Color of Change

Dear Valjeanne,

Thank you for calling on the US Department of Justice and the
California Attorney General to intervene in murder of Oscar Grant.
Your voice will help bring greatly needed accountability.

Our voice is strengthened by each person who takes a stand. Can you
take a moment and ask your friends and family to join this call?

Below you will find a brief letter you can send. Personalize it as you
wish, or write your own, but please send it along right away. Also,
please only contact people who you know personally. Spam will hurt the


Dear friend,

On New Year’s Eve, Oscar Grant was shot execution-style by a transit
police officer in Oakland, California. He was shot in the back while
face-down on a subway platform–unarmed and posing no threat.

Twelve days later–despite several videos showing exactly what
happened–the officer who killed Grant hasn’t been arrested, charged,
or even questioned. He quit the force and has refused to speak. The
District Attorney has done nothing.

It’s time to demand that California Attorney General Jerry Brown take
over the case and arrest Grant’s killer, and to ask that the US
Department of Justice launch an independent investigation into the
conduct of local authorities. Please join me:

Oscar Grant is the third man murdered by BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit)
police in the past 17 years. All three victims were Black and none
posed a serious threat. In each case, BART and county authorities have
failed to hold the officers accountable.

In the previous cases, BART’s internal investigations concluded that
the officers felt threatened by the victims and were justified in
pulling the trigger. It’s unbelievable given the circumstances of the

– In 1992, 19-year-old Jerrold Hall was shot in the back by a BART
officer as he tried to leave the parking lot of a station. The officer
was responding to reports of an armed robbery and said he suspected
that Hall and a friend were involved. The officer tried to detain the
two, Hall ran and then the officer shot him in the back and killed
him. Hall was unarmed, but the officer said he thought Hall was on his
way to get a gun and return for a showdown.

– In 2001, a mentally ill man named Bruce Seward was the next victim
of the rogue force. Seward, 42, was naked and had been sleeping on a
bench outside the BART station when an officer approached him. Seward
did grab the officer’s nightstick at one point, but there were several
options for subduing him. Instead, the officer shot and killed him.

In addition to BART’s internal investigation, Alameda County’s
District Attorney is also investigating Oscar Grant’s murder–but the
office’s record on investigating police killings is horrible too. In
both cases just described, the District Attorney bought BART’s
argument that the officers felt threatened. As a result, the cops were
cleared of any wrongdoing.

In the case of Grant’s murder, the DA has already let 12 days pass
while doing essentially nothing–the officer who killed Grant is able
to travel and leave the state, and he’s free to talk with other
officers and attempt to construct a story to justify his killing of
Oscar Grant.

The problem with Alameda County’s DA goes beyond BART police murders.
In the past two years alone, there have been 11 fatal police shootings
in Oakland (not including that of Oscar Grant). When asked, the
officials at the District Attorney’s office could not remember a
single case in the last 20 years where an on-duty cop had been charged
in a fatal shooting in Alameda County. It gives the clear appearance
that the District Attorney’s office just doesn’t have the will to
prosecute police crimes.

California’s Attorney General needs to step in now and arrest Oscar
Grant’s murderer. And the US Department of Justice should investigate
the failure of the authorities in Alameda County to act. It’s the
first step towards justice. After that, we will push for systemic
changes to create public accountability for BART and other police
departments. Creating those structural changes will be a much longer
fight, but Oscar Grant’s tragic death is a wake-up call that should
give us a real chance to help prevent this from happening again.

Please join me in demanding justice, and then ask your family and
friends to do the same:


Bid Them Dance

Bloodstained eyes
witness Africa’s children
to be slaughtered

Crawling in filth
as if milk and honey
capering insanely inside
ghetto war zones
cannibals feasting upon kin flesh

In this desolate land of Cane —
this barren land of forgotten griots
murdered dreams

Yet now:
ancestors journey to
the City of Lost Angels

And bid them dance

Possessed children:

Demons cast out

Ancestors come
in the midnight hour

“The River Niger
flows rich in your veins,
a warrior’s soul
sleeps in your bone marrow —
cradled by genius
older than the pyramids…!”

