#AltonSterling

by Karl Nelson II, Intern Media

To Whom It May Concern,

I’m furious.  Heading back to the office tonight, I was concerned about what I would be eating for dinner, my financial responsibilities, the bus ticket I have to purchase for travel, my birthday plans for this year, and the time lost after working overtime today.

Those were my exact thoughts until I began scrolling through my news feed on Instagram.  That’s when I saw the video of an alive and struggling Alton Sterling, at the time, as two police officers “restrained” him — one with a knee in his stomach and chest and the other with a forearm pressing against Sterling’s chest and a loaded gun in hand which was pointed at Sterling.

My demeanor immediately changed.  I went from sadness to anger and unapologetic fury.

I then scroll down further to see a picture of Sterlings son, a 15-year-old boy who will never get to see his father walk in the house to greet he and his family again. Under this image was a caption from an individual who will remain anonymous — an individual who expressed their belief that there are police officers out there who do go to work everyday to protect and serve, without a doubt.

However, this individual also expressed their belief that there are police officers who are predators, those who will not hesitate to kill you.  Well, I’m sorry that I’m not sorry, but I couldn’t agree more with that notion.

As I read that caption, the anger inside of me was now only getting worse, as I came across another social media post.  This time from Russell Simmons, a public figure who never shies away from speaking up for his community or putting his words into action.

Mr. Simmons’ post read “The violence is not new, it’s the cameras that are new.” He couldn’t have been more right.  We’ve heard and read about these incidents before. Our elders have seen these horrible images and have witnessed horrific events for years, but we’ve somehow grown immune to it all.

But when I watched that video tonight, I couldn’t help but think about all of the incidents we haven’t seen on tape.  Those confrontations that weren’t recorded.  It makes me wonder if my stomach, my mind or my heart would even be able to handle seeing those images.

What we all witnessed happen to Sterling is a mirroring image of the other several cases we’ve unfortunately had to grieve over in the last few years, dating back to Trayvon Martin.

For me, what I saw tonight was a reminder that the same could happen to me, my younger brother who has his whole life ahead of him, my close circle of friends who are like brothers, my father, my uncles, my grandfather.  Those thoughts bring me to tears, but also cause my fists to clinch.

Why does this keep happening?  Is it foolish to believe that this kind of violence can ever stop? What can I do?  What can we do?

I know what I want to do.  I want to approach every police officer I see, not to be controversial, but to simply tell them that “when I see police officers in the streets, I don’t feel instant relief or safety.  Not at all.  You know what I feel?  I feel the need to get completely out of their way so that I make sure that there’s no chance in hell of any mixup during our interaction, a mixup that could lead to violence.”

I want to tell them that they “need to change their perception right now.  Not later. Right now.  And they need to do it collectively, across the board.”

In my current job, I assist hundreds of customers.  I’m in absolutely no control of how they feel about the company prior to meeting me, whether that be in person or on the phone.  But guess what.  When I do interact with customers, I have the power to change their perception about not only the company, but about me and all of the thousands of other employees wearing the same logo on their chest. That’s my job when I interact with these people.  It’s to change the perception and to change it for the better.

That’s the job of police officers as well.  And all I’m going to say is more of these officers better start working to change their overall perception or soon they won’t be viewed as protectors and great service men and women.  Instead, police officers will be viewed as the enemy.

Family, I write this column unapologetically.  I repeat….unapologetically.  Maybe more of us should take on that same mentality.  Be blessed.

– Karl 

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Dear Chicago…

by Karl Nelson II, Intern Media 

Dear Chicago,

I find myself typing “Chicago shooting” into my Google search engine with the intention of continuing my research on the deadly shootings that took place in your city over the course of memorial weekend.

However, what I see next nearly causes my stomach to drop.  Two new headlines pop up on my screen; there’s been a deadly shooting on Father’s Day weekend and another right outside of a Chicago church just a day or so later.

My stomach dropping becomes the least of my worries at that point.  Instead, I feel myself beginning to get emotional as I try my best to hold back the tears as I sit on a side street in the middle of Manhattan.

Apart of me wanted to let my emotions fly while another part of me simply wanted to know why and how this continues to happen, almost as if it’s become the norm in a city with so much great history and promise for the future.

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Photo by the Chicago Tribune 

I begin thinking about a mirage of things.  What would I do if I were a resident of Chicago today?  What if I took a stand against gun violence right here in New York City?  What would happen?  Would I too be at risk?

