Murder Not Suicide: Justice for Billey Joe Johnson

Billeyjoe On December 8th, 17-year-old Billey Joe Johnson died from a gunshot
wound to the head. Police say he killed himself with a shotgun after
being stopped for a simple traffic violation in Lucedale,
Mississippi.[1] Several things seem to cast doubt on the official
story, including an independent investigation that concluded it would
have been impossible for the shot that killed Johnson to have been

Many on the ground smell a murder and a cover-up. We don't have all the
answers, but it's clear that in the racially divided town of Lucedale,
all the ingredients exist for a miscarriage of justice.

I've joined in demanding answers and justice for
Billey Joe's family. Together, we can help ensure that the District
Attorney feels the presence of a national spotlight, and let him know
that anything short of a thorough investigation will result in massive
attention and a call for outside intervention.

Please join me. It takes only a moment:

From the beginning, the District Attorney has treated the
investigation of Billey Joe's death as a suicide or the result of an
accidental self-inflicted injury. Based on his public statements and
interactions with Billey Joe's family, it appears that the District
Attorney hasn't looked into whether Billey Joe was killed by an
officer or someone else. Again, we don't have all the answers, but
here's what we do know:

- Billey Joe was at his former girlfriend's house minutes before the
killing.[2] He never entered the house, but police were called to
respond to an attempted burglary there.[3] This fact was not a part of
the original story given by the police.

- Billey Joe's family say that his ex-girlfriend had been staying at
her father's house because her mother threw her out for dating Billey
Joe (she is White and Billey Joe was Black). They said Billey Joe knew
to only go to the house when the girl's father was not present, that
the two of them were on good terms even after he had broken up with
her, and that the breakup was largely because of pressure from her
father. The family also claims that there is a relationship between
the officer present at the scene of Billey Joe's death and the girl's

- A witness heard two shots, not one, at the scene where Billey Joe
died, according to an independent investigation launched by the
Mississippi NAACP. The pathologist in that investigation has indicated
that it would be impossible for a bullet from a a self-inflicted shot
to enter in the manner that it did. He also said that given the length
of Billey Joe's arms and the length of the shotgun, it would have been
impossible for him to hold the weapon and fire it at himself.

- Billey Joe was a star athlete with scholarship offers from more than
half a dozen schools. No one--including family, friends, and
coaches--could think of a reason that Billey Joe would want to end his

A true investigation would sort out fact from rumor. But we can't be
sure that Johnson's family will get the investigation it deserves. In
the case of the Jena 6 we saw a District Attorney and a judge
incapable of carrying out justice in a racially charged environment.
In the recent case of the murder of Oscar Grant by police (and many
like it), we see how unlikely it is for District Attorneys to do their
job when the suspect is an officer of the law. But in both these
cases, public pressure has made all the difference by shining a
spotlight on local authorities.

In the case of Billey Joe Johnson, we're looking for the truth and for
justice. A minute of your time can help ensure his family gets both:





Happy Birthday, Dr. King: A Change Has Come

Obamanddrkingblack Unless you’re living under a rock, you know that the United States is undergoing a transformation, right now, as I write this. The spirit of unity, respect, inclusiveness and sacrifice will be needed to carry us through the difficult times still to come. The spirit that Barack Obama embodies and spread throughout the world is reminiscent of that of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

This is such an exciting time for this country and let me just say, black people, in particular. Barack Obama’s election brings about a sense of pride that is difficult to explain to others. For the first time in my life, black Americans appear to really be included in this country. I have never seen so many black people carrying an American flag who were not in the military or an athlete celebrating an Olympic victory. Now, I’m not trying to get into an argument with anyone because I think the Obama presidency will affect each of differently in some respects, depending upon our personal story, but it is what it is.

When Barack Hussein Obama raises his right hand to take the oath of office as president of the United States tomorrow, it will be because of the tremendous sacrifice and courage of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Of course, it goes without saying that Dr. King’s legendary status was earned because of the support, courage and sacrifice of many like-minded people of all races also.

