(Source: FinalCall.com) Janelle Monae and the Wondaland Records artists performed a tearful rendition of their new release â€œHell You Talmbout,â€ a powerful song that pays tribute to those who have fallen victim to police violence to those gathered August 17 in front of Chicago Bean in Millennium Park, downtown Chicago. â€œWe are particularly drawn to all these stories. This (song) is the least we can do. We believe silence is our enemy, but sound is our weapon, music is our weapon,â€ said Ms. Monae.
By Ebony S. Muhammad and Jesse Muhammad
HEMPSTEAD, Texas – Nearly a month after the death of Sandra Bland in police custody, there have been countless rallies, marches and protests demanding answers and justice for what many believe to be a murder made to appear as a suicide.
On August 9 — which also marked one year after the murder of Michael Brown, Jr., in Ferguson, Mo., by police officer Darrin Wilson — nearly 300 people gathered at the Waller County Jail to demand justice and answers for what really happened to Ms. Bland.
Among the speakers were protest organizers Secunda Joseph and Brandi Holmes as well as Congressman Al Green (D-9th), community activist Deric Muhammad, pastor Eddie Andre Deckard, and Prairie View A&M University student and Nation of Islam Student Association president Rasheedah Muhammad.
Not even the sweltering Texas heat could dissuade the growing crowd that surrounded the Waller County Jail. Protesters held signs that read “Black Lives Matter” , “You Cannot Oppress the People Who Are Not Afraid Anymore”, and the words of Sandra Bland from her Facebook wall, “Show me in American history where All Lives mattered.”
There were also signs with the faces and names of other Black men and women who were murdered by police, including Renisha McBride and Christian Taylor. The crowd could be heard chanting “No racist police!”
Rep. Green openly demanded a federal investigation. Activist Deric Muhammad demanded a county-wide boycott of Waller County businesses. Secunda Joseph passionately expressed, “This is NOT acceptable. It can’t be acceptable anymore! Keep fighting!”
After marching around the jail, the swelling crowd crushed through the front doors, overwhelming the entire building foyer while chanting and raising their fists to demand justice for Sandra Bland and others.
Although this day of remembrance and response was a peaceful protest, it was a bold demonstration of what putting aside titles, labels, gender, race and class could produce in sending a much needed message.
This was also another call to action with all roads leading to Washington, D.C., for the 20th commemoration of the Million Man March convened by the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan which holds the theme, “Justice Or Else!”
Originally published 11.11.14
On November 8, I was a guest on Thru The Eyes of Faith Blog Talk Radio Show hosted by Imani Muhammad of Portland, Oregon. We discussed why #BlackLivesMatter, The Teachings 2.0 Twitter book of the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan, the Farrakhan Twitter Army, national issues and more. Click below and listen
On October 4, a peaceful demonstration took place as Michael Brown supporters interrupted St. Louis Symphony Orchestra performance at Powell Symphony Hall. Chanting “Which side are you on?”…Watch the video below.
By Jordan Flaherty
Sheriff Scott Franklin of Jena says he is trying to rid his community of drugs. Critics say he is pursuing a vendetta against the townâ€™s Black community.
At four am on July 9 of last year, more than 150 officers from 10 different agencies gathered in a large barn just outside Jena, Louisiana. The day was the culmination of an investigation that Sheriff Scott Franklin said had been going on for nearly two years. Local media was invited, and a video of the Sheriff speaking to the rowdy gathering would later appear online.
The Sheriff called the mobilization â€œOperation Third Option,â€ and he said it was about fighting drugs. However, community members say that Sheriff Franklinâ€™s actions are part of an orchestrated revenge for the local civil rights protests that won freedom for six Black high school students – known internationally as the Jena Six – who had been charged with attempted murder for a school fight.
One thing is clear: the Sheriff spent massive resources; yet officers seized no contraband. Together with District Attorney Reed Walters, Sheriff Franklin has said he is seeking maximum penalties for people charged with small-time offenses. Further, in a parish that is eighty-five percent white, his actions have almost exclusively targeted African Americans. In a town with just over three hundred Black residents, he sent his 150 officers only into the townâ€™s Black neighborhood.
