Black Lives Matter. But Not Every Black Life Matters As Much.

Just another day. Just another dead kid

Elsewhere in America, another kid gets shot in Chicago.

The story of Antonio Smith is a short one. After all, he was only nine years old. He wasn’t a celebrity. He accomplished no great deeds. He made no enduring mark on the world.

Then again, most nine-year old kids don’t. They’re real busy just being kids.

Until someone takes their life. Then they’re a statistic.

Antonio lived a short life. He died a quick and violent death.

CHICAGO (WLS)Antonio Smith, 9, was fatally shot in the Greater Grand Crossing neighborhood, his family told Eyewitness News Wednesday night.

The victim’s relatives made a plea to the shooter, who remains at large on Wednesday night.

“He was just a child, just a baby, still had a whole life ahead of him. And like, why? Just a child,” said Kenya Eggleston, victim’s cousin.

Smith was shot multiple times in the chest around 4 p.m. Wednesday in the 1200-block of East 71st Street.

“At first I didn’t know if they were really shots or not. I just heard pop, pop, pop, pop, pow. So I just kept doing what I was doing,” said Dave West, neighbor.

“It hurts my heart, really, to see the young kids just, just killing each other. And school is getting ready to start,” said Robert Blake, neighbor.

School’s out for Antonio Smith. Forever.

There are no protests. Al and Jesse aren’t in the streets. Reporters aren’t tripping all over each other to stick yet another hot mic under another agitated person’s mouth hoping they’ll say something raw and juicy.

When he was running for his life whose name did Antonio call? His mother? God? Did he scream for help or plead for mercy? Too many kids like Antonio have survived birth only to be killed by a hard life where there’s no mercy, no forgiveness, and no pity. Too many of us are just like Mr. West. We hear “pop, pop, pop, pop, pow” and since it’s not us we go back to what we were doing.

We March. But Not For Antonio.

After all, what’s the big deal? Antonio was a nobody. He wasn’t popped by a White cop (unlikely). He got done in by somebody who probably looked a lot like him (more likely).

I know you’re sick of hearing about it. I’m sick of writing about it. Jesus. Another Black kid got shot? How many does that make this week? And it’s only Thursday. Scratch that vacation to Chicago, honey. When does ski season start in Vail? You know those people hate the snow and cold. That’s why you never see them win anything at the Winter Olympics.

It’s just another dead Black kid. Life ended. Promise snuffed out. The mean streets claim another one. You know the routine. Roll out the yellow tape. Mark where the body fell. Shuffle the paper. Record the name. Bury ’em, forget ’em and keep it moving. Tomorrow is another day and tomorrow is Friday which in Chicago means the start of the weekend and a fresh supply of dead and wounded mostly Black bodies ready to be stacked, packed, body-bagged and toe-tagged.

Oh well. No big loss. It’s not as if any of them were going to grow up to come up with the cure for cancer or run a Fortune 500 company. Fuck it. Antonio Smith might have grown up from being another kid with a crooked, cocky smile into yet another big scary Super Predator like Mike Brown going around stealing stogies, shoving store clerks and being a Menace II Society before he gets put down like the mongrel he was.

We’ve become desensitized to dead kids. A cop killing a brother isn’t rare, but brothers killing brothers over nothing is common.  We as a people we’ve become remarkably adept at coming up with ways to divert our attention from the slaughter in our streets.

America doesn’t notice anymore. It can barely tear itself away from its petty partisan politics, worthless entertainments and minor amusement to pay attention to just another dead kid face down in the street or staring sightlessly up at the sky.

Plenty more where Antonio came from. Plenty gone and plenty still to go.

The slaying of Michael Brown by Darren Wilson comes at a perfect time for the news media. Congress is on vacation. The President is on vacation. We’re all sick of hearing about Israel, Ebola, Isis, the Ukraine and Boko Haram. There’s nothing good on TV. Even the NFL isn’t playing any meaningful games yet. It’s a harmonic converge. There’s nothing else going on.

Wonder why it is we as Black people care so much when a killer cop guns us down and care so little when a killer who looks like us does the same thing. Does Black life only matter when its taken by a White man?

I’d prefer it wasn’t so, but I think I’d be lying to myself.

“Don’t Shoot…Oops. Too Late.”

Mike Brown

A week after Michael Brown was shot multiple times and killed for reasons that remain unknown, Ferguson Police Department Police Chief Thomas Jackson held a press conference which accomplished exactly two things:

1. We learned the name of Brown’s shooter was one Officer Darren Wilson.
2. The police released a surveillance video of a man fitting Brown’s description apparently stealing $48 worth of cigars from a convenience store and then turning on and physically confronting a store clerk.

