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Living 'the Dream'?

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Multi-generation activists find inspiration in Dr. King’s legacy, but note differences today with #BlackLivesMatter movement

By Corey Arvin
Staff Writer

Sylvia Martin-James hears an echo from yester years – one that reverberates just a little bit differently than the outcry for equality and justice from the golden era of the civil rights movement that she keenly recalls. The latest rallying cause for civil rights has centered on #BlackLivesMatter, a social-media inspired revocation to police brutality, that resembles the movement catapulted to the national stage by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Martin-James is a well-regarded and revered activist in Riverside who has taken cues from the civil rights’ movement emphasis on education and applied it to various local issues. Martin-James, a retired educator, is known for her role in establishing the Grier Pavilion in Riverside City Hall, honoring late activists Dr. Barnett Grier and his wife Jean.

Since the #BlackLivesMatter movement peaked last year, Martin-James has only been a spectator. She admits she isn’t a “technical” person in today’s generation of internet-savvy activism. However, Martin-James is heartened by the movement, but cautions there are important elements lacking in the approach she has witnessed surrounded calls for police reform. Martin-James believes the activism using social media is very singular, and doesn’t usually foster the collaboration and synergy that were the springboard for civil rights movements in the 1950’s and 60’s.

“High tech now pretty much is a singular involvement. It is a contrast to what was once a coming together for all of what was taking place [back then],” she said.

“I think there is a high likelihood of a pitfall. I think it is already becoming clearer and clearer the young ones are at ease with themselves and don’t have such a sense of others around. They are perfectly well equipped and this is what they are doing, high tech and think this demand is really what it’s about,” she added.

Martin-James watched the rousing gestures of solidarity and protests emanating from Ferguson, Mo. and New York from her television and followed the news coverage. It struck her that coming from an earlier civil rights generation, the input from her generation could have been an asset to the protestors.

“Being of an older age is a plus at times like that because you can have a greater understanding of the individuals as well as the groupings taking place at many locations so there would not be an attempt on the part of some to be much more boisterous and demanding and wanting to see instantly some change, some aspect of that change that would encourage them. … My only criticism would be some of the younger age, as well as some of the elderly age, to share with each other frequently,” she said.

A Complex Comparison

Before anti-police brutality protests reached a fever pitch last month, African-Americans and sympathizers of Ferguson were criticized from the left and right. Conservatives panned the argument that police brutality disproportionately – and unjustifiably – affected blacks. Liberals shamed Ferguson’s black citizens for lackluster voting statistics and dismal law enforcement participation, suggesting that the civil rights struggles that granted blacks the right to vote and equal opportunity employment, were being wasted. Those arguments stemmed from statistics such as how about 60 percent of Ferguson’s population is black, but most of its police officers are white. As well as how in 2013, 92 percent of those arrested were African-American, according to a report from the Missouri Attorney General. In addition, Ferguson has only one black city council member and only 12 percent of blacks voted in the city’s 2013 election.

According to Erica R. Edwards, PhD, associate professor of English at University of California, Riverside (UCR), understanding why African-Americans are negatively, disproportionately impacted by policing is more complex than their voting patterns or civic participation.

Edwards, who is also award-winning author of “Charisma and the Fictions of Black Leadership”, says the continued existence of structural violence is not necessarily about integration.

“These past 50 years have witnessed so many dramatic shifts with the growth of U.S. interest and militarism around the globe. So questions King was beginning to ask before he was assassinated in 1968, questions about U.S. imperialism, U.S. militarism, asking questions about Vietnam, those questions I think have become even more pressing, increasingly over the past 50 years, but especially in the years since the September 11th attacks,” said Edwards.

“The questions about who has a right to life or what kind of lives matter is a question that now gets increasingly asked, not only by oppressed people or oppressed groups within the U.S., those questions get approached through comparative frames. You see for example young black activists here comparing the kind of police violence we witness here to what’s happening to Palestinians living in occupied territories. I think it’s interesting that the kinds of work that King did and civil rights activists did in the 60s, that work particularly with regard to structural violence, is work that I think is being taken up by folks today. So it’s not just a question of integration, but really a question of who has a right to life and a life of quality,” she added.

MLK Still Inspires

Mark-Anthony Johnson, a member and spokesperson for the #BlackLivesMatter Los Angeles extension said the civil rights era inspires the organization, even though they operate in a different generation.

