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They Were Told Their Babies Had Died. Now, These Black Women Wonder: Was It a Lie?

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Brenda Stewart wipes away tears Monday, May 4, 2015, in Clayton, Mo., as she recounts the story of how she was told her child had died shortly after giving birth at Homer G. Phillips Hospital in St. Louis. Stewart was 16 and unmarried when she gave birth to a seemingly healthy girl on June 24, 1964, at the hospital.  A nurse took the child after birth and returned a short time later to tell Stewart that the baby had died but she now believes her baby may have been stolen and sold to adoptive parents. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)

Brenda Stewart wipes away tears Monday, May 4, 2015, in Clayton, Mo., as she recounts the story of how she was told her child had died shortly after giving birth at Homer G. Phillips Hospital in St. Louis. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)

Abby Phillip, THE WASHINGTON POST

 
ST. LOUIS (The Washington Post) — One woman and her long-lost daughter may have brought a dark chapter from St. Louis history to light.

As a 26-year-old woman in 1965, Zella Jackson Price was told that her daughter had died shortly after birth. Nearly 50 years later, though, Jackson Price learned that her daughter has been alive all along.

Melanie Diane Gilmore, also known as “Baby Diane,” is now 49 and living in Oregon. After mother and daughter reunited last month, thanks to some Facebook sleuthing by Gilmore’s children, dozens of other women have come forward with eerily similar and potentially tragic stories.

They had all given birth to children at the Homer G. Phillips Hospital, which was at one point the only hospital dedicated to serving African Americans in racially segregated St. Louis.

Like Jackson Price, who delivered her daughter prematurely, they were told by nurses at the now-closed facility that their babies had died. Nearly all of them say they never saw the newborns again and never received death certificates, according to attorney Albert Watkins, who is representing Jackson Price.

Those women — about 25 of them — reached out to the lawyer’s office after hearing the story of Jackson Price’s reunion with her daughter.

 

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VIDEO: Hamilton County Juvenile Judge Tracie Hunter Dragged Off to Jail — Literally

NNPA NEWSWIRE — Hunter was initially charged with committing nine felonies. After charges were dropped on all but one, she was convicted and entered into a lengthy appeals process. The state supreme court of Ohio refused to hear her appeal, sending the case back to the lower court and resulting in her ultimate sentencing.

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Former Hamilton County, Ohio Juvenile Judge Tracie Hunter is dragged from the courtroom following her sentencing for unlawful interest in a public contact, after she illegally helped her brother keep his county job by mishandling a confidential document. (Photo: YouTube)

By Stacy M. Brown, NNPA Newswire Correspondent
@StacyBrownMedia

Former Hamilton County, Ohio Juvenile Judge Tracie Hunter appeared overcome with emotion as she was literally dragged from a Cincinnati courtroom by a sheriff’s deputy on Monday, July 22, after she was sentenced to six months in jail for charges stemming from a controversial conviction in 2014.

A jury convicted Hunter of unlawful interest in a public contact after shew as accused of helping her brother keep his county job by mishandling a confidential document.

Hunter was initially charged with committing nine felonies. After charges were dropped on all but one, she was convicted and entered into a lengthy appeals process. The state supreme court of Ohio refused to hear her appeal, sending the case back to the lower court and resulting in her ultimate sentencing.

With a courtroom packed with supporters — and many more who stood outside of the proceedings — Hamilton County Common Pleas Judge Patrick Dinkelacker dispensed Hunter’s punishment.

Prior to sentencing, Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters wrote a letter asking the court to consider having Hunter undergo psychiatric evaluation based on questions he has about what he calls Hunter’s “mental condition,” according to reporting from WLWT5.

Hunter’s attorney David Singleton disagreed with the request, adding that he “couldn’t believe” Deters would ask the court to have Hunter undergo evaluation and that they plan to file a motion to dismiss the case.

