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Civil Rights ‘Cold Cases’ Drag On

Evangeline Moore holds photos of her parents, Florida civil rights activists Harry T. and Harriette V. Moore, in this 1999 file photo. (CHUCK KENNEDY/MCT)

Special to the NNPA from The Florida Courier

Juanita Evangeline Moore hates Christmas.

It was on Christmas night 1951 when her father, Harry T. Moore, was murdered instantly when a bomb placed by racists exploded under the family’s Mims home. Nine days later, her mother Harriette V. Moore died as a result of injuries sustained in the bombing.

The Moores were some of the earliest civil rights leaders in Florida and began their work in Brevard County. Harry Moore, a graduate of Bethune-Cookman College (now University), was the Florida state field secretary for the NAACP. He fought for equal pay for teachers, spoke out against violent atrocities against African-Americans, and registered thousands of voters.

At the time they were killed, Harry Moore, who also founded the Brevard County chapter of the NAACP, was registering large numbers of Blacks to vote and protesting the circumstances around a rape trial in Groveland – including the killings of two of the defendants by the Lake County sheriff.

Such activism, in a state still under the harsh rule of Jim Crow, drew the ire of the Ku Klux Klan.

Circumstantial Evidence

In 2006, Florida’s then-Attorney General Charlie Crist spoke about the Moores’ murders under a rambling oak tree just yards from where the Moore home stood, now the site of a cultural center honoring the couple.

Crist said strong circumstantial evidence – unearthed during a 20-month investigation – pointed to ultra-violent factions within the KKK “as being responsible for this horrible act.’’

In the Moore case, investigators interviewed more than 100 people and combed through 50 years of documents. The bombsite was even excavated, though it yielded no new evidence.

But the stories of witnesses did. They told of a particularly violent group of men who were working to squash the efforts of the Moores. Those implicated were Earl J. Brooklyn, Tillman H. Bevlin, Joseph N. Cox and Edward L. Spivey. Crist, who said others may have been involved, failed to elaborate on the roles each man played.

All Dead

Spivey reportedly confessed to investigators and an anonymous tipster before his death from cancer in 1980. But by that time, the case was nearly 30 years old and the other three men were long dead.

Bevlin died less than a year after the bombing, reportedly of natural causes. Brooklyn died on the attack’s one-year anniversary, and Cox committed suicide in 1952 – one day after an interview with the FBI about the case.

Investigators said Brooklyn and Bevlin had floor plans of the Moore home, and Cox may have been rewarded with a paid-off mortgage for participating in the crime. Spivey is believed to have been at the home on the night of the bombing.

‘Never Have Closure’

Sixty-three years later, Moore has given up hope that her parents will receive justice. She was praying that the four suspects in the killings would be formally named as suspects when she received a letter from the FBI telling her that investigators had been unable to find anything that would help them to definitively identify the culprits.

“I haven’t heard from them since. I guess I will never have closure,” said Moore, of New Carrollton, Maryland.

Moore, 84, is among hundreds of loved ones of men, women and children killed in decades-old civil rights cases who still yearn to have someone held accountable for the killings.

Congress Acts

In 2007, at the urging of civil rights activists, Congress passed the Emmett Till Unsolved Civil Rights Crimes Act that was named for 14-year-old Emmett Till, a Chicago youth who, in 1955, was brutalized and killed by racists in Money, Miss. after he whistled at a White woman.

At a panel discussion Dec. 9 at Washington, D.C’s National Press Club, relatives of civil rights murder victims described their efforts to see done for their loved ones. The event was sponsored by the Cold Case Justice Initiative (CCJI) of the Syracuse University College of Law, one of a handful of university-based programs where law students investigate civil rights murders.

“For years, I didn’t know anything about what happened. I guess my mom didn’t want us to know what went on because we still live in that town,” said Darlene Morris-Newbill, 41, whose great grandfather, Frank Morris, died after he was set on fire by racists in Ferriday, La., in 1964. The case was investigated by the CCJI and turned its research over to the Department of Justice, which said it was unable to determine or prosecute a culprit.

