Tag Archives: news

Why We Need More Than A Moment of Silence

Sandy Hook Guns

 

Most Americans with an iota of compassion were heartbroken by the senseless shooing at Sandy Hook Elementary where …

Dawn Hachsprung, 47Sandy Hook Stat Shootings Mary Sherlach, 56
Victoria Soto, 27
Emilie Parker, 6
Jessie Lewis, 6
Ana Marquez-Greene, 6
Lauren Rousseau, 30
Benjamin Wheeler, 6
Charlotte Bacon, 6
Daniel Barden, 7
Rachael Davino, 24
Olivia Engel, 6
Josephine Gay, 7
Dylan Hockley, 6
Madeleine Hsu, 6
Catherine Violet Hubbard, 6
Chase Kawalski, 7
Nancy Lanza, 52
James Mattioli, 6
Gracy Audrey McDonnell, 7
Anne Marie Murphy, 52
Jack Armistead Pinto, 6
Noah Panzer, 6
Caroline Previdi, 6
Jessica Rekos, 6
Avielle Richman

….all lost their lives.

But if anyone is listening, please hear me. Being heartbroken just isn’t enough. The United States has a gun problem that has been ignored for too long.

I speak from experience. As a young African American man from the inner city, I was brought up in a culture of violence. One where disputes and disagreements frequently ended with someone being sent to the hospital or morgue. So this problem or issue isn’t abstract to me, it’s up close and personal.

What’s sad is rather it’s miseducated drug dealers gunning each other down in the streets, or people with mental health issues like the Connecticut shooter going on senseless rampages the common denominator is easy access to guns, any type of guns.

In the society that we’ve created, a person with the money can purchase pretty much any type of weapon from a handgun to an AK-47 assault weapon equipped with a 100 round drum.

Think about that, civilians able to purchase weapons of war in Any City USA. Who needs a hundred round drum and for what? Surely not hunters, or regular people just trying to protect their family? The only people whom I can think of are guys like the guy who went into Sandy Hook Elementary, right wing revolutionaries who think African-Americans and Hispanics or some other unidentified threat is out to get them and destroy their way of life, and other people involved in some form of illegal activity. In other words, a very small sliver of the US population.


This is the only developed country in the world where these type of weapons are readily available. SO IS IT ANY SURPRISE THAT WE REAP SENSELESS VIOLENCE WHEN WE HAVE CREATED AND FOSTERED A CULTURE OF VIOLENCE? There are an estimated 300 million guns in the hands of the public.

In referring to the tragedy, President Obama asked the question, is 26 dead the price of freedom?

I think not. I think that’s the price for the capitalist at Colt, Smith&Wesson, Clock, Beretta and so forth to continue to line their corporate coffers.
Why do you think these gun manufacturers donate millions of dollars annually to the NRA – an organization that turns around and funnels this money to various incumbents and candidates who support their deadly agenda lock stock and barrel?
Why else would the US Congress pass a law that keeps gun manufacturers from being sued for the havoc and destruction their products cause? Whose interest does such a law protect? Surely not yours or mine, but these are our elected officials.

Until a majority of Americans decide to put people before profits, nothing will change. We will continue to go from one Columbine, Virgina Tech, Colorado, Sandy Hook to another. Tragedy followed by tragedy. Slaughter by slaughter.

That’s not the type of society I want my children, grandchildren to live in. And I wager you don’t either. But what are we willing to do about it? For most of us the answer is a big fat nothing.

So where do we go from Sandy Hook? I don’t know but I do know that we need more than a moment of silence.

 

The Naked Truth

Naked Truth

People were horrified, and rightfully so when R Umar Abbasi, a New York Post freelance photo journalist, took the picture above, seconds before the subway train plowed into 58-year old Ki-Suck Han after he was pushed onto the tracks. What pissed people off wasn’t just the fact, outrageous enough, that the NY Post decided to run the picture on their front page. But that the photographer was busy taking pictures instead of trying to help. One twitter writer commented, “To say the cover of @nypost is despicable would be an egregious understatement. Love of capital over care of humans, wholly disgusting.”

My question is what makes this particular incident of human insensitivity more egregious than all the others. How about the top rated A&E show, “Next 48 Hours”, that shows murder victims and the aftermath. Has anyone ever given any serious thought to the fact that something is really wrong with a culture that’s entertained by by murder. What about shows like “Jersey Shore, Basketball Wives, 16 and pregnant,” that glorify behavior and mind-sets that would’ve once been considered shameful? Then there are video games like “Grand Theft Auto” that promotes a lifestyle that keeps reporters and prisons full as supposedly harmless.

While I am far from a moralist, or someone who believes in censorship and telling people what they can and can’t do, or watch and not watch, I believe in being honest with myself.

As such it doesn’t surprise me that a photojournalist caught up in the day-to-day rat race of economic survival would chose the shot of a lifetime — and the pay dirt it would bring over saving a life. Just like it didn’t surprise me when a rich man – ­Mitt Romney – talking to other rich people told us exactly how he felt about 47 percent of the country. It is what it is. In my opinion this is the true face of America, the world’s greatest incarcerator, where the poor are ostracized, and nearly half the people don’t have health care, and the other half gets upset when someone tries to give it to them.

