A little help from my friends

Exactly 30 years ago, four freshmen women met at South Carolina State College in Orangeburg. They shared a love for athletics—several had been given track scholarships—but what bound them together was a sisterly love they developed that was deeper than sports.

Sharonda Coleman-Singleton, Rita Whidbee, Kennetha Wright Manning, and Star Overton Miller loved each other through college graduation, building careers, marriages, children, and almost all the challenges life can bring. Their bond was unbreakable, until a hate-filled stranger named Dylann Roof walked into a Bible study at the Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina on June 17, 2015.

While the rest of those present were in prayer, Roof pulled out his weapon and began to shoot. He killed nine people that evening: Cynthia Hurd, Susie Jackson, Ethel Lee Lance, Depayne Middleton-Doctor, Clementa C. Pinckney, Tywanza Sanders, Daniel Simmons, Myra Thompson and Sharonda, the best friend of Rita, Kennetha and Star.

Rita learned about the shooting at about 9:30 that night while scrolling through Facebook posts. She sent Sharonda a text.

“Hey, little girl,” she wrote. “Is that your church? Are you in church tonight?”
When she didn’t get a reply, Rita began to worry. “She always responded,” she said, her voice beginning to break.

“I just remember just praying,” Kennetha recalled. “We were all up, waiting to hear something.”

“About 11:05 I actually got in my car,” Rita said. “One way or another, I was driving to Charleston.”
Nearly two hours into her trip, Rita’s cell phone rang. It was Robert Porcher, another college athlete and friend.

“When I answered the phone he wasn’t saying anything,” Rita said. “I kept saying ‘Hello, hello.’ And then I could just hear him crying.”

That’s when Rita knew that one of her three best friends had been killed.

A moment like this can redefine a person’s life. It can trigger what Dr. DaNella Knight calls traumatic grief. Knight, a psychology professor based in Huntsville, Alabama and the owner of Restoration Psychotherapy and Consultation, believes the biblical story of Job has an answer.

“Job’s friends often get a bad rap,” Knight said. But she advises that we re-examine the interaction between them and their righteous friend.

“When they first got there, they sat on the ground and wept with Job for seven days,” Knight explained. “Most of us can’t stand seven minutes with someone, just allowing them to weep and being in the grieving process.”

Knight also believes that some well-intentioned friends and family members may try to rush the survivors through the grieving process, telling them that everything will be alright long before they are ready to move past their pain.

“That’s probably not what that person needs to hear at that moment,” Knight said. “Human beings don’t handle trauma or grief well. We’ve equated vulnerability with weakness.”

Sharonda’s best friends can relate to the struggle that some may have with the way they grieve. Nearly two years after the massacre, the loss of their friend still rubs their hearts raw.

“There’ve been some really bad days,” Rita said.

“Really bad days,” Star echoed.

“It can be out of the blue, that you just start crying, thinking about Sharonda,” Kennetha added. “Wanting her to be here.”

“I can’t call some of my other friends because they’re not going to understand,” Rita said. “But I can call Kennetha and Star.”

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David Person is the owner of DavidPersonMedia, LLC. He is a broadcaster, journalist, documentary director, and media consultant. David writes columns for USA TODAY and for the Ministry Matters website. He also writes news features for Message Magazine. He writes from Huntsville, Alabama.




Her Last Hope

As she opened the door and looked on their faces, she knew it was not good news. She did not hear much after the words, “Your son, Samson, is dead.”

Their words from that point were merely noise. She retreated into her mind reflecting on the life her son should have had. She and her husband had done their best when he was child. However, from his youth, he lived a life of rebellion.

Samson was special, not in the sense that all mothers believe that their child is special, he really was special. Samson was a promised child. She was not capable of having children, but God’s messenger promised that she would have a son. She was told by this messenger that he was destined to be a deliverer of his people. She remembered the special instructions she was given– never cut his hair, and he was not to drink wine, or eat anything unclean. She conscientiously followed them.

Elusive Hope

“How did he die?” she asked. While she feared the answer, she needed closure. Maybe something held promise that would give her hope that Samson died in the faith, she thought.

Her guests explained that Samson had been betrayed by his wife. His eyes were put out, then he was forced to grind meal in prison. His enemies made sport of him. During a special feast when he was placed on display he pulled the columns down collapsing the building. He along with three thousand people died in the destruction.

Not finding the comfort she was looking for, Samson’s mother pressed, “Does anyone know what his last words were?” Desperately looking for something to anchor her hope that in the last moment he returned to God.

“Rumors were,” they explained, “he was heard praying, ‘Lord give me enough strength one more time so I can bring the building down to get revenge on my enemies for making me blind.’”

Her heart sank and her grief was amplified. She broke and sobbed inconsolably. Hope of ever seeing her son again died within her. His last words were for revenge, not forgiveness. She found nothing that gave her hope that he turned to God even in the closing moments of his life.

Samson’s mother must have suffered, knowing the circumstances surrounding his death.

Hope In The Rubble

Samson’s story, as recorded in Judges 11-16 has been replayed millions of times throughout history. Recognizing that they have squandered previous opportunities to become more like Christ, many people sense their unworthiness to ask for mercy or forgiveness. Families and loved ones are left to search in hope to anchor their belief that the person died in Christ.

