From The Final Call Newspaper

New Culture Warriors: Messages in music, song, dance and acting to revive a people
By Richard B. Muhammad and Tariqah Shakir-Muhammad -Final Call Staffers- | Last updated: May 30, 2017 - 12:55:50 PM

Bookmark and Share

What's your opinion on this article?

(L-R) Allah’s Apprentice, Akilah Nehandra,Ques. Photos: Haroon Rajaee

CHICAGO—Trap music, drill music, gangsta rap and lyrical expressions laced with odes to drugs, crime, violence and even rape have worried much of Black America as the corporate music complex pushed that product like a narcotic rocking people to a slow death.

But where there is darkness, even entertainment industry induced and encouraged darkness, there is also light. Black America may be on the cusp of a new day and the emergence of a budding and potentially new Black Arts Movement. As Black consciousness rose in the 1960s and 1970s, the cultural expressions and the musical selections fed the thirst for freedom, justice and equality, Black pride and Black power.

Signs in popular music and culture can be seen with the critical success of Chance the Rapper, whose popularity led Ebony magazine to put him on its May cover and ask: “Chance for President?”

The Chicago native declined the push for POTUS: “I would never run for any office or government position.”

“I’m not into it. I think politics is a reason why a lot of stuff doesn’t get done. There’s a lot of favors, and a lot of people are held back by their intentions of being re-elected or the things that they owe their party or constituents. I think when you’re in my position as an artist, I can say what I want and talk about the issues that matter,” he told Ebony.

“Judging by Chance the Rapper’s exponential success, anyone can see that discernment is his best kept secret. Achieve global fame and celebrity success? Check. Win three Grammys as an independent artist with absolutely no help whatsoever from record labels? Double check. Raise $2 million—excuse me, $2.2 million—for Chicago Public Schools after a very disappointing meeting with Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner? Double check. Well … you get the point,” said Ebony.

Chance challenged the Illinois governor to put money for music and art into Chicago Public Schools and the two met. After the meeting, Chance was unimpressed and put his own money up to help fund such programs—and there was no glad handing with the unresponsive Republican billionaire who leads the state.

Then May 23 Chance scored another hit with city public school students already struck by his donations and open mic nights—he offered a chance for youth to help create a concept for the video to accompany the song “LSD” he made with singer Jamila Woods. In a tweet, Chance made the offer and promised the winner would “shadow the directors and production crew on the set for the day.” Others, he said, could win a chance to shadow the film department on set. The deadline for submissions was set for June 2.
Actors in barber shop skit. (R) Crowd enjoys performance at Muhammad University in Chicago. Photos: Haroon Rajaee

Carl Muhammad and dancer. (R) Chicago steppers on stage.

“The U.S. music and entertainment market, which represents a third of the global industry, and is the largest music and entertainment market worldwide, is expected to reach $771 billion by 2019, up from $632 billion in 2015, according to the 2014-2019 Entertainment & Media Outlook by PriceWaterhouseCoopers,” reported

“The U.S. recorded music industry, including concerts and touring, grew to $15.5 billion in 2016, up from $15 billion in 2015. Thanks to streaming and live music, the U.S. recorded music industry is expected to surpass $18 billion by 2020—$16 billion from streaming services and live music alone. While the U.S. is still the largest global music market and it is essential for a company interested in global operations to establish a presence in the vibrant and highly diverse U.S. music market, competition is strong from European and Asian markets,” the website reported.
Deejay Manti (R) Jeronimo Photos: Hassan Muhammad

“The U.S. filmed entertainment industry encompasses movie theaters, TV subscriptions and electronic home video consumption. Box office receipts are projected to grow from $9.9 billion in 2016 to $10.9 billion in 2020. … Home video will reach $20.9 billion, up from $20 billion in 2016 during the same period, and of that, both streaming video and TV video on-demand will jump from $11 billion to over $15 billion by 2020. The United States has a mature subscription TV market and thanks to rising bundle prices and premium service increases, will grow modestly from $101.8 billion to $102.3 billion by 2020,” predicted

Professor Ray Winbush of Morgan State University expressed deep concern for the future of younger audiences who are bombarded with negative content. “We can talk about media in terms of Twitter, World Hip-Hop that shows a lot of our people fighting,” he told The Final Call. “Parents need to be very guarded about it. All media the children view should be guarded.”

 Prof. Winbush pointed out the lower ratings educational, positive movies sometimes receive from the Black masses compared to their negative counterparts. “The Great Debaters” in 2007, featuring Denzel Washington made a disappointing $30 million in box office sales, but it was empowering, said Prof. Winbush. The same actor however, played lead in “Training Day,” a 2001 movie about a corrupt Black cop, and it earned over $100 million in sales, said the director of the Institute for Urban Research at Morgan State University. The movie also earned Mr. Washington an Academy Award for Best Actor.

Media links over into Black relationships with one another as a result of White supremacy and the demand for positive imagery has to meet Black interest and investment, the longtime educator and activist added. Prof.

Winbush is a former member of the National Council for Black Studies. He has written many articles and books about Black history, politics and culture. He has appeared on the Oprah Winfrey Show, CNN, BET and CBS discussing racism and African culture. He is currently on the editorial board of the Journal of Black Studies.

“We came to educate our people through rap, that’s why we loved Public Enemy, KRS-One Big Daddy Kane; all of those were teachers. But the enemy, when he saw that we were independent, teaching, he signed us to record labels. Once you get signed to the record label, now you have an A&R man, somebody to tell you what kind of rap you’re going to make; so, it was no longer educating our people through rap, it is now gangsta rap,” said Nation of Islam Minister Louis Farrakhan during a recent radio interview on the Darryl Cooke Show Live.

