ESSENCE Debates Now: Baltimore Uprising

Our special episode featured Keke Palmer, David Banner, editor AkibaSolomon, community organizer Cherell Brown, former mayor Eldridge Hawkins, Jr., and activists Johnetta Elzie, DeRay McKesson, Synead Nichols and Unaara Iynaas Elliott.

ESSENCE.COM Apr, 30, 2015
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[MUSIC] Baltimore, Maryland. A city in turmoil. [MUSIC] A city trying to heal. [MUSIC] Where do we go from here? [MUSIC] Today, Essence looks beyond the chaos and violence. We move on from the images we've been bombarded with, and look to the future. We search for hope, for solutions. If our society really wanted to solve the problem we could. It's just it would require everybody. Saying this is important, this is significant [MUSIC] We invite our essences family to help us find what me must do now [MUSIC] Hello everyone. I'm Dana Blair and welcome to Essence Debates Now. In the summer of 2013, Essence unveiled the Twitter handle @essence_debates. It was created to be a forum for lively conversations about hot topics of the day. Anything from politics to pop culture and of course, social issues. This week. The Baltimore uprisings shine light on an issue, an existing issue, plaguing not only Baltimore but also cities and small towns across America. Here is what we know. On April 12th, 25-year-old Freddie Gray suffered an 80% severed spine while in police custody. He died from his injuries a week later. We don't know why Freddie ran from the police, we don't know why he had a switch blade in his pocket, and we don't know how his spine was injured. Many point to the unexplained death of Freddie Gray as a catalyst for Tuesday's events. But some argue that the tensions between the police and the citizens of Baltimore made the situation inevitable. It's my pleasure to be joined by the editor-in-chief of 'Essence', Vanessa K. DeLuca, Vanessa thank you so much for joining us. Thank you for having me. As we touch upon this very serious subject. What is the emotional state, of our audience, of our readers, and, of our community, post this situation. I mean I think you can say it in five words. We're fed up and worn out. Mm. This is just Just yet another example of how we haven't really moved beyond the conversation that we started you know, last year with #BlackLivesMatter. I mean, do our lives really matter? And that's the question that our audience is asking. I mean certainly What's happening in Baltimore, the events of Baltimore, this isn't happening in a vacuum. Sure. There are certainly systemic challenges that we have. This system of neglect, inequality and disrespect. Mm-hm. That has, you know, kind of led us to this point. And that's not just true of Baltimore. It's of city, in true of cities across this country. And so our audience is saying, what do we do now? If we can't count on our politicians, if we can't count on federal government, if we can't count on the justice system, if we can't count on the police we're supposed to To protect us, what can we count on? So, right now we're, in the media, we're seeing lots of signs of anger. But is our audience coming to you and, and across social media, looking for signs for solutions? Looking for some sort of guidance? Absolutely. I mean, what, you know, what they're commenting on, Our audience is saying, look, you know, there is a lot of sensationalism in what we're seeing There's a lot of selective images in what we're seeing, so instead of just only seeing the viral video of the mom who, you know, was beating on her son, dragging her, him away from a riot, why aren't we also seeing the hundreds of black women who have been organizing peaceful protests, Yes. Consistently, who have been working with community organizers to keep the peace, who've been working on Community cleanup throughout this week. Why aren't we seeing those images? That is very, very true and we're gonna come back to more of the solution conversation but this video of the mother from Baltimore has become a story within itself. Is a mother disciplining her son, there's several layers to this video because And another contest, context, these kinds of actions would not be celebrated by the mainstream media. What do we think of this particular video going viral? I mean, mother of the year. You know- Right There's a lot of people in our audience that are telling us in social media, in polls we've done on essence.com. That they, you know, there's some tension around that. While you know, this mom is being celebrated Pulling her son out of a potentially dangerous situation ->> Right. You know the fact that you literally seeing, visually seeing a black mom beating on her child, you know, what does that say? What does that communicate? And so there's a lot of you know, while we understand you know, a mom's need and desire to protect a child It's kinda like, there are many other moms who are doing other things that aren't quite that visceral, aren't quite that vio, you know. Blatant or or-- Blatant or forceful-- Forceful. Forceful. We're just asking for balance, and that's what a lot of people in the audience are saying. Do you think it's something we should consider perhaps maybe her movements was out of fear, you know, not wanting her son to end up like Freddie Gray or, or, you know, sometimes in heated situations we may not have the best words or actions, but do you think it comes from a, a, a pure place, an innocent place? Absolutely. I mean, I'm the mother of a 15-hear-old son. Mm. Mm-hm.>> You know, if I were in that situation, I might have the same response, just out of the fear that God forbid something happen to my child. Right. God forbid they're caught out in a situation where that they can't get out of. No one wants to see, I mean and lets be clear. If you look at all of the situations. Freddy Gray, Tamara Rice, or Kia Boyd. You look at all these situations how did they end up? They ended up in someone's [INAUDIBLE] And so that's what you're thinking first and foremost as a mother, trying to protect your child. And also, going back to the peaceful versus the non-peaceful images we're seeing in the media. I'm sure there were other parents that were out there. But because maybe it wasn't as As loud if you will didn't receive some of the coverage or attention that this particular mom did. We're gonna dive deeper into this topic when we come back, but first we have Yolanda Singuiney with a special edition of dear black women, where she speaks to the struggle of raising a black male child in America. [MUSIC] Dear black women, or rather, black moms. We've got a tough job. Sure, we're like most