The Fifth Estate extends from the blogosphere to the community and the ways participants hold the powers accountable. The Fourth Estate, the media, held some of that responsibility, but communications is now more in the hands of the people.
In early February a call came into the Bucks Underground Railroad about a farm in Lower Makefield Township owned by a Native American. It seems the Thorpe First Nation Organic Family Farm—a 145 acre piece of land surrounded by HUGE mansions is under threat of being lost. The owner is Dale Redhawk Thorpe—a distant cousin of Olympian Jim Thorpe. Along with wife Renee and their five children they are the 5th generation of Thorpe’s to farm this land.
I reached out to some like-minded friends who are committed to preserving farms and the land.
The first week in February we scheduled an event at the farm to bring attention to Dale Redhawk’s plight. Until that time, no one outside of the Thorpe family, or the predator bankers, or the overzealous Township government were aware of this struggle.
The threats to his farm are numerous and the farm could disappear forever because of:
1) Bait & Switch advice from the Susquehanna Bank
2) A suspicious barn fire in early October 2012.
3) The wrath of Hurricane Sandy in early November 2012 that tore the roof from the Farm’s market.
4) Developers sniffing around the perimeters: Subdividing large parcels of land for more Castles on 10-acre plots.
5) A large reservoir of underground water on the farm that could be used in housing development or for gas industry fracking.
Since the barn fire and hurricane Sandy the township has stepped up its harassment of Dale Redhawk Thorpe’s land. The scraps of charcoaled wood around the barn and the blue tarp covering the Market’s roof are an ‘eyesore’ to some residents living in the mansions surrounding the farmland. For some time even before the fire and hurricane, MiddletownTownship has been making unannounced visits to the farm and filing numerous code violations.
Although the insurance company approved the claims for damages to the roof–as is the practice of banks holding mortgage loans–the settlement was sent to the bank. The bank is holding the money because the Thorpe’s are behind in their mortgage payments.
The farm is an Uncertified Organic farm. There are nearly a hundred free-roaming chickens producing organic eggs sold in the farm’s market. Raw milk and processed bison meat were also sold at the market from a nearby farm is sold at the Market. Looking to the future, Dale’s business plan includes the addition of Bison to graze on a section of the land to be raised for their meat which he plans to sell in his market.
With the main revenue source now lost to the Thorpe’s , The Friends of the Thorpe First Nation Family Farm have intensified their efforts to save the farm. Three crowdsourcing petitions are now on line. A facebook page has joined the Thorpe’s website in spreading the word. A world-wide petition brought 2,148 names from around the globe. We developed a plan that began on the first weekend of February of this year.
On Earth Day weekend—April 20 and 21–supporters and friends will gather at the farm for a spring clean-up on Saturday. On Sunday the events include a celebration of everything Earth Day: Tables will set up for an outdoor flea market; sessions by Native Americans teaching recycling; children will be instructed in planting their very own seeds in a pot; entertainment will be provided by local musicians and Native dancers and drummers.
Hope you can be there.
January 5, 2013
Yesterday I saw Django Unchained.
Today there was a replay on NPR’s Fresh Air Weekend of Terry Gross’ interview with Quentin Tarantino. She questioned him about the violence in the film, especially in light of the tragedy at Shady Hook Elementary School. High items of discussion by film and media critics question the physical violence, blazing guns, the use of the ‘n’ word, and even poo-poo’d the main character’s goal of freeing his wife. One media critic even counted the number of times that word was uttered in the film believing it to be over-used. Back in those slave days of oppression, the ‘n’ word was thrown about more frequently than the words ‘you’ or ‘me’.
Django was made before the Shady Hook massacre and in light of its release at the height of the tragedy, Terry asked Tarentino about the gratuitous violence in his films. Tarantino expressed his annoyance to the question and responded, “I think it’s disrespectful. I think it’s disrespectful to their memory, actually.”
