October 31, 2010

Russell Simmons Shares His Insights on November 2 Election with Black Bloggers

Def Jam co-founder Russell Simmons and DNC National Political Director Clyde Williams met last week with the African American online community ... including the Electronic Village. Simmons noted that he has been traveling around the country in support of President Obama and the Democratic Party. He was in Chicago yesterday ... Detroit today ... and he'll be joining with the President in Connecticut tomorrow.

Simmons' message to the Black bloggers, and through us to our readers, was simple -- The African American community needs to stay alert, stand firm in the faith, show courage, be strong (Cor. 16:13). The faith that we have placed in President Obama is useless without our works. Simmons says that our work in this case is simple:
  1. Vote
  2. Get those that are in our sphere of influence to vote
He acknowledged that there are a plethora of issues that face the African American community including implementation of the health care reform, prison reform, gay rights, poverty initiatives, unemployment and so on. Simmons understands that many in our community feel that the changes we wanted when President Obama took office in January 2009 have not happened fast enough.

The remedy is not to become apathetic. The remedy is not to let our nation go backwards to failed policies and leadership of the past. Rather we need to push forward and harder for the change that we want and need.

Simmons was quick to point out that the Tea Party movement can turn nation backwards in a heartbeat.
"Reaction to our president (by the Tea Party) is violent and scary and it could split our country. We need to stand up. We need to prioritize voting (on November 2) by our people."
DNC Political Director Clyde Williams noted that it is important for the DNC to stay connected with the African American online community as demonstrated by recent meetings with DNC Chairman Tim Kaine and President Barack Obama.

Williams pointed out that there is a clear choice to made on November 2nd when we enter the voting booth. We either want to make our President successful or we want him to fail. He noted the remarkable accomplishments of President Obama in the first 2 years of his administration. However, he also noted that the Republican Party is poised to turn our nation backwards in a number of ways.

Simmons did note that a number of hip-hop and R&B celebrities were also engaged in the work of turning out the vote. He noted that he has been encouraged by his recent visits around the country. Simmons has a sense that the so-called 'enthusiasm gap' is not as wide as it was earlier in the year.

Villagers, I was disappointed that the DNC didn't allow sufficient time for questions from the Black bloggers who were in attendance. I had two questions that I wanted to ask:
  1. African Americans voters remain committed to President Obama and the DNC in a very tangible way. Why was an effort allowed by forces in the Democratic Party to get Florida senatorial candidate Kendrick Meek to step down?
  2. The problem with the November 2 election isn't apathy of Black voters, it is the desertion of white middle class voters who stood with Obama in 2008 ... and now are fleeing to the GOP or Tea Party. What is the game plan to stop the bleeding of white middle class voters?
Those were two questions that I had on my mind. However, the forum didn't allow enough time for me or the other Black bloggers to ask questions.

What question(s) would you want to ask Russell Simmons or Clyde Williams if you had the opportunity?

October 30, 2010

Raise Your Vote: Yes We Can!

We are 48 hours away from the November 2 elections. Each and every person who is reading this blog post needs to make a personal commitment to do two things:
  1. Vote!
  2. Get those in your sphere of influence to VOTE!
That's it. That's all there is to it. Either you are in favor of seeing our president succeed OR you are rallying with those who want to see him destroyed.

I choose to believe that Proud Black Voters like you and me can make the difference. As we told ourselves two years ago -- YES WE CAN!

What say u?

October 29, 2010

Old School Friday * The Manhattans

The Manhattans were a remarkable R&B group that I remember listening to during my college days. I suspect that many villagers have their own personal take on Let's Just Kiss and Say Goodbye. I know that the lyrics for this song apply to some periods of my life. How about you?

On the flip side, the lyrics of this next song by The Manhattans also resonate with many villagers.

Are there any groups making this type of music nowadays?

October 27, 2010

Am I Not Human? Afraid and Forgotten in Côte d’Ivoire

Soulclap to Human Rights Watch for providing a comprehensive report on the human rights abuses taking place in western Côte d’Ivoire.

Well-armed criminal gangs in western Côte d’Ivoire subject local residents to a relentless stream of abuses, including assault, robbery, and sexual violence.

The recommendations in the report fall mainly to the Ivorian authorities, who have failed to prevent or respond to the violence. These leaders should undertake patrols in hard-hit areas, investigate and prosecute crimes, and punish members of security forces who have failed to protect the population. My hope is the current Ivorian presidential elections may provide an opportunity for hope and change that impacts on the people.

