May 31, 2012

By Cora Jackson-Fossett 

Dynamic, insightful, courageous, and committed all describe the Right Reverend Hamel Hartford Brookins, a legendary preacher-activist who rose from humble beginnings to the highest ecclesiastical level in the worldwide African Methodist Episcopal Church.

Bishop Brookins passed inLos Angeleson May 22, at the age of 86, leaving an enduring legacy of service and dedication to God and community.   In response to his death, condolences and reflections flowed from renowned clergy, elected officials, civic leaders and long-time friends.

"Bishop Brookins was an outstanding, stellar, spiritual leader who led the A.M.E.Churchin fulfilling the ideals of our founder, Richard Allen - self-help and able to lift people from various circumstances. He was a true friend and I learned so much from him,” said Bishop T. Larry Kirkland, Sr., presiding prelate of the 5th Episcopal District of theA.M.E.Church.

A celebration of Bishop Brookins’ life takes place on Friday, June 1, atFirstA.M.E.ChurchinLos Angeles, an edifice he built more than 40 years ago.  Hundreds of people are expected to fill the sanctuary to pay respects to his wife, the Rev. Rosalynn Kyle Brookins; sons, Sir-Wellington and Steven Brookins; daughter, the Rev. Francine Brookins; and countless relatives and friends.

Throughout his adulthood, Bishop Brookins made distinctive impressions upon his surrounding environment.  From the 1950s to the 2000s, his name appeared in media around the world applauding his ministry, attacking his activism, saluting his achievements or questioning his motives.

But according to the Rev. Dr. Melvin V. Wade, pastor ofMountMoriahBaptistChurchinLos Angeles, Bishop Brookins’ actions were always dictated by his calling to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

“Yes, Bishop Brookins was for the rights of the least and the left out.  However, I knew Bishop Brookins when he was pastor ofSt. PaulA.M.E.ChurchinWichita,Kansas. My father made it clear to me that Bishop Brookins was an outstanding proclaimer of the Christian Gospel.”

 1950s – Making Waves inWichita

The bishop came toWichitaafter earning both B.A. and Bachelor of Divinity degrees fromWilberforceUniversityand Payne Theological Seminary as well as completing graduate courses at theUniversityofKansas.

Assigned toSt. Paulin 1954, he stirred the congregation with his powerful preaching and drew public attention leading efforts to implement desegregation in the schools as dictated by the Brown vs. Board of Education decision.  Also, Bishop Brookins was elected president of the Wichita Interracial Ministerial Alliance, a 200-member organization.

“H.H. was convinced that the church could not just do business between its four walls on Sunday morning, and therefore he was always involved in ministry to the wider community.  He would often say, ‘You can’t lead from behind’,”  said retired A.M.E. Bishop Vinton R. Anderson.

 1960s –Preaching, Building, Marching

Bishop Brookins became pastor of the historicFirstA.M.E.ChurchinLos Angelesa year earlier and the membership eventually grew to 3500 under his leadership. Devoting much energy to his flock and ministerial duties, he also established  free summer camp for more than 2,000 youth.

With civil rights protests at its height, Bishop Brookins joined the fight for justice and is credited for organizing Dr. Martin Luther King’s visit toLos Angelesearly in the decade.  He also marched with Dr. King in the southernU.S.and mentored a young Rev. Jesse Jackson.

“Bishop Brookins was one of those pivotal forces for social justice and empowerment inL.A.history. He was my mentor. I appreciate him very much and miss him very much already,” said the Rev. Jackson.

Most significant during the 60s was Brookins’ construction of ‘a million-dollar, mega church.’  Initially aiming to rebuild on the church’s location at 8th and Towne Streets, Bishop Brookins encountered financial and congregational resistance to his plan.

Undaunted, Brookins declared to members, “I don’t know now how we’re gonna do it, but I’m telling you, we’re gonna do it.”

Once he secured new land, he recruited Black architect Paul R. Williams to assist.  They hired a contractor and the edifice was completed in three years.  In 1968, Bishop Brookins paraded the congregation, with actor Tony Curtis as grand marshal, from the old church to the new edifice where FAME stands today.

 1970s – Elevated in Ministry and Politics

At the 1972 General Conference of theA.M.E.Church, Brookins was elected and consecrated as the 91st Bishop of the denomination. His new assignment encompassed five central African countries, includingRhodesia, now known asZimbabwe.

