Black entertainers taking a stand against oppression and injustice

I am happy to see a new generation of black artists and entertainers finally stepping up and speaking out against injustice and oppression. In the spirit of Muhammad Ali, these entertainers are now using their celebrity status to speak out against police brutality, racism, and other social ills. The latest example was shown at the 2016 BET Awards

Jessie Williams

The highlight of the evening was the moving Humanitarian Award acceptance speech delivered by Jessie Williams. Williams is a former teacher who plays the role of Dr. Jackson Avery on  "Grey's Anatomy and his speech emphasized racial injustice, police brutality, and cultural appropriation. Watch and listen to Williams full acceptance speech below.

Williams is on the board of The Advancement Project, civil rights think tank and advocacy group. Williams participate in Ferguson October in 2014 to protest the killing of Michael Brown. He is also the executive producer of Question Bridge: Black Males, a multifaceted media project, art exhibition, student, and teacher curriculum and website, focused on the black male identity and the diversity within the demographic. He has written articles for CNN and The Huffington Post and has been a guest on Wolf Blitzer's The Situation Room.

Full text of Williams Speech

“This award, this is not for me. This is for the real organizers all over the country. The activists, the civil rights attorneys, the struggling parents, the families, the teachers, the students, that are realizing that a system built to divide and impoverish and destroy us cannot stand if we do.

All right? It’s kind of basic mathematics:, the more we learn about who we are and how we got here, the more we will mobilize. Now this is also in particular for the black women, in particular, who have spent their lifetimes dedicated to nurturing everyone before themselves. We can and will do better for you.

Now, what we’ve been doing is looking at the data and we know that police somehow manage to de-escalate, disarm and not kill white people every day. So what’s going to happen is we are going to have equal rights and justice in our own country or we will restructure their function and ours.

Now — I’ve got more, y’all. Yesterday would’ve been young Tamir Rice’s 14th birthday, so I don’t want to hear any more about how far we’ve come when paid public servants can pull a drive-by on a 12-year-old playing alone in a park in broad daylight, killing him on television and then going home to make a sandwich. Tell Rekia Boyd how it’s so much better to live in 2012 than 1612 or 1712. Tell that to Eric Garner. Tell that to Sandra Bland. Tell that to Darrien Hunt.

Now the thing is, though, all of us in here getting money, that alone isn’t going to stop this. All right? Now dedicating our lives to get money just to give it right back for someone’s brand on our body, when we spent centuries praying with brands on our bodies and now we pray to get paid for brands on our bodies.

There has been no war that we have not fought and died on the front lines of. There has been no job we haven’t done, there’s been no tax they haven’t levied against us, and we’ve paid all of them. But freedom is somehow always conditional here. “You’re free,” they keep telling us. But she would’ve been alive if she hadn’t acted so… “free.”

Now, freedom is always coming in the hereafter. But, you know what, though? The hereafter is a hustle. We want it now. And let’s get a couple of things straight, just a little side note: The burden of the brutalized is not to comfort the bystander. That’s not our job, all right, stop with all that. If you have a critique for the resistance, for our resistance, then you better have an established record of critique of our oppression. If you have no interest in equal rights for black people then do not make suggestions to those who do. Sit down.

We’ve been floating this country on credit for centuries, yo, and we’re done watching and waiting while this invention called whiteness uses and abuses us, burying black people out of sight and out of mind, while extracting our culture, our dollars, our entertainment like oil, black gold. Ghettoizing and demeaning our creations then stealing them, gentrifying our genius and then trying us on like costumes before discarding our bodies like rinds of strange fruit. The thing is, though, the thing is that just because we’re magic, doesn’t mean we’re not real.”

Beyonce and Kendrick Lamar

Beyonce and Kendrick Lamar gave an outstanding opening performance at the BET Awards that set the tone for the rest of the evening. The video is below.

Many entertainers want to speak out, but some are afraid of the repercussions, that's why your support is important and needed more than ever. As these artists become more vocal about the injustice and oppression in our community, there will be backlash and allegations lodged against them, maybe similar to the media attack of Bill Cosby. In the future, if some of our more vocal entertainers are targeted by negative propaganda, allegations, and comments, use your critical thinking skills before automatically believing allegations simply because they appear in mass media.

When our artists are unfairly targeted, we need to not only support them but we need to stand up against and boycott those companies and institutions involved. My eyes were further opened this spring when companies spoke out and some were threatening to boycott Georgia and North Caroline because of proposed religious freedom laws that would have impacted the LGBT communities. Those companies did the right thing, but that's when I realized they did the wrong thing when they didn't speak up about stop and frisk, police killings of unarmed people and other injustice. In the future when businesses the black community supports doesn't support us back, stop supporting them. You don't need a formal boycott or movement. When a company isn't doing what you think they should do,  just stop doing business with that company and send them a note stating why you stopped doing business with them, otherwise, they'll never know.


Things to do when a retailer won’t exchange defective merchandise

I was happy to see the new GenX store openning in the old Aldi location at 1315 Aubert Ave, St. Louis, MO 63113. My son has made many purchases from GenX Clothing over the past few years. However, my happiness soon turned to disappointment because of two negative experiences. I decided to use experience number two as a teachable moment to help others who may experience similar issues with this or other retailers.

  1. On May 31, 2016, I took my son to GenX at 7:40 pm, the store's posted closing hours was 8 pm. The guard was outside as I entered the store and immediately informed me they were closing in five minutes and that I would be the last customer to enter. While my son was making his selections, the guard approached rather rudely at 7:46 to announce the store was closed. My son made his purchase, but did not get everything he came for and we left. There were two young ladies knocking on the door as we exited. Understandably they were both upset that the store was closed 10 minutes earlier than the posted hours. A gentleman who was parked next to my vehicle  made a negative comment about the store closing early. As far as I know there is no law that requires a merchant to honor their posted store hours. However, one of the easiest parts of operating a business is operating during posted business hours. If you can't do that, you're doing it wrong. I had to go out of my way to visit this store that day and I'm certain other customers did too. The grand openning banner was still posted outside and it's sad that they were already providing sub-par customer service. I took my son to a different store the next day. 
  2. My wife purchased a pair of jeans and other items for my son at the GenX in WestFall Plaza, 8035 W Florissant Ave, St. Louis, MO 63136. The metal fastner button came off while my son was wearing them and later the zipper broke. On Saturday, June 25, 2016, I went to the Aubert GenX and explained I wanted to exchange a pair of defective jeans purchased at the West Florissant location. When I mentioned the defective jeans were purchased a few weeks ago, I was told they had a 14-day return policy. I explained I didn't want a refund, but simply wanted to exchange. I was told the jeans could not be exchanged. I asked to speak to the manager, who was not in, but they called him. I was told to see the manager the next day and that he would be in the next morning. Coincidentally, later that same day, I ended up in WestFall Plaza with my wife and since I still had the jeans in the car, I figured I would try to exchange them there; since that was where they were purchased. I was basically told the same thing, that merchandise purchased more than 14 days ago could not be returned. This time, I actually spoke with the manager and after debating for a few moments, I asked; so GenX doesn't stand behind the merchandise they sell? I was told matter of factly, "no they don't." This is a violation of Missouri warranty law.

