Mercy, Mercy Me (Donald Trump’s Ecology)

Marvin Gaye spoke about the Ecology when many artists were afraid to. His second single from the 1971 “What’s Going On” album was controversial and many stations initially wouldn’t play it. It won a Grammy Hall of Fame Award and was both observant and prescient, also ignored. As ineffective as Donald Trump has been with major legislation. He’s literally killing us with small nicks and cuts.

a a marvinn

Photo: 45cat.com

 

Whoa, ah, mercy mercy me
Oh things ain’t what they used to be, no no
Where did all the blue skies go?
Poison is the wind that blows from the north and south and east

On February 17,2017, Donald Trump appointee Scott Pruitt is confirmed as EPA Administrator. He doesn’t believe in climate change.

Whoa mercy, mercy me
Oh things ain’t what they used to be, no no
Oil wasted on the oceans and upon our seas, fish full of mercury

On March 2nd, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke rescinded a ban on lead ammunition which can poison birds and animals on Federal lands and waters. The EPA withdraws a request for more information on Methane gas emissions and other volatile compounds. Trump worried about the cost to oil and gas companies.

Ah, oh mercy, mercy me
Ah things ain’t what they used to be, no no
Radiation underground and in the sky
Animals and birds who live nearby are dying

On March 24th, the State Department approves the Keystone XL Pipeline.

Oh mercy, mercy me
Oh things ain’t what they used to be
What about this overcrowded land
How much more abuse from man can she stand?

On March 29th, the EPA stops trying to ban the use of Chlorpyrifos on up to 40,000 farms. The insecticide has already been banned for household use and can cause brain damage in children and farm workers, even at low levels. EPA chemical safety experts were against the decision. Trump’s Dept. of Agriculture said it was, “helpful to farmers.”

Oh, no no, na, na na, na
My sweet Lord, na, na, na
My Lord, my sweet Lord

On June 1st, Donald Trump announces the US will pull out of the Paris Climate Accords. One of the factors in his decision was not liking the way the new French President shook his hand at the recently concluded G-7 meetings.

Mercy, mercy me…

Featured Photo: twitter.com

“I See Dead People!”

I’ve been blogging for almost 15 months, beginning on my birthday, March 30, 2016. Because my website host keeps all kinds of statistics, I know I’ve made 317 posts (excluding this one). I’ve written 215 about politics. Three of my granddaughters have worked their way into print.

I’ve written about education, done a few film reviews, given my thoughts on events of social relevance and often wrote about systemic injustice. I’ve begun a monthly series on “Shadow Warriors” to place a spotlight on the good works of others who have yet to receive national recognition. Generally something inspires a thought and it churns around in my head for a brief period until I sit at my computer and write the story.

I generally include multiple photos with my stories to give my words more impact. I often search the Internet and save the photo’s I use to my computer before uploading them to my blog posts. For whatever reason that someone more tech savvy than I could easily correct. The images I save often become a rotating screensaver, popping up after my screen has been idle for a period.

During the day, I rarely pay attention to the pictures. I check my laptop often enough that the screensaver isn’t activated that much and when it is I barely notice. It’s at night that I might be confronted with an image of someone I’ve written about. All too often someone unjustly killed. All too often shot by police under various circumstances. One was a child asleep on a couch, another playing with a toy in a park, several for being BWD (Black while driving). The reasons varied greatly, the one thing in common was the apparent fear for their lives police officers had when confronting these people with no weapons. One did have a weapon which he had a legal right to own. He politely informed the officer he had one and within seconds was shot dead. When I pass my computer in the night… I see dead people.

The first person I wrote about that was taken from us far too soon was Tanya Skeen. “Miss Tanya” was not a victim of police violence but was shot while standing in her own kitchen, an innocent bystander during a shootout. Another bystander, Gino Nicolas, was killed nearby as well. There was great outrage in the community and cooperation with law enforcement.  Like everyone else in the community, I was grateful when the police caught the killers who are nearing trial. Tanya Skeen used to babysit one of those granddaughters I’ve written about. Tanya was always cheerful with an infectious smile. My granddaughter learned what going to heaven is.

Tanya Skeen

Photo: twitter.com

July 2016 brought us the deaths of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile. The police officer who shot Castile had just been told, “Sir, I do have to tell you I do have a firearm on me.” Seconds later the officer shot him four times, in “fear for his life.” He was found not guilty. No justice, no justice, never any justice.

