Nina Simone, other singers of justice

It takes the wisdom of the elders and young people’s energy

The official site for Nina Simone (1933-2003) refers to her as The High Priestess of Soul. As a 2014 New Yorker article noted, she “turned the movement into music.”
To Be Young, Gifted, and Black
I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel To Be Free
Mississippi Goddam

The “Godfather of Soul,” released the iconic song… in August 1968, just four months after the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. “Randall Kennedy, a Harvard law professor, said he remembers when he first heard the song. The funk- and soul-inspired hit was like nothing he had heard before — especially at a time in which Kennedy said overt ‘colorism,’ or the preference for lighter skin color, was prevalent in the black community.

“Kennedy writes for The New York Times that “it was precisely because of widespread colorism that James Brown’s anthem posed a challenge, felt so exhilarating, and resonated so powerfully.” Some stations would not play this song. The apocryphal punch line is that JB bought some radio stations in response.
Say It Loud, I’m Black and I’m ProudJames Brown (1933-2006)

“The Impressions formed from the union of two friends, Jerry Butler and Curtis Mayfield of Chicago, Illinois. The two had sung together in church as adolescents, and had traveled with the Northern Jubilee Gospel Singers and the Traveling Souls Spiritual Church.” Curtis Mayfield (1942-1999) got into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame twice, once with the group, once as a solo artist.
Keep On Pushing – the Impressions.

From the legendary What’s Goin’ On album that Berry Gordy was reluctant to put out. I’ve said the subtitle a LOT.
Inner City Blues (Make Me Wanna Holler)Marvin Gaye (1939-1984).

Saw the face of Jim Crow under a bald eagle

“PE redefined not just what a rap group could accomplish, but also the very role pop musicians could play in contemporary culture. Lyrically, sonically, politically, onstage, on the news – never before had musicians been considered ‘radical’ across so many different platforms.”
Fight the PowerPublic Enemy.

From the movie Selma. It won the 2014 Oscar for Best Song.
One day when the glory comes
It will be ours, it will be ours
Oh one day when the war is won
We will be sure, we will be sure
Glory – Common, John Legend (Alternative version here).

The Godmother Of Rock ‘N’ Roll has, “in recent years, been rightfully celebrated as a woman who broke every norm.”
This TrainSister Rosetta Tharp (1915-1973).

The Queen of Gospel is revered as one of the greatest musical figures in U.S. history.
We Shall OvercomeMahalia Jackson (1911–1972).

All of the artists here, save for Common and John Legend, are in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Time for police reform continues to be right now

Create a policy for a transparent investigation process due to law enforcement misconduct.

police reformIn the area of police reform, the Minneapolis Police Department is particularly problematic, I’ve discovered. One might not be surprised to find a story in the Boston Globe, from 4 June with the headline. Don’t let labor agreements thwart police accountability. “Union agreements too often prevent police departments from firing officers who act violently or inappropriately. Lawmakers of both parties need to take police discipline out of labor negotiations so that accountability can no longer be used as a bargaining chip.”

Yeah, do you know who else wrote that? The Federalist! And with some chilling details: “In the particular case of George Floyd…: at least two cops should have lost their jobs long before the event even occurred. Derek Chauvin, the officer who knelt on [George] Floyd’s neck for more than eight minutes, had previously received 20 complaints filed against him, resulting in two letters of reprimand. His partner, Tou Thao, was sued in 2017 for stopping a man without cause and beating him in the street. In both cases, their contracts protected them.”

Here’s another dreadful piece of the puzzle: “Lt. Bob Kroll, head of Minneapolis’s police union, said that he and a majority of the Minneapolis Police Officers’ Federation’s board have been involved in police shootings. Kroll said that he and the officers on the union’s board were not bothered by the shootings, comparing themselves favorably to other officers. ‘There’s been a big influx of PTSD,’ Kroll said. ‘But I’ve been involved in three shootings myself, and not one of them has bothered me. Maybe I’m different.” Maybe.

So it’s a bit scary when a white man calls cops on black men at Minneapolis WeWork gym, which fortunately did not turn into a dangerous confrontation.

Still, Minneapolis public schools voted to sever their contract with the police. “We want justice for George Floyd, and we know that justice isn’t enough. And now is the time to defund the police and invest in the community.”

Likewise, according to the LA Times: “As protests over police brutality and the death of George Floyd [continued], Los Angeles officials said [June 3] that they will cut $100 million to $150 million from the city’s police budget as part of a broader effort to reinvest more dollars into the local black community.” Here’s what the defund the police movement means.

It’ll be interesting to see if the misunderstood and frankly misleadingly labeled defund movement takes hold, and if so what it will mean.

Perhaps, it’ll be like what Bernie Sanders is pushing for: “civilian corps of unarmed first responders to supplement law enforcement, such as social workers, EMTs, and trained mental health professionals.”

Watch/read this now

If you’re still grappling with what this policing issue is all about, I most highly recommend Last Week Tonight with John Oliver. At the very end is a very eloquent, very angry young black woman talking about Protesters, Looters, Rioters, and the social contract between black people and the police.

