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‘It’s Above Me Now’ …..

THE FLORIDA STAR — In my daily stroll through various media outlets, I came across a video of a young man named Craig Brooks. As I continued to scroll through social media, I found one meme after the other titled ‘It’s Above Me Now’. Mr. Brooks, an African American young man, who was on his job working at a hotel when a Caucasian woman called him n *gger while he was attempting to check her in for her stay at the hotel.

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Dr. Sheila D. Williams (Photo by: thefloridastar.com)

By Dr. Sheila D. Williams

In my daily stroll through various media outlets, I came across a video of a young man named Craig Brooks. As I continued to scroll through social media, I found one meme after the other titled ‘It’s Above Me Now’. Mr. Brooks, an African American young man, who was on his job working at a hotel when a Caucasian woman called him n *gger while he was attempting to check her in for her stay at the hotel. I reviewed the video of Mr. Brooks several times and realized there were so many levels to what occurred. I commend Mr. Brooks on his ability to maintain his composure in such a stressful situation. I can only imagine how he felt as he appeared to only be trying to do his job and carry out his job-related responsibilities. He didn’t yell, he didn’t scream, he didn’t become violent or argumentative, he didn’t even curse or raise his voice. He simply repeated to her, ‘it’s above me now’ and offered her the option of choosing the Best Western next door for her stay. Okay I laughed when he offered the Best Western, I admit it. But on a more serious not, the level of stress and the ability to restrain from lashing out in this type of scenario is perhaps unimaginable to many. I can only envision myself in that situation, blood pressure elevated, palms sweating, perhaps even biting my tongue and saying a silent prayer, in order to keep the peace and to keep my job. So, I ask, if you were in this scenario, what would you have done?

We can only speculate what Mr. Brooks meant when he said repeatedly ‘It’s above me now’. I presume he meant either that if she had an issue or complaint, she needed to address it with a supervisor OR he had simply ‘released’ her negativity and racist remarks to a higher being. How we handle stress is imperative to our overall health and well-being. As an African American woman, I’ve encountered many challenges in my life. I’ve experienced so many situations that were blatantly discriminatory and many that were subtle. In each situation, I can’t say I was as composed as Mr. Brooks. I’ve learned, and continue to learn, how to deal with stress daily.

Because of societal pressure to ‘fit in’, coupled with work, family, financial responsibilities we are all dealing with some form of stress. Did you know that seventy-five percent to 90% of all doctor’s office visits are for stress-related ailments and complaints? The reality is, stress can play a part in problems such as headaches, high blood pressure, heart problems, diabetes, skin conditions, asthma, arthritis, depression, and anxiety. Research indicates that emotional stress is a major contributing factor to the six leading causes of death in the United States: cancer, coronary heart disease, accidental injuries, respiratory disorders, cirrhosis of the liver and suicide. ALARMING to say the least.

In a society in which everything we say and do is scrutinized, it can often be difficult to ‘release’ and let go of those things that are out of our control. It is often difficult to remain calm in stressful situations and to find work-life balance. Through prayer, meditation, supportive family and friends as well as travel and participation in social activities I’ve learned to manage my stress. Perhaps Mr. Brooks has learned to successfully manage stress and his ability release and deflect the negative energy that she attempted to place upon him is by far, one that we can all learn a lesson from. As a Mental Health Advocate, I encourage others to advocate for their overall well-being. Learn to say ‘no’, to walk away and to be intentional about you, your well-being and the well-being of those you love. Let’s all learn to release and let go – it’s okay to hold your head high and say, ‘It’s Above Me Now’ and walk away!!

www.DrSheilaDWilliams.com

It’s Above Me is a statement said by hotel reservationist Craig L. Brooks Jr. in a Twitterviral video in which he confronts the woman who called him a n*gger over the phone by politely refusing her service.

This article originally appeared in The Florida Star

#NNPA BlackPress

Research Reveals That Black Children were Fed to Hogs and Used as Alligator Bait in the Early 1900s

THE WESTSIDE GAZETTE — August 2019 will mark 400 years of the first documented arrival of Africans brought to America as indentured servants. Children suffered and continue to suffer cruelties such as sex slaves, forced child labor, physical abuse, and in some cases, human cannibalism in United States. These cruelties are a big part of human trafficking where body organs and other body parts are sold to wealthy people. These atrocities, abuse, and modern-day slavery will plague America like an incurable cancer until we address this ugly past.

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A man named Johnny Lee Gaddy recently shared with peonage researcher, Dr. Antoinette Harrell, that in 1957 he witnessed African American children being literally fed to the hogs that were on the campus of the infamous Arthur G. Dozier Reform School in the Florida Panhandle.

By The Westside Gazette

NEW ORLEANS, LA — August 2019 will mark 400 years of the first documented arrival of Africans brought to America as indentured servants. Children suffered and continue to suffer cruelties such as sex slaves, forced child labor, physical abuse, and in some cases, human cannibalism in United States. These cruelties are a big part of human trafficking where body organs and other body parts are sold to wealthy people. These atrocities, abuse, and modern-day slavery will plague America like an incurable cancer until we address this ugly past.

When Dr. Antoinette Harrell thought that she had heard the worst of the worst, there was even more to discover. Harrell heard four stories that were so evil that most people didn’t want to talk about what they experienced or repeat the painful experiences told to them by their family members. No one wants to visit things that hurt them. Having these hurtful injustices to resurface can take them back to that time, place, and period in their lives that they do not want to remember.

