Reform is insufficient. It’s time to democratize public safety.

Tim Wise · 8 min read

Police in Washington D.C. on June 2. Photo: Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

IfAmerica is to live, policing as we know it must die. It is that simple. If we aspire for it to become a multicultural, multiracial, and pluralistic democracy, America simply cannot go on this way much longer. Too many bodies are buried in the soil, too much blood has been spilled, and too many families have been shattered.

Those bodies and lives and families have been sacrificed in the name of law and order. But when the law becomes lawless, there is no order, and so here we are. We are watching it all collapse in real time, in HD, on the nightly news, on Twitter, on TikTok, as police respond to nonviolent protest with brutality. They gleefully shoot rubber bullets at journalistsmace children, and shove the elderly, anyone who dares criticize them for murdering black folks.

The back of the national camel has met its last straw.

That things are breaking down is no surprise. It is only surprising it has taken this long. The United States was conceived from the contradictory impulses of liberty and slavery, freedom, and oppression. It was forged from the fires of a fundamental incongruity: On the one hand, the inalienable rights of man, and on the other, the alienable lives of those deemed lesser than human.

Beset by its split personality from the beginning, America has demonstrated the impracticality of trying to walk the thin line between tyranny and liberty, of seeking to have it both ways. This doesn’t work. Once you establish a country around the precept some are to be free and others not, that some are to be protected and others subordinated, neither time nor pretty words will undo what has been done.

Law enforcement has always been the root of the problem. It is the fulcrum of white supremacy and has been so from the beginning. Remember, the Constitution says it right there in Article IV, Section 2:

No person held to service or labour in one state, under the laws thereof, escaping into another, shall, in consequence of any law or regulation therein, be discharged from such service or labor, but shall be delivered up on claim of the party to whom such service or labour may be due…

Shorter version: If an enslaved person runs away to a free state and we catch them, their ass is going back.

And who, one wonders, would be given the task of “delivering up” said runaways? It would be, of course, the 18th century’s equivalent of cops, whether recognized as members of an official law enforcement body or simply white men deputized by dint of their skin to act as such. Slave patrols had been operating since long before the nation was founded. Indeed, many white men over a certain age were required to participate in them. In this way, not only was the oppression of black people baked into the nation from the start, so too was the collaboration of white people.

It was part of the recipe. It was the yeast without which the bread would not have risen. It was the roux around which all other ingredients would blend. And how does one undo the gumbo once it has been simmering for hundreds of years? Or more to the point, how does one unwind a culture of policing fostered over centuries?

Not with simpleminded reforms, and not with more training, that’s for sure. Training suggests law enforcement’s violence and misconduct result from some kind of failure in the system. But policing has been about violence from the beginning, at least so far as black folks have experienced it. It was never Officer Friendly who came to get your cat out of the tree or gave little Johnny a ride-around with the siren going just for fun.

Policing has been about violence from the beginning, at least so far as black folks have experienced it.

For black people, police served to enforce the Fugitive Slave Act, and later, Jim Crow segregation. Sheriffs and their deputies would arrest black men, on suspicion of some fabricated wrongdoing, only to release them into the hands of a white mob that would hang them, burn them, and mutilate their bodies. Lynchings were a local spectacle and could only happen with the active collaboration of police.

How could training have made a difference? Perhaps we could sit down with the murderers and have a heartfelt discussion about their implicit bias? Please. And body cams? Those would merely have allowed us to witness the carnage in higher pixelation. Training assumes a system failure is the problem, but where is the failure?

When Jim Clark and his goons brutalized marchers on the bridge in Selma, they were doing their job, and that’s the problem. So too Bull Connor. These men weren’t failing under the terms set by the system under which they operated. Everything they did flowed from the system itself.

When cops enforced the war on drugs, they too were doing their job. It was not a system breakdown. It was the system operating as designed. Thinking that one can train one’s way out of oppression — when oppression is the point — makes no sense. It’s like standing at the end of a conveyor belt in a sausage factory waiting for it to give you chicken nuggets and becoming frustrated at its unwillingness to do so. It’s a sausage factory. Sausage is what it does. Expect sausage.

