This is a weekend in which I really would have loved to have been spared further aggravation, indignation, etc. But enough about me.
Here are three news items that ruffled my feathers, and apparently I think you should know about them. What these stories say to me is that there is something to be said for opening up the dialogue. I know I’m always posting pictures with words on them. I’m certain that if I went thru these archives of “inspirational” images I would find that I do not actually believe the message in a large percentage of them. Here’s one I recently came across that sent up a red flag:
Mr. Morgan Freeman, I love and respect you. Robin Hood Prince of Thieves, The Shawshank Redemption, whatever that movie that you played God in was called… I freaking love that shit. And to top it all off you funded the first racially integrated prom in Charleston, Mississippi. Major Mahalo!
But, Mr. Freeman, do you really think that if we stop talking about it, it will stop? Maybe you meant to say stop identifying and categorizing by race. Which would mean me not calling myself a black girl or a biracial girl, and you not calling yourself a black man, and George Bush (either one) not calling himself a white man. An inside-out kind of shift. But if we just stop talking about it, Sikhs will continue to be perceived as terrorists, black folks as criminal/dangerous/depraved, and white people will be perceived as… perfectly normal. I think we have to talk about it. But from a place of seeking to understand the unity, not defend the separation.
For the record: Tiffany Jones, do you really believe that Morgan Freeman actually said that just because you saw his face above those words on some random Facebook page?
All of THAT being said, on to this news.
I’m not at all surprised by Mississippi and the need for a civil rights lesson there… FOR the judge! I am a bit surprised to come across another instance of Sikh-abuse so soon. I suppose I’m tuned in to that community now. Perhaps I wouldn’t have clicked on that story three months ago. Not proud of that, but it’s the truth. When you have experience unity and fellowship with an “other,” there remains no such thing as “other.” How will we ever get to that place if we stay silent?
Omg, the middle one….my heart was racing and I started to sweat at the part in the story when the cop put gloves on…
Punky Brewster was a hero of mine. By proxy Cherie also has a big piece of my heart! SO, how dare they!? Of course not because she’s Punky’s bestie, but because she’s a human being. A human being who is conscious enough to approach her heritage openly and with reverence. It truly makes my blood boil.
I did take a nugget of love and hope from Dennis White’s narrative of the incident though. The love and respect with which he speaks of and treats his partner struck me as truly beautiful. The way he handled the situation…I’d wager to say this guy meditates or something fantastically woo woo like that. Most do not expect that of a black man. On a bad day I include myself in that group. So, just in case it seems otherwise, everything I post on this blog is a note to self. That makes the title “diary” a little more digestible to me.
So,the third one here is an improvement of a situation. If that wrong is righted, there will be clear-cut, undeniable manifestation of something positive coming out of something tragic. The positive will be an acquittal for Marissa Alexander. The tragic is literally the verdict in the George Zimmerman case. Figuratively, I suppose it’s the death of Trayvon Martin. What a huge universal purpose that youngster served. Sat Nam.
Mississippi County Gets Civil Rights Lesson From A Harassed Sikh Truck Driver
AUTHOR: DEBORAH MONTESANO SEPTEMBER 28, 2013
In a move that Mississippi might be regretting, a Sikh man was arrested and humiliated in the state over refusing to remove religious attire. The incident happened last January when Jagjeel Singh, a long-distance truck driver, was stopped by state police officers for driving with a flat tire. During the stop, they harassed and mocked him for wearing a turban, while one officer stated that all Sikhs are ‘depraved’ and ‘terrorists’.
Finally, the officers told Singh that the small, sheathed ceremonial sword, called a kirpan, that he was wearing was illegal. This isn’t true, but they ordered him to remove it. The kirpan is sewn into the waistband of a Sikh man’s trousers and is a sacred religious object, which Singh tried to explain. He declined to remove it and asked that he not be forced to do so. The result of this request was that he was arrested for refusing to obey a police command.
