Gandhi and King, Yesterday and Today..

“When it (violence) appears to do good, the good is only temporary; the evil it does is permanent”  Gandhi

Indian nationalist leader Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, more commonly known as Mahatma Gandhi, was born on October 2, 1869, in Porbandar, Kathiawar, India, then part of the British Empire.  Gandhi, a deity to many people, was studied by Dr. Martin Luther King.  Ironically, King like Gandhi was assassinated.

Recently many visionaries gathered at the University of Memphis for the annual Gandi King conference.  The purpose of this conference is to bring together modern visionaries of nonviolence for social change with community leaders, activists, academics groups and organizers.  Participants learn, train, plan, and organize cultures of liberation and justice for all.  The goal is to create a stimulating environment where scholars, activists, educators, practitioners, and artists can build communities and explore interconnections.

20160409_130145Panelists included a variety of presentations from different perspectives of how to promote change. One view brought by Dr. Erica Chenoweth infused her research on Nonviolent resistance.  Ultimately, the big questions were is nonviolent resistance still efficient and does her research prove nonviolent resistance is a genuine means for political change in 2016?

Dr. Chenonweth discussed planting seeds by creating a culture by engaging artists and shaping society.

Discussion on Civil resistance is a method of conflict in which unarmed civilians use a variety of coordinated tactics like strikes, boycotts, protests, demonstrations, etc. to confront oppressive actions.  Her research shows that mass civil resistance has been an effective way for civilians to remove incumbent leaders from power.  Understanding the barriers and allocating proper methods of participation is essential to achieving the ultimate goals and preventing a backfire by resorting to violence.

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Nonviolence resistance can include several effective tactics which include, sit-ins, standing, and staying at home.  When people stay at home, it allows more people to participate because they don’t have to do any work.  This affects those deeply engaged in the cause.  Dr. Chenowith also discussed the micro relationship in the movement and the effects of repression and concluded that to achieve a significant impact we have to maintain nonviolent resistance.  Statistics have proven that it is more effective than violence.  This method produces realistic results because it is not something that government is capable of dealing without responding with violence, thereby making those holding power the aggressor.

Memphis sanitation workers participated in a stay at home, sit-in city council meeting, and standing up for their rights, 1960 tactics because of the deaths, and deplorable conditions of black sanitation workers.  The NAACP passed a resolution supporting the strike.  Despite the death of Dr. King the workers achieved economic equality and social justice which resulted in policy changes which benefited their cause.  It has been proven that there is safety in numbers.  A campaign of nonviolence is more effective when large groups participate and other organizations support their efforts through resolution.

Power is achieved in many ways.  The power to create culture through art is a method that other presenters discussed which addressed good and bad propaganda.  Art is contrived from all media.  The power of art reflects something about a group of people.  It creates an experience for the person and reality for those taking in the art. We experience life through our senses which are the doorways to our thoughts.
The artist’s responsibility is to be ethical.  Consequently, propaganda is the use of art to create change and is used to promote or publicize a particular political cause or point of view.

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Willie “Bing” Davis a project designer and curator from the Ebonia gallery discussed how his organization forced city leaders who had plans to demolish a school in Dayton, Ohio to incorporate reflective pioneers with the new architecture.  The importance of this project to the city was revitalization.  Mr. Davis and others agreed that the type of art to be incorporated in the new building was vital so the students could have a vision of pride that Black Life Mattered in Dayton.  Subsequently, the city demolished the building but agreed to purchase all of the art from the local black artists.  The city permitted Mr. Davis to work with the architects to ensure that each part of the building possessed the collective art.

Understanding Nonviolence is virtually impossible in a city so desensitized to violence but as we gain momentum our group sees hope through producing art and music not only to entertain but to engage a community to resist the continual oppression and to cease violence among ourselves.

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As Black Lives Matter Memphis moves forward, many speculate that we are planting seeds for an empty crop.   Others concur that we are promoting a sufficient cause that will be remembered as this generation’s movement.  The unchanging fact is that our youth are watching everything with today’s’ technology.  By combining art with nonviolent resistance, we can promote change.  We can also create a culture of justice and social liberation.  We will achieve true democracy and erase the problems that face our people.

#blacklivesmattermemphis

 

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Jabbing for Justice

On April 4, 2016, this marked the heinous 48th anniversary of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King.  In response, many influential people and activists were in the city to commemorate this day. Down the street at City Hall, mother of Darrius Stewart, Mary Stewart poured out her heart in a formal press conference, in regards to the recent decision not to prosecute or discipline MPD Officer Connor Schilling. The pension was approved by a city board.

