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6 Ferguson activists have died suspiciously since 2014

ROLLINGOUT.COM — Ferguson, Missouri, is back in the news after several young Black male activists in the city are dead.

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By Mo Barnes

The death of unarmed Black teen Michael Brown was a watershed moment in race relations in America. Brown was shot dead by former Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson while his arms were raised. It led to the rallying cry from supporters of “Hands up, don’t shoot.”

Mo Barnes

Mo Barnes

Now more than four years later, Ferguson, Missouri, is back in the news after several young Black male activists in the city are dead. According to The New York Times and Associated Press as well as previous reports in rolling out, at least six young men have died in the Ferguson area.

— In 2014, the body of Deandre Joshua, 20, was found. He had been shot once in the head and then burned inside his car. The incident occurred on the same night protests erupted over the grand jury’s decision not to indict Wilson in Brown’s death. Police have no leads in Joshua’s death.

—  In September 2016, Darren Seals, 29, was found dead in a burning car. He was shot multiple times, and police have no leads in his death.

— In February 2016, MarShawn McCarrel of Columbus, Ohio, was found dead outside the entrance to the Ohio state capitol building. Police have stated that his death was a suicide. He was an activist in the Ferguson protests.

— In May 2017, Edward Crawford Jr., 27, who famously was seen throwing a tear gas canister back at police during protests, allegedly committed suicide. A photograph of Crawford won a Pulitzer Prize for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

— On Oct. 17, 2018, Danye Jones, 24, was found hanging from a tree. His mother, Melissa McKinnies, was a member of the grassroots organization Lost Voices that protested Brown’s death. McKinnies claims her son was lynched after a series of death threats. When rolling out interviewed Sgt. Shawn McGuire, the public information supervisor with the St. Louis County Police Department, about Jones’ death, he said all indications pointed to a suicide.

— In November 2018, Bassem Masri, a 31-year-old Palestinian American who live-streamed video of Ferguson protests, collapsed on a bus and could not be resuscitated. Police said that he died of an apparent fentanyl overdose in February 2019, according to a toxicology report.

All six deaths have raised the specter of an ongoing conspiracy in perhaps one of the most heated racial events in recent American history.

This article originally appeared in Rollingout.com

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Activism

Oakland City Council Approves Funding for African American Healing Hubs

The economic, physical, and spiritual damage, coupled with the pandemic crisis, must be met with healing and love, said Dr. Wade Nobles, a co-founder of the Black Psychologists Association. “Black people must save ourselves, for no one is coming to our rescue. Therefore, we are working towards constructing an African American Healing Hub that embraces African-centric mental wellness modalities utilizing a holistic approach.”

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Dr. Wade Nobles says the healing hubs proposed by Oakland Front Line Healers will be a first in addressing specific traumas African Americans experience daily living in a racist environment.
Dr. Wade Nobles says the healing hubs proposed by Oakland Front Line Healers will be a first in addressing specific traumas African Americans experience daily living in a racist environment.

By Tanya Dennis

Last week, the Oakland City Council approved $250,000 to assist the East Bay Association of Black Psychologists (EBABP) and Oakland Frontline Healers (OFH) open two emergency mental health centers, one at True Vine Ministries and BOSS in East Oakland.

Oakland Frontline Healers, a collaborative of Black-led non-profits and medical doctors that joined together in April of 2020, to combat COVID-19 in the African American community by providing free PPE, testing, vaccines and support services.

Last October the collaborative, after assessing their successful frontline status in serving the African American community determined they must address other critical issues. They decided to address Black mental health.

Reaching out to the East Bay Association of Black Psychologists, Oakland Frontline Healers discovered that providing mental health services specifically to Black folks would be more detailed then simply securing a space and providing services.

Dr. Wade Nobles, a co-founder of the Black Psychologists Association, revealed that the European model had done a disservice to the African American community. In October 2021, the American Psychologists Association offered a public apology to the African American community with a commitment to “shed racist and colonial roots to embody the principles of equity, diversity, and inclusion to become an actively antiracist discipline.”

With that knowledge, both EBABP and OFH committed to creating an African-centered mental wellness model.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has glaringly illuminated the disparities in America that compromises Black health daily,” Nobles said. “Unfortunately, incarceration or worse is presented as the only recourse as resources addressing Black trauma is extremely limited and for many non-existent.

The economic, physical, and spiritual damage, coupled with the pandemic crisis, must be met with healing and love, he continued. “Black people must save ourselves, for no one is coming to our rescue. Therefore, we are working towards constructing an African American Healing Hub that embraces African-centric mental wellness modalities utilizing a holistic approach.”