Civil rights leaders didn’t have the networking technologies that activists such as Johnson use to communicate with fellow activists and strangers alike, or to stir change with the virtually instantaneous posting of multimedia images. Johnson says social media has been integral in broadcasting messages and he sees a growing interest in the local faction of #BlackLivesMatter.

“[Social media] had a tremendous affect. It becomes a really powerful tool for folks to get information and interact. The fact that someone at any given moment can record an image … a moment of law enforcement violence. Not only because of how quickly information can get out, but how frequently patterns become visible,” said Johnson.

Johnson says he still sees value in the fundamental attitude King exhibited throughout his life.

“I think Dr. King captured an energy of persistence … being diligent about what we are up against.”

Laid to Rest, but Never Buried

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Past stories of police shootings in Southern California surface following the Michael Brown funeral

EDITOR’S NOTE: The following is a first-person narrative used to highlight the recent discourse surrounding use of police force after of the death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo. The brief stories that follow this narrative recounting police-involved shootings is intended to underscore the scope and span of this issue.

By Corey Arvin

I can’t shake memories of Trayvon Martin. How can we forget Trayvon? Repeatedly, he has been considered the Emmett Till of my generation. He’s the boy that President Obama said could have been his son – and later clarified as a boy that could have been him. Obama’s honesty and introspection is one that I had to mirror. The truth is I could have been Trayvon, and now I realize I could have been Michael Brown – two young black men with very different lives and very different paths yet one common denominator.

Although Trayvon wasn’t killed by a police officer, the implications of authority and the perception of skewed justice make it difficult to not also recall Michael Brown. As an adult looking back, especially as a black man, I know how easy it is for any teenager’s innocence to be tarnished because of mistakes we make on our path to adulthood. After the death of Trayvon and Michael, critics pounced on them both, casting them in a negative light when neither of the two are here to defend themselves. Scrutiny of our justice system and law enforcement was deflected by many – not just among conservative media. Before either could be buried, character assassination ensued without question of what appropriate force should look like. Growing up, I never deviated far from the “right” path. I was always self-aware and reticent with trouble, especially pertaining to the law, but I was never immune from the type of fateful encounter with a police officer that could have gone awry. I could have been that victim. I could have been painted in a negative light too. I didn’t tote guns or use drugs, but maybe I wasn’t as “cooperative” with an officer as I should have been. Maybe I was breaking my curfew again. Maybe I was defiant toward my parents – the norm for a teenager of any background.  All of these things in our world of 5-second sound bites and news montages would earn me a reputation as difficult or troubled teen that maybe could have avoided (necessary) excessive force. Unfortunately, we live in a world where authority figures are granted more leniency and credibility than the young minorities who die in officer-involved shootings.

It is beyond my comprehension why tragedies similar to Michael Brown’s story unfold when past lessons should have been learned. The following are just a handful of cases from the not-so-distant past – reminders that stories similar to Michael Brown have happened in our own backyards.

The fatal shooting of Tyisha Miller was one of the most notable cases involving police officers from Riverside Police Department. Miller’s death galvanized the African-American community and exposed a history of racial animosity between minorities and the Police Department. Miller was 19-years-old when she was shot by four police officers while sitting in a parked car with a gun in her lap. Miller had allegedly sat up while in the car with the gun in her lap, which prompted officers to react. According to reports, of the four officers involved, three were white and one was Hispanic. The officers involved were not prosecuted, which touched off a fire storm of criticism and demonstrations from protesters, including Jesse Jackson and Rev. Al Sharpton. The Federal Bureau of Investigators (FBI) and former state Attorney General Bill Lockyer launched investigations into the case.

Charges were never brought against the officers involved, but the community became more involved in communicating with Riverside Police Department. Miller’s death remains etched in the memory of the Riverside community and was the central theme of “Dreamscape”, a nationally-toured play authored and directed by Rickerby Hinds, an associate professor at University of California, Riverside (UCR).

On March 24, 2012, not long after Trayvon Martin was killed, Kendrec McDade was fatally shot by two Pasadena police officers after he and another teenager allegedly fled from police through the streets of Pasadena. Officers pursued the two teenagers after it was falsely reported to 911 that two men with guns stole a computer from a man’s car.
According to reports, officers fired shots at McDade because they believed he was reaching for a weapon. The case was widely-criticized for having a racial undertone. The Los Angeles County District Attorney’s office cleared the officers involved of criminal wrongdoing. The 911 caller, identified as Oscar Carillo, plead guilty to misdemeanor charges of filing a false report and sentenced to 90 days in jail.
In June, it was reported that the city of Pasadena reached a $1 million settlement with the family of McDade.