Matters got worse from here. The rest of the nation has long been accustomed to hearing about the abuses of Mississippi police officers when it comes to members of minority groups. Usually, the justice system isn’t much better — and that’s certainly the situation in this case. In March, Singh showed up for his hearing before the Pike County Court. As he sat in the courtroom waiting for his case to be called, four policemen approached to eject him from the room — at the judge’s behest.
Judge Aubrey Rimes ordered the removal because he didn’t like the turban Mr. Singh was wearing, which is also of religious significance. In chambers, the judge confirmed to the defendant’s lawyer that not only did he order the removal, but if Singh didn’t take off the turban, he would wait until all the cases were heard before calling up that one. And that’s precisely what happened. Singh spent the day waiting for his ‘turn’.
However, unlike many who have been targeted for discrimination in the state, Mr. Singh was not all on his own to face the Mississippi ‘justice’ system. First, the United Sikhs organization got involved, providing him with legal representation. Local lawyer LeeAnn Slipher not only stood up for her client in court, negotiating for charges to be dropped and her client released, but was a vital witness to the abuse that took place at the hands of the judge.
With irrefutable evidence available, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) Civil Rights Division opened an investigation and the results have been relatively immediate. Pike County agreed to institute sensitivity training and to revise their nondiscrimination policy in return for an end to the investigation. The county’s policy now specifically says that religious discrimination includes:
… requiring an individual to remove a head covering or denying that individual access to a County office, building, program or activity because they are wearing a head covering, if that head covering is worn for religious reasons.
Although Mississippi has been notoriously bad at dealing with civil rights issues, there is hope that the good news doesn’t stop there — especially since federal intervention has already taken place at the county level. On Wednesday, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) sent a letter to the Mississippi Department of Transportation, asking for an investigation of its officers on harassment charges. The ACLU also announced plans to file a complaint with the Mississippi Judicial Commission, in cooperation with United Sikhs, asking for an investigation of Judge Rimes and for the imposition of consequences for his actions.
The outcome, of course, will depend on watchful eyes from elsewhere in the nation.
Two Hollywood Actors Get Stopped, But Not For An Autograph
by: Krystol Diggs Posted September 28, 2013
Being violated is something that many haven’t had a chance to go through. Although we never want it to happen at all, it does and it happened to actors Cherie Johnson and Dennis White. Cherie Johnson, who is known for her roles in Punky Brewster, Family Matters, etc and Dennis White who was in the film Notorious, a story about the late Christopher Wallace also known as “ Biggie Smalls” never imagined their vacation to be an experience they would never forget. As an African American myself I must say that this situation is has saddened me. Racism should cease to exist. Ms. Johnson and Mr. White should never have been violated to the fullest extent that it entailed. I hope that this article will show that we as people should be united as one and not divided. Dennis White explained to me the terrible ordeal, here is his story.
On September 22nd, 2013 at approximately 3:40pm, I was reminded that at the end of the day I can be harassed by the police at their will. Regardless of how many movies or TV shows I have been in. Regardless of my education at WSSU. Regardless of how much money or accolades I have garnered. Regardless of my journeys across the globe. I will be forever at the white officer’s mercy.
My lady and I have had a long trip teaching our Acting workshops in NYC and in Fayetteville, NC, my hometown. We have been out of L.A. for about 10 days and we needed some R&R. I suggested Myrtle Beach because she has never been there before and it can be romantic in nature. Myrtle Beach was the place in which I acted in my very first film, “Swimming”, so there is a special place in my heart for that town. Well, we decided to leave Sunday afternoon between football games and to avoid heavy traffic and to make it to Myrtle before the Steelers(her favorite team) played. We laughed, kissed, held hands, talked and had a pleasant time traveling from NC to SC. We had no idea that our trip would turn into a horrible nightmare.
