The Dangers of Storytelling: How the Industrial Complexes Target Black People with False Propaganda


 

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By Shermeeka Mason

 

 

 

 

 

On June 9, 2016, the day of the Shut This Shit Down: Black Lives Matter Rally organized by Building Leadership and Community Knowledge or B.L.A.C.K. went into effect.

The event was a response to the brutal murder of Alton Sterling, a Black man who was gunned down by a Baton Rouge police officer because he was suspected of pointing a gun at someone (Sterling was armed, but Louisiana is an Open Carry state, so his death was completely unwarranted).  The Shut This Shit Down event here in Rochester was one of the plethora of Black Lives Matter demonstrations taking place throughout the country and internationally.

I arrived at the rally a little after 4:00 p.m., joining the massive crowd of protesters at the Liberty Pole.  I instantly felt the positive vibe of those around me, straining to hear the slam poets and activists speaking into a weak microphone.

When the pep rally came to a close, we headed towards the street, our spirits high while chanting “Black Lives Matter” and some others to maintain the momentum.  As we turned the corner, however, I and a few others beside me immediately spotted a swarm of police cars settled near the curb, occupied by officers in full riot gear. We made comments about how unnecessary the riot gear was, considering that we were peacefully protesting, and moved on. We continued to march down our designated route, crowding the street during rush hour, hyping up the drivers that believed in the cause.  We then headed towards Monroe Avenue, the synergy increasing and evident…

Until we were met with a line of riot cops near the Strong Museum of Play.

They were silently waiting for us, batons in hand.  We approached them, determined yet peaceful while chanting for them to hold themselves accountable for working for a corrupt industrial complex founded to target the disenfranchised.  It wasn’t long before members of the SWAT Team began charging at us in a militarized formation.

I grabbed the arm of one of my friends and frantically informed him that we needed to leave the scene effective immediately.  Neither of us can afford to be arrested, as I have mental health issues and he is a trans man who had just had knee surgery not too long ago.  Plus, his son was graduating and he was not going to miss the opportunity to see his baby walk across the stage.  There were folks who stayed to continue to protest the heavy presence of law enforcement, but I didn’t know what happened to them until I eventually returned home, where I watched footage that was uploaded on Facebook by protesters.  Those who confronted the cops at the Strong Museum were shoved by the latter, even though the former did nothing physically to provoke violence.

There were also videos of protesters on East Avenue area doing a peaceful sit-in being physically assaulted by riot police.  I watched angrily as one cop lunged at one of the demonstrators (a friend of mine) and punched him in the face before one of his partners pulled him away.  Remember that the Black Lives Matter rally was nonviolent from beginning to end, yet the heavy cop presence resulted in seventy-four protesters being detained and taken into custody—many of them being friends of mine.

So when Mayor Lovely Warren and Rochester Police Chief Mike Cimerelli expressed support for the cops and declaring that protesters weren’t physically harmed (even though two people were hospitalized while some others suffered injuries), when East End business owners complemented law enforcements’ conduct towards those who did nothing, when both local and national media portrayed the Black Lives Matter rallies as violent and disruptive (while broadcasting heavily edited footage of protesters shouting at law enforcement), I was infuriated, frustrated, and completely through.

I knew what occurred because I was there.  I witnessed with my own eyes the police’s aggressive behavior toward us.  I watched the unofficial footage protesters posted on social media, which further discredited what was being reported.  So I shouted at the live news report reeling on my computer screen, updated Facebook statuses with my thoughts on the aftermath of the rally, and corresponded with friends and follow activists who knew what the fuck was up.  But what bothered (and triggered) me the most were the lies that compounded the issue at hand.

Of course, this is nothing new—we Black people have been battling for our liberation for over 600 years and counting, often dying unjustly due to the various industrial complexes propagating falsehood.  But in the 21st century, modern technology made it easier for the local, national, and even independent press to report misleading information about Black people (educated ones in particular) as 1) we become the majority in the United States and internationally and 2) we challenge White supremacy and how it affects everyone (White folks included) through our right to peacefully assemble. These facts and many others are the reasons why we are frequently targeted by oppressive industrial complexes (law enforcement being one) to the point to losing our lives.

Since the start of the Black Lives Matter movement, more the 1,134 Black men were murdered by cops in 2015 alone.  Over 500 Black men lost their lives in 2016 and the year is only halfway over.  And these numbers don’t even include the trans men and women who were killed while either in police custody or harassed by them.  I myself had had run ins with the police—one of those incidents involving my former housemate, Kelliegh.  She called 911 because she thought I attempted to physically assault her when I did not.  Her erroneous accusation literally placed me at risk of being killed by the two officers that responded to her call. And since law enforcement aren’t properly trained to handle those who’ve been previously mental health arrested, the risk of death would’ve increased had I not been medicated.

