Saturday, September 20, 2014

Ali, Hutchinson - Daniele Watts did not make you look dumb

Wait. Did I miss something? When did Daniele Watts call up Najee Ali of Project Islam Hope and Earl Ofari Hutchinson of the Urban Policy Roundtable and ask either of them to defend her or protest on her behalf?

Today I read that these two “Civil Rights leaders,” as described by CBS Los Angeles, have called for Watts to apologize for making them "look dumb." They declare that last week, when Watts, an actress, characterized her encounter with the Los Angeles Police Department as a racial profiling incident, she "did a disservice to the community" and to activists who defended her.

Ali said at their press conference, "We took her word that she had been a victim, but now we know it's not true."

He means that they now believe the LAPD was right in Watts's case because the officers sound so calm an polite on the audio. And they now believe the anonymous witnesses who say they saw Watts and her boyfriend, celebrity chef Brian Lucas, having sex in a car. These witnesses, who also say they saw Watts with her shirt up, revealing her breasts, were in an office building floors above the car. Another says he/she went up to the car and asked the pair to stop having sex, but they just kept at it.

This level of detail, of course, has all come out since Lucas's and Watts's Facebook posts about being harassed riled up the Web and made media headlines. I wonder how much detail might a witness add after assuming they've seen two people having sex.

In any case, it sounds to me as though these "Civil Rights leaders" want this young woman to apologize because they are embarrassed about having defended her before getting more information. Now that the audio of her in distress and sounding undignified while being questioned by police has surfaced with distribution of a photo of a Black woman's leg hanging from a car, Ali and Hutchinson are convinced that the police officer was right to ask Watts for her identification and then handcuff and detain her when she did not comply. Later the officer released her because Lucas showed I.D.

Regarding the photos, most of us have seen more on American beaches every summer between consenting adults with far less clothing on. But I guess blurry sex pictures are like blurry UFO pictures: reality is in the mind of the beholder. Of course, maybe we'd see more in the pictures if there wasn't a big TMZ watermark on them.

So what we have are fuzzy photos and hearsay. In other words, people's dirty minds have run amok in the rumor mill, hence the L.A. Times prudently files its latest Watts reports under the "Ministry of Gossip."

And is it a crime to sound hysterical, undignified, and even obnoxious when you think you're being unfairly harassed by police officers? I've listened to the audio. What I've discerned is that Watts was angry and ashamed about being accused of possibly prostitution and of committing a "lewd act" in public. Maybe she was so upset that she did not hear whatever else the police officers were saying.

One officer on the audio accuses her of pulling the "race card" because she says she is being racially profiled, and he declares, "I didn't say anything about you being Black."

Now, if I wanted to make the great leaps I hear others make from the audio, I could extrapolate from his comment that the officer is blind. Anyone can see that Daniele Watts is Black, and racial profiling is usually based on sight, not hearing.

Also, Watts did sound a bit arrogant and a tad simple-minded when she threw out her "I'm an actress" card and said she knew her rights because she'd played a cop on TV, but whether she was being racially profiled is the issue, not whether she behaved perfectly while being handcuffed?

The LAPD spokesperson says that the officers were within their rights to handcuff and detain Watts when she refused to show identification. The ACLU, however, agrees with Watts that she did not have to show I.D., reports the L.A. Times.

Apparently when the police arrived, the so-called “witness” of the “lewd act” was not present at the scene to support the accusation, and the police officer on the scene did not witness the “lewd act” (the pair having sex in the car) in progress himself. The police officer, explains the L.A. Times, had a choice:
Since the alleged lewd act was no longer in progress, he could either let her go or continue to investigate it, which would involve asking the person who complained to come forward to make a complaint — technically, a citizen’s arrest. If the complainant declined (Neiman [LAPD spokesperson] told me [Times reporter] that, in his 28 years of policing, he has never seen anyone make a citizens arrest over consensual sex), he can’t detain her for simply refusing to produce her ID.
This makes sense to me. I’m not an attorney, but I seem to recall something in Civics class about citizens being “innocent until proven guilty” in the United States of America. But the officers involved, while sounding exceptionally polite, decided to escalate the incident rather than do the harder work of tracking down the witness and asking them to file a complaint.

