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Problems Linger in Baltimore

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Protesters call for justice for Freddie Gray as Baltimore police officers watch. (Freddie Allen/NNPA News Wire Service)

Protesters call for justice for Freddie Gray as Baltimore police officers watch. (Freddie Allen/NNPA News Wire Service)

By Jazelle Hunt
NNPA Washington Correspondent

WASHINGTON (NNPA) – Baltimore’s curfew has been lifted, the officers have been charged, and Freddie Gray has been laid to rest. But the underlying causes of the protests around his homicide remain.

“I think that people need to understand the history of poverty, negligence, and police brutality in the city of Baltimore,” says Jocelyn Providence, a math teacher at Digital Harbor High School in Baltimore’s Riverside area.

Last week, she said, there were more absences than usual and her students were more emotional. Many expressed fear, anger, worry, and frustration with the riots that have negatively impacted their communities.

She continued, “There are students and residents who are fed up and angered by the continued violence on their lives, whether it be by police, poor education, and poverty.”

As the city turns its attention to addressing these issues and securing justice for Freddie Gray, several opportunities to support the youth and longstanding community groups have surfaced.

Baltimore United, a coalition of Baltimore city community groups and concerned citizens, is keeping a list of organizations and churches serving as safe spaces for youth and activists, with free hot lunches each day and opportunities to volunteer. The list, which can be accessed on their website (www.bmoreunited.org), includes contact information for people who are directing incoming support.

The coalition is also trying to raise a $100,000 bailout fund for protesters and other wrongfully imprisoned people (donations accepted online at www.crowdrise.com/legalbailsupportforbaltimore). A legal assistance and information hotline is also in operation (443-814-9160).

Some of the efforts in Baltimore are spillovers from Ferguson, Mo. Operation Help or Hush, for example, began as a conversation on Twitter. Its mission, “taking social media to the streets,” is an answer to those who critique the legitimacy of “hashtag activism,” or, calling attention to injustices and relaying on-the-ground information on social media.

So far, the group has served daily hot lunch to youth and protesters of all ages, and has been helping coordinate lodging, and demonstrations between Baltimore natives and visiting protesters. This week the group is going mobile, taking these lunches plus items for babies and toiletries for seniors, to social service sites around town. Items can be sent to 655 N Bentalou St., Baltimore, Md. 21216; monetary donations are accepted via its website www.operationhelporhush.org or PayPal. The funds also go toward travel for those who want to be on the front line, and to purchase protester supplies such as boards for signs, food, and water.

Other efforts are focused on uplifting the youth who have been on the front lines since Freddie Gray’s homicide.

“When we saw the protests start to turn somewhat negative down there in Baltimore out of people’s frustration, we knew that we had try to pull something together for the young people so that they could vent their frustrations, and tell us what some of their issues are. And so that we could provide some solutions, along with some caring adults and some local programs that they might be involved in beyond this,” says Seandra Sims, a Philadelphia-based public relations professional working to coordinate efforts in Baltimore between partners across the Northeast.

The result of this coordinating is Bmore Youth Rise, a free community event that will serve as an outlet for the city’s young people. The event takes place this Saturday, and will include a youth town hall where rappers and local leaders will respond to concerns the young people present express. Earlier in the week, young residents of Gilmor Homes housing projects, where Freddie Gray lived and was arrested, will be creating a mural on one wall of a nearby recreation center; it will be publicly dedicated as part of Saturday’s events. After the town hall, there will be a peace walk to Harlem Square Park for a free hip-hop concert and rally.

“We pulled this together in four days. We got every single piece of this event for free, just by calling and saying ‘the kids need you.’ What we’re trying to encourage the young people to do is calm down,” Sims says. “These kids are upset about problems that were existing long before Freddie Gray was murdered in their community. It’s been festering and festering. It’s OK to be civilly disobedient. It’s not OK to destroy property, but it is OK to get mad. But the goal is that we can move from being reactionary to being proactive.”

At the rally, Justice League NYC, a community-based criminal justice task force, will issue a call to action for support of three pieces of legislation that will address police brutality. The Justice League is an offshoot of Harry Belafonte’s organization, Gathering for Justice, and one of the event’s major sponsors.

In addition to these community efforts, demonstrations are ongoing across the country – some in solidarity with Baltimore, some as part of continuing action against police violence, and others as part of the larger Black Lives Matter movement. WeTheProtesters.org and NationalStoptheKilling.com are two resources for finding opportunities around the country to get involved.

Jocelyn Providence protested on three occasions last week, and says that each action was student led. In talking to her students, she expressed that they need support in making themselves heard.

“My students need to know that they are supported by a national movement. I think there are a lot of times where they feel very small and alone, and it is hard for them to see the big picture,” says Providence. “People can help and support form afar by continuing to promote youth leaders and tell the true story of Baltimore, which is not solely riots, but students coming together to change their city for the better.”

Follow Jazelle Hunt on Twitter at @JazelleAH.

