Friday, April 25, 2008

Shawn Bell Decision or Maybe It's Just Me....

I was looking at the picture of the dead cougar that was shot in Chicago recently by Chicago Police. I also just saw a report that the carcas of the dead animal is being sent to the Field Museum to be later placed on display.

Isn't it interesting that the police can take down a cat and leave it's body basically intact so that it can go to a taxidermist while a human being like Shawn Bell can be shot so many times? Now before any of you mention that the police shooting was in New York and not Chicago, I only have to remind you of the case of Howard Morgan who was shot 25 times by CPD.

Just something to ponder.

Thursday, April 24, 2008



The recent spate of black-on-black shootings has had me searching the internet for press releases that I know our local politicians must have sent out declaring war on those who are wrecking havoc in our community. Sadly I couldn’t find any.

What is causing all of the shootings that are now occurring? One theory and I must repeat that it is just a theory, is that with the demise of CeaseFire in Chicago, many of the interventions in gang shootings are no longer available. This has caused many of the gang truces to no longer be in effect. An even more sinister theory, again it is just a theory, is that shootings are being encouraged to get CeaseFire funding returned.

Whatever the case, I am not hearing or seeing the outrage that I believe should be occurring as we lose our young people to killings by other young people. Yet let one police officer exercise their right to use deadly force and we have outrage all over the airwaves and in the streets.

Right now we are in desperate times. And therefore we need desperate measures. Something that can immediately send a message that the responsibility in child rearing continues as long as that young person lives in a household. Because one of the things that I can bet my bottom dollar on is that the people doing the killings and shooting are dependent on others to put a roof over their heads. We may find a rare case of someone who is working and has their own place getting involved in these shootings. But I bet that it is more the former than the latter.

You would think that with all the media attention given to the shootings in the black community that people would be talking to their young folks about the violence. But what if the elder in the house is the one who is advocating the use of violence as the solution to any dispute? It is people in my generation who are the first ones to spout off that they would solve a problem “by going to get their gun and shoot the person”, and it is their children who having heard that line of bull for years who are now actually using their guns to resolve disputes.

Recently I thought I heard gunfire. I looked out my window to see at least 20 boys running down the street on the next street over. It was almost 10:00pm and with all the shootings that have happened, the first thing that came to my mind is why do parents allow their teen boys to roam the streets at all hours of the day and night? I also thought about what needs to be done to kick start parents into taking responsibility for those boys who are the most likely candidates to become involved in a black-on-black shooting, either as the perpetrator or the victim.

Well, here’s my solution. Every black resident of Cook County needs to begin to pay a one hundred dollar annual fee for every male child in their household ranging in age from 8 to 35. That money would be used to pay for additional police officers in each municipality in Cook County where added police protection is needed to prevent black-on-black violence. Why do I think that just the black residents need to pay the fee? Because it is unfair to ask the majority community to pay and fund additional services to the black community when we have chosen to wring our hands and moan about the problem but do little to begin to solve it.

Plus when the black community is taxed specifically to pay for the problem, perhaps then we will wake up and begin to address the problem as opposed to window dressing it. What about situations where the wayward young men are living with their girlfriends? Hell, make the girlfriends pay. If the young man is 35 and under and doesn’t have a J*O*B, then she can pay for the privilege of sheltering him. And the tax must be paid no matter the economic status of the individual. From those who work - to those on public assistance, the “No freebies for anyone” mantra would be the rallying cry.

Now how could we enforce the tax on young black men? Easy. When they get picked up by the police and don’t have proof of having paid the fee, then the amount payable would automatically increase tenfold to a thousand dollar. Give jail time to whomever the young men have been living with and again no exceptions for single mothers, the elderly or anyone else in between. What if the young man is homeless? Then force him to do community service for the fee and still give him the jail time.

