It’s winter in Baltimore: “Makes me wanna holler…”

I can’t wrap my head around what is happening in Baltimore.

On the day of Freddie Gray’s homegoing — and despite his family’s pleas for peace — some people turned a protest into burning and looting businesses. These people set fire to a structure that, when finished, would have provided affordable housing to 60 senior citizens.

Misguided people took what started as a protest about 25-year-old Freddie Gray’s death in police custody and turned it into an opportunity to destroy property, steal and attack the police.  Come on people, do you really think this will help anyone? Do you lack the discipline and self-control needed to refrain from making a bad situation worse?

If you think these acts will assist in unraveling the mystery of Freddie Gray’s death, you are delusional. Why not channel your anger and frustration into something positive, like rebuilding that senior center? There is no excuse for this nonsense.  Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. once said that riots are the language of the unheard. If that’s true, then the jobless, the under-educated and the hopeless need a new vocabulary. When Dr. King and his associates protested, they were respectful, strategic and most importantly non-violent.

Rioting, to my knowledge, has never worked.  The First Amendment, which guarantees free speech and the right to assemble, does not cover arson and looting. Those are crimes that will land you in jail. Further, these acts will only serve to distract from getting to the bottom of what happened to Freddie Gray on April 12.

Gray’s death needs to be investigated and the cause of his death should be resolved truthfully. Let’s pray that fact won’t get lost in the streets of Baltimore.

Thankfully, God always has a ram in the bush, as was the case in Ferguson, Mo. after the death of Michael Brown.  The Baltimore ministers, Nation of Islam members, Omega Psi Phi fraternity brothers and others who are helping to restore calm are standing in a dangerous gap.  Some of these men and women live in the community and are aware of its problems and what it will take to fix them.

One such man is Pastor Donte’ Hickman of Southern Baptist Church in East Baltimore. In an interview with CNN last night Pastor Hickman said the burning of the church’s senior center caused him to hit the reset button.  “We were seeking to restore people while we bought property,” he said of the building project.

“I see revival…..I see us now coming back bigger and better than before,” he said. “I am a man of faith. Every negative is just our opportunity to fight back with another positive.”

Finally, a voice of reason in a sea of despair.

And speaking of boldness, how about the mother who saw her teenage son on TV taking part in the riots? She went down to the scene, slapped him across his head and pulled him out of the crowd before the police had a chance to put her child in jail. I could see my mother doing that. In fact, one time she did something similar — but that’s another blog for a different day.

That’s what’s missing in Baltimore, in Ferguson, in New York and all cities where unrest has taken hold: adults who care enough to snatch some kids up and put them on the right path before the next riot begins.

In the midst of a storm God is in control

This has been a difficult week on several fronts. A few friends are dealing with serious illnesses and surgeries and others are dealing with substance abuse issues.  Atlanta teachers who cheated on standardized tests were sentenced to up to 7 years in jail. What disturbs me about that news is the fact that so many people seem to take joy in other people’s misery.

The swirl of activity this week has created an anxiety in me that I must manage carefully.  For two days, I tried to attend revival at my church, but the traffic had other plans. On Wednesday, my prayer partner and I finally made it for the last night.

I have always loved revivals. They remind me of a time when life was simple and church activities were front and center. There is nothing like a revival to strengthen your spirit and let you know that you can keep on running. Earlier that day we learned that our pastor had undergone surgery. There was an air of uncertainty in our midst.

When Pastor Joseph Hall took the mic, he reminded us that God is in control. Yes God is in control. Pastor Hall, who hails from Louisiana, went on to say that we are in a unique season of manifestation. God is preparing us to do great things in his name, he said. In this season, we must be bold in our prayers and our praise. God will bring forth a fresh anointing. We will make it through.

Exodus 3:7-8 says God sees our afflictions and he has come to deliver us from them. Pastor Hall said we need a pre-praise, a right now praise and a post praise. In other words, praise God before, during and after the storm. But when storms sweep through our lives, it’s often hard to see the forest for the trees.  That’s where a laser faith and focus is needed.

By the time we left the church, I felt equipped to finish the week on a better note.  I refuse to succumb to the fear and negativity that is lurking around every corner. I need that laser focus.