Bid your children dance

Copyright 2007 Valjeanne Jeffers-Thompson

Strong women in movies

I’m a scifi addict and I’m sure I spend way too much time watching science fiction movies. But one thing I’ve noticed recently is the tendency of strong female characters to be killed or left without a man in scifi movies. Cases in point: Catwoman (starring Halley Berry) discovers her awesome abilities and has to leave the man she loves; Jean/The X-Men becomes the phoenix and she’s killed (not what happened in the comic book by the way); and Rogue/The X-Men who has to live a life without human physical contact. This brings to mind 1980s movies, scifi and otherwise, which killed off strong women in movies — or left them without men. Passion has often been portrayed in American media as something dangerous; men and women in film can have neutral, lukewarm sexless relationships (for example, in Batman Begins); but no more. And women’s right to be sexual; their right to chose, their ability to be good single parents ect is demonized in movies; especially during conservative political perids. Like the one we just came out of. I’m not making this up: Susan Faludi in Backlash said the same during in 1992; that the media had since the late 1980s waged war against the feminist gains of women. Media reflects the political spirit of our times. And come to think of it has has become more conservative over the last eight years. I feel like motherhood, marriage, and the “dangers” of being raised without a father are being shoved down our throats in film and movies. But peep this: President Obama grew up in single parent home. Ok, with a lot of support from his grandparents — this is still a break from the traditional two parent home. How, I wonder, will Obama impact the media portrayal of family values? Of women? And single parent homes?

Media and the hood…A new beginning?

I just had a very intense discussion with a young man about “the street”
— “the hood” and its importance to African American media. And I feel compelled to share my response just to get it off my chest.
Black folks read by lamplight as slaves with the threat of death hanging over their heads. At the turn of the century there were 100s of Black doctors, lawyers, teachers (over a 1000). I shared the “beef” as it were between Booker T. Washington and WEB Dubois. Washington’s advice to Black folks was to “cast down your buckets where you are:” take whatever White folks give you and make it work. WEB Dubois in contrast advocated the “talented tenth”: the most gifted of our race would lead the others to economic and intellectual prosperity. Rather than contasting these two historic giants as right or wrong, I pointed out that each was speaking from his own worldview. Booker T. Washingston, was no Uncle Tom. He was trying to map out a strategy for our survival: in the South African Americans were being lynched weekly. I finished with a discussion of the Civil Rights movement — emphasizing the waterhoses and dogs used to subdue the activists. And I speculated that these brothers and sisters must be rolling over in their graves. “I gave my life for this s–t?! So Black folks could shoot each other down in the street likes dogs?!”. Is any of this celebrated in mainstream media. Nope. What we get is thugs, bling and b—-es. I concluded my rant with a sumary of all we’re doing today — the countless blue and white collar workers; their sucess and struggle. This never seems to make it to the TV screen either.
Except that President Obama made history. They couldn’t keep that quiet — couldn’t keep it off the news. Now perhaps the media will begin to celebrate the beauty that is Black America instead of “the hood.” And to my brothers and Sisters let’s do the same. As we enter a new year let’s celebrate ourselves: all we’ve been through; all we’ve accomplished; and look with hope to the coming era. And in 2009 let’s ask
— let’s demand that the media celebrate the positive things about the Black community. Or at least give us some variety.

A Movie about Biggie Smalls? Hollywood Cut it Out!

A movie about Biggie Smalls? Please stop! I’m a Black woman — and as a Black woman I’m bone tired of watching movies about my folks going to jail, rapping or playing sports. We do other things: we are doctors we are lawyers, we are teachers — damn we just elected a black president! My youngest son pointed out that if they made a movie about any rapper it should’ve been Tupac. But I guess to present a media portrait of an intellectual whose mother was a panther and is still an activist would’ve been too much like common sense — like fair. Don’t get me wrong: I actually liked Biggie and I think what he was able to accomplish from such humble beginnings was outtasite. But I don’t like what rap became during the late 1980s — how it was transformed from protest music into a commercialized product which celebrates the worst aspects of African American culture; and which in recent studies has been actually linked to violence, promiscuity and poor academic performance in children. Do I sound like I have a chip on my shoulder? Sorry but too many of us are asleep and movies like these don’t help the cause. This is some more mainstream media garbage to convince Black children to limit their aspirations. I feel like I’ve been warped back in time and I’m watching a pop eyed Black butler on the silver screen. He’s wearing white gloves and trailing behind a handsome White actor:”… Lawdy, lawdy I jus knows she loves you suh’…” Fast forward to Jackie Robinson… Nat King Cole…Lena Horne. Our firsts and their tokens. A whole lotta folks sacrificed and some of them died so African Americans could aspire to something more so that we could move past these historic firsts;so we wouldn’t be confined to stereotypes and to show America — through the media — Black folks could do something besides chase balls, go to jail and entertain.