Marion Brothers

Marion Brothers

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Eddie Griffin Defends Tatum against Star-Telegram Bias

Jill Labbe, Editorial Director of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, leaves a bad taste in my mouth by something she wrote in her editorial, “Scramble starts for new congressional seat” (November 26, 2011).

An unnecessarily bias commentary on the candidacy of Pastor Kyev Tatum for the newly redrawn U.S. District 33, Jill Labbe writes:

African-Americans do, which could be why the Rev. Kyev Tatum also is eyeing a run.

He doesn't have a prayer against Veasey or Hicks, but even being mentioned in the same breath gives the community activist legitimacy beyond the Southern Christian Leadership Conference.

"We need someone in that district who is concerned about the issues of the neighborhood," Tatum told the Star-Telegram's PoliTex reporters Friday.

Note to Tatum: Neighborhood issues are the real estate of the City Council. Perhaps a run for one of those seats would be a better place to launch into the world of elected representation.

What does Jill Labbe imply? First of all, Tatum does have a prayer, at least from Eddie Griffin. He is a good brother and dear friend, a comrade with me in battle, and a man faithful in support and defense of our community and one who comes to aid in times of crisis. He has been a voice for the voiceless and has drawn public attention to many issues that would otherwise have gone uncovered.

Does Labbe imply that this grand Office of U.S. District 33 is too big for Tatum, that maybe he should first cut his political teeth at the City Council level?

How arrogant an assessment! It’s insulting!

Maybe Jill Labbe should begin with a Planet Earth perspective. What is U.S. District 33, but a minor piece in a bigger mosaic? Even more, District 33 is now our little piece of the rock. After all, it’s our 'hood. We have monolithic demographics (seen one, seen them all), a community of mutual common interests, 66% minority (thanks be, if the court decision stands). Again, I would say: This is our turf, our neighborhood.

How then can Labbe prejudge the internal workings of ‘hood politics? By demeaning and insulting Pastor Tatum, she demeans and insults all us hood rats. [I speak for Zip 76104]. Put the zip codes together, Labbe. The Election of 2012 will be a district-by-district dog fight, back to the White House.

District 33 is just a small piece of a bigger puzzle, a link in the chain of our access to real political power.

Historically, Zip code area 76104 (the Historical African-American district) and adjacent minority communities of similar demographics were carved up like a chicken, and divided among Republican-dominated districts. Thereby, they dominated and dictated our socio-economic future. It must be remembered that Zip 76104, once the world class Mecca of the African-America, is now the poorest district of all the districts, with the highest infant mortality rate, and the highest concentration of poverty and despair. Contrary to its outward appearance, however, it has one of the lowest crime rates, because of men on the ground like Pastor Kyev Tatum.

What we need is hope, not more politics as usual. We will take this district ourselves for ourselves, and determine our own destiny.

Therefore, I endorse the candidacy of Pastor Kyev Tatum because he is the most fitting piece in the big puzzle, in a grander scheme to reelect President Barack Obama.

District 33 is a passionate, enthusiastic, and energetic community that loves the incumbent President Barack Obama. And, quiet as it is kept, our ‘hood benefited somewhat from the Obama's Economic Stimulus Plan. [I know. Eat your hearts out.] But we would want more. We deserve more than the under-representation we have been receiving.

We would turn District 33 into a central command center for solving community problems.

In the meantime, Washington, D.C. can have its gridlock. But District 33 would become a gridlock buster, no thanks to Labbe.

And even so, as big as Washington, D.C. may seem to be, it is but a speck on Planet Earth. No matter what powers there be, are they not ordained from above?

Eddie Griffin, BASG

Friday, November 4, 2011

A Day of Peace

in concert with the international Blog Day for Peace
November 4, 2011

Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men (Luke 2:14)

Today, we give glory to God for the creation of the Day. We pray that the blessings of Peace reside upon you and grace to all men. We wish you well.

Although some may be troubled by the current affairs of this world, there is still peace to be found, and it is the kind of peace that surpasses all understanding.

The passage in Psalm 34:14 says “Seek peace, and pursue it.”

But how can we pursue the illusive? Why does peace evade us so? Lest we forget, the psalmist said first, “Depart from evil, and do good.”

The greatest enemy of peace lies within. As the apostle James said: What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don't they come from your desires that battle within you? (James 4:1 NIV)

It is hard to keep peace with others in the world, when we cannot find peace within ourselves. The fruit of righteousness is sown in peace of them that make peace (James 3:18). Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called the Children of God (Matthew 5:9).

We must make peace in order to gain peace, first making peace with ourselves.

