Remembering Black Lives Matter, Trayvon Martin and Freddie Gray

, Spencer Irvine, 4 Comments

A panel of college professors memorialized Black Lives Matter and the movement’s icons, Trayvon Martin and Freddie Gray. At the Modern Language Association’s (MLA) annual conference in Philadelphia, these professors praised Black Lives Matter’s activism and criticized police officers.

Ashley Perez, an Ohio State associate professor of comparative studies, mentioned she had to rewrite her latest book, “Out of Darkness,” because at the time, “the Black Lives Matter movement did not yet exist” and she had to live “in the shadow of Trayvon Martin’s death.” She claimed that this “robust activism has brought about [progress]…this movement has changed for what is possible for [her book].” To her, America has a “post-racial or post-racist society [with] painful continuities between past and present.”

She said, “Like Trayvon Martin, because George Zimmerman believed that his black body didn’t belong in a gated community…white supremacy [manifests] itself.” Perez continued, “As in Trayvon Martin, [the] state’s indifference enables racist violence” against black Americans. She blasted the oft-used narrative of “shortcomings or alleged criminal activities” whenever a black American is killed by a white American, which she said was a tactic dating back to the lynching days of the South.

Perez referred to black American poet Langston Hughes’s poem, “Bouquet,” and a specific phrase in the poem “underscores the need to make something beautiful from the very depths of despair.” To her, “The emergence of Black Lives Matter activism…could demand readers attention to justice in 2017.” In her mind, “Imaginatively entering diverse realities will help us understand what America was and is.” She said, it could lead to understanding “current racism” and “current anti-racism activism” in America.

Elizabeth Wheeler spoke next, who is an associate professor of English at the University of Oregon, and focused her remarks on Freddie Gray’s past and police brutality. She claimed that Freddie Gray suffered from lead poisoning as a child and it led to the development of learning disabilities. As a result, “For Gray, the slow violence of mental illness, culminated in the sudden violence of police.” She added, “He died at the hands of the Baltimore police” and blamed the city. She said, “In the absence of a prosthetic community, the Baltimore police stepped in as a sorry substitute” for the black community and for the likes of Gray. Wheeler quoted author D. Watkins, “Poverty, injustice and reading comprehension issues go hand in hand, like White cops and innocent verdicts.”

Not recognizing the poverty created by decades of Democratic Party governance in Baltimore, Wheeler criticized the lead poisoning problems that Baltimoreans faced. She quickly turned to police brutality and criticized the police officers for “arresting Freddie Gray for running away from them.” She continued, “The officers drove Gray around without a seat belt, making four stops while making a plea for medical attention… All the officers were acquitted of wrongdoing in the case.” Wheeler lamented, “During that rough ride in the van, the criminal justice system …denied him of care.” She blamed “the environmental racism that caused his disabilities in the first place.” Wheeler noted, “The criminal justice system has become the only sorry substitute for disability services.” She said, “With a strong prosthetic community in place…Freddie Gray could have lived a long life.”

To Baltimore’s police force, “Making arrests has been the easiest path to promotion,” said Wheeler. She said, “African-American bodies supplies the numbers” for police and promotions, but also said that “the war on drugs opened the door to arrest without probable cause.” Then-Baltimore mayor Martin O’Malley did not escape her ire, “O’Malley, seeking statistics for his bold run for higher office” had pushed for stringent policing. She quoted the same author, D. Watkins, who said, “Police have been consistent terrorists in our neighborhood.” She concluded and said that Freddie Gray was not in school because “he was running away from the police” and “caught in the cycle of Baltimore PD’s catch and release.” Wheeler said, “Most of the cases did not result in conviction and his family paid thousands of dollars in bail” and “the only job training he received was behind bars.”

Wheeler pointed out, “Unlike white heroines in YA [young adult]” novels, black Americans “won’t make it to a sequel.” In her mind, “children’s blood had to become quantifiable data” to make a difference. Baltimore’s neighborhood called “Sandtown” demonstrated “the flow of capital, the flow of liquidity” in the form of “young black bodies.” She criticized Baltimore’s politicians, “non-residents profit from Sandtown” through “electoral politics.” She claimed, “predatory finance companies” prey on the poor of Baltimore and alleged that Freddie Gray sold his lead poisoning settlement of around six figures for $18,000 to one of these companies.

Samira Abdur-Rahman, University of San Francisco literature professor, referred to the Sandra Bland case, where a black woman was shot and killed by a police officer after a traffic stop. The case led to the “Say My Name” activist campaign. Abdur-Rahman said that this campaign was to act as counter-narrative of forgetting black women and policy brutality against them. She said, “I’m not suggesting a disengagement of public discourse…and police brutality,” but that this is a new “way to think of black [culture].”

She criticized “the militarization of police, which received increasing attention…in Ferguson, Missouri, after the murder of Mike Brown.” She asked the audience, “Was the SWAT style invasion of the home in the need to create compelling hour of television?”

Abdur-Rahman lamented, “Despite the evidence of anti-police brutality activists,” the counter-narrative died as the media carried the main narrative of Black Lives Matter versus the police. She wondered if “outside of the logic of colonization…of being armed with blackness” and if it has an effect on the reporting of police brutality.


