Black Skin As a Perpetual Threat

Brooklyn Center another case of trigger happy policing

I’ve lived through three encounters with the police that could easily have ended in my death. Each time I see another Black man lose his life to a trigger-happy cop; it brings back that same dread I had on those three occasions.

In the mid-1970s, I was a young reporter covering the city hall beat for a Black-owned weekly tabloid. One day I went home for lunch with a couple of girls who worked in the newsroom. They were curious to know how I prepared a vegetarian hamburger. This was decades before the meat alternatives we have on the market today and a lot less appetizing. read more

The Two Most Disturbing Things About The Starbucks Arrests

Let me hasten to say, what happened at Starbucks in Philadelphia last weekend happens all the time in America, especially to Black men. In this respect there is not much to see here.It’s has happened to me, but not in Starbucks. I don’t go there because the coffee is too expensive for my taste buds. read more

Live Free or Die Trying!

Brothers and Sisters, I hate to wake you up from Martin’s dream, but it is time to live free or die trying. Like every man of color living in America since 1619, I have been taught rules of survival by my elders and I have passed on those lessons of survival to my progeny. No doubt if something does not change and change in a hurry my progeny will pass on those lessons to his offspring.

Wake up brother, wake up sister, it is time to live free or die trying. Martin told us in Albany that “a man can’t ride your back when you stand up.” Although he told us that a long, long time ago, we did not stand up. Live free or die trying was Martin’s manifesto to his people as enunciated in his last speech on April 3, 1968 at the Mason Temple Church of God in Christ in Memphis.

Somehow brother and sister, we were sidetracked by the media spin of “I’ve been to the mountain.” Yet that was not the essence of Martin’s utterances that night. What Martin wanted you and I to know is that in spite of the death threats, he was going to live free or die trying. Martin left the pulpit that night with his heart heavy, but his head held high. He walked out into the sultry Memphis night living free and ready to die if any lesser man was offended that he walked in the spirit of freedom.

The following day, Martin walked out of room 307 onto the balcony of the Lorraine Motel and into eternity. He walked out a free man. He walked out willing to die for his freedom.

“If a man.” Martin once said, “hasn’t found anything to die for, he is not fit to live.” Strong words, but words by which our leader lived and died.

There comes a time in the course of human history when a people who wish to be free of tyranny  must stand up and declare not only that enough is enough is enough, but boldly live free or die trying.

Perhaps it has come time to straighten our backs, brothers, when we encounter the police. Look them in the eyes with the courage of our sister, Sandra Bland and challenge them to do their job lawfully as prescribed by law or leave us the heck alone.

I’ve had many unpleasant encounters with the police. Each time, when I have yes sired and no sired them to death, I was given a citation or an ugly warning that next time they would haul me off to jail.

However, there were three occasions where I lived free without the fear of death in my eyes. Those situations turned out differently. The first one occurred in 1977,  when a Bibb County, Georgia Court Bailiff appeared in my driveway without legal process and ordered me into his van. I refused to obey an unlawful order. He reached for his gun. I ordered him not to shoot me. He removed his hands from his gun and did not shoot me. I did not go to jail.

In 2001, the Sheriff of Hancock County, Georgia and two of his deputies jumped me from behind as I was leaving court with my client. They threw me up against a wall. I was able to break free of their grasp without injury or bruise and ordered them never to touch me again. They never have and I did not go to jail.

On the third encounter in 2015, a Decatur, Georgia police officer yelled at me through the window of my car after I had nearly collided with another vehicle.

In spite of the fact no laws had been broken and no accident had occurred, the officer refused to accept my explanation that I made a mistake and nearly merged into the lane on my left.

“You made a mistake,” the burly blond haired officer yelled. “Yes, I made a mistake,” I shouted back in a robust tone, then barked out my demand, “What do you want me to do.” He was forced to give me the only lawful command he could, which was “you are free to go, have a good day.”

In no wise am I advocating a resort to violence against the police, but it has been my experience that when a man knows you are not up for any foolishness, he tends to leave you alone. Live free or die trying!

Harold Michael Harvey is an American novelist and essayist, the author of Paper puzzle and Justice in the Round. He can be contacted at

“Gump” Cover-Up?

“The Gump,” as Montgomery, Alabama is affectionately called by Montgomery Nites, is once again accused of covering up a police shooting. As is often the case, this shooting has led to the death of a Black man, born and raised in “The Gump.”

Last week, Greg Gunn was gunned down in “The Gump,” less than twenty-five steps from his front door by an unnamed officer representing “The Gump.”

Gunn’s shooting death is eerily similar to the Bernard Whitehurst case, which occurred 40 years ago this past December. According to State Representative Alvin Holmes, a member of the Alabama State House in 1975, when Whitehurst was gunned down by local authorities, not much has changed in “The Gump.”

Although no one was ever brought to justice for the police killing of Whitehurst, many in “The Gump” believed that top level city officials had conspired to cover up the unlawful killing of Whitehurst. The Whitehurst shooting led to the resignation of the mayor and the police chief.

Immediately after gunshots rang out, members of “The Gump” community rushed to the scene of the Whitehurst shooting. Those witnesses said they overheard the police dispatcher radio to the officers on the scene, “Ya’ll done shoot the wrong Nigger.”

