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New AG Meets with Baltimore Leaders, Police and Activists

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Attorney General Loretta Lynch speaks during her swearing-in ceremony at the Justice Department. Lynch traveled to Baltimore on May 5 to discuss improving ties between the police and Black residents. (Freddie Allen/NNPA News Wire)

 

New AG Meets with Baltimore Leaders, Police and Activists

By Freddie Allen
NNPA Senior Washington Correspondent

[Compiled from Pool Reports]

WASHINGTON (NNPA) – Keeping her promise to ensure, “both strength and fairness, for the protection of both the needs of victims and the rights of all” in the criminal justice system, Attorney General Loretta Lynch traveled to Baltimore Tuesday to meet with city officials, law enforcement and community stakeholders to encourage closer ties between police and the residents that they are sworn to protect.

The same day Lynch was sworn-in and just a few hours after Freddie Gray’s funeral, dozens of people, most described as teenagers and students, looted shoe stores and burned local businesses and police vehicles. On April 12, Gray, a 25 year-old Black man, was chased and arrested by police officers. While in police custody, Gray suffered a severed spinal cord and a crushed voice box and died a week later. Gray’s death and viral cell phone footage of his encounter with police, sparked nationwide protests.

Last week, the Justice Department dispatched Vanita Gupta, the head of the Civil Rights Division, and Ronald Davis, the director of Community Oriented Policing Services, to Baltimore for a series of meetings with faith and civic leaders and community stakeholders to discuss the best path forward to mend the fractured relationship between Baltimore’s police force and the majority Black communities that they serve in city’s poorest neighborhoods.

On Friday, Baltimore State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby filed charges against six Baltimore police officers that ranged from second-degree assault to “depraved heart murder.”

During a meeting with Maryland United States Senators Barbara Mikulski (D) and Ben Cardin (D) and Congressmen Elijah Cummings, John Sarbanes and Dutch Ruppersberger, Lynch said it was inspiring to see people come together to reclaim the city.

“We’re here to hold your hands and provide support,” said Lynch to the group that also included William H. “Billy” Murphy Jr., the Gray family’s attorney, and Rev. Donté L. Hickman, Sr., the pastor of Southern Baptist Church, whose community resource center and senior housing complex were destroyed by fire while still under construction during the riots on April 27. She also vowed that the Justice Department was there to help the city move forward and work to improve the Baltimore Police Department (B.P.D.).

Lynch then met with Police Commissioner Anthony Batts privately and then with a small group of police officers who she called the “the hardest-working police officers in America.”

Lynch added: “To all of you on the front lines, I want to thank you. You really have become the face of law enforcement.”

Last fall, the Justice Department partnered with Baltimore officials to address concerns about abuse in the city’s police department.

“I have worked on this issue for years,” said Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, the mayor of Baltimore. “We can’t afford to fail. The relationship between police and the community is like a marriage.”

Lynch also met with Baltimore United, a community group that advocates for police reform, and others who had lost loved ones to police violence.

Earlier this year, President Barack Obama’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing made a number of recommendations that included encouraging law enforcement officials to “establish a culture of transparency and accountability in order to build public trust and legitimacy” and to design “comprehensive policies on the use of force that include training, investigations, prosecutions, data collection, and information sharing.”

The report also recommended that police, “acknowledge the role of policing in past and present injustice and discrimination and how it is a hurdle to the promotion of community trust.”

But the letter from Gene Ryan, the president of the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge #3 in Baltimore, to Mosby may produce another hurdle to building community trust there. Ryan wrote that “none of the officers are involved are responsible for the death of Mr. Gray” and that Mosby should recuse herself from the case, because Murphy, the Gray family’s attorney, donated to her campaign and worked on her transition team.

Lawyers for Edward Nero, the Baltimore police officer who was charged with police misconduct, second-degree assault and false imprisonment, filed a motion to get a closer look at the knife officer’s found on Gray. City and state codes both contain language that say switchblades that open automatically, with some pressure applied to a button or spring, are illegal.

