Tuesday, November 25, 2014

NO JUSTICE FOR MICHAEL BROWN



I refuse to write the prosecutor’s name in this blog. He is a waste of characters. Last night the grand jury in Ferguson, Missouri failed to indict the officer (I will not mention his name either) who killed Michael Brown on any of the possible five charges. After 100 days the 12 men and women who composed this grand jury added Michael Brown’s blood to the long litany of Black men in America who have been either lynched or murdered from America’s sea to shining sea.

The action of this grand jury has inducted Michael Brown into a fatal fraternity where he joins Trayvon Martin, Sean Bell and Kimani Gray and countless other unnamed black teens who have been gunned down by police and had their dreams drowned in a pool of blood while their killers have walked free in the name of an American criminal justice system that strongly skewers justice to favor the majority culture of this country!

Simply put, my brother Michael Brown was murdered. 12 rounds of bullets fired at one person by an out of control gun wielding police officer whose actions have been sanctioned by an American criminal justice system that places no premium value on the lives of Black men.

I have read what has been made available of the grand jury report. To say that it is conflicting is a mild understatement of the facts. However, in Mr. Brown’s murderer’s testimony we have a great and grave insight into how too many white police officers view young black men. Brown’s killer testified, “Michael Brown looked ‘like a demon.’” Black men are demonized from coast to coast from the Catskills of New York to the curves of the Carolinas to the rugged roads of the New South which has returned to the Old South to the maddening Midwest across a turbulent Texas to the coasts of California and many places in between.

The unindicted officer continues his testimony by saying, “When I grabbed him, the only way I can describe it is I felt like a five-year-old holding Hulk Hogan.” So he goes from demonizing Michael Brown to seeing him as a fictional character. Between “like a demon” and “Hulk Hogan” we have the lens through which a lot of white America sees young black men which explains why over 60% of white America said before the verdict that there shouldn’t be an indictment.

Both of the aforementioned labels scream, “We devalue black life in America.” When you see a person as a demon or a character, then you don’t see them as a person at all. You simply see an animal. You see something that needs to be killed. You see a “something” instead of a person and when we dehumanize each other bad things happen. The bad things that usually happen are sanctioned by a criminal justice system that gives policemen a green light to gun down young black men without having to worry about any repercussions because the law protects them under the cover of “justified shooting.” To say that this system is broken is a gross understatement of the facts.

Young black men are an endangered species in America and the law allows police to hunt them like wild animals.  Studies show that black teens are 21 times more likely to be shot dead than their white counterparts.

One source, in a report called “Operation Ghetto Storm” says that in 2012 that of the 739 “Justified” shootings from 2012, 313 of them were Black.  44% of them or 136, were unarmed. 27% of them (83) were claimed by Law Enforcement to have a gun at the time of the shooting, but that could not be later confirmed or the “gun” was in fact, a toy or other non-lethal object. 20% of them (62) were confirmed to have been armed with a gun, knife or cutting tool.

I invite you to look at the chart at the top of this blog and then allow it to tell you the horrific story of the disproportionate killing of Black men in this country in just FIVE American cities.

I went around the barn just to tell you that much of this madness is driven by racism. The American criminal justice system is racist. Police departments are filled with racists. Both the criminal justice system and the police department are in bed with each other and have taken an unspoken sworn oath to murder “the demons” and “the Hulk Hogans.” They cover for each other. They stand united in their efforts to legally “kill” my black brothers.

If we don’t break up the marriage between the criminal justice system and the police department, then we are going to see a repeat of Ferguson over and over again. The next Michael Brown is on deck and police are ready to see him as a “demon” and “Hulk Hogan” and we will see a repeat of this vicious cycle.

Remember in the 60s when the world saw policemen spray protesters with water-hoses? Well, the policemen’s guns are the new water-hoses. The police chiefs are the new “Bull” Conners. The District Attorneys are the new George Wallaces. The only thing that has changed relative to justice is the date on the calendar because the ideology has been frozen in time and it is conveniently unthawed at “their” appropriate time of need. That ideology says that black lives don’t matter and especially the lives of young black men.

By refusing to indict Michael Brown’s murderer, America has once again indicted herself before the world. My good friend Christel Beelen writes from Belgium, “The whole world is in shock. These are sad times for justice.  No justice, no peace.”

