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Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Police community outreach needs improvement

Reporting from King Street near Smyrna, Ga. police department headquarters
"There still is a large gulf between how the criminal justice system is viewed by Black and White Americans. There is no other area where the potential for misunderstanding can have such dangerous consequences...Departments operating under a community policing philosophy (should) endeavor to understand the concerns of the community. This approach requires that line officers move from such narrow functions as writing up incident reports to developing interpersonal skills that enable them to engage people of all  backgrounds, listen to their concerns and to devise collaborative responses to those concerns." ---Community Relations Service U.S. Department of Justice: POLICE USE OF EXCESSIVE FORCE A CONCILIATION HANDBOOK FOR THE POLICE and THE COMMUNITY

I learned first hand yesterday that taking a police report was more important to Smyrna police than talking to a citizen about community policing.

Symbol on wall in police department lobby

Yes, I put my big girl pants on and went over to the Smyrna Police Department to give them some ideas to improve community policing.  I had driven 45 minutes in Atlanta Metro traffic to Smyrna City Hall to attend a press conference which ended up being canceled. The community relations director, Jennifer Bennett, came out with questions about why I was there with my camera, and after I informed her about the cancellation, I went on to tell her about my ideas on a community policing initiative I thought would help citizens and the police - an intiative that wasn't hosting a basketball league or teaching kids to run track (how to run from police)!

Bennett referred me to Louis Defense, supposedly over community policing, events, and public information. So I drove across the way to the police department and sat in the lobby, watching people lodge police reports and pay fines. Defense was not available. I was then referred to Michael Montgomery, training officer, but he was not available either. No one was available. After waiting an hour, I left and decided to write this post.
  
"An effective police-minority relationship can contribute to the reduction in incidents of excessive police force. However, in the event, an incident of excessive force does occur, the public is more likely to respond with an open mind due to the positive relationships and trust built up with the police through daily experience."--- same report as above

Yes, Virginia, a citizen with a valid recommendation on how to improve community policing cannot walk off the street and get an audience with anyone in the Smyrna Police Department, especially after one of their officers has been accused of murdering unarmed Nicholas Thomas. That's protocol. That's just the way it is without an appointment. And no, I don't think the outcome would have been different if more people had been with me, however, we may have been met with arms!

Social Justice Ministry established at Zion Baptist Church

PRESS RELEASE - Rev. Eric Beckham, Senior Pastor of Zion Baptist Church, has charged Dr. Benjamin Williams, longtime educator, community activist and current President of the Cobb County Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), and the Rev. Dr. Barbara Gurnell, Associate Minister at Zion, with launching a Social Justice Ministry. This ministry will seek to educate and mobilize residents, churches and others to work together to engage public and private leadership in social justice issues, including, but not limited to, criminal justice reform, mass incarceration, the school-to-prison pipeline, education, employment, racial reconciliation, and affordable housing and homelessness.


“We recognize that this important work cannot be done by organizations that operate in a silo. If any organization could do the work alone, it would have been done long ago,” said Dr. Williams. “Our Social Justice Ministry here at Zion plans to partner with other community entities to make an effective, positive impact here in Cobb County to help ensure that justice is provided to all. There are ample data that argue the case for change, and folk of good will can no longer afford to sit idly by and watch poor people and people of color continue to be abused.” Dr. King reminded us that “what affects one directly affects all of us indirectly.” 


The ministry’s inaugural event, “Criminal Justice Reform: Lawyers, Advocates & Returning Citizens,” scheduled for Tuesday, April 4, 2017, from 6:30-8:30 p.m., at Zion Baptist Church, 160 Lemon St. NE, Marietta, GA 30060, will be a community forum. Religious and civic leaders, citizens and members of the legal profession have been invited to serve as panelists and will field questions from the audience. The entire community is invited to participate in constructive, solution-oriented dialogue.


“It is the moral and spiritual responsibility of the church to engage and partner with the community in addressing the current societal challenges,” Rev. Beckham said. “Jesus traveled far and wide to spread the gospel of love in action to the lost, the weak, the disenfranchised, the incarcerated, and those ignored and abused in society.”