I didn’t write about Tamir Rice at the time of his death but did mention him, including a picture in a piece about Colin Kaepernick in August. The Devil was busy last August which gave us the deaths of Tyree King who allegedly had a BB gun. The three bullets that struck him were in the back. Terence Crutcher was killed outside his car, with his hands up. Keith Lamont Scott in North Carolina was waiting for his son to get out of school. Alfred Olango’s sister called 911 to get help for her brother with mental health issues. He was unarmed but still ended up dead. All were killed by police… in fear of their lives.

a tamir iice

Photo: newschannel5.com

On November 21, 2016. 15-year-old James Means was killed, not by a policeman but by 62-year-old William Pullman who allegedly had been bumped into. Pullman had no remorse. He said, “The way I look at it, that’s another piece of trash off the streets.” After shooting the teenager twice in the stomach, Pullman went home and had dinner. He later hung out at a friend’s home. When he was later arrested he lamented, “I’m going to lose my job and everything!”

a-james-meanss

Photo:twitter.com

I wasn’t writing only about depressing murders at that time. Of course, there was the equally depressing election of Donald Trump and his bringing with him Steve Bannon, Jeff Sessions and more. I wrote about my daughter-in-law’s attempts to  kill me, with repeated overdoses of cookies. My grandmother, old friends and my high school basketball coach were highlighted in stories. Somehow their pictures didn’t make it into my screensaver rotation.

Being an ex-NFL football player didn’t keep Joe McKnight from being killed in New Orleans. His killer, 54-year old Ronald Glasser who was white, was initially released without charges. The Sheriff, also white was disturbed that, “Everybody wants to make this about race. It’s not about race!”

a-joe-dreds

Photo: nydailynews.com

Around the same time in South Carolina. The trial of police officer Michael Slager ended in a mistrial for the fatal shooting of Walter Scott. Slager was on video tape shooting the unarmed Scott in the back while running away from him. No justice, no justice, never any justice.

I knew Bernard Bailey. He was a year behind me in college. He was at Tennessee State University while I was a mile down the road at Fisk University. We played basketball in pick-up games. Despite the fact I was paired against him and he played for a rival school, I liked him. We could have become friends. He had been dead 6 years before I even heard about it, killed by the police chief in his hometown in South Carolina. His killer Richard Combs, was tried twice. Each ended in a hung jury. He did lose his job so there’s that. Bernard Bailey lost his life. No justice… you know the rest.

Bernard Bailey

Photo: twitter.com

Somewhere along the line I also wrote about Sandra Bland, Trayvon Martin and others. I confess that I now mix up the details of  individual deaths as there are so many. An officer in Cincinnati was acquitted today in the death of an unarmed black motorist. The two things these deaths have in common are people “in fear for their lives” that had to kill them and of course no justice!

It is not lost on me while I catch an unplanned glimpse of someone who needed not die. I was just as likely to see a picture of Trump or Sessions whose policies are likely to greatly increase my gallery rather than slow the pace. They are attempting to undermine the consent decrees entered into by police forces and their communities and promised almost no Federal oversight of police activities. While tempted to delete all the photos so as to no longer be caught unaware. I elect to keep the reminder. I know the work is not done as long as we can be shot and killed with impunity and the guaranteed result is no justice. This post is not anti-police although many of those I see were killed needlessly by them. It is anti  people who have no business carrying a gun shooting my people and walking away free. Until there is an environment where the mere statement of being in fear despite all evidence to the contrary is no longer sufficient to escape justice. I’ll still see dead people.

Featured Photo: vox.com

Who Wrote The Senate Health Care Bill?

 

a health carrr

Photo: twitter.com

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell appointed a 13-member committee to write their version of a Health Care Bill that has been secreted from the American Public although McConnell plans to hold a vote on the bill within a week. This committee consists of all white-males who are apparently better disposed to make decisions on behalf of women and minorities than they would themselves if given the chance. No Democrat to date have seen the bill. Most Republicans haven’t seen the bill. In an amazing statement yesterday from Sen. Mike Lee (R) Utah, one of the group writing the bill. He doesn’t know what’s in the Bill either. The Bill will be released for the first time tomorrow morning (6/23) to a Republican only group of Senators after which details are expected to start leaking to the public. With Mike Lee, one of the alleged authors saying he doesn’t know what’s in it. The fundamental question is, “Who is writing this Bill?”

a health care

Photo: mediate.com

Money Magazine recently posted an article on the 13 Senators including the primary sources of their political contributions. Most of them have Health Care firms listed in their top-five donors. Is the Bill being written by industry insiders, A.L.E.C., somebody in their mother’s basement? Who wrote this Bill?

