Saving CPS from CPS: Real Shared Sacrifice

During my career as a Chicago Public School principal, I have often been at odds with the Chicago Teachers Union. I have been the target of multiple grievances filed by CTU against me when I have d…

Source: Saving CPS from CPS: Real Shared Sacrifice

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Boys and Toy Guns: A Black Mom’s Reflection

I have had writer’s block for nearly two months.

I am drained.

We write, we protest, we stand up and things keep going as they have gone. We can recount all of the names of our fallen. The images of crying parents are imprinted on our souls. Earlier this week, yet another grand jury refused to indict police officers for criminal behavior. The murder of Tamir Rice, a 12-year-old boy shot within seconds by an unfit police officer, should shock America’s conscience.

This country is morally bankrupt. Our injustice system is rigged against people of color and poor people.

When I was growing up, my mother never allowed us to play with toy guns. She felt that guns should be used wisely and were not for play.  Even our water guns looked like animals. The no-toy-guns rule stayed with me when I began raising my own children. Somehow I believed it would keep them safe. When we moved to West Virginia in 2010, my son made some great friends through Cub Scouts. Although we were often the only black family around, the kids were always welcome. There was never any feeling of not belonging or of sticking out. We fell into a great circle of people. There were times when race seemed to not really matter.

One time, when my son was about 7, we were at a play date. His new friend wanted to play guns in the backyard. My son knew my rule, but his friend thought it was unfair because they could have so much fun. So his friend asked why I wouldn’t let my son play with guns — they were fun, of course! His parents paused and tried to help shoo the kids away. I explained to him that where I grew up guns were not toys and we didn’t play with them. People used guns to kill each other not for fun. The little boy had no frame of reference for what I was talking about. The innocence in this kid’s face simply faded away. My son looked uncomfortable. It was a moment we all needed to experience. Eventually I gave in and allowed my son to play in the woods with his friend. They played army and hunting. With another friend he built his own tree stand. But there were rules and parameters. I let him go shooting and to target practice. We were in West Virginia and this was common — what harm could there be?

He is older now, and the rules have once again changed upon moving to the Atlanta area. We impress upon the children the importance of being mindful of their surroundings and how they interact with others. I do not want my kids to live in fear, but they need to be aware. In fact, they are fearless and intent on doing anything and everything they set their minds upon. However, “good” behavior might not save them.

I cannot help but look at my son, with headphones on, excited for his birthday. My son who even at 5’8” is my baby. He is the younger of my two children, but he is often mistaken for an older teen. All I see is the same little face looking at me. The same face that looked up at me when he was in preschool.

My son got a paintball gun for Christmas.  Not thinking, he ran outside to show his friends. As soon as I realized he was outside, I freaked out and made him come back inside. I scolded him for not thinking. No matter what, he always has to think. No, the paintball gun does not look real, but what does that matter?

I shared my Christmas day story with my godmother, who recounted a time when my  little brother was surrounded in a park by police with guns. He had been playing with friends who had BB guns. He did not have one. Some neighbor frantically called the cops because there were people in the park running around with guns. It never occurred to anyone that these were kids playing. With the area surrounded by police with drawn guns, my little brother hid in a bush and called my godmother. My godmother contacted the mother of one of the other boys and urged her to go across the street to the park and help diffuse the situation. Thankfully, all three boys left the scene unharmed.

As I listened to the commentary earlier his week regarding the grand jury’s decision to not indict the officers who ended Tamir’s life, these stories flashed in my mind. My momentary panic came back when I thought about my son outside holding his new paintball gun. I couldn’t help but think how lucky we were. How easily a kid excitedly showing his new Christmas present could’ve gone wrong. Or how common it is for little boys in West Virginia to play with replica guns. Or even to do target practice, for “fun.” My son’s friend was most proud of his sniper rifle. It was a toy. No one would ever think that despite its appearance, he actually had a real gun. And even if someone thought it was real, he would be given the opportunity to explain the situation.  His parents probably never thought twice about the way he would be perceived with such “toys” in his possession.

My son turned 12 on Tuesday.  He is an average sixth-grader. He likes to play with his friends, and he jokes around more than he should. However, at 5’8” and 130 pounds, he is often perceived as older than he is. He wears size 13 shoes. None of this should matter … but it does. As he attempted to justify the grand jury decision, the Cuyahoga County prosecutor discussed Tamir’s size and appearance as “older” — as if somehow his mere presence as a seemingly “big black man” justified the officers’ actions.