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Schilling was allowed to seek disability payments for the rest of his life.  He claims to have been diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) which is a mental health condition triggered by a terrifying event, either experiencing it or witnessing it.  Local supporters gathered with signs of support, for the Stewart family expressing their disapproval of the city’s inactions and not to hold Schilling responsible. One sign read, “Who is Next?” another sign said, “The truth  should will and haunt Schilling forever!”

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Supporters chanted, “No Justice No Peace!” Each sign delivered a different disapproving message for the city’s decision.  “Shame on you Mayor Strickland” one sign was being waved, when news reporter questioned Ms. Stewart, “What do you have to say to the mayor of Memphis?”  Her disapproval was apparent.  She responded, “I never met them, which one?”  Stewart was killed under Wharton’s administration, but the approval to allow him to retire came on Strickland’s watch.  She has yet to receive messages of condolences from either.

CLICK TO PLAY FULL VIDEO OF PRESS CONFERENCE OF DARRIUS STEWART’S MOTHER

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Andrea Morales Independent Photographer 

© 2016

This press conference was necessary for Stewart’s mother to refute media propaganda that her son had been arrested or had active warrants.  She stated Darrius had never seen the inside of a jail and that her son had passed recent background checks, and he was recently employed at FedEx, Nike, and Medtronic, and that it would be virtually impossible for someone to fall through the cracks and have warrants for six years.  He graduated from Wooddale high school last year.  The alleged warrants stemmed from a family feud that began as a juvenile complaint with a disgruntle family member.

 

Ms. Stewart encouraged other mothers to move and leave the city because of the continual governmental corruption which plagues Memphis.  When asked, “What does justice look like?” The mourning mother responded,  “Connor Schilling being arrested and charged with 1st-degree murder?”  Jabbing for Justice, she alluded that Darrius Stewart will get Justice. “God sees and knows everything, and that is a reward that the City gave him as if he is a hometown hero, he didn’t earn it, and he doesn’t deserve it.”  Ms. Stewart is under the impression that the Department of Justice (DOJ) is investigating her son’s murder.

 

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Appropriately, the Department of Justice was in town this week for a Juvenile Justice public forum.  The forum was held at the National Civil Rights Museum.   DOJ representative Counsel Winsome Gayle verified there had been few improvements with the Juvenile Justice Reform in Memphis.  The DOJ is still monitoring the entire system.

 

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Commercial Appeal

 

Many questions in regards to the excessive use of force and police misconduct went unanswered.  Winsome Gayle was hesitant to answers when it came to specific questions. She confirmed knowledge of the Shelby County Commission allocation of $250,000.00 for bulletproof judge’s chambers but that the DOJ had not mandated these upgrades.  Many citizens alluded that there was an obvious misappropriation of funds because the budget was passed by the county commission, under the impression that this was a federal requirement.  After this revelation questions were asked, “How the youth could have some input in the juvenile justice reform?”

JuvenileJustice

 

 

 

With all the problems in Memphis and very few solutions.  One thing is clear. Our youth are our future.  In a city full of so many wrongs committed by adults, be not deceived our Youth are aware of the difference between ethical and unjust. They are excluded many times from the decision-making process, but if we teach them well, they can lead the way.  If, we are willing to invest a quarter of a million dollars in bullet proof judge’s chamber what message are we sending them by misleading the taxpayers to think it is required by law?  They can see the injustices even through a bullet-proof judge’s chamber. It’s crystal clear.

 

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Youth Making Signs For Rally

 

Memphis is the 1st city to have a case with the DOJ in regards to Juvenile Justice Reform for violations of due process.  Are we going to lead the country to change? One must set a good example.  If we do not hold our past and present elected officials accountable for the pipeline, public schools to the prison system, what message are we sending to the world about injustices?  Are we just bobbing and weaving or will we Jab for Justice by including our youth in the reform process?  A person can take many punches, but the right jab in the right place can knock even a champion flat on his or her back.  Let’s Jab for Justice. Our youth matter.  They are our future.  #Blackyouthlivesmatter #BLMM #Blacklivesmatter

Artistic Expression or Artistic Reflection?

