C’est tout! (New page!)

This post is to let you all know that this URL will be discontinued.  As I have graduated from Penn State University, I will soon lose access to my access info and, subsequently, this blog page.

Do not fret, though–this is because we have moved to an all new page: 28Names.com.  Please check out the new site and our new Teespring storefront sponsoring our “Redefine” Campaign!

Also, follow our social media pages on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.     Here’s a screencap of the new page, click it to head straight there:

Thank you all for all of your support–see you on the new (and improved) page!

28Names page screenshot

New Site coming soon!

Seasons Greetings all,

Sincerest apologies for not updating over the past month and a half, especially given the turmoil that the country has been in with the non-indictment rulings of Ferguson PD officer Darren Wilson and NYPD officer Daniel Pantaleo in the killings of Michael Brown and Eric Garner, respectively.  With that said, I have since graduated from the Pennsylvania State University, so one would hope that this is an acceptable reason for absence.  Nonetheless, I will be shutting down this site soon, as it is connected to my soon-to-expire PSU email account.

HOWEVER, as implied in the title, I will be opening up 28Names.com soon!  It will be a much more expansive site, complete with the archived blog posts here as well as a catalog to view apparel from the upcoming 28Names clothing line!

If you do not already, please be sure to follow @28Names on Instagram and Twitter for more information about 28Names.  For those who celebrate Christmas, may you have a merry one; Happy Hanukkah, Happy Kwanzaa, and a general Season’s Greetings.

Hate.

We live in a society driven by hate.

I’m sitting here, procrastinating my HW (which I am really about to regret, but, that’s another story) and reading the various timelines of people I follow on my #28names account. Whether it be fighting against the dehumanization of people of color, the objectification of women, the intersectionality of race and gender, LGBT issues, or even trivial things like hoping the Cowboys lose–we live in a society that seems to be less & less about rooting FOR something but about rooting AGAINST something else. Against someone else.

There’s always an enemy someone needs to vanquish; this unknown, unseen, omnipresent evil that manifests itself as a racist neoconservative “old boy’s club” douchebag.

Or as a fascist, new-age Gestapo law enforcing unconstitutional pig.

Or as a liberal agenda-pushing n*gger & f*g-loving hippy.

Or as a Fetch & Step-It massa-lovin’ ‘Negropean’.

Or a “fake-deep [im]hotep ass n*gga”. (Direct quote from the tweeter.)

Regardless of who it is it always seems like our fight is not about what we stand for but to suppress what someone else stands for, a thought process that begets every type of marginalization we see and are (supposedly) fighting to end. The very same process you fix your mouths to condemn every chance you get, as it is the face of your said ‘evil’ but yet you turn around and enact the same type of vitriol that sparked a need for so-called change agents like you to begin with. Soon enough, the line between what you fight FOR and who you fight AGAINST is muddied.

If I have learned anything about our history, beyond the misdirections and half-truths, is that the blind fury and hatred has done little for anyone in the long run. I’m not rocking with Lord Jamar and his dismissal of issues Black women face re: street harassment & homophobia; I can’t get behind Feminista Jones’ relatively warranted but overzealous antagonizing of Black Men in efforts to create/force dialogue about Black Women’s problems; I absolutely despise the term “Negropean” and any other terminology to demean or belittle someone’s Blackness based on their own personal politics; conversely, I also get frustrated with the Charles Barkleys of the world who, by bypassing some race issues after transcending that imaginary tax bracket line, place the struggles of black people solely on black people, as though they are their own biggest enemy.

To defeat a societal culture of hate, you must 1st deprogram the hate from within yourself.

Participate. Educate. Ameliorate. Collaborate. Emancipate.

#28Names #RedefineYourNarrative

Open Season

Eric Garner. John Crawford. Michael Brown.

I spoke to my uncle about the death of Michael Brown, a young Black man who was shot to death eight times while unarmed by law enforcement in Ferguson, MO.  I told him what happened and, without even skipping a beat, said:

“It’s open season on black men.”

