Police


On Thursday 08th February, LAPD Officer Randal Simmons was killed in the line of duty. He was a member of a SWAT unit and was responding to an occurrence where a mentally disturbed man had already killed three of his family members. Another officer James Veenstra was also critically wounded. The gunman was eventually killed by other officers.

Officer Simmons, who was 51 years old, is survived by his wife, two teenage children, parents and three sisters. He was also an ordained minister and led the children’s outreach services at his church. This ministry served about 1500 children every weekend in poor L.A. neighbourhoods with food, toys, gospel CDs, bible lessons, puppet shows and games. 

We usually hear (and highlight) the negative things the police are involved with as it relates to our community. Lets not forget those who are positive role models and heroes in life… as well as in death. Say a prayer for his family and colleagues… and also the family of the gunman, Edwin Rivera.  

On this date at approximately 2:30pm, I began to receive the first of three phone calls that would change my world. They went something like this:  

1st Call: Hey…. do you know where Shelly, John’s wife works?

Asa: No… I don’t know exactly where or the name of the company…. but it’s an agency that looks after developmentally disabled kids.

1st Call: Ok…. (Hang up). 

My first impulse, as my heart started racing, was what a strange and unsettling conversation. I began thinking that something is definitely up but I avoid thinking the worst. Why would they call me looking for Shelly? Although John is my partner, I have been away on a special assignment for the last 2 weeks. Maybe he got hurt…. probably in a car accident (I’m hoping) and they just want to let her know he’s okay. 

2nd Call: Hey we need to get in touch with Shelly. Do you have a cell number or work number for her?

Asa: No…. what’s going on?

2nd Call: (Silence)…. John is hurt and we need to talk to her.

Asa: How bad is he hurt?

2nd Call: I’m not sure… I gotta go…. Talk to you later. 

Now I am getting that feeling of dread. It has got be really bad if they are scrambling to find Shelly. I try not to think the worst. I try to get the last two phone calls out of my spirit and bury my head in reading reports. I can’t shake this feeling though. I’m calm. It’s an unsettling calm though. I go to find a colleague who may have more information. I see that he is on the phone…. deep in conversation. I get an eerie feeling. I walk back to my office. This isn’t good.   

3rd Call: Hey…. where are you?

Asa: What do you mean? I’m at the office.

3rd Call: I’m sorry to tell you…. John is dead. He was shot and killed earlier this afternoon.

Asa: (Silence. I go numb. I feel like I’ve been placed in a vacuum. My soul goes blurry…. disoriented). Ok…. thanks.   

I leave the office and go out to the back of the building. I break down. I had never felt anguish like that before. Even when my Father had died earlier that year. His death was a surprised but not totally unexpected. An unexpected violent death of someone close to you brings a different dimension. It takes you to a dark place.  

I heard someone say recently that God can make something beautiful out of tragedy. I have had to search deep, for a year, to find the beauty in John’s death. I guess for me it’s appreciating my friends and co-workers. It’s easier to see the value in familial relationships. Now, I make the time to sincerely engage with those I work with. Now, I don’t take the moments I spend with my friends for granted. Now, when I say to a friend or co-worker: “stay safe” or “see you later”, it takes on a different significance.

I have also come to realize that the most sacred thing we possess in life…. is life itself. Cherish it. Don’t waste it. Share it with others. Make it count for something. 

One year later, I still ache. 

See you in heaven brother. 

 

John Charles “Sparky” Atkinson.

Born: 28 May 1968.

Died: 05 May 2006.           

Whatever in the world can be done, will be done. The question is whether it will be done by you or to you?

Coming soon to the AfroSphere.

“GOD IS GOOD!”

“ALL THE TIME!”

I started blogging about a year ago after the 2005 Oscars. My first post ever was on some thoughts I had about Three 6 Mafia winning the Oscar for Best Song, George Clooney’s acceptance speech for winning best supporting actor for “Syriana”, and on the winner of the best picture… who can remember? “CRASH”. (first post) I was new to the blogging game and wanted to see where my voice would take me out into the blogosphere.

 

John Smulo

 

This week, I have been featured in a 2-part interview on the blog page of John Smulo, called SmuloSpace. John is a Christian blogger whose page I read frequently because he expands my thinking and brought a different perspective to the “Christian” experience for me. He is one of very few bloggers from the “Christosphere”, that I link to my page. The others are Gruntled Center, Imitatio Christi, The Church Boy and God’s Politics (which is a site of “white” progressive Christian bloggers developed by Jim Wallis). This is not to say that there aren’t others linked to this page who consider themselves Christians. However these specific blogs primarily discuss religious themes and look at other topics from a “Christian” perspective, whatever that may mean to the authors, which is why I refer to them as the “Christosphere”.

