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Looking Back: AllEyesOnDC Does It for the Watoto

The June 16th edition of the AllEyesOnDC Show, filmed live in Sankofa Video Books and Café, proved to be one of a kind, specifically because those featured that evening became the youngest AllEyesOnDC guests in all the grassroots media platform’s existence. This installment of AllEyesOnDC, themed “For the Watoto,” aired on Facebook Live on the International Day of the African Child, the African Union’s annual commemoration of the 1976 Soweto Uprising.

The 1976 Soweto Uprising, for those who don’t know, popped off on the morning of June 16 that year when thousands of indigenous South African youth, fed up with the European-dominated education system’s marginalization of their native tongue, skipped school and led a series of street protests. South African police officers responded to these outcries with brutal violence, killing more than 700 young protesters and jailing many more. The 1976 Soweto Uprising, which inspired several other youth-led anti-apartheid campaigns, has since been depicted on the big screen and stage.

More than 50 years later, a new generation of Black youth in the D.C. metropolitan area has taken the mantle in the fight against global white supremacy and all that manifests from it. Four of these young people graced the AllEyesOnDC stage on June 16th, sharing their stories and showcasing how they use the arts to feed their minds and enlighten the masses.

These young people – youth motivational speaker and activist Elijah Coles-Brown and three young ladies from the Mass Emphasis Children’s History & Theatre Company – kept the audience laughing, awing, and thinking hard about the future holds for Black liberation. Elijah, the first guest, spoke about his activism and causes he’s furthering through his speaking tours throughout the country. Later, he returned as caricature of Frederick Douglass, decked out in a three-piece suit and gray hair, to recite one of the abolitionist’s 1865 speeches.

That evening, the three young ladies of the Mass Emphasis Children’s History & Theatre Company spoke about their roles in “The Sisters Who Fought with Their Pens,” an on-stage tribute to Phyllis Wheatley, Ida B. Wells, and other Black women who used the written word to advance the cause of Black liberation. The trio, scheduled to appear in a play about Kwame Ture and Colin Powell in July, also spoke about how the arts have raised their consciousness and prepared them for a world in which Black children aren’t protected. That evening, the young ladies also sang, recited lines from “The Sisters Who Fought with Their Pens” and even said the names of the 54 African countries, in alphabetical order.

This video captures the entirety of the June 16th AllEyesOnDC Show at Sankofa Video Books & Café. Check it out and mark your calendars for the July 21st edition where we’ll discuss African spiritual systems.

Man Cave at Emery Heights Set to Kick Off during Father’s Day Weekend

PHOTO: Craig Hughes, DPR recreation specialist at Emery Heights Recreation Center (light blue shirt in the center), poses with members of the Man Cave planning committee after one of their meetings./ Photo courtesy of Krystal Branton 

On the weekend of Father’s Day, a gathering space will affirm its reputation as a prominent community fixture by morphing into a “Man Cave,” created specifically for boys and men in the neighborhood seeking fun and genuine intergenerational connections.

For Maureen Brown, mother of six sons and longtime resident of Brightwood community in Northwest, the timing of the Man Cave event at Emery Heights Community Center couldn’t have been better. Brown, whose children have played team sports there, said the young men in her neighborhood, now more than ever, need a safe place where they can meet older, positive male figures.

“I feel like a lot of the guys in their 20s don’t frequent Emery. The Man Cave event could give them a good perspective of what it’s about,” Brown told AllEyesOnDC, adding that older men, too could build relationships with their sons this during the event this upcoming Saturday. “I hope things like this could get the fathers involved. A lot of dads are absent because of neglect, incarceration, or just being killed on the street. It’s much different now.” Brown said.

Two out of five young men in the Brightwood and Manor Park communities live without their father in the home, according to data collected by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, based in Baltimore. While the lack of a male presence in the home has led to catastrophic outcomes in some cases, many young people have found mentors and father figures in the coaches at Emery who often impart life lessons on the field or court.

