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Hardy L. Brown

Standing Your Ground Could Lead to One Place – Either Jail or Death

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Stand your ground sounds almost like a good old gospel song that one should sing in church. Here in the US, most states have some form of a stand-your-ground law, but the spotlight has most recently been on the State of Florida since the ruling in the George Zimmerman and Trayvon Martin case based on this law.

This law caught my attention when George Zimmerman shot and killed Trayvon Martin on a rainy night in a Florida housing community. Zimmerman told the police that he felt threatened and was a victim of Martin. Martin did not have a gun but Zimmerman did have one and used it to kill Martin during a hand-to-hand scuffle. Zimmerman initiated the encounter by following Martin after being told not to do so by a 9-1-1 operator. He was advised to wait until the police arrived.

Zimmerman ignored that command because he thought that “young thugs” get away with too much and he intended to not let that happen again.

During that incident another shooting came to my attention that involved a woman firing a warning shot to prevent her ex-husband from beating her. He had a history of beating women and had a court ordered restraining order to stay away. She was safely in her home and told him to leave, which he was in violation of the law by being there. Since he would not leave and told her “I am going to beat you to death”, she picked up her gun and fired the warning shot into the air and said, “if you come any closer I will shoot you.”

He filed charges against her and she was taken to jail and court.

Now I hear of another shooting and killing in Florida of an unarmed young teenager, Jordan Davis who was sitting in a car with friends playing music. They were at a convenience store when another customer, Michael Dunn, pulled into the parking lot and parked next to them.

The youths were minding their own business until the uninvited customer decided that they were playing their music too loud and asked them to turn it down. He said the youth, “thugs,” talked back to him and words were exchanged which led to him reaching into his glove compartment for his gun, killing one and attempting to kill three others.

Dunn proceeded to wait for his fiancée to return from inside the store where he told her what had happened. They left the scene to finish the night by ordering pizza and having wine. This man did not call the police about what happened but waited until the police contacted him.

He told the police what happened and that he was a victim and was defending himself from those thugs as he called them. He told police that the youths had a gun but one has yet to be found by anyone and he never mentioned to his fiancée that they had a gun even though he told her everything that had happened to him.

During his trial, the three remaining youths told their version of what happened which was the opposite of his.

If you have been following these incidents and court cases you know that in the Zimmerman case he was found not guilty of killing an unarmed youth. Zimmerman is White while the youth was Black. Zimmerman was caught saying “they” are always getting away with wrong doing of breaking into homes stealing things.

In the second case, the woman is Black and the man is Black and in violation of a court order but the woman is found guilty of firing a warning shot into the air and sentenced to twenty-years in prison. In the third case, the man is White, found not guilty of killing a Black youth, but is found guilty on three counts of attempted murder for shooting at the car they were sitting in.

In all three cases the defendants pleaded not guilty because they were standing their ground to defend themselves from being harmed.

In my opinion the only one defending herself was the woman who had been beaten by her ex-husband in the past and was trespassing by being on her property. She did not initiate the visit and she warned him to leave. When he would not leave but told her what he was going to do to her, she reached for her gun and fired a warning shot to protect herself and family.

These “Stand Your Ground Laws” must be changed because they are unjust and if you are Black and a victim or protector you are guilty of a crime. You are guilty if you have a gun and use it or you become a victim if you do not have one and end up killed in the process.

I Have A Dream In Mind

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This past Monday we celebrated another anniversary honoring the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and how he envisioned America and the world. I lived during the time when MLK and other civil rights leaders were struggling with protest after protest and march after march, watching elected officials and law enforcement officers stand at the entrance of educational institutions, restaurants, department stores, and having to ride at the back of the bus, drink from separate water fountains, not being able to get a room in hotels, and experiencing legalized employment discrimination. We had the right to vote but not without having to pay a poll tax or take a test on the constitution or even guessing how many bubbles were in a bar of soap.

I then thought of our current situation of having high drop-out rates of African American students from the very institutions MLK fought so hard for them to enter. I thought of the fine restaurants we waited on tables at and were employed in but now can’t work in nor eat at because so many are unemployed. I thought of the gains we have made in employment in department stores only to have technologyreducing those employment opportunities. I thought of the open door policies of hotels, but now many of our people don’t have the financial resources to pay the bill. I also thought of the many fine accomplishments our people have made during the struggle and the many firsts over the past fifty years that some take for granted now. My younger brothers and sisters integrated the schools that were segregated for me. They witnessed Black teachers and principals being shoved out of the classrooms and replaced with White teachers and principals.

