June 01, 2010
My brother, Devon, and I trekked down to Lucedale, Mississippi a couple of days ago. It was storming as if Storm herself from X-men had orchestrated a mass attack against southeast Mississippi. To put the icing on the cake, 30 minutes from our destination, a tornado funnel cloud started forming right in front of us! A virgin to the whole tornado experience, I immediately turned around and high-tailed it in the opposite direction ….kind of like StormChasers, but instead of heading in the direction of the storm, I was running as far away as possible!
I finally got the courage to face the storm again and made it to the George County Courthouse where a small group of people had already begun assembling. The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) had sent a representative from its Community Relations Service Department to get a conversation going between local law enforcement officials and the community. Since the alleged “accidental death” of Billey Joe Johnson, Jr. the community has complained that there has been blatant racism from both the Lucedale Police Department and Sheriff’s Department.
If you're not familiar with the case, Johnson was a star high school athlete whose death still remains a mystery after he was pulled over for being a suspect in a burglary and allegedly committed suicide before the officer made it to his truck to check for his I.d. During the community meeting, DOJ adamantly stated, as it has been for the last two years, “That the case of Billey Joe Johnson, Jr. is still being investigated”.
Disappointed by the DOJ’s answer, the community then went on to explain that drug crimes, racial profiling of young black males, the lack of neighborhood watch in the community, and the Police Department’s constant tasing were their main problems. After the meeting, many members of the community, bombarded me with questions, wanted my business card and every single piece of public education materials, ACLU complaint forms, etc..that I had.
The community is frustrated and ready for action. Some are mad scared. They want and need our help. The local NAACP Chapter, Mayor, Concerned Citizen Youth group all want the ACLU to come to Lucedale and put on a “Know Your Rights” workshops. We're definitely down for the cause...rain, storm, or shine!