Under Missouri law, there's no right to cancel contracts or purchase agreements. Therefore, whether you can receive a refund is dependent on the retailer's return and refund policies. See Missouri Merchandising Practices RSMO Chapter 407. Retailers are however, still bound by Missouri's implied warranty statute.

I returned to the Aubert store about 12:30 Sunday afternoon to meet the manager I was told wanted to speak with me, but I was told that the manager had just left. I left a note and a copy of relevant Missouri State Law. 

The law recognizes two basic kinds of warranties— implied warranties and express warranties.  Section 2-314 of the Uniform Commercial Code, which is law in every state but Louisiana, covers the implied warranty of merchantability. Missouri Revised Statutes 400.2-314 states, "a warranty that the goods shall be merchantable is implied in a contract for their sale if the seller is a merchant with respect to goods of that kind." See "Understanding Warranties" for more details.

A contract consist of three elements; (1) an offer is made, (2) the offer is accepted and (3) consideration (something of value is exchanged). In a retail environment, a merchant displays merchandise with a price (offer), a purchaser decides to buy (acceptance) and then pays for the item (consideration).

Implied warranties are unspoken, unwritten promises, created by state law, that go from the seller or merchant to their customers. Implied warranties are based upon the common law principle of "fair value for money spent"

GenX is a retailer in the clothing business, therefore the garments they sell are subject to the statute and come with an implied warranty. The statute does not provide a time frame for how long garments should last. The standard is ordinary or reasonable expectation which may be affected by the type of garment, the material and the price. It is reasonable to expect that the buttons and zippers even on cheap jeans will last more than a couple of weeks. When garments don't meet minimum or reasonable expectations they are defective and it is the responsibility of the merchant to replace or repair them. In fact, I purchased a pair of $11 jeans years ago from Kmart that I do yard work in and the button and zipper still work properly.

If you have a problem with a product that you think is the result of an defect, let the manufacturer or retailer (preferably a manager) know that you'll take failure to resolve your complaint as a breach of the implied warranty. If you don't get satisfaction, you may be able to assert your rights through a credit-card chargeback. Some credit cards have refund assistance programs:  American Express Return ProtectionDiscover Return Guarantee and MasterCard Satisfaction Guarantee are all return assistance programs, though they are not available to everyone. The card issuer decides which cards get the benefit. If that doesn't work, send a letter threatening legal action. You might need to file a small-claims-court action or consult a lawyer.

How credit-card chargebacks work

If you used a credit card for a purchase and have a problem with the retailer, you may be able to obtain a chargeback from the card issuer. Federal law grants this right under two scenarios: 

Billing errors

These apply to charges you didn't authorize; that are the wrong amount; for goods that were never delivered or delivered late; and for delivered items that were misrepresented or in the wrong quantity. To make a claim, write to your issuer within 60 days of the issuing date on the statement in which the charge first appeared. State the specific reasons you think there was an error on your bill. Some issuers extend this period, but don't count on it.

Claims and defenses rule

You can request a chargeback under the claims and defenses provision for any legal reason you have to cancel a sale directly with the seller, including if there's a problem with the quality of the merchandise (implied warranty). See: 12 CFR 226.12 – Special credit card provisions. You have up to one year from the statement date to make a claim. You must meet four requirements:

  1. The disputed amount must be over $50;
  2. you must be able to prove that you made a good-faith effort to obtain a refund or credit directly from the seller;
  3. you can dispute only up to the outstanding balance on your card (if your balance is zero, you can't use this provision); and
  4. the merchant must be within 100 miles of your home and in your home state.

While you're disputing charges, you can withhold payment for the amount at issue, but you must pay the undisputed portions of your credit-card bill to avoid late fees and finance charges. A successful chargeback won't prevent the merchant from pursuing you directly for payment, including in court, if it feels the chargeback was unwarranted. However, a claim of breach of implied warranty is a valid defense.

Why the Black Lives Matter Movement is Important

I have been a victim of crime and people that I know including my brother-in-law, nephew and a friend, who was a police officer, were all killed by criminals. Everyone hates crime and believe criminals should be punished including me. To some degree, people can be on the lookout and protect themselves from criminals.

When a police officer commits a crime against me, my options are limited. If I fight back, I will be beaten or killed and the officer will most likely suffer no consequences, even if a video exists. No one is supposed to be above the law, but it's foolish to believe that. Police officers get away with crimes that would send ordinary people to jail for years. The Black Lives Matter Movement has been purposefully misrepresented by white media and politicians to portray it as some sort of racist ideology.

Below is a video of Madison, Wisconsin police punching, kicking and tasing a defenseless 18 year old girl (woman) which is the latest example of why the Black Lives Matter Movement is important and why black people shouldn't be deceived into thinking just because black criminals are committing crimes, that somehow makes it unimportant that police treat black people horribly on a regular basis in this country. 

Had this simply been a common criminal, people would have certainly come to this girl's aid. However, because it was the police people felt powerless to do anything but to document and video what was going on. Had anyone shooting video gotten involved they would have most likely received even worse treatment and possibly killed. They wouldn't have been able to argue police brutality, self-defense or the protection of others because they would have been charged with "interfering with official police business".

Allegedly, this woman had a knife earlier, even if that was true, there is no excuse for what is shown on the video. This woman was obviously no danger to the two larger police officers manhandling her. This woman was basically tortured.

These type of incidents have to stop. I am sickened each time I see one of these videos and sickened, even more, when I hear that the officers involved were not arrested, charged or convicted of any crime. Imagine how many of these incidents are never captured on video, which is why police body cameras are needed.

Obviously, there are many innocent victims of crime and some of those innocent victims are killed. However, many of the killings happen because the victim was engaged in illegal or illicit activity and some are retaliation or revenge killings. Criminals, when caught, get arrested, charged with crimes, go a trial and to jail if convicted.

If my life is put in danger by a criminal, I have the option and right to defend myself including deadly force if necessary. But what about when the criminal is a police officer? You have not rights! Even when police officers abuse helpless black teenagers in bikinis at a pool party, there still is no justice. This needs to change now!

Byron Mischauex, the grandfather of Jirah Campbell, a teenager who was fatally shot in Pine Lawn, spoke with KMOV about the violence and Black Lives Matter. I agree with Mr. Mischauex that we as a community must fix our problems, but at the same time, we must realize that our issues are symptoms of much broader issues. However, that realization is of little comfort to the family of Jirah Campbell and all the other families that have experienced the death of a loved one from violence. Until we understand those racist institutions including policing, courts, banks, and even government plays a part of the black community's plight nationally, black people as a whole will continue to suffer. 

When a person is unfairly targeted by police the way Mr. Mischauex described, they can be thrust into a domino effect of misfortune. Innocent people get arrested, which often result in losing their job, losing a car, home, or other possessions. To add insult to injury, that arrest record makes it harder to find another job.  

