Tag Archives: Black Lives Matter

Good Cops: Come out…Wherever you are!

copsLet’s get one thing straight!

This piece is not about bashing police officers. It is about looking for solutions to problems that continues to plague Black and Brown communities of the United States.  It’s about raising the expectation of protection and to service.  It’s about commitment to ensuring the words spoken by every police officer are true, alive, and made real in all interactions

Law Enforcement Oath

On my honor,
I will never betray my badge,
my integrity, my character,
or the public trust.
I will always have
the courage to hold myself
and others accountable for our actions.
I will always uphold the constitution
my community and the agency I serve.

This piece is a call to the good, faithful, responsible, and committed police officers who are dutifully referenced after deaths of unarmed victims such as Trayvon Martin, Sandra Bland, Mike Brown, Tamir Rice, John Crawford, Alton Sterling, Philando Castille, and others whose names and stories haven’t risen to prominence.  This piece is for the officers who fall into the group, “This does not represent all police officers”, those who are not part of the “few bad apples”, and the fraternity of “the good cops out there”.

We need you!  Good police officers and administrators, we need you! WE NEED YOU!

The change that protesters, parents, friends, family, and community members are calling for has to start with you.  It is more than the extensive training you receive on firearms, tactics, and self-defense. It is going to take more than an overcrowded justice system, arrest quotas, and neighborhood sweeps.  It is going to take more than empty legislation, and oppressive laws designed to maintain the status quo.

The change begins with good police officers stepping forward, calling out, holding accountable, and removing from their ranks the officers whose behaviors, ideologies, and actions are counter to betraying the badge and the eroding the public trust. The good officers create the change so desperately needed by all communities is by raising the ethics bar for new recruits.  The Law Enforcement Oath will be best exemplified when good officers don’t go straight home after their shift. They take the time to evaluate and “check” the ones who run counter to the tenants of to protect and serve.

Unless good officers take a stand, a strong stance on protecting the dignity of the badge, I have nothing less than to expect another unarmed corpse, a crying family member, a protest, dropped charges, and then…nothing.

You know who you are!  Come out!  We need you!

Guy A. Sims is the author of the novel, Living Just A Little, and the crime novellas, The Cold Hard Cases of Duke Denim.  He is also the head writer of the Brotherman: Dictator of Discipline comic book series and the Brotherman graphic novel, Revelation.  

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Jenga: Mizzou Version

jengaRemember the classic block stacking game Jenga?  Players are faced with a tower of wooden blocks, taking turns removing them one at a time, replacing pieces onto the top, until it becomes unstable and falls?   For those who are patient, committed, and “in the game”, it is exciting to watch a once solid structure become wobbly…and when the right piece is removed, the exhilaration of the crash signifying a victory.

The events taking place currently at the University of Missouri are reminiscent of the game Jenga.   Students have been sharing their experiences of racism, racist behavior, and other instances counter to the institution’s Statement of Values, specifically Respect and Responsibility…just like Jenga game pieces.  Removing them from the long-standing foundation of campus culture and placing them on top for all to view…and waiting to see what happens.  And like the game, even though pieces are removed, the strength of the culture allows for the structure to remain in place.  But unlike your rainy Saturday afternoon game of Jenga, the real-life version has players that come and go, semester after semester, year after year…with the game being reset…no true resolution.Mizzou

This week, a major piece of the University of Missouri version of Jenga has been extracted.  Yes, graduate student Jonathan L. Butler (Blue Phi) was steadfast on nearly two weeks of a hunger strike after seeing a swastika drawn in human feces (now you know that’s straight nasty).  One piece removed.  Yes, the #ConcernedStudents1950 student group had a loud, profound, and viral protest.  Another piece removed.  But the power play of the day was the members of the football team, along with their coaches, issuing their statement of solidarity with their own champion-style strike, refusing to play anymore games until President Tim Wolfe resigns or is removed from his office.  With millions of dollars on the line, a public relations nightmare…oh yeah…and the duty to do what is right, the University of Missouri Board of Curators announced Dr. Wolfe’s resignation.

