Tag Archive | Community

POEM: Darkness and Hope- No More Shame

September 9-15 is Suicide Prevention Week. I wrote the following poem to talk about the elephant in the room — the stigma attached to mental illness.

Depression, PTSD, and other mental disorders have plagued millions of people who hide in the shadows of their suffering. A staggering 800,000 people commit suicide every year worldwide and it’s on the rise in children under 18. Most people do not seek treatment (or disclose their struggle to loved ones) because they (we) are weighed down by the stigma.

I wrote a story about my brother’s battle with the stigma of HIV/AIDS and how it robbed us of precious time with him. I believe in fighting stagnant mindsets that put people in boxes of suffering. I originally posted this poem to my FaceBook page but in light of the fact that this is Suicide Prevention Week, I felt that I would be remiss by not sharing it with my readers.

If you have a loved one who is suffering from depression or any other mental illness, please point them to the help they need. Also, be kind, loving, and patient. If you are suffering, this poem is for you.  You are heard. You are not alone. There is hope.

****If you or a loved one is suffering in silence, help is available…
1. Suicide Prevention Hotline: 1-800-273-8255
2. American Psychiatric Association:
https://www.psychiatry.org/patients-families
3. Psychology Today:
https://www.psychologytoday.com/us
4. Anxiety & Depression Association of America:
https://adaa.org/finding-help
5. EMERGENCIES: Dial 911

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Happy Mother’s Day

**UPDATE:  If you missed the show, it will rebroadcast tonight (5/12) at 7pm. 

Domestic violence is responsible for over 50% of women killed in the United States.  It doesn’t just affect the abused – its ripples are felt throughout the family and impacts future generations. Join me on Saturday, May 12, when we discuss domestic violence on The Music According to James radio show.  I’ll share my testimony and the signs I didn’t see in my own relationship until it was too late.  Airs on the Urban Broadcast Media radio via the app or this link.  Check out the promo below!

I hope you have a safe, blessed, and wonderful Mother’s Day weekend.

 

 

 

POEM: No More Sacred Spaces

Safe Passage

There are no more sacred spaces,

Just look at all the faces

Lost in a haze of confusion

Finding out safety is just an illusion

When children go to school to learn

And find bullets are all that they’ve earned

Finding no safe place to hide

As munitions come in at all sides

 

There are no more sacred spaces

Just look at all the faces

As they go to worship in churches

And a gunman uses pews as perches

To snuff out everyone he sees

And receives a meal for his deeds

The ultimate sanctity has been broken

Shooting up a church is an unspoken

Betrayal of all that is holy and civil

Peace shattered by a psycho

 

There are no more sacred spaces

Just look at all the faces

Their eyes are permanently dilated

Scarred by evil incinerate

Going to work is a clear and present danger

When a coworker uses guns to express anger

And blood begins to flow like rain

Never to earn a living again

Because they came in to make a living

Just to be murdered by a cold-hearted villain

 

There are no more sacred spaces

Just look at all the faces

Children are no longer safe at home

But instead, shed blood and bone

As parents commit filicide

Driving off cliffs into ocean tides

Or stuffing them into couches to smother

Or being molested or harmed by mom’s lover

Leaving more questions than answers

A sickness that spreads like cancer

By system too broken to protect

Those suffering abuse and neglect

 

There are no more sacred spaces

Just look at all the faces

As they exist within their own skin

On a scale that deems darkness a sin

When they see those flashing lights

And their guilt is deemed by flight

And bullets blaze all around them

Murdered by cops forever condemning

Dark skin to death due to cowardly fear

Only to walk away when the smoke has cleared

 

There are no more sacred spaces

Just look at all the faces

As they celebrate in a marathon crowd

Or an outdoor concert celebrating loudly

Oblivious to the impending peril

Of ticking bombs or the sights of a gun barrel

Victimized by a cruel declining civilization

As powers-that-be argue over legislation

While we witness the castration

Of the peace of a powerful nation

 

There are no more sacred spaces

Just look at all the faces

That vote on the whim of hope

Our way of life is on a slippery slope

Because we took our eyes off the prize

Valuing wealth over human life

Sacred spaces are dissipating

As the nation is segregating

And as our children are dying

And evil continues its uprising

 

There are no more sacred spaces

Just look at all the faces

As they look to us for solutions

To put an end to all the pollution

All we can do is pray

That it will not remain this way

©2018 Kim R Woods All Rights Reserved

 

Last Semester in College, Out of Options

UPDATE- Message from Malik’s mom:

