May 31, 2009

Obama Effect: Artur Davis Looks Strong in Alabama

I told y'all a few months ago that Artur Davis (D-AL) was a beneficiary of the Obama Effect.

Davis strives to become the first African American governor of Alabama. He is looking good in recent polls.

In head-to-head matchups, Davis leads Democratic Chief Justice Sue Bell Cobbs, 54%-25%, and Commissioner of Agriculture and Industry Ron Sparks, 56%-26%. He's also ahead of Republican Bradley Byrne, 43%-38%. Byrne is chancellor of Alabama's community college system and a former state senator.

I guess that Charles Barkley's window of opportunity to be Alabama governor is over, huh?!

May 30, 2009

Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) Responds to Taser Torture Petition

This blog participated in the Day of Blogging for Justice Against Taser Torture last month. As a part of that online activism I joined with others in signing a petition asking for congressional hearings on taser torture in America. I shared my thoughts with the congresswoman and senators that represent me.

One of them, Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) responded to me with the following message:

Dear Mr. Hicks:

Thank you for expressing your concerns about the use of tasers by law enforcement officials.

Tasers are used by law enforcement officials to deliver an electroshock and subdue dangerous suspects, and are often used to avoid the use of lethal force. I agree that we must ensure that law enforcement officers receive proper training and that all use of force is appropriate to the situation. In the past I have supported legislation to increase law enforcement accountability for excessive use of force, and should similar legislation come before the Senate I will certainly keep your views in mind.

Thank you again for contacting me.

Sherrod Brown
United States Senator
I hope that all villagers will sign the online petition created by my colleagues in the AfroSpear.

May 29, 2009

Let Troy Davis Speak

NAACP President Ben Jealous just sent out the following message:

Dear Wayne,

A few hours ago, I met with Troy Davis on death row.

As you know, he is facing the death penalty in Georgia for killing a police officer -- but since his trial, seven out of nine witnesses have recanted or contradicted their testimony. And with no physical evidence to link him to the crime, it is likely he is innocent.

Besides the fact that Troy is facing execution for a crime that he may not have committed, he also told me that he is being denied the right to speak out on his own behalf despite the fact that others in his position are allowed to do so.

Please contact Commissioner Brian Owens of the Georgia Department of Corrections to demand that he remove the gag order on Troy Davis.

In my meeting with Troy, I discovered that 60 Minutes, Dateline, and the Associated Press have all been denied media access to Troy. When Georgia won't let the media talk to the accused man, it is a flagrant abuse of his First Amendment rights.

In fact, the case of Troy Davis highlights how broken our criminal justice system is... and why we must reform it. Today, more than 60% of the people in prison are people of color. African Americans make up more than 40% of those on death row. This summer, the NAACP will launch a campaign to reform our country's criminal justice system with the goal of making our communities safer, improving police performance, saving money, and keeping more of our young men and women out of prison. But Troy can't wait for this summer.
We need your help now.

An innocent man may be executed. You and I must work together to reform our country's criminal justice system, and we must start by saving the life of one man.
Please contact Commissioner Brian Owens of the Georgia Department of Corrections today and demand he give Troy the right to speak.

Benjamin Todd Jealous
President and CEO

I've sent my online petition. I also shared the information with my Twitter followers. Will you join us in this effort to change the policy enacted by the Georgia Department of Corrections?

Black Buying Power

Despite an economy represented by high unemployment rates, a home foreclosure crisis and low consumer confidence, African American buying power is projected to reach $1.2 trillion in 2013, according to a report conducted by the University of Georgia’s Selig Center for Economic Growth. That will be a significant increase over the roughly $800 billion Blacks are believed to have spent in 2006. [SOURCE]

The Selig Center for Economic Growth developed this definitive data series for 1990-2008 and the projections for 2008 through 2013.

In regards to income and wages, the African American median family income declined by $404 or 1 percent and the median weekly wage for African American workers ages 25 to 54 years old declined by 0.2 percent. The weekly wages for African Americans differ by gender—particularly, the median weekly wages of African American men declined in 2007 by 3.4 percent from $649 to $627, while it increased for women by 2.6 percent from $552 to $566.

$1.2 trillion seems like a number to celebrate. However, if we focus on "spending power" then we will be bamboozled and flim-flammed. Spending power ain't realy POWER because it does not translate into the power to have a sustained impact on our own destiny. Black folks spend too much time puffing out our chest about this so-called "spending power" ... when actually all that the $1.2 trillion dollars equals is our "disposable income" ... and Black folks surely know how to dispose of our income. We give away our money faster than any other ethnic group in the country. Only 5% of our disposable income stays in our community. We only spend 5% of our income with Black-owned businesses.

It’s not what you earn; it’s what you keep.
Poor people pay interest; rich people earn interest.

If you have a dollar and the otherman has a dollar. You give 95 cents of your dollar to the otherman. Are you surprised when the otherman's roads are better; the otherman's public schools are better; the otherman's homes and cars are better? When you only keep a nickel out of your dollar in your own community ... can we be surprised when the police don't respect us; when our children don't respect us; when our school systems are bankrupt; when our public services from the local government are substandard. Spending power doesn't equal POWER.

You shouldn’t work for money; money should work for you.
Don’t have champagne tastes with a beer budget.

$1.2 trillion seems like a number to celebrate. Nevertheless, a whopping 24.9 percent of all Blacks are still officially classified as poor and critics complain that despite its absolute size, Black income is failing to create Black wealth because it tends to flow into Black communities and right back out.

Villagers, don't be bamboozled. the difference between income and wealth when it comes to power is simple --> wealth flows from your net worth. What happens to you if you missed two paychecks? Many of us would be homeless if that happened.

Check out a person’s net worth and you can see how wealthy he or she is. The government tells us that the typical white household had over 10 times as much accumulated wealth (or net worth) as the typical Black household. The median net worth (assets minus liabilities) for the typical white family was $88,651 compared to $7,932 for Hispanics and $5,998 for Blacks. Do you begin to see the trick bag that is placed over our head when we focus on "spending power"?

