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The Trailblazer Awards 2019 was hosted Sunday, October 6 in Kansas City, MO at the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum. Keeping with the theme of Everything Underground's mission, the awards show paid homage to the pioneers of the city at the only museum dedicated to preserving and celebrating the rich history of African-American baseball.
Those honored were from various backgrounds of black excellence in music, education, politics, technology, media business, entrepreneurship, community service , fashion and agriculture.
EU Co-Founder Founder, Lashell Daniels could only describe the night's event as, "Historic."
The choice of the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum was purposeful. EU's use of black owned venues generate energy with the culture according to Daniels. She notes that there are a lot of black historical sites throughout the U.S. that people aren't aware of, so to be given the space to honor some Mo and beyond Trailblazers inside the Historic museum fills her with gratitude.
"I'm grateful to Kansas City for opening their doors to us. The city and its people are true trailblazers. It's a great opportunity to advance our calling, and we're grateful to them for embracing this opportunity."
They partnered with the Missouri Black Chamber of Commerce in collaboration of the event. The chamber also served as one of the many sponsors.
EU received an extended thank you letter from the Office of Gov. Michael L. Parson for bringing the awards show to Kansas City, MO. The many sponsors for the event include, Toyota, World Changers, Redemption Outreach Services Inc., Hype Magazine, Cherish the Cakes, Heart and 2 Encourage New Vision.
EU, Co-Founder Corey Daniels said he never doubted that the city would pull through. He's overwhelmed with gratitude.
"It went great and as planned."
The Trailblazers 2019 hosted a private VIP reception dinner before kicking off the main event with music entertainment, a fashion show and the honorees being awarded for their achievements.
EU News interviewed honorees and guests on the red carpet. They streamed live on Facebook through One Kansas City Radio on a media collaboration.
The Trailblazers 2019 is grateful to the honorees and entertainers . David Stewart was awarded the Lifetime Achievement Icon Award for being one of the five black billionaires in America straight out of Clinton, Missouri and his contributions to higher education institutions.
Ollie Gates received the Cultural Pioneer Icon Award for his contributions to the community through his family's black owned Gates BBQ Restaurants in the city. He's served as campaign manager for Bruce R. Watkins run for mayor back in 1979. He would later go on to play a leading role for the Bruce R. Watkins Cultural Heritage Center among other projects.
Mr. Leon Dixon received the Education Ambassador Icon Award for being one of the founders of the W.E.B DuBois Learning Center in Kansas City and having his focus on mathematics for children. He's a published author and scholar.
Bishop Lawrence M. Wooten received the Servant Leadership Award for his creation of locally renown Neighborhood Outreach Center, two charter schools and a local church which contains and supports over 45 outreach ministries.
Commissioner Maida J. Coleman previously served as State Representative and Senator for St. Louis. She was honored for her legislation to protect children from lead poisoning. She is most revered for her work in the Hot Weather Law. She also regularly moderates and speaks at numerous community and energy regulatory events nationally and internationally.
Carol Daniel received the Excellence in Media Pioneer Award. She is an award winning columnist who was honored twice with the National Newspaper Association awards for her column, "Carol's Journal." which ran for nearly 10 years in the St. Louis American Newspaper. She's been given accolades from multiple platforms through the decades.
Betsy Helgager Hughes received the Business Leadership Pioneer Award. She's the President/CEO of BLH Consulting, Inc. Before starting BLH she spearheaded the global public relations industry's first dedicated, in-house team to focus on the African-American consumer, Ketchum PR's African-American Markets Group.
Pastor Jahvelle Rhone received the Pioneer Musical Excellence Award for his contributions to the music world through his talent on the saxophone. He was born and raised in Kansas City, MO and discovered his love for music early according to his childhood music memories of dancing and playing instruments with his father and brothers in the basement. He's shared the platform of ministry and music with numerous Gospel Recording Artists.
Bill Coe received the Pioneering Agricultural Excellence Award for his intricate role in social civic involvement and teaching entrepreneurship to emerging leaders seeking to explore future opportunities in agriculture. He's the CEO and Director of Green Acres Urban Farm and Research. He's committed to building one of the largest sustainable Energy Aquaponics Bio Parks in the county.