Many unfortunate events happened to children during Slavery, Reconstruction, and Jim Crow that continues to this very day. The story that Johnny Lee Gaddy shared with peonage researcher, Dr. Antoinette Harrell, will upset your stomach. Johnny witnessed a child’s hand in the hog pen at the infamous Arthur G. Dozier Reform School in the Florida Panhandle. Gaddy told Harrell during a radio interview that he saw the severed hand of a child in the fire pit while taking the trash to be burned. Gaddy knew it was the body part of one of the boys. After discussing what he saw with one of the boys, he was told never to tell anyone what he saw if he wanted to stay alive.

Gaddy alleges they were cooking the boys and feeding them to the hogs.

Gaddy told Harrell that he worked like a slave cutting lumber, raising livestock, and farming the land. He worked in the swamp with large alligators and snakes. Boys younger than Gaddy also had to work hard at Dozier. Gaddy said his life was a living hell at the state-operated school. The reform school was in operation from January 1, 1900 to June 30, 2011 by the state of Florida in the panhandle town of Marianna.

This was not a surprise to Harrell. She had previously met a family who was held in the system of peonage in Gillsburg, Mississippi in the 1960s. Cain Wall, Sr., who was 107 years old at the time, told Harrell his family’s story. He recalled a time when a man rode a horse throughout the area and picked up Black babies, cut them up and use them for fish bait. Wall said, “I saw the blood dripping from his sack on the side of his horse. Everybody would grab their children when they heard that he was coming. He was a mean and evil man,” said Walls.

Some people in the South claim white men used Black babies as alligator bait in the swamps of Louisiana and Florida. They used the babies to lure large alligators with human flesh and blood during the era of slavery. They kidnapped the babies, skin them alive, and drop them into the swamp waters. In 1923, a publication in Times Magazine reported from Chipley, Florida that Black babies were being used as alligator bait. On June 3, 1908, the Washington Times reported that a zookeeper at the New York Zoological Garden baited alligators with pickaninnies. Pictures, postcards, and other trinkets were sold to commemorate this evil, dark practice.

Deangelo and Kirk Manuel, intern researchers with Harrell, recently traveled to Shubuta, Mississippi to investigate six lynchings. The Manuels read how the four young black people were lynched at the Hanging Bridge in 1918. Those lynched were brothers, Major, 20, and Andrew Clark, 16, and sisters; Alma, 16 and Maggie Howze, 20. Maggie was six months pregnant and Alma was due in two weeks. Both young women were pregnant by the dentist who employed them. Major signed up for the draft in WWI on September 9, 1918 and was lynched in December of 1918. Ernest Greene and Charles Lang were lynched in 1942 in the same town in Mississippi. “There life was cut short, it’s no telling what the future held for those two young boys. We will never know the effects they could have had on this world,” said Deangelo.

It was alleged that Andrew and Major murdered Dr. Everette Lavega Johnston, a married white dentist where the four young people worked. Major and Andrew were working on the farm to pay a debt for their father, Eddie Clark, Sr. Major and Andrew were two of eight children born to Eddie and Charity Clarke. All four were brutally tortured. Maggie was smashed in the face with a wrench and they all were thrown from the bridge. When the victims were buried the next day, some people reported that the unborn baby could be seen moving in Alma’s womb.

Harrell and her interns are also investigating a case concerning missing boys in Smith and Simpson County in Mississippi in 1900. Near what was known at Sullivan’s Hollow, lived a man by the name of W.T. Ware, along with his sons and son-in-law, Turner. It was reported that the Wares had been stealing little Black boys and selling them to the Mississippi Delta. One of the Wares was a doctor and was responsible for disposing of the boys in the Delta. The Wares were arrested and tried for kidnapping and hiding a boy at the home of Turner in Simpson County until they could transport him to the Delta. A report was filed with the Attorney General in 1900.

Another report filed in Montgomery, Alabama, stated a young Black boy named Young Trammell was taken from the Alabama line and carried into Georgia where he was forced to work off a debt. The boy’s father informed the reporter that he could not get his son back until he paid the amount that Benford claimed was owed plus the alleged costs of the court proceedings.

Many have never heard these stories because they are not taught in schools. Monteral Harrell, educator and Grambling State University alumna, knows the reality of this truth. “A limited amount of information is presented to students in the public-school system about what actually happened during slavery and the Civil Rights Era. The same information on black history is given to the students year after year. Although the Historically Black Colleges and Universities excel in Black history education, there needs to be more courses offered that teach students how to properly research their history,” Harrell said.

Johnny Lee Gaddy is one of many stories that needs continued research. Johnny Lee Gaddy was taken from his mother in Clearwater, Florida in 1957 and driven to the Arthur G. Dozier Reform School in Marianna, Florida without due process from the courts or legal representation. He served his time and was eventually released to his mother. Harrell’s team consists of photographers, videographers, and screenwriters, who are dedicated in assisting Harrell with bringing these stories to the forefront.

Learn more about Dr. Antoinette Harrell at http://peonagedetective.com/ or follow her on Facebook at @harrellantoinette

This article originally appeared in The Westside Gazette

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California Voice - San Francisco Bay View

California Hotel tenants fight for their human right to housing

SAN FRANCISCO BAY VIEW — Holding signs saying “Protect our right to stay” and chanting “Housing is a human right,” residents of Oakland’s California Hotel, the stately old five-story brick landmark at 3501 San Pablo Ave., demonstrated July 14 against being unlawfully kicked out of their homes. The owners attempted to intimidate the 72 remaining residents of the 150-unit building into moving by having property manager the John Stewart Co. threaten to stop paying the property’s utilities and security bills.

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Community elders tell many stories about parties held at the once lavish landmark, the California Hotel, which is now affordable housing for 72 residents. The property owner stopped renting out new units last year and is now trying to intimidate those remaining into abandoning their homes even though no other affordable housing can be found in Oakland.

