said Comcast wanted to buy this and Charter wanted to buy that blah, blah, blah. They asked if they were good corporate citizens. I asked if they wanted the Hollywood answer or the real answer. They said they wanted the real answer so I told them, ‘Not no, but hell no,’ they’re not good citizens.”
“They said how do you figure? The industry spends $70 billion in licensing cable networks. Seventy billion dollars and African American-owned media get zero. And that’s not fair. They said we hear that a lot. They asked what I’m willing to do. They said people were afraid to speak up because of repercussions and I said I’ll speak up and do it in a way that it wouldn’t be a problem again. So I filed a lawsuit.”
Mr. Allen, who owns media assets he says total $1 billion, filed a federal lawsuit against Comcast and filed a $10 million lawsuit against Charter. The suit, filed in California, contends that Comcast racially discriminated against him when it refused to carry his cable-TV channels on its systems. He is also challenging the fact that Comcast spends $25 billion a year on licensing channels but less than $3 million of that pot is spent on “100 percent African American-owned media.”
While Mr. Allen hopes to win his case, there is growing speculation that a win could change the way discrimination is handled.
The lawsuit is causing increasing concern among civil rights organizations who worry that if Comcast wins, the Trump administration may take the opportunity to weaken or gut a key provision of discrimination protections in labor and contracts for Blacks, while erasing a 153-year-old post-Civil War civil rights bill that ensured “that all people in the United States—(specifically Blacks)—h(ad) the same rights to make and enforce contracts enjoyed by white citizens.”
Kelly Charles-Collins, a Tampa-based lawyer, said the case has enormous implications.
“With the way that our courts are set up, they’re not the biggest supporters of civil rights, although there are laws intended to protect,” said Atty. Charles-Collins, an American employment law attorney, award-winning TEDx speaker and CEO of HR Legally Speaking, a human resources consulting firm. “The NAACP now understands the importance of this case. It’s not just about his getting his stations on Comcast.”
“This is a really huge issue that people don’t see the nuance in. The bigger issue is being able to contract. The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King talked about economic inclusion. This is what this case is about: the ability for us to be included in the economic success of this country.”
Mrs. Charles-Collins said what’s at issue is that Mr. Allen is arguing that race was a factor and insists he can prove it. “With ‘but for,’ the difference is whether race is a factor versus whether it was the factor … but how do you prove that? Very rarely do you have direct evidence of racism. Someone can argue that their decisions are or were race-neutral and under current law is very nearly impossible to prove.
“And now the Department of Justice is involved and looking for ways to erode sections of the Section 1981,” she explained.
The Trump administration through the Justice Dept. signed on as a friend of the court, siding with Comcast. Critics say the feds apparently plan to focus on Section 1981 of the 1866 Civil Rights law in an effort to erode the law. The Trump administration position is in keeping with the government’s hostility to Black people, employee protections and its business-friendly pronouncements and policies, say critics.
Cori Harvey, a Florida-based attorney who specializes in business law, economics and entrepreneurship, said the case could be consequential.
“This could represent a significant lowering of the barrier to justice,” she explained.
“It’s a fundamental question of who has access to legal recourse. The defendant has information needed such as if anything happened in emails, correspondence, etc. The plaintiff is in the dark. There’s power in darkness in shielding the defendant.”
Mr. Allen will “be able to get access to emails … this forces them to deliver into the public sphere information previously hidden,” said the attorney.
“The Ninth Circuit gave Mr. Allen a shot. It forces Comcast to open secret chambers. That doesn’t happen too often. This leaves Comcast exposed and vulnerable.”
Mr. Allen’s lawyer, Louis R. “Skip” Miller, managing partner of Los Angeles law firm Miller Barondess LLP, said he hadn’t expected the case to reach to the Supreme Court.
“We won in the 9th Circuit District Court and I thought it was the end of it because the U.S. Supreme Court takes just a few cases,” said Mr. Miller, one of Los Angeles’ top litigators. “So I wasn’t really expecting this case to be considered but this case is really important.”
Mr. Miller, who has been practicing law for 45 years, said that right after the Civil War, Section 1981 prohibited racial discrimination in contracts to allow freed slaves to move towards economic self-sufficiency.
“It was upheld over the years and construed broadly,” he said. “In our case we say race has to be a motivating factor not one factor. They could say they don’t have the bandwidth and not wanting to add channels. Non-racial, racial, it doesn’t make sense. Racial discrimination is bad. It’s pretty clear that you can’t discriminate.”
When asked, he said he wouldn’t be arguing the case before the Supreme Court. The person Mr. Allen has hired for that task, he said, is Erwin Chemerinsky, who became the 13th dean of Berkeley School of Law in 2017.
“He’s an expert trial lawyer,” said Mr. Miller of Mr. Chemerinsky, who is the founding dean of the University of California Irvine’s Donald Bren School of Law and served from 2008 to 2017. He has argued a number of cases before the Supreme Court.
Mr. Allen has offered scathing criticism of Comcast’s position and tactics. Their behavior has been racist and deeply disrespectful despite his being able to amass eight cable networks, 43 syndicated TV series, The Weather Channel, a movie studio and a movie distribution company, according to Mr. Allen.
He has also inked deals with Dish Network, DirecTV, Verizon FiOS and AT&T/U-Verse.
He accused Comcast of repeatedly lowballing him in negotiations and disrespecting him because of his race. Examples? He said an employee told him a Comcast executive said they didn’t intend to create another Bob Johnson, referring to the billionaire founder of Black Entertainment Television. Another allegedly told his governmental affairs person that Comcast doesn’t negotiate with terrorists.
“They treat us like we’re like a bunch of monkeys looking for a banana. They told me drop the case and we might meet with you, might work for you. That’s racist,” he said on The Breakfast Club. “First of all, we won twice and I didn’t bring it to the Supreme Court. They should do it the same way as they do with all White people … I asked them to sit with me and they said no.”
“Have respect sit down with me, work it out and it goes away. Don’t jeopardize 100 million minorities for this,” he said.
A host of civil rights organizations agree with the case’s importance. The NAACP, the National Urban League, Color of Change, and the National Action Network are among those who have filed briefs in support of Mr. Allen’s lawsuit. The NAACP Legal Defense Fund filed a separate brief that included 10 other organizations, including the ACLU, the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, and the National Women’s Law Center. Senators Kamala Harris, Cory Booker, Richard Blumenthal and Ron Widen signed friendly briefs but only eight members of the Congressional Black Caucus did the same.
Kristen Clarke, president and executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, said on Twitter, “Section 1981 of the Civil Rights Act of 1866 is literally one of the nation’s oldest civil rights statutes. We are proud to stand with @NAACP @NAACP _ LDF & @civilrightsorg in calling on the #SCOTUS to reject Comcast’s attempt to cut the heart of this historic law. @LawyersComm.”
The Lawyers’ Committee brief represents 22 organizations, including the Asian Americans Advancing Justice, the Center for Constitutional Rights, the National Council of Jewish Women, and the National Organization for Women Foundation.
She described the case elsewhere as “the most important civil rights case to be heard by the Supreme Court in term. A negative ruling stands to all but shut the courthouse door on a vast number of victims of discrimination all across the country.”
The NAACP, Color of Change and other civil rights groups have called for a boycott of Comcast because the media giant seeks to change a seminal civil rights law.
In a fundraising letter, Color of Change said, “Comcast and its executives are seeking to roll back landmark civil rights protections for Black people, while also seeking to profit from our pain and the history of struggle … we cannot allow a corporation to set a dangerous precedent with our rights, while also profiting from the painful past that led to the passing of the very civil rights act it is challenging.”
Comcast officials have dismissed Mr. Allen’s claims set forth in his lawsuit.
Comcast said race had nothing to do with rejecting Mr. Allen’s channels, noting that they had low ratings. In response to an earlier NAACP statement, Comcast spokesperson Sena Fitzmaurice said in an email to a Philadelphia Inquirer reporter: “This case arises from a frivolous discrimination claim that cannot detract from Comcast’s strong civil rights and diversity record or our outstanding record of supporting and fostering diverse programming from African American-owned channels.”
“We have been forced to appeal this decision to defend against a meritless $20 billion claim, but have kept our argument narrowly focused. We are not seeking to roll back the civil rights laws—all we are asking is that the court apply Section 1981 in our case the same way it has been interpreted for decades across the country.”
“Given the makeup of the Supreme Court and what the DOJ (Justice Dept.) presents, there may be an opportunity to set forth certain standards in the law,” said Los Angeles attorney Dawn Collins, co-founder of CollinsKim LLP and a specialist in employment law.
“But it may be a opportunity to establish higher standards and burden of proof. The standard from 1866 could change and make it harder to get a trial. That’s the scary part,” she said. “This could have a lasting impact on legal standard and making it more difficult for the plaintiff, making it a lot harder to open the door, get through the door.”