Esmeralda Lola received the Pioneering Fashion Excellence Award. She's a native Kansas City fashion designer who started her career at the age of 10. She received her calling after prayer and research to create Kyrie Eleison Couture.
Toyota was a corporate sponsor and also received the Pioneering Diversity & Inclusion Award. They openly believe in equality, respect and all-inclusive treatment for all people. They're committed to making the workplace, marketplace, society and the world a better place for everyone.
Carl Price received the Bridge Builders Award as well as being the Surprise Honoree People's Choice. He's the founder and owner of Financial Aid Consulting Tutoring Service (FACTS) and has been dedicated in helping students and adults in their quest of educational pursuits.
Vera Price received the Pioneering Leadership Impact Award. She's the co-owner of the Peachtree restaurant in the city to share great soul food recipes past down from generations.
Mr. Pat Clarke received the My Brothers' Keeper Award. He was recognized as a voice and community activist for young black males in Kansas City, MO. Clarke worked hard to clean up a park and make it a safe space for midnight basketball and other programs. He spearheaded the park project which went on to be named after him.
Negro League Baseball Museum received the Iconic Cultural Landmark Award for the creation of the museum . The Negro Leagues Baseball Museum was founded in 1990 by a group of former Negro league baseball players, including Kansas City Monarchs outfielder, Alfred Surratt Buck O'Neil, Larry Lester and Horace Peterson according to Wiki. In 1997, the museum located to 1616 18th vine Kansas City, MO. The founders looked to build with the Historic 18th & Vine Jazz District. The NLBM operates two blocks from the Paseo YMCA where Andrew “Rube” Foster established the Negro National League in 1920.
When you walk down 9th street to Comida restaurant on a Saturday morning, you wouldn’t think much about the movement happening inside. The square building is nestled behind the Indianapolis public library, but its seemingly small stature has been hosting a major event inside.
Brunch & Grooves, as simple as it sounds, is a day brunch event bringing good music, great food and a new vibe to the city. You walk inside to be greeted by a young woman with an inviting smile. She sits behind a registration table.
“Good morning! Welcome to Brunch & Grooves. Can I get your name please?”
The customer service puts to ease the initial nervousness that those new to the events may have. The smell of a fresh breakfast hits your nose. Both old and new school jams grace your ears from a live DJ, but best of all are the beautiful people who are chatting, eating and dancing with a new energy.
Amongst the crowd is a man sporting a logo Brunch & Grooves shirt. You can catch him engaging guests. As one of the founders of the day time event his vision for it is much more than a good time. In fact, he feels it’s a necessity for the culture of Indy.
“I travel a lot so I noticed in other cities they have brunch spots with live music, DJ’s and millennials younger and older.”
Don Butler started Brunch & Grooves in March 2019. He’s had the idea for a while before it launched and says he just needed the right opportunity, time, space and team. He envisioned an environment for the culture where people could relax and unwind.
He saw a need for a new vibe with black Indianapolis. He brought the idea to his childhood friend from high school, Andre Franklin. Franklin, aka “DJ Godzillest,” is a businessman by day, but DJ’s the sounds of Brunch & Grooves. Together the duo created a collaboration of the minds with a main goal to focus on.
“Imagine being able to go to your favorite restaurant and getting food seasoned like your grandmothers and then you get up to dance to ‘Wobble’ but nobody’s looking at you crazy,” says Franklin on the concept.
Franklin’s co-founder for the events and says when Butler presented the idea, it was the name that stuck out to him the most.
“It gets the point across to people. When you come to have fun, it’s going to feel like home. It creates a space to incubate and share ideas to meet other great minds in the city.”
The duo started off the event at a Illusions Bar & Grill. They wanted to make sure to collaborate with black owned restaurants for the culture.
“Some people don’t even know about the black businesses we have in the city, so we wanted to make sure to incorporate them to bring awareness,” said Franklin.
They grabbed other talent to join the team like DJ Sounds By Todd to be and a few local photographers. One photography, Lance Coleman says capturing the moments with people that they can’t get back is what makes the vibe after Brunch & Grooves special.