Speakers urged Congress to extend the Till Act, which is set to expire in 2017. Under the act, Congress appropriated funding to the DOJ to investigate unsolved civil rights murder cases and, whenever possible, to bring killers to justice.

The panel included Rep. Sheila Jackson-Lee (D-Texas); Emmett’s cousin, Thelma Edwards, who still remembers the night he was snatched from her parent’s home at gunpoint; Paul Delaney, a former editor at the New York Times who wrote extensively about civil rights murders; and Paula Johnson and Janis McDonald, the Syracuse law professors who co-direct the CCJI.

Avis Thomas-Lester of NNPA and the Washington Informer contributed to this report.

Activism

Nation’s First Bill to Extend Victim Services to Survivors of Police Brutality

This would ensure that survivors of police violence and loved ones of those killed by police are no longer dependent on either a police report documenting the victimization, which is often elusive, or the opinion of involved police when assessing a victim’s responsibility. 

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The California Senate’s Committee on Public Safety this week unanimously passed SB 299. Authored by Senator Connie Leyva (SD-20), which would extend services to victims of police violence and expand eligibility for survivors of homicide victims.

“It is unacceptable that in order to receive assistance through the Victim Compensation program, police reports and the opinion of police would carry such heavy weight in the application for compensation when the injuries were sustained as a result of police actions,” Senator Leyva said.

 “SB 299 will improve access to vital resources for victims of police violence as they recover from the physical and emotional injuries caused due to the actions of police or—in the cases of individuals killed by police—be able to bury their loved ones with dignity and respect,” he said. 

“Just as the state’s Victims Compensation program can use evidence beyond police reports for victims of sexual assault, domestic violence and human trafficking, so too do victims of police violence deserve similar recognition of their circumstances so that they can get fair access to the help they need.”

Police reports and opinion can also prevent families of homicide victims from obtaining compensation, without any recourse or due process. Families in shock at a violent loss then struggle to bury their loved ones. SB 299 would, for the first time, expand eligibility to make sure survivors of homicide victims are not denied based on the contents of inaccurate, unfair or biased police reports.

“We cannot continue to let the police decide who is a ‘deserving’ victim,” says Youth ALIVE! Director of Programs, Kyndra Simmons. “This has prevented many survivors and victims, including victims of police violence, from accessing the resources and support meant to help them heal.”

“Qualifying for victim compensation was life-changing for me after my son Jordan was killed,” says Tonya Lancaster, trauma survivor and Youth ALIVE! client. “I want to see that support for everybody who needs it.”

Under existing law, victims of limited types of crimes are eligible to receive compensation from the California Victim Compensation Board’s Restitution Fund. That compensation can cover a range of needs spanning medical expenses, burial expenses, wage and income loss and much more. 

SB 299 would extend this eligibility to include incidents in which an individual sustains serious bodily injury or death as a result of a law enforcement officer’s use of force, regardless of whether the law enforcement officer is arrested for, charged with, or convicted of committing a crime. 

This would ensure that survivors of police violence and loved ones of those killed by police are no longer dependent on either a police report documenting the victimization, which is often elusive, or the opinion of involved police when assessing a victim’s responsibility. 

“We cannot tolerate treating victims of police violence with any less care and compassion than we extend to other crime victims,” said Controller Betty Yee, California’s chief fiscal officer. “We must work toward a just, fair, and peaceful society, and this expansion of victim compensation is one small step in that work.”

“”Advocacy for victims must include all victims and survivors, regardless of who caused the harm. That’s why my office started a first-in-the-state program in 2020 to ensure that our Victim Services Division compensates victims of police violence like any other victim,” said San Francisco District Attorney Chesa Boudin.  

“Unlike victims of other crimes, victims of police brutality are commonly denied access to victims compensation funds to cover burial costs, medical expenses, lost income, therapy and more,” said Prosecutors Alliance Executive Director Cristine Soto DeBerry. “No one should have to start a GoFundMe page to cover the costs of burying a loved one lost to violence.”

