Marion Brothers

Marion Brothers

Monday, December 31, 2007

Edwards Leads in Iowa: Subliminal Suggestion or Wishful Thinking?

Wait just one dat burn cotton-picking minute!

One day, the Iowa Democratic primaries was a two-horse race between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, with John Edwards trailing a distant third. Now, according to a new McClatchy-MSNBC poll, John Edwards is the frontrunner.

John Edwards has clawed his way into contention to win Iowa's caucuses on Thursday in the first vote for the Democratic presidential nomination, gaining strength even as rivals Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama have lost ground, according to a new McClatchy-MSNBC poll. (“Iowa: Edwards surges, Huckabee's bubble bursts”, Star-Telegram, December 30, 2007)

Besides this latest headache in the news, Mike Huckabee, who was leading the Iowa Republican polls only a few days ago, is now playing second fiddle to Mitt Romney (like Nero while Rome burned).

What in the world happened?

“On the Democratic side, the race is about as close as it can get, but keep an eye on Edwards,” said Brad Coker of Mason-Dixon Polling & Research, which conducted the survey. “Edwards has really moved up since our last poll. Obama and Clinton have each slipped a little bit.” On the Republican side, Coker said, “Romney has rebounded and the Huckabee bubble may have burst.”

Some pollsters have been fudging Edwards up in their polls for months, in case anybody noticed. And when Mike Huckabee emerged from the backpack, it threw the same pundits for a loop. Now the opinion makers are righting the ship at the 11th hour, with the Iowa caucus only three days away.

Surprised?

From the very outset of the 2008 presidential race, I wondered how the media would promote John Edwards from his lowly third place in the polls to the frontrunner position and how they would bring down the highly flying Mike Huckabee. Like an adage from Mount Olympus, “Just say it, and it will be so”.

Subliminal suggestion or wishful thinking?

Friday, December 28, 2007

Presidential Candidates Ride Shirttail of Bhutto’s Martyrdom

Benazir Bhutto was assassinated on yesterday at a rally in Rawalpindi. According to international political poll watchers, she was destined to be the next prime minister of Pakistan and a popular bulwark in the fight against al-Qaida. Others who have been following Middle Eastern developments were aware of the threat on Bhutto’s life, whether from inside the Pakistani government or from the terrorists themselves. Nevertheless, she defied the danger, choosing instead to be a martyr if necessary.

Now what?

A martyr might be a heroine, but a martyr cannot be a leader. Someone must replace her if her political party is to have representation in the next Pakistani election- that is, if there is a next election.

What makes her death so shocking is not the assassin’s bullet, but the US presidential contenders riding the shirttail of her martyrdom. If ever there is a time for silence and self-reflection, now is the time. Let all the politicians who would honor her memory, keep silent. And please, no mention of what’s going to happen to the nuclear weapons. They haven't exploded yet. More US saber-rattling will only threaten to tilt the balance of power.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Juvenile Delinquency: A Case Study

Paul David is in trouble again. The 16-year old juvenile delinquent’s latest antics: Playing the Grinch That Stole Christmas.

Here’s an at-risk kid that I’ve being observing over the years. Like the generation of black youth before him, he is on his way down the river, either into prison or to an early grave. And, in the end, all I can say is that he was a good kid, but he had issues.

I know it’s premature to chalk the child off as lost and doomed, especially since he has not yet made that fatal mistake. Nevertheless, he is lost because society has not figured out his problem or how to solve it. Instead, they have given his problem a new name: ODD (Oppositional Disruptive Disorder). So, it is not the child that I have given up on. It is society and its inability to solve a problematic in basic human development that is resulting in a disproportionate number of alienated black juveniles.

The name is not the thing

Giving Paul David’s problem a name does nothing to solve it, but rather opens up a new market for some pharmaceutical company, a new area of research for psychologists who have nothing better to do, and heap more burden on the juvenile justice system. None of these social engineers have the answer.

So what does ODD mean in the case of Paul David?

It means that he curses his mother, manhandles her, steals from his siblings, fights in the streets, stay out all night, always in trouble with the law, and half-in and half-out of school. In sum, he is the next American nightmare.

But the issues surrounding the life of Paul David are no big secret. I’ve been writing about them since the boy was 12. Born to a single-mother, living in the poorest area of the community, barely able to survive from week to week on a meager teacher’s salary, he has a Malcolm-in-the-Middle complex. Smart kid but he hates his mother. Even worse, his mother hates him but does not know it- or, at least, she is in denial.

There are more households like this than society is willing to admit. A teenage son hates his mother, hates living in a ragged rundown overcrowded house, hate living on a full-time diet of donated can goods, wishing for better, but never seeing a light at the end of the tunnel. As a small child, he made his mother promise to never to have another baby out of wedlock. He was the second without a father.

The mother hates the child because she hates the baby’s daddy, a deadbeat father who, himself, stays in and out of trouble with the law. The child is just like the father, she claims, and all her bitter frustrations are aimed at the father through the child.

