This is a sad day. The grand jury's decision is yet another sign that all of America's sons' lives are not yet valued equally in the eyes of our courts. All of America's fathers, mothers and children should stay outraged and in motion for progress until we are finally what we say we are: One Nation, Under God, Indivisible, with Liberty and Justice for All. The path to these goals is focused advocacy and, where necessary, non-violent direct action. Those are the strategies that led to the passage of the Voting Rights Act and Civil Rights Acts 50 years ago and the outlawing of racial profiling in New York City just two years ago. Today we are all Michael Brown. Tomorrow we must ensure each of our lives is valued equally in the eyes of our nation's laws, law enforcement officers, and courts.
We are in a state of emergency, a time of challenge and controversy, but not because of the protestors. That state of emergency will continue until we stand, become uncomfortable, and demand a justice system that addresses the manifestation of pain in protest, the further chipping away of respect, and the real state of emergency our country faces.
This is consistent with the cultural logic that makes it okay in America to use brutal force when confronted by a Black villain. Thus, how can a grand jury indict Officer Darren Wilson when he was battling The Hulk?
We now all have the chance to examine the evidence -- released last night -- in the grand jury's decision not to indict white police officer Darren Wilson, who fired multiple bullets into Michael Brown. But the verdict on America's criminal justice system is already in for many Americans: guilty, for treating young black men differently than young white men.
I can't speak. My country has scarred me once again. How can I go to work in the morning on a train full of people who care not? At a workplace of people who missed the story because of football or reality television?
Perhaps the call to examine this one case would be understandable if justice came more often, but we've seen these unjust acts in communities of more color for far too long.
On March 22, 1991, a visibly shaken and angered President George H.W. Bush said he was "sickened and outraged" by what he saw on television. That was the beating of black motorist Rodney King by a swarm of LAPD cops.
The convenient spectacle of "violence in the streets" obscures the perpetuation of "structural violence" everywhere.
The gradual ground we have gained regarding our civil rights should not be confused with the literal stalemate we have had with the U.S. justice system regarding our human rights for more than 200 years.
These things happen all the time, right? They will happen forever, right? It's nice to think they won't. It's probably best to think life won't always be like this. Optimism is good. But I know I'm going to have to tell my future children about this country. What should I tell them?
The tragedy of Michael Brown's death, unarmed and shot by a member of the Ferguson police, is now followed by the tragic failure of the local courts to force the policeman to stand trial. This cannot stand without a measure of accountability. And on that score look no further than the prosecutor's office.
Deep down, whether I want to admit or not, I know the truth. The racism that James Baldwin knew and ultimately made him leave the country isn't really gone. It's just changed its form.
To understand this moment, we have to understand that Ferguson is yet another unraveled thread in the closely woven fabric of racism that has cloaked this country for 500 years.
The world of short blogs and 140 characters is symbolic of the all too prevalent overly simplified analyses, and sensational headlines that might generation "likes" and "retweets," but do not bring us to a better understanding of people, communities or our history.
The only thing left to do is to unite and use the power of our voices to make a difference. Instead of using violence, use your voice to stand up for injustice in the world. Form collaborative partnerships within the community that can truly make a difference.
Here is something I have learned while fighting for equality: It is not something that can be portioned out to one population and withheld from another. The definition of equality is that all populations and the individuals within them (not just a few) are equal. That does not exist in America today. If you are not equal, then neither am I.
My daughter and I were standing in the middle of the baseball field in Inwood Hill Park, looking up at the stars, when something told me to check to see if the decision was finally announced. "NO INDICTMENT" stared back at me, taunting. I fell to my knees, crying. Yet again I was that kid watching an injustice occur right before my eyes and feeling helpless to do anything about it.
The protests in Ferguson and around the country are not simply about this one case, just as the Civil Rights Movement was not merely about where Rosa Parks sat on a Montgomery bus. In both instances, the drama surrounding particular individuals was indicative of larger, systemic injustice.
There's certainly been a breakout star on the new season of 'The Real Housewives of Atlanta.' But that star isn't one of the housewives. It's actually Sheree Whitfield's mainstay hairdresser, Lawrence Washington -- a twentysomething flamboyant, bald-headed, high-heel-wearing personality who was born and raised in Hotlanta and is now pursuing a music career.
BlackVoices.com sat down with the no-holds-barred cross-dresser for his take on whether Kim Zolciak can sing, how Beyonce's been influenced by dragqueens and why he's not apologizing for calling Dwight Eubanks out as a "stunt queen."
BlackVoices: What do you think about the Atlanta scene? It's quite a different place now from the city you grew up in.
Lawrence Washington: I like the Atlanta scene. It's home, and I love it for being home. I'm not slaying Atlanta; it's just not my favorite place to party anymore. The freedom of self-expression is truly on the rise here, which is different from when I grew up. Another difference is it's turned into a mini-Hollywood. There is way more opportunity now.
BV: Do you think the show reflects badly on specific groups or perpetuates stereotypes?
LW: That is just one group of women, and they can't make African American women look bad. They are just who they are. I live and breathe for all of them. I love Nene (Leakes) and Kim and all their foolishness. I look at people as spirits. A lot of people just don't know how to see that and say a lot of stuff out of hate.
BV: We see you with makeup and heels on the show. How do you identify yourself? Are you a man who just wears high heels?
LW: It's so simple. I identify myself as Miss Lawrence, and basically I cross-dress. That's the word for it -- I'm a cross-dresser. I don't do drag. I don't wear fake boobs or a bunch of hair. I just cross-dress.
BV: But you still identify as being a man?
LW: Ummmm. If someone calls me that, it wouldn't bother me. I guess so.
BV: Sheree talked about you being the first man to walk into her boutique wearing heels. When did you start wearing stilettos?
