“Silence from the Desert” φ Susan K Williams Smith, The SpiritHouse Project

“Silence from the Desert”

Susan SmithSusan K Williams Smith
Gordon G. Cosby Seasoned Voices Fellow, The SpiritHouse Project

The SpiritHouse Project, under the direction of Ruby Sales, has been investigating the deaths of black people at the hands of white police, vigilantes and security guards since 2007. The deaths have been shocking and reports of them have been scarce; Sales is determined to get the word out that young black people, male and female, are being brutalized with alarming frequency, with the murderers seldom being held accountable. A recent recurring phenomenon with these deaths is missing organs. The following story involves the case of a Black young man who, like Kendrick Johnson, (who was also black) was found murdered and organs missing. Sales is calling for a national movement to bring awareness to these murders and to stop them.

It has been six months – 74 days, to be precise – since Ryan Singleton’s body was found in a California desert, his organs missing, 74 days without having gotten a single bit of information about how he actually died.

Joggers found his body in a Death Valley desert near Baker, California, more than 70 days after he went missing. Though police say they searched for his body within a five-mile radius of a convenience store from which he disappeared, he was found a little over one mile from that same store. His body had no eyes, no heart, no liver, no lungs and no kidneys.
He disappeared in early July; his body was found September 21.  Iris Flowers, his mother, speaks slowly and deliberately. The pain of having lost her son in such a horrific way comes through as she speaks. To date, she knows little about what really happened to her son. “When I have called, I get nothing,” she says, her voice heavy. “I have not gotten an autopsy report. I don’t know how long he was out in the desert.” “I don’t even have a death certificate yet.”
Ryan, 24, was a handsome, young African American man who had gone to California chasing his dream of becoming a model and film producer. His career had begun in New York and had taken off. He had appeared in major magazines, had appeared on Fashion Television, and was featured in a film that was seen by delegates at the United Nations. He moved to California where he met and mingled with people who saw his talent and opened even more doors for him. His star was rising; he was in the first chapter of what promised to be a life most could only dream of.
He was a good kid, folks would say. Not perfect, but a “good kid.”
He hadn’t been in California long before he decided he wanted to take a vacation. He rented a car and, en route to his vacation spot, ended up in the desert. His car, according to reports had broken down. White police officers found him walking in the desert, presumably trying to get help. They stopped when they saw him, did a check to make sure he had no record – which he didn’t – and then took him to a nearby convenience store so that he could call for help. He made a phone call to a friend to come pick him up …and then, suddenly, he was no longer in the store. Nobody saw him leave; nobody saw anybody pick him up – but it was clear that Ryan was gone.
Twenty-four hours later, law enforcement officers in Atlanta visited Mrs. Flowers at her home to tell her that Ryan was missing, after having been notified by California authorities.
Authorities told Flowers that perhaps coyotes had taken Ryan’s organs – they sometimes do that, police told her – but Ryan’s body was not mutilated. “Were his remains strewn all over the desert, near where he was found?” she asked them when they gave her the coyote story. No, as a matter of fact that had not been the case. Neither were any of his limbs missing. If coyotes had taken his organs, Flowers mused, they had taken them with surgical precision, leaving the rest of his body relatively intact.
Though Ryan had gone missing in July, his body was not badly decomposed, certainly not to the degree a body left in the hot desert sun might have been expected to. Authorities told Flowers the same; “his body is remarkably intact.”
Pictures of Ryan showed his hands curled, as though he were scratching or writhing in pain. He had perfect teeth, but pictures showed his five lower teeth missing. His mouth was open, lips still pretty much intact, but his mouth was open as though he were screaming. There was hole in the back of his head, low, near where the head meets the neck.
Flowers has been trying to get information, but nobody will tell her anything because Ryan’s case is a “death investigation,” she has been told. Police still have Ryan’s cell phones and his back pack. Flowers has called not only police, but the rental car company from which Ryan had gotten his car. Nobody will tell her anything. Ryan had two cell phones, Flowers says. One, they found in the back seat of the rental car, the other on his remains. She has not been able to get either one of them. “I call his cell phone every now and then, just to hear his voice,” Flowers says. It goes straight to voice mail…Flowers is understandably exasperated, annoyed. “Surely by now, the forensic records should have come back; surely somebody has to know something.”
Flowers holds the pain in so that she can move, breathe, talk. She recalls the last time she heard her son’s voice. “He had called me the day, the morning (I later learned) he disappeared, asking me to wire him some emergency money. I did …and then later I called him to make sure he had gotten it. He never answered the phone. He never picked up the money.” Twenty-four hours later, she got the news that he was missing.
In the early days of her son’s disappearance, and even after his lifeless body was found, Flowers called California authorities regularly, in spite of never getting any answers. After he was found and she could not get information, she called the FBI. They advised her to get an attorney. She has not as yet gotten one; attorneys cost money and her resources are limited.
Flowers recalls going to look at Ryan’s body after it was flown from California to Georgia for a funeral.
“Yes, I saw his body,” she says softly, heavily, in response to being asked if she saw him. “I went in to make sure the remains were my son, Ryan Singleton. It looked like road kill; they said it looked like that due to the autopsy. There was only a certain amount of torso left…there was not recognizable as a young man.” Her voice trembling some, she continued. “I had to make sure it was my son. I couldn’t do like Kendrick Johnson’s parents did. They had an autopsy and then he was buried and then they had him exhumed. That’s when they found his organs were missing. I learned from them. I couldn’t have gone through that. Before they buried him, we knew he had no organs.”  Flowers said she also learned from a woman whose son had died in an equally horrible way years ago, when asked how she had endured seeing her son so mutilated and violated.  “There were stronger women who went before me,” she said. “I thought of Emmett Till’s mother. I thought of how horrible that was …to show her son mutilated by hate. When I saw my son, I thought that what I felt was what Mrs. Till felt. I didn’t feel it was racial…but I don’t know what it was that killed him. I was thinking of her – looking at her healthy, beautiful child – and she showed her son to the world, to let the world know. I just wanted to go in and see …see if there was anything I recognized as part of my child.”
Ryan was unarmed. He had no record. He was young and vibrant, with his whole life ahead of him.
That life snuffed out, Flowers now just wants to know what happened…and get justice.
The silence from the desert is unacceptable, she says. Her son was a person, her baby. She cries slightly as she looks at a videotape showing Ryan shortly before his death …saying he was on his way and that he would be known all over the world in five years. He is confident and filled with hope; he is smiling and his eyes dance with a freshness that only comes with youth. Nothing was going to stop him; mom was not to worry.“That was my son,” Flowers says. “I miss him so much.”

