Thursday, August 13, 2015

#StandUp4Youth Press Release

Mentor2Youth Contact:
Emmanuel Jones

Mentor2Youth to Launch #StandUp4Youth Campaign
To Benefit Washtenaw County Youth Facing Barriers to Academic Success

YPSILANTI, MI, August 10, 2015 ---- Mentor2Youth, Inc., working to close the racial achievement gap in Southeast Michigan by providing at-risk youth with educational interventions and mentoring opportunities, announces their first-ever crowdfunding campaign. Launching on August 12, International Youth Day, and continuing through September 1, #StandUp4Youth will raise $5,000 to put 100 youth on the path to success during the 2015-2016 academic year.

Since its founding in 2011, Mentor2Youth has engaged more than 400 Washtenaw County youth in its free mentoring workshops and programs. Unlike many other community nonprofits that target at-risk schools or neighborhoods, Mentor2Youth specifically targets at-risk youth—children of low-income homes or from single-parent households; children with behavior issues who are referred by social workers; and students with a record of poor academic performance. Ninety percent of Mentor2Youth’s program participants qualify for free or reduced price lunch.

In addition to academic tutoring and annual field trips, Mentor2Youth offers three main programs: the Future Leaders Program, which provides weekly educational workshops facilitated by high school and college students to youth in grades 2-5; the Teens Talk Program, which prepares students in grade 6-8 for the challenges they will face during their adolescent years; and Youth L.E.A.D. (Learn, Empower, Aspire, Develop), an intensive intervention program designed to prepare students in grades 9-12 for post-secondary success.

Gifts to Mentor2Youth’s #StandUp4Youth campaign will be accepted from August 12 through September 1, are tax-deductible, and will immediately support students in grades 2-5 enrolled in the Future Leaders Program. Visitwww.crowdrise.com/standup4youth to make a donation or find out more.

About Mentor2Youth
The mission of Mentor2Youth is to help support and guide Washtenaw County youth down a path of academic and personal achievement. Mentor2Youth understands the importance of a formal education, but believes this must be supplemented with life-long learning skills to truly prepare young people for success. Mentor2Youth’s team is committed to closing the racial achievement gap in Southeastern Michigan by providing opportunities for youth to successfully transition from high school into post-secondary education or the workforce.

About International Youth Day
International Youth Day is an awareness day designated by the United Nations and observed annually on August 12. The purpose of the day is to draw attention to youth issues worldwide, and this year’s campaign focuses on Youth Civic Engagement.

****

Emmanuel D. Jones
Executive Director, Mentor2Youth Inc.
emmanuel.jones@mentor2youth.com
www.mentor2youth.com
Office: 734-905-7955
Cell: (734) 218-4469
Fax: (734) 547-1701

Friday, July 10, 2015

TRU STORY EXCLUSIVE: If Flags Could Talk


Tru Story Exclusive: About Elbert Williams


If Flags Could Talk: Written and Curated by Leslie McGraw




Thank you for tuning into the Tru Story blog series: About Elbert Williams. Beginning in June, I began to address circumstances surrounding related to one of the nation's forgotten heroes, Elbert Williams. June 20 marked the 75th anniversary of his brutal murder of Elbert Williams in rural Brownsville Tennessee. Elbert was a 31 year old, charter member and secretary of the National Advancement of the Association of Colored People (NAACP) in Haywood County,Tennessee. His contributions were recognized in downtown Brownsville on Saturday, June 20. Although I hold a personal connection with all of the series on Tru Story, this one is especially personal as Elbert Williams was my Uncle. 

This first blog post in the Tru Story Exclusive series was written by guest blogger, Jim Emison, a retired attorney and cold case investigative lawyer turned author.  This blog post, although related, is a little bit less About Elbert and more about the historic removal of the Confederate Flag in South Carolina.

Oops, My Flagg Badd...

On June 20, I penned the following on this blog:
Today, I speak from a place of healing and pride in the accomplishments and perseverance of my family and am honored to be "home" in Brownsville to commemorate "Uncle Elbert" with a historic marker in downtown Brownsville. I will still be able to see that darn confederate flag in the background, but it's a start.

To my untrained Midwest eyes, I truly thought I saw a Confederate Flag waving atop the Confederate memorial in downtown Brownsville. However, last week, when I had the chance to see the pictures taken at the unveiling, I realized that this was probably the state flag of Tennessee. Although the state flag of Tennessee was originally designed to share solidarity and sympathy with the battle flag of the Confederacy, it is still not the same thing as a Confederate flag. 



