Category Archives: police abuse/shootings

Black Women and the PIC

While I was banished to the land of sickness,  I was still able to see Kendrick Lamar’s interesting Grammy Performance. The 28-year-old rapper made a heartfelt statement about black men and the Prison Industrial Complex (PIC).

It was a bold stand at an event that has become too pop/boring/white washed.  I know I personally haven’t paid attention to the Grammy Awards show in years.

I read an article critiquing the lack of space given to black women prisoners in his performance. I’m willing to give Lamar a slight pass for this. As a young man, he’s probably had more experience with his male friends/relatives/young folks he mentors having contact with police/the prison system.

With that said, despite black women being incarcerated at an alarming rate as much/if not more so than black men, the focus still tends to be on black men in prison.

Years ago, I took a class on women and the PIC. Our class read “Resistance Behind Bars: The Struggles of Incarcerated Women,” by Victoria Law. Law, an anarchist writer and prison abolitionist, detailed her experiences working with women prisoners. A zinester/DIY artist, she helped the women create a zine showcasing their words/art on prison life. The majority of women she came into contact with had children.This brings me to why it’s urgent we also focus on black women in prison.

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The truth is, women tend to be the primary caretakers of their families. It doesn’t matter if there is a male partner in the home or not. This is particularly true in black communities, were we rely heavily on our extended female relatives.

A disturbing trend I noticed in our class readings, is that whole black communities are being wiped out due to the PIC. It’s leaving significant amounts of black children without parents or guardians. Because not only are the mothers being overly incarcerated for minor/non violent offenses, but so are grandmothers/aunties/cousins etc. I remember reading about a grandmother and her daughter and the daughter’s daughter all locked up   in the same prison (drug addictions). The young daughter’s children were in foster care. There was no one to take care of them.

These mothers are losing custody of their children left and right. Obviously, they are in prison. They can’t just walk down to the local courthouse to attend court dates etc .

The PIC is destroying black motherhood/families. This issue really needs to be addressed in folks anti-PIC activism. Good job to Lamar for highlighting the problem of black men in prison, but we need to expand the conversation.

Truth and Power

“Truth and Power” is a new series that “tells the stories of ordinary people going to extraordinary lengths to uncover breaches of public trust by governments and private institutions.” http://www.pivot.tv/

The first episode focused on the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement. The activists shared stories of how they’ve been tracked by the government. One talked about being at a protest rally and a police officer calling her out by her twitter handle. Scary. But the truth is anyone who has written/played a part of the BLM movement is probably on a list somewhere.

I’m a conspiracy theorist at heart, so this show was right up my alley. The BLM movement is unique in that it was founded by three queer black women and has been mostly sustained by the activism of young black women. They are not the cliche older black male clergy leaders who usually dominate and are more willing to compromise with “the man.” BLM activism is unconventional. These young black women’s persistent resistance is definitely a threat to the status quo.

Tamir Rice

“That there is a lap baby.” My uncle said as he pointed an accusing finger at me. Me and my baby were visiting for the holidays. I’ve learned quickly as a new parent folks always want to offer unsolicited advice. I remember one time running errands. It was nippy out. A lady fussed it was too cold to have a baby outside. I replied “what can ya do.” She was shocked. But moms can’t stay in the house all day. Things need to get done. So just hush.

I shrugged as I bent over to pick up my squealing little one. He sniffed and rubbed his face into my sweater. “What I am supposed to do. Let him cry?” My uncle leaned back into his recliner chair. “You know I raised six kids. Now let me tell you–” I tuned him out. The truth is, my nerves can’t take too much hollering. Plus, I enjoy snuggling with my little one. Especially when I think about the black mothers who aren’t able to hold their babies.

As  folks prepared to bid farewell to 2015, we got the news that the cops who killed 12-year old Tamir Rice would not be indicted. How horrible that a mom was going into the new year without justice for her son. While all the murders of black folks by cops bother me, the deaths of children like Rice and Trayvon Martin, are particularly upsetting. Both were minding their business being kids. It’s disturbing to me they died alone. I’m sure in their final moments they longed for their mothers.

Rice was left to bleed out before he received any medical attention. His sister, who was with him, was restrained from helping her brother. This had to be a frightening experience for both children.

So, while my uncle may harp on about picking up my baby too much. I think about not being able to hold him at all.

Rest in peace Tamir.

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Black Children Matter

The world is a big and scary place. Once you have a little one, it becomes even bigger and scarier. You realize with alarm there is really only so much you can do to protect them.  It’s even more nerve-racking when one is a Black parent. In a society built on anti-blackness/hatred of black folks, you know your children are more vulnerable to violence/oppression by the dominate culture.

By now, folks have heard about the black teen girl who was brutalized by a white police officer in the classroom.

