From The Final Call Newspaper

A year of anger, activism and action

By Starla Muhammad and Charlene Muhammad -Final Call Staffers- | Last updated: Dec 29, 2015 - 3:19:55 PM

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The Final Call examines what 2015 meant for Black America and what new year may bring

After a year of young people leading angry street protests in response to disturbing deaths of Blacks in police custody and mistreatment of  Blacks by law enforcement and the courts, 2016 will likely bring more resistance as activists vow to continue battling social and economic injustice and racism.

If  2015 is any indication, more direct action is coming as the country heads into a new year and the last term of its first Black president, analysts said.
In unemployment, housing, education, wealth and health, Blacks continued languishing behind Whites. Increased racial tension and White backlash manifested itself through targeted opposition to the #BlackLivesMatter movement, roadblocks to voter registration, discrimination on college campuses and violence, including the slaughter of nine Black parishioners at Mother Emmanuel AME Church in Charleston, S.C. by a White gunman.

Dylann Storm Roof, the suspected gunman, ascribed to Neo-Nazi and White Supremacist ideals and was charged with murder for the June 17 massacre. His trial on nine murder counts among other charges is slated for July 2016. He was also charged with federal hate crimes.
Seemingly every week videos of police killing or abusing Black men and women made headlines. Sandra Bland, Laquan McDonald, Mario Woods and Freddie Gray joined almost countless others who died at the hands of police or while in police custody. Their deaths not only brought to light the abuse and injustices by law enforcement that Black communities have cried out about for decades, but these cases fueled activists who demanded justice for victims of what many labeled “state sanctioned violence.”

“Black people were more likely to be killed by America’s largest city police departments: Police departments disproportionately killed Black people, who were 41 percent of victims despite being only 20 percent of the population living in these cities.
    Forty-one of the 60 police departments disproportionately killed Black people relative to the population of Black people in their jurisdiction. Fourteen police departments killed Black people exclusively in 2015, 100 percent of the people they killed were Black. For only five police departments were 100 percent of those killed White,” according to a Mapping Police Violence report on police killings in 2015.

    Police killed at least 1,152 people in the United States from January 1-December 15, 2015, said the report.
    “Nearly one in four of these people was killed by one of America’s largest 60 city police departments. Fifty-nine of the nation’s largest 60 city police departments killed civilians in 2015. Some killed at much higher rates than others: Bakersfield, Oklahoma City, Oakland, Indianapolis Metropolitan, Long Beach, New Orleans, St. Louis Metropolitan, and San Francisco Police Departments killed people at the highest rates in 2015.”

    “While some have blamed violent crime for being responsible for police violence in some communities, data shows that high levels of violent crime in cities did not appear to make it any more or less likely for police departments to kill people,” the report found. “Rather than being determined by crime rates, police violence reflects a lack of accountability in the culture, policies, and practices of the institutions of policing, as investigations into some of the most violent police departments in America have shown.”

    Resistance, rebellion and results
    “With state-sanctioned violence, there are a few things going on. In many ways I think it’s connected to the inter-communal violence. I think we left open three critical areas to really start planting seeds,” said Davey D, a hip hop journalist, historian, talk show host and activist.

    First there’s the problem of media, which affects the community inside and out, he continued. “We give too much of the past to too many people who have used our dehumanization for profit” and that dehumanization comes in many forms, he said. Some is overt, he said, but much is very subtle.

    Some celebrated the successes of Black women in key law enforcement positions, from U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch and California Attorney General Kamala Harris to Los Angeles District Attorney Jackie Lacey, he said. But people have to ask, where is the accountability for those in public office? Davey D continued.
    “Like we did with Obama, we didn’t demand a certain amount of standards that needed to be put forth because our endorsement of their success was really dependent upon the expectation that they would humanize us and they didn’t in the long run. So that fielded a compromise in a big way and the end result was and the end result has been we are not empowered,” he said.

