Sunday, July 20, 2014

Moonwalk Contemplations: 45 years later

And so among today's headlines are those heralding the 45th anniversary of Neil Armstrong's first steps on the moon. Wow... 45 years ago.... I remember.... I was a 12 year old interested in science and technology, so the many space missions fascinated me to no end. And coming from a military family, I was always interested in the nature of aviation.. jet propulsion, all things space..... I was so excited about the notion of America landing a man on the moon that I followed the story from start to finish. I even had a model kit of the lunar landing module and the mothership. Oh yeah, I was a black kid in the 'hood with a keen fascination for the United States Space Program.

America was similarly fascinated with the expectation of world history being made by Neil Armstrong and his crew;. however, a lot of folk in my community had absolutely no interest in the space missions. It was a disappointment that the space missions would pre-empt our favorite television shows. Folk had other things to worry about in the 'hood. Equality, Discrimination, Economic disparity, Social Justice. Besides, in those days, we couldn't fathom the idea of a black astronaut, so the billions of dollars spent of sending rockets to the moon seemed like a waste - they could have used that money to end poverty.... community programs.... Flying to the moon was a notion that seemed to elude most of the folks in my community. Nonetheless, I watched.. enthralled by the entire process.

I watched as Neil Armstrong became the first person in world history to set foot on another world. I was aware that all over the world, townhalls, schools, churches, bars and other public gathering places were packed with folk clamoring to witness the greatest television event in history. AT my house, we watched on our television that my dad had purchased on one of his many sea voyages during his career in the US Navy. We were one of the first, if not the first, to own a color television in our neighborhood. And even though we had the best television available in those times, the picture that beamed in from the moon was black and white and grainy at best. IN spite of that, we were glued to the set, watching breathlessly as Armstrong descended the ladder of the Eagle and set his foot onto the Moon. He'd taken that proverbial "one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind".

My Aunt Teenie(may God rest her soul), had been visiting us that week, from Pennsylvania. She joined us as we gathered around our television to witness this piece of world history. She watched as the Eagle made it's descent to the Moon, pausing only to refresh her cool beverage. It was summertime after all..... She sipped as Armstrong stepped onto the lunar surface... she sighed as he made his now famous pronouncement. "Gregory, baby... do you really think he is on the moon??" "Yes Auntie... I do".. "Tell me why darlin'..." I proudly proceeded to tell her all the things I knew about the Space Program and why the United States has been able to win the space race(the US for most of the decade had designs on beating the USSR to the moon). Our technology was superior to anyone in the world. We have made it!!! Aunt Teenie looked at me with that loving look she always gave to us.. took a deep breath and said "Well Gregory, dear. I just don't believe any of this." Shocked I said "what do you mean Auntie??" "I just don't believe this at all... They are up there in Hollywood somewhere closed up in a movie set and showing this to the public so we can think they really went up there".... I was completely stymied.... "yeah baby... they ain't about to get up there. First of all, God ain't gonna let them fly that high, and if they have gone up there then we better start prayin because God don't need us in his space - who do we think we are?? Man always trying to get to heaven before our time.... we are meant to be here.. on earth"... She sipped her beverage and viewed the scenes on the television for a bit longer, looked at me and said "yeah, child, they are pulling a fast one on the people... those are special effects and actors jumping around on some movie set.. I just don't believe this mess... They need to find something else to do with our tax money"

I was flabbergasted at her assessment of the situation. But I had to admit deep down, she made a lot of sense.... In the following days, I would find that a LOT of folk in the 'hood shared her same opinion. It was beyond me. How could they think this? How could they be so paranoid that the government would go to such lengths as to fool the people? C'mon, Auntie!! For real?

And so 45 years later, as we observe the anniversary of the landing on the moon, Aunt Teenie's words still resonate in my memory and while I do believe they went to the moon and did what they said they did, I must contemplate my Auntie's analysis of the situation. It causes me to ask Why?

Why haven't they returned to the moon?