Credit is a good servant but a poor master.
Stop ending each month with more month than money.

Villagers, the next time you see the statistics on Black Buying Power, stop and think about the word “power” and what it means in that particular context. Power for whom? Yes, it’s Black Buying Power, but it’s power for those who receive some 95% of our $1.2 trillion everyday. It is power for others to purchase fine homes and cars. It is power for others to build their own communities. It is power for others to send their children to college. It is power that allows the otherman to maintain their collective hold on the economic system of this country.

Jim Clingman uses the term “Black Buying Weakness.” If we continue to give our power to someone else through our conspicuous consumption of their products and services, we will continue to have billions of dollars in aggregate income and only thousands of dollars in individual family wealth. Additionally, we will continue to have the power of income rather than the power of wealth, which only allows us to our pay bills, continue to work on the proverbial plantations, purchase all of our needs and wants from the proverbial company store, and create the power of wealth for others.

Do you remember the systems of sharecropping and dependence upon the company store shown in the final episodes of the Roots miniseries? It seems like we are repeating that same history today as we convert our $1.2 trillion of spending power into relative miniscule amount of wealth that Blacks have. We could never catch up then, and we will never catch up now, if we continue to depend upon income rather than wealth.

The power of wealth manifests itself in ownership and control of income-producing assets and infrastructure such as banks, hotels, manufacturing facilities, real estate, distribution channels, and other wealth-builders and wealth-retainers. The power of income manifests itself, via the transfer of that income to others, in ownership and control of assets by others from whom Black folks must purchase our very sustenance. If we allow that system to continue, by pouring the vast majority of our income into the vast pools of wealth owned by others, we will always be on the bottom of the economic heap. Yes, some of us will still have the latest cars, fine homes, stock portfolios, and high positions (jobs) in corporate America, but collectively we will remain an income-rich and wealth-poor group of Africans in America.

We must take stock of our economic position in this country by understanding that income is not wealth. Villagers, you are encouraged to redirect more of your income toward your own people, just like other groups do. And, the next time they count how much money we have collectively, they will add a footnote that says, “Black spending among Black owned businesses has increased significantly, the result of which is an increase in the net worth of Black families as well as an aggregate increase in Black wealth.

The power of income or the power of wealth. Which would you prefer for our people?

Old School Friday: Michael Franks

Every once and a while it’s time to try something new and different. The theme for this week is Outside My Box”. It’s time to showcase things that are not normally associated with me ... things people wouldn’t believe that I’d listen to…

My choice is Michael Franks. He's a jazz musician that I discovered during my college days. I couldn't find any video of him. However, here are two of my favorite Michael Franks' songs. Both are on my iPod right now. I hope you enjoy his flow.

Asante sana to Mrs Grapevine and Ms Marvalus for creating Old School Friday. I encourage all villagers with a blog to participate in this weekly meme!

May 28, 2009

Nothing New: Bonnie Sweeten Makes False Accusation Against Black Men

When white folks in America get in trouble ... the first thing that comes to their mind appears to be ... 'A Black man did it'. As long as it's allegedly a brutish Black man is involved, America will fall for anything.

The latest to find comfort in this racist excuse is Pennsylvania mother Bonnie Sweeten. She made frantic calls to 911, saying she and her daughter, 9, had been abducted and stuffed in the trunk of a car by two Black men.

I knew this was gonna be a fake call when I first heard it.

So I wasn't surprised when Sweeten and her innocent 9-year old daughter were found at Walt Disney World in Florida. A prosecutor said Sweeten will be charged with making false police reports and identity theft.

When will our nation finally deal with our continuing race relations issues? Sweeten isn't the first one to shift blame to a non-existent Black men ... and how quickly white folks want to believe it when it happens. Let's see if you can help me create a list of cases where the "Black man did it" was used:
  1. Ashley Todd - This McCain volunteer said she was robbed by a 6'4" Black man.

  2. Charles Stuart - This is the guy who lied about a Black guy with a raspy voice shooting his pregnant wife to death.

  3. Susan Smith - This is the young woman who killed her babies by driving them into the lake. She blamed it on a gun-toting Black man who she invented. She said that this imaginary Black man car-jacked her and took the car and babies.

  4. Frances Taylor - She blamed an assault on an imaginary Black man to conceal her own affair. As a result, the entire town of Rosewood was burned down.

  5. Ruby Bates and Victoria Price - These two young white girls falsely accused nine Black boys of raping them. The nine Black boys were known as the "Scottsboro Boys" and they were found guilty of a crime they did not commit.

  6. Jacquelyn Parfait - She told the police that she was abducted by two Black women who took her to a home where she was repeatedly raped for days. Later, she told the police that she made it all up.

What other examples am I missing on this list?

This trite ruse that white folks have about blaming a Black man led to decades of lynching in America. Isn't it time we put an end to it.

I hope that Sweeten loses custody of her children and spends many years in jail. Maybe that response will cause white folks to think twice before inventing an imaginary Black man to divert attention from their own dastardly deeds.

May 27, 2009

Elections Have Consequences: Judge Sonia Sotomayor

This is another good day in America! Our new president announced yesterday that he is nominating Judge Sonia Sotomayor of the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit to the Supreme Court.

Elections have consequences. Our president demonstrated this fact once again with this appointment.

Judge Sotomayor is a talented and fair-minded jurist and will be the first Hispanic Justice on the Supreme Court. Her record shows that she'll bring an open mind to the Court and rule on each case according to its particular merits.

I imagine that Michael Steele, Rush Limbaugh and Dick Cheney will object to Sotomayor's confirmation. It won't matter. America wants a qualified woman and a qualified Hispanic on the Supreme Court.

Obama can check off another campaign promise -- to select a person who has demonstrated an abiding commitment to the core constitutional values of justice and equality under the law, someone who understands the impact that the law has on the everyday lives of ordinary Americans.

Sonia Sotomayor's decades-long legal career is a powerful stepping stone to the high court.

  1. She graduated from Yale Law School where she was Editor of the Yale Law Journal and Managing Editor of the Yale Studies in World Public Order.

