Tag Archives: civil rights

[Be The Change] The Women’s March: Where Do We Go From Here

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Source: Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti's Facebook

For the record, I’ve never once really considered myself a political personality – but in our current climate, I view it as a complete disservice to both myself and the world to continue to hold my tongue. As the clock on 2016 slowly rolled into the ever so needed New Year of 2017, many of us mused to ourselves that ‘we made it’, that the nightmare year of 2016 is over.  And over the last few days, it’s felt like 2017 has said: hold my beer, I’ve got this.

On the very first day of Trump’s new administration, any mention of Climate Change, Immigration LGBTQ or Civil Rights was been removed from the White House website. And as of today, not only has Trump has overturned both the rulings on the Dakota Access and Keystone Pipelines, but the funding for the EPA has been frozen – and as the Department of Agriculture and the Department of Health and Human Services, employees of the EPA have been banned from discussing anything on social media or with reporters. A while back, Trump produced a list of his proposed actions within his first 100 days as President, and the actions within his first 5 days have set an ominous tone for the next 95. As a nation, we’ve found ourselves swimming in a polarized, political predicament made magnitudes worse by the gross ignorance of pockets of our population, many of which are neighbors, family or even friends.  Though I’ve found myself up in arms, both nervous and frightened by the potential of impending doom looming over the horizon – it’s also why the Women’s March this past Saturday is all the more poignant, and the movement all the more important.

We stand together in solidarity with our partners and children for the protection of our rights, our safety, our health, and our families – recognizing that our vibrant and diverse communities are the strength of our country.”

On Trump’s first day of office, he spoke – loud and clear, and we all listened with heavy hearts and bated breath. The next day, millions of women around the world woke up and had an equally important message for the world: We will not stop passionately pursuing human rights for all – for those of faith and the impoverished, for the physical disabled and sexually abused, the LGBTQIA community and native populations; we fight for all – for all colors, all ages, all ethnicities, all genders. Sure, in name – it was called a Women’s March – but in reality, this was a Human’s March, representing the underlying need for us to be treated equally as humans that inhabit this planet side by side. The Women’s March was a march for reproductive rights and against the defunding of Planned Parenthood; it was a march for ending violence including police brutality and racial profiling, a march for LGBTQIA rights, worker’s rights, disability rights, immigrant rights and environmental rights. It was a march for you, a march for your children and your grandchildren after that – and a march for the betterment of our country.

Collectively, the Women’s March was over 5 Million Strong worldwide, with half a million peacefully protesting at our nation’s capital in Washington DC – now considered the largest inaugural protest in United States History.  Los Angeles alone was responsible for nearly 15% of the national population – drawing over 750,000 into the heart of downtown as they marched their way into history, or rather – herstory.

In just the last few years, America has seen the beginnings of several great progressive movements – including Operation Wall Street, and the Black Lives Matter – generate magnitudes of national support.  But what these movements have all seemed to lack is the leadership and internal administration to push the movement forward with a common goal and a voice. So, here we sit with the Women’s Movement at the same conjuncture as with those recently passed progressive movements – and now we must face a similar question – where do we go from here?  Good news, is there are some answers.

The Women’s March didn’t end Saturday evening – and truth be told, our movement has only just begun.  Just as Trump has his actions for the first 100 days, so does the Women’s March. Meet the ’10 Actions / 100 Days’ Campaign. The first matter of business on the agenda is a call to action – urging people to reach out to their Senators and representatives and talk about pressing, pertinent issues and let them know how you‘re willing to fight for the issues alongside them.

This is not a time to remain silent, this is a time to be heard.   Be willing to call attention to important issues and have discussions – with friends, strangers and everyone in between. Find a local organization in your community and join forces, or find a national nonprofit group that fits your fancy.  Many organizations have partnered with the Women’s March and could absolutely use the assistance – some of those include Planned Parenthood, the National Resource Defense Council, Greenpeace USA, the ACLU, GLAAD, Girls Who Code, Free The Nipple, and more.  For the full list, head here.

Rise up and join the Movement – because if one man can create our current state of political unrest, certainly a group of strong, supportive women – and the men that support them – can right the wrong’s they see in the world.