The Man Cave event builds upon the range of the offerings available to young visitors of Emery Heights, including a football and baseball program. When community members enter Emery Heights on Saturday morning, they will get to indulge in a variety of foods, courtesy of neighborhood restaurants, watch step shows and drill demonstrations, play in sports tournaments, and hear short remarks from male community leaders. WHUR 96.3’s Tony Richards will give a keynote address. The June 17th event will kick off a series of follow-up gatherings and workshops, each one focused on an aspect of the adolescent male experience.

“This is an opportunity for fathers and sons to come together and give the fathers a place in the family. I want whatever male figures in those young people lives to be recognized,” Craig Hughes, a recreation specialist at the D.C. Department of Parks and Recreation of 30 years and a lead coordinator of Man Cave at Emery Heights, told AllEyesOnDC. Hughes, juggling responsibilities as a baseball coach, with other coaches, community leaders, and men of various ages, held weekly planning meetings since the beginning of the year.

“The sports program [at Emery] has been phenomenal but sports are only one piece,” Hughes added. “We’re talking about mentoring and tutoring our youth. What kind of impact are we collectively making in our young men’s lives? Let’s help them navigate through life and see what’s coming as they get older.”

In addition to the D.C. Department of Parks & Recreation, community partners include Nation of Islam Mosque #4, Metropolitan Police Department, D.C. Commission of Fathers, Men, and Boys, Ward 4 D.C. Council member Brandon Todd’s office, and ANC Commissioner Krystal Branton (Single Member District 4D05), the mind behind Man Cave. At the beginning of the year, Branton reached out to Emery Heights about housing the Man Cave program.

“Each year, we have Father’s Day, but it’s not as celebrated or popular. This would be a great time to have Man Cave. Men gather and have their spaces in the basement or shed. It’s relatable and men take pride in it,” Branton told AllEyesOnDC. Branton announced her plans for Man Cave during the ANC 4D’s last monthly meeting of 2016 amid spirited discussion about youth overlooked in the pockets of development taking place across Ward 4.

“Their space is to be open and honest like a barbershop. It’s symbolic and gives us a chance to gather those who don’t have anyone to spend Father’s Day with. It’s a way to start a great community tradition. We don’t have anything like this in Ward 4 that I know of and the reception from the community is enormous. Folks are willing to donate their time and resources and that’s greatly needed,” Branton added.

Examining African Liberation Today

More than 50 years after the formation of the Organization of African States, known today as the African Union, two important questions about the state of the project that’s African Liberation remained to be answered: 1.) What is African Liberation? and 2.) How far along are we as African people in realizing this goal?

During the May installment of the AllEyesOnDC news and artist showcase at Sankofa Video Books & Café, We set out to answer these questions.

In essence, defining African Liberation and making an honest assessment of our situation globally should be a perpetual process, especially for a group of people living in a world that propagandizes anti-Blackness in all forms of the mainstream media. Our failure to define and measure African Liberation so that it benefits us, and solely us, will ensure that outside actors, European and traitorous African alike will never be able to consolidate power and work against the interests of working class Africans across the world.

For a new generation of freedom fighters, that means including women and children in the equation. Our pivot away from a male-centered examination of our Homeland and other communities populated by people of African descent allows us to create solutions that are more wholistic and reflective of Maatic, matriarchal values imparted upon us before the European touched the African continent.

In comes in Mama Hasinatu Camara, elder freedom fighter and confidant of Kwame Ture, and Yejide Orunmila, president of African National Women’s Organization, an entity formed to address the oppression that African women face globally as a result of colonialism. Both women defined African Liberation and assessed our current situation globally. You can definitely watch the video for yourself, but in short understand that African Liberation, according to these women, mean fully and wholistically embracing a way of life in which sexism and capitalism no longer exists.

The Rhythm People Coalition Takes over Dallas

Not even torrential downpour in the Dallas/Ft. Worth metro area could snuff out the drumbeat that connects people of African descent across the globe. Nor could it deter a small, but powerful, group of artists and activists from fulfilling their vision of enlightening others about the power of said drumbeat in uniting the African Diaspora.

Last weekend, a bevy of melanated people from across the United States and around the world converged on the grounds of a large ranch, located just south of Dallas, for a weekend of dance, song, and discussion during the fifth annual DFW Africa Festival. This African-centered event served as the first stop on the NOMAD Tour, an effort to promote and preserve art, tribe, trade and culture of people of African descent.