This Bill affects 1/6th of the American economy and almost all of us individually. It’s voyage through the Senate has been less transparent than perhaps any other in American history. We will eventually find out what’s in it, although Mitch McConnell wants to hold a vote before any town halls and public input can be held. He’s refused to meet with national patient advocate groups about the bill. We’ll find out what’s in it. I want to know who wrote it?

If you want to know as well. Please share this widely.

Featured Photo: dailywire.com

When They Start Shooting Republicans

On June 14, 2017, 66-year-old James Hodgkinson shot up a baseball diamond where a Republican Congressional baseball team was practicing in advance of their annual game against the Democrats. House Majority Whip Steve Scalise was critically injured and three others were shot by the assailant. Hodgkinson himself was shot and killed by the security detail that accompanied Scalise, a member of leadership in the House.

I had something to say at the time, but elected to wait, listen, and watch the fallout from the event. As America learned more about the shooter and Monday morning quarterbacks told us the reasoning behind his actions. We were told of his support for Bernie Sanders and his progressive leanings. I heard tales of the rise of left wing radical groups and the threat they present to conservatives Americans. I heard about how Democrats needed to tone down their anti-Trump rhetoric and hatred of Republicans. It seems everyone with something to say about the shooting had an agenda. I waited still.

We learned about James Hodgkinson’s history of domestic violence. In 2006 , he was arrested for domestic battery and discharge of a firearm. He punched his daughter’s friend, shot at another person present. He beat his daughter and threw her around a room. When she tried to flee in her car he choked her and tried to cut her out of her seatbelt. In what should be a story of it’s own, the charges were later dismissed.

a scalise1

Photo: wsj.com

It seems that 54% of mass shootings between 2009 and 2016 involved domestic violence. After the shooting at the baseball park, there was a feeble attempt to once again raise the subject of sensible gun control. Like always it was a non-starter as the hold the NRA has on Congress is too strong. Even when they themselves start getting shot. But that isn’t what I wanted to write about.

We heard a lot about unity. How Republicans and Democrats need to come together, not letting partisanship come between us. How Americans should unite! The charity game the Republicans were practicing for was played the evening after the shooting. Over 25,000 people attended and money was raised for good causes. The Democrats won and handed the trophy to the Republicans, to be placed in the office of Steve Scalise upon his return. Predominantly old, white men hugged each other and proclaimed “unity” had been accomplished while their respective agenda’s went unchanged promising nothing of the sort.

Republican Senators went right back to trying to pass a Health Care Bill without debate, without hearings. 13 predominantly old white men are meeting in secret to come up with a plan that they will try to move through the Senate before anyone has a chance to understand it. When I said “predominantly old white men,” they were all white with no minority representation. They were all men. They just weren’t all old. So much for unity. I don’t want to write about that either.

What I did want to touch on was the narrative about the rising violence on the left. The alleged clear and present danger to conservatives who dare to stand up for American values. These would be the same conservatives who ignore the rise in right wing hate groups. Anti-Muslim hate groups. The reemergence of the Klan and White Nationalism. It’s presence in the White House (Bannon), the sons of the President who never met a Neo-Nazi or White Nationalist meme they didn’t like or in their case retweet. They justify the racist past and present of the President himself.

There is a prominent news network (Fox) that has done much to stoke the fears and hatred of  White Americans. They gave you the Tea Party and helped give us Trump. The truth was often obscured by a narrative that others are taking what is rightfully theirs. Not to give Fox sole credit, Breitbart, Infowars, even the National Review and The Wall Street Journal deserve their due. All of them helped to generate specifically White activism in behalf of White causes. They made heroes of extremist groups in standoffs against the government. They encouraged militias. They encouraged and motivated them by making them mad.   And now Republicans, I’m arriving the point I did want to get to. They’re mad at you!

