Tag Archive | chicago

When Community Bands Together: The Rise and Fall Thereof


On Sept 10, 2017, 19-year-old Kenneka Jenkins was found frozen to death inside the freezer of the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Rosemont, Il following a party she attended there.  As devastating as her death has been, it occurred under the most bizarre circumstances we’ve seen in quite a while.  Although there has been much speculation about what happened to her (which won’t be covered today), the purpose of this article is to highlight the most extraordinary display of unity as people came together for a common cause – to seek answers.

Oftentimes, when blacks are reported in the media, it’s because they were killed by either law enforcement, gang violence, or other means. But this story wasn’t of much media interest because in the days after Kenneka Jenkin’s death, people came together to support her mother, Teresa Martin.  Ms. Martin’s attempts to find out what happened to her daughter were initially met with indifference.  She was eventually offered a viewing of videos that showed her daughter staggering (apparently intoxicated) down a hallway, then off an elevator, and finally into a kitchen.  What the videos did not show was her child entering the freezer.  She asked for that video and was again met with silence.

Several Chicago activists (Sheena M. James, Lamon Reccord, Jedidiah Brown, and Natorah El) stepped in to aid the grieving mother.  As each day passed, the crowds became a little bigger—30 became a hundred, and so on. Facebook Live views for these activists were in the double-digits as thousands of people around the country (and the world) responded and tuned in.  Monday through Thursday I tuned into various Facebook Live feeds of the protests.  They chanted “No justice no peace, this hotel won’t get no sleep’, ‘Justice for Kenneka’, ’21 hours and a coverup’, ‘If we don’t get it (tapes), SHUT IT DOWN’, etc. They blew whistles and banged on pots and pans. They were there to stay.

It was organized and efficient. After viewing the live feeds each day, it was hard not to see the camaraderie and cohesiveness of the protesters gain momentum.  Each day they began with a pre-protest update of the previous night’s events and let people know what was accomplished as well as the problems that arose.  In the evening, several people recorded live feeds of the protest in front of the Crowne Plaza Hotel.  Eventually (as with many protests) people were arrested. A “jail fund” was set up to aid them which, led to the last daily update taking place at the police station as they informed us who had been arrested (staying there until they bailed them out). The comments and encouragement sparked a movement- whose togetherness morphed into an event unlike anything I’ve seen before. It was the passion and commitment to the mother that literally moved people all over the country to action.

Facebook consistently shut down some of the feeds and suspended Ms. Martin’s (the mother) and Mr. Brown’s access to their pages (Ms. Martin’s was later restored).  Each night, the protests were peaceful and orderly. To keep streets clear and traffic flowing, arrests were made of anyone who stepped onto the street.  As the group of supporters sat in the Rosemont Police Department, they said that their motto was “We’re not leaving anyone behind.”  On one of those nights an elderly white man named Jack was bailed out. The police injured Jack’s arm and he was taken to the hospital before the group could bail him out.  When asked why he was there he said, “I’ve been doing this for over 50 years and I’ll never stop.” Then he said, “I’ll be back tomorrow.” Jack was there the next day- to the delight of the viewers who wrote in large letters “WE LOVE YOU JACK!!” Throughout all of this, the media was silent. I found it strange that hundreds of people protesting in upscale suburban Rosemont and against an upscale hotel was met with complete silence from the media. Black people weren’t looting and burning things so I guess it was a slow night. There was, however, a documentary photographer there (Jon Lowenstein) to capture events as they unfolded.

Toward the middle of the week Jedidiah Brown announced that on Friday they expected a large group – people coming from around the country- to support Ms. Martin’s quest for the complete videos of her daughter entering the freezer.  Friday arrived and something amazing happened — people from all over the country really did gather in Rosemont Illinois.  People of every race, age, and religion came to support Teresa Martin.

Ethan (a tall white gentle giant (who was later arrested) took a Greyhound bus from Georgia. There were people from Joliet, IL, Wisconsin, Indiana, Mississippi, New York, Boston, and California.  Among the crowd was a woman of short stature with her hair in a short afro wearing a purple tee-shirt with face of Kenneka Jenkins.  She was giving a hug to every person she came in contact with- thanking them for coming.  Teresa Martin has been a bulwark during her personal tragic loss.  Having just undergone a double-mastectomy just days before her daughter Kenneka went missing, she has consistently been in Rosemont daily demanding the full and complete video footage of her daughter’s last minutes of life.

Also, on Friday as massive crowds of people (1800+) arrived and took to the streets, law enforcement became aggressive and violent. One protester was violently thrown to the ground and arrested.  Activists went to the police station to check on his condition and to ask that the young man receive medical care. The officers -once polite/helpful – were now belligerent and aggressive and threatened Mr. Brown and the other activists with arrest for disturbing the peace.

