What Would Robert Williams Do? Words from the Man Who Inspired the Panthers

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This is Robert Williams.

In the mid 50’s, Williams took the helm of the local NAACP chapter in Monroe NC. Economic reprisals and attacks from the KKK had strangled the membership of the organization to just six members. He made a pilgrimage from pool halls to street corners; reached out to local tenant farmers and old buddies from the military, and built their ranks from about one (him) to more than 300.

Williams also started an NRA chapter that came to be known as the Black Armed Guard. They protected the Freedom Riders in the early 60’s. They also protected themselves from nighttime attacks. In short, they did what people right now are whispering about doing.

It was just another good time Klan night, the high point of which would come when they dragged Dr. Perry (Williams’ NAACP vice president) across the state line, if they didn’t hang him or burn him first. But near Dr. Perry’s home their revelry was suddenly shattered by the sustained fire of scores of men who had been instructed not to kill anyone, if it weren’t necessary.

The firing was blistering, disciplined and frightening. The motorcade of about eighty cars, which had begun in a spirit of good fellowship, disintegrated into chaos, with panicky robed men fleeing in every direction.

Julian Mayfield, as quoted in The Making of Black Revolutionaries.

Dylann Roof after he was taken into custody.
Dylann Roof after he was taken into custody.

After the attack on Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church by Dylann Roof, I thought of Williams. Leaders and law enforcement struggled to find the right word for what had happened. Was it terrorism or a hate crime? Was he a politicized lone wolf or just a troubled, unstable young man?

And we wrung our hands and gnashed our teeth, trying to determine what to do next. On one Facebook thread, one officer within the NAACP suggested that he would rather sacrifice his life and protect everyone that he could, than ever use a gun.

He said, “While taking the high road is long and arduous and even deadly if you ask Dr. King, at the end of the day taking the high road is an investment into a more peaceful planet.”

It should be noted that Dr. King sought a concealed carry license early in his career but was turned down by local police. It should also be noted that for much of his career he was protected by the Deacons for Defense. Finally, it should be noted that while King abhorred the idea of guns as a political tool, he recognized their importance in armed self-defense. 

Others suggested that we should vote. Just vote…

Meanwhile, since Roof murdered Cynthia Hurd, 54; Susie Jackson, 87; Ethel Lance, 70; Rev. DePayne Middleton-Doctor, 49; Hon. Rev. Clementa Pinckney, 41; Tywanza Sanders, 26; Rev. Daniel Simmons Sr., 74; Rev. Sharonda Singleton, 45; Myra Thompson, 59, six Black  churches burned to the ground in five Southern states. Although no suspects or motive have been announced, arson has been named as the cause of three of the fires so far.

Would vigilant men with guns have been able to stop Roof? There is no way to answer that question conclusively, but it might have given them a fighting chance.

I started Daddys-Gun to demonstrate that Black people have a long and illustrious history of fighting the good fight. I didn’t expect that our nation would be faced with challenges that so closely echoed the battles that we endured fifty or sixty years ago. But when I heard about Roof, and then the burning churches, my mind went to Bombingham Al, and the little girls lost in the 16th Street Baptist Church.

I’m not going to tell anyone what to do. I suspect that will change from person to person, and congregation to congregation. I suspect, also, that there are already a large number of congregations that have quietly decided to arm themselves.

This is Bishop Ron Gibson from Preachers of LA. Gibson serves at Life Church of God in Christ. He is often armed.
This is Bishop Ron Gibson from Preachers of LA. Gibson serves at Life Church of God in Christ. He is often armed. How many others just like them, are quietly armed behind the pulpit? Photo Courtesy of Entertainment Tonight

I’m saying, simply, that history has provided us with a blueprint in men like Robert Williams and the Deacons for defense. Even if you don’t choose to follow their path, you should know their stories.

The NAAGA Talks Law at Stoddards Gun Range

Last Saturday was the second meeting of the National African American Gun Association.