SB299 is co-sponsored by California Controller Betty Yee, San Francisco District Attorney Chesa Boudin, Los Angeles District Attorney George Gascón, Californians for Safety and Justice, the Prosecutors Alliance of California, and Youth ALIVE! It will be heard next by the Senate Committee on Appropriations.

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Community

Is America Failing Millennials and Generation Z’s?

Out of the 20 mass shootings and violent attacks since March 1st, one very distressing element stands out—a number of the attacks were carried out by GenZ’s (14-24 years) and Millennials (25-38 years), from diverse racial groups, and regions of the United States.

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During the last two weeks of March and first week of April 2021, Americans were shocked with alarming news of mass shootings and violent attacks in Atlanta, Georgia, Boulder Colorado, Washington, D.C. and York County, South Carolina. Out of the 20 mass shootings and violent attacks since March 1st, one very distressing element stands out—a number of the attacks were carried out by GenZ’s (14-24 years) and Millennials (25-38 years), from diverse racial groups, and regions of the United States.
For example, on April 7, 2021 in York County, South Carolina, 32 year old Millennial and former NFL Player Philip Adams committed a mass shooting of a renowned local Doctor, his wife, grandchildren and two workers. Early reports say Adams, who later committed suicide, suffered from football related brain concussions. On April 2nd in Washington, D.C. 25 year old Millennial Noah Green rammed his car into two Capitol Hill Officers and killed one of the Officers, and injured the other.
Reports from his family indicate Noah was suffering from prescription drug use, paranoia and depression. He was killed at the scene of the violence. On March 18th, 21 year old GenZ Robert Aaron Long, killed eight (8) Asian spa workers and their customers, at massage parlors in Georgia. He claimed sex addiction as a reason for his behavior. And on March 22nd in Boulder, Colorado, 21 year old Ahmad Al Aliwi Alissa, and killed ten people at a grocery store. His relatives and schoolmates say Aliwi was bullied in school for being Muslim and retaliated with anger.
These four young men who perpetrated violence were from diverse racial groups, and in different regions of the country. But, what they had in common was they were either Millennials or GenZ’s who were obviously suffering from serious mental health issues. What was being done to help them? Where were their parents, mentors, faith leaders, aunts, uncles, social workers, colleagues, etc.? Did they have trained support or, were they dealing with their crisis mostly alone?
Generation X and Baby Boomers in America have to stop being self-absorbed and start paying attention to depressed GenZ and Millennial individuals. According to the 2019 US Census reports, these groups now make up the largest age-based demographic groups in the United States. These young people know how and where to purchase guns, how to make guns using 3D technology—known as Ghost Guns and they are strongly influenced by video games, violent movies, aggressive sports and even aggressive relatives who commit domestic violence.
Research by the Anne Casey Foundation finds that GenZ’s are suffering from high levels of depression, and this must be taken seriously. Plus, they are impacted by the killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Armaud Arbery, many more Black men and women…
But, how can Generation X and Baby Boomers help Millennials and GenZ’s who are suffering from anxiety, Covid-Lockdowns, student debt, job loss and other societal factors? Since taking office, President Joe Biden is starting to focus on these issues. On April 8, 2021, the President and Attorney General Merrick Garland, announced a series of Executive Orders designed to stop violence and promote violence prevention. Their plan will target grants for communities, to mobilize violence prevention programs. These actions are to be applauded but, it is important that the programs be implemented effectively, with feedback from affected communities of color.
Black Women for Positive Change, a national multi-cultural, intergenerational network of women and Good Brothers, has sponsored ten (10) years of Annual Weeks of Non-Violence. During those years, we have heard a multitude of stories from participants about causes of violence, depression and anxiety. We have found that many GenZ’s and Millennials suffer from lack of parenting, mentorship and productive, engaging activities. We have also found stigmatization of mental health and fear of families of color to seek help for disturbed youth. In addition, our outreach informs us that Millennials and GenZ’s complain about lack of opportunities and dreams for their futures.
Therefore, it is important for the Biden Administration to factor in the need for “Opportunities” in violence prevention programs to assist youth with overcoming the obstacles of the Covid-19 pandemic, job loss, single headed households under pressures, and other issues. New approaches are needed to provide GenZ’s and Millennials with opportunities to move forward, overcome obstacles and have productive, positive lives.
Dr. Stephanie Myers/Washington, DC, is National Co-Chair, Black Women for Positive Change, and Jan Perry/Los Angeles, CA., is Chair, Social Action Committee, Black Women for Positive Change. www.blackwomenforpositivechange.org

