Turkeys Pardoned

Turkeys Pardoned – Young Men Of Color Shot

Crazy Turkey Cop

I have had it with cops who think they are above the law.  Who let the fact they wear a badge and carry a gun, go to their heads.  I have had it with this shoot first and ask questions later mentality.  I’ve had it with America’s obsession with violence and guns.  Most of all I have had it with the racism in law enforcement, our justice system, and in societal attitudes.  No where is that racism more apparent than when speaking of young men of color.  This attitude that young men of color are often criminals, thugs, gangsters, without character or conscience has to stop!

There are people who will literally lock their car doors when sitting in them when a young man of color walks by, who will cross the street to the other side when they see a young man of color walk by, who distrust and fear young men of color who are their neighbors still in the 21st century.  Centuries old racial stereotypes and prejudices still persist in far too many white’s subconscious.

Those old Jim Crow and post slavery attitudes and conflicts have never fully went away, they still exist below the surface.  Occasionally this mass societal repression of these attitudes and conflicts, come strongly into the conscience and in the forefront of people’s minds.  It is then when we see those attitudes and conflicts are still very much there in the minds of many.  Events like the murder of Michael Brown and the protest and riots that followed in Ferguson and elsewhere show without a doubt we still suffer from the scars of centuries of slavery, segregation, distrust, fear, and anger within our collective conscience as a society.

You don’t get over centuries of oppression, persecution, and injustice in a few years time or even in a decade.  It may take several decades, several generations even, or perhaps a century or more to fully heal such deep wounds in the collective psyche.  Those wounds are obviously most acutely and strongly felt within the African-American community but all communities of color have had to overcome oppression, persecution, and injustice for generations.  Even impoverished whites have had to overcome hardships and such to a lesser degree that have also left unseen but very real wounds in the collective consciousness.  These are all the type of wounds or trauma that carry across the generations.  To deny this very real phenomenon is not to understand human emotion, human consciousness, and human nature.  It is also to minimize the harm largely societal imposed oppression, persecution, injustice, and hardship have done to various populations.

The hurt, anger, protest, collective actions of various sorts, and at times riots are not well understood by those who are among the favored classes, the wealthy, and powerful but to those within the African-American community, other communities of color, and minority communities and downtrodden people of all stripes it is often very much understood.  It is no coincidence these same communities and individuals have a higher likelihood of being treated unjustly by police and our justice system. It is no happenstance that these communities and individuals can better identify with such pain in others, with the outrage, with the sadness, with the feelings of powerlessness, and with the feelings of feeling hopeless at time.  Some who are not among these communities and individuals also have an ability to understand and strongly empathize with but many if not most can not.  The left tends to better empathize than the right over such issues but it is socially based far more than politically based.

It’s hard to convince wealthy white men who are in potions of power and influence what that hurt, anger, protest, collective action, and riots are all about.  It is completely foreign to them as they for the most part have never understood being poor, disenfranchised, mistreated by law enforcement, the justice system, and society at large.  Some may attempt to point to how wealthy and powerful people are often criticized and sometimes vilified because of their wealth and power but that is a different phenomenon completely then what those in the streets and on social networks are expressing.   Those communities and individuals don’t have the shield of their wealth and power to protect themselves from such.  They suffer far more than just hurt feelings.  They don’t have the money and resources to defend themselves against injustice, to lobby, or to allow them to live easy and comfortable lives.  All they have is their voice and when they feel they don’t have that even, some resort to violence and unlawful acts in a desperate attempt to be heard.

Some are convinced 18-year-old Michael Brown was nothing but a thug who hated whitey and cops, who was violent, and was intent on killing Darren Wilson.  No matter how much the facts and people who knew him prove otherwise they will be convinced of this no matter what.  The hateful stereotypes and exaggerated caricatures of troubled young black men is the only thing going through their mind.  They will not allow themselves to be bothered by facts, evidence that proves otherwise, or first hand testimony of those who knew him best.  These people are not worth spending the time convincing, as the pop culture saying says so well; “haters gonna hate”.

There are those many on the fence over the incident and response surrounding it, those who are not paying attention, and those in positions of power and influence who are worth trying to gain activist attention.  Never before have more people heard that message surrounding police brutality, the plight of people of color living in a sometimes hostile society face, and police immunity to crimes as they have today; so there is reason to be hopeful.

