Tag Archive | Blog

The Survival of a Cop Killer

police-1537106_1280A cop has died.  On Monday night (Oct. 9), a 19-year-old Texas student was taken into custody. While being processed, he pulled out a gun and shot the officer in the head, fatally wounding him.  The young man, identified as Hollis Daniels, fled the station on foot.  After a lock-down of the station and pursuit of the suspect, Hollis was finally apprehended.  As horrifying and sad as the officer’s death has been, something else occurred that is tragically and glaringly obvious… Daniels is still alive.

That sounds like a harsh statement but truth of the matter is, it hurts my soul. Because this, without question, represents the cornerstone of everything Colin Kaepernick kneeled for and blacks won’t shut up about! Right here… again- an armed violent white person commits a heinous crime and walks away with a beating heart.

It’s becoming uncomfortable to try ignoring what no longer can be ignored: Black people are endangered in this country. The reason is simple… black skin equals clear and present danger. It’s akin to standing in the middle of a busy expressway. Black skin incites fear, violence, and death and appears to produce an instant discomfort that seems to put others on high alert.  I’ll pause here to state the obvious: of course, not all non-blacks/whites feel it, but deep down, most cannot pretend it’s not there. It needs to be discussed because people are dying for no reason. Encounters with police appear to be detrimental to black health. Yet, police encounters with whites appear to be harmful to their own well-being.

Eliza Wasni is a 16-year-old who managed to openly steal a knife and a machete from a Walmart store in Skokie, IL and use it to murder 34-year-old Uber driver, Grant Nelson. After waving the weapons at officers, Wasni was taken into custody after she was tasered by police. Laquan McDonald wasn’t so lucky.  The 17-year-old was shot sixteen times while wielding a knife and moving away from officers.  Last year a Brooklyn resident Robert Crumb, killed his wife, stabbed his daughter, and after crashing his car into a gas station, he then attacked the officer whose gun was drawn and pointing directly at Crumb’s chest. Crumb continued to advance, threw the officer to the ground, and was eventually pulled off by other cops.  Yet we watched in horror as police shot 12-year-old Tamir Rice within two seconds of officers stopping their vehicle.  Tamir had a toy gun. Can we say it again: Black Lives Matter.

Before I go into BLM vs Black-on-Black crime, let’s talk about the problem of white privilege and the dirty little secret of the police department that neither they nor the media wants to discuss. In 2016 there was a huge increase in police killed on the job- a whopping 59% increase.  Of those killed, 71% were by the hands of whites.  Yet, as Shaun King states, the media has been silent.  This is clearly an uptick from an earlier study that was posted in Newsweek in 2015 which states “In 2013, 44 percent of cop killers were white, 37 percent were black and 11 percent were Hispanic. Last year, 54 percent were white, 26 percent were black and 18 percent were Hispanic.”  What’s wrong with this picture?

The conclusion I draw is that police are not threatened by white skin and because of that, they are dying on the job. Because they move around in this world with a privilege not enjoyed by others, they automatically extend it to the white criminals they encounter on the job.  Even Dylan Roof was fed a meal on his way to jail after he shot up a black church and murdered 9 people.  That’s privilege, plain, simple, and painful.

Inevitably, whenever one says Black Lives Matter, people want to compare it to the blue unicorn called “Black-on-black” crime.  That is because they don’t understand what SYSTEMIC racism is and that it exists in EVERY FACET of Black and brown Lives. It’s NOT just about police-on-black crime!! It’s about the educational system, the grade school-to-prison pipeline, the Criminal Justice system, and a myriad of other issues plaguing the black/brown communities within that “System”. A system, mind you, that is a living, breathing, and ever-churning machine of corruption. Black-on-black crime is a separate issue, so crunching numbers to dismiss #BLM is an irrelevant comparison. Studies in 2016 show that roughly 84% of Whites are killed by Whites and about 90% of Blacks are killed by Blacks- which makes sense because crimes are usually committed by the group we’re in the closest proximity to.  It’s safe to say that this is a crime problem – not a systemic and criminal justice problem.  I’ve never seen a blue unicorn so it’s safe to say Black-on-Black crime doesn’t exist in the form that the average racist would like to claim as a bullet point against BLM. Not unless, of course, you mention White-on-White crime in the same breath.

Hollis Daniels was brought in because he had drugs and drug paraphernalia in his room.  He evidently received treatment so respectful and compassionate that they did not even frisk him.  Then, he managed to pull out the weapon (was he even handcuffed?), shoot an officer and escape because no one could restrain him. This would never have occurred had he been black. If he managed to escape the frisk, there’s no way he would’ve made it out of that police station alive. That’s the ugly truth.