Then came another baby brother, and that was the straw that broke the camel’s back for Paul David.

Several years back, this boy was placed in my tutelage. He had been expelled from school so many times that the teachers had given up on him- not one year, but two years in a row. The mother thought that I could rein him in, which I did, with some success. But I could do nothing for his home life. In the end, we decided to ship him off to California to live with his uncle. There, Paul David started a new life and became an honor student.

In a recent article, “My Dancing Dayz ‘Bout Over”, I wrote that Paul David was back, living in the same economically depressed neighborhood that he left. And, in an urgent plea, I called out to others who knew the child to watch out for him.

Oh sure, I can hear some of my friends in the establishment world say, “How nice, having dedicated people in the community looking out for these poor at-risk kids.” They do not know that Paul David filled his backpack full of food, ran away from home, was sleeping in an abandoned mobile home, and got a black eye in a fight just outside of one of his mentor’s business location. Since then, I have seen him on the streets, working in a youth volunteer program, all smiles, but ever closer to hell than he has ever been. Nobody knows it, however, except his mother and me.

You see, Paul David has the sweetest fa├žade that you would ever see on a teenager- always smiling, courteous, and gentle mannerism. But that is only around adults. Around his little hoodlum friends, he sheds his sheepish veneer and lets all the wolf hang out. He is still the leader of the gang, except now he is not a 12-year old riffraff. He is a graduated banger on probation drifting in and out of alternative school.

So, whatever happened to his golden days in California as an honor student? The school went bad, no longer a shining example of academic excellence, but a disciplinary institution with a change in administration. I would not be surprised if the kid had an influence in changing the school. Given the chance, Paul David would be the type of child that would. But it typifies the up and down trend in public education- one day chicken, next day feathers.

In any case, Paul David was back in the ‘hood, picking up where he left off, and leading his street friends down yonder path.

When I saw him attending a Fort Worth ISD Dropout Prevention session at the community center, I first thought all was well, though I was somewhat dismayed at his return. But it only goes to show that whenever you think that the problem with a young person is solved, we need to take a second look.

Sitting in a circle, full of meandering discussions about staying in school, I pointed out how Paul David was a “success story”, having broken away from his early years as a local gang leader, going to California, and making good on the honor roll. When asked how he was doing since his return to the city, he answered, “Aw ‘ight.” I should have known then that something was amiss.

His mother called me at my home this morning and gave me the real low-down. Paul David had stolen his little brother’s Christmas present- a flute- and had probably sold it. No, everything was not “aw ‘ight”. This is when I learned the whole story- about the probation, alternative school, and how he got the black eye.

Now remember, this woman is a school teacher in the Fort Worth ISD, and she swears her child is more like the other public school students than we can imagine. She, like many other public school teachers, was only one stroke or heart attack from totally giving up.

There, she said it. The burden was now off her shoulders. She was tired of holding it in.

Whose burden was it now? Well, it must now be up to the problem-solvers- the “oh, how nice that someone is working with the kids” folks. Meanwhile, the rest of us can hardly get a decent word in edgewise. Our voices get drown out by the psychologists who give us a daily dose of psycho-babble alphabet soup about ODD, ADD, ADHD, along with theoretic solutions and recommended medication.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

HAT TIP to Shawn Williams at Dallas South Blog

We have been waiting for an indication as to where the Texas press will line up on the 2008 Presidential Race. Thanks to Shawn Williams at Dallas South, we now know who the Dallas Morning News is endorsing: Barak Obama. And, for the very obvious reasons below:

DMN editorial board recommends Barack Obama for the Democratic nomination

America is at a historic crossroads as a woman, a Hispanic and an African-American vie for the Democratic Party's presidential nomination. Two of those candidates, Sens. Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, were finalists for our recommendation – not because of ethnicity or gender but because they most closely aligned with our positions on major domestic and international issues.

Mr. Obama is our choice because of his consistently solid judgment, poise under pressure and ability to campaign effectively without resorting to the divisive politics of the past.

Race is not an overriding factor for us. But it is undeniable that America has failed to heal its racial wounds, including here in Dallas. We need a motivated leader capable of confronting the problem, and no candidate is better equipped than Mr. Obama. His message isn't about anger and retribution. It's about moving forward.

There's been lots of noise about his lack of experience. It is a legitimate concern, considering he's a 46-year-old first-term senator. But Mr. Obama's experience in elective office matches that of Abraham Lincoln before he became president. And he has served more time on Capitol Hill than four of the past five White House occupants.

If youthful inexperience were such a liability, it has failed to resonate despite his opponents' best efforts. Mrs. Clinton, by contrast, flip-flopped over a plan to give driver's licenses to illegal immigrants. Her campaign accepted donations from questionable sources. When Mr. Obama's support recently surged in early primary states, her campaign tried to smear him over drug use in his youth.

It's a tired ploy that has failed in four previous presidential elections. Bill Clinton twice won election after admitting he'd smoked (but not inhaled) marijuana. George W. Bush won despite an alcohol problem and drunken-driving conviction at age 30.