With all of the support Hunter has received based on both real and perceived biases during the initial trial and appeals process, Mayor John Cranley wrote a letter to Dinkelacker asking him not to place Hunter in prison, saying that she has suffered as a result of her conviction and doesn’t appear to pose any risks to others.

Postcards were sent to Dinkelacker’s house asking for leniency in his sentencing. He read some of the postcards during the hearing.

“I violated no laws, I did not secure a public contract, I did not secure employment for my brother who worked for the court for about seven years before I was elected judge,” Hunter said.

At least one of Hunter’s supporters was arrested at the courthouse after trying to intervene when deputies attempted to take Hunter into custody.

Others shouted, “No Justice, No Peace,” and accused the court of racism.

In June, former Cincinnati State Sen. Eric Kearney had expressed to NNPA Newswire that Hunter’s incarceration was “going to be a problem” and the city would “explode. I’m telling you, black people [in Cincinnati] are not going to take [Hunter going to jail] lightly,” Kearney said. “The city is on edge.”

Kearney, Hunter and her vast number of supporters have said the process used to convict her wreaked of politics, corruption, nepotism and racism.

The jury that rendered the guilty verdict in her trial was comprised of political foes and others associated with the prosecutors and a Republican establishment that didn’t take kindly to Hunter breaking the GOP and white-male dominated stronghold to win a seat on the bench in 2010, her supporters have pointed out.

For example, one of the jurors worked for WCPO Television, a local station that has filed numerous lawsuits against Hunter.

Court documents revealed that the jury foreman contributed $500 to state Sen. Bill Seitz, the father of county jury coordinator Brad Seitz, who was responsible for compiling the panel of jurors that arrived at the guilty verdict, which required a unanimous decision from the jury.

Hunter said that the only three black jurors, none of whom had known ties to prosecutors and all of whom held out for acquittal, ultimately yielded to pressure from other jurors. The judge refused to allow defense lawyers to poll the jury after announcing the verdict.

In every American criminal trial, particularly those that end in guilty verdicts, it’s the right of attorneys to request the judge to poll all 12 jurors to ensure each is in agreement with the verdict.

“The judge refused a motion for a retrial after he refused to poll the jury, in clear violation of the law and at the request of my attorney,” Hunter told NNPA Newswire in June.

“If the judge polled the jury, it happened in a blink, but I don’t remember that happening,” Kearney said.

At the close of the trial, three jurors came forward and said that their true verdict was not guilty and “if Judge Norbert Nadel had polled the jury, they would have said so,” Hunter said.

Hunter also wanted her supporters to know that she is not suicidal.

“I want everyone to know that I don’t drink … I don’t do drugs … I have no intention of harming myself,” she said.

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COMMENTARY: Pros and Cons of Modular vs Site-Built Homes

NNPA NEWSWIRE — “Over the last 20 years,” said Maria Coutts, president of The Coutts Group and a senior officer of the Pennsylvania Builders Association, “the customization of modular homes has a consistent record of matching site-built homes and meeting customer demand, largely due to the use of computer-aided design.

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A completely different method of offsite homebuilding -- modular construction — has also been around for many decades but has not gained much traction until recently. (Photo: iStockphoto / NNPA)

Improvements in Modular Homes Make Them a Competitive Alternative to Site-Built Homes

Christopher G. Cox, Publisher and Managing Editor, www.realesavvy.com

For many decades the preferred homebuilding method has been to assemble all the construction materials on site and build from the ground up, usually over a period of about six or more months. This is still the method used to construct some 90 percent of homes being built today.

A completely different method of offsite homebuilding — modular construction — has also been around for many decades, but has not gained much traction until recently.

“Over the last 20 years,” said Maria Coutts, president of The Coutts Group and a senior officer of the Pennsylvania Builders Association, “the customization of modular homes has a consistent record of matching site-built homes and meeting customer demand, largely due to the use of computer-aided design.

“The use of overhead cranes also allows modular structures to be as wide and as high as desired,” Coutts adds.

