Monday, September 27, 2010


It has now become apparent, that in our black and brown communities, among our young people—death is life. Now you even have some teens planning what they want to be buried in. How many more of our children have to be senselessly gunned down before we understand that until we mobilize a united and sustainable force to fight this plague of death on our children, it will keep going on unabated until another generation is lost?


A Seton Hall University student who attended an off-campus house party Friday night, was shot and killed. Four others were also shot but they are expected to survive. Jessica Moore (Pictured Above) a 19-year-old honors student majoring in psychology, was shot, and died later at a hospital. An eyewitness described the Friday night party, which lasted into early Saturday, as a "typical fraternity party" with at least 100 people at the privately owned row house.

Students said the shooter was kicked out of the party when he refused to pay the cover charge. The eyewitness said she heard a fight erupt before the man was thrown out. Seconds later, she said, he returned with a handgun and started shooting as chaos erupted. East Orange police were following several leads but had not identified a suspect, spokesman Andrew Di Elmo said.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

For Young Males, IMAGE is EVERYTHING

When I was growing up in Crown Heights, Brooklyn back in the 60's, image was the most important thing to the cats I hung out with. You had to project a sense of cool, yet also a sense of an "I take no crap" attitude. That's why the guys we looked up to weren't the, what we thought then, lame mailmen, or teachers or bus drivers, but the hustlers, pimps and drug dealers.

These were the guys who commanded respect. They did it by the way they walked, the way they dressed, the money they flashed and the honeys they always had around them. But they also expounded a sense of danger; of "mess with me at your own risk". In a word, it was the image they projected. In our country, and I guess the entire world for that matter, it's all about the vision of how you picture yourself to everyone else. Perception has become reality.

Today, the art of image and branding yourself is, basically the same as it's been for the last century. The cool, "bad boys" are still the ones the young males look up to and want to emulate, and the ones that most of the women are hypnotically attracted to by the sheer power of their bravado and aura. The tragedy is that most of the time the "bad boys" are caught up in bad behavior and this becomes acceptable to the legion of fans who follow and admire them.

When Tony Montana strutted his gangsterish path of drug dealing, torture and murder up on the movie screen in the '80's, young kids were mesmerized and idolized every move he made. That flick came out almost 30 years ago, but "Scarface" tee shirts are still worn out on the streets today. Tony Montana stood for everything vile, amoral and negative in American life, but he turned into a warped, distorted "god" to a nation of young males. That's because he maintained the image of dangerous cool throughout the two hour movie. And his brand is as powerful in 2010 as it was in 1983.

This brings me to the movie I saw with a friend a few days ago called 'The Expendables' (Pictured Above). I have basically outgrown the violent, action movie that I enjoyed when I was younger and wanted to see another film, but my friend was insistent on seeing old school studs, Sly Stallone, Bruce Willis, Jet Li, Dolph Lundgren...etc, all together in the same flick. It even has a cameo by "The Governator".

All I can tell you is that this movie, to me, takes violence to a new level. The weapons they used were state-of-the-art and I found out there are at least 50 different ways you can butcher a person with a knife. Heads were literally blown off and bodies cut in half. And the sad part is: most of the audience didn't even blink.

A while later, I went online and saw this:

(CNN) -- Boston police have arrested three suspects who they say stabbed a Domino's pizza delivery man and drove off in his car.

Two teenangers and a 20-year-old are charged with homicide in what investigators described as a brutal crime.

Suffolk County District Attorney Daniel Conley said 58-year-old Richel Nova's death "was chilling in its callousness and violence."

Perception is now reality.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Post Traumatic Slave Syndrome--We Still Seem To Hate Ourselves

Every time a teen looks in the mirror, she will see the V-shaped scar - a permanent reminder of the violence that erupted near her grandmother's Brooklyn home.

Shantayah Lewis, 17, sat in her room at Kings County Hospital Saturday, calmly reflecting on the Friday afternoon attack that left her with dozens of stitches in the left side of her face.

