File proposed Transgender military ban under; be careful what you wish for

US army

Every time someone in authority suggests discriminating against any one or any group in this society it is detrimental and is a blow to civil rights and human progress. President Donald Trump’s proposed military ban of Transgender people is wrong and sets up that community for even more discrimination and possible victimization. However, the US military is not an organization folks should be dying to sign up for, considering its track record over the last 50 years.

Furthermore, it does strike a rather discordant tone to say, we want to be allowed to be as backwards and as hawkish as anyone else.  But the sentiment is correct, the Transgender community should be able to participate in any part of US society without fear of discrimination.

Hopefully the Transgender community and other communities will use this controversy as an opportunity to pause and consider what it really means to serve in the US military and to ask tough questions.

The US government has been at war continually for the last 15 years. As a result, hundreds of thousands of completely innocent people have been killed and thousands more have been displaced and made refugees in Iraq and Afghanistan. The US bombing and intervention in Libya and Syria have turned thousands more into refugees.

Most US citizens are oblivious to this because society encourages  self centered preoccupation  with our own lives and the time required to just make a living distracts people from knowing what their government is  doing. Add to that, corporate Big Business media  diverts our attention daily with the constant reporting  on the latest Trump/Russia distraction.

The Trump administration has been constantly bombing Syria and independent sources have revealed that just in the last few months a few thousand Syrians have been killed.

The Obama administration’ drone campaign killed thousands of Muslims in the Middle East. A large percentage of those targeted had done nothing deserving of their fate and were completely innocent. The US government even admitted that it often launched drone attacks without actually knowing who they were trying to kill.

The interventions in Afghanistan and Iraq despite all the flag waving were simply wrong. Afghanistan had not attacked. The US’s the rationale behind that invasion of Afghanistan was faulty and was the result of bullying.  Many people believe that the US intervention in Afghanistan was because the country attacked the US on 911 however the majority of those accused of that act were Saudi Arabian nationals. And the invasion of Iraq was proven to unjustified from the very beginning as the US failed to find the weapons of mass destruction that they said was justification for its aggression.

The ongoing efforts by the US military all over the world is not about US security but about US expansionism.

Whether we care about it or not the US military is carrying out a very aggressive and oppressive policy around the world.

Several studies have tried to estimate how much the US wars in Afghanistan and Iraq have costs so far, drawing from those it’s safe to say the US has spent between 4 and 6 trillion dollars. Imagine what can be done domestically with just a trillion dollars?

While it’s absolutely imperative to fight discrimination of all kinds  its unwise to rush to be a part of something, (in this case something immoral) just because we want to be included.

Black people ran into the same conundrum in World Wars I and II.  During World War II Blacks were still being discriminated in US society, South and North, in fact many were not allowed to work in government factories producing goods for the war effort. But Black leaders insisted that Blacks be included in the war effort.

Incredibly, when Blacks signed up they were placed in segregated units and experienced intense racism from their fellow countrymen. The vast majority were used as support units driving trucks, digging graves and delivering supplies. The Tuskegee Airmen were an exception and even they served as a segregated unit. Oddly Blacks were not rewarded for their service and they returned to find civil society as closed to them as ever. Nobody cared about their sacrifice, because frankly the society didn’t care about them.

It would represent even more progress if  while rightfully defending its right to equal opportunity and to be included in ALL of US socie, the Transgender community joined other communities in voicing opposition to these aggressive and illegal wars.

justice then peace

 

We can and we ought to take the mic!

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Last night in a moment captured all over the country and parts of the world, people witnessed in Minneapolis an amazing moment of lucidity, clarity and sense of purpose. My fellow protestors lead brilliantly by John Thompson, Chauntyll Allen, Michelle Gross, Curtis Avent Jacob Ladda, Emily Flower,AJ Cardenas Nekima Levy-Pounds ( who would have been with us but was having her baby) KingDemetrius Pendleton (Listen Media) and a few others, with an uncanny sense of timing turned Minneapolis mayor Betsy Hodges press conference into the people’s press conference calling, for her resignation, while denouncing the unresponsiveness, lawlessness and ineffectiveness of her administration in meeting the needs (especially safety from the police violence) of its constituents.
 
