Destination: Human Dignity

Posted by Melvin Bray on August 29th, 2014 filed in Useful Perhaps
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Here’s to Audi and Dodge for publicly acknowledging the struggle for human dignity! (For kicks and giggles, everyone who can should go out and buy a set. Show a little love for socially conscious multi-national conglomerates. :-D)

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Source file for Dodge Dart logo
Source file for Audi logo

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The VMAs and the Emmys

Posted by Melvin Bray on August 27th, 2014 filed in Useful Perhaps
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And the winners are… Kerry Washington, MTV and Common for awarding human dignity the spotlight earlier this week on nights when for so many celebrities it was all about them.

If you know of others, let me know.

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Source photo for Kerry Washington
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Source photo for MTV VMA logo

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Listen Without Prejudice, That Noise Is Dead

Posted by Melvin Bray on August 25th, 2014 filed in Useful Perhaps
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Shout out to Orlando Jones and Jesse Williams (yet again) for putting human dignity ahead of the maintenance of their celebrity brands. #brandhumandignity

if you have examples of others who have done the same i’d love to hear.

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Black Rage & Supporting the Community Supporting You

Posted by Melvin Bray on August 22nd, 2014 filed in Useful Perhaps
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Big ups to Lauren Hill and Talib Kwali for taking a stand for human dignity!

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Full interview with Kwali
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Source photo of Hill

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Tell It Like It Is!

Posted by Melvin Bray on August 21st, 2014 filed in Useful Perhaps
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I have mad respect for Jesse Williams and John Legend who risk their brand for the cause of human dignity!

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I have a high school partner, Attorney Shawn McCullers, who went with colleagues to Ferguson, MO, as legal observers. This is a series of photos he captured of police brutality and constitutional infringement the evening/morning of 19/20 August 2014.

Learn more about the work of legal observers in Ferguson here.

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Stark Racial Divisions in Reactions to Ferguson Police Shooting

Posted by Melvin Bray on August 20th, 2014 filed in Useful Perhaps
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It is not often that the hypocrisy of the dominant stories and scripts of our country line up so perfectly for all to see the racial concerns that drive black protest. However, in this one moment it has:

1. The Pew Research Center released a poll on Monday, 18 August 2014, noting the stark racial divisions in reactions to the Ferguson Police shooting of Michael Brown.

Pew goes on to draw several conclusions from the data, including comparing reactions from now to those that accompanied the slaying of Trayvon Martin and the subsequent acquital of Trayvon’s killer George Zimmerman.

2. Consider the anguish, anger and resolve expressed in the following report on the killing of James Foley, a white American journalist abroad. Replace every use of the word “ISIS” with “Ferguson authorities” or “American authorities;” replace every use of the name “James Foley” with “Mike Brown” or “Eric Garner” or… “Martin Luther King”…; now read the transcript of the segment again with these replacements as though you feel every word, and you may begin to understand how black people feel about these ongoing losses, even as we grieve the loss of our countryman James Foley too.


3. Consider also the almost satirical irony of the following story of the shooting of a dog by a police officer that shows the shooting officer and victim family expressing strikingly similar reactions to those seen in the Michael Brown tragedy. Outrage over the dog shooting comes at the same time a third of white Americans or an overwhelming majority of Republicans are saying too much is being made of race in the Michael Brown case. Note that the officer who shot the dog was immediately fired, even though the “Justice for Apollo” Facebook page (which already has 14k followers and counting) reports that Apollo did not indeed die. Don’t human beings, no matter who they are, deserve at least a commensurate amount of respect?


CONCLUSION: For certain, what is happening in Ferguson is about justice for Michael Brown and his family. But it is also about Ferguson citizens’ desire for freedom from aggressive police tactics. And it’s also about American citizens of color’s desire to no longer be targeted by an often fatal, frequently unresponsive power structure.

This isn’t about ridicule or condemnation of white Americans who just don’t get it. This is a goodwill attempt to help you get it. Black people in particular in America (and I imagine people of color in general) just want the dominant story and script of our country to cease to be what the US Supreme Court Chief Justice Roger Taney declared in 1857 in a court opinion: That African-Americans (and by extension, all people of color) had “no rights which the white man was bound to respect.”

