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Tension Remains Over Police Shootings of Young Black Males

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By Dr. J. A. Salaam
Special to the NNPA from The Final Call

FERGUSON, Mo. (FinalCall.com) – Tensions over the police shooting of Michael Brown, Jr., 18, by a White police officer here and the unrelated shooting of 18-year-old Vonderrit Myers Jr. in nearby St. Louis have not eased—and are unlikely to go away soon.

Recent press coverage and an announcement by the St. Louis police union have some charging a smear campaign is underway given media leaks from secret investigations and major media stories that use anonymous sources.

A widely reported New York Times article used anonymous sources to publish what was allegedly told to “government officials briefed on the federal civil rights investigation.” The Times sources were not apparently on the grand jury hearing evidence in the fatal police shooting of Michael Brown nor part of the federal probe. The Times piece said officer Darren Wilson told investigators that he feared for his life after he was allegedly pinned and attacked in his vehicle by young Brown. Two shots were fired in the car and one struck the teenager before he ran away from officer Wilson, according to the Times.

“What the police say is not to be taken as gospel,” Benjamin L. Crump told the Times, dismissing Officer Wilson’s account of what happened in the SUV that fateful day. Officer Wilson should be indicted by the grand jury and his case sent to trial, said Atty. Crump. “He can say what he wants to say in front of a jury. They can listen to all the evidence and the people can have it transparent so they know that the system works for everybody.”

The Brown family lawyer continued, “The officer’s going to say whatever he’s going to say to justify killing an unarmed kid. Right now, they have this secret proceeding where nobody knows what’s happening and nobody knows what’s going on. No matter what happened in the car, Michael Brown ran away from him.

The St. Louis Post Dispatch reported that it obtained a copy of the official autopsy, which has not been released, and a toxicology report that showed Mr. Brown had traces of marijuana in his system. These leaks and anonymous reports, usually followed by analysis that purports to back officer Wilson, have many angry and convinced the bits and pieces for information are designed to lessen reaction to a failure to indict the officer.

Community organizers are concerned there will be chaos if Darren Wilson is not indicted. “To see the evolution of this event it concerns me that law enforcement in place would go to this extreme to protect what everybody sees as being wrong … this individual should have been indicted the day of the shooting. They took it to the grand jury to release the responsibility of that prosecutor’s office. This is not the normal procedure and we can’t expect the normal results,” said Amir of the Peacekeepers, a group that helps keep people safe while protesting.

“We are going to have chaos because the people are dissatisfied with the same system that doesn’t give them justice,” Amir said.

A meeting Oct. 19 in St. Louis included about 20 people, including Rep. William Lacy Clay (D-Mo.), Pastor Ronald Bobo of Westside Missionary Baptist Church, the Peacekeepers and others discussing reactions if officer Wilson is not indicted.

“Congressman Clay what’s your position with the military vehicles being used on the people?” Paul Muhammad of the Peacekeepers asked.

“It was presented to us (Congress) right after 9-11 and we were under the wrong impression of their use, it was intended for a possible attack from terrorists, not civilians in the streets,” said the congressman.

Mourning, questions follow death of a son

Funeral services for Vonderrit Myers, Jr., were held Oct. 26 and Prince of Peace Church in Berkeley, Mo., was full. The young Black male was shot and killed by a police officer working as private security in the Shaw neighborhood in St. Louis. The 18-year-old was one of three young Black males the still unnamed officer approached and ending up chasing. According to St. Louis Police Chief Sam Dotson, Myers, Jr., who was running away, then started aggressively coming back towards the uniformed police officer. The officer warned the young man to “stop, surrender, you’re under arrest,” the police chief said. The officer claimed the young man continued to approach, a physical altercation ensued, the officer pulled a grey sweatshirt off the young man, and noticed a gun, the chief said. The young man ran away. Then he turned, fired three shots at the officer but missed, said the chief. The officer returned fired, discharging 17 shots and killing Myers, Jr., said Chief Dotson.

Later the police union released a report saying the young man, who was wearing a monitoring device and facing a gun charge, had gun powder on his hands and clothes.

According to the police report, the 9mm gun that Myers allegedly used was reported stolen on September 26, 2014. The make of the gun that police now report finding differs from the one that St. Louis Police Chief Sam Dotson initially mentioned after the incident occurred. Mr. Dotson had said they found a Ruger 9mm, and now they report finding a 9mm Smith & Wesson, like the one in a Myers’ photo, the St. Louis American reported. Jermaine Wooten, one of the family’s lawyers, say that the autopsy results conflict with the officer’s account. According to Atty. Wooten, police reported that Mr. Myers was facing the officer the whole time. Additionally, Dr. Michael Graham, the police department’s medical examiner, said Mr. Myers’ DNA did not appear on the gun he reportedly had, according to the St. Louis American. “If he had been carrying the gun, it would have his DNA,” Atty. Wooten said.

