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  A week later, Withdrawn and tired, “I was ready to move on and get back to normal.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.

Advertisements

Elegant and Sophisticated: Not This Tea Party

bridal-shower-tea-party_intro_612

Speaker John Boehner stepping down means the drama is heating up.

It started a few years ago when the Tea Party Republicans came to Washington.  Back then, actor, singer-songwriter and social activist Harry Belafonte said at the Congressional Black Caucus annual dinner, “Don’t worry about the Tea Party. You know what happens when you put a tea bag in water? (He paused)  It sinks!”

That’s exactly what happened with my party, The Republicans, it’s sunk.

The dysfunction in Washington has disgruntled voters in the party believing three political candidates Trump, Carson or Fiorina with no political experience can fix Washington!

Boehner’s resignation and the drama in DC is going to boil over and show Americans willing to watch, how bad the Tea Party is for America.

That’s what this resignation is about. Boehner wasn’t the problem, he was managing it.

The Tea Party are made up of Americans afraid of change and equal access for all Americans to have Healthcare, immigration reform, programs that help young people forge ahead in education, and women the right to choose what they can or cannot do with their bodies.

Tea Partiers this just in! America isn’t just for you.

Boehner tried to avoid shutting down the government and save you. Why? It isn’t a viable option for the country or the Party!

Tea Party extremists don’t know what Republican stands for. Nor are you what the founding fathers and those who fought for a representative form of government intended when creating Congress.

Republican used to represent the idea “preserving the Republic.” The Tea Party is destroying the Republic with its inflammatory tone, representating “I” not “We”.

Look at history and Abraham Lincoln for an example of a Republican who saved the Union.

Tea Party consider when you want to defund programs that protect women, or not paying employees during a government shutdown that your idea of taking back is grounded in fear. Fear that hit you in the face, when you lost the 2008 and 2012 presidential election that.  Your fear is that America is no longer just for you. And you’re right.

But that’s been the case a long time. The CHANGE was that millions of other Americans finally realized that America was also for them.  America changed long before that election.  It took a bit longer for all to recognize the power of doing it together. That all of us make America wealthier and stronger. This is a lesson now for you to learn.  Without all of us, America is far less wealthier America and not nearly as strong.

Take into consideration three American groups and their spending power, groups you often target.

First, according to Nielson, women contribute between $5 and $15 trillion a year.  In the next decade that is expected to grow to being two thirds of the consumer wealth in America!

Second and third Black/African Americans contribute 1.4 trillion and and Hispanic/Latino $1.6 trillion.

Together that’s $8-18 trillion annually that goes into the U.S. Economy!  Where would itbe without those you attack?  Think the recession last decade was bad? Imagine it without these Americans!

Tea Partiers if you want to defund something, defund oil, not healthcare or organizations targeting and helping women.

If you end oil company subsidies, you would save $16.4 billion a year.  In fact, it would be a smart divestment if you consider, last year in the second quarter, Exxon Mobil had $111.6 billion in revenue and $8.8 billion in profit. For one quarter! That’s half of what all US oil the companies get in subsidies!

On the other hand, Planned Parenthood received $528.4 million last year combined in federal, state and local dollars. It received another $303 million in outside government dollars. $254 million in private donations. And $54 million in other fees and services. The clincher is that because of federal law enacted in 1976, no federal dollars can be used for abortions which is what Congressional members say they’re aiming for to defund the organization! Private donor and foundation dollars do that.

Abortions account for only 3 percent of what the organization does or makes in dollars!  Did you know that?  Surely you didn’t if you want to take more than 50 percent of the organization’s to make a point!

Stop holding Americans hostage and threatening to shutdown the government!

Instead of taking America back and attacking organizations like Planned Parenthood, be the best example for the Nation and move us FORWARD together.

Be the faction of the Republican Party that increases the minimum wage so that more money goes into the U.S. Economy.  And we have stronger families because parents instead of working two, three and four jobs can spend quality time with their children.

Be the party that guarantees equal pay for equal work for women and all Americans!

Be the Party that protects all Americans and make our streets safer by creating policies that end unlawful killings of Americans by police officers.

Be the Party that instead of creating dysfunction, creates opportunities for all.

If the Tea Party does these things and invests in our greatest commodity Americans, instead of divesting and cutting, in twenty years our economy will be stronger for it.  And so will the Party!

If it invests in educational opportunities, it can in one generation lower crime.

Stop wasting time attacking the Affordable Care Act and find ways to invest in a healthier workforce so that we are the healthiest in the World.