When I first saw the video clip, I immediately thought it would be on and popping if that had been my kid. Or maybe not. I most likely would just get arrested myself. Any excuse to lock us all up. As is the case of the victim’s classmate who was brave enough to record the attack and verbally let her anger be known about the incident. She is being charged with…who knows what. I guess daring to stand up to a white male authority figure? This is what folks mean when people talk about the school-to-prison pipeline.

Freddie Gray’s Mom

A few days ago it was reported that Freddie Gray’s mom may have attempted suicide. Gray was killed by police when they failed to give him proper medical attention and contributed to his death by shattering his spinal cord. While scrolling the Internet, I came across a person who asked why Gray’s mom would do such a thing. Well, probably because her son was basically tortured/murdered, she was under enormous pressure by the Baltimore police/politicians to contain the rightful protests over the incident, and there tends to be a lack of support for black parents whose children are victims of police brutality.

I believe the mothers of Trayvon Martin, Mike Brown and Tamir Rice reached out to her, but it may have all been too much.

The world is not kind to a black mother’s pain.

Recently, a friend shared a conversation she had with a white woman. The woman declared that black folks don’t cry as much as white folks. Wait…what? Rewind. Yes, she sincerely believes black folks don’t cry.

Initially, I wanted to laugh at the absurdity of her comment, but the woman’s sentiments support a study done a year or so ago that white people tend not to recognize black people’s pain. It’s even worse for black women as we have to contend with strong black woman rhetoric. It makes me wonder about some white folks sometimes. It truly does.

In any case, sending love to Freddie Gray’s mom.

Yes, black folks cry too. Photo from:
Yes, black folks cry too.

The Colonizer’s Holiday

Well, another Thanksgivings day is almost here. When I asked a friend what she was doing for the holiday she said,“The colonizer’s holiday? Nothing.” After the grand jury failed to bring charges against  Darren Wilson for shooting Mike Brown, I thought about the fact that the government sanctioned murdering of Black people continues the long American tradition of white power and domination against people of color, beginning with Indigenous/First Nations/Native people.

“the system isn’t broken it’s doing what it was set up to do…”

The sad truth is these killings will keep happening because there has never been any respect for the lives of people of color.  As a matter of fact, folks are now outraged over the police shooting of 12-year-old Tamir Rice.  Black people aren’t getting enough time to heal before we are dealing with another tragedy in our community. Imagine the magnitude of that tragedy for Indigenous/First Nations/Native communities.

There is nothing wrong with spending time with the family. We are all overworked and underpaid and need time to regroup. But there is something wrong with perpetrating the myth about Thanksgiving and not the real history/story of what the day represents.  And that truth is not something of the past but is still here in this present day for all folks of color.

This is one of my favorite talks from Indigenous/Native American activist Andrea Smith.

 

 

 

Spotlight On Ferguson – Virtual Freedom School

A couple of nights ago, I was heading home from having dinner with friends. I needed to catch two trains to get back to my side of town. When it was time to switch to the second train, I found my self in a huge crowd.  A basketball game had just ended and people were everywhere, also trying to get home. I tried to cross the street when a police officer/security purposely walked in my path and used his body to push me. I turned around and cussed him. He ignored me.  I hurried across the street to avoid a train hitting me. Once I boarded my train,  I thought about what happened. He did it because (1) he was a man. I can’t see him randomly pushing another man of same bulk (2) he was wearing a uniform and (3) he was white.  Black women often have to deal with a particular intimidation from white male police officers.  I shook my head and thought “the police have learned nothing from Ferguson.”

While mainstream news has kept a peripheral view on Ferguson, don’t be fooled. Ferguson protestors are still going strong. And I, like most Black folks, stand in solidarity with them.

It’s always good to document events like this, so I encourage people to support the “Spotlight On Ferguson – Virtual Freedom School” Indiegogo campaign.

“I’ve spent the last few months traveling back and forth to Ferguson, documenting and organizing against police brutality. It’s been intense. Inspiring. Invigorating. To see so many people from so many different walks of life in the streets challenging state sanctioned violence, bangin’ on the system, so to speak.Initially, I came in response to a call from local organizers for photographers and videographers to help tell the stories of resilience, sacrifice and commitment embodied by protestors, stories the media does not share or promote.” https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/spotlight-on-ferguson-virtual-freedom-school

The raw emotion in these sistas voices made me tear up. The harassment and violence against Black people needs to be stopped.

 

Raven-Symoné and Anti-Blackness

The That’s So Raven star pissed everyone off with her interview on Oprah’s “Where Are They Now?” show.  Symoné passionately rejected the term ‘African-American.’

“I’m tired of being labeled,” Symoné said. “I’m an American. I’m not an African-American. I’m an American.” Symoné told Oprah she wasn’t sure “what country in Africa” she was from but that she did know her family’s roots are in “Louisiana.” “What I really mean by that is I’m an American,” Symoné said. “That’s what I really mean. I have darker skin. I have a nice, interesting grade of hair. I connect with Caucasian. I connect with Asian. I connect with Black. I connect with Indian. I connect with each culture.” http://thegrio.com/2014/10/06/raven-symone-not-african-american/

Eh…Symoné told on herself.