When Gross asked whose memory, Tarantino replied, ”The memory of the people who died to talk about movies. I think it’s totally disrespectful to their memory. Obviously, the issue is gun control and mental health.”
A transcript of the full interview can be read here: http://www.npr.org/templates/transcript/transcript.php?storyId=168200139.
Django Unchained is about many things but right up there is Oppression. Slaves and black people living in the 17th, 18th or 19th Century never had a nice day. Those of us tuned into global media events know that oppression is alive in a lot of places: Syria; Coptics in Egypt; Palestinians in Gaza; Buddhists in China; women in India and many 3rd world nations; and people of all colors in America. Fill in any places I’ve missed.
I won’t spoil it for you by going beyond the message of oppression in Django. As the plot moves to its conclusion there are instances of satirical wit and dialogue. All the actors are excellent. Christopher Waltz brings in a performance worthy of his Golden Globe nomination. I’m hoping all the hip-hoppers and street brothers pay the admission price to see this film. It may cause them to stop using the ‘n’ word.
My blood flows with an ancestor who survived the oppression of capture, the Diaspora, and slavery. I’ve walked inside two dungeons in Ghana. At Cape Coast I had to stoop to get through its narrow Door of No Return where multiple thousands of Africans then trudged across a sandy beach into a ship that packed them like sardines before taking them to places around the globe. Inside Elmina dungeon, 500 years later the scent of blood and pain still reeks from the walls where women were crowded worse than cattle. I toured a Virginia plantation where re-enactors described the oppressive lives of slaves and Native Americans. I traveled 70 miles inside Canada to 3 separate settlements where descendants of runaway slaves live to this day.
Far as I’m concerned, Django Unchained is a dramatic history lesson for the uninformed about slavery. Go see it.
Dec29Filed under: Politics; Tagged as: 2013, Doylestown Kitchen Table Patriots, National Football League, Newtown Connecticut, Nina Bolfing, Nina Bolfing New Britain, President Barack Obama Inauguration on Sunday January 20, Sandy Hook Elementary School, Sandy Hook speech by President Barack Obama, Soup for an Activist's Soul, Tea Party, The 'n' word, The Daily Kos, The Intelligencer Letters to the Editor, The Troubadour, The Troubadour on the Daily Kos
On December 4 The Intelligencer of Doylestown–the newspaper that covers all of Bucks County–printed a brief and nasty letter to the editor from a New Britain woman–Nina Bolfing—reproduced below in its entirety:
“Santa Claus used to be a big fat man with a long white beard.
”Now he is a skinny black man in a big white house.”
Yeah, I was pissed. Those righty letters often show up in our paper with an aroma of racist hatred for President Obama. Ms. Bolfing’s words reeked of either the Tea Party or the Kitchen Table Patriots or one of those other extreme righty groups (see The Bucks Underground Railroad April 5, 2011: ‘Soup for an Activist’s Soul”). I dashed off a response to The Intelligencer which they published December 9. As a “skinny black” woman who lives in Doylestown I wrote how I would relish the opportunity to sit across from Ms. Bolfing and ask, Why do you hate people of color?
A friend of mine contacted me after my letter appeared and shared with me that Ms. Bolfing lives down the road from her. She offered to mediate a sit-down between the two of us.
Go for it, I said.
Long story short—after my friend left three voice messages, then dropped a letter to Ms. B by U.S. Mail, Ms B called her. Seems Ms. B was out of town–in the “Free State of Minnesota” (her words). She was unaware that her December 4 letter had been published and didn’t know that three voice messages were left on her phone. When my friend read my response to Ms. Bolfing that was published in the Intelligencer, Ms. B commented that I had “… no sense of humor….”. She added that she was not a racist but told my friend that “Obama ‘bought his way’ into the White House.” She refused to meet with me.
Well . . . that’s one chicken who won’t come home to roost.