Mrs. Clinton called Mr. Obama "irresponsible" and "naive" for saying he would talk to leaders of rogue nations like Syria and Iran. Considering the current failed strategy of confrontation and diplomatic isolation, we think Mr. Obama is wise to include direct negotiations among his tools to reduce regional tensions.

Mr. Obama drew criticism for saying he would pursue terrorists, if necessary, by sending troops into Pakistan. The fact is, U.S. troops have been going into Pakistan for years in pursuit of terrorists. All Mr. Obama did, in effect, was to keep that option open for the future. To say otherwise is to declare Pakistan a sanctuary for America's enemies.

Mr. Obama, the son of a white American mother and black Kenyan father, spent part of his childhood in Indonesia, the world's most populous Muslim country.
His life experience gives him a unique perspective and a greater ability to build diplomatic bridges.

We don't always agree with his positions, but we recognize his potential to unite disparate political factions and restore cooperation between the White House and Capitol Hill.

Americans are tired of divisive, hard-edged politics. Democrats would inspire a refreshingly new approach by choosing Mr. Obama as their 2008 candidate.

FOOTNOTE: Texas is a George Bush "red state", but recently there have been "blue" pockets cropping up across the state. Maybe even Texans are getting tired of their native son.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

BEST PRACTICE MODEL for Ex-Offender Reentry

TLC, Inc. covers all the bases of needs in a comprehensive family program

I visited the Transitional Learning Center in Forest Hill, Texas and came away utterly impressed. What I was originally looking for was a service provider that helps ex-offender become reintegrated into society, but what I found first was crying babies, children of the incarcerated and drug abusers. Despite their crying, it was the best and most compassionate child care center and nurseries I had ever seen.

Altogether, there were about 70 children in this two-story education center, paid for by nickel and dime community donations- the poor financing the poor- through the diligent and tireless effort of Richelle Owens, who manages a multitude of incarcerate person’s service needs, while at the same time providing support for their families.

When I saw the nursery with baby beds and babies actually asleep in them, it brought tears to my eyes. They have only the bare minimums. But the baby cribs looked nice. In fact, in every room on the first floor, there were children of various age groups, sitting at blank desk with only pencil and paper. Richelle is still building capacity, but only by faith, and few funds. She hardly knows who is who among Fort Worthians, let alone the gift givers. So she frequent the churches asking for donations.

The rent is due soon, and she does not know where the money will come from, in order to continue renting this 28,000 square-foot facility. From new born to toddler to elementary, the kids have little more than pencil and paper to work with, and yet they appear to be contented with that.

All around, there are pieces of old donated stuff, including obsolete computers, but Rochelle makes the best of what she has. All of the classrooms are equipped with desks and chairs and tables- the best of the donated lot. But the computers are hand-me-down scrap and the children have nothing more than pin-ups on the wall to adorn and enrich their barren environment.

Seven year-olds up to about ten sit at workstations but with no computers, only pencil and paper and some old donated math books. But again, the children are content. This facility was more like a haven, it seems, when kids have nowhere else to go.

There is a feeding program and a nursing program staffed with a number of volunteers. Rochelle could use more professional volunteers and paid staff. The demand for services is great for at-risk families in the Tarrant County area.

TRAINING CENTER

The second floor is totally reserved for classroom space, some of which is nicely equipped with table and chairs and one television. Considering they opened to doors on this facility in August, the accomplishments of the center is nothing short of a miracle.
There is the 13-station On-the-Job-Training Employment Training Center classroom, where students are taught telephonic skills for telemarketing jobs, time management, work ethics, stress management, critical thinking, and computer literacy (if and when they acquire computers).

Then there is the Business Ethics Center classroom where students learn employment stabilization and career advancement skills. The Adult Learning Center classroom is devoted to teaching adult literacy, English as second language, GED, and college prep. Finally, there is the Financial Management classroom used to teach students how to manage their money, about budgeting and savings.

Other Ex-Offender Reentry service providers use Rochelle’s facilities for night classes. Soon there will be a Family Counseling Center. The Transitional Learning Center also operates several group homes for ex-offenders, substance abusers, and single mothers with incarcerated husbands. The living environment is easy and stress free. Each resident is coupled in a room, furnished and rent-free (subsidized by community churches), though sometime subsidies are spurious.

A CRY FOR HELP

Faith-based help (From “Working to slow prison’s revolving door”, Star-Telegram, September 13, 2007)

That faith-based support was apparent last month when Christ Chapel hosted a Success Celebration, put on by Tarrant County's Community Partnership Council, that honored ex-offenders who completed the terms of their parole. Church groups, community leaders, criminal justice employees and the families of ex-offenders came together to recognize those who made the changes needed to succeed outside prison.