moms in America. Juggling motherhood with our careers, and trying to raise children who will grow up to be decent human beings. But one thing stands out for us, we all quickly learn that our children. Especially our sons, are targets. Freddie Gray Michael Brown, Kemoni Grey, Oscar Grant, these are just a few of the names that have made national headlines, dying after interactions with the police. This week as we watched some frustrated protesters in Baltimore turn what was days of peaceful protesting into looting and violence one mom's fight for her son is all anyone's talking about. While some are calling Toya Graham the heroine of the Baltimore protests, others are not so quick to condone her message. But what all moms can relate to is her sense of fear for her son. The single mom of six said she lost it when she caught her only son, 16 year old Michael Graham about to take part in protests. She wanted him to be safe and not become the next Freddie Gray. Graham later said that she often shields her son and keeps him in the house so he won't go outside and become a victim of the streets. How many of us can relate to this sentiment? How many of us can relate to the fear that runs through your body when you're black Son leaves the house. How the talk has nothing to do with the birds and bees. But all to do with how to they should conduct themselves around police. Keep your hands out of your pocket. Don't talk back too loudly. Be extra polite. Say yes sir. No sir. Don't reach for anything. Don't walk around with a huge group of friends. Don't run. Even if you're scared. Imagine. Some of us are still having to tell our sons that in 2015. We do this because we love them. Toya Grahm publicly unleashed a can of you know what on her son because she loved him. As Toya Grahm showed the world we often have to go the extra mile to protect our sons. And as we can see here the world is often watching. [MUSIC] Welcome back to Essence Debates Now. Don't forget that Essence Live will be back to its regularly scheduled time next week, four pm every Thursday right here on Essence.com. Joining me in studio is Akiba Solomon, the editorial director of Colorlines.com And singer Tomiya whose album" Love Life" will dropping June 9th. Her new single," Sandwich and Soda" is out so go get both. Thank you ladies so much for joining us. Thank you. Thank you on this very important matter. Akiba I'll start with you. Why do you think this video of Toya Graham and her son, amongst all of the other images, has become so popular? I think because there's sort of a narrative around the idea that parents need to control their children, as if. Hm-hm. Because there are you know, issues of police brutality. One of the first things that people say is, well, where are their parents? Right, right. I mean, I believe that's the wrong question. Hm-hm. But I do feel like that feeds into this idea Of, like, parents needing to get in to, into their kid's face to keep them from becoming victims. And I also think too, that there's a discussion across the country, probably not so huge, but there is one about how we discipline our children. Mm-hm. I mean, I've seen it on Facebook. There's a writer Stacy Patton who has an organization devoted to it Called spare the kids. And the whole idea is like how do we discipline our kids. Half, half the people are like yeah, we use corporal punishment. Other people are like we don't do that anymore. Mm hm. And so I do feel like that also like, kinda taps into that, that discussion. The conversation, what is discipline and what's going too far? That conversation. Right. Right. And also. I mean and finally I mean. You know, in all of our entertainment and all of our. You know, comedians, we all kind of, sometimes, romanticize being hit. You know, the idea like, "Oh, my momma beat me so bad that blah, blah, blah". You know I think that that's air play too. You know, just this idea that someone finally did what we are supposed to be. Supposed to be doing. Yeah. Hook And Tamia, what are your thoughts? You're a mom. How do y, how do you feel about how Toya responded in this situation. Well, I think in my opinion, just directly dealing with Toya, is that she was, she ha, saw her son. He was protesting, and then she saw him sort of doing something that she Was afraid for him. Hm. And she, and you know, whether you like it or not, I think she was just, it was a desperate sort of mother move. She saw him, she reacted, she wanted to get him out of there as quickly as possible. And, you know, I don't know if, in the heat of the moment, you know, if you're kind of. Thinking about cameras and all of those things. Right. She's thinking about getting her son out of there and getting him safely. Mm hm. And she told us later that was her only son. She has five daughters and. Shes the single mom of six. Yeah, so I think was just like, let's go, you're not supposed to be here, let's go. Right, well Toya actually spoke with Anderson Cooper let's take a listen. I had to find out if I could see Michael at that point. And I didn't see him. And then I started focusing on these bricks that was being thrown at the police officers, and I turned around, and he was coming across the street. Michael? Michael. But he wasn't. I mean, he was wearing mask, right? He was wearing a mask, and he had the hood on. And he, he also had a brick in his hand and ->>How'd you know it was him? I I noticed the sweat pants that he had on and then he gave me eye contact. You actually made eye contact? I made eye contact with him and at that point I told him to throw that brick down. Put the brick down. Put it down And, and, and I just lost it at that point. You saw Michael with the rock in his hand. Mm hm. And you said you just lost it. I did. And, and, you know, once he threw that rock down. I was like you know, you wasn't brought up like this. Did you worry about embarrassing him in front of? Not at all. Not at all. Not at all. He was actually embarrassing himself. By wearing that mask and, and that hoodie, and doing what he was doing. And, and, at some point I told him to take the mask off. Because why are you hiding behind a mask? If you wanna be bold enough to do this, then show your face. Why do you think this has made such a big impact? Because as mothers, you don't see us. You don't see us. You see our kids walking to the bus stop and, maybe speaking with somebody that's on the corner. And they already been singled out as thugs, as we have already heard that they are. And at no time is my son a thug. You could really tell that Toya Graham was willing whatever it took to get her son out of that situation. So let's go