Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Woman Faces 15 Years for Cutting Line at Walmart

Woman Faces 15 Years for Cutting Line at Walmart

See the video here http://blip.tv/file/2710433


by Dr. Boyce Watkins, Syracuse University, AOL Black Voices

In case you haven't heard, there is a young woman in Kennett, Missouri who has gone through one of our worst nightmares. Three years ago, Heather Ellis was in a local Walmart shopping with her cousin. The two cousins decided to go in separate directions to find the shortest line. After seeing that her cousin's line was shorter, Heather went to join him. That's when things got strange.

Heather was accused of cutting line and the security guard was notified. According to Heather, she and her cousin repeatedly informed the guard that they were together, but that didn't seem to matter. The police affidavit claims that Ellis was loud, belligerent and cursing when she was told to leave the store.

After police arrived, Ellis was taken to jail in front of her family. Her aunt, Lily Blackmon, arrived on the scene after receiving a call from her son about the incident. According to Blackmon, her niece's head was being slammed against the police car and the officer only said "she cursed," when asked why she was being treated so harshly.

Ellis was charged with disturbing the peace, trespassing, resisting arrest and two counts of assaulting a police officer. The young college student was then offered a plea bargain from Dunklin County Prosecutor, Stephen Sokoloff. The felony counts were reduced to one misdemeanor of disturbing the peace. However, Heather's aunt believes that the offer was made so the family would not sue the police department.

Heather refused to take the plea deal, since she says she'd be lying if she admitted to committing a crime that day. Eleven months after the incident, the misdemeanor was surprisingly dropped. While this might seem to be good news, it wasn't. The misdemeanors have been replaced by felony assault charges, carrying a maximum sentence of 15-years in prison.
Heather believes that the pending felonies have cost her two jobs and the chance to get into graduate school. She still refuses to sign the plea deal. Either way, she has a reason to fight, and I want to fight with her. Heather's case speaks to all of us: most of us have jumped the line at Walmart to be with a relative, and most of us know what it's like to experience police abuse of authority. No matter how much cursing Heather might have done that day, she doesn't deserve to go to prison. Also, if the prosecutor can reduce major felonies to one tiny misdemeanor, he could have dropped all the charges and let this woman go on with her education.

You can watch a video of the incident by clicking here.


Sunday, October 11, 2009

Author revisits Mississippi delta civil rights cases

Former area author revisits civil rights cases

Sunday, 11 October 2009 00:00

Susan Klopfer believes the long, sad chapter of American history surrounding the civil rights struggles of African Americans should never be forgotten. Using her journalistic talents, she’s authored two books focused on unsolved atrocities in the Mississippi Delta region that have brought new light to several cases.

Klopfer, whose husband, Fred, is a psychologist, has authored several non-fiction books in the past, including a computer book for Prentice-Hall, “Abort! Retry! Fail!” that was an alternate selection for the Book-of-the-Month Club. She’s now marketing two books she wrote while living in the Mississippi Delta: “Where Rebels Roost: Mississippi Civil Rights Revisited,” and “The Emmett Till Book.”

Klopfer lived two years in Mississippi and was fascinated when meeting interesting people who were part of the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s. They inspired her to collect their stories and to do extensive research and writing over a 23-month period.

“Every time I turned around, I was running into people who wanted to talk about what they knew, about what happened during the civil rights years,” Klopfer said. “Many had relatives who were killed or disappeared. I started working like crazy because I was excited about what I was discovering and learning.”

Continued --

Friday, October 9, 2009

Navy to honor civil rights martyr Medgar Evers

In the driveway outside his home in Jackson, Mississippi, civil rights leader Medgar Evers was shot to death by a white supremacist on June 12, 1963. His murderer was not convicted until 1994.

From Breaking News 24/7

WASHINGTON — Slain civil rights leader Medgar Evers will be honored Friday with a Navy supply ship named for him.

Navy Secretary Ray Mabus, a former governor of Mississippi, planned to announce the honor during a speech at Jackson State University in Jackson, Miss. The nearly 700-foot-long vessel named for Evers will deliver food, ammunition and parts to other ships at sea.

During the civil rights movement Evers organized nonviolent protests, voter registration drives and boycotts in Mississippi, rising to the post of national field secretary for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.
In 1963 Evers was assassinated in the driveway of his home in Jackson after returning from a meeting with NAACP lawyers. His death prompted President John F. Kennedy to ask Congress for a comprehensive civil rights bill.

Evers was born in Decatur, Miss., in 1925 and served in the Army during World War II. He returned to Mississippi, earned a degree from Alcorn College in 1952 and became active in the NAACP and its civil rights work in his home state.

Thirty-seven when he was shot to death by a white supremacist, Evers was buried at Arlington National Cemetery. His killer, Byron De La Beckwith, was not convicted until 1994.

While writing Where Rebels Roost; Mississippi Civil Rights Revisited, I had the honor and privilege of reading, researching and learning more about Medgar Evers. In the Delta and throughout Mississippi and the world, this early modern civil rights leader is remembered and loved. From talking to others, I learned that ..

MEDGAR EVERS was sixteen and a sophomore when World War I broke out. Within a year, he quit school and joined his brother Charles Evers in the U.S. Army. Medgar Evers was attached to a segregated battalion that served in England and after the Normandy invasion, in France.

The experience of travel opened up the world to him; the opportunity to leave the South provided an adventure he could not forget. In France, he found “a whole people – all of them white – who apparently saw no difference in a man simply because of his skin color, and this was perhaps the greatest revelation of all,” he once told his wife, Myrlie, recalled in her autobiography.

While Evers grew up in Decatur Mississippi, outside of the Delta, he would spend his first several years out of college in Mound Bayou of Bolivar County, working with Amzie Moore and Dr. T.R.M.Howard organizing NAACP chapters and investigating murders, and working also selling insurance.

Evers quickly came to know Aaron Henry and the three men began lifelong journeys to change Mississippi. All returning black veterans – Moore, Henry and Evers – faced the Delta’s familiar extremes, both old and new.

Myrlie Evers-Williams, his wife, wrote a beautiful book about Medgar and the times in which they lived, For Us, The Living. You can also read more about Evers at this Clarion-Ledger link.(sk)

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Friends of Justice Moves on Winona Murder Case

(Photo: Legendary Organizer Fannie Lou Hamer by Charmain Reading)

Fannie Lou Hamer, a Mississippi Delta civil rights leader, was frequently the target of social injustice. The town where she was once beaten, Winona, is currently the target of a murder investigation by the Friends of Justice.

Friends of Justice launches narrative-based campaigns around unfolding cases where due process has broken down, and empower affected communities to hold public officials accountable for equal justice.

Recently, FOJ took interest in Winona, Miss., asserting that the state’s theory of a murder in the small town, accusing a company's former worker, Curtis Flowers, of the crime "... doesn’t fit the actual evidence, and the state manufactured phoney evidence by manipulating, badgering and bribing witnesses."

Details of the Curtis Flowers case are shared at the FOJ website in a story titled, "A brief primer in wrongful conviction: the case of Curtis Flowers."

Senate Confirms Tom Perez to Head the Civil Rights Division

The Senate voted 72-22 to confirm Tom Perez as assistant attorney general for civil rights this week.

President Obama nominated Perez for the position on March 13. Perez will head the Civil Rights Division, the federal agency that enforces the Voting Rights Act, the Fair Housing Act, the Americans With Disabilities Act, and other federal laws prohibiting discrimination on the basis of race, sex, disability, religion, and national origin.

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