According to a report from Alexandriaâ€™s Town Talk newspaper, LaSalle Parish Sheriff Scott Franklin prepared the assembled crowd for a violent day. “This is serious business what we’re fixing to do,” said Sheriff Franklin. “If you think this is a training exercise or if you think these are good old boys from redneck country and we’re just going to good-old-boy them into handcuffs, you’re wrong. These people have nothing to lose. And they know the stakes are high.”
â€œIt’s going to be like Baghdad out in this community at five am,â€ he continued dramatically, explaining that their target was 37-year-old Darren DeWayne Brown, who owns a barbershop â€“ one of the only Black-owned businesses in town â€“ and his â€œlieutenants,â€ who Franklin said supplied eighty percent of the narcotics for three parishes. “Let me put it to you this way,” declared the Sheriff, “When the man says, ‘We don’t sell dope today,’ dope won’t get sold.”
Sheriff Franklin said that option one is for drug dealers and users to quit, option two is to move, and option three is to spend the rest of their lives in prison. And this day was all about option three. “They will get put in handcuffs, put behind bars today and never see the light of day again unless they are going out on the playground in prison,â€ he boasted.
At the end of the day, a dozen people were arrested on charges that ranged from contempt of court to resisting arrest to distribution of marijuana, hydrocodone, or cocaine. Despite catching the accused residents by surprise with early morning raids, in which doors were battered down by SWAT teams while a helicopter hovered overhead and then search teams were brought in to take houses and businesses apart, no drugs or other physical evidence were retrieved â€“ other than small traces of marijuana at one house.
Virtually all evidence in the cases comes from the testimony of twenty-three-year-old Evan Brown of Jena, who also wore a hidden camera that parish officials have said provides powerful visual evidence. â€œWeâ€™re completely satisfied with the results,â€ said LaSalle Sheriffâ€™s Department Narcotic Chief Robert Terral, who refused further comment on the operation.
LaSalle Parish is a politically conservative enclave located in northwest Louisiana. Former Klansman David Duke received a solid majority of local votes when he ran for governor in 1991â€”in fact, he received a higher percentage of votes in LaSalle Parish than in any other part of the state.
The Parish became famous in 2007 for the case of the Jena Six. In demonstrations that were called the birth of a 21st Century civil rights movement, an estimated 50,000 people from across the US marched in Jena â€“ nearly twenty times the population of the town. They were protesting a pattern of systemic racism and discriminatory prosecutions. All six youths, who once faced life in prison, are now either enrolled in college or are on their way.
The Sheriff told the Jena Times that he began preparing for Operation Third Option in November of 2007, less than two months after the historic protests. The raid occurred just a few weeks after the Jena Six cases were finally settled.
Originally published 5.25.10
Chevron denies access to shareholder representatives in bid to silence truth about its human right and environmental impacts
Houston, TX – Shareholders and shareholder representatives from around the globe holding legal proxies were refused entry to Chevron’s annual meeting today. Five members of The True Cost of Chevron Network were subsequently arrested at the oil giants direction.
Communities affected by Chevron attempted to enter its annual meeting while more “True Cost of Chevron” network supporters rallied outside.
“Chevron CEO John Watson opened the annual shareholder meeting touting Chevron as a good neighbor and yet they locked the door for communities from Houston, Alaska, Canada, Burma, Nigeria, and Colombia. This is the way we have been treated at home and meeting them here was no different,” explained Emem Okom, founder of the Kebetkuche Women Development and Resource Center of Nigeria.Of the 37 delegates from the Network with validly executed proxy statements, only seven were allowed to enter the meeting, contradicting Chevron’s own policies and in potential violations of corporate governance laws.. Addressing the shareholders, Elias Isaac of Open Society Institute of Southern Africa, who has seen the results of Chevron’s oil contaminations in Angola, said, “The disappearance of fish in Angola is a clear sign that Chevron is not compatible with the fishing business, despite John Watson’s claims to the contrary during today’s meeting.”
Josh Coates from the Wilderness Society of Australia was denied admission into the meeting had a message for CEO Watson: “Today I’ve been denied the opportunity to give a clear message to Chevron and the shareholders that the proposed liquid natural gas processing facility in the Kimberley region of northwest Australia comes with unacceptable environmental costs. The Kimberley region in the west of Australia is a last refuge for many species in the region, including humpback whales and the endangered Australian flatback turtle. Chevron is pushing an off-shore processing facility in the home of the humpback, while other options exist.” Coates noted.