back to, we're not only discussing the problem in today's show. We have identified that. What are solutions? What can parents do? Or any recommendations, maybe resources or, you know, you mentioned earlier, maybe this may not have been the best way to handle it. What do we do? What do we do in those moments where we're afraid and you just want to act because you know how, how situations such as that can escalate? How, how, if you have any recommendations to keep from, from that approach. I mean, I'm not a parent- Mm-hm. And so I don't really feel comfortable telling people how to approach their children. Mm-hm. But what I would say is that, you know, I do believe we're having the wrong conversation a lot. A lot of it is about parents preventing their children from being abused. The problem is Freddie Gray just made eye contact with two police officers in a bicycle and then he ran away. Mm hm. So, no matter what kind of person he was, the real issue is the police. They need some behavioral adjustments as far as I'm concerned. Because there are so many times when they overreact, where they say that they thought they were gonna be killed. You know, the, the you know, it's just, I feel like it's just out of control. And so, I don't quite know how parents can get involved in this. But I do feel like we need to reframe the question. Tamia, do you ever have conversations with your children about police and be, and, and that interaction if they may be approached or find themself in a certain situation? Well, my girls are very young at this age but you know, it's, it's, it's difficult as a parent to, to, your job is to protect them from the world And now with the digital age, and things like that, it's becoming a lot harder for us to watch everything they do. That is true. >. And so I think, you know, as a parent, when you see them doing something, or going down a road they shouldn't, your first instinct is to protect them and take them out of that situation. So, It's constant. You're constantly monitoring and constantly trying to watch them and I'm sure as they get older it becomes that much more difficult. Mm-hm. You know, watching them become teenagers and have some sort of independence. Mm-hm. You know, my girls are seven and, and thirteen. So. I'm an eagle eye mom right now, but it is [LAUGH] But it is becoming a lot Right Harder cuz, you know, the world has access to them Mm-hm Mm-hm And, you know, so it, you have to sort of watch everything that they do. Mm-Hm On a whole another level It's Like you mentioned with social and digital media Absolutely So, perhaps it's just making sure that the lines of communication stay open [CROSSTALK] And not only do you have to watch your children, you have to watch other people as well. So, I mean, when we have discussions about life and the world, you know, it's not just about how they carry themselves but it's making sure that other people are carrying themselves the proper way as well. Right and how to maneuver those situations if, by chance, you find yourself In a circumstance that may be less than favorable. [LAUGH] Absolutely. We have to take a quick break. We'll be right back with, but first, right here in New York City, demonstrators marched in honor of Freddie Gray and Black Lives Across the Country. Here's a look at last night's protest, which started in Union Square, and spread all over the city, resulting in more than 130 arrests. Take a look. [MUSIC] Me what democracy looks like. Show me what democracy looks like. Show me what democracy looks like. Show me what democracy looks like. Show me what [CROSSTALK] Show me what community looks like. This is what community looks like. This is what community looks like. Show me what community looks like, This is what community looks like. Show me what community looks- Hope everybody knows what's going on here NYC cause it's the same thing in Baltimore, same thing in Detroit, Detroit, is is safe in South Carolina? Is it safe in Florida? California? This is an issue that needs to be fixed. This movement died down and now it's gonna pick up, but we can't stop. This is not a moment this is a movement. What do we want? Justice! When do we want it? Now! What do we want? Justice! When do we want it? Now! If we don't get it? Shut it down! If we don't get it? Shut it down! If [NOISE] We're tired of this. We're tired of the pain. We're of all the **** that's been going on. Get off our backs. Get off. Get off. If you don't get off, we're going to push you off. And that's what you seeing. You seeing us flexing our muscles. We're tired of this. At Baltimore, we feel your pain. And we're with you. If could have been anyone of us, the act of brutality [UNKNOWN] Shut it down. Shut it down. [UNKNOWN] New York and Baltimore. This isn't our every day life every single microimpression that you accept, you are telling someone that it is okay to behave that way. We are the ones out here marching, but the change has to be a collective. We all need to combat this in your every day life. Every single day you have a chance to teach somebody why your life matters about Why they can't say certain things to you. See, use it! Cause if not, then nothing will change. Welcome back to essence debates now. We just saw a glimpse of what it's like to be in the midst of a protest. Joining me now are two people who have on the front lines in Ferguson and Baltimore. Activist Jenneta Elsey, and Derray McKesson join me now via Skype. Guys, thank you so very much for joining us. You're welcome. You can [INAUDIBLE] Durray, I'll start with you first. Can you give us an idea what it's like to be out there in the middle of a tense situation, like a Ferguson or a Baltimore? You know, it is, there's a strong sense There's a community here where people are coming together around the issue of police brutality to end it. You, you probably already know that the gangs have called a truce. There are many students who are part of the protest and people from all across the city who've come around Pennsylvania north to confront the police state that is here and the corruption here in Baltimore. And Janetta how do you feel about the Ferguson and Baltimore. Are, are you seeing, what is that moment like, that tense between community and police? The only tension that I always feel is from the police when I'm around people no matter if im in Saint Louise or DC or New York. I always feel like i'm around family. Because blackness is a bond. And in our struggle we are practically a family. A community that is raising up against the police state that we are standing against. So intense moments. I'm always just wondering what the police