America keeps writing her black citizens bad checks. America tells us to vote but then America suppresses our vote. America tells us to get a job but America discriminates against us when we apply for jobs. America tells us to go to college but America puts up admission hurdles. America tells us that justice is colorblind but America strongly skewers justice away from the black, brown, yellow and red. America invites us to dream and then works overtime to turn our dreams into a nightmare.

No matter how much progress that we make in racial relations in America it is a steep climb up a monstrous and unforgiving mountain. Nelson Mandela had it right when he said in Long Walk to Freedom, “After climbing a great hill, one only finds that there are many more hills to climb.” We have many more hills to climb to reach racial reconciliation in America. The gap is great. The divide is wide. The differences are vast. Mandela goes on to say, “To deny people their human rights is to challenge their very humanity.”

So where do we go from here? While I don’t in any way support the Ferguson riots, I understand the rage. Yet, this rage must be turned into a righteous plan. A plan to register voters. A plan to then vote. A plan to oust the District Attorney. A plan to oust the police chief. A plan to take control of the city council. A plan to take control of the school board. Ferguson cannot and Ferguson must not return to the way life was before the murder of Michael Brown. #changeFORWARD

For Ferguson to change forward it will not be easy.

I want to close this blog by allowing two giants to speak from their graves. First, we will hear from the immortal Nelson Mandela.

“There is no easy walk to freedom anywhere, and many of us will have to pass through the valley of the shadow of death again and again before we reach the mountaintop of our desires.”


A final word from my favorite Civil and Human Rights activist Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. who wrote in 1967 in his book Black Power: A Form of Godly Power: “Unless man is committed to the belief that all mankind are his brothers, then he labors in vain and hypocritically in the vineyards of equality.”

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

WHAT DOES PRESIDENT OBAMA DO NOW?




Take partisanship out of it, President Barack Obama and the Democrats were wiped away in a powerful political and punishing tsunami on last night. House Republicans gained their largest majority since WWII and Senate Republicans will rule the roost in the upper chamber after picking up seven seats to gain control when they only needed six. 

Let’s go down the ticket for a moment. Republicans also won governorships in deep blue states like Maryland, Massachusetts and Illinois.

I am a Democrat but even I am honest about the raging reality of last night. The 2014 midterm elections were a rabid repudiation and rejection of President Obama and his policies. Yes, you can argue that Congress failed to work with him and purposefully obstructed Obama at every turn in the road. Yes, you can argue that the electoral map did not favor Dems especially with such Democratic stalwart senators as Tom Harkin, Tim Johnson and Jay Rockefeller retiring. Yes, you can even argue that Obama has had to endure what no president has had to endure because of the color of his skin. While all of these things ring and resonate with truth, the bottom line is that 59% of the people who voted from Maine to Miami and from North Carolina to the Pacific Northwest and a plethora of places in between were “angry” with the Obama administration.

They were angry about Obamacare. They were angry about ISIS. They were angry about Ebola. They were angry about Veterans care and so much more.

There was a reason that Obama had to sit on the sidelines and not campaign for his candidates. He was seen as a terrible and toxic liability to their chances to win re-election. There was a reason that Bill and Hillary Clinton had to be dispatched to the Deep South in a failed bid to save Democratic candidates in Georgia, Arkansas, North Carolina and Louisiana. Obama simply could not go.

Neither the powerful Clintons nor President Obama could lift Democratic boats on a stormy night in which voters rejected everything Obama and solidified Republican power on Capitol Hill.

So where does Obama do now? First, this is not the end of the world. Presidents Ronald Reagan, George H. W. Bush, Bill Clinton, and George W. Bush had to govern with their opposing party in power after their re-elections and midterm losses. Each of the aforementioned presidents raced to govern from the center and got a lot done in their last two years. So can Mr. Obama.

President Obama must run to the center immediately and cut deals from the center or he will be a lame duck president and he will limp into his legacy.

Second, Obama should abandon any acts of overt defiance now that Republicans reign supreme on the Hill. Going into the midterms, he was seen as too defiant. Yes, he was frustrated but frustration must be balanced with carefully thought out actions. Of course the president has the power of the veto pen to hold Repubs at bay but he cannot wield it wildly. Instead, he must use it wisely.

Third, Mr. Obama must seek to find common ground with the Republicans if he wants to accomplish anything of substance over the next two years. In reality I believe that there is only about a nine month window to get anything passed because many of the Repubs will be running for the 2016 presidency.