02-8-14 Susan Smith5

Teaching Peace in Violence-Torn Regions of Africa φ Carmen del Rosario, Anti-violence Educator and Activist φ LIVE 10 pm ET 3-29-14

OUR COMMON GROUND with Janice Graham

Teaching a New Peace in Africa and Hoping to Change a Nation

Guest:   Anti-Violence EducatorActivist Carmen del Rosario
Founder, Roots of Transformation


03-29 Carmen

Saturday, March 29, 2014 10 pm ET

LISTEN LIVE and Join the OPEN Chat

Web location:  http://www.blogtalkradio.com/OCG
Call In – Listen Line: 347-838-9852

“When I dare to be powerful– to use my strength in service of my vision, then it becomes less and less important whether I am afraid” – Audre Lorde

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAbout Carmen del Rosario

Carmen is a highly driven and motivated, partnership, and programme management professional with over 20 years of professional experience working in the field of violence against women and children with government and development organizations, community networks and institutions in the US, El Salvador, Rwanda, Burundi, Dominican Republic, Tanzania, Congo (RDC) and Liberia

Ms. Carmen Del Rosario served as the Director of the Boston Public Health Commission’s Domestic Violence Program for 10 years. Del Rosario was a pioneer in developing strategies to engage boys and men in positive ways to prevent violence and to promote healthy relationships. In the year 2000, under her leadership, de Domestic Violence Program received funding from the CDC to develop , implement and evaluate a five years demonstration project working with men as fathers.

Over the past eight years Carmen has been working in East Africa, (Tanzania) Central Africa (Eastern Congo) and West Africa (Liberia), developing, coordinating and implementing programs to respond to survivors of Gender Based Violence (GBV), Women’s Empowerment Program as well as prevention initiatives with men from different background; these include, refugees’ men, religious leaders, traditional leaders, the police, and the UN peacekeepers. Carmen has developed intervention and prevention programs providing technical support to capacity development of the implementing partners in partnership with government, UNHCR, WFP, UNICEF and INGO.


Roots of Transformation, is a non-government grassroots organization working toward the prevention of VAWC by catalyzing changes in communities and by supporting organizational sustainability. The organization works to prevent violence by addressing its roots causes, such as traditional gender roles, and the imbalance of power between women and men.


DSC00577Roots of Transformation is committed to equipping people with the knowledge, wisdom and tools needed to make decisions that will positively impact their futures, the future of their family and their nation.