Now before any of you begin sputtering off emails and responding directly via my blog, I was being facetious. But there is a grain of truth in what I wrote. Until we make the black community economically responsible for the mayhem that is running wild in our community, we will continue to get rhetoric with no action. Anyone of us can be the next victim of senseless violence and wayward bullets. Ask yourself if you are willing to let that person be you?

Friday, April 18, 2008

Earthquake this am

I was probably one of the few folks who were up and fully awake when the tremors hit. I was sitting at my computer, browsing the internet and responding to emails.

When the quake started, it felt like I was on a boat and the engine was beginning to reve. Then my computer desk and basement began to rumble. My brass fireplace tools began to shake into each other and I felt like my body was being pulled apart. It was a very wierd sensation.

I got up from my chair and went to the front door thinking maybe a truck had hit our cul-de-sac again and expected to see something in the street outside my door. Nothing was there.

It really was the wierdiest experience. What was your reaction to the quake?

Thursday, April 17, 2008


Is Austin a neighborhood or a community? According to city maps, we are definitely a neighborhood, based strictly on boundaries of the land. But in terms of being a community with common interests-that is something we need to work at.
To be a community, we need to have a sense of commonality-something that unites us. In accord with that idea, I attended a meeting co-hosted by Rickie Brown, a community activist, and Malcolm Crawford, a contributing writer to this paper and the owner of Sankofa Cultural and Business Center on West Chicago Avenue. Malcolm is also the executive director of the Austin African-American Business Networking Association (AAABNA). Their goal for the meeting is to turn West Chicago Avenue from Cicero to Austin into a "Gateway."
What is a Gateway? The basic premise I have written about for years-that as a neighborhood, Austin is both the entrance to, and exit from, Chicago for the West Side. Yet as a neighborhood, there is nothing welcoming anyone to our area. Nor do we have a common major entity to bind us together into a community.
We are not privy, like other ethnic groups in America, to a shared motherland language, country or culture. What has blended the various African ethnic groups, brought involuntarily to this country together, is the color of our skin. What continues to keep us together is a shared history of slavery and struggles in this country. We have created our own unique African-American culture, juxtaposing the unique and various aspects of regional black culture into one we simply call "Soul."
Black people have lived in Austin for less than 40 years. When blacks first began migrating to Austin, many felt the community, in terms of the housing, would go down the drain. Yet statistically, Austin has the least amount of vacant land of any neighborhood in the city. We don't have blocks upon blocks of vacant lots.
Even more interesting is that, instead of the majority of houses going into disrepair, the majority of homeowners have held onto their property and most have improved it.
For the past 10 years, I have felt there was a move to get blacks to leave Austin. And for a while, it appeared to be happening-with most every house being sold going to a different racial group. But with over 110,000 people living in Austin, blacks will continue to be the dominant racial group for years to come.
As such, shouldn't we acknowledge our presence and celebrate our culture just like Greektown, Humboldt Park, Little Italy, Chinatown or Little Village? To do that we need to establish both visual markings and institutions to put our brand on Austin?
The Gateway Project proposes a couple of things. One of the first is to turn the now defunct 15th District police station at the corner of Lockwood and Chicago avenues into the Leona Spann/Ed Bailey Center. It would be remodeled in African motif and become the center of the social, business and cultural life for Austin. In addition, the Gateway Project also proposes placing African-inspired arches along Chicago Avenue to identify the gateway district.
What the Gateway Project needs most now is the support of the community to turn this idea into a reality. The Gateway Project is in the midst of planning its annual Juneteenth celebration at Chicago and Mayfield avenues.
We need people to make this the best Juneteenth ever, and to help get the word out so the community will come out and support the vendors, take part in the celebration and just network and socialize, which is how we build community.
The Gateway Project will meet this Saturday, April 19, at the Austin Branch Library, 5615 W. Race from 1 to 2 p.m. You can also get more information by visiting the website at Or you can reach Rickie P. Brown Sr. at 773/308-8636

Monday, April 14, 2008

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Doed this Man Represent Being a Real American?????