CPC is one of the organizations working with the Tarrant County Reentry Council. It coordinates re-entry efforts with the Texas Department of Criminal Justice's parole division and community groups, and provides mentoring to ex-offenders, said Richelle Owens, CPC chairwoman. It has about 40 mentors, Owens said; she wants to add 60 more by year's end.

CPC has 47 organizations involved in ex-offender re-entry, she said. The council provides services such as job forums and recovery program placement.
"CPC is there to provide resources outside of what TDCJ can provide," said Vicki Hallman, director of the Criminal Justice Department's Region II Parole Division in Dallas.

For More Information, Contact:

Richelle T. Owens, Program Director
Transitional Learning Centers-TLC
6901 Wichita Street
Forest Hill, Texas 76140
tlcgrouphomes@gmail.com

Mailing address:
P O Box 330344
Fort Worth, Texas 76133-0344
817-443-5959

HOW YOU CAN HELP: Write Eddie Griffin at evansavenue76104@yahoo.com

Monday, December 17, 2007

HAT TIP TO THE Rehabilitation Project

The Rehabilitation Project has provide an Action Plan to help gain the passage of the “The Second Chance Act for Ex-Offenders of 2007”.

Dear Rehabilitated Project Members, Friends and Subscribers:

It seems quite certain now that the “Second Chance Act” by Congressman Davis – the funding bill – will pass both House and Senate and be signed by the President.

It also seems quite certain now that Congressman Rangel’s bill, “The Second Chance Act for Ex-Offenders of 2007” – which provides for cleaning up federal criminal conviction records – will not.

Thus, it is my belief that in the next week we can make a big difference in Congressman Davis’ bill by working through the offices of Senator Sam Brownback. Why?

Because he helped sponsor Davis' bill in the Senate; and,

Because both the Senator and most of his staff are sympathetic to our plight.
I thus provide the following contact information for you:

Hon. Sam Brownback
United States Senate
303 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20510

What I propose is that you:

FIRST fax Senator Brownback a letter urging him to incorporate a Certificate of Rehabilitation provision in the Second Chance Act of which he is a co-sponsor and send it by fax; and

SECOND, that you call his office and request to speak with the “… staff person in charge of the Second Chance Act.” When talking with the staff person, please refer to the letter that you previously faxed to Senator Brownback. It is commonly accepted that each letter received in Congress represents tens of thousands of voters – thus, all letters get respect. Don’t use mail, only use fax. It is worth it to go to Kinkos and send it from there if you do not have a fax machine, or send your letter to us by email and we’ll fax it for you and in your name.

Here are the phone and fax numbers for Senator Brownback.

Phone: (202) 224-6521
Fax: (202) 228-1265

Both your letter and your telephone call should reference the following website page which includes a proposed Certificate of Rehabilitation provision that has already been placed before Senator Brownback’s office and for which there is some support.


Now is the time to get this done because the Second Chance Act will be finally considered next week by Congress and a strong voice like Brownback’s may carry the day or, at least, pave the way for us to get started again next session on a “clean” Certificate of Rehabilitation bill that is fair, just and passable.

Charles Benninghoff
Founder
The Rehabilitated Project

Phone 949-240-3000
Cell 949-510-1100

Friday, December 14, 2007

Second Chance Act of 2007

Congress finds the following:

(1) In 2002, over 7,000,000 people were incarcerated in Federal, State, or local prisons or jails, or were under parole or court supervision. Nearly 650,000 people are released from Federal and State incarceration into communities nationwide each year.

(2) There are over 3,200 jails throughout the United States, the vast majority of which are operated by county governments. Each year, these jails will release more than 10,000,000 people back into the community.

(3) Nearly 2/3 of released State prisoners are expected to be rearrested for a felony or serious misdemeanor within 3 years after release.

(4) According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, expenditures on corrections alone increased from $9,000,000,000 in 1982 to $59,600,000,000 in 2002. These figures do not include the cost of arrest and prosecution, nor do they take into account the cost to victims.

(5) The Serious and Violent Offender Reentry Initiative provided $139,000,000 in funding for State governments to develop and implement education, job training, mental health treatment, and substance abuse treatment for serious and violent offenders. This Act seeks to build upon the innovative and successful State reentry programs developed under the Serious and Violent Offender Reentry Initiative, which terminated after fiscal year 2005.

(6) Between 1991 and 1999, the number of children with a parent in a Federal or State correctional facility increased by more than 100 percent, from approximately 900,000 to approximately 2,000,000. According to the Bureau of Prisons, there is evidence to suggest that inmates who are connected to their children and families are more likely to avoid negative incidents and have reduced sentences.

(7) Released prisoners cite family support as the most important factor in helping them stay out of prison. Research suggests that families are an often underutilized resource in the reentry process.

(8) Approximately 100,000 juveniles (ages 17 years and under) leave juvenile correctional facilities, State prison, or Federal prison each year. Juveniles released from secure confinement still have their likely prime crime years ahead of them. Juveniles released from secure confinement have a recidivism rate ranging from 55 to 75 percent. The chances that young people will successfully transition into society improve with effective reentry and aftercare programs.