Hodges called the conference to appease the demand for justice for victims of police violence, the latest of which was Justine Damond, by firing the current police chief Janae Harteau and appointing Black assistant chief Medaria Arradondo as the new chief.
 
But the effort to hoodwink and distract the public was exposed by anti- police violence activists before she could make her announcement. John Thompson rightly called on her and her entire staff to resign saying, “if the mayor can’t represent us then she ought to step down.”
 
“This is our house you can’t lock us out of our house,” said Thompson during the “Peoples Press Conference. He very astutely pointed out that the problems in City Hall has been going on for decades.
During “OUR” conference I chimed in as well, making the point that cosmetic changes aren’t enough, but what is needed is an overhaul of the entire system of policing and the system that it serves. I also pointed out that we won’t be tricked by simply having a “Black face in a White place.” Arrodondo indeed is my color and a nice guy, he has been thoughtful and respectful in all of my interactions with him over the years.
 
But he has sided with an institution that has historically and currently serves as an occupying and oppressive and brutal force in our community. The mayor’s firing of the police chief was like putting clean or new clothes on a dirty body, while it might look good on the outside, the body still stinks.
 
The problem is the institution of policing and the system they protect. The hard truth is as long as this socio-economic-political system is in place, there will be a need for this kind of policing. The kind of policing in which police intimidate harass, brutalize, bully and sometimes kill people. Until we decide we want to live in a just and equitable society, we will have the police (as we now know them), whose job is to maintain and reinforce societal divisions of race, sex, nationality and religion and clean up the fall- out from a fundamentally unjust and inequitable society.
 
The people advanced an unassailable argument, ”Why should we pay taxes for you to brutalize and kill us?” City Hall is supposed to be representative of the people and we shouldn’t have to beg folks in it to do our bidding. And as John pointed out, “even the furniture is ours”.
 
Its becoming more clear that the people ought to run this city and other Big cities, the people should run this country and not the profiteers, the warmongers, the blood suckers and parasites.
 
Our group got right to the point. Not only police chief Harteau, but the mayor, her staff and the whole damn system should be thrown out.
 
People want to be policed by a force that recognizes their humanity.
 
But this will only come about in a society that changes its values and ultimately changes the class who leads it. This present society is run by the ruling class, the bosses for the needs of profit.
 
Most major decisions revolve around what is it good for Big Business rather than what’s good for the majority; the citizens.
 
Mayor Hodges doesn’t represent us no more than the mayor before her and the mayor before her and the mayor before that represented the interests of the city.
 
Hodges refused to stand up for her clientele when the state legislature threatened to cut the transit budget for the Twin Cities. She and many of her cronies opposed efforts to implement a $15 minimum wage despite the fact that the vast majority of the citizens in the city signed on to it in a referendum.
 
She has failed to stand up for single women who face discrimination from landlords who saddle them with bad rental records for simply asking for lawful repairs and upkeep. She and her administration has only paid lip service to the employment discrimination in this city, which at one point lead the nation in Black and White unemployment disparity. Blacks at one point were three times more likely to be unemployed than Whites in Minneapolis.
 
And when Blacks have been brutalized by police, Hodges, Harteau and County Attorney Mike Freeman have responded by patronizingly telling the community how they should behave and respond to the system’s denial of justice.
 
Time indeed for a change and we indeed are the people who can bring it about!
 
justice then peace

Damond police killing: Be not deceived cops are cops and wrong is wrong!

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It appears quite likely that the Minneapolis power structure is going to throw the Somali police officer Mohamed Noor ,who allegedly shot and killed Justine Ruszczyk Damond, under the bus. People have been making that assessment all over the country and they are right, but it would be a mistake to stop there, or give some kind of moral support to Noor because he is Black. Right is right and wrong and is wrong! Noor took sides when he put on the uniform, and it wasn’t the side of the people.
 
