December 05, 2013
By Starla Muhammad
Special to the NNPA from The Final Call
Oriana Farrell, 39, was pulled over for speeding but the encounter almost turned deadly on a highway near Taos, New Mexico. A state trooper broke her rear window with a baton. Another trooper fired as the panicked Memphis mother drove away from him. Her five children, ages 6 to 18, were in the van.
Police dash cameras recorded the encounter that caused shock and anger when made public. White mothers and their children are not handled so brutally for minor traffic violations, advocates and analysts told The Final Call.
“A uniformed officer can shoot three bullets at my van and be considered to be ‘doing his job’, but my doing what I can to get my own children away from such a terrifying individual has been termed ‘child abuse’ and ‘endangerment,’ according to New Mexico law,” said Ms. Farrell.
Her sentiments were contained in a piece published by The Taos News and shortly after her arrest.
“As a single, African-American mother of five in this country, things are tough enough I should not have to endure harassment at the hands of someone who has been hired to protect the citizens of this land over an alleged ‘speeding offense.’ No one should,” she said.
“I don’t think many of these people who perpetuate these wrongs against us even see us as victims. They see us with suspicion just as for years they’ve done with Black men,” Dr. E. Faye Williams of the National Congress of Black Women said.
“We have heard about the war on women for years and I agree there is a war, but think of how much greater that war is on Black women,” she added.
Overzealous state police?
New Mexico State police reportedly pulled Ms. Farrell over for driving 71 mph in a 55 mph zone on a highway.
Police say she argued about paying the ticket, leaving the scene before the trooper was finished.
Stopped a second time, footage shows a trooper pulling her out of her vehicle. The screams of children inside the van can be heard. The woman’s 14-year-old son approaches his mother and the officer. A brief scuffle between he and the officer ensues and the officer pulls out his Taser. The teen retreats into the van.
As Ms. Farrell drives off a final time, a different trooper fires three shots at the back of the van as it moves away from him.
There is a 10-minute chase before Ms. Farrell pulls to the front of a hotel. She and her son are arrested without further incident.
At Final Call presstime, state police were conducting an internal investigation. The troopers involved were still on the job and their names had not been released.
According to media reports, the Taos County District Attorney is not filing criminal charges against the officers.
Ms. Farrell appeared in court Nov. 19 charged with multiple counts including intentional abuse of a child, aggravated fleeing of a law enforcement officer and possession of drug paraphernalia.
Her son was charged with aggravated battery against a police officer.
Ms. Farrell’s trial is scheduled for April 21, 2014.
Inquiries by telephone and e-mail to 8th Judicial District Attorney Donald Gallegos went unanswered.
The Final Call was told by the office of attorney Alan Maestas, who is representing Ms. Farrell, that he was out of town. According to his office, the lawyer was not granting interviews or commenting on the case.
Heavy handed tactics, violent encounters with law enforcement and cases where Black women are beaten or killed show gender often means little in a society ingrained with White Supremacy, said activists. Black women aren’t seen as human beings, they added.
During civil rights protests police dogs, baton-wielding cops and fire hoses were mercilessly unleashed on Black women.
Ms. Farrell and others, like 19-year-old Renisha McBride of Detroit, are too often treated with suspicion, observed Dr. Williams.
Ms. McBride was shot in the face and killed in Dearborn Heights, Mich. She went to the home of Theodore Wafer seeking help after crashing her car. Mr. Wafer, who is White, reportedly told police he was afraid and the shotgun he was holding accidentally discharged. Days of protests and public outcry came before his arrest.
Though not a police involved shooting, it again shows how Blacks are seen as threats, said analysts.
“As a nation, culturally, Black people are still perceived largely through a lens of fear. That lens of fear remains, regardless of the gender of the person that people see,” said Dr. Avis Jones-DeWeever, writer, radio host and president and CEO of Incite Unlimited.