More importantly, stay out of the life choices of women.  Stop “being the problem and become the leaders of implementing solutions!”  In other words stop sinking the Party and the country!

Let’s let the Tea Party go back to those who are elegant and sophisticated!

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.

Selma & Ferguson Are Now!

selma

By Atiba Madyun

I applaud the DOJ for its findings released this week on Michael Brown’s senseless, tragic killing in Ferguson!

The findings bring to light what we’ve known a long time, Black men and Hispanic men are too often targeted by police.

But there are other systemic issues, like the revenue states and local jurisdictions rely on by issuing fines. Or the length of time for the same type arrests that Blacks are held or detained.

Ferguson shed light on its department, but this has gone on, too long in the US.

What are the next steps to be taken?

President Obama last week in an Immigration Town Hall in Florida said that only 1/3 of registered voters voted in last year’s midterms.  And that much of the gridlock in Washington could be avoided if more people voted.

In light of the historic anniversary tomorrow of Bloody Sunday in Selma, Alabama, it is important that everyone regardless of political affiliation recognize, acknowledge and do their part in elections simply by casting their VOTE!

Let us remember that many men, women and children died so that we have the right to vote.  Rev. Jesse Jackson said shortly after Ferguson, that if 5,000 more people were registered to vote in Ferguson, they could effect the outcome of their mayoral election.  Guess who picks the Chief of Police?  The Mayor!!!

We speak often of the gridlock in Congress.  Well those who marched in Selma did so 5o years ago so that we could all Vote.  In Ferguson and other reaches of the country, we can continue to complain or we can exercise the right to Vote and elect representatives who best serve the interests of the many not the few.  Selma and Ferguson are now!

We the People can change the gridlock and complexion (pun intended) of the Congress and other elected offices around the nation, if we all VOTE!

Atiba Atiba Madyun is the President of The Madyun Group (TMG), a Public Affairs firm based in Washington, D.C. and creator of Cognitive Relevance (CR) and Party Politics (PP). Follow @atibamadyun or like on Facebook Atiba Madyun

State of the Union Priorities: A Path Forward

Image

By Atiba Madyun

This week, I attended a White House briefing on the President’s initiatives addressed in his State of the Union address.  His staff spoke on Cradle to Career education initiatives, My Brother’s Keeper, criminal justice reform, minimum wage and family sick leave.  They emphasized a sense of urgency and that the President has 22 months left to move an agenda focused on strengthening the middle class and investing in America’s future.

On education, the President believes no young person’s zip code should determine his/her future.  While the nation has its highest high school graduation rate ever (80%), it can link its high school dropout rate to 1,300 of the Nation’s schools. Therefore, the President has a new national goal to prepare the next generation(s) for high quality education and a bright future.

To achieve these new goals, it will require greater participation and accountability.  Like the old African proverb, It Takes a Village to raise a child, every child’s grandparents, parents, communities and schools should work collaboratively in this effort.  The President wants to increase America’s rank in providing high quality Pre-K access to high risk children.  Currently, according to Early Education for All, the U.S. ranks 28th out of 38 industrial nations that provide Pre-K and “the achievement gap between low-income children and their affluent peers is growing.[i]

By creating better pathways, students will have a better chance to graduate high school putting them on a pathway to college and enhanced career choices. To close the access gap, we have to address cost and make college more affordable for students that work hard and get good grades.  Opening access and making the first two years of community college free is a way to help students attain a higher education without going deep into debt before starting their career.

Increasing the minimum wage will help many Americans including some college students.  In 2017, 7 million Americans will benefit from minimum wage increases.[ii]  Making family sick leave available so employees working full time get at least seven days of sick leave a year makes sense for the employee and employer.  It can help businesses maintain low turnover while allowing employees to stay home when they are sick so they don’t get coworkers sick.  It also helps employees care for sick loved ones during episodes of illness.

Additionally, protecting and promoting family values also leads to success for America’s youth.  Each day, an average of eight children and teens are killed by guns.  Last year, we heard one too many stories of young men killed by police officers that set off a firestorm of protests.

Recognizing that too many young men are off track, the President one year ago this month, introduced My Brother’s Keeper (MBK).  Later in the year, a month after Michael Brown was killed in Ferguson, Missouri, the President issued a challenge to cities, towns and tribes to become “MBK Communities” to implement coherent cradle to college and career strategy to improve outcomes for young people.  It addresses serious concerns in the African American, Hispanic and Native American tribal community.