Relationship Between Uncle Elbert and Confederate Flag


One might ask, what does the removal of the Confederate flag have to do with the terrorist attack on the 9 people killed in Charleston last month? Furthermore, what does the Confederate flag have to do with Elbert Williams? A response in full could take several book lengths, but there are three words that sum it up in the interim (between now and if I ever decide to write a book about the subject).

The first word is Fear.

Since the inception of the Confederate flag, it has symbolized fear and lack of control for black people in this country. Could you imagine being a slave and seeing the terrible carnage of war and knowing that, according to how the war went, it could mean you being freed? That's especially important when you factor in that slaves were only "the spoils" of war wagered to settle an argument about issues other than humanity. After emancipation, anytime the Confederate flag was waived black people were mentally taken back to days of fear, war, and bondage. I cannot imagine what it felt like walking around "free" in a city where the Confederacy was still worshiped both privately and publicly. Imagine family members and friends of Elbert Williams that were terrorized, beaten, lynched, and vandalized seeking justice. Where would they find this so-called justice? Would they be bold enough in 1940 to walk past the same white members who led the night terrors to the courthouse adorned with Confederate fare to plead for justice? Those days of injustice and enforced silence are equally as traumatic as slavery to me. I was not raised with the same fear, but when I visited Tennessee for the first time last month, I felt a fear that I had not felt before; I felt the fear of my ancestors.

The second word is Control.

Any white person, regardless of background, education, or status, can waive the Confederate flag and signify unity and power among all those who stand with him or her. I am sure that must feel empowering for people like the terrorist who killed the innocent church members in Charleston last month. On the other side of the same coin, the Confederate flag is a symbol of the lack of control for people of color. 

The third word is History.

The Confederate flag symbolizes...and even celebrates, dark times and situations in our country's history. Waiving the battle flag of the Confederacy is celebrating "the good ol' days" for white people and the worst days for black people at the same time. American history has been censored and skewed for centuries. Losing the flag is a start to adjusting history, and the future, to include the contributions of all Americans. I never thought much of symbols until I witnessed the unveiling of a historic marker dedicated to my Uncle Elbert last month. In a town where black people lived and thrived for hundreds of years, he was the first to be honored. For all those years, a message of value was communicated for all the white people in the community via markers, monuments, plaques, and more. Indirectly, a message was communicated for all the black people in the community was conveyed that their contributions, sacrifices, and lives had not mattered. I watched history sit a little more upright on that day. If flags could talk I am sure the American flag would have cried out "Hoorah". I am not sure what the Confederate flag would have said...

Below is a curated "storify" of social media reactions to today's historic moment in South Carolina's history. Make sure to scroll down for the live broadcast!





BREAKING: South Carolina has permanently removed the Confederate flag from Capitol grounds. Watch the full moment here: http://on.msnbc.com/1dQcODP
Posted by msnbc on Friday, July 10, 2015

Thursday, July 9, 2015

TRU STORY EXCLUSIVE: A Seventy Five Year Old Lie pt 2

Tru Story Exclusive: About Elbert Williams


A Seventy Five Year Old Lie: Part II by Leslie McGraw


Elbert-Williams-Marker-Brownsville-Tennessee
Elbert Williams Historical Marker
Unveiling on June 20
Photo courtesy of Sharon Hayes.
Thank you for tuning into the Tru Story blog series: About Elbert Williams. Beginning in June, I began to address circumstances surrounding related to one of the nation's forgotten heroes, Elbert Williams. June 20 marked the 75th anniversary of his brutal murder of Elbert Williams in rural Brownsville Tennessee. Elbert was a 31 year old, charter member and secretary of the National Advancement of the Association of Colored People (NAACP) in Haywood County,Tennessee. His contributions were recognized in downtown Brownsville on Saturday, June 20. Although I hold a personal connection with all of the series on Tru Story, this one is especially personal as Elbert Williams was my Uncle. 

This first blog post in the Tru Story Exclusive series was written by guest blogger, Jim Emison, a retired attorney and cold case investigative lawyer turned author.  This blog post, A Seventy Five Year Old Lie, is the second of two parts. 

The Journey to Truth Begins

Elbert-Williams-NAACP-President-lynched-1940
Elbert Williams is shown on the top row.
On the bottom  (l to r) are Medgar Evers,
James Chaney, and Emmet Till.