There is a long U.S. history of Black women not being seen as women, she explained, citing the famous “Ain’t I A Woman,” speech by abolitionist and freedom fighter Sojourner Truth in 1851 as an example. The “mantle of femininity” is not bestowed on Black women while racism and America’s gun culture feed unjustified fear, said Dr. Jones-DeWeever, a former executive director of the National Council of Negro Women.
Based on U.S. history, gender in and of itself is “negligible” when it comes to the danger of being Black in White America, attorney, author and radio host Dr. Ava Muhammad said.
The American psyche tolerates the murder of Black males so it has become safer and easier to openly kill Black females, said Dr. Muhammad, who is also national spokesperson for the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan and the Nation of Islam.
“This is one of the reasons there is an all-out effort in media and culture to completely destroy any respect for Black females by presenting the Black female as a sexually charged, immoral creature who is so lacking in self-respect that when she is killed there is a ‘so what’ posture not only in the White community but in the Black community as well,” she said.
According to a 2012 report by the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement, every 36 hours a Black man, woman or child is killed by a police officer, security guard or self-appointed law enforcer.
Of the 120 Black people killed between January 1 and June 30, 2012, five were Black women.
“Two were accused ‘car thieves,’ two were ‘innocent bystanders’ and one was beaten and smothered by police because they treated her emotional agitation as if it were a crime that had to be violently suppressed,” said the report.
Earlier this year in Springfield, Ill., police used a Taser on Lucinda White, who was 8 months pregnant, after a minor traffic accident in a parking lot.
According to reports, Ms. White initially called police to report the fender bender. She and her boyfriend were arrested. No charges were filed against the officers.
The city of Chicago awarded $4.5 million to settle a wrongful death lawsuit with the family of Rekia Boyd, 22, a bystander who was shot in the head and killed by police detective Dante Servin on March 21, 2012. He claimed self-defense. Ms. Boyd was unarmed.
At Final Call presstime, the Chicago Tribune reported Cook County prosecutors were charging Det. Servin with manslaughter. He has been on administrative duty since the shooting, continuing to receive a $87,000 per year salary, said the Tribune.
In Los Angeles, assault charges were filed against a White female police officer seen on video repeatedly kicking Alesia Thomas in the stomach and genitals. The Black women was handcuffed and in leg restraints. She lost consciousness and later died. Ms. Thomas, 35, reportedly had a history of mental illness and battled drug addiction.
Black women are just as likely as Black men to be perceived as threats and violent, as irrational as the thought may be, added Dr. Jones-DeWeever. “We need to understand that frankly we have a linked fate with our men as it relates to that issue,” she said.
When video was released of Ms. Farrell and police, debates arose. Many were highly critical of Ms. Farrell and blamed her as well as police. After Renisha McBride was gunned down, reports began surfacing about her blood alcohol level and traces of marijuana reportedly found in her system. It is unclear whether or not her shooter was tested for drugs or alcohol.
“If Renisha were drunk as Cootie Brown and high as a kite, she did not deserve to be killed. Why didn’t the ‘54-year-old homeowner’ call 911 and tell them there was a drunken woman on his porch? Why did he shoot?” asked Dr. Julianne Malveaux in a commentary titled, “Who will defend Black women?”
The activist and economist pointed out parallels between the McBride case, the death of teen Trayvon Martin and the propensity to blame victims.
Dr. Jones-DeWeever spoke of a unifying thread of authorities and public blaming of victims, including Miriam Carey. The 34-year-old Connecticut woman was shot and killed in Washington, D.C., Oct. 3 after ramming her car into barriers near the White House. Her one-year-old daughter was in the vehicle but was unharmed.
“Her car was shot into with her baby in the backseat … The knee-jerk reaction is not to see them as victims but see them as deserving perpetrators in some way and in some way responsible for their own death,” said Dr. Jones-DeWeever. There were reports Ms. Carey may have suffered from post-partum depression. Ms. Carey’s sister, a former police officer, questioned whether the situation could have been handled differently.
