Did You See Last Night!

 


The bickering and finger pointing last night left me shaking my head.  Only people who made sense were Senator Marco Rubio and Governor John Kasich. 

Ted Cruz did make A good point.

Who would you choose, if the GOP candidates were all you had to choose for President?
 
 

Advertisements

Part III: #AutoErase

Belk police

#Auto Erase legislation signed into law by North Carolina Republican Governor Pat McCrory went into effect, December 1, 2015. It was first introduced by state Senator Floyd McKissick who garnered support from his Republican colleagues by including language about identity theft and wrongful identification. The road in North Carolina wasn’t easy. It sailed through the Senate but stalled in the House of Representatives.

“If anyone believes their voice doesn’t matter, they are wrong! When it stalled,” in North Carolina where Charles went to high school, “I asked my mother to have her bridge club friends call, and my high school friends to send emails. Their calls and emails, I believe, helped move the legislation that had sat for months. I received an email from the co-Chairs of the judicial committee and they called to say they were scheduling my legislation. It was voted on and passed.”

I wondered and asked how he moved forward without making it about race. “They were looking for a tall, bald, black man. I fit that description.”

Even I, someone who often steers from the race debate, can see it plainly like those who champion #BlackLivesMatter, that race did play a part in this.  But, in Charles is a valuable “strategy” lesson, often forgotten in the Civil Rights movement discussion.

Activists in the sixties who marched, were often beaten and killed by police officers. But they didn’t turn back.  Their strategy was to bring attention and increase awareness. Their sacrifice made it possible to  advanced landmark Civil Rights legislation.  Fifty years later their efforts also make it possible for Charles to convince a southern legislature to pass #AutoErase legislation.

Today, can be drawn from the sixties today, of Blacks being killed by police officers.  But now, although Officer Darren Wilson got away with the murder of Michael Brown, the Black Lives Matter movement has propelled a national conversation. And we see, body cameras funded by municipalities and states in South Carolina, because of advocacy and an outcry about the senseless murder of Walter Scott by Officer Michael Slager.

Charles during the interview, said emphatically, “I Survived!” Words Tamir Rice, Eric Garner, Oscar Scott and Laquan McDonald and will never say.

Belk FB post

The post, I read before meeting Charles three months later.

“When I talk to high school students, I tell them, if they are in a situation like mine, don’t fight the battle there on the street. In my situation, it didn’t matter. No matter how many degrees I have. Or that I wasn’t involved in a crime. They didn’t want to hear it, they had their guy. Tall, bald and Black. Thankfully, I lived to see another day. That’s what I tell young people, live to see another day, and then fight that battle.”

Charles is fighting that battle by going to conferences like the National Black Caucus of State Legislators (NBCSL) and National Hispanic Caucus of State Legislators (NHCSL). This year, both passed policy resolutions supporting #AutoErase.  He intends to use them to get support from other national organizations like the American Bar Association.

#AutoErase will also become the law in Illinois January 1, 2016.  Arizona, Rhode Island, Pennsylvania and South Carolina introduced #AutoErase legislation this year. It died in committee in Arizona but will be reintroduced in 2016. The Rhode Island House of Representatives passed it but the Senate did not. It too, will be reintroduced in 2016.   It is still alive in Pennsylvania and South Carolina where legislators will take up the legislation in 2016.

Erase.jpg

Draft legislation has been crafted in Michigan by Representative Bert Johnson. In Ohio, Florida, Maryland, Georgia, Wisconsin, Tennessee, New Jersey and the US Virgin Islands, legislators have promised to introduce it during next year’s legislative sessions.

Former professional tennis player, James Blake’s who was mistakenly tackled and handcuffed by police in a Manhattan hotel just like Charles.  This just another example of overzealous police officers misuse of the public trust because to them someone “fit the description.” The police culture of power has existed too long. It has permeated the upper and lower echelons of our society and should be replaced with the idea of responsibility of protecting not destroying the public trust.

Whether it was the overseer policing slaves, to the officer wearing a cloth over his head, hanging and shooting Blacks, during segregation, it is wrong. Today, with no whip or hood, officers have without repercussion, shot unarmed men and women. Charles survived, but his good name was damaged, at least for a little while, by officers, who said he fit the description.

His journey to right this wrong, has him on a crusade to make sure this never happens to anyone again. He can use your help, so that this doesn’t happen to you, or anyone we know. Please follow his journey, and if you can, support his cause to make #AutoErase the law of the land!

Check out some of the interviews Charles has given about his arrest. And share his story with your friends.  https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCqeqKHHceEwwwYDWknKD5sg

Follow him @CharlesBelk on Twitter and Facebook.  His nonprofit is Fitting the Description and use the #AutoErase and #FittingtheDescription or visit www.fittingthedescription.org.

Stay up to date on what’s going on in your state by sharing your info on these sites. And if you want to help Charles, please reach out to him and/or call your state legislator and find out if they know about #AutoErase. Together, we can make a difference!

Erase the innocent.jpg

Charles Belk is President/Producer at I Will Make You A Star Productions and Adjucnt Professor Pierce College.  He is the founder of the organization and executive director of Fitting The Description.

Atiba Madyun is President of The Madyun Group (TMG), a Public Affairs firm in Washington, DC and creator of Cognitive Relevance (CR) and Party Politics (PP). Follow him on Twitter @atibamadyun or Like Atiba Madyun on Facebook.

