We Need Guardian Angels

the guardian angels in trainThe Guardian Angels are men and women in red barred who patrol New York City subways looking to help civilians against muggers, drug dealers, and other good-for-nothings’.

Coming off the heels of recent police killings of African Americans without any accountability, and seeing the all-to-familiar and counterproductive responses of police officers and media pundits, I wondered, “can African Americans erect something similar to the Guardian Angels?”

The Guardian Angels were founded in 1979 by Curtis Sliwa (the photo above), who, in early January of 2016, and after seeing the staggering rise of homicide rates in New York City without anything being done about it, decided to resurrect the organization.

During the Crack Cocain epidemic, “we would do drug raids,” Curtis said to a Vice News reporter. “I would load up forty Guardian Angels in a van and we would hit the crack houses. And we would rob crack dealers in front of everybody.” After the ambush of the crack dealers, “we would steal their money and bring it to the local soup kitchens. And then we would destroy the drugs right out in the streets. People thought that was crazy.”

Are these men and women “crazy” for wanting to protect their communities from muggers, drug dealers and good-for-nothings’? Surely, they must understand how dangerous their line of work can be—not only to their safety but to the safety of the people that they are trying to protect?

Besides the sheer courage of what they are doing, and whether you agree or disagree with their methods, what struck me the most about the Guardian Angels, was the complete breakdown of police confidence in the city and how that drove them to create such an organization. Not only that, but the great responsibility they felt that they had towards their city. Rather than waiting for someone else to clean up, organize, and improve the safety and productivity of their communities, they took matters into their own hands.

“We believe that if there’s a problem in the neighborhood, we can find people within that neighborhood—and the surrounding neighborhoods—to join together without any weapons or special powers or privileges….and make a difference,” Curtis said.

Seeing that there are incalculable numbers of young, old, and courageous African Americans who are desperately ready to take back their communities in a progressive way—as opposed to the conventional ways that brought more suffering and regressions—then perhaps, this is what the African American communities really need—seeing that they, too, are suffering from a total breakdown of police confidence and accountability?

Conversely, and although people might think that what they are doing is “crazy,” the longer they wait for someone else to take care of their communities, the more cooperating, fleeing, unarmed, or innocent black lives will be taken from them.


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Sit Down In Order To Move Forward

stacy dash, jesse williams

A LOT of people are talking about actor, model, teacher, and business owner Jesse Williams’ acceptance speech at the 2016 BET Awards for the Humanitarian Award. I took in Jesse’s speech, and I think it was inspiring.

Everything he is saying has a basis in fact and truth, especially about the part where he says, “If you have a critique for the resistance, for our resistance, then you better have an established record of critique of our oppression. If you have no interest, if you have no interest in equal rights for black people then do not make suggestions to those who do. Sit down.” Here is where EVERYONE, regardless of race, needs to listen and SIT DOWN.

On YouTube alone, there are hundreds of response videos to Jesse Williams’ speech from random YouTubers, news outlets, social media platforms, everyone. Everyone? Literally, everyone has something to say. It is all random opinion after opinion, which is all well and good, but 75% of it is uninformed and copied from Williams himself! Williams had “vim and verve” (look it up) and it was poetic, informed, educational, and artistic.

You can clearly see his history as an educator as well as his work as an actor melded together. On YouTube, now you see a whole bunch of responses from many different people trying to do the same thing and emulate his style while responding to his ideas, albeit nowhere near as well thought-out as his. This is where people need to SIT DOWN.

Socrates once said, “Thus far then we are pretty well agreed that the imitator has no knowledge worth mentioning of what he imitates. Imitation is only a kind of play or sport, and the tragic poets, whether they write in iambic or in heroic verse, are imitators in the highest degree”. Many of those who are responding to Jesse Williams’ speech are not listening to a word he’s saying; they are not understanding that he is saying Black people should not be treated with more force than other races while under police custody, money should not be the new slavery for Black people, Black people shouldn’t have to work towards equality it should be automatic as part of our human rights, and Black culture shouldn’t be exploited, discarded, and appropriated for White supremacy to benefit from.

People are not responding to that. Just like bugs to a bug zapper, people are responding and gleefully reveling in the conflict. “Why are people listening to Jesse Williams when ‘so and so’ said this months ago?”. My personal favorite is, “People are only listening to him because he’s light-skinned”. People who fall into this line of thinking and action, i.e. commenting for the sake of commenting, need to SIT DOWN.

