Hugh Freeze called other escort services and other news of the week The Week That Was August 14-18

Monday 08.14.17

Three days after the events in Charlottesville, Virginia, President Donald Trump attacked a pharmaceutical CEO for standing against the Charlottesville attack. In 1995 news, an Oklahoma man was arrested for allegedly planning to blow up a building in Oklahoma City. A Georgia pastor denies that he offered on Instagram to perform anilingus on hip-hop artist Nicki Minaj. Former NFL tight end Jermichael Finley said national anthem protests by current players Marshawn Lynch and Michael Bennett are “more of marketing” and thinks they’re protesting for “a selfish reason.” In unrelated news, the Baltimore Ravens signed another quarterback not named Colin Kaepernick. North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, conceivably talking about the U.S. government or the New York baseball franchise, said he would “watch a little more the foolish and stupid conduct of the Yankees.” In celebration of quarterback Jay Cutler’s arrival in Miami, the San Diego State football team had to cancel practice because of a chickenpox outbreak in the team’s locker room.

Tuesday 08.15.17

The Alameda County (California) Sheriff’s Department retweeted the news conference of white supremacist Richard Spencer; the department said it was an accident. Trump retweeted a conspiracy theorist, a photo of a train running over a CNN logo and a man who called him a “fascist”; the president later un-retweeted the latter two tweets. Captain America, who is literally a Nazi, tweeted, “This is insane” in response to Trump’s news conference on Charlottesville. Train service in Chicago was stopped after a severed head and leg were found on the tracks; “F— no. I’m gonna Facebook Live this,” one frustrated passenger said in response to the delay. Taco Bell, a company not satisfied with ruining only tacos, is offering a breakfast taco that uses a fried egg as the shell. A history professor blamed tennis star Serena Williams for Trump’s presidency and the re-rise of white supremacy. Former NFL coach and Man Who Fights At Bars Rob Ryan does not agree with national anthem protests because Americans should “be proud of our country.” An Englishman who stole over $22,000 from a store was sentenced to three years in prison after police uncovered his résumé at the premises. In more international news, a kangaroo punched an Australian boy in the face.

Wednesday 08.16.17

A Wisconsin man shot himself in the heart with a nail gun and did not die: “Once I felt the nail in me, I was like, ‘Well I can’t pull that one out,’ ” the man told The Washington Post. The personal attorney for Trump, who is Jewish and the son of a Holocaust survivor, played the “I have a black friend” game while deflecting his client’s non-condemnation of neo-Nazis. Trump’s other attorney forwarded an email that praised Gen. Robert E. Lee and the Confederacy’s secession plan, and accused the Black Lives Matter movement of being “totally infiltrated by terrorist groups.” The family of Lee, without a hint of

irony, said the Confederate general “would never ever stand for that sort of violence” exhibited in Charlottesville. Former Ole Miss football coach Hugh Freeze, it turns out, called more than one escort service during his time at the school. Floyd Mayweather now has the opportunity to punch Conor McGregor in the face even quicker. The Chick-fil-A restaurant in the new Atlanta Falcons stadium will not be open on Sundays; the defending NFC champs have only one non-Sunday home game this season.

Thursday 08.17.17

Trump, the creator of “Lyin’” Ted Cruz, “Little” Marco Rubio and “Crooked” Hillary Clinton, is slowly running out of insulting adjectives, calling the junior senator from Arizona “Flake” Jeff Flake. A New York man who carried a tiki torch in Charlottesville last weekend and once attended a Sharia law protest, told USA Today that “I’m not what they’re making me out to be.” Three birds, two with a feather-shedding disease, are involved in a polyamorous relationship. Face-painted Juggalos are ready to scrap with alt-right protesters. Trump condemned the attack in Barcelona within hours of it happening, and hours later he lost another business advisory council. As if it even matters, a Rutgers football reporter, who covers a team that lost 78-0 to Michigan last season, submitted a Freedom Of Information Act request for the Wolverines’ final roster. A neo-Nazi is mad because the internet made fun of him for crying about being issued an arrest warrant. Two days after LeBron James referred to Trump as the “so-called president,” Golden State Warriors forward Kevin Durant, being blunt as usual, added, “We don’t f— with him.”

Friday 08.18.17

New Orleans Pelicans forward DeMarcus Cousins, known not to be a mincer of words, said, “Take all them m—–f—–s down” in response to questions about Confederate statues. Pelicans teammate Rajon Rondo, who is on his fifth team in four years and once reportedly told his coach to “f— off,” won an award for “best teammate.” Far-right radio host Alex Jones was called a “racist f—” by a helmet-wearing cyclist and had coffee thrown on him on the streets of Seattle; the video, of course, could have been staged. Trump lost yet another council. San Antonio Spurs forward Kawhi Leonard smiled … twice. White House chief strategist Steve Bannon was either fired or resigned two weeks ago.

Famous Nobodys is a fashion company making moves in the South Bronx Their gear has been worn by Allen Iverson, Chris Rock, DJ Khaled, Carmelo Anthony, others

Remember when fans went nuts when Carmelo Anthony rocked the hybrid New York Yankees and Mets hat at the Mets’ Citi Field stadium last year?

It did really well, according to one of the designers of the hat, Gary Gonzalez.

“I think it made it on every channel on ESPN, and they talked bad about it and it made it better. … The hat sells out every time we put it out,” said Gonzalez.

Gonzalez and Christian Vazquez run a fashion design and retail company, Famous Nobodys. Vazquez is La La Anthony’s brother and Carmelo Anthony’s brother-in-law. Earlier this week, they unveiled their new line or capsule: the “Ca77 God” collaboration. The store started out as an online hat business but expanded into a clothing company.

Gonzalez has been a designer for 12 years. He has worked with big names such as French Montana and The Game. Vazquez is a creative director for Motives Cosmetics and a public speaker, and he manages La La Anthony’s bookings and appearances.