“My approach is capturing the ambiance of the atmosphere. It’s a really good investment for the city alone. Good music, food and games with a sweet deal you can’t be beat.”
Coleman says there was a need for the culture during the day time.
"See before social media, you had to be there for events or you missed it. With social media, it can a blessing or a curse with getting crowds out, but I like the challenge of getting people interested because of my part on the team."
He says that the vibe is what will bring the people coming back.
For Butler, who owns a few other events in Indianapolis, he knows his investment into the new project is worth it. He’s gathered diverse crowds to attend since launching. The events attract tourists in the city who are looking for a memorable time in Indy.
“Even when rapper Young Thug visited, he inquired about what he could do to enjoy himself. It’s great to have Brunch & Grooves when he comes back in to town. We’ve also got some Colt players who are interested in coming out.”
To Butler, what makes the events a success is the energy and the food.
“You can have your birthdays with us, get-togethers or whatever it may be. You can solidify it with us.”
The team hopes to host Brunch & Grooves in other cities in the future. They’re looking to incorporate more local restaurants.
“Come out for yourself and catch the vibes. Invite a friend who can tell a friend,” said Franklin.
Brunch & Grooves is currently hosted every 3rd Saturday of the month at Comida restaurant from 11 AM to 3 PM.
Brunch & Grooves is hosting a “Classic Brunch” or Classic weekend from 9 AM to 2 PM
So we know that the four seasons change like clock work and there’s nothing we can do about them except adjust. They are coming no matter what and every one of us has a favorite. It’s the one that makes you feel open, energetic, happy, positive and alive!
There is also one that I call a 5th season that comes in and dwells within any one of these and it’s our own personal season. It can have many titles….Increase, Sickness, Poverty, or Happiness, just to name a few.
With each season there is change and change is forever. Sometimes it puts us in a scary place, but how we run with each journey, I believe, is what determines the outcome.
Have you ever truly thought about what is REALLY going on with the person you’re chatting with or judging? I wonder sometimes if people could step into the battlefield inside of another would it change how we treat them, nevertheless, it is important not to wear what we’re going through, even as hard as it may be.
In each place that GOD has me, I know there is a reason. Sometimes, knowing that is all I have to hold on to as I wait for some sunshine. In the meantime, no one can take my smile. It is simply gratitude for where HE has brought me from and where I COULD be.
Many of us like to pretend that we are untouchable, nothing can break us down, and we have life by the horns. The truth is, you have control over nothing when it comes to outside forces, and you are wasting your power in trying to uphold an image of Super Man or Super Woman. You are human.
There are many things that a Winter season will not allow me to do, as I simply can’t combat it’s elements, but what it cannot do is stop my process. It is something that no season has the power to control.
With wisdom, some struggles and one loss after another, I am coming to learn also not to allow people to stop my process and where GOD is trying to take me….and again, in the meantime, I continue to SMILE!
How Bad Do You Want It?
"The difference between you and the person doing what you want to do, is that they’re doing it!” T.A.S.
I have yet to meet a person who doesn’t have any dreams or goals. However, so often our dreams tend to vanish into thin air, like a vapor hopelessness. Why is it that some people are able to fulfill their dreams and others are not?
I recently had an opportunity to survey my own approach to fulfilling my dreams. What I discovered was that I lacked tenacity. I would give up to easy, rearrange deadlines until the dream completely faded away. I would start things and when they weren’t working as though I thought they should, I convince myself that maybe it wasn’t meant to be. On the flipside, I was able to tell everyone else, how to live their best life and what steps to take in order to taste success. Why couldn’t I be my own biggest cheerleader, why didn’t I believe in myself to finish what I started? Maybe, I was too tired from cheering others on that when it came time for me to submerge myself in my “stuff” I was depleted.
In 2015, life as I knew it changed for the better! I made up in my mind that whatever I started, I would finish. I began to F.E.E.D. my own desires, passions, dreams and goals. I was still available to assist others, but I made sure that I had what I needed first. One of my major projects was the opening on World Changers School of the Arts, Inc. (WCSA). WCSA, is a private school focusing on Academics, Visual & Performing Arts and Entrepreneurship, which caters to grades 6-8. It took a lot of focus, educating myself, encouraging myself and determination to make my dream a reality.