    But this year, youth, particularly Black and Brown youth, refused to remain silent and sit on the sidelines in the face of oppression.
    Nationwide demonstrations and protests against police brutality and White Supremacy culminated in October when according to some estimates 800,000 to 1.5 million people gathered in Washington, D.C. for Justice Or Else!, a commemoration of the 20th anniversary of the Million Man March. The Oct. 10 gathering, convened by Nation of Islam Minister Louis Farrakhan, gave a platform to Black, Indigenous and Brown communities and other aggrieved groups who presented their cases and demands before the world in a continued fight for true freedom, justice and equality. There was also a call for Black communities to stop the fratricidal violence that plagues many urban areas.

     “It’s hypocritical for us to say that we are ‘citizens’ and we are still trying to get civil rights, while at the same time we are denied the human right of self-determination. I’m honored to be here in front of this great, great house that was built by Black slaves. So I don’t think I’m encroaching on any American by standing on the ground that was paid for with the sweat and the blood of our ancestors,” Min. Farrakhan told the massive crowd from a stage on the steps of the U.S. Capitol.

    “There can be no freedom, no justice, no equity without the willingness of some to sacrifice for the rest. What good is life if we are not free? What good is it to be alive and every day that you live you see your people suffering? What good is it to be—continue in life under tyranny? So there must come a time when we say, ‘Enough is enough.’ It must change—and I am willing to do whatever it takes to bring about that change,” said Min. Farrakhan.

    A memorial in front of Mother Emmanuel AME Church in Charleston, S.C. where nine Black parishioners were shot to death by a White gunman June 17, 2014. Photo: Andrea Muhammad
    “America is under Divine Judgment as we speak. Elijah Muhammad taught us 50-60 years ago of what we’re going to face, and he said there would be Four Great Judgments:  Rain, unusual rain, Snow, unusual snow, Earthquakes, Hail; and that [God] would use the forces of nature against America,” he continued.
    “When I leave you today, the calamities are going to get stronger, because God wants America to let us go. Not integrate us—let us go, and give us a good sendoff.  Those of you who are scripturally sound:  Moses was not an ‘integrationist,’ and neither are we. Let me be clear:  America has no future for you or for me.  She can’t make a future for herself, much less a future for us.  The scripture says, ‘Come out of her, My people’—and we’re going to have to come out. God says he takes the kingdom from whom he pleases, and he gives it to whom he pleases,” said Min. Farrakhan.
    “It’s clear that this year was a year of rebellion and resistance as it relates to police brutality and misconduct and killing of Black men and women in American society,” said Dr. Ron Daniels, president of Institute of the Black World. In places like Ferguson, Mo., New York, Chicago and Baltimore, the outspokenness and action of youth was evident, he explained.

    “The incredible response by young African American men and women on the street in resistance there and of course the explosive and positive growth of the Black Lives Matter movement which has become sort of the mantra of this new generation,” said Dr. Daniels.

    “What you saw is an incredible amount of resistance from Black people. Very strong, very creative, very innovative and I think intensifying and growing during the course of the year.”
    Jonathan Butler, a student leader and activist escalated that intensity when he stopped eating on Nov. 2 to force the resignation of Tim Wolfe, University of Missouri president, who failed to address students’ concerns about campus discrimination and take meaningful action.
    Black students had been complaining for years, to no avail.  His hunger strike lasted seven days.

    After the university’s football team and coach backed the graduate student’s demand and refused to play until Mr. Wolfe vacated his post, he and school chancellor R. Bowen Loftin resigned.

    “I think it’s pushing us in the direction we need to go. Total dissatisfaction, total mistrust, no belief in this system,” said Faheem Muhammad, an activist and co-founder of Black Buycott. He said the system isn’t broken, but it’s rotten to the core and works perfectly as it was designed, which is to break Black people particularly and the oppressed of the world. Part of the problem is some Blacks have the notion that the Democratic Party, or anyone else will help them, he explained.

    “It’s not that Obama didn’t want to do something for us or desire to do something for us, but this system is filthy. It’s wicked, and it’s corrupt, so he can’t do anything for us,” said Mr. Muhammad.

