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Justice Has Finally Prevailed

 

Proano

Marco Proano, the Chicago Police officer who fired 16 shots into a car full of unarmed teens, was found guilty of two federal civil rights violations -using unreasonable force and causing bodily injury.  Though it is a small step of victory for supporters of criminal justice reform, it was not a clean victory nor was it without it’s shadows of impropriety.

A vehicle carrying 6 teens was pulled over at 95th and LaSalle by 2 other officers.  Dash cam footage shows Proano arriving minutes later to the scene.  Proano, upon exiting his vehicle, quickly withdrew his weapon (pointing it sideways into the teen’s stolen vehicle) and firing as the driver reverses away from him. The December 2013 shooting left two teens shot and another otherwise injured but no one was killed.

In the aftermath of the shooting, supporters of Proano claimed that it was a ‘split-second’ decision and that his actions were justified although I can’t imagine anyone watching the video believing that he felt there was an immediate danger. This incident didn’t fall through the cracks because the Independent Police Review Authority (IPRA) launched an investigation into the shooting.  Initially, they barely investigated because, ironically, IPRA is just another cog in the rusty wheel of the criminal justice system.

IPRA was created in 2007 when complaints about how investigations against police officers were being conducted became unavoidable. Comprised of independent investigators, it replaced the Office of Professional Standards (OPS) which, was basically a group of police “investigating” police.  IPRA was tasked to deliver unbiased and unfiltered investigations of complaints lodged against officers. It was not a secret, however, that OPS investigators simply moved over to IPRA.  So much for transparency and accountability.

Ex-FBI Special Agent Larissa Camancho testified in court that in 2015 IPRA was contemplating clearing Proano in the shooting.  After speaking with the investigator on the case, she went to the head of IPRA and told him she believed that the officer should be investigated.  Not surprising because it’s been found that because IPRA has a less than 2% sustainability of complaints against officers, it was not as independent as the public was led to believe and moving forward, in September 2017, they will be replaced by a more rigorously independent agency, the Civilian Office of Police Accountability (COPA).

When black people say the criminal justice system is broken and skewed heavily away from the rights of blacks, it is not an understatement.  We’ve seen proof of this when IPRA tried to clear officer Jason Van Dyke who, about a year after Proano’s crime, heinously shot and killed 17-year-old LaQuan McDonald.  It wasn’t until that video was released that Van Dyke was charged with murder.

Marco Proano faces up to 20 years in prison for his crime.  I will wait to see, with bated breath, how many years he’ll receive.  In the meantime we will celebrate because today there is one less volatile officer on the street slaughtering black people with impunity.  This conviction sends at the very least a whisper that the status quo is no longer going to fly.

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POEM: I AM SANDRA BLAND

I am Sandra Bland

It’s sadly unsurprising that another Black person has fallen once again while in police custody—having suffered unnecessary brutality during a traffic stop.  It screams the question: Since when did a routine traffic stop become a high risk assignment for Black women? It’s a question I now have to ponder every time I drive my vehicle.  As the tragic death of 28-year-old Sandra Bland is being investigated by state of Texas and played out in the media, I’ve realized that I am Sandra Bland.

I am Black and proud and speak too loudly

At the injustice I see all around me

My skin is darker than a berry, but not too sweetly

Am I acceptable to blind ignorance, you see

Because when the eyes of those who hate rest their gaze

Upon me, my humanness dissipates

into a misty haze and all that is left

Is rage, war, and violence-

against my body’s softness

Their need to destroy the femininity that is me

Because I…am Sandra Bland

My life is seen as an inconvenience to abusers of power

But I’m not popular to those blinded by the rays of my darkness

Shining a beacon upon my guilty countenance

Because justice precedes some but doesn’t proceed for me

Because, I… am Sandra Bland

Passing through this life is a struggle

Over my shoulder I shuffle

Looking into the night for the bright

Swirling lights that can remove me from this life

Driving, shopping, walking, and speaking I am guilty as charged

Black woman… at large

Red incites a bull to rage

But on this stage

Black puts us in a cage

Or a coffin

But I’m not balking because I’m free

And as long as I breathe

I will continue to be

Because Sandra Bland is me

Therefore boldly I’ll proclaim

to say her name

From every mountain top

And I will not stop

The thunderous roar

Until injustice is no more

In this land, we will continue to stand

Because I am… Sandra Bland

©2015 Kim R. Woods All Rights Reserved

“Just”- Use it Sparingly

Justify Until we Stop Thinking

I guess that’s why it’s called ‘controversy’-  not everyone agrees.  The controversy I’m referring to is Willow Smith’s nipple shirt.  This isn’t about the “Free the Nipple” movement. I don’t think it’s appropriate attire for a 14-year-old child. Others believe I’m going overboard because it’s just a shirt.   I feel, however, that It removes boundaries and sets them up to be victimized.  I disagree and the word “just” makes it sound innocent enough.  It “just” doesn’t work for kids as well as it does for adults. I’m not saying this leads to bad behavior or that Willow is a bad kid. Willow is a rich, sheltered child who can afford to be expressive.  That doesn’t hold true for the average American kid. We live in a society that complains about out-of-control kids and yet we’re afraid to set boundaries. In fact, we continue to remove them in the name of  “freedom of expression”.  “Just”… There’s just something about that word:

  • Just a joint, until you get hooked on crack or meth- between ages 16-25 I’ve had guys tell me “do just one line of coke for me”. Just one. Just…
  • Just sex, until you get pregnant
  • They’re “just” boys – until the behavior escalates
  • It’s “just” a conversation (or kiss, or hug) with that married person, until they have that affair
  • Just one more drink, until you wreck the car
  • Why not add: Just 4 killed/18 wounded over the weekend in Chicago. As opposed to 82 shot, 14 killed last July
  • He’s just a child and it’s just a dollar he took. Give him a break, mom/dad. It could be worse.