By Reginald James

Holding signs saying “Protect our right to stay” and chanting “Housing is a human right,” residents of Oakland’s California Hotel, the stately old five-story brick landmark at 3501 San Pablo Ave., demonstrated July 14 against being unlawfully kicked out of their homes. The owners attempted to intimidate the 72 remaining residents of the 150-unit building into moving by having property manager the John Stewart Co. threaten to stop paying the property’s utilities and security bills.

However, last Friday, an Alameda County Superior Court judge granted a temporary restraining order requiring the owners, Oakland Community Housing Inc. (OCHI), to keep the gas, water and electricity on, according to attorney John Murcko.

“When we are removed by what is called urban renewal, we call it what it really is: gentrification.”

Oakland Nation of Islam Minister Keith Muhammad

“The tenants want to stay here,” said Murcko, who also represented the tenants in two previous lawsuits over deplorable conditions at the property. “A lot of them have been here over a decade. Most have no place else to go.”

Murcko stated that OCHI is under contract requiring them to manage the property as affordable housing to very low-income tenants. That is a stipulation of the low-cost 30-year government loans OCHI used to buy and maintain the hotel.

Residents initially received a letter June 18 stating, “The John Stewart Company will no longer be the management agent for your community effective July 15, 2008.” As if to add confusion and insult to injury, the letter continues, “It has been a pleasure working with you and we wish you the best.”

A follow-up letter dated June 20 states, “Cahon Associates, Inc., the owner of the building, cannot afford to hire another management company to operate the California Hotel or subsidize the operating deficit that exists at the property. In addition, local and state law require onsite management for buildings the size of the California Hotel. If the owner does not replace the onsite manager, the building will be out of compliance with local and state law.” Cahon Associates is a subsidiary of OCHI.

The letter continues, “As a result, the building may close down shortly after July 15. Tenants should begin to look for another place to live and plan to vacate the building on or before July 15th. Eden Information & Referral (Eden I&R) will be available to provide some tenant assistance to help in your search for new housing.”

The City Council approved a little over $893,000 for relocation assistance for residents of properties owned by OCHI. However, as reported in the materials presented to the Council, the scarcity of affordable housing stock has contributed to the difficulty of tenants relocating.

“The closing of seven affordable rental properties will have significant negative impacts,” according to the June 17 City Council agenda materials. “Foremost is the tremendous negative impact on the 215 current residents who will have to relocate in a rental market that is already tight.”.

“There’s nothing available,” California Hotel tenant Robin Menefee said. “There’s nowhere to go.” Menefee will stay after the John Stewart Co. abandons the property.

OCHI subsidiary Cahon Associates claims it is broke. “They own 13 buildings probably worth $130 million,” said Murcko. “This is a fraud on the city and a fraud on the people of Oakland.”

Since informing the city, OCHI has received a $1.5 million subsidy to cover management and other operating costs for their numerous properties in Oakland, with most going to the California Hotel, according to the Oakland Tribune. But residents don’t feel the money was invested in improving their living conditions. There were many complaints of infestation. Even a major lobby window on the ground floor on San Pablo was broken and boarded up.

The company received $5.1 million from the City of Oakland in the ‘80s to buy the property and has since received tens of millions in state and federal monies.

The Oakland Tribune reported that Sean Rogan, deputy director of the city’s department of Housing and Economic Development, attributes the failure of tenants relocating to bad advice from outside agitators. “It’s unfortunate and counterproductive that other organizations are urging the tenants to not sign anything and don’t take the tenant relocation assistance,” he said.

However, residents attribute their determination to stay to the lack of available housing and their resentment at being forced to move out of their homes. Although they’ve consistently paid rent, they’ve never reaped the improvements they’ve been promised.

“They want me to get the hell out,” said Lee Jenkins, a 60-year-old resident who has lived in the building for 16 years. “I don’t want to go nowhere. They haven’t given me an eviction notice, so I’m going to fight it.”

Jenkins, like many of the elderly or disabled living in the building, who are either low income or no-income, has nowhere else to turn.

Oakland Nation of Islam Minister Keith Muhammad, who spoke at the rally, put the events in context of the larger land grab taking place in Oakland:

“When we are removed by what is called urban renewal, we call it what it really is: gentrification,” said Muhammad. “They want to turn West Oakland into East San Francisco.”

The minister also saw a relationship between the removal of tenants and the recent so-called “Nutcracker” sting in June, which resulted in 50 arrests. Muhammad suggests the raids, resulting in the seizure of 40 weapons but no arrests of any actual weapon suppliers is “managed mayhem” that will allow the plan to force low-income people, especially African-Americans, from their homes to escalate and intensify.

“When this property hits the open market, no one who lives here now will likely be able to live here again, because we will not be able to afford it,” Muhammad added.

When asked by television reporters, “What happens if property management leaves,” Murcko responded, “The tenants will step up.” And they have.

On IndyBay.org in an update, Lynda Carson reported that “George Stringer, a long-time tenant of the California Hotel … stated that the John Stewart Company packed up and moved today, shut down the front desk and left by around 5-6 p.m.

“‘The John Stewart Company packed up to go, and left behind a security guard to keep an eye on the place, and the rest of us that are holding out are doing just fine, so far,’ said Stringer. ‘These people tried to force us out as though we do not have any rights as tenants in Oakland or California, and we’re staying as long as we can. The rents are too high for us to try and move anywhere else at this point, and we are better off staying put and exerting our rights as tenants.’”

Stringer, born in Monroe, Louisiana, and raised in Oakland, knows the rules. He managed the Exodus House in Oakland until he moved to the California Hotel three years ago. There he pays $400 a month for a single room with bath and shares a kitchen with other tenants on his floor.

