I’m Mad as Hell… and Thankful

December 12, 2014 at 2:27 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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(Photo - Associated Press)

(Photo – Associated Press)

Guest editorial by Emmett G. Price, III

I’m mad as hell!

Regardless which side of the street you stand on there are no winners in Ferguson.
Just a glimpse at ongoing news coverage, or a peek at the comment sections of online sources reveal rage- both black and white – concerning Michael Brown Jr.’s death.

This rage is often articulated through the lens of “ LEO” – law enforcement officer – supporters or critics. Unfortunately, most of these polarized jousts neglect to consider that not all LEOs are white. And, these stinging jabs, often from anonymous commenters, do not capture the emotions of the huge number of quiet sympathizers – those whose hearts continue to be heavy with the realities faced by so many families of the courageous women and men who don uniforms and take the oath to “never betray my badge, my integrity, my character, or the public trust.”

Yet, with Brown lying four and a half hours in the hot August sun…I’m mad as hell.

Ferguson is no longer a dot on the Greater St. Louis area map; it is now a national landmark of injustice akin to Tulsa Riots, 1921, Watts Riots, 1965, and Bloody Sunday, 1965). Though rarely given adequate coverage in schools, these volatile moments in United States history transformed the national landscape. Ferguson, like Tulsa, Watts, Selma, has sparked a national conversation that is felt deeply in the hearts and minds of us all- sympathizes, separatists, loyalists, compassionists, activists, self-selective non-participants and everyone in between. Ferguson challenges our national commitment to growing a democracy that works for everyone.

But, where do we begin?

In the spirit of gratitude and social justice – I believe we need to be whole-heartedly invested in listening to the voices of young people.

And I am thankful that the surrogate children of Dr. King’s children – in all hues, ethnicities, nationalities, gender expressions – are joining hands as they sacrifice themselves in order to call for justice to extend its embrace around everyone – not just the entitled and privileged.

I am thankful that this young generation chose to use this clarion call to bridge social divides, class partitions and political platforms in order to be contemporary champions of freedom. These young people don’t see Michael Brown, Jr. or Trayvon Martin, or Tamir Rice or Dillon McGee or Cameron Tillman or Laquan McDonald, to name just a few of the young black unarmed men killed as their sons or nephews – they are their brothers!

I am inspired by this generation of freedom fighters who refuse to let the legacies of Ella Baker, Bayard Rustin, Fannie Lou Hamer and Medgar Evers die. And as Dr. Bernice Johnson Reagon and Sweet Honey in the Rock said it best “we who believe in freedom will not rest until it comes.”

I’m thankful for all the young people who have retained the spirit of ethical discontent and righteous indignation through the use of civil disobedience. From the metropolitan streets to suburban driveways and on to remote rural places, our nations’ young people are sick and tired of being sick and tired. From sit-ins to mass marches to taking over interstate highways to writing the digital translations of these stories that are now flowing through various channels of social media, these millennials, who have previously been labeled a selfish generation, are using their voices to call for a change.

I am not a fan of violence. I am not a supporter of looting, destruction of private or public property and I do not condone or support any of this deviant behavior. Despite media presentations, the majority of the protests across the country have been peaceful, respectful and meaningful.

No matter how mad I am, I am also Thankful!

Young People, thank you for your courage to prove that hope lives! Thank you for reminding us all that #BlackLivesMatter!

Emmett PriceEmmett G. Price III, Ph.D. is a pastor, professor and weekly contributor to WGBH’s Boston Public Radio “All Revved Up” segment. He is the author of Hip Hop Culture and editor of several works including The Black Church and Hip Hop Culture: Toward Bridging the Generational Divide. Follow him on Twitter.

(The views expressed are solely those of the author.)

Is civil rights leadership on the sidelines?

December 11, 2014 at 11:46 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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Marching in center city the Ferguson protestors on South Broad at City Hall, Philadelphia, Monday, Nov. 24, 2014. (AP Photo / The Philadelphia Daily News, Steven M. Falk )

Marching in center city the Ferguson protestors on South Broad at City Hall, Philadelphia, Monday, Nov. 24, 2014. (AP Photo / The Philadelphia Daily News, Steven M. Falk )

Guest editorial by Kevin C. Peterson

PHILADELPHIA, PA –Its not clear that this generation of civil rights leaders can win this one.

