Monday, August 18, 2014

SF x San Mateo x Staten Island x Ferguson:: Open Letter to America about "Law Enforcement" Accountability

Dear America:
         I am writing to you because we are facing a real crisis in our country. The state of the relationship between "Law Enforcement" and us the community is in need of our attention. In other words all these police involved killings and the blue wall of silence is f%cked up and it would be very irresponsible for us as Americans who pride our selves in our democracy to turn a blind eye.

This is a complex issue, I'm not writing to you to deliver you solutions but to ask you questions in order for us to collectively come to new solutions. 

In San Francisco/ Bay Area we are dealing with the shooting of Andy Lopez, 13 year shot by Sonoma County sheriff's deputy Erick Gelhaus  on October 22, 2013, in Santa Rosa, California. Lopez was carrying an airsoft that was designed to look like an Ak-47.

For me personally I'd like to ask: If Andy was living in a predominately white neighborhood would he have been shot at first before they actually confirmed that it was a real weapon?

We are also dealing with the fact that in the case of DJ Williams and his 3 friends that stood up for him and were also beat up at Valencia Gardens, there has been no resolution of their case and the department yet to apologize to the community for disrupting their peace and bullying them.

My question: Why are police stopping a young black man while he was riding his bike on the side walk in order to enter a residence? The news reports said that they were stopping DJ for a traffic violation? When has a traffic violation warranted that much force that it would leave him with his face smashed into the side walk?
San Francisco is also dealing with Alex Nieto. Again with the issue of not properly identifying the weapon. Alex was reported to have a holstered weapon on his hip. Which was true, he had a tazer  he was license to carry as he was security guard. Officers from Ingleside Station were dispatched after a runner called in. The officers made an assessment that Alex was dangerous from 75 feet a way and shot him 14 time (and that was only the amount that hit him not the amount that was fired, during the town hall it was announce that 50 rounds were fired) 

My questions are:

1. If the officers were not fired at what made them feel like 50 rounds were ok to let off in a very public and peaceful place?

2.Why has there been very little effort on behalf of the police department and the city to resolve this case?
On June 3rd 2014, San Mateo County Sheriffs we dispatched to Half Moon Bay after a family member called for help, because his sister was having a mental health crisis. 18 year old Yanira Serrano- Garcia was shot in front of her home.

My Questions:

1. What is the state of C.I.T (Crisis Intervention Training - Mental Health Education)  in San Mateo County? In SF former Police Commissioner Angela Chan has been working to get CIT training as a requirement for officers, seeing how officers are often coming into contact with citizens that are in crisis. But in SF it's still voluntary and rarely incentivized for officers. How about San Mateo is it an equal struggle in San Mateo county? And how can there be a help from the state and federal levels in order to make sure that their officers are better educated?

2. What is the mental health care plans for officers, how often is their mental health state reevaluated? Coming into contact with the communities dark times is not something to go numb from or to be completely desensitized to if officers are going numb to violence and to compassion for difficult human issues are they at all qualified for that job anymore?

On July 17th 2014 in Staten Island NY, Eric Garner died after police administered an illegal choke hold on him. The reports say that Garner was selling nontaxable cigarettes to his community. His death went viral and was seen all over the world.

My Question: 

1. Why is it that in every case even when caught on video does the PD never admit wrong doing? Nobody likes dealing with people that escape accountability ALL THE TIME? Tax money goes to pay the salaries of community people that are there to serve the community, not to those that abuse power and get away with it. Why are we collectively still silent on this matter?

August 9th 2014, while I was researching the progress of the communities response to Eric Garners death out in Harlem (at the National Action Network) and in Staten Island on Little Bay St.

Micheal Brown was gunned down by police in Ferguson, Missouri.

My Question: How long and what will it take before we as a community come together and rethink the way that we want our justice system enforced?

 I have to say as a human who really does care about the success and progress of brown and black communities in America and beyond I am carrying a heavy and hopeful heart. It took me a week to process out my trip to Staten Island especially because as I was out in Staten Island trying to connect with hearts about the similarities that we are dealing with in the Bay Area with their fight for justice on the East Coast, when Middle America exploded into another community out cry for people to "Take a Stand" for justice, healing and respect.