It hurts to look at the naked truth either in ourselves or others. So we continue to be a nation of pretenders. Smile and everything will be okay – this is America, the greatest country in the world. Even if we have a debased culture, it’s cloaked in luxury cars, designer clothes and suburban homes which for some people makes all the difference. In their minds, filth not seen is the same thing as filth that doesn’t exist.

Jesus called the Pharisees whitewashed tombs that look good on the outside but inside were filled with ugly dead man’s bones. Is the whole USA nothing, but a white-washed tomb? One that horrifies us when something, or someone, like R Umar Abbasi’s decision to take a prized picture over trying to save a man’s life forces us to take a peek inside?

“Suspect Arrested in White House Shooting Case”

The headline above is real it comes from a November 11, newspaper article about Oscar Ramiro Ortega-Hernande  who allegedly fired nine rounds from a high-powered AK-47 assault rifle at the White House.

Oscar Ramiro Ortega-Hernande, Alleged White House Shooter

On a clear sunny April morning, a lone gunman was perched in a makeshift snipers’ nest on top of the Colonial Coffee building on NW 15th st. One block from McPherson Square, two blocks from the seat of American government. The White House.

He had been camped out for three days.

Patient.

Waiting .

To recreate American history.

At a quarter past ten/he got his opportunity.

“Pst”, was the only sound. The AR-15 sniper rifle fitted with a titanium silencer, laser guided scope and custom barrel barely buckled as it delivered its deadly payload with lethal precision.

Fraction of a second later, the .223 mercury dipped lead missile found its fleshly target. The bullet entered the man’s right anterior lobe, opening up a dime sized hole in its wake. Traveled downward through his medulla oblongata and exited out the base of his neck. Killing him instantly.

Like that.

Before anyone could blink, or think to respond.

The man who made nations tremble.

The leader of the free world.

Commander and Chief of a two trillion dollar war machine.

The President of The United States was dead. With blood splattering out of the hole in his forehead like a misaligned water fountain.

His body slumped. Felled by a sniper’s bullet. Murdered by an invisible, faceless, nameless enemy.

A defiant act of human will.

The unfortunates close to him, the ones who ended up with fragments of his three pounds of knowledge on them would later describe the day as surreal. Like a bad dream.

But it was no dream. It was an American nightmare.

Conceived and birthed inside of an American torture Chamber.

Nurtured inside one of the nation’s peculiar institutions.

A day that would live on in infamy.

A day no American would ever forget.

Exactly as the gunman wanted it.

The excerpt following the news headline is a passage from my new assassination, black nationalist novel (The Lion of Judah, Createspace/Movastone, 240 pp (December 2011) $14.99 paperback).

It tells the story of 23 year old Immanuel Johnson who was born and raised in the ghettos of West Baltimore. Long before he entered the harsh reality of the Maryland Department of Corrections as a young impressionable 18 year old with a 5 year bid to serve, he was a young man with an overriding sense of destiny. A nagging feeling  that he was born for a purpose.

But like a lot of young black men, it was in the crucible of prison that he first encountered the plethora of subversive philosophies that grow unchecked like desert weeds in the fertile cesspool of human misery that is the American prison system.

It was here that this young, intellectually gifted black man would be reborn as Black Jesus, a member of the 5 Percenter Nation of Gods and Earths and discover his true purpose as well as his mission in life.

A mission so profound that it would forever alter the course of American History.

After his five year baptism in hell on earth he emerged from the womb of darkness a new being. A man and God. A self-appointed prophet to the black race in Americana man so dedicated to his fanatical vision of what he believed had to be done to right the wrongs in the land of his birth that he was willing to sacrifice his life to see his vision come to pass. But not before writing a scorching diatribe to explain his actions to the world.

 

 

 

 

 

“A deep, dark novel that devolves into the madness that lurks in the human soul, madness often brought to the surface by political ideology.”

Jeremy Busby

 

R.I.P. “NenaDLaredo”

Marcia Elizabeth Macias lost her young life in one of the most horrendous ways possible, all for her passion. A passion that put her in the crosshairs of Mexico’s powerful drug cartels.

As a blogger known on the internet as “NenaDLaredo” or  ”Girl from Laredo,” Ms. Macias was beheaded in early October, allegedly by military-trained cartel enforcers, known as Los Zetas. She made what proved to be the fatal decision to write about the doings of the cartel in her area, after much of Mexico’s traditional media has been scared into submission by the very real threat of death or bodily harm (6 Mexican journalists have been killed so far this year). Many ordinary Mexican citizens have been forced to become their own journalists and have turned to social media sites such as Facebook, Blogger, WordPress,  and Twitter to find out and discuss the drug war going on around them.

Most of these bloggers like Ms. Macias, who are Mexican citizens and have lived in the shadow of cartel violence the majority of their lives, know the danger of even uttering the word cartel in Mexico. Much less having the gall to actually report on cartel doings going on around them, but still, some choose to do so.

In one of her last online posts, Ms. Macias wrote, ”Hunting ratzzz, if you see where they run, denounce them.” In Mexico the Z in ratzzz is a common way to refer to the Zetas gang, the group ultimately believed responsible for her death.