There were two more things wrong with this. The first is is even in Missouri, a “strong-arm robbery” as Jackson described it is not an executable offense. The second, and more important fact is Wilson didn’t know Brown was a suspect when he stopped him and in less than five minutes, shot him dead.

Even if Brown understood the clerk would call the police, he wasn’t running or trotting or making any effort to hide or conceal himself. At worse, Office Wilson stopped Brown for jaywalking or being a hazard to drivers by walking in the street.

Maybe that was dumb behavior. Jerky behavior. Smart-ass behavior. But none of it explains what happened between Wilson and Brown.

Young. Black. Male. Better shoot him before he becomes dangerous too.

No audio recordings. No video recordings. No eyewitnesses testimony. No ballistic reports and no statement about what was found at the crime scene. Jackson didn’t take questions and didn’t offer any new answers.

Why did it take numerous Freedom of Information requests before the Ferguson P.D. finally released the name of the officer involved? Why did the Ferguson P.D. share surveillance photos of what appears to be an altercation between Brown and a store clerk, but have yet to provide a timeline of Brown’s actions or Wilson’s?

Why is it we still don’t know how many times Wilson pulled the trigger and how many shots hit Brown? Even without an autopsy report, don’t the Ferguson P.D. have Wilson’s gun?

Can’t they count?

The chief’s press conference satisfied nobody (except for Fox News talking heads and they don’t count) and actually made things worse.   The fragile calm that had settled in after the National Guard replaced the the heavy-handed police presence of the Ferguson and St. Louis police force didn’t hold and the chaos and looting began anew.  Governor Jay Nixon declared a state of emergency and issued a curfew.   It hasn’t helped settle matters much as the Black community in Ferguson remains frustrated by the stonewalling and the slimy attempt by Jackson to smear a dead teenager with allegations of a criminal act.   As if that justifies shooting him down in the street.

The Ferguson P.D. gassed and harassed the media until they could come up with a plausible story and reasonable doubt. Now they are attempting to manipulate the media and the public. If Michael Brown can be made to look like a guilty thug, he becomes less of an innocent victim.

The police are public servants. They answer to the public, not the other way around. That’s clearly not happening here and it has turned a local tragedy into a national scandal. The longer the cop’s “account” of what happened goes unshared, the greater the likelihood when it finally does the story will be more about covering asses than uncovering truth.

The protests by the people should continue until they get the answers the authorities have failed to give them. The burning, looting and violence has to stop. It does nothing to help Brown’s family and the community if criminals are exploiting a tragedy to help themselves. Leave the protesters alone. The criminals should be arrested, prosecuted, and if proven guilty, punished and possibly imprisoned.

All the things which Michael Brown was not.

If the shooting Mike Brown was the explosion, the choking of Eric Garner was the fuse.

An observation: Brown was 6’4″ and 292 pounds and allegedly stolen cigars from a convenience store before his fatal encounter with a police officer.

In NYC, Eric Garner was 6’3″ and 350 pounds and allegedly was selling illegal cigarettes (or “loosies”) when he had his fatal encounter with police officers.

The conclusion seems to be if you’re a big Black guy, if the tobacco doesn’t kill you, the cops will.

Who’s afraid of a large Black man? Everybody. Or at least the cops seem to be. Any cop who is so scared of a large Black man their only recourse is to kill them, is a coward and has no business with a badge and a gun.

One more thing. I’ve been impressed by how attentive young Black people have been to the goings on in Ferguson. This has engaged them in a way similar killings have not.

How Michael Brown’s met his end is no more heartbreaking than that of Jordan Davis, Renisha McBride, Jonathan Ferrell, or even Trayvon Martin. Unlike Eric Garner’s demise, no video of the last moments of Brown’s life exists, but there are 40 FBI agents in Ferguson knocking on doors just to be sure.

But the image of Brown’s bloodied corpse lying in the street like a dead dog was seen on Instagram, on Twitter, on cell phones and all over the world and it incensed a generation for whom the Los Angeles riots in the wake of the acquittal of the four police officers who beat the hell out of Rodney King happened before many of them were born.

This is their Rodney King moment. Eric Garner was the fuse. Michael Brown was the explosion.   They’re angry.  They’re engaged.  They’re paying attention.   If the dreamers stay awake they may take a hard look around and realize they have been living in a nightmare.