“I heard that these White folk got together in California with those who were now engaged in the prison industrial complex—and the prisons, now, are on the stock market, because it’s privately-owned and -operated prisons,” he continued.

“A man doesn’t go into making a hotel unless you expect some guests in your hotel. Well, this man is not over prisons thinking that he’s not going to have heavy guests. So what they did, they transformed intelligent rap to gangsta rap, to now ‘drill’—so it goes all the way down into funk and filth and death and destruction. As we beef with each other, then the beef turns into guns.”

But the Minister did more than discuss the problems—for decades he has engaged and encouraged artists to lend their gifts to the Black struggle. And he gave them a platform in Chicago as a fledgling but potentially important sign and collaborative effort rose May 23 at Muhammad University of Chicago on the grounds of the Nation of Islam’s National Center.
(L-R) September Brooke, Grayco, Limitless Soundz, Phoenix Ali

(L-R) Gat Turner, Kenny Muhammad and Young Khan Da Don, Muhammad2G

Phenom, Tony Mono, Margaret Mahdi greets Min. Farrakhan Photos: Haroon Rajaee

Co-directed by Enoch Muhammad of Hip-Hop Detoxx and Margaret Mahdi of Mahdi Theater Company, the evening production brought together spoken word, rap, dance, singing and acting that featured Muslims and non-Muslims. From now on, Tuesday nights will be a social night showcasing talents and music and art, said Min. Farrakhan who introduced the concept and Enoch Muhammad to the audience in the gym at Muhammad University and a livestream audience. There was even a boxing demonstration during the evening, along with a deejay, live music performers, African drummers, videos and a slide show.

The result was an inspiring and explosive mix of talent and positive messages and energy.

“I thought it was amazing,” said Claire Washington, a college student and journalist. “This was my first time being here at one of the events held at the mosque and it was just amazing to me—it was educational-based, spiritual-based. I think incorporating something that the youth can relate to such as hip hop is a great tool to get everyone to come together.”

Min. Farrakhan expressed his thanks and pleasure at the evening and held a special meeting with the performers and organizers the next day. During the meeting, he talked about the importance of culture and the power of the arts to impact and uplift Black people. Your nature is to obey God and needs to be fed, said the Minister. He thanked Enoch Muhammad, his wife, and all who helped make the night a success. He encouraged the roomful of singers, actors, rappers, poets, musicians, directors, dancers and a boxer-sociology professor to keep their collaboration going and to perfect their crafts and divine gifts. But, Min. Farrakhan added, great gifts must be accompanied by the development of great character, consciousness and humility.

God’s work is the elevation, liberation and the reconciliation of our people, said Min. Farrakhan, noting that all gifts come from God. There must be the proper attitude to overturn a world of evil and wrong and not succumb to it, he added.

“A cultural giant is a warrior on another level,” said Min. Farrakhan. “You can heal a nation with a song, with a movie with a play,” he said. In the early days, Black entertainers dressed up and offered the beauty of their voices or their talents, they didn’t sell sex, the Minister said. But the aim of this world is to sell sex and appeal to the lowest desires of the people, instead of raising them.
Enoch Muhamad and his wife Keisha with Min Farrakhan

“Your master is not shaitan (the devil), he deceived the world. God is pulling you out of the world and making you attractive,” said Min. Farrakhan, in response to a question from a female entertainer. “You don’t have to give up your art, you have to give up the wrong expression of your art,” said Min. Farrakhan.

Hip hop artist Gat Turner from Milwaukee was overwhelmed. “I’m so full from what I have witnessed, it’s like a high,” he said. He was struck by the Minister teaching that Chinese artists bought into the vision of Chinese revolutionary Mao Tse Tung for the rise of their country. As those who have accepted the teachings of the Hon. Elijah Muhamad we have to use our gifts to raise the nation, said Gat, who is also known as Sean Muhammad.

It was important that the collaboration was open to all—even if they were not “technically” members of the Nation of Islam, he said. “Their contributions are valuable,” said the hip host artist.

Young Khan Da Don saw the performances at Muhammad University as the harbinger of a new culture for Black people. The artists as cultural revolutionaries have more power than 100 sermons, as the Minister has said, said the hip hop artist. That places the cultural community at the center for change, he added.

“Art and music combined with the right intentions can be used as a platform to educate and heal instead of degrade and discourage Black people. The pain and suffering that White supremacy is accountable for can be relieved with the right message at the right time,” said Margaret Mahdi, creator of a Chicago-based theater company. “It is a powerful platform that can be used to educate and change lives if you use it properly. There’s a therapy to it as well and as we heal, we are helping others heal.”

Degrading and discouraging images of Black people in the entertainment industry demand that Blacks create their own system, Ms. Mahdi continued. “A film, art and music industry of our own is a responsibility we have to take on because no one else will do it for us,” said the young woman who has produced plays highlighting the music, culture, history and power of the Black community in major venues in Chicago. “It is a responsibility,” she stressed. “It’s mandated—there is no doing it to be seen, doing it for fun. It’s to inspire, transform, uplift and to make a difference.”

Enoch Muhammad saw Tuesday evening as a way to bring change in the community, in organizations and in homes. The diversity of artists and art forms allowed people to express their gifts and art forms. Beat, word, dance, wisdom mathematics allow for creation of a masterpiece, he said.