However, the story of Samson does not end in chapter 16 of the book of Judges; it ends in Hebrews 11. The three words, “. . . and of Samson . . .” in verse 32 provides a plot twist that transforms the Samson story in the ultimate case study in grace and salvation.

The writer of Hebrews places Samson in the company of Abraham, Moses, Joseph, and David. He, along with them, was eulogized with “And these all, having obtained a good report through faith . . .” (verse 39). His name appeared and was counted among those who were looking for city whose builder was God. Samson is not mentioned anywhere in scripture after Judges until Hebrews 11.

Even then, he received only a passing reference. He does not get an extended commentary like others. It appears the Holy Spirit wanted to squeeze his name in the hallmark of faith to give people hope of salvation even when there is no reason to hope. Samson’s presence in Hebrews 11 is God’s way of keeping hope alive for those who have lost hope for loved ones or themselves.

Even though no explanation is given as to why Samson was included in Hebrews’ Hall of Faith, based on the reading of Judges 16, it is the mystery of God’s grace. We are reminded that our salvation is not grounded in our actions but in God’s grace. As with His love, His grace cannot be comprehended by human reason or deduction. Our faith rests in the fact that God is ultimately Judge. Abraham’s rhetorical question, “Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?” (Genesis 18:25 KJV), is at the center of our faith in God.

What God Knows, And We Don’t

God alone can adequately discern the deep issues of the human heart. Only God can understand the pain, hurt and insecurities that lies beneath our behavior. In Samson’s case, his mother and others may have seen him as special and unique, but he felt different, misunderstood and alone. When his community came to deliver him over to their enemies, can you detect the profound pain in his words, “Swear to me that you won’t kill me yourselves” (Judges 15:12, NIV emphasis added)? God alone understands the pretext, context, and subtexts of our actions. The Psalmist says that God will consider the place and circumstances of our birth in the judgment. (See Psalm 87.)

Samson reminds us we are saved by grace through faith. Faith is what grabs hold of God’s grace and refuses to let it go. (See Ephesians 2:8,9; Matthew 24:13). Human reason says, “I believe what I see, feel, taste, touch, and hear.” Faith says, “I see what I believe.” Reason asks, “Does is makes sense?” Faith asks, “What has God said?” It does not make sense that God would die for sinners, but scriptures asserts, “While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8 KJV).

God’s Last Whisper

It is widely believed that the last sense to go when a person is dying is the sense of hearing. If this is true, could it be that God arranged it so that even in the closing moments of a person’s life, God could still plead with them to accept His offer of grace? In those last moments where God’s Spirit is speaking to our spirit, no one but God is privileged to the conversation or the response.

It appears the Holy Spirit wanted to squeeze his name in the hallmark of faith to give people hope of salvation even when there is no reason to hope.

Salvation occurs at the moment faith clutches the offer of grace. Justification takes only a moment to complete. It’s hard to imagine that even with a lifetime of rebellion, it only takes a millisecond to be justified by faith. To die justified is to die saved. (John 3:16, 5:24, Romans 5:1). We should never underestimate the power and persistence of God’s love to pursue His children with His offer of grace.

Can you imagine you being a part of God’s family in eternity? God can! So keep hope alive!
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G. RUSSELL SEAY JR., Ph.D., is Assistant Professor of Religion at Oakwood University in Huntsville, Alabama.




Drama Files: Bye-Bye Jamal. You Can’t Have it All.

 

 

Paris sought  counseling with me while going through a divorce. The problem: she always had concerns about her husband working around women, and not setting boundaries with his students.

Paris and Jamal had been married  for only two years. She was a high school teacher and Jamal was a college professor. They loved  each other very much.

Tell-Tale Texts

Jamal had been receiving text messages on his phone consistently. Paris noticed he would turn his phone over, or just ignore the text. One afternoon, she received a text that her husband was involved with one of his former graduate students and that she needed to go immediately to his office.

Paris was off work on that day so she went right over to Jamal’s office. She opened the door and there he was kissing another woman, and she was pregnant. Jamal was in shock and all Paris could do was stand there and cry. She calmly walked out of his office and waited for him to come home.

She never saw any signs of the unfaithfulness in their marriage. She tried to play it over and over in her head, but she would become more frustrated. Finally, Jamal came home and told her everything. He also stated that the child was his and that the affair had been going on from day one of their marriage. On the day of their marriage, he had sex with her, yet and he claimed he loved them both. Jamal had tried to keep it a secret, but he knew it would eventually come out. He was to afraid of loosing Paris and being away from his girlfriend and his new baby.

“You lost me the moment I walked through that door today” Paris told him.

Too Late to Apologize

Jamal’s pleadings of  “Please  don’t do this to us, and I love you Paris,” made no headway with Paris. He was selfish and only cared about himself.

Paris had been trying to conceive and Jamal kept making excuses why they should not have a child. That evening Jamal packed his bags and moved out. Paris filed for divorce and never had any further contact with Jamal until three years later.

Paris was the keynote speaker at an educational conference, and after she finished greeting people, Jamal stepped up.  She was taken a little off-guard, but not totally surprised that he would possibly attend. After they exchanged greetings Jamal plunged right in with an apology.  His relationship with the other woman broke off shortly after his divorce, and she had a miscarriage.  He lost everything over his own pride and selfishness, he admitted.

