A Matter of Life and Death

All oppressed people know this feeling. Tevye expressed it best in “Fiddler on the Roof” when he said there are times “when our hearts lie panting on the floor.”

Atatiana Jefferson’s murder by Aaron Dean, a White police officer, in Fort Worth, Texas, on Oct. 11 has created one of those times. It is clear from the cries of outrage that many Americans, particularly people of Color, feel this way. After watching video footage of the shooting from Dean’s body camera, there is no doubt that this was murder.

Initial media reports stated that roughly four seconds passed between the time Dean shouted “Put your hands up” at Ms. Jefferson as she stood by the window in her own home and the moment when he fired the fatal shot. However, video cam timers show that less than two seconds elapsed. One video time tracker showed that Dean shouted his command at time-lapse 0:32 and pulled the trigger at 0:33. That was little more than one second. We can only assume that the media obtained the four second time frame from the Fort Worth Police Department.

The Fort Worth police also quickly released information that Ms. Jefferson had a gun in the house. This information tended to bend the narrative in favor of Dean, even though Texas is an open-carry state where countless law-abiding citizens have guns in their homes.

As shocking as this murder was, what made it worse was the way the Fort Worth police initially recited the facts in a way that favored the murderer.

It is obvious that Dean shot and killed Ms. Jefferson before giving her a chance to respond to his shouts and without identifying himself as a police officer. And it is not disputed that Ms. Jefferson had every right to protect herself and her home from an unidentified and suspicious person outside.

Because this was a PR battle the Fort Worth police could not win, the chief has taken the position that Ms. Jefferson was within her rights, and Dean has been charged with murder.

This case, however, is an “outlier” even though there is no certainty that Dean will be convicted and punished for his crime.

It is impossible to have faith in the ability of law enforcement at any level to mete out justice fairly when we are constantly bombarded with news of police misconduct. When we learn of innocent citizens being gunned down in their homes by police officers in Texas, or of a Virginia law enforcement officer who was also a recruiter for a White nationalist group, or that a Pennsylvania policeman arrested two Black men and charged them with loitering in their own front yard, there is no rationalizing this behavior. Constantly faced with these types of events, we must acknowledge that there is still something very wrong with this country.

While White people worry about being killed by home-grown terrorists, people of Color must also worry about being killed by the police.

People of Color are being gunned down in the streets and in their homes by law enforcement officers who do not value our lives. And this will continue until we address the root cause of this problem.

Murderous police officers are on our streets because too many police chiefs do not care enough to properly vet them before they are hired or properly supervise them once they are on the job. We have incompetent police chiefs because too many politicians who hire them do not care enough to ensure that they carry out their jobs properly.

The way to be rid of these killer cops is to remove incompetent and uncaring chiefs. And the way to be rid of those chiefs is by removing from office the politicians who hire and support them.

People of Color will never be able to live a life in America free from fear of being killed indiscriminately by police until we find people committed to making us safe, support their political campaigns, vote them into office and support them while they are in office. By doing this, we maximize our ability to vote out of office those people whose policies and decisions result in killer cops murdering us.

We must drive out of office those policymakers whose indifference to the continued murder of people of Color results in more of those murders time and again.

It is a step in the right direction that Dean has been charged with murder. However, that does not restore life to Atatiana Jefferson. Dean should never have been given a badge and a gun, and the police officials who hired him must be held accountable. We cannot make public officials answer for their egregious behavior and poor decisions until we register and vote for the type of politicians who see us as human beings deserving of their respect and who have concern for our welfare.

Putting the right people in office will not be easy. The forces of White supremacy are hard at work to make it more difficult for people of Color to participate in free and fair elections. Roadblocks to the ballot box have been thrown up in front of people of Color in every state of the former Confederacy and in some states that fought for the Union. But we cannot let these obstacles stop us. We must vote and see to it that our friends, relatives and co-workers vote as well. We must also support our candidates to the best of our abilities, and once they are elected, we must continue to support them, watch their performance and hold them accountable if they make missteps.

We must march to the polling places in great numbers for each election, and stay engaged in the politics of our communities, our states and our nation. It is a matter of life and death.

