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Blacks Continue to Fight for Justice a Year After Zimmerman Verdict

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By D. Kevin McNeir
Special to the NNPA from The Washington Informer


The word stunned might best describe how U.S. citizens, particularly blacks, felt after hearing that a six-member jury, following two days of deliberation in a Florida courthouse last July, found George Zimmerman not guilty in the shooting death of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin.

One year later, with increased cases in which defendants have used the “stand your ground” law to avoid prosecution, civil rights leaders and activists have ramped up efforts to challenge a criminal justice system that often treats blacks and women as second-class citizens.

“Blacks seeking justice must continue with protests, pressure and patience,” said Benjamin Crump, the civil attorney for the Martin family. “We cannot ignore the realities that were unearthed in the wake of this still-shocking verdict – realities that exclude an honest and frank dialogue on race. Stand your ground is a broken doctrine of jurisprudence. It does not work in the same way for all Americans. A year passing may make things easier to ignore, but it does not mean they no longer exist,” said Crump, 44, a partner at the Tallahassee, Florida-based law firm of Parks & Crump, LLC.

Crump will join the parents of Trayvon, Sybrina Fulton and Tracy Martin, and a host of celebrity guests on Saturday, July 19 for a Peace Walk and Peace Talk that will engage black youth and allow them to share their feelings about the February 26, 2012 murder of Trayvon and to discuss subsequent shootings of blacks allegedly targeted because of their clothing, hairstyles, musical predilections or skin color at the historic Crenshaw High School in Los Angeles.

The shooting of one black youth, Jordan Davis, 17, serves as another high profile Florida case in which the shooter, a white man named Michael Dunn, 47, attempted to justify his actions saying he felt threatened after confronting Jordan and three other teens in their Dodge Durango outside of a convenience store on November 23, 2012. After complaining about the volume of their music, Dunn shot into the vehicle 10 times, with three bullets cutting through Jordan’s liver, a lung and his aorta.

“We now wait for the retrial of Michael Dunn for my son’s murder, but no matter what the jury decides I know it will be God’s ruling that has the final say,” said Lucia McBath, Jordan’s mother.

“If the murderers of Trayvon and Jordan could stand their ground why couldn’t our children? Black parents know that the rules are different and even though we try our best, we cannot protect them from laws that almost make it a crime to be black. We must go after the legislators who voted for stand your ground laws and get them out of office,” said McBath, who now serves as a national spokesperson for Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, a group of mothers from all 50 states formed after the Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings.

Twenty-six states have enacted so-called stand your ground laws, including Georgia, Texas and Michigan, which remove the requirement to retreat before using force in self-defense. Florida passed the first such law in 2005, allowing people to stand their ground instead of retreating if they reasonably believe doing so will “prevent death or great bodily harm.” Other states followed with laws specifically affirming one’s right to defend themselves, even outside of their homes and with deadly force if necessary.

Los Angeles Gets Spotlight in Videotaped Highway Police Beating of Black Woman

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By Charlene Muhammad
Special to the NNPA from The Final Call


LOS ANGELES (FinalCall.com) – There is no sound but you almost hear the thud of blows landing on a Black woman pinned to the ground by a bulky California Highway Patrolman. You can almost feel the woman’s head bouncing off of concrete as an unstoppable force smashes into her face.

Those images brought an explosion of outrage from the woman’s family, family attorneys, leaders, politicians and grassroots activists.

Each weighted punch has contributed to demands for accountability and transparency. They want the officer fired and charges filed against him. They want a federal investigation. They want justice.

“I feel like in general there’s this escalation of attacks on our Black people, but not just us, also the Latinos as well, and we have to become really serious about organizing self-defense for our people and organizing different ways to get this government to monitor and enforce standard human rights around these issues,” said Sanyika Bryant, of the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement, which has written reports on the continued problem of police brutality.