While like most people, I only have an outsider view or perspective about what’s actually going on in Mexico with the drug cartels, what fascinates me is that Ms. Macias was so committed and passionate about what she was doing that she continued to do it regardless of the personal risk involved.

That takes courage. That takes big King Kong-sized balls, and it’s that type of commitment and courage that inspires and motivates me.

I’m mean, be honest how many of us would’ve stopped blogging immediately, and probably even canceled our internet subscription, then cut the lights off and hid under the bed once we got that first threatening e-mail signed with the letter Z?

If you’re honest, most of us would’ve. But not the Martin Luther King Jr’s, Medgar Evans’, Gandhi’s, or the Girls from Laredo of the world. Who was an average Mexican girl willing to risk the ire of billionaire drug barons that have proved to be more powerful than even the Mexican military. What is it that will make a man stand in front of a tank in Tiananmen Square in China and another to face an Israeli one in Gaza with only a slingshot?

Commitments such as these can only be fueled by an unshakable belief in the rightness of one’s cause, even in the face of certain death. How many of us have that type of commitment to anyone or anything in our lives? Remember the Christians thrust into the Roman Coliseum? Where the only choice was confess Christ and die, or denounce Him and live. How many of us would’ve confessed as so many did and went to our deaths at the hands of hungry lions?

I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not looking to piss off a drug cartel any time soon. But I still wonder: if I had to make a decision between the rightness of a cause and my personal safety, which would I chose. Which would you chose?

I also wonder, even as I admire Ms. Macias’ dedication, if her blogging activities were worth it?

Jesus said that, “greater love has no one than this, to lay down one’s life for his friends.” Maria Elizabeth Macias, the Girl from Laredo laid down her life for her friends and touched many in the process .

R.I.P. “GIRL FROM LAREDO” – A YOUNG WOMAN WHO BELIEVED WHAT SHE LIVED, AND LIVED WHAT SHE BELIEVED.

The highest honor any of us can aspire to.

What does It Mean To Be Great?

Being that I was born in 1978, by some estimates I’m still a newbie to the 3rd Rock from the sun. As a result, I missed the great royal rumbles that took place between boxing legends such as Muhammed Ali, George Forman, Sugar Ray Lenord along with many others. And as a boxing fan I have had to experience these great men’s victories and defeats through old footage and pictures.

Yet, in my time of inhaling and exhaling the cancer causing smog produced on this rock, I have learned something about greatness, or what it means to be great. Not rich, famous, or even notorious, but true greatness. For me true greatness is the ability to take nothing and make something, the strength and character to stand on your own two feet when everything and everyone may be against you; it means being a man or woman of your word who strives to practice what you preach, and it also means having a “I cannot be defeated, and I won’t surrender” attitude. One that cannot and will not relent, even in the face of certain defeat. That’s true greatness.

It was the attitude expressed by world famous Spanish painter Pablo Picasso when he said, “even in a prison or in a concentration camp, I would preserve in my own world of art, even if I had to paint my pictures with my wet tongue on the dusty floor of my cell.”

And this was the conviction of boxing legend “Smoking” Joe Frazier who succumbed to liver cancer earlier this year.

As I read the Sports obituaries that followed, I learned a lot about this great man and talented athlete beyond the fact that he was the Heavy Weight Champion of the world from 1970 to 1973.

Once again, I was reminded of what makes the great  great. In his first bout with flamboyant undefeated Heavyweight Champ Muhammed Ali, burning one spirited exchange of blows Ali joked with Frazier “you can’t beat me, Joe, I’m God.”

To which Frazier retorted, “Then God is gonna get a whuppin tonight.”

For all you young heads like me – whose parents probably hadn’t even made eyes at each other when this epic battle between these two undefeated heavy weights was taking place – guess what?

God got a 15 round butt whuppin.

But if victory is what makes us, it’s the agony of defeat that defines us. When Frazier met Ali again in a 1975 in a match dubbed “The Thrilla In Manila”, by the 14th round it was all Ali and Smoking Joe whose one good eye had been pounded shut by Ali’s lightning fast jab that had become a human punching bag.

His trainer boxing legend Eddie Futch, who had already lost several fighters in the ring, was ready to throw in the towel. He told Frazier, “You can’t see…I’m going to stop it!”

Frazier wasn’t having it, “Don’t,” he said. “I can still feel him out there.”

But Futch wasn’t about to lose another fighter, especially not Joe, and threw in the towel against Frazier wishes. Frazier was so upset that it would be several years before he would even speak to Eddie Futch again.

Today the Ali vs. Frazier, “Thrilla In Manila”, is considered one of the 10 greatest fights in boxing history. And it was Frazier’s never give up, give in, or give out undefeated spirit that made it so.

Big Ups To Mr. Buffett

Unless you’ve been under a rock for the last year or so, most likely you’ve heard of mega-billionaire Warren Buffett’s proposal to raise taxes on America’s rich. An idea that no doubt carries weight coming from the country’s second richest man. Really his proposal is as simple as his investment strategy, which is to use common sense and avoid investments you don’t understand. Common sense dictates if you make more you should pay more, or at the very least your fair share. Something most rich Americans seem to be against as attest by their fondness of offshore accounts, and various other tax shelters.