"My face is too beautiful to be fighting," Shantayah told the Daily News. "Fighting is not the key. Violence is not the way."

Shantayah was walking with her 15-year-old cousin, Shakeena Grant, on Franklin Ave. near Lincoln Place in Crown Heights about 3:30 p.m. They were being tailed by a girl who is dating the ex-boyfriend of Shakeena's sister, Shamaula.

"She kept following us," the injured teen said. "She wanted to fight."

After a brief scuffle, the 17-year-old girl who had been following the cousins vowed to return.

About 5 p.m. the girl came back with her boyfriend, the center of the beef. She then whipped out what witnesses said was a knife and started slashing.

"She swung and started stabbing my face," Shantayah said. "I didn't know what to do."

Shakeena, who was stabbed, was released from a hospital Saturday.

The two girls somehow escaped and ran to the Union St. home of Shantayah's grandmother, Cheryl Evans. The grandmother called 911 and the two girls were taken to Kings County Hospital.

Though the wounded teens believed the boyfriend was holding them down, cops said he actually was trying to break up the attack.

Police talked to the man, who said he was trying to help, and surveillance video backs up his claim, sources said.

Shantayah said the whole thing should never have happened.

"Basically, [Shakeena] fought for her sister," she said, referring to Shamaula, who used to date the attacker's boyfriend. "She should not have done that. We should not have been involved."

The young girl responsible for the attack was still at large last night and no arrests have been made.
It was Franz Fanon who said long ago that oppressed people oftentimes do not turn their wrath on the oppressor, but on each other. We see this happening more and more with our people, specifically, our children. Dr. Joy Leary has written a book about this called 'Post Traumatic Slave Syndrome'. In essence, her thesis is that we, as descendants of slaves, are still suffering the effects of hundreds of years of trauma. Listen to her speak about this on the video clip.

Post Traumatic Slave Syndrome Part 2

The Whats Up News | MySpace Video

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Frances Davis, Mother Of 3 Boys Killed By Guns, Speaks Out

When I speak at various locations, one of the main questions I am asked is ‘where do we start in changing the attitudes of violence in our communities’? My answer is the mothers—the nurtures of human life. They must learn to love an respect themselves and their bodies.Then we must un-desensitize ourselves to the blatant violence and sex that our children are watching. We also must rekindle in all adults a sense of moral outrage in the programming of the cesspool of immorality that is coming from the media today.

I know about gun violence all too well. I lost my three boys to gunfire in Brooklyn on three separate occasions. I went to three morgues, three funerals and three burials. My sons became victims of the violent, unforgiving streets where you are labeled soft and weak if you back down or walk away from a fight. Violence has seeped into every aspect of our society; from movies to television to music, to video games. Some of the recent video games that have come out do not even try to hide the fact that they are about guns, violence and death. Parents must do everything they can to protect their children, because an entire generation is being wiped out—especially young Black and Latino males.

Unfortunately, not enough is being done to combat this epidemic. Far too many people are ignoring the problem and burying their heads in the sand. We all must stand up together and declare war on this lethal enemy. We must teach our young that it is okay to walk away from a confrontation—you do not always have to win. Our children must learn that an act of violence is the wrong way to handle an argument or disagreement. Education starts in the home. But it should not only be limited to the home. This epidemic should be treated as such—schools, churches, organizations such as the Boy and Girl Scouts, Boys and Girls clubs, Big Brothers-Big Sisters Of America—should all make a concerted effort to work together and attack this viral outbreak as though it were any other plague. We also must realize that a large number of our children are afraid. They feel unprotected. We must re-instill in our young a sense of security and well being.

As I move through our communities, I notice so much pain in the faces of our youth. They seem so shell-shocked by the constant fear that they live with in their day to day lives. Who could really blame them; every day in the newspapers, I read about another child, shot, stabbed, or jumped and beaten. Our kids know very clearly that a bump, a look, or a flippant word could cause them to lose their life. Every time they leave their homes they have to walk through a minefield of guns, drugs and worst of all, apathy and indifference. It’s as though we adults have accepted this as our normal way of life.

