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yMegan Hobson was 16 when she was wounded in a drive-by shooting. She says black Miamians weren’t included enough in March for Our Lives events.Photo by Jayme Gershen
Some Black Gun Control Activists Felt Left Out by March for Our LivesJessica Weiss | March 26, 2018 | 11:30am
Millions flocked to March for Our Lives events this weekend, including tens of thousands to events in South Florida. In Miami Beach, huge crowds waved signs and chanted for stricter gun control, while organizers promised that the fight had “just begun.”
But as the push for gun reform gains steam in South Florida after the Parkland shooting, some longtime African-American activists have a message for those just getting involved: “We’ve been talking about this.”
Activist Megan Hobson, who is 22, survived a drive-by shooting in Miami Gardens in 2012 and has been outspoken about cracking down on gun violence ever since. She says she had hoped to see Miami’s black communities, which are disproportionately affected by gun violence, included in the local Never Again movement. But she didn’t find those voices well represented in Miami Beach on Saturday.
“The whole conversation behind Parkland is really great, but from young black kids’ eyes it looks different,” says Hobson. “To people who are saying this movement began in Parkland, I’m like no, this movement began in the hood. It sometimes feels like a slap in the face.”
Black children are ten times more likely to get killed by guns than white children, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Hobson was 16 when a drive-by shooter in Miami Gardens fired an AK-47 bullet through the trunk of her sister’s car and into her pelvis. She had multiple surgeries to reconstruct her intestines, uterus, and hip, and still has trouble walking on her right leg.
After the shooting, she was unsure how to move forward with her life. Her search for resources and support in Miami came up mostly empty. So, she began to create those opportunities herself.
She shared her story any chance she got. And she began working with youth impacted by gun violence to help them heal.
In 2013, Hobson was invited by Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz to attend Barack Obama’s State of the Union address in Washington, D.C. She’s since completed an internship in Wasserman Schultz’s office and continues to work with the congresswoman on legislation. She’s a spokesperson and state outreach coordinator for Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, which was created in 2012 in response to the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School. She’s one of the 101 survivors photographed for Kathy Shorr’s SHOT project — in fact, she’s on the cover. She hosts events across Miami and the state, and is working to create a nonprofit space for kids to heal from gun violence.
But she’s still healing too.
“It’s tough,” she said. “The way trauma works is you grow older but the pain grows with you. I was not just surviving that night, but every day after. I’m still a black girl in Miami. We hear about shootings all the time –
at the gas station, in the car, in your community – it’s so common.”
On Saturday, a group of students from Liberty City who traveled to Washington, D.C. for the national March for Our Lives had the same message. “All I see is Caucasians. I don’t see black people,” one young man told CGTN. “They need to come to our area… We are from the hood, the ghetto, this is every day for us.”
Hobson says events designed to highlight the voices of gun violence survivors need to be accessible to people from the communities where gun violence has the largest impact. She attended Saturday’s event in Miami Beach but was disappointed by the lack of affected youth who were included. No one approached her about being a speaker.
“Is there transportation? Is it inclusive to everyone? Are we working to bring communities where this is most needed?” she says. “Those are the questions organizers need to ask.”
On Saturday, March 31, Hobson will take part in an event in Wynwood called “Stop the Gun Violence, Fool.” On April 14, she will host a walk for gun violence in Liberty City, and two days later she will be part of a “The Youth Speaks” event at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts.
“It’s gonna take a lot more than just a march,” she said. “It’s gonna take a 365-day conversation to create change. This fight for me is every day.”Post Views: 48
Toveet Radcliffe Was the First African-American Woman to Die in the Israeli Military; Her Death Was Ruled a Suicide But Her Family Isn’t Buying It
In America, we’ve become painfully used to the idea that to the police, the Jeff Sessions-led justice Department and, in many cases, the military, black lives don’t matter. Donald Trump’s handling of the death of Army Sgt. LaDavid Johnson; the White House’s silence on the killing of Army 2nd Lt. Richard Collins III by a white supremacist; the deafening silence about racism at the U.S. Air Force Academy, are just a few examples in the last year.
It is often worse for black women in the armed forces, who are victims of racial and sexual violence. Consider the case of LaVena Johnson, who, at 19 years old, was found dead of a gunshot wound in a tent in Balad, Iraq. Yet despite her body being found with a broken nose, a black eye, loose teeth and corrosive chemicals found on her genitals, the Army determined her death was a suicide. Where else in the world are black women’s bodies, even when dedicated to the protection of a nation, so degraded or devalued? Apparently, the Israeli government isn’t far behind America.
