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‘It’s Above Me Now’ …..

THE FLORIDA STAR — In my daily stroll through various media outlets, I came across a video of a young man named Craig Brooks. As I continued to scroll through social media, I found one meme after the other titled ‘It’s Above Me Now’. Mr. Brooks, an African American young man, who was on his job working at a hotel when a Caucasian woman called him n *gger while he was attempting to check her in for her stay at the hotel.

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By Dr. Sheila D. Williams

In my daily stroll through various media outlets, I came across a video of a young man named Craig Brooks. As I continued to scroll through social media, I found one meme after the other titled ‘It’s Above Me Now’. Mr. Brooks, an African American young man, who was on his job working at a hotel when a Caucasian woman called him n *gger while he was attempting to check her in for her stay at the hotel. I reviewed the video of Mr. Brooks several times and realized there were so many levels to what occurred. I commend Mr. Brooks on his ability to maintain his composure in such a stressful situation. I can only imagine how he felt as he appeared to only be trying to do his job and carry out his job-related responsibilities. He didn’t yell, he didn’t scream, he didn’t become violent or argumentative, he didn’t even curse or raise his voice. He simply repeated to her, ‘it’s above me now’ and offered her the option of choosing the Best Western next door for her stay. Okay I laughed when he offered the Best Western, I admit it. But on a more serious not, the level of stress and the ability to restrain from lashing out in this type of scenario is perhaps unimaginable to many. I can only envision myself in that situation, blood pressure elevated, palms sweating, perhaps even biting my tongue and saying a silent prayer, in order to keep the peace and to keep my job. So, I ask, if you were in this scenario, what would you have done?

We can only speculate what Mr. Brooks meant when he said repeatedly ‘It’s above me now’. I presume he meant either that if she had an issue or complaint, she needed to address it with a supervisor OR he had simply ‘released’ her negativity and racist remarks to a higher being. How we handle stress is imperative to our overall health and well-being. As an African American woman, I’ve encountered many challenges in my life. I’ve experienced so many situations that were blatantly discriminatory and many that were subtle. In each situation, I can’t say I was as composed as Mr. Brooks. I’ve learned, and continue to learn, how to deal with stress daily.

Because of societal pressure to ‘fit in’, coupled with work, family, financial responsibilities we are all dealing with some form of stress. Did you know that seventy-five percent to 90% of all doctor’s office visits are for stress-related ailments and complaints? The reality is, stress can play a part in problems such as headaches, high blood pressure, heart problems, diabetes, skin conditions, asthma, arthritis, depression, and anxiety. Research indicates that emotional stress is a major contributing factor to the six leading causes of death in the United States: cancer, coronary heart disease, accidental injuries, respiratory disorders, cirrhosis of the liver and suicide. ALARMING to say the least.

In a society in which everything we say and do is scrutinized, it can often be difficult to ‘release’ and let go of those things that are out of our control. It is often difficult to remain calm in stressful situations and to find work-life balance. Through prayer, meditation, supportive family and friends as well as travel and participation in social activities I’ve learned to manage my stress. Perhaps Mr. Brooks has learned to successfully manage stress and his ability release and deflect the negative energy that she attempted to place upon him is by far, one that we can all learn a lesson from. As a Mental Health Advocate, I encourage others to advocate for their overall well-being. Learn to say ‘no’, to walk away and to be intentional about you, your well-being and the well-being of those you love. Let’s all learn to release and let go – it’s okay to hold your head high and say, ‘It’s Above Me Now’ and walk away!!

www.DrSheilaDWilliams.com

It’s Above Me is a statement said by hotel reservationist Craig L. Brooks Jr. in a Twitterviral video in which he confronts the woman who called him a n*gger over the phone by politely refusing her service.

This article originally appeared in The Florida Star

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Fighting an Unjust System, The Bail Project Helps People Get Out of Jail and Reunites Families

In addition to posting bail at no cost to the person or their family, The Bail Project works to connect its clients to social services and community resources based on an individual’s identified needs, including substance use treatment, mental health support, stable housing and employment.

