02-19-2017  10:42 pm      •     

"Remove not the ancient landmarks for which our mothers and fathers set"

Proverbs 22: 28

As Black History Month for 2011 comes to a close we must keep our collective ears open to the voices of our cultural mothers and fathers whose wisdom is as relevant today as it was in the past. Their voices cry out for people of conscience, particularly African Americans to place justice and wisdom at the forefront of our family's focus.

I watched with interest an airing of The Injustice Files last week on the Discovery Channel. The Injustice Files is the work of filmmaker Keith Beauchamp, producer of The Untold Story of Emmett Louis Till and CBS EYE Productions, which reveal the circumstances of three racially motivated unsolved murders of African Americans prior to 1969. Brilliantly, Beauchamp weaved together whatever he could find—family interviews, police records, eye witnesses—into a compelling expose. The Injustice Files serves as much as a history lesson as it does to inspire people today to come forward with information that would lead to the prosecution of murders and the legal closure of countless of acts of racism and domestic terrorism.

Prior to the Injustice Files, Beauchamp's most critically acclaimed work brought new attention to the heinous murder of Emmett Till in 1955. Till, a 14-year old boy from Chicago, who was visiting relatives in rural Mississippi and allegedly flirtatiously whistled at a White woman—a cultural crime in the American deep south of 1955. The woman's husband and brother-in-law took Emmett Till from his uncle's house in the middle of the night.

The vicious torture and murder of Emmitt Till, according to Mrs. Rosa Parks, inspired her to take a more active role in the Civil Rights Movement by refusing to surrender her seat to a White man (thus, challenging the application of federal law on buses in Montgomery, Alabama) just six months after Till's victimization. As Mrs. Parks did in 1955, people of conscience today must pursue justice by reforming public policy.

The Emmett Till Unsolved Civil Rights Crime Act of 2007 was introduced to establish an Unsolved Crimes Section within the Civil Rights Division of the United States Department of Justice. Since then, funding issues have stymied progress of the Act.

If "cold cases" such as the ones featured in The Injustice Files are to be solved federal legislation must have enforcement provisions to meaningfully aid prosecutors and families in court. In particular:

• Congress should appropriate funds necessary for fulfillment of Emmett Till Act

• Congressional oversight hearings are needed to examine activities of law enforcement officials relative to Emmett Till Act

• The relationship between federal and local prosecutors must be better defined

• The relationship between Ku Klux Klan members and local police and sheriffs must be revealed

• A "Family Bill of Rights" must be defined in information sharing between law enforcement officials and families

• Families must be given status updates on a regular basis by law enforcement officials

• A full accounting of unsolved disappearances, "accidents", "suicides", "self-defense" must be compiled

• Cases determined "outside of jurisdiction" of Emmett Till Act must be covered by new legislation

Federal legislation must be matched by state, county, and municipal policy that emboldens prosecutors and families and imprisoned murderers. The collective voices of our ancestors direct us to pursue justice in unsolved murder cases.

Gary L. Flowers is the Executive Director & CEO of the Black Leadership Forum, Inc

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  • WASHINGTON (AP) — One month after the inauguration, the stretch of Pennsylvania Avenue in front of Donald Trump's White House still is a hard-hat zone. Skeletal remains of the inaugural reviewing stands poke skyward. Random piles of plywood and cables are heaped on the ground inside crooked lines of metal fencing. The disarray outside the president's front door, though not his fault, serves as a metaphor for the tumult still unfolding inside. Four weeks in, the man who says he inherited "a mess" at home and abroad is presiding over a White House that is widely described as itself being a mess. At a stunning pace, Trump has riled world leaders and frustrated allies. He was dealt a bruising legal blow on one of his signature policies. He lost his national security adviser and his pick for labor secretary to scandal. He's seen forces within his government push back against his policies and leak confidential information. All of this has played out amid a steady drip of revelations about an FBI investigation into his campaign's contacts with Russian intelligence officials. Trump says his administration is running like a "fine-tuned machine." He points to the rising stock market and the devotion of his still-loyal supporters as evidence that all is well, although his job approval rating is much lower than that for prior presidents in their first weeks in office. Stung by the unrelenting criticism coming his way, Trump dismisses much of it as "fake news" delivered by "the enemy of the people" — aka the press. Daily denunciations of the media are just one of the new White House fixtures Americans are adjusting to. Most days start (and end) with presidential tweets riffing off of whatever's on TV talk shows or teasing coming events or hurling insults at the media. At some point in the day, count on Trump to cast back to the marvels of his upset of Democrat Hillary Clinton in the November election and quite possibly overstate his margins of support. Expect more denunciations of the "dishonest" press and its "fake news." From there, things can veer in unexpected directions as Trump offers up policy pronouncements or offhand remarks that leave even White House aides struggling to interpret them. The long-standing U.S. policy of seeking a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict? Trump this past week offered this cryptic pronouncement: "I'm looking at two-state and one-state, and I like the one that both parties like. I can live with either one." His U.N. ambassador, Nikki Haley, the next day insisted, "We absolutely support a two-state solution." Trump's days are busy. Outside groups troop in for "listening sessions." Foreign leaders call or come to visit. (Or, in the case of Mexico's president, cancel out in pique over Trump's talk about the planned border wall.) After the president signed two dozen executive actions, the White House was awaiting a rush order of more of the gold-plated Cross pens that Trump prefers to the chrome-plated ones used by his predecessor. Trump hands them out as souvenirs at the signing ceremonies that he points to as evidence of his ambitious pace. "This last month has represented an unprecedented degree of action on behalf of the great citizens of our country," Trump said at a Thursday news conference. "Again, I say it. There has never been a presidency that's done so much in such a short period of time." That's all music to the ears of his followers, who sent him to Washington to upend the established order and play the role of disrupter. "I can't believe there's actually a politician doing what he says he would do," says an approving Scott Hiltgen, a 66-year-old office furniture sales broker from River Falls, Wisconsin. "That never happens." Disrupt Trump has. But there may be more sound and fury than substance to many of his early actions. Trump did select Judge Neil Gorsuch to replace the late Antonin Scalia on the Supreme Court, a nomination that has drawn strong reviews from conservatives. But the president is regrouping on immigration after federal judges blocked his order to suspend the United States' refugee program and ban visitors from seven Muslim-majority countries, which had caused chaos for travelers around the globe. Some other orders on issues such as the U.S.-Mexico border wall and former President Barack Obama's health care law are of limited effect. Trump says his early actions show he means to deliver on the promises he made during the campaign. 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Trump shouldn't mistake the fact that some of his supporters like his style with the fact that a lot of Republicans just want the policies he promised them. He has to deliver that." Put Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., in the camp of those more interested in substance than style. "I'm not a great fan of daily tweets," McConnell said Friday, referring to the "extra discussion" that Trump likes to engage in. But McConnell was quick to add: "What I am a fan of is what he's been actually doing." He credits Trump with assembling a conservative Cabinet and taking steps to reduce government regulation, and promised: "We like his positions and we're going to pursue them as vigorously as we can." The challenge may be to tease out exactly what Trump wants in the way of a health care plan, tax changes and trade policy. 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