The woman was later identified as Marlene Pinnock and lawyers for her family were blunt: “When you look at it and you see it’s a White police officer, a big male police officer and a Black female, you wonder whether there was a sub consciousness that she did not matter because she was a Black female?” asked Atty. John Burris, who represents the family.

“Here it should be a no-brainer. He should go to jail,” added family Atty. Caree Harper. (See related interview with Atty. Harper)

In a series of private meetings, press conferences and rallies, activists condemned the July 1 assault on the 51-year-old mother, grandmother and great grandmother—who is reportedly mentally ill and homeless—along California’s 10 Freeway.

Ms. Pinnock is very physically bruised and very emotionally traumatized, said Atty. Harper during a July 10 press conference in front of the Los Angeles Sentinel newspaper. She stood with Ms. Pinnock’s sister, daughter, son-in-law, civil rights lawyer Burris, Sentinel publisher Danny Bakewell, Sr., and community leaders and activists.

Atty. Harper also spoke during a Saturday rally hosted by the National Action Network at Leimert Park on July 12.

Atty. Harper argued it shouldn’t have taken two press conferences for Ms. Pinnock to receive a CAT scan when video shows her face was being pounded into the cement. If the officer had suffered that kind of brutality, he would have gotten the X-rays within hours, she said.

“They would have escorted the ambulance to the hospital and all lined up for that officer and we say Ms. Marlene is loved, and she should have been treated like a human being,” Atty. Harper said.

The victim has received substandard medical care and there’s enough room in the lawsuit for doctors and the hospital, if they continue the poor treatment, she warned.

Ms. Pinnock is further traumatized because the hospital has been allowing footage of her beating to be played in the day room where she’s being involuntarily held, Atty. Harper added.

It almost took a day to find Ms. Pinnock because the hospital hid her under a number of aliases, the attorney charged.

“They had her listed under a male name, under a numeric value, under a first name that she has never gone by,” Atty. Harper said. The hospital was trying to give time for Ms. Pinnock’s bruises to heal, she said.

“But some bruises can’t heal that quick when you beat a woman like that. When you beat her down like that, those bruises did not heal because the daughter observed lumps to her mother’s body, her shoulder. When she tried to turn over and protect herself, there are lumps and you can even move it with your hand. There are lumps in her head. There are lumps to her shoulder,” Atty. Harper continued.

Instead of asking why Ms. Pinnock was walking on the freeway, the question is why did the officer punch her so many times? the attorney added.

Who will investigate the investigators?

Rep. Maxine Waters and Rep. Karen Bass have written letters requesting a federal probe by the Justice Department. Both are Black women, Democrats and represent Los Angeles.

“There is nothing that can justify the officer punching a helpless woman on a freeway,” Rep. Waters said. “This type of police brutality happens too often with African-Americans and we have seen it time and time again. There are those who should know by now that we will not keep quiet when incidents like this occur.” Her statement was issued July 9.

Congresswoman Bass told The Final Call she was horrified watching Ms. Pinnock try to protect herself. It was hard to see how she was a threat to anyone, added the lawmaker.

“And frankly, you know in terms of the L.A. police department and even the Sherriff’s Department, you know there are certainly still issues, but it is nothing like it was in ’70s, ’80s and ’90s and so that was a throwback,” Rep. Bass said.

She expressed hope that the California Highway Patrol would respond properly to the brutal assault by the still unnamed officer.

Allowing the agency to investigate the incident and accepting those findings is tantamount to hiring the fox to guard the chicken coop, and the community knows better because it’s happened before, Danny Bakewell said.

“This time it’s a Black woman. Last week it was a Black man. Last week it was our son, and we want to make sure that next week it’s not us,” he said. There is no belief that the highway patrol can investigate itself fairly, Mr. Bakewell added.

The beating has hurt confidence in the criminal justice system but what would have happened without the video? asked Mr. Bakewell, a longtime activist and businessman.