In this instance it was a progressive fanatic who shouldn’t have been able to get a gun in the first place who was the shooter. He made sure it was Republicans he was shooting before opening fire. He carried a list with the names of several Republicans and their office information which some are calling a “hit list.” Congress has begun discussing how to fund additional security for it’s members. Almost all members including Democrats have at one time or another received threats. But back to the angry white people.

Republican Congressional Representatives and Senators have greatly reduced and in some cases halted altogether holding town halls. Their prime mechanism for communicating with the people. On the heels of their attempts to pass a Health Care Bill that will take Health Care away from 23 million Americans including many of their own supporters. They have literally became afraid of their own constituents. They have much more to fear than an inconsequential number of left wing extremists. Trump and by their silence Republicans in Congress, promised the return of coal mines that were never lost due to environmental regulations but by a technology that has made those jobs obsolete. They were promised “good manufacturing jobs, deportation of undocumented immigrants, Hillary would be “locked up” and they would be “great again.” They gave you Trump and those promises are now due.

Republicans made those people mad, they ensured they were armed and had the God-given right to own guns bigger than they could carry. You made promises you had no chance of keeping, the lone exception where you would give huge tax cuts to the rich while the rest of us suffered more. Steve Scalise’s last town hall was held by telephone where he only accepted screened calls from supporters.

a scalise2

Photo: romper.com

For all of the discord and rancor between Democrats and Republicans in Congress. Unity isn’t really that hard to accomplish on many levels because most members have far more in common than what separates them. Your Congress consists mainly of rich white people or those dependent on the support of the same who get together and decide the fate of the rest of us. They are beholden to special interests and far more likely to favor corporate interests than those of their constituents. The unity that needs to be promoted is not among members of Congress but among the American people who would be better served by the type of Healthcare that focuses on service and not profits. The people would benefit by a reasonable immigration policy and a foreign policy that isn’t us against the world. The people would benefit from efforts to protect the ecology rather than elected officials ignoring it in favor of corporate greed and their own prospects for re-election.

I would say to Republicans and only to a slightly lesser degree Democrats in the Congress. Serve the people. The disapproval levels for the President has reached 64%, even more people disapprove of Congress. Start looking out for more than the rich because your biggest concern ought to be that your own are turning on you. Don’t believe it? Watch a town hall!

Photo: twitter.com

 

 

Suppose Comey Taped Trump?

In response to the testimony of ousted FBI Director James Comey who indicated the President lied multiple times regarding their private dinner. Donald Trump in a Rose Garden press conference went full Trump. He blustered, mischaracterized James Comey’s words and stated both that it was Comey that lied and that Trump himself would gladly testify under oath, “100 Percent!”

When asked by reporters about the alleged “tapes” that Trump may have of their conversation. Trump neither confirmed or denied but said he’d have an announcement to make in a “very short period of  time.”

While I believe that Trump has no such tapes, and if he did they would confirm Comey’s testimony. He wouldn’t be Trump if he didn’t lie and boast about some future event that will never take place. It’s almost certain that Trump has no tapes, but let’s imagine for a moment that Comey does?

a rose gardenn

Photo: huffingtonpost.com

The dinner where the meeting took place was held inside the White House. I don’t know all the security protocols the FBI Director would have went through when entering the building. He certainly would have been able to keep his phone (a recording device) and if anyone in the world could bring a discreet recording device into the White House I imagine the FBI Director would have access to the best technology.

When Trump first implied he might have tapes of their discussion. Could Comey have started a long game in which he gets Trump to testify under oath which he just promised and then produce tapes of his own? Proving Trump guilty of perjury.

a rose garden1

Photo: time.com

It’s already been established that in Washington DC, only one person has to be aware of the recording of a conversation. If that person was Comey and not Trump. By sticking to his lie, Trump just opened up yet one more path to his political destruction. It couldn’t happen to a more deserving guy.

Featured Photo: cnn.com

Did the Russians Hack Black Voters Because Nobody Would Care?

“I suspect a bit of both is true because the people most heavily impacted by the voting problems whether caused by Russians or Republicans, were Black!”