Manuel Diaz was reportedly unarmed when he was fatally shot by an Anaheim police officer after he fled from police. Police allegedly stated that Diaz was a known gang member. Local residents from the mostly Hispanic neighborhood were outraged by the shooting death of Diaz, eventually touching off a violent protest and demonstrations. The protests inflamed with some protestors allegedly throwing objects at police, nearly sparking a riot.
Following a string of officer-involved shootings in the city, the mayor asked the state Attorney General and U.S. Attorney’s office to conduct an independent investigation. In March, a federal jury concluded that the fatal shooting of Diaz was not an excessive use of force.

Corey Arvin is a Contributing Editor for Black Voice News. Follow him on Twitter @CoreyArvin

For Many Girls Globally, U.S. a Symbol of Better Education

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UCR Professor: Greater representation of high-achieving women transcends into a “beacon” for girls everywhere

By Corey Arvin
Staff Writer

When news about the abduction of 276 schoolgirls reached Simi Ogunleye, she was heartbroken and outraged not only because of the ordeal, but that the Nigerian officials were not as responsive as they could have been, she said. The story hits home for Ogunleye, a Nigerian student attending University of California, Riverside (UCR) whose parents immigrated to the U.S. when she was 5-years-old largely in part to augment her chances of receiving a quality education.

“I was upset with President Jonathan Goodluck and the government, as well as with his wife's reaction,” she said.

Ogunleye’s father is an engineer and her mother is a local high school and college educator who emphasized the important of her education. In solidarity and support of the kidnapped victims, Ogunleye, who is vice president of the Nigerian Student Association at UCR, held a rally and town hall discussion on campus this month.

“It's sad because [Nigeria] has the potential to be great with its resources and educated population, but it is corruption and greed that is halting the process. It’s also sad to see it dwindle because of conflict with tribes and with the government.”

Nigeria’s crisis garnered national headlines weeks into the mass kidnapping with the schoolgirls still missing. It also broadcasted an image that gives the international community an “incorrect perception” of Nigeria that does not totally reflect the civility and vitality of the country, said Ogunleye.

“That's why so many Nigerians are so eager to move to more advanced nations. Just the fact that I can go to school [without conflict] I am grateful, yet in parts of Nigeria, sometimes they cannot go to school. They are scared they will be shot or killed. Nigerians put emphasis on education for women and men, it is something that they crave,” she said.

Ogunleye decried the militant extremist attempts of Boko Haram to stymie young girls’ desires to receive an education and considered the kidnapping a disruption to the advancement of Nigeria.

“To the girls, I would say ‘don't give up’. Education is power. That is all they can do to make Nigeria better, so don't give up.”

Young girls striving for education in the U.S. and developing countries live in contrasting environments that shape their access to education and quality learning. These differences can vary, but for girls pursuing an education everywhere, role models are a necessity, said Pamela Clute, PhD, professor of Mathematics at UCR. Clute believes no matter their circumstances, girls and young women still require examples of successful and accomplished women to achieve their academic goals. Clute, who founded the Girls Excelling in Mathematics for Success (GEMS) summer program, is a long-time advocate of advancing the education of young girls and women. Clute was also an honored recipient of the Presidential Award for Excellence in Science, Mathematics and Engineering Mentoring from the White House and also honor from the National Science Foundation for her dedication to math education. “The power of a role model, if they are a good one, is they can give you faith in yourself. They can navigate the system for you. When girls don't have strong parents, they don't have someone showing what they can do and how they can get to where they want to be,” said Clute.

According to Clute, basic and advanced education must be addressed and it begins in childhood. Clute pointed to math, for example, as one subject girls are not enthusiastic about learning. She stressed the importance of personalizing education with girls to instill the necessary confidence for success.

“California has the highest poverty rate of the U.S. and many are women of color. In the 21st century, it is education that has to be a priority,” she said.

Clute acknowledged that domestically, even though girls may be contending with access to quality education there are resources available and examples of successful women. It is one of the reasons girls in developing countries admire the U.S., she said.

“The U.S. is a beacon, even with all of our problems,” said Clute.

Upon learning about the abductions in Nigeria, Clute called the mass kidnappings a “horrific” tragedy that sends the wrong message about educating girls.

“If you look globally, for women to gain equality, they have to have a better education. And I think when you look to the U.S., yes, there are great role models to get other women in the pipeline of learning.”