Jumping out gangster-shootout style and murdering a child in two seconds is not reasonable. It is not justifiable.

There is no excuse for not indicting the officers in question. We must stop allowing irrational fears and stereotypes to be viewed as reasonable in the eyes of the law. We must stop protecting police officers and police departments from the reckless and indifferent choices they make. No one who reasonably fears for their life runs up on an allegedly armed person and just starts shooting wildly.

This ain’t the wild wild west.

You are not in a gangster movie. And that is not a tommy gun.

We need to demand that prosecutors like Timothy McGinty of Cuyahoga County be held accountable. There is no reason for a prosecutor to botch a criminal case. NONE. Sir, you do not work for the police.  Your job is to uphold the law and pursue justice for the citizens of your jurisdiction.

Prosecutors fail to do their duty, when they refuse to prosecute cases against police officers. A grand jury inquiry is a very low legal threshold. Probable cause is a lower standard than even preponderance of the evidence, the standard in a civil case. As we know, in many of these cases, municipalities and counties are paying out millions of dollars for single incidents. This does not include the money paid for wrongful property damage and injuries. Coddling “bad” officers only reinforces this untouchable notion.

There is no deterrent for bad behavior. There is no check on the corruption from absolute power. It is dangerous to have individuals who are above the law. This isn’t Judge Dredd. Everyone should be held accountable for the things they do. The officer who killed Tamir Rice should be held accountable for the reckless and cavalier attitude with which he took an innocent life. Earlier this summer a municipal court judge in Cleveland determined there was probable cause  to arrest the officer who murdered Tamir Rice.  In two seconds, he could not have evaluated the entire situation. In two seconds, he could not have given time for Tamir to respond.

Deadly force is used in far too many instances in which police officers misjudge situations, presume incorrectly and make fatal errors rooted in stereotypes and irrational fear. We need to look at law enforcement training and use of force through the lens of international human rights law, not the “reasonable officer” standard. What is considered reasonable officer behavior has been passed down through the vestiges of a system ingrained with racial and ethnic disparities.

I try not to worry about if someone will overreact to my son because he is “so big for his age.” How could they? He still has that sweet baby face and pleasant disposition. To know him is to love him.  My son says “yes ma’am” and “no sir.” That matters, right? That’s what we are told. As long as we behave and follow the rules, everything will be fair. Right?

Wrong.

BWR 2016 Election Guide Site Launched

Excellent work!!! #comegetmyvote

Black Women's Roundtable 2016 Election Voter Guide

Black women also made history in 2008.  According to the U. S. Census Bureau in 2008, “Black women turned out at a higher rate than any other racial, ethnic and gender group.”  Also, the Census Bureau reported in 2012 Black voters made history outvoting whites for the first time in recorded voting history and this was due in large part to high voter turnout of Black women.

bwr_vote_img2Today, we are on the eve of another defining moment in our nation’s history as we gear up for the 2016 Presidential Election Cycle that will elect the 45th President of the United States.  Voters will also elect 435 members of the U. S. House of Representatives, 34 U. S. Senators, 13 state governors; and 86 of the 99 state legislators.

The 2016 BWR Voter Guide is a non-partisan resource for voters to prepare to participate in national, state and local elections…

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The NEA May Be About to Endorse Hillary Clinton Without Input From Majority of Members

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The largest labor union in the United States may be about to endorse Hillary Clinton for President without a poll of its membership.

Leadership at the National Education Association (NEA) has been making troubling moves toward endorsing Clinton that could commit the organization to supporting the Democratic presidential hopeful with no regard for the wishes of its 3.2 million members.

An endorsement could come as early as Oct. 2-3 when President Lily Eskelsen Garcia is expected to propose a primary endorsement of Clinton at the NEA Board meeting, according to multiple NEA sources. Then the PAC council would vote. If approved, it would go to the board for a final decision.

However, since this is only an endorsement for the primary election, the matter would not need to go before the Representative Assembly (RA). In effect, the move could sidestep the voices of the RA’s 8,000 delegates representing state and…

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Will History Repeat Itself? How Florida Democrats torpedoed Gore – Salon.com

Any of this sound familiar? History is doomed to repeat itself. We need a serious culture change in the party.  President Obama ushered in a new age of enthusiasm amongst the electorate. Bernie Sanders is taking grassroots organizing back to the basics. For the People, by the People.  That’s the only way we’ll win! 