Generally law enforcement investigations of excessive force have found the conduct of officers was justified or in accord with department policy. Law enforcement personnel in California are also heavily protected by the Officers’ Bill of Rights during investigations.

The law is used to shield rogue cops from justified disciplinary action, activists complained.

“That’s one of the reasons we don’t know that officer’s name. That’s why we haven’t seen the officer. He’s been taken out of the system,” said Mr. Bakewell.

Unlike the public, officers get a cooling off period before any interrogation, even from within their departments.

“Can you imagine what story you can concoct if you had 10 days after you do something? That’s why they apprehend you and put you in a cell.  One person’s talking to you over here. If you have a comrade they put him in another cell, and they get the story right on the spot,” Mr. Bakewell noted.

When The Final Call requested a copy of the police report from the July 1 highway incident, Robert Meyer, California Highway Patrol public information officer, said the report was still being written. Getting a copy of what should be an immediately available public document will require a discovery request from the District Attorney’s Office, he said.

According to Atty. Harper, the highway patrol has been distributing to media some aspects of an initial police report, which was completed before the agency realized a videotape existed.

But while the report isn’t available, the California Highway Patrol is promising a quick investigation “measured in weeks,” said Officer Meyer in a phone interview.

Culture of police brutality?

The Black community’s police battles have pushed reforms in the LAPD and the Sheriff’s Department, but the California Highway Patrol has slid by, according to Mr. Bakewell. It’s all a part of the culture in law enforcement that says dealing with Black people means dealing with a less valuable life, he said.

According to the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement’s “Operation Ghetto Storm” report, there were 313 extra-judicial killings of Black people by police, security guards and vigilantes last year.

Sanyika Bryant, an organizer with the group, said a national plan of action is needed now. The Coalition Against Police Abuse, founded by deceased Black Panther and anti-police brutality activist Michael Zinzun, and Dignity in Power, which exerts political pressure to end violence by L.A. County Sheriffs, have good models, he said.

Momentum for justice

Ms. Pinnock’s attorneys plan to keep her story alive and combat media attempts to try the victim in newscasts and news pages before the officer is tried. “It’s important that the demonization of her does not occur. If he was trying to protect her and to put her in a safe environment, he had a hell of a way of trying to do that,” stated Atty. Burris.

Atty. Harper warned against any police efforts to discredit David Diaz, who recorded the infamous video and released it to the press. (See special one-on-one interview.) Three other witnesses were in his car, she said.

“We want (witnesses) to keep coming forward. We don’t want you to be scared of retribution from the police, although we do know that happens sometimes,” Atty. Harper said.

Righteous indignation

“The Final Call needs to know that the SCLC believes that none of our queens need to ever be treated like that by CHP,” said Pastor William D. Smart, president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference L.A. chapter. “And let me take it further! That’s by the LAPD, that’s by the county sheriffs, and that’s by husbands.”

He was among several civil rights leaders who met with California Highway Patrol Commissioner Joseph Farrow on July 7.

Some expressed concern the agency would use civil rights leaders to lull the community to sleep and quell anger. Immediate action was needed and the highway patrol was told the beating would not be swept under the rug, the civil rights leaders told the Final Call.

“I really believe that was the purpose of the meeting, to voice that they’re (California Highway Patrol) in control,” said Rev. K.W. Tulloss, of the National Action Network Los Angeles chapter.

“This is their first visible black mark that we’ve seen, but in that, I informed the CHP commissioner, this is your first visible mark that we’ve seen, but there are others that have complained and at the end of the day, this sister who’s lying in the hospital somewhere, has been beaten up and violated by one of your officers and we won’t rest until justice is served,” said Rev. Tulloss.

Respect, protect Black women

“Once again, in the face of it being recorded, we are seeing the effects of White supremacy and the devaluing of Black life,” said Student Minister Tony Muhammad, the Nation of Islam’s western region representative.

