More comedy for Gayle; more justice for Faya

Published 12:00 am Monday, January 22, 2007

To the Editor:

It is in the spirit of nonviolence that I respond to my misguided brother, Cecil Gayle. Unfortunately, he finds resistance to injustice comical. His response, however, is consistent with the attitude of many of his ancestors who found comic joy, seeing black people hung, and viewing ministerial shows that depicted black people as buffoons. Some even found Dr. Martin Luther King comical until he orchestrated a movement that forced America to be more constitutional and true to the American creed. Victory was achieved through civil disobedience as advocated by Henry Thoreau.

Black people, however, did not laugh when a white comedian released his racist venom at a comedy show a few months ago. Annie Cooper, nearly 100 years old, did not laugh when Jim Clark assaulted her simply because she was trying to register to vote. His colleagues laughed when she fell to the ground.

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However, they stopped laughing when she fought him with all her strength, requiring several men to remove her from his pale, shaking body. A few people even thought that Sen. Sanders’ leadership in the senate was comical until he helped build a coalition that would not allow the right wing to rule the executive, judicial and legislative branches of our government. I’m sure Gov. Riley is not laughing now.

Roosevelt Cleveland didn’t find it funny to be found guilty of public intoxication without being allowed to testify or present evidence. Judge Valerie Chittom found him guilty in a Selma city court in the United States of America in 2007 without even giving him a chance to testify in his defense. His testimony was crucial because there was no sobriety test or physical evidence of intoxication.

The police presented no evidence that he was unruly or a threat to the public. Yet as soon as the city attorney presented the officer’s testimony, the judge found him guilty. When I reminded Judge Chittom of my client’s constitutional right to present evidence, she finally said she would give me five minutes to present his evidence. When I objected to this unreasonable time constraint (which was not placed on the city prosecutor) she asked me to leave the courtroom. She did not find me in contempt. But “Jim Crow,” a white officer, handcuffed me and used unnecessary force (his name is really Jim Crow). I was finger printed, processed and released, but the young man stayed in jail until his probation officer released the probation hold, which was triggered by his arrest for public intoxication. He spent Martin Luther King’s birthday in jail, while churches and organizations celebrated Dr. King’s life and determination to end injustice every where, even in Selma, Ala.

Where else but in Alabama could such an injustice be performed and tolerated? Cecil, I am also under the impression, that all people, including illegal aliens, cannot be found guilty of a crime without an opportunity to testify and present evidence.

Brother Gayle, if you are under the impression that all of us have the same rights as you say in your letter, please explain why you are not outraged when a young African American male is deprived of the right to testify before being found guilty?

Thank God, I am now strong enough to take the racial and comic punches of my detractors.

I will continue to resist injustice but find time to laugh along the way.

Faya Rose Toure