We entered South Carolina and within 20 minutes or so we were pulled over by 2 police cars. They stated that I was driving 40 miles per hour in a 25 miles per hour zone. I disagreed but there was nothing I could do. He presented me with a citation that I planned on fighting. So, the Officer began to warn us that we should be careful because there are other officers on the prowl. We heeded his advice and continued on our “romantic” getaway. Once we entered the highway to reach Myrtle beach, We began to see cotton fields. I was cognitive of my speed limit. Didn’t want to attract any other police interactions. Well, there was a cotton field that was on the right side of the road and my lady was intrigued by it. The history of our ancestors picking cotton and being enslaved tugged at her heartstrings. Being a man who desires to accommodate his woman, I decided to pull over and let her experience the connection with the angst of our ancestry.
There was a paved driveway that led to a small cotton field. The oil change light came on so it was the perfect reason to pull over. I pulled over and we both exited the rental vehicle (Ford Fusion, great car! I need one of these in my life) and we took in the history and the oppression that those little white balls created decades ago. Tears welled up and the vindication of being free and willing to pursue our dreams unabashed gave us power. We took several pictures just to document the experience. I grew up in North Carolina so this is nothing new to me but to experience this with the woman I love was monumental. As we walked back to the car we noticed a cop car with it’s lights on making a u-turn and parked right behind us. My lady, proceeded to walk towards his car and state, “I just wanted to take a picture!” The Officer, S. Barfield, grabbed his gun and told her to sit in the car.
While in the car, we chuckled and connected on the thought that this is just the icing to our trip. The officer approached my side of the car and asked for license and registration. I complied and he went back to his vehicle to run my identity. Everything came back clean. He began to ask me a plethora of questions. I showed him the flyer from the Acting workshop we just held in Fayetteville the previous day. I informed him of our credentials and what we do for a living. He told me to exit the vehicle. I complied. He brought me to the back of the car and asked me more questions. He asked me my woman’s name and I answered, “Cherie Johnson”. He left me and questioned her. I assumed to validate my answers. He returned to his car and approached me and told me that there was a warrant for her arrest. I told him he had to be mistaken. He presented that info to her and she disputed that. He returned to his vehicle and within 5 minutes he approached her and admitted that she didn’t have a warrant. By this time I am hot, confused and annoyed. He asked me several more questions and then asked if he could search the car. I am not a lawyer but I know some of my rights. I refused. He walked over to Cherie and asked her several more questions. He left her and entered his car and put gloves on.
Officer Barfield approached me and told me to turn around. I asked him if I was being arrested. He said, “No”. He proceeded to put handcuffs on me rather tight and aggressively. I inquired why was I being cuffed. He had no specific reasoning. He then proceeded to approach my lady and tell her to get out of the car and he handcuffed her. At this time I became distraught. I have been racially profiled several times in my lifetime but it touched my core when my woman was included. The officer put us both behind the car and chided us. Another cop car arrived and he was very nice. He asked me my name. He immediately recognized my lady.
The first officer began to ask us about drugs. He continuously made reference to the fact that if we had marijuana he would just write us up for a citation and let us go. We refuted the claim of us possessing anything illegal. He told Cherie that we could be hiding a dead body in the trunk. He threatened to arrest us for trespassing and petty larceny. At that point, I decided that I should let him search the car. The bugs were eating me up and I felt guilty for having my Woman in handcuffs.
He searched the inside of the car ,went through her purse and found several hundred dollars. He questioned the possession of that money. He then searched my bag and found a stack of money, which he questioned as well. As he looked into the front pocket of my bag he told me to come closer. “Look what I found”, he stated. “Is this marijuana? “ I looked and told him, “No, that’s a tea bag”. He had to agree. He then told me he has a tester to see if it was marijuana. I told him to do as he wishes. He finished searching the whole car and found nothing. He un-cuffed us and let us go. No apology, no nothing.
At no point in history is this justified, especially not in this day and age. The equality that our forefathers fought so hard to obtained does not stretched across the board. South Carolina has been known to treat African-American as second-class citizens. It’s not right and it’s not fair. I will not stop until this incident is made public and that racist cop, Barfield, is reprimanded and punished. That was one of the worse days of my life and I plan on making it one of his as well. If you are reading this, please share, please discuss, please inform your family, friends, co-workers and associates that “Officer S. Barfield” in Marion County, SC is a racist cop and his punishment is imminent. We will not stand for this injustice anymore!!!