“There has been little to no discussion of the possibility of post-partum depression as if that’s something that can only happen to White women,” Dr. Jones-DeWeever noted.
She added, “I really would find it hard to believe that in a similar circumstance, particularly with the Renisha McBride case, if that was a blue-eyed, blond hair White woman under this very same circumstance, if those things had happened to her, I really find it hard to believe that the press would have been as sympathetic towards the shooter or that the police might have been so protective of the shooter’s identity.”
Police also have alternatives to deadly force, analysts told The Final Call.
Dr. Muhammad pointed out how Paul Anthony Ciancia, a 23-year-old White man who shot and killed a TSA agent and wounded two others at LAX Airport in early November, was wounded by police, but taken alive into custody.
“We have to begin in our community to stand up for one another, to respect one another, love one another and then to insist that people do it. We have to treat each other right in our own community and not jump to question our motive when there is a problem or something happens and we’re injured,” said Dr. Williams.
“We do have the power to stop some of these things we just don’t always exercise the unity we need to exercise in order to be treated better in this society.”
She urged Black women who are doing well to help those who are suffering injustices.
Dr. Muhammad said there is a crisis in the Black community.
No people on earth would tolerate this, with any knowledge of self, any comprehension with the significance of this type of assault on their women and children, she argued.
“We do not want to acknowledge that the White man is our natural enemy. That’s what’s at the root of all this,” said Dr. Muhammad.
November 28, 2013
By Avis Thomas-Lester
Special to the NNPA from the Afro-American Newspaper
Several of the Washington, D.C.-area’s most celebrated civil rights leaders converged on Busboys and Poets at 14th and V streets NW recently to pay homage to a man who gave his life in the quest for freedom.
Clyde Kennard was a Korean War veteran who lived in Hattiesburg, Miss., who started a public campaign after he was denied admittance to the then-all White Mississippi Southern College, now the University of Southern Mississippi. Instead of changing minds about letting him into the university, however, he was framed for a crime he did not commit and sent to prison for seven years to quiet his voice.
As his condition grew grave, throngs of supporters were successful in getting him released. He died in July 1963.
On Nov. 14, several of the late Kennard’s friends from the Civil Rights Movement came together to celebrate him, including Dorie Ladner and her sister, Dr. Joyce Ladner, former members of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committees.
Both helped in the effort to free Kennard. Also at the program were Julian Bond, the former congressman and NAACP president emeritus who also fought for freedom as a SNCC member; and Dick Gregory, who paid for Kennard to travel to Chicago to be treated for his illness shortly after he was released from prison, six months before he died.
Speakers described Kennard as a soft-spoken peaceful man who fought a gentle fight for his rights and the rights of others. His sword was his pen, which he wielded mightily, writing eloquent arguments on behalf of his cause and the wrongs of segregation. To quiet him, a jury convicted him of theft in a conspiracy that included some of the highest-ranking law enforcement officials in Hattiesburg.
“Now this principle is an easy one for us to follow, for it holds as true in human history, especially American History, as it does in logic,” Kennard wrote to the Hattiesburg American in 1959. “Reason tells us that two things, different in location, different in constitution, different in origin, and different in purpose cannot possibly be equal. History has verified this conclusion.”
The Ladner sisters spoke affectionately about Kennard. Members of the Split This Rock D.C. Youth Slam read excerpts of Kennard letters. Eddie Holloway, the current president of the USM, talked about the school Kennard so wanted to attend.
A portrait of Kennard by Robert Shetterly, a member of Americans Who Tell the Truth, was unveiled. Previously, Shetterly has portrayed Gregory, Rep. John Lewis and civil rights martyr Ella Baker.
Years after his death, Kennard’s name was cleared.