The good news is that people are slowly waking up to the fact that we can no longer live within the bubbles of our lives and ignore the festering injustices swarming around us.  Colin Kaepernick refused to stand for the National Anthem and the country went berserk. But there is a problem because police are brutalizing and killing Black people and police, in turn, are being murdered by Whites. We tell drug addicts that unless they admit there’s a problem, they can’t even begin to fix it. Well, it’s time to apply that same analogy to this problem- which for officers- appears to be getting worse. They can start by treating their encounters with all races equally and stop giving Whites the benefit of the doubt. Maybe, just maybe we’ll all make it home alive.

Advertisements

Remember British Oppression of America?

flag-2544494_1920The powers that be want this country divided- that’s by design of the one percent elites. Because divided we can’t stand together and demand that this country be run in a way that truly benefits all of us. The healthcare crisis, the Putin controversy, lack of immediate aid to Puerto Rico, DACA, and runaway taxing are prime examples of how American rights will eventually erode. We’d like to believe those issues are irrelevant… We fought each other over a man who is unfit to lead this country (the MOST divisive president ever in my lifetime), and now we’re fighting over… the flag.

I love the flag and our National Anthem -those words resonate deeply with me both as a writer and an American. But now, it’s difficult to connect those words to myself as a Black person when there is constant and overwhelming proof in the criminal justice system that this country does not respect black life. How can it when innocent and unarmed people are shot dead and rogue officers consistently walk? All the president did was throw gasoline on an already precarious situation(as he’s been doing since day one). We must come together as a nation and speak truth to power.

Kaepernick understands this and has thrown himself on his sword to prove it. This protest is not about direspecting our troops. It’s about the fact that this is proving to not be a land that is free for all. It’s to signify that something is broken in our land and it can no longer be ignored. It needs to be fixed. When the president made his comments to “fire those SOBS”, he finally struck a chord with their fellow teammates and as a result they ALL kneeled. That sent a loud message that something is broken in America, let’s fix it together. They are not disrespecting the flag.  Our soldiers who originally fought and died for this country did so because this country was OPPRESSED by the British. Oppression of a people is hazardous to the health of any nation. That is one of the reasons our troops are deployed all over the world.

Let’s face a harsh reality check that most people DON’T know- the original Anthem has racist verses in it therfore it, and the flag, was never intended to represent the “least” of us in America. America fought oppression against the British and won (all while oppressing slaves). Then slaves were freed but were still oppressed under Jim Crow. Now, we’re no longer considered oppressed (on the surface). Now we exist as a nation that is supposed to be representative of the diverse souls who live here.

Injustice against ‘one’ American is an injustice against all Americans. “Justice for all” is an ongoing homework assignment for all of us and we must do it together. So, as long as we remain divided on the most basic and critical of issues, we (ALL RACES) will never achieve the greatness that our flag symbolizes.

Call to Action: Drain the SWAMP

Drain the Swamp

“We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic Tranquility. Provide for the common defense. Promote the general welfare and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Prosperity do ordain, and establish this Constitution for the United States of America”

These powerful words used to give me chills and fill me with pride. They are supposed to represent the binding glue of the United States and yet, they have failed to do so for every citizen. The truth of the matter is that this country was “formed” by white people and for white people and, black and brown citizens were deemed collateral damage because they were never meant to reap the benefits of citizenship. History has a way of repeating itself and the truth is that there is an underbelly of power that feeds the beast of systemic racism, classism, and greed in this country. It was established for the 1 percenters. Because of that, it is time for a CALL TO ACTION.

Black people have been sleep in this country for so long that, now that they are ‘waking up’, they are focusing on all the wrong things. We’ve had the “black and proud” movements already. We know that we come from kings and queens. We know we’re not lazy and looking for handouts. We know that we once had a ‘Black Wall Street’. Name it and I guarantee you, we’ve lauded it all over social media. But… we are still ‘sleep’ because we are NOT focusing on the real issues. We are still ‘sleep’ because we have been lulled into a sense of complacency. We have block upon block of vacant lots— businesses, apartments, and homes just… GONE. We have “food deserts” (no grocery stores within a ½ mile-1 mile). Trains are parking their guns in our neighborhoods. Those are just the tip of the iceberg. We don’t truly believe we can rise above our circumstances as a people because we still feel the weight of Jim Crow’s boot upon our necks. It’s time to wake up and send the loudest clap-back America has ever seen or heard. The ONLY way we can do that is DRAIN THE POLITICAL SWAMP as much as humanly possible. How?