However, for me personally, I’m content to let the big wigs in Washington squabble it out until they find a solution to the problems they created. Which again, if you think about it, is really just another common sense proposition. They broke it with unnecessary wars, outrageous defense budgets, deregulation, loop holes, tax cuts for million and billionaires and on and on. So let them fix it.

It’s another of Mr. Buffett’s pet P’s, beside taxing the rich that caught my attention. His support for a concept called “Purpose Built Communities”, a community redevelopment nonprofit organization begin by Tom Cousins in Atlanta, GA in the early nineties. That focuses on transforming struggling inner city areas (ghettos) into thriving safe prosperous areas. Because as Mr. Buffett said, “the world does not treat everybody equal at birth. We don’t have the same starting line for people in this country.” But ”when people are finding a way to realize their own potential, when they’re earning their own way,  when kids are getting a decent education, when they don’t have to worry about the area in which they live, I think that does wonders.”

What makes Purpose Built Communities concept of  inner city renewal, redevelopment unique is that   it focuses on all aspects of the community – not just bringing in new retail businesses, or nice clean   apartments without considering the people who have to inhabit them.

Something that I know doesn’t work. I grew up not far from a notorious large housing project in the 3rd Ward area of Houston that the government decided to renovate in the mid-nineties. After the last construction crew left, the once rat-infested, notorious drug havens looked totality different like upscale townhomes. But within a few short years the complex begin to take on its’ former gritty appearance. Why? Because the government fixed the buildings without liberating the people mentally who had to inhabit the new shiny buildings.

I don’t know Mr. Cousins are his background but this is something he seemed to understand. And the model to the communities he builds take a holistic approach that include new houses, apartments, charter schools, parks, community centers, health care facilities, recreational programs, and jobs for those in the community. Because what’s the use living in a brand new apartment full of amenities if you have to send your kids to under performing schools where kids in the 5th grade can barely read or write a complete sentence? Or what good is it to live by great schools that have your fifth grader reading War and Peace if don’t have a job and therefore the money to buy them a copy?

By focusing on all aspects of the individual and family as a whole Mr. Cousins has got it right. As evident by the Purpose Built Communities currently being built in Indianapolis, New Orleans,  Birmingham, Ala; Rome, GA; Galveston, TX, and Omaha.

The success of the redevelopments have prompted Mr. Buffett and the billions that come with him to get involved. “What better can you do with money than to help thousands of people change their lives in a very, very positive way?” said Mr. Buffett.

Finding myself in agreement with Mr. Buffett once again, I understood why he’s affectionately referred to as the ”Sage of Omaha.”

American Exceptionism

The occurrence of Americans going abroad and acting like arrogant idiots, and flaunting the laws of foreign countries has seemed to reach an all time high. The mentality of these college educated-who should therefore know better-Americans seems to be that “I can do whatever I want, and if I do something really bad or stupid, the American media will paint me as a victim and old Uncle Sam will bail me out.”

A recent example is Shane Bauer, Sarah Shroud and their friend Josh. Three college-educated white Americans who were in Iraq on their own free will and accord, allegedly to teach English while sightseeing Iraq’s’ natural beauty. Evidently it was this desire for sightseeing that led them to go on a desert hike and “accidentally” cross the Iranian border. A country that America has been slowly and meticulously strangling for decades with crippling sanctions.

For the time being, let’s not even question the logic of going hiking in an active War Zone, where American soldiers were daily returning to their families in flag-draped coffins. Or even the Iranian assertion that the three Americans were spying — which they very well may have been. But forget all that for the time being.

Instead, let’s look at it from the perspective that three Americans illegally crossed into Iranian territory— a crime in Iran and just about every other country in the world. However, the American media immediately jumped on the bandwagon and portrayed them as victims of a repressive regime that was using them as pawns in a high stakes game of political brinkmanship against America.

I don’t think so. Do you know what happens when Mexican citizens cross the American border for any reason illegally? Be they sightseeing, hiking, fishing, or just plain lost? They get arrested and are held by U.S Immigration officials in jails and prisons for months and sometimes years.

So would somebody please tell me why it’s wrong when Iran chooses to enforce its laws and incarcerate Americans who illegally cross its borders? I don’t get it. Have you ever seen any New York Times pieces about the wrongfulness of arresting Mexican citizens who enter this country illegally? And if you think for a second that being in an Iranian prison is worse than being in a American one, then you have never actually witnessed what really goes on inside of the American Industrial Prison complex.

In every article I read, these three Americans were painted as poor suffering victims of a dangerous regime. A regime former President Bush labeled part of an “Axis of Evil”. I mean, come on, these were three educated, well-traveled middle- and upper-class Americans, who knew or should’ve known to respect another country’s laws. But perhaps they felt that being Americans those laws didn’t apply to them.

Exhibit B of Americans abroad behaving badly is Amanda Knox. I’ll be the first to admit that I don’t know if Amanda killed her roommate. Honestly, I hope she didn’t. But I do know that for a guest in a country she wasn’t a very good one. I have always been taught that when you are a guest be it at someone’s home, or anywhere else for that matter that you should be on your very best behavior. Something we all know Ms. Knox wasn’t during her stay in Italy. And while there are some crazy aspects of the case, what irked me was how the American media was so quick to demonize an entire countries criminal justice system when right here in America we have one of the worst, racist, corrupt and unequal justice systems on the face of the earth. A criminal justice system that has more people behind bars (2 million) than any other developed nation including Russia, China, and supposedly evil Iran put together.

