Tag: Attorney General

Racist and Proud: Is This What it Means to be Free?

White gunman sought in killing of 9 at black church in South Carolina
RIP Senator Clementa Pinckney — you are truly free

I saw disturbing hashtag on Twitter the other morning.

It said #RacistandProud.

While I applaud the efforts of Governor Haley of South Carolina, the representatives and the legislators such as Mississippi House Speaker Philip Gunn, who are fighting to take down the Confederate flag, the bottom line is you cannot legislate the hearts of men and women. Try as we might, we cannot make hatred illegal.  Acts of hate, yes.  But we need to do more to change the belief systems that lead to the acts of hate.

President Obama made this very point in a recent radio interview which caused quite a stir. People are very focused on his use of the N-word rather than the point he was making. The point is, it’s not about oh, we no longer can say the N-word in public therefore racism is dead. Everyone can drink from the same water fountain. We can use the same bathrooms. We can all enter the same places. Therefore, racism is no longer a problem.

Many people are afraid to even admit racism still exists, let alone even have the dialogue. How are we even to move forward, if people won’t even sit down at the table to have the discussion and hear opposing points of view?

This is why I was so disturbed by the Rachel Dolezal debacle. As you may recall, she was the White woman who was the President of the Spokane chapter of the NAACP, and had held herself out as African American in recent years.  Her lies finally unravelled, resulting in her stepping down from her position in disgrace (but with a few prime time interviews). She, as a White woman, could have been a White female advocate on civil rights and social justice causes.  If she had been authentic, she could have helped facilitate this discussion with White America, potentially in a non-confrontational manner. But, this is a missed opportunity — the ship has sailed. Thank God for Jon Stewart and the Daily Show. Jon Stewart uses comedy as a vehicle to take on serious issues of race, making some salient points.  In the days after the shooting in Charleston, South Carolina Jon Stewart issued a blistering monologue that cut right to the heart of the issue of discussing race in America.

All good people watched in horror as nine innocent people lost their lives while worshiping in Bible study in Charleston, South Carolina. The bottom line is, the alleged killer, Dylann Roof was not a lone (although he acted alone), mentally ill, marginalized, sad boy who acted in a random manner. If you examine his manifesto his behavior and the flags he wore on his jacket, he is part of a greater movement.

A movement of #RacistandProud.

These are people who want to “take back the country” from what they feel are African Americans “moving above their station”. We as African Americans are no longer slaves, serving our masters the way they deemed we are supposed to be. We are becoming Presidents, Attorney Generals, Senators, Congresswomen, and having real power with the ability to change the world in a positive way. This idea is so revolting, so abhorrent, that the only way to react is to commit acts of murder and terror.

Think this sounds dramatic? Think back into American history, and how when African Americans protested simply for the right to vote and be treated equally, they were beaten and killed.  Think about how Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., the proponent of non-violence, met his end.

So forgive me, if I shudder, when I hear certain politicians say “it’s time to take back our country”…because I’ve heard that language before.

I had the distinct honor and pleasure of being present for the historic installation of Loretta Lynch as the 83rd Attorney General of the United States in May. Two points of foreshadowing arose: first, in her speech, she stated “we do not look to the twin pools of revenge and retribution; we look to the law”. And secondly, the DEA Black and Gold Band played Amazing Grace on the bagpipes as they saluted General Lynch and blessed her for her term.

How ironic that within weeks of this incredible moment, we as a nation would see ourselves looking to the law to give us relief after a horrendous terrorist act against innocents; and hear President Obama make very poignant points (as well as sing) Amazing Grace at the funeral of slain South Carolina pastor and State Senator Clementa Pinckney.
President Obama reminded us during Senator Pinckney’s eulogy that we are all born with God’s grace — do we choose to use that grace to shine with positivity? Or do we cover that grace with hatred, racism and anger? Do we stand by while racist comments are made in our presence, ignore the cries and plights of others, saying “it’s not my problem”, or “it’s not so bad, they’re being dramatic”?

My heart goes out to Emmanuel AME church. To the victims, you are gone, not forgotten, and your death will not be in vain. As a country, still we rise. We will overcome this, as we have overcome so much adversity in our history. Together. As one nation, under God, with liberty and justice for all.

People pray and listen to the Sunday service outside of the Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina on June 21, 2015. Large crowds arrived at Sunday's service at the black church in Charleston where nine African Americans were gunned down, as a chilling website apparently created by the suspected white supremacist shooter emerged. The service will be the first since the bloodbath on Wednesday at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in the southern state of South Carolina, which has fuelled simmering racial tensions in the United States and reignited impassioned calls for stronger gun-control laws. AFP PHOTO/ MLADEN ANTONOV        (Photo credit should read MLADEN ANTONOV/AFP/Getty Images)
People pray and listen to the Sunday service outside of the Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina on June 21, 2015 in the first service after the murder of nine victims. AFP PHOTO/ MLADEN ANTONOV /Getty Images)
This is the true meaning of freedom and Independence Day.

In case you missed it, see the stirring rendition of Amazing Grace

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Legal Divas of Color: Loretta Lynch

Every Black History Month, I do a series featuring Legal Divas of Color.  Last year, I focused more on the original trailblazers in the legal field, such as Jane Bolin, Charlotte E. Ray, and Gwen S. Cherry.  This year, I will focus on 21st century African American women, who are movers shakers, and laying the groundwork for a new generation of legal divas!!

It is only fitting that I begin with the Legal Diva whose name is at the forefront of the news at present: Loretta Lynch.

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On November 8, 2014, President Obama nominated Ms. Lynch to succeed Eric Holder as Attorney General of the United States.  This is the top legal position in America.  Not only does the Attorney General advise the President, but the Attorney General sets the policy and the tone for all prosecutions that occur in the federal system. However, being nominated is step one; surviving the Senate is the big hurdle.  At present, Loretta Lynch is going through her confirmation hearing in front of the Senate, where the Senators grill her on her beliefs, what kind of Attorney General she would be, and what policies she will enforce.