The quest for peace, on the other hand, does not leave us defenseless. We are not blinded by the stars of idealism as to believe that all is good and well among men. For we have seen man at his worst. But we are not troubled by the battles of life. We have One who fights our battle, and He is the Prince of Peace.

Beyond the veil of blue, the Conquer went forth riding on a White Horse. (Revelation 6:2) Victory is assured to those in his army who ride with him. They are arrayed in white.

The Lord fights our battle for us. He takes vengeance out of our hands and reserved it for Himself. Vengeance is mine; I will repay, says the Lord. (Romans 12:19)

Who is this King of glory? The LORD strong and mighty, the LORD mighty in battle. (Psalm 24:8)

Who is the Prince of Peace?

Lest we forget the Star of the East, lest we forget that Bright and Morning Star, let us be reminded this season: For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace. Isaiah 9:6

Though men may search the whole world over for peace, they cannot find this illusive state outside the Prince of Peace who gives us the peace beyond human understanding.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

The Trouble Signs of Mass Incarceration

By Eddie Griffin

An October 26, 2011 Star-Telegram editorial reads: “Signs of trouble were apparent at a Hood County juvenile detention facility before the death of a 14-year-old detainee this month.

The story of what happened to young Jordan Adams, a middle school student who died in his cell at the Granbury Regional Juvenile Justice Center, is symptomatic of the problems with for-profit private detention facilitates for underage offenders.

The editorial speculates “perhaps because too many local and state officials see the for-profit juvenile centers in Texas as a positive economic alternative to government-run institutions for troubled youths.” Notwithstanding, the article points out the repugnancy of transferring juvenile detainees from the State, by adjudication in a court of law, into the hands of private for-profit contractors, and how easily then that the State abdicates its legal obligations and responsibilities to house, feed, and care for these young offenders who were committed to their oversight. Privateers not so bound by law to the same standard of care.

That the trouble signs at the Granbury facilities should have been apparent is an understatement compared to all the previous complaints of youth-on-youth assaults, supervisory neglect and physical and sexual abuse, and which came on the heels of a 2007 investigation that revealed widespread corruption, brutal practices, and sexual exploitation of young inmates throughout Texas Youth Commission (TYC) facilities.

After extensive investigations, resignation of the entire TYC board, and prosecution of several officials, the public was then assured by members of the Texas legislature that these abuses and neglect would not happen again. At the same time, we began a long and arduous task of trying to keep our children out of these facilities, and free those who deserved to be free, setting up a reentry support system to help reintegrate former offenders back into society.

Nonetheless, our social objective runs counter to the profit motives of the Prison Industrial Complex, which relies on bed occupancy in detention facilities. Corporations like the GEO Group and Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) promote prison-building, enter into facility management contracts with state and national government, and supply detention staff by locals. The illusion is job-creation and community enrichment.

A former CCA officer wrote: "I work as a correctional officer at the Corrections Corporation of America in Winnfield, Louisiana and I have an interview with GEO Group Inc for a correctional officer in Jena Louisiana. I was wondering what prison do you think is better to work for? Corrections Corporation is low tech understaffed and pays a dollar above minimum wage and GEO pays $11.27 hr."

Correctional officers for private corporations are underpaid and overworked. Even more, to further squeeze profits out of their contracts, they skimp on the cost and care. It is no wonder, therefore, that the Granbury facility has recorded some 250 complaints and 133 cases of juvenile suicide attempts.

In an earlier Star-Telegram report, Hood County juvenile center, originally designed as a public-private partnership that would not cost taxpayers any money, had problems from the start. A coalition that included the county and a detention management corporation built the $6.5 million facility through the sale of tax-exempt certificates of participation (bonds). In a convoluted scheme, the management group was to lease the facility back to the county, then rent the place to operate a juvenile detention center that would pay off the bonds… The private corporation floundered almost immediately when the daily census was far less than the 78 juveniles it needed to be "profitable." The county took over the operation for a while and then closed the facility because it was too costly, resulting in a downgrade of the county's bond rating by Standard & Poor's.

Such is the fate of communities who bank on prison populations and corporations that depend on filling prison bed space. Many Prison Industrial Complex (PIC) facilities are scrambling for detainees in order to make their operations solvent. The negligence found at Granbury is repeated all over again at other for-profit detention facilities.

These problems cannot be fixed so long as profits are squeezed out of facility operations. The promise of jobs and commercial traffic into little prison towns are tenuous, because there are no guarantees in prison population growth projection, and mass incarceration is not a societal aim. Therefore, prisons must decline with deceasing headcount and bed occupancy. There simply is no profit in it.