Fortunately, Mr. Mischauex was a business owner and had the resources to get through. Many others are not as fortunate. Factor in decades of criminalizing drugs and other behaviors and predatory court practices it's easy to understand why black communities all across the country have suffered. Many people in the black community become distraught and black teens often feel hopeless and result to crime because the feel they have nothing to loss. Those currently with decent jobs don't  seem to understand that the next economic downturn could cause them to become targets and face similar issues. 

Record any incident of police misconduct that you see. If the police mistreat you in any way, report the officers involved so those offending police officers will accumulate complaints that are representative of their abuse. 

American Apartheid: Discrimination Disguised as Law

On Monday, June 20, 2016, the United States moved even closer to a police state when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Utah v. Strieff that evidence of a crime may be used against a defendant even if the police did something wrong or illegal in obtaining it. Black people have been complaining about unconstitutional searches for decades and now the Supreme Court has partially nullified fourth amendment protection for everyone against illegal searches.

The laws of the United States including federal or state statutes and local ordinance have been designed to suppress black people. There have been a number of laws specifically enacted to enslave, control movement, miseducate, and prevent the economic progress of black people. The CIA allowed drugs to be imported into black communities during the 1990s. During the Civil Rights Movement, the FBI had a secret program called COINTELPRO to discredit and disrupt civil rights leaders and protest. See U.S. Government Discrimination

Before the United States became a country, the colonies enacted slave codes to ensure that slaves had no rights and could be treated as property. This country supposedly conceived in liberty, defined black slaves as less than human in the constitution, the Supreme Law of the United States. 

Last month, I became disgusted the day I read a British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) article about how information from the CIA led to Nelson Mandela's arrest and his 27-year imprisonment in 1962. See: Nelson Mandela: CIA tip-off led to 1962 Durban arrest. Even though Nelson Mandela was president of South Africa from 1994 to 1999, he was on a US terror watch list until 2008, the same year Barack Obama was elected president. I felt a similar disgust when I learned of the Supreme Court's decision.

Justice Sonia Sotomayor, a former criminal prosecutor, dissented the US Supreme Court's decision and warned that people of color are the subject of particular scrutiny. “This court has given officers an array of instruments to probe and examine you,” she added. “When we condone officers’ use of these devices without adequate cause, we give them reason to target pedestrians in an arbitrary manner. We also risk treating members of our communities as second-class citizens.

Justice Sotomayor specifically cited the St. Louis area when she stated, "In the St. Louis metropolitan area, officers “routinely” stop people—on the street, at bus stops, or even in court—for no reason other than “an officer’s desire to check whether the subject had a municipal arrest warrant pending.”"

Justice Sotomayor's full dissent is published below.

JUSTICE SOTOMAYOR, with whom JUSTICE GINSBURG joins as to Parts I, II, and III, dissenting

The Court today holds that the discovery of a warrant for an unpaid parking ticket will forgive a police officer’s violation of your Fourth Amendment rights. Do not be soothed by the opinion’s technical language: This case allows the police to stop you on the street, demand your identification, and check it for outstanding traffic warrants—even if you are doing nothing wrong. If the officer discovers a warrant for a fine you forgot to pay, courts will
now excuse his illegal stop and will admit into evidence anything he happens to find by searching you after arresting you on the warrant. Because the Fourth Amendment should prohibit, not permit, such misconduct, I dissent.


Minutes after Edward Strieff walked out of a South Salt Lake City home, an officer stopped him, questioned him, and took his identification to run it through a police database. The officer did not suspect that Strieff had done anything wrong. Strieff just happened to be the first person to leave a house that the officer thought might contain “drug activity.” App. 16–19. As the State of Utah concedes, this stop was illegal. App. 24. The Fourth Amendment protects people from “unreasonable searches and seizures.” An officer breaches that protection when he detains a pedestrian to check his license without any evidence that the person is engaged in a crime. Delaware v. Prouse, 440 U. S. 648, 663 (1979); Terry v. Ohio, 392 U. S. 1, 21 (1968). The officer deepens the breach when he prolongs the detention just to fish further for evidence of wrongdoing. Rodriguez v. United States, 575 U. S. ___, ___–___ (2015) (slip op., at 6–7). In his search for lawbreaking, the officer in this case himself broke the law. The officer learned that Strieff had a “small traffic warrant.” App. 19. Pursuant to that warrant, he arrested Strieff and, conducting a search incident to the arrest,
discovered methamphetamine in Strieff ’s pockets. Utah charged Strieff with illegal drug possession. Before trial, Strieff argued that admitting the drugs into evidence would condone the officer’s misbehavior. The methamphetamine, he reasoned, was the product of the officer’s illegal stop. Admitting it would tell officers that unlawfully discovering even a “small traffic warrant” would give them license to search for evidence of unrelated offenses. The Utah Supreme Court unanimously agreed with Strieff. A majority of this Court now reverses.


It is tempting in a case like this, where illegal conduct by an officer uncovers illegal conduct by a civilian, to forgive the officer. After all, his instincts, although unconstitutional, were correct. But a basic principle lies at the heart of the Fourth Amendment: Two wrongs don’t make a right. See Weeks v. United States, 232 U. S. 383, 392 (1914). When “lawless police conduct” uncovers evidence of lawless civilian conduct, this Court has long required later criminal trials to exclude the illegally obtained evidence.Terry, 392 U. S., at 12; Mapp v. Ohio, 367 U. S.643, 655 (1961). For example, if an officer breaks into a home and finds a forged check lying around, that check may not be used to prosecute the homeowner for bank fraud. We would describe the check as “‘fruit of the poisonous tree.’” Wong Sun v. United States, 371 U. S. 471, 488 (1963). Fruit that must be cast aside includes not only evidence directly found by an illegal search but also evidence “come at by exploitation of that illegality.” Ibid. This “exclusionary rule” removes an incentive for officers to search us without proper justification. Terry, 392 U. S., at 12. It also keeps courts from being “made party to lawless invasions of the constitutional rights of citizens by permitting unhindered governmental use of the fruits of such invasions.” Id., at 13. When courts admit only lawfully obtained evidence, they encourage “those who formulate law enforcement polices, and the officers who implement them, to incorporate Fourth Amendment ideals into their value system.” Stone v. Powell, 428 U. S. 465, 492 (1976). But when courts admit illegally obtained evidence as well, they reward “manifest neglect if not an open defiance of the prohibitions of the Constitution.” Weeks, 232 U. S., at 394.Applying the exclusionary rule, the Utah Supreme Court correctly decided that Strieff ’s drugs must be excluded because the officer exploited his illegal stop to discover them. The officer found the drugs only after learning of Strieff ’s traffic violation; and he learned of Strieff ’s traffic violation only because he unlawfully stopped Strieff to check his driver’s license. The court also correctly rejected the State’s argument that the officer’s discovery of a traffic warrant unspoiled the poisonous fruit. The State analogizes finding the warrant to one of our earlier decisions, Wong Sun v. United States. There, an officer illegally arrested a person who, days later, voluntarily returned to the station to confess to committing a crime. 371 U. S., at 491. Even though the person would not have confessed “but for the illegal actions of the police,” id., at 488, we noted that the police did not exploit their illegal arrest to obtain the confession, id., at 491. Because the confession was obtained by “means sufficiently distinguishable” from the constitutional violation, we held that it could be admitted into evidence. Id., at 488, 491. The State contends that the search incident to the warrant-arrest here is similarly distinguishable from the illegal stop. But Wong Sun explains why Strieff ’s drugs must be excluded. We reasoned that a Fourth Amendment violation may not color every investigation that follows but it certainly stains the actions of officers who exploit the infraction. We distinguished evidence obtained by innocuous means from evidence obtained by exploiting misconduct after considering a variety of factors: whether a long time passed, whether there were “intervening circumstances,” and whether the purpose or flagrancy of the misconduct was “calculated” to procure the evidence. Brown v. Illinois, 422 U. S. 590, 603–604 (1975). These factors confirm that the officer in this case discovered Strieff ’s drugs by exploiting his own illegal conduct. The officer did not ask Strieff to volunteer his name only to find out, days later, that Strieff had a warrant against him. The officer illegally stopped Strieff and immediately ran a warrant check. The officer’s discovery of a warrant was not some intervening surprise that he could not have anticipated. Utah lists over 180,000 misdemeanor warrants in its database, and at the time of the arrest, Salt Lake County had a “backlog of outstanding warrants” so large that it faced the “potential for civil liability.” See Dept. of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics, Survey of State Criminal History Information Systems, 2014 (2015) (Systems Survey) (Table 5a), online at