What Jesse says is true: if you don’t have an established history of critiquing the racial oppression of those African descent, not just in America, but the world, you should not be trying to critique the struggle of Black people bringing attention to the issue, as so many people do. Ultimately, those who do are “imitators”, people who emulate the actions of others, but have no knowledge of what they are imitating, or talking about. There needs to be less reactive, “Well, I (it’s bolded, highlighted, and italicized because people are just being self-aggrandizing at this point) think that…”, and more people need to take in Jesse’s conversation and his level of conversation.

Don’t take a page out of his book and don’t accuse him of taking a page out of someone else’s book. If half the people who are taking the time to “respond” to his speech would actively try to contribute something positive to it and take in the ideas of what Jesse and many other thinkers have said, we wouldn’t be exploited. We wouldn’t be unnecessarily brutalized. We wouldn’t be in an evolved system of micro-aggressive slavery. Instead of commenting and imitating, people need to listen, take it in, SIT DOWN, and then, STAND UP.

India Cummings



India Cummings was a 27-year-old African American female who died in the Erie County Holding Center in Downtown Buffalo. According to officials in the holding center, India Cummings was denied life-saving medical attention because she was ” high on weed.”

It’s been three weeks since she passed and her death, like countless others, and thanks to the public outcry that ensued, has prompted an internal investigation to look into many complaints of negligence and misconduct.

In the snowless yet freezing temperatures of mid-February, roughly thirty to forty Buffalonains showed up to pay their respect to India Cummings and her family. With a handful of her relatives, friends, and lawyer, each holding various signs and thought-provoking canvases, demonstrators formed a large circle and chanted ” No justice, No Peace! No Justice, No Peace! No justice, No Peace!.”

My best friend, Lee invited me last night to be here. All he told was that a young African American female was found brutalized and unresponsive in her jail cell at the holding center…and that when they finally transferred her to the hospital, it was too late. she had died at the hospital. Naturally, I was disgusted at the system that allowed such cruel transgressions to take place, that I agreed, by leaving work two hours early, to offer my body and time for India and her family. However, and I’m sad to say this, but I had heard about the vagaries surrounding her death via local news, but I never gave it a thought, like putting together a group to demonstrate or contacting our local officials to yell at them. Her life did not matter. And because India’s death did not effect my family I didn’t feel remorseful. Also, her death felt typical to me and carried an air of triviality.

Fortunately, however, once I was there, braving the cold temperatures with some familiar and strange faces, dejectedly, observing the tearful, discombobulated, and grieving faces of India’s relatives, the tonnage of the situation came over me. I became weak in the spirit and felt terrible that for a brief moment, and because I was miles away in suburbia—-safe from all the abnormalities of the city—I couldn’t see the injustice done to India Cummings as something that could be done to me or some I cared deeply about, like my family and friends. At that very moment, I was reminded of how much—not just India Cummings—the lives of so many black lives mattered.

Despite our obvious differences, like her being a female and I, a male, we share a common similarity that makes us a threat and, simultaneously, unsafe in a predominantly euro-centric country. That is, we are both black and young. And as the unflattering side of American history has shown us, over and over again, the great Republic Of America has been especially violent and down right barbaric in her many, and color attempts to accommodate my pedigree. It is a tragic history that somehow managed to escape the watchful eyes of abolitionists, progressives, and revolutionaries alike…..to only continue, in these contemporary times, in a more subtle and milder fashion. Like, the school to prison pipelines that exists in many impoverished communities of color, mass incarceration of black bodies, redlining and segregation of black communities from the dominate class structures, and racial profiling of ordinary black citizens. These subtle and milder forms of reality, can, and at any moment, sweep our bodies into the trashcans of nonexistence. Such a domain makes it plausible for terrorists of the state, also known as police officers, to shoot and kill black lives with absolute impunity,  and also, makes it status quo for institutions to detain us without proper due process and representation—-instantly, people of my pedigree are assumed guilty before proven innocent. India’s death was a(n) aggregation of being in the wrong place at the wrong time…..and sadly, being black and young.

As I prepare to retire for the night, the image of that small child who was holding a sign that read, “ THE WHOLE SYSTEM IS GUILTY,” keeps appearing in my mind. “Look how brave he’s being, does he have the slightest clue of how cruel and unusual this system can really be…is such a thought abstract or something he can conceptualize? look how sad and cold his face looks…and what are other children his age doing right now?,” are some of the thoughts that are racing through my mind. This child may never trully understand what barbarism transpired behind those cold, brick walls behind him, until he is much older, but unlike other children his age, and some young adults, he is not waiting around for change to come….he’s chosen to be here to do something about it, now.  That is so inspiring. I may not have the answers and I may not be old enough to make the prescription of what an entire generation needs for there to be the type of future….that we can believe in, but to me that child is the pontification that the struggle to make BLACK LIVES MATTER is bigger than myself.