4 Responses

  1. Bob Weir

    February 13, 2017 11:27 am

    Blah blah blah, the usual pathetic murmurings of a moron! “Black Thugs Matter” is a more accurate title for that gang of violent racist hustlers. They fear President Trump because he stands for law and order, while these radical degenerates spend their time robbing, raping, looting and murdering decent law-abiding people.

  2. Jaime A Pretell

    February 13, 2017 5:16 pm

    Accuracy in Media as they perpetuate the Myth that George Zimmerman was White and Trayvon Martin was an innocent cherubim. LMAO!

  3. Todd Elliott Koger

    February 13, 2017 9:29 pm

    The median white family has 13 times as much net wealth as the median black family according to the Federal Reserve’s Survey of Consumer Finances. A study released this week by Demos offered new points of analysis on the disparity. In comparing the wealth held by single-parent white families to that held by black families with two parents: The median two-parent black family had $16,000 in wealth. The median single-parent white family had $35,800 (two-parent white families had $161,300). Personal responsibility and social respectability (family structure, attending college, working full time) has not been enough to help blacks achieve parity with white Americans.

    In August 2016, Todd Elliott Koger submitted “a plan to target the black vote and foundation of the Democratic Party’s “voters turnout model” to change the destructive conversation that the “verbal fight” Mr. Trump was having with Khizr Khan, a slain U.S. soldier’s father had caused. President Trump’s verbatim use of Mr. Koger’s words in “online video” and speeches that followed in Michigan, Milwaukee (Wisconsin) and Pennsylvania changed the course of his campaign and put it on track for victory.

    But also . . . In Oct. 2016 when the Trump campaign was on “life support” as a result of the “open mic incident” and everyone had abandoned Mr. Trump . . . When the media started writing the Trump campaign’s eulogy, Todd Elliott Koger drafted a new writing. A “job-driven” proposal for ending the black homicide epidemic in American Cities and submitted it as a “Treaty with Black America.” Mr. Koger advised the campaign that a “new” writing was needed to change the conversation again. Mr. Koger suggested that the campaign repackage the information, but get it out immediately.

    The Trump campaign it appears did renamed Mr. Koger’s “new” writing and repackaged it to now target the poor white voters of Appalachia (“Contract with the America’s Voter”) and America’s inner cities (“New Deal for Black America”).

    What Mr. Koger proposed in that October 2016 writing was a legitimate proposal with provision for intensive, wrap around holistic case management, high level occupational training, and a clear path to employment. With outreach systems, processes, and local partners Mr. Koger proposal was a needed answer for black neighborhoods. The objective of Mr. Koger’s proposal: To demolish inner city blight and rebuild America’s black neighborhoods one street at a time, using the labor of neighborhood boys and girls. The Chicago Tribune, CNN, New York Times, Washington Post and others have a copy of Mr. Koger’s proposal but haven’t written anything about it. WHY?

    Black neighborhoods continued to be plagued with gun violence, black homicide, and decay, often exemplified with streets of run-down and abandoned housing. Creation of affordable housing represents a major step toward a stable society. Mr. Koger’s proposal to Mr. Trump would empower America’s inner city residents with job readiness skills and a plan for their future. It will teach good character and citizenship, and how to live healthy new lifestyles. Mr. Koger’s proposal is a realistic plan to serve the hard to reach and marginalized that society has identified as in need of quality, affordable opportunities. SOMETHING THE MEDIA WON’T TALK ABOUT?

    What Mr. Koger asked President Trump to do is redevelop America’s black neighborhoods by making capital investment in “new” housing. He proposed comprehensive intervention services to encourage troubled black youth to learn and have fun in a safe, positive environment where they can gain basic education competencies, develop jobs skills, and build positive relationships. The proposal even included provision for critical one-on-one attention for struggling black youth to reduce the frequency and severity of neighborhood youth involvement in the justice system and improve long-term life options. HOW COME MR. KOGER’S PROPOSAL FOR BLACK AMERICA AND ITS INVOLVEMENT WITH THE TRUMP CAMPAIGN ISN’T NEWS?

    For black boys and girls to contribute to the nurturing of their neighborhoods the facets of job training and economic development pedagogy must allow the locus of power and control of the program to remain in the hands of the local residents. Programs that come together through a neighborhood’s own initiative are organic and have the capacity to make change. Macro theories in the fields of political-economics and comparative education, accentuates the underpinnings supporting this “capability approach” to ending gun violence. AND, THIS IS THE REASON NO ONE WILL TALK ABOUT MR. KOGER’S PROPOSAL. THOSE OF US WHO LIVE IN THE INNER CITY ARE TAKEN FOR GRANTED.

    In conclusion, Todd Elliott Koger’s “Treaty with Black America” in its original draft is a proposal to help black boys and girls better understand their “capability to do things.” Rebuilding their own neighborhoods and the houses they “should own and live in” will help them understand their worth and value. How black youth believe they are viewed (as clients, participants, or “the agents of change”) determines the success of their efforts. Creating a “commonality interest” and ensuring a “living wage” to sustain their families, is proposed.

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