Shortly after it was announced, I was talking about the Sean Bell murder trial verdict Friday with a co-worker. She’s a young lawyer, whose family fled political unrest in Afghanistan when she was a child. Every day she works on cases related to the detention of Iraqi nationals at Guantanamo, so she knows a little bit about injustice. She was shocked by the acquittal of the three New York City Police officers. I wasn’t.
I’m 48 years old and I’ve been a black man living in America my whole life. I’ve seen this all too many times before. As I told her, the judicial system always gives police a free pass in wrongful death lawsuits. Always. It always gives them a free pass when the victim is black. Always.
Judges, district attorneys and police are all part of the same criminal justice system that is aligned to put so-called criminals behind bars, but rarely each other. After all, when the case is over, they still have to work together.
Remembering that in 2000 a jury in upstate Albany acquitted four police officers of the murder of an unarmed Amadou Diallo—after shooting him 41 times—I had mixed feelings when this case was to be tried in front of a judge and not a jury. Part of me said a judge might actually view the evidence objectively, understand the law and do the right thing.
Playing Saturday morning quarterback, the three defendants, Detectives Gescard F. Isnora, Michael Oliver and Marc Cooper probably should have been tried separately. They had varying degrees of culpability. Of the 50 shots fired by all three, Oliver shot 31 times, including a reload.
Despite whatever threats they thought they faced, the facts are clear. There was no gun in the Bell car and no shots fired by anyone in that car. Any threatening action with the movement of that car was predicated on the fact that Bell and his companions had no idea who the three men were who approached their car. Finally, through all the gunfire, at no time did the officers attempt to determine what the real dangers were. I reiterate, Detective Oliver even stopped to reload.
This morning my feelings are best described as a controlled rage. White people wonder why we have no faith in the criminal justice system. It is because it so seldom protects our interests. We are victimized by crime then victimized again by the system.
I wonder if the sitting junior Senator from New York will have the intestinal fortitude to comment on the outcome of this case?
It has been awhile since I have written anything of any substance. I can’t promise you this one will be any great shakes either, but at least it won’t be a meme or some cut and paste photo or video. Not that you care but it really is hard coming up with regular blog content when you’re brain dead at the end of a work day and the weather is starting to get nice outside again. Maybe that’s grist for a future blog.
In any event, living in New York has certain advantages not the least of which is the abundance of cultural offerings constantly available. I know I need to get out more and see something interesting, so I thought I’d pass along some of the arts events that have caught my eye.
Regrettably, I missed this one and if you are just hearing about it now, you will have as well. But the distinguished South African actors John Kani and Winston Ntshona recreated roles they first performed more than 30 years ago in a revival of Athol Fugard’s Sizwi Banzi is Dead which was in limited engagement at the Brooklyn Academy of Music. A tale of South Africa’s apartheid system and the hardships Black residents faced, Kani and Ntshona were once jailed for performing the play in their homeland but later won Tony Awards when it was first presented in New York. With their closing performance on April 19, it will be the last time they do the play together.
Television actor Boris Kodjoe (Soul Food) stepped into the role of Brick this past week in the Broadway revival of Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, taking over for Terrence Howard through May 4. Howard left to fulfill a contractual obligation on a movie role. He’ll return May 6 and finish the show’s expected run through June 22. The play is receiving quite favorable notices and Kodjoe is delighted to have the opportunity.
On April 30, Laurence Fishburne stars in a one-man-show about the life of the late Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall, in a limited engagement at the Booth Theatre. Fishburne, who has a Tony for his work in August Wilson’s “Two Trains Running” sees the part as a great challenge, in this interview he did with Theatermania.com.
The Broadway musical Passing Strange (which I have yet to see) recorded its cast album last week. Normally that’s an all day affair in a recording studio, but a show that tells “the coming-of-age story of a middle-class youth seeking to find ‘the real’ by embarking on a journey of escape and exploration,” couldn’t do things in the conventional manner. Instead they performed the songs from the show live in front of an audience at the Belasco Theatre. Playbill.com has pictures.
Warmer weather means festivals and there are several on the horizon.
The Tribeca Film Festival gets underway next Wednesday, April 23 and runs until May 4. Fifty-three world premieres will be screened at seven different venues. It’s usually a tough ticket to snag but they are on sale online.
The Joyce Theater—a wonderful place to watch a dance performance—holds its 123 Festival April 29-May 11. It will showcase some of the finest new dancers and most exciting dance companies in the country. Among the companies is Ailey II, the “junior” unit of the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater.
Finally, here’s an early heads up for two June festivals. The Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival in Becket, Massachusetts (for those of us who like leaving NYC in the summer) opens June 18 for a ten week run. One of my favorite companies, Garth Fagan Dance, performs during the opening week. The JVC Jazz Festival takes over New York during the last two weeks of June, with performances by some of jazz’s biggest names in the city’s concert halls, nightclubs and outdoor performance spaces.
Want to know a secret? I “predict” the present, not the future. In other words, I discern unconscious patterns and invisible influences that are affecting you *now.* I also try to inspire you to read your *own* mind so as to uncover feelings that you’ve been hiding from yourself. So I can’t necessarily tell you what specific events will transpire in the coming days. But I do suspect the following things are true, although you may not be aware of them yet: You are in the midst of redefining what home means to you. You’ve been neglecting a deep need that’s a bit embarrassing to you. And there’s a place in your foundation that’s in disrepair and requires your immediate attention.