Couple years ago while discussing global warming with a non-believer I attempted to describe some of the effects of climate change I’d witnessed while in Kenya, East Africa. I began ,“When I was in Kenya….” . Never got to finish my thought. This non-believer leaned into me; eyes filled with ignorance and she said, “Well why don’t you go back there?” Since that little ping-pong exchange, I discovered that this climate change denier is a high profile member of the Doylestown Kitchen Table Patriots.
There are some individuals with tiny brains that you Just.Can’t.Talk.To.
This obsession about skin color by bigots isn’t confined to extreme political ideologues living in our neighborhoods. When President Obama spoke in Newtown, Connecticut on December 16 to bereaved families, friends, classmates, neighbors, and relatives of Sandy Hook Elementary children and teachers who were massacred on the Friday before, the website Daily Kos re-posted tweets from four angry people. Tweeting through their real names they demanded the “n-word President”get off national television because he was interrupting their overly-aggressive arm-chair pastime of watching Sunday night football:
Do these four tweeters believe brown/black athlete players should also “get off” television screens? Last time I checked NFL player rosters, there were a lot of dark faces in various team uniforms.
As a person of color I had to speak out against this use of the “n” word and other coded hate messages that attempt to pollute our America.
President Barack Obama will be inaugurated for a second term on Sunday January 20, 2013. Four years ago many of you readers may have witnessed that magical happening in Washington DC. Be there again—and become one in that big picture of What Is America: Black, White, Brown, Red, and Yellow.
Me the Granny has one more post to get out of my system before 2012 goes away.
Happy New Year.
Nov30Filed under: Media, Politics; Tagged as: 112th Congress, G.O.P. Get Out of my Panties, H.R. 212, Keepsake Ultrasound, Ohio State Senator Nina Turner, Ohio State Senator Nina Turner introduces Viagra Bill, PA House Bill 1077, Paul Ryan (R-WI), Penile Enhancement pills, The Sanctity of Life Act, Todd Akin (R-MO)
Gratitudes to Ohio State Senator Nina Turner for donning that T-shirt (at left) on November 13 where she warned legislators (mostly male) to Stop. Stop meddling inside women’s bodies. Turner stood with Ohio Planned Parenthood representatives at a press conference, where they denounced the Ohio legislature‘s recent introduction of the “heartbeat bill”–a radical piece of legislation that would ban abortions as soon as a fetal heartbeat is detected.
The state of Ohio’s not alone. Pennsylvania’s House Bill 1077: The Women’s Right To Know Act was introduced in 2011 and remains in Committee. The Bill’s introduction reads “… ultrasound test requirements to determine gestational ages of unborn children …” It will require a pregnant woman to undergo an extensive ultrasound (including an internal probe) and medical counseling to determine that the woman has made a responsible decision to terminate her pregnancy.
In the 112th Congress, Paul Ryan (R-WI) and Todd Akin (R-MO) introduced H.R 212, The Sanctity of Life Act, declaring in part “… the life of each human being begins with fertilization, cloning, or its functional equivalent, irrespective of sex, health, function or disability, defect, stage of biological development, or condition of dependency, at which time every human being shall have all the legal and constitutional attributes and privileges of personhood …”
Their purpose of the Act is to define ‘human and human being’ to “… include each and every member of the species homo sapiens at all stages of life, beginning with the earliest stage of development, created by the process of fertilization, cloning, or its functional equivalent.”
The text in H.R. 212 defines fertilization of the egg and the sperm as “…a new unique human being.”
If an embryo and/or fetus are held to be a human being, Everything Changes.
Medical technology can already determine when conception occurs. Good-bye Birth Certificate. Hello ‘Conception Certificate’.
Medical technology can also determine the gender of a fetus. The “new unique human being” should then be given a name;
And should be assigned a Social Security number;
And should become a tax-deductible dependent;
And should therefore be eligible for medical benefits;
And should be counted in local, state and federal census.