Vice-Mayor Rebecca Kaplan spearheaded the City Council to approve $250,000 of City funds towards the training of “culturally congruent” behavioral specialists and frontline workers to support mental wellness in the African American community.

Vice-Mayor Rebecca Kaplan spearheaded the City Council to approve $250,000 of City funds towards the training of “culturally congruent” behavioral specialists and frontline workers to support mental wellness in the African American community.

Vice-Mayor Rebecca Kaplan agreed after attending the group’s town halls and submitted a proposal to award $250,000 to the project for culturally congruent training for behavioral specialists and frontline providers.

“The City Council’s vote of confidence and support is amazing! Their vote aligns with the African-centric tenet that it takes an entire community to ensure the wellness of the village,” said OFH facilitator Tanya Dennis.

The Association of Black Psychologists and Oakland Frontline Healers are currently working with Alameda County on the healing hubs and a healing center that has been in planning since 2015.

Dr. Lawford Goddard, an EBABP representative says, “We are committed to wellness, and treating the whole person and the whole community. Our project with the County, once complete, will also serve as a representative of our culture.”

They envision a space for meetings, conferences and banquets, a place where self-care like yoga, Reiki, urban gardening, massage, dance, drumming, healing circles and fun activities that promote wellness are offered.

“Unfortunately, our project with the County is three years or more in the future and we cannot wait,” Goddard said. “We must help our people now, by working with Oakland Frontline Healers and their emergency healing hubs enabling us to provide services within months.”

The County has committed $19 million toward the purchase of a site to establish a larger complex that will embody African American wellness as envisioned by EBASP.

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Activism

COMMENTARY: New Book Examines Life of George Floyd in Context of Racism, Oppression in U.S.

At a time when politicians are making it illegal for educators to acknowledge that systemic racism exists, Samuels and Olorunnipa document in painful detail the ways in which racially discriminatory policies on housing, education, health care, addiction, policing and more contributed to “a life in which Floyd repeatedly found his dreams diminished, deferred, and derailed—in no small part because of the color of his skin.”

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Ben Jealous.

By Ben Jealous

George Floyd was murdered by a Minneapolis police officer just over two years ago. His killing sparked a movement to end unjustified police killings and racist law enforcement practices. Sadly, the killings have not stopped. The George Floyd Justice in Policing Act was blocked by Senate Republicans last year. The struggle continues in communities large and small.

During racial justice protests that sprung up after video of Floyd’s murder spread around the world, millions of people spoke his name as they demanded accountability and justice. Now, a remarkable book examines Floyd’s life and death in the context of our history and what one of the authors calls the “complex, tangled web” created by racism in this country.

“His Name Is George Floyd: One Man’s Life and the Struggle for Racial Justice” was written by Washington Post reporters Robert Samuels and Toluse Olorunnipa. It draws on the reporting of their colleagues and on intimate interviews with Floyd’s family, romantic partners, and circle of friends.

At a time when politicians are making it illegal for educators to acknowledge that systemic racism exists, Samuels and Olorunnipa document in painful detail the ways in which racially discriminatory policies on housing, education, health care, addiction, policing and more contributed to “a life in which Floyd repeatedly found his dreams diminished, deferred, and derailed—in no small part because of the color of his skin.”

“For example,” Samuels says, “you could not disentangle police departments’ disproportionate use of force against African Americans from the junk science that is still taught about Black people being more resistant to pain. We could not ignore that those same instincts led to the inadequate mental health treatment in George Floyd’s life, nor could we separate that society both encouraged George Floyd to bulk up to pursue his athletic dreams and then stereotyped him as dangerous when he was off the field.”

The book doesn’t try to make Floyd a saint. It doesn’t have to. He was a human being. He did nothing to deserve being murdered on the street by an abusive police officer who shouldn’t have been wearing a badge.

“His Name Is George Floyd” is worth reading for many reasons. It gives us a fuller picture of the person George Floyd was. It introduces us to many people who loved him and sought a measure of justice for his murder. And it points to some important facts about policing in this country.

One is the need for accountability. Chauvin had a record of violent behavior. When abusive cops are not held accountable, more people will be subjected to their violence.

Another point is that policing is a local issue requiring local solutions. National policies, like those in the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, can help. But holding violent cops accountable, getting them off the streets, or better yet, preventing them from getting hired in the first place, all require change at the local level.

People For the American Way spent the two years since Floyd’s murder developing a road map for transforming public safety. We looked at the research. We talked to criminologists, public officials, clergy and other community activists, and members of law enforcement. “All Safe: Transforming Public Safety” is a guide for public officials and community activists seeking to make their communities safer.