For Paris, Jamal’s admissions and apologies now brought closure to their dramatic and painful divorce.  It was still over, however, and Paris made that very clear. She forgave him, but would not reconcile with him.

Choice At the Heart of the Matter

“But, you never gave me an opportunity to choose you,” Jamal countered.

” You chose the day you brought a another woman into our marriage,” Paris wisely observed. Their conversation ended, and Paris walked away never looking back. She continues to flourish and is focusing on her life with Christ and family.

I shared with Paris something my father told me. “If someone you have trusted can’t make  a decision for the betterment of your life, then you need to make it for yourself.”  Paris will continue her counseling with me me, is looking forward to a wonderful future and trusting God for her outcomes.

 

 




Hope & Higher Power

As a behavioral healthcare entrepreneur who specializes in addressing addiction,  Michael Cartwright also pulled from personal experience for his book Believable Hope: 5 Essential Elements to Beat Any Addiction. In Believable Hope, Cartwright shares his personal struggles, recovery process, and 5-pronged approach—the 5 Essential Elements—that have caused dramatic, healthy transformations for thousands of people.

Michael Cartwright, CEO, of American Addiction Centers is a husband and father who battled his own lifestyle addictions with the help of Divine intervention.

“Hooked on drugs and alcohol as a teenager, I landed in a catatonic state as a patient in a psychiatric hospital for five months during my early twenties,” Cartwright wrote in his book. “Despite rehabilitation programs and counseling, my life continued in a downward spiral until my sweet, loving grandmother hit me between the eyes with the truth. The essential truths she impressed upon me form the foundation of this book.”

Cartwright said his grandmother had a “tremendous faith in God,” and her strong belief made him a believer.

“I had already discovered that I could tap into a Higher Power through prayer, but it was not one-way communication,” said Cartwright. “If I wanted and expected God’s help, I needed to pray—to talk with Him, not in super-pious religious language, but in everyday conversations—and I also needed to listen.”

Now sober more than 25 years, Cartwright serves as the Chief Executive Officer of American Addiction Centers, a family of treatment centers with 30 locations across the United States. Known as an addiction industry leader,  he is an author and speaker.

“With grandma’s encouragement, I was able to conquer my own mental and emotional illness, as well as addictions to alcohol, drugs, and food —which is why I have the audacity to tell you that you can get free from whatever mess in which you are mired.”

Five Elements that Mean Freedom from Addictions

Here’s a summary of the Elements:

“I needed to pray—to talk with Him, not in super-pious religious language, but in everyday conversations—and I also needed to listen.”

Believable Hope: Long-term recovery is possible with a change in thinking and attitude, immersion in a new mindset, and being surrounded by positive role models.

Visualize the Life You Want: Thoughts and attitudes have profound influences; individuals must learn to visualize and imagine the world they want to create for themselves.

Surround Yourself With Winners:  Choosing the right companions is a critical step in creating a new life. Maintaining positive relationships that help facilitate believable hope is key.

Put Your Plan Into Action: By setting goals, an individual accepts responsibility, creates confidence, and manifests believable hope. Actions taken to accomplish those goals are vital to personal transformation.

Maintain the Life You Love: Focusing on one’s own healing, as well as recognizing progress and potential setbacks, are key to maintaining a new life.

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Lucas Lee Johnson II is a former reporter for The Associated Press where he worked for 24 years before taking a job as Director of Media Relations at Tennessee State University. Lucas is also the author of the book, Finding the Good




Race Talk

Prejudice, discrimination and stereotyping—whether overt or implicit—are alive and unfortunately well. Sue’s research and observations are included in his most recent publication Race Talk And The Conspiracy of Silence (Wiley, 2015, 2016) in which he challenges us to push through racial dialogue, especially in today’s climate of overt expressions of bias. Do this, he says, even though it can be upsetting.

How races come together

We know from social-psychological research the principles that lead to reduction of prejudice and discrimination. One of them is that we have to have intimate contact with people that we hope to understand. We have to have mutually shared goals. We have to have the ability of what I call equal status relationships between individuals in order to be able to begin to feel again that we’re one another.

What we are experiencing in the United States is a worldwide phenomenon that we’re witnessing in Europe as well. ‘I don’t care about other groups,’ that we have to ‘protect borders,’ and these borders are not just physical but psychological. We need to get people to realize that we are connected to one another and that the ultimate outcome of this splitting and segregation is that our society as a nation will deteriorate.

To Those Who Say, Give It Time, A Chance, And That It Will Be OK.

What we are witnessing now is scary. We aren’t moving in a positive direction.

The people who are quick to normalize it are those people who have power and privilege. They do not understand the social, cultural and psychological significance that people of color and other marginalized groups in our nation experience as [they] are saying that things will be OK.

Well, things aren’t OK with us now and there are whole groups that are suffering. We see this going on with indigenous people at Standing Rock, where Native American people are feeling that their spiritual and sacred lives are at risk. Their physical lives are at risk.

The Black brothers and sisters indicate—you know, with the Black Lives Matter movement—that our society is saying that Black lives don’t matter. It may not say it specifically, but it is operating under the impression that some lives are worth more than others, and it is White lives that are worth more.