They partnered with Starter, a premium athletic brand. Together they produced three NBA All-Star jackets, which received 109 million impressions (the number of times there is any interaction with the content) on social media and have been worn by Allen Iverson, Chris Rock, DJ Khaled, Carmelo Anthony, Jadakiss, Kenyon Martin, French Montana and others. Last month, they teamed up again to create the NBA Draft Day jackets.

Gear at the Famous Nobodys store in the South Bronx.

Gonzalez and Vazquez then teamed up with The Compound, a lifestyle branding and marketing company. Together, they produced a line that features the phrase “Ca77 God.” In some religions, the number “7” is a symbolic number. Both Gonzalez and Vazquez think God should be the first entity that one calls on in life.

“In life, no matter whether it’s good or bad or whatever you have going on, that always should be your moment to call God,” said Vazquez.

The Famous Nobodys refers to the owners’ belief that everyone is famous in their own right. The website lists Trayvon Martin and Eric Garner as examples — they are men who rose from obscurity in the Black Lives Matter movement because of their deaths. The storefront opened on April 20, and the symbol depicted on the storefront is a star with a line through it. This is the Nobody symbol, which represents nontraditional paths to achieve success.

For Vazquez, social media is one of these paths. “In this day and age, social media is so powerful, it’s almost like an anti-revolution where you don’t have to go through traditional chains of entertainment to be a star or be a celebrity to be successful to take on that large following,” he said.

Unlike most fashion companies, Famous Nobodys does not release lines according to the season. Within the intimate rectangle-shaped store, they also maintain a 2,500-pound embroidery machine in the back of the shop so they can embroider and then sell their products.

Instead, Vazquez’s strategy is to put out “pieces that are relevant to the time, what’s going on right now with the culture and what the mood of what the climate of the situation is.”

Customers look around at Famous Nobody’s store in the South Bronx

Gonzalez and Vazquez like to work with people who they consider as being “for the culture,” which they define as “what you add to the scene that is already producing greatness.” For example, Gonzalez partnered with Datwon Thomas, editor in chief of Vibe, in 2013 to produce a hat line: Twnty Two.

In January 2015, they all teamed up and created the Nobodys Famous brand, which is now the sister company to Twnty Two. A majority of the hats from Famous Nobodys, like the “Arabic successful” hat and the “Justice or else” hat, were so popular they sold out in less than 24 hours. All of the hats, shirts, camos, jackets and sweatshirts range from $25 to $200.

Working with minorities is a priority for the owners because that’s who they are. Gonzalez is Dominican and Vazquez is Puerto Rican. This is part of the reason they chose to locate the store in Mott Haven, a section of the South Bronx.

According to the last U.S. Census, the South Bronx is made up of mostly black, Latino and Asian communities. Gonzalez grew up in the Bronx, and Vazquez said the New York City borough took care of him when he was going through a low point. Because of these ties, they wanted to add a fashion-centered vibe to a low-income neighborhood that is seeing a rapid increase in rent.

Sinceré Armani came to the “CA77 God” line launch because she likes to stay current on all of the latest fashion brands and believes this brand speaks to artist/rappers. She has worked as a fashion stylist for Nicki Minaj.

“I think the urban world would love it [because] they have dope tag lines on their T-shirts. Its fly, and I think it’s going to take off,” said Armani.

The Famous Nobodys plan to start making book bags, custom hoodies and button-down shirts around September or early October.

The NFL has a Kaepernick problem that’s bigger than just Kaepernick now Thanks, in part, to current events, the question has switched from ‘Who will stand up with Kaepernick?’ to ‘Who could possibly stand against him?’

Last August, the story was about Colin Kaepernick refusing to stand for the national anthem, decrying racism and police brutality with a method that harkened back to the nonviolent protests of the civil rights era. The then-Niners quarterback asked at the time: “At what point do we do something about it? At what point do we take a stand as a people and say this isn’t right?”

This August, a rally against the removal of a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee turned deadly when white nationalists, including neo-Nazis and the Ku Klux Klan — many dressed in combat gear, some carrying firearms, others torches — infested Charlottesville, Virginia, with their bigotry and violence, only to be confronted by large numbers of protesters who would not back down.

Sandwiched within that reality was an act of domestic terrorism — a car plowed into a crowd of protesters, killing one and injuring 19 others, some critically. Suddenly, the much-discussed racial divide in America was right there for everyone to see. And guess who’s looking more right — more righteous — than anyone could’ve ever imagined:

Mr. Kaepernick himself.

Why? Because Kaepernick’s lawful protest now stands in the context of David Duke telling the press, “We are determined to take our country back.” In the context of President Donald Trump’s not only refusing to directly condemn white nationalism but also creating a moral equivalency between them and the ones who came out to fight to keep America free for everyone. A stance Trump walked back only after extreme pressure and a tweet insulting the black CEO of Merck. Enough with the cries of “This is not our America.” This is our America. Maybe the connection between Kaepernick expressing his rights as an American to draw attention to his belief that black lives matter and the events in Charlottesville isn’t a straight line, but it’s not that crooked either. Who can now doubt that the racism that Kaepernick was protesting is real — and far more dangerous and deadly and visceral than previously believed?

That is why Kaepernick needs to get a job in the NFL. Not as a backup in the middle of the season when the quarterbacks start going down. Now. If the NFL thought giving him a job would prove a distraction or somehow damage its brand, it was wrong. Now it’s facing down the opposite problem. First, it was just Kaepernick’s voice needing to be silenced. Now it’s Beast Mode, Michael Bennett, Malcolm Jenkins, Richard Sherman, and the list will only grow. All of them using their megaphone to talk about the “blackballing” of the former 49ers quarterback.

http://www.espn.com/video/clip?id=20340614

Kaepernick’s absence from NFL stirring a movement Stephen A. Smith hopes that the events in Charlottesville, Virginia, over the weekend will open the eyes of NFL owners to what Colin Kaepernick stands for.

And now in one weekend, the question for many inside and outside the NFL quite literally has transitioned from “Who will stand up with Kaepernick?” to “Who could possibly stand against him?”