When you want it bad enough, here are few things you will do:
Focus-I had to determine my “why.” Why was I trying to fulfill this particular dream? Whenever, my path became unclear, I readjusted the lens of my life and brought the focus back to my why. My why was to provide students with an educational opportunity that would prepare them in securing the brightest future for them. Now, I will tell you, your why has to be worthy. It has to be something that you are not willing to give up on.
Educate yourself- Try to learn as much as you can about what you want to do, the goal you're trying to accomplish or the dream you want to fulfill. I believe that you should learn something new daily. Another way to become an expert in your area of choice is to find a mentor. I had to surround myself with people, who had experience in the education field, people who have actually worked in the classroom and those who were in the trenches administratively. There is nothing wrong with not knowing it all. As a matter of fact, no one likes a know it all!
Encourage yourself-There is going to come a time that you want to give up. I must inform you that if you give up, your dream dies. You will have to give yourself many pep talks! I talked to myself daily. I created a wall full of encouraging reminders such as; “you are capable,” “this is your purpose,” “you already have everything you need to accomplish the goals. In addition, you have to be mindful of who you allow in circle during this critical birthing process. Surround yourself with people who believe in you, who will encourage you on the days you are unable to encourage yourself.
Determination-Don’t allow anything or anyone to keep you from fulfilling your dream. Keep going no matter how many no’s you get. You’ll never get your “Yes” if you stop at the “No.” Believe in yourself, your product or service. It’s difficult to convince someone to believe, when you yourself don’t believe.
It’s been a few weeks since Jay and Bey released their latest album. As I listened, I thought about where they came from and their determination to achieve their dreams by any means necessary. Then my mind ventured into another direction. They have two eyes, hands, legs, a brain etc. and so do I! What’s keeping me from their level of success? My answer was very simple…me. I encourage you to F.E.E.D. your dreams. They are attainable, if you want them bad enough.
New Dyson book is political primer
By Ron Wynn
Michael Eric Dyson has been a distinguished, prolific and often controversial figure over his extensive career as an educator, author and "public intellectual." He initially came to prominence with the 1993 release of his first book "Reflecting Black: African-American Cultural Criticism."
He's since penned over 20 additional volumes, and appeared on countless radio and TV shows. He currently contributes to ESPN's "The Undefeated" website, The New York Times opinion section and The New Republic, while also being University Professor of Sociology at Georgetown University.
Dyson's latest is "What Truth Sounds Like: RFK, James Baldwin, And Our Unfinished Conversation About Race in America (St. Martin's Press). Its starting point is a historic meeting held between then United States Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy and a group of activists including author James Baldwin, playwright Lorraine Hansberry and Freedom Rider Jerome Smith in the spring of 1963.
Kennedy was expecting a pleasant intellectual conversation, but instead was engaged in a manner that was anything but congenial. The group was concerned he didn't fully understand or appreciate the depth of rage among Blacks nationwide, and was too reliant on traditional political strategy in a period when Southern Democrats had a stranglehold on American legislative politics.
But more importantly, they saw Kennedy as the embodiment of the white liberal, someone who sounded good, but was far from ready to really combat America's inequities, most notably white supremacy as well as economic disparity, voting suppression and police brutality.
The group spoke frankly, without diplomatic concerns, and Smith in particular seared Kennedy with his frank dismissal of overtures to gradual improvement and civic duties, while disavowing any notions about patriotism and loyalty.
Though often angered and dismayed by their responses, ultimately that meeting proved a catalyst for Kennedy to look inside and see he needed to change his views on race, and recognize the necessity for radical action. Though he would be killed five years later, over that last portion of his life, Robert Kennedy greatly changed his approach.
He began to emphasize in his speeches and during his run for President the need for America to undergo radical transformation in its attitudes and policies rather than incremental reform.