On this spectacularly awesome celebration of the birth of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in 2009, this historic celebration could only be the result of destiny…divine intervention…call it whatever you like.

 I’d like to think Dr. King would also like for us to move beyond the issue of black pride in our first black president and work for the betterment of this nation world. I’d like to think Dr. King would like for us to get more involved in our community consistently, not just on this Day of Service. He’d like for us to become more involved politically and in building our community and raising our next generations.

I’d like to believe that if he could speak to us today, Dr. King would say that he would like for us to be judged by the content of our character and not by our gender, sexual preference, socio-economic status or color of our skin. We are not quite there yet but we have made another step in that direction. Let’s keep on keeping on. Power to the People.

Happy Birthday, Dr. King!


© 2009, on the black hand side,

Vote for this blog for Best Pop Culture Blog and Best Blog About Stuff in the 2009 Bloggers Choice Awards.

Remembering Odetta, the Voice of the Civil Rights Movement

Singer and civil rights activist, Odetta, transitioned on December 2, 2008. A classically-trained singer born in Birmingham, AL on December 31, 1930, it was folk music that would establish her as an icon.

From the Tavis Smiley Show:


Called one of the great treasures of American music, musical activist Odetta has influenced such artists as Bob Dylan, Janis Joplin and Joan Baez. Since her '54 debut album, she's toured the world telling stories of America's southern experience in her songs. The Birmingham (AL) native sang at the March on Washington in '63, marched with Dr. King in Selma and protested against U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War. In '03, the Library of Congress honored the Grammy-nominated artist with its rare "Living Legend Award."

Odetta tavis smiley show 

Click here to listen to her interview and read the transcript from the Tavis Smiley Show of January 25, 2008.


Related Links:

Odetta, Voice of Civil Rights Movement, Dies at 77

Folk legend Odetta, 75, reflects on a pioneer's life





© 2008, on the black hand side,

Vote for this blog for Best Pop Culture Blog and Best Blog About Stuff in the 2009 Bloggers Choice Awards.


Am I Not Human?: Too Much to Eat for Thanksgiving

I am grateful…blessed…appreciative of all the favor bestowed upon me and my family through the years. I am thankful that both of my parents are alive and still together. I have an awesome circle of friends both offline and online; I'm even grateful for my brother and I hope he never reads that. When all is said and done, no matter how hard I try, my family has too much food leftover after Thanksgiving dinner.

There was a time when I could eat enough to put any guy to shame but now I just really don't feel like it. No matter how much I try to put it out of my consciousness, my thoughts drift back to those less fortunate: my tortured brothers in sisters Darfur; missing, murdered and malnourished children in Haiti, still displaced citizens from the Gulf Coast, and the homeless in any town anywhere in the world.

The world has been energized by the election of Barack Hussein Obama as the next president of the United States of America. It is my wish that he also make it a priority to help stop the poverty, genocide, rape and torture that many have to deal with on a daily basis all over the world. The more we talk about the horrific conditions many live in, the more we expose the horror and can do something about it. it's time for us to do something meaningful and sustaining.

These monthly blog posts are a way to send a message from a united front of concerned citizens around the world. Feel free to join us each month in this message of hope, love and respect until we can affect the change needed by our brothers and sisters in Darfur and around the world. Are they not human?

Peace and Blessings to All and Happy Day of Thanksgiving.


© 2008, on the black hand side,

Vote for this blog for Best Pop Culture Blog and Best Blog About Stuff in the 2009 Bloggers Choice Awards.

Wanda Sykes: ‘Out’ and Pissed Off

Comedian Wanda Sykes recently shocked a few folks by publicly announcing her October 25th marriage to her wife. All of that occurred as Sykes attended a protest rally in La Vegas. She's not exactly been in the closet, she just never discussed her sexual orientation. Because of the passage of Proposition 8, in California, banning same-sex marriage, Sykes and others have been protesting in an attempt to gain equal rights for homosexuals.