Aileen Suzara, of the Filipino-American Coalition for Environmental Solidarity, was able to gain entrance into the meeting and addressed Chevron’s operations in Manila, Phillipines, stating, “Over 80,000 residents in metro-Manila are threatened by Chevron’s toxic fuel tanks, constant leaks, spills and emissions. Chevron refuses to relocate its depot despite the public outcry and a Philippine Supreme Court decision demanding closure.”Outside the meeting, activist Naing Htoo of EarthRights International from Burma was denied the opportunity to address the Board of Directors. Had he gained entrance, he would have told the company directly that, “Chevron continues lying to their shareholders and the public about human rights abuses associated with the Yadana Project in Burma. Even this year the UN Special Rapporteur for Burma documented the connection between human rights abuses and Chevron’s project. It’s time for Chevron to take responsibility for the harms they cause.”
Of the five arrested, one was Antonia Juhasz, Lead Author of “The True Cost of Chevron: An Alternative Annual Report”. Juhasz was dragged from the meeting as shareholders and their proxies chanted, “Chevron Lies, People Die” and CEO John Watson abruptly ended the meeting.
Others arrested included Reverend Ken Davis, a member Community for a Better Environment, from Richmond, California, Juan Parras of Houston-based Texas Environmental Justice Advocacy Solutions (TEJAS), and Mitchell Anderson and Han Shan of Amazon Watch; all arrested after being denied entrance. AmazonWatch works with Ecuadorian leaders like Guillermo Grefa, who was also denied entrance.
Before his arrest, Reverend Davis stated “I represent an area where there is no beauty shop, groceries, or cleaners. Our industry is Chevron. My people breathe their contamination every day and are constantly sick. Our health is not for sale.”
The True Cost of Chevron Network will continue its effective alliance to expose and challenge the oil giant. For more information on the Network, visit www.truecostofchevron.com
Originally published 5.12.10
In the latest edition of The Final Call, the cover story focuses on the national debate over the recent immigration laws passed in Arizona. Also looking ahead with the question being asked: Who are the next targets?Â
In part, National Correspondent Charlene Muhammad writes:
“The fall out over passage of an anti-immigration law in Arizona continued across the United States this week with people wondering is America being reduced to a nation â€œfor Whites only?â€
Under Operation Wetback, the U.S. Border Patrol found more than one million undocumented immigrants when they raided Mexican American barrios in Southeastern states in 1954. They sought identification from â€œMexican-lookingâ€ citizens they stopped on the streets and ultimately, many immigrants were deported and many others fled the U.S.
Now history is repeating itself and without swift, strategic action, opponents of the bill argued, its negative profiling implications could permeate America’s entire infrastructure, including the Prison Industrial Complex, and its health care and education systems, for starters.”
Alongside her wonderful reporting, I contributed a small portion to this cover story to highlight the moves being made on the grounds here in Houston by a coalition of Hispanic organizations. I interviewed Michael Espinoza, the lead organizer for Houston’s SEIU Justice for Janitors group.
“On May 5, nearly 100 members of various Hispanic organizations protested outside the Major League Baseball (MLB) game featuring the Houston Astros versus the Arizona Diamondbacks. This is part of an on-going movement to oppose the recent immigration bill passed in Arizona and to send the message, â€œNot in our backyard,â€ to Texas lawmakers.
â€œThe SB1070 is legalized racial profiling and we are 100 percent opposed to it,â€ Michael Espinoza told The Final Call.”
Did you know that amidst the debate of the Arizona immigration bill, Republican lawmaker Debbie Riddle of Tomball, Texas is planning to introduce a tough immigration bill for Texas that will parallel the controversial new laws in Arizona?
It’s true! [Click Here To Read For Yourself!]
Originally published 5.6.10
For those wondering if Hip-Hop artists in Arizona would speak out against the state’s immigration laws, you got your answer.