“This tour goes around the Diaspora to promote that rhythm spirt and remind us of our ancient ancestors and what they left on their nomadic journey around the world,” Kim Poole, leader of the Rhythm People Coalition, the group that hosted the NOMAD tour, told an audience shortly before a panel discussion about education and wealth-building in Black community Saturday evening. “We must be aligned with who we are and with our destiny,” Poole, a globally renowned singer from Baltimore, said to the multigenerational audience of artists, educators, and entrepreneurs.

The panel discussion, themed “What It Means to be Black” counted among several activities that took place at the Cedar Canyon Dude Ranch in Lancaster, Texas on June 3rd and 4th. From University Hills Boulevard, passersby could see a multitude of flags, including those representing Kenya, Nigeria, Jamaica, and Pan-African unity, flailing in the wind along the outskirts of the property.

What took place at the festival however, proved nothing short of mystical.

After parking, picking up a NOMAD Tour packet, and walking into the ranch’s pavilion, guests had a number of vendors and food choices through which they could peruse. On the main stage, Sista Bey, a member of the Dallas area’s Pan-African community, kept an upbeat vibe going through much of the day, acknowledging audience members who travelled far and near and encouraging guests to buy Black and follow in the footsteps of those who are homeschooling their children. Later, Bey poured libations and called the ancestors into the space. Underneath Bey were Kente clothes of various colors and patterns along with bamboo trees.

Other activities on Saturday evening included self-defense workshops and a gun demonstration, during which experienced brothers dissembled an AR-15 and touted gun ownerships and safety to onlookers. Children safely frolicked around the space in their multi-colored dashikis and people of the Diaspora, including Queen Diambi of the Luba tribe in the Congo, relished in the moment, forging new connections.

“I go around trying to meet people of African descent wherever they are. This is the calling of the ancestors to connect with another experience. We have to reconcile our experiences and put them together,” Diambi told AllEyesOnDC during an interview in the ranch’s pavilion. That weekend, Diambi, crowned by her village elders in 2011, met with other African-centered groups and people as part of her mission.

“We need Africans in the West to be well versed in the culture and resources. We also need you to help us realize the value of what we have. They don’t know the riches. You can be a wonderful mirror to recognize the wealth we have in your traditional systems to elevate our consciousness,” Queen Diambi added.

Other stops on the NOMAD Tour include Paris, Portland, Jamaica, and Los Angeles, all of which will most likely include participation from those who came into contact with the Rhythm People’s Coalition in Dallas.

“I felt very good about the festival,” George Omoth, key organizer of the DFWAfrica Festival, and affiliate of the Rhythm People Coalition, told AllEyesOnDC. “It was a very big improvement and the theme of the festival is important. My goal is to share the African cultural tradition in the Diaspora,” said Omoth, a Dallas resident of more than a decade and Kenyan immigrant who has lived in the United States for 35 years.

AllEyesOnDC: The “No Culture without Agriculture” Edition

No saying speaks more to Black people’s need to get back our indigenous ways than “There’s no culture without agriculture.” In the spirit of Earth Day, AllEyesOnDC wanted to focus on Our lost connection to the Earth and usher a call for getting back to our roots.

At Sankofa Video Books & Café on the night of April 21st, people in attendance, including this host, saw parallels between agriculture, genealogy, health and fitness, metaphysics, economics, and politics during a two-hour program that included interviews with Sherice, Sr., master urban farmer and leader of the Hippee Chic urban gardening/sustainability movement and Xavier Brown of Soilful City.

Baba Tarik Oduno, a fixture in the D.C. community and pioneer of “There’s no culture without agriculture,” broke down the meaning of that saying, reminding audience members that we must always honor our mothers and fathers and understand our history. After all, Baba Oduno said, “genius is in our genealogy.” Note that this segment was less of an interview, and more of a lecture, all to the audience’s benefit.

Wrapping up the evening was a demonstration by Christina Cook, a Teaching Artist Institute fellow, of how rhythm could boost communication for people on the spectrum (autism, ADHD, etc.). During this segment, five audience members, including Baba Oduno, beat on drums and learned how to create the perfect combination of rhythms – all without speaking a word to one another.

