by guest blogger, Kai Wall
Recently, I stood my ground against individuals who were in positions of authority over me. They were disgustingly abusive, frighteningly racist and seemed to expect me to respond to their frequent attacks on my dignity with a compliant timidity. As it seemed with Sandy Bland when she encountered the rouge state trooper in Waller County, Texas my initial thoughts were these people have got to be kidding. The experience was surreal. As things escalated I used my intellect, reasoning and "strong black woman attitude" as my tools of protection. My tormentors only became more venomous, just as the trooper had become with Sandy. As I witnessed Sandy's encounter, specifically the contrived stop followed by his mean-spirited, condescending tone and confrontational attitude, my barely healed wounds began to reopen. When he pathologically informed her he would "light her up," I felt terror because that was the message I more or less received at my point of no return. My spirit meshed with hers as I understood the doom that awaited her. My tears flooded as I knew she would not be okay. My heart ached as I knew she would not make it out of this one alive. As I returned to a clear state of consciousness I thought I am wounded. I've been greatly harmed, but I am still alive, while Sandy is not. I owe it to her to pick up the pieces and become whole, because I am still here. I have a chance to begin anew, while Sandy's fate has been permanently sealed. Sandy, what happened to you was not fair. The irony is not missed that your death was caused by the very same conditions you fought so valiantly and honorably against. I will pick up the pieces not only for myself, but also for you. Your death will not be in vain. ©2015 KCW
“Everybody can be great...because anybody can serve. You don't have to have a college degree to serve. You don't have to make your subject and verb agree to serve. You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love.” -Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Oftentimes I highlight the work and service of women under the category: #sheSpeaksUP! Today, I highlight someone who speaks up not only in her accomplishments, but her service to her community:
Upon meeting Karen Cecile Wallace, I knew she had IT. What is IT? It is that 'thing' I encounter upon meeting people who are selfless and work to build a better community locally as well as abroad. They have a story and through their service, we listen.
Karen is a part of floWERS! (focused ladies of Worth, Excellence, Resilience and Strength!) She is the epitome of what floWERS! represent: Ambition. Service. Drive. Selflessness. With a significant amount of pro bono hours (free legal service hours to the community), she continues to give. Karen has a background as an adjunct professor, youth mentor and a corporate attorney. Her foundation in public policy and nonprofit organizations prove she has what it takes to accomplish the mission of her latest endeavor: The Violence Prevention Funding Campaign.
Karen currently resides in her hometown (Chicago) and is a member of Trinity United Church of Christ. She is highly regarded in the Cook County Bar Association and has worked with various school systems, organizations and churches in her community throughout the years. Along with the heart of teaching, advocating and mentoring, Karen’s work is admirable and meaningful. She gives back with excellence. Just recently Karen launched the campaign fund for violence prevention in Chicago that I will follow and update you about toward the attainable goal of $200,000.00.
We need your help. With its crime rate, Chicago is seen as the most unsafe city according to a recent study.
There is always hope. By the time you read this, I hope you join me and Karen in doing more for your local communities as well as giving back in service to other communities. As we often see, in times of injustice (e.g. police brutality in the Black community), many people hark upon the 'lack of attention' that ‘black on black’ crime receive throughout the nation. Usually this argument is counterproductive as well as a distraction. It seeks to support the notion that no one cares about the violence happening in our own communities which is untrue. It further gives rise to questioning community activism in these areas. Please note that nationwide, there are several organizations, churches, activists, community leaders, teachers and parents serving in this capacity. Let’s not discount their work and service, but join them in the fight against violence while speaking against different injustices.
Now, let me tell you about Karen’s campaign that I wholeheartedly support. Karen is seeking funding for an initiative that will help different churches and organizations with established programs for the youth in Chicago. The purpose of this campaign is to reduce gun violence in the city. Contributing to this campaign will help fund these established community based violence prevention programs that have a proven track record and assist them in expanding the reach of their programs. With her experience and commitment, I know that Karen and her committee will be successful in finding the organizations and churches to assist through this heartfelt mission. They will conduct due diligence in researching these programs by identifying groups that have been effective with their violence prevention programs. The funding will essentially help improve the lives of both boys and girls. The approach of the programs may be anywhere from home and school visits, mentoring and other types of outreach.
What you can do to help?
So... the other day I was in a group discussion about sexual assault on campuses and how (in 2014) many colleges still handle complaints irresponsibly. Many colleges opt to handle the cases internally (not wanting to receive bad press I suspect.) Therefore, they prefer keeping it 'hush-hush' while placing much of the burden and shame on the victims. You know, "she wasn't supposed to go out with him after a certain time of night or invite him into her dorm and everyone knows she wasn't supposed to wear THAT on the date." It is a sad state of affairs. Again, in 2014.
I'm so glad that a group of students have joined Columbia University's Emma Sulkowicz in bringing awareness to this issue. She is a survivor herself and what began as Sulkowicz's project for school has the power to become a movement on campuses nationwide.