In modern modular construction, modules are manufactured in a climate-controlled factory environment. “This decreases the possibility of the materials being exposed to rain, snow and wind,” Coutts explains. “Prolonged exposure to these elements can lead to warping, mold and nail pops throughout the home. Also, squeaky floors and steps can be an issue if it is raining or snowing during a site build,” Coutts said.

Jeff Holdren, district sales manager, western territories, for North Carolina-based Holmes Building Systems, agrees with Coutts that quality control is greatly enhanced with modular building. “Actually, if you think about it,” Holdren said, “a modular home is a lot stronger structure. You have to be able to pick it up, put it on a transport and wind tunnel test it to 60 miles an hour.”

Both Coutts and Holdren point to the relative speed of construction of modular versus site-built homes. “The time a site builder might be involved in the construction process,” said Coutts, “is tremendous and with modular this time is cut in half.” Holdren concurs, noting, “A home can be finished within 120 days from the time we start.

“Many of the homes featured on the television series ‘Extreme Home Makeover’ are modular homes because of the speed required by the production schedule,” Holdren adds.

Coutts and Holdren also agree that the public at large is not aware of the many advantages of modular construction.

“Modular homes are much better than when I started in 2002, 17 years ago,” Holdren said. He attributes the lack of growth in part to the failure of his industry to better educate the public. “We do not do a great job of educating people. There is still a general perception that a modular home is inferior,” he notes.

Coutts is optimistic that this is changing. “Site-built construction has been the standard for so long that consumers don’t always research both sides, pro and con, of these two styles. As the concepts and practices of modular construction are becoming more popular with the general public, more consumers are becoming very receptive to this building practice,” she said.

Perhaps as a sign of things to come, Coutts notes that modular construction has gained much more of a foothold in Europe than it has in the U.S. “Modular construction will eventually increase in use similar to the northern European countries of Denmark, Sweden and Germany,” said Coutts, “where it accounts for 20 to 85 percent of total annual builds.”

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Colorado Petroleum Council Focus on Enhancing Communities

NNPA NEWSWIRE — The natural gas and oil industry is projected to create 1.3 million new jobs between 2015 and 2025, with that number growing to 1.9 million by 2035. Of these new jobs, 707,000, or 38 percent of the total, are projected to be filled by African American and Hispanic workers through 2035.

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A big part of CPC’s efforts to enhance communities is focused on aggressively pursuing investments in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) education given its crucial role in the sustainment of career opportunities for all Coloradans. (Photo: iStockphoto / NNPA)
A big part of CPC’s efforts to enhance communities is focused on aggressively pursuing investments in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) education given its crucial role in the sustainment of career opportunities for all Coloradans. (Photo: iStockphoto / NNPA)

By Stacy M. Brown, NNPA Newswire Correspondent
@StacyBrownMedia

Four years ago, the American Petroleum Institute, the world’s largest energy industry trade association, opened a chapter in Colorado, owing to the growing opportunities from natural gas and oil in the state. Since its inception, the Colorado Petroleum Council has served as an advocate for – and partner to – communities across the state, placing great emphasis on innovation, public health and safety. This has allowed the industry the ability to invest in reducing its emissions to historic lows even as energy production has reached all-time highs.

“Most importantly, Colorado is our home,” said Lynn Granger, the new Executive Director of the Colorado Petroleum Council.  “When we arrived in Colorado, our mission wasn’t simply to grow jobs and economic opportunities for the people of our state, though we are encouraged with our progress on that front. We breathe the same air and drink the same water as our neighbors, and we are proud of the leading role that our industry has played – and will continue to play – in the development and implementation of emissions-reducing technologies that benefit all of Colorado’s vibrant communities, regardless of income level, color or creed.”

A big part of CPC’s efforts to enhance communities is focused on aggressively pursuing investments in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) education given its crucial role in the sustainment of career opportunities for all Coloradans.