Artistic Expression

On April 1, 2016, the University of Memphis African American Studies and Art Department hosted a lecture on Black Lives Matter.  The lecturers were diverse intellectuals who gave different perspectives while viewing a slideshow of #blacklivesmatter and #alllivesmatter recently seen on social media.  Participants listened attentively to the world renowned, retired art professor Arturo Lindsay from Spellman College.  Suddenly the room was brought to total silence by his history lesson incorporated with the background sounds of that old Negro spiritual “Hold On, Sing On, Pray on, just a little while longer, everything will be alright.” Chris Lynn’s plaintive rendition of this song filled with passion and pain took every person in the room to a place in time that we try so hard to forget.

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In a city full of modern day lynching, it was appropriate that this distinctive dialogue helped us step back and reflect on our history.  Professor Earnestine Jenkins explains that she loves her history so much that she wanted to correct the name which history refers to as the Memphis Riots.  Professor Jenkins provided the group with a more in-depth focus of the Memphis Massacre lesson paying close attention to the People’s Grocery Store where the owners were lynched.   Their last words were “Tell my people to go west there is no justice here.”

She spoke of the Memphis Massacre, which other historians have tried to minimize with the word ‘Riots.”  The connotation places a negative light on blacks in Memphis.  This improper documentation is consistent with the current local news which distorts the truth in Memphis and the reality of how blacks are depicted each day.

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This message was emphasized by Ms. Kayla Jones of Overton High School’s  who delivered a Spoken Word piece entitled Blacker.  Her oratory gave a sense of pride and hope for the future of our youth who sometimes appear lost in the shuffle of all the negativity in the city.

Blacker       Click to play

 

During this art exhibit, people were also given the opportunity to sit in a chair with red bags over their heads and listen to the dialogue, allowing them to imagine being lynched.  The red bag symbolized the blood that was shed and was indicative of raw emotion felt by onlookers. The participants could not only visualize the lynching but the person could empathize while listening to the untold history of those who were murdered. The rope was a reminder of the noose placed around their necks and exemplified the fabric of a city’s intertwined continuing struggle.

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The last part of the lecturer was an open forum of suggestions, ideas, and interpretations which revealed different cultural perspectives.  The panel was given an opportunity to discuss the importance of art and the expression of black lives that should have mattered.

This history lesson on the Memphis Massacre brought forth a perspective of understanding the desensitization of murder in Memphis. Since the 1800 massacre, our race has continued to suffer from open wounds in a city that attempted to destroy Blacks for simply being black.  It is important for Memphians to understand our history, to secure our future, to escape mistakes of the past and not fall for the tricks that divide our race.

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Artistic Expression

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Recently traveling artist James Pate unveiled his Kin Killing Kin Exhibit at the National Civil Rights Musem. These are various pieces that depict young black men in Ku Klux Klan hoods. One piece methodically incorporates the Ankh, which is a symbol of life. In this piece entitled Who jacked my Ankh?  The artist is trying to capture the senselessness of the life being taken by the men depicted in the painting without any remorse.  At first sight, such a comparison of the Ku Klux Klan to the ongoing violence amongst African Americans is appalling. The majority of people genuinely concerned with Black Lives in Memphis felt that the exhibit was needed, and well served its purpose which is to strike up a conversation about the daily homicides.New Picture (2)

As a group who focuses on black lives matter, it is imperative that we understand our history and the mentality that many blacks maintain which prohibit social progression and black liberation. Art is the primary distinction which allows each culture to distinguish themselves from another culture. As persons of color, we sometimes remember that we were not only robbed of our freedom, but the grand larceny of an entire group of people’s culture has been almost forgotten. We should not forget where we came from if we are truly on a journey to black liberation. To escape the subtle and overt doctrine of inferiority, we must be able to acknowledge the facts no matter how barbaric and embarrassing as they seem. The story must be told. When humans are oppressed and subjected to such events, they become desensitized to loss and preciousness of human life, especially by murder.

Disaintwhatuwant     Click to play

Appropriately, the question is asked, is Kin Killing Kin an artistic reflection or artistic expression? One might say that this is not right but the fact of the matter is, and artistic expression is a clear, concise, view of the artist’ perception of the chain of events. This piece is a reflection of Pate’s vision, and what he sees happening to our black lives, and no other place is more appropriate to display such a masterpiece than the city of Memphis. The city of Memphis began its New Year with 12 murders in within the 1st 13 days. As of today, over 50 people have been killed in the city and summer has yet to arrive, and we all know what happens when it gets hot. It is important that we embrace all art regardless of the point of view of the spectators it is the message that we should retain to understand both of these artists real intentions, which apparently reveals, desperation, frustration, and an outcry to others to stop the killing of us and remember our hoods and history.
Is this Art mirroring life or is this expression?  #blacklivesmatter

Stay tuned to more updates on #blacklivesmattermemphis #blmm

A Modern Day Lynching

            DO BLACK LIVES REALLY MATTER IN MEMPHIS?