(all Internet materials as last visited June 16, 2016); Inst.for Law and Policy Planning, Salt Lake County Criminal Justice System Assessment 6.7 (2004), online at

The officer’s violation was also calculated to procure evidence. His sole reason for stopping Strieff, he acknowledged, was investigative—he wanted to discover whether drug activity was going on in the house Strieff had just exited. App. 17. The warrant check, in other words, was not an “intervening circumstance” separating the stop from the search for drugs. It was part and parcel of the officer’s illegal “expedition for evidence in the hope that something might turn up.” Brown, 422 U.S., at 605. Under our precedents, because the officer found Strieff ’s drugs by exploiting his own constitutional violation, the drugs should be excluded.



The Court sees things differently. To the Court, the fact that a warrant gives an officer cause to arrest a person severs the connection between illegal policing and the resulting discovery of evidence. Ante, at 7. This is a remarkable proposition: The mere existence of a warrant not only gives an officer legal cause to arrest and search a person, it also forgives an officer who, with no knowledge of the warrant at all, unlawfully stops that person on a whim or hunch.To explain its reasoning, the Court relies on Segura v.United States, 468 U. S. 796 (1984). There, federal agents applied for a warrant to search an apartment but illegally entered the apartment to secure it before the judge issued the warrant. Id., at 800–801. After receiving the warrant, the agents then searched the apartment for drugs. Id., at
801. The question before us was what to do with the evidence the agents then discovered. We declined to suppress it because “[t]he illegal entry into petitioners’ apartment did not contribute in any way to discovery of the evidence seized under the warrant.” Id., at 815. According to the majority, Segura involves facts “similar” to this case and “suggest[s]” that a valid warrant will clean up whatever illegal conduct uncovered it. Ante, at 6–7. It is difficult to understand this interpretation. In Segura, the agents’ illegal conduct in entering the apartment had nothing to do with their procurement of a search warrant. Here, the officer’s illegal conduct in stopping Strieff was essential to his discovery of an arrest warrant.
Segura would be similar only if the agents used information they illegally obtained from the apartment to procure a search warrant or discover an arrest warrant. Precisely because that was not the case, the Court admitted the untainted evidence. 468 U. S., at 814.The majority likewise misses the point when it calls the warrant check here a “‘negligibly burdensome precautio[n]’” taken for the officer’s “safety.” Ante, at 8 (quoting Rodriguez, 575 U. S., at ___ (slip op., at 7)). Remember, the officer stopped Strieff without suspecting him of committing any crime. By his own account, the officer did not fear Strieff. Moreover, the safety rationale we discussed in Rodriguez, an opinion about highway patrols, is conspicuously absent here. A warrant check on a highway “ensur[es] that vehicles on the road are operated safely and responsibly.” Id., at ___ (slip op., at 6). We allow such checks during legal traffic stops because the legitimacy of a person’s driver’s license has a “close connection to roadway safety.” Id., at ___ (slip op., at 7). A warrant check of
a pedestrian on a sidewalk, “by contrast, is a measure aimed at ‘detect[ing] evidence of ordinary criminal wrongdoing.’” Ibid. (quoting Indianapolis v. Edmond, 531 U. S. 32, 40–41 (2000)). Surely we would not allow officers to warrant-check random joggers, dog walkers, and lemonade vendors just to ensure they pose no threat to anyone else. The majority also posits that the officer could not have exploited his illegal conduct because he did not violate the Fourth Amendment on purpose. Rather, he made “good­faith mistakes.” Ante, at 8. Never mind that the officer’s sole purpose was to fish for evidence. The majority casts his unconstitutional actions as “negligent” and therefore incapable of being deterred by the exclusionary rule. Ibid. But the Fourth Amendment does not tolerate an officer’s
unreasonable searches and seizures just because he did not know any better. Even officers prone to negligence can learn from courts that exclude illegally obtained evidence.Stone, 428 U. S., at 492. Indeed, they are perhaps the most in need of the education, whether by the judge’s opinion, the prosecutor’s future guidance, or an updated manual on criminal procedure. If the officers are in doubt about what the law requires, exclusion gives them an “incentive to err on the side of constitutional behavior.” United States v. Johnson, 457 U. S. 537, 561 (1982).


Most striking about the Court’s opinion is its insistence that the event here was “isolated,” with “no indication that this unlawful stop was part of any systemic or recurrent police misconduct.” Ante, at 8–9. Respectfully, nothing about this case is isolated. Outstanding warrants are surprisingly common. When a person with a traffic ticket misses a fine payment or court appearance, a court will issue a warrant. See, e.g., Brennan Center for Justice, Criminal Justice Debt 23 (2010), online at

When a person on probation drinks alcohol or breaks curfew, a court will issue a warrant. See, e.g., Human Rights Watch, Profiting from Probation 1, 51 (2014), online at americas-offender-funded-probation-industry.