In a moment, people will be told what they see on video is an illusion, he predicted. But if media wants to dredge up Ms. Pinnock’s past life to downplay the egregious attack, the focus should be on what caused her to be homeless and mentally ill, said Mr. Muhammad, who is based in Los Angeles.

Minister Louis Farrakhan of the Nation of Islam, in a powerful series of messages titled “Justifiable Homicide:  Black Youth in Peril,” observed how law enforcement agencies rule justifiable homicide in police brutality cases and the court system rules against victims and families who dare seek justice.

“No matter what was done by White people to set the Black man at naught was excusable, because anything that was done to us to maintain White supremacy was in fact an unwritten law,” he said.

“The killing of every Black human being during the 300 years of chattel slavery and even now, 150 years up from slavery, at the hands of White people is generally considered excusable.”

The beating is not just a California issue, but a national one, said Cynthia McKinney, a former U.S. congresswoman and former Green Party presidential candidate.

“Black women have always been under the guns of White supremacy as part of the legacy of slavery,” commented Ms. McKinney. “A White man could beat a Black woman like that with impunity in exactly the same way that that woman was beaten in public. That encapsulates the 200 year history of slavery in the United States (in) that video,” she said.

Last year in California, Alecia Thomas, a Black woman died after a female officer kicked her in the stomach and groin during an arrest.

Eula Love was killed in 1979 by officers under then LAPD Chief Daryl Gates’ regime. She was shot numerous times after officers responded to calls she assaulted a utility man attempting to collect a $22.09 payment on her $69 gas bill. The acquittal of officers videotaped beating motorist Rodney King led to unrest and violence costing $1 billion in 1992. Fifty people died and thousands were hurt during the rebellion.

16-Year-Old African American Girl's Alleged Raped Goes Viral

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By Amen Oyiboke
Special to the NNPA from the Los Angeles Sentinel


Victim is speaking out after images of her alleged rape appear on social media

A young girl lying on the floor passed out with a black t-shirt and no clothes from the waist down floated around social media recently.

Jada, 16, reported to police that she was allegedly drugged and raped two months ago at house party in Houston, TX.  She stepped forward once she realized she had been raped.

In an interview, the victim told Houston’s KHOU news about the incident leading up to the horrendous photo taken of her.

She reported that it all started with an invitation to a house party. According to Jada, she was offered a cup of punch that she believes was spiked and said she later woke up half naked.  She fully didn’t realize what happened until pictures surfaced online.

She chose to address her alleged rapists publicly in an interview because she said,  “everyone knows” and  “there is no point in hiding” what happened.

“I had no control,” Jada told KHOU news. “I didn’t tell anyone to take my clothes off and do what they did to me.”

The source of where the pictures came from is not immediately clear due to twitter deleting most of the pictures and deactivating accounts closely associated with the incident.

The alleged rapist, 17 year-old Innel Yahia, posted a response denouncing Jada and her story before his Twitter account was deactivated. His tweet stated, “HOW ITS RAPE? YOU HAD 2 MONTHS TO SAY SOMETHING BUT YOU AIN’T SAY S__T TILL YOU GET EXPOSED?”

Most rape victims are usually kept anonymous, but it’s extremely difficult to do so when those victims are exposed to social media.

“There’s no point in hiding,” she said. “Everybody has already seen my face and my body, but that’s not what I am and who I am.”

Countless Internet trolls have made a mockery of her unfortunate alleged rape. One of the saddest things about this case is the mockery and sick humor people have made about her.

Photos of her unconscious sparked the creation of the hash tag #jadapose on social media, where users posted photos of themselves mimicking the position she was passed out in. She was openly mocked on Twitter, Instagram and other social sharing mediums.

Sadly, African American social media users made most of the crude pictures and jokes. What does this say about the issues of rape via the younger generation?  The issue of rape seems to be stripped of its seriousness on social media. Where is the respect that humanity has about the life of a young teenage woman who was ripped of her dignity? Her nightmare went viral for the entire world to see and access. It sickening to see how far social media has dictated peoples’ lives and ruin the emotional stability a victim can try to restore.