In 1961, a young African-American man, after hearing President John F. Kennedy's challenge to, "Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country," gave up his student deferment, left college in Virginia and voluntarily joined the Marines.

In 1963, this man, having completed his two years of service in the Marines, volunteered again to become a Navy corpsman. (They provide medical assistance to the Marines as well as to Navy personnel.) The man did so well in corpsman school that he was the valedictorian and became a cardiopulmonary technician. Not surprisingly, he was assigned to the Navy's premier medical facility, Bethesda Naval Hospital, as a member of the commander in chief's medical team, and helped care for President Lyndon B. Johnson after his 1966 surgery.For his service on the team, which he left in 1967, the White House awarded him three letters of commendation.

What is even more remarkable is that this man entered the Marines and Navy not many years after the two branches began to become integrated.While this young man was serving six years on active duty, Vice President Dick Cheney, who was born the same year as the Marine/ sailor, received five deferments, four for being an undergraduate and graduate student and one for being a prospective father.Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, both five years younger than the African-American youth, used their student deferments to stay in college until 1968. Both then avoided going on active duty through family connections.

Who is the real patriot? The young man who interrupted his studies to serve his country for six years or our three political leaders who beat the system?

Are the patriots the people who actually sacrifice something or those who merely talk about their love of the country?

After leaving the service of his country, the young African-American finished his final year of college, entered the seminary, was ordained as a minister, and eventually became pastor of a large church in one of America's biggest cities.

This man is Rev. Jeremiah Wright, the retiring pastor of Trinity United Church of Christ.

Race Discussions - The Slippery Slope - The Doll Video

Please respond with your viewpoint. If you are black, do you buy black or white dolls. If you are white, do you buy a black doll for your child?

The comment by the police chief Lanier of Washington DC. Is her comment about the uniform correct?

Fatherless homes. Do you agree with the Micheal Eric Dyson or Mike Barnicle the columnist?

Thursday, April 10, 2008

More Photos

More photos from Memphis Trip.

My recommitment to the Struggle

I traveled to Memphis last week with a group on a trip sponsored by WVON 1690AM. On Friday April 4, the weather in Memphis was rainy. In fact, it poured. As I stared out my hotel window, I thought the rain was nothing more than the tears of angels crying on the date Dr. King left us to join them. But the weather was not going to deter me from doing what I felt deep down inside that I needed to do-to march in honor of Dr. King.
I was 14-years-old when Dr. King was murdered at age 39. This 40th anniversary march is one year older than Dr. King was when he died. So nothing short of rapture was going to keep me from honoring a man who paid the ultimate price to change the American landscape.
Our tour schedule was to first visit the Civil Rights Museum. It is housed in what was the Lorraine Motel. The exterior of the Lorraine Motel looks like it did from years past. But the interior has been transformed into a pictorial history of the civil rights struggles, along with videos and reconstructions of scenes from the Civil Rights movement. During the course of walking the museum, I eventually arrived at room 307 which is next door to the room Dr. King had stayed in. Room 307 is now an open space that you can look outside at the exact location of where Dr. King laid dying from the gunshot wound. The wall separating the two rooms has been replaced by glass so that you can also look at the room Dr. King had stayed in.
For many of us, arriving at that point was an emotional journey. So much of what we had seen in pictures was now directly in front of us. I used my time to reflect on all the emotions that were assaulting me: sadness, gratefulness, recommitment, a sense of loss and on and on. I was moved to tears, but not tears of sadness. My tears promised that I would honor Dr. King by doing what I could to further what he had started.
The museum was extremely crowded with many who came to tour it. My group also was on a schedule to go to Memphis' City Hall to hear speeches and then march back to the Lorraine Motel. The rain had stopped, but the weather was still cool. It didn't matter. We were a group of people whose mission was more important than rain or cold.
We boarded our charter bus and drove to the site of Rev. Al Sharpton's rally. We heard from several speakers, including comedian Monique and radio host Michael Baisden. Only two of the King children were in attendance: Martin Luther King III and Bernice King. For reasons not mentioned, Dexter King was missing from the event.
We marched to the Lorraine Motel in emotions that ranged from solemn to joyous. Once there, we heard speeches from both Martin III and Bernice. At 6:01 that evening, the moment that Dr. King died, there was a minute of silence. What was amazing was to watch and hear the thousands of people quiet down so that only the sounds of birds in the background could be heard. It was a moment that you had to be there to experience.
As I reflect on the trip, I feel that visiting Memphis and the Lorraine Motel should be for black people in America one of the "Must Do's" of your life. I know that I want to go back and visit it again, when I can take the hours to slowly walk the site and absorb all that there was to offer.

