I recently sat in a courtroom waiting for the trial to begin for a 14-year-old female child of African descent. This child had been a student-scholar all through her elementary, middle and the beginning of her high school years. Everyone in the community loves her. Now, she was facing charges of first degree felony burglary and grand theft.
In court, I witnessed a parade of juveniles, male and female, going before the court for judgment. This day, all of these juveniles were children of African descent. Many went before the judge without a parent or supporter. The assigned public defender could only offer two choices: Take a plea or go to trial. As one may guess, all chose to take a plea.
Where were the parents? Were these juveniles afforded good or the best representation? Were any of them actually innocent of their alleged crimes?
This situation is similar in many cities all over this country.
In the case of the 14-year-old girl, the state prosecution was bringing charges of burglary and grand theft based on three latent fingerprints found at the scene of the crime on a jalousie window. The crime scene described by police officers and technicians who were witnesses for the prosecution presented a picture that the apartment was in disarray. Yet, there were no fingerprints of this student-scholar on any items in the apartment.
The juvenile was not interviewed by the police nor did the state attempt to verify the child’s alibi through interviewing her witnesses.
A revelation took place in me. In the 21st millennium, people of African descent are having discussions as to how they prefer to be called. Some want to be called black. Others want to be called African American and others are exclaiming that Africa has nothing to do with them.
Did it matter whether Trayvon Martin was called black or African American? Trayvon is dead. One thing was certain and a constant for all of the juveniles I saw in court: They have the same skin color; they are not white.
But this mother-and-daughter team was like the parents of Trayvon Martin who have been demanding justice for their son and have insisted on the truth coming out. These are examples of the power of consciousness. This type of consciousness powers individuals to stand for truth and justice, even if it means standing alone.
The criminal case against the scholar-student was dismissed by the judge. There was joy in this triumph. Yet, sadness existed in the number of young children of African descent who were in court who could only look forward to a challenging future while being caught in the juvenile justice system.
Children, young adults, parents, and grandparents of African descent must raise their level of consciousness. You can do this by wanting a better life for yourselves and for those around you.
The same energies used in the marches and demonstrations for justice for Trayvon Martin must be directed and focused in the community and the schools. These energies in the form of a higher level of consciousness can impact the number of black children in the juvenile justice system and the black male graduation rate in high schools.
Improvement in those two areas will translate into power. Come on, people, participate in the consciousness movement.
Tyrone A. Ash, a Hollywood resident, is author of The Story GrandPa Told of American and World African Legends and Culture. He may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org
Photo: Tyrone A. Ash