“These votes weren’t “lost” to misaligned butterfly ballots, pregnant chads or some conniving election official who deposited them in a closet. Rather, these were the uncast ballots of almost half of the American electorate, who chose not to vote this year largely because they feel they’ve been cast out of the process by a vacuous, cynical and elitist political system that no longer addresses their needs and aspirations.

These mostly are middle- and low-income folks, people making less than $50,000 a year. While they make up some 80 percent of the U.S. population, exit polls on Nov. 7 found that for the first time they’ve fallen to less than half of the voting population. As the Clinton-Gore-Lieberman Democrats have jerked the party out from under this core populist constituency, pursuing the money and adopting the policies of the corporate and investor elite, the core constituency of the party has — big surprise — steadily dropped away. In 1992, the under-$50,000 crowd made up 63 percent of voters. In 1996, after Clinton and Gore had relentlessly and very publicly pushed NAFTA, the WTO and other Wall Street policies for four years, the under-$50,000 crowd dropped to 52 percent of voters. After four more years of income stagnation and decline for these families under the regime of the Clinton-Gore “New Democrats,” the under-$50,000 crowd dropped this year to only 47 percent of voters.”

Source: How Florida Democrats torpedoed Gore – Salon.com

The DNC – “This Organization is Powered by You!”

#FeelTheBern We are in need of a massive culture change if the party is to retain control of the White House and regain control over the House. Can’t look backwards…we have to move forward.

Mama Justice - Thoughts, Ideas, and Random Musings of a 21st Century Woman

Our country is at a crossroads.  We can either continue down this path of dismantling the backbone of our society (the working and middle class) or we can change course and rebuild opportunities for American families to thrive. As we exist in a two party system, both groups vie for the attention and support of the average American.  No matter how much certain special interest spend on votes they still need YOU to show up and vote.  Often people are heard saying they are voting for a lesser of two evils. But what if you didn’t have to? What if you could vote your conscience and not against your interest? The National Democratic Party positions itself as being of the people, for the people, by the people.  During a twitter exchange, I was pointed to a “preliminary report”[1] released in February 2015 by the Democratic National Committee (DNC) that…

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#FeelTheBern Why We Bern Bright in the 2016 Election Cycle

Here we are – another presidential election season, with big choices to make. The battle is in full swing, with the candidates trying to build up support and solidify their positions. I am a #BlackBerner and I am with #Women4Bernie.

I sat down with the intention of writing a response to an article about why black people are not supporting Bernie.  But  I realized that what we really need is a conversation about how to engage in the political process this election season and beyond. Despite being a Black woman from a socially conscious family, I could not adequately articulate reasons for why Black people are reluctant to support someone whose platform coincides with many of the issues that have been long neglected in Black communities.  To me it is a no brainer. But everyone is different.  Like any other segement of the population we are not a monolithic group, following one supreme platform. While I have fully embraced being part of the growing grassroots movement to change the status quo, there are many people who aren’t “feeling” Bernie or they are “turned off” by his supporters. Others say he does not “know how to campaign” in Black communities.

That last one should be refreshing. It’s true,  Bernie isn’t well-versed in the practice of greasing palms, kissing rings, and invoking the black church pastor in his speeches. He is a straight shooter from Brooklyn. He pulls no punches when he talks, and doesn’t back down from speaking the truth not just what sounds good in that moment.

Some people find the incessant Bernie news, updates, and memes annoying; however, we have a message of change and progress, and it must be heard. Change is not easy, but it is absolutely necessary.

Gil Scott-Heron famously said, “the revolution will not be televised.” It also will not be published or recorded. This revolution is driven by the people and for the people, and with dollars from the people!

And it is not just Black voters who are wary or reluctant to #FeelTheBern.  Millions of people nationwide are discouraged. They see no reason to get politically active, let alone vote. Leaders in politics, business, and even some in the labor movement ignore the needs of the people and vote for their own interests. They have a vested interest in maintaining the status quo.  Certain members of state and national “leadership” are deeply entrenched in the political elite in general, and in the Democratic Party establishment specifically. They are comfortable working within that system. It has benefited them and, to a lesser extent, their causes.

But we have to be real. Those leaders have failed Black, Brown, and poor communities nationwide on issues such as wage inequality, public school quality, infrastructure development, Social Security, unemployment, domestic violence, police brutality, high interest rates, and high foreclosure.