What will it take then to put them back to sleep?   Quick!  Gimme an update on the state of Jay-Z and Beyonce’s marriage!  We need to keep these Negroes happy and complacent!

No more civil rights marches should not to be taken to mean nothing is wrong, because as the world watches in horror and fascination, Ferguson 2014 looks a lot like Birmingham 1964.

It’s news when an American city looks like the Gaza Strip (photo: Scott Olson, Getty Images)

Dead Again.

Michael Brown

Left in the street like a dead damn dog.

Michael Brown was supposed to start college today.  Supposed to.  He didn’t make it.  He wasn’t absent.  He was dead.

Another young Black man dropped by the cops shouldn’t be any sort of big newsflash by now. Like celebrity divorces and mass shooting episodes, fatal encounters between cops and Black males more often results in a dead Black male than a dead cop.

What makes Michael Brown’s killing any different? Nothing, really. It’s actually sort of ordinary.

Cop stops an unarmed teenager for reasons only the two of them (and potential witnesses) know.

Something happens. Maybe the teenager says “the magic word” that sets the cop off? We don’t know. The official story isn’t sounding very official so far. Everything is still being investigated. Or everything is being covered up. You decide.

Why would Brown struggle with a police officer days before he was supposed to start college? Seems like an odd time to show a secret death wish for suicide by cop.

No mother should have to bury a murdered son

As Brown’s body laid in the street, a puddle of blood trickling down the street, the excuse was the cops (all 15 departments that were involved) were processing the scene, gathering evidence, and waiting for their Krispy Kremes to arrive. What the corpse of Michael Brown baking on the hot August asphalt said to the hundreds of neighbors, onlookers, parents and children was, Look at me. Look at what they did to me. They could do this to you too. Anytime they want.

There is a LOT of information missing from this story, but the insensitive and inept way the Ferguson cops have handled matters couldn’t be much more tone-deaf. If there’s looting and pillaging going on the police practically dared the community not to respond to their provocation.

Leave a dead kid on the street like a dog for hours, but hurry up and get the SWAT teams, riot guns and dogs ready ’cause them Black folks might get uppity!

All the right things are being said and all the now standard pacification protocols are being implemented. Call in the FBI to aid in the investigation. Politicians and public officials will make pleas for peace and calm while they put the home number of the governor on speed dial should the National Guard need to be mobilized when the savages stop burning cars and looting liquor stores and start burning cop cars with cops still in them and looting White neighborhoods.

It would seem the hacktavist activist group Anonymous has gotten wind of what’s going down in Ferguson, Missouri. They aren’t too cool about it either.”

It’s worth sharing.

Twitter pic by Raheem DeVaughn

Greetings, world. We are Anonymous.

“On August 8th in Ferguson, Missouri, the 17-year-old and unarmed Mike Brown was shot several times and killed by an officer of the Ferguson Police Department. His body was left to lie in a pool of blood in the sweltering heat for hours while 15 police departments militarized the area against protestors, sealed the roads leading to Ferguson in a vain attempt to prevent protestors from reaching the city.

“The police has clearly crossed a line in the sand….

“To the good people of Ferguson, take heart and take your streets. You are not alone. We will support you in every way possible. Occupy every, square inch of your city. Demand justice….

“To the Ferguson Police Department and any other jurisdictions who are deployed to the protests, we are watching you very closely. If you abuse, harass, or harm in any way the protestors in Ferguson, we will take every web-based asset of your departments and governments offline. That is not a threat. It is a promise. Attacking the protestors will result in the release of personal information on every, single member of the Ferguson Police Department… We will seize all your databases & emails pools and dump them on the Internet.

“This is your first and last warning….

“The time has come for more than simple justice for these atrocities…. Until justice prevails, hack and protest will replace it.

“Operation Ferguson engaged.

“We are Anonymous. We are legion. We do not forgive. We do not forget.

“Ferguson, expect us!”

If Anonymous says it, they probably mean it. Known for their sense of humor they are not. Anonymous adds an interesting twist to the story, but I don’t believe they are going to find justice for Mike Brown by threatening to crash into the cops’ computers and unearth all the dirt.

That sort of threat has never slowed cops from killing any Black man that makes them feel uneasy.

Riots are terrible. Looting is terrible. Setting stuff on fire is terrible.

It’s also terrible when yet another Black man has yet another fatal encounter with the police.

