By TEACHED intern Zachary Dorcinville
When President Obama was elected back in 2008, I was elated because I had a feeling that our country was entering a brand new era in which equality would be a priority. Fast forward to 2016, and it's a totally different ball game.
Reading that at least 136 black people have been killed by police officers in 2016 (so far), and that 306 were killed at the hands of law enforcement last year, this gives me a sensation of fear and agony in my soul. The United States Constitution speaks of "We The People" and I believe our country stands for the notion that we, all people, every citizen, will be granted equal rights disregarding race or gender.
Some of the highlights from the TEACHED film series in 2015 include:
An Interview with DeRay Mckesson
New Team Members
The Atlantic's Race & Justice Summit
Sharing the Code of Oakland
Introducing the Future of Tech
As this year comes to a close, my heart breaks for Tamir Rice's family and to all the many others who have lost children to such senseless and violent acts with little to no accountability or justice to follow.
How could anyone watch the video of police driving up directly in front of Tamir and instantly shooting him without feeling the force of that bullet in one’s own chest?
On Nov. 12th, 2015, we will show preview clips from our upcoming short film "Think of Calvin" at a tremendous Race & Justice Summit in Washington, DC being organized by the Atlantic magazine's Atlantic Live program and featuring Atlantic correspondent and author Ta-Nehisi Coates. TEACHED Producer/Director Kelly Amis will speak at the event. To register, go here.
In DeRay Mckesson on Why Blackness is Not a Weapon, TEACHED creator Kelly Amis sits down with the young civil rights crusader who, since driving to Ferguson, Missouri to take part in the protests surrounding the police shooting of Michael Brown, has since become one of the nation's go-to visionaries on how a future America would look if equality became our true priority.
For the past few weeks, I have been helping my parents and fourteen-year-old brother get ready to move from their small town in New Jersey to Charlotte, North Carolina. As we packed up fourteen years' worth of memories into cardboard boxes, I felt a wide range of emotions: nostalgia, as I looked at my middle school report card; amusement as I stumbled across an embarrassing photo of my older sister; and a tinge of selfishness as I wondered how life would be different now that my parents would no longer be ninety minutes away.
But tonight, as we shared one last dinner together before their car ride south, I felt an overwhelming sense of fear – not for being alone, but fear for my little brother as he leaves the home he has always lived in, the friends he has always had, and the small town where nearly everyone knows who he is.
I recently watched President Obama giving his beautiful eulogy for Reverend Clementa Pinckney, one of those dear souls shot in Charleston, and it inspired the following writng. I'm not feeling very eloquent after two weeks of deep sorrow about what's happening in our country (there have been so many horrific tragedies, but what happened to those in Charleston.....it's impossible to fathom what those innocent people went through) plus personal reasons (suddenly losing a very dear friend, also in a way terrible to imagine). I can barely remember what day it is. But maybe that's why I want to speak honestly and without filter and challenge myself and others to consider the following.
By Kelly Amis
Last night as protests and riots were unleashed in Baltimore, I avoided Facebook knowing what would be out there. Someone actually tagged me in a ridiculous statement just to start a fight (I didn't take the bait).
These are tragic times -- and they are a consequence of generations (of CENTURIES' worth of an entire people) experiencing the same racism, injustice, belittlement, a million daggers at the soul and body, and the severe, relentless consequences of economic opportunity inequality (which I think is worse in a society when there is SO much wealth and so little concern for how anyone makes it -- for example, using loopholes and placing your "headquarters" offshore to avoid paying taxes. That's also looting, but it impacts everyone, everywhere.)
I am GRATEFUL that I was teaching in South Central during the 1992 riots, because I knew the reality of what was happening there every day (though the media only focused on the Rodney King verdict, which was the match that lit the kindling): behind every insane story we hear on the news, like the King beating and now the Freddie Gray murder, there are a million big to small injustices we the general public doesn't hear about. It is tragic that we are still seeing this, but the underlying causes haven't changes (maybe they've even gotten worse).
Where does anger go when it must be swallowed for so long? I don't promote violence. But this is a reaction to violence, too.