The States and Federal Government maintain databases with over 7.8 million outstanding warrants, the vast majority of which appear to be for minor offenses. See Systems Survey (Table 5a). Even these sources may not track the “staggering” numbers of warrants, “‘drawers and drawers’” full, that many cities issue for traffic violations and ordinance infractions. Dept. of Justice, Civil Rights Div., Investigation of the Ferguson Police Department 47, 55 (2015) (Ferguson Report), online at sites/default/files/opa/press-releases/attachments/2015/03/

The county in this case has had a “backlog” of such warrants. See supra, at 4. The Department of Justice recently reported that in the town of Ferguson, Missouri, with a population of 21,000, 16,000 people had outstanding warrants against them. Ferguson Report, at 6, 55. Justice Department investigations across the country have illustrated how these astounding numbers of warrants can be used by police to stop people without cause.In a single year in New Orleans, officers “made nearly 60,000 arrests, of which about 20,000 were of people with outstanding traffic or misdemeanor warrants from neighboring parishes for such infractions as unpaid tickets.” Dept. of Justice, Civil Rights Div., Investigation of the New Orleans Police Department 29 (2011), online at

In the St. Louis metropolitan area, officers “routinely” stop people—on the street, at bus stops, or even in court—for no reason other than “an officer’s desire to check whether the subject had a municipal arrest warrant pending.” Ferguson Report, at 49, 57. In Newark, New Jersey, officers stopped 52,235 pedestrians within a 4-year period and ran warrant checks on 39,308 of them. Dept. of Justice, Civil Rights Div., Investigation of the Newark Police Department 8, 19, n. 15 (2014), online at

The Justice Department analyzed these warrant-checked stops and reported that “approximately 93% of the stops would have been considered unsupported by articulated reasonable suspicion.” Id., at 9, n. 7. I do not doubt that most officers act in “good faith” and do not set out to break the law. That does not mean these stops are “isolated instance[s] of negligence,” however. Ante, at 8. Many are the product of institutionalized training procedures. The New York City Police Department long trained officers to, in the words of a District Judge, “stop and question first, develop reasonable suspicion later.” Ligon v. New York, 925 F. Supp. 2d 478, 537–538 (SDNY), stay granted on other grounds, 736 F. 3d 118 (CA2 2013). The Utah Supreme Court described as “‘routine procedure’ or ‘common practice’” the decision of Salt Lake City police officers to run warrant checks on pedestrians they detained without reasonable suspicion. State v. Topanotes, 2003 UT 30, ¶2, 76 P. 3d 1159, 1160. In the related context of traffic stops, one widely followed police manual instructs officers looking for drugs to “run at least a warrants check on all drivers you stop. Statistically, narcotics offenders are . . . more likely to fail to appear on simple citations, such as traffic or trespass violations, leading to the issuance of bench warrants. Discovery of an outstanding warrant gives you cause for an immediate custodial arrest and search of the suspect.” C. Remsberg, Tactics for Criminal Patrol 205–206 (1995); C.Epp et al., Pulled Over 23, 33–36 (2014). The majority does not suggest what makes this case “isolated” from these and countless other examples. Nor does it offer guidance for how a defendant can prove that his arrest was the result of “widespread” misconduct. Surely it should not take a federal investigation of Salt Lake County before the Court would protect someone in Strieff ’s position.


Writing only for myself, and drawing on my professional experiences, I would add that unlawful “stops” have severe consequences much greater than the inconvenience suggested by the name. This Court has given officers an array of instruments to probe and examine you. When we condone officers’ use of these devices without adequate cause, we give them reason to target pedestrians in an arbitrary manner. We also risk treating members of our communities as second-class citizens.Although many Americans have been stopped for speeding or jaywalking, few may realize how degrading a stop can be when the officer is looking for more. This Court has allowed an officer to stop you for whatever reason he wants—so long as he can point to a pretextual justification after the fact. Whren v. United States, 517 U. S. 806, 813 (1996). That justification must provide specific reasons why the officer suspected you were breaking the law, Terry, 392 U. S., at 21, but it may factor in your ethnicity, United States v. Brignoni-Ponce, 422 U. S. 873, 886–887 (1975), where you live, Adams v. Williams, 407 U. S. 143, 147 (1972), what you were wearing, United States v. Sokolow, 490 U. S. 1, 4–5 (1989), and how you behaved, Illinois v. Wardlow, 528 U. S. 119, 124–125 (2000). The officer does not even need to know which law you might have broken so long as he can later point to any possible infraction—even one that is minor, unrelated, or ambiguous. Devenpeck v. Alford, 543 U. S. 146, 154–155 (2004); Heien v. North Carolina, 574 U. S. ___ (2014). The indignity of the stop is not limited to an officer telling you that you look like a criminal. See Epp, Pulled Over, at 5. The officer may next ask for your “consent” to inspect your bag or purse without telling you that you can decline. See Florida v. Bostick, 501 U. S. 429, 438 (1991). Regardless of your answer, he may order you to stand “helpless, perhaps facing a wall with [your] hands raised.” Terry, 392 U. S., at 17. If the officer thinks you might be dangerous, he may then “frisk” you for weapons. This involves more than just a pat down. As onlookers pass by, the officer may “‘feel with sensitive fingers every portion of [your] body. A thorough search [may] be made of [your] arms and armpits, waistline and back, the groin and area about the testicles, and entire surface of the legs down to the feet.’” Id., at 17, n. 13. The officer’s control over you does not end with the stop. If the officer chooses, he may handcuff you and take you to jail for doing nothing more than speeding, jaywalking, or “driving [your] pickup truck . . . with [your] 3-year-old son and 5-year-old daughter . . . without [your] seatbelt fastened.” Atwater v. Lago Vista, 532 U. S. 318, 323–324 (2001). At the jail, he can fingerprint you, swab DNA from the inside of your mouth, and force you to “shower with a delousing agent” while you “lift [your] tongue, hold out [your] arms, turn around, and lift [your] genitals.” Florence v. Board of Chosen Freeholders of County of Burlington, 566 U. S. ___, ___–___ (2012) (slip op., at 2–3); Maryland v. King, 569 U. S. ___, ___ (2013) (slip op., at 28). Even if you are innocent, you will now join the 65 million Americans with an arrest record and experience the “civil death” of discrimination by employers, landlords, and whoever else conducts a background check. Chin, The New Civil Death, 160 U. Pa. L. Rev. 1789, 1805 (2012); see J. Jacobs, The Eternal Criminal Record 33–51 (2015); Young & Petersilia, Keeping Track, 129 Harv. L. Rev. 1318, 1341–1357 (2016). And, of course, if you fail to pay bail or appear for court, a judge will issue a warrant to render you “arrestable on sight” in the future. A. Goffman, On the Run 196 (2014). This case involves a suspicionless stop, one in which the officer initiated this chain of events without justification. As the Justice Department notes, supra, at 8, many innocent people are subjected to the humiliations of these unconstitutional searches. The white defendant in this case shows that anyone’s dignity can be violated in this manner. See M. Gottschalk, Caught 119–138 (2015). But it is no secret that people of color are disproportionate victims of this type of scrutiny. See M. Alexander, The New Jim Crow 95–136 (2010). For generations, black and brown parents have given their children “the talk”— instructing them never to run down the street; always keep your hands where they can be seen; do not even think of talking back to a stranger—all out of fear of how an officer with a gun will react to them. See, e.g., W. E. B. Du Bois, The Souls of Black Folk (1903); J. Baldwin, The Fire Next Time (1963); T. Coates, Between the World and Me (2015).