 

I found it very difficult finding Christian bloggers to read. It wasn’t due to there not being many of them out in the blogosphere, but I prefer to become engaged in discussions that will challenge my thinking and beliefs, that will expand my knowledge and not spew the same “ole time religion”. These blogs do that to some extent and SmuloSpace is my favourite. I cannot remember how I found his page but I started reading it in January 2007. What attracted me most is that I found John to be a sincere listener…. and that is a rare quality in a person. I started reading and commenting on his page and visa versa. A couple weeks ago he asked if he could interview me for his page. I was pleasantly surprised! He was primarily interested in the process I went through to adopt my African/Spiritual name: “Asabagna Alatentou” and my self-definition as an “Afrocentric Pentecostal”. I felt honored and gladly said “yes”. Here are the links to both interviews:

It is my hope that those of you who frequent this page may not just read the interviews, but will also read some of John’s other posts, and be inspired to become engaged in conversations and be regular commentators there. I also hope that those who frequent John’s page, through the interviews, may discover our community and engage with us also. Isn’t that the beauty of the internet? To discover, communicate and learn from those of other countries, cultures and beliefs. To transcend borders, barriers and build bridges of understanding through dialogue, discussion and debate. To make friends. It’s not a “pipe dream”. It’s possible. I’ve done it with all of you.

 

I wish you heaven.

Asa.

Friday (03-23-07), I’m at the gym doing my “cardio thing” and watching the news, when I see a story concerning a polar bear cub by the name of “KNUT” in Berlin Germany. Apparently this cub, which was born about 4 months ago, was rejected by it’s mother, a circus bear. The Berlin Zoo decided to raise it and a national furor was caused when an animal rights activist stated that the cub should be put to death rather than be raised in captivity. According to a variety of news reports (see one here), school children took to the streets chanting “Knut must live”; news headlines read “ The Polar Bear of our Hearts”; t-shirts were printed; websites were launched, including his own personal one (see here); soccer fans chanted for him instead of their teams and a CD of songs about him was produced. He has been adopted by the German Environment Minister and is now a symbol of the effects of global climate change. The cub had made it’s public debut on Friday amid hundreds of reporters from around the world as well as thousands of supporters.

Friday, I also read a story on the blog page of Francis L. Holland on the case of Shaquanda Cotton in Paris, Texas (see here). This 14 year-old African-American girl was sentenced in March 2006, to 7 years in a Texas juvenile correctional center for pushing a 58 year old teacher’s aid. As I read the story, I thought there was no way this could be true! This must be some sort of internet hoax. I did a little internet research myself and read some news accounts of this situation. The more I read, the more I became stupefied and enraged as the truth of this injustice crystallized in my psyche (see here). The accounts of the blatant separate and unequal treatment of the Black community to the obvious targeting and retaliation against Shaquanda because her mother frequently accused school officials of racism.

 

 

BUT what enraged me the most was that I had not heard of this before. Had I really missed this? AND if I had: Where is the national furor? Where are the other school children taking to the streets for her cause? Where are the news reports and headlines? Where are the t-shirts? She does have a blog page (see here) but where are the other blog posts heating up the Afrosphere for her cause? Where are the sport fans chanting her name? Where is the national political and/or government official, regardless of party affiliation, who has adopted her cause as a symbol of the fight against the continual racial discrimination and judicial injustice faced by those of African descent in America? AND when I ask all these questions of “where?”, I am not asking society at large! I am asking the Black/African community itself!

 

Or am I asking the wrong questions. Maybe I should be asking: are we so caught up in who will be dismissed from this week’s episode of American Idol and Survivor to care? Has our desire for justice and equality been replaced by a craving for the new Three 6 Mafia “joint”, the latest dance craze and the next McDeath “Happy Meal”? Have we become so bamboozled by the media, that our attention has been captivated by who is the “baby daddy” of a dead, white, fat, drug and alcohol addicted slut, to even see the injustices that are visited upon our young? Are we so entranced by the circus performances of Obama, Hillary and John that real life wrongs pass under our radar? Have we completely sold out the birthright of “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” for our children, to feast on the pottage provided at the back door of the white women empowerment movement (feminism), gay marriage and other gay rights issues?  Have we become so mis-educated as a community that our time and energy is focused on rallying against the plight of illegal immigrants, the atrocities perpetrated by the Iraqis against themselves and the empowerment of Afghani women while our own young are dehumanized?

 

There is a call for the Black community to write and/or telephone the Judge and Governor of Texas to “voice” our displeasure and disappointment at the treatment of Shaquanda Cotton. Hmmmm. ‘nuff said.

 

My sister Aulelia recently pondered: “Perhaps celluloid exposure is needed for more people to care about Africa?” Along with the numerous movies featuring Africa, Africans and African-Americans that we have been recently exposed to, there has also been a deluge of cartoon or digital animated films featuring animals. The animals are portrayed more like humans. The Blacks/Africans are represented as less than animals. Ironically, I think we now have an answer to her question.

 

Asabagna