Sadly, I find myself struggling to disagree with his words.  We are dying in Staten Island NY, we are being shot  in Beavercreek, Ohio, and we are being gunned down in the middle of the street outside of St. Louis, Missouri.  Michael was fleeing a patrol car and had his hands up in the air when Ferguson police fired on him.  He was 19 years old and today would’ve been his first day of college.

Eric Garner, you may remember, died after an altercation with NYPD police officers where one officer, Daniel Pantaleo, put Garner in an illegal chokehold that was outlawed by the NYPD years before.  The chokehold ultimately killed Eric, who suffered from asthma; after further review, his death was ruled a homicide. He was going to be 44 years old this September.

A lesser known story that is beginning to gain traction is  the death of John Crawford.  He was in Walmart with his girlfriend to gather supplies for a nearby cookout when he was holding a pellet gun in that respective part of Walmart.  Police were called and within minutes showed up to confront John.  Witnesses say they heard him say “it’s not real!” before police opened fire, killing him.  He was 22 at the time of his death.

On the 25th anniversary of arguably one of Spike Lee’s best and most controversial films, Do The Right Thing, Garner’s death has an eerie resemblance to the death of Radio Raheem in the cinematic climax of the movie, a similarity that Lee himself has recognized.  What is even more disturbing is that the reaction by both the police on-screen and off-screen varies very little.  The picture painted by Lee in this film is art imitating life, an example of how law enforcement in low-income neighborhoods have very little regard for the people it is implemented to protect and serve; instead, many of these police forces resort to policing these people as opposed to serving them.  As a result, you have these senseless deaths, three lives taken away from families that loved and depended on them for nothing more than a low-level misdemeanor crime apiece, if any crime; meanwhile, the divide between these officers and the neighborhoods they patrol only widen.

Some may retort that people of color commit violent acts against other people of color as well, and far more often than the police department do; to those who choose this perspective, I only have one question for them:

“What’s your point?”

If your point is that we must broaden our focus to the general well-being of people of color as opposed only when their lives are threatened by law enforcement, then I agree; however, negating the tragedy because of another oppression exists is irresponsible and counterproductive to figuring this problem out.  We know there is a problem in Chicago.  We know there are plenty other cities that are just as bad.  However, there is enough people in the world who give a damn to where we can spread that focus out; there are even some people who are willing to devote time and energy to both efforts.  Negating one in favor of the other helps neither; the point is that young black/latino men are still being killed across our country.

In order to stop the open season on them, we can’t allow ourselves to get sidetracked by petty debates.  Those three men should be alive right now. Hashtags like #IfTheyGunnedMeDown show the dark reality people of color face daily, and that alone should be enough to get people out of their seats and moving.  But for some, it isn’t.

Until it is, I guess I’ll just bid you “Happy Hunting”.

Verdict: Based on the LaVena Johnson story

I recently came across this short film by Nigerian director Stanlee Ohikhuare called Verdict via The Source.  The film, with the subtitle of An American Injustice Against its Citizen, readdresses the death of LaVena Johnson, which happened nine years ago on July 17th.  The United States Army ruled her death a suicide, despite the overwhelming evidence of foul play and the ensuing protests against said ruling.  This film represents a depiction of what LaVena would have done to herself had she committed suicide in order for her injuries to corroborate that story.

WARNING: This film is very graphic in nature; viewer discretion is advised.

 

My Brother’s Keeper: A Perspective

Recently, there has been an uproar over My Brother’s Keeper, a mentoring initiative created by the Obama administration geared to “address persistent opportunity gaps faced by boys and young men of color and ensure that all young people can reach their full potential.”  This is a groundbreaking initiative and one of the few instances where the U.S. government is working for its communities of color rather than against it (see: Plessy v. Ferguson, COINTELPRO, Contras war, etc.).

However, over the past few months there have been outcries from several different groups of people calling for the inclusion of women and girls in the My Brother’s Keeper program (which will be referred to as “MBK” from this point on).   A letter was written and signed by over 200 black men—including the likes of Danny Glover and several noted professors at top American universities. Another—and arguably more impactful— letter was written and signed by over 1,000 women of color,  including Alice Walker, Angela Davis, and Rosario Dawson.