By legitimizing the conduct that produces this double consciousness, this case tells everyone, white and black, guilty and innocent, that an officer can verify your legal status at any time. It says that your body is subject to invasion while courts excuse the violation of your rights. It implies that you are not a citizen of a democracy but the subject of a carceral state, just waiting to be cataloged. We must not pretend that the countless people who are routinely targeted by police are “isolated.” They are the canaries in the coal mine whose deaths, civil and literal, warn us that no one can breathe in this atmosphere. See L. Guinier & G. Torres, The Miner’s Canary 274–283 (2002). They are the ones who recognize that unlawful police stops corrode all our civil liberties and threaten all our lives. Until their voices matter too, our justice system will continue to be anything but.
* * *
 I dissent.

Happy Father’s Day

This will be a short post, as I am about to fire up the grill.

Twenty three years ago, I almost lost my father when he had an aneurysm. At that time 95% of people died from the type of aneurysm he had, so needless to say, I am very greatful.

My wife was pregnant with our first child when my father had his aneursym and my sons almost missed the opportunity to meet their grandfather. My father has had a major influence on my sons' lives and I used to sit in awe whenever I would watch them interact when they were younger, thinking to myself how those moment would never have happened. I never knew my grandparents, they had all passed before I had the chance.

Life is short. If you are blessed to still have a father, make sure you let him know how greatful you are to have him in your life. If you are a father yourself, make sure your children know how much you love them and that you are there for them no matter what. If your relationship with your children or father is damaged, repair it before it's too late. If you are not currently in your children's lives, it's never too late to reach out. Even if you think they'll reject you, reach out anyway.

With violence increasing at alarming rates, more than any other time kids need the father in their lives. If you've been a bad father, start becoming a better one. Unless you're in the grave, it's never too late. If you need help, contact an organization like the Father Support Center or Better Family Life and let them know you want to become a better father, they will help you! To find other help resources, check out the 2016 ST. LOUIS AREA RESOURCE DIRECTORY.

St. Louis County Municipalities, Better Together or Apart?

The non-profit organization, Better Together, recently release a comprehensive report, "The Will to Change", which poses a key St. Louis question: “Why does a region with world-class resources struggle to thrive?” One major reason is racism.

Racism which is perpetuated by public policy and mass media results in racial division and exclusion. Institutional racism affects access and opportunity including outcomes in municipal and other courts. Local news stations disproportionately show photos or videos of black people participating in crime, even minor offenses such as shoplifting. Watching the news, one might easily get the false impression the White people don't regularly shoplift or commit other crimes.  

Between 2013 and 2014 there were 767 mostly white overdose deaths from heroin and prescription painkillers. According to Time magazine, 90% of heroin users are white and therefore the majority of heroin dealers are white. The news rarely talks about the white, thug, drug dealers that sold the drugs which caused their death. In fact, St. Louis County Executive Steve Stinger and St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar wrote letters of support for a money laundering drug dealer. If 767 people overdosed, you can imagine how many drug addicts there are. Certainly many of those drug addicts are committing crimes to fund their habits, but strangely, their faces usually don't appear on the evening news.

Many of the 90 municipalities that comprise St. Louis County were created with an emphasis on keeping black people and others out. Restrictive covenants, misinformation, denial of financing, and racial steering were among the tactics used to maintain white only neighborhoods. In the past, the fact that St. Louis County contained 90+ municipalities was a non-issue. That is until a number of St. Louis County municipalities' population became majority black. 

Fifty-five percent of Black Missourians live in either St. Louis City or County which represents twenty-nine percent of the St. Louis City/County total population. Thirty-one of the ninety St. Louis County municipalities are majority black populated, they include:

St. Louis Municipalities with majority black populations percentage rounded to nearest whole number
Bellefontaine Neighbors 73%

Bel-ridge 83%

Berkley 82% Beverly Hills 93%
Black Jack 81% Cool Valley 85% Country Club Hills 91% Dellwood 79%
Ferguson 52% Flordell Hills 91% Glen Ecko Park 92% Greendale 69%
Hanley Hills 96%  Hillsdale 96% Jennings 90% Kinloch 95%
Moline Acres 92% Normandy 70% Northwoods 94% Norwood Court 94%
Pagedale 93% Pasadena Hills 68% Pasadena Park 61% Pine Lawn 96%
Riverview 70% Uplands Park 96% Velda City 95% Velda Village Hills 99%
Vinta Park 64.9 Vinta Terrace 73% Wellston 95%  

There are other St. Louis County municipalities that have significant black populations such as Hazelwood 31%, Breckenridge Hills, 33%, University City 41% and Belnor 46%. 

Those concentrated numbers if utilized effective can provide Black people living in those communities greater control. Combining resources and eliminating repetitive functions does have its advantages, but do they outweigh the cost of having less self-determination and control?  I'm skeptical. The City of St. Louis has a majority black population, but most of our city leadership is white. Resources are not fairly allocated and more emphasis seems to be put on solving and eradicating minor crime in downtown, the Central West End and other areas more likely to be frequented by whites, while fewer resources seem to be devoted to solving more serious crime in North St. Louis.

Some of the major issues raised in the report include:

Internal Competition – There is competition for resources within various neighborhoods and communities within municipalities. Merging won't end the competition for amenities. Tax dollars in the City of St. Louis are not evenly distributed and have been allocated mostly to white areas. Even the majority of public dollars spent on projects on the Northside have gone to white developers, which will most likely result in black residents being displaced.

TIF – Tax increment financing (TIF), a public financing method that is used as a subsidy for redevelopment, infrastructure, and other community-improvement projects, originally began as a tool to redevelop blighted urban areas, but over time became corrupted as a tool for private developers to fund their projects. The most blighted areas within the Greater St. Louis Area rarely benefit because projects usually occur in locations considered more desirable.

Municipal Court Fines – The Ferguson Protest revealed to the nation what local legal professionals and others already knew. Municipal courts didn't just recently start operating as revenue generators, they have operated this way for decades. Professor T.E. Lauer, a law professor at the University of Missouri published a stinging indictment of the municipal courts in 1966, titled, "Prolegomenon to Municipal Court Reform in Missouri". Judges, the Missouri Courts in general, and local media pretended that they hadn't realized how bad the problem was; of course, they knew.

Many lawyers begin their careers working within the municipal court system, some of those lawyers became municipal court judges and some of those judges became Circuit, Appellate and maybe even Supreme Court judges. Instead of acknowledging that the municipal court system had become flawed, many disingenuously acted as if they were surprised that St. Louis area municipal courts were acting as predatory revenue sources. The predatory municipal court system provided generous income to both legal professionals and municipalities.

Service Disparity – Merging municipalities won't automatically bring services to underserved communities. I regularly pass through two intersections that have non-functioning street lights, MLK & Euclid, and MLK & Sarah. The same municipality that claims it doesn't have money to fix lights is spending millions to raze Kiener Plaza, not because it was in disrepair or non-functioning, someone decided it was time to remodel.