Will the health insurance industry be burdened with payment of medical tests associated in determining date of conception and gender? The cost for an Ultrasound is estimated at $700.00 to $1,200 or more. In recent years, many “keepsake ultrasound” businesses have come into being, offering 3 dimensional and 4 dimensional ultrasounds that have a good chance of revealing your baby’s gender. Currently these visits are not covered by insurance, and can run anywhere from $75 to $300 or even more. Will the insurance industry be required to cover this procedure under H.R. 212?
Ohio Senator Nina Turner is my heroine. In March of this year (as noted in my July 4, 2012 post—The Egg, the Sperm, ‘Pills’ and the Tighty Rightys), she introduced a Bill in the Ohio chamber where men would be subjected to the same intrusive examinations whenever they seek a prescription for Viagra or any other penile enhancement pill. Will be interesting to learn that the boxers and briefs of men will be invaded by a law similar to PA H.B. 1077 or H.R. 212. Might not happen though, because recent television commercials are saying that penile enhancement pills no longer require a doctor’s prescription.
September 20, 2012
During that infamous video inside the home of a Boca Raton wealthy supporter, Mitt Romney declared that 47% of Americans expect ”entitlements” from the government or are living off entitlements. He babbled on to label those people as Americans who “pay no taxes.”
Oh my…..Am I one of those ’47% Victims’?
Every month I receive a Social Security and pension check. After 40 plus years in the work force, dumping taxed money from my salary into my Social Security account, I figure I earned my retirement. Unbeknownst to the Mitt, I still pay taxes: Taxes are deducted from the pension I contributed to during my 20 years at my last job. I also opted to have the minimal deduction taken out of my Social Security check. Then there’s the annual school tax, county tax, and local tax that I must pay. When I purchase goods and services, taxes always show up at the bottom of those receipts. No free pass here.
I own one home. Not a second, third, fourth, or fifth home sitting some place across America or in a country located some place beyond America. My savings and checking account reside in one local bank. I own no stock, or enjoy any kind of capital gains or am wealthy enough to hide my money in a foreign land that would allow me the privilege of cheating on America: Paying No USA Taxes.
Who’s fooling who? There are putrid odors of exclusivity, intolerance and ignorance spewing out of the Romney campaign. The outcome of this will only bring more divisiveness within our Nation.
I’m not a “victim” and I refuse to be labeled as such.
Jul4Filed under: Health, Media, Politics; Tagged as: Birther, Erectile Dysfunction, Mississippi Anti Abortion Law Temporarily Blocked by Federal Judge, Mississippi Republican Governor Phil Bryant, Ohio State Senator Nina Turner introduces Viagra Bill, PA House Bill 1077, Planned Parenthood, Planned Parenthood services, Rick Santorum opposes birth control, Rick Santorum pledges to defund birth control, U.S. District Judge Daniel P. Jordan Jackson Mississippi, Viagra, Warminster Planned Parenthood.Pro-lifers
July 4, 2012
They are the Tighty Rightys. They’ll do everything possible to suppress women’s reproductive rights. They succeeded in reducing federal funds to Planned Parenthood on the falsehood that only abortions are performed at their facilities. That was and is a Big Fat Lie. Nationwide, the procedure to terminate pregnancies at Planned Parenthood agencies is only 3%.
On July 2 a few internet news sites reported that Mississippi was almost close to becoming the only state without a women’s health center. Seems its Tighty Righty Republican Governor, Phil Bryant had signed legislation to close this last health facility. Seems he wants Mississippi to be “abortion-free”. Fortunately a temporary restraining order issued by U.S. District Judge Daniel P. Jordan in Jackson will delay the closing. The Judge has scheduled a hearing on July 11.
An article in the July 3 Intelligencer reports Bucks County Tighty Rightys want to shut down the Warminster Planned Parenthood office. Tighty Rightys! Be careful what you wish for. We got Federal Judges in our District Courts too.
Then there’s Tighty-Righty Rick Santorum. He wants to ban funding for all methods of contraception. He along with a chorus of Tighty Righty “commentators” spread the lie that birth control allows women to live a sexually promiscuous life. That makes about as much sense as believing men swallow penile enhancement pills for the sole purpose of making babies.
