Saturday, November 28, 2009
Eric Johnson recently graduated from Creekside High School as an honor student and member of the Beta Club. He has been working the past few months in order to help support his mother and had plans of attending Westwood College in January. Ever since his father died three years ago in a tragic house fire accident, Eric has faced adversity and has overcome numerous life obstacles to become a successful young man--at least until now. Eric Johnson has been arrested for a crime he had no part in or knowledge of.
The following are just a few facts related to the case. A more detailed statement of facts can be found in this article.
On Monday night, August 17, 2009, Eric Johnson was asked by Antoine Wimes to give him a ride in exchange for "gas money." Eric picked up Antoine Wimes and another young man that he met for the first time named "Dino." He drove them to a gas station, brought gas and then took them further down South Fulton Parkway and dropped them off. Later that evening, Antoine Wimes and Donavon McCoy are alleged to have shot "Nikki" Neely and seriously injured her 10-month-old baby in a vicious and senseless home invasion. On August 18, 2009, after seeing the news reports of this horrific attack, Eric A. Johnson called 911 and reported to police that he had "given a ride" to the suspects earlier in the evening.
1. Eric Johnson voluntarily contacted the police in order to provide information regarding the murder suspects (it would make absolutely no sense for him to do so if he were involved in the murder);
2. There is an independent witness, Virginia Bonylan, who has confirmed that Eric Johnson was not with the two suspects later in the evening after dropping them off;
3. There are alibi witnesses that Eric Johnson was home well before dark on August 17, 2009; and
4. The lead detective, Jamie Melton, has admitted that he has no evidence that Eric A. Johnson was present at the time of the shooting or that he knew that Antoine Wimes and Donovan McCoy intended on committing any crime.
The video below includes a police officer verifying the undisputed fact that Eric contacted the police in order to help solve the crime.
Nevertheless, Eric Johnson is charged with multiple felonies including: 2 counts of Aggravated Battery, Armed Robbery, Aggravated Assault with a Deadly Weapon, and Cruelty to Children.
Now I'm not usually one to offer the police advice on how to do their job, but just this one time I'll offer my two cents: If you really want the community to help you stop crime, perhaps it's not such a good idea to arrest them after they help you.
I don't know... I'm just sayin'...
WHAT YOU CAN DO
The family is asking for support in their fight for Eric Johnson's release. Attorney Mawuli ‘Mel' Davis, one of the top criminal defense attorneys in the state of Georgia, believes in Eric's innocence so strongly that he has offered his service for free. Nevertheless, the family still needs $5,000.00 to post bond as well as to pay for transcripts that will be associated with the case. If just 200 people donate $25, they can reach their goal!
Donations are being accepted online at www.justice4ericjohnson.com.
If you're not able to a donation, then please, please visit change.org and sign the online petition. It will only take 2 minutes of your time.
On that "note", i'm outta here!
Sunday, November 22, 2009
Some critics of my radio shows and articles often complain that i make everything into a racial issue. Well, i'm sure they'll love this one.
Alot of folks are aware by now that the new Disney movie, "The Princess and the Frog", features Disney's first Black princess, Tiana, and some have noted Disney's efforts to be culturally sensitive. But in all the excitement about the princess, knowbody really thought to ask, "Wassup with the prince?"
In the spirit of full disclosure, I haven't seen the movie, but based on a recent article in Newsweek, "Prince Naveen has a tannish complexion, but he clearly isn't African-American." The writer goes on to say that this is a good thing, because it sends a positive message about inter-racial dating and that Black women in particular need to consider such options.
Here's the deal. I have no problem, in theory, with Disney sending a message about inter-racial relationships, but i must say, i DO question the timing. The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, and Aladdin all dealt with crossing boundaries of difference, whether beauty or, in the case of Aladdin, even class. But at the end of the day, Disney has always chosen to be ethnically consistent.
