All Articles Tagged "injustice"
The first thing you’ll notice about Lezley McSpadden’s book is the arresting picture of her on the front cover. She looks different than the way we’ve seen her in the news. Her already narrow eyes don’t appear to be almost swollen shut from crying. Her hair, as we’ve become accustomed to seeing it, is laid, with a purplish tint to it. And most importantly, she appears strong.
I hesitate to use the word strong here. Because far too often it’s been associated with Black women, in an attempt to diminish our pain and our vulnerability. And while Lezley is still hurting and will always hurt for the loss of her oldest son, her first child, there is strength in the way she’s chosen to move forward, for her three other children, for herself and in memory of her son Michael O.D. Brown, or Mike Mike as she called him.
And in her book, Tell the Truth & Shame The Devil: The Life, Legacy, and Love Of My Son Michael Brown, we see how she managed to accomplish this unimaginable feat.
Tell the Truth begins with Lezley’s pledge to do just that. The very first sentence of the book is “I don’t tell lies because I can’t keep up with them.” Immediately she establishes an accessibility and familiarity that we haven’t been able to see on our television screens.
I remember watching Lezley at her son’s funeral, briefly. She appeared vacant, like all she could focus on was holding herself together. I remember wondering why she didn’t speak, like his stepmother did. I remember wondering what she had to say about her son, in the face of what the city of Ferguson, the media and complete strangers were spouting.
Tell the Truth answers all of those questions.
It speaks about her decision to have her son at 16-years-old, the strained, formerly abusive relationship she shared with Michael’s father. And most heartbreakingly, she talks about the challenges she faced in getting him to graduate high school and achieve a goal she herself was unable to complete. But more than that, it tells a story about the girl she was before and after she gave birth to her son, the woman she grew into raising him and the fighter she became after his tragic death.
The story, as we know, is sad, devastating. But more than that, it’s a love letter to her son. I found more often than not it’s not only her recollection of Mike Mike’s death that made me cry but the description of his birth, his character and the sacrifices she made to love and protect him that broke me up. She fought, often at the expense of herself, to ensure that he was safe, that he was healthy, that he had a chance in this world. Reading her anecdotes of their life together and knowing how his life ultimately ended is soul-crushing to us, but no one more than Lezley. Long before any of us knew Michael Brown’s name or face, he was treasured and loved deeply. He was beautiful and he mattered.
What’s most inspiring is the way Lezley has been able to turn tragedy into triumph. It would have been so easy to give up. It would have been understandable. The loss was that great. It would have been fair for Lezley to live a life of complete seclusion, choosing to focus only on raising her other three children. We could relate. After being thrust into the public sphere for more than two years, in response to such grief, who wouldn’t want to seek some privacy, some time to mourn without the eyes of the world on you?
But instead, Lezley used her pain and channeled it to help others. Not only did she start a foundation, the Michael O.D. Brown We Love Our Sons and Daughters Foundation, but one of the flagship programs of the organization is the way it gives back to other mothers who’ve lost their children. The Rainbow of Mothers provides women who’ve lost their children to violence or other tragic circumstances, with counseling sessions, legal advice and a support fund for women who’ve lost wages in the face of a tragedy.
Through Tell the Truth, Lezley McSpadden helped give us a glimpse of what and who Michael Brown was to her. She made him more than a hashtag or a catalyst for a movement. She made him a boy beloved. A boy whose death represented a great injustice not to just the Black community but to the country, to the world, to humanity. And beyond the words on the page, it’s her actions since then that have proven that his life, death and the sacrifices she made and love she showed to him, weren’t in vain.
To learn more about the Michael O.D. Brown We Love Our Sons and Daughters Foundation, you can visit the website at MichaelODBrown.org.
These days when we talk about injustice in the legal system, the conversation is usually centered around race. But if stories like the ones about Marissa Alexander, Shanesha Taylor and now Tondalo Hall, tell us anything, it’s that the courts also suffer from victim blaming and misogyny. Particularly, when it comes to Black women.
Unfortunately, Tondalo Hall is experiencing this right now. In 2006, her then boyfriend Robert Braxton Jr. pled guilty to breaking the ribs and femur of the couple’s 3-month-old daughter. Braxton served two years in prison.
