Filed Under:  OpEd, Opinion

Embrace the struggle

30th September 2013   ·   0 Comments

By Edmund W. Lewis

We’re finally reached the down side of the 2013 Atlantic hurricane season but the storm is far from over in New Orleans. Here in the Big Uneasy, we still have elected officials playing games with residents’ safety and future, a voucher program that siphons money out of the already underfunded public school system, a school superintendent who sees nothing wrong with building a sparkling new school for Black kids on soil poisoned with at least eight contaminants and inept federal prosecutors who have probably guaranteed that those responsible for the destruction of two people’s lives and the wounding of four others on the Danziger Bridge will get away with murder.

The way I see it, we either lie down and die or stand up and fight for the future of our children and our children’s children. There has never been a time in the history of this nation that the future looked rosy for people of color. Some days have been darker than others with glimmers of hope piercing the darkness every now and then, but things have never really looked bright for us. That didn’t stop our forebears from fighting the good fight and laying it all on the line. Like them, we will have to decide whether we love ourselves and our children more than we fear being attacked by the powers that be and whether we are willing to do whatever it takes to be free. We most also be willing to devote time and energy to studying our plight in this city and committing to the struggle for freedom, justice and equal protection under the law for the long haul. That is what will be required of us if we are to end this city’s reign of terror on Black people, end the age-old practice of taxation without representation in New Orleans, reclaim our families and communities and halt the cultural and economic exploitation of Black people in this city.

Y’all still with me? Let’s get it on and poppin’.

• Why is U.S. Congressman Cedric Richmond so adamant about demanding that Attorney General Eric Holder thoroughly investigates prosecutorial misconduct during former U.S. Attorney Jim Letten’s administration but has said absolutely nothing about New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu’s unrelenting efforts to block the NOPD and OPP consent decrees?

• How much blame should our two U.S. Senators — David Vitter and Mary Landrieu — take for the lack of safe, affordable housing in New Orleans, the city’s out-of-control crime, unconstitutional policing, underfunded, overcrowded public schools, the failure of the administration of Jim Letten (who both senators avidly supported) to prosecute cops who murdered civilians after Hurricane Katrina by the letter of the law, the Road Home program’s widespread mistreatment of Black homeowners, inadequate mental health care, chronic unemployment and an overall lack of commitment by local elected officials to upholding the U.S. Constitution?

• What do you think U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu thinks about the need for a NOPD consent decree to bring constitutional policing to her hometown?

• Wouldn’t it be “too much like right” if former New Orleans Mayor Ray “Chocolate City” Nagin gets all of the federal indictments against him dropped because of the way former U.S. Attorney Jim Letten ran his administration?

• With some local attorneys in the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Louisiana demonstrating their lack of respect for the law and some members of the NOPD continuing to violate the constitutional and human rights of citizens, what hope do Black people in New Orleans have of getting justice and equal protection under the law anytime soon?

• Do you think it will be new U.S. Attorney Kenneth Polite’s decision whether to retain the services of one of Sen. Mary Landrieu’s siblings who works in the U.S. Attorney’s Office or that of “someone else”?

• If an investigation finds that former U.S. Attorney Jim Letten either broke the regarding the investigation and prosecution of additional elected officials, should Sen. Mary Landrieu, who ignored Black leaders’ pleas to find a new U.S. attorney when President Obama was elected in 2008 because they felt Letten unfairly targeted Black public officials, will Black voters in Louisiana hold Sen. Landrieu accountable come election time?

• After U.S. Judge Kurt Englehardt’s ruling that grants a new trial to five officers convicted in the Danziger Bridge Massacre, what would former U.S. Attorney Jim Letten and his team of federal prosecutors like to say to the families of James Brissette, Ronald Madison and the four other unarmed civilians shot by police on the eastern New Orleans bridge just days after Hurricane Katrina?