I would have loved to see audience reaction to Beauty and the Beast if, after waiting the entire movie for the Beast to be transformed, the Beast turned into an African prince. I imagine some folks in the theater would have wanted the prince to turn back into the Beast. But alas, Disney chose not to go that route.
Coincidentally, Disney's first Native American heroine, Pocahantas, was also involved in an inter-racial relationship, but at least then they were able to hide behind the historical basis of the story. And yet now, with a purely fictional Princes Tiana, we see the same pattern.
Let me make it more plain. Why it gotta be the sista princess to become the inter-racial poster child?
On one hand, i could limit this commentary to the specific issue of inter-racial relationships in the movies and television. There are some interesting sub-plots there, particularly as it relates to the trend of Black female/White male vs. Black male/White female. As early Captain Kirk and Uhura's kiss, through Whitney and "The Bodyguard" and as recent as "Something New", America has always been more comfortable with Black women dating White men. Of course, "Guess Who's Coming to Dinner" is a highly notable exception, but you get the picture.
Nevertheless, the issue i'm trying to get at goes beyond the narrow issue of inter-racial dating. The deeper message is that it's just not okay to be too Black, and that a little bit of White is necessary for legitimacy. Of course, this is not a new critique. For years, it's been observed that Black actors must have White co-stars in order to be marketable. Even after becoming a star on Saturday Night Live, Eddie Murphy had to go through a series of White co-stars (Nick Nolte, Dan Akroyd, etc.) before becoming viable on his own. And just last year, in an interview with Barbara Walters, Will Smith discussed the same issue.
Just last week we were reminded that even a little bit of Black can be too Black. While marketing the film "Couples Retreat" in the United Kingdom, the studio removed the two Black co-stars from the film's poster.
While many people, Black, White and other, will say that i'm just being overly sensitive about some stuff that's just supposed to be entertainment, the issue really goes beyond just entertainment. It's intertwined into the structures of American society, a society in which, as Brother Malcolm used to say, too Black often translates into too strong.
We see the reality of "too Black, too strong" every day. We see it in business settings, and even government offices, where having one Black manager is viewed as safe, but having anything more than that is viewed as overkill.
We see it in election campaigns, particularly when Black candidates are running for statewide offices. One Black candidate seeking one such office is sometimes non-threatening enough to minimize race as an issue, but two Black candidates seeking two separate seats can elevate the issue and create a backlash, resulting in not just one loss, but two. It’s an interesting pattern which could be the topic of a whole separate article…
In fact, i think i will write a whole separate article, so you’ll just have to check back here for more info on that some other time.
In any event, more important than the ways “too Black, too strong” is used to limit individual appointments, are the ways it is used to limit efforts to correct racial disparities. Programs that use racial targeting in order to correct the ills of structural racism are not only wildly unpopular politically, but they’re also increasingly more difficult to maintain legally. It’s actually easier for a White plaintiff to win a discrimination case in U.S. courts than it is for a Black victim of discrimination. If you don’t believe me, go find a Black firefighter in New Haven.
With all that said, the power of the "too Black" concept can be defeated, but only if we have the courage to confront it in all its cultural, political and economic manifestations. Those of us who insist on such a structural analysis are often accused of making the problem worse by constantly playing the race card. Like a doctor who must explain a diagnosis of illness, it can be a heavy responsibility, but that is a burden we must accept. At the end of the day, the patient must hear the truth.
And the truth shall make you free.
On that "note", i'm outta here!
Wednesday, November 18, 2009
I heard about this last night on Rachel Maddow's show. Evidently, there's a wave of bumper sticker, t-shirts, hats, etc. going around requesting that folks "Pray for Obama: Psalm 109:8". But before you go out and try to get one of these shirts, it's worth checking out what Psalm 109:8 says. The psalm reads, "Let his days be few; and let another take his office."
While some may say that this is just a humorous hope that Obama gets voted on of office in four years, the very next verse provides some insight into the true meaning of the prayer request. Psalm 109:9 reads, :Let his children be fatherless, and his wife a widow."
