December 1, 2006

Sleeping While Black (in Queens)

As a blogging newbie, I had every intention of exercising self-discipline and not going post-crazy, especially in light of the fact that nobody even knows Fire on the Mountain exists yet. But the NYPD has turned my good intentions to dust. A friend forwarded me an article from the Friday NY Daily News with this title and the laconic introduction, "Things have really gotten out of control..."

Most people reading this blog, wherever you might be from, have likely heard about the 50 police bullets fired into the car of Sean Bell, a 23 year old Black man celebrating in the early hours of the day sct for his wedding to Nicole Paultre. Bell was killed outright and two companions wounded. None of them were armed. New Yorkers are very much on edge at this blunt reminder of the deadly peril Black males face any time they come in contact with the pig.

Mayor Bloomberg knows how tense things are. Instead of automatically defending the cops a la Giuliani, he has questioned their judgement and made damn sure to be photographed with Reverends Al Sharpton and Herbert Daughtry, longtime camaigners against police brutality. But today's paper describes a reign of terror being perpetated as the cops careen through the community seeking a "fourth passenger" who somehow fled the deadly fusillade and had a gun. Read this excerpt from the column by the estimable Juan Gonzales:

Around 6 a.m. Wednesday, LaToya Smith, 26, was playing in her bed in southeastern Queens with her 7-month-old son Jalyn.

Just then, she heard a strange noise in her family's darkened house. Her locked bedroom door suddenly burst open, and several uniformed cops burst into the room with flashlights and guns drawn.

According to Smith, the cops ordered her to lie facedown on the floor.

"My baby, my baby. Where's my baby?" she recalls pleading to them as they hustled her into the living room. There, they gathered her brothers Timothy Smith, 19, and Stanley Smith, 23; her mother, Laura; the baby and Christopher Keys, 18, a friend who was staying in the apartment. Meanwhile, a dozen officers searched the entire place.

Police officials said they found a loaded 9-mm. pistol in the apartment and a small bag of marijuana, whereupon they hauled the young woman and the three men to the 103rd Precinct stationhouse. They charged the men with gun possession, but released LaToya Smith.

Police also are saying the apartment was a known drug-dealing location.

But the real purpose of the raid was not to find guns or pot.

All the cops' questions at the stationhouse were about last weekend's police shooting of Sean Bell, Joseph Guzman and Trent Benefield outside the Kalua Cabaret, Smith said.

They kept asking if she knew the whereabouts of certain friends of the three men shooting victims.

"If you don't tell us what we want to hear, you know, you can get five years," she says one cop told her.
New York may not blow over this, but an old wound has been torn open and it will not heal any time soon. (Modern Pitung, at the blog All Out for the Fight, has pointed out one bright spot--the solid response by the John Brown caucus of the newly-formed NYC SDS/MDS chapter.)


Anybody thinks that I'm throwing too much drama with a formulation like "New York may not blow over this" ought to give a listen to "50 Shots," the cut by rapper Papoose just posted at the online music mag Prefix. You're not listening to fabulous flow or lyric brilliance, you are listening to raw anger. (h/t to Steve Gilliard)


These pictures are to accompany the new comment on this thread by Bondi on media coverage of this week's demo in Newark, NJ around Sean Bell organized by the People's Organization for Progress.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for posting this. Oh, and thanks for beginning this blog!

Anonymous said...

A lot of community activists in Newark were surprised by all the media attention we got at a Candlelight Vigil for Sean Bell this past week. Because only a small number of People's Organization for Progress members had made it into New York City for the big rallies, POP's Anti-Street Violence Committee chairman, Darrell Graham, organized a local event to link up the Bell murder with similar cases of police violence in Essex County. While no relatives of the three young men shot down in Queens attended the Newark rally, the mothers of many local children killed by the cops were there.

Four TV news crews showed up to record Newark's outrage, but when POP chairman Lawrence Hamm invited the media to interview the mothers of three young men killed in the past few months, only UniVision accepted the offer. The crimes POP wanted to put a spotlight on included a particularly egregious instance this past August when the police had their "suspect"-- a young man named Chakan Nance--handcuffed and on the ground before they shot him in the head.

Because "news" is entertainment and entertainment TV is largely about scandal, it would seem that simply murdering our sons and daughters is not news unless there's a "hook". In the Sean Bell case, the hook was not that he and his buddies were unarmed. No, it was that he was a groom engaging in the bachelor-party ritual hours prior to his marriage.

It is surprising that the cops' defense hasn't made a bigger deal about "suspected prostitutes" in the gentleman's club Sean had just left.

Anonymous said...

A correction--in the previous post, the name of the man the police murdered should read Chakhan Nance, not Chakan.

Anonymous said...

Yardmon50 Releases "50 Bullets" Following Papoose’s "50 Shots"

"50 Bullets" About Sean Bell Shooting Recorded At Same Time

Botaniculture Records says that it planned to release "50 Bullets" about the killing of Sean Bell, one month after his murder. The artist known as "Yardmon50" states : "I started writing the song the day after the shooting and within a week I had the song down." He says that he performed the song for his brother who said "it was going to be a hit!" The song was recorded first in December of 2006, around the same time as Papoose's "50 Shots." Alas, do to problems with production the song was never circulated until recently, according to Danny Pella, an A & R rep for the record company. This song follows last years controversial "50 Shots" by the artist known as "Papoose." Though Papoose's song and Yardmon50's song art similar they are also different. "Yardmon50 is more of a crossover reggae dance music artist while Papoose is a rapper," say Pella. This issue seems more relevant today since the Judge in the Sean Bell manslaughter trial will give his verdict Friday, the 25. Yardmon50 states: "The only connection is psychic." Since they were both rapid fire responses to clear cases of injustice. "Intellectually the songs are different, but in spirit they are the same," he says. Yardmon50 fifty denies any beef with Papoose because of the similarity of the titles, but he plans on proposing a business idea to Papoose based off of this shared theme. "One thing's for sure" says Danny Pella, "we don't want nobody to think Sean Bell lived or died in vain." The public is invited to visit the Myspace page ( and download the song with a portion of the proceeds going to a special fund for the environment set up in Sean Bell's name. NEW EP "50 BULLETS" AVAILABLE AT: MYSPACE.COM/YARDMON50