Vital Links

Women’s March // National  | Los Angeles

`Volunteer // Los Angeles

March and Rally: Los Angeles // WebsiteFacebook

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[I Can’t Breathe] A Mixed Message

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Confusion rains down in waves, stemming from an ocean of emotions that well up in your bright eyes and rush through your veins, your tangled hair mirrors the modern tangled state of affairs we live in while the complexities of modern society beg your outlying community to define you and defile you, place you in a neat little box for the comfort of those that surround you.  

We exist in a country founded by our lightest of skinned forefathers, yet America was never meant for us – we’ve built this country on our hands and knees, with our blood, sweat and tears; yet, America was never meant for us.  It’s an ideal that was struck into rock and yelled from the mountain tops as true and sacred – the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness –  but that was never meant for us; constitutional amendments granting us security, sanctity and safety protect our white brothers and sisters, but that wasn’t meant for us, either.  Us – the others, the colored, the separate; us – the multicultural and different, the dichotomized and the disenfranchised; us – the stolen nationalities and original tribes of this land.

In my 31 years on this planet, I’ve always understood that to be intrinsically different from the people who founded and funded this country would never be easy – but we’re currently living at a time that could rival what was started in the 70s.  For the millions that can be shoved into a box on a standardized test asking if we’re “White”, “Black” or “Asian” – there are millions for which world isn’t black and white in the way we’re treated; nuances exist for us on a sliding scale of grey that ranges from biracial, multicultural to polyethnic.  We’re different, and we know it.  We’ve existed in a continuum of absolutes which we refuse to abide by – not “cultured” enough, yet not “white” enough, curious why Sun-In turns our hair orange and our freckles multiply in the sun; we’re on the outside looking in and on the inside looking out, trying to make sense of an upside down world that we didn’t ask for, and that our children will have to ascribe to. One of the few, if only, truths about being of mixed background is that your children will be too, as are their children, and our children after that; one of the only other truths, is that the world will treat you apart from its whole. 

We live in a world where people are more comfortable with the differences of others if they can label them or put them in a societal ‘box’. Mixed children have always raised an inquisitive eye by society but the good news is in the last few generations, America has become an incredible mixing pot for multitudes of races, ethnicities and cultures, opening eyes, hearts and arms to a kaleidoscope of colors. As someone that’s lived through it, the best thing you can do is have an open dialogue with your kids when they get to an age where they can really understand their heritage and how beautiful it is – because truth be told, it will always be a conversation piece of dialogue. Especially now that a new Civil Rights Movement has emerged.  It’s been lurking behind us for years, if not decades, while remnants of the original movement swept under the rug during the age of the Vietnam War have slowly resurfaced. The rights we fought so hard to attain, the equality that we worked so very hard for – they still have never really been our own.

And now, halfway through 2016, we’re bitterly basking in an awkward afterglow of our cumulative mess. Just half a year has gone by, yet our American cops have killed upwards of 590 civilians – the same people that are entrusted with helping and saving our lives, the same people we are told to implicitly trust with the rules and regulations of our society.

Waking up this morning, I was overcome with a range of emotions, from determined to hopeful, to downright terrified. I’m hopeful.  I’m hopeful because adversity has never stopped us, and it won’t now.  I’m hopeful because change has needed to come for a long, long time and I believe we have it within our reach to actualize it.  I’m hopeful because I have another day to make a difference in the world and fight for what I believe in. But I’m also scared. I’m scared because the rate of racial intolerance is exponential, because there are so many that quite obviously are not living freely, because my brothers and sisters of minority races all over this country are fighting to be treated as equals and fighting so the second amendment actually applies to them instead of only to our lighter skinned peers, I’m scared that a family member might be the next victim, and I’m scared because the same police that are supposed to protect and serve are the ones taking lives of those they’re supposed to be protecting and serving. I’m scared because it’s not a minority versus police issue, it’s an everybody versus the police issue that the media has swept under the rug – that the media is building into a race war and I’m scared because the American population is letting it.

There’s a line that’s been drawn in the sand, and I’m scared because I don’t know where we go from here. Being bi-cultural and black has amplified my feelings even more, especially when the shootings and lynchings are reminiscent of a time that I thought we already made it through and now it’s clear that the civil rights movement was only silenced, not won.