I can tell you first hand that Amanda received more justice in a foreign land then she would’ve in her own, especially if she had been a minority and poor. There would’ve been no donations to her legal defense, Facebook support pages are regular news articles decrying her plight or the injustice of her case. She would’ve been another one of the nameless and faceless that nobody cares about who pack the prisons and jails of this nation and who are presumed guilty until proven innocent.

If you followed the Amanda Knox case and know anyone in the legal profession, or who has been through a criminal trial here in the United States, ask them to rate the quality of our own appeal system to that of Italy’s compared to our own poor quality pay-to-play system, Italy’s like a Rolls Royce to a Ford Pinto.

So while Ms. Knox should’ve been acting like a respectful guest during her stay in Italy instead of flaunting that country’s laws as if they didn’t apply to her, if she was guilty she had better thank whatever God she believes in that she was in Italy where she could count on the American State Department and media to instantly support her innocence claims and to make her a cause célèbre. Once again, it was the case of a poor middle class white American being miss-treated by an unjust government. But this time instead of those blasted American hating Arab Muslims, it was those damn Italians that were to blame. Get for real!

The most recent example of Americans going abroad acting like laws don’t apply to them is the case of Derrik Sweeney, 19; Gregory Porter, 19; and Luke Gates, 21. Three white American Exchange students who attended American University in Cairo, Egypt and were caught on the roof of a building in Tahir Square throwing firebombs at Egyptian security forces. After their arrest the American media propaganda-think-what-I-tell-you machine instantly kicked into high gear, and began decrying these three bright college students who each attended private prestigious universities, one of which had recently interned for U.S.Rep. Elaine Luetkemyer, R-MO, as suffering victims wrongfully arrested in a country in chaos.

Immediately following their arrest the U.S State Department intervened to have them released – a request that Egyptian officials who are dependent on American aid financial and otherwise quickly complied with. No investigation to see if the allegations were true. If these three Americans had really tried to burn Egyptian police officers to death with firebombs, no trial to determine the facts, just a simple “you’re American, you can go.”

Do you know what it’s called in this country when you try to kill a police officer? It’s called Attempted Capital Murder, and with few exceptions the person who commits it, or is accused of committing such a crime can expect a long prison sentence, coupled with public outrage that anyone had tried to harm a peace officer, the very people who protect and serve us and keep our communities safe from the evil among us. Obviously this sentiment only applies to American police officers, and not Egyptian ones.

Can you imagine what the fallout would’ve been if three Egyptian young men around the same age as the September 11 attackers stood on the top of a building during one of the recent Occupy Wall Street protest and threw firebombs at NYPD police officers? Not only would they be labeled as Muslim terrorist, even if they knew as much about the Koran as a backwoods fundamentalist preacher in Sweetwater, Texas, but the Attorney General, FBI, and Homeland Security agency along with every American media outlet beaming the threat of Muslim terrorist out to kill American police officers into living rooms around the country. On top of this it would become harder for foreigners to get student visas and the men would be facing life sentences without the possibility of parole.

Had they been Egyptians, U.S Rep Luetkemeyer would’ve been making statements like the one he did about Derrik Sweeney when he said that he was ”extremely pleased that he’s safe and coming home.”

Or the one made by Mr. Sweeney’s mother Joy, “I can’t wait to give him a huge hug and tell him how much I love him. He’s a writer; he will write about this experience. I’m sure that he’ll put a life-lesson learning experience into a positive story.”

Imagine that? Your son is arrested for trying to burn up a police officer with a firebomb/but sense it’s just a foreign police officer it’s a, ”life-lesson learning experience.”

After all he’s an exception, he’s American.

Go to a foreign country, get high, party and possibly have something to do with murdering your British roommate, it’s okay, she’s American.

Cross another countries border illegallyintentionally or otherwise. “Oh Gosh it’s no big deal is it? I mean if it is, I’m a American.”

So if you want to do something really stupid and get a-way with it, first get a passport, preferably a student visa, pick a point on the globe and get arrested for XYZ. Then quickly contact the U.S Embassy (Kudos if you happen to get arrested in a country without a U.S Embassy then you’re really a victim), who will immediately notify the media. Claim you’re a victim of anti-Americanism and you’ll likely be home for the holidays.

The Killing of Troy Davis – And Why It Matters

On September 22, 2011 the state of Georgia continued its bloody history by executing a innocent black man named Troy Davis for an alleged 1989 killing of a white off-duty police officer in Savannah, Georgia.

The state and its officials who supposedly represent justice allowed this injustice to go forward despite 10 of the original 11 witnesses recanting their testimony, despite a 900,000 signature petition gathered by ColorofChange.org and Change.org, practically begging that Mr. Davis’s life be spared, despite the vocal support against his execution from Pope Benedict XVI, as well as former United States President Jimmy Carter who went on record stating:

“If one of our fellow citizens can be executed with so much doubt surrounding his guilt, then the death penalty system in our country is unjust and outdated.”