 

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Activism

Following More Mass Shootings Democrats Introduce Assault Weapons Ban

On January 22, a gunman opened fire on a crowd celebrating the Lunar New Year in Monterey Park, California, killing 11 and wounding 9. The Democrats’ proposed Age 21 Act would make it illegal to sell or buy an assault weapon to anybody under 21, bringing it in line with the legal age for purchasing handguns. President Joe Biden has publicly stated his support for the legislation.

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The assault weapons prohibition “passed the House last year with bipartisan backing, but was blocked by Senate Republicans
The assault weapons prohibition “passed the House last year with bipartisan backing, but was blocked by Senate Republicans.

By Stacy M. Brown,NNPA Newswire

Two proposals aimed at curbing the spread of assault rifles were submitted today by Democratic senators Dianne Feinstein of California, and Richard Blumenthal and Chris Murphy of Connecticut.

The Assault Weapons Ban seeks to prohibit the commercialization, distribution, production, and importation of assault rifles and other firearms designed for use in military operations, as well as high-capacity magazines and similar devices.

On January 22, a gunman opened fire on a crowd celebrating the Lunar New Year in Monterey Park, California, killing 11 and wounding 9.

The Democrats’ proposed Age 21 Act would make it illegal to sell or buy an assault weapon to anybody under 21, bringing it in line with the legal age for purchasing handguns.

President Joe Biden has publicly stated his support for the legislation.

Biden said that the number of mass shootings declined during the decade that the Assault Weapons Ban was in effect.

“In the 10 years that the Assault Weapons Ban was on the books, mass shootings went down,” Biden remarked.

“After Republicans let the law expire in 2004 and those weapons were allowed to be sold again, mass shootings tripled,” he declared.

Both houses of Congress were urged to take quick action by the president.

According to Biden, “the majority of American people agree with this rational measure.”

“There can be no greater responsibility than to do all we can to ensure the safety of our children, our communities and our nation,” he insisted.

In the House of Representatives, Rhode Island Democrat David Cicilline said he plans to introduce a companion bill to the Senate’s Assault Weapons Ban.

Feinstein said assault rifles “seem to be the unifying denominator in the seemingly endless number of horrific shootings.”

“Because these firearms were created for maximum efficiency in mass murder,” the senator noted.

“They have no place in our society or educational institutions. It’s time to take a stand against the gun lobby and do something about getting these lethal weapons off the streets, or at the absolute least, out of the hands of our youth.”

Blumenthal added, as the gunman at the Lunar New Year celebration in Monterey Park demonstrated just days ago, assault weapons are designed for one and one purpose only: to murder or hurt human beings.

“These military-style combat weapons – built for the battlefield and designed to maximize death and destruction – have brought bloodshed and carnage to our streets and continue to be the weapon of choice in countless mass shootings,” Blumenthal said.

“Guns don’t respect state boundaries, which is why we need a national solution to restricting the ownership and use of assault weapons. Now is the time to honor gun violence victims and survivors with this commonsense action.”

Rep. Ciciline argued that it is long past due to reinstate an assault weapon ban and remove these “weapons of war” from civilian areas.

The assault weapons prohibition “passed the House last year with bipartisan backing, but was blocked by Senate Republicans,” Ciciline noted.

“We need to come together to enact this commonsense, effective, and proven policy to reduce gun violence and save lives. I thank Senator Feinstein for her partnership in this fight and look forward to introducing the House companion bill in the coming weeks.”

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Dr. Benjamin F. Chavis Jr. Named National Co-Chair of No Labels

“As a veteran of the civil rights movement, during the last six decades, I’ve learned a few things about the importance of people working together across lines of race, ethnicity, language, geography, and the things that divide us. I want to work on things that unite us as Americans. I believe No Labels offers that opportunity but also that responsibility to move forward,” Dr. Chavis said.

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Dr. Benjamin F. Chavis Jr.
Dr. Benjamin F. Chavis Jr.

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

No Labels, a nonprofit think tank that describes itself as a national movement of Democrats, Republicans, and independents working to solve the country’s most complex problems, has named Dr. Benjamin F. Chavis Jr. as its national co-chair.

The formal announcement occurred during a Zoom news conference on January 22.

It included welcome messages from Sens. Susan Collins (R-Maine), Joe Manchin (D-West Virginia), and former Maryland Republican Gov. Larry Hogan, among others.

Recording star Deborah Cox opened the introductory news conference by performing a spirited song about No Labels, who created the bipartisan House Problem Solvers Caucus and an allied Senate group that led passage of some of the most important legislation of recent years, including the CHIPS Act, a gun safety bill, and a rewrite of the Electoral Count Act in 2022.

Voiceovers were woven in of former U.S. Presidents from John F. Kennedy to Ronald Reagan and Barack Obama.

The organization then played a tribute video that included Dr. Chavis’ family and his legendary career as a civil rights leader.

“I’m very pleased to join Sen. Lieberman and Gov. Hogan as co-chairs of No Labels,” Dr. Chavis exclaimed.

“As a veteran of the civil rights movement, during the last six decades, I’ve learned a few things about the importance of people working together across lines of race, ethnicity, language, geography, and the things that divide us. I want to work on things that unite us as Americans. I believe No Labels offers that opportunity but also that responsibility to move forward,” Dr. Chavis said.

