Our Black Lives Matter Movie

 

man person people street
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

The Black Lives Matter Committee at the First Unitarian Society of Milwaukee which I chair, manged to have a successful event on Nov. 18th. We had a screening of The Blood is at the Doorstep which tells the story of the killing of Dontre Hamilton by Milwaukee Police Officer Christopher Manney on April 30, 2014. The Black community arose in protest and people from across Milwaukee including the Unitarian Universalists joined in solidarity. This movement achieved many positive results including the firing of Officer Manney, a commitment by Mayor Tom Barrett that police would undergo 40 hours of training to help them better  understand how to deal with persons who were living with a mental illness. In addition the City of Milwaukee made a $2.3 million settlement with the Hamilton family after they filed a lawsuit. However, neither the District Attorney John Chisholm nor US Department of Justice filed charges in the case against Manney and he was later awarded disability based upon the stress that the shooting had caused him.

The story was well known throughout the community and the movie has been shown several times since its premier at the Milwaukee Film Festival in 2017. However, there is still interest in learning more about what people  could do to assist the Mothers United For Justice, an organization which Maria Hamilton, Dontre’s mother, founded. News of the event took place through word of and Facebook. Black Lives Matter successfully recruited three co-sponsors: Mothers Against Gun Violence, Mothers For Gun Sense and Progressive Mothers of Wisconsin.

I chaired the event and helped recruit the sponsors. Maria Hamilton was the featured speaker and spoke about her goal of being able to mentor parents like herself who lost loved ones to police violence.  Mary Devitt, one of the founders of Black Lives Matter, spoke of her commitment to finding justice for the Hamiltons.  Khary Penebaker of Mothers For Gun Sense spoke at the event. He detailed his experience as the son of a mother who had committed suicide with a gun. People from the co-sponsoring groups contributed  a lot to the success while coping with illnesses and injuries. Like the song said, I get by with a little help from my friends.

struggling

support-1699904_1920

I am struggling. I thought I had found some answers for my foot problems by getting new orthopedic shoes from the VA on Friday. But today my feet were as painful as ever and I did not put on the shoes. I also was hit with some potentially devastating personal news that may or may not be true. I will have to wait for about a month to find out. I have cried a few times and tried listening to music. Joan Baez and Simon and Garfunkel mostly. Meanwhile I received confirmation that a fitbit is on the way as a reward from my insurance app. I have been earning points for exercise and the new shoes were going to help me. I made 11,000 steps Friday. I had noticed that my pattern had been to go all out for a few days and then be practically inert. I am hoping to become more consistent. But the wild card is what will happen with this personal news.

My mother and her nuts

1649408-woodywoodpecker1

A few years ago I wrote about how my mother had gone on a black walnut kick. She developed the idea that she could somehow sell these things to the Lexington Food Cooperative not far from her house. As with many hair brained schemes this one took the cake. First, black walnuts are among the hardest things on earth. Do not let your children or angry spouse get hold of these things because with a little practice and a good throwing arm one could create a lot of damage.

Second, as far as human consumption of these little missiles, forget it. You would probably destroy your house attempting to crack he things. Better to stick with peanuts or regular walnuts. I doubt that you would want to run over the black walnuts because that would damage your rims.

Third, as I described in my earlier post, they are very good at attracting squirrels. I survived a harrowing adventure with black walnuts and a hungry squirrel in my apartment years ago and have never gone near them. I heard about that story I thought surely that would be the end of my mother’s nut collecting career.

And I was wrong. Because there in the corner of the basement are the aforementioned nuts. I am certain that they are included in Mom’s will. When she passes on at 110. Nuts to you, bub.

 

Jazz is what brings us together

 

 

jazz3

I disagree with my mother and sister about almost everything. Including my name. So for the sake of our sanity I felt it was best to live apart from them. Several states away, in fact. Better than to have awkward meals and long silences. This has worked well as mom is 93, my sister is 72 and I am a youthful 66. We have avoided appearing in the newspaper in a article about how we died under mysterious circumstances.

Many of my best memories involving my family include jazz. I am listening to Horace Silver on Spotify as I am typing this. My older sister is a big fan of Lee Morgan, Clifford Brown and Art Blakey. I can recall her playing Clifford Brown in her bedroom and being fascinated by this. I guess what I most like about jazz is the staying power of the music. I can listen to songs from 50 years ago and they sound as fresh as when they were originally recorded.