Ultimately we must envision a society without policing, at least in so far as we currently conceive of it. The purpose of such a body must be reconceptualized and rebuilt with the explicit participation of the communities it is meant to serve. Not just their participation — their control.

Police culture, as it exists, must be destroyed.

This means no more decommissioned tanks from the nation’s armed services, no more military hardware — which suggests to officers that when they go into a neighborhood, they are going to battle against a foreign enemy. No more camo. You don’t need desert camouflage in Ferguson or Baltimore or Minneapolis. There are no sand dunes with which you need to blend in. Police wear gear to feel like soldiers, and for no other reason. Enough.

The warrior mindset — which many departments openly encourage and even send officers to trainings to learn better — must be stamped out. So too must be the inward protectionism which encourages officers to place loyalty to the blue brotherhood (and sisterhood) above all else.

You’ll hear it often said by cops that “my number one job is to get home to my family each night.” No, it’s not. And any cop who thinks that’s their job should be fired on the spot. Their job is to protect and serve. It’s in the oath they took.

Ultimately we need a society built on the idea that communities are in the best position to protect themselves and to serve themselves, and that we — the collective — will provide them with the resources needed to do so. This means that rather than policing as we know it, we must move to conflict resolution models that are community-driven and bottom-up rather than top-down. Gang interrupters, drawn from the community, many of them formerly incarcerated, can prove far more effective at crime control than outsiders and enforcers, especially if we provide them with the resources we currently piss away on cops.

And I know, many will say that without aggressive policing, crime will spiral out of control. But it’s not true. Crime has fallen even in those cities that have moved away from broken windows enforcement and stop and frisk. It could fall even further were we to move to the next levels of de-escalation.

What is often missed is how criminal offense itself is a direct outgrowth not only of economic deprivation — which requires a much broader set of solutions — but also a sense of hopelessness and lack of control over one’s life. Lacking power, lacking perceived agency, folks will act out and hurt others.

De-policing cannot occur overnight, but we must begin the transition.

Some, feeling disrespected daily by the larger society, sadly, will manifest the same disrespect against others, including others in their own communities. But ask please, who taught them their lives and the lives of their neighbors didn’t matter? Where did they learn that lesson? Not on the corner. They learned it in our schools, our media, and from every instruction offered by our national history. Perhaps if we reconstituted the notion of public safety, beginning with the idea that the people themselves should have control, that sense of autonomy would translate into respect for self and others.

Such a sea change will take time. De-policing cannot occur overnight but we must begin the transition. So here’s an idea. It’s the kind of thing that activist groups like the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement and others have discussed for years, and it’s time we took it seriously.

First, anyone looking to serve as an officer in a community of color — regardless of that aspiring officer’s race — should submit to a probationary period of, say, four months. During that time, they would be on the payroll, but they would not have powers of arrest. They would have no gun. Their job would be to get to know the communities and neighborhoods where they seek to serve — walking the blocks, talking to folks on their front porches, their stoops, in their barbershops, their cafés, their bodegas, their houses of worship. They would be talking, yes, but more crucially listening to the voices of those who live there. Finding out what they want and need from law enforcement. Assessing their hopes and fears.

After aspiring officers had gotten to know the people of the community — having met their families and shown them pictures of their own, and connected along the lines of a common humanity — the community would get to vote. The community would get to say yes or no to every aspirant. Having had the time to assess the humility, the character, and the commitment of each one who seeks to become a cop, the people would decide.

In all likelihood, those who weren’t cut out for this new and democratized culture wouldn’t make it four days, let alone four months. They wouldn’t even submit to the process in the first place. They would self-select out of policing as a career, at least in so far as they would be working in such communities. Good.

And those that stuck with it? Those who worked for months as community organizers, whose first job is always to listen? They would likely get the thumbs up. Either way, the control would be in the hands of the people.

This cannot be the endgame, of course. We need to rethink the entire concept of policing and move toward other forms of protecting public safety. But in the meantime, promoting self-determination would go a long way toward signaling that we were prepared to let the old ways die, to allow the scaffolding of police culture as we know it to crash and burn so that the nation doesn’t have to.

