Tag Archive | Community

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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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.

 

Get Out of The Rut: The Character Resume

Resume_Of_Your_Character

Sometimes we go through life in a rut and don’t even realize we are in it.  One day, we become aware that something isn’t quite right but yet, we can’t seem to put a finger on why. Not realizing that there is a “second” resume on the table– one of character and integrity.  This particular resume erodes the trust and respect of friends and loved ones and undermines our potential for success.  It’s the measure of who we are as human beings as it relates to how we treat others and respect ourselves.. What it is not  is the typical life errors and mistakes that make us perfectly imperfect and human. Sadly,we live day-to-day without knowing this is the self-destructive road on which we travel. Sometimes we need to actually read this resume in order for it to resonate.

But there is good news. There is a way out.  First, we have to accept personal responsibility for our actions and become determined to make a change.  But before that can happen, truth and self awareness must come into play.  It is time to rewrite the “life resume” we have so unwittingly crafted.  Different from an employment resume, this life resume encompasses behaviors and irrational beliefs that hinder personal maturity and growth. Second, once we have acknowledged the existence of this resume, we begin to seek ways to repair the damage. It’s not easy but then nothing worthy of gaining comes “easy”.  If your “life resume” remotely resembles this, then it is time to self reflect.

Character Lacking

1120 Integrity Way

Distrust, IL 90321

Objective:  To enhance current skills while increasing sense of entitlement.  Willing to not take responsibility for my actions, blame others for my problems, and avoid all opportunities to have a viable and successful future, while manipulating those who love me and are willing to give me a free ride.  Forever tethered to people who have no concern for my life, I have no intention of making changes that will set me on a self-sufficient path.  Seeking those who will elevate my current lifestyle, cosign the negativity in my life, all while stroking my ego and helping me to get nowhere in life.

2013  Child Support Evasion, Location Irrelevant

Charismatic and charming

Multiple “people creation” skills current count: unknown

Avoidance expert

Party enhancement supplies

Anger management expert

Female/male abuse expert

2010  Possession of stolen items, Location Irrelevant

Spent 8 years ‘abroad’ and learned new techniques

Excellent detection avoidance systems and analysis skills

Adapts to unexpected situations such as drop and flee

Experience in resale retail

1999  Gun possession by felon, Location Irrelevant

Expert at weapons concealment

Weapons purchase and resale

Can fire at multiple targets with 10% accuracy

1998   Drug possession with intent to sell, Location Irrelevant

Promoted to sales

Customer service oriented—delivered day and night

Top seller in crew (er, distribution department)

Excellent officer detection skills

1996  Burglary, Location Irrelevant

Lock expert

Keen sight – look out expert

Escapes detection with ease

Salesman of the month

1995  Drug possession, Location Irrelevant

Carried drugs upon person in order to get high

Well versed in lighting and inhaling, snorting, and needle work

Alcohol extraction expert

EDUCATION

         Unimportant

HOBBIES

          Running (er, jogging)

Skills

Weapons, stealth, Facebook and Instagram, fashion, feigning innocence, alcohol inducement, People making, partying, finger work (“throwing those signs”), and manipulation

References

          …?  Holla back?

Public Shaming and the Suicide of a Child

Isabel Laxamana

Once again public shaming has reared its ugly head- this time with disastrous results.  The latest victim is 13-year-old Izabel Laxamana – a student at a Tacoma Washington middle school .

We seem to forget what it was like to be a child. I wasn’t a bad child but I did challenge my parents and was punished accordingly. As with most kids it ebbs and flows until the time comes when both parent and child “survive” this thing called parenthood.  I also had insecurities that are normal to most children.  13-year-olds (boys and girls) deal with issues such as weight, acne, clothing styles, the opposite sex, and yes- hair. They are entering the age of discovery and self-awareness.

So is it really a shock that a young beautiful girl with long thick flowing locks – in the beginning of discovering herself- would become devastated and suicidal after not only losing her hair, but having the event put in public display?

It truly begs the questions -why are parents so eager and willing to humiliate their children? Why has this become a new “tool” in parenting?  What are they trying to prove and to whom are they attempting to prove it to? How is this helping the child to correct behavior and more importantly, is the possible psychological and self-esteem damage worth the risk?

Apparently for Izabel Laxamana, the risk was far greater than the reward. Because we now live in an advanced technological society, her parents felt the best way to punish her was to chop off her hair and post it online.

This isn’t “punishment”- its cruelty.  It’s a form of cruelty that not every child can handle and I’m willing to guess that most children can’t handle it.  That is why this young girl -in the beginnings of her youth and self-discovery- climbed onto a bridge and without hesitation, jumped to her death.

There is no doubt that as her parents mourn her death, the “likes” and kudos are up ticking on YouTube and Facebook as yet another progressive salute to a great punishment strategy. So now I’m compelled to ask again, do you still think public humiliation/shaming is a good way to punish a child?  If you still feel this way, then shame on you.

Not Popular, But Sincere…

Silenced

I believe that there exists a misguided assumption that I think myself to be without struggle or blemish.  That can’t be further from the truth. My life is a painting of heartache, physical and emotional pain/abuse, financial struggle, and much MUCH more.  My past is a labyrinth of bad choices, wrong turns, half-truths, and regrets.  It is also filled with beating impossible odds, last minute triumphs, learning of self, loving of self, and speaking truth. I’ve learned from all of it and I’m still learning.  This is why I do what I do…

We each have a calling on our lives to do something meaning, fulfilling, and spectacular.  We achieve this in a variety of ways: giving service- volunteering time, money, resources, writing, speaking, arts, etc.  Some of these avenues require personal transparency and some do not.  I chose the route of transparency because this is the uncomfortable path that I feel can help someone.

It’s important to understand that I don’t write for the understanding of ‘scholars’, politicians, or other types of pundits.  I write for people who are searching for answers or who are searching for people who can somehow relate to their situation.  I write for people who don’t have time, patience, or even the ability to sift through extravagant prose to find understanding of a simple concept.  That is not assuming that anyone is ‘ignorant’.  There are many levels of education and understanding- that is a fact.  What I simply mean is that “less is more” for the particular impact I seek to make at this moment in time.

Amazingly, we have so much technology available to us that we are forgetting how to think in a most basic way.  Just go out for a drive and witness how much worse drivers are now than just 10 years ago. Cell phones and computers think for us, process requests quickly, and require nothing more than for us to tap a few keys.  We’re chained to technology and so are our children.  There’s a huge disconnect. There needs to be a return to the basics of thinking coherently.   Our children are dying, being neglected or otherwise abused and so much of it is avoidable.  Those are the conversations we really should be having. We have to figure out how to bring the “village” back to our neighborhoods.

My voice is not going to always be popular but it will be sincere.  My words are not going to be judgmental but they won’t always be “politically correct” either.  How can anyone grow when they have to measure what they say for fear of offending?  Our lives have impact on others and if we can just understand that, then maybe, just maybe we can somehow enjoy a better existence in this world. Maybe we can learn to respect and help one another.  I can choose to stay silent, pretend that life is great, and puppies are cute. Or, I can be courageous and press forward and hope that someone even braver than I will share these nuggets with whomever they know it will help.   If that means it helps or impacts one person, then that is a good day.  If you feel that what is shared on my blog or The Bolder Sister will help someone, please share.  If you would like offer sincere feedback or suggestions for content or topics, by all means please send an email to krr.2000@yahoo.com.