  2. She was Assistant District Attorney for New York County from 1979-1984.

  3. And she has served on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit since 1998, before that serving on the U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York since 1992.

This nomination is good news for people who care about the future of our rights and liberties. Her nomination is bad for GOP nutcases like Tom Tancredo and Rush Limbaugh.

Judge Sonia Sotomayor will be a justice that makes all villagers proud.

Elections have consequences. President Obama continues to play chess while his opponents are playing checkers. Hispanics, women and all of America are feeling good this week to be living in the Obama era!

Village Prayers for Mike Tyson and His Family

I'm old enough to remember Mike Tyson when he was the most feared man on the face of the earth. His opponents in the boxing ring would crumble during the introductions ... or in the case of Michael Spinks ... 89 seconds later.

I'm old enough to remember Mike Tyson when he was the most ignorant man on the face of the earth. Can you say, 'Robin Givens'?

I'm old enough to remember Mike Tyson when he was the most reviled man on the face of the earth. Convicted rapist. Boxer who needed to bite ears because he wasn't invincible in the ring any longer.

All of us are old enough to remember Mike Tyson as the most sympathetic man on the face of the earth. No man deserves the pain of burying their child ... much less an innocent 4-year old daughter.

Tyson is the father of six children: Gena, Mikey, Rayna (shown in photo above), Amir, Miguel, and Exodus. His youngest daughter was taken from this world too soon. I join with all villagers in extending our prayers and condolences to the Tyson family in their time of bereavement.

Republicans Call Sonia Sotomayer a 'Racist' and a 'Bigot'

The Republican Party seems more and more like an irrelevant group of scared white folks. Listen to their immediate reaction to decision by President Obama to appoint Judge Sonia Sotomayer to the Supreme Court.

Is it just me ... or do these folks sound more and more desperate in their flailing to stay relevant?

Public Sentiment Turns Against Police in Oregon Taser Killing

I noticed that recent press accounts of the taser-related death of 37-year old Gregory Rold are beginning to question the use of force by the Salem police officers.

One recent article contained the following information:

Several residents of the Carriage Apartments criticized police Tuesday for using what they described as excessive force.

"He was a creep, but does that mean you get killed like a dog? They should have hogtied him, detained him and taken him away," Carita Mendez said.

Mendez lives in a first-floor unit at the Carriage Apartments, directly below the unit where Rold fought with police as his mother looked on. Neighbors said she screamed out the window, pleading for help and saying that police were killing her son.

Mendez said the violence left many residents traumatized.

"We've been crying, us girls have," she said. "It's too much for us. It's sad."

Liz Patterson, co-manager of the complex, described the altercation between Rold and police officers as a tragedy.

"It's a tragedy for the family. It's a tragedy for the police department. It's a tragedy for everybody involved," she said.

The four officers involved were placed on administrative leave, which is standard procedure in cases involving a fatality and use of physical force. One of the officers, Jacob Pratt, was injured during the fight, and was treated at Silverton Hospital. The other three are Eric Brown, Adam Waite, and Cpl. Darron Mumey.

Villagers, I remain convinced that these four officers did not abide by the use of force continuum in this case. The penalty for being a creep or a trespasser is not the death penalty. Something went horribly wrong in Salem OR and as a result Gregory Rold became the 20th person this year to die as a result of taser electrocution in America.

When will the Congressional Black Caucus join over 600 people to demand congressional hearings on this rising incidence of taser torture in America?

Wordless Wednesday: Think First and Speak Afterwards

May 26, 2009

OURstory: Barack Obama and Tanzania President Jakaya Kikwete

President Obama met with Tanzania President Jakaya Kikwete in the Oval Office on Thursday, May 21, 2009.

There are over 50 countries on the African continent. For the first time in over 200 years those African nations can look at the White House and see one of their descendants serving as President of the United States. It is with that historical background that I share this photo documenting the first meeting of an African head of state with President Barack Obama. You can find more photos here.

May 25, 2009

Rev. Al Sharpton Jumps Into the Education Debate

Many of you saw Michael Bloomberg, Newt Gingrich and Al Sharpton on the White House lawn earlier this month. This unusual trio joined forces to work on education reform. Below is a clip of Sharpton's remarks after the meeting at the White House on May 7.

What you may not know is that Rev. Sharpton pitched this idea with Barack Obama while he was on the campaign trail.

I guess it is true what they say -- 'The way to a man's heart is through his stomach'!

Knocked Off My Feet...

May 24, 2009

Gregory Rold Dies After Police Shoot Him With a Taser

I'm sad to report that we have another taser-related death in America. This is the 20th taser-related death at the hands of police officers since the beginning of the calendar year. Here is the initial report:

Salem man dies after police shoot him with a Taser
Stephen Beaven, The Oregonian

A purported trespasser died Saturday night after he was shot with a Taser as Salem police officers tried to arrest him.

Gregory Rold, 37, died at Salem Hospital shortly before 9:30 p.m., police said today.

Officers were called to an apartment on Royvonne Avenue SE in Salem about 7:38 p.m. following a report of a man who was trespassing. They encountered Rold, who resisted arrest, prompting officers to shoot him with a Taser and beat him with their batons. After he was handcuffed, officers said Rold was unconscious.

Four officers were placed on administrative leave while Rold's death is being investigated.

It is interesting to note that Gregory Rold cannot contradict the 'resisting arrest' or 'trespassing' charges. He's dead. I don't know all aspects of the law ... but, I'm fairly comfortable that we don't have the death penalty in America for those that 'resist arrest or trespass. Four police officers couldn't control this guy with something less than deadly force? The only response that they could come up with was extra-judicial death penalty?

Villagers, we are 20 weeks into the calendar year and we already have 20 taser-related deaths in America. Isn't it time for you to sign our online petition calling for congressional hearings on this taser torture?

What say u?

May 23, 2009

Obama Selects Charles Bolden to Lead NASA

We told you a few months ago that Charles Bolden -- a former fighter pilot and Marine Corps major general, is also a veteran space shuttle commander -- was a leading candidate to become NASA's next administrator.