Tim Wolfe

Pres. Tim Wolfe

The tower falls! Or does it?

One thing about Jenga, after the structure collapses there is a mess all over the table.  Mom and Dad aren’t going to let you just walk away and get a snack…it has to be cleaned up.  The tower is rebuilt and ready for a new game.  This is the challenge for the Mizzou community.  When this tower is put back together, serious discussions on what will be different has to take place.  One person may be gone but the culture remains.  That is what has to be addressed or the same old game will be played over and over and over.

This is an academic and cultural watershed moment that should not be squandered.  It is a chance to fully involve everyone (because everyone is impacted) in the resolution of what the community can and will be.  In fact, it should be exciting.  Reinvention is the hallmark of progression.  It can be done, the time is right, and the University of Missouri is the place.

Wishing the best for you…Mizzou.

Oh, by the way, did you know that Jenga is a Swahili word meaning, to build.  Now is the time for the community of the University of Missouri…to Jenga.block

Guy A. Sims is the author of the forthcoming Brotherman graphic novel, Revelation. He is also the author of the romantically romance novel, Living Just A Little, and the crime novellas, The Cold Hard Cases of Duke Denim.     Contact or comment at guysims.com or @guysims6 

 

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Tim Wise: Cultural Provocateur by Guy A. Sims

Tim Wise

Tim Wise

Tim Wise began his comments at Virginia Tech with a caveat…a bit of clarification…perhaps even a spoonful of keepin’ it realism.  No surprise…what he came to deliver was not anything different from the messages people of color have been sharing, promoting, explaining, and demanding in classrooms, boardrooms, cubicles, and neighborhoods.  Only this time it was presented in a package a little more palatable than what may have been the norm.  It was akin to a parent no longer giving their child Castor Oil in a spoon but now it is in a gelcap.  Same medicine…just easily swallowed.  The goal, to massage the words of Malcolm X, was to administer the medicine by any means necessary.

Mr. Wise, if you’re not familiar, is an anti-racism activist, an author, lecturer, and cultural provocateur (I added that one myself, we’ll get to that one later).  His books, White Like Me, Dear White America, and (hold on for this one) Speaking Treason Fluently Anti-Racist Reflections From An Angry White Male speak to address, illuminate, and dismantle structures of white privilege, cultural mis-education, false notions of power, and the head-on challenge of having serious and action-oriented conversations on equity and diversity.

On this evening, like many of his presentations, Tim Wise was speaking primarily to his white brethren and sisterens.  A deep rooted son of the south, Tim peeled back the onion of history, of Americana mythology, of institutional practices of divisiveness, and the mental shackles that bind us all.  His peeling, slow and easy, doesn’t produce tears.  His delivery, complete with self and cultural-effacing humor and rife with majority-generated information for the data-driven doubter, brought a paced and steady rise of discomfort for many in the audience.  Tuned in observers may have noticed that numbers of people of color present served as the choir, offering their call and response to this guest preacher in the House of Diversity & Equity Elevation.

Tim Wise challenged misrepresented rhetoric presented in the form of mainstream logic when addressing Black Lives Matter, immigration issues, and deadly police interactions with people of color.  He challenged those unable to connect racialized issues of today as another troubled link in the history of race relations in the United States. He challenged the very core of belief systems that define how people view their place as human beings.

Tim Wise and Guy Sims

Tim Wise and Guy Sims

As a cultural provocateur, Mr. Wise stirred the senses and notions of those in attendance.  At times it was uneasy to laugh, to agree, to look at your neighbor, or even at yourself.  I asked him at the conclusion of his visit did he feel he was getting any traction with his message.  He said on the grand scale, maybe not.  But individually, people who say their lives and thinking have been changed…yes.  The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.  The journey of a better world begins with one person.