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Adrienne Johnson, the regional director for The Bail Project, told NNPA’s Let It Be Known that the organization seeks to accomplish its mission one person at a time.
Adrienne Johnson, the regional director for The Bail Project, told NNPA’s Let It Be Known that the organization seeks to accomplish its mission one person at a time.

Hundreds of thousands of individuals locked up in jails almost daily — many find it challenging to pay bail

By Stacy M. Brown, NNPA Newswire Senior National Correspondent
@StacyBrownMedia

As public support for criminal justice reform continues to build — and as the pandemic raises the stakes higher — advocates remain adamant that it’s more important than ever that the facts are straight, and everyone understands the bigger picture.

“The U.S. doesn’t have one ‘criminal justice system;’ instead, we have thousands of federal, state, local, and tribal systems,” Wendy Sawyer and Peter Wagner found in a study released by the nonprofit Prison Policy Initiative.

Together, these systems hold almost 2 million people in 1,566 state prisons, 102 federal prisons, 2,850 local jails, 1,510 juvenile correctional facilities, 186 immigration detention facilities, and 82 Indian country jails, as well as in military prisons, civil commitment centers, state psychiatric hospitals, and prisons in the U.S. territories,” the study authors said in a press release.

With hundreds of thousands of individuals locked up in jails almost daily, many find it challenging to pay bail.

Recognizing America’s ongoing mass incarceration problem and the difficulties families have in bailing out their loved ones, a new organization began in 2018 to offer some relief.

The Bail Project, a nationwide charitable fund for pretrial defendants, started with a vision of combating mass incarceration by disrupting the money bail system.

Adrienne Johnson, the regional director for The Bail Project, told NNPA’s Let It Be Known that the organization seeks to accomplish its mission one person at a time.

“We have a mission of doing exactly what we hope our criminal system would do: protect the presumption of innocence, reunite families, and challenge a system that we know can criminalize poverty,” Johnson stated.

“Our mission is to end cash bail and create a more just, equitable, and humane pretrial system,” she insisted.

Johnson said The Bronx Freedom Fund, at the time a new revolving bail fund that launched in New York, planted the seed for The Bail Project more than a decade ago.

“Because bail is returned at the end of a case, we can build a sustainable revolving fund where philanthropic dollars can be used several times per year, maximizing the impact of every contribution,” Johnson stated.

In addition to posting bail at no cost to the person or their family, The Bail Project works to connect its clients to social services and community resources based on an individual’s identified needs, including substance use treatment, mental health support, stable housing and employment.

Johnson noted that officials created cash bail to incentivize people to return to court.

Instead, she said, judges routinely set cash bail well beyond most people’s ability to afford it, resulting in thousands of legally innocent people incarcerated while they await court dates.

According to The Bail Project, Black Americans are disproportionately impacted by cash bail, and of all Black Americans in jail in the U.S., nearly half are from southern prisons.

“There is no way to do the work of advancing pretrial reform without addressing the harmful effects of cash bail in the South,” said Robin Steinberg, Founder, and CEO of The Bail Project.

“Cash bail fuels racial and economic disparities in our legal system, and we look forward to supporting the community in Greenville as we work to eliminate cash bail and put ourselves out of business.”

Since its launch, The Bail Project has stationed teams in more than 25 cities, posting bail for more than 18,000 people nationwide.

Johnson said the organization uses its national revolving bail fund, powered by individual donations, to pay bail.

The Bail Project has spent over $47 million on bail.

“When we post bail for a person, we post the full cash amount at court,” Johnson stated.

“Upon resolution of the case, the money returns to whoever posted. So, if I posted $5,000 to bail someone out, we then help the person get back to court and resolve the case,” she continued.

“The money then comes back to us, and we can use that money to help someone else. So, we recycle that.”

Johnson said eliminating cash bail and the need for bail funds remains the goal.

“It’s the just thing to do. It restores the presumption of innocence, and it restores families,” Johnson asserted.