November 28, 2013
By D. Kevin McNeir
Special to the NNPA from The Miami Times
Attorneys for Marissa Alexander, 33, the Florida mother of three who has spent over 1,000 days in jail and was sentenced to 20 years in prison for firing a warning shot over the head of her allegedly abusive husband, have won a new trial for their client. Now they and Alexander are hopeful that a Jacksonville judge will grant her bond. Last September, the 1st District Court of Appeal ordered a new trial for Alexander, stating that the jury had received incorrect directions. A new trial has been set for March 31, 2014.
Alexander’s case garnered national attention after she was denied immunity under Florida’s Stand Your Ground law and was sentenced to a mandatory 20 years under the 10-20-Life statutes for discharging a firearm during certain felonies. She was charged with three counts of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon. The prosecution says that despite her claim that she was only firing a warning shot and that the bullet hit a wall and not the ceiling, that it could have killed her husband, Rico Gray or his children. Gray has two children, both of whom are now in his custody. The couple also has an infant child together. Her attorney was unable to provide information about the whereabouts of the youngest child and who is currently caring for the child.
In court last week, Bruce Zimmet, one of the lead attorneys for Alexander, argued that she poses no threat to society or to her husband with whom she is now finalizing a divorce.
“We were pleased that the appellate court reversed her conviction and allowed for a retrial,” Zimmet said. “We have already had part of the bond hearing and the judge has reserved ruling on bond until we file additional papers that reply to the state’s reply. The judge will then decide if bond should be granted. Of course Marissa wants to get home to her children and we believe that as she has no criminal record except this matter involving her husband, that she should be granted her freedom until the trial.”
Zimmet, a Fort Lauderdale attorney, has been a member of The Florida Bar since 1976 and is a former assistant U.S. attorney for the Southern District of Florida. He is joined by Mike Dowd, a New York-based pioneering attorney in the battered women’s movement. Both have taken on the case pro bono.
“After she was convicted and sentenced in 2012, I was asked to review the case and after looking at the transcript I believed our team could help this woman — a first offender who got a 20-year sentence.”
Alexander’s husband, Rico Gray, recently spoke to members of the media at the State Attorney’s Office in Jacksonville and explained how the events transpired in the August 2010 shooting. He claims it was his wife who first began punching him after he confronted her about texts she had sent to her ex-husband. He says that he was trying to take his two sons away from their home and was getting their things together when he made the remark that their newborn baby must have been fathered by her ex. That’s when he said she uttered several expletives, went to the garage to her truck and returned with her gun. After firing the weapon, he says he grabbed the children and ran.
November 28, 2013
By Princess Manasseh
LAWT Contributing Writer
Reverend Jesse Jackson celebrated his 72nd birthday Friday, November 22 with the help of his longtime friends and political allies Andrew Young, Maxine Waters, and Karen Bass.
More than a month after Jackson’s actual birthday – which falls on October 8 – the celebration for the past fifteen years has doubled as a Rainbow Push and Citizen Education fundraising event and awards dinner for Jackson’s non-profit organization.
Jackson arrived to the celebration directly from shooting the Arsenio Hall show.
Held at the Beverly Hilton Hotel, the celebration brought out hundreds of people; many personal friends, notables and supporters of his non-profit’s work.
Jackson’s eldest daughter, Santita served as mistress of ceremonies.
A variety of news clippings were played over the course of the program displaying highlights of Jackson’s work as a political activist, primarily highlighting his expertise in negotiating hostage situations. Jackson has freed political prisoners abroad on six different occasions, in each instance, acting without the support of the American government.
Taking no breaks from the fight against injustice, Jackson told the Sentinel on November 22 that currently his biggest concern is developing a comprehensive plan for reconstruction.
“The voting rights act is under threat again with streams of suppression,” he said, referring to the recent government shutdown.
“Those who close the doors of congress also want to close the door on access to voting.
“Secondly,” the Reverend continued, “poverty is a threat to us. We not only need affordable healthcare we also need affordable food, and drinkable water, and a job, a place to stay, and secure education.”
Jackson shared his birthday spotlight with eight community servants honored with awards during the gala.