It would signal that we love the idea of America and still believe in it. Far more indeed than those who would defend the existing order.

4 thoughts on “The Fate of America Depends on Ending Its Culture of Policing”
  1. Think504.com compiles insightful and necessary information rooted in history. An absolute needed tool to navigate today’s challenges for safety, equality and justice. Smitty

  2. How does NOLA view “Due Process” for Kids and Others Madam Mayor?

    LBRC- To: Madam Mayor Cantrell, New Orleans, and Chief Shawn Ferguson et al, plus Law Enforcement and so- called “Peace Officers” Nationally- The Most “Abused” Constitutional Rights regarding “Negro Citizenship”, since the ratification of The 13th, are “The 5th and 14th Amendments! 

    Re: What constitutes Constitutional “Due Process”? 

    1. 1st and foremost- Due Process is a U.S. Constitutional “Right” and Mandate”! btw- As former Reserve and Military Law Enforcement, we have worked with others and attended lots of activities for so- called “Post Certified Peace Officers”! In our best Ebonics, “Most of ‘dees Peeps ain’t ‘gotta clue! Some are barely literate, notwithstanding the ability to comprehend “Fundamental” Constitutional concepts! And you wonder why Racist Patterns “Persist”, even after so- called “Re- training”?

    https://www.law.cornell.edu/wex/due_process

    Amendment XIV- Section 1.

    All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the state wherein they reside. No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws./end/ 

    2. At a minimum, “Due Process” means that a citizen who will be affected by a government decision must be given notice of what government plans to do and have a chance to comment on the action. Government takes many actions that may deprive people of life, “liberty” (Including Free Movement) , or property.

    3. Citizens “Paid” via taxes for the various roads, expressways, streets and salaries of those who intentionally or unintentionally violate their rights of ingress and egress! Yes, Public Safety requires examination, however- Let’s examine what happened regarding the “Chemical and/or Tear Gas incident several nights ago. 

    a. Children were among the “Petitioners aka Protestors” on and approaching the bridge!  What is so “Prudent” about Tear Gassing “Children” in 2020? Now say anachronism!!! In 1960, Bull Connor and other Southern Racist weren’t prudent either! In 202 Covid in on attack as well and flourishes with coughs induced by Gassing, especially kids and the  the elderly! We used to say- “If they did it to Christ, whatever, then they’ll do it to you”! Now we say- If Caucasian Racist leaders  and their ilk, did it to Dr. King, then their proxy Negro Willie Lynch Prison Industrial Complex Negroes will as well! Negro Children and The Elderly are still not exempt! Where was the Due Process for all those Kids? You didn’t see Them? The Most High did!!! 

    b. Protestors were already on the Bridge, and “Vehicle Traffic” had already been halted! (Disclaimer: “Citizen Protest and Democracy, as Rumsfeld, Bush Administration stated- “Is sometimes messy”, most Bobble Heads” nodded in agreement”! Those apart from all the “Bobble Heads” said ‘Nuttun or wrote no dissenting opinion as per our research, not even anecdotally! 

    c. Every action taken by government and its agents are funded by “Citizen Tax Dollars”! When Government errs via “Ignorance”, citizens pay and most egregious Madam Mayor and Chief- “Citizens paid for ‘Dat Tear Gas and The Time it took Chief et al, to Gas our Kids and The Elderly plus “Deny” others access to the Bridge, when hundreds of Petitioners with Children, were also De Facto Gassed and already “on the bridge”! 

    “Why didn’t you PROTECT them? Not all “Provoked” your so- called “Peace Officers”, who refused to turn a cheek like Dr. king did! 

    Orleans Parish has “More Wrongful Convictions than any city in the U.S.!!! Who trains your cops, and what has your (j)ustice system produced? Even the “Violent” deserve and are “Entitled” to “Due Process”! It begins on the streets!!! Neither you Madam Mayor or “Your” Chief has the authority to abridge it! Problematic is? The very reason you are in a 2020 Consent Decree, is you have established over decades, a “Culture” of “Non Compliance”! Non Compliance is “Law” via “Ignorance, Conformity and Submission” to the same!!! Solution: Read and if possible comprehend-  The 5th and 14th Amendments to The U.S. Constitution!!! 