As bad as last night was for Democrats, America did not give Republicans a blank check. Thomas B. Edsall correctly writes in today’s New York Times, “The results are not a mandate for the Republican Party and the question is: can the leadership contain the whackos and legislate on immigration, taxes and the few other areas where deals are possible.”

Clearly the pressure is on the Repubs to deliver on what they ran on. Anything short of that and we will see a blue wave in 2016. The American electorate is very volatile and demands results.

In the meantime, President Obama must navigate these new political waters with wisdom and compromise.

In England they say, “God save the Queen!” Today, I say, “God save the President!”



Thursday, October 30, 2014

THE MIDTERM ELECTIONS: OBAMA’S LAST STAND?





President Barack Obama’s presidency began with so much promise. I remember writing six years ago that this could be the golden Age of Augustus in the modern world referring to that period of time when Caesar Augustus stabilized Rome after toxic years of Civil War had crippled the greatest city in the world.

Augustus and his sidekick, trusted general and best friend, Marcus Agrippa, set Rome on a course that made the Imperial city the greatest empire of antiquity. In fact they established what was known as the Pax Romana (Roman Peace) which lasted 500 years.

Surely campaign wiz David Axelrod playing the role of Agrippa, would do the same for Obama?

The president rode a wave of hope all the way to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue by weaving a titular tapestry of black, white, brown and red into office. From coast to coast and many places in between there was the dawning of a new day in America from the heartland to the hills.

Then came the turbulence! Then came the planned congressional obscene obstruction after Democrats lost the House! Then came the smear campaigns! Then came this and then came that and then came more of this and more of that!

President Obama’s approval ratings have taken a nosedive and like so many presidents who win a second term, he is seen more as a liability to Senate candidates and as a result he cannot hit the campaign trail with them in states like Georgia, North Carolina, Kentucky and Louisiana.

The stakes are high next Tuesday. In fact we will most likely know if the U. S. Senate falls into Republican control when the sun comes up on next Wednesday morning.

Republican senate control would heavily handicap the final two years of Mr. Obama’s presidency. For the first time since he took the oath of office, Repubs will control both congressional chambers and previous years of obstruction will be mild compared to the madness that we will see come January 2015.

The president’s polices will be vulnerable to ultra-conservative railroading. Supreme Court aand other judicial appointments will be in jeopardy. The middle class will see unheard of attacks. Women’s rights will be ravaged. Minorities will be miserable. Immigration will not stand a chance. And the beat goes on.

Poll after national poll gives the Repubs the edge in taking back the upper chamber of Congress with them only needing to flip 6 seats as their path to a majority.

Yet, polls do not vote. Voters vote. Talk of the president’s and the Democrats senatorial demise might be premature for several reasons.

1.      While the president cannot campaign in some of the states that are razor thin in polling, he has been on the phone chasing and raising dollars.
2.      While the president is largely absent from the campaign trail, President Bill Clinton and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton are ripping and running up and down the campaign trail with a fire and fervency that is stirring up the electorate. President Clinton’s approval rating is higher than any living president. In fact he and Pope Francis have the identical approval rating of 55%! Clinton is the Democrat’s BEST friend right about now. He can rally the troops. Can he change some voter’s minds? We will know by next Wednesday.

3.      Wins in three unlikely states could very well save Obama’s last two years while simultaneously allowing Harry Reid to remain the Senate Majority Leader.

Let’s analyze those states.

When I was a kid growing up in Washington, Georgia, my fondest memory of Kansas was from the Wizard of Oz. That’s where Dorothy and Toto were from before that had to follow the yellow brick road in the land of Oz. Dorothy and her dog were transported to Oz via a tornado.

A new tornado is raging in the blood red state of Kansas. Republican Senator Pat Roberts is trailing Independent candidate Greg Orman. Should Orman win, this would be a major coup. Carl Rove and his political minions are pumping money into that race quicker than a Vegas card dealer in a $1000 hand baccarat pit. To say that they are nervous about losing Kansas would be a huge understatement.

Ray Charles used to sing:

Georgia, Georgia
The whole day through (the whole day through)
Just an old sweet song
Keeps Georgia on my mind (Georgia on my mind)

Well Georgia is on the mind of both political parties. Again, we have a state that used to be a cinch for Repubs but Michelle Nunn, daughter of the legendary U. S. Senator Sam Nunn, has maintained slim leads over Republican nominee David Perdue in the race for the open seat. Bill Clinton has Georgia on his mind and will be in my city on Saturday to stomp for Ms. Nunn.