This is why I am extremely antagonistic towards both the so-called Blue Lives Matter and All Lives Matter campaigns.  Besides their utter ridiculousness, they are used by the press and uninformed people to spread more lies about Black people and Black Lives Matter in general.  Y’all, I can’t even tell you how many White and non-Black people of color I’ve dragged for filth because of them defending these campaigns.  For one, those entering law enforcement chose to participate in that industrial complex and wear the required uniform.  My skin, however, is not a uniform I can unbutton, step out of, and hang in my closet with the rest of my coats.  I am Black all day, every day and there is no reprieve from the negative stereotypes associated with being so.

In regards to All Lives Matter, it doesn’t ring true because it isn’t.  Let’s be honest here:  if all lives mattered, why aren’t these folks organizing or working alongside people of color?  Why aren’t they fighting for the liberation of prisoners, the safety of sex workers (most of them being transwomen of color), victims of sex abuse or untreated mental illness and so forth? They will swiftly accuse Black Lives Matter activists of “reverse racism,” homophobia, and divisiveness, not even acknowledging the members of the LGBTIQA+ community involved in BLM (regardless of ethnicity).  I also want to point that when a 16-year-old White boy was killed by a cop, it was Black Lives Matter who not only protested on this young man’s behalf, but launched a fundraiser for his family.  Meanwhile, the All Lives Matter people were completely silent as they ALWAYS are when injustice occurs.  And when they are speaking out, it’s always in the form of perpetuating dangerous misinformation rooted in the very racist ideologies designed to dehumanize and annihilate Black people.

So, long story short, the Rochester Black Lives Matter rally and the events following forced me to fully recognize the extent that oppressive industrial complexes will go to fabricate stories about the disenfranchised—even when the truth is documented on film.  It further demonstrated how many White and non-Black people of color blindly give credence to the false information the media broadcasts about a movement they choose not to research. But more importantly, I refuse to ignore the high level of trauma these industrial complexes inflict on Black people by not only internalizing the misinformation associated with us, but becoming increasing desensitized to our suffering by utilizing their resources (and our tax dollars) to commit acts of abuse that usually results in a senseless death.

 

Author Bio:  Shermeeka M.L. Mason is a self-published author, blogger, and volunteer radio show host.  She recently published the political science-fiction novel, The One Taken from the Sea of Stars under the pen name Octavia Davis.  She is also the creator of and contributor for two blogs, The Possible World and The Chuck Taylor Buddhist (both available on WordPress.com).  In addition to being an active author, Mason is currently one of the co-hosts of The Bonfire Talks on WAYO 104.3 FM.  In her spare time, she reads, performs with the Rochester Womens’ Community Chorus, binges on Facebook, and spends time with beloved cat-son, Tobias.

 

 

 

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Watching the News with Spirit: A Tribute to Flora Lawrence


“The life of the dead is placed in the memory of the living.”

—Marcus Tullius Cicero, Roman philosopher

It’s Monday and already I wish the entire week to be over with.

I’m having a slight depressive episode because I will most likely have to find a job because being an author isn’t paying me yet and I’m going to be 35 tomorrow.

But what affects me the most the anniversary of my grandmother’s death.  My grandmother, Flora Lawrence, passed away in the St. John’s Hospice on May 25, 2004—the day after my birthday. She was 100.  The moment she left this Earth is the day I lost one of the most important people in my life.  I have grown up believing her to be immortal—that she and I will be in each other’s lives until the days I myself would draw my last breath.  So her passing has shocked me and, even after all these years, I’ve not fully recovered.

I don’t think anyone would quite honestly.

Since then, though, my birthday has not felt the same to me. In fact, I don’t know how to feel about it, so I do what everyone else does.  On one hand, I’m alive another year and hope to make the best of it. But on the other, I’m here without my grandmother and she has been one of the most important people in my life.  I try to normalize it with a small dinner party and a possible movie, but I often feel strange doing it to a certain extent simply because she isn’t here.

That and the fact that the family dynamics associated with my grandmother’s hospice stay has yet to be resolved. I’m not going to go into detail about everything that has occurred prior to her passing, but for years I’ve felt as if my grandmother’s memory has been dishonored due to unresolved generational trauma.

As depressed as I am right now as I write this, Readers, I want to do everything I can to remember my grandmother the way I’ve always seen her: the only adult in my family who has accepted me as I am—flare jeans and all.  When alive, she has seen someone who has hurt, has been hurt, but also a kid who has tried.  She has seen a granddaughter exercising to Taebo tapes in hopes to shred unwanted pounds to catch the eyes of superficial men.  She has seen me cry tears of depression and uncage bouts of laughter so loud that the boom of my voice sometimes startles her.

I recall her wanting to watch the six o’clock news in peace, but never could because Joyce and I would talk through the reporting.  I’ve seen her drink a can of her favorite beer while watching TV, lounging in her recliner—the one she also slept in—before she drifts off to dream.  I watch her listen to her police scanner because she always wants to know what is going on in Springfield, IL, in the city she has been born and raised in.  I remember the storyteller, the one who has told me about the extensive kitchen work that would eventually cause her fingers to stiffen with arthritis.

