Community Voices

For too long, it’s been open season for killing young black men

Mourners comfort Allison Jean, Botham Shem Jean’s mother, during the public viewing before his funeral at the Greenville Avenue Church of Christ on Sept. 13 in Richardson, Texas.
Mourners comfort Allison Jean, Botham Shem Jean’s mother, during the public viewing before his funeral at the Greenville Avenue Church of Christ on Sept. 13 in Richardson, Texas. The Dallas Morning News via AP

It’s been nearly three weeks since a Dallas police officer mistakenly walked into an unarmed man’s apartment and fatally shot him. The police officer was white; the victim, Botham Shem Jean, was black.

Police officer Amber Guyger was off-duty; she had just finished a 15-hour shift. According to news reports, Guyger said she thought she was in her own apartment and thought Jean was an intruder.

When I first heard of the fatal shooting, it was hard to believe Guyger’s story. Surely, she must have had time to see that the man was unarmed and was not a threat to her. I want to believe that it wasn’t because Jean was black, that Guyger didn’t think twice before fatally shooting Jean. But I can’t.

For too long, now, it seems to be open season for killing young black men. Our black sons are being targeted in two ways — through drive-by shootings and by police officers who shoot first and ask questions later. I even known of cases where weapons were placed on black victims AFTER they were killed.

As a mother, I mourn with Jean’s mom. I know it does little to help a mother whose son was gunned down unjustly. But I mourn with her because I care. I know I am not alone.

Jean was known to be a devout Christian and a member of Singing Hills Church of Christ in Dallas. In the weeks since Jean’s death, many Americans — black and white — have been in a state of outrage. It wasn’t enough that an innocent young man was senselessly killed, there seems to be a move to slander his good name. This ought not to be.

In a sermon after Jean’s death, the Rev. George Mason, senior pastor of Wilshire Baptist Church in Dallas, criticized some white churches for not speaking up alongside black churches for justice.

“If we [evangelicals] want to call ourselves by the name of Jesus, we have to stop defending the things he would condemn,” Mason said in his sermon.

Mason also condemned those who have sought to scandalize Jean’s name. According to Jean family lawyers, police tried to “criminalize the victim” by revealing they found a small amount of marijuana in his apartment, along with a lunch box and a laptop.

Mason, a native of New York, attended the University of Miami, where he was a quarterback on the football team. He received his bachelor’s degree from the university in 1978. He later earned a Master of Divinity and a Doctor of Philosophy from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas.

He has been pastor of Wilshire Baptist since August 1989 and is a recognized leader in the Baptist denomination. According to his biography, one of his passions is “encouraging those whom God has call into vocational ministry.” Mason married wife Kim in 1979. They are the parents of three adult children, two daughters and a son.

I am praying that the outpouring of love from people throughout the country will be of some comfort to Jean’s family.

And I am praying for whites — especially high-profile pastors — who speak out against such acts of violence. They are not safe. Their families, including children, will be subjected to bullying from some fellow students who learn hate in their homes.

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Mourners pass the casket of 14-year-old Emmett Till during funeral services at Roberts Temple Church of God in Christ on Sept. 6, 1955, in Chicago. AP file

In my lifetime, I have lived through hatefulness and injustice fueled by segregation. I am old enough to know about innocent black men being lynched and their private parts cut off and carried around as trophies. I was 15 when Emmett Till, who was about my age, was dragged from his grandparents’ home in Mississippi and lynched. His limp, mangled body was thrown into a nearby river. He was killed because a white woman said he whistled at her. It was a wake-up call for me and my friends, who falsely thought things were getting better for Negroes in the South.

What did we know? We lived in Miami. And while things did seem to be a little easier for us than for our “cousins” who lived in the rural South, we still had separate water fountains in public places; still had to ride at the back of the bus; still could not try on shoes or clothes in some downtown stores; and still had to carry identification cards if we worked in Miami Beach. In some areas like Hialeah and Dania, we risked our lives if we were caught there after dark.

But at 15, you tend to see things as you want them to be. Not as they are. Till’s brutal death shocked us back to reality. I grew up, never forgetting the picture of his mangled body in the casket. He looked like a dead monster. That picture was still fresh in my mind when I worked as a maid and my employer set out a broken plate and chipped cup for me to use for lunch. By that time, I had grown to love myself even more. When she left for her own job, and lunchtime came, I would use her good plate and glass for my lunch. It was simply my way of saying, “I am a person of worth.”