Realizing that prison-building is a bad investment in our quest toward a healthy, law-abiding society, we see this trend as a losing proposition, whereupon the State must bit the bullet assigned to it by law, to assume the cost, responsibilities, and liabilities for neglect, abuse, and death of inmates placed in its care.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Kids For Cash Juvenile Judge Sentence to 28 Years

Mass Incarceration: Naïve Juveniles go into Court looking for Justice and Mercy, while Judge looks for Kickbacks for sending them to prison

Former Luzerne County Juvenile Court Judge Mark A. Ciavarella Jr. was sentence to 28 years in prison for his part in the “Kids For Cash” kickback scandal. A second juvenile judge, Michael Conahan, pleaded guilty last year and awaits sentencing. The two were accused of taking more than $2.8 million in bribes from the builder of the PA Child Care and Western PA Child Care detention centers and extorting hundreds of thousands of dollars from the facilities' co-owner.

According to accusations, Ciavarella “filled the beds of the private lockups with children as young as 10, many of them first-time offenders convicted of petty theft and other minor crimes.”

“The defendant argues he didn’t sell juveniles retail. We agree with that. He was selling them wholesale,” said Assistant U.S. Attorney Gordon Zubrod, maintaining that the jury found Ciavarella guilty of a racketeering conspiracy for being part of a scheme to extract cash from the construction and operation of the two for-profit centers.

As a result of the corruption case, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court tossed about 4,000 convictions issued by Ciavarella between 2003 and 2008, saying he violated the constitutional rights of the juveniles, including the right to legal counsel and the right to intelligently enter a plea.

Fellow former Judges Conahan and Michael T. Toole both pleaded guilty to criminal charges last year as investigators untangled a web of corruption. A number of other public officials were caught in the probe as well, including the county's court administrator, the clerk of courts and a member of the juvenile probation services office.

While The Legal had previously reported that sources had tied Conahan to mobsters, following Ciavarella's trial Zubrod said that the investigation into Conahan and Ciavarella's activities "sprang from" a probe of reputed mobster William "Billy" D'Elia.

The case of the juvenile court judge accused of trading kids for cash has garnered national and international press coverage, spawned an ongoing corruption probe that has led to more than 30 arrests and spurred the state Supreme Court to dismiss thousands of Ciavarella's court rulings.

COMMENTARY by Eddie Griffin

Some people may see this case as an aberration and isolated, one-of-a-kind, corruption case that could only happen in Pennsylvania. What people overlook is who is the real beneficiary in the scheme, the ones receiving the bribes and kickbacks, or the one paying them?

The Prison Industrial Complex feeds on incarceration. The more prison beds occupied the more profits for the corporations that build and manage facilities.

Where paying bribes and kickbacks to juvenile justice officials may not be the normal way of doing business, they are instrumental in “get tough” policies, “zero tolerance” and longer prison sentence advocacy.

The irony in the above case is that it began with an investigation into mobster activities. There is an ominous sense of danger for those involved. Once graft is accepted from mobsters, the next bribe cannot be rejected. And so, the corrupt scheme builds upon itself, until there is a steady stream of juveniles going into prison, for little or no offense, as some investigations revealed.

Child Rights advocates cannot stop the pipeline other than warn juveniles to stay out of the juvenile justice system. Any other intervention, such as revealing the truth behind the corruption, can lead to terminal consequences.

So for now, all we can say is: Keep You Hand Out of the Lion’s Mouth.

Monday, May 16, 2011

District Map Attempts to Cuts Us Out

The Star-Telegram editorial, “Seeing flaws in Texas Senate remap is not the same as proving them”, recognizes that the proposed redistricting map for Senate District 10 is “just plain wrong”. Carving out a chunk of minority communities in southeast Fort Worth, Forest Hill, and Everman, and then merging them into a predominately Anglo voting district some 80 miles south of the county is a terrible usurpation of our voting power. Over 80,000 votes would be diluted, and we would essentially be disenfranchised.

And, if that is not “shameless” enough, as Senator Wendy Davis calls it, the plan would also strip out the Hispanic north side neighborhood in Fort Worth and give it to Anglo-dominated SD 12, now occupied by a Republican based in Flower Mound.

The S-T article goes on to say: “Anyone who watched the 2003 redistricting drama directed by then-U.S. House Majority Leader and now convicted felon Tom DeLay knows the people who do this sort of thing are both smart and crafty.

That it violates the Voting Rights Act, Texas has done it before and gotten away with it. They simply say prove it if you can. According to them: “Davis will have to show that minority groups in her district are large and geographically compact, that they are politically cohesive and vote as a bloc, and that Anglos vote in a bloc in numbers high enough that they usually defeat minorities… Having only been elected in District 10 once, a narrow victory amid heavy turnout for Democrat Barack Obama's presidential bid, she has no history there to fall back on.”