But who is Loretta Lynch?

Her path was a very straightforward one. She was born in Greensboro, North Carolina on May 21, 1959. The grandchild of sharecroppers, and the daughter of a schoolteacher and a minister, Ms. Lynch knew the value of hard work early.  She also learned the importance of justice; she attended civil rights rallies as a child, and sat front row to history being made. Academically, Ms. Lynch excelled.  She was valedictorian of her high school class, and received her undergraduate and law degrees from Harvard.

Upon graduation, Ms. Lynch joined a firm, then became an Assistant US Attorney (federal prosecutor) for the Eastern District of New York in 1990. The Eastern District of New York includes Brooklyn, Queens, Staten Island, and parts of Long Island.  In 1999, then President Bill Clinton nominated her to become the US Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, making her the head of that office. She left the office to join a firm in 2001, returning in 2010 when President Obama nominated her to the position again.

Loretta Lynch has prosecuted more terrorism cases than any of her counterparts. She has successfully prosecuted politicians for corruption (both Democrat and Republican), and prosecuted the police officers who brutalized Abner Louima in 1997. She has also met with the family of Eric Garner after his chokehold death during a police encounter in 2014 to discuss the viability of a federal prosecution. And, she has prosecuted banks for fraud, obtaining million dollar settlements.

On a personal note, I met Ms. Lynch two years ago. She has an air of grace, a quiet strength, and resolve that is really cool to behold.  She is very understated, which certainly why her opponents underestimate her. Ms. Lynch inspired and continues to inspire me to blaze my own trail.

Thank you Loretta Lynch, for being an inspiring Legal Diva!!

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PS if you want to voice your support for Loretta Lynch, call your Senator at 202-224-3121 and urge him/her to vote to confirm her. The National Black Prosecutors Association (of which I am President) stands with many bipartisan organizations that support Ms. Lynch.

M.

What Do We Tell Our Sons?

The funeral of Michael Brown today is another chapter in an ongoing tragedy. In moving forward from here, the discussion needs to be had regarding what do we tell our children about how to interact with police? How should we interact with police?

Essence.com published my tips this weekend:

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In the wake of the Mike Brown shooting in Ferguson, Mo., as well as the chokehold death of Eric Garner in New York, and the others killed by police in questionable circumstances, the question is “What do we tell our children about interacting with the police?” It’s not about assigning blame on the victims’ actions. It’s about arming our young people with knowledge that could help save them in the future.

Pull right over. If your child is driving a car, and sees police lights in the rearview mirror, he or she should pull over immediately.  If it is not safe to pull over immediately, slow your speed and signal that you are pulling over. Failure to pull over puts police officers on high alert that there may be a problem (even if there isn’t one). Think about it from a police officer’s perspective. Why wouldn’t you stop? Do you have an open warrant? Do you have guns or drugs in the car? Based on their occupation, police officers are trained to assume the worst in every situation.

Read the rest of the article here

Thank You Captain Ron Johnson!

Finally it seems we are seeing a break in the craziness. While I was saddened by the death of Michael Brown, I was hopeful that an investigation would shed light on the matter, possibly isolating one or two bad apples on the Ferguson police force. Instead, the police department behaved like kids do when they are in trouble. It appeared to be “everyone thinks we’re violent so let’s REALLY give them something to complain about!”

Thankfully, Captain Ron Johnson is turning the tide. He is showing how officers can conduct themselves with dignity, decency and determination. He is showcasing what is good about law enforcement; and for this I thank you!

The Feds in the form of the Justice Department have their hands full with this one. I predict a massive overhaul in that department when the dust settles….because we know one thing.

The Feds don’t play.

Read the rest of the Time article:
Tensions Cool in Ferguson

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Legal Divas of Color: Kamala Harris

So for the last few posts, I focused on historic Legal Divas of Color…now it’s time to talk about TODAY’S Legal Divas, still breaking boundaries!

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Kamala Harris is the current Attorney General for the State of California.  She is the FIRST woman of color to hold this position. Born October 20, 1964, she has packed a great deal of accomplishments into her time on Earth thus far.  Her mother is a doctor from India; her father is a Jamaican American economics professor at Stanford University.  A California girl through and through, she was born and raised in Oakland, spending some time in Montreal, Canada.  Ms. Harris completed her undergraduate studies at Howard University, and received her juris doctor from University of California, Hastings School of Law.

In her professional life, she served as the Deputy District Attorney for Alameda County, CA, then became the Managing Attorney for the Career Criminal Unit of the San Francisco DA’s Office. After a short management stint at the San Francisco City Attorney’s Office, she was elected to be the District Attorney of San Francisco! Ms. Harris held that post for 7 years and two elections,  until she was elected to the position of Attorney General in 2010. The Los Angeles Daily Journal ranked her as one of the top 100 attorneys in California.

One of the aspects that struck me about Ms. Harris is her anti-death penalty stance.  As the head prosecutor, she has received pressure to seek the death penalty on the criminal cases of several different defendants charged with murder.  She made it very clear that although she was against the death penalty in general, she would review each case individually.  After review, she had opted to seek the penalty life without parole instead of death, mostly because she believes it is a more cost-effective and better punishment option.  She did not bow to pressure, but chose to do what she believed was right.

In between all of this, she authored a book entitled “Smart on Crime: A Career Prosecutor’s Plan to Make Us Safer“. Ms. Harris was at the forefront in implementing community programs to  address crime and work with the community to reduce recidivism.

Kamala Harris, I thank you for being an ORIGINAL Legal Diva, and being a great role model for me!

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