Samuel Hayes of Caliber Training Group talks law  and history at the second meeting of the NAAGA
Samuel Hayes of Caliber Training Group talks law and history at the second meeting of the NAAGA

There were about 20 people all together. It took place in room at Stoddards Gun Range in Midtown Atlanta, that looked a lot like a Starbucks, with the exception of a target set up on a tripod at the front of the room. Close to half of the attendees were women, including the founder, Philip Smith’s 15 year-old (close to 16) daughter, Tiana. More on her later.

While the first meeting focused on safety, this one featured Samuel Hayes of Caliber Training Group, who talked about gun laws in Georgia.

On discussing the differences between the NAAGA and the NRA, Sam said this. “We begin in the same place, and we occupy the same space, but that’s it. They aren’t going to acknowledge the ugly past of gun control… It was done so that we couldn’t protect ourselves.”

AR_elaine_riot
This is a 1919 headline from The Elaine Arkansas Gazette. Such headlines not only incited mob violence against Black people, but they also fueled efforts to disarm the Black community.

As proof he cited early headlines which ran throughout the South which spread rumors of race riots by local Black residents. Those stories were often run with almost no basis in truth, but became the inspiration for mob attacks against the Black communities, and the legislation to disarm them.

“[Before now], there was no organization out there for us.” Said one attendee. “We have a unique perspective and we need to galvanize around it.”

Sam then went on to discuss statute 16-3-21, which covers lawful use and carry of a weapon in the State of Georgia. Disparity in size, age and multiple attackers are all things that must be considered when considering lethal force.Like any other all, there is gray area.

Disparity of force, for example, will vary according to the defender. So, 15-year-old Tiana, might be justified to use deadly force against  a grown man attacking with his bare hands, while Sam, who is about 6ft, 280, might be expected to employ different tactics. Maybe.

As for defense of a third-party, which is also legal, Sam cautioned that unless they are a loved one or someone who you would trust with your life, you might be better off making yourself the best witness possible, than pulling out your gun.

“You have to be absolutely clear about who you are putting your life on the line for. It could be someone who is being arrested by undercover officers. It’s happened before. You have to know who you are dealing with.”

NAAGA founder Philip Smith with wife Gwen and daughter Tiana. They inspired me to bring my daughter soon.
NAAGA founder Philip Smith with wife Gwen and daughter Tiana. They inspired me to bring my daughter soon.

Back to Tiana, pictured here with her mother and father. She has shot a gun before. Her uncle, (I believe) allowed her to fire off some rounds at a family gathering in Oklahoma. Seeing her there inspired me to bring my daughter, who is 15 and entering the 10th grade.

  • Law is going to be a regular theme. Sam has promised to either do a longer seminar or spend some time at each meeting going over the particulars of Georgia gun laws.
  • There are currently 200 members nationwide, with 66 in Metro Atlanta and interest from people in Michigan and Chicago.
  • The goal is 1000 by next year. That seems doable to me.
  • The next meeting will be Friday June 5 at Stoddards.

 

 

Do We Need This Demonstration to Prove that Law Enforcement is Biased?

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Help me spread the word by liking and sharing each post. I don’ t have an ad budget and a team of marketers, but I do have a community of like minds who believe, just like me, that we are powerful. We were, are and will always be warriors. 

The video above was shared with me by a Facebook friend. I began replying as a comment but I quickly realized that I had too much to say for a Facebook comment box.

First, the obvious. Is this a fair experiment? It is clear that the responding police are from different agencies. Are they even from the same jurisdictions?

I read someplace that the video actually depicted different events that took place states apart. If that’s true, then this was an experiment in editing, rather than race and open carry.

We have brothers and sisters living off of a steady diet of tear gas and pepper spray in Ferguson and Baltimore, just to secure the rights of unarmed Black men and women, to live for long enough to make it to custody. Meanwhile, the NRA has attempted to initiate laws in Texas that will make it explicitly illegal for officers to stop and frisk people who open carry.

