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Hardy L. Brown

There's Still Work to do in Correcting Our Justice System

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We did not create the current justice system nor was it seeking justice for Blacks, women, or the poor in this country at the time it became the law of the land. It was built on biases and stereotypes that are culturally tied to those in charge with discretion that many of us do not understand until we are caught up in it.

Many were surprised by the actions of the county prosecutor and how he used the Grand Jury to present the case for police officer Darren Wilson instead of the victim Michael Brown the young Black teenager. However many in the Black community knew the outcome before the jury rendered its verdict.

The local NAACP is taking a long march from the place of the killing to the state capitol in hopes of bringing attention to the issue of police officers killing unarmed Black citizens in America. They are also hoping to get a law enacted for police to wear body cameras when interacting with the public.

While this would be nice, I remember Mayor Tom Bradley saying, “I know what I saw” when talking about the police beating of Rodney King on video after a jury acquitted the officers using the video. People see what they want to see and ignore facts because they know the majority of the public will not be impacted by their decisions. We are going to have to remove this automatic legal protection of police officers that we have established in America. More cases must be brought to public trial in order to establish any kind of trust in our community and police must prove themselves trustworthy of our respect.

Now Ferguson’s city government is attempting to correct some of the obvious things that have come out into the national spotlight. How does a city where 70% of the population is African American have only one serving on the city council and three Black police officers?

They have accepted the resignation of Officer Wilson while implementing a plan to increase the diversity of the police force by offering financial incentives for officers to live in the city and organizing a police cadet program in schools.

There are many cities like Ferguson all over America and some right here in the Inland Empire. For example, San Bernardino has only 22 Blacks and 62 Hispanics on the force and 18 who live in the city out of a staff of over 200 officers.

On the fire department, there are only four firefighters living in the city with six Blacks and 19 Hispanics on a staff of 120, where Whites make up less than 25% of the population.

Currently there are two Latinos and one African American on the San Bernardino City Council. I say currently because there was a time there were no Blacks or Latinos represented on the city council and a time when only two Blacks served at the same time. Voters must keep this in mind and seek good people to run for office while having a city charter that gives those elected the authority to manage once elected.

To all elected officials, the time to act is before a crisis or like I say in the newspaper business “make friends before you need them.” You never know when a Ferguson issue might happen in your community.

And remember many Black and Latino citizens do not view the justice system as their friend or being there for them. We have a lot of work to do to change that perception.

Hardy L. Brown is Publisher Emeritus of the Black Voice News.

Remembering Those Who Died And Why

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This past Monday we took time to pay tribute to our fellow Americans who paid the ultimate price for our freedom and our allies around the world. What began as a day to honor those killed in the American Civil War has now included all wars and conflicts about freedom on our behalf.

At first we just visited the grave sites and laid flowers and offered a prayer on their behalf but now we hold ceremonies with fancy programs while many take to beaches and family gatherings in their backyards.

However you celebrate, I hope you took the time to really thank these men and women who served our country and obligated yourself to live up to one of the things they died for and that is the right to vote. There are countries around the world engaged in violent conflicts over the right to vote while here at home we have people trying to deny and suppress that right. And if they have their way many living relatives of those who died for the right to vote will be denied that right in America.

Even in some cases those who were injured and have disabilities will be denied that right because of their present living condition of homelessness. Not having a place to call home and proper identification is part of some states’ proposals to deny this constitutional right they died for.

It is hurtful, shameful, and embarrassing to our nation that today, some veterans have died because some people we pay to provide health care services to veterans did not give them a timely appointment to be treated. Things like this must not happen and we, the living, must rededicate our lives to right these wrongs for those who died.

Let us begin by looking to the next election and re-engage ourselves by voting. Twenty to thirty percent of our citizens voting is not a good enough tribute to show them that we appreciate what they did on our behalf.

This thing called freedom begins with the ballot box and by you electing people you think will honor those who died and will fight for the rights of those living.

What's in the Water Donald Sterling, Cliven Bundy, and some Congress members are Drinking?

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Donald Sterling, owner of the Los Angeles Clippers, has opened up another Pandora’s box of blatant racism when a recorded statement: “don’t bring Blacks to the ball game, you can sleep with them, hang with them but just don’t do it in public,” was released to TMZ.

On tape, Sterling told his then girlfriend that he did not want her posting pictures of her with Black people such as Magic Johnson or bringing them to his ball games. He also went on to say that he gives his players food, cars, houses, and other things as though they do not work for their salary they earn as professional athletes.

This really reminded me of the slave master mentality of owning people without compensating them for their labor - picking cotton, tobacco, cutting sugar cane, harvesting bananas, lettuce, strawberries or picking grapes. In other words, be grateful to me for allowing you the privilege of working for me.

Sterling has a history of discrimination going back to 2006 when the U.S. Department of Justice settled a case against him for $2.7 million for housing discrimination against Asians, Latinos and African Americans. In the suit, it is alleged that Sterling said Hispanics smoke, drink too much, and hang out around the property while Blacks smell and attract vermin. In other words, he compares Blacks to dogs and other animals that attract fleas, bed bugs, and other nuisance insects that are hard to get rid of.

The great Elgin Baylor sued Sterling for employment discrimination back in 2009 when he worked as the General Manager for the Clippers, and Sterling told him to sign up poor Blacks boys from the south and pay them low salaries and get a White coach.

Sterling reminds me of the slave master that had slaves as property, worked them from sun up to sun down then would rape their females at night. This is what he was telling his racially mixed girlfriend when he told her to do what you like but do not bring attention to what I like in YOU people.

The reason I mention the water is because some members of congress are behaving in the same way when it comes to their actions toward the nations first African American president, Barack Obama. Even when Obama presents some solutions to problems that they once supported when the president was White, they now reject them. They call him a liar during the State of the Union address, which had never been done before. A total disrespect and disregard for the nation’s highest office.

Then I thought perhaps there is some water-borne racism virus the CDC hasn’t told us about, when I heard the recent comments by the “rebel” Nevada rancher Cliven “Clyde” Bundy who very publicly and unapologetically asked “Were ‘Negroes” better off as slaves?” To which he believes the answer is yes.

We now know that Donald Sterling has admitted to making the racist statements and shows no remorse in saying what he said. To him it is about money and using people to make it by any means. I am happy to see the NBA Commissioner Adam Silver take such a strong stance against Sterling and address the issue as a national one that is greater than basketball.

I also want to commend Mayor Kevin Johnson of Sacramento for accepting the challenge to be the spokesperson for the NBA players on this issue. And Coach Doc Rivers for his leadership in helping to keep the young players focused on their job while addressing the issue.

It is equally important that the elected leaders of the city of Los Angeles weigh in on the matter and they should. When you think of the tax breaks these owners get from taxpayers to have a team play in their city, it is an issue that should be of concern to all citizens. It is great to see corporate advertisers say we cannot be a part of this. Like Mayor Johnson said, “let this be warning to other bigots in America, if Donald Sterling can fall, so can you.”

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.

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