Lieberman, a former U.S. Senator from Connecticut, who changed parties in 2006 and is now an Independent, said No Labels is fortunate to have Dr. Chavis on board.

“Based on his history as a civil rights leader and the kind of person he is, I’m thrilled. Dr. Chavis has always been a bridge-builder and will bring civility, which is sorely needed in our government and our country,” Lieberman asserted.

Hogan, who served two terms as Maryland governor, also congratulated Dr. Chavis.

“I’m thrilled to congratulate Dr. Chavis and welcome him to No Labels. I know Dr. Chavis will be a great addition to the leadership team of No Labels,” Hogan stated.

“He shares our commitment to bringing people together to achieve common sense solutions for all Americans. Having worked with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Dr. Chavis knows what it means to fight for freedom and respect for all Americans, and that’s exactly what No Labels stand for,” Hogan concluded.

Manchin, the conservative-leaning Democrat, said he got involved with No Labels more than 12 years ago because the organization works to unite America.

“We’re still working to unite this country,” Manchin declared.

“What we’ve done in the last two years in a bipartisan way because of No Labels has been [major].

“So, I’m thrilled to have the experience of Dr. Chavis and the wealth of knowledge he’s gained over the years that he’ll share with us to help make us a more perfect union.”

In welcoming Dr. Chavis, Senator Susan Collins, Maine’s longest-serving Senator, lent her voice.

“As a highly respected civil rights leader, his service alongside Sen. Lieberman and Gov. Hogan will help move our organization and nation forward,” Collins insisted.

“Dr. Chavis has dedicated his life to championing equality and encouraging our nation to live up to its ideals. He believes in American unity, democracy, and opportunity for all.”

Dr. Chavis said his life’s work had taught him that if everyone works together, divisions can be overcome.

“And when we overcome divisions, we make progress,” he insisted.

“I believe we need to restore bipartisanship in the American Congress. We need to restore bipartisanship at the state legislative level.

“We need to restore bipartisanship at the local and municipal level. Americans today are worn out with all the divisions and looking for a way forward. No Labels offer that way forward.”

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COMMENTARY: Prayer is Your Power

Terrible things happen to good people often. We live in an unjust world with people making decisions that are informed more by profit than people. We cannot take those principles into our relationship with God. We must believe that “… all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to His purpose.”

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Prayer is about faith. It is believing that God hears us.
Prayer is about faith. It is believing that God hears us.

Faithful Utterances

By Dr. Froswa Booker-Drew | Texas Metro News

This week, a friend informed me that she was following the ambulance to the hospital with her husband. Her husband was going through a major health crisis. She wasn’t the only one who reached out—a friend’s mother had unexplained pain and another friend contacted me about her friend’s son who was hospitalized with pneumonia. Each of them asked that I pray for them.

I consider it an honor to pray for others. Prayer is powerful and I love that I have a group of friends who I can turn to that I call the “prayer warriors” that when I send a text to lift up the concerns and issues of others before God, they go into battle mode.

Prayer is a weapon and I think many of us don’t understand its power until we need it. For many of us, it’s a routine, something that’s more about religion than it is about relationship. We have gotten prayer twisted as some exchange solely for stuff. God is not a celestial Santa Claus dropping off gifts. Prayer is an opportunity to go before to God sincerely in relationship. “And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others.

Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you. And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask Him.” (Matthew 6:5–8)

Prayer is about faith. It is believing that God hears us. “Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” (Hebrews 4:16) I realize that my prayers are even more powerful when I am in relationship with others seeking God: “For where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them” (Matthew 18:20). It’s dangerous when we see prayer as a way to manipulate God into doing what we want. There is nothing wrong with bringing your requests before God but it’s important to check our motivation and intention. It’s also important to know that just because God doesn’t answer our prayers in the way that we want does not mean that God doesn’t love us.

It doesn’t mean that God does not hear us. It does not negate the omnipotence or goodness of God, either. We must believe that God is able. “And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who earnestly seek him.” (Hebrews 11:6) It’s easy to blame God when things don’t go the way we want them to—”the rain falls on the just and the unjust” (Matthew 5:45).

Terrible things happen to good people often. We live in an unjust world with people making decisions that are informed more by profit than people. We cannot take those principles into our relationship with God. We must believe that “… all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to His purpose.” (Romans 8:28) …. God is concerned with our hearts, with people and cares for us even when things don’t go the way we’d like. I can report that all of the individuals we prayed for had excellent results.

God is good! Yet, I realize that this isn’t always the case. Prayer is powerful. God wants us to have this daily form of communication. 1 John 5:14, tells us: “And this is the boldness we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us.” Don’t use prayer just when you need something. Just as all relationships require consistent communication for growth and results, the same is even more important in our relationship with God. Prayer is a powerful partnership with God that can move mountains when we believe!

Dr. Froswa’ Booker-Drew is the host of the Tapestry Podcast and the author of three books for women. She is also the Vice President of Community Affairs for the State Fair of Texas. To learn more, visit drfroswa.com.

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