Mr. Allen said he didn’t ask for his case to be considered by the Supreme Court, but asserts he will not withdraw his lawsuit and remains confident that he will prevail.
“Unfortunately, Comcast has chosen to use the U.S. Supreme Court to maximize its own profits. If Comcast thinks that we are wrong, it should go to trial and make its case. It should not challenge and put at risk all minorities’ ability to prove discrimination under the Civil Rights Act that has been in place for 153 years,” Allen said in a guest column in Deadline in August this year. “Meanwhile, I hope that people of conscience will let the U.S. Supreme Court, Donald Trump’s DOJ, and Comcast know, enough is enough.”
“Four hundred years after the start of slavery in America, every day, America kills African Americans in the classroom by making sure we don’t get a proper education; in the boardroom by making sure we don’t have true economic inclusion; and in the courtroom with Jim Crow laws and massive incarceration, long before you watch us bleed to death in the streets. I hope that America takes this historic opportunity to make sure that we have equal rights for all and don’t allow Comcast—headed by CEO Brian Roberts—to manipulate civil rights laws in partnership with the Donald Trump administration, which will hurt millions of Americans, for Comcast’s own financial gain.”
Justice for Rodney Reed!: Family, supporters press Texas governor for new trial for man on death row
By Barrington M. Salmon -Contributing Writer- | Last updated: Nov 14, 2019 – 10:18:58 AM
A crowd some of Rodney Reed’s family members estimated was about 1,000 people, recently gathered at the Governor’s Mansion in Austin, Texas demanding that Gov. Greg Abbott act to halt the execution of Mr. Reed in a controversial murder case.
In the past several months, there has been a groundswell of support for Mr. Reed, 51, who has been on death row for 20 years. In 1996, he was charged with and convicted of the rape and murder of 19-year-old Stacey Stites by an all-White jury.
Rodney Reed and his family have always maintained his innocence and his brother and family spokesman Roderick Reed said the family wants a stay of execution and a new trial.
Rodney Reed is scheduled for execution Nov. 20.
“All we want is a fair trial. That’s all we’re asking for,” Mr. Reed told The Final Call. “We want to be able to present witnesses and new evidence and clear his name … I believed he would have gotten off when he was on trial because we knew the truth. He and the rest of us as a family have always stood in that truth.”
Roderick Reed said he knew his brother and Ms. Stites had been in a relationship and had met Ms. Stites but because of the racial climate and the potential for backlash and retaliation, the couple had kept their relationship secret. Ms. Stites, at the time, was engaged to a police officer, Jimmy Fennell, who many believed was her killer.
The uncovering of new evidence, recent affidavits from witnesses that point to Mr. Fennell’s involvement in Ms. Stites’ death and enduring questions about details of the victim’s death necessitates a new trial, Mr. Reed’s supporters say.
Roderick Reed and his wife Wana Akpan recounted the isolation the family endured. The family approached local churches and civil rights organizations for help but was rebuffed, he said.
“The family had been turned down repeatedly by local clergy. The Nation of Islam was the only one present,” said Student Min. Robert L. Muhammad, who has been supporting the Reed family for about 17 years. “The family has been disappointed and dismayed but recently, we have seen a great outpouring of support recently that is very encouraging.”
Ms. Akpan concurred.
“We were shunned by their people, shunned by Black press,” she recalled. “When the family first went out to Black churches, one pastor said, ‘I wouldn’t touch this with a 10-foot pole.’ ”
Both spoke of the Reed brothers—Robert, Ronald, Richard, Roderick, Ryan—being denied jobs because of their last names, and some older family members staying away from the family home for fear of being shot, ostracized or punished for their family ties.
Bastrop, Texas is 33 miles from Austin, the state capital and 85 miles from San Antonio. In 2017, the town had 8,802 residents. Min. Muhammad, Mr. Reed and Ms. Akpan described a small Southern town steeped in racism, with the typical American racial hierarchy of Whites on top, Latinos in the middle and Blacks languishing at the bottom.
“Bastrop is racist but it’s lot different and deeper now,” Ms. Akpan said. “You don’t realize how deep it is because it’s almost second nature. It’s so deeply engrained in people. But it’s not like how it used to be. We have Confederate monuments on the courthouse lawn. Things may be getting better but there is always a sense of looming White supremacy and the racial hierarchy.”
Min. Muhammad, who heads Muhammad Mosque No. 64 in Austin, agreed.
“Bastrop has a history of racism that existed there from the early 1900s to the ’70s and ’80s,” said Minister Muhammad, who was born and raised in nearby Austin, which is a considerably more liberal city.
Mr. Reed said he knew his brother was dating Ms. Stites although that wasn’t common knowledge. His brother, his sister-in-law said, got caught up in the narrative of a Black guy was in relationship with White woman in a Southern town.
Staff at The Innocence Project, which is handling Mr. Reed’s case, and the Reed family have raised a number of troubling questions and highlighted a series of discrepancies which they say all add up to Mr. Reed being an innocent man railroaded by the criminal justice system. It includes discrepancies about the time of Ms. Stites’ death as well as, the fact that the murder weapon, a belt, has never been tested for DNA evidence; and the state’s three forensic experts’ admission on the record to errors in their testimony, which led to Rodney Reed’s conviction and death sentence. They have submitted affidavits that the original time of death is inaccurate, charging the timeline for Mr. Reed killing Stites implausible.
Further, renown forensic pathologists including Dr. Michael Baden, Dr. Werner Spitz, Dr. LeRoy Riddick, M.D., and Dr. Cyril Wecht, have all concluded that Rodney Reed’s guilt is medically and scientifically impossible; Mr. Reed and Ms. Stites were having a consensual sexual relationship although at the time of the trial, no one came forward to corroborate their relationship. Today, new witnesses including Stites’s cousin and a co-worker, Alicia Slater, have corroborated Rodney Reed’s claim that they knew that Reed and Stites were romantically involved for months after the murder, and Jimmy Fennell was the prime suspect in the case. Mr. Fennell’s best friend at the time of the crime, Bastrop Sheriff’s Officer Curtis Davis, has now revealed that Mr. Fennell gave an inconsistent account of where he was on the night of the murder.
Two witnesses have come forward in recent weeks and submitted signed affidavits that add to the mounting evidence against Mr. Fennell. These affidavits include testimony from an insurance salesperson who stated that Mr. Fennell threatened to kill Ms. Stites while applying for life insurance. The second witness was a deputy in the Lee County Sheriff’s Office at the time of the murder, who alleges Mr. Fennell made an alarming and incriminating statement at Ms. Stites’s funeral regarding her body. Then there is an alleged a confession by Mr. Fennell that came to light Oct. 29. Mr. Fennell served 10 years and was released from prison in 2018 after being convicted of assaulting a woman who was in his custody as a police officer. Arthur Snow, a former member of the Aryan Brotherhood and prison mate of Mr. Fennell, disclosed a conversation in which Mr. Fennell allegedly confessed to murdering Stacey Stites stating, “I had to kill my nigg**-loving fiancée.”
The prosecution’s only forensic evidence linking Rodney Reed to the crime was semen taken from Ms. Stites’s body, which was attributed to the consensual relationship between them. The prosecution used this to connect him to the murder and refute a consensual romantic relationship, but some testimony has been recanted and discredits the state’s case, The Innocence Project said.
“We identify as death penalty abolitionists,” Ms. Akpan said. “Gov. (Greg) Abbott has been silent. He’s aware of Rodney’s case but has not made any statement, said nothing about it. He may be waiting for the (state) Supreme Court to act.”
Ms. Akpan said there are many holes in this case and substantial doubt.
“We want the state to give Rodney’s life back, show that he’s innocent,” she said. “The family wants them to stop the execution ASAP. Abbott can issue a stay and he has the power to direct this towards a new case.”
Rodney’s case has caught the attention of celebrities such as Oprah Winfrey, Kim Kardashian—who Ms. Akpan said has called, kept in touch and who is working behind the scenes along with rapper Meek Mill. Prison abolitionists, anti-death penalty advocates, ministers, priests and pastors have joined to lift their voices calling for Gov. Abbott to issue a stay of execution and order a new trial. Journalist and social justice activist Shaun King started a petition that had garnered more than 2 million signatures.
Then on Oct. 10-11, Dr. Phil McGraw explored the case on his television show to consider Mr. Reed’s claims of innocence.
“I don’t think it’s a question of whether he’s guilty or not guilty,” said Dr. Phil, who had an in-person interview with Mr. Reed, according to the Death Penalty Information Centre. “I think the question is, has he had a fair trial with a full airing of all of the evidence. And I think the answer to that question, in my opinion, is not just ‘no’ but ‘hell no.’ ”
The Innocence Project and Rodney Reed are seeking DNA testing of evidence that they say will exonerate him.