The article further states that “Her case will have to analyze Fort Worth elections over an extended period of time, examining any racially polarized voting. It will hurt if minority voter turnout is low, which it is. It will be a problem for her if any differences between minority and Anglo voting patterns can be explained away by party affiliation, because that doesn't represent racial or ethnic discrimination.”

Bob Ray Sanders, in his own S-T editorial “Senate redistricting plan demands Justice Department review”, sees the effort as not-so-subtle Jim Crow gerrymandering.

Gerrymandering? No such thing. To let Congressman Michael C. Burgess tell how he inherited his narrow, dumbbell-shaped strip an our historical black community, and stretching it from the Oklahoma border to Waco: "It is the miracle of redistricting”... not to mention a convenient way to silence the black political voice.

So goes Texas. But not without scrutiny from the Justice Department, seeing that Texas is still one of those southern states that must receive preclearance from the Department. It depends on whose at the helms of Justice, and whether the state of Texas can skate through again.

It gets ridiculously redundant, like bad behavior that can find no remorse. No doubt, they will nitpick the law for subtle technicalities and loopholes, such as those above which put the burden of proof upon the shoulders of Senator Davis.

What they willfully ignore is the “totality of circumstances”.

Totality of Circumstances

No one will mention that the current senator district puts all our Fort Worth schools under one representative. The proposed plan would scatter our schools among three different state senators.

No one will mention that as soon as the U.S. Census projects us to become a minority-majority political bloc, they cut us up into slivers and drag our voting boundaries across many counties until we are completely diluted. Silver by sliver, tract by tract, they take away what we rightfully gain in population growth.

According to 2010 U.S. Census, SD 10 has a total of 52.4% minorities, making it a minority-majority district. But based on voter age population (VAP), for Civil Rights purposes, we are only 47.3% majority. Not that the trend shows where we are headed, they want to nip us in the gonads before our young reaches voting age.

Can they continue to cut us up, sliver by sliver, every time we show some growth towards becoming a minority-majority voting bloc? How can we have a future when Pharaoh kill the babies before a Moses arises and deliver them from oppression?

Monday, May 2, 2011

Mission Accomplished: Osama bin Laden Dead

By Eddie Griffin

As military missions go, there was none more important than bringing down the mastermind of the 9/11 attack upon the United States. Osama bin Laden was Public Enemy Number One around the world: Wanted Dead or Alive.

Early Sunday morning, the search ended in a hail of bullets from Navy SEAL commandoes. Bin Laden was dead.

So ends the nightmare image with which the American people have lived since September 11, 2001. So ends a dark chapter in the lives of peace-loving people across the free world. But the rein of terror does not end here, at least not for the near term. We can expect jihadists who support al Qaeda to continue their destructive rant against the world. However, in due time, the name of Osama bin Laden will be forgotten. Just as President Barack Obama made the announcement Sunday night, “Justice has been done.”

This is the single most important development in the war against terrorism, because it brings us another step closer to ending the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Indeed, the focus of the Middle Eastern wars, from the very outset in 2003, was “to smoke out Osama bin Laden” and bring him to justice, according to the words of President George Bush.

As the war dragged on, many feared that the goal would never be accomplished, that bin Laden would die an old man in hiding and continue to live on as a mythical hero for enemies of the US. In fact, the families of victims of the 9/11 attack had all but given up hope of justice; and Americans, in general, were beginning to despair of the wars that had cost nearly 50,000 troops’ their lives, and countless others among our allies.

Al Qaeda had orchestrated this bloody chapter of the 21st century, but the mastermind and financier was Osama bin Laden. And, though there will be anger and backlash among radical supporters, the finances for terrorist operations will dry up, arms shipments to militant radicals will decline, mastermind strategies will lose the sharpness of their focus, and recruitment to their cause will wane.

Bin Laden himself will go down into the trash bin of history, along with the likes of Adolf Hitler. And, in due time, after our troops come home from war, we as a nation will began to heal.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Clearly Innocent: Wrongfully Tasered

By Eddie Griffin (BASG)

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

After watching the news footage on the tasering of Jonathan Pierce by the Arlington Police Department over the weekend, it is clear to me that this was an innocent man, guilty of nothing but trying to get out of the way of danger while police officers pursued a suspect after a high-speed chase and crash.

So, how did one police officer mistake this black Navy veteran with a young white male suspect? According to news reports, the two men were both wearing basketball jerseys, but of different teams. An eyewitness describes seeing a car race onto the parking lot, slam into a minivan, and the driver exiting and taking off on foot.

Pierce, who had been using an ATM machine inside a club at the time, exited just as people were screaming and scrabbling for cover. “So my natural reaction,” he said, was to go back inside “for safety”. It all happened so fast, he says, that the next thing he knew he heard “a loud pop” and felt a “sharp pain in my side”, and an officer on top of him.