Like many villagers, I have never been to the continent of Africa or the country of Côte d’Ivoire. However, I do own this blog ... and I can use this blog at least once a month to raise awareness of human rights abuses taking place around the world, including Côte d’Ivoire. My hope is that the power of public opinion will weigh down on the Côte d’Ivoire government, the United Nations and anyone else that can make a difference for the victims of this abuse. These victims are surely asking the universal question, "Am I Not Human?"

Roots of Humanity feels that each of us can fight against human rights abuses in the world. We simply need to do something. Protest. Meditate. Pray. In the case of bloggers ... we want you to blog on the 27th of each month. Just share information on behalf of our human siblings in all suffering areas who are either barred from communication by their governments, or lacking in technology to ask: Am I Not Human?

October 25, 2010

Raise Your Vote: Don't Let HATE Overcome HOPE!

Soulclap to the folks at Presente.org for putting this video together. If you had any doubts about voting, this video should help get rid of them.

Tuesday, November 2nd, is Election Day. One factor will determine the outcome: Who votes. Stand up to the bigotry, hatred, and divisiveness that's permeating today's political climate. Vote Tuesday, and urge everyone you know to get to the polls.

October 22, 2010

Undercovers, Starring Boris Kodjoe and Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Cancelled After 7 Episodes

I'm sorry to hear that Undercovers will have the same fate as Day Break -- both are network television shows cancelled before their initial 13 episodes aired.  One main difference is that I missed Taye Diggs and Day Break and so I was very happy when the network decided to run the rest of the full episodes from its first season on the Internet.  I doubt that I will miss Undercovers at all.  In fact, I doubt that I will watch the remaining episodes now that its been cancelled.

Co-stars Boris Kodjoe and Gugu Mbatha-Raw headlined the show, about two spectacular-looking undercover agents who also happened to be a married couple running a high-end catering business.  The show never got good ratings ... last night's episode only had about 5.8 million viewers.

I suspect that most of the 5.8 million viewers last night were women.  Every Black woman that I've talked with about the show loved it ... or rather loved seeing Boris Kodjoe in it!   He may not want to be viewed as a sex symbol ... but, women still see him that way.

I think that Kodjoe and Mbatha-Raw both did fine jobs.  The premise of the show was just a wee bit too much for me ... and I guess most of y'all as well.   I hope that both actors are able to rebound with other projects.

What is your favorite TV show nowadays?

October 20, 2010

Broke-A$$ Brotha Tip #2: Go Mobile Young Man!

I'm not proud of being a Broke-A$$ Brotha. My plan is to take steps necessary to get rich over the next few years. I'll share some tips with y'all as I go through the process. I would love to hear from you on some Broke-A$$ Brotha (or Sista) tips that you have learned over the few months and years as well.

Villagers will recall that my first tip was simply entitled, Ignorance is Not Bliss. I suggested that it was important to be fully aware of the money that flows in and out of your hands each month. You can do this by tracking your expenses and income as part of a budgeting process.

In my case, I discovered that I need to do two things. First, I need to cut my monthly expenses wherever possible. Second, I need to increase my income with either more clients or some other revenue-generating idea.

I started with looking at my telephone expense. That is where I discovered Broke A$$ Brotha Tip #2:

Go Mobile Young Man!

I pay my local telephone company a monthly bill. Over the years I've let them convince me to BUNDLE a number of services. I have my Internet, cable and land-line phone service all bundled with Cincinnati Bell. It dawned on me that I *NEVER* (like in NOT EVER!) use my land-line phone. I use my cell-phone for all communication. I called Cincinnati Bell and found out that I could save $41 per month (or $492 per year) if I simply discontinued my land-line phone service. So I discontinued the service. 

Go Mobile Young Man!

Do you really need your land-line phone at your crib? If not, consider the monthly cost-savings you can get from having it disconnected.

After I finished the call to Cincinnati Bell (which I made on my cell-phone while driving home from an appointment) it occurred to me that I'm probably late on learning this particular Broke A$$ Brotha tip. Are you already fully mobile when it comes to your phone service?

October 19, 2010

Tune In Tuesday: Queen Latifah featuring Rev. Al Green

Queen Latifah is one of the most versatile and talented entertainers of our generation. A few years ago she created an album under her birth name, Dana Owens, in which she demonstrated the depth of her singing voice.

Here is a track from that album that I find to be simply beautiful!