LW: Jot this down; I am the blueprint of the boys of "the cross" in Atlanta. I started this a long time ago. I put on my first pair of pumps when I was going to a Prince concert years ago. I thought it was appropriate, and I never stumbled. And I've never fallen or anything – unless I'm dancing and get real full. It just became real natural.
BV: Talking a little more about the show. Do you dislike Dwight? Why'd you call him a stunt queen?
LW: I've known Dwight for years, and I know a lot about his background. He did some things in the past that I really didn't care for. So, me calling him a stunt queen is not just a figure of speech -- it is fact. He's done things in the past to make ends meet. To say he loaned out money, I know that's not true, and you happen to be talking about one of my best friends.
BV: What is a stunt queen?
LW: I told you on the show (laughs). A stunt queen is somebody who pulls stunts to make a living. Whether you go out there and rob banks or you go out there and are writing fraudulent checks, or you steal somebody's identity and get credit in their name... that's what a stunt queen is.
BV: Some wonder why can't black gays stick together? They can be so catty sometimes.
LW: The gay community is very segregated. You got the whole DL [down-low] group of guys that pretty much stay together and run around places like... I'm not going to name the places.
BV: What kind of places do they frequent in Atlanta? Fill us in.
LW: ...I'm not naming them. What if a DL man wants to put a ring on my finger, then he'll be like, 'He spilled all the tea.'
BV: Speaking of someone who people think is Down Low, what do you think about the Bishop Eddie Long scandal?
LW: I wish it could've been me -- I'm just playing. He done bought those little boys a Charger or something. He would've bought me a Bentley, honey. They some fools. I will say I'm glad that it came out. I've been to his church several times, and the last time I went he spoke so strongly about homosexuality and it bothered me, so I never went back. And here you go, a full punk, honey, with your biker shorts on in front of a camera. He's a queen, honey. He just got busted. He should've gave those boys some hush money.
BV: Does the whole Down Low movement bother you?
LW: I'm so numb to that whole Down Low thing. I don't care for Down Low men. I wouldn't even know who a Down Low brother was because they run from me.
BV: Tell us about Apollo Nida. You said you met him before he got out of jail. Is he on the Down Low?
LW: I don't think Apollo is on the Down Low. I don't know him like that. One of my best friends is friends with Apollo, and one day when he got out of prison, she brought him to the hair salon with her. He had no personality when I first met him and still doesn't have any personality. I hate that they made him look that way, like I know some tea or something, but I don't know that man like that, but he's sexy. If he wants to tell me that in private, I won't tell nobody (laughs).
BV: What do you think about his wife Phaedra Parks?
LW: I think Phaedra is hilarious and she looks hilarious. I think she makes some really funny faces.
BV: When did you decide you wanted to be a singer? We thought you were just a hairdresser.
LW: I've been singing since I was 12. I was in a group called Youth for Christ, and I did a small Easter tour in Europe and came back and sang at weddings. I did the Broadway play 'Purlie' when it came to Atlanta, but the thing about that was I did not like the image. It wasn't me. I was in tuxedos and suits, and that wasn't who I was. I'd be in the tuxedo with a full face of paint so it looked real crazy to me.
BV: So is that when you decided to become a hairstylist?
LW: I just kind of threw all of me into the beauty industry because that's what I love, as well. The beauty industry is a place for creative outlets, and that's where I found Miss Lawrence. I brought that inner person out that wasn't out, so here we are full circle, and I've been introduced to the music again, so I'm thankful for Kandi [Burruss] and the 'Housewives.'
BV: Well, do you think you're a better singer than 'Real Housewives of Atlanta' star Kim Zolciak?
LW: The difference between me and Kim is she's being developed into an artist. She's not a singer. We know that. I think I'm already an artist, and I can sing already. I'm not talking [bad] about her, but I mean it is what it is. I'm sure there are plenty of artists out there who had to be developed, and I commend her on staying in there contrary to all the negative feedback about her not being able to sing. She knows she can't sing. But last season, Kim did really good numbers off 'Tardy for the Party' on iTunes, so Kandi ain't crazy. That's why she's in the studio, like I'm going to get me a piece this time.
BV: Are you still doing hair?
LW: I am still doing hair. I got bills, honey, and until I get a check from one of these labels, I'm going to be right here behind this chair Wednesday through Saturday 'cause I don't play that.
BV: Do you have an opinion of the controversial 'Mean Girls of Morehouse' article that appeared in Vibe magazine?
LW: I don't know any of those boys. I didn't start butch queens [wearing] pumps, but I would consider myself to be the first person to bring it to the forefront. I can say I was one of the first ones to walk down the street in the middle of the day in Louboutins. I say do what you want to do. You only have one life to live, and I hate when people waste a minute worrying about what other people say. But I can look at people and tell when you are doing it for attention, especially if you don't look comfortable in tight clothes and heels.
BV: Speaking of men in heels, do you go to the drag shows?
LW: I go almost every Monday. I love the drag shows because I think a lot of female impersonators have a lot of talent, and people like Beyonce and Nicki Minaj and Lady Gaga all of them came out of that arena. Beyonce's whole entourage is nothing but gay men that teach her our stuff, and she goes on the main stage and does it. You get some raw, unedited versions of all of those people at drag shows.
BV: Why do you think 'The Real Housewives of Atlanta' has stayed No. 1 despite all of the other franchises like 'The Real Housewives of DC' and 'The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills?'
LW: Because we're black. We're very fascinating people. We're very powerful people and interesting, and people want to know about how we made it, and that's why our ratings are what they are. That's why are ratings beat out 'Beverly Hills' and those women on there, honey, are billionaires. That's what it is.
'The Real Housewives of Atlanta' airs Sundays at 10 pm on Bravo.