Feb. 21 will mark the three-year anniversary of 19-year-old Corporal Toveet Radcliffe’s death, the first African-American woman to die in the Israeli Defense Forces. Radcliffe was found dead at Palmachim Airbase just south of Tel Aviv, Israel, from a gunshot wound to the head. In early February, the IDF ruled that Radcliffe’s case will not be reopened. Investigators ruled that the gunshot that went through her forehead and came out the back was a result of an accidental or intentional suicide. However, Radcliffe’s family and members of the African Hebrew Israelite community aren’t so sure.
Toveet Radcliffe was born in Israel, to African-American parents who moved to there to practice as Hebrew Israelites, an Afrocentric form of Old Testament Judaism. She grew up happy and popular in the southern Israeli city of Dimona, where about 10 percent of the population are Hebrew Israelites, and she was known for her beauty and gregarious personality.
Despite being born in Israel, Radcliffe was not a practicing Hebrew Israelite nor was she an Israeli citizen. In fact, Hebrew Israelites are not automatically granted Israeli citizenship; the Israeli government had tried to kick them out of the country for years (part of a larger problem of the Israeli government discrimination against African and African-American Jews) until eventually granting them a tenuous residency status. Hebrew Israelites often live as second-class citizens, denied public education and state health care because their practice of Judaism isn’t “orthodox.”
Nevertheless, children can earn citizenship for themselves and their families can become eligible to apply for full citizenship after serving a tour in the armed forces. Radcliffe joined the military in October 2013 and died less than a year into her service—not from terrorists or criminals but from a bullet wound to the head while sitting in a guard booth.
She was found just after midnight, bleeding from a head wound, by the soldier that was to replace her on duty; she was declared dead by a military doctor less than half an hour later.
After almost three years of legal wrangling, Judge Major Meir Vigiser ruled it was “highly likely” that no other person was with Radcliffe when she was shot. Vigiser rejected several experts presented by the Radcliffe family suggesting foul play, instead placing the young woman’s death in her own hands.
About 30 members of the Hebrew Israelite community, all wearing white, sat in the courtroom for over an hour, listening as Judge Vigiser’s ruling. Radcliffe’s mother, Khydijah Gray, refused to attend the final hearing because she doubted that justice would come. While the verdict clearly disappointed the Radcliffe family and its supporters, it did not shock them.
“I am absolutely not surprised. I would have been surprised if they had done the right thing,” Shayarah Baht Yisrael said to The Root.
“I think the whole investigation was flawed from the beginning. And that alone is jail time, as far as I’m concerned. The fact that they tried to sweep it under the rug so quickly, I’m very, very frustrated by that,” added Ketreyah Fouch.
As supporters from the community trailed out of the Bar Lev Base, one young woman told The Root: “Toveet was too good to serve in the Israeli army, in general. Like all of us, we’re just too good to serve in this army.”
Hours after attending the court session, African Hebrew activist Ashriel Ben-Israel uploaded a video to Facebook calling the verdict “a big embarrassment”: “We do not accept it, this decision! We no longer believe any army representative regarding this case,” Ben-Israel bellowed in Hebrew, overcome with emotion. “We will not allow this decision to pass in silence,” he added.
Discrepancies in the IDF’s account of her death disturbed Radcliffe’s family and friends from the start. On January 18, 2016, nearly a year after the fatal incident, the IDF published the results of its internal investigation into Radliffe’s death—essentially suicide. At the most basic level, it is hard to believe that 5-foot, 2-inch Toveet Radcliffe managed to shoot herself through the forehead with an M4 (demonstrated below with a paper replica by her sister).
Given that the Israeli government offered to pay the Radcliffe family a lifelong stipend (for a solider who committed suicide), the questionable investigation (significant physical evidence was never examined), and the dismissal of key witnesses and testimony, Radcliffe’s family sought the truth. The Hebrew Israelite community raised funds for a legal appeal that bore fruit a year later. On March 17, 2017, the president of the IDF Court of Appeals, Major Gen. Doron Feiles, ordered a reinvestigation of Radcliffe’s death. In his decision, Feiles conceded that the IDF had not definitively demonstrated that Radcliffe had committed suicide and had not even bothered to seriously consider any other possible explanation for her death.