October 18, 2010

What Should LeBron Do?

Have you seen the new Nike commercial featuring LeBron James? If not, check it out:

LeBron seems to be using this video to take some cheap shots at Michael Jordan (Hall of Fame speech fiasco) and Charles Barkley (donuts and role model clip). I figure that he's taking shots at others with the tattoo wiping vignette ... but, I don't know who.

Anyhow, I think that LeBron will figure out over time that the only thing he can do to improve his image is win a championship. Right now he is all talk with absolutely nothing to show for it. The best player in the game today is Kobe Bryant. LeBron can win as many MVP awards as he wants ... he can average a triple-double this year in Miami ... and it is all for naught if he can't lead a team to the NBA World Championship.

What should LeBron do? Win a championship.

Until then he should simply stop whining and just shut-up.

October 17, 2010

Top 50 Amazing Tech Tastemakers

Soulclap to Angela Benton and the other leaders of Black Web 2.0 for creating a forum to identify and celebrate the Top 50 Most Notable African American Technology Tastemakers.

Black Web 2.0 tells us that tastemakers are the developers, the thinkers, and the risk takers. They're the entrepreneurs that sink their last dollar into their dream, the writers who report on it, and the evangelists that spread the word. Tastemakers are not influenced, they create influence and they do it through amazingly bold and innovative action. They are redefining the world of tech and ensuring the digital revolution will be televised, tweeted, blogged, and crowd-sourced.

Black Web 2.0 is seeking insights and feedback from you to determine the majority of the spots on this year's Top 50 Amazing Tech Tastemakers. If there's a person that should be included on the list, vote for them in "Submit Your Own Tastemaker". The tastemaker with the most votes will move to the top of the list.

I would love to see BDPA members represented on this list
. After all, BDPA has been working to advance African Americans in the IT industry from the 'classroom to the boardroom' for over 35 years.  The BDPA Education and Technology Foundation (BETF) has given out $318,000 in scholarship funding to over 150 students since 1999.  Much of this work has been done under the radar.  Here is an opportunity to share some love for the efforts of BDPA over the years.   I noticed that @BDPA is currently one of the options for you to vote on. Anyhow, I encourage you to check out who made the list and submit your own!

October 16, 2010

Taser Lawsuit: Ronald Eugene Cobbs (Greensboro, NC)

This blog shared information about the taser-related death of 38-year old Ronald Cobbs last year in Greensboro, NC. Cobbs had been in jail for over a year when the folks in the Guilford County jail electrocuted him twice with a taser.

We learned from CorrectionsOne.com that Cobbs' wife, Tricolia, filed a lawsuit Guilford County Superior Court accusing the sheriff, Guilford County Sheriff's Office and Prison Health Services of negligence in the Aug. 19, 2009, death of her husband. The family is seeking triple damages under the state's Wrongful Death Act.

The family accuses the defendants of using excessive force and having insufficient medical tools or training to handle a patient who has been hit with a 50,000-volt Taser.
"You shouldn't die if you are waiting in jail on charges. It shouldn't be a death sentence," Steve Bowden, the attorney representing the family, said.
Sheriff BJ Barnes said separate investigations had cleared his deputies of any wrongdoing.

In July, the district attorney announced that the officers acted appropriately and without excessive force, and provided appropriate medical attention.

An autopsy did not determine a cause of death. Cobb could have died of respiratory arrest or cardiac arrhythmia caused by an underlying cardiac disease, both triggered by the stress of the struggle, according to the report.

The state's chief medical examiner did include in the report that he believes restraints played a role in the death. Cobbs had been handcuffed and shackled at the ankles.

Cobbs had been in jail for about a year, his family said. He was awaiting trial on charges of kidnapping, robbery with a dangerous weapon and a probation violation.

October 15, 2010

Every Day is Voting Day in Ohio

I remember clearly how I felt when I cast my ballot for Barack Obama on November 4, 2008. There were quite a few others that did the same. Do you remember watching Obama's victory speech on the next night?

Here in Ohio, every day is Election Day through November 2nd, because early voting has begun. I went down to the Warren County board of elections office last week to cast my ballot. It took about 10 minutes. They even gave me one of those cute "I Just Voted" stickers.

Other villagers who live in Ohio can do the same. All you need to do is go to your county board of elections office or designated early voting location during regular business hours. Additionally, some locations are open on the weekends.

Click here for more information about early voting , including locations and hours of early voting places.