The next issue for Watts was the accusation that she had walked away from detention. The ACLU thinks the law favors Watts here as well:
“Of course you can't walk away from a detention,” said the ACLU’s Bibring. “But the officer didn't actually tell Ms. Watts she was being detained. She was upset, and she told the officer she was walking away and did so. The officer didn't tell her to stop. Instead, he let her go, continued to talk with Mr. Lucas then called another unit who brought Ms Watts back handcuffed, and accused her of fleeing a detention. This isn't just a technicality.”
So, back to the big question: Is this a case of racial profiling or not? I think, in part, it is. Let me explain.

Just as police officers in Florida arriving at the scene of Trayvon Martin's murder believed George Zimmerman when he said a Black Trayvon Martin had assaulted him and so Zimmerman shot him in self-defense, and just as a non-Black witness called 911 in Ohio and said a Black man had a real gun in a Wal-Mart and was aiming it at customers and so police rushed in and shot that Black man to death, the Los Angeles police in Watts's case also believed an anonymous caller who said a Black woman was having sex with a man in broad daylight with the car door open. The police did not initiate the profiling in any of these cases, but they did buy into a story that they may not have otherwise readily believed if the accused had not be Black.

Keep in mind, while TMZ has some potentially incriminating pictures now, the officer that demanded Watts's identification did not. Still, he believed the caller.

I also observed that Ali and Hutchinson, in their statements, run the risk of defining racial profiling rather narrowly, and that's dangerous. Based on their comments, Hutchinson and Ali seem to confine racial profiling to its "compelling" cases. I guess they mean cases that they feel are cut and dry. Like, confronting racial profiling is hard, so please, no muddy cases. Yet, we know that the practice of racial profiling does not always kill, as the recent lawsuits against Barney's and Macy's will show. Neither is it always easily shown. How many black men have been stopped and when asked why, the police simply say they had a complaint about a "generic Black man" doing XYZ, making the stop sound somewhat legitimate?

Like its father, racism, racial profiling functions also to humiliate, ruin careers, and wastes our time, as Toni Morrison might say.

So, this tendency of police officers to assume that non-Black or anonymous people are always telling the truth when they accuse a Black person of committing a crime, and so the police in turn stop and treat the accused Black person accordingly, is more evidence that the police act with racial bias when it comes to Black people. Racial bias is the foundation of racial profiling and is worthy of address.

Are Black People Citizens?


When police officers behave this way and assume anonymous witnesses against Black people are telling the truth or have seen whatever it is they think they've seen, the police show us that Black people do not have the right of innocent until proven guilty in this country. Unfortunately for Black women, some Black men seem to feel the same way about Black women, too: the assumption of innocence does not apply to Black females. Is this a case where it's clear that Black men, who benefit from patriarchy, completely buy into that patriarchy at the expense of Black women? I throw that out as something for the reader to think about.

I am not saying that the specific police officers who dealt with Watts were guilty of racial bias. I'd have to know how they've dealt with similar cases in the past when two heterosexual White people were the accused. Nonetheless, Ali and Hutchinson also have no way of knowing whether these officers acted with racial bias, so who are they to demand an apology from Watts?

Likewise, I don't know what Watts and Lucas were doing in the car, but neither do Ali and Hutchinson.

These men demanding an apology is merely another case of Black men who wield a little power choosing to believe that a Black woman is in the wrong based on the flimsiest of evidence: hearsay from anonymous witnesses and fuzzy cell phone photos. It's also two black men shaking in their boots over a whiff of White criticism. I gather concern about White criticism is at issue here since Hutchinson is perturbed that he and Ali may "look dumb."