MBK is seeking to find ways to save young people from a pathway that leads to prison. These are tied to his initiatives for education.  As early as pre-kindergarten and kindergarten, some 4 and 5 year olds have been suspended for negative behavior that can be typical of a child who is developing social-emotional skills. This is not how we should be supporting young children in their early years.  Data shows the nation’s greatest challenges dropout rates, crime, health-care costs, competing in the global marketplace – can be met by focusing on the development of all children, beginning at birth.

The President asserts a child’s future should not be predetermined by his/her zip code.  The Ounce of Prevention Fund research shows that at-risk children who don’t receive a high-quality early childhood education are[iii]:

  • 25% more likely to drop out of school
  • 40% more likely to become a teen parent
  • 50% more likely to be placed in special education
  • 60% more likely to never attend college
  • 70% more likely to be arrested for a violent crime

Early childhood programs are the most cost-effective way to ensure the healthy development of children in poverty and offer the greatest returns to society.In DC, where Pre-K is offered in every elementary school, Councilmember David Grosso recognized this and introduced legislation to positively address this growing trend to protect our 4 and 5 year olds and find better ways to promote positive social and emotional development.

MBK can be a vital instrument in impacting the lives of young American men.  To sustain and create greater opportunities, it is securing corporate, advocacy and community partners to better engage young men.  It is identifying long term solutions to their growth and prosperity in American society.  And all of the President’s cabinet agencies with focus on domestic policy are engaged in this effort.  More importantly, the President has expressed his and the First Lady’s commitment to work on MBK long after they leave the White House.

Mandatory sentencing laws have hurt families for too long.  The President’s staff and the Justice Department are looking for better ways to address re-entry, so that people can re-enter society better equipped to find employment, stay out of prison and empower them with the right to vote.  His Task Force on 21st Century Policing is looking at how billions of dollars are being spent in the militarization of police departments.  Body cameras and collaborative reform are great.  Here is not only a need, but an excellent opportunity on Capitol Hill for bipartisan support.

What the Administration and Congress might also consider is a national database to track the number of times police officers fire their weapons, injure and kill as well as kill unarmed individuals.  While body cameras are a great first step, it is vital to have policy guidelines defining when an officer turns them on and who views the footage.

As Americans, we can study the President’s proposals and look at like a shareholder of a company would.  Whether it is increasing the minimum wage, creating seamless pathways to attaining higher education, protecting our young men and law enforcement officials, providing greater upward mobility opportunities, they all look to strengthen our nation and our economy.  That’s a win-win as an American shareholder and a great way to invest in America’s future!

Atiba

Atiba Madyun is the President of The Madyun Group, a Public Affairs firm based in Washington, DC.

Learn more about My Brother’s Keeper (MBK) www.whitehouse.gov/MBK or visit www.mbk.org.

[i] Early Education for All –  http://www.strategiesforchildren.org/docs_research/14_International.pdf

 [ii] The White House – www.whitehouse.gov/raise-the-wage

 [iii] Ounce of Prevention Fund – http://www.ounceofprevention.org/about/why-early-childhood-investments-work.php

Swagger!

SOTU

By Atiba Madyun

Did you see the President get “jiggy” with Republicans last night?  If you missed it, you missed a speech blended in off the cuff entertainment, as the President highlighted his Administration’s agenda.

Republicans sat when the President said the “The State of the Union is strong” instead of standing with the Democratic minority as is the customary tradition.  At one point, Republicans sat silent as the President looked in their direction saying with a smile and a wink, “this is good news people.”

When he said “I have no more campaigns to run,” Republicans clapped. He responded on cue and off script, “I know because I won them both.” (Click to view).   Democrats erupted with cheering so loud, it seemed they were in the majority.

Calm and loose as quarterback Russell Wilson leading his team last Sunday to a late game winning touchdown, Obama with swagger and confidence laid out an agenda for “middle class economics.”

He jabbed at Republicans on the minimum wage debate “to everyone in this Congress who still refuses to raise the minimum wage, I say this: If you truly believe you could work full-time and support a family on less than $15,000 a year, go try it. If not, vote to give millions of the hardest-working people in America a raise.”

The President talked about tax relief for the middle class, jobs for veterans, affordable child care for working parents, equal pay for women, paid sick leave and two years of free college tuition to those who work get good grades and work hard.

His swagger gave the impression that he is not a lame duck and will not go silently into the night.  He ended his speech with a unifying message “My fellow Americans, we too are a strong, tight-knit family. We, too, have made it through some hard times. Fifteen years into this new century, we have picked ourselves up, dusted ourselves off, and begun again the work of remaking America.”