We must get back to the ‘it takes a village’ mentality and protect our children; make them feel safe. When a child is shot, we must all take it personal—because your child could be next. ^

Friday, February 26, 2010

Invisible Boys

Males Who Grow Up Without Their Fathers Suffer A Myriad Of Problems

Countless sources and statistics are all in agreement that boys who grow up without fathers are more likely to suffer serious problems throughout their lives. They also have a higher incidence of drug abuse, spousal abuse and suicide.

According to the National Center Of Educational Statistics, boys are 30% more likely than girls to drop out of school. Boys are four times more likely than girls to be diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). Furthermore, boys make up two-thirds of the students in Special Education.

It is common belief at The Street Angel Project and other quarters that a lot of these issues could be corrected if boys had a loving and caring father in their lives. A positive male image to help them negotiate the journey from boyhood to becoming a man. According to Michael Thompson, Ph. D., boys are more likely to get into trouble than girls in school. This is due to the fact that they are not given enough opportunities to move around, both in actual physical activity and how they learn—because they spend too much time sitting and not enough time learning by doing, making and building things with their hands. Then, when they go home, it’s the TV, or the video game. This keeps them mentally and physically stagnant.

And last but not least, according to PBS.ORG, most elementary school teachers are women, therefore there are few male role models for learning as a masculine pursuit.

An active father, whether or not he lives at home, in most cases is the equalizer to these boyhood issues. As one old-school friend of mine told me: “My father gave me strength and courage to face life’s challenges. He taught me early on that a man has to be responsible for his actions. And that’s what I passed on to my 2 boys when they were coming up.”

Years ago, a father living in the household was the norm, not the exception. He helped his son with homework, took him to baseball games and usually provided an even mixture of guidance and discipline. He was there to help his son through the difficult formative years. His leadership was the personal “rite of passage” that assisted his maturing boy on the difficult journey into manhood.

Derek Phillips of the ‘Real Dads Network’ puts it this way: “Boys need a male role model, whether it’s the father, uncle, or grandfather. They need a male in their lives that is the yang to the mother’s yin. If you think about it, the reason why many boys join gangs is because being around other males gives them that re-enforcement of manhood that they would normally get from their father or male role model.”

Dick Barnett, former New York Knicks guard adds: “My father was my hero; he taught me the usual things about manhood, but one of the most important things I learned from him is to respect women. He didn’t have to actually tell me this, I just learned by watching how he treated my mother, sisters and every female he came into contact with.”

There’s been a lot written lately about how schools are failing young boys. In some circles it is believed that with all the attention over the past decade on the bias and shortchanging of girls, the pendulum has swung to the other side and the reality seems to be that it is now boys who are suffering. Most current statistical studies are now proving this in a wide-ranging area.

We posed the question to Lonny Shockley, head counselor at ‘Friends Of The Island Academy’ about why boys, specifically boys of color, are having such a hard time. “In a word—anger.” he replied. “Young Black boys have anger deep inside them. The anger could be due to the conditions they live in, the failure to get ahead in school, or the way society views them in general.

“This anger consciously or sub-consciously affects everything they do and everyone they come into contact with.

“Here in our program, we’re finding the anger males have is also being played out when they are involved with females in a relationship. One of the things we do in our young men’s group is have them understand this, then try to get to the root causes of why they’re angry and go from there.”

There is no understating the importance of a father or father-image in a boy’s life. There is also no understating all the societal problems boys have if there is no male role model in their lives. A father’s job is not just to create a child. He should also be a nurturer, protector, and teacher.

It’s time for all fathers to stand up and be counted. ^

Monday, February 8, 2010

Todd Brown and the Glaring Insanity Of Our Nation

It's becoming more and more apparent that there is an insidious mental disease gripping our nation. On the weekend that saw America transfixed on the Super Bowl footbal game, the grieving parents of 14 year-old Todd Brown tried to make some sense out of the senslessness of his murder inside a middle school in Alabama. Shot dead while changing classes by another 14 year-old.