“We’re especially proud of our commitment to education,” continued Granger. “Our industry has taken a leading role in promoting STEM education across Colorado. The natural gas and oil industry continues to grow amidst the American energy renaissance, creating jobs that need to be filled with talented, skilled workers. We are focused on ensuring that Coloradans from every walk of life are given a true and just opportunity to benefit from these opportunities, and the foundation for future success begins in the classroom.”

The natural gas and oil industry is projected to create 1.3 million new jobs between 2015 and 2025, with that number growing to 1.9 million by 2035. Of these new jobs, 707,000, or 38 percent of the total, are projected to be filled by African American and Hispanic workers through 2035.

According to a 2018 report based on state and federal data, natural gas and oil operations support over 232,900 Colorado jobs, provide an annual statewide economic impact of more than $31.4 billion, and contribute more than $1.2 billion per year in public revenue to the state, including $180 million toward local universities and school districts.

“These jobs and dollars support communities across Colorado, funding everything from schools, to roads, to emergency responders,” noted Granger. “But they do so much more than that. This has allowed us to redouble our commitment to education at the local level and to serve as true partners in communities across the state. We are proud of the work we have done thus far, but know that there is more to be done for current and future generations of Coloradans.”

Colorado’s natural gas and oil industry, in partnership with dozens of government agencies, has implemented the most robust regulatory framework in the nation. Granger acknowledged that the industry’s growth, and the burgeoning opportunities it provides, can only be sustained with an all-hands effort toward keeping public health and safety paramount.

“None of what our industry does would be worthwhile if not for a round-the-clock effort to mitigate any environmental impacts that could have adverse effects on Colorado communities,” said Granger. “These efforts have been my top priority since assuming this role, and I want the people of our state to know that I will be fierce in promoting a balance between sustainability and the opportunities our industry brings to the table.”

Granger, in closing, recognized the existing disparities in Colorado’s economy, and expressed determination on behalf of her industry to be proactive in addressing the issue.

“People have moved to Colorado in droves from across the country, which has certainly presented challenges. We are committed to turning those challenges into opportunities. Colorado’s economy consistently ranks as best in the nation, but these economic opportunities feel out of reach for too many people in our state. The natural gas and oil industry is committed to being a partner in changing this dynamic. Everyone deserves a shot at the American dream, and the Colorado Petroleum Council and our member companies are unwavering, through investments in education, innovation, and directly into communities, to bringing these dreams to life.”

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Driving While Black: Police Continue to Profile, Stop and Search African American Drivers

NNPA NEWSWIRE — “What’s particularly damning about this data is that police were more likely to search Black people than white people yet found contraband in only 41 percent of searches of Black people compared to 72 percent of the searches of white people,” said American Civil Liberties Union Attorney Carl Takei. “In other words, the police have a pattern of stopping and searching Black people in circumstances where they would simply let white people go.

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The Louisville Courier Journal also found that black motorists in Kentucky were searched 12 percent of the time they were stopped, while white motorists were searched just 3.9 percent of the time. (Photo: iStockphoto / NNPA)
The Louisville Courier Journal also found that black motorists in Kentucky were searched 12 percent of the time they were stopped, while white motorists were searched just 3.9 percent of the time. (Photo: iStockphoto / NNPA)

By Stacy M. Brown, NNPA Newswire Correspondent
@StacyBrownMedia

Two new recently published reports show that racial profiling – particularly “Driving While Black” – remains a crisis in America.

A recent report issued by Missouri’s attorney general Eric Schmitt revealed that black drivers across that state are 91 percent more likely than white motorists to get pulled over by police. What’s more, the profiling usually takes place in the motorists’ own community, according to the attorney general’s report.

The Missouri report arrives on the heels of one out of Kentucky where a study found that black motorists are searched at a rate of three-times more than whites in Louisville.

African Americans account for approximately 20 percent of Louisville’s driving age population, but they still accounted for 33 percent of police stops and 57 percent of the nearly 9,000 searches conducted on motorists, according to the Louisville Courier Journal, which conducted the study.