“We have to be willing to be different, I think that’s the biggest part for people,” said Enoch Muhammad, whose group uses hip hop, music, and art to enlighten and educate youth about the pitfalls of life and negative lifestyles promoted and prominent in mainstream music. “If you don’t fit the format of this world you’re not considered viable because they can’t package and sell you because you (don’t) fit in the sex drugs, murder, violence packaging. And if you don’t fit, they don’t want nothing to do with you.”

But that packaging and product releases poison to listeners and society, he said. “That world is killing you,” observed Enoch Muhammad.

Performers and Staff May 23 at Muhammad University of Islam
Hip hop artists AK-47, Lil’ Prophet, Young Khan Da Don, DA Smart, Phenom; singers Grayco, Akilah Nehanda, Phoenix Ali, Arian Nicole and September Brooke; dancers Carl Muhammad, Donnie Muhammad, Carrey Muhammad and Stick and Move; spoken word Tony Mono, Ques, Gat Turner; actors Earl Muhammad, Arthur Muhammad, Michael Muhammad and Robert Muhammad. Music played by deejay Manti, Vinson Muhammad, Kenny “The Human Orchestra” Muhammad, Muhammad 2G, a platinum producer and Marline Massanoit, spoken word artist.

From The Final Call Newspaper

Big Ballin: Big ideas fuel a father’s Big Baller Brand and brash business sense

By Bryan Crawford -Contributing Writer- | Last updated: May 23, 2017 - 12:45:37 PM

Bookmark and Share

What's your opinion on this article?

LaVar Ball, with his brashness and seemingly unfiltered remarks, has gotten people’s attention inside and outside the sports world.

With his son Lonzo spending one year at UCLA and now preparing for the upcoming NBA Draft, the elder Ball has gotten attention usually reserved for a player like his talented son.

It’s hard to recall a parent who’s taken over the spotlight from their soon-to-be professional athlete progeny in this manner, but that’s part of what makes LaVar Ball such an interesting anomaly.

Another reality is the elder Ball is defying the sports industrial complex by focusing on the business aspects of his son’s life—that included the decision for Lonzo to play at UCLA and the declaration that his son needed to play for the Los Angeles Lakers.

The basketball gods may have blessed the outspoken father whose son appears likely to be the second player chosen in the June 22 National Basketball Association draft and headed to the Los Angeles Lakers. The once-storied franchise has been an also-ran in recent years, missing the success and championships brought by former Hall of Fame players like Kobe Bryant, Shaquille O’Neal, Earvin “Magic” Johnson, Kareem Abdul Jabbar and Jerry West.

A rebirth of pro basketball in the city of bright lights would boost NBA ratings in a major market and if Lonzo resurrects the franchise there is a ton of money to be made through TV deals, endorsements, products and other avenues.

LaVar Ball knows all of that and keeping his son close to home, as the family domicile is in Chino Hills, Calif., may also help Lonzo handle major fortune and fame.

The dad, who has two other highly talented sons, called for a billion dollar sneaker deal to lock up his trio of Big Ballers. He defied the “norm” of aligning athletes with a major sneaker and apparel brand. The family has its “Big Baller Brand” line which includes t-shirts, caps, hoodies and a signature shoe for Lonzo.

In meetings with companies such as Nike, Under Armour and Adidas, LaVar Ball expressed a desire to enter into a $1 billion co-branding deal instead of the typical athlete endorsement deal, even taking his son’s ZO2 signature shoe that he’d created and had manufactured himself, with him to these sit downs—an unprecedented move.

All three companies refused to work with him.

George Raveling, a Black man who is Nike’s Global Basketball Sports Marketing director, called LaVar Ball “the worst thing to happen to basketball in the last hundred years.” He was blasted by some on social media. @Y2Dre tweeted: “When you’re Black, and talk about OWNERSHIP instead of sponsorship white people start getting nervous... .” Others pointed out that NBA problems with point shaving and refs betting on games as worse than the father of basketball prodigies.
In this March 4, file photo, UCLA guard Lonzo Ball, right, shakes hands with his father LaVar following an NCAA college basketball game against Washington State in Los Angeles. UCLA won 77-68. LaVar Ball told Southern California News Group for a story published online on April 6, that UCLA was eliminated in the NCAA tournament because “three White guys”, who were slow couldn’t pick up the slack after his son suffered a hamstring injury. Photo: AP/Wide World photos

LaVar Ball started his own sports agency, Ball Sports Group, which he heads and will only represent his three sons. He also has Big Baller Media, which the family uses as a vehicle to tell their brand story.

What the Ball family has done, particularly with the recent announcement of the $495 ZO2 shoe, is create a disturbance at the point where sports and business intersect.

While former NBA superstar Stephon Marbury started his own independent sneaker and apparel company, what LaVar Ball is doing and the way he’s going about it, is something that has never been done before. It could potentially be a game changer if Big Baller Brand is able to reach the dollar valuation that Mr. Ball envisions and desires.

“They’re not ready for that because they’re not used to that model,” LaVar Ball said. “But hey, the taxi industry wasn’t ready for Uber, either … . Just imagine how rich Tiger [Woods], Kobe [Bryant], Serena [Williams], [Michael] Jordan and LeBron [James] would have been if they dared to do their own thing. No one owned their own brand before they turned pro. We do and I have three sons, so it’s that much more valuable.”

“Professional sports is the last true bastion of White supremacy,” Craig Hodges, a member of the Chicago Bulls first two NBA Championship teams, told The Final Call. “This means being able to own a venue and being able to own a player. I think one of the great things the Balls have done is in somewhat breaking the yoke of White supremacy. Lonzo Ball is showing a young player a way they can go and do their own thing—go direct to China and get your stuff made. And if another player has the potential to do that, then it’s great.