Thousands of defiant marchers protested across the nation this weekend where hundreds lay prostrate in the streets whispering “I can’t breathe.”

The chant has become almost ubiquitous since a Staten Island grand jury refused to indict a white police officer for the death of Eric Garner last July. The protests–some riotous–have also been in response to the death of Michael Brown, victim of a similar “death-by-police” scenario.

Here in the “City of Brotherly Love,” emotions and racial discontent continue to smolder, reflecting a duality of perspective as revealed in national polling results released over the weekend about race and law enforcement.

A Bloomberg Politics poll reveals a growing racial cleavage: While 64% of white respondents agreed with the Ferguson, Mo. ruling where a grand jury refused to indict a white officer accused of killing unarmed black teenager Michael Brown, 71% of African-Americans strongly disagreed with the decision.

A CBS/Marist poll reported that: “By more than two-to-one, African Americans are more likely than whites to say law enforcement applies different standards to whites and blacks.”

The Rev. Al Sharpton is calling for a “March on Washington” this weekend to bring a civil rights focus on the justice system.

But will Sharpton’s agitation help? More profoundly, has the efficacy of the civil rights coalition abated? Can it produce the efforts won in Montgomery, Birmingham or Selma?

“For the first time we are having a [civil rights] movement that is not really being led by the [black] church,” said the Rev. Alyn Waller to 4,000 worshipers at Philadelphia’s Enon Tabernacle Baptist Church Sunday. “And quite frankly the church is not really out in front of this like we could and should be. And this could be the reason that the fight is not there.”

In the meantime, President Barack Obama offers protesters and the nation the anemic solution of “time.”

Monday night he told BET: “When you are dealing with something as deeply rooted as racism or bias in any society you got to have vigilance but you have to recognize that its going to take some time and you have to be steady.”

The president’s comments fall flat five decades after the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. argued against the brand of systemic racism clearly visible in Ferguson and Staten Island.

If he were present, King would push Obama to make bolder statements about the justice system and the plight of black men. King would chide the president’s hesitancy on forming stronger national policies on race and the law. King would urge Obama to embrace the activism on the streets to galvanize public opinion.

King would say what he uttered in the 1960s: “This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism. Now is the time to make real the promises of democracy.”

Kevin PetersonKevin C. Peterson is a senior director at the Center for Collaborative Leadership at the University of Massachusetts Boston and is founder of the New Democracy Coalition.

 

 

(The views expressed in the editorial are those of the author.)

World AIDS Day and my community’s ongoing struggle

December 10, 2014 at 10:54 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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Screen Shot 2014-12-10 at 10.35.45 AM

Guest editorial by Rev. Irene Monroe

Dec. 1 was World AIDS Day!

President Obama conveyed hopeful remarks on World AIDS Day at George Washington University (GWU) in D.C. by vowing to continue efforts to combat the disease.

“We’re closer than we’ve ever been to achieving the extraordinary: an AIDS-free generation,” Obama stated to the GWU audience. “But we’ve got to keep fighting, all of us. Governments, businesses, foundations, community groups, and individuals like you.”

In 2012, the United Nations stated that it’s possible to eradicate the disease by 2015 — in part, of course, by preventing new infections.

But, much of the focus was, and still is, on developing countries, and not on hot spots like the nation’s capital, which is one of the hardest hit areas battling the epidemic

In 2006 at the “Women and Response to AIDS” panel at the conference, Sheila Johnson, founder of the Crump-Johnson Foundation in Washington D.C., pointed out that another at-risk population in the African-American community is teenage girls.

Seventeen percent of the U.S. teen population is African American, with 70 percent of black teens testing HIV-positive. One in 10 African-American teenage girls test HIV-positive in the nation’s capital, the highest percentage in the country among this age group.

When asked why such a high percentage test positive, Johnson said, “As long as girls see themselves as glorified sex objects in hip-hop videos, HIV/AIDS will increase within this population.” In 2014 little has changed within this demographic group.