Tragically however the heartbreak continues with the murder of Tamir Rice and other young men of color shot and killed  since Michael Brown was murdered.  Tamir was just a 12-year-old kid playing with a toy gun in a park when he was executed by police.  It happened in a matter of a few seconds, before Tamir likely even realized what was going on.  Would this have happened if Tamir was a white kid?  I think not.  The officer on the dispatch call said he thought Tamir was about 20 years old when he shot him.  To the cops mind then he was likely just a young armed black thug to their way of thinking then a boy with a toy gun which was the case in reality. Those stereotypes and fears were likely a driving force behind their actions.  Those stereotypes and fears killed Tamir, they killed Mike Brown, and countless other young men of color in this Nation.

Young men of color are at significantly higher risk of being murdered than their white peers, this is a statistical fact.  They are much more likely to be questioned by police. They are also far more likely to end up behind bars and serve longer sentences than their white counterparts convicted of similar crimes.  They are even significantly more likely to be charged and convicted for crimes compared to whites in the criminal justice system.  It’s not news either that they are far more likely to end up being killed by police than whites pursued by police.  In the 21st century these stats are beyond shameful and simply unacceptable in a free and fair democratic Country.

It should not take the pain of grief of an African-American woman burying her son before the Nation wakes up.  It should not take the heartbreak of a black father losing his son for the Nation to pay attention.  It should not take a boy playing with a toy gun in the park being shot and killed by police to get the Nation to care.  This has been happening for decades and the fact it continues in the 21st century should be shameful to all of us.  For too long we have ignored it, minimized it, failed to pay much attention to it but things have reached a tipping point.  Michael Brown’s parents and others speaking out, social media, bloggers, the media, and the Obama administration brought these issue to the forefront of the Nation’s consciousness.  They forced us to pay attention to these issues we typically don’t think about.  They caused us to be better aware how deep and far-reaching these injustices go.  I know they all have made an impression on me and convinced me I had to get involved.

I see these issues as evidence of all the places we have yet to make progress yet in civil rights and where we have far to go.  Growing up what I was taught in school surrounding civil rights was very little of the full story.  It pretty much stopped and ended with Lincoln and the emancipation proclamation, Harriet Tubman, Booker T. Washington, Rosa Parks, MLK and “I have a dream”, and the freedom riders.  I only heard a passing mention of Malcolm X and Caesar Chavez.  The Stonewall Riots were not even mentioned along with many other people and stories the education system wanted to withhold from us.  They only wanted to teach us their whitewashed and non-controversial historical revisionism of history.

It was on my own where I had to educate myself on civil rights issues. It is the same thing I would tell all young people to do; educate themselves don’t rely on only what they are taught in school.  It is through education, activism, and public outreach where we all can have the most impact.  The same could be said of all rights issues.  It is through education, activism, and public outreach where we have the most ability to change things.  Every person we convince to begin to pay attention, get them interested in learning more, and get involved is one more voice calling for change.  Those extra voices will make it less likely tragedies will happen and more likely those being the cause for those tragedies will be held to account.  If you want change you have to do something to help advance and advocate for that change or otherwise it will never happen. If you want justice you have to use just means to obtain that justice. If you want hope you have to hold onto hope.

There is no easy or fast way to bring about change.  Change is hard, change takes a long time, change does not come without risk, change requires sacrifice, and change does not happen without people working together towards that change.  If change was easy, quick, without risk, required no sacrifice, and did not require collective cooperation it would have already happened. Change will not be easy or happen quickly but it will in the end be worth it.

Alan Curtis Montgomery

“Progress is a nice word. But change is its motivator. And change has its enemies.”

-  Robert Kennedy (Shot by an assassin June 5th 1968 while advocating for change.  He died the next morning as the result of his injuries.)

World Human Rights Blog Celebrates Its 500th Post! – Thanks For Following

World Human Rights

I am thankful for the over 860 people and organizations who follow the World Human Rights blog.  This blog would not have been possible without you.  Thank you for all the encouragement and support you all have given me.  Just under a year and a half ago I began this blog after being inspired by a close friend who is a long time human rights activist and my own activism for the refugees and displaced within Syria.  Other friends have also encouraged me along the way.  They have helped give me the courage to speak out and to express myself.  They have helped me on this new journey in life, that is only just beginning.

