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.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

The Sean Bell Case: What Color is Murder?

Monday, March 19, 2007, three NYPD officers were indicted in the Sean Bell case, sending outrage to the Black & Latino community, as well as other progressive people in NYC, who are brutally murdered, racially profiled & sexually assaulted by New York's finest. Five NYPD officers shot 50 bullets & killed Sean Bell - an unarmed Black male - outside of a Queens nightclub on November 25, 2006, the eve of his wedding. Bell was attending a bachelor party with his best friends, Joseph Guzman & Timothy Bentfield, both of whom were hospitalized after also being wounded by NYPD bullets. The three men were in a car outside the club at the time of the fatal shooting.

Queens District Attorney Richard Brown gave the eight-count indictment charging detectives Michael Oliver, who fired 31 shots - at one point reloading his gun - along with Gerard Isona who fired 11 shots, with first-degree & second-degree manslaughter. Detective Marc Cooper, who fired four shots, faces a misdemeanor endangerment charge. The other two officers, who both fired shots, were not indicted, yet have been placed on desk duty along with their supervisor as the investigation continues.

The charges against Isona & Oliver are classified as violent felonies, with mandated jail time if the men are convicted. The maximum time for manslaughter is 25 years. Oliver was also charged with endangerment in connection with a bullet that went through the window of an occupied vehicle. All three officers were suspended without pay. Rev. Al Sharpton, spearheading the movement for justice with Bell's family, was visibly angered by the outcome of the grand jury. At a news conference, Sharpton said the indictment, "falls short of what we want. Clearly, all five officers should be charged; all officers acted in concert."

Grand jurors refused to indict on the more serious counts of second-degree murder & attempted murder, or the charge of criminally negligent homicide. Police have contended the five officers were involved in an undercover investigation at the nightclub when they overheard something leading them to believe the men were going to their car to retrive a gun. Yet, no weapons were found among Bell, Bentfield or Guzman. Two days before the grand jury convened, an anonymous source suggested he thought he saw a "Black male fire one or two shots," before fleeing the scene. The timing of his questionable testimony suspect, he was nonetheless heard by the grand jury.

In 1971, the brilliant author & historian Hoyt Fuller prophetically stated, "if you don't understand White Supremacy (Racism), how it works & what it does, then everything else you understand will only confuse you." I'm angry all five officers were not indicted. I'm angry Commissioner Ray Kelly still has a job. I'm angry Black public officials are silent on this issue. I have no faith in our criminal justice system, aptly named. The NYPD is not above the law. NYPD officers don't kill young, white boys, they kill young black, latino, asian and/or gay men with impunity. We demand justice for Sean Bell! God is watching.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who initially admitted the officers used "excessive force," though is now saying it was a statement made by "a civilian," acknowledged that some people would be disappointed in the grand jury's decision, which took less than 72 hours to deliberate. Bloomberg said, "we have to respect the result of our justice system...although a trial will decide whether crimes were committed in this case, day in & day out the NYPD does an incredible job under very difficult circumstances." In other words, the Mayor is trying to save his ass & his face & his job at the same time. Chuck D warned us, "don't believe the hype."

Some people are concerned the Bell case might be moved to a different venue - particularly in the wake of a presidential election year - similar to what happenned in the Amadou Diallo case in 1999. Diallo, an unarmed Ghanian immigrant, was murdered by 41 NYPD bullets in front of his apartment building. All four officers indicted were acquitted of any wrongdoing. I attended a rally highlighting the need for civilian justice & police accountability at Union Square yesterday, sponsored by a number of community-based organizations. I was pleased with the number of young people present, yet noticed a lack of media outlets, except Fox News, owned by Rupert Murdoch, whose contempt for Black people can be found on the front page of the New York Post, also owned by Murdoch. Alas, the saga continues...

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