Casting your ballot is the only way to ensure that we can keep building on the accomplishments of the past 20 months.

And early voting in Ohio is an easy process -- you can request an absentee ballot by mail, or vote in person at your county board of elections or other designated early voting location. Can you make a plan for when you'll vote? How will you cast your ballot, and when will be most convenient for you?

The ballot I cast in 2008 played a crucial role in bringing about the change this country needs. Now, I've tried to do the same in 2010.

October 14, 2010

Taser Death: Kareem Ali (Silver Spring, MD)

It happened again. This time the taser-happy Montgomery (MD) police department couldn't figure out any alternative to putting 50,000 volts of electricity into the body of 65-year old Kareem Ali.

Evidently, Ali resisted arrest by Officer Susanna Stanley and Officer James Walsh. So Walsh and Stanley used pepper spray and a taser gun to subdue the unarmed senior citizen.

Was Ali a major criminal menace? Nope. The old guy was found sleeping in a stairwell.

Ali never had much of a chance to tell his side of the story. He was in critical condition at Holy Cross Hospital since the police electrocuted him. He died early this morning.

Both officers involved, Susanna Stanley (3-years on the force) and James Walsh (2-years on the force), have been put on paid administrative leave pending the outcome of the internal investigation.

Here is what the police say happened [SOURCE]:

A county officer arrived to the 11400 block of Lockwood Drive in Silver Spring at approximately 7:33 p.m. Sunday to find Ali lying unresponsive in the stairwell. After repeated attempts to get Ali's attention failed, the officer decided to attempt to move the man out of the stairwell, Starks said.

"He was acting odd, and that was from the citizens at the scene who called us," Starks said of Ali, adding the resident who first called police indicated Ali may have been on drugs or was otherwise afflicted. "In an attempt to get him out of the stairwell and get him outside where it isn't as confining, the officer grabbed onto his arm, which is when he began resisting."

Witnessing the struggle, another apartment resident called 911 and informed the operator the officer, who was alone at the scene, appeared to be in trouble. A second officer quickly arrived, but Ali continued to resist attempts to move him to an area outside, Starks said, adding Ali was only subdued when the officers engaged him with pepper spray followed by a brief "drive stun" from a hand-held Taser gun.

"With that, he was able to be cuffed, then, as is our protocol, we called fire rescue, because he had been exposed to OC spray," Starks said.

Medical personnel arrived and washed the spray off Ali, Starks said, adding "They examined and treated him, then left."

But emergency medical personnel were quickly called back to the scene when Ali apparently lost consciousness minutes later in the back of a police transport van, Starks said. Ali was rushed to Holy Cross, according to hospital staff and police.

This taser-related death is wrong on so many levels
  1. If the police rolling to the scene were told by the 911-caller that Ali was on drugs ... why would they use their taser. Aren't they taught *not* to taser people suspected of being on drugs?
  2. The guy was unarmed
  3. The guy was asleep
  4. The guy was 65-years old
There were at least three law enforcement officers on the scene. They are not able to resolve this type of situation without extra-judicial electrocution?

Anyhow, villagers, please let us know if you have any additional information or insights to share about this taser-related death

Blog Safari #44

Join our rhino guide, Nyabingi, as she takes you through the afrosphere to find some truly creative Black bloggers. We use this semi-regular blog safari to expose you to some Black bloggers that you might otherwise overlook. Visit the links below to enjoy these suggested blog posts!
Let us know if you come across any remarkable posts that should be shared in our next Blog Safari!

October 13, 2010

Taser Death: Ryan Bain (Billings, MT)

It happened again. This time in Billings, Montana. Apparently the law enforcement community in Billings really object to seeing the human form.

Ryan Bain was running down the street without any clothes on.

John Smith, an OFF-DUTY sheriff's deputy was driving down the street and saw the nude man. Deputy Smith called in the incident to the police department before jumping out of his van to chase Bain.

During the chase ... the naked man gave the deputy the okey-doke and ended up in the deputy's van, which the deputy had left running. Bain took off in the van. However, he wasn't a good driver and the van crashed into a parked car a few blocks away. By the time Deputy Smith caught up with Bain, his van was messed up and he was pissed off.

At least two other (on-duty) police officers arrived on the scene at this point.  One of those police officers was Sgt. Pat Curry. The next thing we know Bain is being electrocuted at least three times by the officers.