“One week ago, I was overwhelmed with worry and distress over whether my son would return to school this week. Then my sister Kim (aka the wind beneath my wings) created a donation page and with just one initial donation, the love and support started flowing in. I want to thank everyone who shared and/or donated and prayed for Malik’s return to school. They took a partial payment and he was able to return to school today and register for classes. This could not have happened without a community of people who cared enough to donate, and share the post. I am now overwhelmed in a profoundly grateful way!
The abundance of love and inspiration has been nothing short of amazing; and I am humbled by the kindness of strangers! I’m not FB friends with everyone who shared or donated but please share this post with those who received the original post! THANK YOU ALL!
Henry Rosemon Nadine Rosemon, Tracy Rosemon, Nicole Langston, Belinda Ramos
Sabrina L. Williams Loren Moore
Maisha Nailah Nicole Layton
Corey Rosemon Deneen Collins Sharese Simmons
Miguel Anderson, Emanuel Alexander Kawanda T Johnson Kenneth and Ora Pittman. Carmela C, Michelle Nickolaisen, Carl Young, Laverne Woods, Latarsha Leveston-Green, Litesa Wallace, Chris Hutchinson Shekinah Carrera, Kathryn Kappes, Michelle Guido, Joseph Coates, Heidi Paugh, Nicole Mijatovic-Torres, Chanel Philips” 

Thanks to you, we were able to convince the school to allow him to register- knowing our efforts to raise the funds.  Please, support us.  As of today we are looking for these #DreamMakers:

11 people to donate 100  OR

15 people to donate 75

23 people to donate 50

46 people to donate 25

115 people to donate 10

Also, PLEASE don’t dismiss $5.00 or $1.00.  EVERY dollar helps Malik.  You can also send PayPal to:  paypay.me/krose125 or PayPal my sister (Malik’s mom) at denise.rosemon@gmail.com.  We need a miracle to help him graduate this year.  You can be that miracle.  Thank you!

https://www.youcaring.com/malikstuckey-1065184

Hello, friends.  As you SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESknow, I have used my platform to speak for those who have no voice.  Today I am writing for a young man who has surpassed many obstacles, working extremely hard in high school and college.  He has worked jobs throughout his high school/college journey to defray costs.  He is charismatic, responsible, and highly intelligent.  He is currently one semester away from graduating from college at Western Illinois University and he needs your help.

Please help Malik Stuckey, my nephew, complete his education.  Our family has sacrificed to get him this far and we are tapped out of options. He will not be able to register for his last semester next week if we can’t raise the funds he needs.  Please go to https://www.youcaring.com/malikstuckey-1065184 and donate.  If you can’t donate, we ask that you please SHARE the link above and/or repost this blog to signify your support.

We are only as strong as the children we release into the world and my nephew truly deserves to complete his hard-earned education.  Thank you!

Last Semester in College, Out of Options

UPDATE- Message from Malik’s mom:

“One week ago, I was overwhelmed with worry and distress over whether my son would return to school this week. Then my sister Kim (aka the wind beneath my wings) created a donation page and with just one initial donation, the love and support started flowing in. I want to thank everyone who shared and/or donated and prayed for Malik’s return to school. They took a partial payment and he was able to return to school today and register for classes. This could not have happened without a community of people who cared enough to donate, and share the post. I am now overwhelmed in a profoundly grateful way!
The abundance of love and inspiration has been nothing short of amazing; and I am humbled by the kindness of strangers! I’m not FB friends with everyone who shared or donated but please share this post with those who received the original post! THANK YOU ALL!
Henry Rosemon Nadine Rosemon, Tracy Rosemon, Nicole Langston, Belinda Ramos
Sabrina L. Williams Loren Moore
Maisha Nailah Nicole Layton
Corey Rosemon Deneen Collins Sharese Simmons
Miguel Anderson, Emanuel Alexander Kawanda T Johnson Kenneth and Ora Pittman. Carmela C, Michelle Nickolaisen, Carl Young, Laverne Woods, Latarsha Leveston-Green, Litesa Wallace, Chris Hutchinson Shekinah Carrera, Kathryn Kappes, Michelle Guido, Joseph Coates, Heidi Paugh, Nicole Mijatovic-Torres, Chanel Philips” 

Thanks to you, we were able to convince the school to allow him to register- knowing our efforts to raise the funds.  Please, support us.  As of today we are looking for these #DreamMakers:

11 people to donate 100  OR

15 people to donate 75

23 people to donate 50

46 people to donate 25

115 people to donate 10

Also, PLEASE don’t dismiss $5.00 or $1.00.  EVERY dollar helps Malik.  You can also send PayPal to:  paypay.me/krose125 or PayPal my sister (Malik’s mom) at denise.rosemon@gmail.com.  We need a miracle to help him graduate this year.  You can be that miracle.  Thank you!

https://www.youcaring.com/malikstuckey-1065184

Hello, friends.  As you Malik silhouetteknow, I have used my platform to speak for those who have no voice.  Today I am writing for a young man who has surpassed many obstacles, working extremely hard in high school and college.  He has worked jobs throughout his high school/college journey to defray costs.  He is charismatic, responsible, and highly intelligent.  He is currently one semester away from graduating from college at Western Illinois University and he needs your help.

Please help Malik Stuckey, my nephew, complete his education.  Our family has sacrificed to get him this far and we are tapped out of options. He will not be able to register for his last semester next week if we can’t raise the funds he needs.  Please go to https://www.youcaring.com/malikstuckey-1065184 and donate.  If you can’t donate, we ask that you please SHARE the link above and/or repost this blog to signify your support.

We are only as strong as the children we release into the world and my nephew truly deserves to complete his hard-earned education.  Thank you!

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.

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.