    No Respect for Constitutional Rights, No Peace!!!

  3. btw…, Sent to The NOLA Mayor, Council and others et al…
    LBRC- Who should be held “Accountable” for Police Abuse in NOLA? ‘Simps will never get it and neither do most vote anyway!

    1. Children were “Gassed” on a bridge in NOLA. It’s not enough to say “Oops…, sorry”, because you do not comprehend the true role of “Peace Officers”! Police Aggression” against the whole (Including Children) of a Peaceful “Petition Mrch”, is not only counter- productive, but violates the rights of those “Petitioning Peacefully”!!!

    2. Where’s the “Logic”- Meaning?

    a. Peace Officer work requires discretion! Discretion is highly dependent on and related to “Intellectual Synthesis”! Show us a “Poor Thinker” and we’ll show you poor processes  with a high “Correlation Coefficient” to “Poor Outcomes” aka like “Innocent Children” and other citizens,  being denied their “Due Process” and frankly “Humanity”! A 2020  Edmund Pettus Bridge action? Poor thinking plus Racism and complicity,  promotes poor and Tragic outcomes! Just like George Floyd! In NOLA, the Mayor and Chief of Police are Negro!!! How can this abuse be in 2020? 

    b. The truth? In 2020, reigning “Cultures” have more to do with the perpetuation of linear traditions, than they do with solid or “Moral”  linear reasoning, i.e., Pork might be high in unhealthy Fat, ‘Greezy, High in Sodium, plus Pigs are “Slop Eaters”- But it taste good, right? So what’s the issue about its relationship with “High Blood Pressure and Kidney issues, right? Your Tradition says, generations of my family ‘Luved- ‘dead-ed’ it, and so do I”! Though “you” might have “High Blood Pressure” and Kidney issues, so what, right? Deep 6 the Logic of Eating to live in 2020? So… 

    c. NOPD has developed a “Culture of Policing Negroes and others over decades void “Consequences” and in fact- “They and their Complicit Negroes have doubled down”!!! In majority Negro cities, Negroes have moved into ‘Massa’s house and all the Negroes in it are Neo House Negroes! Even while under a Consent Decree since its inception in NOLA, “How many NOPD officers have been indicted, including so- called brass? What does the “Data” and “Facts” say? Most if not all of their brass are remnants of “Pre Consent Decree” and “Remain”! What was the current Chief doing during “Katrina” and “Pre Consent Decree” (Complaining?)? Citizens on The CCC were being fired upon by Jefferson Parish Deputies and others? What about the Superdome Chamber of Horrors? What about when “Riley” went house to house “Confiscating” weapons from “Law Abiding Citizens”, used for their protection, notwithstanding The 2nd Amendment? ‘Oops…, says The NOLA Culture of Policing, right? Who was held “Accountable”? We  ‘askin…

    3. The Point of all? Ans. Accountability!!!

    a. The current NOPD Chief is a Mayoral appointee!!! This makes The Mayor accountable for actions “Sanctioned by and even defended by The Chief”!!! ‘Oops is no longer a viable justification for abuse aka “Gassing Kids/Others” and denying them “Due Process”! 

    b. Additionally- Here is a “Moral Hazard” as we see it. We call this, The Negro “Preacher Apostate Syndrome” aka “Never Removed not even for egregious Sin”, just like Judas 32 Pieces of Silver Politicians! Traditionally, The Negro Church has been seen as a Sanctuary from overt and covert “American Injustice”! Once upon a time, especially when Negroes had little to no resources, especially ‘Mulla (Most Still Don’t, except in their Castles they build in skies), Negro Preachers were hardly impeached for Immorality, Greed for Filthy Lucre, Corruption”! Enter the “Post” so- called Civil Rights Era! Now? Negro Preacher Apostates require Luxury Jets, Planes, Autos, Houses, Disposable Income, High Maintenance life styles for themselves and so- called Ladies and Mistress, yada…! Priest Apostates aren’t exempt either! “Children” for “Sex Toys”? Their temples are Bankrupt and in fact have filed for it! Not until “Truth” got exposed by others, are lay and Priest been made to “Account”! 

