Gun Control Legislation Has Me Asking Georgia Senators, “What’d I Miss”?

nolawnobreakEvery 9 out of 10 Americans believe that anyone on a government terror Watch List should not be permitted to buy an AR-15 assault weapon. It is time for Georgia Senators Isakson and Perdue to listen to the people. It is time for them to listen to Republicans and Democrats who want background checks and want to keep guns out of the hands of suspected terrorists.  Many polls show gun owners agree with increased national gun control measures.Who are Senator Isakson and Senator Perdue representing? And why?

If Senator Lindsay Graham gets it and has stepped forward to support Senator Susan Collins’ legislation it is time for Georgia’s Senators to wake up to the reality they are not operating consistent with the beliefs of most of their constituents. As Daveed Diggs’s Lafayette sings in the hit Broadway play, Hamilton, “What’d I miss”. Well, it seems Senator Isakson and Perdue “have  missed” that Georgians and Americans  believe their safety requires federal law with tighter gun control and expanded background checks.

It is time to suspend partisan politics, Senators.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/powerpost/wp/2016/06/22/democrats-stage-protest-on-house-floor-to-force-gun-control-votes

#NoBillNoBreak

The Status Quo Has Got to Go!

globalpost

Chicago protesters stopped by police at Black Friday rally after Thanksgiving Global Post photo

The year 2015 is behind us and a new one has just started and I am baffled by the continuing contradictions evident in what we believe, how we live and how we treat one another in the name of religion, security and cultural values. As a mother whose child has died, my heart aches for others whose loved ones have been buried too young. The stories of those who die violently from war, from abuse and hatred linger as troubling reminders of a world detached from the reasonable standards of fairness and justice.

In Cleveland a grand jury decided not to charge police officers in the shooting death of 12-year old Tamir Rice. In Chicago, police officer Jason Van Dyke pleads not guilty in the death of Laquan McDonald, a 17-year old who was killed last October. And the recent death of 19-year old Northern Illinois college student Quintonio LeGrier and Bettie Jones, 55, a mother of five who were both killed the day after Christmas by a Chicago officer responding to a domestic disturbance call. Officials have admitted that Jones was killed accidentally, but she was a mother who is already missed by her children. The family of both victims has filed lawsuits in Chicago.

At 70 years old, my life is more over than not. Yet I live another day baffled by the mystery of my long life in the face of the death of the young. Someone wrote to me during this difficult time that, “I know you like me, would give your life for your child.” What parent wouldn’t?  Imagine your loved is a 12 year-old boy in the park like Tamir, or on a street at night in the lights of a police car like Laquan or on the other side of an apartment door like Quintonio.  Public debate about these cases dominate the local and national news and casual discussions among friends and neighbors. Lots of people are baffled about how these horrific instances continue.

In the absence of Congressional legislative action, today President Obama has exercised his executive powers to tighten access to guns and to address the nation’s deficiency in mental health care access and funding. This is a positive development. In Georgia we have witnessed decades of denial and underfunding for mental health care.  The Department of Justice (DOJ) forced the state and the Governor to invest in mental health reform and care a couple of years ago. Georgia had spent decades underfunding and ignoring the needs hundreds of mentally fragile residents. It is yet to be seen whether the state’s DOJ approved plan has reached the majority of those in need of mental health services.

Solutions are possible. They always are in a country as resourceful and wealthy as America. Mayors, governors and other elected officials must own the actions of police and government to better understand the challenges the officers face, the demands of the public for safety and the rights of everyday folks including those they distrust or fear.

Elected officials must adopt a fearless position to honor their commitment to transparency even in when its unpopular to be honest about what might have happened. The cover up of information is never acceptable. Citizen Review Boards can exercise their full authority to investigate…….States, cities and counties can adopt the DOJ standard ………..And all of us must question the use of force, especially deadly force in every case.

Or let’s try other ideas… But the status quo has got to go!!!!!

Moral Contradictions Can Be Dangerous

trumpAs we celebrate this holiday season marred by a spirit of hate hanging above us like wilted mistletoe, it is worth examining Mr. Trump’s rise to radical ridiculousness.

If we allow the moral line of what is right to be moved at will, then the outcome should not surprise us but instead frighten us.

The debate on gun control in this country is not an argument for the Constitution—the Second Amendment is not an excuse to buy military-style assault weapons. However, couched under the anger and debate about guns are some contradictions that cannot be ignored.

Some obvious contradictions.

If you have legislation that allows law enforcement to determine their level of threat and fear without intermediate options then there will be countless and arguable cases of citizens being subjectively shot and killed.