Troy Cavis collage by “CJ” Wesley

But still, like a runaway train the execution was allowed to continue. What’s wrong with the state of Georgia? What’s wrong with the other states where state sponsored murder is still practiced? States that hold a combined 3,200 men and women (many who are innocent) in prison cells the size of the average walk in closet, awaiting their date with the executioner – the state paid-for, government-sponsored publicly- supported executioner. What’s wrong with America?

After watching innocent men and women walk out of prison time and time again after having spent decades or more in prison for crimes that they didn’t commit, but that they were tried, convicted and sentenced for, how can any rational minded, freedom-loving, red-blood, apple-pie eating American continue to support the so-called ultimate crime, excuse me, I mean punishment?

Yet, that is what many of us continue to do. In a recent CBS/NY poll, 60 percent of Americans continue to support such state sponsored killing of men like Stanley “Tookie” Williams, Gary Graham, and now Troy Davis’s name has been added to this grim roster of men with creditable innocent claims whose lives have been snuffed out by the state.

Some things boggle the mind.

Recently I experienced the same feeling of mental displacement when, while watching a Republican Presidential debate, the educated, middle and upper class, majority Christian audience broke into loud applause when a question was directed at US President hopeful and current Texas governor Rick Perry about his state leading the country in its use of the death penalty.

The governor smiled and the audience clapped.

Mind boggling.

How could I or anyone with one iota of decency, compassion, or humanity help but think, “what’s wrong with these people?”

Have you like me ever seen the photos from the late 19th century and early 1900s of the public lynchings of black Americans that took place all around the country? What always amazed me from looking at these photos wasn’t the actual killings usually over something trivial, but that the public lynchings were joyous community affairs where entire families turned out to participate in the morbid festive. If you look at the pictures you’ll see men with their young children hoisted up on their necks, small kids playing and young couples smiling giddily at the camera. All with the disfigured, often mutilated body of what a few seconds earlier was a living human being lifeless corpse swaying from a rope in the background.

While I readily admit there’s a lot I don’t know, I do know that the death of another human being is nothing to celebrate and applaud as the audience did at the Republican President debate. Not in 1911 or 2011.

When the state of California executed Stanley “Tookie” Williams on December 13, 2005, I wrote the following poem:

Killer Cali
Killer Cali
Killed a favorite son
The state murderer a
revolutionary
A black visionary
Big Tookie
Your body they put to death
But your spirit had already left
It mixed with the ink of the
words you wrote
Mingled in the dialogue of the
words you spoke
In the end the state was cheated
You message was heard
Mission completed.

Now six years later, like a traveler lost in the same senseless maze, I find myself at the same spot, once again contemplating and raging at the loss of another brother, another innocent man sacrificed to the god of injustice – Why?

For deterrence?

Or simple vengeance?

While strapped to the death gurney, one of Troy Davis’s final requests was that we “continue to fight this fight.” A sentiment echoed by the Rev. Al Sharpton, “We must not only mourn what happened to Troy Davis but take strong measures so that it does not happen again.”

Amen –

Brother Davis today we surround the funeral pyre sorrow in our hearts watching the flames lick the heavens assuring you soul safe passage into Valhalla.

Tomorrow we march!

RU-842: What Would You Do To Save The World?

Regina watched the white Ford cargo van disappear around the bend. The last one was finally gone. For two years they had been out there—like the neighbors from hell. Now just like that they were gone. Off to the latest scandal, affair, murder, or whatever else viewers were willing to stomach in the name of news.

Finally, after two years they were old news. Her husband Michael’s face would no longer be plastered on the nightly news show while his fellow doctors and researchers commented on the questionableness of his ethics, while debating if his medical license should be permanently revoked.

The cameras came months before the criminal trial got on the way, a trial strangely reminiscent of the Scope’s Monkey trial, the O.J Simpson murder trial, Michael Jackson’s molestation trial, or any other trial that was more about show than substance.

But through it all she remained the dutiful wife, cooking, cleaning, and looking after their two kids who thanked God for small blessing-were at an age where they could understand what was going on. She also maintained a full load teaching Sociology at the University of Georgia where she was a tenured professor.

Talk about stressed, but somehow she made it. And every step of the way she smiled at the media personalities who hounded her mercilessly.

“Mrs. Hamlet, how do you feel about your husband’s medical license being revoked?”

“No comment.”

Because they got paid to be persistent inevitably another would shoot, “Mrs. Hamlet, do you feel it’s right for your husband to play God and determine who lives and dies?”

Inwardly she smiled at the sound bite, “play God” but only offered her usual, “No comment.”

“Mrs. Hamlet, now that your husband Michael has been charged with a criminal offense, how has it affected you and your family?”

That’s right hit below the belt try to use her motherly instincts against her. Nice try, she thought, while giving her the same, “No comment.”

“Please Mrs. Hamlet, one more question. Is it true your husband is considering giving up his American citizenship?”

Question like those came on a good day. At other times they were so vicious she would make it into the safety of her home or office bolt the door and cry. Yes, yes thank God it was all finally over the trial and the media circus it caused.

