Is Trenton Ferguson? Lessons Trenton, NJ congregations can learn from Ferguson

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Is Trenton Ferguson? Part 2

Dr. Leah Gunning Francis visited Trenton to focus on what congregations and houses of worship in Trenton, NJ can do to address the recent police shooting of 14-year-old Radazz Hearns, who was shot seven-times on Friday, August 7th by a NJ State Trooper and a Mercer County Sheriff’s Officer.

What lessons can congregations in Trenton, NJ learn from congregations in Ferguson, MO, who responded and acted to the Michael Brown shooting just over a year ago in 2014?

Rev. Dr. Leah Gunning Francis
Rev. Dr. Leah Gunning Francis

Continue reading “Is Trenton Ferguson? Lessons Trenton, NJ congregations can learn from Ferguson”

Grand Juror in Michael Brown Trial Sues St. Louis Prosecutor for Right to Speak Out on Case

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A grand jury member from the Michael Brown/Darren Wilson trial is seeking permission to speak out against comments made by the prosecuting attorney on the case, Robert McCulloch.

Grand Juror Doe has filed a lawsuit in St. Louis federal court requesting “freedom to challenge McCulloch’s comments, “especially the implication that all grand jurors believed that there was no support for any charges.”

According to the lawsuit, documents released by McCulloch on Nov. 24 “do not fully portray the proceedings before the grand jury.” The comments that he made about the case that night “characterizes the views of the grand jurors collectively toward the evidence, witnesses, and the law, in a manner that does not comport with Plaintiff’s own opinions.”  In other words, he insinuated that all the jurors believed Darren Wilson was not guilty. The juror wants the opportunity to correct that opinion.

Missouri law requires 9 of 12 jurors to agree to return an indictment. It also prohibits grand jurors from speaking about certain aspects of cases, particularly deliberations. “Grand Juror Doe” believes this to be unconstitutional, particularly in the instance when they feel that the case was handled differently than other cases that the jury saw during their term, with a stronger focus on Michael Brown than Darren Wilson as the perpetrator. The juror also claims that the presentation of the laws applicable to the case were not presented clearly, calling them “muddled” and presented “in an untimely manner.”

The juror is represented by the American Civil Liberties Union.

 

Here’s Why #Blacklivesmatter Applies To Women, Too

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This is an opinion piece written by blog contributor. All opinions are her own and do not necessarily reflect those of Urban Grace Magazine

This is exhausting.

It is no secret that police brutality and excessive force have claimed the lives of black men across the nation and I can wholeheartedly appreciate the conversation and the activism that Mike Brown and Eric Garner’s cases have brought about within our communities. I will never get tired of seeing people come together to fight for the civil and human rights of others.

I do however, get tired of explaining certain things to people. Here’s some back story.

A few nights ago, my fiancée and I were lying around blowing through episodes of A Different World, which we often do when we don’t feel like investing energy into actually watching TV. You know, it’s just on in the background. The show has always been known to touch on topics that were relevant to the Black community, so when we came upon the episode (Great X-Pectations) where Charmaine and  Terrell return to campus to tell others that they were chased off the road by a gang, I paid a little more attention.

Terrell gets a gun and vows to protect himself and any woman that he may be with, but it ends up getting him expelled from school. The only way he’s able to continue his education is through the fact that participates in a Malcolm X vs Martin Luther King Jr. debate, which proves that he learned the error of his ways.

Then, the trailer for Selma came on. Watching these people who could have been our grandmothers and grandfathers take all that abuse in the name of freedom made me proud, but it also made me a little nauseous.

Because we are no further removed from the march to Selma Alabama in 2014 than they were in 1965. We are essentially fighting for the same respect nearly 50 years later.

I asked my fiancée how he really felt about the protests going on in Ferguson and New York City and we started having a conversation about our individual experiences and feelings about our blackness in America. We live in the south, and that movie trailer really stirred some things up.

We talked about how unsafe he felt in the past as he walked to and from work in the wee hours of the morning, and how uneasy it always made me feel. Times when he thought police were trying to stop him with a spotlight on his back, how he had to approach the car a certain way to ensure that he wasn’t perceived as a threat. We talked about kids he works with at his current job and watching how wary they are of law enforcement.