“The California Hotel is just the first building,” said Robbie Clark, an organizer with Just Cause Oakland, who led the chants and rallying cry with tenants and supporters Monday. “There will more than likely be others. We have to come together as a community and prevent the displacement of residents.”

Cahon Associates also owns six other affordable housing developments in Oakland, including Marin Way, San Antonio Terraces, James Lock Court and Slim Jenkins Court. One property, Drasnin Manor, is facing foreclosure by Washington Mutual. Foreclosure would possibly eliminate any affordable housing restrictions, according to City documents.

All six are scheduled to be closed down and turned into transitional housing with the eviction of the residents in the future after the California Hotel is shut down.

A June 5 report from the Redevelopment Agency and the City of Oakland warns that at least 537 tenants in 11 out of 14 properties owned by OCHI are at risk of losing their housing. OCHI owns about 638 units of affordable housing and all of their tenants are at risk of losing their homes in the coming months, according to the report.

OCHI did not respond to requests for comment but will have to face tenants in court July 30 at 2:30 p.m. at the Hayward Hall of Justice, Department 510, 24405 Amador St. in Hayward. For more information, contact Robbie Clark at Just Cause Oakland, (510) 763-5877, email Robbie@justcauseoakland.org or visit www.justcauseoakland.org.

Reginald James is editor-in-chief of the Laney Tower newspaper at Laney College in Oakland. Email him at reggiegeneral@yahoo.com. Housing rights advocate Lynda Carson contributed to the story. She may be reached at tenantsrule@yahoo.com or (510) 763-1085.

This story is published as part of SFBV’s Bay View Archive project, made possible by the San Francisco Foundation. For more information, click here.

This article originally appeared in the San Francisco Bay View.

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Louisiana Weekly

Facebook told about hate speech in secret groups for years

LOUISIANA WEEKLY — Facebook says its standards apply just as much in private groups as public posts, prohibiting most slurs and threats based on national origin, sex, race and immigration status. But dozens of hateful posts in a secret Facebook group for current and former Border Patrol agents raise questions about how well if at all the company is policing disturbing postings and comments made outside of public view.

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Photo by: Pixabay | Pexels.com

By Ariana Tobin, ProPublica

Facebook says its standards apply just as much in private groups as public posts, prohibiting most slurs and threats based on national origin, sex, race and immigration status.

But dozens of hateful posts in a secret Facebook group for current and former Border Patrol agents raise questions about how well if at all the company is policing disturbing postings and comments made outside of public view.

Many of the posts ProPublica obtained from the 9,500-member “I’m 10-15” group (10-15 is Border Patrol code for “alien in custody”) include violent or dehumanizing speech that appears to violate Facebook’s standards. For example, a thread of comments before a visit to a troubled Border Patrol facility in Texas by Democratic Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, of New York, and Veronica Escobar, of Texas, included “fuck the hoes” and “No mames [fist].” Another post encouraged Border Patrol agents to respond to the Latina lawmakers visit by hurling a “burrito at these bitches.” And yet another mocked a video of a migrant man trying to carry a child through a rushing river in a plastic bag. A commenter joked, “At least it’s already in a trash bag” — all probable violations of the rules.

Facebook, citing an open federal investigation into the group’s activities, declined to answer questions about whether any posts in the 10-15 group violated its terms of service or had been removed, or whether the company had begun scrutinizing the group’s postings since ProPublica’s story was published. It also refused to say whether it had previously flagged posts by group members or had received complaints.

Facebook’s only response, emailed by a spokeswoman who refused to let ProPublica use her name, was: “We want everyone using Facebook to feel safe. Our Community Standards apply across Facebook, including in secret Groups. We’re cooperating with federal authorities in their investigation.”

Since April, the company has been calling community groups “the center of Facebook.” It has put new emphasis on group activity in the newsfeed and has encouraged companies, communities and news organizations to shift resources into private messaging. These forums can give members a protected space to discuss painful topics like domestic violence, or to share a passion for cookbooks. Groups can be either private, which means they can be found in search results, or secret, which means they are hidden unless you have an invitation.

This is part of an intentional “pivot toward privacy.” In a March blog post, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg wrote, “Privacy gives people the freedom to be themselves and connect more naturally, which is why we build social networks.”

But this pivot also fosters hidden forums where people can share offensive, potentially inflammatory viewpoints. “Secret” groups such as 10-15 are completely hidden from non-members. Would-be participants need an invitation to even find the landing page, and administrators of the groups have full jurisdiction to remove a person’s access at any time.

When such groups operate out of sight, like 10-15, the public has a more limited view into how people are using, or misusing, the platform. In a secret group, only members can flag or report content that might be in violation of Facebook’s policies. The administrators of the group can set stricter policies for members’ internal conversations. They cannot, however, relax broader Facebook standards. They also can’t support terrorist organizations, hate groups, murderers, criminals, sell drugs or attack individuals.

Civil rights groups say they have been noticing and raising the issue of hateful posts in hidden forums for years — with limited response from Facebook.

Henry Fernandez, senior fellow at the Center for American Progress, a liberal think tank, and a member of Change the Terms, a coalition of civil rights groups pushing for better content moderation on Facebook, said the platform keeps creating features without “without vetting them for their implications for the use by hate groups or, in this case, Border Patrol agents acting in hateful ways.”

Posts in hidden groups have incited incidents of violence in the real world, most famously against Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar and at the 2017 white supremacist march in Charlottesville, Virginia. The military launched an investigation of a secret Facebook group in 2017 after Marines shared naked pictures of female service members. Facebook has acknowledged the problem and has made some efforts to address it with new initiatives, such as a proposed independent review board and consultations with a group of 90 organizations, most focusing on civil rights.