After the initial shock of hearing from the Cold Case Investigative Lawyer, Jim Emison, in January I went to my grandmother to let her know that there was finally someone who was going to pursue justice for Uncle Elbert. I didn't receive the response I had expected. Apparently, contact had already been initiated to reach out to my grandmother as well as several cousins, none of whom were interested in talking with the lawyer or answering his questions. I didn't initially understand why everyone wasn't ecstatic to be a part of this movement. 

One week after speaking with Attorney Emison on the phone, he and historian John Ashworth drove up from Tennessee to meet and interview me. At our first meeting, I was given a large picture of the 1939 Chapter of the NAACP in Brownsville, where Uncle Elbert stood proudly to the left. Until this point, I had never seen a picture of him. 

I showed grandma and she only seemed half interested. Later that week, I came over to get a copy of her childhood stories that she had put together years back. During that visit she shared the family bible, with all the official birth and death entries written in my great grandmother's handwriting and pictures I hadn't seen before. We didn't talk about Uncle Elbert, just combed through pictures while she told me a story connected to each picture. 

It would be weeks before my grandmother lashed out about why she didn't want anything to do with the efforts to honor Uncle Elbert. She spoke of all the terrors she had to deal with as a child in Brownsville. The frequent lynchings and threats, the constant fear, the torment her mother went through until her dying day remembering what they did to her brother, and so much more. What was most memorable about her outburst is that she did not seem to be my wise, calm, grandmother that speaks from experience and love. Instead it was like watching a 9 year old girl express her feelings of fear and pain through the body of a 84 year old woman.

A couple weeks later, while sitting watching President Obama speak, I remembered a moment I had shared with my Cousin Annie during his first presidential campaign. She said that she was proud of him, but she was not going to vote for him. I said "what?" It didn't make any sense at all. She said, "I just don't want them to hurt him or his family." 

It was all starting to make sense now. Our family was still holding on to a lot of fear surrounding the lynching of Uncle Elbert. In fact, fear had been passed down all the way to my generation. Except the fear that was passed down to my generation was handed over without explanation.

In reading through the literature I received from Mr. Emison and Mr. Ashworth, I realized that not just our family had suffered from this hand-me-down fear. For instance, it would be 21 years after the lynching of Elbert Williams before another group of people felt brave enough to start another local chapter of the NAACP.


The Light of Truth Shines

Quotation Picture Ida B Wells

For 75 years there had been mystery, pain, and shame around the death of Elbert Williams. Initial press reports by main stream media offered ridiculous rumors about Elbert Williams as possible reasons for his death. Rumors of infidelity to flirting with a white co-worker surfaced. Even after numerous witnesses came forward and Thurgood Marshall came to investigate, newspapers refused to print the truth. But, over the past year, great efforts have been made to shed light on exactly what happened to the first civil rights worker to be killed. One of the first steps in this process was obtaining the unredacted FBI files which documented. Soon thereafter a committee was formed to put together a commemorative event for Elbert Williams. 

The goals were simple: to begin a dialogue for racial healing within the community, to have the memorial service that Elbert Williams never received, and to have a historical marker placed in downtown Brownsville, Tennessee in his honor. These goals were achieved on June 20, 2015. There is still much more to do, that is happening, and that will happen...but I can feel the impact of what has already been done right now. 


Elbert Williams Memorial Commemoration Scenes from John Ashworth on Vimeo.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

TRU STORY EXCLUSIVE: A Seventy Five Year Old Lie pt I


Tru Story Exclusive: About Elbert Williams

Elbert Williams is shown on the top row.
On the bottom  (l to r) are Medgar Evers,
James Chaney, and Emmet Till.

A Seventy Five Year Old Lie: Part I by Leslie McGraw


Thank you for tuning into the Tru Story blog series: About Elbert Williams. Leading up to Independence Day I, along with guest bloggers and/or news outlets, will address a topic related to one of the nation's forgotten heroes, Elbert Williams. Although I hold a personal connection with all of the series on Tru Story, this one is especially personal as Elbert Williams was my Uncle. 

This first blog post in the Tru Story Exclusive series was written by guest blogger, Jim Emison, a retired attorney and cold case investigative lawyer turned author.  This blog post, A Seventy Five Year Old Lie is the first of two parts in this series. Be sure to tune in later this week for the second part.