Black man down

Here is my latest blog post about Walter Scott, who was killed by a cop in North Charleston, S.C, in case you missed it! Angela Tuck

LOVE MY PEOPLE

walter scott

This time there is no doubt. No witnesses telling conflicting stories. No smear campaign against the victim (at least not yet). Just a videotape taken by a man who has no skin in the game. What the video shows is heartbreaking. We are essentially watching the last seconds of a man’s life. A man who mattered to his family and friends.

Officer Michael Slager told Walter Scott he pulled him over for a broken tail light.  It was 9:30 on the morning of April 4 in North Charleston, S.C.  A police dash cam video released Thursday shows Slager walk up to Scott’s vehicle and politely ask him for his license and registration. Scott gives some round about answers but the encounter remains civil. Slager walks back to his police cruiser to run a routine check.

After a few seconds, Scott gets out of his car and Slager tells him to…

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Black man down

walter scott

This time there is no doubt. No witnesses telling conflicting stories. No smear campaign against the victim (at least not yet). Just a videotape taken by a man who has no skin in the game. What the video shows is heartbreaking. We are essentially watching the last seconds of a man’s life. A man who mattered to his family and friends.

Officer Michael Slager told Walter Scott he pulled him over for a broken tail light.  It was 9:30 on the morning of April 4 in North Charleston, S.C.  A police dash cam video released Thursday shows Slager walk up to Scott’s vehicle and politely ask him for his license and registration. Scott gives some round about answers but the encounter remains civil. Slager walks back to his police cruiser to run a routine check.

After a few seconds, Scott gets out of his car and Slager tells him to get back inside. Scott returns to his car briefly, then — for reasons we will never know — he gets out of his car and runs from the officer. It is a slow run because Scott is 50 years old.

Off camera, Slager can be heard shouting “Taser!Taser!” It’s something his police training calls for.  It’s unclear what happens when the men are out of camera range. But resisting arrest should not be a death sentence.

Black men are viewed by many in society as criminals. Some law enforcement personnel and prosecutors see them as disposable. They have no qualms about locking them up and throwing away the key, reasoning that a disproportionate number of black men commit crimes.

Of course this does not apply to all officers. The vast majority do their jobs in a professional manner and deserve the respect that comes with their badge. Police officers take an oath to protect and serve.  But where was the protection and service for Eric Garner, Michael Brown and now Walter Scott?

There can be no mistake: when stopped by the police, do everything they say.  Resisting in any way can be deadly.  When we encounter an officer, we don’t know what kind of person they are or what kind of day they are having. Ignoring their commands is a very bad idea. Our boys must be taught this fact about life in America.

A report this week in The State Newspaper in Columbia, South Carolina revealed that S.C. police officers have fired their weapons at suspects more than 200 times in the last five years. The federal investigation of officials in Ferguson, Mo. showed racist attitudes in emails exchanged by city employees and a distinct pattern of police harassment of African-American citizens. Similar emails were released this week in San Francisco, showing authorities there joking about Hispanics and African-Americans.

This is a serious problem that must addressed by hiring more officers of color and electing more politicians, judges and prosecutors who better represent the communities they serve. Officers should be trained and retrained every year.

Why did Michael Slager feel the need to shoot a man in the back eight times? Can we blame it on poor training or a disdain for a man who decided to run. Scott didn’t appear to be a threat to the officer or anyone else.  Yet Slager placed handcuffs on Scott after he fell to the ground.  Then Slager dropped an object by the man’s lifeless body. What kind of person shoots another human being in the back and immediately goes into cover-thine-behind mode? Why did it take several minutes for officers responding to the shooting to administer CPR?

Slager might well have gotten away with murder had it not been for Feidin Santana, who saw the situation unfold and captured it on his cell phone. In the face of irrefutable evidence, authorities in North Charleston had no choice but to charge Slager with murder and fire him from the force.

Officials there seem to have learned from their counterparts in Ferguson, Mo. An outside agency has been brought in to investigate and the police chief quickly condemned Slager’s actions. It will be interesting to see what happens as the case unfolds.  A murder arrest doesn’t mean there will be a conviction.  According to CNN, South Carolina law requires premeditation for a murder conviction.

Michael Slager was dead wrong. Walter Scott is just dead. What will it take to make this stop?