Ms. Akpan described the conditions under which her brother-in-law has lived for the past two decades.
“He’s incredibly strong. God has allowed me to see and witness true strength,” she said. “I went to visit him. He was upbeat. He is in a 6-foot square foot cell 23 hours a day, 7 days a week. He’s a big man in small space. He has pretty severe sensory deprivation. He’s not allowed to hug his mother, family or friends since all this time. But despite all that he’s pretty positive.”
She said Mr. Reed has no access to a computer, cell phone, or technology. He has supporters who reach out to him and that happens through his partner Judy Ann, who shares every day comments from his supporters and updates.
“He has family visits two hours a week. There’s a lot to get out because he’s trying to get everything out,” she said. “It can be a little tense sometimes. Rodney remains very strong and is being cautiously optimistic.”
Roderick Reed said his brother’s incarceration has been “a game-changer, life changing.”
“Dealing with this for this amount of time is a life changer. It has changed our lives. We’ll never be the same,” he said. “But every day knowing the truth and that Rodney’s innocent and this experience has brought me to a whole other place in my mind.”
Now, Roderick Reed said, he’s focused, looking forward to the day when his brother comes home.
“I’m very optimistic. He will be exonerated. We will have time to heal,” he concluded.
Race, Class and Privilege and the NFL’s Unresolved Issues by Barrington M. Salmon
Last updated: Sep 9, 2019
“I’m not going to stand to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses Black People and People of Color. To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish for me to look the other way.” —Colin Kaepernick
Perhaps it was inevitable that the National Football League would not be immune to the raw, angry clashes around race that have exploded into super bursts of toxic energy around the country particularly since wannabe cop George Zimmerman shot and killed Trayvon Martin in Florida in 2012.
Sports, we’re told, is the great equalizer. On the field, they intone, race doesn’t matter, only athletic prowess, hard work and the devotion to winning. But this truism is as false as a $3 dollar bill, as illustrated by the NFL’s reaction to Colin Kaepernick’s fateful decision to kneel before a preseason game in August 2016. His gesture demonstrated his opposition to the second class treatment of Black people, racial injustice and condemnation of a society which condones police brutality and the extra-judicial murders of Black men, women and children.
Since then, the former San Francisco quarterback has been banished by owners of the NFL’s 32 teams, ostracized by some fellow players and shunned because of a principled stance against the laundry list of racial- and racist-inspired challenges that confront Blacks in America. He has also won the admiration of many, inspired a movement, was offered a Nike deal, continued his activism and forced the league to settle and pay him as part of a labor dispute. He still doesn’t have a job in the NFL.
Despite NFL team owners antagonizing, threatening and bullying players who knelt in solidarity, spoke out or displayed other forms of civil disobedience—and President Donald Trump jumping in to disparage and insult the Black players and changing the narrative of the real reasons for the protests—the issue hasn’t gone away.
Color of Change is just one of a number of social justice organizations that have supported Mr. Kaepernick since he began his protest. Executive Director Rashad Robinson said Mr. Kaepernick has played a vital role in pushing forward the struggle for racial equality, fairness and justice.
“Colin Kaepernick and Black Lives Matter activists have opened up the movement and engaged to change written and unwritten rules,” he told The Final Call in a recent interview. “We’ve been really engaged. We’ve done work to push corporations to respond and support Kaepernick and Eric Reid. We’ve gotten members of Color of Change to give visible support. We’ve fought back in the media on behalf of Kaepernick and other players and offered other support with op-eds.”
“We feel that we have to leverage these movements for system change. That’s our goal.”
There have been noticeable impacts on the NFL because of the player protest movement. The subsequent public boycott of the NFL by those supporting Mr. Kaepernick—who last played for the San Francisco 49ers—has hurt revenue, reduced viewership and tarnished the brand.
Fans who support Mr. Kaepernick have refused to watch games, attendance has fallen and big money entertainers refused to be a part of the NFL’s signature Super Bowl 2019 halftime show as the league refused to allow Mr. Kaepernick—who despite his age is still considered an elite quarterback—to vie for and take his place on a team.
At its start in the first year, more than 200 football players joined Mr. Kaepernick in kneeling or engaging in other forms of silent protest. But over time, the numbers have dwindled, with players like Carolina Panthers safety Eric Reid and now-Houston Texans wide receiver Kenny Stills being the most outspoken supporters of Mr. Kaepernick and articulators of the protestors’ positions.
Mr. Robinson and other social justice warriors understand and acknowledge how formidable an adversary the NFL is. It’s a $75 billion behemoth promoting the most popular sport in America and the 32 owners wield considerable power. But as several interviewees noted, the players don’t realize the strength they have because the NFL would not and could not function without their participation.
Bahamas Facing Long Road to Recovery but Cleaving to Hope Amidst Devastation (September 10, 2019)
(Trice Edney Wire) – Chris Laville remembers looking out of the window of his apartment, thinking it might not turn out too bad.
“It was early in the morning. It had rained and there was a light breeze,” Laville recalled in an interview with the Trice Edney News Wire. “I woke saying we could ride this out not knowing what a Category 5 storm was.”
Over the next day and a half, Laville, his wife and nine co-workers learned much more about Dorian than he ever wants to again. Elbow Key, where they lived, bore the brunt of Hurricane Dorian, the strongest storm ever to hit the Caribbean archipelago of 700 islands.
Laville, the 40-year-old head chef of the Sea Spray Resort, now says if he ever again hears a hurricane’s coming, he’ll be on the first flight out. Dorian made landfall and then sat for almost two days, lashing the islands with 185 mile an hour winds and gusts of up to 220 miles an hour.
He said he’s never been more afraid in his life and has been left deeply traumatized.
“… I met everybody running as the storm took off the roof,” he said. “I grabbed some things as the roof flew off my room. I looked and saw the veranda was gone, the stairs were gone and the railing took off. The only thing I could do was jump.”
Laville said he caught his wife Indira who jumped out of the building and waited for the rest of the group to do the same. As they sought shelter, they were buffeted by fierce winds and driving rain and sand.
Elsewhere on Abaco and Grand Bahama islands, Dorian – which traveled at a glacial pace of one mile per hour – tore through buildings, shredded objects in its path, tossed boats and other marine vessels onto land, obliterated homes and businesses and killed residents.
Laville said 40 units on the resort are gone and he lost a co-worker and a friend who was a ferry boat pilot. Elsewhere, Bahamians are trying to comprehend obliterated communities, washed out roads and neighborhoods sitting under water.
Dr. Paul Hunt, a pediatrician and allergy specialist, who has lived in the Bahamas since 1990, said he’s heartbroken. He’s fortunate, he said, because he and his family were in Nassau when the storm hit and his home is not damaged. His thoughts, he said, are on those who’re coping with loss and struggling to come to terms with the shocking devastation.
“I’m just numb. The gut-wrenching thing is my patients. I have a patient who I looked after since he was two and I just heard that a storm surge swept away him and two of his children,” said Dr. Hunt, a husband and father of three. “He’s lost and presumed dead. Save for the surge, this wouldn’t have been a big thing. The surge doesn’t happen over time, it can occur in two or three minutes.”
Dr. Hunt said on Friday morning, he spoke to a niece who works at CNN who told him the government just sent 200 body bags to Abaco.
Official reports indicate that 43 people have been confirmed dead but that number is expected to rise astronomically as rescue teams finally reach islands and communities that have been cut off by flood waters. At least 70,000 are homeless, according to reports.
The hurricane dropped 30 inches of rain and triggered a storm surge as high as 23 feet, leaving more than 13,000 homes damaged or destroyed, the Red Cross and government officials said. A video, which was shared widely, taken by a member of Parliament inside his home, shows dark water lapping against a second-story window 15-20 feet off the ground.
Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis said in a press conference that although the storm targeted only a small section of the Bahamas, it still inflicted “generational devastation.”
According CNN, Joy Jibrilu, director-general of the Bahamas Tourism and Aviation ministry, estimates that “… hundreds, up to thousands, of people are still missing.” Bahamas’ Health Minister Dr. Duane Sands told Guardian Radio 96.9 FM, that body bags, additional morticians and refrigerated coolers to store bodies are being transported to Abaco and other affected areas. Four morticians in Abaco are embalming remains because officials have run out of coolers, he added.
“The public needs to prepare for unimaginable information about the death toll and the human suffering,” Sands said. “Make no bones about it, the numbers will be far higher. It is going to be significantly higher than that. And it’s just a matter of retrieving those bodies, making sure we understand how they died. It seems like we are splitting hairs, but not everyone who died, died in the storm.”
Back at Elbow Key, Chris Laville said the group took refuge in a laundry room after breaking a window to get in. While gaining entrance, he gashed his hand but ignored it as everyone tumbled inside. It wasn’t long before the floor above them began to fall into the storeroom so they all set off to find another safe space.