To say the source of my initial unease (regarding Friday’s expected crowd) became a self-fulfilling prophesy is an understatement.  I say that because anyone who knows that when massive amounts of money, power, and privilege are at stake, the outcomes for the average person is shaky at best. This was a different kind of ‘protest’.  It wasn’t about race.  It wasn’t an obvious murder (it’s officially a death investigation).  It wasn’t even local(located in a Chicago suburb).  This was about a Chicago mother whose daughter died in a sadly disturbing and as yet, unanswered way – and people all over the country responded by physically showing up.  They donated time, air fare, places to stay, rides, food/drink, and their voices.

Sadly, whenever a demonstration moves to the highest (and peaceful) degree and, whenever there is such a strong, true/genuine cohesiveness of ‘the people’ (meaning ALL people), destruction is never far behind.  It would take a book to go deep into the events that unfolded within the Martin camp but allegations were made against the activists by the mother via Facebook about the funds, the mother pulled away from their aid -leaving in her wake devastated men and women who stood with her just hours before.  Why?  Because within activism are pockets of division and within the black community itself breads negativity. To read the comments in some of these feeds was disheartening to say the least. Apparently another activist (who was not associated with this group) was responsible for creating the division that brought the movement to an end.

Friday was a pivotal day for Chicago and the country.  People proved that it is possible to come together for a common cause. They went to Rosemont and shut it down- not an easy feat by any means.  But sadly, by Saturday, there were clearly signs that something poisonous had entered the mix and by Sunday, it fell completely apart. All unfolding like a made-for-TV series on Facebook Live.

My heart breaks for the Teresa Martin’s unimaginable loss and it’s important to note that she has yet to bury her child and truly grieve. She did state that no one told her about the ‘jail fund” but in fairness I heard several activists mention it several times and they always stated that she personally OK’d it. It is said that whenever money involved, bad things can happen and in this case, it certainly did.  At any rate, the allegations have left everyone with questions and confusion and, has caused a cavernous rift within the community of activists.

The movement is over and in it’s place is a standard protest (Jedidiah Brown and the others are no longer present).  I checked Facebook today and there are only a handful of people there- seemingly less than the crowd last week when protests first began.  It’s a huge step backwards.

I had no intention of writing about Kenneka Jenkins until all the facts were in.  Yet, after seeing how the amazing cohesiveness of the protests evolved on Friday, I decided to write “When Community Bands Together, Amazing Things Happen” but by Sunday, I revised it to “When Community Bands Together (The Rise and Fall Thereof).” That was disappointing…

But the real question we should be asking is “Why did this happen on the day when the most true power of the movement was present?”

But like this case, we will have to wait and see what unfolds in the days ahead. Hopefully we’ll get a picture of what really happened to destroy what was becoming a movement representative of the strength, respect, love, support, and a quest for truth by ALL the people. How ironic is that?

****The mother chose a large venue for her daughter’s funeral so she could thank everyone for supporting her.  Funeral arrangements as quoted by Teresa Martin’s Facebook page:

Rev T Meeks
752 E 114th st, Chicago, IL 60628 (correct address 😇)
11am-12pm wake
12pm-1pm Funeral

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

Don’t Take Your Existence for Granted


Social Conscience


One of my favorite quotes is “Every life touches a life”.  I’ve been telling my son that since he was a child.  In my own perhaps naïve way, I drank the cool-aid of “do unto others…’ that my parents fed me. I’d be lying if I said it didn’t make a difference to me as I came of age.  After all, no one wants to be on the receiving end of someone else’s selfish or cruel actions.  But the violence in Chicago and elsewhere in the US go beyond simple selfishness.  We (especially Black people) are killing each other.

In my finite mind, this is a crazy phenomenon – man gets angry, man picks up gun, man shoots gun, someone falls dead, man walks away.  Murder is as old as time itself but lately, it’s out of control.  Of course, there are a myriad of reasons.  Examples of this are absent fathers and negligent mothers, lack of jobs and education, physical and sexual abuse, gangs, and drugs/alcohol.  But even with all the obstacles we face in our society, there has to be a way to the basic “do unto others” creed.

Each of us, by our very existence, can affect someone else on the other side of the world.  How can this be so?  I had a friend once who was going through a tough time.  We talked things over and at the end of the call I told her “no matter what you’re going through just know that I love you and tomorrow is another chance to turn it around.”  She called me a week later and told me that she was talking to her cousin who was stationed overseas.  She told him the same thing and he told her that he needed to hear that because he was contemplating suicide.  A word of encouragement to ONE person made its way across the ocean to another person who needed to hear the same thing.

We take our place in this world for granted– myself included. Let’s change that.