Dyson pivots off that meeting to examine a wide variety of issues and personalities in the remaining chapters. They include political and cultural figures, such groups and movements as Black Lives Matter and #Me Too, and even a section on the film "Black Panther."
As always, there will be areas where some will agree, and others strongly disagree. He has far more faith for example in what a Hillary Clinton presidency would have meant than others. While in agreement with him about the dangers of discouraging folks from voting, I am surprised there wasn't more discussion about the Sanders candidacy and how it was undermined by Democratic Party insider politics.
He also is unafraid to criticize fellow intellectuals and political colleagues, though anyone seeking his views on the necessity for a "Black Agenda" won't find them, at least if you define that by the express use of that phrase.
Dyson would no doubt argue everything he's discussing are remedies and solutions to the problems plaguing Black Americans, but those who insist any and all political and intellectual figures discuss the issue specifically using that term will be disappointed.
The other issue he did not address, probably because it hadn't emerged in the forefront at the time he was writing the book, was the question of whether Blacks who are direct descendants of slaves can be represented by those who aren't. That is one of the criticisms some have aimed at Kamala Harris, a person he supports. I am sure Dyson will address that in the future.
But overall, as per usual in a Michael Eric Dyson work, there's lots to assess, ponder and discuss in "What Truth Sounds Like." I'm fairly certain Dyson would gladly admit he doesn't expect consensus, just thorough scrutiny and objective examination of his viewpoints and ideas.
"In the business world, the reality is that the only companies that don't have at least one business credit card account are start-up or extremely small operations. Organizations with more than just a few employees will almost certainly have credit cards. The owners of these companies don't look at their business cards as luxuries; indeed, they're considered a necessity for their day-to-day operations. Their credit cards offer advantages that can make things run much more smoothly"
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Nashville police officer indicted
What many thought would not or could not happen occurred this week in Nashville, Tennessee. A police officer who fatally shot a Black man fleeing the scene was charged with criminal homicide. This came after the district attorney took the unusual step of not presenting the case to a grand jury, but instead issued charges by warrant.
“The decision to institute charges by warrant as opposed to presenting the matter directly to a grand jury allows this case to be presented in open court in as transparent a manner as possible,” district attorney, Glenn R. Funk, said in a statement. “As this is a pending criminal case, I will have no further extrajudicial comments.”
The case joins other high profile cases involving police shootings of Black citizens, most notably the current Chicago trial involving Jason Van Dyke, the police officer who fired 16 shots into LaQuan McDonald back in 2014. It took almost four years and the direct intervention of a new police superintendent to get incriminating video of the shooting publicly released.
The fallout from what looked like a cover-up orchestrated from the top was one of the factors that led to current Mayor Rahm Emanuel deciding not to run for re-election.
When video of the July 25th shooting was released, it showed Delke chasing Hambrick and firing several rounds at him from behind. In a sworn statement filed by Delke, he alleges that Hambrick had a gun and was ordered to drop it, but failed to do so.
At the time of this writing, almost no information regarding what kind of gun Hambrick had has been released. The video doesn't expressly show him holding a weapon, but it does directly show Delke firing at his fleeing body, hitting him three times.
Setting aside the fact that this occurred in a heavily populated neighborhood in North Nashville and calls into question whether it's proper police procedure to discharge a weapon in that situation, it seems pretty evident Hambrick was NOT firing at anyone when he was killed.
Even if he did have a gun, which by no means has been proven, unless and until he posed a direct threat to either officers or civilians, there was no reason to shoot him. Delke's behavior has led police chief Steve Anderson to say the training policies regarding foot pursuit now in place at the police academy would be reviewed.
Delke's attorneys have already gone public with their defense. They claim Hambrick not only had a gun, but was pointing it at arriving backup officers, and that Delke's shooting was justified and in self defense.
David L. Raybin, one of Officer Delke’s lawyers, told The New York Times that backup officers had been summoned to the scene the day of the shooting, and so although Mr. Hambrick was running away from Officer Delke, he was running toward other arriving officers — with a weapon.
“Tennessee law permits a police officer to use deadly force when there is a danger to others,” he said. “Officer Delke was protecting himself, his backup officers and the public.”
