Christopher Norris with updates on current events in Philadelphia after guest-hosting on the city’s only black talk media outlet.
A New Jersey news drama of sorts played out on live air Thursday afternoon when I guest-hosted ‘The Nick Taliaferro Show’ on 900amWURD, Philadelphia’s only black talk media outlet. The top-of-the-hour interview was with Mr. Walter Hudson, a Penns Grove based activist and a somewhat controversial figure that often appears in regional media for either his advocacy regarding police violence or his encounters with the law itself. Mr. Hudson, whose activism surrounding the fatal officer-involved shooting of Mr. Jerame Reid in December, 2014, led to, more than a year later, a federal investigation, finds himself this time involved in a news story less cut-and-dry than the one where a black man with his hands up exits a vehicle at the behest of an officer only to be shot and killed while the whole encounter is being recorded by a dashboard camera.
This current story involving Mr. Hudson, though newsworthy according to the public interest as expressed via internet traffic on the article ‘School Shooting Rumor Elicits Mixed Reactions,’ is still developing, and develop it did on Thursday afternoon around 4:25ish. The father of the young man who Mr. Hudson says threatened a group of black youth with future gun violence at their school, a man who since the story broke hadn’t been in the media with his side of the story, called into the station to divulge his truth.
The white New Jersey man, who refused to give neither his name, or the name of his offspring, characterized Mr. Hudson as a miscreant and race-baiter who, in this story and others, sought only the headlines of local media. The father said his son, not the 4 youth who Mr. Hudson claims to be standing up for, was the victim. The son, according to the father, was jumped by the four black youth. Mr. Hudson concedes that a fight took place in which the boy who allegedly made the threats was outnumbered. But, Mr. Hudson says the father isn’t telling the origins of the encounter, which started with the four youth being harassed, followed and later hit with a snowball. On the air with me, the father, who claims to have pressed charged against the four who pummeled his kid, says that narrative—a small boy picking a fight with four others—defies logic, as no one would subject themselves to a proverbial handicap match.
Mr. Hudson says the four minors in question—three boys and one girl, though the father argues all boys—aren’t aggressive children and only fought after being pushed to the brinks by the solo actor.
“It’s not so fun when the rabbit has the gun,” Mr. Hudson, who stated he and the father have never met, said to Techbook Online this morning when reached by telephone.
I, again, pushed Mr. Hudson to explain why the youth choose to fight instead of calling the police. His response suggested that the police in that town are not on the side of right, but instead on the side of white. Neither Mr. Hudson nor the father is at this point interested in meditation or bringing forth a resolve. When asked if he’s concerned that this feud could cause tension in their town of 5,000 or so, Mr. Hudson replied with a comment that implied his town, plagued with racial strife, couldn’t get any tenser. Mr. Hudson, though not the father, will attend this Monday’s school board meeting.
Veterans Plan to Rally in City Hall and Deliver Petitions
Mr. Ari Merretazon was the second person on Thursday to visit me at the studio of 900amWURD, the first, of course, being Mr. Hudson. Mr. Merretazon, who was drafted into the Vietnam War at age 19 and whose story inspired the character played by Mr. Lorenz Tate in the movie ‘Dead Presidents,’ has over the years been pushing a very deliberate agenda that includes the City of Philadelphia appointing a Director of Veterans Affairs that answers to the Mayor’s Office, as is required by a 1955 state law.
Mr. Merretazon is angriest at Mr. Darrell Clarke, the Philadelphia City Council President who once told me that he’s satisfied with the current infrastructure and services that the local government provides to veterans, despite City Councilman Curtis Jones Jr., saying in 2008 that the only thing the City gave to veterans were flags, and despite the City’s first-ever Veterans Resource fair taken place in 2012. The shirt Mr. Merretazon, a former news professional, wore into the studio said, on the front, “Councilman Clarke Stop Violating Veterans Rights” and, on the back, “Darrell Clarke Must Go.”
