Monday, January 19, 2009

My Ticket to the Inauguration




Hard work and study pays off.

Congratulations Jermaine Taylor (pictured farthest right)!  The 14-year-old son of James and Marcella X Taylor was rewarded for his academic achievements and 4.18 GPA with an all-expenses paid trip to attend the Inauguration of President Barack Obama in Washington, D.C.! 

Bro. Jermaine is a freshman at Urban Prep Academies in Chicago, Illinois.  He was featured with other high achievers on the cover of the school's annual report, "We Believe:  Living the Urban Prep Creed."

Again, CONGRATULATIONS Bro. Jermaine for all of your hard work and congratulations to your parents as well.

I can't wait to get details of your Inauguration experience.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

** FORMER BART OFFICER UNDER ARREST **


Former BART Police officer Johannes Mehserle was arrested in Nevada today.  

The arrest is related to his fatal shooting of Oscar Grant, III. on New Years Day, but officials haven’t specified the charges. 

Alameda County District Attorney Tom Orloff will hold a press conference tomorrow.

I got the call from my brother, Brian, who lives in Oakland at about 10:05 and I almost didn’t pick up because, well, frankly, I’m still exhausted from traveling.  But I did pick up and I’m glad.  Hundreds of people from throughout the Bay Area were gathered in Antioch tonight for a major town hall meeting to strategize about eradicating the suffering of our people on various, issues.  I was able to get a text message into them right after they had closed the meeting in prayer.   According to an assistant inside, the community's reaction was through the roof.

Right after the town hall meeting the Final Call spoke to Student Minister Keith Muhammad (Muhammad Mosque #26B / pictured below at a recent press conference), who, along with Student Minister Christopher Muhammad (Muhammad Mosque #26) has been helping to organize the community with youth activists, an alliance of clergy, and elected officials.

 


FC:  Your reaction to the news?

KM:  While we are pleased to see that the District Attorney has finally done his part to issue an arrest warrant for and take into custody the officer who killed our brother, Oscar Grant, we are ever watchful because we have with us the history of Rodney King.  And so while an arrest is the first step, we anxiously await to see if the District Attorney can affectively make the second step. 

According to what I am learning, the city of Oakland currently is paying millions of dollars in police brutality lawsuit settlements, but not a single officer has been convicted by this district attorney’s office in the 15 years that he’s been in office.  And so our hope is he can finally find a victory in court, but in truth his record is so bad, his movement was slow, his disrespect of the community was so large, that we believe that he’s come to the point in his career as a District Attorney that he should retire, resign or face a recall from the voters of Alameda County.

FC:  The DA said that it would take him two weeks from last Thursday for him to be able to draw any conclusion.  Is this an attempt, a ploy to appease the community and thwart the peaceful demonstration of thousands that plan to take to the streets of Oakland again tomorrow?

KM:   Yes.  I think it’s all political.  He did not want to meet and talk with Black community leadership but when we had that meeting (pressed by the community and held in the DA’s office last week) we insisted he share with the public what his plans were.  His answer to us was no.  The Honorable Mayor Ronald Dellums made the same kind of request then his answer was yes, which is what you saw in a press conference.  It may be a ploy to take power out of the hand of the protestors, take some of the fire out of their bellies.  But of course we know that an arrest and a conviction are two different things.  So the hope is he will be able to effectively prosecute the killer of our brother, for the murder of Oscar Grant.

FC:  Thank you.

The Grant Files 3



  









Above:  Mayor Ron Dellums hit the streets to try to ease protestors' tensions when violence broke out during an impromptu march on Jan. 7, while earlier that day (to the right), demonstrators who gathered at a separate, more peaceful demonstration, listen to speakers, poets, activists and ideas for solutions.

These pics of the evening rebellion and the earlier rally are by Victor Muhammad (V.J. London Photography), who was there when the action broke out and followed the situation to the end. 

Update:  Calls for a federal investigation into the BART police shooting death of Oscar Grant, III. are close to being answered but there's still uncertainty about whether local prosecutors will charge or even arrest former officer Johannes Mehserle.  On Monday BART completed its own investigation of the shooting, but Chief Gary Gee's results seemed to have already disappointed activists, residents, elected officials and others closely observing the case.