Have you ever heard a white person say something like: slavery is over, why don't blacks ____ (fill in the blank)? I wonder the opposite: how does anyone continue to have spirit, strength and hope in a country where this story can happen (and where Trayvon can happen, and Walter Scott can happen, and millions and millions of stories known or unknown to the public can happen...over centuries)?
I know. I talk about this a lot. It's because I have had the honor of teaching and working in black communities (not to mention being "adopted" by my second family in DC) but also because I know HISTORY. On the black-white issue, we have comparisons to make to South Africa's apartheid, but another comparison we need more people to see has to do with Germany and the Holocaust. Michelle Alexander calls what is happening to black men in America a "silent holocaust," and I agree. (Read her book The New Jim Crow if you haven't).
The important question is, I think: if you could go back to Germany in the 1930s, recognizing what was happening around you (or to you), what would you do? Today is Yom HaShoah, or Holocaust Remembrance Day. what a good day to reflect on history and change the future.
What will you do?
Here's the link: http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/morning-mix/wp/2015/04/15/closing-the-book-on-jon-burge-chicago-cop-accused-of-brutally-torturing-african-american-suspects/?tid=hp_mm&hpid=z3
Yom HaShoah: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yom_HaShoah
Most of my writing of late has been on my Facebook page, and in discussions with friends & colleagues who are as outraged and saddened by the verdicts in both the Mike Brown and Eric Garner cases as I am. Below are a few of the things I have written plus suggested articles by others:
Dec. 6, 2014
I am really honored to be mentioned in this article by one of my favorite writers, RiShawn Biddle, in his must-read blog Dropout Nation(.net): Silence of Reformers on Ferguson is Deafening
I worked in education reform for years before the term became politically-loaded; it meant anyone trying to improve our public education system. The traditional public system was in dire need of improvement then, and it is today, especially with regard to education equality: urban, minority students continue to be blamed (along with their parents & communities) for lower academic achievement instead of given the same educational opportunities, funding and expectations as their peers.
The parallel second-class treatment by U.S. law enforcement and our judicial system via racial profiling, harassment, unwarranted violence and even lethal treatment, disparate sentencing patterns and the over-incarceration of males of color (black males in particular) is the other side of this coin. In our public institutions and policies, we -- the U.S. -- are systematically under-educating and over-incarcerating people of color, but especially black males. Given recent verdicts, it appears that a police officer can do anything to a black male-- including killing him with his bare hands, on video, in front of witnesses-- and there will be no consequences.
Please read the article below and also this one-- Stop Bad Cops & Bad Teachers - by RiShawn, which discusses the lack of accountability that pervades both the law enforcement and teaching professions. These are both difficult jobs. Police officers put themselves at great personal risk. We all know that. But for our institutions to protect individuals no matter what they do once they enter those careers is insane. Nobody is forced to become or remain a teacher or a police officer, but the "cultism" that RiShawn refers to includes a sense of entitlement to keeping a job regardless of the outcome in the classroom or on the streets.
Please also read Michelle Alexander's The New Jim Crow if you haven't, and watch my first short film, The Path to Prison. In the coming year, maybe you will consider organizing a community screening of The Path to Prison and a new film Think of Calvin (coming soon) about a young black father unduly arrested in front of his two sons and the unbelievable no-win situation he is then presented by our law enforcement and judicial systems. Synopses of all the TEACHED short films are here Volume I and Volume II (coming soon).
Dec. 3, 2014
For anyone who thinks I or anyone else is overly consumed with race issues in our country, I just want you to watch the Eric Garner video. An officer literally killed this man with his bare hands, while several other law enforcement officials looked on, and all over whether the man was selling cigarettes or not. It is hard to watch knowing that he is going to die. These stories make the news because the consequences were actually lethal (e.g. Eric Garner, Mike Brown & Trayvon Martin), but for every one of these stories there are, what, hundreds? thousands? millions? of stories of race-based injustice in America that you don't hear about in the news, and that don't involve any hint of criminality whatsoever on the victim's part.
"Strange Fruit, Eric Garner Edition" by Rishawn Biddle.