Their findings were highlighted in a tweet by The Thurgood Marshall Project, a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization that seeks to create and sustain a sense of national urgency about the U.S. criminal justice system.

The Louisville Courier Journal said it reviewed “130,999 traffic stops in Louisville from 2016 to 2018 and found that an overwhelming number of African American drivers were profiled and pulled over by police.”

The newspaper also found that black motorists were searched 12 percent of the time they were stopped, while white motorists were searched just 3.9 percent of the time.

“Aside from the alarming and devastating findings, we have always known that racial profiling is all too prevalent throughout law enforcement and our society as a whole,” NAACP President Derrick Johnson told NNPA Newswire.

“What we need is to implement proper training for law enforcement officers on how to more efficiently carry out essential policing without threatening the lives of people of color,” Johnson said.

Racial profiling is an insidious practice and serious problem in America that can lead to deadly consequences, Johnson added.

“Our faith in our criminal justice system will continuously be challenged if we are constantly targeted by discriminatory practices just by doing simple tasks – walking down the street, driving down an interstate, or going through an airport without being stopped merely because of the color of our skin. Living as a person of color should never be crime,” he said.

American Civil Liberties Union Attorney Carl Takei told NNPA Newswire that racial disparities in the new data are similar to what courts have relied on around the country to find unconstitutional racial profiling in traffic stops.

“Disparities of this kind suggest that officers are using race not only in deciding who to pull over, but who to single out for searches,” Takei said.

“What’s particularly damning about this data is that police were more likely to search Black people than white people yet found contraband in only 41 percent of searches of Black people compared to 72 percent of the searches of white people,” he said.

Takei continued:

“In other words, the police have a pattern of stopping and searching Black people in circumstances where they would simply let white people go.

“This unjustly interferes with Black people trying to live their everyday lives – subjecting them to humiliating, intrusive stops and searches in circumstances where white people would not be stopped or searched.

“Additionally, such racialized policing practices harm law enforcement by undermining the legitimacy of the police and damaging police relationships with the communities they are supposed to be serving.”

The Louisville Courier Journal reported that Police Chief Steve Conrad spoke before the Metro Council Public Safety Committee and acknowledged that the department has disproportionately stopped black drivers.

The newspaper reported that Conrad reasoned that African Americans are disproportionately represented in all aspects of the criminal justice system, including in arrests and incarceration.

“This is not all surprising based on my over 35 years of practice defending drug cases after traffic stops,” Randall Levine, a Kalamazoo, Michigan attorney told NNPA Newswire.

“I would say that DWB – Driving While Black – is still as prevalent today as it was in 1980,” Levine said, before opining what could occur to affect change. “Diversity, sensitivity training and some type of real enforcement for violations might help,” he said.

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Philadelphia Fires 13 Officers for Racist Facebook Posts

NNPA NEWSWIRE — In Philadelphia, several officers have been terminated while in St. Louis, prosecutors have barred a number of police personnel from bringing cases against suspects. “I continue to be very angered and disappointed by these posts,” Philadelphia Police Commissioner Richard Ross Jr., said on Thursday, July 18.

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Philadelphia Commissioner Richard Ross Jr. said the department terminated 13 officers who made “posts that advocated violence.” He said 17 other officers still face “severe disciplinary action,” while another four will receive 30-day suspensions. (Photo: YouTube)

By Stacy M. Brown, NNPA Newswire National Correspondent
@StacyBrownMedia

Police officers in Philadelphia and St. Louis are paying a heavy price for their acts of racism.

Weeks after a scathing analysis by the nonprofit Plain View Project, the two departments have responded.

In Philadelphia, several officers have been terminated while in St. Louis, prosecutors have barred a number of police personnel from bringing cases against suspects.

“I continue to be very angered and disappointed by these posts,” Philadelphia Police Commissioner Richard Ross Jr., said on Thursday, July 18.

Ross said the department terminated 13 officers who made “posts that advocated violence.” He said 17 other officers still face “severe disciplinary action,” while another four will receive 30-day suspensions.