Then there is Kentucky which also prides itself as a Republican safe haven. Yet, the man who would be the new Senate Majority Leader if his party picks up the needed six seats, Mitch McConnell, finds himself in the fight of his political life with Kentucky Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes. Yes, both Clintons have been to the Bluegrass State to campaign for Grimes.

This is a great path for Democrats to keep control of the Senate and thus save the last two years of Obama’s presidency.

Also, if Democrats can keep the political damns from breaking in Louisiana, North Carolina and Alaska, then democratic chairmen can keep their gavels.

“Tip” O’Neal, one of the most powerful Speakers of the House in American history once said, “All politics are local.”

Next Tuesday the locals will decide the balance of power in the United States Senate. One party will love the locals and one party will loathe the locals.



Tuesday, October 14, 2014

I AM STILL A GURLEY MAN




You almost always remember where you were when major earthshaking events occurred. For example, I remember getting off the school bus in high school in my hometown of Washington, Georgia when I heard that President Ronald Reagan had been shot on March 30, 1981. I remember being in Minneapolis, Minnesota on August 31, 1997 when Princess Diana was in her fatal car accident in Paris. I would later make a pilgrimage to the scene of the wreck while passing through Paris on the way to Bucharest, Romania. I clearly remember pulling into my old subdivision on June 23, 2003 when news broke on the radio that Atlanta’s first African-American mayor had died of a massive heart attack. I remember exactly where I was on April 2, 2005 when Ioannes Paulus II, born Karol Józef Wojtyła but better known to the world as Pope John Paul II died.

So it was for me on Thursday, October 9 while I was on a fishing trip in Pensacola, Florida with my 90-year old fishing buddy, Dr. J. E. Hightower. I had taken a mid-afternoon nap so that I could do some night fishing. Upon waking up, I had the following Facebook message from my college classmate and perennial Georgia Tech football fan Vedia Murray Henderson at 6:36PM while I was still asleep, “What's going on with your boy Gurley? As much as I dislike the puppies, I hate it for him and his team. I guess you need to suit up [at] RB.”

My reply at 7:36PM was, “Hey um still in FL fishn...wut happened?” To my shock after scrolling the internet and reading the AJC.com and ESPN.com, I discovered that the “Top ‘Dawg,” Todd Gurley had been suspended indefinitely by the Georgia Bulldogs for allegedly taking money from a broker for signing autographed items.

Todd Gurley is unquestionably the best college football player in the nation. He is a man among boys running, leaping, passing and powering his way down the football field in between the hedges or in the opposing team’s stadium.

While we do not know many of the facts surrounding Gurley’s suspension, it has left the BullDawg Nation barking loudly and rightfully so. I wish that you could have heard me barking from Pensacola. When I learn of Gurley’s suspension, I barked louder at that news than I did after I had caught a five foot black-tip shark the night before!

Let me get this out of out of the way. I have a deep and deaf ear to those who keep saying, “Well Gurley knew better.” A man knows better than to cheat on his wife but he cheats anyway. People know better than to cheat on their taxes but they cheat anyway. People know better than to drink and drive, yet, they drink and drive anyway. So let’s leave our hyper moral hypocrisy for another conversation.

Regardless of the facts in this case, there are a few things that I would like to point out.

First, many African-American athletes come to college from environments of poverty or abject poverty where they are raised by mothers and/or grandmothers who are forced to work multiple jobs to put food on the table and to keep the lights on not just for the star athlete but also for his siblings.

Second, the temptations brought on by the lure and lights of super stardom are hard to resist when the athlete has been exposed to the grandeur and excesses of life that come with being the “best” player.

Third, there are leeches and vultures like Danny Robbins, the man who allegedly entrapped Gurley, who prey and pounce on star athletes so that they can cash in prior to the athlete signing his lucrative NFL contract.

Having established the aforementioned, everyone seems to benefit from the college star except the college star himself. Every Saturday in the SEC (Southeastern Conference), hundreds of thousands of fans and scouts pack into football stadiums as if they were the gladiatorial games of the Roman Emperor Titus when he opened the Coliseum in 80 A. D. At Sanford Stadium in Athens, home of the Georgia Bulldogs, 96,000 barking fans assemble for each home game.