Am I white enough to pass? Or am I black enough to get shot? Questions I never thought I’d have to ask but here I am, wondering what my life’s worth on paper.

Hate does not drive out hate, only love can do that; fear does not drive out fear, only love can do that. But the hateful and afraid are the ones ruling our country and acting out, and they will until we can bond together, forget our skin colors, ethnicities and creeds and love each other;  we need to raise each other up, instead of holding each other back – and we – we the darker skinned, we the less fortunate, we the impoverished…. – we need our friends, peers, brothers and sisters of all origins to realize that for us to survive as an American society or an American community, we cannot hold our equals down and we cannot ask them to take less than what they deserve.

We need to use our voices and our intellect to educate the uninformed and ignorant, we need to rise up as a people and say “this is not working; fix it.” We need to systemically fix our judicial system and change the tactics used by the police. The police need demilitarized weapons, and they need training in multicultural awareness, racial tolerance and empathy. As a community, we need to vote for and elect our policemen the same way we do for politicians – and we need to hold them just as, if not more, accountable.

We collectively need to right the hundreds of wrongs done by our forefathers and theirs before them, but we have to do it together because we’re all we have and this world is all we’ve got.


[Write On] Listen Up and Get In Formation

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We’ve started the year with two cultural schools of thought, on one hand there’s the loud and slightly ridiculous Stacey Dash phenomenon and on the other, we have the #OscarsSoWhite. So thank goodness that the Queen is back to shake things up and push us forward, Queen B that is. This past weekend, just the day before her highly anticipated Super Bowl collaboration with Coldplay and Bruno Mars, Beyonce dropped the world on it’s head with the release of her latest empowered single,’Formation’.  More than just a song, ‘Formation’ is a statement – ‘Formation’ is a movement;  ‘Formation’ is an ode to the rise of Black Feminine Energy – and it’s time to get in line.

Let me back up for a second.

After 31 years on this pseudo-green Earth, I’d be kidding myself if I didn’t admit that the ideas of race, ethnicity, cultural adversity and then diversity run rampant in my veins. If you are who you surround yourself by, I’m socio-culturally middle class, with a multicultural twist. Minority Report, Oreo, Chocolate Sprinkle. My nicknames say it all, but it runs deeper.  When standardized tests were distributed in school, I always took longer than everyone else figuring out which box to check for ethnicity – what if I didn’t see my box? Does that mean I didn’t matter – do I not count? Can I check more than one box?  Where do I fit in here?

The multiracial, only child of a split family, I always had issues reconciling my ethnic and cultural backgrounds, and the notion that they might invariable be two different identities were always kept at bay.  Remember Sun In? That shit turned my hair bright orange, not to mention warnings about sunscreen never seemed to apply to me.  When my dad remarried to my step mom and the three of us would go out together, people would infer I was adopted; fast forward twenty years later, and they mistake my fiance for their son.

Spot the Amanda

 

Silicon Valley born and raised, I grew up in the tiny and incredibly educated suburb of Menlo Park with my mom, and Palo Alto then Los Altos with my father. They were nice areas to be raised in and all that jazz, but let’s get one thing real for a second, they’re not the most diverse areas of the country; in fact they’re pretty monotone, sometimes painfully so. Whether it was with family, or in social endeavors, I always felt like the technicolor sheep of the family – never fitting in and always standing out.

Mentally, sonically, emotionally, I grew up in a boombox, self-identifying with Hip-hop and rap, including Janet Jackson’s anthemic Rhythm Nation 1814; but academically and socially, I attended programs where, in one way or another, I was the diversity. Whether it was attending Castilleja Middle School during the academic year, or their BRIDGE Program over the Summer, I wavered between a drop of milk in oil and a drop of oil in milk; an ever ebbing cascade of racial complexities that arose from a bi-cultural background that up until that age hadn’t been explored. Then, by the time I transferred back into Public School as a Junior in High School, Menlo Atherton High School had gotten national recognition with a center spread in ‘Teen People” as the most diverse yet segregated High School in America.