Yes, looking dumb or as though you may lack integrity in front of White people is a concern for some of us. I guess that's why the male leadership of the NAACP so quickly denounced Shirley Sherrod. They didn't want to look dumb or as though they lack integrity, so when they heard a story by a White bogus "journalist" saying Sherrod used her power to get revenge against White people, they believed it straightaway and condemned her. We know how that turned out.

Here is the real problem, though: As is typical of the male ego enthroned, these Black male leaders have made Watts's story about them and their wounded egos.

Is it Watt's fault that they love the media spotlight so much that they immediately made themselves visible after the first kernels of a racialized story fell? And if they are the responsible activists they claim to be, why did they jump into the fray so quickly here? After all, didn't Watts's unvetted story first appear on her Facebook page, not a major news network?

The other troubling matter I see in their demands is evidence that some Black males expect Black women to rally behind every Black male victim of police overreach, regardless of what his past may be, but they will turn and readily apply the same "perfect victim" standard to a Black woman that they reject when it's applied to Black men. Do I hear the echo of respectability politics when it comes to women here?

And then there is the problematic specter of probable "slut shaming." These men want Watts to stamp an "A" for apology on her breasts and repent. She must be shamed for even appearing to have sex in a car in broad daylight--with a White man no less!--and then for daring to think her blackness may factor into why the police asked for her identification. Is that it?

Bottom line: Ali and Hutchinson jumped the gun on-air regarding Watts. Maybe they should have been having a press conference to apologize for speaking without knowing enough information, not to demand an actress apologize for being, perhaps, overly-dramatic. Watts can perceive what happened to her however she chooses to perceive it. They haven't walked in her shoes. They can't see what she sees.

No, no, Mr. Ali and Hutchinson, Daniele Watts did not make you look dumb. You've done that all by yourselves. Everything else is between Watts and her God or therapist.

Friday, September 19, 2014

I've taken the Paper.li plunge with Bell, Book, and Scandal

bell book and scandal
Having run an actual newspaper/magazine before, I was fascinated when I saw the first Paper.li paper tweeted to me on Twitter. I don't remember who tweeted me all those months ago, but before long it seemed that every other day someone sent a tweet directing me to his or her Paper.li paper.

Since I had already been thinking about narrowing my focus to books, publishing, entertainment, and politics, in that order, I began to toy with the idea of creating my own Paper.li paper that curated just those topics. Now, I've done it.

My paper is called Bell, Book, and Scandal, a play on the name of a movie I loved in my youth, Bell, Book, and Candle starring Kim Novak and Jimmy Stewart.

The movie is about a witch (Novak) falling in love with a mortal (Stewart) after casting a spell on him to make him fall in love with her. She initially goes after him, however, because she doesn't like his fiance. The spell backfires, and as a result she falls in love and loses her magical powers. Her mind-reading cat plays a big role in the film. You can see how she uses him to cast her spell in the video below.


The movie's title may itself be a play on another use of the phrase. According to multiple sources, an obsolete ceremony for excommunication from the Roman Catholic church was also called "bell, book, and candle" because those three items were used during the the ritual. Phrases.org.uk says, "In the excommunication ceremony officials close the book, quench the candle and toll a bell, as for someone who had died. The phrase is old and first appears, in Old English, circa 1300." The entry adds that the phrase appears in Shakespeare's King John: "BASTARD: Bell, book, and candle shall not drive me back, When gold and silver becks me to come on."

I've found a few articles on the excommunication ritual, which was done in secret, but here's an overly-dramatic video with graphics that explains it, albeit with sensational music.

While my paper, Bell, Book, and Scandal, may occasionally curate articles on paranormal activities and events (I live in New Orleans, so how can I resist?), it has nothing to do with witches or secret religious rituals. The bell in its name represents the Liberty Bell (politics),  the book, all things literary, and the scandal, arts and entertainment coverage that happens to favor ABC's Scandal. But I will also have my eye out for news of How to Get Away with Murder and science fiction and fantasy-oriented shows such as SyFy's Helix and HBO's Game of Thrones.