OUR COMMON GROUND with Janice Graham

“Speaking Truth to Power and Ourselves”

email: OCGinfo@ourcommonground.com

Call In – Listen Line: 347-838-9852

“Speaking Truth to Power and Ourselves” 

email: OCGinfo@ourcommonground.com

LISTEN LIVE and Join the OPEN Chat

Call In – Listen Line: 347-838-9852

Community Forum

Twitter: @JaniceOCG #TalkthatMatters

Web   –  OCG Blog  –  OCG Pinterest   – Visit our OUR COMMON GROUND Tumblr Page


“Speaking Truth to Power and Our selves” 

email: OCGinfo@ourcommonground.com

LISTEN LIVE and Join the OPEN Chathttp://www.blogtalkradio.com/OCG
Call In – Listen Line: 347-838-9852

10 Hard Truths Black People Try to Avoid – Atlanta Black Star

See on Scoop.itOUR COMMON GROUND News Board •● ☥●• The Third Eye Parenthesis

The enslavement of African people and its deep-seated impact continue to stall the progression of Black people in America and throughout the African world. The monumental task of advancing our peoples’ interest beyond the affects of slavery and colonization requires that we accept a few hard truths to get ahead. In the words of the honorable …

OUR COMMON GROUND Omnibus‘s insight:

 In the words of the honorable Marcus Garvey,  “If you (Black people) cannot do what other men have done, what other nations have done, what other races have done, then you will have to die!”

See on atlantablackstar.com

BlueBlack – Red-Bone – Yallah : Colorism and the Black Community” >> March 22, 2014 >>> LIVE 10 pm ET

BlueBlack – Red-Bone – Yallah : Colorism and the Black Community”

OUR COMMON GROUND with Janice Graham
March 22, 2014 LIVE 10 pm ET

03-22-14 Colorism


“If you’re black, stay back; if you’re brown, stick around; if you’re yellow, you’re mellow; if you’re white, you’re all right.”

In sum, colorism refers to discrimination based on skin color. Colorism disadvantages dark-skinned people, while privileging those with lighter skin. Research has linked colorism to smaller incomes, lower marriage rates, longer prison terms and fewer job prospects for darker-skinned people. What’s more, colorism has existed for centuries both in and outside of black America. That makes it a persistent form of discrimination that should be fought with the same urgency that racism is.

Starts LIVE in One Hour . . . Join us, with updates on Marissa Alexander’s persecution and my favorite Colored Governor, Bobby Jindahl’s “Greatest Country in the world” fantasy.



OUR COMMON GROUND with Janice Graham

“Speaking Truth to Power and Ourselves”

email: OCGinfo@ourcommonground.com

LISTEN LIVE and Join the OPEN Chat: http://www.blogtalkradio.com/OCG
Call In – Listen Line: 347-838-9852

Community Forum:

Twitter: @JaniceOCG #TalkthatMatters

Web: http://www.ourcommonground.com/

OCG Blog: http://www.ourcommongroundtalk.wordpress.com/

Pinterest : http://www.pinterest.com/ocgmedia/boards/

Visit our Tumblr Page: http://ourcommonground.tumblr.com/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/OCGTALKRADIO

“Speaking Truth to Power and Our selves”

email: OCGinfo@ourcommonground.com

LISTEN LIVE and Join the OPEN Chat: http://www.blogtalkradio.com/OCG
Call In – Listen Line: 347-838-9852


Feminism Ain’t For Black Folks: Why My Mama Had It Right All Along

See on Scoop.itOUR COMMON GROUND News Board •● ☥●• The Third Eye Parenthesis

Feminism is an ideology, and can be a useful for framing some conversations, but it’s not the only way to describe patriarchy and its impact on our world.

OUR COMMON GROUND Omnibus‘s insight:

"Receiving a benefit is not the same as possessing the power. Additionally, there’s a difference between situational power and systemic power; privilege is systemic, not situational. The Black Male Privilege Checklist fails to understand this reality."

See on www.orchestratedpulse.com

A letter from Guantanamo: ‘Nobody can truly understand how we suffer’

See on Scoop.itOUR COMMON GROUND News Board •● ☥●• The Third Eye Parenthesis

Al-Alwi describes the humiliating and brutal treatment he suffers at Guantanamo.

OUR COMMON GROUND Omnibus‘s insight:

"There are currently 21 prisoners on hunger strike. I am one of the 16 who are being force-fed. The government does not want the American people to know that we are still striking. They try to discourage us with solitary confinement and brutal treatment but we will not abandon our protest."