I remember the helpings of Bisquick pancakes, Malt-O-Meal and me wondering why I can never make it the way Grandma does.  To this day, no one can make it creamy like she could.  No one can make me feel the way she did when she said she loved me every night before I disappeared into my room to sleep.

Though she left the Earth plane, I know my grandmother is always with me in spirit.  I feel and see with my mind’s eye on a regular basis as she is one of my many spirit guides.  Granted, she has been nowhere near perfect, but I feel that she deserves the respect and honor for giving so much of herself to be of service to others—including the foster children she has raised and the grandchildren who still love her.  Writing this passage is my way of doing so.

Thank you for reading.

 

Life Without Regrets


“Each of us is merely a small instrument; all of us, after accomplishing our mission, will disappear.” 

–Mother Teresa, humanitarian

 

This has been an extremely trying week.

On Wednesday, April 20, Joan Marie Laurer—also known the legendary female wrestler Chyna—has been found dead in her home. When a friend of mine announces her death on Facebook, I don’t even believe him initially.  In fact, we argue online until TMZ.com release a report confirming her death.

If that hasn’t been tragic enough, the iconic musician Prince has passed away in his studio in Minnesota the very next day.  According to the media, he has canceled two concerts due to being ill and is hospitalized for a medication over dose.  Those who spoke with him prior to his death state that he seems fine, so the news shocks his neighbors and depressed the entire world.

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Unlike many of the celebrities who have left us earlier this year, Chyna and Prince are considered relatively young by today’s standards (the former was 45 while the latter was 57). Both seemed somewhat healthy despite taking medication and have been active up to their last days.  On the flipside, both have been struggling with substance abuse issues that may have contributed to their deaths.

Regardless of how they occurred, these recent deaths now have me ruminating on mortality and my own life in general.  Due to my beliefs in past lives and reincarnation, I do not believe that we simply disappear after we leave the Earth plane. I believe that our spirits move on to either become our spirit guides or to live another life to learn additional lessons.  But our physical bodies and people’s memories of us will remain here on Earth as well as our contributions to the world—whatever that may be.

I will be lying if I told you that I don’t wonder whether my last days are approaching sooner than I hope.  Like any person, I could never view myself as a person who would die, putting myself in situations that make absolutely no fucking sense because I somehow knew that I have been destined to make it out in piece. I would even go so far as to believe that if I were to die, I would do so by my own hands (these thoughts would come at the height of my depression, which I haven’t felt these days).

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But I will thirty-five this year and, though I don’t fear death for the most part, I also understand that I (or someone I know) can die at any moment.  With this in mind, I ask myself this question:  if I am to leave this world today, what type of life do I wish to leave behind?  Or what type of woman do I wish to become while I’m living and breathing?  What will be my legacy in the here and now and what can I do to make the best of the life I have now?

I’m not referring to being remembered in terms of fame and fortune (though that would be awesome).  But what can I do to make a life so epic in my own eyes that on my deathbed I can look back, smile, and think “Now that was dope ass shit right there.”

To tell you the truth, Reader, I’m halfway there:  I have published my own political sci-fi novel, The One Taken from the Sea of Stars, host a radio show called The Bonfire Talks every Wednesday at 3:00 p.m. on WAYO 104.3 FM, write two blogs, and I’m now starting to see the fruits of my labor as far as getting my name out there. These are causes I could not even see myself making due to my lack of confidence. However, I know I’m not done yet and have so much to do as far as my personal and spiritual work.  This is one of the reasons why I’m seeing a therapist and stepping up my Nichiren Buddhist practice.

Since I’ve begun doing The Work, I am able to look at why I am the way I am thus far.  Why I have been struggling with mental illness for as long as I have.  There have been various reasons, but for as long as I can remember, I have either shied away from my true power or have hidden it away so that others could bask in the glow of theirs. I’ve wasted time and energy trying to save others, doing for others while running on empty mentally, emotionally, and spiritually.  I’ve given people my body and allowed them to chip away parts of my spirit.

And there have been times that I have harmed someone in order to get the validation that I am enough.  In other words, I have depleted uber amounts of time—most of the time unnecessarily.

So when I read about the deaths of both Chyna and Prince, I not only think about their contributions to this world, but the energy and time they’ve spent being themselves.  Which is something I’ve always wanted to do just so I can experience life beyond trauma and mental illness. Therefore, I’m making a personal pact with myself:  from this day forward, I will work to step into the glow of my own power and do everything I can to create and live the quality of life I envision for myself.  I will no longer hide my talents but mold and shape them for the sake of being better.

Regardless of my spiritual beliefs, I will make certain that this life is not a wasted one.  I know in my spirit that I am not meant to live a life full of regrets or mourning over my past or erroneous decisions.  I am meant to be happy and to experience the life I imagine myself having.

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