(9) Studies have shown that between 15 percent and 27 percent of prisoners expect to go to homeless shelters upon release from prison.

(10) Fifty-seven percent of Federal and 70 percent of State inmates used drugs regularly before going to prison, and the Bureau of Justice Statistics report titled `Trends in State Parole, 1990-2000' estimates the use of drugs or alcohol around the time of the offense that resulted in the incarceration of the inmate at as high as 84 percent.

(11) Family-based treatment programs have proven results for serving the special populations of female offenders and substance abusers with children. An evaluation by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration of family-based treatment for substance-abusing mothers and children found that 6 months after such treatment, 60 percent of the mothers remained alcohol and drug free, and drug-related offenses declined from 28 percent to 7 percent. Additionally, a 2003 evaluation of residential family-based treatment programs revealed that 60 percent of mothers remained clean and sober 6 months after treatment, criminal arrests declined by 43 percent, and 88 percent of the children treated in the program with their mothers remained stabilized.

(12) A Bureau of Justice Statistics analysis indicated that only 33 percent of Federal inmates and 36 percent of State inmates had participated in residential in-patient treatment programs for alcohol and drug abuse 12 months before their release. Further, over 1/3 of all jail inmates have some physical or mental disability and 25 percent of jail inmates have been treated at some time for a mental or emotional problem.

(13) State Substance Abuse Agency Directors, also known as Single State Authorities (SSAs), manage the Nation's publicly funded substance abuse prevention and treatment systems. SSAs are responsible for planning and implementing State-wide systems of care that provide clinically appropriate substance abuse services. Given the high rate of substance use disorders among offenders reentering our communities, successful reentry programs require close interaction and collaboration with SSAs when planning, implementing, and evaluating reentry programs.

(14) According to the National Institute of Literacy, 70 percent of all prisoners function at the lowest literacy levels.

(15) Less than 32 percent of State prison inmates have a high school diploma or a higher level of education, compared to 82 percent of the general population.

(16) Approximately 38 percent of inmates who completed 11 years or less of school were not working before entry into prison.

(17) The percentage of State prisoners participating in educational programs decreased by more than 8 percent between 1991 and 1997, despite growing evidence of how educational programming while incarcerated reduces recidivism.

(18) The National Institute of Justice has found that 1 year after release, up to 60 percent of former inmates are not employed.

(19) Transitional jobs programs have proven to help people with criminal records to successfully return to the workplace and to the community, and therefore can reduce recidivism.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

An Out-of-Body Experience in Solitary Confinement

A lession in Anger Management & Excited Delirium
By Eddie Griffin

I prefer solitary confinement in prison. Whenever I am at peace with myself and God, I can sleep easier without having to deal with so many crazy people walking around on the prison compound carrying knives. I could rest at night, cover my head, and give my heart some peace.

But they would not let me rest. They would not allow me to sleep. Every hour, on the hour, a prison guard would come around banging on the bars, and tapping me on the feet. “Show me some skin,” he would demand.

With my peace broken, I raise my head from under the blank in the cold cell block, and show him that I am still alive- every hour, on the hour.

They call it “sleep deprivation”, keeping a prisoner awake continually- not allowing him to sleep.

I don’t know when I began to hallucinate. I had lost all concept of time. But shadows began to appear, flying across the cell, darting across the floor like mice, with echoes in the dark. They kept a light shining in my room, day and night.

At some point, my mind went black, and found myself standing between heaven and hell, straddled the earth, a naked gladiator, and “the pigs” were coming at me- and I was fighting them off.

In actually, I was getting my butt whipped by prison guards, and being dragged out of solitary confinement to a solitary hospital cell when they shot my butt with drugs- so much for going out the hard way, like a hero.

I guess this is the psychological problem call “excited delirium”.

What do you think, Doctor?

Wikipedia says:

Sleep deprivation is used as an interrogation technique... by coalition forces in Afghanistan and Iraq. Interrogation victims are kept awake for several days; when they are finally allowed to fall asleep, they are suddenly awakened and questioned.

Menachem Begin, the Israeli prime minister from 1977-83 described his experience of sleep deprivation when a prisoner of the KGB in Russia as follows, "In the head of the interrogated prisoner, a haze begins to form. His spirit is wearied to death, his legs are unsteady, and he has one sole desire: to sleep... Anyone who has experienced this desire knows that not even hunger and thirst are comparable with it."

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Why We Protest

To the critics who have arisen in light of the recent wave of mass demonstrations, let’s get some things clear as to why we engaged in protest.

First, social protest is a means of raising public awareness about situations that may otherwise go unnoticed. Take for example the small town cases: Shaquanda Cotton, Jena 6, and Genarlow Wilson. Lest people forget how these cases arose from obscurity to national attention, review the plight of these youth.

Shaquanda Cotton was a 14-year old girl sent to prison for up to seven years for pushing a school aide in Paris, Texas- note that the hall monitor was not seriously injured.