There was no evidence that Hall had caused any harm or injury to her children, but for failing to protect them from Braxton she was sentenced for 30 years in prison.
The American justice system at work.
In 2004, Hall noticed that her 20-month-old son’s leg was swollen. Braxton, her then-boyfriend and farther of two of her children, told her he didn’t know what happened. For days the swelling wouldn’t go down. So Hall took him to the hospital. Doctors determined that he had a fractured femur and other broken bones. After examining him, they found similar injuries in his 3-month-old sister. Both Hall and Braxton were arrested.
Hall is still in jail while Braxton has been free since 2006, for time served.
Sadly, the children weren’t the only people Braxton was terrorizing in the home.
Hall has alleged, on more than one occasion that Braxton physically abused her as well. In court documents, obtained by BuzzFeed, she stated:
“Robert regularly choked me, blackened my eyes, threw objects at me and verbally assaulted me while my children were in the home. I did not escape the relationship out of fear that Robert would file for custody of our children and I would never be allowed to see them again.”
Braxton continued threatening Hall during their court proceedings.
Hall frustrated prosecutors who believe that she did not provide enough details on the witness stand about how Braxton abused both she and the children. The judge faulted her for being “less than candid” about Braxton’s actions though he did note that she seemed afraid of him.
Hall, who has been in prison for ten years now and still has 20 more years to serve, has tried to get appeal but she lost. She has requested that her sentence be modified but it was denied.
And earlier this week, a request for clemency, a process that would release her from prison, while not absolving her of her crime, was denied.
According to BuzzFeed, an Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board voted 5-0 against her application for a commuted sentence.
Hall is set to remain behind bars until 2030, when she will be eligible for parole. Board members provided no rationale for their decision but during the hearing, where Hall appeared through a video-conference, Vice Chair Patricia High “grilled” the 31-year-old, asking her if she knew about her children’s injuries and when.
Hall was often choking back tears as she responded.
When High asked her how she could have not noticed the child’s leg was bothering her, Hall said, “She cried but I didn’t– I thought it was because she needed to be changed or fed, you know.”
“So as soon as you were finished changing her or feeding her, she just calmed right back down?”
“Um, yes ma’am.”
When asked if the day at the hospital was the first time she’d noticed her children had been hurt, she said, “No.” She claimed that by then Braxton was already hitting both she and the children.
One other person spoke during the hearing. It was Marsha Travis, the chaplain at Mabel Bassett Correctional Center in McLoud, where Hall is in prison. She pleaded with board members to commute her sentence, saying she has heard remorse in Hall’s voice.
Hall herself said: “I know I failed as a mother, and I’m just asking for a second chance.”
Women’s Rights Advocates have been following this case closely and assert that this is another way in which survivors of domestic violence are victimized all over again in the court system. There is a lack of understanding when it comes to the mental, emotional and psychological turmoil an abuse victim endures. Particularly in Hall’s case where Braxton’s threats of taking the children while she was in jail, came to pass.
Instead of offering counseling and services to get women out of these dangerous and dysfunctional situations, they merely throw them in jail, separate them from their children and take away opportunities for them to find freedom and independence in a real world setting. It’s anything but justice.
Earlier this month police responded to a domestic violence call to an apartment in Charlotte, North Carolina. When they got there, they found 36-year-old Omar Dunbar dead.
After an investigation authorities announced that Deanna Denise Watson, a 16 year old girl was being charged with his murder.
Dunbar was Watson’s mother’s boyfriend and according to neighbors and police records, the two didn’t have a good relationship.
According to the Charlotte Observer, Watson and her siblings often clashed with her mother’s boyfriend.
Charlotte-Mecklenburg police had responded to three separate domestic violence complaints at Watson’s home in the week prior to his death. Neighbors spoke to the Observer saying that Watson and her siblings often said Dunbar, who had been dating their mother for three years, attempted to punish the children by hitting them or kicking them out of the house.
A family friend, Kamela Friday said that Dunbar and Deanna had the most tumultuous relationship/ She said when he was around, Deanna would often knock on neighbors’ doors asking if she could stay with them since Dunbar had put her out.
The day Dunbar was killed neighbors say they saw police outside of Watson’s home again. Friday said she later learned that they were there because Dunbar had hit one of the younger boys.