For now, though, let’s turn our attention just to NFL owners, who have the cash and the platform to provoke change — not TO mention also the power to give him a job. NFL owners not only have their players to contend with but, potentially, millions of football fans to answer to — many of whom never had a problem with Kaepernick exercising his constitutional right in the first place.

Owners want their pockets fattened. By folks watching and patronizing the NFL shield. Once upon a time, they thought they’d be able to LIMIT any damage by simply allowing Kaepernick to drift into unemployment, believing he couldn’t possibly affect their bottom line because he’d offended too many fans who just wanted him TO shut UP and play.

And while some may agree, others may disagree, I have no doubt that it was far easier for owners to give Kaepernick the proverbial finger and tell him to take his activism elsewhere last Friday than it is for them to tell him so now. No owner wants to be seen as being dismissive and detached from what’s going on in this country today. No owner wants to come across as indifferent to the current plight of minorities of all races, colors and creeds.

Charlottesville HAS made Kaepernick’s question — “At what point do we take a stand as a people and say this isn’t right?” — visible. Much like the wildly diverse protesters who came out to fight white nationalists, there are masses of widely diverse NFL fans who once dismissed Kaepernick as a distraction but can now see the bigger picture.

A woman died. Others are fighting for their lives. A 20-year-old has been charged with second-degree manslaughter and malicious wounding. The motive was racism. Bigotry. Anti-Semitism.

Last summer, Kaepernick said, “I want to bring attention to the racial oppression that exists in this country.”

If he was faulted before, he certainly can’t be blamed now.

Not by billionaire businessmen perpetually hesitant to say or do what is right.

Not with the specter of Charlottesville still infesting our collective consciousness.

Not when another Charlottesville is always on the horizon.

‘Whose Streets?’ pushes back on what we think we know about Michael Brown and Ferguson, Missouri New documentary is a potent combination of social and media criticism

Deep into Whose Streets?, the new documentary about Ferguson, Missouri, after the death of Michael Brown, there’s footage of Darren Wilson, the police officer who shot and killed Brown, giving an interview to ABC’s George Stephanopoulos.

“You can’t perform the duties of a police officer and have racism in you,” Wilson tells him. At the screening I attended, there was an audible mix of gasps and laughter from the audience.

Directors Sabaah Folayan and Damon Davis spent much of the film’s run time up to that point establishing just how much racism lurked within the Ferguson Police Department and the city government. A 2015 report from the Justice Department established that Ferguson provided about as clear an illustration of institutionalized racism as could possibly exist: The city not only targeted black residents for tickets and arrests they couldn’t afford, it was also using the revenue from such stops to fund the nearly all-white police force. The court clerk, police captain and police sergeant were all implicated in sending and receiving racist emails, including one that compared President Barack Obama to a monkey.

Protester Brittany Ferrell hoists a bullhorn as her daughter hugs her in a scene from ‘Whose Streets?’

Courtesy of Magnolia Pictures

And yet here was Wilson telling a national television audience that racism was anathema to policing.

Whose Streets? arrives in theaters Aug. 11, marking the third anniversary of Brown’s death (Aug. 9, 2014) and the uprisings that followed it. It’s a deeply moving work, and the passion of both the filmmakers and their subjects is palpable. “FYI I was literally homeless throughout the first year of production. Worked as a canvasser and put money back into the film,” Folayan, an activist, theater geek and former advocate for prisoners at Rikers Island, tweeted recently. Davis is an interdisciplinary artist whose work is currently featured in the permanent collection at the Blacksonian (aka, the National Museum of African American History and Culture).

The focus of Whose Streets? is the residents of Ferguson and St. Louis who keep marching and screaming for justice till they’re hoarse, who keep agitating long after the national media has turned its attention elsewhere. It establishes the movement for black lives in Ferguson as one driven by young people such as rapper Tef Poe, who are fed up with being targeted by police, and others like organizer Brittany Ferrell and her partner, Alexis Templeton, as well as Copwatch recruiter David Whitt, who want better for their children.

Whose Streets? is likely to serve as a counterweight to Detroit, the new Kathryn Bigelow film about the 1967 Detroit riots and the police murder of three unarmed black people at the Algiers Hotel. It’s not necessarily fair to compare narrative films like Detroit to documentaries, but there’s a similarity in the dynamic between the two that existed with Nina and What Happened, Miss Simone? Both Whose Streets? and What Happened, Miss Simone? end up correcting, or at least augmenting, the record of ahistorical narrative films that struggle with details in which race is central.

Nina made the mistake of casting Zoe Saldana as Simone, then putting her in makeup to darken her skin and prosthetics to make her facial features more closely resemble Simone’s. Detroit fails to imbue its characters with any depth or humanity and devolves into a slog of racist white police officers terrorizing a group of people in the Algiers.

Bigelow’s herky-jerky camerawork and editing in Detroit deliberately create a sense of chaos. Whose Streets?, by contrast, presents real footage of Ferguson buildings in flames after Brown’s death, but the overall effect is far more nuanced. It’s much easier to get a sense of what happened in Ferguson as pockets of violence and property damage pockmarked peaceful, if emotional, protests. Whose Streets? refuses to equate property damage with the loss of human life.

Folayan and Davis offer a potent work of media criticism too. Folayan and Davis communicate just how much cable news, by repeatedly and selectively broadcasting the most violent, hectic footage, was responsible for making Ferguson seem like a war zone whose residents were animalistic and out of control. That narrative was furthered by a distant, largely white media corps accepting police reports as gospel. Whose Streets? challenges that by juxtaposing footage of Ferrell and her cohorts protesting to shut down a highway in Missouri with the official police account of what happened, in which the arresting officer accused Ferrell of yelling out “tribal chants.”

For a moment, we also see what it means to send black journalists into a situation like Ferguson, where police in tanks and armored vehicles are shooting rubber bullets, smoke grenades and tear gas (a chemical agent that the Geneva Convention prohibits in warfare) at the city’s black residents. There’s a clip of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s Ernie Suggs walking through Ferguson at night with his hands above his head as police bark orders at black protesters. The police draw no distinction. He’s black, so he might as well be one of them.