Serendipitous to consider it now, but it was around that same time that Destiny’s Child came out with their debut, self-titled album.  In a moment where I couldn’t find a cultural footing, somehow, with them, I found resonance, a voice, a mainstream media identity – or in my eyes, hope.  At 16, while away at an out of town basketball tournament, I walked into the room while several of my teammates were discussing their disgust with interracial relationships.  As I slowly sulked into the shadows, shuddering at each syllable, I faintly but distinctly overheard the words “…they shouldn’t be allowed to marry, and definitely shouldn’t be allowed to have children.”  My heart and ego sank in time as my head hung low for the duration of the tournament.  After, in an effort to reconnect to my roots, my aunt escorted me to a seminar in Los Angeles for Young African American Women; around the same time, I became a camp counselor in West Menlo Park and was quickly adopted under the wing of East Menlo Park’s more diverse subset of counselors where I became a master domino player, learned the proper way to eat fried chicken, not to mention the difference between sweet potato pie and pumpkin pie.  And in whatever down time I could muster, I buried my head in multicultural literature from James McBride’s The Color of Water to timely tomes from Danzy Senna, Caucasia and Symptomatic.

Combined, the ideas drilled in my head lead me to believe the next large sociocultural revolution would be a mixed race revolution, and we would be leading at the helm. But invariably, the events themselves, made me feel even more alone.  It was then, that the idea was finally and formally drilled into my head that there was a difference between being genetically ‘African American‘ and culturally Black.

Beyond the entertainment value, viral witticisms masquerading as lyrics and a host of regal outfits – the video  contains a not so subtle history lesson delivered with a passionate one two punch in under five minutes.  Starting with  emotional imagery and vocals that ask ‘What happened in New Orleans‘, Formation’ delves into the modern Black experience,  exploring the nuanced variety of genetic variability. Cascading through Southern cityscapes and landscapes, including estates and plantations, ‘Formation‘ offers a bevvy of emotional imagery: a cop car – and city -underwater,  a breakdancing toddler stalling a line of police with their hands in the air, ‘Stop Shooting Us’ haphazardly spray painted on an otherwise barren wall and coordinated feminine empowerment.

Imagery that grew only stronger with her performance the next day at the Super Bowl’s halftime show; decked out in gear halfway reminiscent of the 1970’s Black Panther movement spliced with Janet’s Rhythm Nation video, Beyonce urged a generation to mobilize and get in ‘Formation’.  The end result was a provocative performance of a ‘visual anthem‘ sure to live in cultural infamy.

Fast forward to three days later, and you’ll meet exactly what’s wrong with this country and could invariably elect someone as ignorant as Donald Trump; In light of the controversial dance ‘Formations’ and dress during her performance invoking the Black Panther Party, Malcolm X and supposed dissent against the police -not to mention a display of their own cultural ignorance – protesters are heading to NFL’s New York Headquarters on February 18th . Not only have people willfully avoided history textbooks or contextualizing social issues like the suffrage and civil rights movement, but on top of that their ignorance has become ego driven arrogance; and I’m not sure what frustrates me more – an echoed rhetoric that minorities, especially women, are only here to entertain and not educate, or the idea that people are more offended by the message of the song than the actions that drove the creation of this performance.

I’ll be the first to admit that I never paid much attention in my European History classes and found most of my United States history courses beyond boring; but when it came to the Civil Rights Movement, I had an uncanny desire to devour all available knowledge. And I know this: The Black Panther Party was made of revolutionaries that fought for a culture that had been undermined for their entire cultural history to be recognized as equal.  Yes, they were born out of the failed non-violent Civil Rights Movement of MLK Jr and Medgar Evers but the movement didn’t promote violence, it promoted fairness while protecting the community from the racist behaviors of others while simultaneously pushing citizens to police the police – an idea that is still echoed in today’s society.