March Madness indeed! The hunt for perfection and that pesky N-word

wildcats

Welp, it’s all over now. The other basketball dynasty that rocks the blue and white — the Duke University Blue Devils — reigns supreme as this year’s NCAA champion.

I grew up in Lexington, Ky.  It’s a place where some people don “I still hate Christian Laettner” t-shirts, recalling Laettner’s legendary last second shot in the 1992 Kentucky vs. Duke championship game. The clip was recently featured in the ESPN 30 for 30 film, “I Hate Christian Laettner.

This was supposed to be our year — the year that talented bunch of young men from the University of Kentucky went 40-0.

Everyone talked about their quest for a perfect season. Every team in the country aimed their collective skills squarely at the Wildcats. But perfection, no matter how talented you are, is an elusive thing. That’s an important lesson for boys like my nephew and grandson, who love to shoot hoops and run around the baseball diamond.  They watched intently as Kentucky folded to Wisconsin in the final minutes of the NCAA semifinal Saturday.

After the game, my nephew even shed a few tears. It’s just a game, I told him. There will be many more. My words were of little comfort to an 11-year-old who has already proven to be a gifted athlete. Winning is in Grant’s DNA.

So you can imagine how Kentucky’s talented tenth reacted to seeing a would-be perfect season slip through their fingertips. Make no mistake: these young men achieved greatness. Winning 38 games is no small feat.  But it wasn’t enough for them, Coach John Calipari or Big Blue Nation fans.

My friend Jerry Tipton has covered Kentucky basketball for 30 plus years for the Lexington Herald-Leader. It’s the same newspaper which received bomb threats when the newspaper’s investigative team penned a Pulitzer Prize-winning series of articles about basketball boosters lining the pockets of players.

As Tipton noted when we talked this week, it’s very difficult for a team to go undefeated in regular and post season play. The last Division I school to do so was Indiana in 1976.

Anyone who followed the Wildcats this year knows there were at least four to five games they could have lost.  “I thought they could get beat, I said that all along,” said Tipton, noting close games against Ole Miss, Texas A&M and Georgia during the regular season, and Notre Dame in the quarterfinals of the NCAA tournament.

Still, Tipton wouldn’t have been surprised if the Wildcats “had run the table.”  Loaded with youthful talent rather than having one breakout player, this Wildcat team often seemed invincible. They embodied teamwork, excellence and endurance. Several will become instant millionaires when they are selected in the NBA draft’s first round. The world awaits them.

Understandably,  their disappointment and immaturity were painfully evident in their loss to Wisconsin.  A few Kentucky players headed to the locker room without exchanging customary post-game handshakes with their opponents. And later, in a press conference, Kentucky guard Andrew Harrison could be heard uttering an obscenity and the n-word, reportedly directed at Wisconsin’s boy wonder, Frank Kaminsky.

“[Harrison] got benched late in the game and they lost. He certainly was not in a good mood,” said Tipton.  “I was talking to one guy who was sitting in the front row of the presser and he didn’t hear it. Once people figured out what [Harrison] was saying, we weren’t sure who he was referring to.”

Harrison could have made the comment about a reporter asking a question, one of his fellow players or Kaminsky. But a remark made in the height of frustration was widely circulated and criticized, prompting Harrison to call Kaminsky to apologize. In turn, Kaminsky graciously accepted his apology.

Here’s where things get crazy: some people believe the n-word means the same thing regardless of context or who is saying it. Nothing is further from the truth. A group of University of Oklahoma fraternity brothers found that out the hard way when they were caught on tape singing a song that included the n-word. The fraternity was banned from campus and two students were expelled. Why? They used the word to brag about never admitting a black person into their fraternity, which has accepted black members in the past.

Harrison used it in a way that is more common these days, as a figure of speech used to describe someone of any race, often a friend or peer. Rappers have taken the meaning of the ‘n-word’ and turned it on its head. It’s clearly a generational thing.

For people of a certain age, regardless of color, the word holds the power to cut deep. Especially if it is uttered with hatred or with the intent to discriminate. For young people who haven’t experienced the sting of overt racism, it’s simply another slang term.

Everyone should let Andrew Harrison be. He had a moment after one of the most disappointing games of his young career. He clearly meant no harm. He and his teammates should be proud of what they accomplished this year. This UK fan certainly enjoyed the ride.