Six black high school students faced up to 80 years in prison for jumping a school mate- note that the school mate was also not seriously injured.

A 17-year old boy was sent to prison with a 10-year sentence for having consensual sex with a 15-year old girl.

If there is one thing that these three cases had in common, it would be this: The majority of the American public agreed that the punishment for these juveniles were too harsh.

So, what do we do? Do we allow these things to happen and say nothing? Without public awareness, these children would have been condemned to long periods of incarceration and their lives destroyed without even given a second thought.

These are the basic facts. Whatever came afterwards was a reaction thereto.

But those who know realize that these were not unusual cases. This kind of stuff happens to black juveniles in America everyday. But there are some people who act as if they wish we were silent, simply because they are “turned off” by black people in the streets protesting injustice.

So, how did raising social consciousness come to be labeled a “black protest”? This was an American problem. Just because the mass of demonstrators were black, this is only incidental to the fact that most whites are not as outraged when the problems affect black people more than whites. Therefore, we are left stranded to solve our communal problems the best way we can with little or no white support.

On the other hand, there are some blacks, similarly situated as whites, who do not see the problem either. They perceive the only urgent American problems are those that affect their security and well-being. For the lesser folks, their problems are a product of their own creation.

They reason: Shaquanda Cotton was a student who stayed in trouble and her problem was due to poor parenting. Therefore, they would just as soon allow her to be slammed in prison for seven years of her life over a minor shoving incident. Had the school hall monitor only allowed her into the school to reach the nurse’s office where she could received her medication, specially prescribed to help her to manage her temper tantrums, the child would not have been criminalized in the first place.

Likewise, had three white students not dangled nooses over a schoolyard tree to intimidate black students from sitting under the tree, the Jena black youth probably could have gone the whole school year without this racially-instigated fight from which they would be charged with “attempted murder”.

And the actions of young Genarlow Wilson was no different than any average red-blooded American male teenager. Sex between consenting teens is simply something that happen everyday. So, why should he be sent to prison for 10 years as a sex offender?

This was the picture in small town America before the protests and all the reactions and counter-reactions and acrimony that followed. Simply put, these young people were doomed without some attention.

Whose responsibility was it to speak up for these children? How could the public be made aware of their plight when the mass media showed no interest? Only after thousands of people took to the streets did the media realize a story. It was the mass media that dubbed the mass mobilization as a "civil rights movement", only to turn around and set out to discredit and destroy it.

Black think tanks are created to solve community problems, rather than to go crying to the government for solutions. As Tom Hanks said in the movie “Saving Private Ryan”, problems go up the line, not visa versa.

As I have found in my career, people who are incapable of solving problems are very good at pointing fingers to cover for their inabilities. They never propose real solutions because they have none. My attitude is like the old Black Panthers: Send the problem to us. We will solve them- not because of our sanctimonious self-righteousness- but because no other solution is forthcoming.

When black children went to school without breakfast, the Panthers fed them because there was a great need for surrogates to fill the gap and mentors to teach survival and self-sufficiency. Instead of being supported for their efforts, they were criticized and vilified by outsiders.

The children raised by the Panthers were never confused as to who fed and taught them. In fact, there is a whole generation of Black Panther reared children today who appreciate their upbringing and support. But the government saw fit to sabotage the breakfast program, rather than allow Panthers take the credit. Instead, they created government subsidized feeding programs in the public school system, then turned around and criticized government "handouts" in general- as if black people were the ones who originated begging for handouts. Black people were "bought off" to thwart their legitimate aspiration toward self-sufficiency.

Again, the problem of the neglected elderly was sent to the Panthers. Did they cry to the government for help? Not hardly, because the local and federal government was the problem. They hindered grassroots organizing and fundraising and called the Panther newspaper “hate propaganda”. Yet with the meager revenue raised through entrepreneurship, the black community leaders were able to feed the elderly- that is, until Meal-on-Wheels came along.

Whether bought off or silence through subsistence assistance, the original intent of feeding the hungry was getting done, and it made no difference if Panthers received the credit or not.

Therefore, I care less for those who stand on the outside and throw stones at black leaders who rise to the occasion of solving the community's problems. These critics say much and do little. But it is black propaganda pundits who poly-parrot white critics that take the cake. They existed in the 1970s, 1960s, all the way back to the 1860s.

They remind me of an interview a slave prior to the Civil War. With the mistress of the house standing benevolently over him, the slave answered a newspaper reporter’s questions, which proved to be a veiled attempt to counter the public notion about black people’s sentiments towards emancipation. When the newspaper reported asked about the slaves’ treatment, the mistress interjected by putting words in the servant’s mouth: “We treat you good, don’t we, John?” the mistress coaxed. John responded, “Yes ‘em. Y’all threat us good”. And when asked if he desired his freedom, the mistress inserted, “Our slaves need us. Without us, they wouldn’t know what to do. They would not be able to support themselves.” The slave John agreed. (So much for an unbiased free press)

Thus whenever I read a piece like Yolanda Young’s “Blacks' protests lack unity of purpose” and her use of phrases like “knee-jerk reaction”, “bloggers, radio personalities and rogue activists have hijacked the movement”, and “the modern-day civil rights movement is in disarray” because of a lack of “cohesion and transparency”, I realize the origin of the voice is not her own. After all, it takes a brain to originate thought, but it only takes a big mouth to repeat ignorance.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Excited Delirium, Not Taser: Probable Cause of Death

When Valreca Redden, an expectant mother, was tased by a Trotwood police officer, the pain reverberated around the world and the debate reignited.

