murder

All Eyes Are Upon Us

Mother, mother
There’s too many of you crying
Brother, brother, brother
There’s far too many of you dying
                           —Marvin Gaye

then they stomped
          John Willet
as he lay on the sidewalk
hands cuffed behind his back
and shot
                      Michael Brown

who was on his way this fall to college

Stop and frisk
Stop and frisk

and used a chokehold to kill

                    Eric Garner

who sold cigarettes one-by-one
on the street in Staten Island
and punched again, again
in the face
great-grandmother

                Marlene Pinnock

as she lay on the ground
then they stood around while
an angry bartender
pushed vet

                William Sager

down the stairs to his death;
maybe helped hide
the security videotape
then it was
unarmed

               Dillon Taylor

in Salt Lake City, and
homeless

              James Boyd

in Albuquerque

and       Darrien Hunt

in Saratoga Springs, Utah—
how about that grandmother
92-year-old

             Kathryn Johnston

shot to death in a SWAT team raid
gone bad?

in ’73 in Dallas

             Santos Rodríguez

was marked by officer Cain
who played Russian Roulette
with the handcuffed 12-year-old
in his cruiser—
till the .357 fired; Santos’ blood
all over his 13-year-old handcuffed
brother David

and those cries of
19-month-old      Bounkham Phonesavanh
in whose crib
the flash-bang grenade exploded

Shelter in place
Shelter in place

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A National Shame

AFRICAN AMERICANS around the country are finding it is dangerous to call 911. Jack Lamar Roberson’s family in Waycross, Ga., discovered this the hard way when they placed an urgent call to 911 in October 2013 because his fiancée thought that he had taken an overdose of diabetes medicine.

Instead of sending EMTs, the dispatcher sent the police. Within 20 seconds of being in the house, police shot Roberson nine times, with bullets striking his back, arms, chest, and head as he held his arms up in the air. Although he was a veteran, he did not die from bullet wounds at the hands of strangers in a foreign land. Instead, white police gunned him down in his home.

Killings like this—which could be called anti-black hate crimes by police—are far too common. “Operation Ghetto Storm,” a 2012 report by the Malcolm X Grassroots Project, revealed that white police officers, security guards, or vigilantes kill an unarmed black man, woman, or child every 28 hours in the U.S. In 2012, police officers shot 57 people in Chicago—50 were black, two were white. Miami police officers killed seven black men within eight months in 2011. The Houston-based African-American News & Issues headlined an article this spring: “Open Season on Blacks in Texas: Cops Are Shooting First & Not Asking Questions.”

These police killings of black people emerge out of a culture and system of white supremacy. In such a context, police killing of black people is not a black problem. It is an American problem that shreds the curtains of democracy.

Far too many people deny the place of race in these incidents. Instead, they accuse advocates for racial justice of playing the race card. Rather than coming face to face with the soil that breeds these crimes, these detractors blame or slander the victims—or they simply shift their gaze away from these deaths.

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Pregnant Pakistani Woman Stoned to Death by Her Family

Farzana Parveen, 25, was beaten to death on May 27 near the high court in Lahore, Pakistan. Creative Commons photo by Omer Wazir

As a crowd watched outside a courthouse, the family of a pregnant Pakistani woman beat her to death Tuesday because she married the man she loved instead of her cousin.

The 25-year-old woman’s father, brother, and spurned fiance were among about a dozen male relatives who used bricks and clubs in the so-called honor killing of Farzana Parveen for disobeying her family’s wishes. She suffered massive head injuries and was pronounced dead at a hospital.

Lahore police charged her father, Mohammad Azeem, with murder, and the others were being sought. Azeem told police he helped kill his daughter because she had shamed the family.

“I killed my daughter as she had insulted all of our family by marrying a man without our consent, and I have no regret over it,” police investigator Rana Mujahid quoted him as saying.

Parveen was attacked as she and her husband, Mohammad Iqbal, arrived at the gates of the Lahore High Court. They went there to dispute charges brought by her father that Iqbal had kidnapped Parveen, who had been engaged to her cousin for several years.

Trayvon and George: A Tale of Two Americas

donatas1205 / Shutterstock

Hand painted acrylic United States of America flag. donatas1205 / Shutterstock

The recent “not guilty” verdict out of Sanford, FL, reflects the principle of the American legal system that if there is reasonable doubt, courts will err on the side of innocence. I dispute neither the principle nor the decision by the jury. But that doesn't leave me satisfied about the outcome.

Jesus said that true justice exceeds that of “the scribes and Pharisees” — and the same could be said of the prosecution and defense. Legal justice seeks only to assign guilt or innocence. Holistic justice works for the life, liberty, and well-being of all. And it especially works for reconciliation between the two Americas that can be identified by their reaction to the case.

Family Values and Murder: The Trial of Whitey Bulger

Josh Greenstein / Flickr.com

Media prepare for Whitey Bulger's arrival at Boston courthouse in 2011, Josh Greenstein / Flickr.com

“Family and friends come first,” the witness said in court. “My father always taught me that. The priests and the nuns I grew up with taught me that. They taught me that Judas – Judas was the worst person in the world.” If you have not been following the Boston trial of Whitey Bulger, you might easily imagine that this quote was taken from divorce court, maybe a custody trial. The witness might be trying to paint his spouse as an adulterer, a Judas if you will, in order to bolster his or her claim to a bigger share of the settlement.