Monday, April 07, 2008

How to honor Dr. King

April 4, 2008 marks the 40th anniversary of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King's murder. I am proud to say that on that day I will be in Memphis not only to honor Dr. King, but as a personal recommitment pledge to continue working in his legacy for the betterment of all people. My next column will report on my journey and impressions of all the events taking place on this historic occasion.
Dr. King paid the ultimate price in giving his life while down in Memphis to support the garbage workers during their strike. One of things I question in Dr. King's legacy is placing too much emphasis on his "I Have A Dream" speech and not enough attention on all the grass-root issues that were the core of Dr. King's work.
I had originally written a scathing commentary on the ills of certain aspects of the black community. But that is very easy to do. Offering solutions-now that's different. It requires effort and thought. And if I am to honor Dr. King by working and doing things in his honor, harsh words aren't a solution. They're just a temporary venting of anger.
Am I angry? Yes. Certain aspects of what is occurring today in the black community should spark everyone's anger. School shootings, drug selling, the acceptance of profanity as a daily part of too many black people's speech, gangster rap music that promotes violence and sexual promiscuity, our dismal school system, the almost total disappearance of the black business community, and black politicians at every level of government who spend more time promoting themselves or blaming everything on the "evil Republicans" rather than working to bring about real solutions to real problems. All of that, plus a lot more, is why I'm angry.
Anger is at the heart of many of the problems that overshadow the black community. Worst, the anger is so great, we have tended to accept it rather than confront it. One of the best solutions to interrupting this cycle of anger is to work to become the type of person Dr. King would be proud of. We can become that person by making a commitment to living the rest of our lives as Dr. King did.
If anger is at the core of all our problems, how do we begin to solve those problems when each one seems to overshadow the last? By redirecting our anger into a positive spirit and becoming the type of man, woman or child who would make Dr. King proud. One of the simplest ways of doing that is beginning to respect ourselves, then respecting others. Can something as simple as respecting oneself really begin to solve our problems? In a nutshell, yes! We begin by liking and caring about ourselves. Then we like and care about others. Many a drama in our community results from the simple act of one person disrespecting the other.
I'd like to propose that in honor of Dr. King, we immediately make a personal commitment to being nice to one another and begin to acknowledge each other. Those acknowledgments aren't long, drawn-out conversations. Rather, it's a simple commitment to just speaking to each other. I call it my "Hey Neighbor" program. Basically it means that as we walk or drive, or whenever we come across another black person, we start to acknowledge each other with a simple "Hey" or "Howdy" or even a "Whassup?"
That is the first step in eliminating the "invisible man" syndrome.
It means that we take the time to smile at children and let them know we care about them and their future. It means being nice to neighbors and just waving at them. It means making Austin a community and not just a neighborhood we happen to live in. It means making Austin a place Dr. King would be proud to call home and not one where he would hold his head down in shame.
Best of all, it won't cost a single dime. The only cost involved is the time it takes to live up to the legacy of Dr. King. Make your own commitment and get your family and friends to do the same. We already know what anger and hatred have done. Now is the time to try something different.