This is not cute, and it is not funny. A recent book has already documented what most of us already know--that death threats agains President Obama are dramatically higher (about 5 times higher) than against Bush or any other President. The book says he receives 30 death threats per day.
Truth be told, these threats are obviously not just about President Obama. It's not just about his individual personality or his policies. It's a reminder of what the Supreme Court told us in the Dred Scott case more than 160 years ago: that a Black man has no rights that a White man is bound to respect. Evidently, this even applies to a Black President.
So in response to this prayer request, i'm going to come up with a few bible verses of my own to send to the 109:8 folks--like the promises to David that his enemies would be made to kneel before him.
Of course, i could also send them some New Testament verses talking about love and judgement, but right now i think i'm in an Old Testament kinda mood.
Or maybe i'll just send them a few African proverbs, like the Daily Lifeline sent on Facebook earlier today: The snake may let you pass the first time, but take care not to pass there again!
Either way, if you have a good verse that you think we need to send to these nuts, go on an leave a comment, or just send me an e-mail.
On that "note", i'm outta here!
Wednesday, November 11, 2009
I was listening to Tom Joyner this morning, and his Little Known Black History Fact was about a regiment of Black soldiers known as the Harlem Hellfighters. They were the 369th Infantry Regiment, and they became legendary during World War I (WWI).
I’m assuming that Tom chose that history fact in honor of Veterans’ Day, a holiday about which I’ve always been torn. And while I recognize that there have been soldiers of all races and ethnicities, I’m going to use my prerogative to focus on the Black experience for a moment.
Black soldiers have fought in every war this country has fought, even before there was a “United States”. On the one hand, I recognize the need to honor those Black soldiers who have fought for the ideals of America, even when America was not just falling painfully short of those ideals, but actually being blatantly hypocritical towards those ideals (i.e. saving democracy in the world while denying the vote within its own borders). In fact, to begin with, the reason the Harlem Hellfighters were in Europe during WWI was because of racism back in South Carolina, and the reason they ended up assigned to the French army was because the U.S. would not give them combat roles. With backdrops like this, Black soldiers such as the Harlem Hellfighters and many others for centuries have done much to demonstrate Black courage and dignity.
But on the other hand, Black soldiers have too often participated in wars of aggression, greed and imperialism--wars which were often aimed at other people of color. From the Buffalo Soldiers and their battles with the Native Americans to the Philippines, from Vietnam to Panama and Grenada, Black soldiers have had to fight against folks that look like them for reasons that they must have known were, at best, questionable. In some cases, the irony of their predicament have caused Black soldiers to show compassion for their foes, while in other cases it did not seem to make a difference.
So clearly the experience of enlisted Black soldiers is part of why I’m torn about Veterans Day. But I’m also torn because of the experiences of Black veterans who weren’t actually enlisted in the U.S. Armed Forces. These are veterans of a different kind of war—the FBI’s war against Black America. In this war, the General was not Eisenhower or Macarthur; it was J. Edgar Hoover, and his primary targets were the Black Panthers. At the heart of this war was a Black Panther 10 Point Program which included a demand for universal health care.
Clearly such demands were a threat to democracy.
As a result of this war, many Panthers were locked away in jail for crimes they did not commit. Geronimo ji Jaga Pratt is one example who was able to eventually prove his innocence and get released from jail after 27 years—longer than the amount of time that Nelson Mandela was in prison. However, many were not quite as “fortunate” as Geronimo and are still languishing behind bars. This includes freedom fighters such as Sundiata Acoli, Mutulu Shakur and Jalil Muntaqim. By the way, Brother Jalil is going before the parole board in just a few days, so I encourage everyone reading this to learn about his history and send a support letter ASAP.
Other veterans of the FBI war were forced to flee the country and live in exile. Assata Shakur and Nehanda Abiodun are two of the better know exiles, but we should not get lulled into thinking that they are somehow safe from U.S. authorities that still have bounties on their heads.