1. Remove dead weight from office. This includes aldermen, judges, mayors, governors, state representative, senators, and anyone else who has power and influence over our welfare. We have major elections (including gubernatorial) coming up in 2018 and a mayoral race in 2019. It is CRITICAL that we are prepared to hit the polls.
2. REGISTER AND VOTE. Too many of us have thrown in the towel because we think the system is rigged. Of course, it is!! But guess what… it won’t stand a chance of being fixed if we refuse to vote. You are part of the problem, believe it or not.
3. Educate ourselves by:

    a. creating a coalition that is geared toward identifying EACH elected official (a great example of this is Chicago’s http://takebackchicago.org/)
    b. Finding out what their jobs are
    c. Discovering what their track record in office is (legislation, voting records, etc.)
    d. Distribute that information within the black/brown communities. This can be done via social media, flyers, mail, email, schools, workplace, etc.

4. Rinse and repeat 2 and 3 throughout the country
5. Create ‘Petitions of Intent’ to put our political officers on notice that future elections will no longer be ‘status quo’. We will no longer toe the line to ANY party line. We will examine their track records and determine whether or not they are worthy to be re-elected. We will no longer except the cronyism that has plagued our governments (local, city, state, & federal). They will be put on notice that the black vote is no longer a ‘sure thing’ within the Democratic party and that does NOT guarantee the Republicans a vote either. When they began receiving these petitions, they will finally understand how serious we are. If they are progressively doing a great job we let them know that too. Either way, they will know that someone is watching them. We DO HAVE POWER. WE DO HAVE RIGHTS.
6. Stop marginalizing ourselves to a specific party i.e., the Democratic Party. It has truly done nothing for us. Democratic nominees understand that blacks are heavily Democratic and therefore, they have very little work to do in convincing us to vote for them. No more. We must look at both parties equally and weigh what is being offered. We must be willing to vote Independent if we must. It is better to vote your conscious and lose than to continue to vote blindly to one party out of loyalty. If we are consistent, one of three things will happen:

    a. Either GOP or Dems will step up and get things done- benefiting ALL
    b. The Independent Party will grow stronger with a new support base (black/browns) or,
    c. A new party will be created

7. STOP SPREADING FAKE NEWS. There is nothing worse than sharing information that you have NOT vetted. Because reliable media outlets already have a credibility issue, we make it worse by not verifying what we share. Not only that, you are actively supporting (and allowing to spread) fake news. This is damaging to the wrongs we are trying to correct, it’s distracting because it incites conversations about things that AREN’T EVEN TRUE (a total WASTE of time), and it also makes us look ignorant, lazy, and uninformed. As soon as you state, “I don’t know if this is true but I’m posting anyway”, you have already created a credibility problem for yourself.
8. BOYCOTT and MEAN IT. We are WEAK MINDED when it comes to exercising the power of our dollars. Do you think it was ‘COMFORTABLE’ for Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King, etc. to WALK MILES to and from work or to march on Washington? They car-pooled, picked up weary travelers, they made it work!!! But, tell someone today to BOYCOTT NFL FROM THE COMFORT OF THEIR HOMES and the responses are a myriad of shameful ignorance. It REALLY IS that serious what happened to Kaepernick. They chopped that young man off at the knees as he exercised his Freedom and we sat on our hands and allowed it to happen. It REALLY IS that serious how Missha Beauty supply (and many other Korean suppliers) treat us with total disrespect. Therefore:

    a. Locate websites and links that are actively boycotting or petitioning against a company and centralize the distribution of this information
    b. Locate black-owned businesses and websites and centralize the distribution of this information

9. Teach our children NOW about finances and the importance of saving, building businesses, and creating wealth.
10. We must create more businesses for ourselves.
11. We must support black-owned businesses
12. We must not take our black businesses/customers for granted. Accomplish this by:

    a. Not expecting/haggling lower prices from business owners. We don’t do that at Nieman Marcus or Zales
    b. Respecting our customers- open on time, say please/thank you, do quality work, don’t overbook

13. We must become financially responsible- we’re making liquor stores, dance clubs, fashion labels, and entertainers incredibly rich and that money is not coming back into the black community.
14. We must actively begin to move liquor stores OUT of our neighborhoods. There are 2-3 stores on every major block in our communities- it’s heartbreaking. You will NOT find that in white or Asian neighborhoods. If you want alcohol in those areas, you will need to go to a Binny’s or a grocery store. These liquor stores are NOT even owned by blacks. Why do we allow them to pepper our blocks with them?
15. Same with beauty supply stores or any business that doesn’t respect us as a people
16. We must bring the Village back. This country is depending upon us to no longer be supportive of each other.
17. Build the bridge of cooperation with our white brothers and sisters. This is not only a race problem, it is a class problem as well. There IS enough prosperity for every citizen in this country. But make no mistake, black/browns are still behind the eight ball. We must all work together to drain the swamp.
18. Get out of la-la land: let’s stop pretending that our lives are so good that these issues can’t possibly be affecting us. We can no longer afford to be passive bystanders to our own demise. The sooner we realize the system is imploding upon us, the sooner we’ll feel liberated in taking decisive action- together!