If there are laws that allow private citizens to gauge their fear, based on personal stereotypical interpretations like hoodies and Skittles, then neighborhood watch programs become appealing to vigilantes.

If a US presidential candidate can, criticize his female opponent’s physical attributes, make light of Americans with disabilities, be a finalist for Time magazine’s Person of the Year, and call for the ban of any group of people, not just Muslims, but especially a group that represents 1.6 billion of the world’s population then we should be afraid of him and the crowds who eagerly support and endorse him.

Republicans today may not publicly agree with Donald Trump’s ban on Muslims from entering the US, but they seem to care more about keeping gun laws unchecked, rather than terrorists from entering the country since they are unwilling to support “no fly, no buy” gun laws.

It is no surprise that Trump continues to move the line on who is excluded from his brand of fear-based patriotism. Trump’s latest attack on Muslims reignites the words of Protestant pastor Martin Niemöller who opposed the Nazi regime and whose words are now famous……..

First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—

Because I was not a Socialist.

Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—

Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—

Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

Moral contradictions can be dangerous.

 

New York Times op-ed columnist, Thomas L. Friedman shares his views on the subject.

http://www.nytimes.com/2015/12/09/opinion/you-aint-no-american-bro.html?mwrsm=Email

 

A national protest for change … but what does change look like?

A start is revamping our grand jury system!

For the second time in a month, a prosecutor has announced a grand jury indictment would not be forthcoming in the death of a U.S. citizen at the hands of image001local law enforcement officers. Regardless of the circumstances of the deaths of African American males Eric Garner in New York, Tamir Rice in Ohio, and most notably Michael Brown in Missouri, they were all killed at the hands of their local police. A much needed and overdue national debate is currently underway regarding race, the militarization of our local police departments, community policing and the very definition of “equal justice under the law.” National protests have ranged from Congressional staffers walking off the job with their “hands up” to sadly, violent protests in Ferguson, Berkley, California and Atlanta, Georgia.

President Obama has called for body cameras to be issued to every police officer in America. This is a starting point. But, does it get to the root cause of the current protest – distrust in our judicial system? Attorney General Eric Holder, recently in Atlanta, is grabbing the bull by the horns in his final months in office. The AG is to be commended for calling to an end to racial profiling by police – especially where young African American males are immediately assessed a “threat” by law enforcement. Body cameras, an end to racial profiling, a return to community policing and moving from the post 9-11 bunker mentality by police departments are parts to a whole that need to be addressed. Even here in Georgia, the GBI has indicated they will release police shooting investigative materials as quickly as possible. But, still the answer of how we obtain equal justice for all citizens is not being addressed.

In 1992, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Anthony Scalia noted in United States vs. Williams, “… neither in this country nor in England has the suspect under investigation by the grand jury ever been thought to have a right to testify or to have exculpatory evidence presented.”[1] This means policemen have been traditionally granted a right to defend their actions before a grand jury that you and I, as regular citizens do not have! This is an inherent troubling issue – police officers are allowed to testify in their defense before a grand jury. The officer, like all of us, might naturally portray their actions in the best possible light. Police may cast dispersions on the perceived guilty party in an effort to justify the use of deadly force. To do otherwise could mean possible indictment.

A starting point for public debate to redefine equal justice under the law might include:

1.) Governors empanelling a board of judges, lawyers, law enforcement, district attorneys and lay people to recommend ways to “fix” our grand jury system.

2.) In the interim, when a citizen dies at the hands of a police officer, prosecutors should consider recusing themselves and bringing in an outside special prosecutor, with no ties to local law enforcement or the court system – we already do this with judges. In New York, State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman has requested Governor Andrew Cuomo to allow the AG’s office play the role of “Special Prosecutor” until their state legislature revamps their grand jury system.

3.) Stop calling officers before the grand jury immediately. Their statements should be videotaped (until body cameras are fully implemented), and submit their recorded statements to the grand jury prior to their testimony.

4.) Congress should give immediate and strong consideration for grand jury reform at the national level. Congressman Hank Johnson (D-GA) has received criticism for his legislation but he has publicly acknowledged the system needs to be reformed.

5.) We need to rethink police polices of “shoot to kill” and the use of deadly force.

It is time to revamp our justice system to reflect that no citizen no citizen is above the law. The taking of a citizen’s life without due process should be held to the highest level of legal scrutiny no matter the perpetrator.