are going to do? Because I know what to expect from people. Janetta, what are some of the parallels that are, that you're seeing right now between the Ferguson and Baltimore protests? What are some of the similarities? I would say that, hm. It is almost very similar just with the intensity of the police. The militarization of the police here. I believe in on the second day, that was my first time seeing militarized police in full riot gear with M16s and here in Baltimore they have the exact same things. Wow. With the National Guard coming in I do know that I did not feel safe when the national guard was in Saint Louise and I did not feel safe when the police when there was a curfew on, in the city of Ferguson, and the same goes here in Baltimore. The curfew, the city-wide curfews basically turned the city into a sundown town for black people. And so once, whatever time that is set, black folks need to go into the house, and you know, the city is open for everybody else basically. So the, those are a few of the similarities that I see. And DeRay, I, I position the same question to you. You're also on the ground in Baltimore. What similarities are you seeing between the protest and perhaps the media response between Ferguson and Baltimore? You know, I'll, I'll echo everything that Nette has said. I also say that that there are many young people who came out to protest also started during the day Which is a little bit different. Mm hm. The sense of community is as strong as it was in St. Louis and in, in cities across the country. And also people are tired, right? People are tired of the police killing people. Which is why they're out in that street. So there have been an incredible number of people. We were at a protest yesterday that was organized by college students. That was a beautiful march. We'd been at some organizer people who live directly where he was killed, and also some by clergy, so like, just like in Ferguson we've seen pockets of organizers come up into the [UNKNOWN] protest actions organically in ways that are really powerful and disruptive. Thank you very much, Durey and Janetta for joining us. We have to say goodbye right now, but thank you so much for all of your work and we'll keep a eye on the situation. Joining me in the studio are the activists who hosted and participated in last night's protest for Freddie Gray. Organizers Umaara Elliot, Synead Nichols, and Cherrell Brown are here. I'm gonna jump right in, ladies. What was the atmosphere like last night in Union Square. And I can start with you, Synead. It was very tense. Mm-hm. To be quite honest, I went there, and I think everyone went there with a very peaceful mindset. Right. They wanted to be able to go there and mourn for the lives that have been lost. And honestly to be not, to not be able to do that is very, like, disheartening. And again, they met us with violence. We came there peacefully and they met us with violence, and it just ensued in that manner the entire time. Did you feel that tension, this situation escalate rather rapidly? Or Yeah, absolutely. I hadn't even made it a block A block Before I was arrested. I got out this morning and etc. But, it escalated really fast, and, and, I really wish it hadn't gone that way, but Hadn't gone that way We in New York, and across the nation. Right. Of course, have been organizing, and marching, and rallying for several months. Hm-hm. And I have to say that yesterday and last night was probably the most tense. Hm-hm. And disgusting than I've ever seen the New York Police Department. There were kids out there, and we were simply marching and chanting and asking to be recognized, right? And to live a full life. And they were pushing kids. And they were shoving elderly brothers into a police van. And I heard that there was mace. Mm-hm. And just so much animosity and violence to people who were just simply having a right to protest. It was incredible. It's exercising the right that was established by our land. Exactly. Umaara? Yes, it was, it was definitely very tense and my, it was definitely the first time I can say I was actually scared because it just became so frantic because they were, the police were literally attacking us like charging at people In full-on riot gear, and it's like, why are you scared, scared of people with, with, with posters and boards, like, why are, what is really happening here? And it was just very, it was like, they were, it was like we were in a war zone, it felt like a war zone, honestly, with the police just completely attacking people. People are crying, coming up to me, because their, their kids are getting grabbed, it was, it was crazy. People are accustomed to seeing the images of marches and die ins on television and social media, but some of the less provocative parts of the moment don't get as much coverage. Can you speak to the kind of work that actually does happen behind the scenes? We were speaking earlier about Toya Graham, how because she was a more aggressive parent, that's what made the news, that's what went viral. But I'm sure there were other parents and people out there. How do you feel about what gets media coverage and what does not? And share a little bit with us about what really, what's really happening out there. I actually, I mean, can you really look to the media to portray anything positive about the black community. Mm-hm. What have you been seeing for, since slavery pretty much. I don't look to the media. I look to the citizens to what's happening and honestly the, the I guess the advent of citizen journalism has been really, really beneficial to this movement because we're seeing what's really happening. If you see 50 minutes Pass by and you took a picture of a, of a crime scene where there was no gun and then 15 minutes later there's a gun. That's a problem. Right. So what can you do about that really? Choose your information. I also want to add you may see a few faces up here and of course often the media on twitter who have been great voices about, around this movement work but there are literally dozens and dozens. And dozens of beautiful organizers and activists. And teachers and ministers who have been a part of this work. Right. And so when you see these uprisings happening, you have people shaking their head and saying, these people don't have direction. What are they doing. There's no leaders. And I say, this movement [CROSSTALK] leaderful. You know. Mm-hm. [UNKNOWN] leaderful. And everything that we do is intentional. And also the media creates this, this, this dichotomy between good and bad protesters and we're pushing against that narrative and saying it's