Keeping It Right

Keeping It Right is for thought provoking conversationist. It's for those who love to talk about today's issues, yesterday's history and tomorrow's future.

Location: Moreno Valley, CA

Thursday, May 31, 2012

RF23 - Really?! In Long Beach, California?!

Last week, former Long Beach Poly(Technic) football standout, Brian Banks was fully exonerated for a rape he did not commit. What did he lose? Nothing but ten years of his life; Nothing but three or four years at the real USC, and nothing but a probable three, four and five year career in the NFL.


For those of you not following or did not follow the story, he was falsely accused by a girl, who by the way, was awarded a $1.5 million dollar settlement from the Long Beach Unfied School District for her false tale of being rape and kidnapped by this promising young man, who by all accounts is/was the nicest young man, would give his right arm to others and oh! unlike the young man, who made hoodies, skittles and soda popular, was never in trouble with the law. I know this is a shock to some in our community, but there are good citizen young black men in our areas, who just want to work their way out of their situation. For this story, It’s Brian Banks.

But this is not the crime here, the crime was what happened to Brian Banks during his ordeal in 2 thousand and freakin’ 2! In Long Beach, California, not Long Beach, Mississippi, Alabama, Virginia in 1952, 62! But in 2002 in the bluest of all blue states, a young man was told by his attorney, the one person who is hired or appointed to fight for their client! Committed a moral crime, equal to or just one degree, less than Long Beach’s best story teller, Wanetta Gibson. This individual, an attorney, an officer of the court, the person who was supposed to fight for their client to prevent criminal injustice failed! not only did this person fail, but this person’s egregious act to cause this young man, who was being intimidated by a district attorney office tasked with just putting criminals away, either by plea bargain or trial due to other young men, the same age as Banks, who are committing crimes, terrorizing our streets and would have made Gibson a legitimate victim, but due to “no snitchin,’” she would have been just a victim.

Banks’ attorney advised him to take a plea to avoid being seen as a big black man raping a girl. Again the problem is that Banks did nothing wrong! There was no physical evidence of rape and according to Banks, he and Gibson only made out, which included no sex! but wait a minute, the attorney gave Banks a glimpse of what it was like in the Jim Crow south, the taboo of black man/ white woman and the atrocious attacks, which includes murder and lynching of innocent black men throughout the south and other parts of the country. This is where the comparison of Emmitt Till comes into play, but since the liar is black, we’ll still give that prominence to the suspended, burgular tool carrying, weed smokin’, hoodie wearing, skittle eatin’ individual that is no longer with us. In 2002, Banks plead no contest to rape of Wanetta Gibson, a black girl, to avoid being seen as a big black man raping a girl.

I’m not going to beat the young man up for copping to something he did not do and not fighting it. I’m not going to beat the parents of this young man up for allowing this to happen to their son, who had such great promise. I can’t. What I can do is place blame on the attorney, place blame on Gibson and place blame on the DA for rushing to send another black kid to jail and assuming they’re all guilty. I can also place blame on the young men who are out there ripping and running the streets causing havoc and fear in communities like Long Beach, CA. The only fear and havoc Bank’s caused was on the football field. Off the football field, he was a victim.

Tuesday, May 08, 2012

RF23 – Hidden Pain

With the suicide death of Junior Seau last week, Seau became the ninth member of a list, no one his age, shoot! MY age! wants to be on.  Nine players of Seau’s Super Bowl Challenging team have died under the age of 45 and who knows if that list will grow.  I wanted to shy away from the subject of Seau’s death, due to the cause.   You see, suicide, hits home for me, because I know someone, who committed suicide and the person, was the God-Father to my daughter.   I guess what really hit home was when Seau’s former team-mate Marcellus Wiley tearfully expressed his grief after going over Seau’s unselfishness and his will to be a leader in his locker room.  But when Wiley got to Junior, the man, he couldn’t understand why Seau didn’t for once pull in his team-mates..why didn’t he talk to him or tell him [Wiley] he needed a shoulder and that the injury Seau was covering up, couldn’t be hidden, because it was probably emotional.  

From that interview, I tried to let the death go by and probably just talk about the Rodney King Jury Acquittal of Four LAPD officers and the RIOT!! that ensued, but in my head, Junior Seau and that person was there.

Man, this hurts...

In the Summer of 1998, I got a phone call from my closest friend and he had a surprise for me, in regard to who was on the other line.  It was Ray.  What can I say about Raymond Lewis Smith, from Pittsburgh, PA.  I first met Ray in Ft. McCellan, Alabama, as both of us were in the same platoon and eventually lumped together to form the Army’s first “Package” Platoon.  Meaning that we went through basic training and Advanced Initial Training commonly called AIT together.  After that training we were ordered to Ft. Hood, Texas, where we made up 4th Platoon, 181 Chemical Company; 2nd Chemical Battalion.   Ray was smart, he was witty, and he had a heart of gold!  He would literally give you his own shirt off his back if you asked him too. 