It would have cleared things up a lot for me if the two dudes who introduced the video appeared again with the Black guy before he ventured out, alone, with the AR and his pregnant girlfriend.Without knowing exactly where the cops are responding from, and the laws in those jurisdictions, it is hard to see this as a one to one comparison.  (By the way, please don’t do any more potentially dangerous “experiments” with your pregnant girlfriend there.)

That said, I’m not a bit surprised that a Black man would be treated differently when carrying a rifle on his back. A lot of police see us as a threat regardless. Throw an AR on your back, and you run the risk of becoming a statistic very quickly. I get the point that they are trying to prove, and there is an abundance of evidence to back it up.

Demonstrators from the Dallas New Black Panther Party and the Huey P. Newton Gun Club, at an open carry demonstration.
Demonstrators from the Dallas New Black Panther Party and the Huey P. Newton Gun Club, at an open carry demonstration.

The New Black Panthers regularly do open carry demonstrations. So far, none of them have been arrested, to my knowledge. But there is a difference between going down the street with 20 fellow armed citizens, and walking down the street alone with a rifle on your back. The former is very clearly a demonstration. The latter could be construed as a bit lone gunmen-ish.

But, if the brother is openly carrying a firearm in a state that allows open carry, then those cops were straight up wrong. The police don’t get to decide the constitutional rights that we can exercise. They are there to enforce the law, and if he didn’t break it, there was no reason for them to show up.

You should know, I’m not a fan of open carry or the movement that surrounds it. From what I can tell, it basically comes down to the desire to exercise a right, simply because it is our right to exercise it. I’ve seen open carry demonstrations shut down Starbucks and in one case, a demonstrator marched around an elementary school despite the fact that the administration had to lock the school down.

Still, I admire their hustle. We have brothers and sisters living off of a steady diet of tear gas and pepper spray in Ferguson and Baltimore, just to secure the rights of unarmed Black men and women, to live for long enough to make it to custody. Meanwhile, the NRA has attempted to initiate laws in Texas that will make it explicitly illegal for officers to stop and frisk people who open carry.

Let that sink in.

Stop and frisk means that this young man might end up spread eagle on the ground, with or without an AR on his back.
Stop and frisk means that this young man might end up spread eagle on the ground, with or without an AR on his back.

 

In Philly, cops can lawfully stop and frisk you even if you are just eating a slice of pizza on your front steps, but soon in Texas, you will be able to carry an AR and they will have to look the other way?

How about we make that into a video. A guy open carrying at a 7-11 while the police drag a guy off of his front porch, saying, “I just want to talk to you…”

 

Observations from the First Meeting of the National African American Gun Association

Bass Reeves was an ex slave and renegade lawman pictured here among fellow Marshals on the bottom left. Keep in mind, there are three other Black lawmen pictured.
Bass Reeves was an ex slave who lived among the Seminole and Creek Nations in Oklahoma and became a Deputy U.S. Marshall in Arkansas. He is credited with bringing close to 3,000 men to justice. Pictured here among fellow Marshals on the bottom left. Keep in mind, there are three other Black lawmen pictured. The Atlanta Branch of the NAAGA is named after him.

I spoke earlier about the National African American Gun Association. Until recently it was an unknown quantity. A good idea (an organization established with the unique needs of Black gun owners in mind) in search of the right execution.

The first meeting took place about two weeks ago, at Stoddards Gun Range in Midtown Atlanta. It is a testament to the growing popularity of firearms that they were able to build a state of the art gun shop and shooting facility within walking distance of the High Museum of Art and some to the most expensive real estate in the city. Members arrived at around 9:30 am and convened in a meeting room just off of the showroom.

It was a Saturday morning. If you were in Atlanta, you might remember the driving rain that morning. Or, maybe you were sleeping. As I found a parking space behind the facility, I didn’t know what to expect. I wasn’t really sure if anyone else would even show up.