The Myers family, also, had an independent autopsy done. It showed that their only son was shot six times in the back of the legs and once in the side of the head, probably the fatal wound, said Dr. Cyril Wecht, who performed the autopsy.

“His femur bone was shattered and the pain would have been too great.  He would have fallen down,” said Dr. Wecht. Four rounds struck Myers, Jr., entering on an upward trajectory, consistent with him running up a hill in the front yard of a house, he continued.

“As he was running, he was being shot,” Dr. Wecht said.

Another shot entered the side of his left thigh, and would have left him immobile while the fatal wound to the side of his head did not have an upward trajectory, he added.

Abdul Akbar Muhammad, of the Nation of Islam, spoke at the funeral of Vonderrit Myers Jr. “Now that the independent autopsy has been done, we know he was shot from behind and the police Chief Dotson lied and is clearly showing that culture of cover up to protect their own,” he said.

“The media is painting the worst image of both Brown and Vonderrit, so that the general public won’t have any sympathy for young Black men. St. Louis has become the epicenter for the struggle of police brutality and our youth. This is the eightieth day since the Brown killing and this is not going away anytime soon,” said Mr.  Muhammad.

In the Land of Diamonds, Botswana’s Ruling Party’s Sparkle Dims

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Special to the NNPA from the Global Information Network

(GIN)—The ruling Botswana Democratic Party won a majority of seats in parliamentary elections this past week, ensuring a second five-year term for President Ian Khama, whose party has ruled Botswana since independence from Britain 48 years ago.

But the victory was hard-won. The recently united opposition coalition has eaten away at the number of seats held by Khama’s majority party. Of 57 seats up for grabs, the ruling party won 33, the Umbrella for Democratic Change took 14 and the Botswana Congress party nabbed two.

“I am thrilled to be part of this epic moment,” said Duma Boko, presidential candidate of the three-party UDC alliance after casting his vote. Friday’s poll saw a high turnout of the 800,000 registered voters.

Khama, 61, a retired army general, is an ascetic and increasingly authoritarian figure with an undisguised dislike of journalists and a callous disregard for the Kalahari Bushmen, or “San,” who, he says, have an “extinct” and backward way of life.

Of their ancestral homelands in the Central Kalahari Game Reserve, he said, “Look, this is a game reserve. The whole purpose of a game reserve is to protect and conserve the flora and fauna.

“Just because they have had this way of life for many years, and continue living a very extinct form of life, a very backward form of life, denying them and especially their children opportunities to grow with the mainstream of our citizens, they have to be moved into the modern way of doing things. Give them livelihoods which will allow them and their children to live better lives.”

A landlocked, southern African country of two million people, Botswana is the world’s largest rough diamond producer by value, with production of 23.2 million carats valued at $3.6 billion in 2013, according to the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme. De Beers, Lucara Diamond Corp. and Gem Diamonds are among the companies with operations in the country.

Diamond sales funded generous social programs over the years, such as old-age benefits and monthly food rations to all destitute residents.

Young people receive 10 years of basic education, following which they can choose one the seven technical colleges in the country, or take vocational courses in teaching or nursing. The best students enroll in the University of Botswana, Botswana College of Agriculture and the Botswana Accountancy College in Gaborone.

The Botswana International University of Science and Technology began accepting students in 2011.

Efforts to diversify the economy—bringing in value-added jobs beyond mining—were championed by the minister of Mines, Energy and Water Resources, Onkokame Kitso Makaila.

Those efforts paid off in the relocation of sorting and sales by De Beers from London to Botswana’s capital, Gaborone, in the direct sales by state-owned Okavango Diamond Company and in an increase in auxiliary services, such as brokers, banks, shipping companies and grading laboratories that have set up shop in Gaborone.

Makaila, however, failed to hold on to his seat in the recent election, losing his constituency by 611 votes. The appointment of a new minister is pending.

Brown Loses Bid to Become Maryland’s First Black Governor

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By Glynn A. Hill
Howard University News Service

COLLEGE PARK, Md.—For weeks, possibly months, the talk had been about how Maryland Lieutenant Governor Anthony Brown would soon become the nation’s third Black governor. Those dreams were dashed Tuesday night, as Brown, a Democrat, was narrowly defeated by Republican candidate Larry Hogan to win the Maryland gubernatorial election. Hogan’s victory, in a state where registered Democrats outnumber registered Republicans 2 to1, was a huge upset.

Brown, Maryland’s lieutenant governor, was heavily favored when the election season began. Hogan, an Anne Arundel businessman, gained momentum in recent weeks, emphasizing his plan to cut taxes.

The defeat ends Brown’s hope, at least temporarily, of becoming the first African-American governor of Maryland.

“Tonight fell short of our campaign goal,” Brown said to a crowd at the Samuel Riggs IV Alumni Center on the campus of the University of Maryland in his concession speech. “But it does not and cannot diminish the work that each and every one of you all has done in our communities.”

Hogan is the first Republican to win the Maryland governorship since Robert Ehrlich in 2002. Before him was Spiro Agnew, in 1967.

