The killing of Kajieme Powell: “a good shoot” is an oxymoron

I received the following note on Facebook:

“Bro. Asa, I’m also distressed about the recent killing of Kajieme Powell. I understand Police having to protect themselves but this young man was acting erratically and after viewing the video ; it looked like “suicide by cop”. Are the cadets trained on how to disarm someone acting in a bizarre manner who is probably mentally ill without killing him. One officer years ago told me that you can drop someone by shooting them in the legs/knees/arms. He’s never had to kill anyone. They cuffed this young man and it was clear that he was down and unable to attack anyone. I guess I’m wondering given your law enforcement expertise; (when you have the time) if you can address these issues on your blog. I also understand the precariousness of doing so given your profession. I would like to see more Officers with the intelligence, common sense and expertise of Highway Patrol Captain Ron Johnson! I feel like you do. Thanks for hearing me out!”

My reply:

Dear Sis. Carolyn,

Like you I’m also distressed by the “executing” of our Black men and boys by the police.

As a Black man, a Black father of a young Black son and a Black police officer, I have a certain… maybe even an “unique” perspective… into these situations. However, I made a conscious decision to not do a blog post, so as to add to the deluge of intellectualized placebos from all quarters, which only real and lasting accomplishment is to further desensitize our society to the genocide being committed against those of African descent… those with black and brown skins… worldwide. The Word states that “there is nothing new under the sun”. It’s all been said, discussed and debated before, as well as now. The truth is that whether it’s 1614, 1714, 1814, 1914 or 2014, the terrorism that is white supremacy continues to be unleashed upon us, ironically even more so under the administration of the first USA “black” President and his “black” Attorney General.

However, as you are my sister and I know of the sincerity of your empathy, I will offer my “two cents” to you… to spend as you wish.

In the Kajieme Powell incident, what compounds the situation was the fact that he was mentally and emotionally disturbed. I don’t know about Kajieme’s personal history, but I do know that in an effort to reduce health care costs, there is a trend to release those with mental and emotional problems into society, when they actually should be in facilities that are adept in treating their conditions, or at least monitoring and stabilizing it with medication. They are being released into the custody of those who do love them, but aren’t capable in handling their conditions if it deteriorates. It then more often than not, becomes a police problem. However, police officers aren’t trained to be psychologists. Simply put: we’re trained to eliminate a threat with extreme prejudice… which means different things to different police officers. As a police officer in Canada, we’re specifically trained that when you’re dealing with someone who is mentally and emotionally disturbed, who is armed and making threats, including asking to be killed by the police, you’re dealing with one of the most erratic, irrational and dangerous situations you will ever face as a police officer. From what I know, this training is similar in the USA. Regardless of one’s training, the response to these situations is ultimately made by the individual officer(s). This response would be influenced by a number of factors such as the officer’s upbringing, how he/she is socialized and their resulting prejudices; their views on race, class, gender; as well as their own physical, mental and emotional abilities, capabilities and shortcomings, etc.

Looking at the video, it is my belief that other interventions could have been utilized before the decision to shoot and kill Kajieme became the final solution. Disengage, back up, contact family members, his social worker or mental health specialist etc, to speak with him. Get some police shields (from Ferguson) and rush him with an officer prepared to discharge a Taser to incapacitate him. I don’t want to be a “Monday morning arm chair quarterback” because I wasn’t there, but from what I can deduce from this situation, these are some of the options I personally would attempt or discuss with my fellow officers, before deciding that I had no other choice but to shoot and kill him. However, based on the training they (and I) have received, this would be classified as a justifiable, legal response to this situation… i.e., “a good shoot”. It is my opinion that any shooting by a police officer that takes the life of an individual, whatever the circumstances, certainly should be viewed as a tragedy for all parties involved. A “good shoot” is therefore an oxymoron.