Does tasing constitute torture? Wrong question!

Taser International, Inc. (Nasdaq:TASR), the maker of the electronic stun gun, have consistently defended their devices being as non-lethal, although nearly 300 people have died after being shocked. To date, the company has successfully fought the United Nations Committee Against Torture and Amnesty International, thwarted congressional inquiries, defended Eighth Amendment challenges of cruel and unusual punishment, and is currently locked into a libel suit against USA Today publisher Gannett Inc. about the mortality risk of the devices.

The subject of torture has always been a debatable issue, insofar as such techniques provoking the social consciousness of a people in society. If it does not provoke social outrage, it is not torture, according to the letter of international law.

The use of tasers, however, falls somewhere in between. Technically, the administration of electric shock is considered torture, except when used as a necessary force to subdue a violent subject.

Clearly, the video of Valreca Redden shows that she was distraught but not violent. She was distraught because she wanted to give her baby over to authorities. But when the officer hesitated and began her asking questions, the mother must have had a change of heart and decided to leave. That is when the officer stunned her.





Taser International's electronic control devices are advertised as “one of the most effective -less-than-lethal devices” used to “to safely incapacitate dangerous, combative or high-risk subjects who pose a risk to law enforcement officers, innocent citizens or themselves.”

Unlike torture devices of the past, such as “the rack”, cattle prods, thumbscrews, etc., no one can straight out prove that police officers use stun guns for gratification of some sadistic pleasure like the Nazis during World War II. But the justified use of such devices for the purpose of subduing a resisting subject is dubious, as shown in the 2004 tasering death of Deacon Fredrick Williams.

Williams was not one of those usual suspects. He was a family man with a decent job and well respected in the community and his church. He was an epileptic having a seizure. As the Gwinnett County sheriff deputies administer 50,000 volt shocks into his body, they repeatedly demand that he “stop resisting”. (How can a man with 50,000 volts of electricity passing through his body keep still, let alone an epileptic? The electric chair only used 20,000 volts.)

In this 22 and a half minute video, watch as Williams expires in the hands of the arresting officers. Actually, he was dead within two minutes of the video. The other twenty minutes centers around the hopeless and futile attempt of the officers trying to bring him back to life. Indeed, they stunned him into submission, until he was completely subdued. But then they could not "un-subdue" him from his comatose state. For twenty minutes they stood around helplessly, with egg on their face.

According to Amnesty International, there have been 296 similar deaths related to tasing. But Taser International is in denial that it is the fault of their taser devices. On the other hand, the "electrocutioners" are in denial also. They say it is the victim’s fault- either the victim was high on drugs or had a medical predisposition. The newest psycho-babble is “excited delirium”, an overdose of adrenaline like choking on one's own spit.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Paradox of a Guilty Plea

When we advocated school integration, I never expected that we would have to teach our children to accept humiliation and racist threats without fighting back. But obviously that is subtle meaning behind the guilty plea of Jena 6 Mychal Bell. In reaction to the nooses hanging across a schoolyard tree, some people feel that the black Jena High School youth should have gone about their business unperturbed.

It is okay for an old black man like me to turn the other cheek, because I have been around long enough to see why the Lord said, “Vengeance is mine.” He has always avenged me against my enemies.

But I have never taught my children to be docile and accept humiliation, abuse, and violence against them. Never!

I have always taught them to avoid trouble. But if trouble is going to come, let it come to them and not them to it. From this vantage point, they can see trouble coming afar off and make up their mind how to react long before it reaches them. I teach them: If trouble comes and there is no out, stand your ground and defend yourself.

Was 17-year old Mychal Bell guilty of a criminal offense for punching out a white schoolmate? By his own mouth, he says that he was. His plea bargain was an admission of guilt and culpability of a criminal offence. But lack of political education led him to believe that he was guilty of something more than a simple high school infraction.

It was important for white authorities to convince him that he actually committed a crime, justifiably punishable under the law. The whole ordeal, when looking at the facts, could have been dealt with as a school disciplinary matter, as in the case of the white students. At least, this is the way most high schools in the "civilized" world deal with such incidents. But isolated in a hick back-wood community, people have no outside reference as to how the rest of the "civilized" world handle minor offenses such as these. And worse, no one ever told Mychal Bell that his fight was not “attempted murder”. The district attorney obviously convinced him, his parents, and the Jena community otherwise. And, for a while, Reed Walters had everybody going until he was rebuked by the appeals court.