June 20 marked the 75th anniversary of the brutal murder of Elbert Williams in rural Brownsville Tennessee. Elbert was an outspoken, 31 year old, charter member and secretary of the National Advancement of the Association of Colored People (NAACP) in Haywood County,Tennessee. 

My grandmother, just 9 years old at the time of his killing, saw and heard more than any child should. When I was about 11 she told me her Uncle had been lynched for helping people to vote and that was why her family decided to move to Michigan. She was "prompted" to tell the story as we were watched something on TV that featured a black man getting beat up and prepared for lynching. I don't even remember what the show or movie was anymore; just that my grandmother had shared a heavy piece of information with me and that it seemed painful for her to think about. I also took note that this uncle of hers had never been mentioned before in all the stories she had shared. Neither of us brought it up again. 

I would be an adult before I dared to mention it again and at that time she told me that he was actually lynched by someone in the NAACP for purportedly sleeping with their wife. Another time, she told me he was killed by other black townspeople. When I questioned her on the difference in the story, she would get defensive and tell me "that's what they said" and she must have gotten it wrong when she told me as a child. Later, I would find out that the white press had put out a number of degrading stories about my uncle around the time of his death to distract from the lynching that took place. I don't think she ever really believed the rumors, but was somehow protecting me from getting involved or digging up the past. She knew me all too well. I would not learn the details surrounding his life and murder until January of this year.

Growing up in Michigan 


The first black man I considered to be a hero was Frederick Douglas. Over a hundred and fifty years past the time he became a free man, his life was brought current to me through reading his autobiography. I was ten years old. Ten isn't very old, but certainly too old to have found my first black male hero. You see, at that point, I did not have any significant relationships with any men and my mom, grandma, and aunts seemed to spin the world in which I lived. 

I had black men that I loved within my family and church family, but I had my own ideas of what constituted a hero. What I considered to be a hero as a young girl was a man that would stand in truth and lead. They were courageous and did big things. The heroes I followed were Superman, Luke Skywalker (Star Wars), Darren Stephens (Bewitched), Abraham Lincoln, Franklin Roosevelt, Charles Ingalls (Little House) and Walt Disney. In school, there was a non-stop parade of (white) historic figures that did notable things for our country, sacrificed and excelled from Columbus to Reagan. We learned when they were born, what they did, how they died. For hundreds of years, the American Education system had rehearsed its wonderful tale of good white folks and all the good and wonderful they have contributed to the world. 

What little we learned about Harriet Tubman, Rosa Parks, and Rev. King during February was truncated so much that it didn't seem all that grand. Where was the glory in sitting down on a bus or being a runaway slave or walking a couple blocks with a group before giving a speech before getting shot to death? In fact, in those days calling someone Harriet Tubman or "African" could land you in a fist fight on the playground. For hundreds of years, our society and public education system had rehearsed a narrative of blissful subservience when involving people of color. The history books reflected that.

I would be in middle school or older before I understood the adversity in which these activists persevered or the heroic sacrifices they made.

Home conversations supported what I had absorbed at school and television. There wasn't a lot of talk about anyone who did anything extraordinary. My mom and grandma didn't do any male bashing, but what they didn't say spoke volumes. The black men I saw and knew were often nice, but just not hero material. They weren't owning businesses or heading households or making waves in the newspaper. There was always some sort of struggle attached to their existence. I never felt ashamed of having ancestors that were slaves, farm workers, or domestics. A strong work ethic was taught to me early and I believed that to be a strength of our family. 


The Lie Continued

In the synopsis for the new movie, Little White Lie, the author states that "silence and secrecy can eat away at he core of a family and its ability to function and communicate." That was our family's lie...silence. As an adult I have learned about the successes of members of our family, but there has been a disconnect. I knew one of my relatives owned the local fish market for years but my immediate family was so disconnected after the migration that none of his kids or grandkids knew us. I went to grade school with relatives that I would not verify were kin for many years. As an adult, my uncles Donnie, Vernal, and Eldred ironically were the ones I learned about some of the major contributions our family has made over the years. Still, there was no mention of Uncle Elbert. For 75 years there has been mystery, pain, and shame around Uncle Elbert's death. 

