by Karima Amin
Imagine hearing these words and you are certain that you have not committed a crime. What is a felony? In criminal law, a felony is a category of crimes that are often classified as the most serious type of offenses. Felonies can be either violent or nonviolent. Some examples are murder, rape, kidnapping, arson, fraud, manslaughter, possession of a controlled substance, and child molestation. You believe this is someone’s mistake. Imagine further that it takes two years for you to clear your name and discover how and why the FBI has your name attached to a felony conviction. This is what happened to an innocent Black man who just happens to be a well-respected educator, historian, author and activist.
I just discovered this man’s story and it reminded me of all the outrageous things I have heard and read about the experiences of Black people who encounter Whites who immediately criminalize, ostrasize, marginalize, and dehumanize them based on misinformation, stereotyped views, or a perceived notion based in racist bias. I know many of you are familiar with many such instances, especially over the last four years: driving while Black, laughing or talking too loudly while Black, sleeping while Black, shopping while Black, entering your own apartment while Black, walking too slowly while Black…and the list goes on. Innumerable Black lives have been lost due to some White person’s belief that we just don’t belong.
Looking back at our history in this country since 1619, our very presence seems to have been a problem for some White people although they benefitted from our labor, our creativity, and our willingness to be forgiving in spite of the suffering we endured. When I look back at the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s, this was a time of tremendous growth in my understanding of self, history, and culture. The mistreatment of Africans in America was and is rampant. It was so during the period of our enslavement and it is true today. It is also true that we have always fought back for justice and liberation.
The man I wrote about at the beginning of this article is Dr. Curtis Austin. He wrote a book about the Black Panther Party entitled UP AGAINST THE WALL. His writing led to a criminal record when it was simply written to dispel the misconceptions that so many people had, and still have, about the Black Panther Party. Outrageous but true. Driving while Black has led to the unbelievable deaths of some unfortunate African Americans. Outrageous but true. Standing up for justice has led to the unconscionable assassinations of some Black leaders…Malcolm, Martin, and George.
Our next meeting will highlight Dr. Austin’s story and his book and the life and work of George Jackson whom we remember yearly with a commemoration of “Black August” during our August public meeting which will be held on Monday, August 26th at the Rafi Greene C.A.O. Masten Resource Center, 1423 Fillmore Avenue at Glenwood from 7 to 9pm. More information: Karima, email@example.com; BaBa, 716-491-5319.