The President assured us that he is working to turn the page and complete the job he started six years ago.  We can sit on the sideline and wait two years for another President to take office. Or we can come together, regardless of political party and work with the President and pressure Congress on both sides to work together.  Which will you be?

View the President’s #SOTU speech here.

Read the President’s #SOTU speech here.

Atiba Madyun is President of The Madyun Group (TMG) a Public Affairs firm based in Washington, DC.

We Cannot Move On Until…….

untitled

I was as many others were, disappointed that a grand jury failed to indict Officer Darren Wilson for the murder of unarmed Michael Brown.  But I wasn’t empathetic after seeing the convenience store surveillance footage taken minutes before his death, where he stole a $48 box of cigarillos.  Truthfully, I wasn’t empathetic because too often, I see young men like Michael and his friend give law enforcement, teachers and others in positions of authority a hard time.  I see them on the metro and in malls loud and disrespectful of others around them.

I am empathetic to this though, Michael was unarmed.  The grand jury’s failure to indict Wilson is an indictment of our lenient American law enforcement policies.  That is why today, we see another officer Daniel Pantaleo in New York City cleared for his role in the stranglehold death of unarmed Eric Garner.

Is this a trend?  It is reminiscent of stories of slaves who tried to escape the bondage of slavery, but when caught were hung from trees and murdered.  It brings forth the sad image of the lifeless young body of Emmitt Till lying in a casket after he was killed for whistling at a woman.  In far too many cases like these, their murderers go unpunished.

That is why today, an overdue conversation on American relations is at the forefront of discussion on media outlets here and abroad.  Michael and Eric aren’t the first young unarmed American men to be killed by police officers who weren’t indicted or convicted.  What about Oscar Grant, Tamir Rice, Kimani Gray, Kendrec McDade, Timothy Stansbury, Jr or Sean Bell?  That is why it was good to hear President Obama say today what many of us believe, “this is an American problem.”

I don’t agree with any of the violent protests or the yelling going on in Ferguson.  But I understand the root frustration of it.  Too often it takes this type of protest to get the empathy and support of others.  Today’s conversation is eerily too similar to video images from the civil rights era, where police officers and White men got away too often for killing unarmed young men because of the color of their skin.

It is sad that it takes instances like Ferguson to turn the tide of despair into hope.  History shows that empathy from fellow Americans didn’t come until they saw images of police officers turning fire hoses, dogs and guns on unarmed Americans marching for civil rights long denied them because of the color of their skin.

That is why we cannot move on until the conversation in Ferguson becomes about something more than race.  This is about America and how we treat one another as human beings.  It has to call into question why the behavior of our young men, makes it difficult for others to see their humanity.  Truly, why has friction grown so evident between our young men and police officers?  Is there an image problem?

My brothers and I talked about this over the weekend as we celebrated my brother Damani’s 40th birthday.   He said that Black men don’t have an image problem rather we have a branding problem.  I found this to be an interesting statement since I think they are one and the same?

Image is everything.  That is why I have never seen the dignity in wearing pants off the waste line down to the knees, or thick steel toed boots unless there is snow or it is cold, hoodies, huge gold chains or having unkempt hair and long beards.  While this is a personal choice, why would anyone want to dress or look like this?  In my opinion and siding with my brother on this, it is an image that has become a uniform and branded by some as “thuggish”.

On the other hand, police officers wearing uniforms are seen as threatening to these young men and the friction and fear on both sides has risen to a level of hostility that leads to senseless deaths.  That is why we should call it what it is “a war on American streets.”

How did our young men go from wearing saggy pants during slavery to suits and back to pants now falling around their knees?  If the conversation about Ferguson and young unarmed American men being killed is about race isn’t it important to look at how Americans put their best image or brand forward?  If this is true, then both young men who dress this way and police officers in uniform going to work every day, both have an image or branding problem.

The conversation about unarmed American men being killed by police officers requires introspection in order to move forward.  It is one that will be uncomfortable for everyone.  As my friend Chris Finan said responding to my post about the five St. Louis Rams players, who courageously put their hands up in solidarity with protestors in Ferguson just before their game this past Sunday,

“This is exactly the point. White privilege allows us white folks to decide not to have the discussion. We can walk away whenever we want and get along with our day. Those players for the Rams that made that statement were all black. They were in their uniforms so everyone loves them and cheers for them. However, let one of them be walking down the street in plain clothes and be dealt the same racism that happened in Ferguson. That’s why they did what they did and they had every right to do it. It was exactly the best platform for them to make that statement. Anyone who’s uncomfortable with that truly has no idea why everyone is so upset about what happened in Ferguson. It’s about the bigger issue. That’s why we need to have the discussion and not walk away when it feels uncomfortable.”

