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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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    Posted 4 years, 5 months ago at 3:44 pm. Add a comment

    A Double Victory For The Father And The Son


    Francis Otieno, freelance slum electrician

    Francis Otieno, freelance slum electrician

    Sifting through all the New Year advice from rich celebrities, reports on the college bowl games and the NFL playoffs as well as coach firings, I came upon an interestingly thought provoking article by Robyn Dixon.

    Dixon recently posted an article in the Los Angeles Times about a man named Francis Otieno whom she describes as a freelance slum electrician. The 36 year old Kenyan resides in the slum of Kibera which is located outside of Nairobi, Kenya’s capitol.

    According to the article, the Kenyan Government has failed to connect the mud hunts and corrugated iron shacks within this slum with electricity. However, electricity sold legally to Otieno by his boss is patched illegally to 40 households in and around Otieno. The boss supplies Otieno with wire to connect the 40 households in his patch for a profit.

    Otieno collects a monthly payment of about $5 per house, skimming off a small commission and delivering the rest to his boss.

    Because electrical problems are frequent. Otieno gets calls from dawn until after dark, often abandoning his dinner plate to investigate problems. “I leave my dish of food and go to serve them first,” he says.
    There exist many dangers in his job. Sometimes children or mothers died when they have a short,” says Otieno, a father of three. “Sometimes people’s houses burn down.” He speaks slowly, searching for words, pausing frequently.

    The main problem for a freelance electrician is rats. Both the two legged and four legged kind.

    There are millions of the rodents in Kibera, creeping into people’s shacks, chewing through electrical wires.
    Otieno’s best friend who held the job before him, and was killed when he jumped on a roof to fix a short. The man was unaware that the roof was live because a rat had nibbled at a wire.

    The other danger is the rainy season, which turns Kibera into a slippery, muddy swamp — particularly “downtown,” as the bottom of the hill where Otieno lives is known.

    The water trickles through shack roofs as leaky as colanders, dripping into electrical wiring and sometimes shocking the person trying to fix the damage.

    Out in the rain, struggling to fix wiring with wet shoes and sopping clothes, Otieno has had a couple of shocks that way.

    Sometimes the problems are caused by people hanging clothing on the electrical wires to dry.

    Sometimes someone switches the power on, just when he’s trying to make a repair. (That happened when he was connecting two wires, and it nearly cost him his life.)

    Sometimes the money Otieno collects doesn’t cover the power used in his area. There are people who can’t pay.

    “Not all the neighbors pay their money on time. Some can go three or four months without having money to give us,” Otieno says.

    He gives them three months’ grace before cutting them off.

    Another reason the books don’t balance is the thieves who hack into the wires, connect up their houses and draw off power without paying.

    “They just come at night,” Otieno says.

    “They might not be using their lights, just the radio, so no one knows.

    “I tell them, ‘You’re a human being just like me. Just come to me, because you’ve got problems. Even me, I’ve got problems. We can just talk and work it out.’ ”

    Otieno’s dream is to save enough capital to start his own welding workshop, so as not to rely on bosses for pay. But it’s an elusive one. So, for $12 a month, he risks his life as an electrician.

    “It’s a risk, I know, it’s a risk. That risk isn’t good,” he says. “But life is hard.”
    Otieno is a hero in Kibera.

    In light of the events occurring on Northwest flight 253 in Detroit on Christmas day, he should also be considered a hero here in America.

    It would have been more comprehensible had Umar Farouk Abdul Mutallib had lead the hard life of Otieno.

    Otieno would be a prime target as an al-Qaeda recruit except that Otieno choose life. Although he risks his life for $12.00 per month, he shows that he respects life by trying to work with his neighbors to insure that they have electricity.

    The hard life must be frustrating at times. It was certainly frustrating for Barack Obama Sr. who took to the bottle to sooth his pain.

    Unlike many Africans, the senior Obama came to America to become educated. After earning his doctorate, he returned to his homeland of Kenya to make a difference.

    Barack Obama with Keyan father Barack Sr.

    Barack Obama with Keyan father Barack Sr.

    Before returning, he left America a gift: a son who is now the first African America President.

    Now some 48 years later, Africans continue to come to America to be educated, but do not return to their homeland to make a difference. They cite the continuing corruption as reasons.

    However, some use that same excuse as a disguise to perpetuate their own greed and comfort here in America.
    For example, a federal jury in Greenbelt Maryland convicted Louisa Satia and her husband Kevin Nanji of holding an uneducated Cameroonian teenager in involuntary servitude. Involuntary servitude is a violation of the 13th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution which outlawed slavery in this country.

    The teenager testified that her family expected that she would work as a domestic while attending high school when she came to the country illegally in December 1996. Instead, she said she was ordered to work round-the-clock, cleaning, cooking and caring for the couple’s three young children.