Raybin said his client had been “decommissioned,” meaning he currently has no active law enforcement duties, but is still a police officer and is still drawing his salary. He said Delke would eventually plead not guilty. His next court date, a preliminary hearing, is scheduled for Oct. 30.
A department spokesman, Steve Hayslip, said a court commissioner had refused to sign the criminal homicide affidavit when prosecutors first presented it on Thursday morning. Prosecutors then took it to a judge, who signed it.
Officer Delke turned himself in quickly and was released after posting $25,000 bail, Raybin added. There are many advocacy groups, notably Black Lives Matter Nashville, asking why the bond in a homicide case is so low.
But the more important questions are who will serve on the jury and whether a guilty verdict will be reached. It is now a criminal case, and whether Delke is convicted or freed rests on the ability of the prosecutor to convince 12 people this was an unnecessary and negligent action.
It is also another referendum on whether the law applies equally to those who are sworn to uphold it and those expected to obey it. Police officers certainly have a difficult job. The job of law enforcement is only easy in police states.
But no one is forced to be a cop. Those who choose the job, go through the training, and then are empowered with a gun and badge have a responsibility to fairly enforce the laws.
Police officers are responsible for the arrest of suspects. They are not judges or juries, and they certainly shouldn't be executioners. Officers do have the right to protect themselves and others if armed suspects fire on them, or pose a threat in other ways.
But the threat MUST BE REAL, not imagined. Shooting unarmed, fleeing or handcuffed suspects, putting people in choke holds, killing people lying on the ground, or being unable to distinguish a cell phone from a gun, are all things that have occurred far too many times in this country in situations involving police and Black citizens.
The apologists who constantly want to yammer what about "Black-on-Black" crime totally miss the point. Crime is a plague and so are criminals. Criminals are predators who don't care about anything and anyone except themselves.
But you don't stop crime and you won't reduce violence if police emulate the actions of criminals. It is vital that people in rough neighborhoods view the police as allies rather than hostile members of an occupying force who are no better than the criminal element already making their lives miserable.
Every time something happens like the Hambrick shooting, there's one more instance where police lose trust from the people they're supposed to protect.
CULTURAL REFLECTIONS III
A. Oliver found guilty
When a Texas jury found former police officer Roy Oliver guilty of murder August 28 for shooting and killing 15-year-old Jordan Edwards, it marked one of the rare times that a cop has been convicted in a criminal proceeding. Many times prosecutors don't even bring these officers to trial, or they are simply booted off the force but don't face any criminal penalty for their actions, no matter how egregious. But in this case Oliver's actions in firing into a car full of youngsters trying to get away, plus the subsequent attempts at covering up his actions by claiming that the teens had tried to ram him with their car, was too much for the prosecution to stomach.
Indeed prosecutor Faith Johnson called Oliver "a killer in blue," and had sought a 60-year sentence. The defense argued for 20 years, and Oliver got 15. While it no doubt will be appealed, this case is a blueprint for the importance of video cam footage. It was dash cam footage that showed conclusively that Oliver and his fellow officers, who are now facing various charges of conspiracy and lying on a police report, were trying to cover his tracks when he claimed that he had to shoot in self defense. While Edwards mother was disappointed that he didn't get anywhere from 25-50 years, at least she knows her son's killer will be going to prison.
Sadly, the same things can't be said for the families of Michael Brown or Tamir Rice or many others, young and old, who have been shot and killed in highly questionable shootings. The next headline case begins next week in Chicago, where Jason Van Dyke goes on trial for the 2014 murder of Laquan McDonald. Here's another situation where a police officer initially claimed that someone was trying to attack them, only to later have that contradicted by video footage. McDonald was shot SIXTEEN (16) times by Van Dyke, who emptied his weapon within seconds of arriving on the scene.
One of the things that you often hear in supposed defense of police officers is that "this is a tough and thankless job." Yes, it is, and yes, it should be because police officers take an oath to protect citizens. No one is forced to become a police officer. Their job is only easy in a police state. The role of the police is to arrest suspects and bring them in for trial, not to perform summary executions. Certainly if someone attacks or shoots at a police officer, or if someone is threatening the lives of innocent citizens, then they are authorized to use deadly force.