I plan to continue on that journey with my activism and blog on human rights issues around the world.  I hope in some small way I can be an encouragement to others and help people who are struggling in life.  To help give voice to the voiceless and help those too afraid to speak to find the courage to speak their voice.  To lastly help encourage others in their activism, writing, and creative endeavors.

Children and young people, the oppressed, persecuted, marginalized and forgotten in society have and will continue to be my primary focus in my activism.  They are who I feel the most empathy for, who I feel I can help the most, and have the greatest needs.  While I feel empathy and compassion for humanity in general these populations in particular inspire such.

I think my own difficulties in life and circumstances have caused me to better identify with those struggling and suffering in life. It is like the old song “There but For A Fortune”.  I am not a wealthy and fortunate man trying to give back just a poor man who has had misfortunes in life trying to help where I can.  We all have something we can contribute to the world and we all can help the world in our own way.

I expect no heavenly rewards or personal profit; nor do I seek fame, fortune, or praise.  I just feel I can use some of my talents to help others.  Though I am not exceptionally talented or exceptional in anything, I do have some talents/positive attributes.  I have some talent in writing, I love to learn, and have a big heart.  These factors have been very helpful in the course of my activism.  I would even say they have been essential.  My writing has allowed me to express my ideas related to my activism and things I see as important.  My love of learning has taught me a lot.  My heart has allowed me to care enough to get involved in helping people and the world.

Each one of us has within us something that others could benefit from.  We each have our own background, knowledge, experiences, personality that can allow us to help people in our own unique way.  Everyone has something they can teach us, make us aware of, inspire something within us.  When we are humble enough to see that within others we grow as individuals.

Find a way to use your talents to help others.  You will be so much more fulfilled on an emotional level then just spending your time helping yourself.  You may not be able to help someone physically or financially, but you can at least help them by making people aware of their situation and needs.

Words do not feed one starving child, stop one hardship, stop one injustice, cure one patient, make one wrong right.  Same with good intentions and positive feelings no matter how wonderful.  However it is what those words, good intentions, and positive feelings inspire in us and others that makes them truly powerful.  That inspiration can lead to helping and changing all those things and more.  It can cause people to go on knowing someone cares and is speaking for them.  It can inspire people to donate their time and money to help others.  It can even at times inspire people in high places to do things to drastically improve things.  Never underestimate the power of words, intentions, and positive emotions to help change the world.

This Thanksgiving/Christmas/Hanukkah/Kwanzaa season is a good time to think of something you can do to help someone or some good cause.  Maybe even start a blog or ask to be involved with a blog that already exist.  I am currently seeking writers or contributors to the World Human Rights blog for example.  Maybe you already have a blog; well now would be a good time to start covering issues about helping people in need.  Who knows you just may help someone or others more than you ever realized.  It will often take time to get noticed and get your blog off the ground, sometimes several months, but it will be worth it if you stick with it. I can’t promise you success of whatever goal you set out with or getting to wherever you hoped to.  I can promise however the more you learn and the more effort you put into your blog and activism the more you will get out of it.

We each have something to offer the world.  We need to only discover what that is, and then spend time sharing it with the world.

P.S. Below Is A Song To Celebrate The 500 Post Milestone

Alan Curtis Montgomery

UNHCR TRACKS | A Deafening Silence

A Deafening Silence

A Syrian boy rides a bus to Gawilan refugee camp in Dohuk, Iraq. UNHCR/Dominic Nahr

WRITTEN BY Bathoul Ahmed Wednesday 12 November 2014

After months of fear and a desperate escape, a group of Syrian refugees finally reaches safety in northern Iraq. Yet there is no rejoicing.

They arrive at the border, tired and hungry, then pile onto buses for a four-hour drive from Turkey into Iraqi Kurdistan. Back in Syria, they had homes, relatives, friends and livelihoods. Now they have nothing.

It is around 8 p.m. as we wait for the convoy to arrive at Qushtapa camp in northern Iraq. As the first bus full of Syrian refugees pulls up, I feel my anxiety level rise. The last time I felt this on edge was when my own family and I fled the civil war in Sierra Leone.