While this was going on down south, the north and out west in California, educational institutions were looking for Black teachers to educate the growing classrooms of Black and Latino students. This brought me to my current dream of our children reaching their full potential advancing us to the next level. That dream is a 100% graduation rate for all students. My dream of all students graduating with grades to enter any college or university they desire if they wish to gain higher degrees or be able to learn technical skills or start a business.

In this dream I saw parents actually being parents to their children and not friends of their children. And children eager to attend school and give their undivided attention to instruction. I saw teachers actually teaching students by challenging their creative side and encouraging critical thinking. I saw principals acting like campus leaders, making sure that teachers had the resources necessary to carry out the policies established by the Boards of Education. I saw educational employees associations working with Boards of Education with one mission: do what is good for the students. I saw the public asking what they can do to assist in the education of our children. I saw a country saying we need to bring employers back home for our children to work with business opportunities for our young people.

I saw voters electing people into office that want good government for the people they serve. I saw elected officials seeking ideas from the people they serve and incorporating those ideas into laws. Then I woke up and said to myself, is this possible? And a voice from King said, “I had a dream that one day this is possible if the people will devote their time, talents and financial resources to the mission of service.” I hope you had a wonderful MLK anniversary and remember to keep on dreaming about being of service to others to make the next generation better than what we are.

Preachers of Los Angeles

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I grew up with our church being at the end of our backyard, so I grew up knowing preachers. Being from a tobacco state most of the preachers grew, smoked, chewed, or dipped some form of tobacco. I also grew up hearing of Daddy Grace and other high profile Black preachers including controversial Congressman Adam Clayton Powell so when I heard the kids talking about this television program called Preachers of LA, it peaked my interest but I did not view it until my son caught me in the mood and changed the TV channel one night.

Then I noticed one of the preachers was Bishop Ron Gibson of Life Church of God in Christ from Riverside.

This really peaked my interest since I remembered Rev. Gibson from delivering papers to his church, the Tyisha Miller protest and my son becoming a member of his church. As a matter of record, my last public speaking engagement was at Rev. Gibson’s church for a Black history program and he helped me from the podium and prayed for me.

I am doing this piece on my friend Rev. Gibson because of some of the reviews I read on the show calling it junk and calling the pastors, power seeking and money grabbing ministers. Now I cannot speak for the other ministers but what I have seen of the program Ron is true to himself as a person and minister.

Pastor Ron has always spoke of his background growing up in a gang and drug infested neighborhood. He did it all and gives all the credit to God for saving him from a life of drugs and violence. It is through his life experience, just like so many of us, that he responds to life and certain situations.

When Tyisha Miller was killed in 1998 by four White police officers in Riverside, the Black ministers came together to lead the fight for justice on her behalf and Rev. Gibson was one of those preachers. On several occasions when the committee needed a place to present controversial speakers like Rev. Al Sharpton and community activist Danny Bakewell, Gibson did not hesitate to offer Life Church. When the police chief told the group they could not protest in front of the police station anymore, there was Rev. Gibson stepping up saying this is public property. Vermont McKinney of the United States Justice Department Community Relations stepped forward and said to Rev. Gibson and Rev. Bernell Butler give me ten minutes to talk with the chief. Needless to say they protested in front of the police station on the property. He was one of many that was arrested and hauled off to jail for protesting. When he went to jail and was in court he pulled off his Rolex watch and had the court officers hold it.

Pastor Gibson showed no fear in his confrontation with law enforcement and it gave strength and courage to the other clergy when confronted with the establishment.

There were many preachers who demonstrated exceptional leadership during that yearlong protest for justice on behalf of Miller. I even offered biblical nicknames for some of them, like Luke was Rev. Jesse Wilson chair of the Tyisha Miller committee. For Rev. Gibson I gave the name Peter “You the Man” because of his eagerness and quick response in critical situations. It was Peter who cut off the solider’s ear when they came to arrest Jesus. That is the way Pastor Gibson responds through his neighborhood experience.

