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Falling on Deaf Ears: #What happened to SANDRA BLAND?

sandra bland 1

(www.abc13.com)

After hearing about Kalief Browder, the young man who hung himself due to being unable to cope with life after being put in solitary confinement, abused, and tortured at Rikers Island. And, who was never convicted for the crime he was arrested for, which was the theft of a back pack.

kalef bowder

(www.youtube.com)

After hearing the debate over whether or not new juvenile facilities are needed, which would force teens to be targeted to fill the jails up, versus the horrible alternative of housing under aged children with adult offenders.

I have to say that the death of Sandra Bland, is one of my biggest fears come to life regarding the conditions that prisoners face, and the standard of training that law enforcement adheres to. If you haven’t heard by now this young woman was pulled over for making an illegal traffic turn, which somehow led to her being held on the ground while getting her head banged into it, then being locked up in jail cell for 3 days where her life ended.

sandra bland 2

(www.nbcnews.com)
Initially they called it death by asphyxiation, but due to the bruises on her body, coupled with the fact that she had just landed her dream job, it makes no sense at all. And, if someone hadn’t caught her arrest on their cell phone we probably wouldn’t have known about this at all. No one is buying the suicide accusations, and I am ecstatic about it.

Here is how it really hits home for me. Often when there are incidents involving mistreatment from police officers and African Americans, we don’t have to wait long before a video is released having the victim caught in some type of dubious activity, and we also don’t have to wait long until any prior criminal activity is brought to the surface. No matter how wrong the act was towards them, the media intentionally plants information about their past in an attempt to lessen the amount of compassion the public would have for them. And, if you never had a criminal past, this strategy often works in creating indifference towards the victim.

But Sandra Bland was educated, apart of a sorority, and was employed. She even cared enough about the state of racial matters in America to post her views publicly.  I am in no way saying that her death matters more because of her accolades, but it does allow for her tragedy to not be as quickly dismissed as the others have been. And, it is a sad reminder you can do everything right, and still get treated completely wrong in this country. Pants hanging low, and a drug past is not and never has been needed for abuse to happen by the hands of law enforcement in America.

The reason why her story and others like it are falling on deaf ears is because for far too long many of us have decided to turn our backs on prisoners, and have quieted our efforts to demand law enforcement reform which is long over due. With all of our money, influence, spiritual leaders, etc. we still don’t care about these issues. Are we numb to it? We all have friends, cousins, siblings, and parents who have lived in a prison. Just why we don’t care about this issue is beyond me.

Sandra reminds me of myself. She had a bright smile, just started twisting her hair to wear it naturally, and was highly opinionated on many issues, especially police brutality. Except, she was braver than me. She took a road trip for a job interview that she got, and as a result this is what happened.

It only takes one moment for someone to think your life isn’t worth much, decide to rough you up, lock you up, and put you away in a cell to interact with criminals and  prison law enforcement for everything to change. Whether death or suicide, the biggest horror to this story is that it all could have been avoided.

Rachel Bryant Lundy

GREATNESS: Not always met with KINDNESS

pastor-jamal-bryant

(www.joy105.com)

When there are too many negative opinions about you, something must be right. And, when there is no comment about your good deeds and endeavors, it means you have left them speechless.

A movement is not about a man, but could a man be meant for a movement? It’s ironic that after the killing of Mike Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, the next uprising against Police Brutality would be in Baltimore. The cause of the uprising was the death of 22 year old Freddie Gray. The case received enormous attention because it involved several police officers accused of tazing Freddie Gray 10 times, and giving him a “rough ride”, which ultimately led to him having seizures, and his spine being fractured. But realistically, the case probably received so much scrutiny because it was recorded on a cell phone by onlooker, Kevin Moore. Watching the video of Freddie Gray be pushed into a wagon by Police Officers because he could no longer move on his own, and hearing him howl in pain still gives me chills. The results of the incident has caused distrust in the police department on all levels which has led to under policing, and a surge of crime in the city of Baltimore. Leaving the people with little to no confidence in city government, and on the edge of our seats until the officers are eventually found guilty or not guilty in the killing of Freddy Gray. Now, the hope for change is being placed on the shoulders of the church and it’s leaders. Amongst church leaders, one in particular happens to be extremely influential when it comes to fighting for civil liberties, Pastor Jamal Bryant.

freddy-gray

(www.tnsjournal.com)

With the attention the Freddy Gray case received it also has given Pastor Bryant a bigger platform to be seen as an advocate for injustice. I knew he wasn’t a favorite of everyone’s in his home town of Baltimore, but it wasn’t until he received national attention, and became one of the first leaders to make statements on the news about the Freddy Gray case and organizers of the protest, that peoples anger about his influence, success, and popularity was too obvious to overlook. Oddly, it wasn’t the typical citizen of Baltimore that would start, write, and provoke conversation regarding the lack of sincerity about Pastor Bryant’s intentions, it was his peers. And of course, the not as successful ones. Lately, I’ve been able to observe how much adversity, jealousy, and hatred some of the most accomplished people have to endure. Especially, when you break the “rules”, and have the knowledge that to cause change you actually don’t need anyone’s permission. That can be a freeing, yet dangerous realization.