The Weekly Sift guy explains How Should American Policing Change?

Surprisingly, in AIER, Donald J. Boudreaux suggests we protest also against police unions and qualified immunity.

New York State

“What we’ve been seeing play out across cities and townships throughout the country [recently] are Americans taking to the streets speaking out to say they’ve had enough of the status quo. Protesters are demanding meaningful systematic and structural changes to address the egregious racial inequities in our justice system and, really, in every facet of our government and society – including in policing, housing, health care, education, and employment, to name a few.”

There’s a list of potential police reform initiatives in the above graphic for New York State. Item #1 is the repeal of New York State’s police secrecy law, Section 50-a, which “hides police misconduct and abuse records from the public.” Retired Albany Police Chief Brendan Cox: “Repealing New York’s 50-a law is a critical step to protect the public safety of all New Yorkers.” It was just passed!

Nationally

On the federal level, there is a bill called the Excessive Force Prevention Act. It was originally introduced in the House by Congressman Hakeem Jeffries which would make police chokeholds illegal under federal civil rights law. [The next bit I purloined from an email.]

National Bail Out is a Black-led and Black-focused organization that works to end the horrific policy of pretrial detention and cash bail that keeps so many people of color in jails and prisons without a conviction, simply for being unable to pay. Since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, National Bail Out has been working to bail out Black mothers and caregivers—and now to bail out protesters who have been arrested en masse.

Senator Brian Schatz (D–HI) has announced that he will introduce an amendment that will prevent local police forces from getting tear gas, drones, armored vehicles, and high-caliber weapons of war from the military. This important amendment — in addition to initiatives to defund police departments and hold police officers accountable for committing crimes against the public — will help combat systemic police brutality in the U.S.

Contact Congress TODAY to stop police departments from buying weapons of war.

Arming police forces with military weapons doesn’t reduce crime or protect law enforcement officers from violence. In fact, police forces that are equipped with weapons of war are more likely to kill civilians. Even worse, militarized police forces often target Black and minority-majority communities, where getting killed by the police is among the leading causes of death.

Local law enforcement agencies have bought billions of dollars worth of guns, explosives, helicopters, and more from the military. Senator Schatz wants to end this practice by passing an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act. This important amendment will prevent the transfer of military equipment to local law enforcement agencies, but only if more members of Congress support it.

Have we had an American Stonewall? “If a politician wants to exercise real leadership, let them proclaim a day of healing where they lead a march of police and protesters together in support of a new era in police relations.” OR you can go the other way, with heavily armed men who refuse to identify themselves patrolling the streets of Washington, DC, sent by the Bureau of Prisons.

The other three

After Nearly 10,000 Arrested During Week of Protest, Three Other Police Officers Finally Charged Over Murder of George Floyd. “All you had to do was arrest three more.” “All four police officers involved in George Floyd’s death are now facing criminal charges. Until now the only one charged was Derek Chauvin, the officer who pinned Floyd down with his knee on his neck. Minnesota’s AG announced he’s facing second-degree murder charges, updated from third-degree charges (which carry a shorter sentence). The three other officers – Thomas Lane, Tou Thao, and J Alexander Kueng – were charged with aiding and abetting murder. But recent news could escalate tensions.”

People have asked me, “What can I do?” Find whatever initiatives on policing that have been undoubtedly been kicking around your locality or state for years and let your representatives know you support police reform.

Justice, compassion and the common good

“Poverty is a matter of cash, not character.”

There’s a delineation in my mind about how one should do Christianity – and I think the faith is action, not just being – versus how certain elements of the faith have manifest themselves.

The theological divide is clear in these two titles: Advancing faith as a powerful force for justice, compassion and the common good versus Has Evangelical Christianity Become Sociopathic?

It causes one to wonder Is Your God Dead? “Building walls, banning refugees and ignoring the poor are the social expressions of bankrupt theologies…” ‘Any god who is mine but not yours, any god concerned with me but not with you, is an idol,’ Heschel writes.”

On a secular basis, I believe those same values of “justice, compassion and the common good” should be pursued by the state. I’ve become really fascinated that Finnish citizens were given universal basic income, without any reporting on how it would be spent. Not surprisingly, the recipients reported lower stress levels. Perhaps not intuitively, it provided them greater incentive to work.

In this TEDx talk, historian Rutger Bregman long believed, as many people do, that poverty was the result of a lack of character. But now he’s come to believe “Poverty is a matter of cash, not character.” In fact, he recommends that those folks doling out checks to the poor could be eliminated, with the money going to those in need.

To that end, I oppose drug testing or screening for public assistance applicants or recipients. “Such laws demonize the poor, violate constitutional rights, and are a waste of government money.” Fiscal conservatives should be drawn to that third point, the clear cost-ineffectiveness of these actions.