Marissa Alexander, Woman Sentenced To 20 Years For Firing Warning Shot, Gets New Trial
By GARY FINEOUT 09/26/13
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — A Florida woman serving 20 years in prison for firing a shot at her estranged husband during an argument will get a new trial, though she will not be able to invoke a “stand your ground” defense, an appeals court ruled Thursday.
The case of Marissa Alexander, a Jacksonville mother of three, has been used by critics of Florida’s “stand your ground” law and mandatory minimum sentences to argue that the state’s justice system is skewed against defendants who are black.
The 1st District Court of Appeal ruled that Alexander deserves a new trial because the trial judge handling her case did not properly instruct the jury regarding what is needed to prove self-defense.
The ruling, written by Judge Robert Benton, said the instructions constituted a “fundamental error” and required Alexander to prove self-defense “beyond a reasonable doubt.”
But the court also made it clear in its ruling that the judge was right to block Alexander from using the state’s “stand your ground” law as a way to defend her actions. That law generally removes people’s duty to retreat in the face of possible danger and allows them to use of deadly force if they believe their lives are in danger.
Faith Gay, one of the attorneys representing the 33-year-old Alexander, said she was grateful for the “thorough consideration” provided by the appeals court.
“We are looking forward to taking the case back to trial,” Gay said.
Alexander had never been arrested before she fired a bullet at a wall one day in 2010 to scare off her husband when she felt he was threatening her. Nobody was hurt, but the judge in the case said he was bound by state law to sentence her to 20 years in prison after she was convicted of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon. Alexander has maintained that the shot fired was a warning shot.
The sentencing sparked criticism from the local NAACP chapter and the district’s African-American congresswoman, who said blacks more often are incarcerated for long periods because of overzealous prosecutors and judges bound by mandatory minimum sentences.
State Attorney Angela Corey, who oversaw the prosecution of George Zimmerman in the shooting death of Trayvon Martin, has stood by the handling of Alexander’s case. Corey said she believes that Alexander aimed the gun at the man and his two sons, and that the bullet she fired could have ricocheted and hit any of them.
Jackelyn Barnard, a spokeswoman for Corey, said that the conviction was reversed on a legal technicality and that the office was gratified that the “stand your ground” ruling was upheld.
Benjamin Jealous, president and CEO of the NAACP, called the ruling a “welcome development in a case that represents the double standards in our justice system.”
“From the streets to the courthouse, race continues to influence the judicial process, and it certainly seemed to have played a role here,” Jealous said in a statement issued by the civil rights organization.
The state’s “10-20-life” law was implemented in 1999 and credited with helping to lower the violent crime rate. Anyone who shows a gun in the commission of certain felonies gets an automatic 10 years in prison. Fire the gun, and it’s an automatic 20 years. Shoot and wound someone, and it’s 25 years to life.
On Aug. 1, 2010, Alexander was working for a payroll software company. She was estranged from her husband, Rico Gray, and had a restraining order against him, even though they’d had a baby together just nine days earlier. Thinking he was gone, she went to their former home to retrieve the rest of her clothes, family members said.
An argument ensued, and Alexander said she feared for her life when she went out to her vehicle to get the gun she legally owned. She came back inside and ended up firing a shot into the wall, which ricocheted into the ceiling.
Gray testified that he saw Alexander point the gun at him and looked away before she fired the shot. He claimed that she was the aggressor, and that he had begged her to put away the weapon.
The judge threw out Alexander’s “stand your ground” self-defense claim, noting that she could have run out of the house to escape her husband but instead got the gun and went back inside. Alexander rejected a plea deal that would have resulted in a three-year prison sentence and chose to go to trial. A jury deliberated 12 minutes before convicting her.
Alexander was also charged with domestic battery four months after the shooting in another assault on Gray. She pleaded no contest and was sentenced to time served.
Supporters of Alexander have asked Gov. Rick Scott to pardon Alexander, but her case has not yet been taken by the state’s clemency board.