Check out this video and get a great look at what community and self-determination, as it relates to food production, looks like in the District of Columbia.

Guests, Viewers Received the Keys to Nation Building on Inauguration Night

While most of the world focused much of their attention on President Donald J. Trump last Friday, dozens of folks at Sankofa Video Books & Café learned about U.S. media manipulation, examined Our current situation in a global context and committed to involvement in local politics during AllEyesOnDC’s first community news gathering of 2017.

Below is the video footage.

Part 1
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Part 2 
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Guests on the program (in order of appearance):

*Netfa Freeman* of Pan-African Community Action

*Krystal Branton*, ANC Commissioner, 4D05

*Obi Egbuna*, Pan-African journalist, playwright and educator

*Naeemah Powell*, musical guest

We developed the Jan. 20th event, themed “Building a Black Nation in the U.S.” understanding that, at the most basic level, non-melanated people, and their melanated accomplices, oppress working class Black people politically, economically, and socially. Without resources and desperate to survive, many of Us turn against each other while embracing the very entity that created the conditions under which we suffer.

Long before Trump’s ascent to the presidency, many of our People in the inner city and rural parts of the U.S. experienced these troubles, even with a growing Black middle and billionaire class, increased educational attainment, and greater circulation of dollars in this capitalistic society. Many of us who succeeded in mainstream society abandoned a race consciousness characteristic of the 1970s and 1980s. In short, We used the victories of the past to “integrate rather than penetrate” as our guest Baba Obi Egbuna, Pan-African journalist, playwright, and educator, said on Friday night.

This remains the case when many of our Black women, perhaps disillusioned about Black men’s lack of engagement in issues related to them in recent years, join the White woman’s cause against Trump despite century-long evidence that discourages such a relationship. By keeping our eyes on the real goal of Nation building, we don’t fall victim to such distractions. Please watch these two segments when you lots of time to kill to see Our point.

Looking Beyond the Election: Five Ways Black People Could Build After Nov. 8th

Courtesy photo

Regardless of who’s (s)elected to assume the American presidency on Nov. 8th, Black people in the United States are still a people without much to call their own. That’s why as a group, our status in this country will never be ours to determine, no matter the number of votes we give a particular candidate.

Throughout much of the Election season, I, along with others, have been vilified by Black liberals and conservatives alike for not falling in line with the rest of the sheepish electorate in choosing Secy. Hillary Rodham Clinton. Those who rallied behind the powerful lawmaker and veteran stateswoman in recent months say they see her as the only thing standing between world stability and the confusion of a Donald Trump presidency.

Trump, business magnate turned reality television star turned demagogue, has caused a ruckus since hijacking the Republican nomination process and rising to the top of the national ticket via his deep pockets and vitriolic hate speech that commanded the attention of the American media. So much so that much of the Democratic establishment and its wealthy compatriots want those of us to rally behind Clinton, who to this day hasn’t atoned for her part in the U.S.-inflicted humanitarian crises worldwide nor offered any concrete policy solutions to the issues affecting Black people i.e. police brutality, food inequality, lack of economic opportunity, and the like.

Even worse, the Black people who criticize our motives in looking beyond the Democratic/Republican dichotomy assume that we don’t have any long haul game; as if many of us didn’t come to this conclusion after living through a Bush 43 and Obama presidency chocked full of disappointments.

This post, while not necessarily for the naysayers, lays out a course of action that I believe must be taken at the grassroots level if Black people are to eventually build the political, economic, and social autonomy that will prevent us from getting repeatedly used by the Democratic Party like a side piece in the middle of the night.