It's my hope that by narrowing my focus, I'll hunker down, read more books, and devote more time to creative writing.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Stuck in a Black Bird's Groove: obsessive love (Video)



blackbird graphic for poem
We like to call our romantic fixations "crushes, torches, or love-sickness," and this video poem is probably more along the romantic vein rather than stalker, but I know some psychologists who would call any inability to stop thinking about someone and still longing for the person's company to be an obsession. Some even say infatuation is a form of mental illness.

The speaker of this poem is not in a state of mind to give up yet.

I wrote this poem in 2006. Between coming out of a harrowing divorce and attempting to date again, I may have been a touch crazy back then (not about the ex, though), but I still like this poem. Also, I had a muse of sorts, one I wish would go back to writing a few love poems again, but the person's gone uber spiritual, rather lofty. The work is good; I just miss the poet's old stuff.

The video for "Stuck in a Black Bird's Groove" is a remix. I made an older video for the poem and posted it to YouTube two years ago, but I was just learning how to use Windows Movie Maker back then, so, the video had some issues. I never rally liked it. Last week I decided I really, really didn't like it, so I made that video with its 200 views private, and produced this one.

For those reading who like to document process, first I edited the poem a little, nothing major, and then I went in search of royalty-free music, pictures, and video clips. I became a member of Dreamstimes.com for still shots and VideoBlocks.com for video.

Doing poetry videos every once in a while fulfills me in some way. I do it even though the videos don't draw a lot of hits (with the exception of "Misery," which did better than average for original poetry). And this one comes on the heels of the "Break-Up Poem," which I did last week and hardly anyone's watched. At the end of August I also produced a video of another poet's work, "An Angel for New Orleans," for the 9th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina.

I didn't post the written poem of "Stuck in a Black Bird's Groove" on YouTube. I've posted them here.

Stuck in a Black Bird's Groove
by Nordette N. Adams

I cannot speak to you.
But my eyes still seek out you.
My soul's been meek for you.
But I cannot speak to you this truth.

When the evening come and all my sorrows stretch
prostrate before silver streams of early moon weeping,
When birds come to roost in charcoal blue,
tangled strands of my mourning,
my head still tilts toward your breath.

I listen and I long.
I listen for your song.

You do not seek out me.
You've not been meek for me.
Your outlook's bleak for me.
You do not seek out me, your sooth.

When the morning come and my joy seeps out,
vanishing with coral dreams of dawn,
When birds take flight and leave me
to grieving gray days of my journey,
my soul turns toward your heartbeat.

I listen and I long.
I listen for your song.

The blues is black with me.
Black blues fall back on me.
This deck's not stacked for me.
The blues is black with me.
It's you.

When noon bring sun to seek my scarlet sins,
and sun drops in pale sky to cast its shadows,
When black birds fly past with wings spread wide,
and I stand on Earth in envy,
my dreaming conjures your heartfire.

I listen and I long.
I listen and I long.

© 2006 Nordette Adams
....

Friday, September 12, 2014

This father-son rap time will melt you're heart (2-year-old Khaliyl Iloyi video) - Hope for the future.


Khaliyl Iloyi - 2 year old rapping with his daddy on MUZU.TV.

FEROmedia presents Khaliyl Iloyi rapping at 2 years old with father Femi aka Smooflow of Hip Hop group Royal Priesthood.

Yes, the kid, only two years old, is so cute. I mean sooooo cute rapping with his father. But I am equally happy (smiling ear to ear) to see another example of a young Black father spending time with his child. At the end they start counting, so he's modeling other things than rapping, in case you're wondering.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Mike Brown's Killing: Two new witnesses, contractors, speak

As I said in my previous post on Darren Wilson supporters, two new witnesses, contractors who were working at the apartment complex in Ferguson on August 9 when Mike Brown Jr. was killed, have come forward. They saw Wilson shoot to death the unarmed 18-year-old. Today, CNN posted cell phone video that someone filmed of the two contractors reacting to the officer shooting down the teen immediately after the shooting.