Part II: Handcuffs to M.A.D.

Wrongful

“Are you going to post about this?”  Charles Belk’s best friend asked.  Uncertain, he sat in darkness, unable to sleep before writing a ten paragraph post that would be shared over 40,000 times received 35,000 likes and 10,000 comments.

Media outlets picked it up and Charles shared his story.  Unaware that his journey with the law was just beginning.  News of something else would lead him on a journey across America, from handcuffs to M.A.D. – Making A Difference!”

“I did the interviews because I SURVIVED to tell my story.”

Some like Michael Brown, Walter Scott, Tamir Rice, Oscar Grant and Eric Garner to name just a few, never had that opportunity.  And while we would all love to hear their stories, and sadly never will, what about those who have been wrongfully jailed, accused for crimes they didn’t commit, but “didn’t have the resources to get the attention to tell their story?  I wanted to give them a voice.”

As he shared his arrest story with the media, he soon learned something more troubling related to his arrest.  A week later, Withdrawn and tired, “I was ready to move on and get back to normal.  So that Saturday, I went to the USC football game.”

The next day, a message from a friend startled him.

“He asked if I had seen the LAPD’s website.  When I went to the site, I was freaked me out because when I was released, they handed me a piece of paper that said, I was detained not arrested.”

On the site, he found his name, address, height and weight listed and that he was held on a $100,000 bond for felony armed bank robbery!”

Arrest record.jpg

His friends were livid, “people flooded the police department with calls and emails.  The department called me to come in.”

He was told, the normal procedure takes months to remove.  For a crime he didn’t commit?  “A felony arrest can impact your ability to get a loan, and employment.”

“I was told, that normally, you need a lawyer to present this to the agency that arrested you.  The agency can approve or not approve it.  Then a judge determines if your record should be erased. The process can take six months and cost five thousand dollars.   Thanks to my social media friends’ calls, when I arrived, officers had the form filled out and the sheriff was prepared to expedite it.  They even had an officer ready to walk it to a judge.

How many others encounter similar situations?  What he learned from a Washington insider is Congress has typically left criminal justice to the states.  So Charles set on a journey that doesn’t get the fanfare it deserves.  He has taken off the handcuffs and traveling the country to M.A.D.

Find out what Charles is doing now around the country in the Final Chapter……#AutoErase

BillSigning

Charles Belk is President/Producer at I Will Make You A Star Productions and Adjucnt Professor Pierce College.  He is the founder of the organization and executive director of Fitting The Description.

Atiba Madyun is President of The Madyun Group (TMG), a Public Affairs firm in Washington, DC and creator of Cognitive Relevance (CR) and Party Politics (PP). Follow him on Twitter @atibamadyun or Like Atiba Madyun on Facebook.

Part I: A Bad Dream!

Charles

“I went to feed the parking meter and a police officer on a motorcycle stopped to ask for my driver’s license.”

It was 5pm, Friday, August 22, 2014, Emmy Award weekend in LA.  Charles was ordered to sit on the curb handcuffed. “I figured, they would run my license, even google me and straighten everything out.”  The incident and photo of above tells a story that should have never happened but it also should have ended there.  Sadly, it did not.

Instead, Charles who had been working with talent all day preparing for the weekend’s events was booked for a crime he knew nothing about.

“They took my wallet, shoes, shoelaces, fingerprints and mug shot. Then handed me a blanket and toiletry bag.  As a female officer booked him, he said to her, “this is like a really bad dream.”

“Yeah this is a really bad crime you committed.” She responded.  “It was like, I was arrested and convicted at the same time.”

Why did officers, while tensions were high following the murder of Michael Brown, risk making another mistake?

Sitting with Charles in an Atlanta restaurant for this interview, he shared,  “I was a tall, bald, Black man who fit the  description .  They believed I was involved in a bank robbery.”

Days before Officer Darren Wilson murdered Michael Brown.  At his trial for the murder, he testified that he “spotted two young black men walking down the middle of the road,” and wondered if “they were the suspects” involved in a robbery.  They fit the description.

Sitting on the curb, Charles knew he could become another unarmed man killed by police, because he fit the description.  Although wrongfully detained, he cooperated with the police.

Hours later, “Around midnight, the female booking agent escorted me from the cell to a room.  There a Beverly Hills Detective and two FBI agents told Charles, “a tall, bald, Black male was going in and out of the bank complaining about the ATM, creating a distraction and serving as an accomplice to the bank robber. You fit the description.”

“I tried to describe why I wasn’t the person on the video. It was only then that they admitted they had not watched the video.  Six hours later, they actually never looked for the actual guy because as it turns out, the ATM really wasn’t working.”

“They never found him.  And if they had looked at the video,  there were several distinguishing things that would have ruled me out, including my appearance and clothing.  My t-shirt was a designer t-shirt from a friend.”

If you find the details of Charles arrest troubling, what happened after his release is more alarming.

Tomorrow Part II….. Handcuffs to M.A.D. 

Charles Belk is President/Producer at I Will Make You A Star Productions and Adjucnt Professor Pierce College.  He is the founder of the organization and executive director of Fitting The Description.

Atiba Madyun is President of The Madyun Group (TMG), a Public Affairs firm in Washington, DC and creator of Cognitive Relevance (CR) and Party Politics (PP). Follow him on Twitter @atibamadyun or Like Atiba Madyun on Facebook.