When Gee turned his results over to the district attorney's office, he didn't say whether there was enough to file criminal charges, and, he made no recommendation to the D.A.

Meanwhile, reports indicate that U.S. Justice Department mediators are helping to mediate tensions in the city.

** Alright!  I have the hang of this blog technology..more clips on the way from BART Board Members, activists, and Hip Hop movers and shakers, like T.-K.A.S.H.


peace.

NOI Bay Area Student Ministers Christopher Muhammad and Keith Muhammad address the police shooting of 22-year-old Oscar Grant, III.



Bro. Keith demands justice and defends the youth at a January 10 town hall meeting at Olivet Institutional Missionary Baptist Church and Bro. Christoper calls for a fair and swift investigation during an earlier community press conference and rally. Shown in the video with Bro. Keith is activist Dereca Blackmon of the Coalition Against Police Executions and a protestor, Mandingo Hayes. Bro. Christopher is flanked by a coalition of Bay Area clergy, elected officials, community activists and concerned residents.


Saturday, January 10, 2009

A Light in the Midst of Struggle



California Attorney General Edmund (Jerry) Brown announced today that his office would begin monitoring the investigation into the police shooting of Oscar Grant, III.  The decision came after he met with members of the Oakland Branch of the NAACP.  





Meanwhile, hours later, hundreds of organizers,
 clergy, activists, youth and concerned citizens, as well as hip hop artists, continued their mobilization efforts at Olivet Institutional Missionary Baptist Church. 

Five members of B.A.R.T.'s Board of Directors were on hand and apologized to the community for the agency's slow response, and for the shooting itself.  They heard six hours of testimony during Thursday's public forum, and have scheduled another meeting for next week to allow people to vent their frustrations.

During the near four-hour meeting, a host of speakers called on the community to lift up Oakland's youth population, a light in the midst of struggle due to their fearlessness and ability to organize and communicate, and to build stronger relationships and help guide and protect them.  

They also: 

1) demanded that voters recall Alameda County District Attorney Tom Orloff;

2) defended the youth, whom the media and many in the Bay Area, have broadly blamed for the destruction caused by a pocket of people who used the community's pain over the murder for their own personal agendas; 

3) demanded the repeal of California's Three-Strikes Law; and
  
4) they called for unity, consistency and continued mass mobilization.  

C.A.P.E. is organizing another peaceful march and rally for Wednesday.

Join the mass movement for justice.  Call (510) 436-0205 for more details on the rally and other events.

Photos by Victor Muhammad/VJ London Photography: 

1) Student Minister Christopher Muhammad of Muhammad Mosque #26  in San Francisco

2) Student Minister Keith Muhammad of Muhammad Mosque #26B in Oakland and Dereca Blackmon, co-founder of the Coalition Against Police Executions

The Grant Files



Greetings everyone.  The smiling brother right here is Oscar Grant, III. - the reason the Final Call and the world - at least parts of it - is focused on Oakland, California right now.  He died begging for his life.

I'm still gathering facts and moving about Oakland over the police shooting of Mr. Grant and developments are happening fast.  They're in no particular order.

Oscar Grant, III. has been memorialized and buried, but he is not gone, and certainly not forgotten.  I'm finding out that that brother was an exemplary citizen - father, son, spiritual man, youth mentor, just a good brother, from widespread accounts. 

Johannes Mehserle, the 27-year-old former B.A.R.T. officer who killed Mr. Grant, still hasn't come in or been brought in for questioning by police officials.  What?!?  Meanwhile, local news reports indicate that he and his family have received death threats. 

Some community activists are helping to establish a fund for Mr. Grant's daughter and family's survival.  

Mayor Ron Dellums and the City is helping to to repair the damage caused by rioters to the property of Downtown Oakland merchants.  

Police have released at least 70 people of the more than 100 who were arrested during Wednesday night's demonstration.  Only about 3 have actually been charged with crimes.  

By the way, the Wednesday morning rally and press conference organized by the Coalition Against Police Executions (born out of Mr. Grant's murder) was peaceful and drew hundreds of people, but after that rally ended  a group of people  began marching downtown to protest and that's what's being widely reported.   