    Dissatisfaction with the status quo gave rise to action. In solidarity with demonstrators in Ferguson and nationwide protests in honor of Michael Brown, Jr., the Blackout Collective shut down the Bay Area Rapid Transit in West Oakland on “Blackout Black Friday.” In Chicago, thousands took to the streets the same day in response to the death of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald who was shot and killed by Chicago Police Officer Jason Van Dyke in October last year. Video of the encounter was not made public until November 2015 and only after a judge ordered its release. Soon after the teens death the city quickly paid a $5 million settlement to the family. Allegations of a conspiracy and cover-up quickly ignited protests in a city whose sordid police history is well documented. In response, demonstrators shut down the Magnificent Mile, on Black Friday, causing retailers to lose millions of dollars.

    Retailers, who count on November and December holiday sales to boost their financial coffers, took a hit in 2015 as sales spiraled downward. According to a mid-December article on, post-Thanksgiving days have been terrible for most retailers in 2015.
    According to the National Retail Federation, this year’s holiday sales are “slower than expected.”

    While some analysts attribute the decline to fewer dollars coming in due to lower prices, it’s clear that this year has been a relative bust for the collective retail establishment.
    “If our Black lives don’t matter, then neither should our Black dollars,” said Minister Farrakhan.

    Politics, economics and White fear
    During his year end Dec. 18 press conference, President Barack Obama told reporters steady, persistent work over the past few years is “paying off for the American people in big, tangible ways.” He touted unemployment falling to five percent and growing wages as examples of progress.

    But for many Blacks on the economic front, 2015 continued to remain relatively stagnant.
    According to mid-December data released by the Economic Policy Institute, the unemployment rate for Blacks was still on average twice that of Whites, regardless of educational achievement. From December 2014 through November 2015 the unemployment rate for Black college graduates was 4.1 percent compared to 2.4 percent for Whites. The disparity between those with less than a high school diploma was even more telling, with Blacks having an unemployment rate of 16.6 percent compared to 6.9 percent for Whites.

    According to the EPI data, “persistent disparities in unemployment are constant reminders of how race continues to have an undue influence on life in this country.”
    The optimism many people, especially Black Americans had when Mr. Obama first took office has waned. When asked what changes or expectations folks can expect during the president’s last year in office, economist Dr. Julianne Malveaux was blunt.

    Dr. Julianne Malveaux
    “I think we should expect pretty much what we’ve been getting and again, people will have mixed feelings and ambivalence about this president and his legacy. His legacy is that he’s the first Black president, his legacy is that he did healthcare,” said Dr. Malveaux referring to the Affordable Care Act.
    “I’m not so sure what else I would consider a part of his legacy. Again I would ask questions, has the material conditions of Black people in particular changed? And unfortunately the answer would have to be pretty much no,” she continued.

    “Now he did get us out of the recession and that means that everybody is better off. But have any of the gaps, the wealth gaps, income gaps, the unemployment gaps, have they narrowed? And the answer is no,” said Dr. Malveaux. However, it must be pointed out, she explained, that Mr. Obama had to deal with a very hostile Congress vehemently opposed to everything he tried to accomplish.

    As he heads into his final year as president, Mr. Obama could utilize his power of Executive Order to help Black people, the noted author and president emerita of Bennett College for Women told The Final Call. It could be used to set up an investigative arm to examine and study the issue of reparations for Black descendants of slaves as laid out by H.R. 40 introduced by Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.) in 1997. It has never made it out of committee with some members of the Congressional Black Caucus even not supporting it.

    “This president has the opportunity to do something. It’s mild but it might get us started in a direction of a conversation that we need to have about wealth gaps. I don’t expect that to happen, but what I have seen in this last year, there have been flashes of boldness from the president that we had not seen before,” she said.
    President Barack Obama

    But as Mr. Obama’s term winds down, the message of Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump has resonated with many White voters who feel their place at the top is being usurped. His racially coded language has not stopped thousands of mostly Whites who fill venues to hear his message.