Grammy Award-winning singer, Chaka Kahn was another celebrity attendee. Kahn took to the stage and sang happy birthday to her good friend Jackson followed by a crowd prompted performance of “My Funny Valentine.”
Tony Cornelius, son of the late Don Cornelius, was also a guest.
“Reverend Jackson has always been a family friend of ours. He’s also supported the Cornelius Family Foundation and I’ve always supported him as well. He and my father were very, very close.”
November 28, 2013
By Herb Boyd
Special to the NNPA
Three of the last Scottsboro Boys, African American youths falsely accused of raping two White women in 1931, were granted posthumous pardons by the Alabama Board of Pardons and Paroles.
“The long overdue pardon of the African American young men unjustly charged with rape in Alabama decades ago comes too late to provide any comfort to them, but at least will officially clear their names,” said Dennis Parker, director of the ACLU’s Racial Justice Program. “We must recognize this as an opportunity to demonstrate the corrosive, unjust associations between criminality and race prevalent in the early 20th century and sadly, too much with us today.”
For years, the incident involving nine Black youths traveling on a train from Chattanooga, Tenn. to Scottsboro, Ala. and looking for work, encountered a gang of White youths on the train.
“The trouble began when three or four white boys crossed over the oil tanker that four of us colored fellows from Chattanooga were in,” wrote Haywood Patterson in his book “Scottsboro Boy,” co-authored with Earl Conrad. “One of the white boys, he stepped on my hand and liked to have knocked me off the train,” Patterson continued. “I didn’t say anything then, but the same guy, he brushed by me again and liked to have pushed me off the car. I caught hold of the side of the tanker to keep from falling off.”
After a series of epithets from the White boys, a melee ensued, and the Black boys got the best of the White boys, tossing them from the train. Angered by the defeat, they hurried to the next station, reported the altercation and alerted the sheriff at Scottsboro.
Unbeknownst to the Black boys, there were two White girls, dressed like boys, hoboing on the train. When the train pulled into the station, the White girls, afraid of being arrested from hopping the train, claimed they had been raped.
All of them – Patterson, Roy Wright and his brother, Andy, Eugene Williams, Olen Montgomery, Willie Roberson, Clarence Norris, Charlie Weems, and Ozie Powell – were arrested and taken to jail.
Thus began their long ordeal, making them a cause celebre for years and commanding the attention of the NAACP and the International Labor Defense.
“Starting with the arrest of nine black men and boys on fabricated and completely contradictory allegations of the rape of two white women, the case proceeded through a serious of rushed and unfair trials,” Parker wrote. “The defendants were represented by counsel wholly unfamiliar with criminal defense work and unable to conduct even the most basic investigations. The jury deciding the case completely excluded African Americans and their deliberations were conducted under the very real threat of the lynching of the defendants.
“Although the alleged victims [Ruby Bates and Victoria Price] ultimately recanted their stories and admitted that their allegations of rape were complete fabrications, all of the men were convicted and all but one [13-year-old Roy Wright] sentenced to death. During the case, seemingly every ugly stereotype appeared, from the depiction of the criminally rapacious black male intent on ravishing white women to the attacks on the counsel who ultimately took on the case on remand as meddling, communistic Jewish lawyers from New York.”
In the succeeding years, the case was tried three times and eventually charges were dropped for four of the defendants. All but two of them served prison sentences. One was shot in prison by a guard. Two escaped, were charged with crimes, and were returned to prison.
Patterson escaped from prison in 1948 and two years later wrote his book before being snared again by the law. The governor of Michigan, however, refused to have him extradited to Alabama. Later, during a bar fight, he stabbed a man and was convicted of manslaughter. He died of cancer while serving a second sentence in 1952.
In 1946, Clarence Norris, the oldest of the defendants and the only one sentenced to death, and upon being paroled, he went into hiding. Gov. George C. Wallace pardoned him in 1976 and he authored an autobiography in 1979. He died in 1989, the last survivor of the Scottsboro Boys.