After the Whitehurst family collected themselves they paid a visit to Donald Watkins, a young Black lawyer, fresh out of law school at the University of Alabama. When Watkins went down to the police station in “The Gump” to get a copy of the police audio tape of the conversation between the dispatcher and the officers on the scene, no  recording could be found.

Watkins smelled a rat, but he could not prove a cover-up was afoot.

The police report said that Whitehurst had a gun and had pointed it at the officer. His family disputed that Whitehurst carried a gun, but the evidence scene had a photograph of a gun laying at the hand of Whitehurst’s body.

Watkins would later get a tip to check the police department’s evidence room log-in sheet.

He did.

Watkins discovered that the weapon officers  claimed had been in the possession of Whitehurst, had been logged in the evidence room for well over a year.

This could only mean that someone who had access to the police evidence room had removed the gun from the evidence room and planted it at the crime scene to make it appear that Whitehurst had a gun.

In the Gunn case, the authorities allege that he had a weapon and threatened to use it against the officer. It is alleged that Gunn had a pole or a painter’s stick. Gunn’s family disputes that Gunn had a weapon in his possession and that he would attempt to fight a police officer. If anything, Gunn’s brother said, “He would have run from the police.”

Another cover-up in “The Gump,” you tell me?

Harold Michael Harvey is an American novelist and essayist, the author of Paper puzzle and Justice in the Round. He can be contacted at


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A Powder Keg In Cincinnati

One year after Ferguson, Missouri there is a powder keg in Cincinnati, Ohio waiting to explode.  This powder keg does not have anything to do with the “Big Red Machine.” The iconic 1970s baseball team that was showcased during Major League Baseball’s All Star game held in Cincinnati two weeks ago.

But just like the explosive offense put up by Cincy’s “Big Red Machine” in the 1970s, this powder keg is a heavy hitter. All it takes is one spark and this powder keg in Cincy has the potential to ignite the entire country in chaos and anarchy. The trouble began when a University of Cincinnati Police Officer shot and killed Samuel Dubose following a minor traffic stop.

It has been a painful twelve months to live in America, the supposedly home of the free and the brave. What we are finding out is that none of us are free ( not even Bill Cosby with his millions) and those who are sworn to protect and serve us are not brave. They appear cowardly. They are quick to shoot black’s whose lives do not matter to them, in cold blood, probably because of racial prejudices embedded in their heritage  and segregated culture.

There are far too many names to call if we were to attempt to call the roll of the black women and men who have died at the hands of the boys in blue since Michael Brown and Eric Gardner were baited into  situations that led to an escalation of tensions between them and the cops.

How did we get here in twelve short months?

Many African Americans will argue we have always been here. The only thing different now is that we are living in an age of technology. An age that allows the American people to witness up close and personal deadly confrontations between white police officers and black Americans.

It seems that each death is more gruesome than the one before it. The acts more stultifying, more senseless, more blatant, and more hateful  than the previous event.

Since 2013, when George Zimmerman got away with killing Trayvon Martin, the African American community has been simmering, slowly building to a slow boil. I am sadly afraid that America has reached the boiling point. The stew brewing in the melting pot that is America is about to boil out of the pot onto streets all across the country where black people live and are denied rights granted to other Americans; should this powder keg in Cincy be ignited.

God help us all.


Harold Michael Harvey, is the author of the legal thriller “Paper Puzzle,” and “Justice in the Round: Essays on the American Jury System,” available at Amazon and at He can be contacted at

So What If Sandra Bland Did It?

So what if Sandra Bland did it? So what if she hanged herself? What in the world was she doing in a jail cell in the first place?

I am not saying Sandra Bland took her own life. I do not have enough information to make that determination. On the surface it appears to me that she was not in sufficient trouble to be concerned about getting out of jail.

Especially given the fact arrangements had been made for her to bond out. It was only a matter of time before she would have been set free to wage war against Brian Encinia, the Texas State Patrol officer who pulled her out of her automobile, slammed her to the ground and filed questionable charges against her for assaulting a public officer.

Sandra Bland’s arrest and subsequent death leaves more questions than answers.

What type of contact did she have with her jailers that would push her to hang herself, if indeed, she hung herself? Why were the instrumentalities ( a plastic bag and trash can) for a death by hanging so readily available in her jail cell? If she smoked a large quantity of marijuana in jail where did it come from and how was she able to conceal the smell of marijuana from the jailers?

At what point was Sandra Bland made aware she was under arrest? It is not clear in my mind and I have watched the video of the stop several times. It is not likely that Sandra Bland in real time was aware that Encinia had placed her under arrest until he threathened to “light [her] up” with his taser. At that point she seemed to comply with the orders given by Encinia.

The manner in which Encinia spoke to Bland is reprehensible and an object lesson in how not to talk to any American citizen clothed with the presumption of innocence until such time as a court, if it can, can determine otherwise.

If she did, then why was she placed in a situation where she might become depressed and hang herself? There are more questions than answers. We may never know the truth, as my granddad often said in the 1950s, “A dead man [woman] can’t talk.”

But even, if she did the unthinkable, it does not let the State of Texas or Brian Encinia off the hook. Sandy Bland should never have been placed under arrest. She should never have been found dead in a jail cell. And Brian Encinia should never be allowed to be a public officer again. It’s time to light him up.

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