Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Racism and Police Brutality Hit Close to Home

On June 16, Prennis Jr. and his friend walked hurriedly down a South Philadelphia street, on their way to the pizza shop to pick up a called in order. On their way back to a friends house they noticed a block party happening in the neighborhood with music and dancing, so they decided to take that route back and join in on some of the fun. The naivety of childhood did not allow them to realize they were amongst a block full of whites, in a part of the city that is known for its hostility towards black people. But as we all know, it should not have mattered. They should have been able to walk down that street without fear of racial intimidation or violence. Unfortunately they were immediately noticed and targeted. They were told that they were in the wrong neighborhood, they were called niggers and threatened. When the two teens spoke up for themselves they were surrounded by a crowd of white kids and adults alike and threatened with violence.  Young Prennis had barely enough time to whip out his cell phone and contact his father who was around the corner. Prennis Sr. arrived on the scene promptly and this is where an already bad situation turned worse.

As Prennis Sr. arrived on the block where his sons were being threatened, taunted and insulted, he explained to the two adult men involved that his son and his friend were both good kids and that they were not trying to cause any trouble. The two men explained that they should not have been on that block and that they were in the wrong neighborhood. Details from this point on are a bit sketchy, however we do know that at some point during the conversation one of the men said "I'm sick of talking to this nigger," at which point point he brandished a gun and struck Prennis Sr. with it. From then on it became a free for all. Two teens and an adult male were defending themselves against what turned out to be two, white, off duty policemen and a mob of angry white residents. During the attack one of the women involved pulled out a knife and stabbed Prennis Sr. repeatedly in the back. doctors later said he almost died. Somewhere during all this drama Prennis Jr. and his friend called 911 for help. When the police arrived they arrested Prennis Sr. and his brother, who was not involved in the altercation and arrived on the scene to help at the exact same time as the police.

Prennis Sr. and his brother are being charged with aggravated assault, simple assault and obstruction of justice, trumped up charges that are being taken to trial. No charges were filed against any of the white residents involved in the attack. Prennis Sr.'s brother is still incarcerated, as he has not been able to afford to make bail. A working class family that is already struggling to make ends meet is now forced to pay an attorney, medical bills, and bail for walking down a 'white street" in a white neighborhood.

Unfortunately this narrative is not an example of some bigger point that I am attempting to make, or story out of a civil rights history book. This story happened to a close friend of mine, in the city in which I live, in 2010.

There are those who claim racism is dead and that the angry black man, who demands equal rights and justice for his people, are exaggerating the disparities in which we face. We live amongst many individuals who claim that justice does in fact exist for blacks in the same way in which it exists for whites and that we (black people) should stop complaining and be thankful we have a black president. We should be thankful despite overwhelmingly disproportionate unemployment rates. We should keep quiet despite overwhelmingly disproportionate incarceration rates. We should be happy despite failing schools in our communities and countless acts of violence by cops against our people, nationwide!

The city of Philadelphia has long been labeled one of the more racist cities in the north. And for good reason. From incidents such as the MOVE bombing in the early 80's to the notoriously racist police commissioner turned mayor Frank Rizzo, and his reign of terror and many acts of violence against black people. In a city that has elected to black mayor's in the last 12 years, half of its city council being people of color and the majority of the Philadelphia Delegation of the PA House of Representatives as black people, you would think that blacks in this city in 2010 would not have to face such heinous acts of racism. It is clear that justice for black people in this country is a coin toss. It may or may not happen.

It is seriously time for black people to be sick and tired. And not just sick and tired of the unfair treatment, but sick and tired of not doing anything about it. There has not been one thing that blacks in this country have ever obtained in the history of our existence in America, without having to fight hard to obtain it. These modern times that we live in are no different. In fact the fight for equality in America is as tough as ever, as we face Tea Party influenced politics, a black president that has to tread lightly as to not seem like he's doing too much for his people, negative influences on our children by the hip-hop culture and other forms of media and the tremendous affects that the crack epidemic is still having on our communities. This incident which occurred should not be taken lightly. Remember Sean Bell and Oscar Grant. Remember the Jena 6! We have to stop waiting for it to hit home before we act. If not we are part of the problem!

View more news videos at:

Black Cops in West Philadelphia

Police Beat a Man Even As He Surrenders

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