Today, we are pleased to let you know that President Obama made it official by appointing Bolden to lead NASA into the future. Bolden, the third African American to fly in space, met with Obama at the White House earlier this week. Read the full story here.

I have a feeling that the other 14 current and former African American astronauts ... and the entire Negro American Society of Space Astronauts (NASSA) ... are feeling mighty proud today!

President's Weekly Address: 'Sacrifice'

On this Memorial Day weekend, President Obama calls on the American people to join him in paying tribute to America’s veterans, servicemen and women – particularly those who have made the ultimate sacrifice - and their families.

Villagers, do you have any military veterans in your family? My brother (Capt. Charles Hicks) and cousin (Rear Adm. Benjamin Hacker)served in the Navy. I have another cousin (Kelly Jones) who flew fighter jets for the US Air Force. Charles and 'Uncle' Ben passed away after their military careers ended. Kelly is also retired from the military and actively creating a business based on his passion for racing.

I'll be thinking about these three military men in my family this weekend. How about you?

Michael Steele: 'Press Fell in Love with the Black Man Running for President'

Michael Steele has become a sad parody of himself. One day he is giddy that President Obama is clowning him at the White House Correspondents Dinner. The next day he is saying that his Republican Party will attack Obama 'with class'.

And I now bring you the latest evidence that Michael Steele is a fool.

Listen to this clip of Steele on a national radio show with ol' school fear-mongering about Rev. Jeremiah Wright and the unknown quantities of Barack Obama ... the most watched and known person on the face of the earth.

STEELE: The problem that we have with this president is that we don’t know [Obama]. He was not vetted, folks. … He was not vetted, because the press fell in love with the Black man running for the office. "Oh gee, wouldn’t it be neat to do that? Gee, wouldn’t it make all of our liberal guilt just go away? We can continue to ride around in our limousines and feel so lucky to live in an America with a black president." Okay that’s wonderful, great scenario, nice backdrop. But what does he stand for? What does he believe? … So we don’t know. We just don’t know.
It seems to me that enough Americans knew Obama on November 4, 2008 when they overwhelmngly elected him as our President of the United States.

It seems to me that America knew him well on January 20, 2009 when we came out in record numbers to hear his inauguration speech.

Finally, it seems to me that Obama is regularly talking to the American people in town hall meetings, press conferences, his own website and so forth. He is the most accessible and transparent presidents in my lifetime.

Villagers ... when is the last time that Michael Steele did or said anything that we could take seriously? He seems to add to his blooper reel every week. What are your thoughts on Michael Steele's performance as a national political leader?

'Justice for Jamaal' is Rally Cry for Protest March on La Marque City Hall

Jamaal Valentine died Sunday night when three La Marque police officers tried to arrest him after people reporting him walking down the middle of main street and rolling in the grass on the side of the road. One of those eye witnesses said that he called police asking for medical help for Valentine who claimed he thought he was having a heart attack. The police used tasers on Valentine instead of getting him medical help.

Valentine, 27-year old father of two toddlers, died.

The good people of La Marque peacefully marched on city hall to protest this taser-related death. About 60 police brutality and anti-taser protesters spoke out against taser torture. These protestors, fearing a tainted investigation by the local district attorney's office, want the investigation conducted by the Texas Department of Public Safety.

La Marque Mayor Geraldine Sam and Councilman Keith Bell addressed the crowd at city hall asking for patience and support of police officers during the ongoing investigation. Mayor Sam was sworn in last week as the first woman and first African American to be mayor of La Marque TX. Her leadership is being tested early!

I encourage the La Marque protestors to join with the AfroSpear in urging for congressional hearings on the rising number of taser-related deaths in America. Do any of us feel that Jamaal Valentine will be the last one?

May 22, 2009

Family of Robert Mitchell Call for End to Taser Torture

Robert Mitchell is the teenager killed by taser fire from Warren (MI) police officers. The powers-that-be have yet to provide clear answers or accountability for his untimely death. More than 100 family members, friends and anti-brutality advocates assembled yesterday for a peaceful march they hope will change taser torture policies in the local police department.

"Robert Mitchell is going to be the catalyst for peace. He didn't die for nothing," Sandra Hines of the Detroit Coalition Against Police Brutality told the crowd. "It's so important to bridge together between Warren and Detroit. We want peace."
The protestors also called for the termination of Warren police officers who chased Robert Mitchell into an abandoned house in Detroit on April 10 after he fled police during a traffic stop.

You can read more here and here.

Old School Friday: Ray Charles and Stevie Wonder

The theme of the week is, “This IS Dedicated To ____________.” I've decided to dedicate my entry to my people ... all of the people of African descent in America who are trying to make ends meet. Stevie Wonder wrote this song back in 1973, however, it still resonates in too many African American homes today. Close your eyes and enjoy the musical magic of Stevie Wonder and Ray Charles as they remind us what it is like to 'live just enough for the city'...

Asante sana to Mrs Grapevine and Ms Marvalus for creating Old School Friday. I encourge all villagers with a blog to participate in this weekly meme!

SBS Dateline on LaVena Johnson

Drumbeats from Philip Barron let us know that the story of Pfc. LaVena Johnson is being told on Australian network television this month. A news magazine show, SBS Dateline, brings its focus to the controversial death of Pfc. LaVena Johnson and the issue of sexual assault in the US military.

The feature, “Dark Secrets,” is scheduled to air on May 29, but a preview is available now to watch online. The preview shares some heart-wrenching comments from LaVena's parents. Please let me know if you find the complete airing of the segment someplace online.

The prayers of our entire village are with Pfc. Johnson's family.

May 21, 2009

Family of Jamaal Valentine Must Wait Four Weeks for Medical Examiner Report

Jamaal Anderson is a 27-year old Black man who sought medical attention for a potential heart attack while on the streets of a Houston suburb. He didn't deserve to die.

Valentine was found by police Sunday night after drivers reported the 27-year-old was in the middle of Main Street in La Marque trying to stop cars. Keith Pope was one of those motorists who pulled over and called police after he said Valentine told him that he thought he was having a heart attack and needed medical help.