I have struggled mightily with my stance on this topic.  On one hand, I understand and agree that Women of color need not be left out of one of the few national mandates focused on people of color.  Women of color are victims of not only a racial bias, but also a gender bias that compounds their struggles in a patriarchal society with terrible race relations.  The help that young men and women of color need is something that we as a country need to focus on.

However, I cannot sit here and support criticism of a never-before-seen initiative that puts the concept at risk even before it is fully realized.  While we all are familiar with the YMCAs, Police Athletic Leagues, and other extracurricular initiatives engaging both young people of color and people in low income communities (who often happen to be people of color), never before have we seen a federal initiative that looks to tackle and address the issues in our communities we have so long fought on our own. And, while I am not attempting to cite the “Oppression Olympics”, the odds are immeasurably stacked against young men of color.

  • Young black men are certainly more at risk to either be perpetrators or victims of violent crimes than any of their counterparts whether it be by race or sex; despite the national homicide rate decreasing over the past decade or so, homicide rates for black male victims have increased by 10%; 85% of black murder victims are male.
  • They are the most targeted in demographic in the “perceived” school-to-prison pipeline.  Suspension rates of young black males far supersede any other demographic. Black girls come in at a distant second.  Meanwhile, there are far fewer young men of color graduating from college than there are women of color.
  • In 2011, 86.7% of the NYPD Stop-and-Frisk subjects were Black or Latino, despite being just over 50% of the city’s population. In fact, more young black men were stopped and frisked in New York City than there are young black men IN New York City.
  • All but FOUR of the original #28Names honorees were young men of color, all but five being young black men. And, when questioned by a peer as to why there weren’t more women on the group, I had to let her know I simply could not find any more.

 

Yes, women and girls of color need our help.  I cannot and will not deny that there are issues unique to women of color that I want to see fixed; I want them to get the same help their male counterparts are looking to receive.  However, at this point in time, we have to realize that A) much has been done by the White House that focus on women & girls already (albeit not enough) and B) forcing inclusion like this not only takes away from addressing the issues that directly affect young men of color but women of color as well, two demographics that each have their own unique struggles that deserve their own attention.

Please, do not be shortsighted in this effort.  The wheels are already set in motion.  And if MBK is not expanded after PROVEN success with young men of color, I will join you all in your fight for inclusion. But as of now, please let MBK go on as is. Let it be the prototype we need to help our communities of color.

 

Mother’s Day

Editor’s Note: First, I would like to apologize for the extended period in which I have been away.  There has been a lot that has been going on with #28Names, much of which I will be sharing at a later time.  Also, I just finished wrapping up another academic semester at Penn State, where most of my attention has been going to.  I will be sure to provide more info as to what is and will be happening with #28Names.  -NRH

As the sun sets on another Mother’s Day and as I am headed home to see my mother I unfortunately do not speak to enough (while unintentional, I’m mostly to blame), I began to think about those individuals who won’t be returning home to their mothers, specifically the young men and women I’ve focused on since February.  On Friday, May 9th, several of the mothers of young men and women who have died at the hands of the NYPD held a rally outside of the Manhattan Supreme Court protesting the use of force in the NYPD.

With that said, I just wanted to send a Happy Mother’s Day to those related to my #28Names honorees:

Happy Mother’s Day to Constance Malcolm, mother of Ramarley Graham.

Happy Mother’s Day to Kadiatou Diallo, mother of Amadou Diallo.

Happy Mother’s Day to Sybrina Fulton, mother of Trayvon Martin.

Happy Mother’s Day to Phyllis Clayburne-Watsonmother of Timothy Stansbury, Jr.

Happy Mother’s Day to Carol Graymother of Kimani Gray.

Happy Mother’s Day to Valerie Bell and Nicole Paultre-Bellmother  and wife of Sean Bell, respectively.

Happy Mother’s Day to Jacqueline Llach, mother of Israel Hernandez-Llach.

Happy Mother’s Day and rest in peace to Mamie Tillmother of Emmett Till.

Happy Mother’s Day to Angela Heltonmother of Rekia Boyd.