There was about 15 people there. The NAAGA’s founder, Phillip Smith,  Sam Hayes of Caliber Training Group and 12 others. There was no “type”. One brother has locs longer than mine. He sat off to the side with a green ammo can and a soft sided case. The guy in front of me looked like my daughter’s favorite math teacher. There were five women. Two, I would later find, didn’t actually own guns, but were interested and wanted to find the right information.

They went over the fundamentals of firearm safety with a guy from Stoddards. There was an exercise to find your dominant eye, the five rules of safety and handling, and then we parted ways. They went to the range and I went to pick up my daughter from a sleepover.

This is what you need to know.

  • Membership is free. Just go to the site and find the tab that says, “Want to join.”
  • As of the time of the meeting, there were 50 members in Atlanta, and more than 100 nationwide, including Oakland and St. Louis.
  • Each chapter is named after  a famous African American warrior. For example, Atlanta is the Bass Reeves chapter.
  • If you’re in the Atlanta area, the next meeting will be called
  • Their next meeting is May 16, from 9am to 11am. They will be discussing Stand Your Ground in Georgia among other things. You should come and bring a friend. Guests are welcome.

If you’re interested sign up for your free membership and ask for information.

 

 

 

The NAAGA: National African American Gun Association

Crazy like a fox.
Crazy like a fox.

I don’t know if my problem is with the NRA or its leadership.

They are the undisputed big dogs when it comes to insuring that we continue to have the right to keep and bear arms, and they are vicious. They are so rabid about our rights to keep and bear arms that they have begun t0 push for rights that I am not entirely sure are necessary.

But the leadership… Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre and newly elected President Jim Porter come off as paranoid people and they say crazy things. Witness this post with Think Progress entitled the Nine Most Insane Quotes from the NRA’s New Apocalyptic Op-ed. Reading it gave me the impression that we are about three weeks away from a living like Rick Grimes in The Walking Dead.

RickGrimesSeason2
The NRA wants us to go through life at Defcon 9.5, hyper vigilant about the coming and inevitable collapse. Self defense is good. Paranoia isn’t.

Not to mention race. LaPierre painted a picture where there were threats around every corner ready to kidnap, rape or loot. And most of them, be they the looters of South Brooklyn, Mexican drug gangs, Al Queda or the President, were people of color. No mention of white power groups or pumpkin rioters. Go figure.

Notice, I didn’t say that they were crazy. You don’t maintain one of the most powerful lobbying groups in the country by being crazy. The NRA pushes self reliance and security. Not easy, when  according to the FBI, crime is at an all time low?

What some people call nutty is probably shrewd, calculated organizing. Some lobbies boast a sensible membership. The NRA cultivates passion. Few people are driven to write letters to their congressmen in fits of sensibility. Passion = power, and the NRA is powerful.

Their formula works perfectly. I just don’t know if I’m comfortable with it.

Sam shot me a link to the National African American Gun Association. Below is their mission statement.

THE GOAL OF THE NATIONAL AFRICAN AMERICAN GUN ASSOCIATION IS TO HAVE EVERY AFRICAN AMERICAN INTRODUCED TO FIREARM USE FOR HOME PROTECTION,  COMPETITIVE SHOOTING, AND OUTDOOR RECREATIONAL ACTIVITIES. WE ARE A CIVIL RIGHTS ORGANIZATION FOCUSED ON SELF PRESERVATION OF OUR COMMUNITY THROUGH ARMED PROTECTION AND COMMUNITY BUILDING.

Makes sense to me.

This weekend I will be going to a meet and greet at a local gun range. I’ll keep you posted.

Maryland 10th Calvary Gun Club. Photo from NPR
The NAAGA is a new shooting organization for African American shooters. Pictured are the Maryland 10th Calvary Gun Club. Photo from NPR