Sykes says she's proud to be gay. How many other closeted celebs will make that walk out of the closet and in to the light?

With blacks and Hispanics overwhelmingly supporting Proposition 8, it will be interesting to see if Sykes' career will be negatively impacted. Personally, I think she's a brilliant comedian; a little too vulgar sometimes but brilliant nonetheless. Ellen Degeneres seemed to get better as a comedian and entertainer after she came out; maybe Wanda Sykes will also. Meanwhile, prepare for Sykes to be in our faces because black and gay is not something we tend to be comfortable with as a people.


© 2008, on the black hand side,

Vote for this blog for Best Pop Culture Blog and Best Blog About Stuff in the 2009 Bloggers Choice Awards.




Your Vote is Your Voice

The United States is less than six weeks away from its general election. If you are eligible to vote and have not registered, click on to get registered. If you are a previously convicted felon, contact your local ACLU or go to

There are far too many unregistered Americans. We are dealing with too much foolishness now. Do you think Americans can tolerate too much more?

Register it vote and vote. Your vote is your voice; use it or lose it. That's not just a slogan; it's for real.


Howard Witt, Mainstream Media and the Black Blogosphere

Here is a video interview of my favorite journalist, Howard Witt, of the Chicago Tribune. He gives props to the black blogosphere (Afrosphere) and the effectiveness of the activism generated by black blogs in the case of Shaquanda Cotton and the Jena 6.

Witt has wisely and effectively harnessed the power of the media working with bloggers as opposed to viewing blogs as competition. I do hope the bloodletting in mainstream media ceases soon because there is a tremendous probability that the masses will never be made aware of injustices such as the Jena 6 and Shaquanda Cotton.

H/T = The Urban Report and The Electronic Village

It’s Time to Focus on the Jena 6 Again

Blogger D. Yobachi Boswell over at, rightfully challenged black bloggers on the issue of coverage of the Jena 6. Accurately, he points out that the issue of the Jena 6 is rarely covered by the mainstream media and more important by the very black bloggers that pushed the issue to the forefront of international media just eight months ago.

It's important to note that as the case continues, a hearing is scheduled for this Friday to consider a motion on behalf of the Jena 6 to remove Judge J.P. Mauffray from the case for judicial bias. Judge Mauffray is at the heart of the disparate judicial rulings in the Jena 6 case.

Like many, I have my reasons for abandoning the topic and I'm sure you do also. For me, the presidential election has consumed most of my energy especially with Barack Obama on the verge of being named Democratic Party nominee. I must also confess that I had concerns about the actions of some of the Jena 6 and did not want to continue to be disappointed. That being said, the Jena 6 issue is not as much about the young men involved as much as it about the situation happening in the first place. The decisions of the Jena , LA leaders following the initial incident and the violation of the civil rights the Jena 6 and the black students at Jena High School cannot go unabated.

I ask you to join me and other bloggers in covering the Jena 6 story, regardless of findings, until the issue has reached its conclusion. I'm adding the Jena 6 back to my news alert list. Will you do the same?

Related Link: The Jena 6 Blog



Chicago, Illinois – May 23, 2008 - Barbara A. McKinzie, Alpha Kappa Alpha's international president, expressed indignation and outrage over the Tennessee Republican Party running a smear campaign against Michelle Obama, wife of Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama. McKinzie denounced the transparent mindset that triggered the decision by the Tennessee GOP to design such an ad. She said it is the basis of an ugly underpinning that is being echoed in established racist Internet chat rooms, within the right-leaning blogosphere and among some conservative pundits. To make Michelle Obama a target of a potentially hate inspired offensive is something that she—and the 200,000 primarily African-American female members she leads—will not tolerate.


"The impulse to take a statement of hers out of context and make it a focus of an unpatriotic ad is to trivialize her and to attempt to devalue her," said McKinzie. "This is unacceptable!"