Women and men have been posting pictures on social media to show support for Jada using the hash tag #iamJada. The picture shows people raising their fists and holding signs, as Jada did in her picture. Supporters are demanding a change in rape culture, education and the arrest of Jada’s alleged rapist. Houston police are now investigating the case.

Congresswoman Barbara Lee Announces $900K STEM Grant

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Special to the NNPA from The Oakland Post

Today, Congresswoman Barbara Lee (D-CA) announced Alameda-based Institute for Women in Trades, Technology and Science (IWITTS) will receive a $899,841grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to increase enrollment and retention of women in community college STEM courses.

“I am pleased that the Institute for Women in Trades, Technology and Science has been selected to receive this important and competitive funding,” said Congresswoman Barbara Lee. “It is our obligation to ensure that young women are both encouraged and supported as they pursue studies and careers in STEM related fields so they are prepared to contribute and thrive in the economy of the future.”

This federal award will fund IWITTS’s online professional development about evidence-based practices in outreach, teaching skills and learning to increase enrollment and retention of women in community college STEM courses.

Since 1994, IWITTS has helped educators nationwide close the gender gap for women and girls in male-dominated careers such as technology, the trades and law enforcement. They also work with employers to assist them in integrating women successfully into their male-dominated workplace.

The National Science Foundation (NSF) is an independent federal agency created by Congress in 1950 to promote the progress of science; to advance the national health, prosperity, and welfare; to secure the national defense. With an annual budget of $7.2 billion (FY 2014), the NSF are the funding source for approximately 24 percent of all federally supported basic research conducted by America’s colleges and universities.

Phi Beta Sigma Museum Opens in NW D.C.

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By Courtney Jacobs
Special to the NNPA from the Afro-American Newspaper


The ribbon cutting ceremony was one of several events planned for members and their guests to take part in during the 2014 Centennial Celebration. Members of  sister sorority, Zeta Phi Beta, also attended the ribbon cutting.

“I traveled all the way from Detroit to be here just to see this museum,” Ben Hilton, a Sigma member told the AFRO.  “A lot of my brothers may have forgotten the history and origins behind the Sigma name, but this museum is here to help refresh their minds.”

International President Jonathan A. Mason thanked his fellow brothers, during the ceremony and emphasized the museum, in the Kennedy Street corridor, was built for them.

When the ribbon was cut, hundreds of people flooded into the new space in awe.

“This is a moment in history that I will never forget,” Zeta Phi Beta member Tracy Washington said.  “It’s so good to see that a brotherhood like this can stay strong for 100 years.  I commend every single man that traveled here today, coming from close or far.  They deserve it.”

The Sigmas are the first Black fraternity to open its own museum.

Prior to the ceremony, a Centennial Collegiate Summit was held for the brothers and their Greek sisters Zeta Phi Beta Sorority to discuss various topics that affect the youth.

“I was sitting in the collegiate summit mesmerized by Brother Rafeal Matos,” one Sigma said of the remarks from a California higher education administrator who is also the  fraternity’s historian, western region secretary and an active member of the Sigma Leadership Institute.  “He is transforming a vital and complex discussion into in an exciting and interactive dialogue.”

One member said the summit gave him a new insight on his own life.

“This summit taught me that I need to implement my rituals in every aspect of fraternity life, and promote the principles and services of my brotherhood,” John Phillips told the AFRO of his fraternity.

“It’s great to look at what our founders had in mind 100 years [ago] and then to look around today and see that we are stronger than ever,” another member, Tom Beal said.  “When is the last time you’ve seen a line for a museum?  Great way to start my week.”

Follow the PEPCO energized AFRO coverage of the Sigma Centennial and the Zeta 2014 Boule’ celebrations on afro.com  or on the special AFRO Live Updates mobile app at live.afro.com

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