Two things are for sure:  1) we all know that if the cell phone videos hadn't captured the incident, there would be no outcry and Mr. Grant would have been just another black man, black life, that was taken under the cover of police brutality, and 2) although the Wednesday evening rebellion shed a negative light on the community's efforts to seek justice, it was the youth's stance that night that forced BART (which took more than a week to engage the community about the incident) and powers that be to address the issue.  At Mayor Dellums' press conference, Alameda County District Attorney Tom Orloff admitted that he simply would not be addressing certain things, but because the community (youth) became engaged the way that they did, he found it necessary to communicate. 

Now I'm not advocating violence or saying that destroying others' property is right, but translation:  the youth were so angry that they tore stuff up.  Anyway,  that wasn't the first time Orloff was forced to address the community, though.  Bay Area Student Minister Christopher Muhammad, Oakland Student Minister Keith Muhammad, Councilmember Desley Brooks, and a community coalition sought and gained a meeting with D.A. Orloff to demand answers and status of the investigation.  Many people, and in particular, the Bay Area's Ministerial Alliance, as well as the Millions More Movement, is moving and shaking things up.  Lots of real planning and organizing is taking place.  

All of the youth's and community's energy about this brother's death predates him.  The Bay Area and especially youth in Oakland have been under police terrorism for a long time, according to community testimonies.  One man, Robert Hendrix, was so angry, he interrupted Mayor
Dellums' press conference and demanded that the D.A. explain what happened to the investigations into the police shootings of eight other black young men who were killed in 2008.  

As you can expect, the community has made a list of demands, which include policy changes, from hiring more Black B.A.R.T. officers, to better training.  Some are also using the tragedy of Grant's death to appeal to youth to stop the killing as well. Time for the town hall meeting.   

Look for details and analysis of this issue in next week's Final Call Newspaper.  Subscribe at www.finalcall.com, pick it up at a local community spot, or patronize the "Bowties with the Final Calls" as Sis Erykah Badu puts it.  

The photos below were taken during the peaceful rally by Bro. Victor Muhammad of VJ London Photography.  

Peace and blessings, and please, be safe.

Sis Charlene








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Wednesday, January 7, 2009

BAY AREA RAPID TRANSIT OFFICER SHOOTS 22-YEAR-OLD BLACK MALE

Whew!  Apologies that it's several days since I've posted.  I've been under with a serious cold but when I surfaced all madness had broken out in Oakland.  B.A.R.T. Police Officer Johannes Mehserle shot and killed Oscar Grant, III. with a single bullet to the back, although video footage on the Internet and various news stations show that Mr. Grant was lying on his stomach, and eyewitnesses report that he was cooperating with police.

At 3 p.m. today, some 250-300 demonstrators protested at the B.A.R.T.'s Fruitvale Station, where the incident occurred. By evening, the numbers grew and direct reports from the scene to the Final Call were that protestors began marching down International Boulevard into Downtown Oakland.  During the march, they told the Final Call, some people got rowdy and began rocking a police car back and forth. The police responded in riot gear.  
 
Attorney John Burris has filed a $25 million claim on behalf of Mr. Grant's mother, Wanda Johnson, and his four-year-old daughter.  According to the claim, Mr. Grant pleaded for his life and even told one officer that threatened to taze him that he had a four-year-old daughter.  He begged not to be tazed.  Instead, he was shot.

Hopefully, I'll be there tomorrow and can give more first-hand accounts from community activists, city officials, clergy, youth, of what's happening with this issue, and a couple of pics.

I wanted to post some info about the Green Industry and other excessive force issues earlier this week....they have to wait a few but check back.

Peace.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

'The tragedy is that we are invisible'



Blacks in Peru long for role models, self knowledge as they demand opportunity, justice

Dr. Jorge Ramirez Reyna, a Civil Rights and Social Change activist in Peru, is also the Executive Director of the Black Association for the Defense and Promotion of Human Rights (ASONEDH).  He recently visited the United States to share the experiences and insights of Africans of Peru and to learn more about the experiences of Blacks in America.  Last summer, a 7.9 earthquake hit the coast of Peru and killed hundreds of people.  Dr. Ramirez Reyna met with Final Call Western Region Correspondent Charlene Muhammad during his five-day trip and gave an update on the plight of Afro Peruvians before and since the earthquake.  He also discussed some of their goals and aspirations.  (Hasani Soto, a member of the Organization Us and Dr. Ramirez Reyna’s host, provided translation during the interview.)
 



