21 July, 2018
Many of the 7.6 billion souls who occupy this space and place we know as Planet Earth begin and end each day of their lives in a state of “disengagement”. They are emotionally, psychologically, and spiritually disengaged from their neighbors, co-workers, and even their children, spouses, and significant others. To be truly successful and live a fully empowered and happy life, one must be fully engaged – emotionally, psychologically, and spiritually. One must be a “whole soul”. When we emerged from the womb, we emerged as “whole souls” -- souls who fully embraced life – souls who were fully engaged – emotionally, psychologically, and spiritually. Something happened to us during our journey from childhood to adulthood, that forced us –perhaps, for our own survival -- to became emotionally, psychologically, and spiritually disengaged.
We drag our “disengagement” with us everywhere. It is literally an emotional, psychological, and spiritual “ball and chain” we are dragging around day after day. It controls our decision making that may lead us to engage in self-destructive behavior – such as self-medicating – which negatively impacts our mental and physical health. We drag our spiritual, emotional, and psychological “ball and chain” to work, into the lives of our co-workers, into our relationships with our spouses, neighbors, significant others, and family members, and into the lives of our children. Our lives are supposed to be magical. We are supposed to live a life that is fully empowering and purpose-driven -- a life in which we are fully engaged --- spiritually, emotionally, and psychologically. We are supposed to live our lives as “whole souls”. It is how I live my life.
I believe that we have the capacity to create happy, successful, and healthy lives for ourselves. Day after day, I encounter souls who have so much potential but cannot tap into it because they are burdened by a spiritual, psychological and emotional “ball and chain” they have attached themselves to. My belief in the human potential and my daily encounters with souls who are not being – and may not know how to be – their “best self” moved me to create blueprints for healing and empowerment and pathways to atonement, ‘connectedness’, forgiveness, rebirth, reaching our full potential, and transforming our communities and our world into an emotionally, spiritually, and psychological vibrant oasis.
17 July, 2018
08 July, 2018
George Stinney Jr was tried in a court of law and electrocuted in 1944 in the United States. Within 83 days, he was accused, tried for murder, convicted and executed. His name and crime remains ‘lost’ in the law books and old newspapers. Stinney was accused of murdering two white girls in South Carolina. He was innocent but forced to confess. How old was this man? He was not yet a man—he was only fourteen years old when he was wrongfully put to death. One newspaper reported on the moments before the electrocution:
“When the switch was flipped and the first 2,400 volts surged through his body, the too-large death mask slipped from his face revealing the tears falling from his scared, open eyes” (https:// www.theguardian.com/theobserver/ 2014/mar/22/ george-stinney-execution-verdict-innocent).
New evidence in the 21st century has proven that Stinney was innocent.
One of the positive achievements of 2018 occurred when United States President The Honorable Donald Trump granted a full posthumous pardon to Jack Johnson, a boxing legend. Who was this person who remains unknown to many of us? Johnson, born in Texas in 1878, became the first Black heavyweight boxing champion in 1908. All Americans should have been elated to know that a son of the soil had created history and made their country proud. Instead, Johnson would be convicted of transporting his white girlfriend across state lines in 1913. Who comprised the jury? Not surprisingly, it was an all-white jury. Johnson’s career and reputation was abruptly curtailed. Remember -- Johnson was neither an immigrant nor an illegal alien. He was born and bred in the United States. That was a century of tense Black-White relations, lynching, race riots, and segregation. What was Johnson’s crime? Simply being Black was an aberration in the eyes of some Americans.
In 1996, Alice Marie Johnson, (no relations to the boxing legend) was sentenced to life without parole in a federal prison. She was convicted as a result of money laundering and nonviolent drug charges. However, in 2018 as a result of the intervention of Kim Kardashian, President Trump commuted Johnson’s sentence and the 63 year old grandmother once again became a free woman. Johnson’s case is not unique. The Washington Post published an article with the headline: “It’s Not Just Alice Marie Johnson: Over 2,000 Federal Prisoners Are Serving Life Sentences For Nonviolent Drug Crimes”. (https:/ /www.washingtonpost.com/news/ wonk/wp/2018/06/06/its-not-just-alice-marie-johnson-over-2000-federal-prisoners-are-serving-life-sentences-for-nonviolent-drug-crimes/?utmterm=301fd19edc 57). There are a lot more horror stories. For instance, The Guardian reported on cases at the Angola Prison in Louisiana, which included the following: “Ronald Washington, 48, is also serving life without parole in Angola, in his case for shoplifting two Michael Jordan jerseys from a Foot Action sportswear store in Shreveport, Louisiana, in 2004” (https://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/nov/13/us-prisoners-sentences-life-non-violent-crimes). The combined cost of both jerseys was approximately US$100.00.