Clute said examples of women achieving success in other countries could help girls excel in education.

The mass kidnapping in Nigeria also highlighted young girls’ struggles with access to education and disconcerting attitudes about the education of women. A social media campaign shared by activists, celebrities, and public figures spurred attention to the plight of Nigerian girls.

Christina M. Gray, PhD, assistant director of programs for the School of International Relations at University of Southern California (USC), says although the #BringOurGirlsBack campaign was moving, it is unclear if it will have any longevity with sustaining attention on issues affecting African girls. Gray believes the education of girls in underdeveloped countries can be a complex issue to address.

“The education of girls is one of the best investments we can make,” she said.

Law Enforcement Remembers Deputy Killed by Dorner

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Deputy Jeremiah MacKay remembered as a man with a ‘big heart’

By BVN Staff

As the local law enforcement community was mourning the loss of one of their own with the untimely death of Riverside Police Officer Michael Crain, they were struck another blow as former ex- LAPD officer Christopher Dorner claimed another victim during his standoff in the San Bernardino mountains.

During the pursuit and eventual end to the Dorner standoff, San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Deputy Jeremiah MacKay became Dorner’s fourth victim. According to San Bernardino County Sheriff John McMahon, MacKay suffered multiple gunshot wounds and was transported to Loma Linda Medical Center where he died of his injuries.

MacKay, 35, leaves to two children (7-year-old daughter, 4- month-old son) and a wife. Alex Collins, another deputy shot during the pursuit and gunfire remained hospitalized after undergoing multiple surgeries.

Last week, in a somber ceremony, MacKay’s body was transported to a local mortuary as bagpipes played by the Honor Guard during the impromptu processional.

MacKay, who worked in Big Bear and Yucaipa, was a 15-year veteran with the department and was promoted to detective in 2006. He served at the Twin Peaks sheriff's station for two years before working out of the Big Bear area and then Yucaipa.

Known for his big heart, MacKay served as the Sergeant-in-Arms of the Inland Empire Emerald Society, an organization that provides financial support to the families of Inland Empire law enforcement officers killed in the line of duty.

Messages on a Facebook tribute page range from condolences to the family to inspirational messages. One such post states: “I would just like to say our fallen officers have not come to their ‘End of Watch’ but promoted to a much higher position. Their squad cars have been replaced with wings. They are now Angels in heaven doing what they loved and lived for, protecting us. They made us feel safer and I feel even more protected now knowing they are still watching over us! God love them all!” Another post reads: “How appropriate that he’s named after the “Weeping Prophet.”

Funeral services for MacKay are held Feb. 21 at the San Manuel Amphitheatre.

Manhunt for Ex-LAPD Officer Christopher Dorner Ends in More Bloodshed

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Riverside Police Department, Sheriff's department mourn loss of fallen officers

By BVN Staff

The week-long manhunt for former Los Angeles Police Department officer Christopher Jordan Dorner came to an end Tuesday after it was confirmed Dorner was found dead following a shootout with Sheriff's deputies in Big Bear.

Authorities were alerted a suspect believed to be Dorner was in the Big Bear area after he attempted to tie up two maids in a cabin. One maid escaped and called authorities and deputies were dispatched to the area.

Two deputies were shot and wounded during a gun battle with the man suspected to be Dorner. The deputies were airlifted to Loma Linda University Medical Center where one officer succumbed to his injuries. The suspect ran and barricaded himself in a cabin.

Authorities reported several gunshots in the cabin before it caught fire. When the blaze died down, a body believed to be Dorner was found inside the cabin.

During the ordeal, four Big Bear schools were on lockdown as Riverside, Redlands, Rialto, San Bernardino and Los Angeles police personnel continued their investigation.

Before the shootout began, LAPD Lt. Commander Smith during a press conference urged Dorner to turn himself in. “Enough is enough,” he said. “ Let’s not have any further bloodshed. It’s time to turn yourself in.”

On Monday, the law enforcement community, Riverside community and Southern California residents remembered the life of fallen Riverside Police Department officer identified Sunday as Michael Crain, a decorated Marine who leaves behind a wife and two young children.

Crain’s funeral held at The Grove Community Church, Riverside, was standing room only to remember a man who fellow officers said was a great cop.

Dorner, who has eluded law enforcement for nearly a week, allegedly gunned Crain down last week while on patrol. A $1 million dollar reward has been offered in the capture and conviction of Dorner.