Although Pope said he was expecting an ambulance, three officers arrived. Instead of providing medical attention, the officers tried to arrest Valentine, Pope said.

The officers said Valentine was combative and fought them, at one point reaching for an officer’s pistol.

That is when one of the officers pulled his Taser and killed Valentine. It seems simple to me ... Valentine would be alive today if the police didn't shock his body with 50,000 volts of electricity.

It's not so simple for the powers that be in Texas. A medical examiner’s spokeswoman said that medical examiner Dr. Stephen Pustilnik said the cause of death of Jamaal Valentine cannot be determined “pending toxicology” test results. Those results can take up to four weeks to be completed, the medical examiner said. [SOURCE]

It boggles my mind that three La Marque police officers couldn't deal with a sick man in some manner less than the deadly force of their tasers. Doesn't the use of force continuum apply in Texas?

Still Waiting on Taser Reports to Show Police Officer R.L. Wray Killed 17-Year Old Derrick Jones

Derrick Jones is a 17-year old Black youth killed by police tasers in January 2009. He was fooling around with his white buddies on that day. His buddies were arrested. He was killed. The taser was deployed as Jones came out of the kitchen and “moved rapidly toward” Martinsville police officer R.L. Wray “in an offensive stance,” according to a police account of the incident.

The penalty for goofing around or being "in an offensive stance" should not be death. The facts seem clear to villagers that read this blog. Not so clear to the powers that be in Virginia.

We’re still waiting on reports” from various sources, including the medical examiner, said Botetourt County Commonwealth’s Attorney Joel Branscom.

After Martinsville Commonwealth’s Attorney Joan Ziglar excused herself from the investigation, Branscom was asked to review findings of the investigation that is being handled by special agents in the Bureau of Criminal Investigations office of the Virginia State Police in Salem.

Branscom does not know when results of various tests may be completed.

Tasers are electronic devices that are considered to be nonlethal law enforcement tools used for compliance. Yet, Derrick Jones is one of 19 people killed in America by taser-wielding police officers so far this year.

How long will we allow these extra-judicial electrocutions to take place in America? Isn't it time to have congressional hearings on taser torture?

May 20, 2009

Obama Proposes $1.25 Billion for Black Farmers

Field Negro (BBR #9) and others took the Obama administration to the woodshed for reneging on a promise to the impoverished Black farmers. As such, I was glad to see that Obama did the right thing when push came to shove.

President Barack Obama is proposing that the government give $1.25 billion to settle discrimination claims by Black farmers against the Agriculture Department.

The White House said the money would be included in Obama’s 2010 budget request.

Earlier this year, Black farmers and lawmakers criticized Obama for neglecting the need for more money to fund claims under a 10-year-old, class-action lawsuit against the government.

In a statement, Obama said the proposed funds would “close this chapter” in the agency’s history.

"My hope is that the farmers and their families who were denied access to USDA loans and programs will be made whole and will have the chance to rebuild their lives and their businesses," Obama said.
John Boyd (shown in photo shaking Obama's hand), head of the National Black Farmers Association, has called the proposal a "step in the right direction," but said additional funds would be needed.

"We think this is a good step in the negotiating process. We're glad to know this issue is on the president's radar screen and we commend him for taking this step," he said. But "we need to make sure that none of the Black farmers are left out."

May 19, 2009

Don't Kill Troy Davis

Let me start by saying that my prayers are with the family of Mark McPhail. He is the police officer shot in August 1989 for nothing more than doing his job. Sometimes, we fail to acknowledge McPhail's family as we discuss this case.

The State of Georgia sentenced Troy Davis to the death penalty for McPhail's murder over 15 years ago. Should Troy Davis be put to death by the State of Georgia? My answer is 'No'.

There is compelling evidence that Davis did not commit the crime. I don't think that we should have any doubt about killing a man. This case is full of doubt. Unfortunately, it appears that Troy Davis is reaching the end of the line.

He lost his appeal to the federal appeals court in April. The Supreme Court jumped in about 90 minutes before Davis was set to be executed back in September 2008. However, they turned down a hearing on his appeal in October.

A 30-day stay of execution expires this weekend, prompting Amnesty International and the AfroSpear to declare today a global day of action - a time for those who hate injustice to raise our voices and save this man's life.

Troy Davis expressed his gratitude to us in interview conducted on May 17th.

Villagers, here are the basic facts of the case:
In August 1989, Davis and a running buddy named Sylvester (Red) Coles spent a riotous, hell-raising night in Savannah. Eyewitnesses say Coles shot at two of his neighbors at a house party with a chrome .38 pistol, hitting and wounding one.

Davis wasn't at that party. But he and Coles met later and wound up in the parking lot of a Burger King next to Savannah's Greyhound bus station, where one of them harassed and pistol-whipped a homeless man.

When the man yelled for help, a cop named Mark McPhail - who was moonlighting as a security guard at the bus station - came running, and was shot to death at point-blank range.

The murder weapon was never recovered, but ballistics showed it was a .38-caliber handgun.

Coles, the owner of a .38, wasn't charged. Instead, nine eyewitnesses testified at trial that Davis was the shooter.

But seven of the nine have since recanted their testimony, with several signing sworn statements that they were coerced by cops.

One recanting witness, Dorothy Ferrell, said in a sworn statement that "I was scared that if I didn't do what the police wanted me to do, then they would try to lock me up again. I was on parole at the time."

And here's witness Darrell Collins: "I was only 16 ... After a couple of hours of the detectives yelling at me and threatening me, I finally broke down ... They would tell me things that they said had happened and I would repeat whatever they said."

And so it went with seven of the nine witnesses.

Of the remaining two, one initially told police under oath that he didn't know who shot McPhail - then reversed himself on the witness stand two years later, certain that Davis was the culprit.

The only other eyewitness is Coles, who went to the police the day after the shooting, accompanied by a lawyer and claimed Davis was the killer.

Coles never mentioned that he'd been carrying a .38-caliber pistol that night.