Pastor Beckham, Dr. Williams and guest panelists will be available to the media from 6:00-6:30 p.m. The forum is free and open to the public.

Question of the day...

How can we be led by Trump who called Obama "founder of Isis... born in Africa", Mexicans "criminals", Hillary "bigot", Rice "bitch", and women ripe for "pussy" grabbing?

Is this the kind of man we can follow?

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Nicholas Thomas lawsuit against Smyrna police moving forward

UPDATE
THIS PRESS CONFERENCE WAS CANCELLED AND WILL BE RESCHEDULED WHEN COMPLAINT CAN BE MADE AVAILABLE PUBLICLY DUE TO AN “ABUNDANCE OF CAUTION” WITH MINOR’S NAME INVOLVED.

Smyrna, Georgia –Ms. Cajun Snorton, fiancĂ©e of Nicholas Thomas (killed by Smyrna Police, March 24, 2015), and mother of Thomas' child, filed a Federal Lawsuit in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia, on Wednesday, March 22, 2017.  

The lawsuit is Snorton vs. Owens, et al 17-CV-103.
Named in the lawsuit are the City of Smyrna, Smyrna Police Officer Kenneth Owens, Cobb District Attorney Victor Reynolds, and Kennesaw State University Police Department as defendants responsible for violating the civil rights of Nicholas Thomas leading to both his wrongful death and the subsequent cover up of the facts relating to his wrongful death.

According to a letter to Former President Obama from Thomas' father, Huey, Nicholas was executed by Smyrna Police as a result of an outstanding traffic warrant for probation violation.  Media reports confirm that Nicholas Thomas, 23, was shot in the back at his job at Bob McDonald's Goodyear while police were serving a warrant for his arrest for a $175 violation. According to a police statement, Smyrna Police Sgt. Kenneth Owens fired three times into a customer's Maserati being serviced by Thomas because he was placed "at risk to receive serious bodily injury or death." 

A press conference related to the filing will be held today at Smyrna City Hall, 2800 King St. SE, in Smyrna at 2:30 p.m. For more info., contact Rich Pellegrino, Nick Thomas Justice Coalition, 404-573-1199; or Dr. Ben Williams, Cobb SCLC, 770-876-2070.

UPDATE: Since the press conference was cancelled, I posed these questions via email to organizer Rich Pellegrino: 
Why has lawsuit been filed?  This is filed for several reasons: a) to secure damages and therefore some degree of financial security for (Nicholas Thomas') child; b) to secure justice; c) to send a message to law enforcement everywhere that the people are tired of such abuses of power which more often than not go unchecked an unpunished.
How do you think a pro se case can be won against the government?
It was filed pro se to beat the two-year deadline however we will obtain legal representation, and the pro se complaint was prepared with legal guidance.
Ironically, City Hall is located where M. L.King St. intersects with W. Spring St. in Smyrna.

Monday, March 27, 2017

Business Expo to be held in East Cobb, Ga.


The Northeast Cobb Business Association is holding a Business Expo at the Parish Hall and Atrium of Holy Transfiguration Greek Orthodox Church, 3431 Trickum Road NE, Marietta, Ga., Thursday, March 30, starting at 4:00 pm until 7:30 pm.

Light hors d'oeuvres and admission to the expo is free and for information on the event or to become an exhibitor, please contact JRM Management Services, at 770.423.1330, or visit the NCBA website, at NortheastCobbBA.com.

For more information, go to:

Roots 40th Anniversary Celebration announcement

Academy Award Winner Louis Gossett, Jr., who played Fiddler in Roots, will be at the event. 
(photo credit: lukeford.net )
THE NON-TELEVISED 40th Anniversary of Roots Celebration
will take place SATURDAY, APRIL 8, 2017.

TONY SCO OF KBLX DREAM TEAM will be the Host. Attendees will include original cast members Louis Gossett Jr. and Lawrence Hilton Jacobs, new cast members Mario Van Peebles (Director), Mandela Van Peebles, Mark Wolper (Executive Producer), Celebrity Guest Panelist Danny Glover and more.