“But this also gives them the potential to stand up and be independent and understand why they have that position, and not because it’s just a phase or a fad that they’re going through. So, if [LaVar Ball] truly does understand what consciousness is and how to work on economic development and the like, then I applaud him.”

“I get it. He’s going to launch his kids brand, but shoes are challenging,” said Daymond John, founder of the urban apparel brand FUBU. “There’s a bunch of different sizes and they’re built like cars. So, if you’re buying a shoe for $500 and you’re having a minimum of 1,000 pairs coming from overseas, these things better be well made. Now, if he doesn’t sell any of them, he doesn’t have to tell anybody. But if he sells out of all of them, that’s a proof of concept to Nike, Adidas and all those people. … It can go either way, but I’m not mad at the initiative that he’s taking.

“He definitely has to do this for six months to a year, take in pre-orders, build the best shoe he can. Put out 100, 200 or 300 [pairs], then after that, he can go to the Nike’s and whoever of the world and say, ‘this is how old my customer is, this is how many units I’ve sold, this how much they’re willing to pay, this how much they’re not willing to pay, these are the colors that work,’ do all the research for them. It’s a good gamble, but he has to be careful to not overextend himself.”

Whether you agree with him or not, dislike him or love him, Papa Ball  certainly has gotten people talking and captured people’s attention.

Most in the world of basketball know Lonzo Ball as a highly-rated high school basketball recruit and McDonald’s All-American. There are certainly those who were familiar with his younger brothers, LiAngelo and LaMelo, who both have full scholarship offers to play college basketball at UCLA. However, their father made “Ball” a household name.

There are those who love to see a proud Black man not only try and start a legacy for his sons and their family, but also the way he fully supports his children.
Big Baller Brand Shoes ZO2 Prime

There are also those waiting for that “got’cha” moment where LaVar Ball says something he can’t come back from.

“I think that he is a marketing genius,” said Paul Pierce, who just retired from the NBA after 19 seasons. “I mean, he has created such a buzz for his son. I don’t even know what type of person Lonzo is. So, his dad is creating his brand with his personality and he is creating so much energy around it.”

“My colleagues and I believe that what he’s doing is fantastic. It’s rare,” Tiffany Boyd-Muhammad, a Los Angeles-based sports and entertainment attorney told The Final Call. “Most folks can’t do this because LaVar Ball, he has actual leverage. He has three sons and they really could be worth $1 billion, with or without the help of a corporation. And this has buckled people to their knees, otherwise, they would just laugh at him. That’s why I think the strategy of pricing the shoes at $495 is real because he has leverage.”

LaVar Ball has also made controversial comments aimed at beloved basketball players such as Michael Jordan, Steph Curry, LeBron James and Kyrie Irving, angered many and caused some to outright shun Mr. Ball. Some say he talks too much and too loud, but his sharpest words have been for those he feels attack his family or his sons.

“I think his business acumen is good, but this personal stuff is kind of sloppy,” Dr. Ray Winbush, director of the Institute for Urban Research at Morgan State University, told The Final Call. “I think he has to temper some of his remarks and be aware that he lives in a glass house himself. I think with some of these remarks that he’s making about people personally is going to cause him to undergo some scrutiny.”

There also seems to be some pushback against LaVar Ball’s representation of a strong, outspoken Black man and father. His wife is Caucasian and the two met and played basketball in college.

“White people don’t like that he’s an assertive Black man,” added Dr. Winbush. “But if LaVar Ball is willing to pay the consequences for what he’s doing, then I’m OK with that. I think Black people should be sacrificial in the advancement of our people. But if he’s going to talk about Black unity in his messaging, don’t go disrespecting other Black people, like LeBron and Kyrie, especially that comment he made about Kyrie’s mother who died when he was four-years-old. If we’re going to be Black Africans with Black unity, then we need to practice that at all levels.”

LaVar Ball also made headlines when he appeared on the Colin Cowherd sports show and told co-host Kristine Leahy “stay in your lane,” during an interview. Ms. Leahy, a White woman, insinuated on a previous show that Lonzo Ball was afraid of his father and had been “forced” to play basketball since he was six-years-old.

Mr. Ball took exception to those comments and made that clear on the show. Ms. Leahy accused him of not respecting women and, later in the interview, of threatening her.

Charlamagne Tha God of the popular Breakfast Club Morning Show compared what Ms. Leahy said to the comments that led to Emmett Till being murdered in Mississippi in 1955.

LaVar Ball has also been accused by a White assistant football coach at Ohio State University of stealing a logo that he had created and using it for the ZO2 sneaker logo. Mr. Ball was accused recently by two Argentinian brothers who started a lifestyle company called “Baller Brand” of stealing their concept by just adding the word “Big” to it. While neither of these incidents has put the Ball family in any legal danger, it could show how threatening LaVar Ball is to an industry that isn’t used to big ripples and waves being made by someone viewed as an outsider.

Still, despite all of the negatives, LaVar Ball is having a major impact on awakening consciousness on the importance of ownership and doing for self. If Lonzo Ball and Big Baller Brand are successful, others will likely try and duplicate and possibly even outdo any success LaVar Ball leads his family into.