"[The police] bought Mr. Coles' story hook, line and sinker," Davis' attorneys argued in court. "And they went out into this community, and they rounded up witnesses everywhere they could find them, and they paraded them in here."

Three new witnesses now claim they heard Coles later take credit for the murder. But none of the new witnesses or sworn recantations have ever been heard in any court - and probably never will be.
The only remaining hope is a pardon from Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue - an act of mercy we should all demand to rescue Davis from an unjust death.

Other Available Resources:
  1. Download a fact sheet on Davis' case

  2. Read more about innocence on Georgia's death row

  3. Where is the justice for me?: The case of Troy Davis, facing execution in Georgia

  4. Listen to Troy tell his story

  5. View the facts and timeline

  6. Join the international discussion

  7. Hear from Troy's sister

  8. Visit Troy Davis' website
Next step is yours. How are you raising your voice in protest today?

Houston, We Have a Problem ... Witness Says Taser-Happy Police Are Lying

Jamaal Valentine is 27-year old Black man who died after being tased by the La Marque police officer. Police officers Richard Garcia, Forrest Gandy and Sgt. Mike Kelemen say that Valentine was "rolling around in the grass in a ditch." They go on to indicate that Valentine fought and bit them. Later, the police report even added something about Valentine reaching for a police sidearm. One of the cops shot Valentine with a taser gun. A few moments later he was died.

However, the 62-year old witness who called for help said the man was seeking medical help for a possible heart attack and didn’t appear to pose any threat to officers. Instead of calling medical aid for Valentine, police tried to arrest him. [SOURCE]

Asked if he thought Valentine was a threat to officers, Pope said, “No.”

“I was as close as you could get to him,” Pope said. “I was face-to-face with him, and he was not threatening to me. He was in distress, needing help.”
The incident has Valentine’s family asking for answers. His stepfather, Troy Terrell, said police had not talked to family members to explain what happened.

Valentine is the 19th person killed in America this year by police tasers.

May 18, 2009

Remarks by President Obama at Notre Dame Commencement (Video)

President Barack Obama truly shines at moments of high drama. I recall how he responded to the race issues last year during the primaries. This past weekend the hot-button issue was abortion. A number of folks were up in arms about the fact that Obama was giving this speech and getting an honorary law degree at the same time.

I thought that villagers would appreciate hearing his words directly. Here is the full 31-minute speech:

What are your thoughts about his speech? Do you think that we can significantly reduce the number of unwanted pregnancies in America?

Latino Hate Crime Murder of Luis Ramirez Deserves Justice

After they had beaten Luis Ramirez to death, the white teenagers who attacked Luis sent an ominous message to his friends:

"Tell your f**king Mexican friends to get the f**k out of Shenandoah or you’ll be f**king laying next to him."
Just over a week ago, two of Ramirez’s killers were acquitted of all serious charges by an all white jury, with the jury foreman making it clear that justice for Ramirez had no chance in the town of Shenandoah, PA:

"I believe strongly that some of the people on the jury were racist. I believe strongly that some of the people on the jury had their minds made up maybe before the first day of trial…And I believe the four boys that were involved the most are racist. I absolutely do…"
Thanks to the hard work of Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund (MALDEF) and others, the Department of Justice is now looking into Ramirez’ death. But that’s only part of what’s needed. Where are the leaders in the State of Pennsylvania? Why has the governor had nothing to say? His silence is shameful.

Until elected leaders speak up, we can expect more stories like Luis’ — not just in Shenandoah, but across the country. Pennsylvania Governor Rendell owes it to the people of his state and to Latinos everywhere to speak out and condemn what’s happened. I've joined in demanding that he does. Please click the link below to add your voice and ask your friends and family to do the same. It takes only a moment.

Ordinarily our blog highlights issues that impact directly on African Americans. However, the Black community has seen this type of injustice before. It wasn't right when it happened to nubians ... it's not right when it happens in the Latino or immigrant community.

If Luis Ramirez’s death were an isolated event it would be outrageous enough. Sadly, it’s part of a growing trend of racially motivated violence against Latinos, particularly in rural communities. According to the FBI, hate crimes against Latinos rose 35% between 2003 and 2006. And as author David Niewert writes, the target of hate crimes goes beyond their immediate victims: "The purpose is to terrorize the target community, to drive them out, eliminate them."

That kind of intimidation only works only if the people who are targeted remain silent, and if officials in positions of power remain unaccountable. That’s why villagers need to speak out and let folks across the country know we won’t tolerate hate and violence towards any community of color. It starts with demanding that the Governor of Pennsylvania make clear that anti-immigrant hate has no place in Pennsylvania. It’s time for him to show leadership now. Join our village in calling for Governor Rendell to speak out!

Jamaal Valentine, 27-Year Old Blackman, Killed by Police Taser Torture in Houston Area

The police found 27-year old Jamaal Valentine rolling in a ditch down near Houston TX. Instead of getting him medical help the police escalated the situation to the point that a taser was pulled and used. Another Blackman dead at the hands of police taser torture. Mr. Valentine is the 19th person killed by taser in the first 20 weeks of the year. Is this another case of extra-judicial electrocution?

When will the police accept that the taser is a lethal weapon?

May 17, 2009

We've Got To Do Something About Those Borders...

This week's caption winner is Sojourner!

Sunday Inspiration: Black Mommas

I grew up with a set of Black parents that didn't take no mess. My mom was simple and direct with her discipline. We didn't have "time-outs" in our house!
  1. Have you ever been called downstairs from upstairs, the back of the house, or from the front of the house to get the remote, change the channel, or bring her a glass of ice water?

  2. Have you ever been hit with an extension cord, a switch, or the nearest shoe?

  3. Have you ever had to pick your own switch off the tree and got sent back because the one you picked was too little?

  4. Have you ever been burned on your ear with a straightening comb?

  5. Have you ever been hit in the head or knuckles with a comb or hair brush?

  6. Have you ever been told to 'Shut up or I'll give you something to cry about' or beat with a belt while she pronounces every syllable, 'Didn't---I---tell---you---not---to-do---that---no---more?!'