    U.S. District Judge Alexander Williams Jr. also ordered Louisa Satia, 36, and Kevin Nanji, 41, to pay their victim $105,306. Williams said the figure was a conservative estimate of what the couple owed the teenager, who is now 18, for her labor if she had been paid a little more than $12 an hour. Ironically, the hourly rate is the equivalent of Otieno’s monthly earnings.
    With its vast natural resources, which apparently includes the people, there is no reason for the ongoing poverty in Africa, which is compounded by the lack of bacteria free drinking water.

    But for the government sanctioned corruption, there should be enough money to feed and educate all who reside on the Dark Continent. The corruption permits outside countries such as Australia to exploit the natural resources for financial gain which is shared by the corrupt government officials who doesn’t pretend to practice the fairytale trickle down economic theory of the Reagan administration.

    Rich and wealthy African Americans like Oprah Winfrey, Alicia Keyes, Chris Rock, and Jay Z raise funds here in the U.S. to assist the unfortunate inhabitants. Although they spend millions, it pales in comparison to the money that is taken out as a result of the corruption.

    Further it does not resolve the problem. It only throws money at it. As the old Chinese proverb says, “Give a man a fish, you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime”. We have taught many Africans how to fish, but they do so in our pond. In order to be helpful, they must take these skills back to their homeland and teach others. Further they must stay and demand change in their corrupt Government.

    Although Otieno chooses life, will the next generation do the same? African Americans know all- to- well the answer, after experiencing the drug epidemic that has destroyed the Black community. Every day, we see and read about the gang activity that stands as the foundation of the criminal activity existing in the once upon a time segregated communities. Despite the civil rights movement, the ghetto, and/or rural slums have become a breeding ground for gang life.

    Umar Farouk Abdul Mutallab

    Umar Farouk Abdul Mutallab

    Alhaji Umaru Mutallib, former chairman off Nigerias First Bank

    Alhaji Umaru Mutallab, former chairman off Nigeria's First Bank

    As we now know Umar Farouk Abdul Mutallib comes from no such background. The young 23 year old Nigerian is the son of Alhaji Umaru Mutallib, a prominent Nigerian banker and former cabinet official. We don’t know what prompted this son of privilege to join al Qaeda in its’ quest to kill Americans. But if a son of privilege will jump on the radical bandwagon, it is no doubt that poverty stricken Africa is a breeding ground for the terrorist gang known as al-Qaeda.

    The only remedy is to stop the corruption within and without.

    We know that the senior Barack Obama was not successful at alleviating the corruption. Will his son who is the most powerful man on earth be successful?

    In World War II, African Americans were faced with fighting discrimination within the United States, and fighting Hitler outside. A double victory campaign was initiated in the African American community. I suggest that we embark on a new double victory campaign to assure the success of our President.

    A double victory for the father and the son.

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      Posted 4 years, 9 months ago at 8:25 am. Add a comment


      By ED WHITE
      The Associated Press
      Wednesday, March 11, 2009; 5:43 PM

      DETROIT — A teenager’s conviction in the shooting deaths of four people should be thrown out because another man has confessed to the murders, the teen’s lawyer said Wednesday.

      Kim McGinnis said she was “absolutely confident” that her 16-year-old client, Davontae Sanford, was innocent and that she would ask a judge to throw out his conviction.

      Sanford was 14 when four people were shot in a Detroit drug house in 2007. He pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in 2008 and won’t get a chance at freedom until he’s 53 years old.

      Wayne County prosecutors last week turned over a written confession given to police by Vincent Smothers, who is accused in the killings of eight people in six other cases, Smothers’ attorney said.

      Smothers wrote that he “shot three guys and a female” at the house, and that he and an accomplice took a half-pound of marijuana, $2,000 and a gun that was used in a subsequent killing.

      Smothers’ lawyer, Gabi Silver, does not dispute that the statements were made.

      “But there hasn’t been a determination yet if my client’s statements were voluntary,” Silver said.

      McGinnis said the teen was a suspect in the quadruple murder because he lived in the neighborhood and a detective “sensed that Davontae knew more about the case than he was letting on.”

      She acknowledged that Sanford confessed to the four killings, but added, “Juveniles have a high rate of false confessions.”

      “He has one eye. At the time, he was reading at a third-grade level,” McGinnis said. “He’s an extremely agreeable kid. He wants to accommodate adults in his life.”

      Prosecutors declined to comment until a court hearing March 18.

      A hearing Wednesday to determine whether Smothers should go to trial in two other slayings was postponed until April 22. He told police that he shot two elderly men in Detroit in exchange for $15,000 in May 2007, according to court documents.

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        Posted 5 years, 7 months ago at 6:32 am. Add a comment