Yet even as she stood in the window watching the last media van leave she did so with a pain of regret. For there had been one unintended causality of the entire ordeal. Something broken without the possibility of being fixed. Her twenty-five year marriage to the love of her life.

Don’t cry, not again she told herself turning from the window. She surveyed the pastel colored living room, looked at walls she had painted herself, at wallpaper she installed. Now the room was filled with brown packing boxes. Boxes filled with twenty-five years of love. Twenty-five years worth of precious irreplaceable memories. Overwhelmed she could no longer fight the tears. How had they gotten so far off track?

In the eighties, they were just another cute couple, voted most likely to succeed. Two college kids in love. Of course even back then her dreams were a lot more modest than his she wanted to be a social worker, but he wanted to save the world literally. This translated into a teaching position for her while he went on to become a genetic scientist.

His specialty was infectious diseases, a field near and dear to his heart. As he was still in middle school when his favorite uncle Buck succumbed to the AIDS virus. Then and there he vowed to find a cure.

It was a vow that would eventually lead him to Princeton where he earned his Ph.d. at the top of his class, and to a decade later being generally recognized as one of the top three pathologists in the country.

While Michael became more and more recognized in his field earning awards and writing books about the different workings of the immune system, Regina was more than content with the quiet drama free life they had built that included a four bedroom home in a peaceful upper, middle class subdivision, two kids, and a black cocker spaniel named Hillary. For years her biggest gripe was that Michael’s career frequently kept him away from home, especially when he worked for the CDC.

Things were a little better now that he was at Merck, but he still crisscrossed the country several time a month.

Then came the 21st Annual Infectious Disease conference which was held in Singapore that particular year. Michael had just finished giving a well received presentation about a new cell engineering process that Merck had recently perfected when Borris Yelkstein, the eccentric Russian oil barren and multi-billionaire approached him out in the lobby. According to a recent article in the Wall Street Journal, Mr.Yelkstein had just recently finished serving a three year prison sentence for tax evasion and had fallen out of favor with the Kremlin. A very bad position to be in, in Russia’s dictator-democracy –

Nevertheless, Yelkstein was as bull-headed as ever and had recently acquired a controlling stake in InLiv, a small Russian vaccine maker that was making waves on the Russian stock market.

Ever the salesman, according to Yelkstein, his scientist had discovered the “drug of all drugs”, a miracle drug tentatively called RU-842 that could render the AIDS virus completely harmless. The drug was still in its infant stage and Yelkstein was looking for a pathologist to take over the program and help him market the drug. Was he interested?

Interested was an understatement. He was completely fascinated . If what he was being told was true, it would be the biggest medical breakthrough of the twentieth century, even bigger than Jonas Salk invention of the Polio vaccine.

Once the conference was over, Michael was consumed with thoughts of RU-842. He told Regina, “Baby, not only is he offering me a million dollar a year salary, but a five percent equity stake in the company. If we can successfully bring this vaccine to the market that could be worth millions, maybe even billions. I mean think about it… This is the opportunity of a lifetime.”

She wasn’t convinced, “I don’t like it. If it was a respectable research hospital or even a reputable drug company if there is such a thing … maybe. But who is this Yelkstein character? So what he has lots of money? The man has zero experience in the drug business and a reputation that puts him a few notches above Al Capone. And what if his miracle drug doesn’t win FDA approval? Huh, Michael? Then what?”

He respected his wife’s opinions and listened carefully to what she said. Everything she said had merit, in fact they were the same concerns he had spoken out loud.

“I mean, you’re right and of course it’s much too early to say what’s what. I haven’t even reviewed the data yet. But if what Yelkstein says is true…My God think of the implications just for Africa alone?” He shook his head. “Regina, do you remember what I told you when we first met?”

She turned her head, of course she remembered. He had told her he believed it was his destiny to find the cure for HIV, AIDS. But what young college student at an Ivy League university didn’t have big dreams?

Regina told him, “What I want to know is why he chose you? Out of all the other professors, doctors, scientist, and researchers at the conference, some with bigger names than yours? What made him approach you with this golden opportunity?”

Michael looked at his wife and smiled its funny at how two people who have been together for so long begin to think alike. He said, “I asked Yelkstein the same thing. His reply was that he had been reading my papers and keeping up with my research that he supposedly found fascinating. He also said that since Africans and African Americans are the two groups hit hardest by the virus, an African American doctor was first on his list.”

Not convinced she shook her head. The tad bit she had read about Yelkstein on the internet didn’t go a long way toward convincing her that he was the type of man that gave a rat’s ass about affirmative action, much less cultural diversity. Borris Yelkstein would put his own mother in front of a firing squad as long as the executioners used bullets produced at one of his factories. She wanted to slap some sense back into her adorable, brainy husband and say, “Get for real, the man is permanently banned from 13 countries.”

Reading her expression Michael raised his hands, “Now, I’m not naive. We both know American scientists are generally held in higher regards than their Russian counterparts. Having an American scientist as the lead researcher will help give Borris the credibility he no doubts craves…”

Regina didn’t let him finish. She was tired of talking about it. He had just made it home, and Borris had taken up enough of their time.

“You mad,” he asked. She told him that she wasn’t and to prove it she grabbed his hand and lead him to their bedroom.