 
FINAL CALL (FC): How has your community recovered since the earthquake in August of 2007?
 
DR. JORGE RAMIREZ REYNA (JRR):  Many people donated money and resources but the people don’t have food, houses, and nobody knows where the donations that poured in for them are.  We suppose there is high corruption and there’s no will of support because the majority of the people are Black.  It’s very similar to what occurred with Hurricane Katrina.  Some governments, Venezuela and Brazil, have created some basic houses for them, but no one else.  Still, people are suffering so much that they don’t even seek food and clothes; right now they are seeking a place to live to help cover them from the rain and the cold.
 
FC:  You mentioned that in addition to the physical suffering, your people have been victimized by very negative images of them on all levels and that ASONEDH was working with and training the women about their African culture.  The aim is to help erase the negative culture they’ve been taught and teach the children and the community the true culture of your people.  How have the women responded to the retraining and what type of progress have you noticed since they have been re-teaching the true history to the children?
 
JRR:  What I have seen is there’s an interest that is increasing, so we can find out more about our African history.  We don’t have the tools that would permit us to teach more to these women, because there’s not enough African literature in Peru.  So we base it on basic history that we find on the Internet, but there’s no existing educational program for Black women.
 
FC:  If there were people in the Black community here and the Diaspora who wanted to assist, what specific things would you need for them to provide?
 
JRR:  It is very important that we receive information regarding the struggles of Black women so this can serve as a stimulus to the Black women in Peru. It is the education that changes the minds of the people and makes good models.

FC:  How are your schools in Peru?
 
JRR:  Very poor where there’s a mixture of Blacks, Indigenous and Mestisos or mixed people.  The Peruvian education is one of the worse in Latin America.  We only surpass Haiti in education. This is a problem that we would like to reverse.  For example, I am a lawyer.  There’s about 40,000 registered lawyers, however, I only know about 30 Black lawyers.  There are other professions like that.  The same system put obstacles for us to become professionals and those who are not prepared for the struggle, we are left without professions.  We are chauffeurs, hotel bell hops and the young people work as coffin makers and pallbearers.
 
FC:  In the United States there is a high education drop out rate.  What is it like in Peru?
 
JRR:  Young people begin dropping out of school at around 12-years-old.  There are a lot of obstacles in the system of education.  It is a bother for the youth and discouraging for the Black students because it excludes them.  The education system insults Black people.  For example, when a little Black girl touches the head of a White girl, she’s bothering her.  When a White girl touches the head of a Black girl, they’re playing. 

FC:  Our culture experiences some of the same issues.
 
JRR:  The difference is that in Peru Black people don’t have high political positions as you do here.  The Black theme is not in the public agenda.
 
FC:  Understanding that difference that you mentioned, many people here are elated that Barack Obama won the presidential election but we’re clear that our condition will not change over night.  We suffer mass incarceration, miseducation, and poor healthcare but I hear what you’re saying, it doesn’t compare?  You’re saying people from your community would come here and see great opportunity?
 
JRR:  The tragedy is that we are invisible.  You are all visible.  We don’t have a history.  We are not considered citizens.  They don’t care about our votes.  The political parties do not go to our communities because we are not important.  The worse racism in the total of Latin America is the invisibility.  The educational texts do not talk about us.  At school and the universities, they don’t talk about us. 
 
FC:  Your organization has been working to break away from the tragedy.  Tell us more about how.

JRR:  For many years we have been denouncing the exclusion of our people.  We have done some marches and protests against racists clubs because they don’t allow Black people although we’ve noticed that it’s very important to participate in politics because we want to be inside the door.  We’ve been knocking, knocking, knocking and we want to become the people who open that door so our people can begin to develop.  But we want to establish this with people that are militant and activists, no Blacks that think White and when they have power they forget about their roots.  This is why we are organizing in every Afro Peruvian community future leaders.  We would like in 2011 that the Democratic elections would present 100 Black candidates for the elections, which has never happened historically.  We want to prepare young Black people, activists, to participate in politics. 
 