As we become more and more obsessed with all things media; from football games to reality shows to sharing crass pictures of ourselves on the social networking sites, more and more children are committing murder right in front of us in real-time. Only we are so clouded and absorbed with the pursuit of all things trivial and care only about self-gratification, that we either don't pay any attention or worse, just don't care. Like someone commented on a blog when a kid got shot once: "As long as it is black kids killing other black kids, who the hell cares".

It seems that we Americans have lost our collective minds. We drool over any of the latest salacious gossip spat out by the network news, but barely raise an eyebrow over the increase in kids incarcerated in our prisons. Instead of setting a good example for our young, impressionable children, we adults, for the most part, act just as childish as they do. We've become obsessed with looking and staying young and cool. Instead of allowing ourselves to age gracefully, we chase the many "fountain of youth" products advertised so we can feel good about who we are. So when we look in the mirror, we only see the things we want to see; not the person, but the mask.

Our children aren't stupid. They see the void in leadership and they see the fewer and fewer mature adult role models out here. And this is probably why they are acting out--because they know that what we are experiencing today in this country is not natural. And our kids are crying out for help in basically the only way they know how--acting out. While adults anesthesize themselves with drugs and porn, our kids are doing the same thing with T.V. and video games. They rarely play outside anymore and this is a big reason why Michelle Obama is spearheading a "Fight Child Obesity" campaign. But where is the national "Fight Youth Violence" campaign? Isn't this just as important as child obesity?

The bottom line is we have failed our young children and are too blinded by the arrogant "culture of me" to even notice it. But all is not lost. More and more I am seeing adults waking from their stupor, realizing what's happening and fighting back. And that gives me hope. For as long as there is hope, there can be change.

Teen shot at Ala. middle school dies; student held

MADISON, Ala. -- A ninth-grader was shot by another student during a class change at a north Alabama middle school Friday has died at a hospital, officials said.Todd Brown, 14, was shot about 1:45 p.m. and taken by ambulance from Discovery Middle School to Huntsville Hospital, where he died, said hospital spokeswoman Kristen Bishop. She wouldn't release any other details. The suspected shooter was arrested inside in the school, where police are regularly stationed. Police did not release the name of the alleged shooter, also a ninth-grader at the school, citing their ongoing investigation. No one else was injured, school officials said. It wasn't immediately clear what prompted the gunfire.

"This was a singular incident," said Dee Fowler, the city school superintendent. He said churches are working with the school system to offer counseling throughout the weekend and counselors will be at the campus Monday They said a 14-year-old suspect taken into custody by a resource officer at Discovery Middle School will be charged with murder. The newspaper said the suspect is being held at the Neaves-Davis Center for Children, the juvenile detention center in Huntsville. Witnesses told the Times the suspect fatally shot Brown during a Friday afternoon class change.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Two Mothers Weep For Their Sons. One is Dead and One is In Prison for Killing Him.

The mothers of Fernando Corea Jr. and Quindel Francis are both in tears. Another sad Bronx tale that you probably won’t see made into a movie.


Quindel Francis, a 21-year-old Bronx man who spent the last five years in jail on charges of murdering a classmate, was convicted of manslaughter on Friday, bringing an end to a legal saga that had stretched through two mistrials.

A Bronx jury cleared Mr. Francis of second-degree murder, the most serious charge, but still held him responsible for the 2005 slaying of Fernando Corea Jr., a high school football star. He faces up to 32 years in jail on both charges. Sentencing was scheduled for Feb. 17.

Both Mr. Francis and Mr. Corea were 16 years old when Mr. Corea was shot to death on Feb. 11, 2005.

“It’s your fault!” Mr. Francis’s mother and other supporters shouted at The Corea family as they left the courtroom moments later. “It’s because of you!”

The angry scene capped an emotional afternoon in the Bronx courthouse that left the mothers of Mr. Francis and Mr. Corea weeping on opposite sides of the gallery. Each had family member comforting her, but the sobs threatened to drown out the judge’s words.

