#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