The schools rake in millions of dollars each season and the stars like Gurley cannot receive one dime. This great NCAA injustice is a testament to its archaic rules. Athletes are forbidden to receive any $$$ for their services. The NCAA believes that since the athlete receives free tuition, room and board that he should be content while the NCAA rakes in billions with it conference championships, bowls and national championship game.

The only break of daylight for NCAA athletes came this past summer when U.S. District Judge Claudia Wilken ruled that the NCAA can't stop players from selling the rights to their names, images and likenesses, striking down NCAA regulations that prohibit players from getting anything other than scholarships and the cost of attendance at schools.

Judge Wilken appropriately wrote, “The Court finds that the challenged NCAA rules unreasonably restrain trade in the market for certain educational and athletic opportunities offered by NCAA Division I schools.”

I do not know if this will help Todd Gurley but I pray that it does.

Student athletes should be allowed to eat from the same money trough that the NCAA eats from. Student athletes should be allowed to withdraw from the same ATM that the NCAA withdraws from.

Back to Gurley and Georgia. Coach Mark Richt and his coaching staff did a masterful job in preparing the ‘Dawgs for their game against Missouri on last Saturday just two days before the Gurley bomb dropped. Freshman sensation Nick Chubb chugged his way to 143 yards on 38 carries along with one TD in Georgia’s 34-0 win in Columbia.

However, T. Gurley deserves to be on the field. “Free Gurley!” No one knows how this case will end up as both Gurley and Rollins have lawyered up. If Gurley does not receive a favorable ruling, then he should return to UGA for his senior year and run his way to Heisman Glory while leading the ‘Dawgs to the National Championship which would be their first one since the “Legendary ‘Dawg” Herschel Walker was running wild.

Insure Gurley’s legs with Lloyd’s of London and let this ‘Dawg run wild.

Schools have to do more to protect star athletes from the pouncing predatory parasites who seek to line their pockets with silver and gold at the expense of the athletes who cannot even receive a plane ticket to fly home for the holidays.

I believe that one solution is to assign the athletes mentors from the faith community to shadow and shore them up.

Often God gives me the titles for my sermons way in advance of my preparation to preach the actual sermon. Such is the case of a sermon title that I was given in September which I will preach on October 26 entitled “There Shall Be Glory After This!” Now, I know why I was given that title and later wed it to II Corinthians 4:7-18.

After the mishaps and missteps of life, there can be glory!

There shall be glory for UGA and Todd Gurley after this!


“Free Gurley!”

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

PRESIDENT OBAMA AND ISIS



When I was a fourth grader growing up in my native Washington, Georgia, I was enthralled with reading Greek and Egyptian mythology. Those mythological stories transported me to a wonderful world of gods and goddesses. Edith Hamilton was such a compelling writer that I could vividly see Zeus hurl his lethal lightning bolt to destroy some threatening beast. I could see Cupid reach into his quiver and line up a love arrow and prick the heart of some lad or laddess. I was able to walk with Hercules for his 12 labors and watch him wrestle with the Hydra.

In Egyptian mythology, I took great delight in reading about the gods and goddesses like Osiris, god of the underworld; Re, the sun god; Set, the god of chaos and Horus, the god of the sky. The adventures of these gods and goddesses along with others captured and held the imagination of this young country kid growing up in the Deep South.

Yet, there was one goddess who stood taller than the rest and that was the beautiful Isis. Isis was worshipped as the ideal mother and wife. She oversaw nature and the magical arts. This goddess was beloved by a diverse audience ranging from slaves to aristocrats and rulers throughout all of Egypt. She became so beloved that she was worshipped throughout the mighty Roman Empire. Isis became my favorite goddess in Egyptian mythology.

Please fast forward to 2014. The term Isis does not mean today what it meant in ancient Egyptian antiquity. Isis has become ISIS – Islamic State of Iraq and Syria. ISIS has become the face and personification of the most evil terrorist group in the 21st century. Over the past couple of years, these bullies and butchers have rained down a terrible terror of beheadings, crucifixions and chaos in Iraq and Syria.