WHAT:
The Non-Televised 40th Anniversary Celebration of the TV Miniseries “Roots” will take place on Saturday, April 8 at the Scottish Rite Center.  The celebration will include a fireside chat of cast members from the original and new TV miniseries for Roots as well as celebrity guest and ancestry experts.  Questions about the impact of “Roots” and select questions from the public will be discussed.  23 & Me will also be on the panel and will include the value of tracing one’s roots.  The fireside chat will be immediately followed by the ceremony awards from the Oakland International Film Festival participants and live musical performances.

WHO:
Presented by the Oakland Film Society and Oakland Council Member Lynette Gibson-McElhaney and Hosted by Tony Scouville of the KBLX Dream Team

WHERE:
Friday, April 7
Oakland City Hall
1 Frank H, Oakland, CA 94612

Saturday, April 8
Scottish Rite Center
1547 Lakeview Dr., Oakland, CA

For more information, contact Global Wire Services

State of Schools forum scheduled for tonight...

State of Schools will host a community forum at Lindley Middle School, 50 Veterans Memorial Blvd, Mableton, Ga. on Monday, March 27 from 6p.m-8pm. 


The agenda includes the following:
Lindley Middle School highlights - Ms. Lisa Moore Williams, Principal, Lindley Middle School
Presentation on testing - Dr. Ehsan Kattoula, Cobb County School District Assistant Area Superintendent, Data And Accountability
Family engagement (parental involvement, family engagement, leadership) - Monica DeLancy
Community and Schools partnership (how to navigate schools) - Albert McRae

Refreshments will be provided, and the community is welcomed.

State of Our Schools is a community committee whose primary focus is to provide workshops, forums and leadership opportunities for the community, in order to become stronger partners with schools. The area of focus is the Pebblebrook and South Cobb High School feeder pattern.

Friday, March 24, 2017

Black and Latina girls missing in DC

This is an alarm for a missing girl.

Relisha Tenau Rudd
Case Type: Endangered
Missing Date: Mar 01, 2014  
Missing Location: Washington, D.C.

The Congressional Black Caucus is asking the Justice Department to investigate a surge in Black and Latina girls missing in the nation's Capitol city.

For more information, go to:
http://www.foxnews.com/us/2017/03/24/lawmakers-call-on-fbi-to-help-find-string-missing-black-girls-in-washington.html
and
http://www.blackandmissinginc.com/cdad/

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Criminal justice reform issues to be addressed by lawyers, advocates, and formerly incarcerated in Cobb County, Ga.

Taken from slideshow at 50th Anniversary of Black Panther Party
A "Criminal Justice Reform" initiative will be re-introduced in Cobb County, Ga., April 4, from 6:30 p.m. - 8:30 p.m., at Zion Baptist Church, 160 Lemon Street in Marietta. The event will raise solutions to ongoing problems regarding the Criminal Justice System in Cobb County and around the nation.

Topics brought to the table will include ending the school to prison pipeline, mass incarceration, and providing legal counsel for poor people.

The event is being sponsored by Zion Baptist Church, the SCLC, Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Gideon's Promise, and the People's Agenda.

According to Nancy A. Heitzeg, professor of Critical Studies of Race/Ethnicity at St. Catherine University in St. Paul, Minnesota, students of color are being tracked and face zero tolerance policies in schools which result in them becoming a part of the criminal justice system, looking out from behind bars. 

"The school to prison pipeline has emerged in the larger context of media hysteria over youth violence and the mass incarceration that characterize both the juvenile and adult legal system."

According to the Gideon's Promise website, America's prison population has increased from 217,000 to 2.3 million over a 50 year period.

"Although 1963 was a pivotal year for civil and human rights, our jails and prisons are still populated with people who are not receiving quality representation due to financial, structural and cultural changes needed in the criminal justice system. Many people in the system are overwhelmingly poor and disproportionately minorities."(http://www.gideonspromise.org/about/)

"Public defenders are necessary if we are to realize equal justice in America. We are the voice for the voiceless." --- Gideon's Promise


For more information on the event, contact Dr. H. Benjamin Williams at 770-876-2070 or go to www.sclccobb.org.