Murdered for Riding While Black
Killer Cop Schilling

On March 31, 2016, Officer Connor Schilling was permitted to retire from the Memphis Police Department because of his disability. He was allegedly diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. This retirement will allow him to collect $2300.00 from the City of Memphis pension plan. The board unanimously approved this decision.

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Attorney Carlos Moore and Darrius’ Father

Darrius Stewart’s father’s Attorney Carlos Moore held a press conference on the courthouse steps of 140 Adams St. Moore compared the decision to pay Schilling to a modern day lynching.  According to the facts of this case and Memphis’ history, his comparison is not unusual. 

History has repeated itself once again in Memphis. If you are familiar you with 140 Adams St. then you must understand the significance of this building and the comparison to a lynching.  The city of Memphis spent over a $100,000.00 to protect the Ku Klux Klan at this same courthouse for a protest.

City Spend Thousands protecting KKK

If you go inside to the center of the building of the court square, there is a tree.  The original tree is no longer there, but the new tree and its roots of racism and hatred are embedded in the Shelby County governmental hierarchy.

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The New Tree

The tree is a gruesome reminder of the value of a black life in Memphis, Tennessee.  This same courthouse was recently named after D’Army Bailey as an assumed badge of honor for blacks but significantly a memento for the new Good ole Boys and Girls of government.  Blacks were lynched with tax dollars while onlookers cheered and watched on these same steps as the life of a black person life was mutilated, right before their eyes on the Shelby County courthouse square.

Many people might not believe that a person was lynched at 140 Adams, but if you walk in the basement corridor, you can definitely feel the spirits of the innocent souls that lost their lives just like Darrius Stewart did on July 17, 2015.

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The Lynching Corridor

 

 

 

Schilling Killing Stewart

 

Schillings attorney has successfully made a defense that this was a justified homicide and he was the victim.  A prudent person might ask, why did Schilling insist that Darrius (a passenger of the car) provide him with identification for a taillight being out? An intelligent person might even ask if the officer was afraid why didn’t he use his police provided mace, or his stun gun in accordance with police policy?  Was he trained properly?  A racist person might say why didn’t Schilling just Rodney King him like the good ole days?  But the real question is how does an 18-year-old’s life, which snuffed out by an improperly trained officer, overzealous officer equate to the City of Memphis rewarding a murderer with guaranteed millions for the rest of his life? Coincidently, the day after Darrius Stewart’s birthday. The only answer is that this is a Modern Day Lynching.

Darrius and his mother at his graduation

Appropriately, Schillings retirement goes into effect on April Fools day but don’t be fooled.  In Memphis, Tennessee, ropes have been traded in for badges, and the officers have been given the unspoken authority to lynch a black life for any reason.  The more things change, the more they remain the same.  The only difference is we are not watching the injustice from the courthouse square of 140 Adams we are the injustice watching from our cell phones and televisions. Connor Schilling should have been arrested a year ago because he violated the Civil Rights of Darrius Stewart for no justifiable reason. There are many people in Memphis who scream Justice for Darrius, but there is no justice without accountability for the inactions of those who have the power to arrest him.

Black Lives Matter concurs that this as a Modern Day Lynching. The good citizens of Shelby County should not be deceived by the Tennessee {Botched} Bureau of Investigation. This entity {TBI} represents a smoke screen and their only purpose is to cover-up what is really going on in this city.  It is important that when the smoke clears the Citizens of Memphis should hold our elected officials accountable by all means necessary. 

Black Lives Matter will fight the New Jim Crow system, and we demand that District Attorney General Amy Weirich resigns from her office.  When the petition is presented to you, please remember all the injustices that have occurred under her watch.  We ask that you do not hesitate and sign your name to have her recalled.

The District Attorney has the authority to pursue charges against Connor Schilling absent a Grand Jury and she has neglected her official duty to prosecute Connor Schilling for 1st-degree murder under the Color of Law. Weirich has not hesitated to extend personal favors to use that same authority for other crimes that do not involve cold-blooded premeditate murder under the Color of Law.  If you believe that this was a modern day lynching, take a stand and STAND UP for a black life that should matter in Memphis. #BLMM #Blacklivesmattermemphis

 

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