A Meditation on Ferguson, on America

AJackThis speech was given by today’s contributor Anthony (Tony) Jack a PhD. Candidate and an Associate Doctoral Fellow at Harvard University at a Memorial/Die-In protest in Harvard Yard this month.  For more information on Anthony Jack visit scholar.harvard.edu/anthonyjack

I was asked to speak as a sociologist today, to provide context to the situation that brought us all here today. I’m letting you know that I will fail at this task. I know the stats but I also live the reality. Black men are incarcerated at six times the rate of white men even when controlling for offense, Bruce Western and Michelle Alexander tell us that. But statistics didn’t kill Mike Brown. More black men are stopped under Stop and Frisk in New York than there are black men in some communities, but facts and figures did not kill Eric Garner. Broken windows is a broken strategy, Robert Sampson tells us that. But debunked policies did not kill Trayvon Martin. Police target black and brown bodies like we are in season, like animals for slaughter. There is something fundamentally wrong when mothers must stand over sons and fathers over daughters and utter words that Emmett Till’s mother should never have had to say in the first place: “I have not a minute to hate, I’ll pursue justice for the rest of my life.” I fear that I am not that strong. It hurts watching the news in the morning to see character assassination of an innocent teenager gunned down by trigger happy cops, for if smoking weed makes you a bad person, we need the National Guard at Harvard on 4/20. It hurts to hear protesters be called rioters, thugs, hooligans, and other derogatory terms when somewhere I read about the freedom of assembly and the freedom of speech. As Dr. King notes, “the greatness of America is the right to protest for rights.” That is what democracy means to me. Yet it hurts to walk around Harvard’s campus and people look at me and fear what I will do to them physically when they really should worry about what I can do to their inflated GPAs.

Black Lives Matter. For some this is a radical concept, but then again, black love always was. To be honest, I am not surprised. This is the land of liberty that reluctantly settled on the 3/5 Compromise. This is the land of justice that needed the 13th Amendment. This is the land of equality that legislated and subsidized white suburbs and dark ghettos, as Malcolm X said, preaching integration yet practicing segregation. I see Black Lives Matter as something much simpler, much more innocent, and shockingly beautiful: a reminder. A reminder that if indeed all lives matter, when 43 Mexican students go missing we should care; when Black, Latina, and Asian women are victims we should all care; when queer-identified people are targeted we should all care; when black and brown bodies are beaten and bruised by those sworn to protect us, we should all care.

What kind of world do we live in when Southern trees still bear strange fruits? The only difference is that now, instead of removing the figurative fruit from branches, we pick them up off the ground after they have been left to fester in the sun for hours. What a world indeed. Faulkner’s words haunt us for the past is surely not yet dead, it is not even past. When I heard Darren Wilson’s testimony I thought I was rereading testimonies from the Rosewood Massacre of 1923. “He was big! He was black!” Bang, bang has now replaced “Let him hang.” There is an anachronistic feel to the whole thing. And that is because we are living with the repercussions of America never really being forced to learn from its past mistakes. Then the question becomes, how do we force America to catch up with the times? Again, as Dr. King reminded us on his last night, “we don’t need any bricks and bottles or any Molotov cocktails.” We must collectively flex the social and political capital that is invested in each one of us. Our president is too slow to act, our Congress and the Senate are too reluctant to act, and our governors fear acting on such issues. But mayors, those urban mechanics and rural draftsman, are invested in local communities in ways that other elected officials are not. Manny Diaz taught me that. They appoint Chiefs of Police and set local policies. We must reach out to mayors to ask them to invest in accountability measures for police officers, to reject military equipment, to create diversity measures so that police and firefighters look like the communities they serve, and to create community programming that removes the boundaries between the blue, the brown, and the black.

I just want to close by sharing that when my godmother was dying, she told us that we better not wear dark colors to her funeral. She said we must wear light colors to celebrate her life. That stuck with. I am wearing white, not to stand apart but to remind us that we are not mourning the death of too many black and brown bodies, we are mourning and protesting the situation that ended their lives. I wear white to celebrate the time they spent with us, although it was cut far too short. So, do me a favor, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the spirit of justice and peace, never forgetting to:

Hold fast to dreams
For if dreams die
Life is a broken-winged bird
That cannot fly.
Hold fast to dreams
For when dreams go
Life is a barren field
Frozen with snow.

Langton Hughes, Dreams

 

Another School Shooting—We Have to Do Something!

AOL photo

AOL photo

There was another school shooting yesterday at Reynolds High School in an Oregon suburb, in which a teenager killed a 15-year old, wounded a teacher and presumably killed himself.

Everytown for Gun Safety is a group of mayors, moms, law enforcement personnel, teachers, survivors, gun owners, and everyday Americans advocate for policies that will limit gun violence everywhere. They have reported that there have been 74 instances of shots being fired on school grounds or in school buildings since the 2012 school shooting in Newtown, Conn. There have been at least 37 shootings on school grounds this year alone.