I’ll tell you a few other reasons why Pastor Bryant might have the confidence to not ask. After attending Morehouse College, and Duke University, he founded Empowerment Temple, an A.M.E. church in Baltimore, MD with over 7,500 members. He is a successful, renown, and highly sought after author and speaker. While they may be at odds currently, come election time all of the politicians make it a point to stop at his church to show their face and get support from his congregation. Pastor Bryant’s congregation paid for the funeral of Freddie Gray, offered non- violent civil disobedience training to protestors, and has helped to spread awareness of the #onebaltimore campaign to increase the support of unity in Baltimore, an often divided city.

 

Empowerment Temple Pastor Jamal Harrison Bryant speaks in protest of the death Freddie Gray, an African American man who died of spinal cord injuries in police custody, in front of City Hall in Baltimore, Maryland, April 23, 2015.       AFP PHOTO/JIM WATSON        (Photo credit should read JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images)
Empowerment Temple Pastor Jamal Harrison Bryant speaks in protest of the death Freddie Gray, an African American man who died of spinal cord injuries in police custody, in front of City Hall in Baltimore, Maryland, April 23, 2015. AFP PHOTO/JIM WATSON (Photo credit should read JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images)

Yep, it seems Pastor Bryant’s biggest problem with his rivals is that he’s chosen not to go through the ranks. He didn’t ask permission to be successful, and where he’s not welcomed, he doesn’t go. He actually found out that he can be welcomed at other places, and those that feel negatively about him will not limit his impact. I’m sure he’s also discovered that having this kind of influence comes with a heavy price. People will bring up your past, judge you when they don’t know you, blame you for their shortcomings, and never let you out grow your mistakes, or acknowledge that you grew stronger in a weak area. No, they won’t give you credit at all, even if they need your help, even if you are helping them. And, if by chance you benefit in any way, in their eyes you are an opportunist. Yet with all of this, he’s managed to keep moving forward.

Just like him, a lot of us can relate to our biggest antagonist being those who are the most similar to us. It would be easy to justify someone being envious that had less and knew less. But someone with the same resources, talent, level of attractiveness, education, and connections to the same people is questionable? It serves as a great diversion from anyone being able to accuse them of being jealous. Instead of supporting or collaborating with him they would rather compete, criticize, and discredit. Instead of humbling themselves to find out how he has been successful, they would rather be prideful and connect with other people that resent his success. In my book, that is definitely jealousy, but feel free to disguise it as whatever you wish. However, what I cannot comprehend is how calculated the attack is on Pastor Bryant by many who claim to be about progression, and even hold public office? How can they not see that their antics towards him only achieve the opposite? How can business men and women not be able to separate personal differences, and realize there is a greater good that should be focused on? If anyone thought that success always greets you with support, think again.

jamal bryant 2

(www.facebook.com)

There are many other leaders who are just as passionate about the community of Baltimore, and the little attention given to improve the quality of living for it’s residents. So, this post is not meant to pick sides, or denounce the efforts of others in any way. I only hope to shed light on the fact that politics is a very tricky business that is controlled by a few factors that can be both predictable with the use of money, and unpredictable with the influence of a person. Whether we would want a single individual representing what we stand for or not shouldn’t be the issue. There needs to be someone at the center that is able to not only articulate themselves on a global platform, but also garner interest from the media by way of their accomplishments, and ability to leverage alliances with experienced community leaders. It’s that simple.

He said it best, “If people don’t know what you are doing they assume you are doing nothing, and if you broadcast it, you’re a camera hog.” You can not please everyone, but that reality shouldn’t stop you from accomplishing what you know must be done. God works through people, so I will never say Pastor Bryant isn’t flawed, and logically I don’t expect him not to be. No matter your personal feelings about him, he certainly is called, and when it comes down to the people, he is chosen.
This is the first of several articles I will be writing about the Sandtown- Winchester neighborhood, police and prison brutality, politics in Baltimore City, and the outcome of the Freddie Gray murder trial.

Stay tuned.

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Rachel Bryant Lundy