    “There is a fear that White people are being left behind, and soon will be vanquished, or put into the third or fourth sphere where they have been used for the past few hundred years of running the world,” said Khari Enaharo, author of “Race Code War, The Power of Words, Images And Symbols on The Black Psyche.”

    The widespread violence at the hands of police is like a clarion call to White race warriors, he added. “All police are not White Supremacists, but there are White Supremacists who will disguise themselves as police, and they will engage in racial injustice,” Mr. Enaharo told The Final Call. The clarion call sounds like, “Let’s take our country back,” “We’ve got to stop these savages, we got to stop these monsters,” and politicians are stoking that fear, he said.

    “What they have done is created a whole industry where they have criminalized through racial codes, symbols through racial code words, through racial coded images. They have criminalized a whole race of people,” he added.

    The killings have purposefully shifted people’s focus from thousands of things they should but don’t pay any attention to, Mr. Enaharo said.

    “That means we don’t have to deal with HIV-AIDS anymore. We don’t have health problems.  We don’t have an economic problem. … That is by design to get our attention off of the things that are being done to us and we are not paying attention to this war, this racial war that is being waged in education, economics, sex and sports. Everywhere we look we are being racially wiped out and we aren’t paying attention to it,” said the author.

    Several efforts aimed at self-determination and action, including “Buy Black” campaigns, calls to support Latino, Native American and Indigenous businesses and withholding dollars from huge multi-billion dollar corporations took root this year in response to injustices and a call to redistribute the pain.

    Cecile Johnson, CEO and founder of the African Development Plan, a solutions-oriented collaborative that looks at the needs of Black communities on a local, national and international level, said this year marked an increased awareness globally on what Black Americans have been faced with hundreds of years.

    For the first time, said Ms. Johnson, there seems to be more willingness by Black people to work across religious and ideological lines and build coalitions. The elders are helping behind the scenes but an intergenerational healing and atonement needs to take place and youth must continue moving forward, said Ms. Johnson, who holds a master’s degree in Inner City Studies Education. Black people have a right to self-determination and human rights which includes the right to education, culture and life, she said.

    Moving forward Black people can continue doing things to invest in their collective future, including harnessing $1.2 trillion in spending power they have, she said.

    “There’s things that we can do, churches, mosques, synagogues that are all Black, put your money in a Black bank. That only takes 15 minutes and now you’re beginning to invest in us, that’s one step,” said Ms. Johnson. Black faith-based institutions must be actively engaged and working in the community by investing in businesses, establishing mentoring programs and other services, she continued.

    “I see a political climate and us pushing a Black agenda, pushing political empowerment, pushing self-determination as a way to begin waking Black people up. So I see 2016 as a year that people are going to have to get woke up,” said Ms. Johnson.

From The Final Call Newspaper

Chicago Style Shakeup: Top Cop Ousted But Who Will Go Next?

By Ashahed M. Muhammad -Assistant Editor- | Last updated: Dec 8, 2015 - 12:13:45 PM

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Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel speaks to the media, Dec. 3, in Chicago. Faced with growing calls for federal intervention after a White officer fatally shot a Black teen, Mayor Rahm Emanuel said the city would welcome a Justice Department investigation of “systemic issues” in the Chicago police department. Photo: AP/Wide World photos

CHICAGO - It came as no surprise when at a morning news conference, Mayor Rahm Israel Emanuel announced he had asked for and accepted Chicago Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy’s resignation.

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“Now is the time for fresh eyes and new leadership to confront the challenges the department and our community and our city are facing as we go forward,” Mayor Emanuel said.
Facing sharp criticism from many different areas charging him with being a part of a cover-up in the October 2014 shooting of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald, Mayor Emanuel had to do something in an attempt to quell the Black community’s cry for justice. Mr. McCarthy, unpopular among Blacks seemingly since the day he was appointed in May of 2011, was on the hot seat and the most vulnerable. It was politically expedient for the mayor and abundantly clear that the police chief had to go.