As a “black” police officer, I’m so proud of Captain Ron Johnson and how he is handling the crisis in Ferguson. I understand and  empathize with the trials, tribulations, as well as the emotions he’s going through. He’s in a tough position as most people… both white and black… want him for their own self interests, to fail in bringing some peace and order to the community… a community he grew up in. It’s bad enough that his (white) superiors and (white) colleagues have been pulling stunts to undermine him every step of the way, but that’s expected. What annoys me most are the pseudo-intellectual, wanna-be black revolutionary social media activists, sitting in the safety of their homes, in their comfortable swivel arm chairs in-front of a computer, discrediting and referring to him as an “uncle tom”, “sellout”, “token” and “stooge of the white man sent to pacify the negroes”.

What these pseudo-intellectual, wanna-be black revolutionary social media activists don’t understand, which I do, is that Captain Johnson is the shepherd keeping the wolves at bay, who are more than ready, willing and able… and are only waiting for the right opportunity to slaughter their prey. Believe me, I know of what I speak. I’ve been in policing situations where my presence and forceful intervention in certain situations, have prevented the shooting and possible death of a Black male, as well as saved some of them from being criminalized for minor indiscretions. What these pseudo-intellectual, wanna-be black revolutionary social media activists fail to realize, which I do, is that the military equipment deployed against the peaceful protesters was not a show of force, but a use of force. It was only by the grace of God that one of the trigger happy cops didn’t start shooting into the protesters, which would have caused a conditioned natural chain reaction by the other cops to start shooting too. It would have resulted into another Sharpeville massacre. Believe me, I know of what I speak. I was on a tactical emergency task force. The reason these same pseudo-intellectual, wanna-be black revolutionary social media activists want Captain Johnson to fail, why they not so secretly welcome the slaughter of innocents, is the simple fact that it will provide the needed fodder for their next Facebook, Twitter and blog rhetoric and posts, which will undoubtedly bring more “hits” and notoriety to their sites.

Let me share an article with you about the shooting and killing of a mentally and emotionally disturbed teenager in Toronto, Canada by a police officer: “The Killing of Sammy Yatim”. It’s very informative on a number of different levels. First it shows the similarities in police training, in Canada and the USA, at handling these types of situations. More importantly, the article humanizes both the victim and the officer. Too often the media, particularly social media, demonizes and dehumanizes those they see as their adversaries. We need to always remember that both are human beings with families who suffer in their own way.

Let me also share with you a post I did in 2009 entitled: “A day of blogging for Justice – Standing up against the pre-trial electrocution”. It speaks for itself and further addresses your questions.

Finally I’ll end with the words of our musical prophets Bob Marley and Peter Tosh:

God continue to bless you my sister and provide you with the wisdom you’re ever seeking.


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Betye Saar

Artist Betye Saar in her Laurel Canyon studio in Los Angeles. (Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times)

Betye Saar at 90, still creating, still magic:

“It’s this work ethic that has led to her prolific output. The exhibition in Scottsdale alone, a fraction of her output, features 135 works that survey the breadth of her techniques, which include print-making, collage and assemblage.

This includes a series of family portraits from the ’70s rendered as collages on vintage handkerchiefs and transformed into ghostly mementos. Deft arrangements of African effigies and elements of tarot become enchanted-looking assemblages that explore the mystical. And, of course, there are the political works, which take symbols of racism — statuettes of crows (for Jim Crow), the derogatory black memorabilia — and organize them into totems that channel humor and outrage.

Saar has even produced room-size environments. “Alpha & Omega,” on view in Scottsdale, features sculptures in chilly hues of blue, sitting below the hovering skeleton of a neon canoe — a dream-like scenario that conveys visions of otherworldly passages.

“Something I admire about Betye is that she deals with grief,” says Cochran. “We are a society that does not deal with grief. She gives gravitas to emotions that we just aren’t used to giving much attention to.””