Mike Brown, 45, is an electrician who has lived in Maryland his entire life. He believes Brown’s defeat is more about what Hogan did than what Brown didn’t do.

“More people came out for Hogan,” said a disheartened Brown. “I think Brown had a good campaign, but he lost.”

To some, the number of registered voters who went to the polls was the difference.

Holli Holliday, a chief consultant at Holliday Advisors LLC, follows Maryland politics as a political strategist. She said she believed that voter turnout, particularly in Maryland’s most populated counties, was the difference.

“The Brown campaign took Baltimore County for granted,” Holliday said. “There was not a lot of energy focused on the big counties. They should’ve focused on their backyard.”

Brown, who represented Prince George’s County while serving in the Maryland House of Delegates, held Prince George’s County, but lost Anne Arundel and Baltimore Counties according to the Maryland State Board of Elections.

Aisha Braveboy, the chair of the Maryland Black Caucus, said that Brown’s defeat is a wake-up call for Democrats not just in Maryland, but across the country.

“We had a message that didn’t resonate with the majority of voters who went to the polls,” Braveboy said. “Democrats haven’t done well reaching out to their base.”

Brown, the son of a Jamaican father and Swiss mother, attended Harvard University on a ROTC scholarship prior to serving five years of active duty before returning for Harvard for law school. He was elected to the Maryland General Assembly in 1998, but continued to serve in the military.

Brown previously served two terms in the Maryland House of Delegates prior to taking his current post. Under current Governor Martin O’Malley, he’s led efforts to expand and improve health care, support economic development, and to provide better resources and services to Veterans.

Hogan not only criticized Brown for the “botched” rollout of the state’s healthcare exchange program under the Affordable Care Act, but he also made the race about taxes, and tried to convince voters that electing Brown was tantamount to electing Governor O’Malley again.

Clarevonte Williams, 22, a senior at Morgan State University in Baltimore, Md., said that Brown’s loss is disappointing because he had supported him since last December.

“Hogan had the numbers,” Williams said. “It’s as simple as that.”

Afro-Peruvian 'Cajon' to be Internationally Recognized

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By Karen Juanita Carrillo
Special to the NNPA from the New York Amsterdam News

The country of Peru has slowly come to recognize a treasure in its midst. The “cajon,” the traditional wooden box drum of Afro-Peruvians, was only recognized as a Peruvian national instrument by that nation’s federal government in 2001, and this was only because Spanish Flamenco musicians had begun using the instrument and praised its numerous rhythmic abilities.

The instrument is a wooden box or drawer that drummers straddle while tapping with an open palm or fingertips.

There are numerous theories about the origin of the cajon. Enslaved Africans in Peru are believed to have used old shipping crates and turned them into drums because there was a ban on African music, Spaniards believing it might help slaves organize uprisings. Another theory holds that the cajon is actually similar to boxlike instruments that were traditionally used in Angola.

The instrument was, for most of its history, solely relegated to the realms of Afro-Peruvian music. But today, with its national recognition, Peru promotes use and knowledge about the cajon in its schools and museums and through countrywide programs.

Nov. 1, the regional Organization of American States will give the cajon international recognition during a gala ceremony in Washington, D.C. The upcoming ceremony will also pay homage to recently deceased actor and musician Rafael Santa Cruz, as well as to singer Jose Escajadillo, who has written over 600 waltzes.

Santa Cruz died suddenly of a heart attack at age 53, just this past August. The author of “El Cajon Afroperuano” (Lima: Cocodrilo Verde Ediciones, 2004), Santa Cruz was a recognized promoter of the cajon. In 2013, he organized the gathering of 1,524 cajon players during the International Peruvian Cajon Festival. The 1,524 cajon players came to Lima’s Playa Mayor and set a Guinness World Record for most cajon players playing at the same time.

Eviction Plans in the Cards for Zimbabwe's Landless Poor

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Special to the NNPA from the Global Information Network

Oct. 20 (GIN) — President Robert Mugabe’s land reform initiative turned lives upside down in the year 2000 and now upside down again as the settlers who moved onto lands that white farmers once owned now find themselves facing eviction by the same government.

Approximately 8 million hectares of farmland owned by 3,000 white farmers in 1999 are now legally state-owned, according to the Valuation Consortium, a private, Harare-based body that collects information from evicted white farmers. According to the constitution, leases cannot be given to new owners until the dispossessed white farmers are compensated.

In the meantime, many of the new Black beneficiaries have neither security of tenure nor legal protection afforded to tenants and can be evicted at will.

This spring, the government announced a crackdown on settlers without proper ownership documents. “Those who settled themselves will be evicted,” said Douglas Mombeshora, minister of lands and rural resettlement. “Those farmers who have been staying for about 10 years should have their settlements formalized.”

Faber Chidarikire, minister of Mashonaland West, added, “People have been illegally occupying land and sometimes invading land which is not suitable for farming … Some people have settled on pastures, while others have invaded other people’s farms. We are going to evict these people.”

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BVN National News Wire