It’s also important to note that the corporate press and power structure has portrayed Noor in a positive light, (just as they have Damond) as one of the “good ones.” They have written of the mayor’s support for him and interviewed family friends and even youth painting a picture of Noor as a “role model.”
 
As in the more recent case of Philando Castile, whose killer Jeronimo Yanez was likely charged (when other White officers historically had avoided that fate) because he was Latino. However he was still seen by the jury as a honorary White and as “believable” and therefore was exonerated. We can speculate with lots of history to support us, that Noor will be prosecuted because he is Black, Somali and Muslim.
 
Recently in New York,the Chinese population was up in arms because Peter Liang who is Asian,was convicted of manslaughter in the death of Akai Gurley who he killed in 2014 when he accidentally discharged his weapon in a tenement stairway.
 
Gurley’s character was smeared and scandalized in the Big Business press ( as they usually do victims of police violence), especially Black victims of police brutality. And they prosecuted the Asian cop which of course is something that seldom happens when Blacks (and just about everybody who isn’t rich) are victimized by the police. He was charged with the highest crime the system could throw at him, and was subsequently convicted and of course then let off by the system, which refused to give him jail time!
 
But it was obvious he had been the victim of a double standard and was simply easier for a racist and brutal system to scapegoat him.
 
Unfortunately the Asian community organized by the thousands to protest the verdict, rather than supporting the call for justice for Akai, saying Liang was scapegoated. No doubt he was, but he was not innocent and just as importantly, he in essence wasn’t really one of them. The relationship between the Black and Asian communities in New York still suffers as a result of this wrongheaded defense of the cop.
 
However a brave and justice minded group of young Asian Americans made a point of standing with the Gurley family and the Black community and others who demanded justice in the case.They were never tricked into defending the Chinese cop because he was Asian like them. They correctly saw Liang as a cop, who serves a fundamentally racist, classist and unjust system.
 
It would behoove everyone to also see this for what it is. Yes acknowledge that it’s going to be easier to prosecute Noor in a racist society, if it turns out that he indeed was the shooter. No doubt it could be worse than speculation has so far concluded, it is possible that Noor wasn’t the trigger man and is being entirely set up as the fall guy.
 
But it is also important to acknowledge that if indeed Noor shot Ruszczyk Damond, that is WRONG and he should be held accountable.
 
Since policing is such a problem in the US, its time that we face the truth about the role of the police. The cops serve and protect the interests of the power structure: period. Despite all the propaganda, they are not our friends no matter what color, sex or nationality. When a person puts on that uniform their allegiance is to that uniform, not their race sex or nationality. In fact the police serve to reinforce the stereotypes in our society which is why they over police in Communities of Color and why they brutalize and kill youth, women, immigrants and the LGBTQ community.
 
The cops hit folks with their sticks to remind them of their place in this society, which is why White people (who are not rich) are victimized as well . They unequally enforce the law, while enforcing laws that are fundamentally unjust and biased.
 
It is imperative that we are clear and refuse to fall for the tricks of the system. A White cop is a cop. A Black cop is a cop. A woman cop is a cop. An LGBTQ cop is a cop. A Somali cop is a cop. A Latinx cop is a cop. An Asian cop is a cop. A Somali cop is a cop!
 
Incidentally, I don’t recall the Black community ever as a group supporting that which is morally and fundamentally wrong.
 
Some have spoke of callously refusing to support the call for justice for the blonde White woman in this case, because they feel White folks haven’t been supportive of others calls for justice. But that is inconsistent with the history of Black folks in this country. Black humanity despite being enslaved, dehumanized and oppressed always managed to identify with the suffering of others and other struggles against oppression. Black folks always maintained their humanity.
 