My son wanted “just” a tattoo, a cell phone, a pager, a TV/VCR in his room, and pierced ears when he was 13.  I told him when he turned 18 he could have as many tats as he wanted.  He’s 32 and doesn’t have any tattoos (though he did get his ears pierced :-)!  His priorities shifted as an adult and he didn’t think about tattoos anymore.  I have nothing against those things.  I didn’t feel that a black male teen in Chicago had a reason to have tattoos, pagers, and cell phones in the early 90s.  And, I was right.

Is it possible that “just” opens the door to something “more”?  Is it just a scratch that’ll heal, or one that will fester and require antibiotics?  Is it just a scratch in the paint that’ll buff out, or is it one that will cost five hundred dollars to remove?  Yes, I’m an “over thinker”.  I’m the person who studies heavy traffic ½ mile down the road to determine my next lane change or whether or not I should exit.  What seems “innocent” to some can actually be of potential harm to others.

I didn’t raise a girl but I’m 100% sure if I did she wouldn’t possess that particular shirt.  There are so many ways to raise a girl and teach her to love her body and to empower her sexuality.  At 14, this is not the way to encourage it because let’s face it, it invites the wrong kind of attention. In her mind she’s expressing liberation and freedom (I guess). But that is not what a pedophile will see when they see a child walking down the street wearing that shirt.  Grown women are being followed, harassed, and attacked for deflecting unwanted attention.  It’s not just a shirt–it’s a slippery slope.

So as far as “just” goes, there are reasonable ones and questionable ones.  I feel that Willow’s nipple shirt falls into the latter.  Just… In retrospect, maybe I should’ve tried just one line of coke to find out why everyone else was so fascinated. Just one.

I’m “just” saying, this is just my opinion…

There’s No Sunshine When She’s Gone

Phoebe Jonchuck
Sunshine Skyway sounds like a happy place. The name brings to my mind warm sunlight against cool skin while lying on my back and staring at clouds back-grounded by clear blue skies. If I close my eyes I can envision myself lying in the grass identifying unique and fun shapes in the clouds. But for five-year-old Phoebe Jonchuck, Sunshine Skyway Bridge was a place of horror—making her yet another child victim of a failed system.

Her little body was flung off the bridge located in St. Petersburg, Fl by the one person who should’ve been her protector, 25-year-old John Jonchuck. In the coming days of investigation more details will become known. But one can’t help but wonder why he wasn’t detained after his lawyer(child custody) called and expressed grave concern. According to the lawyer’s 911 recording, Jonchuck told her “Don’t file the paperwork(custody papers),” he told her. “It’s not going to matter anymore.” At that point she tells the 911 operator “He’s out of his mind, and he has a minor child with him driving to the church now,”

Lawyer’s 911 Call

Officers arrived at the church and determining that he posed no threat, let him go. Phoebe was dead several hours later. But the failure didn’t stop there. An officer (though off duty) did not pursue the vehicle as –according to the news clip below– “flew past him at a high rate of speed.” Then while stopped, the father preceded to “go around to the other side of the vehicle” and pull the child out.

Police News Conference

I’m sure the incident moved somewhat faster than it actually sounds here, but given all of the high-profile shootings that have encapsulated the media lately I can’t help but ask what the officer was thinking by his casual response. For all he knew, this guy (already displaying erratic behavior) could’ve been about to pull a weapon out of his back seat. Yet, he had time to exit his vehicle open a door, pick up a child, and throw her over the bridge.

As of January 12, 2015, the Department of Children and Families have made a change to their policy to respond within 4 hours by meeting with the parent who is experiencing an acute mental episode.
It is safe to say that Mr. Jonchuck’s lawyer made the a call that should not have been taken lightly. The fear and concern she had for the child was clear in her voice and at the very least, the mother should have been contacted. Maybe I’m just frustrated that another child has died a senseless and frightening death.

Phoebe Johnchuck’s funeral service is Wednesday (1/14/15) at Lake Magdalene Methodist Church in Tampa Florida. A little girl who loved school, her friends, and bright colors will no longer dream of sunshine, clear blue skies, and fluffy clouds.

No One Spoke for Scotty

 

Scotty McMillan Death: 3-Year-Old Dies After Being Tortured For Refusing To Eat Breakfast

A 3-year-old child should be learning his colors and ABC’s, riding a tricycle, and watching cartoons. He should be full of giggles, kisses, and laughter while playing with his brother and mother. He should be sleeping in a warm and safe bed tonight.

Instead, he was cruelly and unmercifully tortured and murdered by the very person who should’ve felt compelled to kill protecting him–his mother. Three-year-old Scotty McMillan died because he was failed by his community. He and his older brother, Ryan, were abused over a 2 week period during which Ryan was not in school. According to the Coatesville Area School District in Coatesville, PA, no one detected any signs that 6-year-old Ryan was being abused. I can’t imagine how he and consequently, his little brother, fell through the cracks.

What’s frustrating in this case is that a third person was also in the home during this horrific murder and because she didn’t feel compelled to help the child, she was also arrested. This woman watched as the child’s mother and her boyfriend kicked, punched, and scourged him. She listened to his little head being banged against the wall as he hung from his feet. She listened to bones breaking. And. She. Did. Nothing. This child (a baby, really) died screaming and crying for his life and NO one heard him– not even the neighbors.

How did we come to live in a society in which everything goes and nothing is questioned or challenged? When will we become bold and brave enough to say “what are you doing?” When do we put an end to co-signing behaviors that are simply wrong?

It’s too late for Scotty. His small broken body now joins those who have died senselessly before him. Oh, and his ‘crime’? Refusal to eat his breakfast.

Read the story HERE.