As I previously mentioned, I don’t know the other ministers in the television program but Rev. Ron Gibson and his wife, LaVette are living the life they have always lived and giving all the credit to their Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

The Richie Incognito and Jonathan Martin Incident

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Richie Incognito, a veteran professional football player for the National Football League’s Miami Dolphins, used some harsh and threatening language toward Jonathan Martin, a rookie on the team that was so bad Martin quit. Some say it was hazing that every rookie goes through. A hazing ritual that evidently includes rookies taking the entire team out to dinner at a cost in the tens of thousands.

I am sure they do other things like playing silly pranks on the new members of the team. However, the question now is did Incognito cross the line of hazing and did management know about what was going on and did nothing about it.

According to investigative reports, ESPN and other news outlets, this is not the first time Incognito has displayed behavior so bad it caused him to be suspended from a team dating back to his college days.

This time Incognito has been suspended from the Dolphins for an undetermined length of time and as for Martin he is out as well.

By now you are probably wondering what was said by Incognito to Martin that would cause Martin to walk away from a multi-million dollar career and lead to Incognito’s suspension.

Incognito left Martin a voicemail:

“Hey wassup, you half N------- piece of s---. I saw you on twitter, you been training 10 weeks. I want to s--- in your f---ing mouth. I’m going to slap your f----ing mouth. I’m going to slap your real mother across the face, then he laughed; f--- you, you still a rookie. I’ll kill you.”

They said that this is only what they could or would release at this time but there is more to come. Many are saying that management should have known and put a stop to this. While others are saying the players on the team should have told Incognito to back off and that his hazing had crossed the line of the locker room norm.

I am sure Incognito is one of those guys who would have said if females want to report on football then she must put up with what males say and do.

I recall that is what male employees said when Kaiser Hospital wanted to hire a female biotech engineer in the engineering department and the male department head said if a woman was hired she would have to put up with all sorts of bad language and pictures of nude women on the wall. The hospital administrator responded, “I did not know that is how your department behaved when I am not present.” He went on to say, “let me say this to you, she starts in two weeks and if you cannot clean up your department by then have your resignation on my desk.”

In my opinion these kinds of things happen in our society because people at the top set the tone for what kinds of behavior are acceptable.

I believe, it is more difficult for one who comes from the privileged side of town to regulate their tongue or behavior because they have never had to worry about the consequences of their actions.

In my opinion this incident will force all teams to re-evaluate how rookies are treated in the locker room when they arrive. I believe Incognito crossed the line and thus should not be allowed to play in the National Football League.

Ben Jealous Resigns As CEO of NAACP

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My friend Ben Jealous, CEO of the NAACP, is resigning his position effective December 2013 citing personal family reasons. As a father of small children having to spend days and weeks of not being able to talk, touch and play with them during their developmental years takes its toll. Those formative years are the most important in a child’s life with mother and father raising them together.

I know this because I have been where Ben is now. I had the opportunity to uproot my family for the hustle and bustle of Los Angeles where I would spend countless hours stuck in an office in Hollywood, on the road throughout Southern California, and in the air to Oakland. Our kids were small at the time with one not yet born.

My wife and I evaluated our situation and decided that our family would be better served in the four bedroom home, with swimming pool, central air & heat, surrounded by people we knew from childhood and a community we loved. I took a promotion with the company but remained in San Bernardino where I came home every night.

Now Ben took the job at 35-years of age when there were no children involved with his decision. Now at 40 and two children later he and wife, Lea Epperson, a civil rights lawyer with her own career, his priorities have shifted. I, for one, applaud Ben for his decision.

I have known Ben since the 90’s when both of us were involved with the National Newspapers Publishers Association, he as staff and I as first vice president of the board of directors placed with some responsibility of staff and conventions. Ben impressed me with his knowledge of our struggle as Black owners of newspapers and citizens in America.

Ben is a Rhodes Scholar and it was clear to me he was skilled at grasping grand ideas and dissecting them into clear statements for communicating them to people.

I know the stress a position like CEO of the NAACP can have on a person because at any moment a Trayvon Martin shooting, a moral Monday demonstration in North Carolina, voting rights issues in any state, interviews on television, radio or newspaper could happen at any time or place in America with his presence being requested, not to mention supervising a staff and raising money for the organization.

Ben is leaving the organization with a good staff and much more money than when he started. The donors have grown from 16,000 to 133,000 with annual revenues up from $25 million to $46 million a year. The NAACP has a high tech operation for getting voters engaged in the political process that helped contribute to higher Black voter turnout.

I wish Ben much success in his endeavors as he strives to raise a family while navigating his career to provide for them.

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