The hip-hop community in Arizona came together to remake Public Enemyâ€™s song, â€œBy the Time I Get to Arizona.â€
The hip-hop community in Arizona came together in a â€œNot In My Backyardâ€ approach to protest the state’s new immigration law by remaking Public Enemyâ€™s song, â€œBy the Time I Get to Arizona.â€ A music video is soon to follow.
Hip-hop artists Queen YoNasDa, DJ John Blaze, Tajji Sharp, Yung Face, Mr. Miranda, Ocean, Da’aron Anthony, Atllas, Chino D, Nyhtee, Pennywise, Rich Rico, and Da Beast express multi-cultural perspectives on a law they collectively consider to be racial profiling.
According to Queen YoNasDa, hip-hop artist who spearheaded the national movement â€œHip Hop 4 Haiti,â€ the song was the best way for the hip-hop community to take a stand against the immigration law. Queen YoNasDa is Native-African American and opposes racial profiling.
Here is the video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Web707z2oB0
For all of the Hip-Hop newbies, here is the original music video by Public Enemy performing By The Time I Get To Arizona:
Originally published 3.15.10
by Serbino Sandifer-Walker
Call them social revolutionaries, freedom fighters or trouble makers, but to the Texas Southern University students who defiantly marched over a mile to a grocery store lunch counter to initiate Houstonâ€™s first sit-in, they were just ordinary people who wanted to be treated like citizens. Their story of courage and struggle, like TSU’s story, is one we should not soon forget.
Some would simply paint the TSU students as agitators, but I would argue that they were modern day American heroes who championed civil rights and played a vital role in silencing Houstonâ€™s Jim Crow laws. Jim Crow was a phrase used to describe a system of Southern laws that denied blacks basic rights. These laws were strongly enforced between 1896 to 1964.
With little more than a burning desire for immediate social change, these young justice seekers began a crusade on Friday, March 4, 1960 to protest the unfair treatment of Houstonâ€™s African-Americans.
From a flag pole on TSUâ€™s campus 13 students that grew to 17 met. They lined up in pairs and marched 45 minutes to their destination — 4110 Almeda Road, Weingartenâ€™s Supermarket. As the students marched, they sang several black spirituals and other young men and women along the path joined in their crusade for justice and equality. They arrived at 4:30 p.m. with a simple objective â€“to be served at the lunch counter. However, for hours the students sat quietly—never to be served.
However, just as American soldiers stand at the ready on the frontline staving off impending international threats to the preservation of the civil peace that Americans hold so dear today, the TSU students stood undaunted by the barrage of racially charged insults flung at them like shrapnel filled grenades.
â€œWe felt our time had come,â€ said John Bland, TSU student and desegregation organizer. â€œWe just wanted to be treated like American citizens.â€
In their make shift â€œwar roomâ€, the students mapped out their plan of attack against Houstonâ€™s Jim Crow laws.
â€œThe war room was usually someoneâ€™s apartment, like Eldrewey Stearnsâ€™. This is where we planned out activities,â€ said Otis King, the city of Houstonâ€™s first African-American attorney and desegregation organizer. â€œWe felt at last, we had an opportunity to do something about the issues that had been troubling us for so long.â€
Many attribute the initial success of the movement to Eldrewey Stearns, who was a TSU law student. He became deeply passionate about desegregating Houston after he was stopped by a Houston Police Department officer in August of 1959, placed in jailed and severely beaten.
â€œEldrewey Stearns had a brilliant mind,â€ said Bland, one of Houstonâ€™s first black transit employees. â€œHe put all of this [sit-in strategies] together.â€
However, unlike many of his contemporaries who went on to become successful professionals, Stearns became lost in â€œthe causeâ€ and succumbed to a mental illness.
â€œThe movement actually stole the brother that I once knew,â€ said Shirley Stearns, Eldreweyâ€™s sister. â€œBut we are so proud of him because he gave his life to the movement. I donâ€™t want anyone to forget that.â€
Damaged but not broken by bipolar disorder, Stearns, who now resides in an assisted living home in west Houston, vividly recounted the movement. [READ MORE]
(Serbino Sandifer-Walker is an awarding-winning journalist and journalism professor at Texas Southern University. For more about the TSU student movement go to www.houstonstudentmovement.com)