The Truth About Elbert Begins to Unfold


On January 17, 2015 my life changed when I received a Fed Ex package from cold case investigative lawyer, Jim Emison. He had identified me as a relative of Elbert Williams and had documents inside that included the death certificate, a statement from his wife after his murder, original field findings from Thurgood Marshall, and an excerpt of the speech from Medgar Ever's funeral that mentioned Elbert. 

Still in shock, I called Attorney Emison up and the first question he asked was "Did you know you're the great grandniece of a hero?" No, sir. Actually, I didn't...

Saturday, June 20, 2015

TRU STORY EXCLUSIVE: THE STOLEN LEGACY OF ELBERT WILLIAMS

Tru Story Exclusive: About Elbert Williams

The Stolen Legacy of Elbert Williams by Leslie McGraw

Elbert Williams is shown on the top row.
On the bottom  (l to r) are Medgar Evers,
James Chaney, and Emmet Till.

Thank you for tuning into the Tru Story blog series: About Elbert Williams. For the next few weeks leading up to Independence Day I, along with guest bloggers and/or news outlets, will address a topic related to one of the nation's forgotten heroes, Elbert Williams. Although I hold a personal connection with all of the series on Tru Story, this one is especially personal as Elbert Williams was my Uncle. 


This first blog post in the Tru Story Exclusive series was written by guest blogger, Jim Emison, a retired attorney and cold case investigative lawyer.  Now I will share some of my uncle's murder meant to me and my family.


I don't think it is any coincidence that today is the day many will celebrate Juneteenth. Juneteenth is an observance of when the last black slaves were freed in this country, some two years after the Emancipation Proclamation. 

Today marks the 75th anniversary of the brutal murder of Elbert Williams in rural Brownsville Tennessee. Elbert was an outspoken, 31 year old, charter member of the National Advancement of the Association of Colored People (NAACP) in Haywood County,Tennessee. At the time, Haywood County was one of just three counties in the state where African Americans had not been permitted to vote since the Reconstruction era. Historians think this was mostly because of the fear of the loss of control in politics. For instance, in Haywood County the ratio was 3 to 1 black to white. Allowing blacks to vote had the potential to change everything they knew. Even today, downtown Brownsville has plaques and statutes under the confederate flag, grieving the end of the old South and loved ones that lost their lives defending it. 

But, here's a little bit about Elbert...

My grandmother remembers "Uncle Elbert" to be a generous and kind man who took great pleasure in treating his nieces to movies, ice cream, and other special treats that they might not have experienced from their parents at the time. 

Elbert was a loyal and dedicated fireman at the Sunshine Laundromat doing what would now mostly be considered as "dry cleaning". He was so loyal that his wife Annie knew there was definitely something going on when he did not arrive to work the day after he was taken from his home.

Mrs. Mildred Bond Roxborough, the daughter of then NAACP President Ollie Bond, remembers her father speaking highly of Elbert. "He was younger than most of the members, but my father convinced him to get involved and hold an office in the NAACP." Some saw Elbert as the next NAACP President because he was smart and "wouldn't back down". This was a necessary attribute for the position at the time. Mrs. Roxborough remembers several times as a young girl seeing her father come home badly beaten by white men who were encouraging him to stop his work on voting rights. In fact, shortly after Elbert's Mr. Bonds was given word on Christmas Eve that he should leave town or he would be killed that night. He left that day and later that night his beautiful show home was burned to the ground.

Elbert was a threat

Young, articulate, smart, trustworthy, and outspoken; Elbert was a threat. The threat white people must have felt by Elbert's existence was evidenced by his murder. When two fisherman found Elbert's body floating in the Hatchie River three days after he had been kidnapped from his home, his body was badly decomposed and weighted to a log. Furthermore his body was bruised with holes in his chest and his tongue and manhood had been ripped from his vessel and shoved into his mouth. 

When I think about my Uncle I think about my grandmother and her parents and all the family that endured his death. My family was hardworking and entrepreneurial with businesses, homes, a chapel, a cemetery and many talents. After Elbert's death, our family along with dozens of others abandoned everything to migrate North.  Our family has been robbed and cheated out of our legacy many times over.

I have so many thoughts about Uncle Elbert. Sure, he was killed 75 years ago but he walked and lived with the people that I love that are still roaming the earth. My mom and her generation weren’t given the same charge. It is up to our generation to seek justice for our grandparents or we will find ourselves crying over the injustices sure to come to our own children and grandchildren.