Donald Trump’s half-hearted reading of his ‘statement’ a few days ago regarding the riots in Charlottesville, VA and, his subsequent statement at the infrastructure news conference, was a clear message that he doesn’t care about the violence nor the state of racial relationships in this country. David Duke’s attack on Trump confirms that he is complicit in fanning the racist ideologies of the people who put him in the White House. Everything he says or does from this point forward is meaningless and has no bearing on the pressure that we, the black people, must put on every thread of government to ensure our rights are protected, our children are safe, and our livelihoods thrive as well as anyone else’s in this country. You want to be ‘woke’? Then it’s time for us to roll up our collective sleeves and get to work.

We the black people of the United States, in order to form a cohesive Existence, enforce True Justice, ensure peace within our communities. Collaborate our own defenses. Build enduring Security and guard our Blessings vigorously, sustain Freedom for ourselves and our Prosperity, do ordain and reestablish our rights under the Constitution for United States of America *

*NOT intended to replace the preamble of the United States Constitution. These are suggestions to begin the conversation in a constructive manner.
hate speech will not be tolerated.

August 2017
Whowillspeak.com

Whatever Happened to Officer Friendly?

Officer Friendly3I remember when I was in the 3rd grade, “Officer Friendly” came to our classroom.  He was a tall White man wearing a uniform and hat.  Talk about exciting! We “ohh’ed and ahh’ed” because we were awestruck with his uniform, shiny badge, gun, and of course – the coloring book!  He was polite and indeed friendly and we felt secure with him in our classroom.  I got to shake his hand and I never forgot the encounter—I couldn’t wait to tell my parents about it.  I remember adding police officer to the list of things I wanted to be because of that visit–he caught bad guys and kept people safe after all so, how cool is that! Fast forward to 2016.  Officer Friendly no longer exists. In his place is extreme distrust, dead bodies, and unending news bites. Gone are the days of yesteryear…

I recently came across a post (meme) on a social media page sponsored by the Chicago Police Department.  It asked parents “please stop telling your children that we will haul them off to jail if they are bad.  We want them to run to us if they are scared…  Not be scared of us.  Thank you.”  I agree with that statement. They are, after all, paid to serve and protect the public and the last thing we need is for our children to be afraid of them if they should ever need them.  We absolutely don’t want parents scaring a child into discipline and submission (that is abusive).  But that request raises a more serious question. The question is… How do we raise Black and Brown children to have a healthy “relationship” with law enforcement? How do we teach them to trust and then protect themselves against them should the time present itself?

It’s a burning question because I remember teaching my son that police are “friendly and they help people.”  I taught him to respect the police, go to them if he ever needs help, and call them if he sees someone else in trouble.  He believed me– at first.  That wide-eyed, trusting face believed what mommy said about the helpful police.  Then he grew older and you wouldn’t believe the disagreements we used to have when he became a teen!  He started calling them “pigs” and said he hated them.  Hate is a strong word and I was appalled because this is the opposite of what I’d taught him.  I asked him why he felt that way and he said all they do is stop and harass him and other people.   Of course, trying to be helpful (and parental), I thought I had an answer for every scenario—including “they only harass people who are making trouble. So, stay away from trouble.”  It seemed simple enough to me.  Eventually, I realized that he simply didn’t trust or respect any form of law enforcement –and sadly, with good reason.

Police have never been popular but there was still a somewhat respectful ‘truce’ between them and black residents in the mid-70s and early 80s. Then the War on Drugs began to heat up and there was a total shift in the way blacks were being treated.  Incarcerations and jail overcrowding increased as did the construction of private prisons.  I remember the stories about inmates sleeping on jail floors because the cells were so packed.  As this ‘war’ evolved, it became evident who the real ‘enemy’ was – the black and brown people.  It didn’t matter whether they were behind the wheel of a car or on foot.  They were stopped – and stopped often. Then the brutality increased.  Had it not been for the advent of the cellular phone, no one would’ve believed the level of brutality Rodney King suffered during a beating in 1991.  Nor would we have witnessed the recent horror of Laquan McDonald being shot 16 times- most of which occurred while he was lying in the street dying.  Officer Friendly, indeed.