“I ran to the boss’s house and saw a boat parked in the room where he was,” Laville said.
His boss joined the group which went to another house.
“We bent down low and reached the house, by the grace of God,” said Laville. “Amazingly, the door opened with a gentle kick. As soon as we got in, the wind slammed the door behind us.”
Laville said this particular house was on stilts.
“Actually the building moved four or five inches,” he said, referring to the wind’s power. “When the eye passed over, I went to look for food and snacks because we ran out of food and water. We slept with our clothes and shoes on because we were afraid that something else might happen while we slept.”
Although he didn’t think of the wound to his hand, or his having stepped on a nail, Laville said his wife was concerned enough to encourage him to go to the Hopetown Fire Station. Surprisingly he said, he received 12 stitches and was put on an emergency flight to Nassau to receive additional medical care.
“It was a minor cut, but they opened it up and stitched the tendons,” he said. “My wife couldn’t come with me. She just said, “Honey, just go.’ I’m still worried about her because she’s there with people but still by herself. She was at the ferry station ‘til 4:45 p.m. and didn’t get on. I’m not feeling good, it’s not a good feeling at all.”
After Dorian’s arrival, Kevin Seymour said, he spent the worst 48 hours of his life.
“My second daughter Keayshawn lives in Abaco. We lost track of her for two days. They got flooded out and had to find refuge somewhere else,” said, Seymour, director of health, safety and the environment for the Grand Bahama Power Company. “Not knowing – that was painful. It was the worst two days of my life. I last spoke to her on Sunday and told her she needed to go to Marsh Harbor which is higher ground. Good thing she didn’t go.”
As he and his family rode out the storm with no electricity but with adequate food and water, Seymour said the hurricane sounded like airplane engines revving on the tarmac. While the sound didn’t bother him, he said it really bothered his wife.
Corinne Laville, Chris’ aunt, said she’s most concerned about the trauma people have experienced and how that will affect them going forward. This hurricane offers yet another opportunity for the government and Bahamians to self-correct, she said.
“I swear, if we don’t change our thinking … this is an opportunity to really do this right,” said Laville. “In Freeport people are taking care of one another. But in Abaco, Haitians have replaced White Abaconians as cheap labor while they stay on their yachts. We have to look at Haitian-Bahamian situation.”
Laville said a few thousand Haitians live in two shanty towns, one called the Mudd, where the structures aren’t built to code and likely were not able to withstand the powerful hurricane.
“We need to set standards on the islands,” she said. “And everything is too Nassau-centricity. That has to stop.”
She said humor has been one way for Bahamians to cope. For example, people said Dorian couldn’t leave the Bahamas because it was too dark, referring to the constant electrical blackouts caused by load-sharing.
“And a Bajan newscaster said on air that the Bahamas is a vacation destination and Dorian came for vacation,” Laville said with a hearty chuckle.
Dr. Hunt said the Bahamas will rebuild.
“Our beloved island of Grand Bahama took a pounding and there is a lot of hurting,” he wrote on Facebook. “My heart goes out to the families of those with loved ones who have lost their lives, several of who were well known to me. The destruction in Abaco was catastrophic and gut wrenching…I will be returning to Freeport shortly to do my part in trying to alleviate some of the suffering and help in the rebuilding of our Island. We in Grand Bahama have faced and conquered many obstacles that have been placed in our path. We will not be undone by Hurricane Dorian and we all will emerge from this collective experience stronger, wiser and more united.”
WARNING: Black Men The Police Are Dangerous For Your Health
August 14, 2019
By Barrington M. Salmon – Contributing Writer A new study has found that use of force by law enforcement in the U.S. is among the leading causes of death for young Black men. According to the research, people who are American Indian and Alaska Native, Black or Latino are more likely to be killed by police than people who are White. Blacks have especially high lifetime risks of being killed by police. About one in 1,000 Black men and boys likely are killed by police, said the study’s lead researcher Dr. Frank Edwards. Meanwhile, for Native American and Alaska Native men and boys, the lifetime risk of being killed by police is about one in 2,000. Significantly, young men and women are at a great risk of being killed by police. Between the ages of 25 and 29, about two out of every 100,000 young men in the U.S. are killed by police, while about 0.1 of every 100,000 women die under similar circumstances. That risk is most pronounced for young men and women of color with Blacks 2.5 times more likely to be killed by police than White people and for Black women, the rate is 1.4 times more likely.
“I was very surprised that the lifetime risk was so high for men of all racial and ethnic groups,” Dr. Edwards told The Final Call. “I was also surprised that police violence was the leading cause of death of young Black men ages 25-29. I think there are a few implications. The study is one piece of evidence that police are a threat to public health. A lot of other research has shown that aggressive policing isn’t the best way to police.” The report was released Aug. 5. “There’s also evidence that when Black people are stopped, they can suffer PTSD, and being stopped can increase their fear of being outside. Police encounters are especially harmful to the Black community and communities of color more broadly.” Dr. Edwards said this study and others are a strong call to respond to this threat by looking at police violence as a public health concern “which may help us shift that perspective toward the needs of the community, and away from situations that unnecessarily pit police officers against the communities they’re supposed to serve.” The study, titled “Risk of Being Killed by Police Use of Force in the United States by Age, Race-ethnicity and Sex,” is co-authored by Dr. Hedwig (Hedy) Lee, a sociologist at Washington University in St. Louis; and social scientist Michael Esposito of the Institute for Social Research at the University of Michigan. “I think that our results really underscore that police killings are a lot more common than we might have imagined,” Dr. Lee said in an interview with The Source, a publication at the Washington University in St. Louis. “Our work also provides more evidence that people of color, particularly African American men and women, but also American/Indian Alaska Native women are at risk. The next task for researchers is to get a better understanding of what is driving these patterns now that we have documented them.” Mr. Esposito agreed. “It’s a striking number,” he said in an interview published by ClickonDetroit. “There have been arguments about how widespread of a problem this is. We didn’t have a good estimate about whether it’s a few cases that received a lot of media attention.” Mr. Esposito noted that the results of the study illustrate the risk from police for all ethnic groups. “Because a lot of our talk about this in public spaces is focused on black men, we sometimes lose sight of other groups with elevated risk,” he continued in the ClickonDetroit interview. Dr. Lee echoed Dr. Edwards’ comments, saying that more data needs to be accumulated so that researchers and the public gain a better understanding of what’s at play. “I think that our results really underscore that police killings are a lot more common than we might have imagined,” she said. The trio looked at data collected by Fatal Encounters, a dataset maintained by journalist and former newspaper editor D. Brian Burghart. The staff at Fatal Encounters conducts systematic searches of online news, social media and public records to provide a close-to-comprehensive and up-to-date archive of documented police killings. That was necessary, Dr. Edwards said, because there’s a wide gap in what was available in terms of basic estimates of how likely people are to be killed by police. He said the Bureau of Justice Statistics keeps a database on arrest-related deaths, but the database depends on the police departments self-reporting. Another governmental database, the National Vital Statistics Report which is housed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, counts deaths caused by legal intervention, but researchers have found that cases in which police are responsible for those deaths are undercounted by up to 50 percent. Dr. Edwards said he and his colleagues would not have been able to complete this study without data from Fatal Encounters. “The data we used to track risk of death is new,” he said. “It would not have been possible without the data from Fatal Encounters. The feds don’t track data and the criminal justice information that is reported, most of it is voluntary. It’s a huge disincentive for police departments to report deaths. A lot of them just don’t bother.” The Fatal Encounters database as well as others, such as the Washington Post project, indicates that since 2000, between 1,000 and 1,200 people have been killed every year by law enforcement. According to the Society Toolbox, using data updated on August 24, 2018, “data collected by the Washington Post on the use of lethal force by police officers since 2015 indicate that, relative to the portion of the population, Blacks are over-represented among all those killed by police under all circumstances. U.S. Census estimates show that Blacks make up 13 percent of the population. However, in 2015 they accounted for 26 percent of those that were killed by police, in 2016, 24 percent and in 2017, 23 percent of all those killed by police. In other words, Blacks were the victims of the lethal use of force by police at nearly twice their rate in the general population. Whites make up the plurality of victims of police use of lethal force (47% in 2017), but they also make the majority of the population (61% in 2018).” It is these numbers and the deaths of primarily unarmed Blacks by cops or people acting in a law enforcement capacity—including Trayvon Martin, Natasha McKenna, Alton Sterling, Rekia Boyd, Eric Garner, Oscar Grant, Tamir Rice, Yvette Smith, Amadou Diallo, Sandra Bland, Walter Scott, Aiyana Jones, Stephon Clarke, Philando Castile and Sean Bell—which angered the Black community and led to formation of the Black Lives Matter movement and other forms of protest and civil disobedience. In almost all these cases, the perpetrators walked free and even as the debate rages about what a fair and just police force looks like, Black communities are demanding to be treated with respect and dignity, voting out complicit district and states’ attorney and embracing restorative justice as the way forward. Chief Norm Stamper began his career as a