MAXWELL:  Uhurus disrespect a grieving mother  

4/14/2004 – Printed in the EDITORIAL section of The St Petersburg Times Newspaper

First, some of the facts: On March 31, at least one vehicle hit and killed Bryant Wilkins, 14, and his brother Durontae Caldwell, 3, on 22nd Street near 142nd Avenue in Tampa. The brothers were black. Lisa Williams is their mother.

A car implicated in the boys’ deaths left the scene of the accident. A 28-year-old white woman, Jennifer Porter, acknowledged later that she was the driver of the car in question. During a press conference, with her lawyer at her side, Porter apologized for her alleged deed and behavior.

A wake was held for the boys last Friday. Their funeral was Saturday. At this writing, Porter has not been charged with a crime. Not having ruled out a second vehicle in the accident, Hillsborough sheriff’s officials said that the case requires a thorough investigation before charges are filed.

Now, the nonsense: Members of the Uhuru protest group have involved themselves in the Wilkins family tragedy. During the wake, a band of Uhurus stood outside the chapel passing out handbills promoting a demonstration to be held later that day at the intersection where the children were killed. The Uhurus claimed they were protesting the lack of charges having been brought against Porter. The group displayed a poster, which included a large photo of Porter, reading: “Why is this white woman not in jail now?”

Lisa Wilkins’ attorney, Thomas Parnell, said that his client had nothing to do with the Uhurus’ demonstration and did not give them permission to use her sons’ names on an the poster. “She has no involvement with that group,” Parnell said.

Connie Burton, head of the Uhurus’ Tampa branch, defended the group’s action: “We have respect for the family. This is in no way to undermine or disrespect the family in any way. But we have a right to demand justice even as we mourn.”

Then, during the children’s funeral, the Uhurus showed up to demonstrate. Again, they carried signs, one referring to Porter’s race and another reading, “The community demands justice for our children.”

Again, Wilkins family members made clear that they wanted nothing to do with the Uhurus. Speaking for his client, Parnell said, “She doesn’t feel this is a race issue. We urge them (the Uhurus) to just stay home and give (the family) some peace and privacy.”

Giving others “peace” and “privacy” is not the Uhurus’ way. Nor is telling the truth about their real motives.

What is more disrepectful than ignoring the wishes of a mother who is grieving for the loss of two children? Hers was a simple request: Let the family mourn quietly and with dignity. Surely, the Uhurus could have waited until after the children’s burial, or longer, to demonstrate.

But, no, Omali Yeshitela and his followers refused to respect the mother’s simple request. Why? Because they are crass opportunists who prey on the suffering and misfortune of others. Without the suffering and misfortune of others, this group would not have a raison d’etre.

And they are despicable hypocrites. Let me explain. They pretend to care about the welfare of what they refer to as the “African” community. Well, the African community is rife with black-on-black crime and quality-of-life abuses.

Where is the Uhurus’ protest when a black man guns down an innocent black woman whose mistake was going to the store to buy a loaf of bread? Where is the protest when black drug dealers sell dope to young children? When drug dealers set up open-air drug marts? When trash and debris turn yards, vacant lots and easements into dumps? When black men impregnate black girls? When young children are neglected and must rear themselves? When black thugs intimidate law-abiding black residents?

The Uhurus protest whenever a white person is involved in what they perceive as an act against blacks or when law-abiding blacks publicly challenge some Uhuru lunacy. The St. Petersburg NAACP branch, for example, is a frequent target of the Uhurus. So are black businessmen with real visions for economic opportunity in Midtown. And journalists who dismiss the group’s 1960s rhetoric.

One of the Uhurus’ signs at the children’s funeral read, “The community demands justice for our children.” A good sign. I would join the Uhurus on the sidewalk every day if they carried signs _ in the black community _ with these messages: “Homework is important,” “Being smart is not acting white,” “Read to your children,” “Don’t sell dope to our children,” “Don’t impregnate our girls,” “Alcohol destroys families,” “Don’t commit crimes,” “Respect your black neighbors,” “Let’s take responsibility for our own behavior.”

Meanwhile, I wonder whose misfortune the Uhurus will use as their next opportunity to demonstrate.