November 25, 2014
(from Omaha, Nebraska)
This is me, reporting from a corner of the world where the concept that you could be walking down the middle of the street in your own neighborhood, and a cop would pull up next to you and say "Get out of the f'ing street," is just not something you can fathom happening. Because it wouldn't. And where what happens next is your multiple-shooting death wouldn't happen (if you are white). Or if somehow it did, it would go to court. This is also where the media tells everyone (at least reading the primary newspaper) some parts of the story, but not all. Where the front page of this newspaper on any given day --- but especially today -- tells you all you need to know about race and equality in America. (And weirdly that paper is owned by Warren Buffett, who many people know is from Omaha....but somehow no one knows that Malcolm X was born here??....and there's no museum about it?! One of the most world-famous historical figures from the U.S.???). I'm just reporting at this point. It is easier and less frightening I guess to "believe in" the police, and "believe in" a race-blind and fair society (that doesn't exist in the view of many of us) especially when the media is making it easier for you to do so.
This speaks for itself:
Rest in peace, prayers go to the Martins.
Racial profiling, that's the way that it started.
You say it's not a problem,
it happens way too often.
Don't believe me? Then here's a story that I took part in.
I remember I was brought in.
Death threats is what they was talkin.
One of two students accused,
but I was slightly darker.
We in a room with an officer for questioning.
The focus was on Keenan, not the kid next to me.
Only elementary, the cop had turned and said to me,
He knew I was lying the moment I walked in, and I did it most definitely.
With no proof, the man assumed..he didn't have no evidence.
Said I was guilty without investigation, if that's not prejudice,
someone tell me what the definition is.
Cuz when I don't look like them other kids,
I'm treated differently.
It's in my history.
When they say that it's a myth it really gets to me.
To say it doesn't exist that really don't make sense.
To say we are all treated equal, is not the way it is.
So let’s not pretend,
and not be colorblind, cuz that ain't the way.
Cuz we must recognize the race,
Embrace and celebrate.
Yet, not separate ourselves from one another
And not be afraid to love each other for our differences.
The next week they discovered a different kid that was guilty.
Yes, another kid that definitely was not me.
I didn't get an apology from the police,
and I was never in any court room,
but from the moment I walked in,
that police man he was judging me.
And from that day on it stuck with me.
And it still does this day too.
So to say there isn't an issue with race,
is simply not stating the truth.
Maybe one day we can live King’s dream to the full extent yes, you and I.
We've come a long way, but we've got a ways to go and I still have hopes to unify.
- Keenan Trevon Serrano, July 13, 2013
by Kelly Amis
I think we all want to believe that race doesn't play a defining role in how people are treated in America today, but that is sadly FAR from the truth, and many astounding statistics prove it.
Here's one of the latest I came across in an USAToday article about the "Stand Your Ground" law, which is getting more scrutiny in the wake of the tragic Trayvon Martin shooting. From the article:
"According to the FBI, "34% of cases involving a white shooter killing a black person were deemed as a justifiable homicide. Meanwhile, in similar situations, when the shooter was black and the victim was white, the homicide was ruled justifiable only 3.3% of the time."
Here are a few more you may not know:
"Studies show that people of all colors use and sell illegal drugs at remarkably similar rates. If there are significant differences in the surveys to be found, they frequently suggest that whites, particularly white youth, are more likely to engage in drug crime than people of color. (Yet) in some states, black men have been admitted to prison on drug charges at rates twenty to fifty times greater than those of white men." (emphasis mine). -- Michelle Alexander, The New Jim Crow (a MUST-read)
Unequal treatment begins early and is perpetrated in our most "democratic" institution--the public school:
Black Students Face More Discipline - from the New York Times. (There are many studies showing that black students in particular are given much harsher, life-impacting punishments-- like expulsion or arrests--than white students for the exact same behaviors).
Thought for the day: What kind of America do you want to live in, and how can you help create it?
I was very glad to see the issues covered in our first short film "The Path to Prison" given so much attention in recent weeks with the release of an NAACP report called "Misplaced Priorities: Under Educate, Over Incarcerate." It's amazing how consciousness evolves around issues at the same time; we had no clue this report by such a prominent organization was forthcoming when we made "The Path to Prison."
A very interesting mix of groups and individuals is stepping up to fight the unjust practice of, essentially, ensuring so many American citizens (especiallly African-American men) are pushed on to the path to prison. From an education reform perspective, this is the story behind the story.