Guy A. Sims is the author of the forthcoming Brotherman graphic novel, Revelation. He is also the author of the romantically romance novel, Living Just A Little, and the crime novellas, The Cold Hard Cases of Duke Denim.     Contact or comment at guysims.com or @guysims6 

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Riot or Revolution? by Guy A. Sims

Bmore

A friend of mine posed this question as he watched the events of today in Baltimore, Md. Is there a difference between revolution and rioting?  Today is the day of the funeral of Mr. Freddie Gray, the 25 year old man who died in police custody after being arrested on weapons charges.  He succumbed to spinal cord injuries which ignited outrage toward the Baltimore Police Department; An all-too-familiar ending to and all-too familiar tale of high profile deaths of African Americans at the hands of law enforcement.

On this, supposed to be a Day of Mourning, civil unrest, for a better use of wording, has taken to the streets of West Baltimore; A CVS looted and burned, a liquor store looted, cars damaged and/burned—all this with no end in sight as the sun goes down and the weather accommodating enough for people to continue to be outside.  On this Day of Mourning, a day asked by Fredrika Gray, to be peaceful, to be free of violence, in her brother’s name, stated clearly and emphatically, “Freddie would not want this”.  This sentiment is echoed by Baltimore’s mayor, Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, two women from different stations in life–with the same message.

women

So the question, revolution or riot—what is the line?  Is it looking for justice or for a case of liquor?  Is it to converge on the City Hall or to purge the local mall?  Is it to turn the injustices of the pathos in policing or simply to turn and burn police vehicles?  Is it to raise awareness of social injustices or is it to raze the local business?  Is it to ignite the call to stand up and demand more or to ignite a church into another destroyed institution?

The challenge is that our young do not know the difference between revolution and rioting.  Both can be borne out of anger.  Both can come from seeds of frustration and discontent but there is still a fundamental difference.  Rioting has no direction.  It moves like fanned flames, destroying everything in its path. Revolution knows what it wants; change, power shift, and justice.  Rioting seeks to satisfy the immediate without regard for anyone.  Revolution seeks to make the greatest difference for the greater society.  When the fires of rioting burn down, only embers of waste and destruction remain.  For revolution, it seeks a new day, new thinking, and new ways to engage.

tweet1

In the morning in West Baltimore, what will people see?  Burnt out cars, storefronts, and buildings.  The smell of misguided folly will still linger in the air.  Worst of all, the conversations around the revolutionary ideas justice, of better policing, building neighborhoods, and working for a brighter future will be overshadowed in the media and minds by actions that served to move nothing.

Rioting or Revolution?  Which will be your answer?

Guy A. Sims is the author of the forthcoming Brotherman graphic novel, Revelation. He is also the author of the romantically romance novel, Living Just A Little, and the crime novellas, The Cold Hard Cases of Duke Denim.     Contact or comment at guysims.com or @guysims6 

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The Case for White History Month by Guy A. Sims

WHM

Note: This has been updated as things haven’t changed.

It’s almost February 2016 and I didn’t have to wait long.  Every year inevitably there is a post or a tweet or blog asking the question, “So when is White History Month?”  Grant me the leeway to be naive and receive this inquiry at face value. I will even go as far as to set aside the response that Every month is White History Month for the sake of argument.  I strongly believe that each and every one of us have the inalienable right to have our interests, culture, and perspectives heard and recognized. That is what makes this country, the United States of America, great.  In addition, to Black History Month there are Women’s History Month, Hispanic-Latino Awareness Month, Asian-Pacific Month, and other cultural recognitions.  We also have Irish-American Heritage Month, Jewish American Heritage Month, Gay and Lesbian Pride Month, and Italian-American Heritage and Cultural Month.  To add more dates to recognize on the calendar there is a veritable cornucopia of days highlighting everything from popcorn to dentists to grandparents to encouraging smoking cessation.  If we have room on the calendar to celebrate all of these, why not a White History Month?