On June 5th, a Top-Secret NSA report was leaked showing Russia had done much more than was commonly known in their attempts to influence the US Presidential Election in 2016. The Russians hacked a Florida based software provider that helped manage voter registration programs in several states. The media duly reported the potential problems this could create including people showing up and finding they were removed from the voting rolls or processes could be slowed to create long lines in targeted areas. The narrative we were asked to focus on was that there is no evidence any votes were actually changed and there was nothing to see here.

a a vote

Photo: slate.com

While admittedly there’s a lot going on in the news including daily new reports on Russian ties to the Trump campaign or the President’s erratic behavior. Upcoming testimony from James Comey and other intelligence officials outlining possible obstruction of justice by Trump. With all that’s going on, I want to stop a minute and take a look at what just happened. The press outlined the potential dangers without taking the logical next step to see if any of those things actually occurred? There were hundreds of thousands of people turned away from the polls. There were crazy long lines in many urban areas. These things were reported contemporaneously right after the election. How much would it have taken to link those events and at least question whether or not the Russians were successful in disrupting the voting process? I find it hard to believe that I’m the only one making this connection. There are only two other possibilities.

  1. The long lines and voters turned away raised no red flags because we expected to see precisely those things as a result of the voter suppression methods well known to be in place.
  2. People in power know… but don’t care.

I suspect a bit of both is true because the people most heavily impacted by the voting problems whether caused by Russians or Republicans, were Black!

a a voter

Photo: twitter.com

There has always been a bit of complicity regarding the suppression of Black votes in America. Voting rights have always been a negotiation where Black voters were allowed a certain amount of power and no more. When first given the widespread legal right to vote, Black people in Mississippi and elsewhere began sending Representatives to Congress and started to touch upon achieving true power. Their voting strength was only possible due to the presence of Federal troops in the South. When withdrawn as a result of the Compromise of 1877, Reconstruction was effectively over. For every Voter Rights Act that was passed, there was a Supreme Court decision eventually gutting it. This is the history of our country. They giveth and they taketh away.

There is a pretense apparently acceptable to both Republicans, Democrats and the Supreme Court. It’s okay to have redistricting that nullifies Black votes if the reason is merely partisan and not racist. In other words, as long as they don’t call it racist, without regard to a racist effect, it’s not.

It’s very possible that Russian interference is hard to determine because what they may have attempted is exactly what current day Republicans and latter-day Democrats have done to curtail Black votes. Black voters have always faced externally imposed long lines, limited polling locations, reduced voting hours. While attempting to vote is no longer likely to get a Black person lynched. There are as many forces in play to limit their votes as ever before. If Russia wanted to influence the last Presidential election. All they had to do was imitate Republicans and inhibit the vote of those that those in power are willing to overlook.

The story of Russian influence on voter registration programs is already fading into the background. I wonder if it’s because the results are compatible with the greater design?

Feature Photo: youtube.com

Glory Edim: Shadow Warrior

Glory Edim is aptly named. Glory is defined as “high renown or honor won by notable achievements.” Her Nigerian parents may have known the destiny of their daughter long before we had the chance to watch it unfold. This month’s Shadow Warrior would likely shun the word warrior and possibly embrace the shadows. She doesn’t seek acclaim but it finds her nonetheless.

a glory4

Glory is the founder of Well Read Black Girl, a Brooklyn based book club that has over 20,000 followers worldwide. Its mission is to “increase the visibility of Black women writers and initiate meaningful conversation with readers.” On September 9, 2017, they’ll be hosting their first WRBG Writer’s Conference and Festival. To finance the Conference they began a “All or Nothing” Kickstarter Campaign  in a desire to raise $15,000. The money was raised in just a few days and they’ve established a secondary campaign to reach $25,000 to host a closing celebratory concert. At the time of this writing there are still 26 days left to contribute.

Glory was always a reader, starting at age three. She has a story that parallels one of mine. I would read well past time for bed, taking the shade off a lamp and reading under a blanket so the light wouldn’t give me away. One night I fell asleep and the bulb slowly burned a hole into the mattress until the smell and smoke woke my brother. Far more sensible, Glory used a flashlight for her night reading and therefore didn’t almost burn down the house.