Two years ago, my son was on his way home and as he crossed the street at 63rd and Cottage Grove, an unmarked car stopped him (for ‘jaywalking’ at 2am).  He politely asked them why they detained him and they put him in the car.  He then became angry and demanded to know why they stopped him.  He was told to shut up before they dropped him off in an area that was notorious for shooting strangers.  Then, one of them told him they were about to ‘inconvenience’ his weekend.  They took him to a lockup downtown.  The following morning, without a word or paperwork, he was released and told to pick up his property at a station in Maywood.  Not finding his items there, he asked me for a ride to another police station.  That particular day, he, my nephew and I drove to 4 stations (2 of them twice) –crisscrossing the city– until we were able to retrieve his wallet and backpack (which was in Maywood).  His cell phone and belt, however, were gone.  We filed a complaint.  My son eventually gave up on the follow up process (which was disappointing to me) so there was no positive outcome.  He simply wanted no more encounters with them. Honestly, I didn’t blame him.  No crime was committed by him.  He wasn’t even ‘arrested’.  Just inconvenienced– along with my nephew and I.  Officer Friendly, indeed.

How do we teach our children to safely interact with law enforcement when their first priority appears to be harassment and humiliation of its Black citizens?  How does one navigate what can easily escalate into a life-threatening encounter when there is overwhelming proof they may not even survive it?  Parents used to dread having “the talk” with their children about sex.  Now we have to teach them that the friendly and helpful policeman (we taught them to obey) might not only haul them off to jail after all, but could possibly maim or kill them and because of that, there’s a whole set of rules they have to follow should they ever become detained by one. Similar to ‘stop, drop, and roll’ during a fire, we have to teach them to ‘shut up‘(to avoid escalation), ‘hands up’ (to avoid being shot), and ‘curl up’ (if punched or kicked).  Not only that, we have to determine at what age to teach them. Sadly, twelve-year-old Tamir Rice, Sandra Bland, Michael Brown, and Laquan McDonald are only a few who’ve lost their lives during what should’ve been a routine interaction with an officer.  What do we teach them to counteract the very real and violent imagery of the news showing clips of police beating and shooting people?  Officer Friendly, indeed.

Black and Brown people on average are detained, arrested, brutalized, and killed (in the street or while in custody) at higher rates than White and others.  They are the direct target of the ‘kindergarten to prison’ pipeline constructed during the War against Drugs.  We don’t want our children to be frightened of law enforcement but the truth of the matter is, they need to be prepared and aware.

Slogans Displayed on Police Vehicles

 

 

  • Portland:  Sworn to protect:  Dedicated to Serve
  • Chicago: We Serve and Protect
  • New York:  Courtesy, Professionalism, Respect
  • Ferguson: No motto displayed

 

 

Two days ago.  A relative called to tell me that an officer just moments ago had stopped and handcuffed him at a bus terminal in Harvey, IL.  He was smoking (not illegal).  The officer attempted to “push his buttons” verbally to escalate the situation but the young man, to his credit, was not moved.   Eventually he was released and advised “I don’t want to see you here for the rest of the week.” He was on his way to pick up a prescription.  While on the bus, he also discovered money was missing from his wallet. He’s not a criminal. Nor is he a gang-banger, drug dealer, or a thug.  Just a man running errands. He was illegally told not to come back to a public place (a bus stop).  Officer Friendly, indeed.

Make no mistake, I am not anti-police but rather pro-life.  All I can offer are events that I’ve witnessed for myself as well as what we have seen in the news and all around us.  There is a serious problem that runs deep within any individual that decides for his (or her) self, that Blacks are less than human and should be treated as such.  There’s a problem when officers have no true accountability for their actions. It spreads like a cancer and needs to be addressed by our mayors, Superintendents, and the Department of Justice.  We must continue to fight until we find a way to bridge the chasm between black human beings and the people who abuse the power of their uniform.  Until then, we must teach our children to be wary because while police will help them, there may come a time when that helping hand becomes a boot in the back.

I Have AIDS

World Aids

I…have…AIDS.  There are no words to describe the coldness that permeates through your body when you hear those words.  How do you catch your breath?  Why is the room suddenly spinning as you try not to scream at the top of your lungs “NO!”?

“Did I hear him correctly!?” I asked myself as my mind tried to process this horrifying information.  It was the day my life tilted sideways forever.

HIV/AIDS is not an individual disease.  It affects the patient, their families, and communities.  According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), 50,000 people are newly infected with HIV/AIDS per year.  Of that, 1 in 8 are positive and are unaware of it. If that isn’t alarming enough, 1 in 4 new infections are aged 13-24.  Roughly 44% of all infections occurred in the Black community.  Among Black, White, and Hispanics, females made up the majority of new infections (source: CDC and AIDS.gov).

Unfortunately, it is still viewed as ‘the gay man’s disease’ when it should be seen as a human race epidemic.  It is this kind of apathy that allows AIDS to run rampant throughout our communities—especially the Black community.  Atlanta currently has a population of about 54% Black and new cases of HIV are actually diagnosed as full-blown AIDS by the time they are tested.  Blacks make up 12-13% of the entire US population. The facts are undeniable.