Today, I speak from a place of healing and pride in the accomplishments and perseverance of my family and am honored to be "home" in Brownsville to commemorate "Uncle Elbert" with a historic marker in downtown Brownsville. I will still be able to see that darn confederate flag in the background, but it's a start.

Memorial services for Elbert Williams and a historical marker honoring him will be dedicated in Brownsville, Tennessee, Saturday June 20, 2015, the 75th anniversary of his death beginning at 9 a.m. To check out the livestream of the services:
Broadcast live streaming video on Ustream

Let us all seek justice for Elbert Williams.

Monday, June 15, 2015

TRU STORY EXCLUSIVE: Let Us All Seek Justice for Elbert

Tru Story Exclusive: About Elbert Williams

Let us All Seek Justice for Elbert by Guest Blogger, Jim Emison



Attorney Jim Emison, TN Cold Case Investigative Lawyer 
Thank you for tuning into the Tru Story blog series: About Elbert Williams. For the next few weeks leading up to Independence Day I, along with guest bloggers and/or news outlets, will address a topic related to one of the nation's forgotten heroes, Elbert Williams. Although I hold a personal connection with all of the series on Tru Story, this one is especially personal as Elbert Williams was my Uncle. 


This first blog post in the Tru Story Exclusive series is written by guest blogger, Jim Emison, a retired attorney and .  Since retiring from active law practice, Jim has spent the last three and one-half years researching and investigating the June 20, 1940, Brownsville, Tennessee, civil rights cold case murder of NAACP member Elbert Williams, and is writing a book about the murder, titled ELBERT WILLIAMS, FIRST TO DIE. 


Elbert Williams is shown on the top row.
On the bottom row  (l to r) are Medgar Evers,
James Chaney, and Emmet Till.
Medgar Evers, Emmett Till, James Chaney, Elbert Williams, chances are that you recognize each name except Elbert Williams.

Who was this man, Elbert Williams? Does he deserve to be mentioned in the same breath with icons of the civil rights movement? Yes. Here’s why.

On June 20, 1940, in the rural agricultural town of Brownsville, in Haywood County, Tennessee, cotton country, the Heart of the Tennessee Delta, Elbert Williams, charter member of the BrownSville NAACP Branch, became the first NAACP official in the nation murdered for his civil rights work.

The first to die.


The first of many to die, because he dared believe that he was an American, and he dared believe that he was free to assemble with his brothers and sisters and to demand the right to vote.

Elbert Williams was kidnapped from his home by police at night, jailed, and interrogated about whether he was planning an NAACP meeting. That is right. No court had issued a warrant for his arrest, no officer had probable cause, no one had heard him give a wolf whistle, the police just kidnapped him because he was planning an NAACP meeting.

Elbert Williams was neither accused nor suspected of a crime. The crime was committed by police.
After police kidnapped, jailed, and interrogated Elbert Williams about his plan for an NAACP meeting, he disappeared. Elbert did not return home. Elbert did not show for work the next day as the boiler fireman at the Sunshine Laundry where he had worked faithfully for years tending the fire that boiled the water that created the steam that powered the laundry. Elbert was dead.

As June 23 dawned Elbert Williams’s widow Annie, was summoned to the banks of the Hatchie River. She was told, come to the river, they have found a body. There Annie saw her beloved Elbert, bloated, bruised, and beaten. Annie saw what looked to her like two bullet holes in her husband’s chest.

A coroner’s jury was assembled at the riverbank. There was no autopsy, no medical examination, maybe not even the testimony of a single witness. The inquest jury found death by foul means at the hands of unknown parties, and the coroner ordered an immediate burial.

Within hours Elbert Williams’s body and the evidence it contained was buried without a funeral, in an unmarked grave.

The FBI went through only the motions of an investigation.


The Department of Justice ordered a prosecution, then mysteriously reversed itself, and closed the case. Thurgood Marshall, who had gathered evidence in Brownsville and turned it over to the Department of Justice was livid and extremely critical of the decision not to prosecute.

No one has yet been prosecuted for Elbert Williams’s murder. His murderer(s) walked. Is a murderer alive? Still free? Maybe.

We may never know unless the Department of Justice reopens the case it mysteriously closed prematurely in 1942, finds Elbert Williams’s grave, analyzes his remains, and applies every state of the art scientific technique and investigative practice to learn all it can about how Elbert Williams was killed, who killed him, and who dumped his body in the river?