Now I’m an aid worker and a storyteller. I’ve got my camera and notepad ready. I approach one of the buses and try to talk to one of the women from the window, but she can barely keep her eyes open. Her face is pale and her eyes look sunken.

In her arms, she holds a baby in a loose embrace, as if she doesn’t have the strength to hold him tight. I later learn that her name is Nawrooz. She and her family have been travelling for two days straight, from Syria to Turkey to northern Iraq. I crane my neck to peer further into the bus and see it is the same picture everywhere. Only a few children are moving, curiously looking around.

Stunned, I step back from the bus and watch from a distance as weary passengers disembark and queue up for mattresses. They will spend the first night in a communal tent, before each family is allocated its own tent the next morning.

A tent full of people should be loud and chaotic. Instead, it is haunted by silence.

I snap the lens cap onto my camera and slip the notepad into my pocket. Quietly, I try to take it all in, to make sense of it, but I just can’t find the right words. I can’t take any pictures. I don’t feel it is very moral. You might disagree. But, in a moment like this, it feels wrong.

Eventually, I make my way into the communal tent. A tent full of people should be loud and chaotic. Instead, it is haunted by silence.

I wish that people would shout, say something – anything. But all they do is sit in silence, staring into space. They look defeated. Children glance around, inquisitive but wary. Some tackle each other on their new mattresses, and others just play with the pebbles on the ground.

I catch the eye of a few people. They are distant and vacant. Then I head over to where a family of three are resting: a husband, his wife and his elderly mother.

Eventually, the man shakes his head and says simply, “We are happy to be alive.” After this, we all sit in silence.

“Hamdillah ala salemetkon,” I greet them, thanking God for their safety. But they just nod. “How are you feeling?” I continue.

They just stare through me. Eventually, the man – Mohamed – shakes his head and says simply: “We are happy to be alive.”

After this, we all sit in silence.

The children soon get used to me and, as kids do, they approach me and want their picture taken. They are intrigued. So I snap a photo and show it to them. They are so happy.

One kid starts crying. “Please feed me,” he begs. “I am hungry.”

Soon a truck arrives with food for the families in the tents. Realizing this, children run over and climb the sides to look at the food inside. One kid starts crying. “Please feed me,” he begs. “I am hungry.” It is heartbreaking.

I make my way over to where a young man is helping to organize his youngest family members so they can eat together. I watch as they sit in a circle and…

Read The Rest Of The Story And See Photos Here UNHCR TRACKS | A Deafening Silence.

major depression

No Pill Can Cure Mental Health Stigma | Marisa Lancione

Recently at a concert at the O2 arena in London, Lady Gaga confessed to her fans that she takes antidepressants for depression: “I take medication every day for mental illness and depression and [I] don’t feel bad about it.” She then went on to serenade her fans with a rendition of her hit song “Born this Way.”

Why would she feel bad for taking an antidepressant? Stigma.

But how can stigma exist in Canada when Canadians are among the highest antidepressant users in the world: “with as much as 9 per cent of the population on one depression-fighting drug or another, according to a new study from the OECD.”

If 9 per cent doesn’t strike you as a lot, do the math. The Canadian population was last estimated at roughly 35 million. That’s over 3 million Canadians taking some form of psychopharmaceutical. That’s a heck of a lot of people.

Stigma about medication and mental health exists because no one talks candidly about it. It’s great that public figures like Lady Gaga are talking more and more openly about mental health, but it’s not enough. Confessing you take medication for depression is only step-one in combating stigma. The rest is talking about the nuances of what taking medication is actually like. Demystifying the belief that it’s a magic pill (it isn’t) or that antidepressants are exclusively bad (they aren’t).

Over the course of the past 10 years, I think I have taken more pharmaceuticals than the average person will take in their lifetime. I play a weird memory game with myself and I try and run through all of the prescriptions that I have filled over the years. The names of SSRIs, SNRIs, and antipsychotics have become like a mantra: Zyprexa, Ativan, Effexor, Lithium, Wellbutrin, Risperdal, Seroquel, Clonazepam, Zoloft, and Celexa.