My new reality was fraught with shock, depression, anger, medication, and prayer.  I had to educate myself with words such as ‘adherence’, ‘viral load’, and ‘cd4 count’.  Knowledge about HIV/AIDS was so limited in the 80s and 90s and the stigma behind it was absolutely horrifying.  Parents were putting their children out, gay bashing was on the rise, and the world was in a state of panic.

After I got off the phone with my oldest brother, I cried.  My brother—my right arm, my hero and protector—had just told me “Kim, I have AIDS”.  I had to pull myself together and go tell my father and the rest of my family. Once they learned about his disease it then became their disease too.  They had to deal with the pain and terror of possibly losing a loved one to AIDS.  We all had AIDS.

My brother kept his diagnosis from us for years because he’d seen his friends suffer the fall-out from their loved ones.  He feared we would turn our backs on him as well.  While we were unaware, Butch (Henry) continued to work until he was too weak and had to go on disability.  His friends and boss nursed him when he was sick.  I’ll never forget how his boss cried when he finally told us.  She had been begging him and reassuring him that based on how he’d described his family in the past, she knew we wouldn’t let him down. I was just glad he had her guidance (he was like a son to her).  I immediately moved him into my apartment.  As he walked through the door, I hid the shock of seeing this young man—who used to be muscularly built like a bull and equally as strong—weighing less than 100 pounds.  As soon as I got him settled into his room, I went into the bathroom and cried.

The only way to help stop the spread of HIV/AIDS is to come to the realization that if your loved one has it, then you have it too.  It is not a ‘disease for one’.  March of 1993 wasn’t just a shock, it was a death sentence that continues to reverberate through our family on every birthday, holiday, new birth, or life experience.  There is no room for the continued stigma and ignorance that prevents people from being tested until it’s too late.

Stopping the spread of HIV is possible but extremely difficult.  It is currently on the rise in China (of all places), Africa, and various parts of the world after experiencing a decline in the early 2000s.  The apathy experienced toward the disease is fueled by unprotected sex and an attitude that “it can’t happen to me”.  Again, our youth ages 13-24 continue to be the leading numbers of new HIV diagnosis.  Please don’t be the next diagnosis:

  • PLEASE GET TESTED
  • Wear Protection and practice safe sex
  • Practice celibacy until marriage
  • Stay monogamous
  • If you have it, keep your appointments and don’t skip medications
  • If you have it, come out of the “closet”, go into schools and share your experience
  • Understand that oral sex IS sex (reverse the Clinton factor)
  • RELEASE THE STIGMA—love without judgement

The stigma of AIDS is dangerous.  Actor Charlie Sheen is a prime example of how dangerous staying silent can be.  He was black-mailed for millions of dollars to keep his diagnosis silent.  He continued to have unprotected sex.  This scenario should not occur in our society.  Patients are being shamed unto death in our closest circles.  They turn to drugs, alcohol, and other reckless behavior to run from their new reality. This is where we test our mettle as human beings who have compassion, empathy, and support. Without it, the disease continues to spread. They need a soft place to land.

New HIV medications and cocktails are not only preventing AIDS-related illnesses but are also enabling patients to experience zero detection in their blood (viral load).  HIV is no longer a certain death sentence as it was in the 80s and 90s. Good news for sure but the fight isn’t over until there’s a cure. It is still a very serious illness—ask someone who has to take those medications and they’ll tell you there are still terrible side effects. They still get sick and are hospitalized. It is still an uphill battle and one which we should avoid.

The day my oldest brother uttered those four words was the day it became my diagnosis.  After convincing him to move in with me, I (along with my family) took care of him.  I was angry with him for not telling me sooner.  The year prior, we’d just lost a childhood friend (Norman) to the disease.  He died—alone—in California and to this day my heart aches when I think of him because he felt that was the only option open to him.  I was determined that my brother knew how much we loved him and were unafraid of “catching AIDS”.  He wasn’t a stigma to me—he was my everything.

Just three months after moving in with me, Henry Ruffin Rosemon III lost his battle with AIDS on August 2, 1993 at age 31 on a beautiful afternoon as my father, youngest sister Denise, and I sat by his bed.  As we reminisced about his childhood exploits I, with my head on his leg, felt his life dissipate like a flutter in the wind. I raised my head and knew he was gone. It was a terrible moment for my father because no parent should ever have to watch a child suffer and die the way he did.  From that moment, it became a disease I wouldn’t wish upon my worst enemy.