This election cycle, we must move beyond the rat race of the past 50 years. We must be more critical than ever and make choices differently from how we did in the past. Change is neccessary to sustain and maintain “progress.” As we have seen with the rollback of voting rights in several places, most notably in Alabama, we cannot rest on our laurels or the laws meant to protect us! Yes, people might sound good and talk a good game, but can they back it up? What have they done when faced with the opportunity to make a positive, lasting impact? Have they done what was politically safe? Or have they taken a stand for what is right? Be sure you know your candidate and not just the public face put forward.

I believe there are three basic things everyone should do this election season to be better informed in the voting process:

  1. Figure out why you are “feeling” or not “feeling” a particular candidate. It is ok to not like someone.  But you should be able to clearly articulate why you feel or think the way you do about that person.
  2. Move beyond the sound bites. Move beyond that one headline you read, or that one article you skimmed through. Check the sound bites and “promises” against voting records. Go to the candidates’ pages and read their plans and proposals. Go to neutral websites to see where candidates stand on issues that matter to you.  See who donates money to them.  Read what other people are saying about those plans. Also quick check social media posts to make sure it is even accurate. Far too often we post, share, and tweet information that sounds good but isn’t accurate.
  3.  Figure out where your personal/moral political philosophy is, and nurture.  Find groups and candidates that are consistent with where you stand.  Can’t find one? Be bold, start a new group and invite others to join you.  Tap into existing social networks to help find others in your area who may see things the way you do.

Some people have expressed stressful interactions with Bernie supporters.  It has been said that we are annoying and condescending among other things.  For the most part, grassroots volunteers for Bernie are tired of the needs of the people not being met.  We are tired of politics as usual and we’re pushing ahead against a huge political machine that would rather silence us then see us win.  We do not simply need change we believe in, or hope, we need to revitalize the working and middle class and provide meaningful opportunities for all and not just the super wealthy.  It can happen if people decide that is something worth fighting for.  All movements have growing pains, but we need to the take time to reflect and evaluate strategies and messaging as we are moving along in our work.   No matter how righteous our quest, there is always space to adjust approaches and tweak messaging.  We can be passionate and committed without being condescending and judgmental.

There is much at stake. Sometimes it is good to take a step back and see the big picture. We are running a marathon not a 100-m sprint.  Whether we like it or not, as members of a grassroots movement, we are de facto representatives of our candidate.  We need to make sure we are communicating in a manner that is consistent with the campaign’s overall goals and objectives.  Know your audience and adjust accordingly.  Even if you are not officially aligned with the campaign, modeling the behavior of the candidate we support will go a long way in terms of building goodwill with potential voters. Arrogant condescending commentary will not help our cause.  From the hood to the hollers, we have to put forth our best efforts in the fight for 2016 and beyond.

In order to have real, meaningful change in our communities, we must use our networks to develop and nurture talent at the local and state levels. This isn’t some corporate shill campaign with a multimillion-dollar war chest. This is a people-powered movement. We are about people. Feedback, criticism, and input from other supporters and undecided folks is crucial — but it’s got to be constructive. Vague comments help nobody. Mere naysaying, without concrete feedback, hinders progress.

In addition, we need to work hard to organize and mobilize voters from underrepresented populations. People power is essential to ensuring the promises of equality for all. Although certain candidates may be more admired, or folks are nostalgic for a time long past, we need practical solutions and a commitment to dramatic change.  We cannot discount the value of interacting with others and helping them actualize the full potential of their power. Contrary to popular belief, VOTING IS POWER.  To people sitting on the sidelines…get involved. Help shape the policy and initiatives you wish to see addressed. Demanding that candidates do x, y, and z is great, but discussing why those initiatives matter and helping to shape policy is even better.  Demanding changes, without specifics, will leave you even more unsatisfied than when you first engaged in the process.

How much more are we willing to take before we stop accepting business as usual? How do we reach people who have been cheated out of their vote? Every election cycle we hear people say, “vote for the lesser of two evils.” In every election cycle, we see candidates who appeal to the fears and prejudices cultivated by years of misinformation and underdevelopment.  In both scenarios, hardworking people lose out, while big business and friends keep blossoming.

It is well past time to take our country back from the top 1%. Together we can overcome every obstacle and dismantle corporate America’s stranglehold on the nation.

I am all in with #Bernie2016 — but I know many people who either are not “feeling him” or are on the fence. Still others happily support different candidates.

Regardless of whom you support, I hope we can continue to motivate and engage new and old voters alike. Voting is only one of many ways in which we can create sustainable, positive change in our communities and country. Electing a president with a progressive platform is a lofty goal, but it can become reality when the people fully embrace it.

We need to step outside of our comfort zones, listen to what other people need, and speak up when we must.