Mayor Emanuel’s best efforts to control this politically volatile situation now are evident, however two months ago, at an Oct. 5 press conference at City Hall, the City Council Black Caucus called for Supt. McCarthy’s firing, and the mayor ignored them.

Now a group of retired Black police officers with decades of experience working for the Chicago Police Department is asking tough questions. They say corruption and bad officers have existed in the department for years, and believe it is past time for meaningful reform. Many aren’t fans of the mayor.

Pat Hill, former executive director of the African American Police League and well-known rights activist, said Mayor Emanuel is not serious about reform. She can’t understand why anyone in the Black community would believe him when he said he had not seen explosive police dash cam video of the McDonald killing prior to approving a $5 million settlement with the family. The youth was shot 16 times by an officer who has been charged with murder. It took over a year for the video to be made public.

“Rahm Emmanuel has proven himself to be a liar,” said Ms. Hill. “I think a lot of people are in denial because unfortunately, in our community, a lot of people voted for him. I don’t know what their expectations were? I don’t even understand that because prior to the election he was not demonstrating that he was our friend, so that’s something we’re going to have to work out.”

Another video of a police involved shooting threatens to raise the anger of activists and community organizers to an even higher level. Dash cam video shows Chicago police officer George Hernandez shooting 25-year-old Ronald Johnson III on October 12, 2014, days before the shooting of Laquan McDonald. Police said Mr. Johnson turned and pointed a gun at Ofc. Hernandez who fired in self-defense.

Attorneys for the family say the young Black male was fleeing police with nothing in his hands when the officer shot him. The video was released Dec. 7.

As in the McDonald case, Mayor Emanuel’s administration had battled releasing that video for months. Different from the McDonald case, Mr. Johnson’s family is currently pursuing a wrongful death suit against the city. There has been neither a financial settlement nor confidentiality agreement struck.

Retired Chicago police sergeant Michael Davis saw firsthand how White officers carry their racist attitudes and biases into the field while patrolling Black neighborhoods. Misconduct has always existed amongst bad cops in the force, now it is being caught on video, which makes it more difficult to cover their tracks, he said.

“The thing that is different now is cameras, phone cameras, cameras hanging up in the sky, every place you go, and you have this city saying that they’re going to expand the body camera program but at the same time they don’t want to show it to you. There are some additional shootings in this city that are worse than the shooting of Laquan,” said Mr. Davis.
The consistent police narrative that a suspect turned and pointed a weapon was not his experience and he spent 27 years as a police officer.

“Whenever there’s a police shooting, they give you a story that makes the public think in every case of a policeman shooting someone that a male Black suspect was running down the street holding his pants and he turned around and aimed a gun at a policeman. Never in my career have I chased someone who had a gun and they turned around and aimed at me. You chase someone with a gun, they’re going to run and throw that gun away,” he said.

Mr. McCarthy’s temporary replacement is 1st Deputy Superintendent John Escalante, a 29-year veteran of the force who has held the second-highest post in the department since October 2014. The search has begun for candidates to fill the top position permanently.

Changing the man at the top is good, but does not solve the problem if there are not serious efforts to get to the root of police misconduct and corruption. That is not done simply by setting up another task force, review board, or panel as Mayor Emanuel has done.

“It’s just more of the same,” said Mr. Davis.

What is needed is for elected members of the city council to hold the mayor accountable, and that is not happening, he noted.

“We need a true legislative body in there. We honestly need some young people in the city council who are not beholden to anybody else to sit there and truly be concerned about the citizens in Chicago,” Mr. Davis added.
Problems mount for Emanuel
Hundreds of teachers have been laid off, mostly attributed to closing nearly 50 schools deemed underutilized or underperforming. The move was very unpopular with Blacks since a majority of the closed schools were located in Black neighborhoods on the city’s South and West Sides. According to a University of Chicago study earlier this year, 88 percent of students affected by school closures were Black.