You frequently hear this invalidation that goes on when people say “Black lives matter.” You hear our political leaders say, “Well, all lives matter.” What they don’t realize is that they are dismissing, diluting and negating the primary message that is coming out from Black brothers and sisters that the way that our society operates, and how people operate is that our lives are worth less than White brothers and sisters in this nation.

Even when we try to point out to them that Black men are being killed—I mean this deadlocked jury—one juror—[in the trial of North Charleston Police Officer Michael Slagle for killing Walter Scott] indicates that no matter what people of color do the judgment and the decision hurts them.

It’s a false assumption and false attempt to calm people by saying that things will be OK, because the truth is, things aren’t OK. They haven’t been OK for centuries.

Work To Unveil Implicit Bias

That’s why I did all this work on micro-aggressions because well-intentioned White brothers and sisters don’t realize that that are complicit in engaging in actions and behaviors that harm people of color through micro-aggressions. And, as long as it is invisible to them, they can go on with their lives in innocence and naivete’ as though they had nothing to do with it.

How The Struggle Births Strength

As people of color we have always struggled. Racism is a reality in our lives. It’s a constant, omnipresent. What we need to realize is to look at the history of our brothers and sisters of color in terms of how they have struggled and overcome and realize that we have assets, that we are not in the struggle by ourselves. Each and every one of us has to find the motivating factor.

I went through a period in my life when I felt hopeless, like what am I doing if it won’t change? My salvation was that fact that on an individual level I do affect some people. But the thing that makes me continue the struggle, despite my belief that racism will never end, is that I want to do the right thing.

Having ‘The Talk’ With Someone Of Another Race

All racial discussions are clumsy and awkward, and push powerful emotional buttons in people. When you’re having a good racial discussion with people, people are experiencing anger, anxiety, sadness, defensiveness and so forth. So, all of those indicate that you’re moving in the right direction. But you have to get beyond the feelings. Because the feelings, unless you understand them, block actual touching of minds.

Let me give an example of White students who originally did not understand and feel defensive because they feel blamed by students of color when they engage in a racial dialogue. It takes a long time for them to come to the realization that they are privileged; that they are putting up defenses. They don’t really want to see what racism is because ultimately they have to acknowledge to themselves that they have racial biases and behaved in ways that hurt and harmed others.

That is a major obstacle to overcome and it takes long discussions where you continue to provide challenges but support for others to come to the realization. But once they get to that level of realization they are likely to be overwhelmed with feelings of guilt.

What you try to do is tell them, ‘I acknowledge your guilt is legitimate, but guilt doesn’t help the situation.’ ‘But you can deal with that guilt if you become a valuable ally with us in terms of dealing with the disparities that are present in our everyday lives.’

I usually get to that point if I’m allowed to work with the class over an extended period of time. To think that you can have a dialogue for five minutes and achieve the goal is a falsehood. This is a long term soul-searching that many of my White brothers and sisters need to go through.

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Author, Columbia University Professor and Researcher Derald Wing Sue

CARMELA MONK-CRAWFORD, editor of Message Magazine, interviewed Derald Wing Sue for this article.




Prayer Vigilance

Self–Examination and Active Participation Bring Healing

I attended a prayer vigil last July at the behest of our mayor, Mike Rawlings, following the tragic police shootings in Dallas, Texas. That a man who believed in the power of prayer was administering the city at a very turbulent time, reassured me, so I felt compelled to join him for prayer.

Conflicting feelings, however, still haunt my mind. I was grateful to be among faith and elected leaders seeking a collective response to the senseless slaying of innocent police officers. I am still anxious regarding the tepid response to the growing necrology of young Black men slain at the hands of a nefarious few who swore to ‘protect and serve.’

Today is a watershed moment in American race relations. As a diverse nation of people we can ill-afford to be passionately sympathetic about Dallas, but passively indifferent towards Falcon Heights, Baton Rouge, Tulsa, Charlotte, El Cajon or any others.

Address Implicit Bias

Collective healing begins when we confront the reality that both casualties deserve to be treated without implicit bias. Both inequities beg for public censure and social redress. Both atrocities were abhorrently evil and morally unconscionable. Both tragedies leave behind wives, children, parents, significant others and friends to mourn the unspeakable loss of loved ones. Healing happens when both protesters and protectors accept the incontrovertible truth that ‘Black Lives’ do matter and ‘Blue Lives’ matter, simply because ‘All Lives’ were created equal by God regardless of complexion, creed, or social context!

Life-saving Collaboration

The Black community and law enforcement in particular must work earnestly towards healing their strained relations. We can rebuild trust by insisting upon the ethical demolition of the ‘blue wall of silence’ in order to give justice a voice. A respectful dialog of mutual understanding regarding each other’s perceptual and actual plight in this country should be initiated. Ongoing collaboration that continuously invents and invests in new initiatives (e.g., police/community sensitivity forums, police de-escalation training, community policing, comprehensive mental health screenings) promotes better relations as a result of engagement.

Stained Glass Voice of Social Responsibility

The church, too, must reconnect with the community before something happens within the community. Historically, the church has always been a prophetic voice for social responsibility. A church that sequesters itself behind the stained glass piety of its internally-focused walls has no altruistic value to its surrounding community and therefore has no legitimate reason to exist. ‘Abel’s blood’ still cries out for justice even in our day, and we by sacred legacy are still ‘our brother’s keeper!’