Why did neither the coroner or the FBI determine the actual cause of Elbert Williams’s death? Were the holes Annie Williams saw in Elbert’s chest bullet holes? Do the bullets that killed Elbert Williams lie buried with him in his unmarked grave? Whose gun fired them? Why did the coroner order an immediate burial?

Elbert Williams’s place in civil rights history as the first known NAACP official murdered because he dared to organize to get the vote is an event of national historic importance. The murder of Elbert Williams is a crime that screams for justice, that can only be achieved with the completion of an investigation long ago abandoned.

Memorial services for Elbert Williams and a historical marker honoring him will be dedicated in Brownsville, Tennessee, Saturday June 20, 2015, the 75th anniversary of his death. Jim will make brief remarks at the memorial service, which will feature principal speaker NAACP President Cornell Brooks, and video messages from The Honorable John Lewis, (D) Georgia, Member of Congress, and a Chicago cleric the Reverend Clay Evans co-founder of Operation Push. For More details, go to http://www.elbertwilliamsmemorial.com/.

Let us all seek justice for Elbert Williams.



Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Ann Arbor Speaks Out

Open Letter to the Ann Arbor Human Rights Commission

On Nov. 10, 2014 Aura Rosser, a local African American artist and mother of three, was shot and killed by AAPD. Her death, and the nation-wide pattern of state violence directed at Black Americans, continues to push our group, Ann Arbor to Ferguson, to act and plan for a better future. We had the impression that you, too, were shaken into action by Aura’s death.
However, you have changed your mind about working with us as full partners. Initially we were invited by Sumi Kailasapathy to participate in the HRC subcommittee working on the creation of a civilian police oversight board. We delegated a subcommittee to work with you from our organization, empowering them to represent us and work toward our goal of creating a basic institution, which exists in various formulation all over this country and internationally, that would strive to improve police accountability and transparency to the communities they serve. The AAPD complaint process is far from transparent, with the complaint form not being available to the public, and one sergeant being responsible for filling out the form and deciding whether a complaint is legitimate. Further, the public has no access to the record of complaints, nor to the professional standards guiding the AAPD.
We feel disappointment and distrust following our interaction with HRC. We attended all of the meetings; we gave you our time, ideas, resources, and research. We even directed law interns that were working with us to you, only to be shut out of the conversation thereafter. We were told that our engagement would make the process “biased” and that police representatives would have to be invited as well. We did not oppose this, and it is important to note that police representatives were never outside of your process; you have been meeting with Chief Seto regularly. By calling our communal demands “biased,” you in fact encourage the division between police and community, making quite clear that the police are not here to serve us. This begs the question of exactly what community you are willing to work with?
We take this opportunity to reiterate our vision of a civilian police oversight commission. These demands reflect those of the national movement against police brutality and racist policing.
1. The oversight commission will improve transparency by:
a) notifying the public of the use of lethal weapons by the police
b) collecting, analyzing and investigating complaints against police, using subpoena power, and making the analysis available to the public
c) notifying the public of the current professional standards followed by the AAPD
2. The oversight commission will consist of folks that are representative of the community; this can be done either by election, or by making sure that the commission’s demographic aligns with either the demographic makeup of community complainants, or the demographic makeup of the county jail.
3. The oversight commission may employ independent investigators.
4. The oversight commission will make policy recommendations to the City Council and the AAPD regarding training, informed by anti-racist, feminist and LGBTQ ally principles.
5. The oversight commission will participate in the hiring and firing of AAPD officers and administration, being guided by evidence of the number and severity of complaints, as well as evidence of implicit bias.
6. The oversight commission will have communication with the court and correctional facilities, so as to be able to intervene on behalf of the public in cases of emergency (such as wrongful arrest and denial of medication while incarcerated). This may be done by creating a countywide oversight commission, which may consist of independent and cooperating individual city oversight commissions.
7. The oversight commission will make sure that police and civilians interact in a positive way:
a) by organizing social events (sports, barbeques, etc.)
b) by requiring that police officers live near the communities they serve
c) by organizing workshops with students and community members of a variety of ethnic groups, celebrating cultural creativity and fostering mutual respect and cooperation
8. The oversight commission will follow the principles of restorative justice, encouraging dialogue and healing.
9. The expenses of the oversight commission, if any, will be funded by the city; one way to create such a fund is to reallocate some of the current $25,000,000 budget.
Sincerely,
Ann Arbor To Ferguson

Monday, May 4, 2015

Success is More Than You See