Friday, who spoke with Deanna’s siblings later, told the Observer later that night, Watson’s mother went to work at a nearby Target. Once she was gone, the sounds of Dunbar confronting one of her siblings woke Deanna out of her sleep.
“He grabbed (him) by the legs and pulled him out of the bed and pulled him down the stairs,” Friday said. “Deanna was like ‘Leave my brother alone. Leave him alone. Just leave.’ And he spat in her face.”
The two got into a fight of their own after that and during that time Dunbar was stabbed and killed.
Early on Wednesday, two friends called Friday and asked her to go check on Deanna and her siblings. She said once she got in the apartment, “I see blood because he’s dead in the kitchen. It was all over the floor.”
Turns out, Dunbar, in addition to dating Deanna’s mother, was also married.
His wife Ashonda declined to speak in detail to the Observer but she said, “What’s being portrayed is not him. That’s all I’m going to say.”
Obviously, none of us were there or know what happened; but from the details from the neighbor and the not one, not two, but three reported domestic violence incidents, in a single week, it would seem that Watson got tired of her mother’s trifling boyfriend abusing she and her siblings and she took action.
Sadly, Dunbar ended up dead as a result.
When Watson appeared before the District Court, she was wearing shackles and a judge set her bail at $1 million.
From the outside looking in, the situation seems like the victim was being punished for protecting herself.
This didn’t sit too well with Joann Thompson.
Though she’d never met Deanna, she, being a former domestic violence survivor, was touched by her story and decided to do something about it.
Thompson told People, “The system failed those kids. I just had to do something to help her. With this paper trail of domestic abuse that’s been going on for years, you want to lock this child up? That’s a little harsh, isn’t it?”
She was particularly infuriated by Watson’s $1 million bond. And in response she set up a Fundly account in Deanna’s name and started researching lawyers on her behalf.
“She’s just a child. This is very traumatizing for her. She doesn’t have an attorney at all, and we don’t want to see her sign something she doesn’t understand. That’s another reason why I want to help her. She doesn’t have a voice. She has to have a voice.”
Thompson is not the only one. Neighbors were passing out fliers, attempting to raise money for her defense.
Now, Deanna is being held in the juvenile section of an adult correctional facility in North Carolina. Thompson hopes she will be released before her 17th birthday next month.
At the time of publication, it seems that Fundly is not loading properly. But if you’re interested in contributing to Deanna, please keep checking back.
It’s clear that Black people are having to fight for our humanity in this country. Recent actions from citizens and authorities have proven that our lives aren’t valued. That issue is compounded when a person of color is poor, or in the case of Trishawn Cardessa Carey, homeless.
Earlier this year millions of people watched a Los Angeles police officer fatally shoot an unarmed Black man outside of his tent on Skid Row on March 1.
According to MSN.com, police claimed the man, Charley Keunang, a Cameroonian immigrant, grabbed the officer’s gun when he tried to take him into police custody on suspicion of robbery. The incident raised additional conversation about police brutality. But in the midst of all of this, people failed to notice there was a woman involved in the altercation as well.
34-year-old Trishawn Cardessa Carey, who was also homeless, can also be seen in the video picking up a nightstick dropped by one of the officers during the struggle with Keunang.
She was later charged with assault with a deadly weapon against a police officer and resisting arrest. Though she did strike anyone and injured no police officers, she could face 25 years to life in prison because, if charged, she would have violated California’s three strike sentencing law for repeat offenders.
She’s been in jail since the incident; and after nearly five months, she was granted a reduction in her bail to $50,000 from $1 million.
Suzette Shaw, a member of the L.A Community Action Network’s Downtown Women’s Action Coalition likened the charges lobbed against Carey as updated Jim Crow.
The footage in the video shows Carey briefly lifting the baton has officers scuffled with Keunang. It doesn’t show her swinging it or striking anyone.
The prosecuting attorney, Gregory Denton, will argue, not that Carey struck anyone, but she intended to do so by “picking up the officer’s baton and raising the baton to strike the officer.”
He said, “An attempt to strike someone is assault. There is no mystery here. The reality is all the conduct involved in this case is on the video.”
Carey’s defense attorney, Milton Grimes said that he will argue Carey, who he believes is mentally ill, didn’t threaten or attack any of the officers.