See on www.aljazeera.com

The Leader Obama Wanted to Become and What Became of Him

See on Scoop.itOUR COMMON GROUND Informed Truth and Resistance

‘The culprits in a Congress where, from the White House point of view, evil has been every shade of Republican turned out to be seven disloyal Democrats.’ David Bromwich, TomDispatch

OUR COMMON GROUND Omnibus‘s insight:

"Extreme caution marked all of Obama’s early actions in public life. Rare departures from this progress-without-a-trail — such as his pledge to filibuster granting immunity to the giants of the telecommunications industry in order to expose them to possible prosecution for warrantless surveillance — appear in retrospect wholly tactical."

See on readersupportednews.org

Marissa Alexander seeks “Stand Your Ground” immunity,… | www.wokv.com

Marissa Alexander seeks “Stand Your Ground” immunity, sentencing changes


Marissa Alexander
Action News
Marissa Alexander

By Stephanie Brown

Jacksonville, FL —

We first told you earlier this week that Marissa Alexander’s attorney intended seek another “Stand Your Ground” immunity hearing ahead of her trial- and we’ve now obtained the documents backing that up.

More than 1200 pages were filed today in support of five separate motions. One would seek a pre-trial immunity hearing under “Stand Your Ground”. Two deal with the sentence Alexander could face if convicted. Two more deal with interactions between Alexander and Rico Gray.

Alexander was initially convicted of shooting a gun in the presence of Gray and two children and was sentenced to 20 years in prison. That conviction was overturned because of how the jury instructions were phrased. Alexander claims she fired a warning shot, fearing that Gray meant to harm her.

Stand Your Ground

Alexander sought SYG immunity ahead of her initial trial, but was denied. The motion now filed argues that neither the initial denial or the appeals court decision not to “reweigh” the case prevent Alexander from seeking this immunity again.

“This Court is able on remand to consider anew legal issues decided as part of the original proceeding, and the use of that discretion is especially vital where failure to do so would result in manifest injustice,” the motion reads.

The attorney, Bruce Zimet, says there has been “critical” new evidence since the initial SYG hearing and that the initial hearing itself included evidentiary problems. Zimet says the ruling in the SYG hearing was made largely on the testimony of Gray’s two sons, and he says one has since recanted and the other admitted to lying about a “prior altercation” between Gray and another woman, which Zimet believes woduld have established a pattern of Gray as abusive toward women.  He additionally argues that expert testimony on Alexander’s state of mind when she pulled the trigger was not previously introduced.

Zimet further says the initial SYG hearing was argued under the wrong statute.  He says the section used includes more stringent rules that require someone to have been attacked before returning with force of their own.

“By contrast, § 776.012—which applies to an individual in her home, as is the case here—eliminates any duty to retreat and allows deadly force if a person reasonably believes that such force is necessary to prevent imminent death, great bodily harm, or a forcible felony,” the motion says.


A second motion claims sentencing Alexander to a mandatory minimum 20 years in prison is cruel and unusual punishment because it is “grossly disproportionate” to any offense Alexander is accused of committing.

Zimet argues the Florida legislature, who established 10-20-Life, never intended to have it applied to “battered women attempting to defend themselves”. In fact, Zimet cites current efforts at the state level to specifically exempt “warning shots” from such consequences, as proof that the statute was improperly applied.

While Zimet argues that Alexander should not face conviction at all, he says if she is found guilty, the sentence is out of proportion. He says most other states have a mandatory minimum nowhere near what Florida law outlines.

Consecutive vs. concurrent sentencing

The State Attorney’s Office tells WOKV that Florida statute requires Alexander to serve concurrent sentences if convicted, meaning she would face a minimum 60 years in prison for the total three counts of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon.

This motion is condition on the ruling over 10-20-Life. Zimet says if the court does not rule mandatory minimum sentencing should not apply here, than it should rule sentences should at least not run consecutive- a total sentence Zimet argues would be unconstitutional in two ways.

First, Zimet argues the State is not allowed to pursue a steeper sentence on appeal unless there is new evidence introduced to warrant it. Zimet says the State did not object to concurrent sentences on the initial trial, so consecutive sentencing now would be an unconstitutional increase.

Second, the motion states the 60 year sentence in itself would be unconstitutional.

“A sentence of such enormous length is grossly disproportionate to any offense Alexander may have committed by firing a single, upward warning shot to protect herself against an enraged husband with a history of abuse who only minutes before had violently assaulted her,” the motion says.