Of course, not all the soldiers in the FBI’s war against Black America were able to survive. Many, like Fred Hampton in Chicago, were murdered. Jeffrey Haas was an attorney in Chicago at the time, and has authored a book called The Assassination of Fred Hampton: How the FBI and Chicago Police Murdered a Black Panther. For those of you in Atlanta who would like to learn more about Fred Hampton, Haas will be giving a lecture at Georgia State University, tomorrow (Thursday, Novermber 11th) from 5:30 to 7:30pm in the General Classroom Building, room 400 (corner of Peachtree Center Ave. and Decatur St.). I strongly encourage folks to attend.
No, it is not a simple thing, this Veterans Day. I don’t have all the answers, but i do know that it takes deeper thought than the knee-jerk reaction of wrapping ourselves in the red, white and blue the way the government and mainstream media wants us to. If that makes me unpatriotic, so be it.
I’ll be in good company.
On that "note", i'm outta here.
Monday, November 9, 2009
If you're anything like me, you probably need a little bit of wisdom and inspiration to get you through each day. Well lately, i've been able to get my daily dose of both from Lifelines: The Black Book of Proverbs. A recent press release about the book had this to say:
Authors Askhari and Yvonne share a passion for proverbs. Short, snappy sayings surround their lives. During their upbringings, they both learned, “proverbs are the daughters of experience” (Sierra Leone). Thus, LIFELINES draws inspiration from the authors’ experience and proverb gathering during their wide travels and particularly in their home communities on different sides of the Atlantic Ocean. Readers experiencing new births, weddings, career changes, death, and other rites of passage will find truth in the saying, “When the occasion arises, there is a proverb to suit it” (Rwanda). Indeed, LIFELINES offers wisdom for every stage of our lives.
And Pearl Cleage, author of What Looks Like Crazy on an Ordinary Day, says
This little book contains the wisdom of the ages and is guaranteed to produce a smile of appreciation at the sheer good sense of the proverbs you will find inside. From advice you wish your mother had given you to things you probably suspected but had never put into words, Lifelines is a book to be read, to be absorbed, and to be treasured.
The book even features a Foreword by the Archbishop Desmond Tutu! I wonder if i can pull that off for my book...
Anyway, i may not be able to give away free cars to an entire studio audience like Oprah, but i can at least give away a free book! So here's the deal:
Leave a comment at the bottom of this post sharing the funniest or best proverb you have ever heard. Or, share a proverb that influences your life. If possible, identify the country of origin, but if all you know is you got it from grandma, then say that. If you're getting this by e-mail, then you can e-mail me your proverb.
Use a valid e-mail address so I can reach you if you’re the winner. I’ll pick a winner at random from the entries that follow my rules. The deadline to enter is Friday, November 20, 2009, and i'll announce the winner on this site on December 4, 2009. This will make a perfect holiday present!
By the way, if you're on facebook, you can become a fan of Daily Lifelines.
I'm Cliff, and on that "note", i'm outta here!
Saturday, November 7, 2009
As the first decade of the 21st century comes to a close, I am constantly reminded of WEB DuBois’ prophetic declaration at the beginning of the 20th century: that the major issue of the century would be the problem of the color line. While some folks may debate whether or not that will be true for the current century, what is NOT debatable is that overcoming the problem of the color line is going to require coalitions among all of those affected by it, particularly between Black and Latino communities.
With this in mind, the Southern Regional Council (SRC), one of the country's oldest civil rights organizations, recently released a report that examnies Black and Latino coalitions. The report features case studies from four successful coalitions in the South, and it includes lessons learned that could be useful for other organizations seeking to build such coalitions. The video below summarizes some of the report's key findings.
The above video, other videos and much more information about the SRC can be found at their blog, www.southernchanges.blogspot.com. The SRC is seeking to disseminate the report widely. If you work with an organization that would like to receive hard copies of the report and/or pull together a group of organizations that would like to participate in a workshop, please contact the Southern Regional Council at email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.
i'm Cliff, and on that "note", i'm outta here!