Reference Sean Bell. Or Amadou Diallo. Or Oscar Grant. Or Patrick Dorismond. Or Jonathan Ferrell. Or Eric Garner.

Or Mike Brown.

We’ve been here before. We’ll be here again. Change the name, but the game remains the same. Oh, we’ll get hyped for a while, but then we’ll calm back down and wonder what’s on TV tonight? It’s easier to get people hyped over non-events like the state of Queen Bey and Jay-Z’s marriage than killed by cops due to Living While Black or the rape of a 16-yr-old who is raped a second time when her assailants go viral with video.

Ain’t we got NO shame? Or priorities?

There is a sickness killing our souls like Ebola is killing Africans. Maybe we’ll notice it at some point. Probably we won’

Martin Luther King noted a riot is the language of the unheard.

Can you hear them now?

Mike Brown was supposed to start college today.  His family can start planning a funeral instead.

“Get On Up” is Super Bad. That’s Not A Compliment.

Papa don’t take no mess and Papa shouldn’t watch this mess. either.

Here’s a fun fact: James Brown was known as Soul Brother #1 and he never had a Number One pop hit.

Brown put 99 songs on the chart over a 30 year career which puts him on the Top 10 of the most successful pop artists.  The closest the undisputed Hardest Working Man in Show Biz  got to the top spot was  “I Got You (I Feel Good)” at #3 and “Living In America” which got it to #4 with 21 years passing between the two hits.

This is not something you are going to learn in the new James Brown biopic, Get On Up?  This  simplistic, spineless biopic runs a Hoover over any dirt in Brown’s life with only the briefest glances at his dark corners. When the producers fired Spike Lee off the project and replaced him with Tate The Help Taylor it was natural to expect the rough edges of Brown would be filed down,  but who knew they would suck the soul right out of The Godfather of Soul?

The wife and I had a free pass to see Get On Up. The price was right, but the movie is all wrong. It stole 2 hours and 18 minutes I will never get back.

There is a difference between a film that rolls back the carpet and shows all the dirt its subject did in their lives and one which blows sloppy, slobbering kisses. This is the latter and Brown’s bad habits of overindulgence in drugs and drink, spousal abuse, womanizing, and bizarre behavior is briefly referring to and then cuts away to another musical number.

Don’t worry. THIS James Brown never shows up in the whitewashed “Get On Up.”

The sheer energy of the classic James Brown music almost saves this sanitized Hollywood hackery and there’s a lot of music here (though the absence of “The Payback” is one of many glaring omissions). Chadwick Boseman‘s version of Soul Brother#1 is energetic. He learned a lot of Brown’s moves, but as far as capturing his character, Eddie Murphy did it about as well on Saturday Night Live decades ago. Boseman tries hard and some approving critics rave he gives an Oscar-caliber performance.   It’s okay, but only if you didn’t grown up with  Brown the way I did.

When the music stops so does the movie dead in its track with Taylor spasmodically jerking the viewer through time and place with the attention span of a housefly. At one point I leaned forward in my seat with my chin in my hand in wonder of Taylor’s muddled, cluttered direction.

Get On Up never gets on the good foot.  Mostly it just kind of lays there and rolls over. How the hell do you take James Brown and make him so damn BORING? It’s not a certainty Lee would have made a better movie but he wouldn’t have made a duller one.

What motivated Brown to write an anthem of Black pride and power like “Say It Loud I’m Black and I’m Proud? Why did he sing that same song at Richard Nixon’s inaugural ball in 1968 and endorse him in 1972? You’ll never know from the script by Jez and John-Henry Butterworth which reduces the singer’s political activism to mostly a footnote. The same guy who counted Al Sharpton as a buddy also voted as a conservative Republican. Nobody will buy a ticket expecting details on this apparent contradiction, but it’s a tantalizing and largely facet of Brown’s character. Taylor and the Butterworths don’t even find it worth a mention.

When this movie isn’t being sloppy it is simply superficial. Brown’s music made him an icon. Get On Up makes him nothing but a jukebox.

We’re long past the point where we should be falling to our knees like Brown singing “Please, Please, Please” in slobbering gratitude whenever White Hollywood deems to tell a Black icon’s story. Not every film with Black people at the center of the film has to be exclusively produced, directed, written, scored or filmed by Black filmmakers, but it would be nice if more of them were.

For every Malcolm X or Raging Bull that works, there are dozens of other bio pics that fail dismally and for me, nobody else, Get On Up is a missed opportunity and a boring failure.

Tricky Dick meets The Godfather. Just not in this movie.