With the long-suffering quest by Tighty Rightys for a Constitutional Amendment declaring that “…human life begins in the womb”, when I recall my two pregnancies, I never thought that each time it was a “human” in my womb. My son and daughter became human when they slid out my birth canal, sucking in their first breath of oxygen before wailing and wiggling in the hands of my doctor.
The more I thought about this human in the womb nonsense, the more I envisioned how their Constitutional Amendment could cause medical technology to change everything we know about civil law and how ”human life begins in the womb” could affect local, state and federal statues. In a few days The Bucks Underground Railroad will publish a post on my vision of futuristic gestation/procreation.
While Tighty Righty Santorum speaks of banning birth control, women—many without insurance or money—are being denied the right to seek family planning services along with preventive screening procedures, tests, or counseling. It gets worse. Late last year Pennsylvania’s Tighty Rightys introduced legislation (House Bill 1077) that forces women to look at ultra-sound images of the fetus before they agree to terminate an unwanted pregnancy.
Unconfirmed as I publish this post, there’s talk that a Democrat in the Pennsylvania General Assembly may introduce–as a countermeasure to House Bill 1077–a bill requiring men to seek treatment for Erectile Dysfunction (ED). They would undergo a full prostate exam, a cardiac stress test and submit a signed affidavit from a sexual partner stating that the patient suffers from ED.
Nina Turner, a Senator serving in the Ohio legislation has introduced a bill that limits men’s ability to get a Viagra prescription without meeting certain health screening conditions. Turner’s bill would require men to receive psychological counseling to verify that they have a medical reason for taking ED medications such as Viagra, before they can legally obtain a prescription. It would also require doctors to inform men, in writing, about the potential risks of drugs like Viagra.
Several days ago an RN shared an incident with me about one of her former patients. The man, 70 years of age was hospitalized with a heart condition. The nurse described how after administrating the patient’s Physician-ordered medications he asked, “Where’s my blue pill?” She replied that there was no ‘blue pill’ on his list of authorized meds. He was insistent so she checked with his doctor who told her the ‘blue pill’ was Viagra. Dr. added, “His 50-year old girlfriend is expected in an hour. Give him the pill.”
Just as Tighty Righty laws are taking away a woman’s right to control their bodies, it’s about time that men are subjected to the same rules.
Apr30Filed under: Native Peoples, People, Politics; Tagged as: Caroline County Virginia, Civil Rights Act of 1964, Congressman Joe Wilson (R-SC), Congressman Michael Fitzpatrick, HBO Documentary The Lovings, Loving v. Virginia, Miscegenation, President Barack Obama, President George W. Bush, President Lyndon B. Johnson, Racial Integrity Act of 1924, Supreme Court, Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito, Tea Party, Trayvon Martin
April 30, 2012
The April 16, 2012 issue of Newsweek published a picture of an African-American woman holding a sign at a Trayvon Martin protest rally that said, “I don’t apologize for my blackness and your fear.” It was a reminder to me that when my siblings and I were growing up in Doylestown we were raisins in a sea of rice. We were always cautioned to be proper in our appearance and manners. My dad would say to us, “You are colored and have to hold yourself to a higher standard.” That sign symbolized the burden we carried throughout our childhood: Apologizing.
The Civil Rights Movement forced the nation to look at how Being Black in America was an unequal condition. In 1964 President Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act and all was supposed to be well in the land of the free, the home of the brave. When Barack Obama was elected President in 2008 the hatred fed by prejudice and ignorance came out of the closet. He is the first President whose skin is the shade of creamed coffee and many Americans are uncomfortable in accepting that reality.
National figures of Power granted permission for this racist attitude to go viral when during the President’s September 9, 2009 speech on health care to a joint session of Congress, Congressman Joe Wilson (R-SC) shouted “You lie!”. Then four months later during the President’s 2010 State of the Union message, Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito dropped his façade of decorum and angrily shook his head as he mouthed the words “… not true…”. Both displays of disrespect gave subliminal approval for anyone to openly express their hateful ignorance of our 44th President of the United States.