To the calls of it’s Football and not Hollywood, last time I listened to Sportscetnter I got a whole earful about girlfriends and wives, houses and style; things that invariable have jack all to do with competitive sports.  And now, we’re taking a critique to a traditionally all white variety of Halftime Entertainment.  So for a second, let’s talk about the NFL.  Let’s discuss the amount of sex crimes and prostitution rings that are cracked down on during high profile games every year, the egregious amount of drunk drivers that get into accidents leaving games or the fact that from start to finish, NFL games are riddled with advertisements parading the US Military as a revered enterprise. Yet a five minute segment that gives weight to a population more often misrepresented and underrepresented in mainstream media receives a bevvy of backlash? It’s time that people get their priorities in formation

[Weekly Dose of Wisdom] Let Freedom Ring

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In the wake of the various protests around the Country, from Ferguson and Michael Brown, New York and Eric Garner, Oakland and Berkeley dealing with their own socio-political unrest and workers from Wal Mart to McDonalds waging a strike against minimum wage, we’re at the cusp of a revolution in this country.  And for being 30, it’s a shame that my childhood and adulthood weren’t spotted with more unrest – lower college tuition, raising the working wage so families didn’t have to live paycheck to paycheck, fighting for equal pay for equal time; there are so many pertinent issues that are seemingly finally coming to a head.  We’re in the process of repeating history, of reliving the old Civil Rights Movement and I wanted to take some time and marinate on our current social, economic and political climate.  Quote about adversity, diversity, strife, freedom, the aggregious overreach of power and the like.

Ghandi, Medgar Evers, Martin Luther King Jr, Malcolm X – each speaks to a generation, a people; loud, soft, proud, poignant – their words might differ, but their messages are mirrored and echoed throughout time and eternity.  Raise your voice and take a stand; be proud of your cultural heritage, but be prouder that you can now do something about it’s current vector.

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[I Can’t Breathe] Race Relations in 21st Century America

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Growing up, I was always cognizant on some basic level that my life was different than my peers; I felt psychologically befuddled by my social experiences and more or less like an emotional and physical outcast.  Sure, there was the fact I towered over my friends at 6′ by the time I was leaving elementary school – or that my penchant for math problems superseded those around me. Dressing up for Halloween, I was teased for my Pipi Longstocking and Belle costumes, and over the moon when Jasmine and Mulan became Disney princesses. In middle school, I tried using sun-in, my hair turned bronze; my mom and I frequented an African American hair salon in Palo Alto – Mixed Media, if you want to be specific – and one Summer, we tried relaxing my hair; instead of being easier to straighten, it got brittle, crimped and was more or less destroyed. My skin didn’t burn, instead it evened out into a shade of nutmeg, spotted with dark freckles around my nose.  There’s thinking you’re different, but for me – it was more than that; I knew I was different.

My parents got together in the Bay Area during the 70s; in a time of free love, open minds and radical change.  A goofy, gangley Jewish man from Oregon and a formidable genius from Compton, they met matching wits at Stanford and to this day, haven’t stopped. At the time, the two sides of the family had starkly different responses; my mom’s sister lamented ‘But, you couldn’t find a nice Black one?’ while my dad’s father, founder of the Corvallis chapter of the NAACP, couldn’t be more excited about my mom being part of the family.  Their reactions were opposite, but equal – each painfully aware of the state of race relations in America.

A nation divided by external and negligible traits like socio-ecoonmic status, levels of education and the color of our skin, those with power are busy tearing neighborhoods apart with closed fists and closed minds instead of building our brothers and sisters up with open arms.  Over-militarized and by in large, uneducated, police forces roam city streets in militia formation, filling tension filled streets with former war weapons and palpable, cultural fear.

As a society overglamorized by the news and undereducated by what’s important on a human, spiritual level, we’re so busy putting our community – friends, family, peers, celebrities and strangers alike – into boxes, confirming and or denying formidable existence and their overall importance that some can forget – we’re all members of the human race. As a law of differences and similarities, I might not be much like my Asian sisters and Australian brothers on the other side of Earth – but we’re certainly, undeniably more similar than I am to my cat, or to a rug, or a piece of grass.

I’m a human, an multicultral member of society;
I’m an American and I can’t breathe.

We’re a multicultural melting pot drowning under the repressive regimes of the powerfully ignorant;
and we can’t breathe. 