On his first day as Mayor, Mr. Jim Kenney, who at a town hall meeting in Strawberry Mansion spoke to Mr. Merretazon about his gripe, talked briefly to me about his plans for the Veterans and what he said was good, but not great.
“PTSD is a serious issue,” said the Mayor, noting that the suicide rate among veterans is “atrocious.”
The plan thus far, according to Mr. Kenney, is to leverage the Department of Behavioral Health and Intellectual DisAbility Services to increase mental health resources among Veterans.
“We should be ashamed as Americans for allowing soldiers to kill themselves,” Mr. Kenney said on the afternoon of January 4th.
With no mention of Veterans in the proposed budget, Mr. Merretazon is characterizing the Mayor’s words as lip-service. To show his displeasure, and that of others, this Thursday morning during the City Council meeting Mr. Merretazon and up to 30 other former soldiers plan to testify and deliver signed petitions.
Of the roughly 1,000 signatures gathered so far, 200 or so came from a black-owned West Philadelphia ShopRite Supermarket where Pointman Soldiers Heart Ministry, the Veterans advocacy organization of which Mr. Merretazon is affiliated, maintained a presence on a Saturday not long ago.
A Philadelphia Poverty Summit
Reverend Gregory Holston often speaks passionately about stop-and-frisk, and he did just that when he joined me in the studio Thursday afternoon for a stop-and-frisk panel following my interview with Mr. Merretazon. But the Reverend’s main competency in his role as an activist is not criminal justice but rather economic empowerment. What we didn’t get to talk about on the air yesterday, but what I made sure to document today, is that Reverend Holston, the newly hired CEO of OIC of America, Inc., and the Economic & Dignity Chair for P.O.W.E.R, an uber visible and expanding interfaith coalition in Philadelphia and the tri-state area, is leading the charge to convene a first-of-its-kind citywide poverty summit, attended by activists, politicians and academics, on May 19th, 2016 from 8am-8pm at the Community College of Philadelphia.
A press conference about the summit organized by P.O.W.E.R and OIC of America, Inc., will take place at 10am this Monday morning at 1415 N Broad Street. If the weather permits, the press conference will take place on the front lawn. If done inside, the presser will be in room 226.
“Poverty plans in the past have talked about social service but never how to move people out of poverty,” the Reverend told Techbook Online today in an exclusive interview.
Seeing Black Men in a Different Light
To close out the show on Thursday, I was visited by Mr. Gregory Walker, Creative Director of The Brothers’ Network, and Mr. Anthony Fleet, a 22 year-old member of the arts and culture organization Mr. Walker founded eight years ago. A communications major preparing for Grad School, Mr. Fleet, who when he encountered The Brothers’ Network had somewhat of a culture shock, filmed a documentary about the organization who attracted, as a board member, Mr. Colman Domingo, a star in AME’s hit show ‘Fear the Walking Dead.’
The documentary, newly released and discussed publicly for the first time ever yesterday on the air, features interviews with various black men—world travelers, actors, professors and curators—and their struggles to been seen as an individual, not a monolith. The Brothers’ Network exists, says Mr. Walker, the break the myth that there’s one type of black man. The men in the network, as the organization’s tagline suggest, are boundless, and, as Mr. Walker says often, exist in a multiplicity of identities.
The Brothers’ Network, which has produced about 300 cultural events, is producing yet another this Monday at the Elixir Coffee Shop in Center City Philadelphia. The gathering, mentioned in the Philadelphia market for the first time during Thursday’s broadcast, is free, but requires an RSVP as space is limited.
CLICK HERE to listen to ‘Why the Black Vote Matters,’ a podcast from The Dr. Vibe Show featuring a panel of black male thought-leaders, including the co-founder of the ‘Vote or Die’ movement.
Thanks for reading. Until next time, I’m Flood the Drummer® & I’m Drumming for JUSTICE!™