Anyhow, Bain was taken into police custody and transported to the Yellowstone County Detention Facility. Evidently, he wasn't respectful enough of the officers in the jailhouse ... they felt a need to jolt another 50,000 volts of electricity into the naked man (who was presumably clothed by this time). Bain was placed in a holding cell at this time.

At some point later the jailhouse officers found Bain suffering for a cardiac arrest while in the holding cell. He was then taken to St. Vincent Healthcare, where the Yellowstone County coroner confirmed that Bain died on Tuesday.

Please let us know if you have any other details that can be shared on this taser-related death.

Wordless Wednesday: Giant Radio Flyer Car in Wasilla, Alaska

October 12, 2010

Good News Tuesday: Ahmed Mahamad - Future Face of Technology

I've watched Ahmed Mahamad over the past few years as he came to the annual BDPA Technology Conferences. He has been a student representative of our BDPA chapter from Rochester, MN. He began his BDPA legacy as a high school student ... and continued it this year as a student participant in the college division of the BDPA IT Showcase.

Here is Ahmed's story:

As a University of Minnesota student, majoring in Bachelor of Science in Health Sciences, Ahmed Mahamad finds tremendous satisfaction helping his peers achieve their own successes. In 2006 Ahmed joined the BDPA Southern Minnesota chapter Youth Computer Training Program (YCTP). The YCTP class is focused on teaching advanced web programming to high school students. BDPA Southern Minnesota chapter trains over sixty students each year, meeting for three hours each Saturday over nine months. At the end of a rigorous training season, the top five students are chosen to represent Southern Minnesota chapter at the National BDPA High School Computer Competition (HSCC) Championship.

In Ahmed's first year participating in YCTP he immediately excelled in the class, quickly learning each programming language that was taught, including HTML, CSS, Javascript, PHP server side scripting and MySQL relational databases. What stood out most about Ahmed was his intense effort and motivation. He eagerly met every challenge and displayed immense creativity. Ahmed was awarded a spot as an alternate on the chapter’s National HSCC team, a rare achievement for a first year student.

After his successful “rookie” season in YCTP, Ahmed continued to grow in confidence, ability, and leadership. By his 2nd year in the program, Ahmed’s technical abilities and natural charisma drove him to become a leader among his peers. He served as a role model and mentor to other students, putting aside his own ambitions to help others succeed in this difficult course. His leadership and technical knowledge earned him a position on the 2007 National Competition team.

To prepare for the National HSCC Championship in 2007, the students worked with trainers for up to 30 hours per week throughout their summer vacations, practicing computer programming, project management, presentation, and teamwork. Ahmed's hard work paid off as he helped guide BDPA Southern Minnesota chapter to a first place finish in the nation at the 2007 National BDPA HSCC Championships in Washington D.C.

Ahmed continued to demonstrate leadership and technical acumen as he again earned a position on the 2008 National Competition team and guided the chapter to its second consecutive first place finish at the National BDPA HSCC Championships held in Atlanta, Georgia. Upon returning to Minnesota, Ahmed's endearing personality made him a favorite among local reporters.

After two consecutive first place finishes at the Nationals, Ahmed was determined to lead his chapter to their third consecutive national championship at Raleigh, North Carolina. BDPA Southern Minnesota has earned its place as one of the most respected chapters in BDPA nation.

This year Ahmed competed in the BDPA IT Showcase with a paper, presentation and poster on Robotics Bioinformatics and Medicine.  It is the first time in BDPA Southern Minnesota history that a student has participated in this challenging event.   At the same time, Ahmed served as Southern Minnesota’s first student instructor.

Our hope is that BDPA Education and Technology Foundation (BETF) will be able to provide scholarships for IT Showcase students in the future ... and we would love to provide full 4-year scholarships to HSCC champions. Please contact us if you have ideas on how we can 'make it so'!

October 11, 2010

Jessie Dotson Goes to Death Row for First Degree Murder in the Lester Street Massacre [VIDEO]

Villagers may recall that this blog provided the horrific details of the Lester Street Massacre that took place March 2008 in Memphis, TN. Jessie Dotson was arrested in connection with the deaths of six people, including two children.

He had his day in court. Villagers can view the full video of his 74 minutes testimony or the news clip version (shown below):

The jury in his trial found him guilty on six counts of first degree murder and another three counts of first degree attempted murder in the attacks on three children who survived the massacre. Some of the surviving children testified against their "Uncle Junior" in the 10-day trial that concluded earlier today. [SOURCE]

The judge told Jessie Dotson that he would die by lethal injection, concluding with the single comment, "May God to have mercy on Dotson's soul."