This system has taken a lot from Black folks it but it shouldn’t be allowed to take away that which has distinguished them as a race in this American experiment:their humanity!
 
justice then peace

Philando trial: The system worked and then rubbed it in! Part I

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Looking back on the jeronimo yanez trial it’s even more clear that It took an amazing amount of nerve for Ramsey County prosecutor john choi to tell the community that “we have to accept this verdict.” He also implied that the trial and the process leading up to it was “fair and impartial” but judging from the information recently revealed about the investigation into the shooting, the lackadaisical prosecution, biased rulings by judge william leary along with his subsequent letter supporting the verdict and the clearly biased jurors, nothing could be further from the truth. (no caps meant as a sign of disrespect)
 
The trial confirmed most folks suspicions that the US system is biased partial and blatantly unfair. And that it is nearly impossible for a Black person to get a fair shake from it: dead or alive.
 
Everything that has been revealed about the trial of jeronimo yanez for killing Philando Castile has revealed a system that is biased to its core, that quite frankly is not worthy of respect.
Immediately after the killing, the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA) investigators worked to try to find evidence that would help officer yanez, rather than get to the facts of the shooting. They grilled Diamond Reynolds for three hours immediately after shooting while allowing the killer yanez 24 hours to concoct his lie. Even the prosecutors got in on the act investigating Castile rather than the cop they were supposedly trying to convict.
 
The prosecution which did appear to make its case, but didn’t have its heart in it, as they failed to humanize their client. It’s not possible they didn’t know what a great guy he was because they spent most of their time looking into his background.
 
Incredibly, the prosecution only called ONE character witness, a teacher at JJ Hill school, where Philando was referred to as Mr Phil and was beloved by staff and students. No doubt the prosecutors could have naively assumed that the jury would give their deceased client the benefit of the doubt, since the case involved two human beings, one on trial for wrongfully, killing the other.
 
But they would be mistaken, it is not automatically assumed in this society, that Black people are human beings. In fact often when law enforcement victimizes a Black person, there is a kind of built in societal justification for the death or the abuse, if the person had drugs in their system, a criminal record, or were unemployed.
 
It’s why the defense team kept pushing the marijuana theme. They know that people high on marijuana are not a threat, but they continued to make allegations that it inhibited his ability to follow commands as a way of sullying Philando’s character, despite the fact that a large number of White Americans smoke weed as well.
 
Speaking of the defense lawyers,( again proving race brings out the worst in folks) earl grey, who won a case in which arguably there are no winners, decided to pop off about it. Someone should tell him to shut up and that he won, only a callous pig or thug, would rub it in.
 
The despicable Mr grey asked after the trial, “Would you let Philando pull a gun on you” knowing that the evidence did not support such a spurious and slanderous claim. The physical evidence (gun found deep in his pocket, trigger finger shot), along with yanez’s statement immediately afterward to his supervisor that he “didn’t know where it was,” made it absolutely clear he did not pull a gun on yanez despite what the prejudiced jurors, concluded.
 
Grey’s lack of decorum and sensitivity is amazing considering he brushed shoulders with Philando’s mother Valerie, every day in court. But it’s a Black man that’s dead, so grey wasn’t bound by the normal rules of human decorum, which dictate that sensitivity, compassion and empathy and plain old human decency be employed in such a tragic situation.
 
Strangely the father of four had no comment when he was asked if he was aware of the pain that the decision caused the community. But he had a lot to say when no one was asking his opinion.
 
A self-respecting community would let him know just how they felt about his insensitive and callous remarks.
 
For the unaware, the presiding Christian and obviously biased judge leary, (who faithfully attends mass every day) took it upon himself to write a letter telling the jury that it did the “right” thing.
 
Sounding like a robed 1950’s night- rider, leary wrote that he wanted to thank the jurors “for the profound public service you provided to this country and the State of Minnesota,…. I write to re-assure you that you faithfully fulfilled the difficult task you were asked to undertake.”
 
Indeed they did!
 
justice then peace

Essence Festival 2017: And Still We Rise! Ashe’

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There they were decked out in every imaginable kaleidoscope and hue of brown and black hue, it’s hard to imagine a people so proud, so beautiful, so vivacious, so full of life could at the same time be so despised. But that’s what the 23rd Annual Essence Festival brought to the table, our own little brief respite from the pain of being Black in the US and placed people on a temporary island of tranquility.
 