FC:  What do you think about Barack Obama and his rise?
 
JRR:  We believe that he is an example, model, that we can do it and be in the same position that he is in.  I don’t know what’s going to happen after he takes office January 20, or what agreement he has made with the right, but we know that there’s a Black man who’s president of the greatest country in the world.  This is something that inspires us and makes us see that we can get there, too.  It’s excellent.
 
FC:  What did you enjoy most about your visit to Los Angeles?
 
JRR:  That I’ve seen a lot of Black people.  I feel Blacker here than in Peru because there’s a magic here that makes me feel more African. 
 
FC:  Any message for Blacks here in America who may read your words here?
 
JRR:  To my North American brothers and sisters, remember that in Peru there are your younger brothers, a population of Afro Peruvians that have not lost their faith in having a better quality of life.  Their rights should be respected and they should not face discrimination.  For that we need our brothers and sisters from the United States that would serve as models and support that we can know, yes, there’s a possibility that we can fight against equality and for our rights and respect.
 
FC:  Thank you.

Queen Aminah's in this week's Final Call



Aminah Muhammad is affectionately known as Queen Aminah to her Los Angeles and Inglewood, California communities because of her clothing designs that are "fit for a queen."  She and her husband, Larry, own Queen Aminah's Cultural Clothing Store, which she said was inspired by the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan's historic Million Man March address.  Read more in the Jan. 6 issue of the Final Call Newspaper or contact her directly at queenaminahclothing@yahoo.com










(l-r) Jalilah, Larry and Aminah Muhammad
in front of "Queen Aminah's Clothing Store's"
new home inside the Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Mall.
(Photo:  Cazzie Burns)

Thursday, January 1, 2009

In with the new . . .


The Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan (center) photographed in 2008 with the Final Call Newspaper's editors and staff writers.  (l-r Nisa Islam Muhammad, Nubian Muhammad (front) Charlene Muhammad (back) Marcella Muhammad, Ashahed Muhammad, Abdul Arif Muhammad and Askia Muhammad (front) Saeed Shabazz and Jesse Muhammad (back).


. . . Out with the old!  Today really gives new meaning to this phrase.  I did a lot last year, both professionally and personally.  Still, there's so much that I pledged to accomplish in 2008; wanted to accomplish; was obligated to accomplish.  And in truth, I simply didn't, for many various good and bad reasons that I won't mention here.  As I reflected yesterday and this morning on what I could have done differently and how to improve, the crystal clear answer was to have spent less time beating myself up about unfinished business and instead replace that time with positive action.  The other answer was for me to return to my foundation and the very relevant, timely and phenomenal course, "Self-Improvement: The Basis for Community Development," which the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan launched from Phoenix Arizona more than two decades ago.  

If you're thinking about your New Year's resolutions and how to get started, much less how to follow through and reach your goal, I recommend the Self-Improvement Course.  If you want to:

1  get closer to God
2  stop drinking, smoking or doing drugs
3  stop over-eating
4  stop cursing
5  stop abusing yourself or your spouse
6  stop abusing your children
7  stop over-spending 
8  build a stronger will power
9  obtain balance
10 overcome difficulty
11  overcome controversy, just try it.

Change isn't easy, but there is a man (I'm not referring President-Elect Barack Obama, although he made it look that way during the elections), that's walking directly in divine order, and is an everyday example of how to get rid of excuses and get the job done.

Minister Farrakhan has not failed one iota in accomplishing the mission of his teacher, The Most Honorable Elijah Muhammad, and he is still working everyday toward ultimate success.  He's an example and a guide that deserves to be followed and helped better.

I've a lot of goals for Mind, Matter, Movement and one of them is to make my word bond and fully transfer the information that I gathered at the Democratic Convention in Denver, as well as my routine coverage for the Final Call.  In the upcoming days and weeks, look for more of My Election '08 Moments and My Final Call Journal.

Sis. Charlene