Remembering “Dr. Ben” ll In Conversation with Sirius/XM Host, Dr. Wilmer Leon,

OUR COMMON GROUND with Janice Graham

This Week

Tribute to Dr. Yosef Ben-Jochannan  In Conversation with Dr. Wilmer Leon
HOST, “Inside the Issues with Dr. Wilmer Leon
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March 21, 2015 10 pm ET LIVE

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dr.ben2ABOUT Dr. Yosef Ben-Jochannan

He was one of the most courageous and inspiring scholars of our time would live for nearly a century, paying personal witness to dramatic transformations in the lives of Black people across the globe. Now a Beloved Ancestor.

ABOUT Dr. WilmerLeon Dr. Leon’s Prescription

Wilmer Leon is the Nationally Broadcast Talk Show Host of “Inside The Issues with Wilmer Leon” Saturday’s from 11:00 am to 2:00pm on Sirius XM (126).

Wilmer_Leon_2011-02-17_18-12-03_webWilmer J. Leon III, Ph.D. is a Political Scientist whose primary areas of expertise are Black Politics and Public Policy. Wilmer has a BS degree in Political Science from Hampton Institute, a Masters in Public Administration (MPA) from Howard University, and a Ph.D. in Political Science from Howard University.Dr. Leon is also the host of XM Satellite Radio’s, “Inside The Issues”, a three-hour, call-in, talk radio program airing live nationally on XM Satellite Radio channel 126.”

Dr. Leon was a featured commentator on CNN’s Lou Dobbs Tonight and is also a regular contributor to The, The,, The Maynard and He is an OUR COMMON GROUND Voice for more than 5 years.

We will discuss with Dr. Leon about today’s urgent and pressing issues and events before African-Americans.


Sankofa 2015

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Black Lives Matter Profiles: Remembering the Joyful Spirit of Malcolm Ferguson φ The Atlanta Star

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Black Lives Matter Profiles: Remembering the Joyful Spirit of Malcolm Ferguson, Killed After Filing a Lawsuit Against the NYPD

This profile is part of an ongoing series of narratives focused on men and women who have been killed by the police. It is an attempt to counteract media bias, which often vilifies these men, women, boys and girls. These stories have been captured through the voices of the victims’ family members. I have been fortunate to meet the families through my activism in the Black Lives Matter movement and through work in various organizations.

Even before Michael Brown was gunned down in Ferguson, Missouri, the name Ferguson was analogous to police violence and murder. On March 1, 2000, the unarmed Malcolm Ferguson was gunned down blocks from his home in the Bronx.

“Malcolm was my biggest baby,” laughs Malcolm’s mother, Juanita Young, who is a parent to four other children.

Malcolm was born on Oct. 31, 1976, in the Bronx. “He was a loving, happy-go-lucky little boy,” Young explains. He trusted his loved ones, and Young giggles as she tells of a time Malcolm was convinced by his brother that he was Superman. He then attempted to fly out the window. Young recalls when Malcolm discovered Santa Claus was his mother, and instead of crying, he laughed and was happy all the same. He loved his mother.

“He was always worried about me because I’m legally blind. He was very close to his sisters and brothers because his father died when they were young,” Young says.

Malcolm was Young’s second to oldest son—her oldest, James, was 11 months older than Malcolm. Malcolm and his brother developed a strong relationship, but it was Malcolm who took on the leading role of big brother and acted like a father to his three younger siblings when their own father was not around. He went to great lengths to take care of his mother as well.

Like many boys, Malcolm loved to play basketball and liked to ride his bike, exploring different areas of the Bronx, all while protecting his family.

“We would tease him because he didn’t go with lots of girls. He would say that if anyone would do anything to his sister, he would be so defensive. So, he didn’t want to just go with any girl,” says Young.

Artist Kate Deciccio Painting of Malcolm's mother Juanita Young.

With a kind-hearted and devoted character, Malcolm grew up with lots of friends and felt pressure from his peers to have more name-brand things. Like many of his peers, he decided to sell drugs for some extra money. He ended up being arrested and serving eight months in prison for drug-related offenses when he was 17 years old. It was in prison where Malcolm finished his high school degree.

Malcolm was so negatively affected by his time incarcerated that he vowed never to return to prison. “He would lay at the corner of my bed and tell me the different horror stories and said, ‘I don’t [ever], ever want to go through that again,’” Young recalls.

Malcolm, then only a teenager, and Young spoke every day while he was incarcerated. Young had a miscarriage while Malcolm was locked up, and she remembers how guilty Malcolm felt. He felt, as the protector, that had he been home, perhaps the baby would have been born. Malcolm did everything in his power to ensure the safety, security and well-being of his beloved family—of his cherished mother.

“There is so much now that I do that I wouldn’t have to do if he were alive. If I would go to the laundry, he would go. He would ask me, ‘Ma, wait until I come back.’ Because of my blindness, he really protected me. There were so many times I had been beat up or whatever, and Malcolm felt the need to protect me,” Young explains.