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Bay Area

Oakland Parents Join Statewide Coalition to Protest State-Imposed School Closings

NNPA NEWSWIRE — The Oakland Unified School District has remained under FCMAT’s domination since the state took over in 2003. Already, under FCMAT’s leadership, more than 30 Oakland schools have been closed. Now, in the 2021-2023 school years, 13 additional Oakland schools have either been closed or are expected to close at the end of this school year. 

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Protesters from Oakland and the Inglewood school district in Southern California protest against school closings and budget cuts Wednesday, Sept. 21 at the annual meeting of the Fiscal Crisis and Management Assistance Team (FCMAT) in Los Angeles County. They were demanding that FCMAT and their respective county offices of education relinquish control of their districts.
Protesters from Oakland and the Inglewood school district in Southern California protest against school closings and budget cuts Wednesday, Sept. 21 at the annual meeting of the Fiscal Crisis and Management Assistance Team (FCMAT) in Los Angeles County. They were demanding that FCMAT and their respective county offices of education relinquish control of their districts.

Protesters shut down meeting of Gov. Newsom’s state-funded nonprofit agency

By Ken Epstein

Parent Voices Oakland and other Oakland community groups this week joined with parents and community leaders from Inglewood in Southern California to demand an end to state-imposed school closings and decades of budget cutbacks at the annual board meeting of the state-financed nonprofit, Fiscal Crisis and Management Assistance Team (FCMAT).

At the meeting on Wednesday, Sept. 21, held at the Los Angeles County Office of Education in Downey, the community coalition demanded “that FCMAT change its racist policy course or, if they refuse, (we) demand that Governor Newsom hold this state agency accountable for their decades of racist public school closures and colonization of Black and Brown communities,” according to a press statement that was released prior to the protest.

The protesters shut down the meeting. They scheduled a meeting with FCMAT’s Chief Executive Officer Michael Fine.

The coalition is “demanding that the Governor recognize progress and new funding wins and that he holds this state agency accountable for their decades of racist public-school closures that continue to disproportionately impact schools and communities of color.”

Specific parent demands are:

  • FCMAT reimburse local districts for costs incurred during state takeovers of school districts including Oakland and Inglewood, among others;
  • Newsom should create stable funding for majority student-of-color districts in his next budget;
  • Newsom and state education leaders commit to a multi-year approach to early and K-12 education to guarantee stability to the state’s classrooms;
  • Restore local sovereignty to districts of color currently under FCMAT’s domination.

According to the parent coalition, up to now, FCMAT has received minimal public attention, and as a result, has not been held accountable for targeting working-class districts of color in California for decades with state takeover and receiverships.

Reporting directly to the governor, FCMAT has forced districts into debt, utilizing audits to require unnecessary loans, exorbitant fees, and unachievable financial outcomes, according to the coalition press statement.

The Oakland Unified School District has remained under FCMAT’s domination since the state took over in 2003. Already, under FCMAT’s leadership, more than 30 Oakland schools have been closed. Now, in the 2021-2023 school years, 13 additional Oakland schools have either been closed or are expected to close at the end of this school year.

The state has forced Oakland and Inglewood, majority Black and Brown school districts, to take loans far more than what the community needed, wanted, or agreed to, and then has given authority to FCMAT to exercise complete control over these districts because of debts the district did not create, the press statement said.

FCMAT often requires school districts to close schools even when these actions do not save funds and overrules attempts by these districts, and parents to find alternatives to save funds apart from closing schools, the press statement said.

In a September 21 letter to Gov. Gavin Newsom, coalition members wrote:

“Beyond Oakland and Inglewood, a much longer list of school, early education and community college districts, almost entirely majority Black and Brown districts, have been under the thumb of FCMAT for decades, forced into austerity measures by an entirely unaccountable entity led by an overwhelmingly white leadership team (comprised of 22 people that include 20 white and 2 Latinx individuals). FCMAT itself says there are a ‘historic’ number of districts on its list this year – all majority Black and Brown districts.  FCMAT does not exert this level of control over any white majority school districts in California.”