President Barack Obama was criticized for not taking the moderate rebels’ side by arming them in Syria’s Civil War a few years ago and thus taking some blame for ISIS eventually filling the vacuum. The president has been repeatedly criticized by both political parties. Even as he addressed the nation and told us that he had a plan, critics and crags cackled like hens in frenzy. Like a sponge, he soaked up the criticism and marched to the beat that he thought was best.

Then on last night, we received word that a United States led coalition in the words of the 80’s R&B group The Gap Band,“dropped the bomb” in Syria. Make that several bombs in the form of Tomahawk missiles, F-22 Raptors and precision-guided munitions that rocked ISIS and heretofore an unknown group known as Khorasan with 200 pieces of ordnance.

President Obama had to do order these airstrikes. Left unchecked, ISIS is a threat not just to the Middle East but to the West as a whole. These mean men are capable of prolonged Old Testament Babylonian brutality. Their barbaric bullying is unacceptable and cannot be tolerated.

While once again ignoring his critics, Obama put together an unprecedented and previously unheard of coalition to take on ISIS in Syria. Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Jordan and Qatar all joined the “land of the free and the home of the brave” in bombing the butchers and bullies inside of Syria.

Very few in the political and military arena believed that Mr. Obama could assemble such an array of united force that would include members of the Arab world. Critics and crags alike must admit that the president’s strategy looks brilliant. It proves that he is the ultimate negotiator. It proves that voices around the world listen to him and defer to him.

This coalition even includes the Syrian regime of Bashar Assad as well as the Iranians. While not participating in the airstrikes, the Syrian air force did not interfere with our pilots flying into Syrian airspace and the Iranians have sent arms to the moderate Syrian militants.

This kind of coalition is unheard of. This is what I call Obama’s Pharisee/Sadducee moment. The Pharisees and Sadducees in the Bible maintained a fierce theological juxtaposition until it came time to get rid of a man that they saw as their common enemy, Jesus Christ. They laid aside their differences to deal with Jesus. The aforementioned Arab coalition has laid aside their differences to get rid of a common enemy, ISIS.

America could not go this alone and thus the Obama coalition.

This “war” will not be won overnight. It will take time. Therefore, we need to hold our collective political breaths and stand united behind our president. Democrats and Republicans as well as people like Wolf Blitzer and other mad media need to put our plowshares down for a moment and stand with President Obama on a united front and save the armchair quarterbacking.

If Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Jordan and Qatar can stand with President Obama. Then America needs to stand with Obama. Take the politics out and put people first.

I give double thumbs up to Representative Peter King of New York for calling on Democrats and Republicans to stand united with President Barack Obama.


Mr. President, thank you for pulling the trigger on ISIS. In the words of Outlaw Josey Wells, “hound them to the walls of hell!”

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

STEVE LEVENSON AND DANNY FERRY IN THE CITY TOO BUSY TO HATE


The city of Atlanta prides itself by trying to live up to the moving moniker that it has been tagged with: “The City Too Bust to Hate.” Atlanta is one of the colossal cradles of the Civil Rights Movement. This is the home of the drummer major for justice the late great Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Atlanta is home to the first African-American elected mayor of a Southern City, Maynard Jackson. This city can stick its chest out laying claim to producing the first African-American female mayor of a Southern city, Shirley Franklin. Atlanta gave the United States a United Nations Ambassador in the person of Andrew Young.

Atlanta is the home of the world’s busiest airport, Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport. The Phoenix, who rose from the dust of her past, is the home of several Fortune 500 companies like UPS and Home Depot.

Atlanta is home to some of the nation’s most prestigious colleges and universities like Georgia Tech, Emory, Morehouse and Spelman.

The Atlanta region prides itself on overcoming a rowdy and rough racial past highlighted by segregation and segregationist who refused to change i. e. Governor Lester Maddox and others, to achieve an admirable working diversity among multiple races. This diversity was showcased to the world when the races in the region came together to host the 1996 Summer Olympic Games.

Atlanta has worked hard to live up to that massive moniker “The City Too Busy to Hate.” The results have been rewarding for black, white, brown and all of the people who make up Atlanta’s beautiful racial rainbow.

Then came Sunday night when the Atlanta Hawks’ majority owner, Steve Levenson’s 2012 racially inflammatory email sent shockwaves through the National Basketball Association. In his racial rants such as suggesting that whites do not like coming to the basketball games because they are uncomfortable being around so many blacks, Levenson rambled on and on. He even introduced economics into in his endless rant by suggesting that it was difficult to build a season ticket base with blacks because they do not have the disposable income to become season ticket holders.