“He can get to a point where that now that he’s started his company, he can bring people in under his brand name,” said Mr. Hodges. “Maybe he can build his brand to become like Brand Jordan, but be a standalone and be able to compete with Nike and Adidas. But every young man or woman has to go out and try and start their own brand, but if his succeeds, then I think that’s a very good and inspiring thing.”

Bookmark and Share

From The Final Call Newspaper

Justice For Jordan

By Jihad Hassan Muhammad -Contributing Editor- | Last updated: May 9, 2017 - 1:51:53 PM

Bookmark and Share

What's your opinion on this article?
Killed for no reason? White officer faces murder charge for shooting 15-year-old Black child
Jordan Edwards with his parents and siblings. Photos: Facebook

BALCH SPRINGS, Texas - “Very well-liked by his teachers, coaches and fellow students” is how Jordan Edwards was described by the Mesquite, Texas school district where he attended high school.

Neighbors in Balch Springs, a suburb 15 miles outside of Dallas, remembered the 15-year-old 9th grade scholar and athlete as a beautiful person who cared for people.

A judge signed a murder warrant Friday afternoon May 5 for Roy Oliver, the man who fired the fatal shot that killed Jordan. The former Balch Springs Police officer was arrested and released on $300,000 bail. He was also fired by the police department.

Odell Edwards, Jordan’s father, with his sons, including Jordan (right).
Family, friends and many Balch Springs residents were struck with grief, sadness, and rage over the apparently senseless killing of Jordan by the White officer. Mr. Oliver responded April 29 along with other officers to a report of intoxicated teens at a party.

Jordan’s brothers Vidal and Kevon, both 16, and two friends drove away from the party as Off. Oliver fired three shots into their vehicle.

One bullet fatally struck an unarmed, and non-threatening Jordan in the forehead.

“We must watch this closely, because it is not yet a victory that they charged the officer with murder,” said Hassane A. Muhammad of Black Lawyers For Justice.

“In Texas, the standard to be convicted of murder is that the defendant knowingly and willingly caused the death of another person, with manslaughter all you have to prove is that he recklessly caused the death of another person, you don’t have to prove the intent,” she explained. “What I am watching as well as other attorneys is if they have not brought the right charges—charges that they can prove.”

If not, the officer goes free, the attorney observed.
“There was a case called Tennessee v. Garner where the Supreme Court ruled that if the suspect poses no immediate threat to officers, and no threat to others, the harm resulting in failing to apprehend him does not justify the use of deadly force to do so,” Atty. Muhammad continued. “Saying the vehicle was coming at him aggressively was going to be their cover and their out, until the camera proved otherwise, because there is no justification to use deadly force if someone is driving away. That is why they had to charge Roy Oliver.”

According to Atty. Pamela Muhammad, “Bail is given in most instances and is usually the norm if you don’t have prior criminal history. This case is such a straight up example of murder, in a righteous society he would be convicted. The fate of this also depends on the jury, will it be predominately White? We have to look at it.”

“I think it is a good thing, there has to be something done with them killing our youth. Most time they are always found not guilty, let’s hope for the family that this goes in the right direction,” said Queen Mother Akwete Tyehimba, a longtime activist and owner of Pan-African Connection bookstore.
Jordan family photo. Photos: Facebook

Jordan’s brother, father mistreated by police?
“Not only have Jordan’s brothers lost their best friend; they witnessed firsthand his violent, senseless, murder. Their young lives will be forever altered,” the Edwards family said in a statement.

Atty. Lee Merritt, who represents the family, said that no one in the car displayed aggression or threatened police. They were simply leaving the party as many of the youth were dispersing at the time. “To insinuate that there was some sort of bad acts on their part that caused an officer to shoot multiple rounds into a vehicle occupied by teenagers, there is no justification. We are declaring war on bad policing,” said Atty. Merritt.

Officers from the Balch Springs Police Department detained the other teens as Jordan’s body lay dead in the seat next to them, with a hole in his head. They offered no emergency medical services to help revive or care for Jordan, said the family attorney.
Ex officer Roy Oliver faces murder charges for shooting Jordan Edwards.

“After seeing his brother get shot, Jordan’s older brother was handcuffed and taken by police for no particular reason,” said Atty. Merritt. His brother was not charged with any crime, the teens were never suspects of any kind, he added.

They had no drugs or weapons.

According to The Dallas Morning News, Vidal Jordan was called a “n----r” by the police as he was shaken, and scared with the shooting of his little brother. He could not easily follow their instructions. An officer reportedly said “this n----r can’t tell his left from his right.”

The aggressive police behavior did not stop with teens, said the attorney. Balch Springs police officers attempted to detain Jordan’s father when he came to the station asking about his sons.

“Balch Springs PD called the Dallas County Sheriff’s office and asked if they could restrain Jordan’s father because of his ‘hostile’ behavior,” said Atty. Merritt.

The city of Balch Springs is approximately 24 percent Black, with a long history of racist behavior by its police department.

The city’s mayor is a Black woman and she has said little about the death of Jordan Edwards. At Final Call press time, she had not responded to requests for comment.

A police department with a troubled racial past?
Atty. Merritt told The Final Call that one of the city’s first Black police officers resigned because of a culture of racism inside the department. “From what I understand they would use racial slurs when referring to him. He would be told things like his reports was done in ebonics, along with the slurs,” the lawyer said. According to the attorney, the Black officer left Balch Springs and flourished with a position inside the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Balch Springs police could not be reached for comment about past racial incidents.

Regarding the death of Jordan Edwards, the police department said it will seek justice. Balch Springs Police Chief Jonathan Haber quickly turned the investigation over to the Dallas County Sheriff’s Department. The Dallas County District Attorney’s Office said its civil rights team is looking at the case. An “impartial and independent investigation” has been promised.