According to Columbia Spectator, "The collective carry was organized by Carrying The Weight Together, a group of students and alumni who want, according to the group's site, "to help Emma carry the weight of the physical mattress, give her and other survivors of sexual assault in our community a powerful symbol of our support and solidarity, and show the administration that we stand united in demanding better policies designed to end sexual violence and rape culture on campus." Emma plans to carry the mattress around on campus until her alleged rapist is no longer on campus. Read and see more (tweets and activism) on The Huffington Post about support for Emma Sulkowicz.
Initially, I was glad to see an influential voice take to the streets of Ferguson since many celebrities have been consumed with the Ice Bucket Challenge raising awareness and funds for ALS. Some celebrities have spoken up against what has happened in Ferguson and continues to happen throughout the United States. Several celebrities have used the opportunity to point fingers at the Black community (we will get into Respectability Politics later) while many have chosen silence. Ferguson is a lower income community (in 2000 the median household income was $37,000 according to the census.) In the 2012 census, the population of 21,000 consisted of 67% black people and 29% white people, yet there are many white people in control of the most powerful positions. For instance, only 3 out of 53 policemen are black, 1 out of 6 city council members are black and the Republican mayor is white. Unfortunately, Ferguson mirrors several cities and towns throughout the United States. The power structure isn't reflective of majority of the city, which causes disparity, disenfranchisement of a people and racism.
When Iyanla Vanzant (born Rhonda Eva Harris) took to the camera and social media challenging different rap artists to appear at a community event in Ferguson, I paused. In her message she spoke of young men attending who were "willing" to die and they needed to hear from the "elders" as she called out Jay-Z, Common, Nas and other rap artists. Elders? She painted a picture as though they were troubled and delinquent needing guidance. I was concerned that this was a distraction showing how 'out of control' the young black men are in the community (although Michael Brown's death is the first homicide this year in Ferguson and he had no criminal record.) If the young men were in some way reaching out for help by talking to the community, they could be helped without cameras or challenges to rap artists.
Let me point out here that I have watched her show and been a fan of Iyanla Vanzant for years. Even after she received criticism following the Fix My Life episode with DMX, I supported her knowing that I was concerned about the way the interview was handled. I gave her the benefit of several doubts. However, I will not support this "special report." Following a tweet posted by Oprah Winfrey Network, there was outrage on twitter calling Aunt Iyanla an opportunist as well as accusing her of 'selling out' her community. According to the tweet, there was a special broadcast of Iyanla Fix My Life scheduled to air Tuesday, 9:00PM Eastern. The tweet included a photo of a meeting with Ferguson Police Chief, Thomas Jackson, and Michael Brown's uncle, Pastor Charles Ewing.
In the photo they are holding one another's hands as they begin this "peace and healing" challenge. By this time, my eyebrows are completely raised, my held tilt and that 'deer in the headlights' look upon my face. Come again? Unless the chief of police is at that table answering several questions that have yet to be answered, I will not watch. Unless he is there explaining the militarization of the police and tear gas on peaceful protesters, I will not watch. Unless he explains why (even today) the incidental report of Michael Brown's death is nearly blank and questionable, I will not watch this "special report." Even with Aunt Iyanla taking to Twitter to asks critics to watch the show before making judgments based on the photo, I will not watch... as I have not watched the news in a couple of days around Ferguson. Why? I recently read an important piece confirming my thoughts by Ryan L. Schuessler, a journalist who spent several days in Ferguson before it became what he described as a "media circus." Therefore, all of this makes me question the motive of our "Beloved" Aunt Iyanla and Mother Oprah's network. Capitalizing from the hurt of a community when it's this fresh is just wrong no matter the network.
When we are courageous enough to look through the lens of what's right and confront it, we will ask the necessary questions. These are questions the community deserve answers to right now. We all know that something went terribly wrong and it has not been brought to light. As a matter of fact, we've heard statements from law enforcement in Ferguson and most don't connect.
As we see here, there is a greater dynamic that must be addressed and not the community's hurt exploited. Unless Iyanla Vanzant is in a position to make serious changes to the system in that community as well as nationwide (or at least address them), everything else is a distraction. At this point, the City of Ferguson deserves answers, not pacification, not a false sense of healing or to be treated as spectacles for cameras. God heals. And, God is just. In times as these integrity and accountability is necessary, not more cameras; not a false sense of peace and healing. We are looking at more band-aids on cancer. There is still what appears to be obstruction of justice. There are unanswered questions. There is still no peace.
Do you plan to watch? What do you think?
Also, please go to Go Fund Me to give toward The Michael Brown Memorial Fund.
"Protest is the language of the unheard."
America. Land of the free. Home of the brave.
Martial law. Protest. Another Movement.
In times like these~
Not only should we pray for peace,
but pray for justice.
Protest is the language of the unheard.
For it is only with justice,
we will acquire true peace.
Therefore, without justice...there is no peace.
Thank you for stopping by.