I remember, when my first wife and my first born son came back to Texas, and I introduced Ray and fellas to him.  It was Ray, who asked if he was the god-father, I told him, no, it was my military big brother, Leroy Weaver (Atkins) so he looked at me and said, are you done having kids, because if not, the next one, I better god-father and he went on to start spoiling Branden.  It was not long, until my daughter Kristian was born and it was a no brainer  who was the god-father and when I told him, he picked Kristian up and the smile and joy he had on his face was like Kristian was his and I was just the surrogate. 

Ray was my boy, my brother and hell I don’t recall ever calling him my friend, because he wasn’t, he was my brother. 

Another memory that brings a smile to my face is one time, Ray was looking for his car keys and he was tearing his room apart looking for them and I asked, what everyone would ask..

Do you remember where you put them?

He stopped searching, looked at me and yelled, “Lewis!! Think about what you said,” I was like, “what?”  “Think about what you said, what you asked me!” and it hit me..”Well?!”  “Okay, man I get it, if you remembered where you put them, you wouldn’t be looking for them, ha ha, mofo’er”

And I left.   

We also experienced tragedies, a fellow package platoon member, was killed in a car accident, on his way to our 6 in the morning PT formation, he apparently fell asleep at the wheel and hit someone head on.   I will always remember Gregory Norris Pasternak, he left us at age 20.  I remember his funeral service as if it were yesterday, we talked about how he said he was going to move closer to the base, because the drive from Austin was getting to him.  The day Pasternak died, changed us, it was Pasternak who gave us the review that new Batman movie starring Michael Keaton proved that this Batman was not a F-g in tights anymore.   Pasternak, before he got married, was Ray’s roommate and his death affected Ray.  He drank more and he got quiet. 

As our time in the Army went on, some of us moved on to other places or just got out and our platoon was filled with new faces and friends to take the place of the ones that left and eventually Ray and my time in the army was over after serving in Operation Desert Storm.   Ray got out first and then I followed a year later.  I told him I was leaving to Illinois, gave him the number I had, said good bye and left.  I never saw Ray again; but I believed I would see him, Leroy, Roundtree and Shaun Corcoran again.

Years went on and rumors from Ft. Hood started circulating that Ray was killed, but when I took advantage of the search engines at the law firms I was working in, I never saw the “deceased” indicator to his name and he seemed to be moving around, he was in Mississippi, which made sense, since he was in a relationship with another former soldier named “Stephanie” and she was from Mississippi, but the rumor still remained and I would search again and the search would show that he was back in the Ft. Hood area in Temple, Texas.  I knew where he was, but I couldn’t get a good number for him, until one day, another brother of mine, my boy, Andrew called me and said, “guess who’s on the phone?”

“Man! Where you been?!” I asked and we talked and talked and made plans to meet up in Houston.   By this time, Ray had let Andrew in our group and he and Andrew were close.  It was them, that pulled me by my collar and told me that I was going down the wrong road, by the friends I was hangin’ with.  My drinkin’ got worse and I did some jacked up things to my first wife in regard to other women, which cost me, my family.  It was Ray that hemmed me up and told me to stop and realize, what I was going to lose. 

He was right.

A few months went by and again the false rumor of his death became a reality.  A former platoon member, told Andrew that Ray was killed and that his body was taken to Pennsylvania.   I didn’t believe it and I told Drew, no it wasn’t true..until I made contact with Stephanie and she confirmed it and made it worse and told me that Ray had taken his own life.   She told me she believes she was last one to talk to him because, he told her he was sleeping with a gun under his pillow.  She asked why, and Ray, being Ray, said, “Why do you think?”  She pleaded with him to come to her and they could work it out.  He refused, but said he loved her, hung up and she believes he then shot himself.   

I was angry, hurt and years after learning of this grieved for my boy, my brother.

I vented out my frustration to Andrew, Roundtree and Weaver in an email, asking why he didn’t call ME!! Or anyone else!  Drew was a few miles south of him in Houston and would have been there for our boy, like he was for us, many a day.  No one, I mean, no one!, would have turned him away, if so, they weren’t his boy, his brother.  

So I could understand Wiley’s grief, but no one would ever know the answer as to why. I could only guess that Ray missed his boys, his brothers and he didn’t want us to see his pain.

Writing this sucked..