My advice is find one thing you can agree with and stick to it when you come home for the holiday. For me, what works is jazz.

Why did his son kill himself

I have been reading facebook posts promoting suicide prevention and talking about the need to look after one another. The need to offer support, empathy and resources. But there are so many places where vulnerable are most at risk.

Youths are at risk, people in mental hospitals are at even more risk and the most at risk of violence are in prison. I just read a story in the New Yorker about the story of a young man in the New York state prison system whose father was preparing to send of him a care package only to discover he had been buried 6 weeks earlier. The article by Jennifer Gonnerman, told how Lonnie Hamilton II learned that his son had died on March 18, 2016 when he went to the prison website. His son, Lonnie Hamilton III, had hung himself after becoming increasingly depressed in the Marcy Correctional Facility.

This is a story about an involved father who worked long hours to provide for his children only to lose one of them to crime and seeing his son torn away from the community. It is a story about failure to notify the next of kin about what was happening. There were signs especially self mutilation that should have set off a thousand alarm bells. I don’t think that the prison tried everything possible to assist Lonnie.

These kinds of tragedies happen all too often. I don’t think the prison was set up to meet the needs of a deeply troubled African American young man so he became a casualty. This is a cry for help, action and a replacement for the deconstruction. I would hate for this to happen to one of my nephews and hope people will use these stories

Re incarceration without conviction

.

I was looking for a class today at the First Unitarian Society of Milwaukee about ecological health  and had bought the book and was diligently studying it. However while I was waiting a friend from the Black Lives Matter group told me about a meeting regarding re-incarceration without conviction. I had read an article in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel about a black man who was on probation and was driving a car and was stopped by the police. It so happened that the man has a white girl friend who is a gun enthusiast and has pictures of herself with her friends on social media holding their guns. All of which were duly registered with the State of Wisconsin. But he did not know the gun was in the car and was was charged with being a felon in possession of a weapon. Fortunately a jury found him innocent but his probation officer revoked him on the grounds he was a danger to the community.

The man had roots in the community including a small transportation business and a child. Instead he became one of the more than 4,000 people who are sent back to prison in Wisconsin without having committed a crime. The Wisconsin Department of Corrections has wide latitude in deciding whether to revoke people but this case has something in common with many others in that the person  considered dangerous was a black man even though he had a spotless record and was taking tangible steps to improve himself.

The two speakers at the meeting, one white and one black, are also examples of trying to fight the odds. The white speaker was Mark Rice, who is a candidate for a doctorate from UWM, told about his battle to overcome being revoked. He had a history of mental illness and had previously lived in Madison where his probation officer had a background that allowed him to understand his situation. But when he moved to Milwaukee his probation officer had no such training and revoked him for an incident resulting from him mental illness. His former probation officer went to bat for him which helped him return to the community.

The black speaker told of being revoked 3 times and being homeless. One of his revocations resulted from a malfunction of the monitoring bracelet that he wears on his ankle. If you you use a cell phone, are late for an appointment, accept a job without permission, leave the county or violate any of the other rules, Wisconsin can and will send your most often black or brown body back to prison.

It would be value to learn more about Ex Prisoners Organizing for Statewide Penal Reform (EXPO) and do what you can to stop the trend of mass incarceration. If you follow this link you will find out more about this group :Phone: 414-831-2070 Email: wisdomforjustice@gmail.com
Address: 2821 N. Fourth Street, #537, Milwaukee, WI 53212

 

 

 

I am the fortunate son

indian-1158803_640

 

As many people know, mental illness runs in the family.  All of us in my family have experienced different types of illnesses, including depression, schizophrenia and manic depression. I was more fortunate than my brother in being able to recover and develop resources. I have friends who struggled along with their siblings cycling in and out of the hospital including forced treatment.  i was never subjected to a mental hospital or picked up on the street for engaging in some bizarre behavior. Instead, I recognized that I was not the person who I had been told I would become.

I saw all the warning signs and decided to heed them. Again, I see a positive in my deciding I didn’t want to live like that. Recognizing that you need help and then actually need help can be painful. Some people literally may need to crash into a wall. And others unfortunately, may crash through the wall, leaving their loved ones behind to cry and wish that there something more they could have done. I am a peer support specialist certified by the State of Wisconsin and I can help see you through the woods.