“I’ve seen the video, you’ve seen the video. She doesn’t go after anybody. Is possession of a baton an assault? No. The legal basis appears, to me, to be a distraction or cover-up of the killing of a man by the police.”
In an interview from jail Carey spoke for herself saying she doesn’t remember picking up the baton.
“I was surrounded by yellow and black police tape. I was in the wrong place and around the wrong people.”
Judge Ray Jurado noted, in court, that Carey had nine prior convictions, including two serious,violent felonies.
In 2002, she was convicted of robbery where she punched the victim in the head. Later, in 2006 she was convicted of assault with a deadly weapon. She struck a shopkeeper with a ceramic figurine when he asked her to leave his store.
Grimes herself blamed her prior convictions on her mental illness and police aggression.
Grimes argued that instead of sitting in a jail cell, Carey should be getting treatment. He outlined Carey’s long history of medical and mental disorders and mentioned her troubled upbringing, with her mother leading her into prostitution at the age of 14.
While some are calling for her to be placed in treatment, Denton, the prosecuting attorney, said that in jail she would receive constant care for her disabilities.
Susan Burton, founder of a rehabilitation program, testified that she could help Carey at one of the group’s recovery homes.
She said, “Maybe, just maybe she would get the first break of her life.”
A break would be nice.
But then again, they don’t seem to be handing those out to too many Black people these days.
I agree this is on the Jim Crow level. How can anyone argue that they knew what Carey’s intent was or might have been with the nightstick. The fact that she’s been sitting in jail for five months when no one was struck and no one was injured, is a clear indicator of racism and classism. Why establish a $1 million bail for a woman who doesn’t have a home? Someone just wants to benefit–and by benefit, I mean profit– from having an additional body in jail.
I don’t know how anyone can claim what Carey’s intent might have been if she never made a motion toward any of the officers on the scene.
The whole thing is disgusting and glaringly unjust.
We’ll be sure to keep you updated on this story.
Most of us are still seething mad about the outcome of the George Zimmerman trial. Our black boys and men are in constant danger of being killed with absolutely no consequences for the perpetrators, despite working hard to dispel the unfair stereotypes they have to endure on a daily basis. These boys and men may not be seen as sons, brothers, husbands, or friends to all of society, but that is exactly who they are to their mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, friends, and us. In the wake of the unfortunate Trayvon Martin verdict, this list is a cold reminder of black males who’ve died unjustly over the years and whose deaths sparked national uproar and protests.
I’ve never been to Denmark but something sure does smell peculiar in Brunswick County, Georgia:
According to ABC News:
“The lawyer for one of the Georgia teenagers charged with murder in a baby’s shooting said Monday his client is “absolutely” not guilty and the grandmother of the second suspect said her grandson would never be involved in such a crime. “My client is absolutely, 1,000-percent not guilty,” public defender Kevin Gough, who represents 17-year-old De’Marquise Elkins, told The Associated Press. He made the comments Monday, while preparing for Elkins’ first court appearance on the murder charge. It was scheduled for 2 p.m. Monday.”
According to published reports, Sherry West was pushing 13-month-old Antonio Santiago along in his baby stroller when she was allegedly accosted by Elkins and the unnamed minor in a botched robbery attempt in the small coastal town. Said West, the two youths who were trying to rob her allegedly fatally shot the baby in the face as he slept in his stroller after West said she didn’t have any money. West also took a bullet to the leg during the tragic incident.
Although the police chief said robbery appears to be the motive, they admit nothing was taken during the killing. On Tuesday, police announced the arrest of De’Marquise Elkins’ mother and older sister, who were later charged with evidence tampering for allegedly helping the suspect in the shooting dispose of the gun used in the shooting into a saltwater pond, which was also recovered by police that same morning. And just yesterday, new reports are saying that police now suspect Elkins of being involved in a robbery/shooting of a local pastor, who was robbed of his cell phone and wallet in the same vicinity just days before the fatal shooting death of Santiago.