Among the signers of the letter were Inglewood parents and community leaders, including members of Inglewood Rising and Law 4 Black Lives Inglewood, as well as representatives from Oakland, including Zach Norris of Oakland Not For Sale, Dr. Frankie Free Ramos of Oakland Progressive Alliance and Dr. Kitty Kelly Epstein, an Oakland education professor.

At press time, FCMAT has not responded to a request for comment from the Oakland Post.

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Activism

The St. Augustine Movement (1963–1964)

Hundreds of students from northern colleges recruited by the SCLC participated in demonstrations and sit-ins during Easter week of 1964. Most were jailed. “Some were made to stand in a cramped outdoor overflow pen in the late spring heat, while others were put into a concrete sweatbox overnight.”

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It was the spring of 1964. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference were preparing to launch a campaign to end racial discrimination in St. Augustine, Fla.
It was the spring of 1964. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference were preparing to launch a campaign to end racial discrimination in St. Augustine, Fla.

By Tamara Shiloh

It was the spring of 1964. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference were preparing to launch a campaign to end racial discrimination in St. Augustine, Fla. King hoped that the “demonstrations there would lead to local desegregation and that media attention would garner national support for the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which was then stalled in a congressional filibuster,” according to Stanford University’s King Encyclopedia.

A sit-in protest at a local Woolworth’s lunch counter that ended in the arrest and imprisonment of 16 Black protestors and seven juveniles sparked the pickets. Four of the arrested, JoeAnn Anderson, Audrey Nell Edwards, Willie Carl Singleton, and Samuel White were sent to reform school for six months. No effort was made to release them until their case was publicized by Jackie Robinson, the NAACP, and the Pittsburgh Courier. They were later dubbed “the St. Augustine Four.”

It was Robert B. Hayling, advisor to the Youth Council of the city’s branch of the NAACP, who led these demonstrations. Protesters were met with violence as the Ku Klux Klan responded to their presence. Hayling and three other NAACP members were severely beaten at a 1963 Klan rally. They were arrested and convicted of assaulting their attackers.

The NAACP asked for Hayling’s resignation, but not before reaching out to the SCLC for support.

Hundreds of students from northern colleges recruited by the SCLC participated in demonstrations and sit-ins during Easter week of 1964. Most were jailed. “Some were made to stand in a cramped outdoor overflow pen in the late spring heat, while others were put into a concrete sweatbox overnight.”

When King visited St. Augustine that May, the house the SCLC rented for him was “sprayed by gunfire.” The day after the Senate voted to end the filibuster of the Civil Rights Act, King, Ralph Abernathy, and several others were arrested when they requested service at a segregated restaurant. Meanwhile, despite the violence, the SCLC continued to lead marches.

On June 18, a Grand Jury pressured King and the SCLC to leave St. Augustine for one month. The so-called goal was to “diffuse the situation, claiming that they had disrupted racial harmony in the city.”

King responded that the request was “an immoral one, as it asked the Negro community to give all, and the white community to give nothing . . . St. Augustine never had peaceful race relations.”

As the Senate debated the Civil Rights Act, SCLC lawyers began to win court victories in St. Augustine. The SCLC was encouraged to bring cases against the Klan. On July 2, 1964, President Lyndon Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act, the most sweeping civil rights legislation since Reconstruction, into law.

Blacks in St. Augustine continued to face violence, intimidation, and threats, as healing took its time.

Help young readers understand the struggle for equality and a time when American laws were unfair to Blacks. Share with them Shadae Mallory’s “The History of the Civil Rights Movement: A History Book for New Readers.” Purchase at https://www.multiculturalbookstore.com

Sources: https://www.britannica.com/event/American-civil-rights-movement

https://history.house.gov/Exhibitions-and-Publications/BAIC/Historical-Essays/Keeping-the-Faith/Civil-Rights-Movement/

https://www.adl.org/resources/backgrounder/civil-rights-movement

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