Like most poor blacks standing before the criminal justice system, the plea bargain offered an easy way. Since Bell was already serving a probated sentence for previous convictions, another 18-month sentence running concurrent meant that there would be not additional damage. He could plead guilty and personally, for him, he could rest a little easier.

Why did his lawyers allow it? First, lawyers are obligated to present their client with the plea offer from the prosecutor. Second, they cannot advise their client not to take the offer. Third, Bell had no “political” mentor, only a bunch of goodhearted people, well-wishers, and supporters- but no real “fighters”.

What does his guilty plea do to the rest of us black parents and grandparents? We are forced to teach our children what was taught to us. We must teach them to accept white insults without backtalk or retaliation. Otherwise they run the risk of expulsion from school and prosecution by the criminal justice system.

We must teach them that non-violent protest is useless against the powers-that-be. Why? Remember when the white students hung the nooses across the schoolyard tree? The black students initially reacted with a non-violent protest? What did it get them? It got them more taunting and humiliation, plus threats from the district attorney who, in fact, went on to fulfill those threats.

In the eyes of the Jena 6 persecutors, if nooses were again to dangle from the schoolyard tree, they would expect black students to do nothing, to ignore the obvious threat, to go on about their business in school without protest or striking back. If they complain, they can be expected to be treated as their parents were treated when they presented the issue to the Jena school board.

When all of these non-violent expressions of grievance fail, they have only one other legal resort. “Vengeance is mine,” says the Lord.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Jena 6 defendant cracks, cops plea

After spending nearly a year in jail, Jena 6 defendant Mychal Bell finally cracked and copped a plea to a lesser charge of second-degree battery and an 18-month sentence, with credit for time served.

The case sparked one of the largest civil rights protest in recent memory, bringing national and international attention to the small Louisiana town of 3,000. Originally, the six black youth faced up to 80 years for their involvement in a school fight following months of racial tension that began when white students hanged nooses on a schoolyard tree after black students requested to sit under it.

"We were prepared to go forward with the trial, but you have to do what's best for the client," said Carol Powell Lexing, Bell’s attorney.

Since winning a conviction against Bell by an all-white jury in June 2007, LaSalle Parish prosecutor Reed Walters has suffered a series of setbacks in the case. First, Bell’s conviction was overturned by the appeals court. Second, Governor Blanco pressured Walters not to appeal the decision to the state supreme court, but rather try the case in juvenile court where it had been remanded. Adding to the prosecutor’s woes was the bombardment of media coverage, throngs of thousands of protesters, and a tidal wave of angry reactions on both sides of the case.

The plea came as a shock to many supporters who fought to win the freedom and exoneration of the youths. More than one supporter described their reaction as “livid”- upset at the fact that the “unjust disparity” in prosecution will now go on the books as just another conviction against a young black school-age boy- continuing a prevalent national tread. But to locals who favored prosecution, the plea bargain comes as a relief.

Plea bargains "would be the best solution, as long as they don't get away with no punishment at all,” said David Barker, the father of the alleged victim. “This case has taken its toll on everybody. Justin has ulcers now. Letting it drag on for years would just be additional stress for him." (source)

Eddie Griffin commentary:

Mychal Bell has been the only one of the six defendants who has been incarcerated since December 2006, except for a few hours of freedom after making bail in September. Therefore, it is not unusual for a young man to jump at the first prospect of freedom, even if it means testifying against his co-defendant.

From the very outset, Bell was the weakest link in the chain, insofar as he had prior juvenile convictions and faced a stiffer punishment than the rest. And, viewing all the other circumstances surrounding the case and fundraising in his defense, it is not clear if he were ever on the same page with the other defendants.

What the plea bargain does is this: It establishes the "schoolyard fight" as a criminal assault and removes the defense of provocation for the other defendants.

Personally, I would have preferred to see Bell stay strong and hold out for "real" justice. But then, I was not the one in jail. I was not the one tortured by the cruelty of confinement. This is probably what the lawyer Carol Lexing meant by saying "you have to do what's best for the client." Not that it was the "best" decision as it was simply the defendant’s wish. Bell wants out of jail- and who can blame him? He’s only 17 years old.

Incarceration is a form of coercion. Like torture, it will make a young man say or do anything to win their freedom. It makes no difference that he compromises the defense of others and disarms the fight of his supporters.

At any rate, this may signal the beginning of the end of the Jena movement. But all was not lost. The movement managed to shed light on a small rural southern town where justice is meted out disproportionately along the color line. And, there is no doubt that without bringing outside attention to the case, these six black youth would have been "slammed" and given lengthy prison sentences.

The sad part of this commentary is the fact that Mychal Bell has to "eat" guilt for a crime that was not a crime in my book. There is an underestimated fear factor about hanging nooses- a real fear for blacks, but underestimated by whites.

As I asked a white friend, "How would you feel if the Mafia hanged a noose outside your door?"