all resistance. Mm-hm. And Amara? I think that people don't understand, like Shirelle said, that it's a very multifaceted movement and that there are many people who, you know, we have vigils. They, the news media, they don't cover that because they, they're so into the sensationalism. What was gonna be really hyped and they also love to feed into black stereotypes so of course they're gonna, they;re gonna go to Baltimore when after people, after six days of people peacefully protesting they're gonna go there when, when high school students who are trying to express their anger because they don't know how else to express this anger. This is what their used to. That frustration. Right, that frustration that's been, that's, that they've known all their lives and so the media wants to go there when They're, when they're turning up, and it's, it's ridiculous, it's amazing that I learned more from Twitter, from, from people live Tweeting things, and live streams, like, people literally like, oh that gun wasn't there before, they planted that, like that is insane. That's one of the blessings of social media, technology, cell phone cameras and things of that nature Being able to capture something in real time and then just disperse it you know so rapidly. But with all of these images there's so many young folks or folks of all ages I should say, Black and Brown people at home who want to get involved, but they certain things on TV, that may make them scared the 120 reps that happened last night. Not really sure what they can do to make their voice heard. What would your advice be to them? I guess coming from a personal place I think it's very important. it's okay to be scared. It's a very scary thing that's happening right now Hm mm I was scared yesterday and I think a lot of us were scared Hm mm But I think we need to get over that and realize but's the bigger picture. It's not just about the individual now. It's about a community of people and it's not even just about us. It's on an international level. Right. Right. This is, people are affected by this, this like idea of white supremacy. It's, and that's important to understand and to be able to differentiate what's really going on. Ultimately I think we need to really stand together and Get over the fear of what's going to happen. If you're not gonna really live for your life, and fight for your life. Then what are you really living for essentially? Mm hm. I think's important. You can not come out to any of the protester actions. You can be a straight A student. And have your pants pulled up. And go home everyday and do your homework and you can still become a hashtag if you're a black person in America. And that's what I want us to remember. And we're getting to a place where we aren't just talking about these different regions. Baltimore, New York, Ferguson. But this is a national movement. Right. Anyplace can become [CROSSTALK] Found wherever you are Exactly, exactly, and so there's different ways in which people can get involved of course. I always recommend that people look locally, there's often wonderful organizations locally who are doing this work who've been doing work before August of last year. Thinking of black youth project 100 who had affiliate chapters And there's different things that people can do. The streets might not be for everyone, but there's a skill that you have that you can still be part of this movement>>That's important I like what you said, there's a skill that you have>>Mmhmm>>There is something that you can bring to the table. Omari?>>Definitely. If you really really care about the movement, you can do little things like Supporting like Black businesses only. Like, don't. Not being into capitalism. Like things like that. Cause I know not everybody can be out in the streets. Like yes, we all have jobs, and that's people failed to realize, is that like I actually have jobs. Like I have multiple jobs. Mm hm. > But, there's certain things you can do like there are people who are helping out in Baltimore, with giving people lunches, feeding the students who are, who, who can't be in school because they're School's got closed down. Right. There's different, there's things we can do like donating, different things we can do definitely to get involved. You don't have to just be out in the streets. I understand that's not everybody's thing now, everybody you know miles etc. If I may add really quickly, Sure Anyone watching, go and check out the hashtag BlackSpring for any of the local movements that might be going on or actions this Saturday. Thank you, thank you very much for adding that, and, and again, it's very important to note that everyone has a skill set that they can bring to this table. That's right. And no, no such thing as a small action. Right. It's not something that's gonna change over night. Right. But many small steps can create one big, powerful movement. Yeah. Mm-hm. Cause people have to realize that the civil right, people are thinking the civil rights movement was like a year. Mm-hm. They're like, ' oh pro, protesting, what, what It's not doing anything. Right. It's like, the civil rights movement was not six months. It, it was, it certainly wasn't. And people have to really realize that it's gonna take time especially when we're, we're dealing with people who really don't, they don't care about us anyway so they're not gonna be like "oh people are in the streets, oh wait, well now we'll give them, we'll give them these rights, we'll stop harassing them immediately." Like you have to do other things to really target them, to make them, make them feel uncomfortable cause we, we're living uncomfortably all the time. Everyday, yeah. Thank you so much, thank you so much for your time. We'll continue to follow up with you on social media, of course, and keeping in touch. Coming up next, we try and bridge the gap between the police force and the citizens they serve and protect. Former mayor of Orange, New Jersey and retired police officer Eldrige Hawkins, Jr. and rapper David Banner will join me in the studio next. But first, we sat down with Kiki Palmer this week and she told us about her generation's role and where we can go from here. Take a listen. I feel, not only for my generation but from a lot of generations before me that the idea or the understanding or the choice Has become obsolete. People don't even really understand that they have a choice, you know what I'm saying? You can either choose to live your life in love, you can choose to live your life in fear. And that would dictate the reality that happens around you. You know, I feel that my generation has a lot