  1. Economic Withdrawal – In the aftermath of the Alton Sterling murder this summer, legions of Black people opened accounts in Black-owned banks, sparking a movement, even if the hype didn’t last long. With the Holiday Season coming up, we as a Nation have more than enough opportunity to withdraw our dollars from the very corporations and entities that support our demise. It’s time that we carry out a long-term boycott of these businesses and give those dollars to Black-owned vendors and business owners, more than likely a group of people whose success will equally benefit us. While it’s uncertain that you’ll find Black-owned businesses that fulfill your every need, now’s the time to check your local and statewide inventory of Black-owned goods so you, if not someone else in your community, can fill in those gaps immediately.
  1. Purchase of Land & Acquisition of Resources – As many of my brothers and sisters in the D.C. metro area very well know, land is king around these parts. Gentrification has pushed many of our brothers and sisters out into the quiet suburbs of the region while the well-to-do and their partners take over what we once owned. As property values rise, those of us who still live in the city struggle to keep a roof over our heads.That’s why land ownership stands as one of the most important, if not the most important, of these tasks. There’s not much we can do in our community if we don’t even live there. A house can become a home, community center, business, and much more if the owners have an imagination and a few dollars. It’s time for us to be ingenious and adopt a mode of thinking that will allow us to produce more than we consume.

    For more than a decade, predators have encroached on our land, taking advantage of our lack of knowledge by giving us pennies for property that costs hundreds of thousands. That must stop today. As must be done with everything else, take an inventory of the property you and your family own in the District, if any. If possible, take on the communal principles that made our ancient African civilizations family friendly and shack up with relatives so you can pay off that property quicker. If you’re searching for property to purchase, don’t shy away from what many may consider some of the city’s less-than-desirable areas. Trust and believe that there are corporate, parasitic elements out here on the same hunt.

    For those thinking about purchasing a home for the first time, the D.C. Home Purchase Assistance Program is a great start, even if you don’t find all the answers there. Let’s do all that we can to keep our home.

  1. Formation of Our Own Political Party – Both political parties, especially the Democratic Party, have become beholden to corporate interests, so much so that the party leaders stomp out any inkling of radical change, all to the detriment of the oh-so-loyal Black electorate. 

    Long before the 2016 Election, Democrats haven’t done much work in our best interests. Many of the Chocolate Cities, most of which are ran by Democrats, have succumbed to gentrification. A Justice Department led by a Democratic president failed to bring killer cops to justice. We also can’t forget what happened to youngsters in Baltimore and other major cities in the aftermath of police-orchestrated killings of civilians, all under the watchful eye of Democratic politicians worried about reelection prospects. This has been the case for Democrats since the passage of Voting Rights legislation. Although our political leaders have a title, they’re still told when to sit and when to move by a power greater than themselves.

    A Black-centered political party, while not likely to bring in a presidential nominee to the White House, could be so effective locally. After all, local politics is what we should be interested in controlling, for it’s the machine that directly controls many aspects of our life. This political operation could go well beyond what the Democratic Party has tried to do by uniting Black people around issues that specifically affect us and holding politicians accountable to fixing those problems. Remember, Black people have a different experience in this country that the Democrats and Republicans, mostly because of their slaveholding history, cannot address honestly and holistically. Think about it like this: why is the bill for reparations, introduced by a Black Democrat, still in the introductory stages after more than 25 years?

    With our autonomous political power, funded largely by our voters and business magnates, we can make deals and hold our own independently as other constituencies have done in this country. While staying until the fall of Babylon may not be in the cards for some of us, it’s best that we can control much of our destiny while on this stolen land.

  1. Exploring Community Policing – By now, we know that the police will kill one of ours in front of a large crowd, with a body cam, and anything else that we’ve convinced ourselves we need to see justice in such an unjust system. At this point, all that remains for us to do is to institutionalize some community control of the police. 

    If you study the history of the police in the United States, you’ll understand that they were never here to protect and serve Black people. Indeed, this force was created to protect property. The War on Drugs, disguised as a war on Black people, renewed that call, allowing the state to further break apart our families and destabilize our communities. Many of our young people, a byproduct of these events, run out into the streets like they don’t have any sense. Many of us, scared for our lives, acquiesce our control of our young ones to the police, who in turn take them out like yesterday’s trash.

    As hard as it may be to look in the mirror, we have to admit that we as a global community dropped the ball in controlling our neighborhoods and expecting more of one another. Community policing allows us to do this. At the height of its existence, the Nation of Islam had set up some patrols in Black neighborhoods across the country. Other groups, including D.C’s own Pan-African Community Action, said community policing could help neighbors feel more at home, regardless of the conditions.