Economic Development – I am 50 years old and was born and raised in North St. Louis. The City of St. Louis restricted economic development and many believe that the "Team Four Plan" was followed in spirit, even if it was never made official policy.

Does a real a problem exist?

Is St. Louis County really that different from other neighboring counties. St. Louis County is bounded by three other counties, Franklin, Jefferson, St. Charles, and the City of St. Louis. Let's compare St. Louis County with the other three bordering counties. 

St. Louis County, is Missouri's largest county, has 90 municipalities and a population of 1,003,362 per the 2015 Census Bureau population estimate, (11,148) average per municipality.

Franklin County has 12 municipalities an additional 11 unincorporated communities and a population of 102,426, (8,536) average per municipality.

Jefferson County has 24 municipalities but has a total of 82 cities, towns and other populated places, and a population of 224,124, (10,188) average per municipality.

St. Charles County has 24 municipalities and a population of 385,590, (16,066) average per municipality

St. Clair County is the largest in Illinois closest to St. Louis County. St. Clair has 32 municipalities, 11 unincorporated and census designated communities and a population of 264,052., (8,252) average per municipality.

When St. Louis County is compared based on the average population per municipality within a county, it doesn't look much different than neighboring counties. In fact, other than St. Charles, it has the largest average population per municipality than the others. The only thing that distinguishes St. Louis County is a large number of majority black municipalities. Merging those communities into others could dilute political power and control. 

Meacham Park  

In 1991, the predominantly white community of Kirkwood annexed Meacham Park, a historic black neighborhood in unincorporated St. Louis County. The merger was approved by large margins in both communities, but problems soon arose.

Not long after the merger, Kirkwood invoked eminent domain to take over large swaths of Meacham Park in order to build a Wal-Mart Supercenter and other commercial developments. Eventually two-thirds of the neighborhood was taken and Meacham Park’s population fell by 30%. The community’s mostly black, mostly poor residents numbered less than 800, and they were swept into a city of more than 27,000, only 7% of whom were black. Many people felt cheated out of their land.

Cookie Thornton was a Meacham Park resident who fired shots during a Kirkwood city council meeting, that killed five because of a dispute with municipal officials.

In its 2013 Annual Report, the city’s official Human Rights Commission wrote that it “continued to monitor the relationship between the City of Kirkwood and the Meacham Park neighborhood. The issues are long standing and deep, they need attention.” A Kirkwood subdivision still had bylaws prohibiting African-Americans from owning homes there in 2013, the unenforceable covenant stated, "African-Americans cannot occupy a building unless they are servants or employees".

In theory, merging municipalities appear to be a good idea, but as the Meacham Park example points out, the stronger community might take advantage and even change the character of the entire community.

Muhammad Ali’s Memorial Service – Tributes of Greatness

Dr. Kevin Cosby set the tone and delivered an outstanding and fitting eulogy to Muhammad Ali.

My brother and uncle attended the Muhammad Ali memorial service in Louisville yesterday. Unfortunately, I was unable to attend, but I was able to watch it thanks to Bounce TV's live coverage. Bounce TV is majority owned and operated by African Americans. We need more stations like Bounce to overcome the racial bias of white media.

World leaders, stars and regular people from all over the world of all faiths and stations in life were inspired and in awe of Mr. Ali's greatness not as a boxing champion, but as a person and humanitarian. Muhammad Ali's memorial included speakers of many religious faiths. Rabbi Michael Lerner's eulogy was a remarkable example of Ali inspired activism.

Lonnie Ali, Muhammad Ali's wife, displayed tremendous poise and strength with her remarkable tribute to her husband.

As I watched Muhammad Ali's memorial service, I couldn't help but be reminded of all the other great inspiring American Black men and women who transcended their circumstances or professions and helped changed the world such as Frederick Douglass, Mary McLeod Bethune, Booker T. Washington, A. Philip Randolph, Ida B. Wells, Dorothy Height, W.E.B. Dubois, Jessie Owens, Jackie Robinson, Medgar Evers, Malcolm X, Martin Luther King, Rosa Parks, Maya Angelo, Harry Belafonte, Michael Jackson, Thurgood Marshall, Paul Robeson, Barack Obama, St. Louisans (Annie Malone, Frankie Muse Freeman, my uncle Dick Gregory) and many others. As a people, we are capable of amazing feats and humanity, especially considering the history of our circumstance.

Billy Crystal Eulogy Speech at Muhammad Ali Memorial Funeral:

Bill Clinton Delivers Eulogy at Ali Funeral FULL Speech

Although, President Barack Obama couldn't attend the funeral of Muhammad Ali because his daughter was graduating the day of the funeral, President Obama paid a moving tribute.

Use Ali's example of intelligence, wisdom, courage, humility, and humanity to inspire you to see through the lies of history and stand up for yourself and others.

See our post, "Muhammad Ali: Humanity's Champion

When the enemy is treated better than you

While having Sunday dinner with my parents, we discussed the death of Muhammad Ali. Muhammad Ali had been a guest in my parent's house in the 1970's while participating in a hunger run with my uncle, Dick Gregory. I was supposed to have met Muhammad Ali during that visit, but I missed my opportunity.

Mr. Ali's visit was secret and I was told not to let anyone know he was coming. My best friend at the time live two houses down the street and how many 10 or 11-year-old kids can resist sharing that type of news with their best friend? When I arrived back home with my friend, I was told Muhammad Ali would not be able to make it, so my friend and I left. Ali had come and gone while I was at the park with my friend. 

I embedded a number of videos of  Muhammad Ali that I knew wouldn't be shown by mainstream media. I shared some of those videos with my parents. In one video, Ali stated, "I'm not gonna help nobody get something a negro don't have". My father chimed in on that comment and expressed he knew something was wrong during World War II and felt black men probably shouldn't be fighting.

Six of my father's brothers fought in combat during World War II. Dad explained when he was a teenager, German prisoners of war would be bussed in from Fort Leonard Wood and taken to the Fox Theather to watch movies. He mentioned how Black active duty soldiers home on leave in uniform with a chest full of metals were not allowed to enter the Fox. Even as a child, he knew it was wrong that German prisoners of war had more rights than black men fighting for our country. America was treating our enemies during a time of war better than Black citizens fighting against those same enemies. The majority of those soldiers stayed in the U.S. and became citizens and married American women according to a newspaper article my father read a short time after the war.

In 2016, it's rouge police officers rather than German prisoners of war 

Rouge cops abusing people's rights, committing acts of police brutality and killing unarmed black men, women and children are enemies to our safety and security. Thug prosecutors who help cover up illegal acts committed by rogue cops are also enemies. When cops commit illegal acts, they should be brought to justice just like anyone else. In fact, a police officer breaking the law breaks a sacred trust and should be held to a higher standard. Instead, they pay almost no consequences for their actions, unless a video exists. 

On May 30th and 31st, St. Louis Police Chief Sam Dotson, complained about judges being too lenient and providing bail amounts he considers too low for criminal defendants.  In December, a St. Louis public defender claimed the police chief and prosecutor unfairly influence gun crime bail. However, Dotson is not as vocal when the wrongdoer is from his own police department. 