Then I made a comment along the lines of “Well, while you’re busy trying to look non-threatning, I get to be afraid of men and being verbally disrespected, having to police my every single action so that no one thinks I’m asking to be touched inappropriately. Women in general are not valued by society and it seems that they especially don’t give a damn about black women.”

I realize that the whole conversation started based off a show that was created by Bill Cosby, but I can tell you without a bit of hesitation that I do not like him as a pillar of Black Hollywood. I do not gaze upon him fondly as representation of black fatherhood or family values. And frankly, I have never respected his opinions on black culture and the education of our youth.  With all these allegations against him for sexual assault and the lack of investigation or general outrage of  such, I’m realizing that black women’s lives don’t matter.  It doesn’t matter, because even though he’s a black man, he’s still got male privilege on his side.

Privilege is the concept that some groups of people have advantages that others groups do not. This is commonly used in the context of social inequality and this case is no different.  Sexual assaults go unreported due to male privilege and the idea that you or I as a woman must have done something to provoke the attack, rather than asking why we haven’t punished men and taught our boys that a woman’s body belongs to her. They have no right to demand something from her. As black women, we have been seen as not much more than bodies for centuries.

In the cases of police brutality, this privilege is because they are law enforcement. You can assume that he is legally innocent and he did the right thing because they are upholders of the law.

In the case of Myekko Durden-Bosely, while she has plenty of room for a civil suit against the officer that fractured bones in her eye, the law says that’s okay, even if there were other measures that the officer could have taken. What about the deaths of Reika Boyd and Aiyana Stanley-Jones, or the humiliating way that Denise Stewart was dragged  by police from her apartment wearing nothing but underwear. Tanisha Anderson, there are countless examples of excessive force against women, but there’s less to be said about it. We support this movement, yet we are not actually included in it.

Yes, we hope that shouting from the streets and withholding our economic power will get us justice for all, but are we really concerned about all of our people? Where do we go from here? Along with the stereotypes of sexually aggressive and promiscuous, black women are also praised for being strong and a fighter for others. Well, I ask you this:

While you fight the noble cause for the loss of black men’s lives and dignity, are you satisfied that your own struggle goes unnoticed or at the very least, unacknowledged?

We’ve got to do better.

Garner and Brown Cases would have been heard in UK,Grand Juries abolished in 1933

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Americans current Grand Jury system was adopted by England,to properly identify criminal activity.In England, the Grand Jury was the citizens watchdog against negligent government activity.While the King could indefinitely deem someone guilty, the Grand Jury was created to determine whether there was evidence to prove someone was guilty or innocent.

Fast forward to the mid 1600’s Grand Juries were present in all American Colonies.The groups role was enacted by American’s in the Fifth Amendment for criminal activity here:

“No Person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury.”

So the Grand Jury had civil, local, and criminal functions in both of the countries governments. However, the Grand Jury no longer had been serving it’s original purpose in England. So England abolished the Grand jury System forever in 1933. Why are we still using an outdated system that does not serve public interest? There are recent calls for reform of Grand Juries happening in this country now. Today in New York City Millions will protest against the Grand Jury decision to not indict the officers that are responsible for the deaths of Eric Garner and Mike Brown. Decisions that could have went in a completely different turn if they were given a decision for a trial without a Grand Jury.
How do you feel about this finding?

If you want to read further about the abolition of the Grand jury in England read here:
http://scholarlycommons.law.northwestern.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=2501&context=jclc

For the NYC Grand Jury Handbook click here:
http://www.nyjuror.gov/pdfs/hb_grand.pdf
 

Black Congressional Members stage a walkout in Honor of Mike Brown and Eric Garner Grand Jury Decision

wpid-congress-hands-up_wide-fe52c363461d6297dd99ea95c1a364302b9a01ed-s1100-c15.jpgTo show their solidarity in the wake of the Grand Jury decision over the cases of Mike Brown and Eric Garner, African American Congressional staffers staged a walkout Thursday in front of Capitol Hill steps. That’s correct we said Washington, D.C.