In St. Louis, Circuit Attorney Kimberly Gardner said she added 22 officers to her “exclusion list” of authorities banned from bringing cases to her office after the Facebook posts were made public.

In a letter sent to Public Safety Director Jimmie Edwards and St. Louis Police Chief John Hayden, Gardner said seven of those 22 were “permanently banned.”

Hayden and Gardner have said they are still investigating the Facebook posts.

In June, the Plain View Project determined that at least 328 active-duty police officers in various cities, including Philadelphia and St. Louis, posted content that championed violence against Muslims, immigrants and African Americans.

In the posts, officers from rookies to the highest of rank, said the viewed African Americans as “dogs,” and some wrote that they would arrive at work believing that, “it’s a good day for a chokehold.”

Still, others posted their beliefs that women in hijabs were tantamount to “trash bags.”

Plain View project officials counted more than 3,000 offensive posts from departments across the country, including Dallas, Tex.; Denison, Tex.; Lake County, Fla.; Philadelphia, Penn.; Phoenix, Ariz.; St. Louis, Mo.; Twin Falls, Idaho; and York, Penn.

“We found a very high and concerning number of posts that appear to endorse, celebrate or glorify violence and vigilantism,” said Philadelphia-based attorney Emily Baker-White, who heads the Plain View Project.

“We included posts that we thought could affect public trust and policing,” she said.

“We also included posts that seemed to emit some sort of bias against a group of people – whether if that’s a minority faith, a minority race, ethnicity, immigration status, whatever it is. We saw a number of posts that appeared to denigrate those groups of people,” Baker-White said.

Pennsylvania State. Rep. Chris Rabb said the move by the Philadelphia Police Department to fire the officers is the right thing to do.

“We rely on police officers to protect us, all of us, and to serve as an example of appropriate behavior in our community,” said Rabb, a Democrat who represents the Philadelphia area.

“Unethical, racist, inappropriate behavior or comments by police officers, like that exhibited by these officers from the Philadelphia Police Department, undermines the public’s trust in an institution that is supposed to serve us all,” Rabb said.

Further, Rabb said he agreed with sending the message that such behavior will not be tolerated in any police department.

“But it’s not enough if those police officers are able to find employment in another community that’s unsuspecting of their past behavior,” said Rabb, who has introduced legislation that would ensure that officers like those being terminated cannot simply be moved to another department without leadership and the community being aware of their past behavior.

He said his bill would prevent a department from hiring a police officer who separated from their last job after a pattern of allegations, complaints or charges for inappropriate behavior.

It would also ensure that the hiring departments are fully informed about whom they are hiring.

“This legislation would empower police chiefs and municipalities to make fully informed decisions about the officers who serve their communities,” Rabb said.

“Accountability and transparency, which this legislation would promote, are assets in agencies and departments that strive for integrity.”

Philadelphia Fraternal Order of Police Lodge #5 President John McNesby said the organization was “disappointed” in the decision to fire the officers in part because they were deprived of due process.

“The overwhelming majority of our members serve this city with integrity and professionalism,” McNesby said.

None of the terminated officers were named, but Philadelphia authorities confirmed that the highest-ranking officer fired is a sergeant.

“We have a duty to represent ourselves and our city,” Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney said.

“We will not allow this incident to break down the progress we have made and we pledge to do better,” Kenney said.

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Unrest over Brandon Webber shooting leaves many questions, few answers

NNPA NEWSWIRE — It’s exposure to violence like this incident that Tennessee State Rep. Antonio Parkinson (D-Memphis) attributed to his poor, and sometimes violent decision making as a youth. It’s also one of the reasons he spearheaded a mental health initiative for those affected by the recent shooting death of Brandon Webber a father of two. The 20-year-old was killed by U.S. Marshals June 12th while they were trying to arrest him.