Rico Gray, Sr. prior actions

The fourth motion filed is notice of Zimet’s intent to introduce past actions by Gray as part of Alexander’s affirmative defense that she feared for her life.

“At Alexander’s first trial, the jury heard a he-said/she-said about the events of August 1, 2010,” the motion says.

There was as discrepancy between those sides on whether the argument was verbal or physical, who the aggressor was, if there was an imminent threat, whether Alexander could leave the scene and more.

“What the jury did not hear—and what Alexander is now entitled to introduce—is specific evidence of Gray’s prior similar attacks on women, his repeated lies to law enforcement to avoid prosecution, and his implicit and explicit threats of violence against and coercion of witnesses, including his own children, to falsely accuse his female victims of attacking him,” the motion says.

Zimet says there is evidence Gray attacked Alexander as well as other women, which makes it hard to believe he is a victim. While Alexander introduced evidence of prior violent acts against her by Gray in the initial trial, Zimet says they plan to offer further evidence of violent acts by Gray against other women as well, and repeated attempts to obstruct justice- including a threat to kill Alexander and cover it up.

Subsequent “incident” with Rico Gray

While out on bail for the initial charges, which happened in August 2010, Alexander communicated on several occasions with Gray. In December 2010, Alexander was charged with Domestic Battery stemming from a fight with Gray. Gray claims that he refused to let Alexander spend the night after she dropped off their daughter, and she became angry and punched him, leaving marks on his face. Alexander claims Gray was the one who was angry and violent because she refused to spend the night, but police did not notice any physical marks on her.

In the first trial, the defense sought to preclude any evidence of this incident, but was denied. Zimet has filed a new motion asking the court to reconsider that motion to preclude.

Zimet says the fact that Alexander had contact with Gray cannot rebut her claim to self-defense. He says the charge deals with Alexander’s state of mind and fear of harm the moment she fired the gun, so only evidence dealing with that moment should be presented to a jury.

“The December 30 incident is not probative of Alexander’s state of mind nearly five months earlier, before she and Gray went to marital counseling, before Gray’s profuse apologies and proclamations of love, and before Alexander learned that her daughter Rihanna’s insurance was set to expire at the end of 2010 unless Alexander obtained Gray’s signature on Rihanna’s birth certificate,” the motion says.

Zimet further says the incident is “excessively prejudicial”, which hampers the interest of justice.

The State’s response

The State Attorney’s Office has issued a statement reading, in part, that they are reviewing these most recent motions.

“The State Attorney’s Office is committed to seeking justice for our two child victims and their father,” the statement says.

It further reads that they will make a response to these motions at the appropriate time.

Alexander’s retrial has been scheduled for July.



Marissa Alexander seeks “Stand Your Ground” immunity,… | www.wokv.com.

Why Stuart Hall Mattered

See on Scoop.itOUR COMMON GROUND Informed Truth and Resistance

The Marxist intellectual revolutionized how we think about pop culture. But the U.S. media barely noted his death.

OUR COMMON GROUND Omnibus‘s insight:

"Stuart helped redefine what was meant by “ideology.” Drawing from the work of Antonio Gramsci, the Italian theorist jailed by Mussolini for a decade, Hall insisted that ideology was not only a specific set of ideas, like Communism or Catholicism; it was the everyday, “commonsense” values and attitudes embedded in media, which often benefited elites while also addressing the aspirations of everyday people by giving lip service to equality or upward mobility. Such common sense can also pit non-elites against each other, by, say, equating criminality with people of color in the news or reinforcing subservient roles for women. Hall insisted that exposing how ideological messages are embedded in “just entertainment” is the job of academics and public intellectuals."

See on inthesetimes.com

My Brother’s Keeper: How We Failed the Central Park Five | ACS

See on Scoop.itOUR COMMON GROUND Informed Truth and Resistance

by Kanya Bennett, Director of Policy Development and Programming at the American Constitution Society, Angelyn Frazer, State Legislative Affairs Director at the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, and Nkechi Taifa, Senior Policy Analyst at the Open Society Foundations

In 1989, five African American and Latino boys were wrongly convicted of a heinous crime committed in New

OUR COMMON GROUND Omnibus‘s insight:

"We continue to deal with biased law enforcement, overzealous prosecutors, and under-resourced defense counsel. And where you would expect to see the greatest reform – interrogation and confession practices – change has been slow. False confessions played a significant role in convicting the Central Park Five, but the New York Police Department (NYPD) has yet to implement a precinct-wide requirement that confessions, and importantly, the interrogations leading to confessions, be videotaped."


See on www.acslaw.org