As black staffers on Capitol Hill, we saw a stark disconnect,” the event organizer said.”While we hold educational credentials and broad access in the overall political system, often when we walk outside, we contend with the fact we are seen dangerous, merely because of the color of our skin.”

Staffers compromised of Capitol Hill Associations: the Congressional Black Associates, Senate Black Legislative Staff Caucus, the Brooke-Revels Society, the Congressional African Staff Association, and the African American Women on the Hill Network. These staffers work everyday to represent African Americans on Capitol Hill. The protest was also joined by members of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Staff Association and the Congressional Hispanic Staff Association.

Senate Chaplain Dr.Barry Black led the crowd in prayer.”Forgive us when we have failed to lift our voices for those who could not speak or breathe themselves”, making a referencing to the last words of Eric Garner.The crowd included dozens of Congressional staff and members of Congress, including civil-rights leader Rep. John Lewis. Black said the members gathered there to be “a voice for the voiceless.”

“Black staffers on Capitol Hill wanted to do something in support of ongoing national and global protest against police aggression,”said an organizer before the protest.”Many of us felt we needed to stand with others who were taking on the issue of police abuse and do it here, where we work, even though not all of us have had that same experience, personally. Everyone I talked to has known someone who was directly impacted.”
After the prayer on Thursday, staff members stood outside in the iconic Hands up,Don’t Shoot pose.Also, in 2012 the aides rallied with hoodies on the steps, in reaction to Trayvon Martin.

The organizers decided that the protest would not be held when the Congress employees were on a recess. As of right now for Congress, there currently debates being held on a spending bill to avoid a government shutdown, and a bill is also being looked at to authorize the president to use military force against militant group ISIS in Iraq ans Syria.

#blackoutblackfriday: Communities Responds to Mike Brown Verdict With Their Wallets, Choosing to Boycott Black Friday

Tension has been high since the announcement of the verdict in the slaying of 18-year-old Mike Brown. When the courts decided to release Ferguson police officer, Darren Wilson and not charge him with murder of the teen, outraged communities spoke out  against the decision with multiple demonstrations across the nation.

Adopting a different approach this time around,  human rights group,  Blackout For Human Rights has called for concerned citizens to join them in the mass retail boycott on the biggest shopping day of the year, Black Friday.

The official mission statement from the group’s website:

Blackout for Human Rights (Blackout) is a network of concerned artists, activists, and citizens who committed their energy and resources to immediately address the staggering level of human rights violations against fellow Americans throughout the United States. We have witnessed enough. An affront to any citizen’s human rights threatens the liberty of all. So, we participate in one of the most time honored American traditions: dissent. We demand an immediate end to the brutal treatment and inhumane killings of our loved ones; the lives of our friends, our parents and our children have value and should be treated with respect. Our right to life is secured not only by our humanity, but is protected by law both federally and internationally by the Constitution of the United States of America and the United Nation’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights

The effort is getting a lot of attention on social media

Will you be participating?
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Protesters Unite: Students From Spellman, Morehouse and More March to Protest Ferguson Decision

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Students from historically black colleges in Atlanta have channeled their inner activists and marched for justice.

Starting their walk from Morehouse college to the CNN Center in Downtown Atlanta, students from Morehouse and Spellman gathered to oppose the verdict decision in the murder case of 18-year-old Michael Brown of Ferguson, Missouri.

Though the distance between the starting point and destination is a little less than two miles away, the group hoped to make a huge impact. Other protests included students at nearby Clark Atlanta University holding a peace rally on their campus and a large group of citizens gathering at Underground Atlanta.

For the most part, Tuesday’s protests were peaceful with only 21 arrests made of people behaving destructively. Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed reported to the Atlanta Journal Constitution:

“I want to start by thanking the protesters who made the decision to protest peacefully,” Reed told reporters. “More than 1,000 people participated in the protests yesterday but there was a small splinter group that chose not to demonstrate peacefully.”

The city is prepared for protests to continue into the holiday weekend.