So again America I am writing to you because we need each other. For our nation to succeed we need each other to stand up for one another. There are too many cases that I didn't list here of people nation wide, mostly brown people but I know white people get harassed too. I don't want to make it into a race thing but the fact of the matter is, that our prison system which is the beast that "law enforcement" is feeding is heavily saturated with brown and black bodies. It is hard to talk about police accountability without addressing the following:

1. The Prison Industrial Complex

2. Systemic racism in schools and in neighborhoods.

3. Metal Health

4. American Core Values (what are they?)

 So I ask that you join me, join me America and "take a stand" for justice, respect and healing.

We need to evolve, we need to, create a better future. It is our right and our responsibility

What can you do today, big or small that will help up move us forward in the conversation and the resolution for justice and healing in our communities. All the cases that I mentioned above are not resolved and have a long way to go before any resolution is found. So please don't just sit on the sidelines, be active, talk to the person sitting next to you, hear another persons story, work towards greater awareness and understanding.

I know we have many other issues in our country to address but this is one about accountability of "law enforcement" is one that we cannot turn a blind eye to anymore. It is not, SF problem, it's not NY's problem, it's America's Problem.

Help be apart of the solution.

With Love and Respect,

Nina Parks.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Taking A Stand (SI) Continued

Last night I attended the Universal Zulu Nation's meeting at the Black National Theater in Harlem, their meetings are held every 1st and last Wednesday of the month. It a time for all the chapter heads and other Zulu member to get together and share what they all have going on and to open the floor for people to offer words of encouragement, asks for help, volunteer for support etc.

One of my Mentors Debra Koffler has been working on a documentary about Afrika Bambaataa and was able to provide some encouragement in asking some of Zulu Nations Members including Afrika Bambaataa to participate in the Taking a Stand Staten Island Project.

All the men I spoke with after the meeting said that they have experienced harassment by NYPD, they've been called, Niggers, Spics, pussies. These vibrant, positive, creative brown men, have been dehumanized by authorities, yet they continue to create positivity into the world through their heart, talent, drive and recognition that art, music and positive action can create change in this world.

Zulu Nation has been using Hip Hop to take a stand for their communities for almost 4 decades.

 Shaikym AKA DJ Street Tech is from Staten Island he wanted to remind all of you that we need to know our rights, "Read your state constitutions, your city charters, the US constitution, ask for their badge number. If you're educated and assert that you know what your rights are it will be harder for them to violate them."
Shaikym also joked how his homie says that "anything you have to take a boat to is, exile." I personally love the Staten Island Ferry but again it's another statement and bad pattern humans have of quantifying the value of someone based on geography.

At any rate more and more people are taking a stand.

Taking a Stand Staten Island

        This photo project is to connect our collaborative struggle. Low income Communities in San Francisco are fighting for their humanity, fighting to find hope, feeling devalued and dehumanized, being told that they do not belong in the city of SF because their income level is too low. Dave 'Davey D' Cook has been calling this phenomenon "The Tale of Two Cities." Imagine my surprise when I came out to Staten Island this morning to find an independent zine (NO-PENNIES / from April of this year describing the American narrative as the Tale of Two Cities.

         What we are experiencing in SF with the dramatic economic shift and with the growing list of officer involved killings and behavioral issues is but a sliver of the big picture. Not to devalue any of SF and the Bay Area's plight, I say what I say to strengthen the cause. Out here in Staten Island, people are experiencing a great deal of oppression - especially after the loss of Eric Garner on July 17, 2014.

 Community members expressed: "Take a stand? Take a stand for what? We're taking photos, the police are out here taking photos too, of the people participating in the rallies and protests. They're getting us after dark, telling us too put our hands on the wall. What are we gonna do? Not put our hands on the wall, tell them that they can't do this to us?"
I was stumped; were they right? The Fear is* real. Ramsey Orta (the 22 year old Staten Island resident whose video capturing the incident went viral -- and let's imagine this hadn't been recorded for a second, right?) was arrested several days ago on a gun charge. The community and he feel it was a set up (REF: We need to unite our causes and "connect the hearts" (to quote Mark Gonzales aka @wagebeauty). Many people are also talking about October 22's National Day Against Mass Incarceration which is working to fight the machine which has been systemically devouring our communities of color in the US. WE HAVE A RIGHT TO REMAIN UNITED. We will not let them divide and conquer us. UNITED WE WILL TAKE A STAND. #TAKINGASTANDSI #RIGHTTOREMAINUNITED