But what really irritates so many Black citizens is the disproportionate number of Black suspects that get killed, especially unarmed ones, as opposed to all the times you see Whites brought in alive, even those who've fired on police or killed others prior to their arrest. The Dylan Roof case, where he kills multiple Blacks in a church, then gets a chance to eat lunch before being brought in alive, is just one case among many that really rile and aggravate the already bad relationships between police and the Black community.
These are rough times in many neighborhoods, and police are needed to protect communities from predators. But when police emulate or utilize the tactics of criminals, then citizens in turn have no more respect for or trust in them than any other criminals. Until there are more convictions of police who betray their oath, and more willingness of police officials to understand and try to deal with the distrust that so many ordinary citizens have towards them, a bad situation will only get worse, and the problem of crime will go unresolved.
B. - "Black KKKlansman Controversy"
Spike Lee's latest film "Black KKKlansman" has gotten some of his best reviews in many years, and plenty of coverage. But it wasn't until last week that it encountered any substantive negative attention and it came from someone who has previously cited him as an influence and inspiration. Director Boots Riley, whose current film "Sorry To Bother You" explores racism in telemarketing and public relations, attacked Lee for "doing a propaganda film for the police department."
The main story is about '70s Black cop Ron Stallworth, who managed to convince KKK leader David Duke that he was a supporter of his cause, and somehow even became a card carrying member of the Klan. His White Jewish partner infiltrated the Colorado Springs branch of the KKK using Stallworth's identity, and the two eventually foiled a plot to destroy the Black Student Union at Colorado State University and disrupt a major event. But Day's piece, which can be read online via the Black Agenda Report, also accuses Lee of misrepresenting his film as a completely true story, when there are multiple elements that are fictional.
"The real Ron Stallworth infiltrated a Black radical organization for three years (not for one event like the movie portrays) where he did what all papers from the FBI’s Counter Intelligence Program (Cointelpro), that were found through the Freedom of Information Act, tell us he did -- sabotage a Black radical organization whose intent had to do with, at the very least, fighting racist oppression. Cointelpro papers show us that these police infiltrators of radical organizations worked to try to disrupt the organizations through things like instigating infighting, acting crazy to make the organizations look bad, getting physical altercations happening, and setting them up to be murdered by police and others. Ron Stallworth was part of the Cointelpro. Cointelpro’s objectives were to destroy radical organizations, especially Black radical organizations."
Riley goes on to say that while the FBI also infiltrated the KKK and Neo-Nazi groups, they didn't try to disrupt or destroy them the way they did the Black Panthers and other Black radical organizations. He doesn't tell people to boycott or not watch the film, but does harshly criticize both Lee and Stallworth. Lee thus far has not attempted to defend the film, nor directly respond to Riley's comments other than to disagree with the contention that the police are the enemy. "Look at my films: they’ve been very critical of the police, but on the other hand I’m never going to say all police are corrupt, that all police hate people of color. I’m not going to say that. I mean, we need police."
Setting aside the undeniably sad aspect of one gifted Black director attacking another, and one who influenced him to get into the business in the first place as well, Riley raises some important points. My initial impression upon seeing "Black KKKlansman" was that it was indeed a true story, but I allowed for some creative license. However if it's true Stallworth was part of Cointelpro that definitely changes my views regarding him. Also the portion featuring him in conflict with a Black woman he became involved with during the undercover operation was apparently also a fictional creation.
I agree with Lee though that ALL police cannot be dismissed or assumed to be enemies. However far too many are engaging in acts of misconduct or brutality, and the entire institution as a whole has been sullied. It is very hard for people to trust those they deem corrupt, and too many Blacks for too many decades have seen police engaging in violent, criminal and often fatal actions without retribution or punishment. It is way past time for police officers who do not endorse or embrace brutal tactics, nor engage in misconduct, to stand up and speak out against those who do, as well as insist that police unions stop routinely defending any and all actions done by officers.