DuringZimbabwe's struggle for independence, Bishop Brookins united with the Black Freedom Fighters in opposing the white minority regime. Speaking engagements took him around the country preaching ‘freedom.’ After one such gathering attracted 15,000, the government decided to escort him out of the country.

“I didn’t sleep at all that night; I kept on all my clothes.  At 6 o’clock the next morning, I was ready,” recalled the bishop.

“In a time when leadership was required to face the extenuating circumstances facing people of color, H. H. Brookins championed the rights of those who were the victims of a system of discrimination, racial profiling and segregation before it was popular to do so, when one would be viewed as a rabble rouser,” noted the Rev. Dr. William S. Epps, pastor of Second Baptist Church in Los Angeles.

In 1981, he was invited back to attend the installation/inauguration of the new President Robert Mugabe of the independent nation ofZimbabwe.

Another highlight of this era was Bishop Brookins’ critical leadership in electing Tom Bradley as mayor ofLos Angeles.

“Tom Bradley probably would have not been mayor were it not for H.H. Brookins,” remarked Bishop Kirkland, who credited Bishop Brookins with bringing him toL.A.

“He used to laugh and tell me he brought me fromGreenwoodtoHollywood.  In 1977, Bishop Brookins appointed me as the first pastor of the church he founded, Brookins Community A.M.E. inSouth Los Angeles.”

That same year, Bishop Brookins selected the Rev. Dr. Cecil ‘Chip’Murrayto pastorFirstA.M.E.Church, an incredible individual who made a lasting mark on the church and community.

1980s and 90s – Growing Legacy of Service

The next 20 years in the life of Brookins were highlighted by significant efforts to further aid the less fortunate.  He developed pubic-private partnerships to transform several church-owned, debt-ridden properties into affordable housing units inLos Angeles.

In the 1990s, he was assigned to church’s Second Episcopal District where he appointed the Rev. Vashti McKenzie toPayneMemorialA.M.E.Church, a courageous move considering that few woman headed major churches in any denomination.

“This bishop took a chance on a young woman preacher," she said at the time.  It was a visionary move as well because she went on to become the first women elected to the episcopacy in 2000.

Bishop Brookins was a prominent player in major events in the 90s such as delivering ‘The Prayer of Atonement’ during the Million Man March in 1995.  

In addition, he was instrumental in establishing a formal economic development program in the A.M.C. Church to provide reduced-rate loans to Black entrepreneurs and churches, student scholarships and emergency funds to those in need.

By now, the actions and influence of Bishop Brookins had reached an international level as evidenced in 1996 when Ebony Magazine named him the 15th most powerful Black Man inAmerica.

 2000 – Winding Down

In his later years, Bishop Brookins slowed down physically, but never mentally.  Despite limited mobility, he regularly attended worship services, preached to congregations on a frequent basis, and lent his name and advice to those seeking higher public office.

Thousands of people gathered in the Beverly Hilton in 2002 to salute Bishop Brookins accomplishments. Among the celebrants was former President Bill Clinton who befriended the Bishop while serving as governor ofArkansas.

A few years later, Councilman Bernard Parks joined with the City  ofLos Angelesto designate the intersection in front of Brookins Community A.M.E. asBishop Hamel Hartford Square.  The Bishop was hand to cut the ribbon and enjoy accolades from U.S. Congresswoman Maxine Waters, LA Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, and more.

Upon learning of his passing, Congresswoman Waters said, “Bishop Brookins was a dear friend, who provided extraordinary leadership in the church, Los Angeles community and the United States We will never forget him … his legacy will continue to influence many potential leaders of our society.”  

(Yussuf Simmonds, Sentinel Managing Editor, contributed to this story).

Parent Category: ROOT
Category: News

May 31, 2012

By JENNIFER KAY |

Associated Press

MIAMI (AP) — A homeless man whose face was mostly chewed off in a bizarre, vicious attack faces a bigger threat from infection than from the injuries themselves, according to experts on facial reconstruction. He will require months of treatment to rebuild his features and be permanently disfigured.

Though gruesome, such severe facial injuries are generally not life threatening. The most serious risk to Ronald Poppo as he remained hospitalized Wednesday were germs that may have been introduced by the bites of the naked man who attacked him. One of the 65-year-old's eyes was also gouged out.

“The human mouth is basically filthy,” said Dr. Seth Thaller, the chief of plastic and reconstructive surgery at the University of Miami’s Miller School of Medicine.