beat cop in San Diego in 1966 and retired in the 1990s as chief of the Seattle Police Department. The author of two books on good policing, he has been a persistent and thoughtful critic of current police tactics and the way departments interact with Black communities. “The system itself, policing is broken,” he said in earlier interviews with this reporter. “Tragically, it has been broken from the very beginning of the institution. It has evolved as a paramilitary, bureaucratic, organizational arrangement that distances police officers from the communities they’ve been sworn to protect and serve.” Chief Stamper contends in his book, “To Protect and Serve: How to Fix America’s Police,” that it’s when police officers get into what he calls “discretionary marginal contacts” that they abuse their power. If it’s true that if one officer out of the million police officers we have in this country shoot somebody without authorization, without legal standing, and we can say that’s the exception then let’s go ahead and deal with that individual, he explains. “But when we have shooting after shooting after shooting that most people would define as at least questionable, it’s time to look, not just at a few bad apples, but the barrel. And I’m convinced that it is the barrel that is rotted,” he concludes. Chief Stamper said police departments have become increasingly militarized, are resistant to change and are protected by police unions, prosecutors, judges and others in the criminal justice system. Other critics argue that the police are basically people who don’t live in Black communities, and are essentially occupiers who are afraid of and generally have no desire to forge any type of meaningful relationship with the people they purport to serve. Throw in racism, negative stereotypes of criminality surrounding Blacks in America, White fear and other factors, and it’s not surprising that police-Black community relations are often fraught with distrust, suspicion and extra-judicial killings. Chief Stamper describes most of America’s 18,000 police departments’ organizational structures as anachronistic, paramilitary, rigidly bureaucratic which “produces a workplace culture that serves as a breeding ground for racism, corruption, sexual predation, brutality, unjustified lethal force, and excessive militarism.” While there are many good cops, he said, the way officers act is a function not just of the culture, but also the power they wield which makes them feel as if they can do what they want. “It’s an arrogance that afflicts too many officers,” said Chief Stamper who was in law enforcement for 36 years, the last six years in Seattle, Washington, leading the department. “It causes them to believe that they’re above the law. What we’re facing from institutions in Seattle, San Diego, the NYPD is an undercurrent of racism and abusive practices that lead to excessive force, lethal force and sexual predation. “I’ve made the case in my book that it’s time to restructure the institution,” he said. “You hear about bad apples but it’s time to recognize that if we continue to have these incidents and call them bad apples, we need to look at the barrel. The very structure and organization of police departments is dysfunctional.” He said it’s time to demilitarize the police and significantly increase civilian participation. “It is time to give the community a much stronger voice and if the invitation isn’t forthcoming, then citizens should demand a place at the table,” he said. “The police belong to the people, not the other way around. In my view, citizens should play a major role in selection of officers, training, policies and procedure because those cops are policing their neighborhoods. As a people, we make a big mistake by ceding 100 percent responsibility for public safety to local law enforcement.” Dr. Edwards and Lee said though this research provides more accurate data on the use of deadly force by police, they cautioned that the data is not complete. “The new data that we’re using are capturing a lot more cases than what the official data are showing us, but there is still an undercount,” said Dr. Edwards. They said new research methods offer a more accurate picture of these incidents across the nation, but more research is needed to understand the social factors related to violence between police and civilians. “Police have become first responders to all circumstances,” Dr. Edwards said, with the police themselves acknowledging that they’re not equipped to respond to many of the situations they’re required to handle. “We’re dealing with a public health problem. It’s important to emphasize public health and quality of life issues,” he said.
Baltimore Police Commissioner, Experts and Residents Tackle Reform of Troubled Department
By Barrington M. Salmon
For more than 50 years, the Baltimore Police Department has earned the reputation as a tough, bruising department that leveled most of its rough treatment and casual cruelty on the
Charmed City’s Black residents.
African American residents in their 60s and others in their 30s speak of the brutality visited on them by a police force many came to despise and distrust. They spoke of harassment, beatings, detainment and arrests at the whim of the officers, as well as their anger and frustration of having no public official to turn to to force rogue officers to comply with the law and treat Black people humanely.
The Rev. Graylan Hagler, who was born and grew up in Baltimore, recalls the way Black residents were treated.
“I’ve been hearing some stuff (about the changes) on the periphery,” he said. “Historically, the police department was used to enforce segregation even after the Civil Rights Act. We couldn’t go into certain neighborhoods so they pulled you over on “a routine check.”
Rev. Hagler said his father bought a Lincoln Continental in the late 1960s and he was pulled over regularly. It was also well known in the black community that initiation for white officers was to snatch a Black person off the street and beat them.
“That was the ‘Blue Code.’ Everyone in the department had to have blood on their hands,” said Rev. Hagler, a veteran Civil Rights and social justice veteran and senior pastor of Plymouth Congregational Church. “There’s always been this really hostile relationship, especially with poor black communities. You saw it with Freddie Gray. There’s a high crime rate because the police isn’t engaged, and the city is not engaged with the community either.”
Yet, one particular response by recently appointed Police Commissioner Michael Harrison surprised a number of people and held out hope that the department may actually be on the cusp of change. Media reports indicate that Sgt Ethan Newberg, a 24-year veteran, was running a warrant check when a man passing by criticized him for placing the suspect on a wet street and walked away. Sgt. Newberg chased him down, grabbed him, tackled him, handcuffed him and arrested him. The sergeant filed a report saying that the passerby “challenged him and become combative and aggressive.” However, after department officials reviewed Sgt. Newberg’s footage from his body camera, the real story came out.
“From what I saw, he did nothing to provoke Sgt. Newberg, whose actions weren’t just wrong but deeply disturbing and illegal,” said Police Commissioner Michael Harrison in a press conference announcing charges against Sgt. Newberg. “I don’t know how something like this would have been handled in the past, but I knew as soon as I saw this video, I know how I’d be handling it.”
Sgt. Newberg, the second highest paid city employee in 2018, was arrested on June 6, charged with false imprisonment, misconduct and second-degree assault and suspended without pay.
Former Seattle Police Chief Norm Stamper said he was heartened by Commissioner Harrison’s decisive action.
“Given its institutional history, that the Baltimore Police Commissioner moved so quickly, and so decisively is a very positive sign,” Chief Stamper told The Final Call. “Let’s hope that as the story unfolds further we’ll learn that at least some of Newberg’s superiors and/or peers had also come forward with their own observations of his conduct, past and present.”
“This is an example of major systemic (and workplace culture) failure,” Chief Stamper continued. “Supervisors (and peers) have a responsibility to blow the whistle on alleged wrongdoing of the type you describe. And the department (or, preferably, an independent investigative body) has an obligation to conduct timely, accurate, and thorough investigations into all instances of alleged misconduct. Failure to do so, sends a message throughout the cop culture: brutality, bigotry, corruption will be excused. It sounds like Newberg’s bosses (and peers) did him no favor by not holding him to account long ago. Although, of course, he had an obligation to conduct himself with dignity, respect, and self-discipline.”
Wake Forest Law School Prof. Kami Chavis said Commissioner Harrison’s decision was unexpected.
“Wow!!” she exclaimed. “A little justice. When anyone performs a criminal act, he or she should be punished. To have trust for police officers, violence should not go unpunished. You cannot have people operating above the law. This is a very important step.”
“No longer can an officer tell a different story,” added Prof. Chavis, Associate Provost for Academic Initiatives and director of the Criminal Justice Program. “The officer committed an egregious act and then lied. It almost tells us a little bit about the morality of some of the officers. We have so long operated in this type of culture in Baltimore where this type of behavior was commonplace.”
Critics of the department and officers behavior would find a great deal with which to agree with Prof. Chavis.
The department has lurched from crisis to crisis for years, with office-involved shootings, harassment of residents and beatings caught on body cams or videos. The depth and breadth of the corruption that grips the department exploded in 2018 during a trial involving seven of eight members of the elite Gun Trace Taskforce. Witnesses testified that taskforce members who were supposed to be taking illegal guns off the street. Instead, the officers were reselling the guns and drugs it seized right back onto the streets.
In the trial where one prosecutor called the officers “gangsters with a badge,” eight cops were indicted, six pled guilty, and four opted to testify in the case as government witnesses. During the trial, Gun Trace Task Force member Detective Maurice Ward, testified that officers would use illegal GPS devices to track targets, break into homes to steal money, and keep BB guns in their vehicles “in case we accidentally hit somebody or got into a shootout, so we could plant them.” Ward, who pled guilty, recounted an incident where cops “took a man’s house keys, ran his name through databases to find his address, went into the home without a warrant and found drugs and a safe. The officers cracked open the safe, which had about $200,000 inside. They took $100,000 out, closed the safe back up, then filmed themselves pretending to open it for the first time.”