How ironic that during his historic visit to Dallas in 1963, the late President John F. Kennedy was to conclude a scheduled speech at the Dallas Trade Mart with the following prophetic words until an assassin’s bullet preempted it and claimed his young life:

“We in this country, in this generation, are—by destiny rather than choice—the watchmen on the walls of world freedom. We ask, therefore, that we may be worthy of our power and responsibility, that we may exercise our strength with wisdom and restraint, and that we may achieve in our time and for all time the ancient vision of ‘peace on earth, good will toward men.’ That must always be our goal, and the righteousness of our cause must always underlie our strength. For as was written long ago, ‘Except the Lord keep the city, the watchman waketh but in vain’” (Psalm 127:1b).

Unless God keeps the city, we will never really achieve uniform justice or lasting peace. No amount of incisive thought or human invention will ever suffice for His divine guidance and intervention.

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Eddie C. Polite, coordinates ministerial programs for the Southwest Region Conference of Seventh-day Adventists in Dallas, Texas.




Be Sure. Your Sins. Will. Find You Out.

Pomona, California. 1987

Woodrow Jackson, a black, retired police officer left a gas station in the wee hours of the morning with sleeping grandchildren in the car. Seconds later police stopped him. They stuck a shotgun in his daughter’s face. Ordered him out. Lifted him into the air, and slammed him on his head. Lights and screaming. Someone in boots stood on his head. Jackson, a 65 year-old heart attack survivor felt a void where his recently implanted kidney device forcefully ejected right out of his body.

When the police realized Jackson was not their 25 year-old robbery suspect, they let him go. He called his son, Don, a newly promoted police sergeant in Hawthorne, California.

“He was sobbing. Broken,” Don Jackson said recently. “He was never the same again. Just not the same person. It humiliated him.”

Boldness of Purpose

If his sense of purpose had not yet been solidified, young Don Jackson knew it then. No advocacy or technology, investigation or financial compensation could put Woodrow Jackson back together. Don Jackson—now Diop Kamau—however, would spend the next 30 years trying. With the release of his new mobile application, Policeabuse.com, he has created a new way to enable the public to hold police accountable.


There’s no manual to tell one how to be safe, take on the police, or advocate after an incident has occurred. Only one thing, Kamau said, has seen him through.

“My faith, period. I believe. I’m not just talking. I actually practice what I practice. My answer is that I have confidence that God will back me up if I’m doing the right thing. You always know. If you don’t know, stop what you’re doing, and listen. That’s why I pray and meditate.

“I will take bullies on.”

Good Cop. Bad Cop.

Woodrow Jackson had been a veteran of the Los Angeles Police Department, having integrated it in the 1950s. He covered the homeless with blankets, changed tires, took lost kids home, and sent the drunk guy sitting on the stoop back inside with a warning. Integrity and class. Worthy of community respect, Kamau proudly followed in his father’s footsteps.

Kamau attended California Lutheran University, joined the Ventura County (California) Sheriff’s department, and later the Hawthorne (California) Police Department. But what he discovered was a racially charged atmosphere. Images of good cops, the Christ-like principles he admired as a kid, clashed with some of the things he saw every day.

Dispatchers openly used racial epithets. The first report to hit his desk as sergeant complained of a black man passed out in a watermelon patch. Some joke. Others callously quipped that black women enjoyed being raped.

Kamau impeded that kind of “police work” because it was more than just racially insensitive joking. Police force coupled with prejudice led to illegal or cruel or deadly treatment, for African Americans in particular.

Jackson once stopped the illegal search and trashing of a nice apartment owned by a young African American man. He leaked a story to the news of how police officers allowed their police dogs to maul people, one of them having completely severed the breast of a young woman. Soon he left the department, determined to use his policing and investigative skills to help stop police abuse.

Vintage Beating Video

Kamau famously outfitted a car with cameras and found himself pulled over for weaving across lines and speeding, traffic violations proven false by the video. Police ordered him out of the car. Screaming. Lights. Epithets. F-bombs. He asked why he was stopped and within seconds a police officer smashed his head through a storefront window. Abuse continued. Police smashed his head onto the hood of the car and he cried out in pain and shock.

“God protected me. I didn’t have one scratch on me after that.”

That 1989 viral video pushed him to the front of a crusade to end such practices, as he made himself a sitting duck in his own racial profiling tests. He used his videos to support litigants in court—people who would never be believed otherwise. His full service investigative firm, Policeabuse.com employed testers and investigators and their footage made it onto primetime television news magazine shows.

“He’s a hero,” said Daniel Maier-Katkin, former Dean of Criminology at Penn State, and friend of Kamau. “He’s a crusader for justice. This is what I thought the first time I saw him. I admire him as a major figure in trying to seek justice.”

Help Is On The Way

The outspoken, passionate and good-looking crusader with the Isley-brother mustache attracted the attention of a young, beautiful Hollywood starlet with a conscience. Tyra Ferrell, “Jungle Fever”, “White Men Can’t Jump” and most Diop Kamau and Tyra Ferrellrecently “Empire”, clipped a newspaper article with Kamau’s picture on it and posted it on her vision board. While that approach to love may not work for everyone, Ferrell claimed him in her meditations. After a chance meeting at a party, their courtship blossomed until one day they both stood by the bedside of Kamau’s ailing mother. The elder woman declared she could go to her rest knowing that her son was in good hands. They got married in 1992.