Nevertheless, there they were and in the midst of them were arguably some of the most striking women in the universe,covering every spectrum of brown, black and even a shade of gray; they also came in caramel, butterscotch, honey, dark and milk chocolate, ebony and mahogany.
 
There was no mistaking the West African Mother land’s contribution, as they sashayed about with their big and almond eyes, big lips and big behinds, wide hips, wide set noses and toned thighs. Yes they wore broad smiles, with their high cheek bones and sometime high foreheads. They wore every kind of cloth and style imaginable and made every fashion, every dress, every skirt, every pair of pants and one piece outfit look as if it was tailor made for them. As a crown they wore nappy, curly, straightened and natural (and purchased) hair.
 
“Still I Rise,” you could hear if you listened closely! Maya Angelou’s paraphrase of the African experience in America in three words, seemed to be coming from the movement of the people.
 
“Still I Rise,” Essence seemed to prove, as it put on display of Black excellence, specifically Black female excellence. There were Black entrepreneurs, Black clothing, Black books, Black hair care products, Black artists, Black directors, even Black food vendors. Gospel music was also recognized and given a place in the Festival, as Essence honored Cissy Houston.
 
Every Black experience was accounted for, even our social/health issues, from HIV to Sickle Cell to police violence as there was even a booth entitled COP STOP to help people inform their friends when they are being stopped by police.
 
This year organizers presented the WOKE award for those who have contributed to the struggle against racism. Ava DuVernay and Patrice Cullars of Black Lives Matter shared the honor.
 
DuVernay made the interesting point that part of being WOKE is being there for those around you, she gave the example of the cast of Queen Sugar showing up at her father’s funeral. No doubt a part or real consciousness has to include restoring the idea of the “Village” along with a comprehensive understanding of the role of racism in our social/ political/economic system.
 
Racism and police violence, are principle parts of the Black experience in North America and was reflected in a song by Jill Scott during her Friday night Superdome concert performance. The song was accompanied by a video collage that included Philando Castile’s mother Valerie Castile’s press conference, after this system allowed yet another cop to get away with murdering her son.
 
How far Black America has come was also reflected in the music as the elder stateswoman Diana Ross closed out Friday night with a performance that brought back lots of memories.
 
Ross’ career has spanned 5 decades. It’s difficult to believe that she can still perform, but there she was going through a melody of her Supremes hits and her more well- known tunes from her solo career. And yes she opened to, “I’m Coming Out”
 
It was as if she was spanning parts of the sound track of the lives of the old- schoolers in attendance. “You Can’t Hurry Love,” “Baby Love”, “Love Child”, “Aint No Mountain” spanned a time of hope and turmoil. The 1960’s don’t seem all that important now, but at the time,Ross and her group helped folks dance through their pain.
 
Ross and the Supremes were touched by the times as well, as Barry Gordy according to rumors, projected Ross as lead singer over the vocally talented Florence Ballard in order to appeal to a “broader” audience. The Supremes indeed were a cross- over success, but it may have cost Ballard her well-being.
 
Skeletons seemed to dominate the landscape as Mary J Blige, who admits that she sang to escape the blues of living hardcore poor and Black in America, took the stage on Saturday night and vicariously sang away her pain, much to her fans delight.
 
Chaka Khan fittingly closed the second night with “ I’m Every Woman” which brought back memories of the late great Whitney Houston, who Black America watched die right in from of them, a painful reminder of the late 1980’s early 90’s crack scourge that hit the community like a storm.
 
Moreover, the Ninth Ward’s rundown shadow of its old self post Katrina, also casts a pale on the Festival. Hopefully the organizers will one day find a creative way to include its reconstruction as part of its yearly confab.
 
Yet,’ Still We Rise’ would encapsulate the Festival this year. It was held without Confederate statutes as a back drop, which have been torn down earlier this year. One of them was of Robert E Lee, which literally stood 300 yards from the Morial Convention Center.
 
justice then peace