Read it all: For Betye Saar, there’s no dwelling on the past; the almost-90-year-old artist has too much future to think about – LA Times

Filed under: Black Futures, Black Life x Ephemera, Women x Slavery Tagged: art, betye saar, black feminism, history, memory, rwoc, slavery, spirit, tumblr

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BOOK: Wright on the Physics of the Middle Passage

Wright, Michelle M. Physics of Blackness: Beyond the Middle Passage Epistemology. Minneapolis: Univ Of Minnesota Press, 2015.

via University of Minnesota Press:

“Reveals how assumptions we make about time and space inhibit more inclusive definitions of Blackness.

What does it mean to be Black? If Blackness is not biological in origin but socially and discursively constructed, does the meaning of Blackness change over time and space? In Physics of Blackness: Beyond the Middle Passage Epistemology, Michelle M. Wright argues that although we often explicitly define Blackness as a “what,” it in fact always operates as a “when” and a “where.””

Source: Physics of Blackness — University of Minnesota Press

Filed under: Michelle Wright Tagged: african diaspora, book, middle passage, race, slave trade, theory

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The Powerful Porch-Front Politics of Beyonce’s ‘Lemonade’ – CityLab


Just to start though — it is impossible to read this article and not think about and appreciate the organizing work and social justice research praxis folks at Women With a Vision, Inc. of New Orleans have been doing with their Front Porch Research Strategy.  Folks like Shaquita Borde, Mwende, Deon Haywood, Laura McTighe, Nia and Mindy Chateauvert. WWAV, Inc. is queer and trans poc/gnc of color/black femme/black womyn led, centered, and facing in the goals they have, the work they do around the city, and in their organizing process. Their Front Porch Research Strategy emerges from that centering: 

“In 1989, Women With A Vision, Inc. (WWAV) was just an idea, thought up by eight Black women on a front porch in Central City New Orleans. From their various health and human services posts across the city, WWAV’s foremothers saw how HIV/AIDS was devastating the Black community. They also saw that not one of the city’s agencies had made the health and wellbeing of Black people a service priority. If their community was going to have access to health promotion tools, the WWAV foremothers knew it was up to them. And so they continued to meet at dusk, after long days of work, to make harm reduction and wellness packets. Into the late hours, they walked the streets of the neighborhoods in which they were raised, talking with those who had at best been forgotten and at worst had been left to die. In this intimate space, they brought people into relationships and into care. They turned neighborhood bars into underground needle exchanges; they brought hope to people who had too little. In so doing, they pioneered a model of community-driven outreach that continues to guide public health research today.”

They recently presented at the Anna Julia Cooper Center’s #KnowHerTruths Conference, and have launched a website and Facebook page here. Go there. Then go read this article at City Lab, where Brentin Mock thinks through the politics of the front porch and public housing in New Orleans:

“The mixed-income apartments and townhouses that replaced public housing projects opened after Katrina with rules about who could occupy the new units and what activities they could and couldn’t conduct. Much to the chagrin of many returning residents, some of their long-cherished activities were no longer allowed. In some of the new housing developments, there are restrictions on the number of people who can gather on the front porches and lawns…

“A property manager for Abundance Square apartments, which replaced the Desire public housing projects, tells Citylab that she doesn’t allow more than three people at a time “hanging out” on a front porch. More than that would be considered loitering, said the property manager, who would only identify her name as “Ms. Davis.” She says she has personally broken up groups on front porches, and that violating the policy would lead to the tenant earning an “infraction” on their file. More than two infractions would be cause for eviction, says the property manager…

“Limiting the number of people who can dwell on the front porch, or relegating visitors to the back porch seems counterintuitive, though, if the idea is crime control. It seems you would want more people on their front porches, putting the proverbial “eyes on the streets” Jane Jacobs spoke of. But these kinds of porch restrictions are less about controlling crime than they are about controlling the movement, the activities, and the visibility of black bodies….”

Read it all: The Powerful Porch-Front Politics of Beyonce’s ‘Lemonade’ – CityLab


Filed under: Atlantic New Orleans, Black Futures, Black Life x Ephemera, Social Justice, Women x Slavery Tagged: black feminist, black women, gender, new orleans, nola, organizing, qtpoc, radical womyn of color, rwoc, social justice, the kitchen table, tumblr, women

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