This corruption case deepened the suspicion of the public which had piqued following the trial of Freddie Gray, who was detained by police, taken on a rough ride, suffered severe spinal injuries and died in hospital. Gray’s death triggered civil unrest, the torching of a number of businesses, looting and other related activities, arrests of those who’d taken to the streets and dozens of officers being injured. Yet after the trials and acquittals of three of the six police officers who were charged and indicted, public anger, resentment and frustration ratcheted up.
The riots following Mr. Gray’s death crystallized the divide between both sides. About six blocks from where residents Jackson and Glover live, up the road on Pennsylvania Avenue, looters burned stores and businesses, torched vehicles and shattered glass. Some were venting their anger, others used the opportunity to steal and pillage.
In 2015, BPD has operated under a consent decree. As explained on the web page of the Consent Decree Monitoring Team, “Following an investigation that began in 2015, the US Department of Justice (DOJ) found reasonable cause to believe that the Baltimore Police Department (BPD) was engaged in a pattern or practice of constitutional violations, which allegedly included making unconstitutional stops, searches and arrests; using enforcement strategies that produced severe, unjustified disparities in stops, searches and arrests of African Americans; using excessive force; and retaliating against people engaging in constitutionally protected expression.
Baltimore Attorney Kenneth Thompson heads the Consent Decree Monitoring Team which is working to help BPD adopt a number of specific reforms aimed at ensuring effective, safe and constitutional policing. The team’s work is mandated by US District Court Judge James K, Bredar.
“This (consent decree) is driven by decades of perceived mistreatment. Folks have felt police has always gotten a free pass,” Mr. Thompson said. “Sometimes there are officers with problems. They may have issues, problems at home and domes problems. The proper technology would red flag officers who need help to supervisors.”
Mr. Thompson said the team is comprised of former police chiefs, other experts in policing and police reform, members of the Civil Rights community, academics versed in psychology, social science, organizational change, data and technology and community engagement.
“The personnel in DOJ, to their credit, have been good stewards,” he said. “This is a lawsuit. The plaintiffs are kicking ass. They want change. It’s possible that the department resents us coming in. I don’t know. The city and police department have been true partners. The will is there. They want to save culture. The question is whether they will have money and capacity to do the job but I’m confident we’ll do it.”
He identified three of the biggest challenges that hinder successful implementation of the reforms. They are: strengthening Internal Affairs so that the department properly investigates instances of misconduct or other deleterious behavior by police officers; outdated technology and staffing issues.
“The old unit had to be disbanded. It was so dysfunctional,” he said of the Internal Affairs Unit, which has been renamed the Police Integrity Unit. “In the old days, it wasn’t a very hospitable environment. It’s clear that there was favorable environment for those doing wrong. The DOJ saw minimalization of charges. Now, it’s easier to file complaints and we’re making sure offenses were filed properly.”
Mr. Thompson said the team is putting in place a classification manual and is revamping the investigation manual.
“The unit is short-staffed and the technology is not up to par,” he said. “And it’s difficult to follow data. We’re making sure that the investigators are trained properly. We’ve made a tremendous amount of progress but we’re still dealing with challenges. The department has indicated a really strong desire to change. But we still have a lot of things to do.”
Dr. Natasha C. Pratt-Harris is the principal investigator collecting data from a survey on community experiences and perceptions of BPD that she and her colleagues conducted at the behest of the Consent Decree Monitoring Team. After plumbing the community’s thoughts over a two-month period, she said she honestly believes that significant and sustained change is coming to Baltimore City. She added that although a prevailing sentiment from residents’ comments is the feeling that nothing will change, the major finding from the 640 people polled is that the community wants to see the police engaging and engaged with the community.
“That was clear,” said Dr. Pratt-Harris, an associate professor and coordinator of the Criminal Justice program in the Department of Sociology and Anthropology with Morgan State University in Baltimore.
“I spoke to Leonard Hamm, the police chief at Coppin State and former BPD commissioner, and he talked about the simple things. Officers don’t even say ‘Hello, I am …’ A part of this is the militarization of police forces. Officers are trained heavily in arsenal and firearms training.”
Dr. Pratt-Harris said she recognizes that police officers are doing the most dangerous job ever, they are encountering difficult and challenging circumstances every day and because of the shortage of officers, they thrown into traumatic situations day in and day out yet going to see specialists to help them deal with the trauma is voluntary not mandatory.
“Officers are involved in trauma but no one is acknowledging the trauma because mental illness looks like weakness,” she said.
Mr. Thompson echoed Dr. Pratt-Harris’ sentiments about the need for engagement.
“Before he took job, he did a walking tour in different districts,” he said. “People seemed to be so enamored with him. He has connected well with these folks. Told him that whatever he’s doing, he should keep doing it. He’s righting this ship. He wants effective policing but you gotta do it right … he has chutzpah to do what’s right. I think he’s the real deal.”
Yet the road to a new or reformed is fraught with challenges.
Chief Stamper and Capt. Joseph Perez said it’s going to be very difficult to transform a department with entrenched bias, suspicion of the people they’re purported to serve and a sense of entitlement that makes certain officers act with impunity.
“The biggest challenge is dealing with public, mostly because there’s a lack of trust and a lack of community on our part,” Capt. Perez said. “The biggest thing is building that trust. Traditionally, in police departments across the country, they like the heavy-handed officers. You almost never see officers recognized for work in the community. We have to go back to basics, go back to the community. I’m not talking about optics. We have to go into the community, build trust.”
Capt. Lopez, a New Yorker who has been in law enforcement for more than 20 years, said it’s a good move by Commissioner Harrison who has said BPD officers should go into the community for 20 minutes a shift.
“(But) many officers are resistant. It’s culture and begins in the academy. You can absolutely guarantee that every single person will say they want to help people, serve. But the academy fosters and ‘us vs them’ mentality. They see the community is threat and they’ve got to have each other’s back. It’s the thin blue line, not reporting each other.”
Rev. Hagler, Prof. Pratt-Harris and longtime Baltimore City resident Nick Dorsey each note that the problems in which the department is enmeshed is a reflection of the problems the city has and a microcosm of what’s occurring in the US.
“The police are nothing but a microcosm of the larger society,” said Dr. Pratt Harris. “As with individuals, issues of race and what it means to strive and struggle are playing out. The problems found in BPD are found in the system, every school system, hospitals and elsewhere. The police department is mimicking larger society. We have to accept, acknowledge and address these issues.”
Dorsey, a District of Columbia city employee, went deeper.
“We’re dealing with a lot of social ills. There are major issues with the city that residents have to take ownership of,” he said. “The police are a major problem but not the only one. The school system is in disarray and the family system is disheveled. There are areas with no rec centers with nothing for kids to do. There are a lot of people who are homeless, have nowhere to lay their heads.”
“Until we can get people to see the value in Baltimore, invest in Baltimore city, settling down, buying homes, little will change. I’m going to give the commissioner some time, get in there, see for himself what’s going on, listen to the people, then some changes can be made.”