Mr. Francis never denied that Mr. Corea was shot with his gun. In an interrogation video recorded the day after the shooting, he claimed that he confronted Mr. Corea in the Throgs Neck neighborhood where they both lived, and Mr. Corea swung a metal rod at him. He said that when he ducked, his gun fell out of his waistband and discharged. He said he picked up the gun, but fumbled it, and it went off several more times.

As the court room cleared, the victim’s parents hugged tightly, and cried on each other’s shoulders. The long-awaited verdict brought tremendous relief, said Evelyn Ortiz, Mr. Corea’s mother.

“They made justice,” she said. “Now my son is free.”

By SAM DOLNICK for The New York Times


Now, another two women join the ever-growing list of mothers with lost sons. The tragedy of our young black and brown boys killing each other over senseless beefs and a warped version of respect.

Our fight to end this senselessness continues.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

A Tale Of Two Cities; and How they deal with Violence

New Yorkers smack down Gov. Paterson's plan to legalize ultimate fighting.

BY Glenn Blain

Friday, January 29th 2010, 1:39 PM

Albany-Male voters opposed Paterson's proposal 55% to 43%, while females punched out the plan by a margin of 82% to 15%, according to Marist.

Even among younger voters aged 18 to 29, the plan could only generate a 50% approval rating, Miringoff said.

"I think people find it too much on the violent side and not enough on the revenue side to matter," Miringoff said.

New York banned the sport in 1997 at the urging of then-Gov. George Pataki, who called it barbaric. Pataki has since changed his stance and come out in favor of Paterson's proposal.

Paterson argued that new regulations have made the sport safer. His budget projects raising $2.1 million from taxes on ultimate fighting matches.

Julie Wood, a spokeswoman for the Ultimate Fighting Championship league, said she wasn't shocked by the poll.

"We understand that not everyone is going to be a fan of mixed martial arts, but UFC sells out arenas coast to coast and would do the same in New York and the tax revenue and economic impact of those events would benefit all New Yorkers," Wood said.

With Kenneth Lovett

New tour takes visitors into LA's ganglands

by Katie Hammel on Jan 29th 2010

Tourists looking for a thrill in Los Angeles can now take a bus tour of the city's most dangerous ganglands. For $65, LA Gang Tours takes visitors around the city, pointing out gang graffiti and stopping at sights like the Los Angeles Riverbed, Florence Avenue, and the Pico Union Graffiti Lab.

It seems tourists are always drawn to places with a dangerous auras and violent pasts, places that are the complete opposite of our comfortable lives at home. The question is, do we go to these places, places like the slums of Mumbai, the townships of Johannesburg or the streets of South Central LA, because we want to understand what life is like for the people there, or do we go to gawk or just so we can say "I've been there"? And do these tours actually help the communities that are put on display, or do they make them a spectacle?

LA Gang Tours was created by Alfred Lomas, a former gang member, who says the tour will create 10 part-time jobs for ex-gang members who will lead tours and share their own stories. He says his goal is to help residents of South Central,"to give profits from the tours back to these areas for economic growth and development, provide job/entrepreneur training, micro-financing opportunities and to specialize in educating people from around the world about the Los Angeles inner city lifestyle, gang involvement and solutions."
I'd actually be curious to take the tour, which is scheduled to run once per month. It sounds like, in this case, the tour may be run in a way that takes a more anthropological, rather than exploitative, look at the community. The tour bus is unmarked, and out of respect for area residents, riders on the tour are not permitted to take photos or video.

While in
Cape Town
, I had the opportunity to tour Robben Island, the prison where political "criminals" were held during apartheid. When the tour guide, himself a former prisoner, was asked why he would do this - lead tours and relive the pain of his imprisonment every day - for a living, he responded with two reasons. One, he said, was because he wanted people to know what happened. The second was that every boatload of tourists that came to the island meant one more person who would have a job.

Perhaps it's naive to think that welcoming a bus-full of tourists once a month could help solve the many problems of the area. But if offering the tours keeps one more ex-gang member employed running tours and out of gang life, well, at least it's a start.

Chicago Tribune]