One of the men is seen in the video holding his hands up yelling "He had his hands f**king up!" as police lay crime scene tape in the background.

At the end of the video, another man who is not one of the contractors says that Brown was going down, holding his hands over his stomach and falling forward, but Officer Wilson kept shooting. His account of Mike Brown's position is corroborated by the autopsy that Michael Baden conducted, the pathologist who did so on behalf of the family. Baden said that one of the bullets entered the top of Brown's head in a way that indicated the youth was falling forward or on his knees with his head down.



Today, more upheaval in Ferguson as 35 people were arrested for attempting to block Interstate 70, and Tuesday night at the city's first council meeting since the shooting, citizens, unhappy with proposed policy changes, blasted city leaders. A Saint Louis activist said that Ferguson leaders had lost their authority to govern.

9/11 Flashback, a 2014 Repost

The essay below was published in 2004. My 9/11 post for 2014 has been published at BlogHer.com at this link.

The following article was originally posted at AuthorsDen.com in 2004. I wrote about 9/11 in 2011 on the 10-year anniversary as well, a whole seven  (7) years after my first reflection, and now 10 years since I wrote my first reflective piece about 9/11, here I am again contemplating another that should be up tomorrow. I decided to repost the first piece here at Whose Shoes Are These Anyway in preparation for reflecting on tomorrow's post. 

September 11, 2004

"September 11 Photo Montage" by UpstateNYer -
Own work; derivative work of the following:
File:WTC smoking on 9-11.jpeg by Michael 
Foran on FlickrFile:DN-SD-03-11451.JPEG
by the United State NavyFile:UA Flight 175 
hits WTC south tower 9-11 edit.jpeg by
TheMachineStops on FlickrFile:WTC-Fireman
 requests 10 more colleagesa.jpg by the
US GovernmentFile:Flight93Engine.jpg by
the US GovernmentFile:Video2 flight77 
pentagon.png by the United States Department
of Defense. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0
via Wikimedia Commons.
I don't keep track of days well, and I was out late last night tending to business in Woodbury, NJ, almost two hours from my home in Scotch Plains, something that had to be done. Slept in this morning. If I hadn’t been checking out the work of fellow writers today on the Web, I wouldn't even know it was 9/11. My brother just missed death that day. He was pissed at his bosses and told them he wasn't coming in; otherwise, he'd have been under The Towers when the planes hit.

I'd come in from doing what I do on most days to see hell on the news; I’d been chauffeuring a kid and had crazy phone messages on my voice mail. “Nordette, turn on the news. They say the people have flown a plane into those World Towers in New York. I can’t reach Ben.” That was my mother, who’d confused TV news before. So I frowned at the phone.

Next message. “Nordette, call Mom. I can’t get through. Tell her I didn’t go to work today. Remember the damned Macy people pissed me off yesterday and I called in. Tell her I’m okay. I wasn’t at The Towers.” That was my brother. He’d told me the night before he wasn’t going in. He’d been working lots of overtime and had been asked to check up on a security issue that a staff person could handle. But something must be going on. My brother didn’t mix up the news.

The first CNN image I saw remains embedded in my brain, a plane crushing a glass and concrete titan, driving through it like the tower was a block of cheap sheetrock ... then a burgeoning inferno. I remember thinking accident, but a second plane! I remember thinking war. I recall the gray cloud billowing downward, people bursting through it, fleeing toward the cameras, naked fear on dusty faces, and the first tower crumbling. Sometime later the second would also.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Since Darren Wilson was shooting at Michael Brown while the teen was running away from him, then . . .


