Tony Brown, Judge Mablean push NAACP to keep fighting

Judge Mablean Ephriam

By Candace Siemen, Jozef Media

Tony Brown,  a journalist and host of “Eyes Open With Tony Brown” came clean in his opening keynote address delivered Thursday, Sept.  24 at annual state conference of the  Louisiana NAACP.

“The State of Louisiana is simple,” Brown told the group during the opening luncheon, “We are at the bottom of the list when it comes to the good stuff and the top of the list when it comes to the bad.

He offered a laundry list of problematic situations and injustices that the citizens in the state have faced. He began with education.

“In the nearly 10 years our children have had (the exit exam) mandate forced on them, more than half a million of our children have failed to pass the grade…what adds to this problem is a large number of them both Black and White simply get discouraged and drop out. This is part of the reason why we should hold our head in shame…Louisiana, we have a problem.”

He explained how the penal system pulls statistics on male students’ school performance to determine where to build prisons: “From the school house to the jail house…the cradle to prison pipeline is alive and well in Louisiana” he said. “That’s just wrong and enough is enough.”

Brown also shared the stories of Black murder victims who had been killed at the hands of young, white police officers in Central and North Louisiana. They are Baron “Scooter” Pikes, 21, Richard Goss, 36, Bernard Monroe Sr., 73, and Harold Phillips, 54.

“What is just as shocking is that all of these homicides took place in less than a year and a half,” he said. “So when you ask me ‘what is the state of Louisiana?’ I say, ‘(Louisiana) in a sad state.’ Four unarmed Black men, all of them died violently at the hands of those we pay to protect and serve. So far, there has been not one convention and no one has even been to court.”

Brown also shared incidents of “Black Exceptionalism” where situations surround blacks not the rule, but the exception. He used the recent experiences of Harvard Professor Louis Gates following his at-home arrest, Pineville Junior High students wearing President Obama jackets, the and the firing of two black truckers in Tallulah to drive home the point that racism is active in the state. He ended each tale with “that is just wrong. I say enough is enough.”

Brown’s Alexandria-based radio show “Eyes open with Tony Brown” on 88.1FM often serves as an open forum for such community issues and concerns that are particularly not included in mainstream media.

During the three-day conference, other speakers including Judge Mablean Ephriam, former Sen. Donald Cravins Jr., and SBA Region VI Administrator Yolanda Olivarez echoed Brown’s sentiment that Louisiana citizens can continue to press the judicial system, business, industry and education leaders to do the right thing.

“We have to stand up for what’s right and not fear anyone,” said Ephraim during the Freedom Fund Dinner that was held Friday, Sept. 25. “Our generation, the Baby Boomers, are keepers of the dream. The torch has been passed to us…It’s up to us to make sure the legacy continues.”

Ephriam is best known for her television show, “Divorce Court” with Judge Mablean, but she is a retired judge in California who could still take a case to the Supreme Court, “if I need to.”

“We can’t be afraid. We need people of courage to eradicate drugs in our neighborhood. The lawful outnumber the lawless!” she said.

In agreement with Brown’s message about the local murders, the judge offered, “We have to make sure justice is fair. The disparity in sentencing has to discontinue. These are battles we continue to fight.”

Because of the disparities in health care, she urged the audience of 500 to lend their “voices, time, talent and energy to President Obama’s health care reform.”

The state NAACP conference celebrated the 100th year anniversary of the NAACP and its centennial theme: “Bold Dreams – Big Victories.” To that Ephriam said, “we had a hope and faith that said ‘I can do that.’ We did not give up; we pushed for a better world.”

She closed her speech quoting poet Robert Frost: “We’ve got miles to go before we sleep.”

Obama can’t get no respect

Leonard Ford

Comedian Roger Dangerfield’s favorite phrase is – “I can’t get no respect.”

If you take that phrase and change the word “I” to Obama, it would perfectly describe the way that President Barack Obama is being treated by some people in this country. “He don’t get no respect” is exactly what is happening, and has been happening to him since January 20, 2009, when he was sworn in as U.S. President.

What I discovered was a lack of respect for President Obama when I visited the post office in the U. S. Federal Building on Murray Street in downtown Alexandria. I saw the disrespect in the form of an 8 by 10 framed picture of our 44th U.S. president. As I walked away from the service counter of the post office, I remember that I had to ask the clerk a question. When I turned around to go back to the counter, my eyes looked up high to the back wall and caught a glimpse of this very small picture of President Obama. If I hadn’t turned around, I wouldn’t have seen it. I had to stretch my neck to see Obama’s facial features.

I was astounded as to why a very large portrait of him was not hanging up high on the wall where every other U.S. president before him had hung. You didn’t have to look for President Bush’s portrait when he was in office because it was so large that you couldn’t help but see it. Right next to Bush’s portrait was the same size portrait of Vice President Dick Cheney. Both hung in the same spot on the same wall where Obama’s picture is now hanging. If you want to talk about getting no respect, having a large portrait of a vice president who answers to the president compared to having an 8 by 10 framed photo of the president who is the vice president’s boss is taking getting no respect to the lowest point that it can go.

Those of you who visited the Murray Street post office before Obama was elected know exactly what I’m talking about. But to find President Obama’s picture, you will need to bring a pair of binoculars. If you don’t have a pair, I suggest your bring a magnifying glass and a tall stepladder so that you can climb up it to see that it is him. Of course, I’m exaggerating, but you get my point. Go see for yourself when you have time.

And for those of you “anti-Obama-get-no-respect haters” (there are definitely hundreds of thousands out there) who might/will say that I’m bringing this up because President Obama is black, you couldn’t be more wrong. I’m bringing it up because a picture so small, of the man, who holds the highest, most powerful office in the United States and in the world, does disservice and shows disrespect to the Office of the President of the United States of America. It’s an issue of respect for whoever holds the office of president, and race has nothing to do with it.

Please go check out President Obama’s picture, and if it bothers you as it did me, please contact a representative of the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA), and make it known that you are dissatisfied with the small picture of President Obama that is currently on display in our Federal Building here in Alexandria, LA. Please ask that a large portrait of him be immediately hung up and displayed.

For now, I guess having that small picture of President Obama hanging on the wall is better than not having one at all.

(Black) Sisters on a Mission to save lives, The Light, Oct. 1-14, 2009

The Light, Oct. 1-14, 2009 coverRead The Light here: Pages 1-6, Pages 7-12