Oscar H. Blayton
is a former Marine Corps combat pilot and human rights activist who practices law in Virginia.

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October 16, 2023, HOUSTON, TX – Congressional Candidate Amanda Edwards has raised over $1 million in less than 4 months, a substantial sum that helps bolster the frontrunner status of the former At-Large Houston City Council Member in her bid for U.S. Congress. Edwards raised over $433,000 in Q3 of 2023. This strong Q3 report expands on a successful Q2 where Edwards announced just 11 days after declaring her candidacy that she had raised over $600,000. With over $829,000 in cash-on-hand at the end of the September 30th financial reporting period, Edwards proves again that she is the clear frontrunner in the race. “I am beyond grateful for the strong outpouring of support that will help me to win this race and serve the incredible people of the 18th Congressional District,” said Edwards. “We are at a critical juncture in our nation’s trajectory, and we need to send servant leaders to Congress who can deliver the results the community deserves. The strong support from our supporters will help us to cultivate an 18th Congressional District where everyone in it can thrive.” Edwards said. “Amanda understands the challenges that the hard-working folks of the 18th Congressional District face because she has never lost sight of who she is or where she comes from; she was born and raised right here in the 18th Congressional District of Houston,” said Kathryn McNiel, spokesperson for Edwards’ campaign. Edwards has been endorsed by Higher Heights PAC, Collective PAC, Krimson PAC, and the Brady PAC. She has also been supported by Beto O’Rourke, among many others. About Amanda: Amanda is a native Houstonian, attorney and former At-Large Houston City Council Member. Amanda is a graduate of Eisenhower High School in Aldine ISD. Edwards earned a B.A. from Emory University and a J.D. from Harvard Law School. Edwards practiced law at Vinson & Elkins LLP and Bracewell LLP before entering public service. Edwards is a life-long member of St. Monica Catholic Church in Acres Homes. For more information, please visit www.edwardsforhouston.com

As September 13th rolls around, we extend our warmest birthday wishes to the creative powerhouse, Tyler Perry, a man whose indomitable spirit and groundbreaking work have left an indelible mark on the world of entertainment. With his multifaceted talents as an actor, playwright, screenwriter, producer, and director, Tyler Perry has not only entertained but also inspired audiences worldwide, particularly within the African-American community, where his influence and role have been nothing short of powerful. Born in New Orleans, Louisiana, in 1969, Tyler Perry’s journey to stardom was a path riddled with adversity. Raised in a turbulent household, he found refuge in writing, using it as a therapeutic outlet. This period of introspection gave rise to one of his most iconic creations, Madea, a vivacious, no-nonsense grandmother who would later become a beloved figure in Perry’s works, offering a unique blend of humor and profound life lessons. Despite facing numerous challenges, including rejection and financial struggles, Perry’s determination and unwavering belief in his abilities propelled him forward. In 1992, he staged his first play, “I Know I’ve Been Changed,” which, although met with limited success, was a pivotal moment in his career. Unfazed by initial setbacks, Perry continued to hone his craft, and by 1998, he had successfully produced a string of stage plays that showcased his storytelling prowess.

Calling all teenage student-athletes! If you have dreams of playing college soccer and wish to represent an HBCU, the HBCU ID Camp is your golden opportunity. From 8 am to 5 pm on November 11-12, Houston Sports Park will transform into a hub for aspiring male and female soccer players. Coaches from HBCUs across the nation will be present to evaluate, scout, and offer valuable feedback. Moreover, they might even spot the next soccer prodigy to join their collegiate soccer programs. This camp is not just about honing your soccer skills but also a chance to connect with the HBCU soccer community. You’ll learn the ins and outs of what it takes to excel on the field and in the classroom, which is crucial for a college athlete. The HBCU ID Camp is an excellent platform to network with coaches, learn from experienced athletes, and take the first steps toward your college soccer journey. To secure your spot at this incredible event, don’t forget to register [here](insert registration link). Space is limited to 120 participants, so make sure to reserve your place before it’s too late. It’s time to turn your dreams of playing college soccer into a reality.

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