Rep. G.K. Butterfield (D-N.C.), chair of the Congressional Black Caucus, wrote a letter to Ryan calling his request for a special prosecutor in the case “illogical and unfounded in the law.”

Butterfield continued: “You have damaged the good reputation of your organization in writing the letter, releasing it to the media, and making accusations that amount to nothing more than propaganda intended to interfere with the proper administration of justice.”

Follow Freddie Allen on Twitter at @freddieallenjr.

History

The Black Press: Our Trusted Messenger

Our Black newspapers are now celebrating 194 years of being the keeper of the flame of liberty and the source of information in “our” struggle for freedom and equality.

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Cover of the Oakland Post

Sometimes it’s necessary to be reminded who we are and who our friends are.  It’s also important to remember from whence we have come. 

Such is the case this week with the Black Press. Our Black newspapers are now celebrating 194 years of being the keeper of the flame of liberty and the source of information in “our” struggle for freedom and equality.

With the advent of the recent pandemic and the visible disparity of Blacks dying at greater numbers than others, getting fewer vaccines, working in the highest risk occupations and death at the hands of law enforcement, our need for a “trusted” source of information is greater than social media, which has become an alternative for many.

 At the same time, the interest in reaching our communities has increased on all levels. The question has become “who is in touch with the Black community” as injustice, murder and social disparity continues to grow among Blacks. 

The NAACP and the Urban League gave the impression that they were in touch with the Black community. But the reality is neither organization has ever been in touch with the Black community without the Black Press.  It is Black newspapers and not CNN, ABC, NBC or CBS that carries the articles and commentaries of these organizations to the Black community. 

Yet, neither of these organizations ever mentions the Black Press when taking both credit and dollars for outreach to the Black community.

The African American and Black communities of America should not be duped into believing that social media has become a substitute for the Black Press. The Black Press is now both print and electronic, it’s a newswire service as provided by the National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA), providing coverage of both news here in America and around the world.

 It is the Black Press that has been the “Trusted Messenger” to our communities for 194 years, and that says a lot. Our newspapers are the rear guard, the battle ground against the efforts to resegregate America and return to “Jim Crow” racism.

As we celebrate Juneteenth, let us remember that we are not only free but capable of defending and determining our futures if we get serious. Let’s remember how we got here, on the backs of those like the Black Press who bought us thus far; let us not forget in the words of James Weldon Johnson: that “ we have come over a way that with tears has been watered, treading our path through the blood of the slaughtered.” We are still being slaughtered today by others as well as each other.

Let’s remember who is truly telling our story and our obligation to keep and support that effort. Pick up a Black newspaper and get involved. You owe that and more to keeping the Juneteenth principle of freedom alive today.

Editor-in-Chief note:  The Post News Group consists of nine newspapers:  Oakland, South County, San Francisco, Vallejo, Marin, Stockton, Richmond, Berkeley Tri-City and El Mundo.  We are also online at postnewsgroup.com.

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Black History

Juneteenth: Our Independence Day

Also known as Emancipation Day or Freedom Day, it commemorates the end of slavery, the seminal event in Black history.

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Graphic courtesy istock.

June 19, or Juneteenth, is independence day for many Americans of African descent.

Also known as Emancipation Day or Freedom Day, it commemorates the end of slavery, the seminal event in Black history.

President Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation took effect on Jan. 1, 1863, but was read to slaves in Galveston, Texas, on June 19, 1865, more than two years later.

There are several different accounts of why the news of freedom took so long to arrive.

One story has it that slaves were intentionally kept ignorant about their freedom in order to allow crops to continue being harvested. Another has a messenger traveling by mule to deliver the news, and it simply took more than two years to arrive from Washington, D.C., to Texas. Yet another story has the messenger being murdered before he could deliver the message.