One time, Young was standing outside of her building when someone asked her for directions, and as Young began to search through her purse, Malcolm was at the window, banging, urging the passerby to ask someone else, out of a fear that she could be robbed. He would leave no opportunity for anyone to take advantage of his mother.

It was not just Young and her other children Malcolm sought to protect. “Malcolm wanted to be a paralegal to help people after what he witnessed in prison. He felt he wanted to help people who were incarcerated,” Young says.

Upon leaving prison, Malcolm took an honest job at a car wash, so that he could make money as he pursued a career as a paralegal. His mother was content and knew that his brief stint in illegal pursuits was done.

“It was better than him asking me for quarters,” Young jokes, “I used to go to Atlantic City with my friends. He always would say, ‘Mom, do you have quarters around here?’ ”

Like many formerly convicted people, Malcolm was constantly harassed and profiled by the police after his time in prison. The young, 6-foot-1 Black man was continually harassed by the NYPD in the Bronx despite no involvement with crime or any illegal activity.

“Every time the cops arrested him, the judge would let him go because he wasn’t doing anything. The judge wouldn’t even buy it,” Young says.

One time, the police arrested Malcolm and instead of properly placing the handcuffs around his wrists, the police aggressively placed them over his thumb. His thumb was so injured that Malcolm had to be taken to emergency services. In response to the violent act, Malcolm decided to take legal action against the NYPD for his injuries in police care. He was still involved in the lawsuit when he was killed. After the lawsuit began, the police harassment increased.

“He still kept coming home and telling me the cops were bothering him. He couldn’t go nowhere without the cops stopping him,” Young explains.

When 23-year-old Amadou Diallo was shot and killed by the NYPD in the Bronx in February 1999 (also unarmed), Malcolm was angered and disturbed, like many in New York. He joined in the massive rallies in 2000 when Diallo’s killers were acquitted.

“He saw how the cops treated him and his friends. He knew what happened to Amadou was not right,” explains Young.

That day, Young was alerted by a friend to turn on the TV and was subsequently told that Malcolm would not be coming home.

“I saw [the police] dragging [Malcolm] on the ground arresting him [for peacefully protesting],” Young says.

Then the police started to come after Young. They began pressing seemingly ridiculous charges against her (one such charge was walking a dog without a leash). Young insists that the police would do anything to get her away from her apartment.

On March 1, 2000, about a year after Diallo’s death, just several days after the acquittal, Young was approached in her home by a police officer who told her that Malcolm, her loving son, her protector, was found dead in the hallway of her building. (Young would later find out that Malcolm had been killed, shot in the head, in the streets.) The shock sent Young into respiratory arrest, and she ended up having to go to the emergency room that same night.
Young claims that the police had been threatening Malcolm because of the legal action he was taking against the NYPD for their brutal arrests. Malcolm was unarmed and was not involved in any illegal activity. He did not attack a police officer, nor did he try and resist arrest, as he was doing nothing wrong to warrant arrest. Malcolm, presumably on his way home from work, was approached by Officer Louis Rivera, a plainclothes officer, and then shot in the street. Witnesses attest to this story, although the police claim Malcolm was shot in an apartment building while selling drugs, and then was shot in a struggle between himself and Officer Rivera. There were no drugs found on Malcolm.

Malcolm is remembered as a brother to James, Saran, Buddy and D’Nai. He was an adoring son to his mother, who has worked nonstop since 2000 on his behalf to fight for greater police accountability and to end violence rooted in racism at the hands of the police. Malcolm himself had hoped to work with the legal system to advocate for those most brutalized by the system. Instead, his life was cut tragically short.

The police officer who murdered Malcolm still is a police officer. Young continues to fight on Malcolm’s behalf.

“I think about what he would be like today. What joy he would have brought me,” Young says.

Tess Raser, originally from Chicago, is a teacher in Brooklyn and an active member of the growing Black Lives Matter movement. She works with various groups, including We the People and the Stop Mass Incarceration Network.

Michael Brown, Abner Louima, and the Anguish of Police Brutality

NOVEMBER 26, 2014

Enough Is Enough


Michael Brown, Abner Louima, and the Anguish of Police Brutality.

I have seen police brutality up close. Both in Haiti, where I was born during a ruthless dictatorship, and in New York, where I migrated to a working-class, predominantly African-American and Caribbean neighborhood in Brooklyn at the age of twelve. In the Haiti of the nineteen-seventies and early eighties, the violence was overtly political. Government detractors were dragged out of their homes, imprisoned, beaten, or killed. Sometimes, their bodies were left out in the streets, in the hot sun, for hours or days, to intimidate neighbors.

In New York, the violence seemed a bit more subtle, though no less pervasive. When I started riding New York City Transit buses between my family’s apartment and the high school I attended, three miles away, I noticed that a muffled radio message from an annoyed bus driver—about someone talking too loud, or not having the right fare—was all it took to make the police rush in, drag a young black man off the bus, and beat him into submission on the sidewalk. There were no cell-phone cameras back then to record such abuse, and most of us were too terrified to cry “Shame!” or demand a badge number.