The thick magic markers came out of desk drawers and caricatures of the President as a monkey or wearing an exaggerated Hitler mustache flooded Tea Party rallies across America. Although Presidents Clinton and George W. Bush were slapped with verbal abuse during their times in office, it never reached the level of hateful discord as continually occurs toward President Obama. Here in the 8th Congressional District, this past April 14 Representative Michael Fitzpatrick ramped up the hate level by accusing President Obama of treason.
After the murder of Trayvon Martin a deeper wound of racist fear poured out, proving that what we thought was long gone is still with us. The letters to the editor in our local paper were filled with lame excuses to justify the merciless killing of this young man. An equal number of letters were annoyed by the protests taking place in support of Trayvon. Their main message: Get over it. In their ignorance some of the letters referenced black on white murder crimes as an accepted comparison to Trayvon Martin’s death.
Growing up in Doylestown in the 50s and 60s, the possibility of a relationship between a couple where one was white and the other black was considered Tabu. Recently HBO featured a documentary of the Mildred Delores Jeter, of African-American and Rappahannock Native American descent who in 1958 married a white man–Richard Perry Loving. Their home was CarolineCountyVirginia, a state where a 1924 law disallowed the “mixing of the races”. The Lovings were arrested for miscegenation (marriage between different races). The “crime” worked its way to the Supreme Court that heard arguments on April 19, 1967. On June 12, 1967 the Court declared Virginia’s anti-miscegnation statue (The Racial Integrity Act of 1924) to be unconstitutional.
As the 21st Century came upon us, mixed couples and mixed marriages have become so acceptable, no one takes a second look. Raisins in a sea of rice is slowly disappearing. Global-wide peoples of different skin shades—white, red, yellow, black, and brown are mixing it up. Who knows—by the end of the 21st Century the skin of every human being around the planet will be the same color.
April 26, 2012
On April 18 I traveled to Bristol for the regularly scheduled Commissioners’ meeting to express my concerns about registered voters living in nursing homes. About a dozen people spoke and shared horror stories they experienced as they attempted to abide by this law. My post of March 30, 2012 listed my concerns for my brother, now residing in a nursing home. http://www.oneifbylandbuckscounty.com/blog/?p=902.
Since that posting I’ve learned that my brother’s nursing home has no plans to photograph their residents. This decision came after a nursing home staff member made inquiries, only to learn that any photo ID created by the home would not be “acceptable”. The home has not decided to transport by van to the Dublin DMV any of their 37 registered voters who do not have approved photo ID.
So many glitches are beginning to surface from this law: Photos taken at a DMV are supposed to be free; however one of the speakers at this meeting said that when he went to get his photo taken, he was charged $13 dollars and change. If you work, you’ll have to take time off your job running around to get these documents. Time lost is money out of your paycheck! The documents required in order to get an approved photo ID will not be secured quickly–Birth Certificates at least a month; Passports at least 16 weeks.
The horror story described at this meeting was the 89 year old woman—never having missed voting her entire adult life—who traveled to the Dublin DMV with all the proper documents, only to be rejected because her marriage certificate was in Hebrew. The clerk at the DMV suggested she change back to her maiden name and then she could get her photo ID. Happy ending is a couple days ago she was granted a DMV photo ID good for four years. Oh–and in 2016, she can renew her Official Voter ID card for a fee (not yet determined).
Don’t have a certified copy of your Birth Certificate? My recommendation is visit the office of your State Rep or State Senator. They have proudly boasted in their newsletters and campaign literature all about their excellent “constituent service”. Do it: Request one of them to get your Birth Certificate. It’ll be on your doorstep within two weeks!
The Tuesday Primary was not the best “dry run” for voters. With only the D’s and R’s showing up–and a paltry 24% at my polling place–all the Libertarians, Greens, and No Party voters, unless they read the local paper won’t have a clue about this mess.