These incidents are not confined to the United States. Throughout the world there are innocent persons who are jailed or given lengthy sentences for petty crimes. Additionally, there is a long list of political prisoners whose only crime was speaking or writing against corrupt and undemocratic governments. Who will offer them a pardon? Who will give them a second chance? Who will give them a new lease of life? We need to ensure that innocent persons are freed. More importantly, for those who are guilty, we need a legal system that provides sentencing or jail term to fit the crime.
Somebody or some organizations needs to go into the law books and archives to re-examine certain cases because there is a very long line of dead innocent persons who are patiently waiting for their posthumous pardons!
Jerome Teelucksingh, Ph.D. is a Gender Issues Thought Leader; faculty member in the History Department of the University of West Indies in Trinidad and Tobago; founder of International Men's Day (http://www.usainternationalmensday.blogspot.com); Trinidad and Tobago's Coordinator for the inaugural observance of the "Impartial And Fair Treatment In Parole" Initiative; and prolific author.
30 June, 2018
Paul Tillich, in The Courage To Be, described “courage” as “the power of the mind to overcome fear.” I can add that courage is the power to overcome apathy that is prevalent in our society. Courage is also the power to overcome ignorance that is also common among us. Many of us lack courage and often ignore injustices. I often tell myself: “Jerome, you must stop being vocal and speaking on controversial issues. Jerome, you should remain quiet and let others fight these battles.” Despite these concerns, I always continue to be involved in campaigns and movements that highlight grievances, injustices, and exploitation. It seemed like fate and my destiny to be involved in the urgent demands for justice and equality.
The global calendar of activism has another addition. Yes, 29 August 2018 is a major milestone. It will be the first observance of the “Impartial And Fair Treatment In Parole” Day. The “Impartial And Fair Treatment In Parole” Day was conceptualized soon after learning that an incarcerated friend (who I never met) in the United States, was unfairly denied parole. Despite undergoing major positive changes in his thinking and behavior, the Parole Board rejected his request for freedom.
I challenge everyone to prove that equality and fairness will never be achieved. I remember two sentences that we need to consider: “Men don’t want new groups. Men just want things to be fair.” This was stated by Martin G. Ramey, a columnist and ordained minister, in Diane A. Sears’ book, In Search of Fatherhood: Transcending Boundaries (2003, p.135). This is a basic human right -- to be treated fairly. It is the major building block in creating a just society. A country is not democratic if its citizens are treated unfairly. Fair treatment is essential in any progressive society. Ms. Diane A. Sears, a Social Justice Contributing Author for the Good Men Project and a member of the OPERATION FRESH START™ Working Group which raises awareness for OPERATION FRESH START™ -- a multi-tiered initiative which helps to eradicate recidivism and creates pathways to reintegration for formerly incarcerated individuals and is crafted by The Honorable James M. DeLeon, a veteran jurist in the Criminal Court Division of Philadelphia’s Municipal Court in the United States --, is assisting in spearheading the “Impartial and Fair Treatment in Parole” Initiative. In September 2017, Ms. Sears via social media, noted that this Initiative
“advocates for and supports individuals, organizations, and institutions working to ensure that model prisoners who have (A) accepted responsibility for the actions which brought them to prison; (B) demonstrated a positive adjustment to institutionalization; (C) achieve academically; (D) obtained employment skills and/or a written offer of employment and community ties; (E) received/accepted invitations to assume leadership roles in academic, mentoring, public policy or social entrepreneurial activities that enhance the institutional environment and positively impact communities outside of the institutional environment; (E) a track record of designing and/or co-implementing and/or participating in solutions-based initiatives (e.g., atonement programs, domestic violence workshops, mentoring programs, and programs/forums which specifically help to minimize/eradicate violence, Fatherlessness, poverty, emotional/spiritual/psychological trauma and toxicity, recidivism, and crime); and (F) low risk assessment scores (COMPAS); are not repeatedly denied parole and that Parole Boards are not acting as an appellate sentencing court in denying parole to model prisoners who meet all or many of the aforementioned criteria.”
I am sure that there will be increasing support for this initiative and observances of “Impartial And Fair Treatment In Parole” Day on 29 August 2018.
Paul Tillich described “fear” as “being afraid of something, a pain, the rejection by a person or a group, the loss of something or somebody, the moment of dying.” Some of us do not have the courage to speak for the alienated and marginalized in our society. Some of us do not possess the virtue of courage to identify with stereotyped and stigmatized persons who are incarcerated or have been imprisoned. Many of us do not care to identify with the imprisoned. Let us never forget the words of Nobel Peace Prize Laureate and American Civil Rights Movement Leader Dr. Reverend Martin Luther King Jr.: “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”
Let us join together to promote fairness and equal treatment among the free and incarcerated.
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