    However it looks, it’s time that all members of the community work together in making our environment safe for everyone. In no way does this excuse the actions of a few killer cops. Instead, it’s a call for us to become the change that we want to see just as the Honorable Marcus Mosiah Garvey and other Pan-Africanist leaders have called on us to do.

  1. Forging Connections across the Diaspora – As Africans in the so-called New World, we have perhaps the greatest advantages of the entire Diaspora. Many of us however fail to use the technology here to forge global relationship, mainly because we have fallen victim to American propaganda that designates us as separate from the Motherland

    As we build an infrastructure in the states, it’s equally important that we help our brethren and sistren across the world in any way possible. For Hurricane Matthew’s victims in Haiti, that means shipping supplies. For those affected by civil war in Ethiopia, that might mean giving a few dollars.

    Personally, I know of a few groups going above and beyond to create a movement that will allow African Americans and continental Africans to trade resources and learn from one another. From what I’ve seen, such relationships have worked because both sides are eager to learn from one another. Additionally, both sides understand that their enemy is the enemy of Africa and Africans abroad, regardless of skin color.

    Building outside of a political infrastructure works even more to our advantage in the case, particularly because that world is corrupted on a global scale. In meeting the end goal of self-determination, we must focus on building economic power. From there everything else will come.

This list, while not exhaustive, is a start to what I believe will put us in a truly better position as a unit. As Africans, we have to understand that we won’t be individually free until we are free as a people. That kind of change starts at the bottom, at the local level. Believe it or not, the work has gone on for centuries, all at the hands of those who have since transcended to the Ancestral Realm.

However, the powers that be will try to make us believe that we need them to get to the Promised Land. Don’t believe them! Believe in your own power and in the struggle of those who endured Maafa. Until next time family.

Local Healer Fights to Clear His Name

Winston “Kokayi” Patterson is embroiled in a fight for a justice after a middle-aged white man brandished a gun at him during an altercation near the Walter E. Washington Convention Center last month. / Photo by Sam P.K. Collins

For more than 40 years, Winston “Kokayi” Patterson has treated an untold number of Washingtonians through substance abuse and mental health treatment, and natural healing. However, much of that has had to be put on hold after an altercation near the Walter E. Washington Convention Center in Northwest.

Patterson said a middle-aged white man, angry that he relieved himself in the parking lot behind his storefront, cursed, spat on and brandished a gun at the slender, grey-loc’d elder. Officers later arrested the alleged assailant, Michael James Conway of Central Safe and Lock, charging him with assault with a deadly weapon and having a firearm without a business license. They also detained Patterson on a simple assault charge.

Nearly a month after the incident, only one man has to report before a judge.

“My situation’s no different from any Black man who’s been accosted by a belligerent white man, said Patterson, 64, a lifelong D.C. resident. “The conditions of Black people haven’t changed much.”

After his release from the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) 3rd District precinct in Northwest on the early evening of July 13th, Patterson had to submit a urine sample and adhere to a stay-away order. Earlier this week, nearly 60 people filled Courtroom 220 in D.C. Superior Court during his initial arraignment hearing. The presiding judge scheduled Patterson’s trial for the morning of September 26th.

Efforts to raise awareness about the renowned healer’s case and clear his name have been weeks in the making. On Aug. 2nd, a friends and supporters hosted a fundraiser at Sandovan Restaurant and Lounge in Northwest, an endeavor that garnered several hundred dollars in contributions and featured Al-Malik Farrakhan, executive director of Cease Fire, Don’t Smoke the Brothers, an antiviolence group on which Patterson serves on the board of directors.

Earlier this month, Patterson appeared on the To Heal DC Show with Joni Eisenburgon WPFW 89.3 FM. He also said he met with former D.C. Shadow U.S. Representative Charles Moreland (D), The Rev. Graylan Hagler, and other community leaders. On Wednesday, supporters led a demonstration in front of Central Safe and Lock. On Aug. 17th, major activities are also scheduled to take place. Yuma Bellomee, also known as Dr. Yew, recently did his part in hosting an herb walk in Anacostia Park in the latter part of last month.