Chief Haber initially stated that the vehicle the teens drove was aggressively driving backward toward officers. Chief Haber corrected his statement May 1, saying he misspoke. On video from the scene, the teen driver backed up driving away from police when Off. Oliver shot Jordan in the head on the passenger side, said police.

Off. Oliver’s statement was false, saying the teens were driving toward him aggressively as he began to shoot.

Chief Haber justified the Oliver firing by saying the officer’s actions “did not meet the core values of the Balch Springs police department.”

The Dallas County Medical Examiner has classified Jordan’s death a homicide by rifle wound to the head.
Odell Edwards with his son Jordan.

NBC News reported via a FOIA document that in 2013 an internal disciplinary report was filed saying Off. Oliver “failed to comply” with the Balch Springs Code of Ethics. Off. Oliver reportedly had an interaction with several district attorneys in court and yelled profane language while on the witness stand. He was suspended.

Ed Morris, former Balch Springs police chief, reportedly said Off. Oliver “was a scary person to have in our workroom.”
Files also show Off. Oliver gained a low score on “the extent to which this employee is able to communicate with the public as well as other employees both verbally and in writing.”

The next year, 2014, Off. Oliver was recommended to “familiarize” himself with “policies and procedures” as to help him “result in less paperwork over policy violations.”
Some in the community think policing of Black neighborhoods must change and Black men must police their community—as opposed to aggressive, vitriolic and racist White officers. Too many Black men, women, and children throughout America have died at the hands of police, they said.

“We have to train our brothers and be present in our communities as the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan has united us for with the 10,000 Fearless,” said Al Shaheed Muhammad, the Dallas representative of Min. Farrakhan and the Nation of Islam. He oversees Muhammad Mosque No. 48 in South Dallas.

“We plan to be active, engaging our youth, and having places for them to go throughout the summer where they can have fun and socialize, but it will be secured by us so we don’t have to worry about these police coming and killing our babies,” said the Muslim student minister.

The community of Balch Springs and the greater Dallas area were struck by the shooting but no immediate protests happened as the family asked that no protests, or community action happen until after Jordan’s funeral on May 6.

America’s policing crisis
“We must raise our voices against the national disgrace of police homicide, and brutality. Jordan Edwards’ killing shakes the foundation of America from here to D.C., will we respond or will his hashtag be swallowed up by the next police killing?” asked John Fullinwider of Mothers Against Police Brutality, a national organization founded by Collette Flanagan, whose son Clinton Allen was killed by a Dallas police officer in 2013. Many other organizations, clergy, and activists were following developments in Jordan’s death.

Jordan is the youngest person killed by a police officer this year.

Anger grew because of his age and the apparent senselessness of the police shooting. He was unarmed and there was no confrontation.

“We will fight, fight, and fight and get nothing in the end. Truth is, I really don’t even know what justice looks like, as we spoke to the family this evening, justice suggests fairness, and restoration,” said Shaun King, nationally known activist and writer. Mr. King spent time with the Edwards family and shared words during a gathering at a Dallas church.

Mr. King likened Jordan’s killing to the murder of Emmett Till, saying as the 1955 lynching of the 14-year-old helped to spark the civil rights movement, Jordan’s killing could spark a great movement against police killings in America.

“He like Till, a wonderful, beautiful, special, young man was killed in the most heinous way,” said Mr. King.

Atty. Merritt says the family wants the conviction of Roy Oliver for killing of their son and other officers punished for their complicity with wrongs committed that fateful Saturday night.

As the community of Balch Springs hopes for justice, signs of injustice persist. Just days after Jordan’s killing, the Justice Dept. decided not to file charges against White police officers for killing a Black man, Alton Sterling, in Louisiana last year. (See related story on page 4.)

And, President Trump’s new attorney general, Jeff Sessions, has spoken strongly in support of officers and said little about holding officers accountable. The Justice Dept., however, obtain a guilty plea from Off. Michael Slager, who was accused of killing unarmed Black motorist Walter Scott last year. Mr. Slager pleaded guilty to a federal civil rights violation. There are questions about how likely the ex-cop is to receive the maximum life sentence. A judge could decide to give him five to 20 years in prison.

None of that, however, changes things for Jordan. “Officer Oliver is out on bail at his home with his family, but Jordan Edwards will never be at home again with his family,” said Yafeuh Balogun, co-founder of the Huey P. Newton Gun Club in Dallas.

Bookmark and Share

From The Final Call Newspaper

Horrific death in jail and calls for justice

By Richard B. Muhammad and Brian E. Muhammad -Final Call Staffers- | Last updated: May 2, 2017 - 1:44:21 PM

Bookmark and Share

What's your opinion on this article?
Demonstrators assemble on the steps of Milwaukee County Jail in a May Day protest against Sheriff David Clarke (inset). Photo: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel/Michael Sears

(L) Terrill Thomas (R) Robert Stelter, a Milwaukee County district attorney’s office investigator, testifies that jail staff didn’t download video quickly enough in the case of Terrill Thomas. That resulted in some video of him being overwritten. Photo: Mark Hoffman /Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

There are significant questions for the Milwaukee County Jail and its Sherriff’s Department about the death of Terrill Thomas, 38, an inmate found in his cell a year ago. The cause of death was “profound dehydration” after being deprived of water for seven straight days, the medical examiner said. Family and an outraged public agree that someone should be held legally accountable for the death of Mr. Thomas.