to say on these subjects, when you think about what's happening in Baltimore with Happened in Ferguson. So many of the negative things that have been happening today, I feel like my generation has a lot to say about them. But we don't have as many of the formats. Give my generation a chance to really talk about the things that are going on and that are important, important to us. And showing the world that yeah, we know what's going on. But at the same time we have to know that it's in our hands. What do I do to help the world This is so loaded, you know what I mean, and I, I used to love this quote by Mother Theresa, "There can be no great things done, only small things with great love." So you don't need to wrack your brain wondering, how can I help? Everybody in the world, because that's not something you're going to be able to do with the snap of your fingers. All it takes is one person. Doing the best they can and that person doing the best they can and that's how you help the world. So, do what you can in your city, if its as simple as taking a little kid to school. Your spreading positivity, your changing the energy that way. Do something where you can help somebody anywhere Just to put that energy out there, you know? It's not about dropping everything, because not everybody can do that. I understand, you know, everything got they stuff that they have to do. But it's just little things, little things here and there, that can change everything. [MUSIC] Are taught to look at us like the enemy. They are taught to question me. To disobey me and still I risk my life for these people everyday for seven years. I've allowed myself to be disrespected and hated by these people all to protect them from themselves. I mean all I hear about on the news are dirty cops, cops who shoot innocent black kids. It's crap. There were 84 murders in this city last year. Were all of those cops shooting innocent black boys? Hell no. Those were blacks turning guns on each other and yet somehow I'm the animal! Brandon Parker is dead because he didn't have respect. Because those people out there who are chanting, crying over his body. They didn't teach him the right values. They didn't teach him respect. [MUSIC] He didn't respect me, he didn't respect my badge. Questioned my authority, was not his right! This blood is not on my hands! [MUSIC] Welcome back to Essence Debates Now. You just watched a clip from the March 5th episode of Scandal. Often art imitates life and joining me to discussion on, on Excuse me, on the discussion of ongoing tension between the police force and the citizens they serve are former Mayor Eldridge Hawkins Jr. and rapper David Banner who is on Skype. Mayor Eldridge I wanna get your thoughts and opinions on the scene that we just saw from Scandal. Well, I, I, I think that, that scene is indicative of how some law enforcement officers feel about the resentment that they get from the communities in which they serve Sometimes you might have select individuals that are doing the wrong thing. But I think in large part most of law enforcement is doing the right thing, yet the community tends to paint all of law enforcement with a, with a ugly brush, if you will. Mm-hm. And lashing out at them, when the overwhelming majority of them are doing the right thing. So I think that speaks to some of that resentment of, of getting pushed back from the same people you're trying to help and serve. ...and, what do you recommend the community do? Do you think there is a different way that we should interact or engage our officers in our communities? Well, absolutely. I think from the administrative side, having been mayor, one of the things that we worked on was engaging the community through specifically the community police and block watch groups interacting with them so that the officers knew the kids on the streets so that perhaps that personal relationship... Might allow them an opportunity to diffuse the situation rather than escalating up the force. Or the, the level of force that they could utilize. So that's, that's one way. But I think that also we have to realize that people in there in the street. They have to follow the instructions of the officers. So many times we see situations spiral out of control. Because the individual that is dealing with the police officer feels that they are being wronged. Okay, and it's not for me to say right now if they are being wronged or if they're not. But on that street, they need to follow the orders of the officer. And if the officer is doing something wrong, then after that they can go to internal affairs, they file litigation. But again, too often we see in the street that resistance, that failure to comply. Causes things to spiral out of control. Now I have to flip that question back. What about police wanna kinda communicate within those communities? Well I think that there's a role for that too. There has to be in house training and again, building those relationships, working with community leaders whether that's ministers, whether that's parents, the PTAs. Getting the police as much as possible in a non-confrontational setting to interact with the people of that community. and also having a force that is many ways reflective of the community it's serving, diversity is key. If you have a blended community, you should have a blended police force. Thank You. And we also have David Banner who is now joining us on Skype. Mr. Banner, thank you so much for, for joining us today. What are your thoughts on the clip that we just watched, as well as Eldridge's response? Well I didn't see the clip, but I heard the clip. This is what I say. The, the problem is this. It's, everybody is making excuses for cops. Nobody's making a cop be a cop. That is your job. Our, our tax money is going to that. It's like In the situation in Baltimore everybody is trying to find reasons why the cops are right. You are under a oath. You're under a oath to do the right thing. And, and it just amazes me how people tell black, especially black men, always stay in line, stay in line. The truth is Is before I was a rapper I remember how the cops acted and I heard this comment about all cops are not wrong. I admit that but one thing that my neighbor who is a cop said. He said something i'll never forget, every cop knows who the bad cops are. So you know the people who are in the force who are doing the wrong thing who have a long history of not being fair to black men and women and children, because just a year ago I tweeted for ten hours straight. Situations where cops had hurt or killed black men, women, or children, for ten hours straight. So, if you