She called her mom a “super library fanatic.” Claiming they “went to the library every two seconds.” She later attended Howard University where she discovered Zora Neale Hurston, Audre Lorde and bell hooks among others. All that she read and the thoughts inspired simply couldn’t be contained within her. She then and now was compelled to share with others.

a glory5

She moved to Brooklyn in 2012 and one “victim” of her sharing was her boyfriend. He had created for her a shirt that said, “Well Read Black Girl,” complete with the Latin phrase, “Erudita Puella Africae.” That translates loosely to well-educated African. He also suggested she “start a book club.” Definitely in encouragement, possibly in self-defense. Glory started Well Read Black Girl in August of 2015 and what began as a collection of her New York friends getting together to talk about books became the behemoth it is today. A formidable presence on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr and TinyLetter; she publishes a weekly newsletter and the club physically meets once a month.

a glory6

Photo: twitter.com

The group name “Well Read Black Girl” is misleading in that you need not be Black to join and participate. You don’t even need to be a woman as men are welcome as well. You must understand that WRBG is supportive of the works of Black women authors and not the place to hype the works of others. On her website she posts, “You don’t have to be Black to join the book club, however, you should be an ally. Glory pays homage to the “foremothers.” These include Zora, Maya Angelou, Toni Morrison, Alice Walker and bell hooks. She is also the first to provide support to new authors with their first release. The books she chooses to highlight are not based on how they’ll sell but what they bring to the discussion. First and foremost, she’s a reader… that loves to share.

a glory 2

Photo: cavecanempoets.org

She’s already been proclaimed, The Future of Reading  by Brooklyn Magazine. When interviewed in October of 2016 the concept of a literary festival was spoken of in hopeful whispers. This September it will come to pass. Glory has brought to fruition all she declared less than two years ago and admits to exceeding her own dreams. She’s considering how to respond to requests to start new Chapters of WRBG as far away as London and Los Angeles. Despite all the newfound recognition and acclaim. It’s the monthly meeting s and connections with real people that keep her grounded. That and meeting with and moderating discussions with the Black female authors she initially sought to support. She met author Naomi Jackson at her own book reading and mentioned her book club was reading her book and invited her to come. She came! Since then they’ve had other authors and WRBG has become a destination instead of an afterthought.

When WRBG began, it was just Glory. She was the entire organization and everything came from her. She now has a team. Everything she’s done in life has prepared her for this moment. She served as a creative strategist for more than ten years at startups and cultural institutions including The Webby Awards and the New York Foundation for the Arts. She is presently the Publishing Outreach Specialist at Kickstarter where she “helps writers use the platform to build community and find support for their creative endeavors. Looking at what she’s accomplished in the past two years, I’m planning now to see where she’s at two years from now? Today, “The Future of Reading.” Tomorrow… writer, publisher, Queen of the World? #WellReadBlackGirl

Each month Enigma In Black will feature a new Shadow Warrior. Don’t miss any by scrolling down and clicking “Follow”. Please share so that we can bring these Warriors and their work out of the shadows! I’d love to hear your suggestions for future Warriors which you can leave in the comments section.

Aramis Ayala

Dr. Crystal A. deGregory

Kelly Hurst

The Wilson Academy

Sevgi Fernandez

I Finally Agree With Donald Trump

After constant railing against all things Trump. I’m inspired to change tactics. It’s been proven time after time that Trump listens to the last person that talks to him and that he likes it when people say nice things about him. I can’t necessarily be last but I can talk nice and finally found something I can agree with him on.

It’s being reported that Trump has been disgusted with Jeff Sessions ever since he recused himself from the FBI investigation against Donald and many of his administration. He believes that there would be no Special Counsel or constantly expanding investigations had Sessions simply played his role and stifled all that stuff which was what he was appointed for in the first place.

Attorney General

Photo: photoapple.com

So yes Donald… you’re right. Had it not been for the ungrateful Jeff Sessions. You’d be spending your time banning Muslims, destroying health care and granting huge tax cuts to yourself, your family and rich friends. I agree with what in your genius you must have already thought of. You should fire Jeff Sessions who bailed on you instead of standing firm on the one thing he was hired to do. Protect your flabby behind.

While you’re at it. Try to remove his entire legacy like his name was Obama. Roll back the hyper mass incarceration he’s already reinstated. Undo the new levels of deportation and ICE raids along the border. Stop trying to void all the Consent Decrees between Cities and their police departments. Go with your gut Donald. You got this!

 

Featured Photo: wgntv.com

The Legacy of Andrew Joseph III

On August 29, 2005 Deanna Hardy-Joseph experienced what she imagined would be the worst experience of her lifetime. Hurricane Katrina devastated much of New Orleans. She along with her husband, Andrew Joseph, Jr and 5-year old son Andrew Joseph III were uprooted from their home and moved to Florida to make a new start, looking to a hopeful future. On February 7, 2014 Hurricane Katrina became a distant afterthought as she learned her oldest child and only son had been killed in a traffic fatality while he was supposed to have been at the Florida State Fair in Tampa.