Brittany Ferrell leads a line of protesters as they face off with police in ‘Whose Streets?’

Courtesy of Magnolia Pictures

The film gives voice to a community that’s reeling, mournful and frustrated. It has little faith in a government that’s failed it repeatedly. Spliced with footage of white public officials delivering statements that are often canned and worded to avoid legal liability, Whose Streets? brings the idea of two Americas, and two wholly different realities, to life. “Question normal,” it demands of its audience.

Despite the gravity of its subject matter, Whose Streets? has moments of dark levity. One interview follows a clip of President Obama giving a statement about Brown in his trademark style of measured reason.

“I’m waiting on me to have a black president. I still ain’t had me one,” a Ferguson resident named Tory says. “Wasn’t he a constitutional professor? Ain’t no constitution in Ferguson. Tell that n—- he need to teach a new class or bring his a– to Ferguson … and figure out why we ain’t got no constitution.”

Whose Streets? is understandably close in spirit to The Hate U Give, the best-selling young adult novel by Angie Thomas published earlier this year. The Hate U Give is told from the perspective of a teenage girl who is the sole witness as her unarmed best friend is shot and killed by a white police officer. The book, which is heavily influenced by Ferguson, is slated for a film adaptation starring Amandla Stenberg, Regina Hall, Russell Hornsby and Lamar Johnson. It’s early days yet, but I suspect that the film version of The Hate U Give and Whose Streets? will serve as cinematic bookends to understanding what black people went through in Ferguson before and after Brown’s death.

The documentary ends on a hopeful note, but no one in Whose Streets? is a Pollyanna, least of all Ferrell. She’s open about the fact that she’s taking prescription medication to treat anxiety and says she’s not sure the justice she and her partner are seeking will come in their lifetimes. They’re counting on another generation of troublemakers and revolutionaries to carry on. They’re raising one in their elementary-school-aged daughter McKenzie, seen in the film with her mothers leading a crowd and screaming as loud as she can, “WE HAVE NOTHING TO LOSE BUT OUR CHAINS!”

Oscar winner Halle Berry talks Prince, Bruno Mars — and having no regrets, ‘not a one’ The star of ‘Kidnap’ took on her new role to prove a point

Two years ago, Halle Berry — perhaps the best known black female actor of our time — sat on a dais at Comic-Con and talked about how challenging it was for her to secure roles as a 40-something black woman in Hollywood. Halle Berry said that. She of great beauty. And of great achievement: the speech Berry gave on the occasion of her historic 2002 Oscar win for the emotionally complex Monster’s Ball has more than 4 million views. And she of great superhero badassery. Halle Berry struggles to get Hollywood to see her.

“It’s a different landscape for men when they age,” she says now. “Men somehow get better, and women just get older. It’s part of the stereotype, right? I think my mission … now is to try to dispel those images and those stereotypes … And also to personify that as women get older, we get better, too. With our age comes confidence, comes assurance about our craft. We want to tell stories that we really want to tell.”

This week, Berry is turning a Hollywood trope on its head. She’s starring in the new feature film Kidnap, as a mother fighting — literally, and physically — to get her child back. Berry resonates with movie magic and can save the day while she’s at it.

This role is one that real-life mom Berry is primed to tell. “Being a mother now of two children … I’ve always known … if you put a mother’s child in danger, she’ll become a lioness, ferocious and fierce. I’ve always known the heart of a woman, the heart of a mother,” she said. “So, when the script came my way, I just felt … what I’ve been through — on many different personal journeys — I just knew that this was something I needed to express. And I thought it was time for women — men always save the day. It takes me back to Taken with Liam Neeson, a movie I absolutely love. I thought, Why can’t a woman do that?”

Berry chats about the real-life woman who saved her, why she’ll always champion black lives and women and why you’ll never — ever – get her to do karaoke.

Who is your childhood hero?

My fifth-grade teacher Yvonne Sims. She was my hero then, she’s my hero now. She’s the godmother to my children. She is like a mother figure, but also like the best friend you could ever have. I was so lucky that she found me in the fifth grade. I was at a crossroads. There was a lot of drama and turmoil in my family. She came along and just like an angel, just plucked me up, and really her influence changed the trajectory of my life.

Where does your courage come from?

Her. My courage came from her. Because she had the belief in me when I was very young, that I could achieve. That I was worthy. I was a bit bullied, and she esteemed me — always — and taught me to fight through the hard times. And one of the biggest lessons she taught me was to always shine again, and to just kind of deal with the valleys — because the peaks always return.

“It takes me back to Taken with Liam Neeson, a movie I absolutely love. I thought, Why can’t a woman do that?”

What will you always be the champion of?

Children. Women’s rights. Black Lives Matter — and causes like that. [Places] where I feel like I can use my voice, and actually make a difference.

What’s your favorite social media spot?

I’m Instagram. That’s my medium right now. That’s my favorite place to kind of express myself right now. But I have an app that I’m [launching] called Hallewood that will become a place that I’m going to really love to be. It’s a fan-based site, but it will be a place where I can really connect with fans, and talk to them, have contact. Actually meet them. We can have real, deep conversations about the things you just asked me about, like what do I stand for. It’s going to be a really interesting place.

Last show you binge-watched?

Probably HBO’s The Night Of, was my last binged show.

What’s your go-to karaoke song?

That’s one thing I cannot do! That’s one thing you cannot get me to do. I’m serious. You cannot get me to karaoke. I am not. I’m really not. I will not. There are lots of other things. Just not that!

“And one of the biggest lessons she taught me was to always shine again, and to just kind of deal with the valleys because the peaks always return.”

First concert you went to?

My first concert was Prince. That man, his music changed my childhood and my teenage years. He got me through some s—! I was a huge, admiring fan of his, and I became a friend of his during his lifetime.

Last concert you went to?

Bruno Mars. We saw him in Vegas on New Year’s.

What would you tell your 15-year-old self?