  7. Have you ever had your ponytails or plaits were so tight, you got those little bumps around your scalp?

  8. Were the white people in the school office (principal, secretary, etc) afraid of her?

  9. You were scared to go home when you had a bad report card?

  10. Alcohol, peroxide, cocoa butter, and Vaseline were the main items in the bathroom cabinet. And that red hot water bottle hanging behind the bathroom door?

  11. You were never 'on punishment' - just got a whooping right out of the shower.

  12. Have you ever been pinched for going to sleep in church?

  13. She made you participate in every church activity (choir, Sunday school, Junior Usher board, Easter play, Christmas Play, etc).

  14. Has she ever come inside and picked you up from school dance in hair rollers and her gown or pajamas on under her coat?

  15. When you ask her for something, her response was..'You got a job?'

  16. Have you ever been beaten for something your brother or sister did just because you were around?

  17. She vacuums everyday just so the carpet can have lines in it?

  18. Have you ever been told to turn off the TV, get off the phone, or sit down and be quiet when it's storming outside because the Lord was doing his work?

  19. Friends, family, and friends of the family try to keep you out of trouble because they know your mother and how she is?

  20. You were afraid to call the child abuse hotline (because you weren't allowed to use the phone without her permission)?

  21. She had to talk to God.. 'Lord, please don't let me hurt this child!!!' before she gives you a whipping.

  22. You knew NOT to talk about what went on in your house with Anybody (other family members, friends, school authority, etc), because you were told, 'What goes on in this house, stays in this house!!!'

If you can relate to any of these things, then you know you had a beautiful Black mother who didn't take no mess when you were growin up!


Sunday Inspirations, is the meme created by Sojourner to honor her Mother for Mother's Day 2008 and is just one way to help get us through the week ahead, the trials we may face, and yes, to say Thank Ya and testify! I hope that you participate and share with us your Sunday Inspirations. Your weekly contribution may very well be the inspiration that someone else may need and has been looking for.

May 16, 2009

Did Newark Police Kill Basire Farrell with Taser Torture

Villagers have been watching the increasing incidents of taser torture around the nation. Today we learn that Basire Farrell, a 30-year old Black man died in Newark while in custody after he allegedly attacked police officers who were trying to subdue him. Relatives claim he was beaten, tased and killed during the incident.

Police officers responded to reports of a disorderly man inside of Morgan's Bar. Officers indicate that the man began to hit vehicles and yell obscenities when they approached him. In fact, the police say that Farrell bit one them during the scuffle.

The police eventually subdued him, took him into custody, and had emergency workers transport him to Beth Israel Medical Center. During the trip, the man went into cardiac arrest and died a short time later.

Relatives quesitoned police accounts and whether excessive force was used. Witnesses had told the family that officers had beaten, kicked and tasered Farrell.

"Basically my nephew was killed unjustly at the hands of police," said Farrell's uncle, Racheim Farrell. "I'm really like numb with disbelief. The police are the ones to serve and protect the community. We put all of our faith and trust in the police. Newark has some great officers. They do community work with kids. We're not saying all cops are bad. There's just a few bad apples that did something wrong."
Villagers, this guy was wrong for battling the police. However, the penalty for disorderly conduct is a couple of days in jail ... it is not death. There simply is no excuse for extra-judicial electrocution or taser torture. Isn't it time for congressional hearings on this matter?

May 15, 2009

Obama Wants to Close 5,000 Failing Schools

I am pleased to see that the Obama Administration is taking steps to change the dynamics of the American educational system. He wants to see 5,000 failing schools close and reopen with new principals and teachers over the next five years. The plan for failing schools is part of an effort to fundamentally change perceptions about what works in education.

Education Secretary Arne Duncan says kids have only one shot at a good education and chronically underperforming schools need a new start.

Obama doesn't have authority to close schools himself. That power rests with local school districts and states. But the president will have unprecedented money to offer schools from a federal school-turnaround fund. And states have an incentive to act in the federal economic stimulus law, because they must help failing schools improve to be eligible for the dollars.

The administration's goal is for the lowest-performing 1,000 schools — about 1 percent of schools nationwide — to close and reopen each year for the next five years.

Combined with the budget plan released last week, Obama could have as much as $5 billion to facilitate school turnarounds, which could translate to $1 million for every school that is closed and reopened.

I hope that Obama is able to keep the spotlight on his challenge to Americans. We need to significantly increase our efforts in public schools if we plan to maintain our position of global superiority in the future.

What say u?

May 14, 2009

(Th)ink by Keith Knight: Steamed Rice

(Th)ink is an editorial cartoon written and drawn
by cartoonist Keith Knight (the K Chronicles).

May 13, 2009

New AfroSpear Member: Derrick's Window

Derrick Anthony is the newest blogger-applicant approved for membership into the AfroSpear. His blog, Derrick's Window (BBR #1166), went live in August 2008. He sought out the AfroSpear because of its focus on "...the continuing education and sharing of views of people black and otherwise...oh and world peace! :)".

When asked what his blog will add to the AfroSpear flavor, he wrote, "Can there ever be another voice as they are all unique? I got questions and opinions and life experience that Im bringing to the table."

The AfroSpear requires that a current Member must nominate any new blogger-applicant. Deborah (My Brown Eyed View) is the nominating member for Derrick Anthony. She writes:

"I have read Derrick's Window off and on for the past few months. I first learned about his blog through our mutual membership at Urban Blogger. I read his information and visited the site. I have read his posts from time to time. I also know his work from being a member of We OpEd. I think that Afrospear needs as many diverse voices as we can get. Derrick not only is open about being a Gay Black Male, he writes about issues that are of importance to us as black people. He also shares his perspectives of culture from his viewpoint. I believe that as we continue to grow as a group there is room for all different types of voices in our struggle."
I look forward to reading the insights from this young brother over the coming weeks and months!

Wordless Wednesday: Bear Hug

May 12, 2009

Police Demonize the Teenager Killed by Taser Torture

Robert Mitchell is the 16-year old youngster who was killed with tasers from Warren police officers. Everyone is waiting on the autopsy results to understand the cause of death. However the police couldn't wait to let the public know that Mitchell had marijuana in his system.
Warren -- Toxicology testing conducted on a Detroit teen who died shortly after being shocked with a Taser by Warren police showed marijuana in his system at the time of his death, police said today.