But it hasn’t always been this easy to confess that I have taken and am taking these medications. It took me over 10 years of silent suffering to admit that I have a mental illness and that I depend on medication to function. I’ve started openly talking to friends and family about how medication makes me feel, how it intrudes on my life, how it messes with my memory and recall, and despite knowing that it manages my mood that it’s a struggle to swallow that little pill every morning and night.

To be honest, I’m embarrassed that I probably take more medication than…

Read More No Pill Can Cure Mental Health Stigma | Marisa Lancione.

FBI’s “Suicide Letter” to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and the Dangers of Unchecked Surveillance | Electronic Frontier Foundation

King FBI Letter

National Archives, College Park, Maryland

The New York Times has published an unredacted version of the famous “suicide letter” from the FBI to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. The letter, recently discovered by historian and professor Beverly Gage, is a disturbing document. But it’s also something that everyone in the United States should read, because it demonstrates exactly what lengths the intelligence community is willing to go to—and what happens when they take the fruits of the surveillance they’ve done and unleash it on a target.

The anonymous letter was the result of the FBI’s comprehensive surveillance and harassment strategy against Dr. King, which included bugging his hotel rooms, photographic surveillance, and physical observation of King’s movements by FBI agents. The agency also attempted to break up his marriage by sending selectively edited “personal moments he shared with friends and women” to his wife.

Portions of the letter had been previously redacted. One of these portions contains a claim that the letter was written by another African-American: “King, look into your heart. You know you are a complete fraud and a great liability to all us Negroes.” It goes on to say “We will now have to depend on our older leaders like Wilkins, a man of character and thank God we have others like him. But you are done.” This line is key, because part of the FBI’s strategy was to try to fracture movements and pit leaders against one another.

The entire letter could have been taken from a page of GCHQ’s Joint Threat Research and Intelligence Group (JTRIG)—though perhaps as an email or series of tweets. The British spying agency GCHQ is one of the NSA’s closest partners. The mission of JTRIG, a unit within GCHQ, is to “destroy, deny, degrade [and] disrupt enemies by discrediting them.” And there’s little reason to believe the NSA and FBI aren’t using such tactics.

The implications of these types of strategies in the digital age are chilling. Imagine Facebook chats, porn viewing history, emails, and more made public to discredit a leader who threatens the status quo, or used to blackmail a reluctant target into becoming an FBI informant. These are not far-fetched ideas. They are the reality of what happens when the surveillance state is allowed to grow out of control, and the…

Read More FBI’s “Suicide Letter” to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and the Dangers of Unchecked Surveillance | Electronic Frontier Foundation.

America’s Cities Leading the Way to LGBT Inclusion, Even In States Where Equality Remains Elusive | Human Rights Campaign

Municipal Equality Index

Municipal Equality Index – Credit Human Rights Campaign http://www.hrc.org/

November 12, 2014 by Liz Halloran

At a time when many states continue to drag their feet on fully-inclusive LGBT laws and policies, the nation’s cities are stepping up in record numbers to ensure that all people are treated equally, according to a report issued today by the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), the nation’s largest lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) civil rights organization.

The HRC Foundation’s 2014 Municipal Equality Index (MEI) shows that, in every state in the nation, cities like Cincinnati, Atlanta, Saint Louis, Missoula, Orlando, and Dallas are fueling momentum for LGBT equality — and often in states that still don’t have fully inclusive non-discrimination laws or marriage equality.

Progress this year, as documented by the third annual MEI, has been particularly noteworthy on transgender equality. Thirty-two million Americans now live in cities and towns that have taken bold action to embrace comprehensive transgender-inclusive laws that go beyond explicit protections offered by their state or the federal government.

The MEI’s standard criteria for earning points this year, for the first time, included whether a city offers transgender-inclusive health care benefits.

“From Mississippi to Montana, mid-size cities and small towns have become the  single greatest engine of progress for LGBT equality–changing countless lives for the better,” said HRC President Chad Griffin. “In just three years, the number of municipalities earning top marks from the MEI for their treatment of LGBT people has more than tripled.”

“Simply put,” Griffin said, “in this country there is…

Read More America’s Cities Leading the Way to LGBT Inclusion, Even In States Where Equality Remains Elusive | Human Rights Campaign.