Article: Hundreds gather to mourn fallen officers
Today I attended the public memorial for the 2 murdered Dekalb County GA police officers - Ricky Bryant and Eric Barker.
My reason for going was to pay my respects to the 8 children in total that they left behind. To pay my respects to the 2 Black widows that are left behind. To pay my respects for the 2 Black resident fathers that were snatched out of their homes. To pay my respects to 2 men who's jobs were to keep a whole community of other Black people safe from the 'bad guys' who meant them all harm as they terrorized the one housing complex in question. To pay my respects for two more Black men killed by the violence and mayhem on our streets.
Yes I realize that these two men were police officers and US Military men before that. But I connected with them as a Black father who also has to do what I have to do to protect and provide for my family. In their cases they both were working side jobs as security officers for a problem plagued housing complex in the heart of Dekalb County. They both were wearing their standard issue police uniforms when they were savagely gunned down in cold blood by fools with automatic weapons. They never had a chance to defend themselves in this ambush. They were responding to a call from a resident about a suspicious character in the complex who was threatening others. In having to go into a situation where others are able to run from - they paid with their lives.
This blog entry, however, is about what I witnessed during this public memorial. The ceremony was held at the New Birth Missionary Baptist Church in Lithonia GA, home of Bishop Eddie Long. This is a large, Black "mega church" and the facility was bought and paid for by Black people in the community. It was a cavernous and modern facility with all of the latest audio/visual equipment. This is what the community had built.
Outside of this building was an army of Dekalb police department cadets who were on traffic duty. By the time I parked my car and walked in to the service - they were all huddled in front, ready to walk into the service. This cadet class was nearly all Black as well. Seems fitting that this majority Black county is now bringing in a brigade of new recruits that look like the complexion of the county.
Upon taking my seat in the service - as I peered across the room I saw a solid pack of uniformed officers from all of the various departments in the metro area in attendance to pay their respects to one of their fallen brothers. Once again African-Americans where heavily represented among their ranks - especially among the core metro Atlanta departments.
Me and police officers have a "love/hate" relationship. I am usually proud of them and the job that they do. I don't like to see them in my rear view mirror, however. This is not because I have ever been a "Driving While Black" victim as I have been treated with respect in every engagement that I have had with them. This is because I was a "Driving while speeding" victim of their enforcement. I don't take too kindly to people who can pull me over and draw money out of my wallet in fines. On this day there were too many of them present for the comfort of anyone with a police-phobia.
As the program started there was a steady stream of African-American ministers, police chaplains and gospel singers paying tribute to these fallen officers. The service was indeed imprinted with the mark of a Black baptist church service - through song and through preaching style. This was the Black community putting on a tribute show on behalf of the two fallen Black officers for all the others to see.
The bottom line of all of this that I saw is to make note of the power and pervasiveness of the "Black Community" in all elements of the community today. Just as the old style Sesame Street snippet talked about "Who Are The People In Your Neighborhood" as they went through the firemen, policemen, mailman, mayor, etc - in this present time in this particular community - the African American is represented comprehensively in this list.
I direct this fact at those of my people who want to pretend it is still 1908 instead of 2008 in America. Oh yes some of these same people show hopeful pride that indeed a Black man may be elected president or might come inches close to doing so. This is great on the front end to have such aspirations. My challenge to them is with regard to the BACKEND. With all of this attainment of power, representation and control indeed must come RESPONSIBILITY. Who at the end of the day is responsible for the conditions upon the streets of Dekalb county but the residents and the elected representatives that they promote to govern their interests?
It was telling that hours later on my ride home from work there was a radio interview with a gentleman who will announce his candidacy for Dekalb County CEO on tomorrow. In his travels around the county as he listened to the people he hopes to represent it was CRIME that was the number one issue on the minds of the people with - Educational Quality, Code Enforcement and Taxes following closely behind. I am indeed proud that "my people" are running several local governments in the metro Atlanta area. For me as a conscious Black person, however, I don't allow the sight of Black folks in office deter me from my ultimate viewpoint that the goal of the community is to have certain OBJECTIVES to be reached. It is these "Blacks in office" that serve as subordinate function to the goal to have these objectives attained. Too many of us get it wrong in this area. Functionally they seek to expand the Black political power base with the satisfaction that "We run things now!!". This perspective says nothing about the crime on your streets, the quality of you education and the value you get from taxes paid. With this as a goal all you can be sure of is that you'll likely have 'people who look like you' coming to you and explaining how the NEXT GUY HIGHER UP is to blame for 'shortchanging US' and you being more inclined to believe him than to HOLD HIM ACCOUNTABLE.
This is not a game of "Permanent Friends". Dekalb County along with Clayton, the City of Atlanta and Fulton have major problems that need to be addressed. Yes the other counties around Gwinnett, Cobb, Douglas and Henry have their own set of challenges to deal with as crime spreads throughout the metro area but it is these 4 political entities that are most challenged in having to deal with balancing their interest as they shape the environments of the many Black majority communities that are contained within them.
At the end of the day - REPRESENTATION from 'people who look like us' simply can't be used as an excuse any longer. It is time for the Black Community to manage the people who we promote to represent us and our interests so that effective results can be had. This will hopefully lead to less young Black men being lead to an early grave in our midst.