“I didn't even see it coming,” he said. “I'm still feeling shaky about the whole situation. It all happened so fast.”

Jonathan Pierce has a reason to feel shaky after being electrocuted with 50,000 volts of electricity. He could have been the 535th taser related death in North America. Instead, that dubious honor went to Jerry Perea, age 38, of Albuquerque, New Mexico, who was tasered and died on March 21, 2011.

Michael Jacobs, Jr. of Fort Worth, Texas, as many may recall, died April 18, 2009. He was victim number 424.

It was only a matter of time before Arlington police would try out their new toys, despite the many warnings. But the police chief was so determined, with Super Bowl XLV coming to the city, 300 new tasers was like a late Christmas present. Discretion is not built into the weapon, and lack of use only itch the trigger finger.

Like many taser victims before him, Jonathan Pierce has retained a lawyer and plans to sue. In times past, such law suits were like throwing stones at the Titan. But as of late, almost every taser victim is winning, because TASER International, the maker of the device, does not inform its client police department that tasers are lethal.

Taser International settles with Butler for ~$3M

Michael Patrick Jacobs Jr., Fort Worth TX, $2.0M

Stanley Harlan, Moberly MO, $2.4M

Taser $6.2M initial judgment for Failure to Warn

What is little known, to victim or lawyer, is the long term effect of taser electrocutions.

We have observed, over time, the same “shaky feelings” that Jonathan Pierce is experiencing now are the same “twitches” that taser survivors still experience, and maybe for the rest of their live.

How then can the true damage be calculated?

Thursday, March 17, 2011

The Comeback Kid Falls Again

By Eddie Griffin

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Nate Bailey was arrested, along with two other men, for attempting to rob an armored truck in broad daylight on the streets of Washington, D.C. According to news report, Bailey was captured with an AK-47 in the getaway car, a green Ford Taurus SE Station Wagon registered in his name.

Nate Bailey-el was 57 years old, too old to pull a caper like this, especially considering the fact that he had been released from prison less than two years prior after serving 22 years. According to a mutual friend Glenn Simmons, Nate barely knew how to drive, let alone drive a getaway car.

We knew that getting back into society was not going to be easy for him. People kept reminding Bailey that this is 2011. But somehow, he never bridged the time gap nor healed from the mental scares of his prior incarceration.

He was only a 20-year old youth when he first went into federal prison in 1974, sentenced to six years under the Youth Corrections Act. Along the way, he picked up more time in prison, and the “zip 6” turned into 11 years. In an email to me, dated May 12, 2010, he chronicles his journey through the federal prison system, from Petersburg, to El Reno, to Lompoc, to Lewisburg, to Terri Haute, to Marion, to Leavenworth, and finally back to Marion’s Super-max 6 Control Unit. This was where he witnessed two white supremacist inmates kill Raymond “Cadillac” Smith, the leader of the Moors.

Bailey was released on December 15, 1985, after which he describes his reentry back into society like this: “With mental scares created by the behavior modification program at Marion, I did not make it in society for more than 6 months. Longing to get back to the war and my Brothers, I was sentenced by D.C. with a 15-Life sentence on May, 1987 and did not secure my release until September, 2009, 22 years later.”

Now, after only 17-months of freedom, Nate Bailey-el may be on his way back to prison for the rest of his life. His friend and mentor, Glenn, feels that he could have done more to help Nate. I feel even worse, because I was supposed to be his guide and help him recover from the mental scares that he suffered in the Control Unit. The behavior modification program at Marion, which he describes above, was the subject of “Breaking Men’s Minds” written by me in 1977.

Nate remembered my work as a Marion Brother. In his email, he wrote:

It is truly an Honor to be among the ranks of the forgotten few who really earned the degree of MARION BROTHER...For the only few who endured actually know the true meaning of the "SOUTHERN TIP". Those who been and made it out never healed or never was the same, the behavior program laid down there touched the core of the human factor in a man... Brother, the system was a battlefield at which you can attest, we all was in the mist of the fight on a national level. I have a host of rich authentic information which lead up to the Brother’s (Cadillac) passing because I was there. The Brother (Glenn) told me you will be contacting me and I welcome it because I am still finding it hard for those who never been there… (who) fail to understand in our attempt to communicate what it was like for the designed system to suck the LIFE out of a man when he was still breathing...Yes, I do remember you...A MARION BROTHER


A movie production company contacted me in 2008 about doing a documentary on the Aryan Brotherhood, based upon two AB white supremacists, Thomas Silverstein and Clay Fountain, stabbing Raymond “Cadillac” Smith-el to death inside Marion’s notorious Control Unit in 1982. But there were no eyewitnesses for the producer to interview. All were either dead or still in prison. It was not until the release of Nate Bailey in September 2009 that a first hand account could be given. But by then, M2 Pictures had made its documentary, which aired on the Discovery Channel in November 2009. The assassination of Cadillac did not make the cut.