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The vigil held for Brandon Webber was in stark contrast to the violence that erupted after he was fatally shot by U.S. Marshals.
The vigil held for Brandon Webber was in stark contrast to the violence that erupted after he was fatally shot by U.S. Marshals.

By Erica R. Williams, Special to The New Tri-State Defender

Tennessee State Rep. Antonio Parkinson (D-Memphis) recalled the grim day that he witnessed violence outside of his apartment as a 4-year-old growing up in Los Angeles.

“I remember seeing a man lying outside on the steps, and he was bleeding out,” Parkinson recounted. “My mother told us to walk around him and don’t touch him. I remember just looking back in shock.”

It’s exposure to violence like this incident that Parkinson attributed to his poor, and sometimes violent decision making as a youth. It’s also one of the reasons he spearheaded a mental health initiative for those affected by the recent shooting death of Brandon Webber, a father of two. The 20-year-old was killed by U.S. Marshals June 12 while they were trying to arrest him.

To kick off the initiative, Parkinson enlisted the assistance of local pastors in Frayser, the area where Webber’s shooting death occurred. It’s also part of the district Parkinson serves as state representative. Through the free counseling sessions, Parkinson said he hopes to address the symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) related to the aftermath of Webber’s death and other rampant acts of violence that children and families have witnessed within their homes and communities.

A rotation of local counselors is dedicating two hours of their time to help with the initiative that kicked off June 16. Parkinson said it’s something that’s needed in communities plagued with violence.

A vigil for Brandon Webber, who was shot by U.S. Marshals in Frayser, drew a crowd carrying candles and balloons last Friday evening (June 14). (Photo: Johnathan Martin)

A vigil for Brandon Webber, who was shot by U.S. Marshals in Frayser, drew a crowd carrying candles and balloons last Friday evening (June 14). (Photo: Johnathan Martin)

“Those seeds get deposited into the psyche of kids. The first time it’s shocking, and over time it gets less and less shocking. And after repeatedly seeing incidents of violence in their communities and households, it becomes their norm,” he said “Eventually, those seeds begin to sprout and bear fruit. So, my intent in coming up with this strategy is to kill those seeds so that the kids and families get the help that they need.”

Parkinson’s analysis is backed up by research from myriad health and education advocacy organizations. According to one study conducted by the Violence Policy Center, exposure to community violence appears to represent a unique form of trauma that is particularly associated with the development of PTSD symptoms, especially among children and adolescents. The study also concludes that repeated trauma can lead to anger, despair, and severe psychic numbing, resulting in major changes in personality and behavior.

Parkinson linked the aftermath of Webber’s death to this type of trauma. After the father of two was killed, protests erupted in Frayser. Dozens of Memphis police officers were injured during the unrest.

“I saw people who were just angry and scared. Many of them just didn’t know what to do with those emotions,” Parkinson stated. “It’s not normal to live in a space where violence is all around you.

Pastor Ricky Floyd of Pursuit of God Transformation Center joined Parkinson in the initiative, allowing his church to serve as one of the participating locations where residents could come to seek counseling. According to Floyd, it only made sense to join forces with Parkinson, because it’s something his church already does in collaboration with Agape.

“The good thing about a crisis is that it gives an opportunity to make people aware of the systems we already have in place,” Floyd mentioned. His church also offers a grief class each Wednesday night.

Despite the need, both Parkinson and Floyd said that it’s not easy to get people to participate, mainly because of the stigma attached to counseling within many black communities.

“There is still a stigma on mental health counseling in our communities, so there are barriers for us to even seek the counseling that’s readily available because of this stigma,” Parkinson said.

Floyd agreed, citing a familiar adage.

“You can take a horse to water, but can’t make him drink,” he said before adding, “I’ve been praying to God to give me an anointing so that I can make people thirsty.”

Although the mental health initiative wrapped up June 21, Parkinson hopes resources and participation will allow an extension.

“Our goal is to continue on with this counseling in partnership with churches in our community. And I hope statewide we will adopt this strategy to make mental health counseling as assessable in as many communities as possible.

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