Black Pregnant Mothers Dying As Maternal Mortality Crisis Persists
By Barrington M. Salmon – Contributing Writer
Disney, Stiglitz, Ocasio Cortez and Others Criticize Excesses of Millionaires and Billionaires By Barrington M. Salmon Disney Heiress Abigail Disney is the latest critic of the vast disparity between workers and business executives to level intense and passionate criticism at a system that allows CEOs to rake in unbelievable amounts of cash, stock options and benefits while ordinary workers languish in stagnation. In tweets and a recent op-ed in the Washington Post, Disney excoriated Disney CEO Bob Iger who made $65 million in 2018, which is 1,424 times greater than the median income of the average Disney worker. “It is time to call out the men and women who lead us and to draw a line in the sand about how low we are prepared to let hard-working people sink while top management takes home ever-more-outrageous sums of money,” Disney wrote in the opinion piece. “It is unreasonable to expect corporate boards to act as a check on this trend; they are almost universally made up of CEOs, former CEOs and people who long to be CEOs.” “To put that gap in context, in 1978, the average CEO made about 30 times a typical worker’s salary. Since 1978, CEO pay has grown by 937 percent, while the pay of an average worker grew just 11.2 percent. This growth in inequality has affected every corner of American life.” Disney, granddaughter of Roy Disney, co-founder of the legendary company with his brother Walt, is a philanthropist, activist, founder of Peace is Loud and co-founder of Level Forward, a start-up that backs media projects of women and people of color to develop films, podcasts, stage shows and related projects. “At the pay levels we are talking about, an executive giving up half his bonus has zero effect on his quality of life,” she said. “For the people at the bottom, it could mean a ticket out of poverty or debt. It could offer access to decent health care or an education for a child.” Disney appealed to the moral conscience of the Walt Disney Co. leadership. “Lead. If any of this rings any moral bells for you, know that you are uniquely situated to model a different way of doing business,” she wrote. “… You do not exist merely for the benefit of shareholders and managers. Reward all the people who make you successful, help rebuild the American middle class and respect the dignity of the men and women who work just as hard as you do to make Disney the amazing company it is.” Nobel Prize-winning Economist Joseph E. Stiglitz agreed with Disney, telling Democracy Now’s Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzalez in an April 24 interview that capitalism hasn’t been working for most Americans for the last 40 years. “She’s absolutely right. You mentioned that in the late ’70s it was 30 to one, on average; today it’s over 300 to one,” said Stiglitz, a Columbia University professor, professor and chief economist at the Roosevelt Institute and former chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers under President Bill Clinton. “And it’s not as if our CEOs have gotten 10 times as productive in those intervening years. It’s not as if—you know, American CEOs get paid so much more than their workers relative to those in Europe and even more relative to those in Japan. And it’s not because our CEOs are that much more productive. It’s because we have a real problem in our corporate governance laws, in our norms, that allow them to take away that much money.” Stiglitz, author of a new book, “People, Power, and Profits: Progressive Capitalism for an Age of Discontent,” said using CEO bonus money to share the wealth among Disney employees as Disney suggests would make a significant difference to workers. “That money could also have gone into investment,” he said. “You know, one of the striking things about the United States today is that while the rates of return are very, very high relative to what they’ve been in the past, the levels of investment have been low. So, you would have thought those two would have gone together, but with CEO pay and share buybacks being so large—trillion dollars of share buybacks last year—the money isn’t going either to workers or to investment.” The widening wage gap and widespread disparities have been news lately with Rep. Alexandria Ocasio Cortez (D-NY), Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, billionaire investor Warren Buffett, entrepreneur and venture capitalist Nick Hanaeur, activists from the Left, progressives and others leading the charge against, and warning about, the consequences of the excesses of the uber-rich. Ocasio Cortez, a freshman legislator, has proposed a 70 percent tax on incomes over $10 million, while Sen. Elizabeth Warren posited a “wealth tax” of 2 percent for those whose net worth exceeds $50 million. And Sanders has suggested increasing the estate tax for estates above $1 billion, so that children of billionaires do not unfairly reap the windfalls regular Americans don’t get, all of which has caused consternation in wealthy circles. They have been increasing critical of a Republican tax cut in 2017 that transferred about $1.2 trillion of wealth from the middle class to the super rich and politicians and a business elite who have done little to address and alleviate the financial challenges that face their workers. In 2018, The United Way released data collected over 10 years that offers a disturbing snapshot of where the United States stands since the 2008 recession ended. The ALICE (Asset Limit, Income Constrained, Employed) Project, shows that almost 51 million Americans make less than what’s needed to survive in the modern economy. Stephanie Hoopes, the project’s senior researcher, said that number includes 16.1 million households living in poverty, as well as the 34.7 million families that fall under the ALICE classification. That translates to what she said is a staggering 43 percent of American households that can’t afford basics such as food, child care, health care, transportation, and a cell phone. “There are many different ALICE stories. Some people are in different situations because of health problems, natural disasters and a number of other issues,” Hoopes said. “Usually people who are in this field totally understand the magnitude of this problem. The cause is a mismatch between basic elements of the average household budget and what people are making. Housing, childcare, food, transportation and healthcare are increasing faster than inflation overall and faster than wages. Increasing wages would help offset fluctuating wages, unpredictable hours and workhours incompatible with childcare. America’s working class is caught in an economic vice fueled by decades of stagnant wages; the weakening of organized labor by Republican lawmakers; gaming of the system by politicians and corporations; minimum wages for fast food and service jobs employees; unemployment; the spiraling cost of food, medicine, and rent; gentrification, foreclosures, and the severe shortage of affordable housing. Dr. Elise Gould, a senior researcher at the Washington, D.C.-based Economic Policy Institute (EPI) said research conducted by EPI experts, scholars and researchers corroborates the United Way findings. “There are a lot of people working who are still in poverty,” said Dr. Gould, whose areas of expertise include wages, poverty, jobs, healthcare and economic mobility. “We put data out, titled “50 Years after the Poor People’s Campaign, Poverty Persists Because of a Stingy Safety Net and a Dysfunctional Labor Market,” which shows that a number of Americans living in poverty who may be in school or retired, but two-thirds are otherwise employable. Of those, 63 percent are working and 45.5 percent of them work fulltime.” “People need more jobs, jobs that have more hours and the pay needs to be higher. What people are earning is simply insufficient. We also need a better safety net for caregivers and students. It seems like people are working really hard and low-income workers are more educated than ever before but the data make it clear that millions of people who are active participants in the labor market are unable to make ends meet, either due to insufficient hours or low wages.” Stiglitz said the promise of decent, well-paying jobs, a sturdy social safety net and retirement security has faded and the social contract between politicians, corporations and the public is increasingly being ignored. “People need more jobs, jobs that have more hours and the pay needs to be higher. What people are earning is simply insufficient. We also need a better safety net for caregivers and students,” Stiglitz said in an article titled, ‘The American Economy is Rigged. And What We Can Do About It.’ “It seems like people are working really hard and low-income workers are more educated than ever before but the data make it clear that millions of people who are active participants in the labor market are unable to make ends meet, either due to insufficient hours or low wages.” “The basic perquisites of a middle-class life, including a secure old age, are no longer attainable for most Americans,” Stiglitz continued. “We need to guarantee access to health care. We need to strengthen and reform retirement programs, which have put an increasing burden of risk management on workers (who are expected to manage their portfolios to guard simultaneously against the risks of inflation and market collapse) and (which) opened them up to exploitation by our financial sector (which sells them products designed to maximize bank fees rather than retirement security).” Beverly Hunt knows what it’s like to live in such uncertain circumstances. Hunt, a Washington, D.C.-area resident for more than 20 years, said significant health care challenges have jeopardized her wellbeing. The communications and public relations veteran said she has been living an increasingly precarious existence since discovering that she has breast cancer four years ago. “I was very blessed when I was diagnosed with cancer because I had a good job and good insurance with an 80-20 split, meaning 20 percent of the costs are borne by me,” said Hunt, a Howard University graduate who has been in her career field for 30 years. “I was paying $200 a month for four whole years to one doctor. This has affected everything with me … it’s scary. Even though I have a great insurance, I still had to pay cash. Acupuncture is no longer covered and I haven’t even begun to figure how to pay for radiation. I’m thinking I may wait for the full seven years when my credit is clear and start from there.” “It’s certainly taken a toll on my standard of living. I know so many friends with no insurance and the consequences for them have been so much worse. What they’re dealing with has knocked people out of the middle class. One serious illness, being unemployed for several months a year, or us Baby Boomers not being hired—all this affects one’s ability to stay in the middle class. What I see among my peers is that they are jammed up, deciding whether they are going to eat or pay bills.”