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This Isn’t Just about Cops… Or even Primarily about Them

Posted by Melvin Bray on August 20th, 2014 filed in Useful Perhaps
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I agree with everything Chris Matthews says in both these brief segments, and commend him for using his platform to say it.

In saying that, what do we do with the truth of John Oliver’s commentary as well?

Is there a difference between police and policing (individuals versus culture) that needs to be explored?

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Not the Dream That Is America

Posted by Melvin Bray on August 20th, 2014 filed in Useful Perhaps
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A night has passed without tear gas, smoke bombs and rubber bullets. No injuries have been reported. we are grateful.

But we have no reason to celebrate. Crowd control (again it remains hard to call them law enforcement when the ‘laws’ they ‘enforce’ remain ad hoc) still did not replace their us-versus-them narrative for an us-with-them one. All they did was place in reserve one tactic of what has become a daily curtailment of citizens’ constitutional right to protest “for a redress of grievances”.

Time and again leaders of large civil forces, including Lt. General Honore, who brought assurance and aid to New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, have attested to ways to preserve peace in cooperation with protestors (see below). Police may be supervised by government officials, but on US soil they work for the people. Their charter doesn’t even include maintenance of their own safety as an subordinating priority. Their charge is “to protect and serve” the people; apart from that, under our constitution no law enforcement has the right to exist.

The type of incremental non-progress we saw last night–no bullets, tear gas or smoke bombs, only limited use of pepper spray, but 47 arrests (persons whose right to participate in the political process beyond protest is now in jeopardy)–is just as familiar as police shootings to communities of color in the US. Tamp down hard, then let up a little so that you’re left abridging many but not all rights and the people remain conscious that it could be worse. Such tactics are reminiscent of Malik el-Shabazz’s description of pulling a 9-inch blade just 2-inches out of the back of a man you stabbed and calling it progress. In the midst of struggles like these for basic human dignities and preservation of civil rights, we sometimes concentrate so much on what can be gained or lost in the next moment that we forget the broader, quintessential question of the american experiment: How ought we be treated by those who exercise authority over us?

Command-and-control, stonewall and ignore is a story and script common to the exercise of authority in America, but it is not the dream that is America. We should not accept it as the best we can hope for.

Lt. General Honore on tactics:


Philadelphia Police Commisioner and former Police Chief of Los Angeles on tactics (beginning around the 9:00 mark):

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Anxious to Believe the Story of Crowd Hostility in Ferguson

Posted by Melvin Bray on August 19th, 2014 filed in Useful Perhaps
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Every morning since Saturday crowd control in Ferguson (its hard to call them law enforcement when the ‘laws’ they ‘enforce’ appear to be ad hoc) have justified their policing tactics of the previous night with the claim that they came under assault from rocks, bullets and molotov cocktails.

Every morning news outlets report exactly what crowd control tells them, even though reporters live on the ground are less than clear as to why tactics are changing when they do change. The first evidence of a change for news crews on the ground seems to be crowd control taking an aggressive posture (i.e. forming a line, pulling out batons, pointing weapons) and donning riot or assault gear.

There is video of citizens throwing rocks and plastic water bottles. there are pictures of crowd control launching smoke bombs and tear gas. There are images of citizen injuries consistent with what police say is malicious crowd activity. And despite the claim that crowd control has not fire at anyone, there are pics of crowd control pointing their weapons (as of last night brandishing their actual sidearms) and of citizens with injuries consistent with having been hit by crowd control weaponry.

Where are the images and evidence of police being hit by bullets and molotov cocktails? Where are the shell casings and the broken glass and flammable liquid? Where are the burns on officers or images of their equipment burning? The reason overmatched resistance groups use molotov cocktails is because they are one of the few ways to do damage to a well equipped force. Molotov cocktails don’t smoke or spark; they shatter, splash and burn. Where is the damage crowd control has sustained? We see the damage citizens are sustaining?

Is the story of crowd hostility being the instigating factor one that we are so anxious to believe that we are willing to accept it uncritically?

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Ferguson Needed a Black Patsy

Posted by Melvin Bray on August 18th, 2014 filed in Useful Perhaps
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I take it back. Captain Ron Johnson (like too many good brothas) appears to have been co-opted.