have these so-called good cops who know who the bad cops are, just like this situation in Baltimore, they know who these cops are, were. So, why are these cops not brought to justice if you're such a good cop? If you really care about innocent lives, that shouldn't matter whether a black person killed a black person. Whether a white person killed a whi, black person, or whether it was cops. It's justice and it should not be blind. So I think what we should start doing, we should start recognizing those people who are being paid To up, up, to uphold the law. And, and, and, and we always try to, to, to draw a parallel between what Blacks are doing to Blacks. If, if, if, if I slap you in your face right now, and tell you well, your brother slapped you. So it, so it should be okay. It shouldn't really matter. See, what, what, what the problem is, is most of these public officials don't want to deal with their dirty laundry. This has been a problem all the time, and I'm very proud of these children, I'm very proud of these children, who are in St. Louis, and who are in Baltimore, who are doing the jobs that our parents were supposed to do. We were doing this in the sixties. We're still fighting the same problems that our parents were fighting in the 60s and if we really did our jobs the right way, these kids wouldn't have to be out here on these streets. Eldridge, would you like the, to have the opportunity to respond to David's comments? Absolutely. He raises some key issues, and, and believe me, I understand where he's coming from because long before I was a cop, I was black. Right? Still black, so I understand what that feels like, the uncomfortableness, the. Of being pulled over. What, what that, those motions are. But I also understand what it feels like to be a police officer in uniform. Mm-hm. Have to make snap decisions in an instant. Wondering whether or not if it doesn't go right, how that's gonna pan out in the news, in the media. When you're well intentioned and trying to do the right thing. So I understand both perspectives, but we have to look at really where these problems are coming from. The symptom really is what we're seeing in Baltimore and the riots, but the underlying cause is coming from poverty, it's coming from lack of education, and a lack of an outlet or,or resource or economics, really, that play into it. Where you have the press community urban communities throughout the state that don't have the access and the ability to list themselves up. Where the government now has to step in and, and assist and, and like he said like for many years the civil rights movement fought for a lot of rights for people of color. Right, one of the things that we fought for was the right to vote. And people want change and they're not happy with their elected officials, they gotta go out and vote. And too often, we see that when you look at minorities, they're the worst offenders when it comes to voting. Right? You see communities where less than 50% are coming or even registered. Mm-hm. And half of them Or not even coming out to vote. So if we want to start implementing change, it starts from the top down. And we can facilitate that by motivating people to go out to vote and empower themselves. That's the right way to fight. Not to go to your own communities and start blowing up stores or setting them on fire and, and destroying things in your town. Cuz that makes it even more difficult for administrators to move the city forward. We want to bring investment to bring jobs to the community. Mm-hm. How can we do that now when investors are sitting there thinking that the community is unstable Why would they want to move there and invest when they're going to take a loss financially? You know, what about the people that would have been working at that CBS today, that are now unemployed because it's been set ablaze? You know, we have to start looking at different ways to constructively move our cities forward, and express through peaceful protest like we saw the last couple of days, more so in Maryland. That's what we need to see. Not destroying our own backyard. That only pulls everybody down. David, did you have a response? I totally disagree. It's funny how people always want to criticize riots when people are living off the benefits of riots everyday. The American Revolution was the whites riot. The, the, the truth is we have been peacefully protesting for years. We have been marching, sitting at counters, we've been doing that for years. It does not Work. What riots are are a beacon of light to tell people all around the world this is what's happening in my community. We all know, wouldn't nobody care about what was happening in Baltimore unless that riot would've happened. Same thing in St. Louis. It's, it's, it's a beacon of light and the truth is regardless of what, the law is the law. And if these cops are robbed wrong, and Brett, you know it's been the same. I have cops that tell me to do this day. When they don't have their badge on, they getting pulled over every day. And the sick thing, and I would actually agree with you kind sir. But white kids are committing the same amount of crimes.  Statistically. I saw the statistics that came out in '04. White kids are actually doing more crimes, but they are lying. So, if that is the case, if there is really a problem being made in snap decisions, where they know not to kill people that look like them, Why they not having stats when it comes to white kids. So what we have to do is we have to admit that most people don't want to deal with the fact that people don't see value in black life. Because we all know that if something happens to one white kid they'll shut the whole city down, Brad. Right. So let's just be real here if people don't want to deal But the fact's that they should just stay out of the way. Nobody pays attention to black, black people beg and we been begging since we were in chains. We been begging white folks since we have been in, in chains. Nothing happens. Until people fight back. And America always talks about peaceful protests, but America never peaceful protests. Everything America has ever gained has been through slavery, has been through killing people, ask the Native Americans, ask the Africans, ask the Buffalos. You know what I'm saying? Like so people talk about this Peaceful protests. Show me one case where power has ever been gained, or respect has every been gained by begging somebody. Who already has power over your community, who never has to be held accountable for any of the things they do. We were waiting for Mike Brown. We, we, we, we've been waiting for the deaths