The cost to taxpayers as the State implements this unconstitutional law is tremendous. Minority Commissioner Diane Marseglia stated the amount to be a couple million dollars. The governor has cut funding for social programs but oh yeah, there seems to be money to devote state employees and resources just to make sure everybody knows who they are when they go into the voting booth.
It ain’t over yet. Three days ago I received an email from the Pennsylvania Chapter of the ACLU. Here’s their message I pass on to all of you:
It’s very important and URGENT that we find people who don’t have ID. If you think you don’t have the right kind of ID or someone you know doesn’t have an acceptable photo ID, please contact ACLU of PA at 717-238-2258 Voterid@aclupa.org. They’re about to file a lawsuit!
There are many places in our communities—shelters, housing groups, houses of worship, or halfway houses to name a few—where there are voters who don’t yet have a photo ID. If you regularly attend a worship service, make sure this information gets to all your members. Imagine the number of people who live in cities and travel by bus but have no approved ID, not even a driver’s license.
This is a seriously horrific situation where as many as 5 to 10% of registered voters will be disenfranchised. The pro-voter ID people believe this is not a serious issue and that everybody has an ID and there are ”…no problems…” to get the proper documentation. …….If only that were so.
And finally, there is a SignOn petition circulating by email, Facebook, and Tweet. It reads:
People throughout Bucks County need to be educated about the new requirements to vote in November. It is the obligation of the County Commissioners to run honest, efficient, and uniform elections. In order to do so, the County Commissioners must convene a Photo ID Task Force by May 15, 2012, to draw up a plan to educate the general public about the details of the Photo ID law and facilitate the processing of documents necessary for Bucks County residents to vote in November 2012. The task force must be representative of the entire county and operate transparently.
Go to the link: http://signon.org/sign/county-commissioners. Last time I checked, it was close to a thousand names asking for the Task Force.
To determine what acceptable voter ID documents you already have or will need, visit www.votespa.com.
April 1, 2012
Another African American baby has been murdered.
6-year old Khalil Wimes died on March 19, 2012. His death was the result of recurring physical abuse, neglect, and starvation meted out to him by his biological parents–Tina Cuffie and Floyd Wimes (aka Latif Hadi). Khalil’s death sentence began in 2008 when Philadelphia Family Court Judge Charles Cunningham ruled that Khalil should be returned to the parents, and not remain in the custody of Alicia Nixon, a cousin to the Wimes. Five other children were born from the Wimes’ union but had been removed for similar reasons of neglect.
Although Khalil was taken from the Wimes when there was confirmation of physical abuse, for some illogical reason Judge Cunningham placed Khalil back in harm’s way. If there’s a blessing from this tragedy, Khalil’s 3-year old sister living in the house at the time of his death is now in the custody of the Department of Human Services.
When he died Khalil weighed only 29 pounds, 16 pounds off the 45-pound weight for a child his age.
This is the second incident of a child’s death through neglect and abuse that has happened in a family I know. It’s horrific enough to learn of tragedies like this; but when it touches the lives of people we know it’s a painful burden we share with them.
I had the joy of meeting Khalil in the spring of 2008. At that time he was barely two years old and in the custody of Alicia and her husband. It was also a time when Alicia and family members were immersed in a futile attempt with Family Court to keep Khalil from being returned to his biological parents. Back then, along with my friend and colleague Andrew, we had visited LaReine Nixon in her Philadelphia studio and gallery. LaReine is Alicia’s mother. We were there to deliver a couple dozen newly silk-screened Obama T-shirts to LaReine, T-shirts born from a unique portrait she had created of then candidate Barack Obama. Shortly after our arrival Khalil came bounding in with Alicia, running on his little legs to LaReine shouting “Grandma!”
When I’d first heard about Khalil’s death, it brought back to me an image of that visit to LaReine’s studio. There was LaReine kneelng in front of Khalil and slipping one of the Obama T-shirts over his tiny frame. The shirt swallowed him, flowing down to the floor and covering his shoes. LaReine placed her hands on his shoulders. “Who’s this?”, she asked. Khalil grinned, tapped his hands on his chest and said, “Bama!”