To a certain extent, I get what Symoné was trying to say. She just wants to be her.  However, her comments lacked a deeper consciousness about the ways white supremacy and anti-blackness operate in American culture. I mean. I guess she missed the whole Ferguson thing this summer?

We tend to think because celebrities are amazingly talented at singing/dancing/acting that they must be brilliant in other aspects of their lives. 9 times out of 10 (when you take them off stage) you realize they actually tend to be pretty clueless about the world around them.  I guess the fame monster does that to you. Particularity, black celebrities who now have the protection of wealth. It gives them the false illusion racism doesn’t matter anymore. I find it interesting even those who grew up in extreme poverty/oppression and who have sung/rapped/talked about it, still tend to sell out pretty quickly/become apologists for white racism/are now “colorblind.”

The new blacks are going to be the death of us yet.

In any case, Symoné basically believes her light skin and “good hair” exclude her from being a “plain old African-American.” Okay, well she’s going to start turning down African-American roles, right?

 

Happy August!

Hey all! I thought I would do a quick check-in.

I hope the summer has been treating folks right. I’ve had several ups and downs, so far, but keep pushing ahead :O/

If you’ve been watching/reading the news, I’m sure you have heard about a few police abuse cases that have happened in the black community.  It just goes to show that racism doesn’t stop because the sun is shining. Sometimes it exacerbates it.

Police brutality is nothing new in the black community. As a matter of fact, it has been argued that current policing polices, came out of slavery. First starting with the role of the overseer, and later slave patrols.

“The use of patrols to capture runaway slaves was one of the precursors of formal police forces, especially in the South. This disastrous legacy persisted as an element of the police role even after the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. In some cases, police harassment simply meant people of African descent were more likely to be stopped and questioned by the police, while at the other extreme, they have suffered beatings, and even murder, at the hands of White police.” http://www.plsonline.eku.edu/insidelook/brief-history-slavery-and-origins-american-policing

If you don’t know about the murder of Eric Garner, do a Goggle search..NOW. The police’s unnecessary violence against Garner (who himself had stopped a fight between two people), started a heat wave of a blatant anti-black agenda by the police.  After the Garner case, a video surfaced of a white police office viciously beating a 59-year-old grandmother. Like Garner, her offense was not on a level to constitute such brutality.  Next, came another account of police using the same method that killed Garner, the banned chokehold on a pregnant black woman.  And just recently, a black woman was dragged, pulled and pushed half-naked out of her apartment. Her offense. Nothing. The police had broken into the wrong home.

In the article, ‘Mistaken Identity,’ The Violent Un-Gendering of Black Women, and the NYPD,’ it discussed the hostility exhibited by the police against the black community. It also touched on how neither gender or even age, protects black folks. Black women, children, and the elderly are routinely beaten, sprayed with mace, or shot.

“The speaker on the video’s question “Where the female cops?” belies how the cops are in our heads. We don’t question their necessity even as they are brutalizing us in the hallways of our apartments. The question should always be “Why are you here?” We must train ourselves to ask it. More black police officers, more women cops will not alter the fact that policing is oppressive.” http://www.usprisonculture.com/blog/2014/08/04/mistaken-identity-the-violent-un-gendering-of-black-women-and-the-nypd/

Stay safe out there, y’all. I will officially be back in September!

Poetic Justice

Sadly, as most folks know, Maya Angelou passed away last week. There were numerous wonderful articles written about the amazing life of Dr. Angelou. So much so, that I couldn’t keep up. However, there were only a couple of articles that mentioned the film “Poetic Justice.” The 1993 movie was inspired by Dr. Angelou’s poetry. Maybe folks have glossed over the film because it wasn’t that good. Or maybe because Janet Jackson was in it.

Poetic_Justice_(1993_movie_poster)

I love J.J., but her acting can be hit or miss. The film was revolutionary for its time. It was the rare nationally released film that tried to explore the complexities of black womanhood. Yes, the film was kind of all over the map.  John Singleton’s directing/writing skills can also be hit or miss. But I think the film has its beautiful moments. I mean, it does feature the poetry of Dr. Angelou.

Who can forget the last scenes as Janet’s character has an epiphany about who she is and what see wants out of her life. As she flips through all of her black clothes in a closet, Dr. Angelou’s poem  “Phenomenal Woman” is narrated in the background.  if you don’t get a tear in your eye, I don’t know what to say about you…

There is something about the those last scenes that make up for the nonsense of the rest of the film. I wish Singleton had the skills to have made the whole film as thoughtful as those scenes.  The film has so much potential.  I think enough time has passed it could be remade/tweaked for a new audience.

Maybe black women directors like Ava DuVernay or Dee Rees could take it on.