ProPublica’s Border Patrol story came out the day after Facebook released an audit of civil rights issues on the platform. Recommendations included strengthening hate speech policies around national origin, enforcing a stricter ban on the promotion of white supremacy and removing an exemption that had allowed humorous posts that contained offensive content.

Facebook did not say whether it will make all of the recommended changes. But in a blog post, COO Sheryl Sandberg wrote, “We will continue listening to feedback from the civil rights community and address the important issues they’ve raised so Facebook can better protect and promote the civil rights of everyone who uses our services.”

Jessica Gonzalez, vice president of strategy and senior counsel at Free Press and co-founder of Change the Terms, said that even after the back and forth with auditors, she was not surprised that the hateful posts in 10-15 were not flagged.

“What Facebook released on Sunday is an improvement,” she said, “but I think Facebook has engaged in this all along in an appeasement strategy. They’ll do what they need to do to get the bad publicity off [their] backs.”

The civil rights audit also called for better transparency about civil rights issues on Facebook’s advertising portal, which became a priority for the company after multiple ProPublica investigations and lawsuits by civil rights groups.

Bhaskar Chakravorti, dean of global business at Tufts’ Fletcher School of Business, said the new emphasis on privacy is part of Facebook’s attempt to keep users on the platform, while reassuring investors.

So to the extent that Facebook provides shelter to groups of all kinds — whether they are people who are sharing hateful messages or messages for the good of the world — it benefits their business model.”

Since we published our story, more people have gotten in touch to tell us about other secret groups that may warrant closer scrutiny.

We know there are members of groups who don’t agree with everything that is said in these forums. We need your guidance to do more reporting. We’d like to hear about what’s happening in your communities particularly from those of you who are concerned public servants. Fill out our questionnaire, or send an email toborderpatrol@propublica.org.

ProPublica is a nonprofit newsroom that investigates abuses of power.

This article originally appeared in the Louisiana Weekly.

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#NNPA BlackPress

A troubled police force and hope for change

NNPA NEWSWIRE — In a trial where one prosecutor called the officers “gangsters with a badge,” eight cops were indicted, six pled guilty, and four opted to testify in the case as government witnesses. During the trial, Gun Trace Task Force member Detective Maurice Ward testified that officers would use illegal GPS devices to track targets, break into homes to steal money, and keep BB guns in their vehicles “in case we accidentally hit somebody or got into a shootout, so we could plant them.”

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By Barrington M. Salmon, Contributing Writer, The Final Call
@bsalmondc

For more than 50 years, the Baltimore Police Department has earned the reputation as a tough, bruising force that leveled most of its rough treatment and casual cruelty on Charm City’s Black residents.

Blacks in their 60s and others in their 30s speak of the brutality visited on them by a police force many came to despise and distrust. They spoke of harassment, beatings, detainment and arrests at the whim of the officers, as well as anger and frustration at having no public official able to force rogue officers to comply with the law and treat Black people humanely.

The Rev. Graylan Hagler, who was born and grew up in Baltimore, recalls the way Black residents were treated.

“I’ve been hearing some stuff (about the changes) on the periphery,” he said. “Historically, the police department was used to enforce segregation even after the Civil Rights Act. We couldn’t go into certain neighborhoods, so they pulled you over on ‘a routine check.’”

Rev. Hagler said his father bought a Lincoln Continental in the late 1960s and he was pulled over regularly. It was also well known in the Black community that initiation for White officers was to snatch a Black person off the street and beat them.

“That was the ‘Blue Code.’ Everyone in the department had to have blood on their hands,” said Rev. Hagler, a veteran civil rights and social justice veteran and senior pastor of Plymouth Congregational Church in Washington, D.C. “There’s always been this really hostile relationship, especially with poor Black communities. You saw it with Freddie Gray. There’s a high crime rate because the police isn’t engaged, and the city is not engaged with the community either.”

Yet, one particular response by recently appointed Police Commissioner Michael Harrison surprised a number of people and held out hope that the department could possibly change. Media reports indicate that Sgt. Ethan Newberg, a 24-year veteran, was running a warrant check when a man passing by criticized him for placing the suspect on a wet street. Sgt. Newberg chased him down, grabbed him, tackled him, handcuffed him and arrested him. The sergeant filed a report saying the passerby “challenged him and became combative and aggressive.” However, after department officials reviewed Sgt. Newberg’s footage from his body camera, the real story came out.

“From what I saw, he did nothing to provoke Sgt. Newberg, whose actions weren’t just wrong but deeply disturbing and illegal,” said Police Commissioner Michael Harrison in a press conference announcing charges against Sgt. Newberg. “I don’t know how something like this would have been handled in the past, but I knew as soon as I saw this video, I knew how I’d be handling it.”

Sgt. Newberg, the second highest paid city employee in 2018, was arrested on June 6, charged with false imprisonment, misconduct and second-degree assault and suspended without pay.

Former Seattle Police Chief Norm Stamper said he was heartened by Commissioner Harrison’s decisive action.

“Given its institutional history, that the Baltimore Police Commissioner moved so quickly, and so decisively is a very positive sign,” Chief Stamper told The Final Call. “Let’s hope that as the story unfolds further, we’ll learn that at least some of Newberg’s superiors and/or peers had also come forward with their own observations of his conduct, past and present.”

“This is an example of major systemic (and workplace culture) failure,” Chief Stamper continued. “Supervisors (and peers) have a responsibility to blow the whistle on alleged wrongdoing of the type you describe. And the department or, preferably, an independent investigative body, has an obligation to conduct timely, accurate, and thorough investigations into all instances of alleged misconduct. Failure to do so sends a message throughout the cop culture: brutality, bigotry, corruption will be excused. It sounds like Newberg’s bosses, and peers, did him no favor by not holding him to account long ago. Although, of course, he had an obligation to conduct himself with dignity, respect, and self-discipline.”