I would say, ‘Girl, do it just as you did. Because when you act, you’re pretty damn good.’ All I know is that. I have no regrets. No regrets, not a one.

This conversation has been edited for clarity and length.

NAACP searches for relevance in era defined by Black Lives Matter and Trump Group looks for new leadership while continuing to play the inside game

BALTIMORE — The NAACP calls itself the “oldest and boldest” civil rights organization in the country. The first part of that description is not in dispute. But in an era when activists quickly organize and mobilize mass demonstrations online, the NAACP finds itself struggling to remain on the cutting edge of the social justice movement.

As thousands of NAACP supporters gather here for the 108-year-old organization’s annual convention, the group is grappling with an urgent internal question: How can it better respond to the new realities confronting African-Americans without abandoning the principles that made it one of the nation’s leading forces for social change?

“The NAACP has to remember its history but also plan for the future,” said Baltimore Mayor Catherine E. Pugh, an NAACP life member who used to consult for the organization. “It is not just about social justice, but it is also about economic justice and being prepared to take advantage of opportunity.”

The NAACP also faces urgent external challenges. The most pressing are coming from President Donald Trump’s administration, which is pushing policy changes on health care, criminal justice reform, educational funding and voting rights that are adamantly opposed by the organization.

All of that is complicated by the demands of a younger generation that is impatient with the NAACP’s style of advocacy. Groups such as Black Lives Matter, for example, have led raucous demonstrations to force the issue of police brutality onto the national agenda. That kind of action can make the NAACP’s approach, working within the system to hammer out legal and legislative change, seem ponderous or even irrelevant.

Earlier this month, the African Methodist Episcopal Church’s (AME) Council of Bishops released a scathing open letter demanding that the NAACP reinvent itself. “We call upon the National Board of the NAACP to restructure the organization, define its mission and set forth its vision, lest it remain on its current path toward irrelevancy and ultimate demise … longevity alone is not proof of relevance,” the letter said.

NAACP leaders say they recognize the organization’s predicament and are working to address it. Cornell Brooks, an AME minister and Yale Law School graduate who served as the group’s president and CEO for three years, was forced out in May after the board decided not to renew his contract. Derrick Johnson, the board’s vice chairman and an adjunct professor at Tougaloo College in Mississippi, is serving as interim president and CEO until a permanent replacement is named. Officials said they expect a new leader to be in place by the end of the year.

The organization said it will embark on a national listening tour before hiring a permanent president. NAACP officials said the tour will visit seven cities to hear from activists around the country about its future direction.

The tour should “expand our reach, touch our people, engage more diverse audiences and reinforce our focus on civil rights in this age of great political and social uncertainty,” Johnson said.

NAACP board Chairman Leon Russell said that while the NAACP is determined to keep pace with the times, it does not want to lose its identity of successfully working within the system. He noted that the organization faced similar questions of relevance during the heyday of the civil rights movement, when groups such as the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, the Congress of Racial Equality and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference led street-level protests and sit-ins, while the NAACP supported their action by working for legislative and legal change. The same is true now with Black Lives Matter and other organizations, officials said.

“Groups like Black Lives Matter and others are important, and we appreciate and support what they do,” said Hilary O. Shelton, director of the NAACP’s Washington bureau, which lobbies Congress and other federal entities. “They shine a bright light on problems, which is a very important first step. Our role is to get the courts, the legislature and government agencies to address those problems.”

This year’s agenda for the convention reflects the organization’s insider priorities. On Monday, former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder is scheduled to speak about how the Justice Department’s civil rights enforcement has eroded since Trump took office. More than a dozen members of Congress, including Democratic Sens. Kamala Harris and Cory Booker, will also address the convention. Trump was invited to speak, too, but turned down the offer.

Since its founding in 1909, the NAACP has been at the forefront in combating lynching, dismantling segregation and helping to gain voting rights for African-Americans. NAACP martyrs such as Medgar Evers and husband and wife Harry T. and Harriette Moore have been murdered as a result of their NAACP activism. But after piling up a string of landmark civil rights victories, the NAACP now finds its targets more elusive.

The organization claims more than 500,000 members and in 2015 reported a budget of more than $29 million. The group has 2,200 local chapters that deal with issues before local governments. Many of those issues never bubble up to national attention. That structure gives the group an important grass-roots presence. But it also gives it an unwieldy bureaucracy, and national leaders struggle to improve communication between often independent local branches and the national headquarters in Baltimore.

Akosua Ali, 34, president of the organization’s branch in Washington, D.C., said the fact that the NAACP has an organizational infrastructure sets it apart from many other social justice groups.

“I know we have the capacity to get things done, and that is important,” she said. “We have the foundation for training and learning and a history that is unrivaled. There is really no other organization that offers that training and structure.”

Daily Dose: 7/11/17 Baseball is set to celebrate itself

All right, kiddos, I’m headed off to Minneapolis Tuesday for the X Games, which should be fun. I’ve never been there, and I hear it’s nice during the summer. Should be a fun time.

Welp, we’re about to find out just how much the Trumps like each other. There are some families who will go to jail for the squad. And there are some who will throw each other under the bus, even at the highest level. Now that it’s been revealed that Donald Trump Jr. met with a Kremlin-connected lawyer, with full knowledge that there was an attempt to undermine Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign, somebody’s going to have to say something. And if President Donald Trump is willing to throw his own son under the bus, he’ll do it to anyone.

For whatever reason, a police officer is suing Black Lives Matter. And by “whatever reason” I mean twisted, racist logic that allows people to assume that black people are to blame for every single thing in the world. After some guy ambushed a bunch of police officers in Louisiana, they’re blaming DeRay Mckesson for inciting violence against police. If this suit is successful, what that basically means is that if you speak out against police brutality, you will have to pay for it. Which is foul. Here’s a breakdown of this ridiculous situation.

There’s old and crotchety, then there’s just plain mean. When you’re a kid and some old guy yells, “Get off my lawn,” it sounds like everything else you hear from an adult: Stop. But what you also hear is that you should get out and do something with your life instead of sitting inside letting your brain rot while staring at the internet. So when a kid decided to mow his 68-year-old neighbor’s lawn, he thought he was doing him a favor. But, since no good deed goes unpunished, that neighbor called the cops on him.