This blog has been known to fight against the death penalty in the past. However, we will not have any protest to the lethal injection taking place for Jessie Dotson. He is truly an evil man who forfeited his human rights when he went on his murderous Lester Street rampage two years ago.

October 10, 2010

Broke-A$$ Brotha Tip #1: Ignorance is Not Bliss

I'm not sure when it happened. At one point in my life I was living large. In fact, I left my secure corporate-type employment for life as an entrepreneur back in July 2002. The economy over the past few years took a big chunk out of my cash inflow. The problem was that I didn't cut back on my cash outflow at a similar rate. Next thing you know ... I'm a Broke-A$$ Brotha.

I'm not proud of being a Broke-A$$ Brotha.  My plan is to take steps necessary to get rich.  The process begins by getting serious about my current financial situation. I'll share some tips with y'all as I go through the process. I would love to hear from you on some Broke-A$$ Brotha (or Sista) tips that you have learned over the few months and years as well.

My first tip is simple. You can't fix your situation if you fail to face your situation.

Ignorance is Not Bliss!

My Dad dealt with personal finances in a very disciplined and direct manner.  He was an aeronautical engineer so he made a good living.  However, he didn't believe in credit cards ... so he never got caught in the trick bag of living beyond his expenses.  I remember that he would take me to the Sears warehouse store to buy clothes because they had some great deals.

The largest single expense that my Dad ever had was the first (and only) home he bought.  His instructions to the realtor were simple -- the home had to be located in such a manner that the sun was behind his back on both ways of his commute to work.  Secondly, the total mortgage expense needed to fit into his salary.  You should know that my Mom was working full-time as a public school teacher ... but, my Dad insisted that the mortgage payment fit into his salary as if we had a one-income family.   It took a little longer to find the house ... but the 2-story brick house that my parents purchased is now fully-paid off and remains the family home of my Mom as she enjoys her retirement years.

My young brother was disciplined as well.  He showed me his system once.  He would get cash at the beginning of the month to cover his discretionary expense budget (food, entertainment, clothes, transportation, gifts and such).  He would then (literally) place the cash-dollar-bills in envelopes that were labeled for these various discretionary expense line items.  He was disciplined enough to stop spending on a particular item if the money ran out before the month ran out.   He told me that it became easier to cut back on things like fast food and other money-wasters while he was using that envelope system.

I now recognize that I need to get a handle on my expenses. I need to BUDGET. The odd thing is that I've been tracking income and expenses with my Quicken software for many years. However, I've not been disciplined about reviewing the results regularly ... analyzing those financial results ... and making adjustments accordingly.

Ignorance is Not Bliss.  When you're living large you're making enough money to make up for stupid spending decisions.   When you're a Broke-A$$ Brotha those stupid spending decisions can literally put you in jail (...speaking to those of us paying child support with that comment!).  

I pledge to review my budget vs. actual expenses for the first nine months of 2010. I will also create a budget for the final quarter of 2010 that details out my fixed expenses (rent, utilities, child support, etc.), my discretionary expenses (transportation, food, entertainment, etc.), my debt repayment expenses, my long-term savings and my emergency savings (six months of current income).

How about you? Do you have a written budget for the month of October? Are you tracking your actual income and expenses against that budget? If not ... it is time to get busy.

October 9, 2010

President Obama's Weekly Address: Strengthening Education, Not Cutting It

The President explains that even as we focus on creating jobs immediately, we must also ensure the economy is better for our children by investing in education – not cutting it by 20% as Congressional Republicans propose.

I share this weekly video with my network because you may not have had a chance to see it on the White House website. I would love to hear your thoughts on what you see. Personally, I think that President Obama has provided remarkable strength when it comes to education. He sees it as an economic imperative. What say u?

October 8, 2010

Lafayette Parish Citizens Protest Taser-Killing of Javon Rakestrau [VIDEO]

Javon Rakestrau was electrocuted by Lafayette Parish sheriff's deputy Chris Guidry earlier this week. Javon's neighbors are angry and frustrated by the excessive use of force. Some of them shared their thoughts in the following video:

I notice that the police shared their video camera recordings of the extra-judicial electrocution. This is very unusual. Most police departments do not release these video recordings to the public. The Sheriff's Department issued a second video to the public yesterday.