Wake Forest Law School Prof. Kami Chavis said Commissioner Harrison’s decision was unexpected.

“Wow!” she exclaimed. “A little justice. When anyone performs a criminal act, he or she should be punished. To have trust for police officers, violence should not go unpunished. You cannot have people operating above the law. This is a very important step.”

“No longer can an officer tell a different story,” added Prof. Chavis, associate provost for Academic Initiatives and director of the Criminal Justice Program. “The officer committed an egregious act and then lied. It almost tells us a little bit about the morality of some of the officers. We have so long operated in this type of culture in Baltimore where this type of behavior was commonplace.”

Critics of the department and officer behavior would find a great deal with which to agree with Prof. Chavis.

The department has lurched from crisis to crisis for years, with office-involved shootings, harassment of residents and beatings caught on body cams or videos. The depth and breadth of the corruption that grips the department exploded in 2018 during a trial involving seven of eight members of the elite Gun Trace Taskforce. Witnesses testified taskforce members were supposed to be taking illegal guns off the street. Instead, the officers were reselling seized guns and drugs right back onto city streets.

The depth and breadth of the corruption that grips the department exploded in 2018 during a trial involving seven of eight members of the elite Gun Trace Taskforce. Witnesses testified taskforce members were supposed to be taking illegal guns off the street. Instead, the officers were reselling seized guns and drugs right back onto city streets.

The depth and breadth of the corruption that grips the department exploded in 2018 during a trial involving seven of eight members of the elite Gun Trace Taskforce. Witnesses testified taskforce members were supposed to be taking illegal guns off the street. Instead, the officers were reselling seized guns and drugs right back onto city streets.

In a trial where one prosecutor called the officers “gangsters with a badge,” eight cops were indicted, six pled guilty, and four opted to testify in the case as government witnesses. During the trial, Gun Trace Task Force member Detective Maurice Ward testified that officers would use illegal GPS devices to track targets, break into homes to steal money, and keep BB guns in their vehicles “in case we accidentally hit somebody or got into a shootout, so we could plant them.”

Mr. Ward, who pled guilty, recounted an incident where cops “took a man’s house keys, ran his name through databases to find his address, went into the home without a warrant and found drugs and a safe. The officers cracked open the safe, which had about $200,000 inside. They took $100,000 out, closed the safe back up, then filmed themselves pretending to open it for the first time.”

This corruption case deepened public suspicion that piqued following the 2015 death of Freddie Gray. The 25-year-old Black male was chased, detained by police, taken on a rough ride, suffered severe spinal injuries and died in a hospital. His arrest was captured on video as officers dragged him into a police cruiser and Mr. Gray appeared unable to walk.

Mr. Gray’s death triggered civil unrest, the torching of a number of businesses, looting, arrests of many who’d taken to the streets and dozens of officers being injured.

After the trials and acquittals of three of the six police officers who were charged and indicted, public anger, resentment and frustration ratcheted up.

The riots following Mr. Gray’s death crystallized the divide between both sides.

On Pennsylvania Avenue, a major Black thoroughfare, angry residents burned stores, businesses, and vehicles and shattered glass.

Baltimore activist Rev. C.D. Witherspoon echoed the sentiments of several activists, residents who maintain the city’s entire political structure is compromised by corruption, cronyism and greed, adding that the wishes and desires of Blacks are often ignored.

“I think the current commissioner has a fresh set of eyes and a new perspective, but you can’t put individuals in place to reform a system,” he said. “The department isn’t doing what’s in line with what citizens want and need. Corruption is like an in-grown toenail. We’re talking about a system here, a system not just locally but nationally. The police department needs to be dismantled and reconstructed. Needs to revisit what policing looks like.”

Rev. Witherspoon, an elder at The Light Baptist Church and a former Baltimore City chapter president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, said city leaders and policy makers need to stop criminalizing health issues like drug addiction and instead treat it for the problem it is, a public health crisis.

“Public safety should not just be policing, there has to be a public health and mental health component that’s fully funded,” he said. “The people need to take control downtown and invest in schools, recreation and public health versus building on the waterfront.”

“A lot of people benefit from this plight. We know about private prisons and people getting rich. Other non-profits, in some instances, are profiting by offering employment and other opportunities. Yet this should always be community-driven, and residents should be in charge.”

Rev. Witherspoon, who lives in the Sandtown neighborhood, as did Freddie Gray, said little has changed since the young man died after an encounter with police.

“The only thing that has come to the community is a new police station,” said Rev. Witherspoon, who led several demonstrations after Mr. Gray’s death. “There are no new developments, jobs or rec centers. I don’t see how peoples’ minds have been changed since Freddie Gray’s death. The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King said riots are voices of the unheard. Frustrations could rise. It is like a powder keg.”

He said there have been “meeting of minds” and capacity building among and between grassroots communities.

“Grassroots people are talking but there has to be conversations about systemic and structural racism, the role of police in our communities and jobs beyond redevelopment of the Inner Harbor,” Rev. Witherspoon said.

In 2015, the police department began operating under a consent decree. As explained on the web page of the Consent Decree Monitoring Team, “Following an investigation that began in 2015, the US Department of Justice (DOJ) found reasonable cause to believe that the Baltimore Police Department (BPD) was engaged in a pattern or practice of constitutional violations, which allegedly included making unconstitutional stops, searches and arrests; using enforcement strategies that produced severe, unjustified disparities in stops, searches and arrests of African Americans; using excessive force; and retaliating against people engaging in constitutionally protected expression.”

