Police Relations, Trust, and a 7 year old

“Fuck the Police!!!”

I have lost count. I couldn’t even tell you how many times I have heard the above phrase in my life. In my experience, people in the hood have a distaste for the police. I am not sure of the exact reason. In the house that I grew up in, people who were involved in illegal activity (people who were victims of a less than adequate education systems, social oppression, and little to no job opportunities) saw the police as abusers of power. It could also possibly just be the history of corruption and exploitation that gives this line of work a bad name in our country. When talking to a group of young students that I mentor, they described the police as the people who “treat them like animals, taming them, before protecting them.”

It seems that due to the history of various police departments around the country, current police officers need to start initiatives to reach out to the community and try to help bridge the divide that has split neighborhood-officer relationships. (A history that can find some of its roots in Chicago where the CPD attempted to cover up the murder of Fred Hampton).

I got the chance to have a conversation with the deputy police chief in my district today and she explained how she wants to start initiatives to make police more positively visible to the community and work on police officer’s everyday manners. This sounds like a good idea to me (a small step, but still a step in the right direction). The problem is you really don’t see any manifestations of positive efforts by police officers. Instead we see headlines like…

7-Year-Old Girl Shot and Killed During Police Search of Detroit Home

It's Happening Again. What Aiyana Jones' Death Tells Us

It’s Happening Again. What Aiyana Jones’ Death Tells Us
Juell Stewart, RaceWire, May 17, 2010

It’s an all-too-familiar occurrence: A young person of color gets killed by the police, the community rallies around the victim’s family, and everybody wonders what can be done to prevent it from happening again. Well, it’s happening again in Detroit, where police fatally shot 7-year-old Aiyana Jones in her sleep early Sunday morning.

Law enforcement officials raided the Jones’ home, blasting through the door with a “flash-bang” device designed to “create confusion.” They were in pursuit of a suspect in the killing of a 17-year-old boy; the suspect was found in the upstairs attack. Police say Jones’ grandmother was on the other side of the door as they entered the house, and when she tussled with an officer, a gun accidentally discharged. The family’s attorney says a video shows cops actually fired into the house after the flash-bang discharge. Accident or not, the results remain the same: another innocent victim dead at the hands of police, a community left to mourn and to wonder how to keep it from happening again. (Read the full article)

"Until I Am Free:" Prisoners of their Youth

Last night I had the privilege of experiencing an event where the voices of people who are removed from our society in every way, physically and intellectually, were heard, listened to, and represented. “Until I Am Free: Voices of Youth Sentenced to Life without Parole” is a project, facilitated by Chicagoan poet, artist and youth organizer Kevin Coval.  The purpose of the project is to distribute and share the stories and poetry of people who were convicted of crimes and sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole as minors, some as young as 14. Jane Addams Hull House Museum hosted a poetry reading which showcased the work of these victims of our sometimes unforgiving youth justice system.

Michael Cooks is 35 years old and has been in prison since he was convicted of double homicide at age 14 and sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole. In a poem that was read for Michael, he wrote about being told to have beliefs…He wrote:

“So my entire life I have believed in believing in something. The problem is I never figured out what that something should be.”

Distant Relatives Speak Truth To Power

What happens when you take one of the illest mc’s of all-time and put him on a track with a “toasting” reggae sensation? You get distant relatives. I’m not referring to your typical long lost cousin kind of distant relative, I’m talking about the family member who you never met but instantly click with. Although Nasir Jones and Damian Marley’s respective lineages don’t intersect, their musical collaboration will make any listener think they were fraternal twins who complemented each other with each breath they took on the mic. Today these musical geniuses who combined forces a little over a year ago release their collaborative album entitled, Distant Relatives.

The thirteen track album takes the listener on a journey from the economically depressed areas in Zimbabwe, to Ghana, to the streets of Kingston, Jamaica, to Sunset Boulevard in Los Angeles. This socially and politically conscious album stems from what Damian Marley says is “ […] talking humanity. Our people. It’s stemming from Africa being the cradle of civilization.” Listening to the album was like listening to two gifted rhetoricians present a rhythmically laced lecture on the African diaspora. Nas’ gruff New York city drawl coupled with Marley’s Jamaican argot harmoniously tell stories of finding salvation in the promise land, youth uplift, and changing the world through leadership.

One song that particularly touched me on the album was “My Generation”. The song starts out with the high-pitched voices of a youth choir led by Joss Stone proclaiming “My generation will make a change/This generation will make a change”. Although Damian Marley and Lil’ Wayne both spit good verses on this track Nas’ verse really spoke to me. In fact, the first time I heard it I rewound it back to his verse about four times.

Who will commit juvenile crime?: Florida purchases 'predictive' software to identify at-risk youth

Who will commit juvenile crime?: Florida purchases ‘predictive’ software to identify at-risk youth
Mike Clary, Sun Sentinel, May 16, 2010

Is it possible to identify young offenders most likely to commit a crime in the future, and then intervene to stop it?

Yes, answer officials at the state Department of Juvenile Justice in touting a new system of “predictive analytics” that would steer at-risk juveniles to specific treatment programs designed to keep them from becoming adult criminals.

But the state’s purchase of the $15,000 software package from IBM has alarmed some juvenile-justice experts who fear the program could unfairly label individuals and target minorities. (Read the full article)