It’s not clear why Poppo was attacked Saturday afternoon by 31-year-old Rudy Eugene alongside a busy highway. Police have released few details about the attack, but surveillance video from a nearby building shows Eugene pulling Poppo from the shade, stripping and pummeling him before appearing to hunch over and then lie on top of him.

A witness described Eugene ripping at Poppo’s face with his mouth and growling at a Miami police officer who ordered him to get off the homeless man. The officer shot and killed Eugene.

Eugene’s younger brother said that he was a sweet person who didn’t drink much or use hard drugs.

“I wish they didn’t kill him so he could tell us exactly what happened. This is very uncharacteristic of him,” said the brother, who asked for anonymity to protect his family from harassment.

Police union officials representing the officer said the scene on the MacArthur Causeway was one of the goriest they had ever seen.

“He had his face eaten down to his goatee. The forehead was just bone. No nose, no mouth,” said Sgt. Armando Aguilar, president of the Miami Fraternal Order of Police.

Poppo has been in critical condition in recent days, but police didn’t give an update on his condition Wednesday.

Thaller, who is not treating Poppo, and other plastic surgeons said the rebuilding of Poppo's face would happen in stages after doctors try to keep his wounds clean, salvage viable tissue and determine a plan for skin grafts. Protecting his remaining eye and maintaining an airway are priorities.

To keep the wounds clean, doctors use grafts of the patient’s skin, cadaver skin or synthetic skin to cover the exposed bone or cartilage, said Dr. Blane Shatkin, a plastic surgeon and director of the wound healing center at Memorial Hospital Pembroke in South Florida. The coverage would act like a dressing, protecting the wound as it heals.

Poppo’s lifestyle and health before the attack could determine how doctors proceed and whether they eventually consider a facial transplant, plastic surgeons said. Poppo had been homeless for more than 30 years, previously survived a gunshot wound and faced multiple charges of public intoxication, among other arrests.

“You would not just take this guy to the OR for a face transplant — you really have to go in a staged fashion. You save what you can and use what you have available first, don't burn any bridges and move forward slowly,” Shatkin said. “And you have to see what he wants.”

Psychological care is important to the recovery, and patients need to participate in the decision-making process, said Dr. Bohdan Pomahac, a surgeon at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston. He performed a facial transplant on a Connecticut woman who was mauled by a friend's pet chimpanzee in 2009.

“I think the patient has to be able to cope with the injury and the trauma and needs to figure out what has happened. It often takes them weeks to understand what has happened,” Pomahac said.

The will to live is as important for Poppo’s survival as medical technology, said Ara Chekmayan, spokesman for Pomahac's patient, Charla Nash. Nash lost her nose, lips eyelids and hands.

The chairman of the Miami-Dade County Homeless Trust, Ron Book, said the last time Poppo sought help from the agency finding someplace to sleep was in 2004. However, on Thursday the Jungle Island zoo on the MacArthur Causeway called for an outreach team to deal with Poppo, who had been living on the roof of the attraction’s parking garage.

Poppo was belligerent and aggressive, but he was not arrested, Book said.

The nearly 18-minute attack Saturday in the shadow of The Miami Herald headquarters was captured by the building’s security cameras.

The newspaper posted the uncensored video online late Tuesday.

In the Herald video (http://hrld.us/N9GlGB), a naked Eugene walks west on the sidewalk alongside an off-ramp of the causeway. A bicyclist speeds past Eugene just as he turns to something in the shade, in an area obscured by the tops of palm trees.

After a couple minutes, Eugene rolls Poppo’s body into the sun and begins stripping off his pants and pummeling him. Later, the footage shows Eugene pull Poppo farther up the sidewalk. Though the view is partially obstructed by the mass transit rail above,Eugeneappears to hunch over and lie on top of Poppo.

The footage shows a bicyclist slowly pedaling past the men about halfway through the attack, followed by a car slowly driving on the shoulder of the ramp. Cars regularly pass by the scene from the beginning of the attack, but their view was likely obstructed by a waist-high concrete barrier.

Two more bicyclists cross the scene before a police car drives the wrong way up the ramp nearly 18 minutes into the attack.

An officer gets out of the car and appears to do a double-take at the scene before pulling out his gun. He fatally shot Eugene, apparently within a minute of arriving, but the shooting is obscured from view by the tracks.