I still think "Black KKKlansman" is among Spike Lee's better films, but some truth in advertising might have prevented this. Had he simply said or at least said more prominently that this film is "based on a true story" or was "inspired by a true story," then even if Riley makes those claims, they carry less weight because this wasn't being marketed, presented or even implied to be a completely accurate account. Instead, there's now a controversy, and what should be a moment of triumph is instead shrouded in dispute.
Police reform remains hot issue
It has taken two deaths and several rallies, but now it seems Nashville will finally get a chance to create a citizens review board, or community oversight group, or what anyone wants to call a coalition of citizens who will assess and examine police behavior in controversial and questionable situations.
The Davidson County Election Commission voted 5-0 August 15 to add a proposed Metro Charter amendment to the November ballot that would establish an independent police watchdog entity. They validated nearly 5,000 signatures (4,801 to be exact) on a petition to make it a referendum issue.
The local chapter of the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) immediately announced plans to challenge this in court, an action that only worsens relations between law enforcement and the Nashville Black community. The police are now not only perceived as an invading or occupying force, but one also afraid of community scrutiny.
The mayor continues to waffle, saying he supports creating this board in principle, but has differences with the group Community Oversight Now. It's more likely he doesn't want to be viewed in some corners as politically supporting anything endorsed by Black Lives Matter Nashville, who's also involved with this petition, and has called for the resignation or firing of police chief Steve Anderson.
Meanwhile there's no word from District Attorney Glenn Funk's office (at least not up to now) over whether he intends to press for any type of indictment against Andrew Delke, the 25-year-old officer who shot Daniel Hambrick (also 25) four times last month as Hambrick was fleeing.
Hambrick's family has demanded Funk pursue a murder charge, but that is highly unlikely unless the TBI investigation produces something more shocking than what's on the video. That footage has now appeared on "Good Morning America," "CNN," the BBC, and pretty much every online Black and news website.
Judging from some of the things said during two marches held over the weekend of August 11-12, folks have had their fill of excuses and rationalizations.
Everyone from the NAACP to the Ministerial Alliance and the ACLU is demanding change. Even chief Anderson called the video "very disturbing," and publicly said the policy being taught at the police Academy regarding foot pursuit was under review.
ALL their policies need to be under review in light of not only the two shootings over the last two years, but the exhaustive report compiled by members of Gideon's Army which showed a glaring disparity in traffic stops that was racially based.
There is a crisis in policing and a lack of confidence in them from the people who most need their services. Nothing breeds contempt faster among the citizenry of law enforcement than police misconduct and brutality, and no one benefits from it more than criminal predators.
They delight in the fact their actions won't be reported because people are too disgusted and/or afraid of the police to enlist their aid in riding neighborhoods of their presence.
Right-wingers can spout all the "Law and Order" rhetoric they like, but until police are not only willing to interact with the communities they patrol on a regular rather than crisis basis, but also stop resisting any attempts at oversight or input from citizens, they will never get either the trust they need or the co-operation they seek.
Captain Ron Johnson was a native of Ferguson, and had been in law enforcement for three decades when his entire life changed. When a young Black man named Michael Brown was killed by a white policeofficer on August 9, 2014, Ferguson exploded.
After five days of unrest, Johnson, a veteran State Trooper, was placed in charge of restoring peace to his hometown. The next 13 days were a mix of triumph and defeat. Johnson spent parts of each day marching with protesters.
He was suddenly on demand for CNN interviews, but he also became a pariah to many of his fellow police. One officer once even asked him if he were now "one of them," as though he had suddenly joined enemy forces.
Johnson joined noted author Alan Eisenstock to write the new book "13 Days In Ferguson" (Tyndale), a detailed account of his experiences. It shows both the suspicion and contempt many Black citizens hold for the police, and the equal amount of resentment and distrust these officers have for the people they've taken an oath to serve and protect.
Johnson frequently feels totally isolated, as the people he's trying to help doubt him, and his fellow officers feel he's betrayed them. Anyone who wants a candid look inside 21st century police attitudes, and some understanding of just how wide the divide currently is between cops and ordinary citizens, particularly Black ones, will find "13 Days in Ferguson" eye-opening material.