Friday, March 17, 2017

Entrepreneur spotlight: C. D. Moody, ATL construction company owner

C. D. Moody




Making history and climbing obstacles, 60+ year old C. David Moody, Jr. is a major construction company player in metro Atlanta. Formerly an abused child who now dedicates off hours to mentoring young boys, Moody, a member of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, is still maneuvering through rough terrains.

Moody in the middle during panel discussion on Black History
"This journey goes fast, so you need to take advantage of every opportunity," Moody said at a Black History Month forum held at Mercedes Benz. "You'll be dealing with income, not race issues," he told the audience of young employees wanting to know how to maneuver up the corporate ladder.

Born in Chicago, Moody said, "You are capable or you wouldn't be here...you've got to deliver. Don't do anything that makes you feel uncomfortable. Don't 'cover' to fit in." 

Moody said he stays young and unstressed by fishing and trekking through mountain passes.  Moody shared with the audience that he overcame trauma and sexual abuse and speaks about survival on his blog, Moody Speaks (https://moodyspeaks.com/).

President and CEO of his company, Moody started his business in 1988. Some noteworthy company projects include Philips Arena, the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta, Turner Baseball Field, Big Bethel Baptist Church, Morehouse Suites and Disney World in Orlando, Fl.

Moody is a 1978 graduate of Morehouse with a degree in Psychology, and he also has a Bachelor's degree in Architecture from Howard University.

"Challenges mean you have to stay focused...Don't let imaginary fear stop you," he said.

Cyclorama being constructed at Atlanta History Center by C. D. Moody Construction

Healthcare vs affordable health insurance: two seperate matters in U.S. politics


Healthcare and health insurance are competing issues that involve life, death and compassion; money, and risk.

Not long ago, when my father was a teacher at an HBCU, there was a network of black doctors, lawyers, and business people we depended on for services in our community. I don't remember going to the doctor being a political issue or something that would lead to us losing our home.

When I was sick with the measles, Dr. Hereford and Dr. Drake made house calls to see about me and other blacks in our neighborhood, and I don't remember my parents having to show an insurance card. Nurse Dent gave me vaccinations at school. For minor ailments, my mother consulted a big blue medical book she had gotten when she was a nurse in training at Howard University's Medical School and Freemen's Hospital in Washington D.C. My mother told me that when she was a girl and her finger was severed with a cooking knife, my grandmother went to the attic, grabbed some cobwebs, and wrapped her dangling finger which healed back in place, leaving only a scar. 

In the 1960's, the U.S. population was 179,323,175. Today's population estimate is 326,109,348 - a 55% increase. It is no longer feasible to get the same type of individualized care available when I was growing up it seems, therefore, healthcare systems have been implemented.  

Preventative and emergency care along with doctor's relationships with patients have also changed in the last 100 years, and now we deal daily with the fear of getting sick and not being able to save ourselves or our pocketbooks from financial disasters. Just the constant dialogue over healthcare is making some stressed out and causing dis-ease. Healthcare is big business and has turned into a political football that is making those watching it sick!


Emergency room visits are often the result of accidents which can be expensive without health insurance.
 
Many, including our political representatives who say they are acting in the interest of the American people but have their healthcare paid with our tax dollars, don't seem to understand the difference between healthcare and affordable health insurance. There is a difference, you know... our health should be a priority and dealt with compassion, nor political resistance. Health insurance is a product based on risk, and the healthcare system runs on profit.

To gain more understanding, I have reference Wikipedia which I often do when I don't understand a topic.

Healthcare is the maintenance or improvement of health via the diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of disease, illness, injury, and other physical and mental impairments in human beings. Healthcare is delivered by health professions. Access to healthcare varies across countries, groups, and individuals, largely influenced by social and economic conditions as well as the health policies in place. Countries and jurisdictions have different policies and plans in relation to the personal and population-based healthcare goals within their societies.

Healthcare systems are organizations established to meet the health needs of target populations. Their exact configuration varies between national and sub-national entities. In some countries and jurisdictions, healthcare planning is distributed among market participants, whereas in others, planning occurs more centrally among governments or other coordinating bodies. In all cases, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), a well-functioning healthcare system requires a robust financing mechanism; a well-trained and adequately-paid workforce; reliable information on which to base decisions and policies; and well maintained health facilities and logistics to deliver quality medicines and technologies. 