The MLB All-Star Game is Tuesday night in Miami, and if Monday night’s Home Run Derby was any indication, this should be a pretty incredible game. In general, the Midsummer Classic is hit or miss, which prompted the league to tie it to the World Series for so many years. But if you like baseball, it is fun, if for no other reason than the pageantry. I couldn’t tell you who won one in any given year, but I do watch every year. Some guys, though, make the team entirely too much. Check out this look at who are the all-time leaders in undeserved honors.

Free Food

Coffee Break: As someone who watches a lot of television, I have a lot of experience with remotes. A bad remote setup in a house can make the viewing experience a real drag, and with so many different devices out these days, it’s getting more difficult. For nostalgia’s sake, the history of the universal remote is a fun one.

Snack Time: If you’ve been thinking about getting solar panels for your home, you might want to hurry up and get on that. Because, yes, power companies are doing everything they can to put this practice out to pasture.

Dessert: It’s Amazon Prime Day. Try not to drain your wallets too much.

Ex-police chief Dave Brown recalls shootings of Dallas police officers following Black Live Matters event in his new book ‘Called To Rise’ He was credited with bringing peace after the ambush last July 7

DALLAS – The events of July 7, 2016, will forever haunt former Dallas police chief David Brown.

That was the day Micah Xavier Johnson ambushed and killed four policemen with the Dallas Police Department (DPD) and one policeman with the Dallas Area Rapid Transit (DART) system following a peaceful Black Lives Matter (BLM) event in downtown Dallas. Brown was in his sixth year as Dallas’ police chief at the time, and the tragedy not only unsettled his city, but also a nation.

Several incidents across the nation where white police officers killed unarmed African-American citizens was the impetus for the BLM protest. But no one could predict what was about to occur in Dallas.

“It was very peaceful, people were taking selfies with our officers,” Brown said, referring to the protest. “We had worked very hard in the community to have strong relationships here in Dallas.

“We were all obviously concerned, but the mood of the crowd was so positive. And then towards the end is when the first shots rang out.”

Those shots, from Johnson, sent the crowd running for cover.

“I get a call after leaving work at 9 p.m. — the protest was scheduled to end at 9 p.m. — and people were leaving,” Brown said. “Then they decided to march through the streets, which was unplanned.

“I get the call that one officer is down, then I get multiple calls of multiple people shot and a gunman – maybe multiple gunmen – shooting from different positions. The first reaction was obviously the concern for the officers that they would make it, and their families, and then next was trying to capture this guy, trying to figure out where this person was.”

Johnson managed to run and hide in a small room on the second floor of nearby El Centro College. And following almost four hours of ill-fated negotiations while trying to get Johnson to turn himself in, Brown made the controversial decision to send an armed robot into the building with the sole purpose of killing the gunman.

The strategy worked, although many criticized Brown for using the rare tactic.

“It’s only controversial to people that weren’t getting shot at,” Brown said. “It’s not controversial to the people who lost their husband, lost their son or lost their father. It’s not controversial to those folks.

“But I understand people obviously concerned with weaponizing an armed robot, because it had never been done in American policing history. But this person was negotiated with for over 3 1/2 hours before we came to that conclusion, and during the negotiations he expressed that he wanted to kill more officers and expressed throughout negotiations that he was really excited about having already killed officers.”

Besides the five police officers killed, nine more were wounded, and two civilians were also injured.

Approaching the one-year anniversary of one of Dallas’ darkest hours, Brown believes that most police officers are good, honest men and women who are trying to do their jobs and go home safely to their families at the end of the day.

“I’m obviously African-American, I hate being stereotyped, I hate the fact that a black person can do something in this country and all blacks are stereotyped as being criminals,” Brown said. “But all of my adult life I’ve been a police officer, so I’m blue, and that stereotyping for police officers is just as bad as stereotyping in the African-American community.

“Just the fact that you will take the example of a cop that obviously didn’t do things the right way, used excessive force, used deadly force when it wasn’t called for, and then every cop is bad or out of control or racist is wrong. Just as wrong as someone following me in a department store because I’m black, thinking I’m going to steal something. That’s wrong.

“We ought to be able to have people be looked at on their own merits on an individual basis, is what we all want. People in the black community want that and people in the blue community want that, and it’s only right and fair.”

Brown, who spent 33 years with DPD before retiring last fall, has since written a book about his life named Called To Rise. It includes personal stories, including Father’s Day of 2010 when his son – who suffered from a bipolar disorder – shot and killed a police officer in a suburb of Dallas, and was subsequently shot and killed by a responding police officer.

Born and raised in a tough area of Dallas called South Oak Cliff, Brown believes he was born to handle a crisis like the one that nearly brought Dallas to its knees last year. His candor – plus the way he calmed the fears of those in his community and across the nation – during interviews in the aftermath of the shootings, was well-received nationally.

Brown points to his strong Christian faith, along with the community he grew up in, for helping him get through the biggest challenge of his career in law enforcement.

“It’s a strong-willed mother, a community that nurtured me, the public school system nurtured me, early childhood education – pre-K – had a big part of my life, and I just never forgot where I came from and I felt like I owed people,” Brown said. “But the most important part is my faith, the fact that I’m a Christian and I’m not ashamed to profess it has an integral part in how I make decisions, good or bad.

“I’m nowhere near perfect at all, I know that. But I believe in God’s grace and I apply that as much as I can in all aspects of my life, including professional.”

All of that was put to a stern test last year.

Lifesaving advice from a black woman held at gunpoint by police Comply, survive and complain later because panicky cops don’t know how to de-escalate situations

It’s still hard for me to believe that last month I almost became a hashtag — another black person gunned down by a panicky cop.

I don’t have a criminal record.

I shop at Trader Joe’s.

I’m college-educated.

I’m a woman.