It is my hope that writing his story on World AIDS Day will inspire others to not take their health and relationships for granted. Don’t be so naïve to think that your life has no effect on those who love you.  I implore you: Get tested, Be safe, and Stop the Spread of HIV/AIDS.

 

Why Can’t We Get Along?

I love France

A lot’s been going on in the media during my hiatus but I’m going to weigh in on what’s going on in France.  Not the tragedy itself but rather the Black community’s callous response to it.  Since France was attacked by ISIS on Friday 11/13, the memes started popping up everywhere attacking Blacks who posted their condolences.  According to the angry masses, if you did so, you are a “coon” or –my favorite—a “Negropean”.  Also by doing that, we’re not being the “Kings and Queens” of our native Africa. There’s also a great deal of anger about the lack of meaningful coverage regarding the barbaric massacre in Kenya. Labels here, labels there, labels labels everywhere!

As a black person with a heart for the issues going on in our community, it should go without saying that I’m angry that the media continues to downplay the plight of blacks everywhere in the world.  But it’s beyond aggravating to me that African Americans have to prove their “Blackness” to other African Americans because they say “Pray for France”.  My question is, where is the compassion?

The beauty of my blackness means that I don’t have to put partitions around my heart.  My feelings of anguish and sorrow for another person isn’t “colored” by the color of their skin.  My heart ached for Kenya and it equally aches for France.  It equally ached for the United States on 9/11 (more so because this is home).  Did we check our “blackness” at the door on 9/11?  Did we say “Slaves entered the United States via Ellis Island, so screw New York”?  People died a horrifying death on all of these occasions. That is where my heart and thoughts are right now.

Being “enlightened” and knowing the truth of our Black History (in contrast to what we learned in school) does not mean that I am pro Black to the exclusion of all other human beings. What that means is I will speak out about issues that impact African Americans – racism/racists, educational inequality, and violence –particularly against children, etc. It also means that I will speak out and support or empathize with any form of suffering—regardless of color—period.

Racism exists everywhere in this world. France has racist people as well as Germany, England, Kenya, and a host of many more.  Find me a country that doesn’t hate blacks or any race that is not like them and I’ll move there immediately because that would be Utopia and Heaven on Earth.  The best that we can do as Blacks is continue to fight against it in our communities by putting pressure on the system that runs it–while maintaining our compassion and respect for life.  Unfortunately, its incidents like the attacks on France and Kenya that highlights the degree of separation in the Black diaspora.

Let’s put France and Kenya aside for a minute to highlight an example of that separation. What chills me right now is the thought that the people who put 9-year-old Tyshawn Lee on his knees in a Chicago alley and pumped 7 bullets into his body are still running lose (police are questioning “a person of interest”).  Someone knows who did it but they won’t “rat” them out because that is the code of twisted honor. Then, the same people complaining about Kenya’s lack of media coverage aren’t marching through the streets of Chicago, locking down traffic and demanding justice for Tyshawn. Where is the passionate anger for the gang violence that afforded us the nickname (and subsequent movie) Chiraq? Are we “coons” and “Negropeans” for committing the actual crimes or for doing nothing about it? What also disturbs me is the next time someone is gunned down by a police officer, chaos will erupt once again, someone’s name will become a hashtag, and there will still be no solution to the problems currently plaguing our community—right here in Chicago, IL, USA. The separation of our brothers and sisters is rife on a basic level.

Sadly, as these memes are going up, some people don’t realize that they are part of the problem (unbelievably, some people have said “thank you, ISIS” for attacking Paris as though the US isn’t on their radar).  They don’t truly support the black community but rather they cause separation within it.  The irony is amazing.  In the past we tried to counteract the labels put upon us during slavery by creating new (better) ones but we still use the “old” ones.

So we go from being niggers and coons to “nigga”—which is supposed to be positive (it is not).  We also went from being slaves to “Kings and Queens” – to remind us of our ancestry. But here’s the twist—blacks call us “coons” and “Negropeans” if we do/say something deemed non Black.  It’s mind boggling indeed.  But… if a white or other calls us those same labels there’s hell to pay! Did it ever occur to us that we do not need labels to define who we are?  Until we let go of the labeling, we will never truly know who we are and we will always be divided within the Black community based upon yet another label system. That, in my limited opinion, is the very nature of oppression because we spend so much time trying to convince each other how Black we really are that our community is suffering because of it.

What do we gain by spewing hatred toward France and enjoying its tragedy?  How is its history any different from the United States in terms of its treatment of slaves/blacks?  Ok, the media didn’t give Kenya enough coverage but does that mean we have to hate another suffering group of people?  I say not!