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and former Chicago Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy listens as President Barack Obama speaks to the International Association of Chiefs of Police in Chicago, Oct. 27.
The powerful Chicago Teachers Union opposes the mayor. Karen Lewis, CTU’s president, was considered a formidable opponent for Mr. Emanuel in the last mayoral election. Because of serious health issues, she opted not to run. She and the union backed County Commissioner Jesús “Chuy” Garcia against Mayor Emanuel. In a contentious April 7 runoff election Mr. Emanuel won a second term, receiving 55.7 percent of the vote, which included a large amount of Black support. Much of the support he enjoyed is gone now.

On social media, the hashtag #ResignRahm is becoming popular among political activists and on Dec. 9, 10 and 11 the Chicago Teachers Union will vote on whether or not teachers will strike. A teachers’ strike in the fall of 2012 caused the mayor’s popularity to take a serious hit.
Many also still remember Mayor Emanuel’s transportation detail running through red lights on numerous occasions while being caught on the very same traffic cameras many Chicagoans despise.
He’s not seen as the mayor of the citizens of Chicago, he is widely seen as the mayor of those who are wealthy and those with corporate interests.

“He definitely has to go,” said community activist Afrika Porter. “Rahm Emanuel is responsible as well, he doesn’t get to walk free. The entire cabinet needs to go.”

It didn’t help matters when two months ago, disgraced former CEO of the Chicago Public Schools Barbara Byrd-Bennett pleaded guilty to federal corruption charges. She was accused of illegally steering $23 million worth of contracts to former friends, co-workers and companies in exchange for kickbacks. So far, Mayor Emanuel has kept his hands clean in this case, even though Ms. Byrd-Bennett, his handpicked appointee along with the other Emanuel-appointed six people who make up the Chicago Board of Education voted unanimously to approve questionable contracts.

Ideas for reform?
Ms. Hill said the last time there was a jump in Blacks joining the police force was in the 80s during the administration of the city’s first Black Mayor Harold Washington. Many retired Black officers believe hiring more officers from the areas they patrol could heal some of the wounds.

Following a recent ceremony which drew community activists, political officials, friends and family to Oak Woods Cemetery, the location where Mayor Washington is buried, Alderman Pat Dowell was critical of the length of time it took to show the McDonald shooting video footage. “The people should be outraged,” she said.

“One of the things I am very interested in is seeing some changes in the Fraternal Order of Police union’s contract,” Ald. Dowell told The Final Call.

She believes if an officer is thought to have done something unlawful or is found to have been unethical, he should not continue to receive a paycheck indefinitely. Typically, officers involved in shootings are moved to desk duty and still paid. Others, like in the case of the infamous police commander Jon Burge, continue to receive pensions after being convicted of crimes.

She also believes changes should be made in the way the City of Chicago pays out settlements in cases of police misconduct, which has cost taxpayers millions.

“Once the city pays out a settlement that shouldn’t just be on the backs of the taxpayers, that policeman’s family should also put something into the pot, they should also be responsible for paying something on the settlement,” said Ald. Dowell.

The Justice Dept. has also announced a probe of the Chicago Police Dept.

When activists took to the city’s Magnificent Mile in Black Friday protests, it was part of efforts to demand widespread change. But the starting point many called for was the ouster of Mayor Emanuel who once seemed to be the arrogant and invincible “King Rahm.” Those who have supported him are being called to justify their support. Callers to WVON AM 1690, the city’s Black talk radio station, have blasted the mayor. Leaders and groups have held sit-ins and protests at City Hall.

Muriel Sosa is a professional woman, but with anger in her voice, she shared what motivated her to join Black Friday protests. “I’m sick and tired of them killing our babies! It has to stop!” she said. “Would they shoot a White kid 16 times and let him die in the street like a dog? Hell no! They would never do that! We’re sick and tired of it and it needs to stop! McCarthy, he should go, (state’s attorney) Anita Alvarez and Rahm Emanuel—he should not be mayor again! We’re ready for him to go,” she said.