I always chuckle with I see this photo of me and Nelson Mandela. The photo was taken as a souvenir for tourists when they get off the cable car at Table Mountain in Cape Town, South Africa. The photo is fake but my deep admiration for Mandela is real. The passing of this great leader pushed me to visit my photo album of my 2001 South Africa visit and the memories always come rushing back–the visit to Mandela’s cell at Robbin Island, the warmth of the South African people, talking with children on the schoolyard, the political discussions in the coffee houses, the hustle of Johannesburg, the dance of the Zula warriors…I reflected on all the work I was a part of during the anti-apartheid movement and felt like a citizen in this new country. I had done my small part of bring the racist regime down but as my eyes confirmed, the dreams of the black masses remain unfulfilled. Amandla awetu! The power shall be ours!
On December 4, 1969 Fred Hampton and Mark Clark were assassinated by Chicago cops while they slept. The murders were part of the FBI’s COINTELPRO. Fred was deputy chairman of the Illinois chapter of the Black Panther Party and a rising charismatic leader. He was only 21; Mark was 22. There are potential Freds and Marks walking our streets today that need to know their history and who their enemy is. The spirit of the Black Panther lives on!
The Congress is currently discussing legislation to the rampant and pervasive culture of sexual assault in the military. The Pentagon’s recent report on rape indicated 26,000 people were assaulted in 2012, up front the 19,000 from the previous year. This means that even with all the bright lights on the issue, the military has been incapable of addressing the situation as it has been for years.
Two female senators have introduced legislation that have bi-partisan support. MO Sen. Claire McCaskill presented a bill that includes removing the authority from commanders to overturn a conviction at court martial and making it a crime to retaliate against a victim who reports a sexual assault. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand’s bill goes much farther in an extremely important way if there’s going to be true relief for victims. Her bill takes the issue out of the hands of the victims’ commanding officers and puts it in the hands of “independent military” prosecutors. If there’s never a prosecution of perpetrators, you can’t even get to the court martial or retaliation phase.
I liken the current military reporting system to reporting police abuse to Internal Affairs (police). How’s that working for citizens?
In St. Louis, let’s remember our own LaVena Johnson who was sexually assaulted and murdered in the Army. Given the numbers, there’s a victim in most of our communities. Call Sen. McCaskill to tell her the bill needs to farther and to support Gillibrand’s bill. http://www.mccaskill.senate.gov/?p=office_locations