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Looking In The Mirror: We All Make A Difference

DETROIT (May 22) — Rev. Al Sharpton the Civil rights activist gave a rousing eulogy on Saturday May 22, 2010 for a 7-year-old girl killed in a police raid, challenging the hundreds of mourners to take responsibility and help stop a spiral of violence that has swept the city.

Sharpton lobbed some criticism at Detroit police, whose explanation of how Aiyana Stanley-Jones died from a gunshot has been contradicted by the girl’s family. But he mostly offered a broad cultural message to a city where at least three children and an officer have been killed in recent weeks.

“I’d rather tell you to start looking at the man in the mirror. We’ve all done something that contributed to this,” he said referring to Aiyana’s death.

“This is it,” Sharpton said at Second Ebenezer Church. “This child is the breaking point.”

Is this child’s senseless murder truly the breaking point or is this just more talk with no action to follow? By no means am I questioning the sincerity of Reverend Sharpton. I’m certainly not jumping on the band wagon with Michigan Attorney General Mike Cox, who criticized Sharpton’s visit, by saying he was disgusted and accusing the Action Network New Yorker of a “drive-by at the scene of a tragedy.” It should be noted that Mr. Cox is a Republican running for governor and any criticism by him might be considered as a self serving political statement.

In response to gubernatorial candidate Mike Cox, Sharpton made the following statement: “I’m disgusted when I look at a 7-year-old baby in a casket,” and rather turn to each other, we name-call and ego-tripping and trying to jump in front of a camera rather than stand up and say, ‘Enough is enough.”

The congregation stood and applauded Sharpton, who was the final speaker at a nearly two-hour service that included stirring gospel music and remarks from clergy.

Aiyana was shot in the neck while sleeping on a couch May 16. Police hunting for a murder suspect say an officer’s gun accidentally fired inside the house after he was jostled by, or collided with, her grandmother. A stun grenade was also thrown through a window.

The question still remains will African Americans step up to the plate? Is this merely talk where on Monday morning middle class blacks who fled Aiyana’s community in their BMW and Mercedes Benz will continue to act as if the problem in our black community is not their problem because they no longer reside inside the hood?

Our ancestors survived the middle passage shackled to other Africans belonging to different tribes. They were shackled to Africans whose stench of death they had to inhale along with their own stench in every breath they took in that darken sweat hole packed like sardines. Our ancestors regardless of tribe affiliation were shackled together in slavery in this country that prides itself on being a democracy. Our ancestors regardless of skin tone and hair texture was shackled together during reconstruction. Our ancestors no matter what educational background, were shackled together in segregation. Our ancestors were shackled together in the civil rights movement, and it’s a fact of life here in America that the civil rights movement has not ended, but continues.

Another fact of life is that as a people no matter where we live, we will always continue to be shackled together.

When some of our brothers and sister drove up in their BMW with college educations to buy that dream home in the suburbs, they were handed a sub-prime loan with a smile. Never mind that many qualified for a low fixed interest rate. A matter of fact companies like Wells Fargo hired people like Tavis Smiley, the influential creator of the State Of Black America Union to target us. Now some of us are hustling to make those payments on homes that have lost a good deal of their value. For what it’s worth these folks may as well be renting. For others, they have simply lost their homes to foreclosure.

A good deal of these are homes had been in the family for generations. Because African Americans accumulate wealth through home ownership, (and not with BMWs and Mercedes Benz which loses a great deal of value whe driven off the car lot), 50% of the wealth of the people of color have been taken away.

Further, when it came time for the recovery that was supposed to take place, communities of color got shut out again because banks refused to cooperate to modify loans or restructure mortgages to help families stay in their homes resulting in foreclosures and the mortgage payment hustle.

It’s no getting around it, economic and political power is the order of the day. That is so apparent in the Tea Party movement, a movement copied from our civil rights movement. Interestingly, the goal is said to be the removal of politicians who represent special interest groups at the expense of their constituents running this country into the ground financially. However, members of this movement blame President Obama who acquired the plethra of problems create by other administration for not remedying the problems in his first year. Further they unapologetically advocate the destruction of the civil rights our ancestors fought and died for in civil right marches and sit-ins. Collectively they threaten the court cases like Brown v. Board of Education along with all the civil rights lawsderived thereof. You might think that their aim is the hood, but if they are successful in electing people who support their thinking, it will have a negative impact on all regardless of where you live or what kind of car you drive.

People of color cannot have political power unless we elect people who will support our rights and existence in both state and local governments as well as the federal government. We know that our voter base was eroded by felony convictions and murders over turf in the 80s’ drug epidemic, that still exist. That erosion also includes our drugged out brothers and sisters who commit petty crimes, mostly misdemeanors, to finance their drug dependency. Voting is neither a priority nor a reality to them. Although drugs is a problem in the suburbs, it destructive impact is all too visible in the hood. Some had their rights restored during the last Presidential campaign, and certainly helped in the election of the first African American President.

Whether we like it or not, we are shackled to each other. For there can be no true economic and political base without the support of all. Every vote counts, and with a vote comes a voice. Some of us have tried in vain to ignore that voice as not being one that sounds like we have sought to hear in the confines of our suburban homes. In reality, it is the voice of the hood that we hear as foreclosure looms or we tire from the endless hustle to make a mortgage payment on a property that isn’t worth its’ purchase price of two years ago. The truth of the matter, we can no longer afford to ignore that voice. Remember a violation of civil rights is an injustice and an injustice to one is an injustice to all including yourself.

Yes yourself. Looking in the mirror we not only see our image but we see that our lives are really no different than our brothers and sisters we left in the hood. We may have moved out of the hood but the hood and all the racial problems follow us no matter where we live.

The bottom line: we can’t ignore the stench that stinks to high heaven when a promising life such as Aiyana Stanley-Jones is taken senselessly. It happened in the hood and like the sub-prime loan scam, if we don’t step up to the plate especially during the mid-term elections local, state and federal, it will happen to us in the suburbs. As we sleep they think of ways to redistribute our minimal wealth to themselves and at the same time take away the civil rights and voting rights our ancestors fought and died to regain after reconstruction. There is no denying that we have provided a helping hand by leaving and ignoring a viable community which had served as both a political and economic base in the days of segregation, and not turning out for local and state elections as well as federal midterm elections. We’re discovering that the grass is not greener in the white suburbs.

As Reverend Al Sharpton has said, we are all responsible in some way, for little Aiyana’s demise. Therefore, we must look at ourselves in the mirror and determine how we will come together to stop the madness, for we all make a difference.

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