An inquest convened by the city’s prosecutor believes someone should be punished too. The jurors came back May 1 with a recommendation that some county jail workers face charges.

The jury has recommended criminal charges against seven Milwaukee County jail staffers. The jury’s recommendation followed a six-day inquest that included testimony from jail staff and evidence from county prosecutors. The jury found probable cause to believe the staffers committed the crime of abuse of a resident of a penal facility in the death of Mr. Thomas.

They recommended charges against two jail supervisors and five correctional officers.
It’s up to prosecutors whether to file charges.

The inquest highlighted errors surrounding Mr. Thomas’ death, including the failure to log that his water had been turned off.

Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke oversees the jail, but the inquest did not target him.
A guard intentionally turned off the water in an isolation cell because Mr. Thomas had flooded a previous cell, according to officials. A jail supervisor insists she only ordered that water to the toilet in the cell be turned off to prevent any flooding.

The jurors recommended charges against two jail supervisors, Nancy Evans and Kashka Meadors, and five officers: James Ramsey-Guy, JorDon Johnson, Thomas Laine, Dominique Smith and John Weber.

Milwaukee County District Attorney John Chisholm said he had no timeline to decide, and that he could charge more people—or fewer.

The jury returned its recommendation just a few hours after morning testimony that the sheriff’s office continued using water deprivation as a form of punishment even after Mr. Thomas’ death. Prosecutors presented jurors with jail logs documenting two cases in which disobeying inmates had water to their cells turned off—both within a month of Mr. Thomas dying. One of the cases happened a week after Mr. Thomas’ death and in both subsequent instances it wasn’t clear when it was turned back on.

“This isn’t the first time this happened. This is a pattern,” Assistant District Attorney Kurt Bentley said.

Mr. Chisholm said he thought jurors were swayed by evidence that showed jail policies weren’t followed and that Mr. Thomas had been left in poor conditions.

“I think it’s just the clear lack of oversight over this entire process that really troubled them more than anything else,” he said.

Mr. Chisholm said he conducted an inquest because what happened was a “major system failure” and he wanted the public to have some input in his decision.
This is a frame grab of video that was entered into evidence of Terrill Thomas drinking water in a Milwaukee Police Department holding cell, just after being arrested for a gun incident at the Milwaukee Potawatomi Casino. The black box obscures the toilet area on the video. Photo: Michael Sears / Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Mr. Thomas was arrested April 14, 2016, for allegedly shooting a man in front of his parents’ house and later firing a gun inside a casino. His family, which is suing the county over his death, has said he was having a mental breakdown at the time he was arrested.

The evidence and testimony prosecutors presented showed several missteps from guards and their supervisors, including the failure to log that Mr. Thomas’ water had been turned off. That action was taken because Mr. Thomas had stuffed a mattress in a toilet to flood the cell he was previously in.

Ms. Meadors is accused of giving the order to shut off water, and Mr. Ramsey-Guy of carrying it out. Prosecutors suggested supervisor Evans had not cooperated fully with law enforcement investigating Mr. Thomas’ death. The other officers had the most contact with Mr. Thomas, Mr. Chisholm said.
Kimberly Perry, the mother of one of Mr. Thomas’ three children, said it was at times difficult to be in court watching the proceedings.

“It was very hard and challenging because how could you do this to an individual? I mean, he wasn’t perfect, but he still was an individual who had rights,” said Ms. Perry, 39.

During closing arguments, Mr. Chisholm told jurors Mr. Thomas’ family had one question they wanted to ask the jail staffers who interacted with Mr. Thomas.

“Had Mr. Thomas been your son, had he been your brother, had he been a close friend, would this have happened?” prosecutor Chisholm said. “I think we all know the answer to that.”

Mr. Thomas suffered a mental disorder and there are questions about whether he received proper services.

The inquest began April 24—precisely one year to the date of Mr. Thomas’ death.

The alleged actions inside the detention center have been called “horrific” and “barbaric.”  Nothing less than justice from the city and sheriff’s department that oversees the facility will do, say activists.
“That’s an agonizing way to die,” said William Muhammad, local representative of the Nation of Islam in Milwaukee.

Milwaukee County Sheriff's Department Lt. Kashka Meadors in court testifying in the inquest into the death of Terrill Thomas. Photo: Michael Sears / Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
“An inquest is one thing but for the justice system to punish these people is a whole other thing,” he added. The prosecutor doesn’t have a history of charging those who violate the rights of Blacks, said Mr. Muhammad. His attitude was wait and see on the charges—as minimal as they are.

A September 2016, official investigation report provided to The Final Call by the Milwaukee Medical Examiner stated Mr. Thomas was found unresponsive during a routine cell check.

“He was laying naked on the floor of his cell, but that was said to be normal behavior,” the report read, it quoted jail personnel.

Gregory Loreck, the Medical Examiner’s investigator, documented that Mr. Thomas was in solitary confinement where he was locked up for 23 hours per day.

His cell was “almost completely empty” with “no blankets or mattresses due to his destructive behavior,”  said the report which was mainly based on the accounts of jail guards.

According to Mr. Loreck, there was no trauma to the body except a small amount of dried blood around his groin and running down the side of his right leg.

Mr. Thomas was overheard desperately pleading with correctional officers for water, inmates told the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel in interviews.

The medical examiner classified Mr. Thomas’ death a as homicide which added weight to questions surrounding other suspicious deaths in the county jail.