So, it was a project that Nate Bailey and Glenn Simmons were going to complete: The story about Cadillac, one of the toughest prison gladiators that I ever encountered. His death set off the one of bloodiest prison race wars recorded in FBI history. His legacy has been told over and over again.

His assassin, Thomas Silverstein, has been dubbed as the “most dangerous man in prison” by the BBC. Silverstein has been convicted of killing three inmates and a prison guard, though one of the inmate killings has since been overturned. In his own defense of killing Cadillac, Silverstein cites passages of “Breaking Men’s Minds”, claiming that prison officials had pitted him, man against man, against Cadillac, that prison officials wanted them to kill each other.

Nate Bailey is one of the few survivors who saw it. He was supposedly in the process of writing a book about it. But now, here I am, writing about him, in my untold memoirs.

Monday, March 14, 2011

A Response to J.R. Labbe Editorial on Police Shooting

Jill Labbe would have some of her readers believe that we did something wrong in attending a community forum designed to “discuss police issues and policies that affect east Fort Worth”. We were invited by the FWPD itself. And, Chief Jeffrey Halstead promised to “field questions from the community”.

Labbe characterized the meeting as a “black vs. white grievance” session, because it was called in the aftermath of a white police officer shooting and killing of a black subject. But those who attended went to great lengths to play down the race issue and show that it was a community relations issue with the police department. Only Labbe could contrive this meeting as a black versus white hostility issue- no doubt, a product of her own subjective assumptions and fertile imagination. Nevertheless, she, in turn, has fueled a slew race tinted letters-to-the-editor condemning the black community for its outpouring.

Had she attended the forum, she would have seen speakers of all races: black, brown, and white. Had she attended, she would have heard what she claims was missing from the news clips, that someone did indeed mention that the subject Charal Thomas put himself and his children in danger. She would have heard that suggestion quickly dismissed because “no one knew, for a fact, what happened”. Is this not why there is investigation? And even she acknowledges that the investigation is ongoing. So how then did she reach a conclusive judgment that Charal Thomas endangered anyone, except that she bought into a one-sided inconclusive police report?

Herein is the problem. Labbe writes: “For many whites, Thomas represents generations of black men whose criminal behavior is excused by their community as an acceptable byproduct of that historic abuse.”

What if I we were as callous as to suggest that Labbe’s “many whites” were bias, pious, and hasty to judgment? The Star-Telegram’s depiction of “RaRa” Thomas, along with its selectly published letters to the editor, has hurt the bereaved family as much as the shooting.

Where is the “criminal behavior” of which Labbe speaks? How does a traffic violation get escalated to criminal behavior? It is ASSUMED that he was engaged in drug trafficking. But no drugs were found. It is ASSUMED that he was doing something wrong and that put his children and his passenger in danger. On top of this, based on these assumptions, Labbe places blame on the community “that willingly paints Thomas as a victim” and boast of the fact that he was not “black man beat down by ‘the man’ unjustly.”

No, Thomas was not beaten down by “The Man”. (Where did Labbe get this outdated 1960s movie idiom of so-called black slang?) No, Thomas was not beaten down by “The Man”. He was shot twelve times by a Fort Worth police office, and it made no difference if he was man or woman, black or white.

Yes, of course, RaRa’s family and friends are grief stricken, upset, and outraged. Even if it were an accident or committed by a civilian, they would still be angry. Isn’t that only human? Even during bible times, they provided cities of refuge from the “avengers of blood”, whenever death of a person was at the hands of another. Family and friends of the decease will be upset and angry. And had this happened at the hands of a civilian, we might be talking about gang-style retaliatory violence, instead of this conjured up black-white hostility issue.

Labbe is simply wrong in judging the right to anger of bereaved family.

In adding salt to insult, she further writes: “For many blacks, Romer (the shooting officer) is the physical embodiment of centuries of mistreatment of African-Americans in this country at the hands of powerful whites.”

Where did she get this perception of “powerful whites”? Certainly, she could not have gotten it from black people. Had Officer J. Romer been hurt or killed in this ordeal, some of the same people who attended the forum would have shown their condolences to his bereaved family. No civilized and rational person would have cheered, as Labbe’s white readers cheer the death of as this “convicted criminal”.