 A White History Month could be a wonderful compliment to the diverse ingredients that make up the Great American Melting Pot.  Of course, it goes without saying, White History Month has to be more than a collection of trivial facts and happenings but a comprehensive look at the history and the impact on history through the Caucasian/white lens.  The time should be set aside to recognize trailblazers, those who sacrificed in the face of adversity as they worked to move the culture forward, as well as events serving as milestones of pride and motivation.

 My recommendation for the formulation of a White History Month is to draw from the Black History Month blueprint.  In 1926, Dr. Carter G. Woodson established Negro History Week as a reaction to the lack of recognition of Negro history and accomplishments in most of the textbooks at that time.  Dr. Woodson promoted the idea of Negro History Week which quickly caught on and was soon celebrated around the United States.  Fast forward, the year 1976 was central to the advancement of this body of cultural knowledge.  The country was celebrating its bicentennial and it was the 50th anniversary of Negro History Week.  It was decided that Negro History Week was to be expanded to Black History Month.  I don’t propose to begin with a White History Week although it might be a good place to start–as a way for it to catch on.  A new cultural recognition often takes time to gain popularity–consider Kwanzaa as an example.  It’s still a hard sell for some African Americans.

 The month of February was selected by Dr. Woodson because two important men in Negro history were born during that month: Frederick Douglas (Feb. 14) and President Abraham Lincoln (Feb. 12). It would be important to identify the month with individuals who best represent the lives, culture, and philosophies of White Americans.  My recommendation would be the month of October.  October is the birth month of President John Adams (Oct. 3) and Bill Gates (Oct. 28).  President Adams was a statesman, diplomat, and a leading advocate advancing independence from Great Britain.  Adams was also opposed to slavery and never owned any (he gets a vote from me).  Bill Gates, co-founder of Microsoft, not only changed the world technologically, he also represents the philosophy of Corporate Social Responsibility with his Millennial Scholarship (another vote from me) and his world-wide philanthropies.  These two individual could serve as the anchors for this period of recognition.

One of the most challenging but equally important aspects of White History Month will be the programs and activities highlighting the month. These programs should be designed to uncover and highlight the trials, the accomplishments, the trailblazers, and unsung heroes and heroines of the struggle.  This is an opportune time to bolster pride in children who feel they have not been recognized, negatively portrayed, or simply absent in history, literature, the sciences, the arts, politics, or merely as citizens.  It is a time to invite dynamic speakers to articulate the connection between the hardships of the past with contemporary issues and the hope for the future.  Moreover, while there may not be a White National Anthem it would be appropriate to conclude your activities with a song while crossing arms (right over left) and holding hands with your neighbor to visually exemplify the struggle, perseverance, and the cultural connection.  As you select the song please remember that the National Anthem belongs to everyone and (for the few who might suggest) Dixie was written by black men from Ohio.  One additional programming note: dismiss the feeling that your programs are not successful if people from outside your culture do not attend or it feels like you’re preaching to the choir.  Remember, others may feel uncomfortable, may not have a white friend to go with, or may not feel the program has anything to do with them.  It’s okay.  Have the program and know there’s more food on the reception table to go around.  You can even wrap some up and take it home (just an insider’s tip).

 Need more of a reason for an attempt at a legitimate White History Month?  A recent tweet gave President George Washington credit for significant work with peanuts, not George Washington Carver.  This is such a slight for all that George Washington has done for the United States.  A White History Month would serve well to provide opportunities to learn so that historical faux pas such as this can be avoided.

I look forward to participating in White History Month activities with my friends who get it and learn an interesting thing or two by the month’s end.

Guy A. Sims is the author of the romantically romance novel, Living Just A Little, and the crime novellas, The Cold Hard Cases of Duke Denim.  He is also the head writer of the Brotherman: Dictator of Discipline comic book series and the Brotherman graphic novel, Revelation.  BCEPressworks.com

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