Happy Mother’s Day to Wanda Johnson and Sophina Mesamother and girlfriend of Oscar Grant, respectively.

Happy Mother’s Day to Iberia and Deborah Hampton, mother and girlfriend of Fred Hampton, respectively.

Happy Mother’s Day to Anjanette Albert, mother of Derrion Albert.

Happy Mother’s Day to Cleopatra Cowley-Pendleton, mother of Hadiya Pendleton.

Happy Mother’s Day to Sherrel Johnson, mother of James Brissette.

Happy Mother’s Day to Fuki Madison, mother of Ronald Madison.

Happy Mother’s Day to Georgia Ferrellmother of Jonathan Ferrell.

Happy Mother’s Day to Natasha Allen, mother of Wendell Allen.

Happy Mother’s Day to Teresa Carter, mother of Chavis Carter.

Happy Mother’s Day to Sonya Mooremother of Derek Williams.

Happy Mother’s Day to Linda Johnson, mother of LaVena Johnson.

Happy Mother’s Day to Marva Davis, mother of Aaron Campbell.

Happy Mother’s Day to Kathleen Washington, mother of Steven Eugene Washington.

Happy Mother’s Day to Jacquelyn Johnson, mother of Kendrick Johnson.

Happy Mother’s Day to Marie Dorismond, mother of Patrick Dorismond.

Happy Mother’s Day to Monica McBride, mother of Renisha McBride.

Happy Mother’s Day to Angella Henry, mother of Danroy “DJ” Henry.

Happy Mother’s Day to Lucia McBath, mother of Jordan Davis.

And Happy Mother’s Day to all of the mothers whose child was lost needlessly due to violence in our communities. Their lives matter; may they all rest in Peace.

Pictures from the #28Names demonstration

I have finally gathered all of the pictures from the #28Names demonstration on February 27th and I have to say, they are breathtaking.  Special thanks goes to my two classmates, Brittany Trappe & Maeve McCullough, who were able to capture these images for me.

So this morning…

Today would be the 1st time in a month I would be getting dressed without a mandated T-shirt I designed as the centerpiece to my outfit.  With this phase of 28 Names done, I was all but happy to get back to wearing clothes that I had neglected since January 31st; as proud as I am of my project and as happy as I was with the feedback I received from it, I was secretly enthused about the idea of being able to wear sweaters, sweatshirts, and other tops.

…yet I found myself wearing the #28Names shirt I designed in memory of Ousmane Zongo.

The #28Names project, though it occurred during Black History Month, is not exclusive to Black History Month.  There are far more than 28/29 individuals whose life was lost in commonality with one another. It’s not just Fred Hampton, Ramarley Graham, Israel Hernandez, and the other 26 individuals I paid homage to throughout February.

It’s also about Islan Nettles, a young transgender woman beaten to death August 17, 2013 in Harlem, NY.  The police have yet to indict a suspect.  She was 21 and unarmed at the time of her murder.

It’s about Joetavious Stafford who, despite having left his gun in the bushes, was shot three times–twice in the back–by MARTA police officers on October 15, 2011 in Atlanta, GA.  He was 19 at the time of his death.

It’s about James Byrd, Jr., who was beaten and dragged to death by car by white supremacists on June 7, 1998 in Jasper, TX.  He was 49 and unarmed at the time of his murder.

It’s about Alfred Wright, a man who was found dead on November 7, 2013 in the same area James Byrd was killed.  Local law enforcement allegedly put together a very sloppy investigation into his death and Wright’s family members needed the Department of Justice to investigate.  He was 28 at the time of his murder.

It’s about Lee Weathersby III and Lamar Broussard, two brothers from Oakland, CA who were killed December 13, 2013 and January 18,2014 respectively; both murdered within a mile from their mother’s home. A friend of Broussard’s, Derryck Harris, was killed in the same shooting that took Broussard’s life.  Lee was 13 at the time of his murder; Lamar and Derryck were 19.  All three were unarmed.

It’s about Christopher Ridley, a police officer from Mount Vernon, NY, who was shot and killed by fellow police officers while off-duty on January 25, 2008 because his gun fell from his holster. He was 23 at the time of this murder.