and the things that happened on the west coast that happened in the south. Black folks hanging from trees. We don't ever get no justice when we wait through the system. Gentlemen. Let me. But, but. Officer Grant. Where's Officer Grant? [INAUDIBLE] You can't, you can't advocate for riots in the streets. That's, that's just not the right way to go. That causes more death, it causes more injury and property loss. And that's not the way to go and I can't believe someone would sit there and say it's a positive thing to put our kids who are 15 16 years old to encourage them to go out there and confront law enforcement and put themselves in a precarious situation where they could end up in a box. Okay so obviously this relationship needs fixing okay. Er I'm gonna give a response to both of you gentleman. But how does that start? What can we as individuals do to trust and solve that the issue between the police and the black community, we know there's a problem, let's talk solutions. Well Eldrige I think you're going to have to look at short term and long term goals. Okay, Okay And in the short term one of the things we might do, we've heard it in different media, is that we need to look at maybe buying mics or body cameras, Okay. Transparency is key. If people can see what's happening as it's happening, now that can help us understand the totality of the circumstances of whether the officer did the right thing. Mm-hm. Or the wrong thing, right? And if the police are doing the wrong thing then they should be held accountable. Right? But if they're doing right, then we have to up Uphold them and support them when they're moving in the right direction. And long term? In long term, we need to start looking at economic development. And that's what I spoke about before. Mm-hm. Help, working out these educational issues, these poverty issues, starting to bring business and, and employment to our communities to uplift them. When I was mayor, one of the kids told me. He said, "Look Mayor I don't want to be on the corner dealing drugs. But if you can, I don't have a choice. I don't have a job." Right? So we started working with developers to force training in local employment to make that impact and make that difference. That's the direction that we have to start heading. Otherwise we're going to stay in the same position that we are in. In the same circle, in the same cycle. David, I'll close out with you. What do you feel are some possible solutions? You can show short or long term. To this situation between Police and the African American community. Okay, really quickly, about the body cams. Eric Garner, we had a, we had a a connect. We still didn't get justice. So, I think what needs to ha, happen is, as a community, s a community, I will agree that we, we need to take control of our own situations. We need to go back to where we were before because I honestly feel like the worst thing that happened to black people wasn't slavery was integration. Because when we integrated we gave away our power and begged for the same people that oppressed us we asked them to govern us and to also protect us. That would have never happened. They don't have any respect for black life. So, so the black communities are going to have to start taking care of their own, building their own. The only thing that I fear about that, is we did that earlier, then we had what happened in Tulsa, Oklahoma. We had black Wall Street. They say black people don't build communities, we do. But every time we try to do something, it always get carried, it, it it was originally. So I say the solutions is for us to start schooling our kids about themselves, about their history, about their god, and about their opportunities for economics. I think that's where, that's where we start. And, one thing I just want to say, he's right. We have to start building our communities, not tearing them down, and that's what these riots are doing. And, let's be clear, this isn't just a short-term problem, this will have long-term damage For our communities for the future. He talked about historical references. You look at the North riots or any other riots throughout the country, they didnt just disappear and the city recover overnight. Right. That was five, ten, 15, 20 years. There are long term ramifications here, definitely. Right so, this is our backyard that he's advocating that we destroy That's going to have a ripple effect for the next five 10 15 20 years. UNfortunately we are out of time thank you so much David Banner. Thank you so much Mr Hawkins for joining us. Thank you oh David are you still with us David. Yes I am yes I am Do you do you have a response to Mr Hawkins comments just now sir as we wrap up. No. I'd just tell him, it's, it's amazing to me that everybody cares more about property, more about hurt cops being [UNKNOWN] than dead kids. If buildings have to burn in order for people to stop killing our kids, I'm with that. If cops gotta get hurt in order for them to stop killing our kids I'm with that. I just hope that our people as well as white people will care more about dead, innocent black men, women, and children then they do about property or somebody getting hurt. If they Want peace in Baltimore? Any of those dirty cops to, to justice, then it wouldn't have happened in the first place. Now I, I understand your position. But you don't wanna perpetuate the same cycle. And you not seeing the connection between business [INAUDIBLE] and poverty and the urbanization of our communities. And that's, that's their [CROSSTALK] If you wanna burn down businesses and make it harder to bring companies into your community, then you're, you're forcing a lack of employment. Right? You're condemning the community to live in a state of poverty. You're preventing investment from coming in. [CROSSTALK] Furthering the lack of education. [CROSSTALK] You're causing the same thing you're trying to prevent. [CROSSTALK] Not moving forward in a positive fashion. Gentlemen, gentlemen. I, I, I greatly appreciate your passion on both sides and your enthusiasm and you brought a lot to the table, both of you. Unfortunately though, we have run out of time. I want to thank David Banner, Mayor Eldridge, our editor-in-chief, Vanessa Deluca and all of our guests who joined us today for this special presentation of Essence Debates Now. This show may be over, but we encourage you, our Essence family, to join us as we continue the search for For hope and peace. Remember we'll be back next Thursday with Essence Live, 4 p.m. Eastern right here on Essence.com. I'm your host, Dana Blair, thank you for joining us. Thank you so very much. [MUSIC]