Baltimore Attorney Kenneth Thompson heads the Consent Decree Monitoring Team which is working to help the police department adopt a number of reforms aimed at ensuring effective, safe and constitutional policing. The team’s work is mandated by U.S. District Court Judge James K. Bredar.

“This (consent decree) is driven by decades of perceived mistreatment. Folks have felt police has always gotten a free pass,” Mr. Thompson said. “Sometimes there are officers with problems. They may have issues, problems at home and domestic problems. The proper technology would red flag officers who need help to supervisors.”

Mr. Thompson said his team is comprised of former police chiefs, other experts in policing and police reform, members of the civil rights community, and academics versed in psychology, social science, organizational change, data and technology and community engagement.

“The personnel in DOJ, to their credit, have been good stewards,” he said. “This is a lawsuit. The plaintiffs are kicking ass. They want change. It’s possible that the department resents us coming in. I don’t know. The city and police department have been true partners. The will is there. They want to save culture. The question is whether they will have money and capacity to do the job but I’m confident we’ll do it.”

He identified three of the biggest challenges that hinder successful implementation of the reforms. They are strengthening Internal Affairs so that the department properly investigates instances of misconduct or other deleterious behavior by police officers; outdated technology and staffing issues.

“The old unit had to be disbanded. It was so dysfunctional,” he said of the Internal Affairs Unit, which has been renamed the Police Integrity Unit. “In the old days, it wasn’t a very hospitable environment. It’s clear that there was favorable environment for those doing wrong. The DOJ saw minimization of charges. Now, it’s easier to file complaints and we’re making sure offenses were filed properly.”

Mr. Thompson said the team is putting in place a classification manual and is revamping the investigation manual.

“The unit is short-staffed and the technology is not up to par,” he said. “And it’s difficult to follow data. We’re making sure that the investigators are trained properly. We’ve made a tremendous amount of progress but we’re still dealing with challenges. The department has indicated a really strong desire to change. But we still have a lot of things to do.”

Dr. Natasha C. Pratt-Harris is the principal investigator collecting data from a survey on community experiences and perceptions of city police that she and her colleagues conducted at the behest of the Consent Decree Monitoring Team.

After plumbing the community’s thoughts over a two-month period, she said she believes that significant and sustained change is coming to Baltimore City. But, she added, a prevailing sentiment from residents’ comments is the feeling that nothing will change. A major finding from the 640 people polled is that the community wants to see the police engaging and engaged with the community, said Dr. Pratt-Harris, an associate professor and coordinator of the Criminal Justice program in the Department of Sociology and Anthropology with Morgan State University in Baltimore.

Chief Stamper and Capt. Joseph Perez said it’s going to be very difficult to transform a department with entrenched bias, suspicion of the people they’re purported to serve and a sense of entitlement that makes certain officers act with impunity.

“The biggest challenge is dealing with the public, mostly because there’s a lack of trust and a lack of community on our part,” Capt. Perez said. “The biggest thing is building that trust. Traditionally, in police departments across the country, they like the heavy-handed officers. You almost never see officers recognized for work in the community. We have to go back to basics, go back to the community. I’m not talking about optics. We have to go into the community, build trust.”

Capt. Lopez, a New Yorker who has been in law enforcement for more than 20 years, said it’s a good move by Commissioner Harrison who has said police officers should go into the community for 20 minutes a shift.

“(But) many officers are resistant. It’s culture and begins in the academy. You can absolutely guarantee that every single person will say they want to help people, serve. But the academy fosters an ‘us vs them’ mentality. They see the community is a threat and they’ve got to have each other’s back. It’s the thin blue line, not reporting each other.”

Rev. Hagler, Prof. Pratt-Harris and longtime Baltimore City resident Nick Dorsey each noted problems in the department reflect problems in the city and the country.

“As with individuals, issues of race and what it means to strive and struggle are playing out. The problems found in BPD are found in the system, every school system, hospitals and elsewhere. The police department is mimicking larger society. We have to accept, acknowledge and address these issues,” argued Dr. Pratt Harris.

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Defender News Network

Michelle Obama Talks ‘Angry Black Woman’ Stereotype

DEFENDER NEWS NETWORK — Democrats and Republicans tried to take me out by the knees,’ Michelle Obama says at Essence Fest. Former first lady Michelle Obama says dealing with public scrutiny when her husband was campaigning to be president wasn’t as easy as it looked.

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Michelle Obama
By Defender News Service

Democrats and Republicans tried to take me out by the knees,’ Michelle Obama says at Essence Fest.

Former first lady Michelle Obama says dealing with public scrutiny when her husband was campaigning to be president wasn’t as easy as it looked.

The New York Times best-selling “Becoming” author sat down for an interview with journalist Gayle King at the 25th Essence Music Festival Saturday at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans.

Sporting a curly hairdo that won her social media praise, Obama talked about a portion of her book that explains her journey from being a lawyer to a first lady.

“So now I’m Michelle Obama and beloved,” she said in CBS video of the speech. “But for a minute there, I was an angry black woman who was emasculating her husband, who was somebody to be feared because that was part of the political game.”

Before diving into criticism Obama faced, King opened the interview by asking the Chicago native if she had any idea how much she was missed.

“Look, I miss us too,” Obama said, sending the crowd into roaring applause.

She went on to answer questions about her book and how readers are receiving it.

“Whether it’s in Copenhagen, or Paris or London, people have found and recognized themselves in the story of this little Black girl who grew up on the Southside of Chicago,” Obama said. “So what it reminds me is that our stories as Black people and as Black women have power.

“The only thing is we don’t often get to see ourselves. We don’t hear ourselves because we don’t get to control the narrative.”