Why, 45 years later, is there not some observatory or space station built on the surface of the moon that would help them observe the heavens even the more?

Why hasn't any other nation placed a man on the moon or even tried?

Why? did they see something? Did they encounter something? Something that makes them say... nope, not going there!!!

Of course these are my own conspiracy possibilities and I am not an expert by any means. I'm just contemplating the thoughts in my mind, stimulated by my beloved Aunt's speculation as she watched the lunar landing alongside of us. It is interesting to note that quickly after the Apollo 11 mission, the nation seemed to tire of space flight. The notion that the US had beaten the Russians seem to be all that mattered. And according to one poll taken during the 30th Anniversary observance, said that, like Aunt Teenie, 6% of Americans believe the entire affair was a fake, carried out in some secret movie studio. They point to misplaced shadows, lack of stars and flapping flags even though the moon is airless as the evidence.

I believe the landings on the moon are real. However, I do pause and wonder.. why we haven't returned.... what is up there that causes them to derail the entire process. On that summer day in 1969, was my beloved Aunt Teenie right? The things that make you go hmmmmmmm.....

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Marissa Alexander: Sentencing Injustice yes. But how innocent is she?

I am still outraged that George Zimmerman was acquitted of murdering Trayvon Martin. I am suspect of Florida's Stand Your Ground Laws. I am convinced that mandatory sentencing guidelines are overly harsh in most cases and affect black folk and other minorities disproportionately. And while I reeled from the news of Zimmerman's acquittal, I was hit in the gut again by the news that Marissa Alexander faced decades in jail as she defended herself from an abusive mate. Her defense rested on the controversial Stand Your Ground Law after she fired a warning shot near or at her abusive husband. Marissa claims she was protecting herself from another attack at the hands of her man. She "stood her ground". Instead of Justice, Marissa was sentenced to 20 years in prison, igniting a firestorm of objection and protest across the country, particularly from black Americans still reeling from the Zimmerman verdict.

The anger I felt as this woman's picture was showing up time and again in my social media timelines, usually accompanied by the headline or status update that all she was doing was defending herself against an abusive male. I saw images of an innocent mother. That's somebody's sister.... another innocent sista trapped in an abusive relationship... There are so may stories like this in our community, I was thinking.... I was like dag.. yet another brotha beatin down his woman.... I have sympathy for Marissa.... Compassion. I joined in the voices that said "INJUSTICE!! DISCRIMINATION!!! UNFAIR!!! Yes. On the surface, it appears that Marissa would be yet another black person unjustly consumed by the court system in America. A fact made worse because the case is in Florida.

Then I began to seek the facts. Facts that reveal why Marissa's Stand Your Ground defense was turned away at pre-trial hearings. Facts that also demonstrate why Marissa was convicted on multiple charges and sentenced to a mandatory 20 years. After only 12 minutes of deliberation, the jury convicted Marissa of three counts of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon. (Click here to read the actual court documents) So then what happened?? How did we get to this point???

On July 31, 2010, Marissa left her newborn child in the hospital days after giving birth to visit the home of Rico Gray, her husband. The couple had gotten married in May, but Marissa had not lived with Rico for two months prior to the shooting incident. When she got there, Rico wasn't home so she parked her car in the garage and waited. She spent the night but Rico did not come home until the morning along with his two sons. Sounds like everything is cool, because they all sat down and had breakfast. Everything is great. But then Marissa gave her phone to Rico so he could see pics of their newborn who was still in the hospital. She gave him the phone and then got up to go to the restroom. Rico found text message conversations between Marissa and her Ex. Rico got mad and confronted her as to whether the baby was even his. You know that set it off, right? And so it was on.... Rico prevented Marissa from leaving the bathroom at first, but she managed to get around him and exited. According to experts, this is where the Stand Your Ground laws went awry.