A true believer, Ferrell left her career behind. She answered the phones at Policeabuse.com, coordinated testing, and prayed for her husband to return to her in one piece. She became wife, mother and dedicated protector in her own right. Ferrell and their newborn daughter would wait in the family RV parked at the beach while Jackson went into the city hoping to be a target. He changed his name to Diop Kamau a West African name, loosely translated: proud, quiet, warrior.

After a speaking trip to Penn State and recording of the show “Crossfire”, Kamau was invited to stay. Both Ferrell and the dean of the school—Maier-Katkin appealed to him. “You’re gonna get yourself killed out there.” It was time to think of a different approach, and in a few years Kamau’s master’s degree put him back on the streets with a different strategy.

What the data shows

Using his head—instead of offering it up to be beaten—Diop Kamau tracked his data. After 30 years of investigating police interactions gone wrong, still no national database or clearinghouse to track or measure them exists. Data that Kamau collected, however, has formed a respectable sample. He investigated 5,000 cases, 25 of them with news media organizations. His organization filed more than 20,000 police abuse complaints, 4,500 of them in the last two years.

What he found may surprise many people:

• Anybody can be a victim, not just black males.

• Women are almost equally likely to be assaulted by police, tasered, punched out, beaten or shot.

• The single, consistent, defining variable for a violent confrontation with police is to dispute his authority.

• Officers simply lied on police reports, and thus, people are more likely to be framed for crime by police than be shot by them.

• More white people experience abuse and make up the majority of complaints and requests for help on Policeabuse.com.

• Victims may experience further abuse and intimidation to prevent their complaints from being filed.

So, Kamau’s latest iteration in advocacy and investigation revolves around a free mobile app, Police Abuse. At the touch of an icon it records an encounter, simultaneously uploading it to his organization’s servers. An emergency feature alerts loved ones to the location of the stop as well as others who have the app. They can choose, Kamau hopes, to record it from a safe distance. To tackle the problem of intimidation and red tape, Kamau’s organization files the complaint—video attached—electronically, copying the Department of Justice. It’s new. It hasn’t caught on yet, but it’s a patient step in the right direction.

Justice Takes Time

Kamau, Ferrell and their daughter know, firsthand, that justice takes times.

When one of their former employees—an undercover operative with computer expertise—became disgruntled, he dragged them into the court system. Like his father, like most of his clients, “we were not doing anything, but they were throwing my wife in, me in, my employees in,” Kamau said. “Once we got in there, no one cared. You must have done or said something.”

After eight years of legal wrangling, justice finally won. While the former employee sued for copyright infringement for the use of one of his undercover video recordings, he was found guilty of perjury, fraud, witness intimidation and manufacturing evidence. When he filed criminal stalking charges against Ferrell and hacked their email accounts and websites, Kamau and Ferrell were incredulous to see the court system believed him, helped him. Unknown to the court, he was sitting in jail, awaiting his own trial for stalking. Their courage really took a hit as they witnessed that former employee complete law school, pass the bar and practice law, giving him an air of credibility throughout all of this. Credibility, that is, until he was stripped of his license to practice law just last month.

Pursue justice

As his chosen name suggests, thought and strategy goes into any successful fight for justice. From the initial indignity of an unjustified clash with police, victims shrink away in shame.

“First thing, you are not alone. The embarrassment, the pain, the shame that you are feeling is true.” It throws you, putting you in a disoriented, childlike state. Don’t stay there. You can do something.

As horrific as the interaction may be, family, friends and advocates help the most by remaining thoughtful and composed. “Everybody can’t freak out,” said Kamau. “Don’t cower. Don’t break. Don’t do something out of character.”

Yes, you may be viewed with suspicion, and it seems as though many people don’t care about you or your plight. “Toughen yourself up. Work on it mentally.”

Finally, if you are already in the system, especially there innocently, brace for the long fight in front of you. “There is a light at the end of the tunnel,” says Kamau. “Fight it out. This got us through slavery, got us through Jim Crow and it will get us through now.”

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CARMELA MONK-CRAWFORD, J.D., is the Editor of Message Magazine.




Ten Muscle-Making Ideas For Folks On The Move

Can’t cram a workout in your crazy schedule? You know you should exercise, but making it happen feels next to impossible some days (even weeks).  You don’t have to go hardcore at the gym an hour every day to benefit your health. You can improve your cardiovascular fitness, balance, and strength outside of the gym. Check with your doctor before making any changes to your fitness plans, and then try these tips to fit more fitness into your life.

Think about what you loved doing as a kid (or always wanted to do), and go for it.