Officer Michael Crain was born in Anaheim, California to Stephen and Cindy Crain on April 9, 1978. He was the oldest of three children and had a brother, Jason, and sister, Leslie. He was raised in the Riverside area and graduated from Redlands High School in 1996.

After high school, Mike attended Crafton Hills College in Yucaipa for a year prior to enlisting in the United States Marine Corps. He served two deployment tours in Kuwait as a rifleman in the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit, 3rd Battalion 1st Marines. He was a squad leader, and was promoted to the rank of Sergeant. He was then stationed at Camp Pendleton in Oceanside, CA, where he taught Military Operations in Urban Terrain. During his military service, Mike was awarded the Good Conduct Medal, the Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal, the Sea Service Deployment Ribbon with 1 star, a Certificate of Commendation, and the Rifle Marksmanship Badge.

After being honorably discharged from the Marine Corps, Mike joined the Riverside Police Department. He graduated from the Riverside Sheriff’s Academy, class #152, and was sworn in as a Riverside Police Officer on August 24, 2001.

Following his graduation from the Field Training Program, he was assigned to Field Operations as a patrol officer. During his 11-year tenure with the Riverside Police Department, Mike served as a patrol officer, and was assigned to the Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) Team. He had also served as a Helicopter Observer, a Field Training Officer, a Firearms Instructor, and had been assigned to the University Neighborhood Enhancement Team (UNET).

In a written statement by the Riverside Police Department, the community has been asked to direct all contributions to the Riverside Police Officers Association.

“In response to the many requests, the following information is provided should anyone wish to make a donation to the family of our fallen police officer. Such donations will be provided to the family through the Riverside Police Officers Association in order to assist the family with the many financial needs they will undoubtedly face. Please mail checks to: Riverside Police Officers Association Assistance Fund or RPOA, 1965 Chicago Ave, Suite B., Riverside, California 92507.” This past Monday, the Riverside County District Attorney’s Office filed criminal charges against Dorner for the murder of Crain and the attempted murder of three others.

Before Tuesday, Dorner has been charged with one count of murder with two special circumstance allegations of the murder of a peace officer and the discharge of a firearm from a vehicle. He also has been charged with three counts of attempted murder of a peace officer. The case number is RIF1300248. The special circumstance allegations make Dorner eligible for the death penalty. A no-bail warrant for Dorner’s arrest has also now been issued.

“Mr. Dorner has committed one of the most horrific crimes imaginable,” DA Zellerbach said. “When those who protect us every day then become the target for violence, we as a society must become the ‘eyes and ears’ in assisting law enforcement in apprehending this very violent person.”

Riverside Police Chief Sergio Diaz said, “We are confident that Dorner will be captured and that he will face judgment for his horrific and cowardly crimes. The District Attorney’s Office and the Riverside Police Department have been working side by side since the murder of Officer Michael Crain and we will continue to do so until this is resolved.”

Dorner is charged with the Feb. 7, 2013, murder of Crain, an 11-year-veteran of the department. Crain, a department training officer, was in a marked RPD patrol car with his trainee when Dorner fired a rifle from inside his vehicle, killing Crain and critically injuring the second officer. That officer’s name is not being released at this time.

Dorner is also charged with shooting at two Los Angeles police officers in Corona prior to the murder of the Riverside police officer. The two LAPD officers were in Corona to provide protection for someone Dorner has named in his so-called manifesto. One officer was grazed on the head and the second uninjured in that shooting.

Bishop Lacy Sykes, Jr., Senior Pastor/Teacher of Cross Word Christian Church said, "It's always tragic when we allow our emotions to outweigh rational thinking. Mr. Dorner responded to the pressures we all feel in this life the wrong way. I have personally been the victim of a wrongful termination. The emotional roller coaster can be overwhelming, but responding violently is always the wrong response. Even if his claims of racial discrimination are found to have merit, they will fall on deaf ears. Lives have senselessly been destroyed and that is never within the will of God."

Attorney General Kamala Harris expressed her condolences to the family, friends and colleagues of Officer Crain: “This officer's death is a senseless loss. His service and sacrifice will never be forgotten. Our hearts go out to his family and friends, and to the Riverside Police Department.”

Rep. Mark Takano (D-Riverside) said: “My thoughts and prayers are with the family members and friends of the Riverside Police Officers who were ambushed earlier this week. I join the Riverside community and the Riverside Police Department in mourning the loss of the slain officer and promise that his dedication and service will not be forgotten.”

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