Despite the public defender’s assertion of innocence, it would appear that the police, along with West, are certain that they have the right people in custody. But then, there is this from the First Coast News/ABC Affliate in Jacksonville, Florida:
“As the investigation into the shooting death of a 13-month-old Brunswick toddler continues, some people are beginning to question the mother who’s child was shot and killed during a morning walk. The daughter of Sherry West, Ashley Glassey, said she does not want to falsely accuse anyone but she wants the truth. Glassey, 21, lives in New Jersey and said her mother lost custody of her when she was 8. She said she has forgiven her mom and has spoken to her every day since Thursday’s shooting but said some of her mother’s responses have her concerned. Glassey said she started to have her doubts after receiving a phone call from her mother telling her that her brother, Antonio Santiago, had been killed. She claims the night of the shooting her mother asked, “How soon do you think life insurance policy will send me a check?”
Glassey also goes on to state that her mother is bipolar and has schizophrenic tendencies and said that she reported her suspicions to the Brunswick department but hasn’t yet received a response. This new angle has been lighting up message boards around the web from those questioning certain suspicious behaviors of West after the murder, including interviews she had given so soon after the murder to various news organizations. In one such interview with WJXT in Jacksonville, West curiously speculated if the shooting of her 13-month-old baby was related to the death of her 18-year-old son Shaun Glassey, who was fatally stabbed five years ago in New Jersey. The boy who stabbed Glassey was never charged in the case because the police thought he acted in self-defense, after it was determined that Glassey and four other unnamed juveniles lured the boy via text message to a secluded location and initially tried to use the knife in the murder on him.
I don’t think I can really stomach the possibility that not only do we live in a world where someone was cold-hearted enough to shoot a baby in the face, but a world where there is a possibility that two other children might be wrongfully blamed for it. Personally, I don’t know what to believe. However, I do believe that it is too early to make judgment calls either way. And what this story does illustrate is the rush to judgment that tends to happen when the offender is black. A lot of it is how we have been conditioned. Night after night, we see mugshots of some menacing and bugged-out looking black folks plastered on nightly news and on the front page of newspapers. Usually the crimes that people have been arrested and accused of are so heinous that it has become natural inclination to be repelled and want to disassociate ourselves away from them. However, we forget that they are just accused and not every person accused of a crime is actually guilty. Immediately after local law enforcement released to the media the description of the boys suspected in the shooting, I heard just as many black folks as there were whites praying that police “hurry up and find the person that did it.” Unfortunately when it comes to high profile cases like the shooting of this baby, “hurrying up and finding someone” is what usually happens. And doesn’t mean that they necessarily got the right “someone.”
Like most people, I want justice served in this case. And there are lots of subtleties here, which could make for a perfect storm of debauchery, which will ensure that it will not happen. First, there is the history of racism, classism and segregation in Georgia, which has often served as a historical backdrop for a miscarriage of justice. And let’s not forget about the Central Park Five, the Susan Smith case, the Troy Davis case, and a whole laundry list of other instances where people who had been accused or served time were later revealed to have been wrongly convicted for crimes. Sometimes we forget that even with the best of intent, law enforcement does sometimes make mistakes; get it wrong and flat-out engage in misconduct.
I’m sure you’ve heard the sad news already. But after a a four hour delay, Troy Davis was executed last night around 11 p.m. by lethal injection. The delay was caused by the fact that Davis filed an eleventh hour plea to the U.S. Supreme Court for a stay on the execution. The stay was denied. After hundreds of thousands of signatures to prevent the execution circled around with the help of Amensty International, Change.org, the NAACP and others, along with Davis offering to take a polygraph test to prove his innocence, justice wasn’t served, and reasonable doubt all of a sudden meant nothing.
For those looking for the President to step in, a statement was released yesterday by press secretary Jay Carney saying, “It is not appropriate for the President of the United States to weigh in on specific cases like this one, which is a state prosecution.” So it was up to the people who kept getting signatures, spreading the word through social media and protesting. Davis’ sister Kim, who created the campaign for Troy’s life on Change.org, wanted people, including supporters around the world, to know that Troy was grateful:
“When Troy saw that more than 650,000 signatures had been delivered to the board in his name, he called to tell me he was deeply moved. He told me he knew that he had supporters around the world, but he had no idea that the support was that widespread. ”
While we’re very sad that Davis had to be executed, especially with so much doubt surrounding the case, we hope that this spurs people to step up and fight and not deal with injustices like this in the future. We aren’t silly enough to believe that Davis was the only man on Death Row or in prison in general possibly wrongfully convicted. It’s better to know you tried to make your voice heard and fight, than to just shake your head when it’s all said and done. Don’t take these things lying down folks! On top of that, as many of our Facebook followers pointed out, stay doing positive things with positive people so that you don’t find yourself in a situation like this. Tell that to your children and let them know about this case so they know what the justice system is capable and incapable of. That goes out to young men, grown men, young women, grown women, children, anybody–spread the word.