Besides, many of us had fled our countries to escape this kind of military or police aggression, so we knew how deadly a confrontation with an armed and uniformed authoritarian figure could be. Still, every now and then a fellow traveller would summon his or her courage and, dodging the swaying baton, or screaming from a distance, would yell some variation of, “Stop it! This is a child! A Child!”

Of course, not all of the police’s victims were children. Abner Louima, a family friend, was thirty years old when he was mistaken for someone who’d punched a police officer outside a Brooklyn nightclub, on August 9, 1997. He was arrested, beaten with fists, as well as with police radios, flashlights, and night sticks, then was sexually assaulted with the wooden handle of a toilet plunger or a broom inside a precinct bathroom. After Abner, there was Amadou Diallo, a Guinean immigrant, who, on February 4, 1999, was hit by nineteen of the forty-one bullets aimed at him as he retrieved his wallet from his pocket. Then there was Patrick Dorismond, who died on March 16, 2000, while trying to convince undercover cops that he was not a drug dealer. Then there was Sean Bell, whose car was shot at fifty times on November 25, 2006, the day of his wedding.

These are only a few cases—a few that made the news. I have no doubt that there were many others, ones involving women, too, though few got much attention, except for that of the sixty-six-year-old Eleanor Bumpurs, who, thirteen years before Abner’s assault, was killed with a twelve-gauge police shot gun inside her own apartment.

We marched for all of them in the Louima/Diallo decade, seven thousand of us across the Brooklyn Bridge one time. We carried signs and chanted “No Justice, No Peace!” and “Whose streets? Our Streets!” even while fearing that this would never be true. The streets belonged to the people with the uniforms and the guns. The streets at that time also belonged to Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, who believed then, and still seems to believe now, that police brutality is unworthy of public scrutiny so long as black people keep “killing each other.” The streets were never ours to begin with, because on these same streets our sons and brothers, fathers and uncles were, and still are, prey.

My father, a Brooklyn cab driver, used to half joke that the only reason the police didn’t beat him up was because he was too skinny and too old, and not worth the effort. Every now and then, when he was randomly stopped by a police officer and deigned to ask why, he would be given, rather than a beating, a handful of unwarranted traffic citations that would wipe out a few weeks’ hard-earned wages. Today, one might generously refer to such acts as micro-aggressions. That is, until they turn major, until they turn deadly. Until a man who is believed to be selling loose cigarettes has the life strangled out of him in a police chokehold. Until yet another unarmed brown or black body finds itself in the familiar path of yet another police officer’s gun.

The other night, while watching the St. Louis County Prosecutor Robert McCulloch declare that there would be no indictment against Officer Darren Wilson for the killing of Michael Brown, I kept thinking of Abner Louima, whose assault took place on another August 9th, when Brown was just eighteen months old.

Abner and I have known each other for years. Yet I have always steered clear, in my conversations with him, of what happened all those years ago. Yesterday, though, I decided to call him, just to hear his thoughts about Michael Brown and Ferguson, Missouri. If anyone could understand all those broken hearts, all the rage, all the desperation, the yearning for justice that we are seeing in Ferguson and all over the country, I thought, he would.

Abner Louima, unlike Michael Brown, survived. He went on with his life, moved to South Florida, started a business, has done charity work. He has a daughter and two sons. One son eighteen years old, the same age Michael Brown was when he died. His other son is fifteen.

I asked him what he thought of the grand jury’s decision. The question seemed to wear on him. It was one, I could tell, that he was tired of answering. “Like everyone else, I’m very disappointed,” he said, his voice sinking with every word. “It’s not a good signal to send to a system that’s already not working.”

How does he feel each time he hears that yet another black man was killed or nearly killed by the police? “It touches me very deeply each time,” he said. “It forces me to ask myself why so little has changed in all these years since this happened to me. It reminds me again and again that our lives mean nothing.” His case, Abner reminded me, was the last one he could think of, in New York or elsewhere, in which the police officers who had assaulted or killed a black man actually went to jail. In his case, justice was served in part because of the public pressure, and because there were federal prosecutors involved, including the current nominee for Attorney General, Loretta Lynch.

What message does Louima have for Brown’s family, whose son died on what could have been the anniversary of his own death? “My heart aches so much for them,” he said. “I know how difficult this must be for them. Like them, I encourage peaceful protest. Too many lives are being lost, so we can’t just close our eyes and hope it goes away. We must keep raising our voices until we find justice for those who lost their lives, and until these things stop happening.” We both wonder: Will these things ever stop happening?

In 2007, on the tenth anniversary of his assault, Abner Louima wrote an opinion piece for the Daily News reflecting on what had happened to him. “It’s time we all said, “Enough is enough,” he wrote. He still believes that—now more than ever.