Everytown has a list of states with shooting incidents reported and Georgia heads the list with 10 shootings. Florida had seven, Tennessee was third with five, and North Carolina and California each had four. Atlanta was the only city that had three such shootings. Some 31 states are on the list and there were 35 on a college or university campus and 39 in K-12 schools.

Here in Georgia, we are aware of the sweeping “Guns Everywhere Law” which extended where licensed gun owners could carry their weapons and extends the “Stand your ground” law. Georgia Governor Nathan Deal after signing the legislation said, “This law gives added protections to those who have played by the rules – and who can protect themselves and others from those who don’t play by the rules.”

Richard Martinez, whose only son, Christopher Michaels-Martinez was among six college students killed in the Santa Barbara shootings last month said, “They talk about gun rights. What about Chris’ right to live?” When offered condolences by politicians and others he says, “I tell them, ‘Look, I don’t need your sympathy. What I need is for you to do something.'”

Mr. Martinez’s message rings true, we have to do something. We have to continue to fight for common-sense laws that protect us all especially our children and find a sensible balance between the right to bear arms and public safety.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=da974B1gSUw

 

 

Young People Embrace Activism for the Common Good

Young Activists

Young Activists

Youth power ignited the Civil Rights Movement, the student nonviolent movement, the peace movement and some of today’s activists are teenagers who are continuing in the tradition of challenging the status quo. While we witness far too many cases of young people in trouble, it is refreshing and encouraging to see the exemplary examples of young people who are working for the common good.

Sarah Kavanagh
Sarah is a 17-year old Mississippi student who launched petitions online to get Coca-Cola and PepsiCo to remove a controversial ingredient from all their beverages, including Mountain Dew, Fanta and Powerade. The ingredient is brominated vegetable oil, which she noted had been patented as a flame retardant and wasn’t approved for use in Japan and the European Union.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     Last year PepsiCo said it would stop using the oil in its Gatorade products. Kavanagh’s Gatorade petition had more than 200,000 online signatures, while her Powerade one had more than 59,000. Coca-Cola is also dropping the ingredient from its Powerade sports drink.
https://www.change.org/petitions/gatorade-don-t-put-flame-retardant-chemicals-in-sports-drinks

Project Impact Theatre Company
An all girls theatre troupe worked with Project Impact, a program for young girl survivors of sexual trafficking in an effort to educate audiences about human trafficking. They developed the original play A Day in the Life, which exposes the devastating effects of the commercial sex industry on the lives of girls. They wanted to use the arts to help young girls heal and to advocate for legislative changes in some communities and education in others.
http://theartseffectnyc.com/page/gep/projectimpact

Alex Lin
Alex Lin at 16-years old has helped to recycle 300,000 pounds of e-waste. He successfully lobbied the Rhode Island state legislature to ban the dumping of electronics and he has used the refurbished computers for media centers in countries like Cameroon and Sri Lanka to foster computer literacy.
Lin and his team found ways to refurbish and use the computers rather than just recycling them. More than 300 refurbished computers were donated to low-income students without home computer access. As a result of Lin’s lobbying it is now illegal to dump electronics in Rhode Island.
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/04/05/alex-lin-16yearold-activi_n_525213.html

RaSia Khepra
RaSia and other Chicago teenagers created the anti-violence awareness campaign Project Orange Tree, a public awareness campaign that addresses the real cause of gun violence through conversations with teenagers and other community leaders. The need to address gun violence in Chicago was heightened because of the rise of murders during the summer of 2012. It was widely reported that more Chicago residents — 228 — had been killed than the number of U.S. troops killed in Afghanistan – 144 — over the same period.
The group selected the name, Project Orange Tree because hunters wear the color to warn other hunters not to shoot and the tree represents both life and shelter.
http://projectorangetree.org

 

Maybe this headline says it all, “Georgia Unveils New Slogan-We Make Florida Look Safe”

EsquireMagGeorgia is in the national headlines again as a result of Governor Deal’s signature on a bill yesterday that allows Georgians with permits to pack their guns into schools, bars, churches, sections of airports and even government buildings.

The new “guns everywhere” law is more of the same from a state administration that is refusing to expand Medicaid, wants to drug test welfare recipients, suppress voter turnout, and cut mental health services. However, there is no question those who value their guns are a key constituent of the Governor during this election year.