  1. Wear weight. Whether you strap on a weight vest, or just ankle and wrist weights, carrying around more than your body weight helps burn more calories while doing housework, running errands, or exercising. If you’re a new mom trying to shed baby weight, get a baby backpack to carry the baby instead of relying on the stroller. Most babies love it too.
  2. Keep hand weights near your desk or couch. At odd moments of the day, pop off a few sets to keep your metabolism up, and build more strength. The weight should be heavy enough so you can perform 10 to 15 repetitions before losing proper form. That’s one set. Do a couple of sets per muscle group and you’ll be on your way to a fitter body.
  3. Go old school. Calisthenics make your body into your gym. Perform squats, calf raises, push-ups and isometric movements, alternating sets with jumping jacks, running in place, or invisible rope jumping. (For an extra benefit, strap on the weights, or as applicable, hold dumbbells.)
  4. Try to engage all of the muscle groups you can. You can do calf raises while you brush your teeth, or wait in line at the grocery store. Do squats while doing your hair or while talking on the phone. You can even do push-ups against your desk or countertop while on the phone if you use a headset. Perform isometric movements such as pressing your palms together and holding the position for 15-seconds, or attempting to push an immovable object. Perform leg lifts while working at your desk—just skip the ankle weights on this as it can injure your joints.
  5. Move as much as possible. Instead of sitting to talk on the phone, march in place. Go and walk laps around a park. Play actively with your children instead of always resorting to sedentary games. For example, pick Twister over Monopoly. Kick around a soccer ball instead of sitting to play video games. Your children may object initially, but soon they’ll enjoy the active fun. The trend here is to replace sedentary activities with moving ones.
  6. Adopt a moving hobby. If you discover a hobby you love, it’s easy to stick with it because you can hardly wait to do it, whether it’s martial arts, swimming, or whatever. Think about what you loved doing as a kid (or always wanted to do), and go for it.
  7. Learn kickboxing, or an aerobics routine. Follow a video class online until you learn the moves. Then, you can perform a few moves whenever you find a few spare minutes, such as waiting for dinner to cook. You may get funny looks if you start punching the air at the pediatrician’s office, so go easy there, tiger.
  8. Get intense. When you get a little workout time, don’t hold back. Got 15-minutes first thing in the morning? Make them count by strapping on weights and engaging in intense exercise for the time you have. That could include running up and down a flight of stairs, jumping rope or shadowboxing. Don’t wear heavy wrist weights if shadow boxing, because you could damage your joints.
  9. Try burpees. Begin in a standing position. Do a jumping jack. Drop down and do a push-up. Spring up into a standing position and repeat 10 to 15 times. Rest a few moments and perform another set of 10 to 15. Burpees improve the body’s aerobic ability, strength and balance.
  10. Ramp it up. You may need to hold onto a countertop or stable chair while performing calf raises at first, but as you improve your balance and strength, let go. Gradually increase the difficulty of your routine. One-legged calf raises and squats challenge both strength and balance, for example. Use heavier weights to lift. Jump onto a step at the apex of the burpee.

Getting into shape takes time. A random set or two per week won’t make much difference; however, making movement your habit can greatly improve your health.

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DEBORAH JEANNE SERGEANT is a second-degree black belt, and instructor in Kuk Sool Won Korean martial arts. She is also author of The Big, Fat Answer, available at www.bn.com.




Drama Files: He’s Worth The Investment

Legacy of Love, part one.

Writing for Message has been a joy and pleasure for us this past year. I never thought that I would be sharing this story about my husband Arthur E. Nowlin, who passed away on October 30, 2016. As I reflect over the past 26 years with my husband it was truly a love story beyond measure.

No risk brings no reward. I stepped out on faith with Arthur and he with me, and it was worth every day of our lives together.  He shared how he had handled a great deal of responsibility within his life and had been through so much. I realized that he was a great investment because of his genuine humility and desire to learn more about Christ. He had vision for family and what we could become together if I could only trust him.  He was sincere about our direction to unite our skills and talents to develop family ministry to become change agents and help empower others. 

Love At First Sight

Arthur and I met in June, 1990 at an AIDS prevention event in Detroit, Michigan. He was a social worker for one of the local family agencies and I owned and operated my own clinic for counseling and speech communication.

It was time to meet someone and build a life with the Lord. Though I had been married before, it lasted only four months. My first husband was a very nice man, but we did not share the same faith. This time, I prayed to God and asked him to lead me to the right person. That person would sacrifice his life for God, join my church, and inspire others to strive for excellence in their lives. If not, then I would remain single and raise my daughter alone.

When I arrived at the event, I got out of the car and my skirt split up the back. I was so embarrassed but I did not have time to return home to change, so I walked in very discreetly not knowing that Arthur Nowlin had seen the whole thing. He greeted me with some of his friends who served as hosts for the event.

I was friendly, a bit reserved, but I turned to my cousin Karen and said “That’s going to be my husband.”

Love at first sight is never easy to explain. Some people think that it is all a physical attraction, or that it is a myth. What is really amazing was that I never doubted in my faith that he was to be my husband. I continued to follow God’s teachings and His obedience and God favored me with a wonderful friend, husband and partner. I believe in true love and love at first sight with God’s guidance, honesty, and transparency.  

 Dance of My Life

That following week I attended a conference on AIDS prevention and I met a good friend of Arthur’s. I told her that I met him, but I was told he was married. No, she insisted. “He is divorced and has one son.”

“Is he a good guy?” I asked.

“The best,” came her reply.

I still prayed and trusted God to have His way.  When a mutual friend of ours was having a cabaret she invited me. I don’t attend night clubs, I told her. She told me it was a fund raiser for her son’s football team, and I asked her if Arthur Nowlin would be there.

“Yes,” she said.

“Then, I will buy all of your tickets!” I told her. Even though I asked her not to tell him, she did, of course. I was stuck buying the tickets anyway.