Miami police have not released 911 calls. The Miami-Dade County medical examiner declined to discuss Eugene’s autopsy. It could be weeks before the results of toxicology tests are available.

Eugene left his girlfriend in Fort Lauderdale around 5 a.m. Saturday, then stopped at a friend’s in North Miami. He said he was on his way to Urban Beach Week, a series of outdoor concerts and parties on Miami Beach, according to his brother. No one knows what led to him walking naked on the causeway.

“Where’s the car, where are his clothes? We don’t know where his stuff is,” the brother said. “How did he get there naked in the middle of the daytime and nobody saw him?”

Eugene had a job detailing cars at a dealership and had been arrested a handful of times on marijuana-related charges, his brother said.

“I don’t understand any of this,” the brother said. “I know my brother, and anybody else who knows him knows he was a genuinely sweet person.”

 

Parent Category: ROOT
Category: News

May 24, 2012

Egyptians on Wednesday and Thursday vote to elect their first president since the fall of Hosni Mubarak on Feb. 11, 2011, after 29 years of his authoritarian rule. A second round is likely to be held between the two top vote-getters on June 16-17. Here is a look at what's at stake in the election.

WILL EGYPT GO ISLAMIST?

A victory by the fundamentalist Muslim Brotherhood's candidate Mohammed Morsi will likely mean a greater emphasis on religion in government. The group, which already dominates parliament, says it won’t mimic Saudi Arabia and force women to wear veils or implement harsh punishments like amputations. But it says it does want to implement a more moderate version of Islamic law, which liberals fear will mean limitations on many rights. Two secular front-runners in the race say they will prevent Islamization, but that will likely mean frictions with parliament if they win.

WILL EGYPT BECOME A DEMOCRACY?

The two secular front-runners, former prime minister Ahmed Shafiq and former foreign minister Amr Moussa, both are veterans of Mubarak’s regime and their opponents fear they will do little to change Mubarak’s autocratic system. The security forces and intelligence agencies that long prevented real change in Egypt remain in place, and there has been little move to end entrenched corruption and the intertwining of business interests and politics. The military, which took power after Mubarak’s fall, is due to hand over authority to the vote’s winner. But it is not clear how much power the generals will yield. Whoever wins, Egypt likely faces struggles between the different power centers.

WILL EGYPT’S ATTITUDE TOWARD THE U.S. AND ISRAEL CHANGE?

Many of the candidates in the race have called for amendments in Egypt’s 1979 peace treaty with Israel, which remains deeply unpopular. None is likely to dump it, but a victory by any of the Islamist or leftist candidates in the race could mean strained ties with Israel and a stronger stance in support of the Palestinians in the peace process. Shafiq and Moussa — and ironically the Brotherhood — are most likely to maintain the alliance with Washington.

Parent Category: ROOT
Category: News

May 31, 2012

By MIKE SCHNEIDER | Associated Press

ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — New documents released in the case of a Florida A&M drum major who died after being beaten by fellow band members show that being ritually hazed was what it took to be accepted inimages/stories/05-31-2012/nu-famuhazing-scrollzz.jpgto the inner circle of the Marching 100's percussionist section.

The affidavits for arrest warrants released Wednesday by the State Attorney’s Office in Orlando say that it was common knowledge band members were required to go through hazing in order to earn the respect of other percussionists.

Eleven band members have been charged with felony hazing for Robert Champion’s death in November. Two others face misdemeanor charges.

Champion had opposed hazing. But he was also vying to be the band's top leader, and friends say he volunteered to be hazed in order to win respect from others.

Parent Category: ROOT
Category: News

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May 24, 2012

HESPERIA, Calif. (AP) — A 13-year-old Southern California girl and two friends are under arrest for investigation of the attempted murder of the girl's mother.

A police spokeswoman in the high desert city of Hesperia says officers were called by the victim after her daughter and two 14-year-old friends attacked her Tuesday morning.

The Victorville Daily Press reports the three were arrested on suspicion of attempted murder, conspiracy to commit murder and burglary.

Spokeswoman Susan Rose tells The Associated Press that the teen complained her mother was too strict with curfew and too critical of her friends.

Rose says there were three attempts on the woman's life, but she did not seek medical attention.

The victim initially reported her daughter kidnapped, but investigators determined it was part of a conspiracy among the teens.

Parent Category: ROOT
Category: News

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