Personally, I love France.  I’ve always loved its ancient architecture, the culture, and the natural beauty of that country.  It’s on my bucket list of places I will visit in my lifetime—as too is Africa. So no, I don’t need to prove my blackness by not showing love for and compassion to France.  I’m not defined by anyone’s perception of who I am and therefore have nothing to prove. I don’t need to call myself a queen to feel like I’m a descendant of mother Africa.  We don’t need to be labeled Kings and Queens to feel a connection to our roots. We just have to know who we are.  My black is… beautiful, compassionate, loving, and… me.

Generational Slavery and Systemic Racism

Race Card

What most people don’t realize is that SLAVERY ended at the very least, 3 to 4 generations ago. My own grandfather was born just 7 YEARS AFTER slavery ended! He was 61 years old when my father was born.  That means my grandfather was immediately and deeply affected by systemic racism, the KKK, and Jim Crow laws because he was still treated as a slave while he and his parents (former slaves) “sharecropped” on some of the very plantations that enslaved them.  My grandfather experienced that…  Then, my parents had to drink out of “Blacks Only” fountains and had to use back doors, not be served at the restaurant counters, had to sit in the back of buses, etc. before the Civil Rights Act was signed in 1964(the year I was born). This country can never move forward until it acknowledges that the generational effects of slavery still exists today.

It’s important to note that when Blacks—in present day America—continue to speak against atrocities we still suffer, it is because it has only – ONLY been 51 years since the CIVIL RIGHTS Act was signed. That’s barely a generation ago! We are still fighting to be treated like human beings and with dignity and respect. It took 100 years after slavery ended before our 15th Amendment Rights were upheld with the Voting Act of 1965.  Here we are 50 years later still fighting for the right to be treated as human beings during encounters with law enforcement.  We’re still fighting for promotions we worked hard for.  We are still trying to dump the “slave mentality” mindset among our people.  Systemic Racism is a generational stain on our civilized society.

Therefore, we ask that you please stop telling us we’re using the “Race Card” when we continue to point out the ways in which we are still being disenfranchised.  Don’t “remind” us that because we now have a Black President, it means we’ve “arrived” as a race and are being treated equally. There were MANY “successful Blacks” back in the days after slavery but at the end of the day, they were still less than human to racist whites and had no rights.  And… President Obama is still the most hated and disrespected President ever to be in office and the only one that is referenced in a derogatory way due to his skin color.

Please do not compare our struggle to the people who are crossing the Mexican border and fighting for US citizenship or, the LGBT community who are fighting for “equal rights.”  Mexicans came here by choice – they are not experiencing generational pain and suffering. They did not have children snatched from their arms and sold at auction.  Regardless of how life is for them in Mexico, they can still go back.  Their homeland is simply across a border.  The LGBT community are not forced to be who they are. Their fight to marry cannot be compared to a people who were transported over the ocean in rancid ships, put on display at auction, and brutalized for 400 years.  They are not a transplanted people still vilified because of something they cannot hide – their color.  If they did not say they were LGBT, chances are, no one would notice.  Color cannot be hidden. I am not downplaying their struggle but it is not the same as ours and the continued comparisons actually downplays what Blacks have suffered (and still suffer) in this country. The only group of people–in this country–who can truly have a voice by comparison are the Native Indian due to their annihilation in their own land. They were invaded and victimized and sent to reservations as this country went to Africa and brought us here. That is the harsh truth and hopefully one that we can overcome.

We ask that you stop “tone policing” us when we attempt to tell stories of our daily struggle as a Black person.  Tone Policing is when a non-Black (usually White) person tries to tell a story that has the appearance of a ‘struggle’ in an attempt to downplay our experience.  For example, if I tell you that I was the only Black in a classroom and was bullied by other kids, don’t tell me that you were bullied as well.  It is not the same thing.  Also, don’t tell us to not be angry in the face of blatant injustice. That is tone policing.

Understand that it is not a reflection on you as a person (unless, of course, you are racist).  It’s our life and something we cannot apologize for if it makes you uncomfortable.  Maybe we would like you to simply listen and realize that the pain is real and the anger is justified. Maybe we’d like to know that you have the character to stand up to anyone in your circle who is racist and doesn’t understand that we are people too. Maybe we’d like you to bring up the latest atrocity in the news and ask us how we feel about it. Or.. tell us how you feel about it. But whether you do this or not, we will continue to speak out and be our own advocates to the best of our abilities.

This must sink in…It took 100 YEARS before we got Civil Rights and were able to vote without taking a “test” or being killed and again, that was ONLY 51 years ago. Please don’t tell us to “get over it” because it’s not over yet… Systemic Racism, and its affects, are still very much alive in the United States. Blacks are still experiencing the GENERATIONAL RIPPLES within our communities.

Copyright 2015 Kim R Woods
all rights reserved