No matter the origin of Juneteenth, the end of slavery is definitely worth celebrating. But while much has happened in the 158 years since slavery officially ended, its legacies still remain in the form of disparate salaries, educational levels and incarceration rates.

Juneteenth, which is now observed in 48 states (North Dakota and Hawaii do not observe)  and the District of Columbia, is a time to take stock of our progress — and of the work that remains.

Last year, during the pandemic our current vice president and former senator, Kamala Harris, said:  “[m]y message on this Juneteenth:  may we honor those who suffered, died and survived the crushing reality of slavery by looking to the future.”

Twelve years ago President Barack Obama said: “African Americans helped to build our nation brick by brick and have contributed to her growth in every way, even when rights and liberties were denied to them.”

We’re still building it.

In 2021, as our state opens up post-pandemic and we deal with racial reckoning as we never have before  #BlackLivesMatter is becoming a reality. 

This year is truly our Independence Day.

Happy Juneteenth.

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Community

Turner Family Patriarch Turns 100, Passes the Torch

A huge fan of the L.A. Dodgers, Turner was invited to try out for the Dodgers Minor System in the early 1950s and the ambidextrous Turner once pitched a double header left-handed in the first game and right-handed in the second.

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Caption: Douglas “Buster” Turner looks out over Oakland and the San Francisco Bay from his back porch on May 28, 2021, just six days after his 100th birthday. Photo by Christy Price.

A poem written for Douglas “Buster” Turner’s 100th birthday is entitled “My Eyes Have Seen a Lot of Things.” After 100 years on Earth, that is an understatement. Turner’s life began on May 22, 1921, in Ansley, La., as the son of Nada and John Turner. 

Turner had a full childhood surrounded by his 13 siblings in Morton, Miss., where they were raised. Turner’s parents instilled in their children a sense of honor and pride by teaching them to be accountable and take responsibility for their actions while still giving them the autonomy they needed to become their own people. 

And become his own person, he did!

A young Turner served in the United States Army, completing a tour of duty in Nazi Germany during World War II. After an honorable discharge from the military, Turner utilized the benefits being a veteran offered him through the GI Bill. 

Turner married Coreene in 1940 and they took up a nomadic lifestyle in the Deep South during the Jim Crow era. They adjusted and adapted as they traveled along what his son, Eddie Turner, refers to as the ‘Chitlin Circuit,’ barnstorming with various Negro League Baseball teams through Mississippi, Texas, Alabama, Louisiana, Arkansas, and Georgia. Turner moved to Oakland in 1949 with the rest of the family joining him about a year later. 

A huge fan of the L.A. Dodgers, Turner was invited to try out for the Dodgers Minor System in the early 1950s and the ambidextrous Turner once pitched a double header left-handed in the first game and right-handed in the second.

The time spent on the road with Coreene, who passed away in 2015, created a bond that lasted 75 years and produced seven children. The Turners would raise Albertine, Eddie, Fred, Johnny, Michael, Mary, and Sherrie with the same family values that Turner had been raised with. 

Their door was always open to the neighborhood children and the family never met a stranger. Douglas Turner’s legacy is an open, helping hand, one of caring and sharing. 

To provide for his family, both close and extended, Turner became a union journeyman machinist. Turner employed many workers at his Mohawk Gas Station in Oakland, Calif. before the brand changed hands. When his budget kept him from buying a much needed truck, Turner’s innovation and imagination led him to repurpose a car into a truck, well before the El Camino made its debut. 

As Mr. Turner turns 100 years old and dementia confuses time and memories for him; he often revisits the past. His son becomes his brother, and he is once again a young man. 

Though the memories are fading for him, the stories of his epic journeys will not end: Turner’s children will carry on the Turner legacy of accountability, responsibility, integrity, and autonomy. The Turner family is the product of all the hard work that Turner did in making a strong family unit filled with the wonderful tales they saw through their father’s eyes. 

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