Realizing the absurdity of his rants, Levenson agreed to sell his majority ownership in the Hawks and in the words of Beyoncé he exited “to the left, to the left.”

Let’s move to Danny Ferry, the Duke University graduate and former San Antonio Spurs player who is the current general manger of the Hawks.

This guy read a background report to a group of people about NBA star Luol Deng, a native of Wau, South Sudan who the Hawks were considering signing as a free agent. This Duke grad had the nerve to read the following: “He is still a young guy overall. He is a good guy overall. But he is not perfect. He’s got some African in him. And I don’t say that in a bad way.”

Do you think that Ferry stopped there? Of course not! He continued to read the report and said, “Not in a bad way, but he's like a guy who would have a nice store out front and sell you counterfeit stuff out of the back.”

Really Danny Ferry?

Both Levenson and Ferry have apologized. Of course they did because they were caught.

Levenson and Ferry’s email and reading are sick and sad examples of the racial culture that permeates in all four of America’s professional sports leagues. If they were bold and brazen enough to put these thoughts in an email, imagine what these guys say about minorities face to face! The face to face conversations are held in good ole boys’ clubs and on golf courses.

Steve Levenson will cash out in a big way making far more money from selling his interest in the Hawks than he made when he bought the team and Danny Ferry will either be forced to resign or get canned when a new owner is in place.

I have read many articles saying this is not about race but I disagree. This is about race but I do not want to focus solely on race. There is another story within the deliberate and disturbing rants.

The other story is that the Hawks have not put a product on the court that will drive fans to sell out Philips Arena. The Hawks do not have a superstar player and they have not had one since the “Human Highlight Film,” Dominique Wilkins, lit up the Omni with spectacular dunk after dunk.

I like many Atlantans usually go Hawks games to see the other team’s superstars like LeBron James, Dwayne Wade, Kobe Bryant and Kevin Durant.

Fans, black and white, love winners. They will buy tickets for winners. They will cheer for winners. They will arrive at the game early for winners. Remember when the New Orleans Saints were called the “Aints” and their fans used to wear bags over their heads? Since the Saints put a winning product on the field, they have sold out home game after home game.

The Hawks simply do not have a product that drives people downtown Atlanta to see the Hawks dribble, run, jump and shoot.

Whoever becomes the majority owner of the Hawks must bring a superstar or two superstar players to Atlanta and then the crowds will come both and black and white.

Until then, this cloud created by Levenson and Ferry will blow over. Atlanta Mayor Kasim will continue to work to ensure that “The City Too Busy to Hate” will continue to be a great melting pot of race and culture.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

AN OPEN LETTER TO PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA ON THE KILLING OF MICHAEL BROWN



Hello Mr. President! Please know that you are constantly in my prayers as no one on this earth can possibly feel and understand the enormity of the weight that you carry as the President of these United States of America with the simultaneous realistic and unrealistic expectations of you from many people in different pockets of the world.

Being a fan of Greek Mythology since the 4th grade, I can imagine that some days you feel like Atlas who was cursed by the gods to hold the world on shoulders or perhaps you feel like Hercules having to perform a modern day 12 Labors!

The world is in a very trying place with the inferno that has become ISIS, the off and on again scary scrimmages between Israel and Hamas, the agitation in Afghanistan and contagious cauldron of calamity that casts a cloud from Egypt to Libya and far beyond. All of these chronic and callous international crises constantly demand your attention. Again, my prayers are with you because you do not have a magic wand that can solve these problems with one wave of your hand.

While the world bleeds and begs for answers, a more immediate domestic concern which the world has had a front row seat to over the last 10 days is the killing of Brother Michael Brown.

Unfortunately Michael Brown has joined a long litany of young Black men in America who have been gunned down and had their dreams gutted. He is now a part of that fatal fraternity whose membership includes Emmett Till and Trayvon Martin and countless others whose names could fill unlimited volumes of books.

Michael Brown and Trayvon Martin have become the embodiment of the millennium version of Billie Holiday’s gloomy lyrics “Strange Fruit.”

Southern trees bear a strange fruit
Blood on the leaves and blood at the root
Black bodies swingin' in the Southern breeze
Strange fruit hangin' from the poplar trees

While we still do not know all of the facts yet in the Michael Brown case, we do know that another black male has died at the hands of a white police officer. This happens over and over and over and over again and again in our communities from New York to Los Angeles and many cities in between.