As I stared at the officer nervously pointing his gun at me, I realized immediately what he saw: a black person who had no business being in his neighbor’s driveway.

Wait, let me take you back to the beginning:

On April 28, I bought a 2005 Isuzu Ascender from a woman in Jefferson City, Tennessee. I was on my way home to Charlotte, North Carolina, from Nashville, Tennessee, and I found the SUV on Craigslist. I had been searching for the perfect SUV for more than a month. This had a female owner who followed the maintenance schedule, relatively low miles, leather interior, tow package, roof rack and even a sunroof. The Ascender was the one. I bought it on the spot.

I left with both sets of keys, the title and a bill of sale, which she signed. Over the next couple of days, we talked a couple of times as I confirmed my pickup date of May 3. That’s how I found myself at the end of her son-in-law’s gun. I drove a rental car to Morristown, Tennessee, and took an unmarked taxi to the woman’s house about 3 p.m. I talked to her the day before. The Ascender was parked in the same spot in her driveway as it was the previous week when I purchased it. Her newer Toyota 4Runner was parked beside it.

The cab dropped me off and sped away. We’d gotten lost along the way, and he was irritated. I was tired but excited. The sun was shining, and the area around me was beautiful with lush trees and rolling hills. I soaked in the scenery.

I retrieved my North Carolina license plate and a small screwdriver from my duffel bag. As I screwed in the plate, I heard a voice behind me: “I’m an off-duty Knoxville police officer.” Something told me to stand up slowly with my hands up. I turned, facing the direction of the voice. He’s pointing his gun at me. My heart races. I look around. There is no one else outside. My mind is racing. I chide myself for not giving the address to anyone. No one knows where I am. I lament not answering the phone a minute ago when it rang. I am completely alone. My phone is next to my bag. I don’t think I should move.


It’s so quiet. Philando Castile flashes through my mind. I think about how cops are killing black people and getting away with it. I bought the SUV last Friday, I tell him, being mindful not to raise my voice. He doesn’t lower his gun. He tells me he is the seller’s son-in-law, and he lives across the street. He saw me get out of a car that sped away. It was a taxi, I explain. He’s incredulous. The registration and bill of sale are in my duffel bag. I tell him the keys are in my pocket. He tells me not to move. He orders me to put down the small screwdriver that I’m sweatily holding in the air. I ask if I can lower my hands. He says yes. Even though, to this point, he’s still pointing his gun at me as he talks to the 911 dispatcher.

He tells the dispatcher that I’m trying to steal his mother-in-law’s SUV. He gives her the tag number. The dispatcher tells him that the tag matches the truck. He, apparently, doesn’t hear her because he keeps pointing the gun at me. He finishes the call and holsters his gun. I exhale and lean against the truck. He tells me to sit on the step beside the house. Again, I invite him to check the registration in my bag. I share various details about his mother-in-law. He tells me he knew she was selling the car, but she hadn’t told him she’d sold it.

Seven minutes later, a Jefferson County sheriff’s deputy arrives. The cop tells his side of the story. I tell the deputy I have the registration in my bag. He doesn’t check it, nor did he run the plates. I offer him the signed bill of sale and keys. Not good enough. He wants to talk to the woman who sold me the car. She wasn’t home and wasn’t answering her cell.

We’ve been over this already. Again, I tell the deputy that the registration is in my bag, and it matches the VIN on the car. Or that he can simply run the plates. He asks for the title. I don’t have the title — I have the registration. He asks if I have the phone number of the woman who sold me the car. I read to him from my phone. He compares it to the number on the bill of sale. It matches. I’m wondering, to myself, what that exercise just proved — but I remain calm.

He still doesn’t run the plate. Since I was allowed to pick up my phone, I text a friend: “Cops here. They don’t believe I bought the car. Gonna call. Just stay on the line …” Finally, the off-duty cop gets his wife on the phone. She confirms the car was sold to someone in North Carolina. They let me go with a weak apology, and the typical, “There’ve been a lot of burglaries in the area.”

Former Observer writer Tonya Jameson shows how she was screwing her new license plate into her new Isuzu SUV purchased in Jefferson City TN., shown here, before having a gun pulled on her by a Knoxville Police Department officer. “It’s been a week since I almost became a hashtag – another unarmed Black person shot by a cop,” she wrote.

Diedra Laird/Charlotte Observer

Initially, I was just glad to be alive — but after blogging about it, I realized that wasn’t enough. It wasn’t just about me — this was an opportunity to prevent the next Philando Castile. I filed a complaint with the Knoxville Police Department’s Internal Affairs Unit against Officer Matthew Janish, the off-duty cop who drew his gun on me. I complain to Jefferson County Sheriff G.W. “Bud” McCoig about how his deputy handled the call.

McCoig said his deputy acted appropriately despite not running my tag or looking at the registration. McCoig also said his deputy denied that I told him I had the registration. Since the deputy only stayed for 11 minutes, McCoig didn’t think it was a big deal. I explain to McCoig that after one cop pulls a gun on you, and then the other officer won’t follow common sense and run the plate, but instead interrogates you, 11 minutes is an eternity. I told him his officer created an even more threatening encounter for me. McCoig was unsympathetic and concluded the conversation with, “I’m glad everything worked out, and as far as I’m concerned this is closed.”

Knoxville Police were a little more sympathetic. Chief David Rausch actually came to Charlotte a little more than a month later to tell me the internal affairs investigation concluded that officer Janish’s actions were “lawful and proper.”

The system is designed to exonerate police officers, not provide justice for their victims, especially black ones. He said that he felt it was important to tell me results in person and answer any questions that I might have.

I told him that I wasn’t surprised by their findings, but I was disappointed. The system is designed to exonerate police officers, not provide justice for their victims, especially black ones. My incident, however, gives me new insight into just how much the law values police lives over the citizens they are supposed to protect.

Chief Rausch revealed that Janish thought I was a teenage boy. Considering that I have a low-fade haircut and was wearing khaki-style shorts and a “Free Press” T-shirt, I wasn’t surprised. I tell the chief that although I am not a teenage boy, his officer shouldn’t assume that all teenage boys are criminals.