There have been some really deep and thought-provoking articles about Troy Davis’ case, the issues with the death penalty and the impact of Davis’ execution all over the web. We leave you now with a few links to those. R.I.P. Troy Davis:
- “Troy Davis is Dead; The Movement Continues” – Rashad Robinson: The Huffington Post
- “A death in Georgia” – J.F.: The Economist
- “Troy Davis’ Execution: Outrage for Opponents, But Closure for Victim’s Family?” – Nathan Thornburgh: Time
- “Watching an execution: AJC reporter was inside the death chamber” – Rhonda Cook: Atlanta Journal-Constitution
As the state of Georgia prepares to execute Troy Davis for a murder conviction tonight at 7 pm, people around the world are decrying what they see as a violation of justice. Davis, whose case has hung in limbo for 20 years as the courts remained indecisive about whether to take his life, was refused a polygraph test requested in a last-ditch attempt to prove his innocence. Even though seven of the nine witnesses who testified against him have recanted their testimonies, and two jurors have changed their minds, Davis remains condemned to death. Executing a man despite persistent doubts paints a picture of America’s justice system as one that is not just at all. Folks worldwide are expressing their anger at this revelation. Here is a sample of the negative reactions our judicial process has prompted from luminaries for refusing to grant Troy clemency after a last-minute appeal — plus a statement of acceptance of his fate from Davis himself.
UPDATE: Troy Davis was executed and pronounced dead at 11:08 pm on Tuesday, September 21.
“The Struggle Doesn’t End With Me”
From The Washington Post: “Amnesty International… posted a message that Davis, 42, had asked to share on its Facebook group: ‘The struggle for justice doesn’t end with me. This struggle is for all the Troy Davises who came before me and all the ones who will come after me. I’m in good spirits and I’m prayerful and at peace. But I will not stop fighting until I’ve taken my last breath.'”
A man is set to be murdered, legally, by the State of Georgia tomorrow, September 21, at 7 p.m. That man’s name is Troy Davis, a man born in the same state as the late Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. only a few short months after the hatred, bigotry and injustice King spoke out against cut down our fearless leader in Memphis, TN. Davis now stands to lose his life courtesy of the same injustices King spoke about and we are all witness to this travesty.
Troy Anthony Davis stands accused of murdering a white off duty police officer in a Burger King parking lot in 1989. There is no physical evidence that links Davis to the crime. Seven of nine witnesses who testified during the original trial have recanted their story and have said that they were coerced by the police to implicate Davis in the murder. According to the Daily Mail, Davis and his lawyers argued that the racial composition of the jury and poor advocacy from his lawyers had affected his right to a fair trial.” Davis was convicted and sentenced to the death by lethal injection in August 1991.
When investors think of Africa, cheap labor and cheap land are what come to mind. And they’re not holding back in new land expansion ventures.
San Francisco Bay View reports on a new study by the Oakland Institute on the investments. The study finds that as interest in African land grows, small farmers and communities are being forced to leave their native land, often with no compensation, to make room for foreign vision.
China and India are some of the major players in African land investments. Many European and US firms connected to large banks such as Goldman Sachs and JP Morgan have also jumped on board at the opportunity, exploiting the resources of Tanzania and Sierra Leone, for example. Universities with large endowment funds are also getting a piece of the action.
The report states that “these largely unregulated land purchases are resulting in virtually none of the promised benefits for native population.” Job creation is minimal.
A recent land acquisition in Mali was large enough to sustain more than half a million people. In the hands on the 22 investors that now own it, it has the possibility to create only about a few thousand jobs.
In response to the injustice of these recent land acquisitions, the Oakland Institute declares that concerned people and organizations must not stand idly by.
Harvard, Spelman and Vanderbilt are among the universities investing in Africa. The Institute is urging that students and alumni be made aware of the ill effects of the acquisitions. In addition investment and pension funds must also be held accountable for their actions before they further destroy the lives of these disenfranchised residents and communities.