She said the ad appeals to the subconscious racial fears of a sliver of Americans who remain unaware of progress. "This intransigent posture," said McKinzie, "defies the American ideal of democracy and fairness, the bedrock of the Constitution."


McKinzie said at a time when the economy should be the issue around which Americans should unite, using a fringe element to stoke racial fears is a temporary distraction.


Emphasizing that point, McKinzie said, "The fragile state of America's economic psyche threatens the viability of this nation. Alpha Kappa Alpha has made economics a major focus through the ESP program that is the theme of this administration. Putting America's psyche on a strong financial global footing needs to be front and center on everyone's mind—not polarizing messages that fan the flames of historical racial prejudice. We must snuff out the embers of racial fear that the ad attempts to ignite," declared McKinzie.


In lambasting the ad, McKinzie took a cue from Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice who acknowledged that the United States still has trouble dealing with race because of a national "birth defect" that denied black Americans the opportunities given to whites at the country's very founding. "This ad," stressed McKinzie, "is nothing less than a very public display of America's 'birth defect.'"


"Given the historical challenges facing American women, the resolve should be to improve the stature of American women rather than to denigrate them," declared McKinzie.


She challenged all fair-thinking citizens—including President George W. Bush, Senator Hillary Clinton and Secretary of State Rice—to join Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority in denouncing the ad and the climate of intolerance that prompted its creation.


She said she would galvanize members and wage a counteroffensive by speaking out, writing letters, issuing statements and signaling that these types of acts will trigger a solidarity that will combat offensive messages.


McKinzie said she also sees a dangerous trend emerging if this type of offensive behavior is not checked.


"The very real possibility of having an African-American woman as First Lady of this nation underscores progress that a small number of America's citizens continue to ignore. Yet, they have a voice that should be heard when it is tempered with truth, not transmitted through offensive sound bites."


Continued McKinzie, "Having a party organization use Michelle Obama as a target appeals to a bygone era that blemished America's reputation and global stature. This type of ad could pose a real threat to the safety of the candidate's wife given America's historic behavior. It demands action from the president on down."


Declared McKinzie, "As the head of one of the leading organizations for African-American women, I am compelled to speak out when injustice is so blatant. During our Centennial Convention from July 11-18, we will address this matter. Clearly this ad—and the ugliness that is bubbling under the surface of it—mandate action and we are poised to respond."




Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority is America's first Greek-letter organization founded in 1908 by, and for, African-American college women. Headquartered in Chicago, Illinois, it is one of the world's leading service organizations. The Sorority's members have made a commitment "to serve all mankind" through a nucleus of more than 200,000 women in over 975 chapters in the United States, the Caribbean, Canada, Germany, Korea, Japan and in the continent of Africa. Barbara A. McKinzie is the 27th International President. Because her term coincides with the 100-year anniversary, she is being hailed as the "Centennial National President." McKinzie's administration is marked by the theme: ESP, which stands for Economics, Service and Partnerships. For more information, log on to For an archive of press releases, visit the online pressroom at

The aftermath of the Sean Bell verdict

As sad as the Sean Bell murder by three New York cops is, their not guilty verdict cannot possibly come as a surprise. It would have been surprising for them to be found guilty.

Rarely, and I can't think of one instance now, is a law enforcement officer found guilty in shooting a civilian. Unfortunately, that is how our justice system works sometimes.

My heart goes out to Sean Bell's fiancée and family. A not guilty verdict such as this just forces family and friends to relieve the pain of the first time they learned of the loss of their loved one. I can respond from personal experience.

What happens in the days following the verdict remains to be seen. People are angry and need to vent that anger in a manner that will not result in their arrest. The ongoing protests are a good start. New York government and law enforcement leaders must find a way to deal with this. They can start by terminating the employment of NYPD Detectives Michael Oliver, Gescard Isnora and Marc Cooper.