My take is simple. This man didn't need to die. He was unarmed. He was in front of his personal residence. Methinks that the young sheriff's deputy simply panicked and went for this taser gun because he was too impatient or too inexperienced to do otherwise.

What say u?

October 7, 2010

Taser Death: Patrick Johnson (Philadelphia, PA) [VIDEO]

The police have a real difficulty dealing with mentally-challenged people. Unidentified Philadelphia police officers were called to the home where Patrick Johnson, a mentally-challenged teenage boy, was living the other day. When the police couldn't quickly deal with the situation as professionals they pulled out their 21st century version of a cattle prod ... their taser guns ... and electrocuted the young man twice. The second jolt of 50,000 volts of electricity into the youngsters body resulted in his death.

Patrick Johnson was a special education graduate with the mental capacity of a 5-year old according to those who knew him.

View more news videos at: http://www.nbcphiladelphia.com/video.

The sad thing is that 18-year old Patrick Johnson called the police himself
. Account to the police this was a regular thing. Police say that they have been called to the home on 14 separate occassions due to the mental health issues of this youngster.
"He had problems, but he was a good kid. It should have never happened," said Steve Zielinski, Johnson's stepfather.
Johnson had become violent with family members, and had broken items inside and outside of the home. He had taken what police described as a stick, brought it into the home and attempted to set it on fire. Police had attempted to calm the youngster down, and officers with the city's Crisis Intervention Team had responded to speak with him.

However, the police got impatient with the situations.
So when they thought that the teenager was allegedly approaching them with the stick .. they opened fire with the taser guns. Johnson fell to the ground when he was tasered twice by unidentified police officers.

Zielinski said he had been in the home during the incident, and had been holding Johnson's arms behind his back at one point. He said police had told Johnson to drop the stick four times before using a Taser on him when he lunged at the officers. He said the teen ran into the home's basement, where he collapsed.

Johnson was brought to Nazareth Hospital, where he was pronounced dead at 1:10 p.m. on Thursday, October 7.

Investigators have been working to determine how Johnson died, and what factors contributed to his death. This blogger will go out on a limb here and say that the 50,000 volts of electricity coursing through his body not once ... but twice ... may be the cause of death.

There is no indication that the teenager was on any drugs or medications at the time of his taser-related death
. Please let us know if you learn anything more about this case.

October 6, 2010

Taser Death: Javon Rakestrau (Lafayette, LA) [VIDEO]

It happened again.  This time we learn that Lafayette Parish (LA) sheriff's deputy Chris Guidry electrocuted 28-year old Javon Rakestrau on Monday, October 4. The police evidently feel that near-lethal force with a taser gun is appropriate when someone doesn't show them proper respect.

Here is a video, released by the sheriff's office that provides some insights into the last moments of Rakestrau's life:

Sheriff's Office Lt. Craig Stansbury said there was nothing in the video that showed Rakestrau wanted to give up. Because he continued to resist, Guidry had no choice but to resort to using his taser gun. [SOURCE]

My experience tells me that there is ALWAYS a choice. In fact, the police department's 'use of force continuum' shows that there were a number of choices available to Mr. Guidry.

There are a number of people who live in the area who feel there are better ways to handle those situations. Gerald Hopkins, a friend of Rakestrau, said Guidry could have used better force. He said a taser gun should only be the penultimate choice for any officer.
"They're trained for situations like that," he said. "It was not proper force."
Capt. Kip Judice said an autopsy on Rakestrau's body was done Wednesday, but it will be about four to six weeks before they receive a final report. Guidry remains on paid administrative leave until a full review of the incident has been completed.

October 5, 2010

Taser Autopsy: Coroner Says Dennis Sandras Died of Accidental Overdose

The cover-up of another taser-related death continues in Houma, Louisiana. The death of 49-year old Dennis Sandras in August was determined to be an accidental overdose, and not due to a Taser's shock.

Sandras died at Terrebonne General Medical Center after two officers, Nicholas Pellegrin and Coty Knoblock, shocked him twice with a Taser. However, Gary Alford, senior investigator at the coroner's office, says that the cause of death was not due to the Taser, but rather an accidental overdose.
The Taser didn't faze him due to the amount of drugs in his system,” said Alford.
Alford wouldn't say what type of drugs were found in Sandras' system.

Police attempted to arrest Sandras after getting a call that a man was jumping off of roofs at St. Francis de Sales Cathedral and school. Police say Sandras was shocked after acting combative.