Walking the streets of New York, obviously miles away from the “Windy City,” it might be irritating to hear others responding to the traumatic events that are taking place right outside of your windows.

But I promise you that my thoughts are beyond genuine, as I think about just over a year ago when I was living in my hometown of Baltimore, a city that found itself in the middle of tragedy, controversy, protests, the loss of life, and so many other things as a result of what many Baltimore residents viewed as injustice in their beloved city.

That being said, believe me when I say that I wholeheartedly sympathize with the residents of Chicago and desperately want to see nothing more than guns taken off of your streets immediately.

And I know that there are world leaders today who have received tons of backlash for voicing the same desires, but I’m one that doesn’t believe in the notion that if a tragic event rarely takes place, then that means it’s not cause to panic.

No.  I truly believe that a tragedy like the Memorial Day weekend shootings, 56 shootings on Father’s Day weekend as well as 40 shots being fired outside of a church just days ago is cause to do more than simply pause for a moment of silence like President Barack Obama recently echoed.  Instead, I believe that it’s this type of gun violence that calls for immediate action and long term solution, no matter who supports that notion or not.

To the residents of Chicago, God bless you.  My prayers will remain with you and the victims of these horrible and senseless shootings.

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Photo by the Chicago Tribune

 

The #FightFor15

by Karl Nelson II, Intern Media

This is one of those stories where your mind is taken off of trivial things like sports, entertainment and material possessions.

This is one of those stories that makes you think about your struggles and your pain, whether that be financially related or not.

After watching Atlanta native and Iraq War Veteran, Derrell Odom, pour out his heart in front of the Atlanta, GA wage board and a large group of his peers, I was led to write this column.

For me, this mans story was a reminder of how blessed I am, but also of how stressed I am in the world that we live in today.

Here’s an individual who served in the United States Military and he comes home to not even be able to put food on the table for his family.

As Derrell testified that day, he advocated for a higher hourly rate and union rights as an employee for Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC).  To some out there, working in the fast food district is considered the bottom of the totem pole.

However, Derrell doesn’t see it that way.  He truly enjoys his job and sees it as a way to put a smile on the faces of KFC’s customers — the same people that he fought for in Iraq for two tours.

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As Coalition Forces respond to a car bombing in South Baghdad, Iraq (IRQ), a second car bomb is detonated, targeting those responding to the initial incident. The attack, aimed at the Iraqi police force, resulted in 18 casualties, two of which were police officers, during Operation IRAQI FREEDOM.

There’s no reason why a hardworking citizen who has also served his country should have to explain to his child why there’s no food on the table or a roof over their head.

That’s something that Derrell is forced to do daily, as he’s only bringing in $7.25 an hour.  That’s an hourly rate that prevents many Americans from being able to pay their bills, afford health insurance and avoid having to apply for food stamps, according to fightfor15.org.

That truly breaks my heart and I believe that it’s a representation that America’s world leaders are not crossing their t’s and dotting their i’s.

Derrell’s case is unique.  He’s a very humble and giving citizen that doesn’t want anything astronomical.  Derrell’s not complaining about not being rich or not being able to purchase expensive material things.

He just wants a comfortable life for he and his family, just like so many of us.  There’s no question that Derrell and others who work in home health, child care and restaurants, would be able to live better lives if they were making at least a minimum of $15 per hour with union benefits.

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The video that’s featured in this column was more than a marketing tool for this #FightFor15 campaign.  What I saw was a relatable person with a voice — someone who is dealing with the day-to-day circumstances that many of us are also forced to face.

So, the question becomes, not just what is our country going to do about cases like this one, but what are we personally going to do to advocate for individuals like Derrell or even for ourselves?

I don’t have all the answers and I probably never will, but I will continue to use my platform to be an advocate for the people.

My elders have always told me that the best way to really make a difference is by each community making it a point to build their own communities up, brick by brick.

Just think about that for a moment.  How do we want our children and our children’s children to grow up?

My ancestors worked tirelessly to provide a young black male like myself with opportunity, and that’s what I want to do for those that come after me.

Derrell is one of many who are playing their part by being a voice for those who feel like they don’t have one.

I want to personally thank Derrell for being so courageous and for sharing his story with us — a story that has reached millions.  I’m glad that I could share it with my Intern Media family, which is growing by the day.

We have to continue to build into our communities.  It can’t just stop here.  While I value my stories, it’s about the actions after my work is published that matters even more.

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