—–Original Post—–

Captain Ron Johnson is being scapegoated! Pay attention to the racial storyline:

Saturday noon, 8/9 – Unarmed black teenager is killed in broad daylight by a white police officer.

Saturday afternoon, 8/9 – Interracial protests form in response to the killing, the way the body is being treated and the lack of information being shared with the family of the victim by the authorities.

Saturday evening, 8/9 – Before the black teenager’s body is secured, the white Ferguson Police Chief Thomas Jackson secures the riot support of 15 additional law enforcement departments, even though no one was rioting.

Saturday evening, 8/9 – Violent policing ensues, with the use of rubber and wooden bullets as well as tear gas and military assault weaponry being trained at protestors.

Sunday evening, 8/10 – As peaceful protestors continue to take to the streets, opportunistic looters take advantage of the heightened emotions and misdirected attentions of law enforcement.  Police show of force remains primarily directed at protestors.

Monday, 8/11 – Looting stops, but Police Chief Jackson as well as the news media continue to talk about it throughout the week as if it is still happening in the present. Overly aggressive, yea even violent, policing continues throughout the week directed at protestors.

Mon – Thurs, 8/11 – 8/14 – The white governor of Missouri Jay Nixon acts clueless about the whole situation until Monday, but it takes until Thursday before he engages the people of Ferguson. Meanwhile more and more images surface of black people staring down the business end of assault weapons wielded by white police officers in military gear.

Thursday afternoon, 8/14 – white Governor Jay Nixon finally steps in to take responsibility for protest security from the Ferguson PD and giving it to MO State Troopers. Instead of having to relate to authority being exercised over them by white Police Chief Jackson, the predominantly black Ferguson citizens were given 1 day to relate to black Captain Ron Johnson who lives in Ferguson.

Thursday evening, 8/14 – Tensions immediately abate. Interracial protestors and interracial law enforcement in regular uniform are in the street walking and talking and taking pictures with one another all Thursday evening. Protestors are told by Captain Ron Johnson they can be out as long as they would like. No arrests or injures are reported the one night black Captain Ron Johnson got to call the shots in a way that was respectful of the citizens of Ferguson.

Friday morning, 8/15 – Six days after the killing, Police Chief Jackson finally releases the name of Officer Darren Wilson who perpetrated the fatality, but instead of accompanying the announcement with a photo of white Officer Wilson, white Police Chief Jackson releases video footage alleging that the black shooting victim Michael Brown robbed someone 10 minutes before being shot. Four hours later Jackson clarified that the stopping of Michael Brown had nothing to do with him being suspected of robbery. However, by releasing the video in conjunction with the officers name without releasing the officer’s photo, Jackson ensured that every Google search of the officer’s name in the first 24-48 hours would bring up the video.

Friday evening, 8/15 – Even after the press conference shenanigans of the Ferguson PD earlier on friday when everybody in support of the brown family got mad, young black males protestors rally to protect local store from the handful of opportunists trying to loot.  Police concern and displays of force remain directed at protestors.

Saturday afternoon, 8/16 – White Gov. Jay Nixon announces in quite the paternalistic tone a return to the heavy-handed tactics from earlier in the week: enforcement of a now official, previously de facto, curfew for protestors. Black Capt. Ron Johnson is ordered to enforce the curfew by any means necessary. The military weaponry returns to the streets–a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Monday early morning, 8/18 – After 2 nights of RENEWED UNREST THAT WE NOW SEE COMES IN RESPONSE TO the use of rubber bullets as well as tear gas and military assault weaponry and black Capt. Ron Johnson having to explain each morning his execution of the orders he has been given (not the tact he would have taken), white Gov. Jay Nixon calls in the national guard who arrive a little later Monday morning.


Watch the storyline as it has developed and ask yourself:

  1. Why not call in the national guard in the middle of last week when Police Chief Thomas Jackson was failing so miserably for days on end?
  2. Why install Ron Johnson just to give him the orders to go back to what hadn’t worked all week?
  3. How can there ever be different results if we allow authorities to keep following the same old racial script?
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