Some villagers may wonder why I consider this coroner statement to be part of a cover-up. My understanding is that overdoses happen immediately after taking the drug and its very uncommon for someone that has the energy to be jumping off of roofs to be on any kind of drug that would kill them.

October 4, 2010

Minneapolis Police Department Changes Taser Policy in Response to Recent Taser-Related Deaths

Soulclap to BlackLogic for letting us know that the Minnesota Police Department reacted in a proactive manner to the recent taser death of David Cornelius Smith.

With little fanfare, the Minneapolis Police Department updated a number of policies, including its use of force policy and Taser policy, as of October 1. The changes are reflected in the city's online Policy and Procedure Manual.

Under these new policies, Tasers are now considered "less lethal" rather than nonlethal.Their actions can be directly attributed to the deaths of Quincy Smith and David Cornelius Smith.

The new policy makes it clear that Tasers neither can be used on passive resistors or simply non-compliant suspects. Given the large number of complaints from citizens being electrocuted with a taser gun while handcuffed simply for speaking, if the policy is actually followed this could bring relief to the Minneapolis community.

I wonder if similar changes are being made in other cities around the nation? Do you know where the online version of the 'use of force' policy can be found in your city? If so, please share it with me. I would like to begin tracking links to these policies around the nation whenever possible.

October 3, 2010

Black Unemployment Dips Slightly to 16.1% in September 2010

The negative economic news continues to flow from Washington DC ... and it is hitting the Black community harder than anyone.  A new employment report released this morning by the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows us that the unemployment rate for African Americans dipped slightly from 16.3% in August 2010 to 16.1% in September 2010.

Overall, the number of unemployed persons, at 14.8 million, was essentially unchanged in September.  The unemployment rate didn't change over the past month ... it's now 9.6%. There was some positive news with private employers hiring increasing by 64,000 jobs last month.  Since its most recent low in December 2009, private-sector employment has risen by 827,000.

Rep. James Clyburn (D-SC) today released the following statement on the September jobs report:
“When President Obama took office, we were on the verge of another Great Depression, losing 800,000 private sector jobs a month. The September jobs report demonstrates that we have turned our economy around and are creating jobs. We would like to see the growth at a faster pace, but you can’t discount the numbers—this year alone, we added more private sector jobs than during eight years of Republican Majority and the Bush Presidency.

“While we still have a long way to go before our economic recovery is complete, Democrats are committed to doing everything possible to move our country forward. Our Make it in America agenda has focused on rebuilding the economy here at home, cutting taxes and boosting lending for small businesses that will drive our economy forward, closing tax loopholes that encourage companies to ship jobs overseas, and renewing our commitment to boosting the domestic manufacturing sector."
What do these numbers mean to you?

October 2, 2010

Taser-Killer Cop Scott Nugent Goes on Trial in Louisiana

A cautionary tale for all taser-happy police officers is taking place in Winnfield, Louisiana. The manslaughter trial of Scott Nugent begins tomorrow. Readers of this blog may recall that Nugent was the officer who electrocuted 21-year old Barron Pikes back in January 2008. Nugent shocked the young man nine times ... the coroner indicates that the last two jolts of 50,000 volts occurred after Pikes was already dead.

If convicted of both charges, Nugent faces up to 45 years in prison
George Higgins, one of Nugent's attorneys, said Nugent "looks forward to the trial. ... He has always maintained his innocence and looks forward to having his side of the story finally told."
You can read more about the upcoming trial here.

October 1, 2010

Old School Friday * Heatwave

There is a great television series produced by TV-One called 'Unsung'. The episode this week focused on the group Heatwave. I have deep memories of Heatwave songs from my time in college. However, until I saw this show I never knew the background of the group. I knew the Heatwave logo ... but, never knew about the tragedy that followed the group.
  • the original six members came from five different countries
  • one member was shot and killed in Chicago
  • one member was stabbed by his girlfriend in London
  • the two lead singers were brothers
  • the founder of the group spent the last 25 years of his life as a quadriplegic
  • the organist in the group wrote majority of Heatwave songs and eventually left the group to become full-time songwriter. He wrote the top-selling song in music history -- Thriller, sung by Michael Jackson
I didn't know any of these factoids. All I knew is that Heatwave could bring the noise in a soulful, funky or upbeat (...y'all remember Boogie Nights!) manner. Here are two of my favorite Heatwave songs.

What is your favorite Heatwave memory?