Exactly six months from the date Regina was in the kitchen cooking a roast while grading mid-term exams when Michael returned from his first fact finding trip to Russia.

After giving her a quick peck on the cheek, he leaned against the cabinets with his hands deep in pockets of his blue dockers. The fact that something was wrong was written all over his face, but still she waited for him to tell her. Call it woman’s intuition if you like, but the way she felt about Yelkstein and InLiv had finally sunken in. Humming to herself, it took an inordinate amount of self control to keep her from blurting out “I told you so.”

When the silence became crippling she said, “What’s wrong? InLiv not on the level?” At the time she said it, she had no idea and had assumed that InLiv was at worst some type of cover for one of Yelkstein shading business deals.

Without answering, he kept staring at the same spot on the floor like a Gypsy studying the Tarot cards. Slowly he looked up, “They’re on the level. If the data I examined can be validated and reproduced in a controlled blind study, I believe they have did it. Found a cure for the deadliest killer of our times.”

Obviously she was missing something, “So, what’s wrong?” Something was wrong, of that much she was certain.

He stepped out of the kitchen and glanced at the stairs. Listened. Heard Michael Orchard at work saving the world on his Play station 3, he dropped his voice, “The problem is the vaccine itself,”. He was barely whispering now and she had to strain to hear him. “It has to has to be cultivated in two stages before it will produce the antibodies necessary to neutralize the virus. Healthy stem cells fused with anodes of the drug along with a carbon copy of the virus have to introduced into an unaffected immune system. Then the new immune cells can be extracted and transferred to an infected person, which causes the immune cells to attack the infected ones, render the virus harmless.”

The confusion showed on her face; her area of expertise was cultures and poverty and couldn’t tell bacteria from a nuclei. “I still don’t see the problem.”

“There’s two: For starters, due to the size of the nanos, they can only coated with enough of the drug to produce a small amount, perhaps enough to cure a hundred people, give or take a few.”

That didn’t seem like much of a problem to her; a hundred people a batch was better than no people and a limited supply would drive the price of the drug sky high which she was sure Borris would love. No, that wasn’t it, there had to be something else?

She asked, “What’s the other.”

He sighed, “Live samples of the virus have to be introduced into healthy immune system, i.e. host for the incubation process to work, but only those who receive the stage 3 drug will derive any type of benefit. The host will be immune to the drug, totally resistant.”

Regina’s mouth fell open, “So what happens to the host?”

“The same thing that happens to any other person with the AIDS virus.”

He had to be kidding! She said, “you mean they die, don’t you? Michael, you’re talking about infecting healthy people with a deadly disease? Listen to me, Michael. You can’t do that, it’s unethical! They’ll revoke your license,” she was practically screaming

“They would be selected from Third World countries where people generally have a lower life expectancy to begin with, and compensated for participating.”

“Participating. Compensated. We’re talking about murder,” she shook her head. “Michael, you can’t do this.”

Irritated he fired back, “I didn’t say I was going to do anything… I’m just telling you how the drug works, for Pete’s sakes.”

After that there just was no use talking to him about it. He was convinced he could find a way to do good without doing evil and became obsessed with RU-482-Making monthly trips to Russia to observe the various clinical trials that were already taking place, he was certain there had to be a way to harness the power of the drug without the human casualty factor.

Then the scandal broke. News reports said he was participating in unlawful drug studies in violation of the Marin Act. Newsweek labeled him a “Mad Scientist,” a man so obsessed with saving life he was willing to play God to do it.

The media onslaught was followed by a 31 count federal indictment. And like that in the blink of an eye their wonderful life was gone. They had to mortage the house and raid their retirement accounts to cover his legal expenses. And with every household dollar being dedicated to keeping him out of prison, they could no longer afford their oldest daughter Lisa’s MIT tuition, forcing her to transfer to a instate college.

With options slim to none, he turned to Yelkstein for help. Yelkstein agreed to pay him the million dollar salary in advance, provided he come aboard as a full fledge member of InLiv once his legal troubles were over with.

That day had finally arrived.

In the morning, Michael was leaving America, perhaps for good.

And Regina was leaving her 25 year marriage.

If My Mind Was A Weapon

If my mind was a weapon

What type of killing instrument

would it be?

Would it be a weapon of mass destruction?

Or a tool of genocide?

Would the victim only be me

A spectacle for all to see

Maybe my mind would be a

silent weapon, Like the Texas

Death Chamber

A sterile place for man’s

blood lust, revenge, and anger

Perhaps my mind would be a piece of forged metal

molded into the barrel of a gun

Locked and Loaded

Made in the good ole USA

Available at your local Sporting goods store

Better still, a scientific experiment

Something capable of wiping out a

Continent

A colleague invented AIDS

But was fired, Because his invention was to slow.

They were hoping for something/more quick and lethal.

Even better, if my mind was a weapon, I would open a book

make a sword from a pen

To mock Caesar and curse Bush, Write an article on Rwanda

An obituary for lil Yolanda, a prescription of antiviro drugs

for Charlene, and a fat check to ACLU

If my mind was a weapon, this is what I would do

But what would you do?

Reprinted from “Beauty In Chains: Poems by African American Prisoners On Black Love, Racism, Politics, Religion and Progress” (CreateSpace Press)