But, most importantly, it is about me.  And my brothers, my sisters, my uncles, my aunts, my parents, my cousins, my friends, my neighbors, even complete strangers– anyone is still walking this earth and identifies themselves as a person of color in this country.  There is nothing that differentiates me from all of the people on this list:

  • I was born and raised in an area in which 8 of the #28Names (10 if you include those above) were murdered.  Ramarley Graham, Kimani Gray, Danroy Henry, Ousmane Zongo, Patrick Dorismond, Sean Bell, Amadou Diallo, Timothy Stansbury, Jr., Islan Nettles, and Christopher Ridley were all murdered in the Greater New York City area.
  • I will be 25 in June, which means I am either the same age as or older than twenty-three of the 28 covered in the project and all but two of the names I mentioned above.
  • Jonathan Ferrell, Danroy Henry, and Lamar Broussard were college students, like myself.  Derrion Albert, Lee Weathersby, and Hadiya Pendleton were involved in extracurriculars that kept them off the street, like me.
  • And finally, nearly all of them were not guilty of any wrongdoing at the time of their deaths.

Nothing differentiates them from me or my loved ones, and unless you do not identify as a person of color they likely do not differentiate from you, either.  So it is with  this knowledge I continue to strive to spread the message of #28Names for as long as I possibly can, so that I do not have to include any of my loved ones on this list, or their loved ones either.  I only hope that my dedication to preventing these future tragedies ignites the flame in you to do the same.

From here on out, I will be posting links and articles related both to the progress of #28Names and storied related to the narrative of young lives in America.  Continue following us; we’re only just getting started.

 

Day 28: Emmitt Till

For the final day of February, I want to pay homage to the late Emmett Till.  Emmett was killed August 28th 1955 by Roy Bryant and J. W. Milam in Money, Mississippi.  Emmitt, originally from Chicago, was visiting relatives in Mississippi when he allegedly flirted with a woman at a convenience store. Later that night Bryant, her husband, and Milam dragged Emmitt from the home he was in,  and proceeded to torture him and kill him; after shooting him in his face and mutilating his body, they tied a barbed wire around his neck and attached it to a cotton gin, throwing his body and the gin in a local river.  His body was found three days later.

While the local media was initially critical of the incident it soon became defensive of Mississippians and soon of the killers. Bryant and Milam were acquitted and, with the security of no double jeopardy, admitted to killing Emmitt Till. Emmitt’s funeral was open casket, as his mother wanted the world to see what happened to her son. He was 14 years old and unarmed at the time of his murder; he would have been 73 this July.

While many young black men were lynched and killed prior to him, Emmett was like the poster child to me.  Therefore he was a chronological milestone for me, Jonathan Ferrell being the other, as his death was the final push for me to create this project.  Therefore I decided to add nearly every face on my list of 28 Names to the final design of the month, not as a recap but to set in motion the idea that Emmett Till was not the first one, and Jonathan will not be the last.

images (2) download (4) picture032

White man kills black child.
World goes into shock and begins to scrutinize black child.
Scrutiny of black child turns into indirect praise of white man.
Praise of white man turns into acquittal of white man.
Acquittal of white man…well, doesn’t this sound familiar?

Emmett Till was no different than the many Black people killed by lynch mobs or corrupt justice systems; one of the few reasons he became so well-known was because of the steadfastness of his mother to exhibit the gruesome nature in which Wilam and Bryant mutilated Emmett.  To an extent, this still happens today.  It just so happens the nooses are bullets now, and while I could never imagine the pain and hurt Mamie Till felt the day she found out about her son, I can only hope that #28Names has half the impact her decision on her son’s funeral was.  Rest In Peace, Emmett.

 

Articles related to Emmett Till:

Teen Emmett Till Victim Of Kidnapping, Brutal Murder On This Day In 1955-
http://newsone.com/2032853/emmett-till-story/

Widow of Emmett Till killer dies quietly, notoriously-
http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2014/02/27/emmett-till-juanita-milam/5873235/