For those of us in Georgia who are amazed and horrified by the law, we can only wonder what the long-term impact of this kind of careless legislation will have on our communities. The national media headlines reflect the frustration and outrage that many of us also feel. SMH

http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/borowitzreport/2014/04/georgia-unveils-new-slogan-we-make-florida-look-safe.html

http://www.pbs.org/newshour/updates/expansive-gun-law-test-democrats

http://www.cnn.com/2014/04/23/us/georgia-governor-signs-gun-bill

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/04/23/georgia-gun-bill_n_5199630.html

http://www.latimes.com/nation/nationnow/la-na-nn-georgia-gun-law-20140423,0,4166766.story#axzz2zpZmL68m

http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/govbeat/wp/2014/04/23/what-georgias-expansive-new-pro-gun-law-does

http://www.ajc.com/news/news/state-regional/why-georgias-new-gun-law-is-dividing-law-enforceme/nfgxf

http://www.nbcnews.com/news/investigations/what-georgias-extreme-new-gun-law-allows-n87491

http://www.msnbc.com/morning-joe/guns-everywhere-bill-signed-law-georgia-nathan-deal

http://time.com/73465/georgia-guns-bill-nathan-deal

 

 

 

When is Murder—Murder?

JDavisMichael Dunn fired nine bullets into an SUV in which Jordan Davis, a Marietta teenager, was a passenger. Dunn fired his handgun through the vehicle and struck Davis in the back and groin after an argument over loud music on the parking lot of a convenience store.

When is murder, simply murder? I am not sure anymore. And apparently neither are other people. What defines murder? Now we are vigorously debating if it is murder if someone dies after you shoot into a car. It is clear that for some people this is perfectly reasonable. Gratuitous qualifiers include, it depends on how loud the music is playing in the car that you shot into. Or maybe it depends on who is in the car. As expected, lawyers, law students and jurists will debate the fine points of the law in this case but for an ordinary person like me—the choices seem much more simpler. When you can walk away, when you can ignore the loud music, when you can retreat into a nearby building, when you can call the police, and when you can drive away, there is no earthly reason to shoot into a car no matter who is in the vehicle. But if you do then you should be held fully accountable to the damage you do and the murder you commit.

An Excerpt from the Atlantic written by Ta-Nehisi Coates
On the unfinished life of Jordan Davis

“But some are given more days than others, and I think of dying at 17, in my loudness, in my vanity, which is to say in my human youth, and I tremble. I was barely anything. I understood barely anything. When Michael Dunn killed Jordan Davis, he obliterated a time-stream, devastated an open range of changes. And somewhere on that American jury, someone thought this was justice, someone believed in the voodoo of shotguns and teleportation. Michael Dunn killed a boy, and too robbed a man of his chance to be.

And this will happen again, must happen again, because our policy is color-blind, but our heritage isn’t. An American courtroom claiming it can be colorblind denies its rightful inheritance. An American courtroom claiming it can be colorblind is a drug addict claiming he can walk away after just one more hit. Law and legacy are at war. Legacy is winning. Legacy will always win. And our legacy is to die in this land where time is unequal, and deeded days are unequal, and blessed is the black man who lives to learn other ways, who lives to see other worlds, who lives to bear witness before the changes.”

JFK Anniversary: A Time for Reflection and Action

50 years ago the assassination of President Kennedy stunned the world and hurled the nation into mourning. Families grieved together with parents trying to JFKexplain how and why such a horrific act could happen. Footage and remembrances of the day and the following days are flooding the media during this 50th anniversary. Watching the video from that day is stunning viewers again. What appears to start as a beautiful day in Dallas is shattered by the insanity of violence, a single bullet, splattered blood and the death of a President and wounded Texas Governor Conley. While millions of grief stricken Americans were devastated our grief only scratched the surface of the grief of the Kennedy family, the loss of a father, son, brother, uncle and husband. We had all come to know the Kennedy family during his presidential campaign through television.

On November 22,1963 in Dealey Plaza within seconds the world as we knew it was destroyed by a mad and crazed gunman. We didn’t know what it would take to restore our optimism. Kennedy’s televised campaign and dozens of televised presidential news conferences gave the public unique access to knowing the president and his family. With one act Americans young and old were brought face to face with the violence that has ravaged our national history from its beginning. As we mourn our loss of President Kennedy and remember the heartbreaking images of his family and closest associates let us use this time of reflection to find ways to rid our cities, families, schools, neighborhoods and lives of violence and threatening, hateful behavior in every form. This is what we can do for our country. It is long overdue. We can no longer accept race, gender, differences and hatred to be a reason or excuse for violence. Let us not relive the tragedy of President Kennedy’s loss and return to violence as usual tomorrow, next week or next month.

Several nonviolent links are provided—act today!

http://www.thekingcenter.org

http://www.bradycampaign.org

http://www.cchrpartnership.org/index.html