Among the essential steps to make policing more just and more effective at the same time: improving recruiting to weed out potentially dangerous cops, holding violent officers accountable, and getting unfit officers off the force. Also, importantly, restructuring public safety systems to reduce the unnecessary involvement of armed officers in situations where they are not needed and for which they are not trained is good for cops as well as communities.

The authors of “His Name Is George Floyd” describe optimism in the face of our history as both a defense mechanism and a means of survival. I am optimistic that we can end unjust police killings. I am optimistic that we can build the uncomfortably large coalitions it will take.

“Our book makes the argument that if we can demonstrate step-by-step how this country’s history with racism continues to shape people today, then we can continue the good work of dismantling systemic racism,” Samuels told me in an e-mail. “We have to connect the theory with the practice.”

That job belongs to all of us. We know what kind of changes will make our communities safer. Let’s organize, city by city and town by town, to make it happen.

Ben Jealous serves as president of People For the American Way and Professor of the Practice at the University of Pennsylvania. A New York Times best-selling author, his next book “Never Forget Our People Were Always Free” will be published by Harper Collins in December 2022. 

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Activism

COMMENTARY: Highland Park Is a Tragedy, But So Is Akron, Ohio, And Jayland Walker.

The eight officers were placed on administrative leave. And last weekend hundreds protested in downtown Akron. We just didn’t see much coverage on it. It would have only reinforced what we know—that police violence, specifically toward the BIPOC community is real and keeps happening again and again.

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Emil Guillermo is a journalist and commentator. He does a talk show on www.amok.com
Emil Guillermo is a veteran journalist and commentator. See his work on www.amok.com.

By Emil Guillermo

If you were celebrating on the Fourth of July, you have to be troubled on the fifth, sixth, seventh, and all the rest of our days.

This past weekend, some of our fellow Americans were flinching from gunpowder blasts. And it’s not from the fireworks.

It’s from guns. And it’s a reminder that our freedoms just don’t seem to be working right now for all of us in America.

We may have to think seriously about giving up some rights for the greater good.

It surely can’t go on much longer the way it is.

Not when seven are dead and more than 30 are injured when a gunman shot up a Fourth of July parade in Highland Park, Ill.

Not when the police chief of Akron, Ohio, finally released officers’ body camera videos of the killing of Jayland Walker on Sunday, nearly a week after Akron cops put more than 60 gunshot wounds into an unarmed Walker.

The Sunday release of the body-cam footage and the NAACP-led protest that occurred over the holiday in Akron would have led the national news most weekends.

But not when you have a live shooting at a Fourth of July parade in a Chicago suburb considered one of the safest places in America.

If you don’t know Highland Park (population 30,177), it’s to Chicago what the Lamorinda area is to Oakland. Affluent ($147,067 plus median income), 80-90% white. As a “white flight” suburb, mass shootings aren’t supposed to happen there.

So, when it does, the media get super-focused on Highland Park.

Meanwhile, Akron barely got mentioned in the news. You need both instances together to give you the rich, full picture of America’s gun problem.

It’s not the same for everyone.

For people of color, we have to fear the bad guys and the good guys.

Surely, minority communities know the Highland Park kind of gun violence perpetrated by an alienated male with an AR-15 type weapon. The Black community felt the pain at the Tops Supermarket shooting in Buffalo where 10 people died in May. The Hispanic community suffered in Uvalde when 21 people were killed last month.

But then you have the kind of shooting that took Jayland Walker’s life.

Reports say Walker had a handgun on a seat in his car. It wasn’t loaded. And he didn’t use it. Walker was stopped by the Akron police during a routine traffic stop. He had one traffic ticket and no criminal record. So why did it take eight officers to stop him, ending in a seven-minute pursuit that left Walker dead?

At one point, Walker stopped, exited his car wearing a ski mask, and fled on foot. Police used tasers at first, but when that didn’t stop Walker, the officers opened fire.

Akron Chief Stephen L. Mylett confirmed Walker was unarmed when confronted and told the lawyers for Walker that evidence he’d seen, indicated the officers were not threatened.

The eight officers were placed on administrative leave. And last weekend hundreds protested in downtown Akron. We just didn’t see much coverage on it. It would have only reinforced what we know—that police violence, specifically toward the BIPOC community is real and keeps happening again and again.

Who knows if Jayland Walker and his family will ever see justice? We only know for sure that Walker won’t be the last Black man who dies by police violence.

That’s why we need to keep shining a light on Walker’s case, so that in a year people won’t wonder, “Jayland Who?”

Emil Guillermo is a veteran journalist and commentator. See his work on www.amok.com

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