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Barbara Lee

Why Barbara Lee Wore Tennis Shoes on January 6

Lee said she was thankful for the NAACP and the civil rights lawyers for bringing the lawsuit forward with members of Congress as plaintiffs.

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Congresswoman Barbara Lee

Congresswoman Barbara Lee joined a federal lawsuit on April 7 filed by the NAACP and Mississippi Congressman Bennie Thompson accusing Donald J. Trump, Rudy Giuliani, the Proud Boys and Oath Keepers of conspiring to incite a violent riot at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, with the goal of preventing Congress from certifying the 2020 presidential election.

The lawsuit, initially filed in February, alleges that by preventing Congress from carrying out its official duties, Trump, Giuliani and the hate groups directly violated the 1871 Ku Klux Klan Act.

NAACP president, Derrick Johnson says of Trump that he “ . . . meticulously organized [a] coup . . . that place[d] members of Congress and the integrity of our democracy in peril.”

A federal statute was passed after the Civil war to  “combat violence from the Ku Klux Klan.”  The law allows civil actions to be brought against people who use “force, intimidation, or threat” to prevent anyone from upholding the duties of their office” according to a CNN report,

Nine other members of Congress joined the suit: Karen Bass (D-CA); Steve Cohen (D-TN); Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-NJ); Veronica Escobar (D-TX); Hank Johnson, Jr. (D-GA); Marcy Kaptur (D-OH);  Jerrold Nadler (D-NY); Pramila Jayapal (D-WA); and Maxine Waters (D-CA).

Lee spoke to the Post on April 14 via phone from D.C., as she was headed to see HR 40, the Reparations bill, pass committee.

Lee said she was thankful for the NAACP and the civil rights lawyers for bringing the lawsuit forward with members of Congress as plaintiffs.

She spoke of the 401-year history of violence against Blacks in this country and the importance of the lawsuit to hold people accountable for the coup d’état.

Lee was on the floor of Congress when the riots took place.  “We have to ensure that this never happens again, to protect our democracy, to protect people from dealing with violence, it’s something we are moving forward through the judiciary.”

Lee said that there were four parts of the relief sought in the civil lawsuit:  “accountability, punitive damages, redress, and injunctive relief to prevent from happening in the future.”

The lawsuit is not about Lee and others personally, it is about the attack on the democratic process, she said.

Lee has been through many near misses and close calls (she was evacuated from the House on 9/11, barely missed being blown up by a cluster bomb in the Middle East, to name just a couple) so she knew intuitively something was going to happen on January 6.  So, she wore tennis shoes to work.  “You just put two and two together, you connect the dots and you know something is going to hit the fan.  So be prepared, right?”

She applauds the Capitol police for protecting her, other members of Congress and the  country’ democracy.  “These people came in not only to stop us from doing our jobs, but they were calling the Capitol police the N word, they were fighting with them, they were trying to kill them.  It was like a war; it went on for hours.  Domestic terrorism is the highest National threat, we need to sound the alarm.  We have to fight to end the country of these insurrectionist, these traitors.”

“On Jan. 6, Donald Trump and Rudy Giuliani trampled our democracy, inciting a violent mob of white supremacists to overturn a free and fair election. Though he failed in his ultimate goal, the very foundation of our democracy was shaken. We cannot just let this shameful moment in our history pass because next time, the consequences will be even graver. I am proud to stand with my colleagues and hold Donald Trump accountable for his attempt to destroy the fabric of this nation,” said Congresswoman Lee.

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