“I would like to use this situation to raise awareness of human rights,” Patterson added. “We must fight for the rights of all Black people, against the injustice and repressive behavior presented to us by police officials and people in the community who have a reactionary state of mind.”

PROTEST2
Central Safe and Lock, located on 7th Street NW across the street from the Walter E. Washington Convention Center. / Photo by Sam P.K. Collins

On the day of the incident, Patterson planned to attend the Fellowship Conference, then in its second day, with a longtime friend and patient who was serving as a staffer. By the time Patterson could no longer hold his urine, the duo had parked their vehicle directly in front of Central Safe and Lock, located across the street from the convention center on the corner of 7th and L streets in Northwest.

 

As he walked out of the alley between the parking lot and main street minutes later, Patterson locked eyes with a visibly irate Conway, who was standing behind a raised railing. Soon after, with a bag in hand and a knapsack on his back, Patterson strolled over to the crosswalk. That’s when he said Conway cursed at him. Once Patterson turned around and step toward Conway, the angry storeowner spat on him. In response, Patterson splashed water from a half-full bottle on Conway who then pulled a black automatic pistol out of his right pants pocket. Patterson, attempting to duck for cover behind an SUV, fell into 7th Street.

Patterson’s friend, who asked her name not be used in this story, quickly jumped into action, picking up an injured and disheveled Patterson. As she helped him walk across the street to the convention center, Conway yelled racial epithets at him. While Patterson entered the convention center and used the restroom, she flagged down MPD officers patrolling the area on foot.

For the next hour, six officers, and later two detectives, interrogated, Patterson, his friend, and Conway separately, with pairs of officers taking turns to question each person. Shortly after, they whisked Conway away in the squad car.

By that time, Patterson’s friend had been in the Convention Center engaging in activities related to the three-day event. Officers escorted Patterson, who’d been outside by himself for some time, into the convention center to meet her. After one more round of questioning, they cuffed Patterson and drove him to the 3rd District precinct, where he sat for more than three hours before being released. The next day, court officials set the terms of his release during pre-trial services.

“I didn’t see Dr. Patterson’s arrest coming. MPD misconstrued everything and caused a lot of stress. I would’ve never gotten them,” said Patterson’s friend, a member of Spirit of Faith Christian Center, located in Brandywine and Temple Hills, Maryland. She said Conway’s alleged assault traumatized her, causing her to seek therapy on a couple occasions. She also touched on the hurdles she has yet to overcome in bringing the storeowner to justice.

“I tried to file a complaint against Conway the next day because my life was threatened and they told me I couldn’t. They made it seem like Dr. Patterson was the defendant when he was really the plaintiff. People need to be fair. It’s crazy that the doctor has to suffer like this for no apparent reason,” the D.C. metropolitan area resident added.

Still in shock from what had just taken place, Patterson sent a mass text to dozens of friends, colleagues, patients, and extended family members in the days after, explaining the situation in great detail. A committee comprised of spiritual and civic leaders in the D.C. metropolitan area later crafted plans to raise awareness about the events of July 13th and organize community members of various ages via social media, email, and word of mouth.

“We’re blessed that we could stand by Baba Kokayi,” said Ayo Handy-Kendi, a breathologist and stress manager who served as a member of the organizing committee that hosted last week’s gathering at Sandovan. “People came out because they believe in Baba Kokayi and they believe an injustice has been done. We want him to be let off and we want the gentleman that assaulted him to be reviewed. We feel that he has also committed a threat and should be brought to justice.”

With much of the community on his side, Patterson said victory seems to be on the horizon.

“The response as it relates to my situation has been overwhelming. The concerns my colleagues have shown is a true testament to Black love and our ability to support our own,” he said. “The grassroots, political, health, education, Black media, and spiritual community is coming to support, along with a multitude of community organizations.”

Young Women Criticize EMOC Initiative during Town Hall

Photo: Young Black girls embracing each other. (Taken from https://yeyeolade.wordpress.com/2011/05/27/black-rites-of-passage-for-young-black-girls-from-assatashakur-com/)

Native Washingtonian and community organizer Samantha Master knows firsthand the punitive nature of the D.C. metropolitan area’s school systems, especially when it comes to young Black women who break rules in a desperate attempt to escape life-threatening situations.