Obama said she understands how rare it is for a Black woman to be able to tell her own story and have it shared by millions.

King then directed the conversation to the 17th chapter of “Becoming,” when Obama talked about criticism she’s faced while helping her husband campaign for the presidency.

“Well it was important for me to tell that part of my story because I know there are a lot of young kids out there who see me and Barack now,” Obama said. “They see us as the former first. They see us when we were walking out of the White House, but they don’t remember how many punches we took to get there.”

Obama said as her popularity increased so did negative criticism of her.

“Democrats and Republicans tried to take me out by the knees,” Obama said. “And the best way to do it was to focus on the one thing they knew people were afraid of was the strength of a Black woman, so they turned that into a caricature.”

Obama said at one point, she considered stepping off of the campaign trail with her husband, but he never wanted her to leave.

“Well, that was the beauty of Barack. Barack knew how to take punches,” Obama said. “Look, we grew up in Chicago politics y’all. So Chicago politics is rough and tumble, but I had never been at the center of it.”

Obama said she thought about quitting, but she didn’t. Instead, she went on to help her husband become the first Black U.S. president, and she talked about her inner struggle in her book.

“But the reason I share that story is because I want people especially young people to know that we all go through those moments where people try to define us before we have an opportunity to define ourselves,” Obama said.

This article originally appeared in the Defender News Network.

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Charleston Chronicle

P&G Addresses Racial Bias With New Film “The Look”

CHARLESTON CHRONICLE — Continuing the conversation from its Emmy Award-winning film “The Talk,” Procter & Gamble this week released a new film designed to spark reflection and conversation on racial bias and inequality. Titled “The Look,” the film highlights bias as experienced by many Black men in America and is available beginning today together with educational resources at www.talkaboutbias.com.

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“The Look” follows a Black man throughout his day as he encounters a variety of ‘looks’ that symbolize a barrier to acceptance. In the film, the windows of a passing car are raised after his son waves to a young girl in the back seat. (Photo: Business Wire)
By The Charleston Chronicle

Continuing the conversation from its Emmy Award-winning film “The Talk,” Procter & Gamble this week released a new film designed to spark reflection and conversation on racial bias and inequality. Titled “The Look,” the film highlights bias as experienced by many Black men in America and is available beginning today together with educational resources at www.talkaboutbias.com.

“We want to live in a world that is equal and inclusive – in race, gender, ethnicity, sexual identity, ability, religion and age – but the reality is, it’s not fully equal or inclusive and one of the core reasons is bias,” said Marc Pritchard, Chief Brand Officer, and Procter & Gamble. “Empathy can be a particularly effective antidote to bias, and we created ‘The Look’ to change perspectives, prompt personal introspection, and bring people together for a conversation to ultimately change hearts and minds.”

“The Look” follows a Black man throughout his day as he encounters a variety of ‘looks’ that symbolize a barrier to acceptance. In the film, the windows of a passing car are raised after his son waves to a young girl in the back seat, occupants of an elevator seem to shut him out as he approaches and workers in a department store watch him with suspicion as he shops. For each scene, historical records and contemporary stories are provided at www.talkaboutbias.com to spark discussion and understanding on how these small ‘looks’, whether intentional or not, can have a potentially bigger impact. The film ends with the line ‘Let’s talk about the look so we can see beyond it.”

“We believe we have a responsibility to use our voice in advertising as a force for good by addressing issues like bias. As it has already done for so many who have seen ‘The Look’, we hope this film leads to constructive conversation, understanding and positive action,” Pritchard added.

The film and website were produced in collaboration with SATURDAY MORNING, a creative collective founded by executives in the advertising industry who came together to create ideas that bring awareness to and shift perceptions on racial bias and injustice.

“The story of ‘The Look’ is based in the real-world experience of thousands of Black men across the country who experience bias in different ways, big and small, every day. This film is an opportunity for the world to see – and feel – what it’s like to walk in their shoes,” said Kwame Taylor-Hayford, a co-founder of SATURDAY MORNING. “Partnering with companies like P&G on thought-provoking and authentic work like ‘The Look’ will lead to deeper and richer conversation that will inspire change.”

“Bias is part of the human condition, something we all have and something we all experience. It is most frequently unconscious, formed by generations of social norms. ‘The Look’ is designed to constructively challenge people to look beyond what they think they see,” said Damon Jones, Vice President, Global Communications and Advocacy, Procter & Gamble. “Beyond highlighting bias, this film also celebrates the strength, humanity and resilience of Black men who are thriving amidst many obstacles. It is one part of a comprehensive effort that will help address individual and institutionalized bias to create meaningful change.”

Over the past year, P&G partnered with BET Networks on a comprehensive study of Black men, called Black Men Revealed, highlighting compelling data on prevailing narratives in media and entertainment, including those on parental involvement, relationship status and economic pursuits. Insights from this study are being shared with groups across the country to enable more accurate, positive portrayals of Black men in film, television and news – all key factors in addressing the underlying bias in society.

The film premiered last week at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity in France and BET Networks’ inaugural social impact conference, META Convened by BET Networks in Los Angeles.

“The Look” was shot by a deliberately diverse leadership-duo, Director Anthony Mandler of Stink Films with Malik Sayeed as Director of Photography, and is launching as part of an integrated campaign at www.talkaboutbias.com. It will be followed by a series of nationwide community conversations, individual and classroom educational resources and reading guides, informative and inspirational podcasts, virtual reality extensions and ongoing digital and social media activities through the end of 2019. This program is designed to go beyond simple awareness and equip and enable individuals and communities with tools to create lasting, substantive change.

Source: PR Newswire

This article originally appeared in the Charleston Chronicle

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