The chief told me when doing these types of investigations, it is essential to understand an officer’s mindset to determine the facts. Here are the facts that Janish focused on: unmarked, speeding cab; black person; duffel bag; and the license plate. Here are facts he ignored: He knew his mother-in-law was selling the SUV, it was broad daylight, and I knew her first name but not her last. I offered to show him the keys, registration and bill of sale signed by her.

Those are the actual facts. Janish’s mindset was the scenario he created in his head.

He saw a black person, supposedly a teenage boy, and assumed the worst: that I was either a burglar or a car thief. His fears weren’t facts.

The moment I arrived on that street I became a suspect, and under the law, it seemed that Janish became a victim. He could have stayed at his house, called 911 and waited for sheriff’s deputies to arrive. Instead, he grabbed his weapon and came outside to confront me.

Every action I took was suspicious in his mind. Looking to the left and right twice was deemed suspicious. Not knocking on the door was also suspicious, but I suspect knocking would’ve been suspicious, too.

Reading the investigation case file, Janish likely would have been within his legal rights to shoot me. I was amazed at the scenario he created about the taxi — it was a lookout vehicle lurking nearby.

In a statement supporting the investigation’s findings, Knoxville Mayor Madeline Rogero talked about the extensive training officers receive in appropriate use of force and de-escalation.

Is the fact that Janish didn’t shoot me considered de-escalation? Why is pointing a weapon at a law-abiding citizen considered an appropriate use of force? Why doesn’t police training include exercising common sense?

Who steals a car by putting a license plate on it first? Who steals a 12-year-old Isuzu Ascender instead of the newer Toyota 4Runner parked beside it? What car thief offers the amount of proof that I did?

I understand Janish’s vantage point, that the situation looked strange from his house. He was well within his right to investigate; any good neighbor would do that. But this situation warranted some common-sense questions: “Who are you?” “What are you doing?” The inquiry should come first, instead of a gun. That’s de-escalation.

During his Charlotte visit, Rausch talked about lessons learned. I didn’t overreact. I didn’t get angry. I survived.

My behavior is how everyone should act in those situations: comply, survive and complain later. I told him it’s not natural to be accused of doing something wrong and not prove your innocence. I wanted to show the keys, the vehicle registration and the bill of sale. I fought every impulse to do anything that would make him feel more threatened.

I don’t have de-escalation training. I’m the one being held at gunpoint. I’m the one thinking my life could end if he panics. Yet, I’m the one who must remain calm. The legal system is asking untrained civilians to de-escalate panicky cops.

What about our lives? We’re tired of becoming hashtags. We’re the ones the police are supposed to protect. Our lives matter, too.

Tonya Jameson is a former Charlotte Observer reporter and columnist who now manages social media accounts for companies.

Pots & pans: My parents, both born on July Fourth, didn’t live to see their American dream For my father, our nation was fundamentally immoral. My mother saw a work in progress.

Tomorrow, I’ll pause and think of my parents, both born on the Fourth of July. My father grew up in the rural South, part of a sharecropping family. My mother, the daughter of a laborer and a conjure woman, was born in Philly, just as our nation was.

Sometimes, after summer Sunday dinners with Monday’s toil hours away, they’d cruise into a familiar conversation. It would begin with scenic meanderings about what they’d do after they retired. It would end at a fork in the road, if not an impasse: a discussion of how black people should seek to live their lives in America.

My mother, a child of the Depression, gloried in every example of black people doing unprecedented things, from Jackie Robinson playing major league baseball to Marian Anderson and Leontyne Price in opera.

Although my mother didn’t live to see it, the election of Barack H. Obama as president of the United States exemplified her fondest dream: a black person climbing to unprecedented heights, buoyed by hard work, intelligence and faith.

My father, born before the beginning of World War I, saw America as a nation whose fundamental immorality was revealed in its inability to recognize black people as decent and hardworking. If he’d lived, he’d see post-Obama America and the rise of white nationalism here and throughout Europe as ample evidence that nothing had changed and nothing ever would.

My mother felt that things changed all the time. She helped change things in small ways. When she was a young woman, she stood up for herself on her government jobs. “Jeffery,” she’d say, “I was a pistol.”

Had she lived, my mother would have smiled while the black president of the United States spoke at her grandson’s 2016 Howard University graduation. She would have smiled when she learned that her grandson had the audacity to hope he could earn a living as a film critic.

Had he lived, my father would have shaken his head when the black president said in that graduation speech that to make progress folks had to be willing to compromise, even with those they knew were wrong. My father didn’t believe anything could be gained from compromising with people he knew were wrong.

Although my father would not have discouraged my son’s ambitions, Daddy would have shaken his head at a grandson who, like me, didn’t hope to work for himself.

Although my father worked on an assembly line in the 1960s, he’d owned a garage in the 1950s and a store before serving in the Navy during World War II. He’d also tried to start an import-export business. On occasion, he played and hit the street number. He was always looking for ways to free himself and his family from the dictates of workaday life in black America.

His childhood in a sharecropping family had taught him that the people who owned the land and kept the books also made sure that the workers remained in poverty.

My mother believed fervently in the richness of the American promise. While striving for success, she sought to stand on the shoulders of her ambition and commitment to excellence. She thought that setbacks dictated that she or the larger black community had to work harder or employ different strategies, set new goals.

My father believed that anyone who committed himself to competing in a game where he didn’t make the rules was bound to lose again and again.

Neither of my parents lived to retire. Their Sunday conversations from more than 50 years ago live only in my fond memories. But the explosive question of how black people should best pursue the American dream, or endure when that dream gets deferred, gets answered by each new generation in different ways, by individuals and through national movements, Crispus Attucks to JAY-Z, abolition to Black Lives Matter.

As always, the African-American journey continues in our country. We are not alone: We lock arms with everyone who knows that the nation’s greatness is rooted in its people rather than clever phrases. With each step forward, we carry the nation and its most cherished ideals to higher ground.

And the rockets’ red glare.