If you don’t have your health, you don’t have anything. Your health should be viewed as your greatest asset, not how much money you have in the bank!
 
The reason healthcare has become a political football is because it can contribute to a significant part of a country's economy. In 2011, the health care industry consumed an average of 9.3 percent of the GDP or US$ 3,322 (PPP-adjusted) per capita across the 34 members of OECD countries. The USA (17.7%, or US$ PPP 8,508), the Netherlands (11.9%, 5,099), France (11.6%, 4,118), Germany (11.3%, 4,495), Canada (11.2%, 5669), and Switzerland (11%, 5,634) were the top spenders, however life expectancy in total population at birth was highest in Switzerland (82.8 years), Japan and Italy (82.7), Spain and Iceland (82.4), France (82.2) and Australia(82.0), while OECD's average exceeds 80 years for the first time ever in 2011: 80.1 years, a gain of 10 years since 1970. The USA has the highest cost of any OECD member countries, all who have achieved almost universal health coverage except for Mexico and the USA. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Health_care)

Health insurance is insurance against the risk of incurring medical expenses among individuals. By estimating the overall risk of healthcare and health system expenses, among a targeted group, an insurer can develop a routine finance structure, such as a monthly premium or payroll tax, to ensure that money is available to pay for the health care benefits specified in the insurance agreement. The benefit is administered by a central organization such as a government agency, private business, or not-for-profit entity. According to the Health Insurance Association of America, health insurance is defined as "coverage that provides for the payments of benefits as a result of sickness or injury. It includes insurance for losses from accident, medical expense, disability, or accidental death and dismemberment." (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Health_insurance)


 What would Jesus and Mother Theresa say about all this? 


When I think about affordability, I think it should be a percentage of take home pay, income, or assets. Those with the least income should pay less, and those with the most income should pay more! The insurance industry should not be compelled by risk but by justice - making sure no one is mistreated and those who need the most help receive it. 

Consider this analogy.  I used to think schools were for the benefit of students but soon realized that it benefits educational systems and their administrators and teachers first. Take a look at insurance company profits/doctor profits. Sick or potentially sick individuals are used as profit motivators instead of people to be treated and healed. We should teach preventative care to every citizen, and doctors should follow the Hippocratic Oath. Doctors and healthcare providers are human, too, and can be motivated by their own self interests, greed, and poor ethics.

We should be able to choose our healthcare providers.  If I could, I would go to the doctor I lovingly labeled “Cookie Monster” but can't because he's not in my insurance network and it costs me more to see him. Instead, I go to a “system” of doctors who I do not know, some who have had the audacity to tell me to hurry up and make a medical decision about my care because they have other patients to attend to. Also, insurance companies should not "own" healthcare providers. An example is that EyeMed owns Lenscrafters, etc., therefore, insurance decides which doctors or procedures will be “covered,” not the patient. 

Here are some final thoughts:
Healthcare should be based on need and not cost.


Healthcare for the most venerable is the justice we’re looking for – help folks that need help the most – poor, sick, elderly.

My choice - same plan as lawmakers, executives at best companies receive. Take a look at their premiums and deductibles.

Base our plan on other OECD countries and/or strengthen Medicare/Medicaid.

Clinic solutions should not replace Planned Parenthood.


Once you get sick, especially with a catastrophic illness, it’s hard to manage your care or make right choices. 
Medical providers should be supported, not over worked, but not given a free pass on malpractice.
We need to protect against cancer, drug dependencies, and clinical depression.
We need healthcare advocates!

Secretary of Health should not necessarily be a doctor, but an advocate who has full knowledge of the insurance industry, like an experienced public insurance adjuster, or a healthcare advocate.

We’ve allowed healthcare to become big mess of medical providers, institutions, insurance companies, and government bureaucrats. 

We, living in the most affluent nation on Earth, should want everyone to be healthy. That’s what affordable healthcare should be about. Most importantly, we need preventative care focused on exercise, nutrition, immunizations, safety in the workplace, environmental safety. We need to guard against health hazards, disease, and aging.

Fighting for the lives of our citizens is becoming a game. I need to have the faith and assurance that my government, the one I pay taxes to, has my back!