The final autopsy report for 16-year-old Robert Mitchell is still pending with the Macomb County Medical Examiner's office.

Warren Police Commissioner William Dwyer said at this point, it is unknown if the drugs found in the teen's system played a role in his death.

Police allege that on April 10, the Detroit Kettering High School sophomore bailed out of the Dodge Stratus he was riding in during a traffic stop for an expired license plate on Eight Mile near Schoenherr. Police say he discarded his jacket before leading officers on a half-block chase to a home on Pelkey.

He was stunned one time for resisting when officers attempted to pat him down.

Mitchell's family filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against the city of Warren April 20.
My perspective is simple. The young man didn't deserve the death penalty for running or "discarding his jacket". The police don't have the right to electrocute a teenager for these things.

What say u?

Village Interview: Eddie Griffin (Eddie Griffin, BASG)

This is a continuation of our Village Interview series. Today, we are pleased to invite you for a seat under our baobob tree to read interview with Eddie Griffin, an active blogger in the afrosphere. His blog is known as Eddie G. Griffin (BASG). BASG is acronym for Black Accused Support Group.

Eddie Griffin, ex-Black Panther, ex-convict, Blackosphere advocate for the accused, Christian community organizer, and author of 'Breaking Men's Minds: Behavior Control and Human Experimentation at the Federal Prison in Marion (IL)'. I encourage you to visit his blog to best enjoy his honest, candid and insightful analysis of current events. I hope you enjoy this blogger interview!

Q1. What were you like when you were younger?

Youth is like a deep, deep sleep. You wake up and hardly remember what it felt like to be young. I guess you can say I was a romanticist, in love with life and every young woman I could put my hands on. For a brief period, I was Mr. Popular, with a reputation everywhere I went. I was too popular for my own good, so I gained a gangster pimp image, and later a Black, gun-toting revolutionary… seems like to me, on a suicide mission.
Q2. Name a famous historical figure, living or deceased, you would like to meet and tell us why.

I am not a hero worshipper. But I see in myself some of the influence of people who helped shaped my life. I would have loved to meet Angela Davis. Her book 'Soledad Brother' converted me to the revolution. I fell in love with her face on the FBI Most Wanted poster. If a sweet sister like this could be branded as an outlaw, then I realized that I was on the wrong side of the law.

After being exonerated, Angela Davis went to work on behalf of other prisoners, after the death of George Jackson, the original 'Soledad Brother'. She took up the cause of a band of politically conscious prisoners and named them the “Marion Brothers”, of whom I am one of the three set free by President Jimmy Carter.

Without her, I would still be in Leavenworth until the year 2022.
Q3. Name a person in your community who is relatively unknown to the rest of the world, who you believe is significant in some way, and that you would like the rest of the world to know more about.

My protégé, Junichi Lockett, Jr., is an unknown, and has yet to 'make his bones'. But he is a young man full of potential and determination. He was a proven leader among his college peers, serving as the university’s NAACP president and being awarded Man of the Year recognition.

He has finished a manuscript on militaristic determinism as used in goal achievements. I like his thinking and work in the trenches, as an elementary school teacher. He studies my writings for inspiration and insight.
Q4. What are two items in your 'bucket list' ... things you want to do or accomplish before you kick the bucket?

I would love to see the day all my kids and grandkids march across the stage upon high school graduation, ready to move on up to the next level in life.
Q5. Describe your first experience on the Internet?

I started in the telephone dial-up connection system on a 486 computer. Every time the phone range, the Internet crashed, until the age of the Pentium, when I routed my telephone calls through my computer.
Q6. Tell us about your current blogging career and how you got into it.

Before I started blogging, I wrote essays and commentaries and mass emailed them to about 1,000 local and national readers. One of my commentaries about the ordeal of Shaquanda Cotton attracted the attention of Francis Holland, who set up a blogsite for Black Accused Support Group (BASG), which I have operated for two years.
Q7. Who are the two bloggers you read the most and why? Include their links and tell us why we should subscribe to their feeds.

I read Electronic Village because of the diverse range of commentary on various causes. I read Dallas South Blog because Shawn is right next door in Dallas, and he is a go-to source for local issues.
Q8. Where are you taking your blog over the next 2-3 years?

Since the election of Barack Obama, I see the opportunity for a 4-8 years window in which I have a better chance to be heard, as a voice in the Black community. This, for me, is an intense problem-solving period, rather than a period of activist protesting. Having been subjected to the status quo successive regimes in U.S. government for 62 years, I now get a sense of being able to participate in government, rather than casting my vote and going back and sitting down, until the next.
Q9. What is your 'killer post' over the past year ... the post you are most proud of?

I have score some direct hits on my blog: Shaquanda Cotton, Jena 6, and others. But the campaign that stands above all others was the campaign to save the life of Kenneth Foster, six hours from the execution chamber in Texas.
Q10. What is your 'biggest noise post' over the past year ... the one that you took the most heat over from your readers?

The 2008 political campaign generated more traffic and more controversy than anything else. I went with two dark horses: Barack Obama for President and Wendy Davis for Texas State Senate. These were the only two campaigns where I had to pour out all my energies.

Villagers, I look forward to meeting Eddie Griffin in person. I am blessed to interact with him regularly via email. He is a remarkable man. I collect his Internet quotes. Some of my favorites:

  • You can't cram an elephant down a gnat's throat.

  • Some of us kill everything that moves. While others, like myself, are sharpshooters, knocking off one target at a time.

  • The more you dig, the more you uncover. The more problems you solve, the more problems you discover.

  • You build trust by living a transparent life, above reproach and condemnation, with integrity and justice for all.

  • Straighten out history and people will get a clear view of how we got here.

  • We are lenient with our white folks. We give 'em a little head start. When they get too far out of line, we reign them in.

Please take a moment to share your thoughts on this blogger interview or on Eddie Griffin.