More than a decade ago, Master received a two-week suspension after administrators found a knife in her backpack. Then 13 years old, Master said she had to protect herself against an abusive boyfriend. Her story and pleas for leniency however, fell on deaf ears, jumpstarting a period of depression and disdain for school.

Though Master had the fortune of meeting an elder who helped her complete high school and enter college, she stressed that an untold number of young girls of color with similar experiences rarely escape the perils of a violent home life, particularly because school officials overlook their cries for help.

“It’s important that we understand that gender-based violence makes you fear for your safety in your community. As Black women, we have to speak our truth,” said Master, now 28, during the second of three town halls hosted by the D.C. chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) on the evening of Aug. 3rd at Watha T. Daniel-Shaw Library in Northwest.

The event, themed “Leaving Girls Behind,” shared the moniker of a May ACLU report that criticized the D.C. Public Schools’ Empowering Males of Color (EMOC) initiative for ignoring the plight of Black and Brown schoolgirls. During the two-hour discussion, more than 20 Black and Latino women, many of whom represent advocacy, community, and legal organizations, watched a short film featuring Master and a bevy of Black girls who explained how their schools failed to address their mental and sexual trauma.

Shortly after, participants discussed what they considered the best means of connecting young women of color to resources that can aid them in safely navigating the school system and having a healthy coming of age. Topics included mentorship opportunities, methods of youth engagement, difficulties in empowering young women in the D.C. public school system, and how to force policy change.

“I’m always grateful to share my experiences but disheartened that they’re so common,” said Master, a member of Black Youth Project 100, an activist member organization comprised of millennials who want to secure justice and freedom for all Black people. “There are deep flaws in the Engaging Males of Color initiative and I’m interested in how divestment from it and investment in opportunities for young, Black people look,” said Master, a Capitol Heights, Maryland resident.

EMOC, the proposal in question, aims to improve the academic performance of boys of color through $5.5 million in funding for school-based and community engagement programs that focus on academic, social, and emotional support. Other plans in the works include the opening of an all-male high school housed within the former Ron Brown Middle School in Southeast and literacy-focused mentorship.

But some people say those moves won’t suffice if it leaves out Black and Brown girls. In its 39-page report, the ACLU concludes that DCPS cannot overlook the need to serve girls of color, citing persistent disparities between them and their white counterparts. Another criticism centered on the notion that single-sex schooling reinforces harmful stereotypes about young women. This document also determined that the D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser, despite the prodding of local advocacy organizations and D.C. Council member Mary Cheh (D-Ward 3), hasn’t considered providing those resources for girls of color.

“We wanted to amplify the need for resources for girls of color. The Empowering Males of Color initiative didn’t address that. It was a missed opportunity; they did all this research about gaps between students of color and whites just to address a segment of that population,” said Kristina Jacobs, ACLU intern and key organizer of the town hall.

“We wanted to hear from our community members, specifically young women of color who’ve been enrolled in DCPS so that we can push an agenda that’s of the community. Our guests brought them full selves and showed how those experiences affected their identities,” Jacobs added.

Students who will attend the new all-male academy are in the midst of a two-week orientation taking place before the school’s Aug 22nd start date. Even so, the ACLU’s collection of data and crafting of a plan will continue, with some consideration of throwing support behind legislation that’s pending in the D.C. Council.

Though she didn’t matriculate through the D.C. public school system, Temi Bennett, a D.C.-based realtor, recounted barriers she encountered as a young woman at an African-centered school in Chicago. She said that though administrators meant well, they provided more enriching activities for the males while relegating the young women to classes that reinforced gender stereotypes. For her, those experiences highlighted institutional inequities at a young age.

“While we didn’t get into strategy, I enjoyed hearing these diverse stories. It’s a great first step and I’m excited to see what happens next,” Bennett said. “The main thing we pointed out was the need for outreach to Black and Brown girls. I think the participation here speaks to that. The main thing is mentoring. Our girls need mentors that look just like them.”

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