• With federal judges granting new trials to NOPD officers convicted in the Henry Glover and Danziger Bridge cases, another federal judge telling a college audience that Blacks and Latinos are “predisposed to crime,” the U.S. Depart­ment of Justice and Orleans Parish District Attorney’s Office making mistakes that get these officers’ new trials and a mayor and police chief who have clearly demonstrated their disdain for the NOPD consent decree, what incentive do local cops have to do their job by the books and protect the constitutional rights of all of the city’s residents?

• Why do so many NOPD officers who live in surrounding parishes automatically assume that they will not be able to get a fair trial in New Orleans after they are accused of killing someone or violating some’s constitutional rights?

• Why was the notion of cops wearing to record their interactions with civilians such a bad idea when Community United for Change made that recommendation more than a year ago but it is now such a good idea that the NOPD has now embraced the idea, with NOPD Superintendent Ronal Serpas calling it “the future of law enforcement”?

• Which is a greater challenge, teaching several classes of NOPD recruits to respect the rules as set forth in the United States Constitution as it relates to law enforcement or finding a way to help veteran NOPD officers to unlearn decades of abuse, corruption and unconstitutional policing?

• If the five cops convicted in the Danziger Bridge shootings and subsequent cover-up deserve a new trial because of prosecutorial misconduct, since there have been a number of other high-profile collaborations and convictions over the past few years involving the DOJ and NOPD shouldn’t some others convicted in federal court also be granted new trials?

• Isn’t it interesting how the City of New Orleans goes back and forth as it did when it made a conscious decision to destroy Tremé by running the Claiborne Ave. Overpass through it and decades later deciding that the Overpass now needs to go, and as it did when it once vehemently opposed an Orleans Parish residency rule and is now trying to suspend for a year in order to recruit more NOPD officers?

• Now that the powers that be have finally demolished the Iberville Housing Development, which Saints owner Tom Benson once envisioned as a potential site for a new football stadium, can’t you see the city’s blueprint for a posh white CBD where Blacks and the poor are not welcome finally taking a major leap forward?

• Isn’t it a tidbit insulting and condescending that New Orleans developer Pres Kabacoff wants to transform New Orleans, “the most African city in America,” into “Paris on the Mississippi” when Paris’ Louvre is nothing more than a replica of Kemet’s (Egypt) Great Pyramid and the Eiffel Tower is a spruced-up Kemetic obelisk?

• Aren’t you surprised that the Whitewashing Committee of New Orleans has not YET gotten around to reversing former New Orleans City Councilwoman Dorothy Mae Taylor’s ordinance that required Carnival krewes to be racially integrated in order to get parade permits?

• Wouldn’t you love to get a peek at that binder of recyclable Negroes the powers that be utilize every time a position on a local commission or government agency becomes available that calls for a Stepin Fetchit type?

• Does hiring a Black superintendent, spokesman or attorney to do one’s bidding make policy decisions regarding the education of poor and Black children any less racist and harmful to communities of color?

• Who does Louisiana Gov. Piyush Jindal thinks he’s fooling by using a statewide voucher program to play games with funds earmarked for already-underfunded public schools?

• If Gov. Piyush Jindal and State Education Superintendent John White refuse apply for $45 million in federal funding that can be used to boost early childhood education programs across Louisiana because of their party affiliation before the Oct 16 deadline, what should that tell us about their commitment to providing quality education to communities of color across Louisiana?

• Do you really believe that Gov. Jindal cares more about public education than President Barack Obama?

• Do you trust the governor to make decisions regarding the education of poor and Black children across the state of Louisiana?

• Why is Louisiana Governor Piyush Jindal still campaigning so hard for the respect and acceptance of the GOP at the expense of poor and Black Louisiana residents?

• Are you planning to attend the Rally to Stop Racial Profiling scheduled for October 2 at 9:00 a.m. in front of City Hall?

This article originally published in the September 30, 2013 print edition of The Louisiana Weekly newspaper.

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