Andrew III had asked his parents months before if he could attend the fair along with one of his football teammates. He raised his own spending money. Andrew went to private St Stephen Catholic School while his friend attended a local public school. Hillsborough County Schools offers free tickets to children K-12 to attend the fair on the first Friday night. It was a tradition that some say dated back to the 1950’s and “Negro Day” which was the one day black people were allowed to attend the fair. Andrew was to go and return with his friends mother. The parents exchanged contact information and Deanna’s number was stuck on a pink post-it note on the other mother’s dashboard.

The Hillsborough County Sheriff’s office expected trouble. They were aware of incidents at other locations across the state. They were concerned about gang activity. There’s no evidence they took proactive steps to tell the schools and the community. The schools didn’t require permission slips. The Sheriff’s plan was to arrest, evict and if need be shut down the fair.

The Sheriff had two paddy wagons on-site and throughout the day they made 12 arrests for fighting or trespassing. They “evicted” 99 youth, almost all black and claimed that they were “wilding” which apparently consists of running through the fair. Some allegedly grabbed candied apples and threw them at deputies. In 2013, 56 people were evicted and two arrested. In 2012 it was 48 evictions and eight arrests. In 2011 it was 93 and nine.

The Sheriff’s Department wants you to know that an “eviction” is not an arrest. They detain a child. Require them to hold up or remove their shirts in a search for gang tattoo’s. They take mug shots while holding a card with their name in front of them. It sounds very much like an arrest except for a specific charge or due process. Many of those “evicted” were minors. Their parents were not contacted. None were handed off to parents but instead transported to a site in groups the two paddy wagons could accommodate which was across Interstate 4 from the fairgrounds.

Andrew Joseph III had never been in trouble. He was an outstanding student who strove to achieve academically at his almost all-white Catholic school. His mother said of him, “He was an aspiring designer of shoes and clothing. He loved people, family, and friends. He would give the shirt off his back or half of any money he had.” Andrew had no gang tattoos to show the police when detained. He was wearing three bracelets made by his younger sister Deja, then in fourth grade.

a andrew2

Andrew had his cell phone with him when dropped off by the Sheriff’s Department. His friends mother was scheduled to pick him up at the fairgrounds on the other side of the Interstate. Perhaps the 14-year-old was still thinking of what to tell his mother and father about how he’d been stopped by the police, had a mugshot taken and been dropped off at a different place. Whatever his thoughts, he decided to make his way back to the fairgrounds and his ride, crossing the Interstate to get there.

When his friend’s mother arrived at the fairgrounds to pick up the two boys. Andrew was nowhere to be found. Her son hadn’t seen him in some time. She called Deanna who advised her she could leave and that Andrew’s father would pick him up. “Big Drew” arrived as the fairgrounds was closing down, earlier than expected. He inquired about his son and was ultimately directed to State Troopers. He was in constant contact with Deanna who was steadily calling the younger Andrew’s cell phone. It rang unanswered.

The State Trooper asked “what was Andrew wearing?”  Deanna kept calling and the phone only rang. The trooper got in his car and rolled up the window as he communicated with others where Andrew’s father could not hear. He eventually got out and told him Andrew III was at the morgue, victim of an auto accident. Nothing was said about the “eviction” or the role of the Sheriff’s Department or the fair. They found Andrew had been listed as a John Doe. When his parents inquired about his phone they were told, “Yeah, a phone keeps going off in his pocket.” Apparently the simplest and easiest way of identifying the black boy on the slab was ignored. A child’s life and subsequent death was so insignificant that identifying him and notifying his family was of little priority. He just didn’t matter.

I spoke with Deanna Joseph for over an hour and that point came up in different ways several times. Yes she wanted someone to be responsible. She wanted policies to change so that no other parents had to get news like she got that day in February. She wanted Andrew to have a legacy. She needed him to matter.

a andrew

Her husband lost his namesake, they shopped together, mowed the lawn, pressure washed the house. Many of his friends he had met from coaching their son’s along with Andrew over the years. He now finds it painful to be around them talking about their son’s progress and goals while his is gone. Younger sister Deja Marie Joseph would tell Deanna, “Mommy don’t cry, he’s in a better place.”