When I saw Arthur again, he greeted me warmly.  I observed him mingling with his co workers, but became uncomfortable when people started dancing, and I decided to leave early. Just when I was about to leave he asked me to dance. I told him ” I don’t dance.”

“I’ll lead,” he said smiling. That was really funny to me because I was not good at allowing other people to lead me, especially men. “What are you looking for, Mr. Nowlin?” I asked as I looked up at him.

“To grow with someone,” he said. 

Wrong Answer

What that meant, I did not know, but wondered. We left the conversation at that, and I went back to the table to get my girlfriend Rita, then left. Arthur said good night to his co-workers, too, and followed us to my car. He asked if he could follow me home to be sure that I arrived safely. I was impressed and he opened the door for us and followed us home. When we arrived he kissed my cheek, and we said good night.

That night I called my mother who asked if I enjoyed myself. I told her the evening was fine, and that nothing exciting happened.

“What did he say?” she prodded. I told her that when I asked him what was he looking for he replied, ” to grow with someone.”

“And you felt that was the wrong answer?” mom said laughing.  “He is looking to grow with someone, child!” I thought about what she said and I prayed and left it all in God’s hands once again.

Looking for Mr. or Mrs. Right

Kim and Arthur Nowlin

When asking God for a life partner I would tell my daughters to put their faith and trust in God and allow Him to give you divine wisdom on your earthly mate. My oldest daughter has said ” I want a husband like you, dad,” several times. Our son has also stated he wants qualities of his mother and I: someone who has the qualities of strength and family values and morals.  

In balancing a relationship it is critical to set attainable and realistic goals for yourself and your relationship. External appearance is nice, but in a constructive one-on-one assessment, communication,  and sharing time together helps you distinguish  between infatuation and true love. One must understand how to utilize courage, have the ability to measure growth, and know how to recognize and respect boundaries. Respect boundaries, and you leave a person  no other choice but to respect you. If you allow yourself to compromise on your affections it could cause profound consequences in the future. Reflect and examine your motives for  your true  love. 




Integrity And The Golden Rules

In 1990, the job approval rating for Congress was 30% and in 2017, it has dropped to 19%. That is a serious decline in public confidence for our top legislative branch of government.

Members of the U.S. Senate oversee budgets in their home districts and in Washington totaling approximately $3.5 million per member per year. Members of the House of Representatives receive approximately $1.4 million per member per year. (https://lasvegassun.com/news/2013/mar/13/how-much-does-it-cost-run-congressional-office/) With 100 members in the Senate and 435 members in the House, a billion dollars flow from tax dollars in exchange for what we are receiving from these distinguished leaders.

We are long overdue for audits of these congressional offices but we see no sign of audits on the way. Some may see the lack of audits as an invitation to dishonesty, but history says that could be an invitation to failure and prison.

“The Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE) of the U.S. House of Representatives is an independent, non-partisan entity charged with reviewing allegations of misconduct against Members, officers, and staff of the U.S. House of Representatives and, when appropriate, referring matters to the House Committee on Ethics.” So, ethics relates to misconduct.

Other Working Definitions

Integrity is “firm adherence to a code of especially moral or artistic values:  incorruptibility.” The issue of integrity in public service, therefore, relates to moral values and incorruptibility. A person with integrity loves the truth and dislikes deception, cover-ups, and misleading.

Ethics and integrity are required for public servants and many publications ensure members know the specifics. However, there are simple basic rules good for all humanity regardless of the social rank or class, education, profession, or aspirations.

Find five such rules below that may be reviewed in greater detail. Though the rules may be simple for all to understand, those with higher authority and education should know that more is expected of them. They should be careful not to disappoint those expectations. Those with ambitious aspirations must give much thought to these rules to operate in different social lanes as they seek to move ahead.

1. Respect everyone’s time.
2. Follow the dress code.
3. Pay attention to your behavior.
4. Be fair.
5. Be a true professional.

Ethics: Easy To Understand, Yet Underutilized

With some thought, one can expand on each to a point of perfection. She can thus achieve the success in life that the less creative thinker could never reach. And as simple as these points are, it is obvious that their consideration can benefit many. High school students with dreams can benefit as will upward-bound business executives. Community leaders can embrace them, and those who have already advanced to the top of impressive careers.

Some leaders with international influence have not learned to respect everyone’s time or even to respect everyone. Some are not aware of their offensive behavior which may have seriously limited their influence. They do not realize that their achievements could have been much more impressive if they had given more thought to some of these principles.

When one stops learning and growing, those behind can see what he will never see, that his brake lights are on. He may have stumbled to the top and may be moving just enough to experience a professional train wreck. High achievers should, like others, work to avoid the weaknesses they see in others. A mayor may get too much praise to see his defects. And senators, corporate executives, and presidents get even more praise than inflated mayors.

Humility At Its Heart

This is not a complete document even for the organization that adopted it, but more of a summary. It is a good starting point for individuals or some groups which can be expanded to meet their specific needs. However, for a large group with considerable legal concerns and resources, a document such as the congressional rules, Rules, Committee on Ethics, 114th Congress, which consist of 52 pages may be a better starting point.

Ethics and integrity, therefore, require enough humility to keep everyone at every level from perceiving themselves as being above the rules. Hold on to the Golden Rule (Matthew 7:12).  Just as this land was made for you and me, rules were made for you and me. Let us observe them and enjoy the peace and happiness which they produce.