However, “maybe there is a difference between ‘handouts’ and subsidies designed to induce specific behavior. OK, I’ll bite, but that means that all of Wall Street — and shareholders too — should have been subjected to drug testing after receiving bailouts in 2008 and 2009.”

Ununited States

These first person shooter games might have some effect on the cognitive understanding of life for some people,

purplemapJaquandor asks:

How do we solve the police brutality problem? To what extent is it a part of a larger problem with our society, indicating a deep and abiding devotion to punitive violence? I see police brutality as another facet of the problem that leads to our awful prisons and our enormous prison population.

First, I need to note the killing of two New York City police officers on December 20. It was correctly described as an assassination, and I mourn their deaths.

At the same time, I believe the remarks of Rudy Guiliani, blaming their deaths on President Obama as amazingly irresponsible, as well as untrue. The problem of excessive force by the police exists in a small, but significant number of cases. And it’s not “anti-police” when New York City mayor Bill de Blasio, who is white but married to a black woman, instructs his children, and especially his son with the great ‘fro, in specific ways to cautiously and politely deal with the police.

Others, including former New York City Police Commissioner Bernard Kerik, who had some legal problems of his own a while back, suggested that the shootings were ultimately encouraged by de Blasio and the Rev. Al Sharpton, and that “they have blood on their hands.” He told Newsmax: “The people who encouraged these protests — you had peaceful protesters who were screaming ‘kill the cops’ — the so-called peaceful protesters. Who was encouraging these protesters? De Blasio, Sharpton and other elected officials and community leaders. They encouraged this mentality. They encouraged this behavior.”

Anyone who has ever been to a protest – I have attended more than a few in my time – knows that there are occasionally outliers at these events, people whose positions don’t jibe with the organizers’ intents. So would it be better that such Constitutionally-protected demonstrations be quashed?

That, BTW, was what the Tea Party folks said when a couple people killed two Las Vegas police officers in June 2014, that those cop killers, who had rallied with Cliven Bundy, along with people who POINTED GUNS at law enforcement officials, did not represent the movement.

Jon Stewart got it right when he said one can grieve the loss AND worry about the police overreach; they are NOT mutually exclusive.

To the question: I should note that not all the excessive violence is directed toward young black males. For instance, TX SWAT team beats, deafens nude man in his own home, lies about arrest; judge declines to punish cops or DA. There seems to be a need by some police to quash all possibly illicit behavior. If Eric Garner WERE selling individual cigarettes in Staten Island, it certainly wasn’t a felony.

I’m not sure of the cause of ALL the violence. I once posited on someone’s website the theory that these first person shooter games might have some effect on the cognitive understanding of life for some people, but was told by gaming experts that there’s “no relationship.” Maybe, maybe not. I’ve wondered about this at least since Vietnam, when one could drop the precision bombs without having any discernible understanding. And now war can really tidy, with people in the middle of the US dropping bombs on people half a world away; looks very much like a video game to me.

I AM convinced that the tremendous rise in the prison population, mostly for non-violent drug use, which I wrote about extensively, is a major contributor. Prison is, I’ve been told, a great school for becoming a better criminal.

Surely the militarism of the police, with all that post-9/11 money doled about by the federal government has led to a war zone mentality. But even in Afghanistan and Iraq, the military had a plan of engaging with the communities, whereas in the urban centers of the US, some of the residents feel like the police are an occupying force.

Maybe all the things that keep us disconnected from our surroundings – surburbia, synthetic food, our personal electronic devices, the bile that comes from commenting anonymously on social media – matter. SOMETHING is fueling a general rage – road rage, online rage.

Bottom line, though: the anger in the community is not just that there are excessive uses of force. The problem is that there appears to be lack of accountability for the actions. I’ve heard the body cameras for police will be a solution. But there WAS footage of Eric Garner dying. Police video would have not likely change the “no indictment” outcome. Did you see that the Ferguson prosecutor allowed witnesses that were “clearly not telling the truth” to the grand jury?

It may be that guns make police less safe, their jobs more difficult and communities less trusting. Or maybe it’s just the human condition.

This is a long way of saying, “Makes me wanna holler, throw up both my hands.”

Uthaclena wonders:

Okay, here’s one of my ponders: can the United States survive as a united entity? SHOULD it be a united entity, or would it be better off broken up so that the racist, theocratic barbarians can abuse themselves and leave the rest of us alone?

There are lots of precedents in the 20th century suggesting that this is a terrible idea. The creation of the state of Israel did not lead to peace in the Middle East. I learned from watching the Sanjay Gupta episode of the PBS series Finding Your Roots Continue reading “Ununited States”

“No comment”

As I walked past these people, a guy in a car came from who knows where and drove up into the driveway, nearly hitting me.

CourtroomHere’s something I’ve thought about a lot, and for quite a long time, but an incident a while ago reminded me that I need to put it out there. If I am ever in a situation that would involve the criminal justice system – whether as victim and/or witness or defendant – I will not comment on what I might testify about until the trial is over. I won’t talk about it, and I certainly won’t blog about it. Continue reading ““No comment””