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Culturally, the compounding of our spotted, racially fueled past has slowly but surely led us here. It’s not that what’s happened recently is new news; African Americans historically have been disproportionately targeted, arrested and gunned down in the name of ignorant police work for decades. And now, within the span of less than two weeks, not just one – but two – police officers have gotten off on non-indictments in Federal Court cases for killing unarmed African American civilians. It’s become increasingly clear where those in power stand, people of a darker skin color, lower economic or academic rank are demonized while policemen, with their overrightous sense of power and what now appears as contempt for their human brothers, are held to outrageously different standards.

Much like the aftermath of the Fergason protests, last night 223 protesters were arrested in New York City for demanding equality, fairness and the essential staples this country was built upon.  The gentleman who captured the video of Eric Garner was charged with a crime.  But, the policeman who killed him with unnecessary and lethal force – he wasn’t even indicted on a crime, in the same manner that Michael Brown’s killer was set free, sans charge.  What it sends is an unfortunate message, historically echoed throughout minority communities: our lives matter less than others; we matter less than others. The way our justice system works it shouldn’t be much of a surprise, albeit an unfortunate one: instead of maintaining a system of checks and balances, with prosecutors and policemen working side by side in the same office, there’s only one system, and it’s busy keeping itself in check.

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Newton’s third law of motion is that for every action, there’s an equal and opposite reaction – and right now, there are citizens in each and every corner of the nation that are finally inspired, through outrage, frustration and passionate persistence, to exact change on their external world. Peaceful protest, Non Violent Actions, Rallies – they’re not the end all; but they’re most certainly the means to an end – and people are listening.

On Monday, President Obama announced an executive order consisting of 50,000 body cameras for the nations 630,000 strong police force. After the outcome of the Garner case, it’s easy to argue that video cameras don’t do enough – but without this camera evidence, do you honestly believe that our streets would be full of protests and our cities would come to a standstill? In a recent news conference, Mayor De Blasio of New York City has demanded that the 20,000 member  police force undergo mandated retraining on the use of lethal force as well as community awareness.  As it turns out, most police officers across the country work in a different county than they live in – meaning that they most definitely don’t serve ‘the community.’ But when body cameras can be turned off, and the police can return to work after their mandated seminars – where does that really leave our nation? We need immense reform from both the top down and the bottom up.  California’s set the tone by passing Prop 47, decriminalizing non violent offenses and lessening the bulging prison population, and an assorted number of states have legalized marijuana – decreasing the amount of nonviolent crimes and offenders.  On top of that, there’s the issue of for profit prisons, some of which need a 90-100% retention rate to stay in business.

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We’re stopping traffic to beg for equality, we’re staging protests, wielding signs and standing strong as a community because we refuse to be silenced any longer. So go, find your voice, wage your peaceful protests and non violent wars, because until we’re heard – as a nation, as part of the human race – we can’t breathe.

[I Can’t Breathe] The Dawn of the New Civil Rights Movement is Here

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It’s time for a new civil rights movement, a community rights movement, where as citizens we feel safe in the presence of police officers instead of in fear of them. The looting – the violence – they’re not the answer; but you – you’re listening now, right? Protestors are blocking freeways, stopping people from getting to work- you might be mad; but imagine how it feels not being treated as an EQUAL in this country. As a multiracial member of society, as a woman, as a HUMAN BEING: I’m disgusted by the type of responses I’m seeing and I’m sad at the direction this country is going.

Change has never come easy, and it’s always had a price; if you’ve never had to fight for your freedom, to fight to be seen as an equal, if you’ve never had to think twice about your unequivocal right to be treated humanely by society – rethink what’s happening to your brothers and sisters, your neighbors and community.

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Violence, theft, destruction of property; they’re not the answer – but neither is treating a proportion of this country like they’re subclass citizens while inappropriately placing the police on a pedestal.

Do you have friends who’ve been arrested for bullshit? I have. Friends tased, put into the hospital with a broken nose and collapsed lung? Yep. And you know what scares me- knowing that if he was of color he would have been SHOT. So stick that in your pipe and smoke it, and if you DONT have an issue with the outcome of the grand jury, the ourpouring of community response on all fronts and the protesting – please get an education or see yourself out of my life. For the rest of us, it’s time. Raise your voice, raise your spirit, raise your community up and let our nation know that you DEMAND change, and you need it now.