“It could be that the IDF felt that Toveet’s life wasn’t of value on the scale of social importance. Maybe in its opinion, she was just a girl from a black community in Dimona, just some unimportant girl,” the community leadership said the day after the Vigiser verdict in a press release. “Taking into account the apathy, arrogance and total lack of transparency on the part of the IDF, it must be seen as suspect No. 1.”
Radcliffe’s case had become a national story in Israel over the last few year; it was featured in several CSI/First-48 style TV investigative shows. Yet despite the historic nature of a black girl with African-American parents dying mysteriously in the IDF, it received little or no coverage in the United States. No major news stories, no #SayHerName hashtags. A Change.org petition to President Barack Obama in 2016 on her behalf couldn’t muster 1,000 signatures.
With the case officially over, members of the Hebrew Israelite community vow that they will continue the fight even if it’s unclear how that will occur. The Israeli government can delay, deny or possibly void the citizenship of community members who push back too hard. Furthermore, with little or no international attention or pressure, ala #BringBackOurGirls, there’s no reason to believe the conservative Benjamin Netanyahu government would even care. That doesn’t mean her case doesn’t matter, it only means that if black lives truly matter across the globe, we must add Toveet Radcliffe’s name to the sadly growing list of black people betrayed, abandoned and possibly killed by their governments.Post Views: 69
Kweli.tv aims to be the go-to streaming media platform for black filmmakers all over the world to share their content and make money from its distribution. KweliTV handpicks all of its content, with 98 percent of the content having been official selections at film festivals worldwide.
“There are a lot of really great filmmakers out there globally,” KweliTV founder DeShuna Spencer told me. “For us, we’re offering an avenue for filmmakers of color to make money off of their work and be celebrated for the work they do.”
Perhaps, more importantly, KweliTV wants to be a source of authentic storytelling of the black community from the black perspective. A recent study showed the mainstream media (news and opinion media) offers a consistently warped view of black people and black families. For example, black families represent 59 percent of the poor in mainstream media even though they make up just 27 percent of low-income people, according to Color of Change. Meanwhile, white families make up just 17 percent of low-income people while they officially represent 66 percent of the country’s low-income population.
Kweli, which means “truth” in Swahili, aims to tell all sides of the black experience. In order for content to be featured on KweliTV, the the main character needs to be of African descent and “not the sidekick, the friend of the fairy godmother,” KweliTV founder DeShuna Spencer told me. “The black person has to be the main character.”
An example of some KweliTV content is a film called Something Necessary. Created by Kenyan filmmaker Judy Kibinge, Something Necessary explores life after the civil unrest in Kenya following the 2007 elections through the eyes of a woman named Anne. In 2013, the film was nominated for audience choice award at the Chicago International Film Festival and screened at the Toronto International Film Festival.
There are currently 200 titles on the platform, with KweliTV adding about three titles a week in the categories of documentary, shorts and full-length features. Subscribers can watch KweliTV on the web or via Roku, Apple TV or Google Play. Unlike Netflix, the goal is not to have an endless library of content. Instead. KweliTV wants to keep it intimate with no more than 500 titles at a time.
KweliTV, which launched out of beta just a few months ago, currently has 2,000 paying subscribers. By the end of the year, the goal is to hit 30,000 paid subscribers. An annual membership costs $49.99/year and a monthly one costs $5.99.
As a value-add to the streaming content, KweliTV partners with other black-owned businesses to offer discounts and other perks to its subscribers. Subscribers can access discounts at companies like Heritage Box, Black Card Revoked, African Ancestry and others.
On the creator side, filmmakers get paid based on how many minutes people spend viewing their content. More specifically, 60 percent of Kweli.TV’s revenue goes to filmmakers, who get paid quarterly.
In alignment with Spencer’s desire to keep it intimate, KweliTV is going to start hosting in-person events for its members to connect with each other. The first event will be next month.
“We really see Kweli as being a community more than a streaming service,” Spencer said. “Our customers are asking us to be more community-oriented.”
KweliTV is a bootstrapped company in the traditional sense, meaning it hasn’t raised funding from any angel investors or VCs. The company has, however, won $65,000 from a couple of startup competitions.
“It’s a full-time job to raise money,” Spencer said. “That’s not to say we’ll never raise but today, my focus is on revenue.”
One of KweliTV’s competitors, Afrostream, shut down last August, despite raising $4 million in capital. Spencer pointed to Afrostream as a bit of a cautionary tale of trying to grow too quickly.
Instead of becoming a unicorn, Spencer sees her company as a zebra. Unlike unicorns, zebras a profitable and work to improve society, and KweliTV is achieving both of those requirements.Post Views: 83