Lessons My Father Taught Me By Barrington M. Salmon Trice Edney Newswire
Although many fathers grouse about the short shrift they usually get on Father’s Day, the importance of fathers in shaping the lives of their children and grandchildren cannot be understated or ignored. With the day – July 13 – sent aside to honor fathers fast approaching, we asked some men to reflect on the most important lesson they learned from a father, father figure, mentor, teacher or other male. Here are their stories. Dr. Dana Dennard, 66, university professor, psychologist, social justice activist, co-owner of Nefeteri’s Restaurant in Tallahassee, FL. “That’s an interesting question because my father was absent and the most important thing I learned from that was to be present and be a father. I was raised with my grandparents. My grandfather was a model for me. The main lesson I learned was to be committed and handle it.” Dennard, who grew up in St. Petersburg, Florida during the Jim Crow era, said Papa Joe wasn’t his biological grandfather. “He married my grandmother and raised her seven children,” Dennard recalled. “He was the male figure in my life and continues to be the model. He was very soft-spoken, tinkered with things. He was a marksman in the military and took me out at age 8 to shoot a gun. He never laid a hand on any of us but I never wanted to disappoint him.” “He was the Papa Joe in our neighborhood. All the other children would come. I have visions of little girls plaiting his hair. He’d just sit there smoking a pipe and letting them do what they wanted. I grew up in St. Pete back in the day when it was separate and unequal. He was a very quiet and supportive kind of guy who would walk around with a gun in his pocket. He had a .38 special. He laid it on the table but we never touched it. He would go around and handle business.” Dennard, who’s been married for more than 30 years to Dr. Sharon Dennard and is the father of three grown children, said Sgt. Joe Johnson’s impact has lasted his whole life and he recently wrote a dedication to his grandfather in a book he recently wrote. “My mom had me in college and I didn’t move out of my grandparent’s house until I was eight,” he said. “The first Christmas without them tore me up. Sgt. Joe Johnson was the entire man. I never saw a flaw in my entire life – that’s who I came from.” Nigel Thompson, 46, film director, visual and graphic artist, Trinidad and Tobago. “I would say that the lessons I learned didn’t happen at one time,” said Thompson, a noted cinematographer who is in demand around the world. “I had him for 10 short years. He was the calmest person I’ve ever met in my entire life. Mom would shout and carry on and he’d be perfectly calm. He was the one who got me into the arts when I was a child.” Thompson said his father, John Thompson, was a police officer and in his off time, he’d read poetry and was part of a theatre group. “He was grooming me for a life in the arts and he didn’t even know it,” he said. “He taught me patience and how to solve things. I am that way, particularly with work. The main question I have is ‘how can I fix it.?” Thompson said his father’s death when he was 13, threw him into a tailspin but forced him to grow up quickly. “When he died, as often happens, you’re not sure what to do or what to think,” Thompson said softly. “For a year after he died, I was in a haze. Mother forced me into doing adult things such as ironing my clothes to go to school and ironing my siblings’ clothes too. I was responsible for everything after that. I had to get up at three in the morning to arrange transportation to school, take care of my siblings. I didn’t think about how tough it was. I really didn’t realize it until I was in my 20s. I was like holy shit!” “I was thrown into the position of being responsible for everyone under me and to tell the truth, I handled it pretty well. I saw my mother get up and get things done and my father used to get up and get it done as well.” Thompson is the creator of Artist Nation, a web series based on how art and artistry in its many forms, help people to change their lives. He said he’s been a creative since he was 14 and initially did graphic work for clients. “I had already started working in TV. Started with me getting a couple of shooting jobs. Was a learn as you go. Had no clue, started asking questions, asking ppl,” he said with a chuckle. “Artist Nation is how we grew up as a haven of art and knowledge. The high point was what was happening everywhere in the ‘70s, early ‘80s. What was happening with Dr. Martin Luther King and Malcolm X was happening everywhere. We witnessed an explosion of knowledge and the growth of ideas.” “I see art in everything. Artist Nation’s mission itself is to get into people’s heads. How society is, isn’t what I like. I believe that the only thing that can fix a lot of problems and issues on this planet revolves around the arts. I want the younger generation to sit and look at why and how others do this to change lives.” Willie Hines, 58, sector head for Amphibious Integration in the Amphibious Warfare Branch, for the Chief of Naval Operations, engineer, educator and Prince George’s County, Maryland resident. “The other day, I cried from Benning Road to Eastern Market thinking about my father,” said Hines. “It’s because Father’s Day is coming.” Hines said he grew up in rural southern Louisiana in a town which had 8,000 people. He grew up in a shotgun house that had no running water or indoor plumbing. “We didn’t have running water until I was 10 years old. It was definitely a motivator for me.” Hines said. “The first important lesson happened when I was eight years old. I went with my father to the store. My father was 37 but he addressed a 26-year-old white boy in the store as sir and the white boy called my father by his first name. That took me immediately to a dark place.” Hines said the young man tried to engage him in conversation and reached out to shake his hand but he refused to respond or reciprocate. “When we left, my father was angry. When we pulled off, he said ‘I say yes sir so that your ass can eat, so that your brothers and sisters can eat and so your mother can eat,” he said. “He was upset with me but when we got home, he explained to me what it was like for him living in southern LA, overcoming challenges, fighting with white boys, being let go from jobs. He told me he wasn’t less than a man.” “He said he hoped I would understand. I took away from him what my journey would be like as a Black man, a father, someone’s husband and that I would have dignity in whatever I did. Another lesson learned over the entirety of his namesake’s life was his work ethic. And it’s clear that he’s not made of the stock his father was, Hines said. Hines said he remembers his father coming home from one job for 15 mins, eating then laying on the floor before going off to another job. “Man, he had so many jobs,” he said. “He worked at Empire and would go for a week at a time in Plaquemine. He caught fish and cleaned fish and fileted them. He was a gas station attendant. Worked for city government in the Water and Gas department and worked for Dow Chemical as contractor supporter. I remember I went to work with him when I was 15 to make some money and I fell out in that hot sun. We were out in the sun shoveling shit. I fell the hell out in that sun, he put me in the shade and went back and continued working.” “His side hustle was stripping and waxing floors. He showed me how to do it even now I can still do it. That was his work ethic. He was a hustler, man. He never spent one day in jail his whole life and told people that all the time. You have to remember that in the times he grew up, they were arresting Black people for vagrancy and a bunch of other things.” Hines said his late father only had a 5th-grade education but raised four boys in a tough, arbitrary world rife with racism, white privilege and entitlement. Among the many lessons his father taught him include how to embrace responsibility, taking care of his family despite the cost and developing commonsense and the importance of getting a proper, quality education. “I grew up most of my life hating white people but he taught me to be like water, to become fluid and taking the shape of whatever space/form that you’re put it in,” Hines said. “When you’re young you don’t know what’s on the other side of the mountain. The things my father taught me resonate with me because he wasn’t a talker. I’m glad I had the chance to talk to dad, share, and thank him for the things he did and taught me.” Warren Shadd, CEO of Shadd Pianos & Keyboard, USA, the first African-American piano manufacturer in the world, musician, child prodigy, resident of Maryland. “Man, there are just so many lessons, it may take a minute or two,” Warren Shadd told a Trice Edney Newswire reporter. My father, James M. Shadd used to always tell me, “while you’re out here bullshitting, certain little boys are studying day and night to be your boss. He was such an aggressive businessman.” The elder Shadd was the exclusive piano tuner to the historic Howard Theater – the first African American allowed to join the union – and as a child, Warren Shadd said he’d tag along. “I saw Sarah Vaughn, Duke Ellington, Nancy Wilson, Jimmy Smith, Joe Williams, Pearl Bailey, Count Basie, James Brown and other legendary performers,” Shadd recalled. “I was enamored with the pointed toe shoes and slick hair joints, the pageantry, stobe lights. There were great lessons I learned from my father from ages 4-11 such as understanding how to stage performances, choreography. He also had me do things on piano, fix things such as changing bridal straps and changing hammers on piano actions, especially on old uprights.” “Those things subsequently is how I know how to build and rebuild pianos. Shadd comes from a family of musicians. His father was a pianist and drummer and had a big band; his aunt was acclaimed Jazz songstress Shirley Horne; his grandmother Marie was a pianist in a ragtime band; and his grandfather Gilbert designed and built a collapsible drum set. He is a first African-American piano manufacturer, the only Black person to build pianos in the world. He followed his father’s footsteps to become a second-generation piano tuner and technician, and he is a child prodigy and a third-generation musician. His musical career was deeply influenced by his father who was a Jazz pianist and drummer in the Drum and Bugle Corps. Growing up, he said his aunt Shirley Horne and a gaggle of other musicians were always at the house. Since he was “a kid” he played with acts like James Moody, Roy Hargrove, Duke Ellington, the Redd Foxx review, Lionel Hampton, Dizzy Gillespie, Phyllis Hyman and Melba Moore. He’s also tuned and rebuilt pianos for Philip Bailey, Tony Bennett, Herbie Hancock, Aretha Franklin, Stanley Clark, Joe Sample, Ramsey Lewis, Quincy Jones, Dave Brubeck and Pres. Bill Clinton, Black Entertainment Television, Blue Alley and Miss America pageants. He manufactures world-class pianos, with electronic keyboards, synthesizers and other interactive and cutting-edge computer technology. These have ended up on Empire, Star and American Idol. Meanwhile, Pope Francis ordered a grand piano for the Vatican and most recently, Shadd completed a sumptuous, jeweled grand piano for billionaire investor and businessman Robert F. Smith. Shadd said he is still in awe of his father’s prodigious work ethic. “There were lots of lessons learned, such as seeing the discipline of my father,” he said. “He would go to his government work ‘til 5, come home, shower and shave and then he would go play with his band. He did this for 33 years. He would get only one or two hours sleep and then he’d be at it again. Given this, I couldn’t be a slacker.” Gary Johnson, 61, worked in the intelligence community and served in the federal government, including in the White House. “My father, Samuel Johnson, was the best man at my wedding. He told me so many things but the things that stood out was that all you really need in life is one good friend, and to be careful of all the others around you,” Johnson said. “The other thing was not listen to your friends when you’re married and never embarrass your wife in public.” “Let me put to you this way: In July I will have been married for 34 years, so I listened.” Johnson, a Washington, DC native, said the family car was a taxicab. His dad, a high school dropout, held several jobs, including working as a maintenance engineer at Metropolitan Police Department headquarters. “Another piece of advice he told me is that you do what you have to do in life and don’t cut corners. I have two boys and I quit my job to be a stay-at-home dad when they were four and seven years old. I also started my own business, Black Men in America. I’m always trying to model appropriate behavior and teach young people.” “I created Daddy Academy because I had to teach these guys how to be men.”