The issues in the American Black community are prevalent in other communities.  Far too many American families are led by single mothers.  While many single mothers are doing the best they can to raise their children and our hats go off to them, too many should not have to.  Too many of our young men are being raised without a father in the home.  Therefore too many, lack the guidance only a father can provide, no matter how hard the mother tries.  The American value system has lost respect for the traditional family.  If it hadn’t, more Americans would voice their outrage that programs like Housewives, Basketball Wives, Honey Boo Boo, and the Kardashians are doing nothing more than making these families wealthier, while too many of us watching are becoming poorer.

The issues of race, the division in politics and in communities near and far are a byproduct of our value system.  We see this in the lack of class exhibited by elected officials in Congress with their lack of respect for the President and even more for holding Americans hostage over their senseless debates and failure to come together to advance causes that benefit all Americans.  Our current value system divides us along party lines, race, religion and gender.

If the conversation in Ferguson is to yield anything of significant consequence, it will take level heads, moderators and leaders who can get us to take the high road.  Further they will elevate the conversation beyond Black and White and who is to blame and help us find solutions.

The conversation in Ferguson requires language that will unite us and bring us together as a nation.  It cannot be about another black man being killed.  The language has to be that another young MAN was killed and taken away from his parents when he was too young.  Making him just a black man diminishes that he was a man just like any other man, irrespective of color.  An officer who kills an unarmed young MAN is wrong and should go to jail!  Michael, Oscar, Sean, Eric and the countless other MEN who have been killed were someone’s son, someone’s brother, someone’s father, someone’s husband, someone’s friend.

Too many young MEN are being killed and their killers are not being punished.  We cannot move on until we address this as a human rights issue that transcend race.  It goes beyond the idea of civility.  In the end, when it is all said and done, do the lives of the victims and their families find the justice they deserve if we don’t call into question about how we treat one another with dignity.  Last, how will our lives be defined?  Will it be how we lived as Blacks, Whites, Asian, Hispanic, Muslim, Christian and Jew?  Or how we lived our lives “being human” to one another?

It is my belief that we cannot move forward until we accept that our humanity binds us in ways that the different colors of our skin cannot.  The lives of those who have been slain will again be in vain, if we don’t realize that.  Can we finally find a way to move on together?

What do you think?

Sick and Tired!

In light of an incident involving the NFL’s Miami Dolphins a conversation on bullying and hazing in the NFL is going on.  The conversation is as hypocritical as the one, that found New Orleans Saints defensive coordinator and coach suspended last year for placing bounties on players from opposing teams.  People knew it existed, but did nothing until there was a public outcry.

Fraternities and sororities have traditionally hazed.  Playing sports is like joining a fraternity.  And none is larger than the NFL.  How big is the fraternity, how powerful?  Big and powerful enough for years to keep former football players from suing for head trauma even though they knew their insomnia, mood swings, depression, suicides, and other maladies were caused from playing football?  Powerful enough to convince them that there was an unwritten code, you don’t sue the NFL.  

The players didn’t sue, and why didn’t the fans stand up and say more for their favorite players?   Was it because they love to watch the gladiators do battle on the field?  And why wasn’t there an outcry when the NFL settled out of court for 750 million dollars and got away with language in the settlement absolving them of fault?   

My point is bullying is in front of us all the time.  Trayvon Martin was bullied and killed by George Zimmerman.  If Zimmerman didn’t have a gun he wouldn’t have followed Trayvon, let alone confront him.  The gun argument in America is about men needing to feel power.  Most can only get it by threatening others usually because they have a gun or threaten that they do.  

And police are among the biggest bullies.  Oscar Grant III’s killing at Fruitvale Station and too many killings of unarmed citizens by police is bullying! So is Congressional failure to pass a Jobs Bill, and shutting down the government.  It is bullying especially when you know others are victimized. 

But what makes our country great and our history relevant, is that men and women at tumultuous times in our history found a reason to stand up to the bullies.  Today, we read with pride their courageous stories.  Whether it was Bull Connor’s firehoses, or laws that protected the institution of slavery,  courageous men and women stood in the face of danger.  This is what parents have to teach their children again, the spirit of not backing down.   

Today, the conversation may be about Jonathan Martin and the insensitive criminal behavior of Richie Incognito.  But the broader conversation should be, when will good people finally stand up and face the bullies in schools, sports and politics. 

When are we as Fannie Lou Hamer said, going to be “sick and tired of being sick and tired?”