Without exception, everyone who spoke at the forum expressed their condolences to the family of the deceased. And, if there were any victims, it was Thomas’ children. When Labbe spoke of the angry 4-year old she once saw during her ride-along with police in another city, she might understand why one of Charal Thomas’ children slapped the officer who shot and killed her father.

If anything is true in Labbe’s article, it is the fact that this type of anger is generational, and it is not because of skin color.

The purpose of the community forum was two-fold: (1) For the family and friends of Thomas needed to vent their anger and frustration, especially in how the children were treated during and after the ordeal; and (2) For the community to raise questions about police policies, practices, and procedures.

People have a constitutional right under the First Amendment to Petition the Government for Redress of Grievances. Is there a grievance here? Is the family not aggrieved at the loss of their loved one? Is it not the responsibility of ministers to minister to their pain?

Lest we forget: Grievance derives from grief, and the root of Redress is dress, as in dressing a wound or addressing the cause of the injury. Does not the community have these right, without being condemned for giving aid and comfort to the family of the deceased, without Labbe and her likes accusing us of justifying an accused criminal?

Which is more wrong: Passing judgment upon a deceased who is only guilty of nothing other than being a suspect, or calling a public servant into question about the circumstances surrounding a citizen’s death?

Labbe rather passes judgment in her article and incites her white readers to do the same, casting the tragedy as a black-white issue. To stir the caldron, she quotes a man who tells the chief of police, “I don’t like you.” But she does not quote his saying that this was “not personal”. Neither does she know his change-of-heart sentiments afterwards.

Many citizens who attended the forum- black, brown, and white- came away feeling that the community had taken a positive step toward healing. Some of us are dealing with the anger issues of family and friends, with hopes that time will heal. Maybe community relations will improve with a police review board.

Whatever the case, this so-called “festering and unresolved black vs. white grievance” and this figment of an officer being “the physical embodiment of centuries of mistreatment of African-Americans in this country at the hands of powerful whites” is a product of Jill Labbe and Labbe’s alone, just as she claims that Charal Thomas alone was the cause of the escalation that ended in his death.

It is always convenient to blame the dead, just as it is convenient to blame the black community and its criminal element for the lack of respect from the police department.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Where Do We Go After the Police Shooting of Charal Thomas?

By Eddie Griffin

Be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath (James 1:19)

The above quote is prudent advice for all circumstances and situations, especially a situation like the shooting death of Charal T. Thomas at the hands of FWPD officer J. Romer. Not only is the incident tragic, it is also complicated: Tragic because a father was shot to death in front of his three children; complicated because the circumstances suggest that the officer fired in self-defense.

Like most people, I have waited for the air to clear and to hear all accounts. But recent Star-Telegram editorials and letters-to-the-editor urge me to speak. According to newspaper accounts, Thomas was under surveillance, sitting in his SUV, with his children in the car. He was under suspicion of possible drug activities, which some readers imply as guilt by past conviction, though no drugs were discovered in the vehicle upon later investigation.

Instead, Thomas had outstanding traffic warrants. And, it was to this end, that Officer Romer approached the vehicle to place the subject under arrest. They say he resisted, that he locked his door, let up his window, and took off, with the officer’s arm trapped in the window. The officer retrieved his weapon and fired 12 shots into the man’s body, thereby killing him.

The subject was a young one-legged black man, the officer white.

Why? That is the question everybody is asking. Some conclude that it was another typical shooting of a black suspect by a white officer. Some say it was excessive force, that it was not necessary to pump 12 bullets into the man’s body. Some say the officer was just defending his own life; otherwise, he would have been the victim.

How do you deal with such a tragedy under such complicated circumstances?

Thomas’ children, ages 7 to 11, were in the back seat of the car. They witnessed the shooting. No matter what later investigations will reveal, they will forever be traumatized by the incident. The family is upset, angry, and aggrieved. No one can measure their pain. The Stop Six community is incensed at yet another incident of a police officer killing one of their own.

Today’s letters-to-the-editor is as oblivious to the community’s indignation as west is to east. The writers probably have never been under surveillance. Being black and driving a late model SUV in an impoverished neighborhood is probable cause for suspicion of drug activity, or so it seems in the minds of people. But the problem is not as simple as “suspicion and black”. Everyone, even the black community, can appreciate public safety. The problem is: Equal Protection and Equal Respect.

After all, it was the black community itself that begged for more police protection in their community, against gangs, drug trafficking, and violence. But when officers get bored, they start making traffic stops for little stuff like: “Failure to make a turn signal”, “A cracked taillight”, “an illegal shift in a turning lane”, etc., etc. And, these ignoble offenses are imposed upon the poorest people, who are already the least that can afford to pay the fines. Instead of feeling protected, some people feel under siege.