After the tragic fatality, Hillsborough County Sheriff sent a letter to various black community organizations. It said in part, “I am more concerned that the overwhelming number of youth and young adults arrested or ejected from the midway for misconduct were African American, and I recognize the responsibility to address the issue and ensure that the circumstances are not repeated in the future.”

Dr. Carolyn Collins, President of the Hillsborough County NAACP responded to the letter saying, “We need the help of law enforcement, educators, the media. We need all the groups together, and this cannot be an African-American issue,”

The letter from Sheriff David Gee placed the blame for the situation on the black community while defending the deputies who “evicted” youth that day. His department has never released a police report. They indicating the Florida State Highway Patrol has a report, seemingly referring to the accident report taken at the scene there. Andrew’s parents ultimately sued the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Department and the Florida State Fair Authority. In addition to monetary damages. They wanted recognition that the role Andrew’s death had in the new policies implemented after his death. They wanted perhaps a pavilion at the fair named after him. Some indication he mattered.

a andrew1

The driver that killed him surely didn’t try to kill a black teenager that day. He indicated “when he looked up” the teenager was “right there.” That response indicates he was looking down as opposed to watching the road. The driver was not drug tested nor given a breathalyzer. There was no need, it was just a black teen that shouldn’t have been there. Weeks later when Jonathan Hatfield was being sentenced for an unrelated crime in a neighboring County. Andrew’s death wasn’t mentioned nor part of his record. Were it not for Andrew’s father the Judge wouldn’t even have known. It apparently didn’t matter.

The boy’s evicted from the fair were given no due process. After the event, the Sheriff’s Department asked the public for videos and photo’s. Hoping to document crimes after the fact to justify their actions that day. One of the boy’s evicted said Andrew was not among the kids running. He got off a ride and saw some of his football teammates being manhandled. One was “slammed” by an officer and his hat fell off. Andrew witnessed the hat fall and picked it up and handed it to him. Andrew was then grabbed and arrested with the rest though the Sheriff’s department prefers to call it something else.

After his death, there were many including the Sheriff’s department that needed this to be Andrew’s fault. He was called a thug, they made the issue his behavior, with no witness, video or evidence of any kind attesting to it. Andrew’s crime was one of kindness. He handed a friend his hat.

Sheriff Gee recently announced he’s retiring in September, unexpectedly after just being re-elected. The lawsuit goes on but Gee will not be held accountable for his methods. Andrew’s parents formed the Andrew Joseph Foundation which focuses on “Safety First” in community venues. They “illuminate the disparity among policies that impede the premise of protecting children and those entities that claim safety as their #1 priority.”

Many changes have taken place at the Tampa State Fairgrounds. The Sheriff’s Department still plans to use “evictions” which they claim aren’t arrests. Deputies will contact parents or guardians of minors who can be picked up at the Amphitheater. If no parent/guardian can be contacted, children will be held at the County’s Children’s Service Facility. Youth will not be admitted after 6pm without an adult.

Andrew’s parents want schools to require permission slips to receive the free tickets. They think it would be safer to disperse attendance throughout the week as opposed to all coming on a single day. The Fairgrounds serves alcohol. In 2011 the Florida Legislature passed a law that says you can bring your permitted gun to the Fairgrounds. What could possibly go wrong? Former Congressman Alan Grayson asked the Justice Department to investigate Andrew’s death… they declined. In one of his last official acts after he lost his bid for re-election. Grayson filed the Andrew Joseph III Act requiring those who request a specific type of federal funds to have a Civilian Review Board. In this Republican Congress, it will likely never receive a vote.

There is still much to be done yet Andrew has left an important legacy. His death had resulted in changes at the Fairgrounds which have already made minors safer. The Foundation bearing his name is making strides to increase safety at public venues across the country. Perhaps one day around the world. The lawsuit will eventually shine a harsh light on the Sheriff’s Department evictions that are arrests in all but name. Lastly, he left a legacy of love. Not only his family that he loved as they loved him. Because of the way he lived his life with kindness, caring for others, and the changes ultimately wrought. He is survived by us all. He accomplished much in his too brief stay but his impact will be everlasting. Perhaps the next time a phone goes off in a dead black boy’s pocket, someone will bother to answer.

=