Marissa's actions at this point made the difference. Marissa exited the restroom and went to the master bedroom. Rico left the bedroom and headed to the living room. His sons were there. Marissa then leaves the bedroom, walks past Rico and the kids, straight to her car where she got a gun from her glovebox. She came back into the kitchen and pointed it at all three(Rico and his two sons). Rico put his hands in the air but Marissa fired anyway nearly missing Rico's head and sending a bullet through the kitchen and into the ceiling of the living room..... dayum!!!! Rico got the heck outta there with his sons and called 911. Marissa stayed at the house but never did call 911. It should be noted here that Rico did have a history of abuse against Marissa and other chicks. One such incident sent Marissa to the hospital with head injuries after he shoved her into a bathtub.    Court Record of Gray's 2009 Domestic Battery ArrestIn the following legal actions, they decide to depose Rico. And wouldn't you know it.. the couple is now conspiring to keep the laws out of their business. Rico said he had all but threatened to kill Marissa. He said she couldn't leave the house through the garage because it was broken and that she never pointed a gun at him or his kids. But that was a completely different account than what he gave to the cops. Then, after swearing in court that she would have no contact with Rico, she continued to see him. In fact, when the court dismissed Marissa's Stand Your Ground defense, the judge noted that not only did Marissa continue to see Rico even after swearing not to, Rico and her discussed what Rico should say during the deposition!!!! Shady...

Rico says he lied in his deposition to protect Marissa. Further, after Marissa was convicted and sentenced to 20 years, she requested a retrial. At that hearing, Rico said he never threatened to kill her and said he begged and pleaded for his life when she had the gun. To make things worse, while she was out on bail and awaiting trial from the shooting charges, Marissa was arrested for domestic battery against Rico. Apparently she came to drop off their child at the house and they started arguing because he would not allow her to stay overnight. Police were called but Marissa had fled the scene. But not before she left Rico with a swoll eye and bloodied.  Po- Po caught up with Marissa about an hour later and of course Marissa claimed to not know what "this was all about" - she had an alibi. But as he police kept questioning her, the story changed with Marissa claiming that in fact she had gone to Rico's house but he attacked her with his fists because she wouldn't stay overnight. But Marissa had no visible injuries....Marissa Alexander's December 2010 Arrest ReportMarissa was arrested and her bail revoked.

Needless to say, Marissa's case has a lot of issues. She had choices when she felt she was in "life threatening danger" - leave through the front door, back door or garage. She stayed in the house and although she and Rico said the garage was broken, police were not able to confirm.

Marissa says it was only a warning shot, but she shot at Rico, nearly missing him. The fact that she shot at him and did not hit him in the body presents the argument that she wasn't trying to kill him so why fire at all. 

She was never in life threatening danger. She never called the police. If she was in fear for her life, she should have dialed 911.

She kept returning to the house even after the court ordered her not to. She did not fear Rico as she had previously claimed.

The last arrest for Domestic violence while she was out on bail coupled with the fact that she lied to police about even being there demonstrates that she was not in fear of her life.....

In the end, this case is sad. It is the story of a tragic and, in my opinion trifling couple with severe anger issues. Marissa clearly has issues within this relationship. Rico clearly has violence issues. But they keep seeing each other... They keep trying to protect one another... Their relationship is a messy mess and now Marissa will have to do major time for her actions. The pictures we see put together with the status sentences and twitter updates present an entirely different picture of this woman. We are led to say poor Marissa.... but in fact, this relationship was a mess. Clearly Marissa is not some helpless victim of domestic violence. They maintained a messy, violent relationship. Abusers of one another. They need mental health and anger management counseling... not a harsh prison sentence....

Now I am not saying the sentence isn't too harsh. I am all for seeking justice where injustice has been applied. I am saying that I need to sit this one out and see how it shakes out. I am saying that besides whatever the courts are going to do with Marissa, this couple needs mental health and anger management treatment. This dysfunctional relationship has caused a world of pain.

Marissa Alexander. A symbol of American injustice? not so fast is what I say.... I wish her luck.... It's all unfortunate. But this one? Not so fast.....