The classification drew an angry reaction from Sheriff Clarke, a controversial and conservative leader. In late October, the sheriff reportedly threatened to take Brian Peterson, Milwaukee County chief medical examiner, before the state Medical Examining Board to have him sanctioned or his license revoked for making public the determination of homicide concerning Mr. Thomas.                      

Sheriff David Clarke

As of late the otherwise outspoken Mr. Clarke has been uncharacteristically quiet on the case and the jail which fall under his jurisdiction.

Mr. Thomas’ family filed a civil rights law suit in early April against Sheriff Clarke, other individuals, Milwaukee County, Milwaukee County Behavioral Health Division, CT Corporation System and Armor Correctional Health Services.

“Terrill Thomas’s serious medical and psychological needs were deliberately ignored and neglected while in custody,” the lawsuit charges. The Milwaukee County Sheriff office, Milwaukee County, and Armor Correctional Health Services were responsible for providing adequate medical and psychological care.

The lawsuit alleges Mr. Thomas lost his life due to the “negligence and deliberate indifference” of the parties named. It held Sheriff Clarke “ultimately responsible for the health, safety, security, welfare and humane treatment of all inmates at the Justice Facility, including Terrill Thomas.”

Mr. Thomas was one of three inmates who died at the Milwaukee County Jail last year. An inmate’s baby also died at the jail. The sheriff’s office is also being sued for that death, said media reports. Activists say Milwaukee has no history of doing justice in connection with deaths at the jail.

“Really, there isn’t much accountability,” said Alan Schutz, an inmate advocate with the Milwaukee-based group EXPO-Ex-Prisoners Organizing.

Mr. Schutz gave past examples where people lost their lives allegedly from neglect at the hands of authorities.  One example was the July 2011 death of Derrick Williams, 22, at the County jail, in the back of a police car.

Mr. Williams’ death was captured on a dash-cam, as he struggled to breathe for nearly 15 minutes without help. His death sparked community outrage when the video footage was released.

The Medical Examiner’s report originally indicated Mr. Williams died from complications of a sickle cell anemia trait. That was later amended to homicide—death at the hands of another.

Trying to get to the truth of the deaths in incarceration and accountability is very difficult, said activists. It has been particularly difficult at the county jail, they added.

“They hide behind HIPPA laws to say they have to remain silent,” Mr. Schultz.  HIPPA is the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act passed by Congress in 1996 which includes protection and confidential handling of protected health information.

There are doubts raised about whether Mr. Thomas should have been housed in the county jail in the first place, considering his alleged psychological state. Mr. Thomas had a history of mental health issues and was waiting to be seen by professionals at the time of his death, according to prosecutors.
His family told authorities that he was admitted to the Milwaukee Mental Health Complex in 1999, 2011 and 2015 for treatment of the problem.

“Consider that 40 percent of folks incarcerated have some form of mental illness,” said Fred Royal, president of the Milwaukee NAACP.

“Treating mental illness in correctional institutions is not the way to address these issues; it’s not making these individuals healthy productive citizens,” he told The Final Call.

Mr. Royal condemned a flawed system that locks people up who need drug and alcohol treatment versus incarceration. There is a dire need for systemic change, he said. 

“We’re trying to reform a system that is punitive and not rehabilitative,” Mr. Royal remarked.  “There is a better way to invest in human capital than just warehousing them.”

Mr. Thomas was in the wrong setting for his needs and  an evaluation should have determined “he needed medical attention, not being locked up in a cage without water,” Mr. Royal added.

Student Minister Muhammad said in Wisconsin there were several recent inmate deaths with Mr. Thomas’ passing being the “latest blatant example.”

According to the Justice Department’s Bureau of Justice Statistics, the number of inmates who died while in custody of local jails or state prisons has increased. The last available numbers publicly issued was in 2014 and showed 4,446 inmates died in 2013, which was an increase of 131 deaths from 2012.

Activists question what role “increasingly volatile” rhetoric from Sheriff Clarke may have played in the tragic fates of inmates in his jails.

Mr. Clarke enjoys national notoriety and is frequently featured in the media. He is described as a Black conservative, a reactionary and edgy individual. Mr. Clarke has come under public fire over the death of Mr. Thomas. The Final Call was told by multiple sources that Sherriff Clarke has been largely absent on this death. They blame his detachment on national political ambitions with the Trump administration.

Critics say Mr. Clarke is a Trump surrogate, who locally campaigns as a Democrat, but espouses ultra-conservative views. He came to national attention as a featured speaker at the Republican National Convention’s “Make America Safe Again” night.

The outspoken sheriff is on record dismissing critics as agents of “misery-inducing, divisive, exploitative and racist manipulation of the urban populations.” He has accused detractors of engaging in a “political jihad” against him for supporting President Trump.

The Final Call reached out to Fran McLaughlin, spokesperson for Mr. Clarke, but the email request went unanswered.

Sheriff Clarke is likely to scapegoat and blame the staff and wash his hands of any responsibility, “instead of openly coming out saying something is terribly wrong and doing something to fix what is wrong,” predicted Mr. Schultz.

Advocates say deaths behind bars whether under suspicious circumstances, medical causes or accidents always need closer scrutiny.

How inmates are treated and the conditions they are subjected to within the walls of institutions should be investigated, advocates said.

Many believe the fate of Mr. Thomas is connected to the overall vulnerable circumstances of nearly 2 million people languishing in prisons and jails throughout America.

“These are the unheard ‘cruel and unusual’ punishments people incarcerated endure, oftentimes the public feels we deserve that treatment or they even say we are exaggerating,” said Mr. Schultz.
(The Associated Press contributed to this report.)