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Life Arts    H1'ed 5/2/15

Matthew Drayton: On "Succeeding While Black", Freddie Gray and More

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JB: The military ended up being a very good choice for you. Would you advise your mentees to enlist, too? What other choices are there out there for kids from poor neighborhoods more often than not with sub-standard educations and no role models?

MD: I would definitely advise my mentees to enlist if they showed an interest in joining the military. Joining the military is a big decision, so I only discuss it as an option if the mentee shows interest. The military isn't for everyone; we have one mentee from Great Oak Youth Development Center who is currently serving in the military.

We also encourage our mentees to go to community colleges to pursue a specific skill, and assist our mentees with preparation for college when they are in the 10th grade. We overemphasize the importance of graduating from high school, so our kids can have an opportunity to further their education by going to college or joining the military.

We want our kids to get their education, be respectful, be responsible, and be productive members of society.

JB: Yes. Since we began our conversation, there's been an outbreak of looting and violence on the streets of Baltimore. Would you care to comment on that?

MD: Yes. The situation in Baltimore disturbs me deeply, and truly breaks my heart.

First, the unexplained death of Freddie Gray at the hands of the police, then the rioting and looting in the streets. I wish those who participated in the riots would have demonstrated peacefully, and waited for the outcome of the investigation into Freddie Gray's death.

We know something happened to Mr. Gray, but the absolute facts of what happened have not been determined. Stealing from business owners, and destroying property of those who had nothing to do with Freddie Gray's death was an excuse by a group of criminals who could care less about Freddie Gray, or civil rights.

I hope we find out the truth about what happened to Freddie Gray, and Baltimore returns to normal very soon. There are way too many Black men dying at the hands of the police, but when we riot, loot and burn down our own neighborhoods; it makes the case for some that police violence against blacks is justified.

with my second mentee, Great Oak men and boys unity session with Fayetteville Police department in 2012
with my second mentee, Great Oak men and boys unity session with Fayetteville Police department in 2012
(Image by Matthew Drayton collection)
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JB: I can't disagree with anything you said, Matt. The breaking news this morning is that criminal charges will be filed against officers responsible for Freddie Gray's death, which has been ruled a homicide. Further, it was announced by Baltimore's State Attorney that Mr. Gray committed no crime. Would you like to comment on both the circumstances surrounding his death and these new developments?

MD: Yes - I read a report from the Associated Press about the filing of criminal charges. If Freddie Gray was indeed murdered, and there were unannounced stops by the van he was riding in, the State Attorney's office decision to file charges is the right thing to do.

I wish the people who were demonstrating by rioting and looting would have waited for the city of Baltimore to conduct and complete its investigation. My fear is the charges filed by the State Attorney's office is going to further divide the city of Baltimore and the nation. My hope is justice is done and we can all move forward peacefully.

We have to find a way to mend the bad feelings, and the lack of trust blacks have towards the police. This week's Time magazine cover with images from the Baltimore demonstrations and riots is very telling. It looks like a magazine cover from 1968! I believe racism can be wiped out if everyone teaches their children not to hate! If you put a white baby, and a black baby in a play pen, they will play together all day; they will only start to hate each other when their parents teach them to. The sooner everyone realizes we are all in this together, the better off this country will be.

JB: Anything you'd like to add before we sign off?

MD: No, I think we have covered everything.

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Joan Brunwasser is a co-founder of Citizens for Election Reform (CER) which since 2005 existed for the sole purpose of raising the public awareness of the critical need for election reform. Our goal: to restore fair, accurate, transparent, secure elections where votes are cast in private and counted in public. Because the problems with electronic (computerized) voting systems include a lack of (more...)

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