This feeling of anxiety, anger, and hostility passes from one generation to another, almost without notice.

Police Chief Jeff Halstead is aware and sensitive to these feelings. This is why he has met with leaders and ministers of the community on a number of occasions. But talk is cheap when nothing is done to ameliorate the underlying problem of alienation between the police department and the black community.

There is a consequence for shootings like these. Children grow up with animosity toward police, similar to the feelings that Palestinian children grow up with at Israeli occupational forces. The anger and outrage that we are witnessing today in the Stop Six community did not start in 2011 with one isolated incident. It goes way back to the time that I describe as “Authority Without Consent”, that is to say, having the power to police does not mean that people consent to being policed, especially in light of a history of offical oppression, abuse, and corruption. There were times of “shakedown cops”, who were complicit with bootleggers and pimps and others who engaged in criminal activity, so long as they were paid off ("under the table"). To “snitch” on them would be equivalent to suicide, which is why black people historically do not cooperate with police.

Fort Worth is not Mississippi, but people remember the southern sheriff with his absolute power over black people. This is not New York, but people remember those who had been arrested only to disappear and have their bodies wash up on the Trinity River bottom. The hostilities, apprehension, and anxiety of African-Americans against the police department is a product of social conditioning in the line and legacy of the infamous Joe D. Fee and Bush.

Surely, there is nothing we can do to bring the dead back to life. We can only comfort the family of Charal Thomas, nurture and minister to his children as they try to grow up, and remove the shooting officer (J. Romer) from the patrol beat, where his continued presence would only be a hostile reminder of this tragic incident.

Thawing community relations is not simply a matter of meeting with ministers whenever something goes wrong, but a commitment and involvement by the FWPD in helping to nurture our children and heal our people. This would mean involvement at the grassroots level, in the schools, churches, community centers, not just coming in and out with packaged PD PR programs; but to educate, mentor, train, and reward the next generation of young leaders who must take the responsibility in building a strong, viable, and law-abiding community.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Face of Hope: Assassinated in Arizona

By Eddie Griffin

Monday, January 10, 2011

There is no excuse for killing an innocent 9-year old child, even in a random act of violence, not even for distraught political purposes. Nothing can justify, nor rationale be given for the senseless shooting death of young Christina Taylor Green, an elementary school student, who had many dreams cut short.

The third grader wanted to be the first woman to play major league baseball. In fact, she was the only girl on the Canyon del Oro Little League baseball team. She played second base.

An All-American young girl, she loved animals, singing, dancing, and gymnastics. She was elected to the student council and begun to explore a career as a public servant “that involved helping those less fortunate than her”. She had dreams of attending Penn State.

Born on September 11, 2001, Christina was no ordinary child. She was once featured in a book called “Faces of Hope”, one of the select 50 babies born from each state, in the wake of the terroristic attack on the New York twin towers. She perished in a hail of gunfire that took the lives of five others in Tucson, Arizona, on Saturday, January 15, 2011. She died, an innocent child.

The Faces of Hope was a theme designed to renew the nation’s spirit, in light of the twin towers attack in New York City. It was a theme designed to show our national resolve and prove to the world that “life goes on” in America, even as 3000 souls perished at the hand of al Qaeda. New babies were being born, we said, to comfort us of our loss.

Christina Green typifies a little girl we all knew like Shirley Temple, a wide-eyed wonder child herself. A young girl searching for courage to enter politics some day in life, Christina went to see U.S. Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords. She was among the throng struck by an assassin’s bullet.

Jared Lee Loughner ended all Christina’s hopes and dreams. Loughner, age 22, went to a Tucson supermarket parking lot, for the sole purpose of assassinating a U.S. Congresswoman, Democrat Gabrielle Giffords. Maybe Christina just got caught in the crossfire.

But then we must remember that we gave birth to Christina, as a Face of Hope. On the most tragic day in U.S. history, she was born. And, on an even more tragic day, her soul was taken away from this world, through a so-called random act of gun violence.

No one, but God, knows the mind of a deranged killer. And since the time that Cain killed Abel, there has been violence and murder in the world. Loughner once wrote: “No! I won't pay debt with a currency that's not backed by gold and silver. No, I won't trust in God.”

God Bless America! Have we come to this? Through gun rights advocacy and incendiary politics, and no godly restraint, American has created a mutated aberrant offspring, in its own image. Guns and politics created Loughner.

(See also “Unhealthy Rhetoric” by Eddie Griffin, FW Weekly, 03/31/10)

someone out there in the vast reaches of America was feeding on all this hateful rhetoric, and found this an opportune time to strike. There may be others (quote by Eddie Griffin after the shootings in Wichita Falls, Texas, April 2010)