i am

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harlem, usa
same-gender-loving contemporary descendant of enslaved africans. community activist, feminist, health educator, independent filmmaker, mentor, playwright, poet & spiritual being. featured at, in & on africana.com, afrikan poetry theatre, angel herald, bejata dot com, bet tonight with tavis smiley, blacklight online, black noir, brooklyn moon cafe, gmhc's barbershop, klmo-fm, lgbt community services center, longmoor productions, nuyorican poets cafe, our corner, poz, pulse, rolling out new york, rush arts gallery, saint veronica's church, schomburg center for research in black culture, sexplorations, the citizen, the new york times, the soundz bar, the trenton times, the village voice, upn news, uzuri, venus, vibe, wbai-fm, wnyc-fm & wqht-fm. volunteered with adodi, bailey house, inc., black men's xchange-new york, colorofchange.org, drug policy alliance, east harlem tutorial program, imagenation film & music festival, presente.org, save darfur coalition, the enough project, the osborne association, the sledge group & your black world. worked on films with maurice jamal & heather murphy. writing student of phil bertelsen & ed bullins. mjt975@msn.com.

Monday, December 25, 2006

Rally For Sean Bell: Justice or Just Us?

This past Thursday afternoon, December 21, 2006, I attended a rally for Sean Bell, the 23 year-old African-descended male who was brutally murdered by the NYPD in his Queens hometown in late November of this year. Bell was engaged to be married & his fiancee is carrying his child, a child who'll never experience the love of his father. Two of his best friends were also shot & subsequently hospitalized that fateful day, as the men were coming from a nightclub the police were apparently staking out.

The rally, one of several this month, was strategically held in front of the Chase Building in the Wall Street area of New York City. At a press conference, attorney Roger Wareham laid out for us all the role JP Morgan Chase has played in the enslavement of African people since their inception. In fact, an African-descended female attorney in Washington, DC is suing a number of corporations - chief among them JP Morgan Chase - for reparations, as they've capitalized on the dehumanization, exploitation & unpaid labor of African people.

I arrived early & spotted some other folks who were looking for the designated gathering place. When we saw the huge red, green & black flag defiantly being waved in the area, we knew we were in the right place. A small, yet diverse trickle of folks carrying banners, holding placards & waving signs assembled peacefully. There was a plethora of media people emerging. I was struck by the large contingent of new york's finest: cops were everywhere; someone mentioned snipers were seen on the roof of an adjacent building. I looked up & saw helicopters swirling around, yet I was excited to be among my people. I felt a sense of belonging. I was at the right place for the right reason. We wanted justice for our fallen brotha.

Sean Bell was shot 50 times. One of the cops shot him 31 times & reloaded (!) his gun in the process. I'd like to know what purpose did 50 shots serve? My understanding of the law states three shots are sufficient when trying to apprehend a suspected criminal. But neither Bell nor his two buddies are criminals & they had no drugs, guns or weapons in their possession. It was later reported the alcohol level of Bell was twice above the legal drinking limit for a driver. Also, the officers, who claim they identified themselves before shooting, something both of Bell's friends categorically deny, had two alcoholic drinks as well, which the law allows for, even in the course of duty.

Historically, the relationship between young, Black men & the NYPD is corrupted by anxiety, fear, mistrust, rage & violence. When we think of Bell, immediately the names of Amadou Diallo, Abner Louima, Peter Desmond & Timothy Griffith come to mind. White police officers in NYC do not get indicted or prosecuted for the shooting and/or killing of young, African-descended men. Some of them have actually received promotions for their work in the new age of terrorism. One need not take a bar exam to conclude our lives are not valued in this society.

The prevailing attitudes of the NYPD has enraged our community. Yet, despite the extra police in the subway or on the street, many of us don't feel safe in our own neighborhoods. Our sense, or lack thereof, of outrage leaves much to be desired. Hundreds of folks showed up for the two hour, thirty minute rally. Our goal was to shut Wall Street down. Why? NYC is the money capital of the world: money talks & bullshit walks. As abolitionist/freedom frighter Frederick Douglass noted, "power never conceded anything without a demand...it never has & it never will." Again, we demand justice, the indictment & prosecution of the officers who shot the three men, as well as the firing of Police Commissioner Ray Kelly & his Deputy Manager.

Interestingly enough, at a press conference during the night of the deadly shooting, Mayor Michael Bloomberg admitted the officers' behavior was "excessive," though he later tried to recant his candor by saying "we have to wait until all of the facts are in." When public officials are at odds in the media, especially when race is involved, the tension raises the ire of an already traumatized community. In the interim, the NYPD unsuccessfully tried to justify their killing by seeking a "fourth party witness." There was no fourth man. Brooklyn Councilman Charles Barron fiery stated at the rally's press conference, "we are sick & tired of our young men being killed...so don't blame me when our people don't act non-violent anymore."

I met a spirited 62 year-old African-descended man who told me he's been "marching in the streets since the days of Selma & trust me, I've seen it all." He proudly shared a few stories with me throughout the day. I listened intently, because I was raised, unlike many in the current generation, to respect my elders. People from all walks of life participated, though the rally was primarily made up of African-descended people. Another rally is being planned for the afternoon of Monday, January 29, 2007 in front of the United Nations Building. I intend to be there. What happenned to Sean Bell could happen to me. As one of my childhood heroes Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., prophetically once said, "an injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere."

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