Alicia and LaReine briefly described to us the Court struggle they were experiencing to keep Khalil from returning to his biological parents. They felt cautiously confident that the outcome would be in their favor. I prefer the phrase “biological parents” because in many instances, people like the Wimes can never be defined as a mother and father.
In some developing countries or Third World countries there are no Courts to make decisions regarding troubled children. Instead the decision is in the hands of the community. Yet again, in our developed nation the Court’s decision to place neglected, troubled, or abused children into a blood relatives’ home is the right thing to do.
In Margaret Mead’s Coming of Age in Samoa she described how it was an accepted custom for children or youngsters, if difficulties or problems were prominent within the home; to move into the nearby home of a relative. The child would become an integral part of his/her new family.
In the Maasai culture when a child dies, the family can adopt a child from one of their close relatives. It could be the family of the wife or husband or possibly a child from any other extended family member. In exchange a heifer is given to the family who gave their child out for adoption.
Although it’s true that Family Courts and Philadelphia Family Courts are overwhelmed with neglect cases such as Khalil’s, I can’t help but wonder—What was Judge Charles Cunningham thinking? It was an egregious failure on his part to return Khalil to those heartless monsters, thereby robbing him of the love and safety and shelter from his Aunt Alicia and support from his extended family members.
Judge Charles Cunningham should do all future endangered children a favor and step down from the bench.
March 30, 2012
Two nursing home facilities are sited in the precinct where I live and vote. According to the 9/21/11 County of Bucks Voter Registration List for my precinct, there are 61 registered voters at these two facilities. My brother recently transferred to one of the facilities in October from a nursing home in New Jersey. A consistent voter in his former state, he has re-registered to vote in Bucks County and looks forward to the upcoming elections.
At a January 11, 2012 Voter ID forum held by the Bucks County League of Women Voters, State Senator Chuck McIlhinney (PA-10) was available to answer questions about Voter ID. I expressed my concern that my brother does not have a current photo ID. The Senator assured me that nursing homes have photo IDs available for their patients.
When I inquired to administrative staff at my brother’s nursing home I discovered they do not offer that option for their residents. This is just one nursing home so I don’t know the policies of the other facility in my voting district nor of the several other facilities in the surrounding area. With rising costs to provide quality care to the elderly, I can understand why adding Photo ID requirements to their costs would be prohibitive.
My brother has his original Social Security card and an original copy of his birth certificate. He does not have a valid/current photo ID. I can take him to DMV; however he is incontinent and moves around by wheel chair. A long wait at DMV may compromise his health.
- Should the nursing facility transport my brother and all other wheel chair registered voters at the facility to the nearest DMV office? Or—
- Will one or two staff from the DMV travel to nursing homes to process a “valid photo ID” for my brother and all the registered voters at the facility?
- Should the nursing facility spend shrinking funds to hire staff to verify Social Security numbers? Will that staff member be required to process/photograph my brother and others for a “valid photo ID”? Will the nursing home facility’s valid ID be acceptable to the Board of Elections? Will costs for processing Voter IDs be covered under Medicare/Medicaid? Will these costs be waived?
- Will nursing home staff complete requests to the Bureau of Vital Statistics for original copies of residents’ birth certificates? Will the fee be waived for nursing home residents? If not, will that fee be covered under Medicare/Medicaid?
- Will our state elected representatives take the financial burden of meeting requests from nursing home residents for original birth certificates? Will the fee be waived?
- Will nursing home residents (some in wheel chairs) who are transported to their polling place on election days be given diligence and patience by poll workers?
- For residents voting by absentee ballots, will the County Election Board make staff available at nursing home facilities to verify each resident completing the ballot?
- What financial burdens will County Boards of Elections absorb for the Voter ID processing requirements?
So many questions……so little time.
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