It’s not a bad strategy. No one likes a snitch, and many of us know from experience that betrayal is a rotten thing to endure. In hurt and anger we may even have condemned our betrayer as a Judas, if only under our breath. But what if I told you that the witness was a convicted murderer, a mob hit man from the Boston underworld, who was using the Judas analogy to justify his actions? In the 1970s and ‘80s, John Martorano killed 20 people – to his mind, Judases – for “noble purposes:” to protect family and friends from being hurt or double-crossed. He claims never to have enjoyed killing, not like a mass murderer. “I didn’t like risking my life,” he explained under oath, “but I thought if the reason was right, I’d try.”

Yikes.

Kermitt Gosnell Spared the Death Penalty

A Philadelphia abortion doctor convicted of first-degree murder in the deaths of three babies will not face the death penalty.

Dr. Kermit Gosnell will serve life in prison without parole. He escaped the possibility of execution by agreeing Tuesday to waive his right to appeal his conviction of first-degree murder in the deaths of three babies. A jury on Monday found they were delivered alive and killed by snipping their spinal cords with surgical scissors.

During his trial, former employees of Gosnell’s rundown west Philadelphia clinic testified that he performed or tried to perform abortions beyond Pennsylvania’s 24-week gestation limit. Some procedures resulted in the birth of babies who appeared to be moving, breathing, and in one case, according to former employee Ashley Baldwin, “screeching.”

Trapped in Your Own Story: Salome, Herod and John the Baptist

"Salome, Second Version" by the German painter Lovis Corinth (1858-1925)

"Salome, Second Version" by the German painter Lovis Corinth (1858-1925)

When Harper was born we decorated the nursery in a Noah’s Ark theme…images of Noah and of animals entering a large wooden boat  two-by-two. It’s a common enough decorating scheme for kids' rooms.

I mention it because this week at Bible study we discussed how weird it is that the beheading of John the Baptists isn’t a common decorating scheme for kid’s rooms.

Because this is just too gruesome a tale to show up on rolls of juvenile wall paper.

In case you missed the details, here’s what happened:

So Herod is the ruler of the region, and while vacationing in Rome he gets the hots for his brother’s wife who he then marries. John the Baptist, then suggests that maybe that’s not ok.

Now, Herod likes John, as much as anybody can like a crazy bug-eating prophet who lives outdoors and speaks consistently inconvenient truths. Truths such as it’s not ok to marry your brother’s wife, which, incidentally, is the truth that when spoken, got him arrested to begin with. 

It also got John on the bad side of Herod’s new illegal wife Heroditas. She did not like John. Then when Herod throws himself a big birthday party his daughter-in-law Salome dances for him and all the other half-drunk generals and CEOs and celebrities who were there. 

We don’t know the exact nature of her dance but we do know that it “pleased” Herod enough that he offered to give her anything she wanted up to half of his kingdom. So, you know, I don’t think it was the Chicken dance.

Murder-Suicide Desperation Prompts Soul-Searching in Oregon

For the past few years, Terry Daniel Sr. and Lisa Haynes used good cheer to camouflage their deteriorating health and dwindling finances. They kept up running jokes with neighbors. Their easy banter made them popular at their mobile home park's annual picnics.

But about 10 months ago, their problems finally overwhelmed them. Haynes, 55, saw her epilepsy rage out of control, resulting in seizures so violent that she injured her neck and was forced into a rehab facility. Daniel, 60, was debilitated by a life of hard labor, and had began using a walker full time. That was hard on both of them because he was Haynes' caregiver.

Feeling desperate and out of choices, they planned a final exit together, police said, and made a recording to explain their reasons. On Feb. 12, Daniel shot Haynes and then himself. Haynes died as planned in their mobile home near Milwaukie, Ore., but Daniel survived a gunshot wound to the chest. He may have ended her suffering, but he turned his own life upside-down, tripping legal and social dominoes that haven't yet settled.

Daniel immediately confessed to police. As soon as he was released from the hospital, he was charged with murder, spawning discussions in health and legal circles about how two very poor people with disabilities found themselves in such desperate circumstances.

Never Again: Shaima Alawadi and Islamophobia in America

http://youtu.be/Bn-jEVYVVw0

On Saturday, doctors took Shaima Alawadi, 32, an Iraqi mother of five, off life support, three days after her 17-year-old daughter, Fatima Al Himidi, found her brutally beaten and unconscious in the dining room of the family’s home in El Cajon, Calif. She died a short while later at 3 p.m.

Fatima told reporters that her mother’s head had been repeatedly smashed in with a tire iron — a metal rod used to pry the rubber tube from a bike tire. Next to Alawadi’s barely breathing body was a note: “Go back to your country, you terrorist."

Verizon Dropping Muslim TV Network

Verizon, the national cable television operator, has decided to drop Bridges TV, a pioneering television network that seeks to challenge stereotypes of Muslims and create understanding between Muslims and non-Muslims.

Verizon is the main distributor for Bridges TV, which was launched in 2004 and relies on Verizon to reach 19 of its 26 markets, including Los Angeles, metro New York, Dallas and Washington, D.C.

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