Years later, when I became a Miami Herald columnist, my editor introduced me to the community by telling that story. My former employer read it and recognized herself, and later called me and asked me and my mom to lunch at her home.

Urban League of Greater Miami

The Urban League of Greater Miami will celebrate its 75th birthday in November and is calling all alumni to be a part of this important milestone.

The league is looking for anyone who worked for or with the organization at any time in the past, or anyone who benefited from any of the Urban League’s programs or initiatives. If this is you, please contact Latonia Ritchie at 305-696-4450 or email her at tonia692@gmail.com.

U.S. Spiritist Medical Congress

The seventh U.S. Spiritist Medical Congress will be held at Florida International University’s Kovens Conference Center, 3000 NE 151st St. in North Miami on Oct. 6 and 7, with special pricing for FIU students and faculty.

A pre-conference brunch with Dr. Harold Koenig will be from 10:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Oct. 6, and will include a question and session and book signing. The program will continue at 1:30 p.m. with Koenig as the keynote speaker.

Koenig, a graduate of Stanford University, earned his medical degree at the University of California in San Francisco. He received his geriatric medicine, psychiatry, and biostatistics training at Duke University.

Other speakers for the two-day congress will include:

  • Dr. Elaine Drysdale, a clinical professor of psychiatry in the Faculty of Medicine at the University of British Columbia.

  • Sergio Lopes, MD, a psychiatrist and a psychotherapist with specialization in psychoanalytical and transpersonal therapy.

  • David G. Mercier, MS, L.Ac, an acupuncturist, seminar leader, and adjunct faculty member at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland, where his award-winning book, “A Beautiful Medicine,” is the textbook used in the two courses he teaches.

  • Alexander Moreira-Almeida, MD, PhD, was trained in psychiatry and cognitive-behavioral therapy at the Institute of Psychiatry of the University of Sao Paulo, Brazil, where he also obtained his PhD in Health Sciences.

  • Jeffrey Rediger, D, MDiv, serves on the faculty of Harvard Medical School and is the medical director of McLean and community affairs at McLean Hospital. He also is the chief of behavior medicine at Caritas SE Good Samaritan Medical Center.

  • David J. Schleich, PhD, is a nationally recognized expert in the professional formation of natural medicine. He has served as president of the National University of Natural Medicine since 2007.

  • Jennifer McCormick, MA, CMI, is a mixed media artist based in North Carolina and works in encaustic, wood, X-rays and electronics. She is a graduate of The Department of Art as Applied to Medicine at The Johns Hopkins School of Medicine.

For more information and for tickets to the congress, go to congress2018.sma-us.org.

Hurricane, flood relief

Those wishing to contribute to the relief fund to help the hurricane and flood victims of North and South Carolina may do so through the Greater Miami Jewish Federation, which has established a special relief fund to provide immediate assistance to those affected by the natural disasters.

All administrative costs will be absorbed by the federation to ensure that 100 percent of all collected funds will go to those impacted by disaster. The funds will be directed through The Jewish Federations of North America (JFNA) to support its 2018 Hurricane Relief Fund, according to a news release.

To contribute, visit JewishMiami.org. Checks also can be mailed payable to Greater Miami Jewish Federation, 4200 Biscayne Blvd, Miami, FL 33137. Please put, “Hurricane Florence Relief Fund” in the memo area of each check. Call 305-576-4000, ext. 428.

Usher Appreciation Day

Church Ushers are a special breed. They are the first persons you see when you walk into a house of worship, offering you a friendly smile and a seat. Many times these “doorkeepers” in God’s houses are taken for granted. But this shouldn’t be; their work in the furtherance of the Gospel is very important.

New Covenant Presbyterian Church at 4300 NW 12th Ave. will show its gratitude by presenting an Usher Appreciation Day service at 11 a.m. Sunday.

The church will give special recognition to ushers Ernestine Williams, Ruth Miles, Daisy Hill, Geraldine Gerri Owens, Lacee S. Spain, Jackie Taylor, Tijuana Hayes, Timothy Cooper and Fred Hopkins. The Rev. Danny Morales is the pastor.

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