Why I have allowed Darren Wilson supporters to engage me on Twitter, I don't know. Who has the time to talk to people who keep talking about "waiting for the facts" when it's already clear that they've bought Officer Wilson's story in the absence of facts? Last week I found myself attempting to reason with one man, but no matter how many ways I explained to him that the police do not dispute that Mike Brown Jr. was unarmed and Wilson began shooting from a distance of more than 25 feet, finally shooting Brown fatally somewhere between seven and two feet away, Twitter man kept parroting, "But the autopsy shows he wasn't shot in the back."

Does saying Wilson was shooting at Brown while  Brown was running way the same as saying Wilson shot Brown the back? I don't think so. Wilson was shooting at a moving target, so he was more likely to miss.

I repeated to this man more than once that I was not saying that Mike Brown was shot in the back. I'm saying that according to multiple witnesses, Wilson began shooting after Brown at the same time the 18-year-old was running, putting more distance between himself and the cop. This means that Wilson was shooting at the unarmed teen in a residential area while Wilson was not in immediate danger.

Twitter man swore that the police had disputed that Wilson fired while Brown was running, but he had nothing to cite to back that up, and people who have been seriously paying attention to the Ferguson story know that one problem with the Ferguson Police Chief is that he has been uncommunicative with citizens and sometimes deceptive when he is. Still, the man tweeted back that Brown "was not shot in the back."

I almost tweeted to him that I suspected he suffered from a reading comprehension problem, but I decided to block him instead because he added nothing to my feed but stupidity and rudeness. Honestly, I think some of these Wilson supporters think Black people operate via some kind of hive mind, so if one Black person uses the phrase "shot in the back," that must means all Black people are saying that.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Break Up Notes: The Recovery Edition



No, I have not recently broken up with anyone. This is one of my old poems that I had removed from the Web, but I discovered a few weeks ago that someone posted it in a discussion forum about beauty in art apparently before I deleted it. Written in 2005, it's one of many poems that I wrote while trying to emotionally process my divorce as well as navigate the dating world (something I still don't do very well).

I decided since someone else appreciated the poem, perhaps it will comfort others. I've edited it based on what I've learned about poetry since then, and I also created this video, which is something I'm into lately.

If you appreciate this poem or you know of someone else who would appreciate it or who needs to hear it, please share this link. File these verses under love and recovery.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Midterms are coming: Should you vote in this election?




Summer is over. Midterms are coming. Of course you should vote.

Somebody else has probably already thought of this, but I don't care. I decided to make this graphic, "Midterms are Coming," which plays off the Game of Thrones', "Winter is Coming," just for fun. Of course, I'm not a graphic artist, so what you see is the best I can do.

On Game of Thrones, winter sounds so ominous. I confess, I am sort of dreading what's ahead, midterm results. If the Republican Party wins both houses of Congress, poor and middle-class Americans are going to have a bumpy 2015-2017. Unfortunately for those of us not in the top two percent of income earnings, politicos are predicting the GOP will take both.

But, even if you're a Democratic Party voter or a progressive Independent who believes the Republican Party will win control of the Senate and keep the House, that's not reason to stay home. That's reason to go to the polls.

And even if you think your vote won't matter, get out and vote anyway because if you don't vote, you sound dumb complaining about how government operates and governmental decisions.

So, do you know when early voting begins in your district? Do you known who's on the ballot seeking which positions? Does the state you live in now require a picture ID in order for you to vote?

I live in Louisiana, so I check both the Louisiana Secretary of State, website, the League of Women Voters, NOLA, and the Orleans Parish Registrar of Voters site to make sure nothing's changed, such as the ballot or early voting days. Also, I want to assure myself that I haven't mixed up anything. You should have similar sites for your area if you're not in New Orleans, and if you've just moved, find out when is the last day to register to vote where you are.

RealClearPolitics.com has a map that shows what's up for grabs in the Senate. The site is nonpartisan.

Given what the world witnessed this summer in Ferguson, Missouri, I think we can all agree that we should not take our civil rights for granted, especially our right to vote.

And of course, voting is much easier than enduring the dreaded winter of Games of Thrones.