And sadly, with African Americans at younger and younger ages being infected with the AIDS virus, the life expectancy rate of African Americans will decline. Soon we will no longer expect today’s young African-Americans to become the elders of the community.

With the South’s propensity to avoid speaking about uncomfortable subjects unfortunately the South has evolved into one of HIV/AIDS hot spots in the country.

Each year, fewer and fewer public events are being held to bring public attention that the epidemic is still in our midst. This year, PBS’s “Frontline” didn’t run its special “ENDGAME: AIDS in Black America.” To date more than a quarter of African Americans have died of AIDS.

With the latest comprehensive data tracking the virus coming out of the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) the numbers are staggeringly alarming.

Although African American comprise of now nearly 13 percent of the U.S. population, we tragically account for approximately 44 percent of new HIV infections in 2010. But this data doesn’t reflect the wave of recent African diasporic immigrants of the last decade coming from the Caribbean Islands and the Motherland. This demographic group is overwhelmingly underreported and underserved—for fear of not only deportation but also of homophobic insults and assaults from their communities.

According to the CDC in 2010, 1 in 22 African Americans will be diagnosed HIV-positive in their lifetime. And, it’s the leading cause of death among African American women between the ages of 25-34 and African American men between the ages of 35-44. Good news is that HIV infections among African American women only in Massachusetts has decreased for the first time. And this decline in numbers has much to do with the indefatigable outreach by local organizations like AIDs Action Committee while operating each year on a diminishing state funded grant.

According to the Black AIDS Institute’s August 2008 report titled “Left Behind” the number of people living with HIV in Black America exceeds the HIV population in seven of the fifteen focus countries in the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) initiative, an initiative helping to save the lives of those suffering from HIV/AIDS around the world in countries like Haiti, Dominican Republic, India, South Africa, to name a few.

In other words, if black America were its own country, standing on its own like Haiti or Nigeria, black Americans would rate 16th with the epidemic in the world. The epidemic is heavily concentrated in urban enclaves like Detroit, New York, Newark, Washington, D.C and the Deep South.

There are many persistent social and economic factors contributing to the high rates of the epidemic in the African American community—racism, poverty, health care disparity, violence, to name just a few—but the biggest attitudinal factor still contributing to the epidemic and showing no sign of abating is homophobia.

While we know that the epidemic moves along the fault lines of race, class, gender and sexual orientation, and that HIV transmission is tied to specific high-risk behaviors that are not exclusive to any one sexual orientation, homophobia still continues to be one of the major barriers to ending the AIDS epidemic.

Although famous HIV-positive heterosexual African Americans, like tennis great Arthur Ashe, news anchorman Max Robinson, and rapper Eazy-E all died of AIDS, and basketball giant Earvin “Magic” Johnson, who is still living with the virus, highlight the fact that anyone can contract the virus, many still see the epidemic as a “white gay disease,” suggesting being gay or having sex with someone of the same gender puts you immediately at high risk.

But the truth is this: while over 600,000 African Americans are now living with HIV, and as many 30,000 newly infected each year, there is still within the black community at least one in five living with HIV and unaware of their infection; and, they are disproportionately heterosexuals.

While the number of cases across the globe will continue to decline and possibly eradicate the disease as the U.N hopefully predicts, we as African Americans we’ll not protect ourselves from this epidemic as long as we continue to think of HIV/AIDS as a gay disease.

Rev. Irene MonroeRev. Irene Monroe is a Ford Fellow and doctoral candidate at Harvard Divinity School. Rev. Monroe can also be heard every Monday on Boston Public Radio, WGBH 89.7. One of Monroe’s outreach ministries is the several religion columns she writes – “The Religion Thang,” for In Newsweekly, the largest lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender newspaper that circulates widely throughout New England, “Faith Matters” for The Advocate Magazine, a national gay & lesbian magazine, and “Queer Take,” for The Witness, a progressive Episcopalian journal. Monroe states that her “columns are an interdisciplinary approach drawing on critical race theory, African American , queer and religious studies.

Opinions expressed in the guest editorials are solely those of the author.

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