Another black male has had his dreams drowned, his hopes hung and his future fizzled by the bullets of a white police officer.

I completely understand that you have had to walk a very tight and tense political tightrope relative to race since your ascendency to the presidency. I completely understand that you have to be the president for all of the people even those who did not vote for you. Heck, you even have to be the president for John Boehner and Mitch McConnell! Whew!

Mr. President, I am not telling you anything that you do not already know but race relations in America is tantalizingly terrible and toxic. Many in this country thought that with your election that we would enter a post-racial America and a utopic colorblind society. That far-fetched fantasy faded fast.

Since your election race relations have worsened in many pockets of this country and especially in the South where I live. While I enjoy living in Atlanta, once you travel outside of I285 or below what we call “The Gnat Line” in Georgia, you could make a strong argument that you are back in the 60s!

America has never really dealt with her racial issues on a broad and national scale say like South Africa did with the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. While President Lyndon Baines Johnson signed the Civil Rights and Voting Rights Acts, no law passed in this land can legislate what is in a person’s heart.

When you have to pass laws that say that segregation is wrong, then you have a systemic problem. When you have to pass laws to allow people access to the same water fountain or to the same bathroom, then you have a systemic problem. When you have to pass laws to allow one race to have the right to vote, then you have a systemic problem.

Not only was there a need to pass laws to include Blacks in the American dream but now we are experiencing an erosion of those laws at the hands of a politically polarized and activist John Roberts led Supreme Court which has as one of its goal to not only turn back the clock but to also knock the hands on the clock completely off.

For too long, African-Americans have had to be called African-Americans instead of Americans. When are we going to remove the – from any reference to us?

This leads to me the killing of Michael Brown by a white police officer. When you have a racially charged environment like we have in America, then white police officers are very comfortable with shooting unarmed black men over and over again and immediately covering it up.

Mr. President the time has come for you to devoutly disregard the political tightrope that you have had to walk relative to race so that you would not be seen as a “Black President” or “An Angry Black Man.” It is time for you to ignore your political advisors and talk about race on a national level.

You have two years left in your presidency. You cannot let history record President Franklin Delano Roosevelt as having done more for Blacks in America than the first black President. You cannot let history record John Fitzgerald Kennedy as having done more for Blacks in America than the first black President. You cannot let history record President Lyndon Baines Johnson as having done more for Blacks in America than the first black President. And yes, you cannot allow history to record President William “Bill” Jefferson Clinton as having done more for Blacks in America than the first black President.

There is a burden that you must bear for Blacks as the first black President. It is a mantle that has been thrust upon you. I believe that God placed that mantle around your neck for such a time as this!

History needs to record that in 2014 President Barack Hussein Obama II went to Ferguson, Missouri and comforted Michael Brown’s mother and father. History needs to record that in 2014 President Barack Hussein Obama II went to Ferguson, Missouri and spoke to the peaceful protestors. History needs to record that in 2014 President Barack Hussein Obama II went to Ferguson, Missouri and spoke at a Church rally. History needs to record that in 2014 President Barack Hussein Obama II went to Ferguson, Missouri and showed that he cared about his black brother being killed.

Back to my mythological musing, Zeus, king of the gods, ruled from Mount Olympus. However, from time to time he would leave Mt. Olympus to mix and mingle among the inhabitants of planet earth.

Mr. President, while I applaud you for sending the apt and able Attorney General Eric Holder to Ferguson on today, it is time for you to leave the Mt. Olympus of Washington, D. C. and spend some time in Ferguson. Why not attend the funeral on Monday? Your presence can fan so many flames.

I understand the public perception by some in the majority culture if you dare come off your political tightrope and talk about race openly. But know that should you fall from your tightrope, we who love and pray for you will catch you and history will record you as having been on the right side in this situation.

Finally Mr. President, not only am a faithful fan of Greek Mythology but I am also a student of Imperial Roman history with my favorite personality being Rome’s 1st and greatest Emperor, Caesar Augustus.

To quote Augustus, I encourage you “to make haste slowly” and travel to Ferguson.

God Bless America and God Bless President Barack Obama.

Yours to serve,

Dr. Kenneth Augustus Walker
www.greaterelizabethbiblechurch.org