A Former St. Louis prosecutor admitted helping cover up officer's assault, but did she go to jail? No, her law license suspended. Did Chief Dotson speak out then? A former Texas prosecutor conspired to send an innocent man to death row and disbarment was the only punishment. These sort of prosecutors are enemies to liberty and freedom and should face severe punishments rather than mere slaps on the hand.

The Ferguson Protest brought national attention to how our courts were being used to unfairly penalize black people. The police chief and prosecutor responded by trying to create an even harsher treatment, aimed specifically at black folks, for non-violent unlawful possession of a gun; in a state where the right to keep and bear guns is a constitutional right. 

How long will we continue to simply watch while our enemies are being treated better than we are? We need to learn the law, speak up and act! If you are done wrong by the police, prosecutor or judge file a complaint. After you file your complaint, send us a copy.

Muhammad Ali: Humanity’s Champion, rest in peace

Muhammad Ali, humanitarian, civil rights activist and three-time heavyweight boxing champion, born Cassius Marcellus Clay, Jr. died yesterday June 3, 2016.

Muhammad Ali often referred to himself as "The Greatest" and much of the world, including myself, agreed with that proclamation. 

Mr. Ali perfectly exemplified the idea in yesterday's post, "Better to Be Strong". I'm not referring to the physical strength he obviously displayed during his many boxing matches. As brilliant as Muhammad Ali was in the ring, his true greatness was outside the ring when he stood up for his belief and rights and fought the United States government.

His refusal to accept induction into the armed forces on religious grounds cost him millions and his heavyweight title, but in the end, Ali came up victorious in the most significant battle of his life.

Ali became one of the most famous and beloved persons in the world, not because of athletic ability, but because of his integrity, character and refusing to allow others to define who he was.

One of my biggest regrets is missing the opportunity to meet Mr. Ali when he visited my parent's house with my uncle. 

In 1967, three years after winning the heavyweight title, Ali refused to be conscripted into the U.S. military, citing his religious beliefs and opposition to American involvement in the Vietnam War. He was eventually arrested and found guilty on draft evasion charges and stripped of his boxing title. He did not fight again for nearly four years—losing a time of peak performance in an athlete's career. Ali's appeal worked its way up to the U.S. Supreme Court where, in 1971, his conviction was overturned.

Ali's actions as a conscientious objector to the war took tremendous courage and sacrifice and made him an icon for the larger counterculture generation. History proved him right!

Be inspired by Muhammad Ali's example and start fighting back against oppression. Ali risked everything, comfort, wealth, title, and freedom fighting for his beliefs. What's stopping you from standing up for yourself? 

Thank you, Mr. Ali, for sharing your greatness with world, rest in peace.

Better to be strong

Are you weak are strong? When your rights are violated and you give up without a fight, you are mentally weak. Strong people fight for what they want and what they believe they deserve. Weak people lack perseverance and are often unsuccessful because they give up too easily. Regardless, how difficult the task, a person must fight for their goals. 

You must fight for your rights, even those that are guaranteed under the law. The police, corporations, and judges violate people's rights all the time. Most people just accept it, but there are a few who refuse to accept their rights being violated. People in power lie about your ability to fight back in order to make or keep you weak. Slogans such as "you can't beat city hall" and "he who represents himself has a fool for a client" discourages people from even trying. 

"Freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed" – Martin Luther King, Jr.

This country was created by people taking power, not by people asking for it. It took a civil war to end slavery. In 1863 black men, half of whom were former slaves, helped turn the tide of war. Those newly freed slaves knew they had to fight for their freedom in order to keep it. Likewise, you must take (envoke) your rights or they will simply be taken away. 

More than a decade before Barack Obama became President of the United States, he wrote the book "Dreams from My Father". Obama mentioned a conversation with his Indonesian stepfather, Lolo, in the book. Young Barack asked Lolo if he had ever seen a man killed?  Lolo replied "yes". Obama asked, "why the man was killed?"  Lolo responded, "because he was weak". Obama replied, "That's all?", to which Lolo responded, "that's usually enough".

Lolo further explained:

"Men take advantage of weakness in other men." …"The strong man takes the weak man's land. He makes the weak man work in his fields. If the weak man's woman is pretty, the strong man will take her." … "which would your rather be?" … "Better to be strong" … "If you can't be strong, be clever and make peace with someone who's strong. But always better to be strong yourself. Always."

Reading that passage reminded me of Jack Nicholas' opening scene in "The Departed" where he says "no one gives it to you, you have to take it". Warning the video clip includes verbalization of  the word "nigger".  

Will you allow others to take what is yours or will you fight to keep it? I choose to fight. If you choose not to fight, don't complain about the consequences. Police brutality, mass incarceration, predatory lending, driving while black, stop and frisk, unequal protection of the law, illegal or unfair laws are all things that have successfully been used against black people in this country. This will be the legacy of your children if you do not fight against injustice. Some people give up their rights because it's quicker and convenient. Some innocent people even accept plea bargains involving jail time, because they fear the consequences of losing and being sentenced to more time. 

Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety – Benjamin Franklin

Lack of understanding about the law is one of the black community's greatest weaknesses. You must educate yourself about the law to increase your strength. You have been purposefully miseducated so that you would remain weak and others could easily control and exploit you.

"Powerful people never teach powerless people how to take their power away from them" … "Powerful people cannot afford to educate the people that they oppress, because once you are truly educated, you will not ask for power. You will take it" – Dr. John Herik Clark

Traits of Mentally Strong People

  • Take responsibility. Strong people take responsibility for getting the results they want. They don't wait around for others to solve their problems. There may be times when other people cause your problems, but rather than complain or feel sorry for yourself, take action. Take responsibility, not for the problem, but for the outcome you want.
  • Don't allow others to take away power. Allowing others to make you feel inferior or that you have no control, especially over your actions and emotions takes away your strength. Allowing others to divide and conquer your group also zaps your power. People in power will often convince oppressed people that others in the oppressed group should not be trusted. You must be strong both individually and collectively within your group or community.
  • Embrace change. Change will happen rather you want it or not. Fortunes are made because of people anticipating change and responding to it. Strong people embrace changes, weak people fear change.
  • Learn from failure. Strong people don't give up after failure, learn from the past and look towards the future. The first time you tried to walk, you fell, just like everyone else. However, you kept trying and unless there was a physical barrier, you learned  not only how to stand, but also to walk and run. Strong people are willing to fail, over and over if necessary to achieve their goals.
  • Become stronger. No matter how good you are something, you can be better. Mentally strong people attempt to become stronger by increasing their knowledge, greater control of their emotions and going outside their comfort zone to take on new challenges. 
  • Don't worry about pleasing others. Some people will like you while others will not, no matter what you do. You can't demand your rights and freedom while trying to please others. The people oppressing you will not be pleased with your attempt to free yourself. Slave owners did not want slaves to be freed.