    c. More egregious, Negro Apostates have imbedded and aligned themselves with Politicians!

    d. The Negro Apostate Syndrome refuses to abide by what “Clear Scripture” says about “Who and What” makes an “Altar”Holy (What happened to pretenders who went behind The Holy Curtain anyway “Old School”?).  “Deep 6 Holy” aka- “We forgive our Apostates for Theft, Greed, False Claims about The Levites and Tithes, Worldly Ambition and yada…, and btw- Moses left The House of Pharaoh, their City Hall and once gone? He never “Sucked- up” to ‘Dat government to regain his once prestigious place in it! In 2020, not only do Negro Preacher Apostates vie to get in, but Filthy Lucre is ambition and “Haughty” Appearances is Priority!! 

    e.We’re still talking Accountability Madam Mayor! You are admonished again- “Gassing innocent Children is totally unacceptable! You nor Chief are commonly regarded as “Spiritual Leaders”, but? Oops doesn’t cut it in 2020!  

    f. Negro Preacher Apostates have no place near an Altar, let alone on it (Read Requirements in Scripture for The Office of Bishop)! The altar of Public Service is a “Public one” and Literacy counts! We vote and our ranks are growing! Remember when Polls predicted Desiree, the so- called  chosen “Creole” aka “Light Bright and Darn near White aka close, to win by a landslide? We rallied and made waste of ‘Dat old “Tradition” of “Racist Press” determining who’ll rule in a “Majority Negro City”! Unfortunately, a few  still got in! Didn’t get the memo? YOU WILL!!! Deep 6 all the speeches, ‘oops…, “Bobble Heading”, Grandstanding and “Articulated BS!!! 

    No Constitutional Rights or Due Process for Us and our Other Brothers and Sisters/Multi- Ethnic, marching alongside and with us, especially Children- No Peace!!! 

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What’s Next for Black People

Congratulations to the Floyd Family. They got right verdict for the murder of their loved one. The jury and the prosecutorial team managed to accomplish what rarely happens in our American justice system. They convicted a law enforcement officer for murder.

Not that this heinous act hasn’t happened in the past, but as George Floyd’s brother said,” We got a motion picture to show America what’s been happening to Black men for centuries.” The jury came back with the verdict, and it didn’t take as long as many expected. Well how could it! The comedic Eddie Murphy line, “ Who you gonna believe? Me or your lying eyes”? Didn’t play out this time because it wasn’t just Black people looking.

It took a movie

The World was looking, and this time they saw clearly. No cuts or edits! You see this man made pandemic had everyone feeling like Black folk – uncertain, unwarned, uncared for economically and socially.

Mr. Floyd’s murder happened at the right/wrong time. When Emmett Till, Fred Hampton, Medgar Evers, Malcolm X, Dr. King , etc. were murdered the time was wrong. Because too many Black folk were still in the slavery matrix or the Jim Crow era. Even  those who considered themselves allies were mentally bound. “Those poor Black folks keep having some very unfortunate incidents happening to them in their community.” Many in Middle America would say,” It’s just so unfair!” But never demand changes to the criminal justice system, or fight with us to close the economic disparity gap. And certainly they never gave our communities access to capital and resources. Even though we pay our taxes. 

So much that I could write and say on this day that many are calling historic. And it is an historic day. But we’ve been here before. We’ve had evidence before, and witnesses before. Pictures and even a video. But what we may not have had before was the look in Chauvin’s eyes. The utter evil and disdain for the man whose neck he was kneeling on. Not because George Floyd did something wrong but because he dared to be born at all.

Does Chauvin have the evil eyes of a killer?

Evil Eyes?

Yes, his eyes showed America and the world racism and oppression. What racism and oppression look like through the eyes and heart of the oppressor. They got a chance to look at the evil that lurks behind power and sometimes a badge. As a man of faith this time was different because we got a chance to see a movie about Good vs. Evil and whether as a country if God is really on our side or is it the other guy who was cast out of Heaven.

Where do we go from here? Do we wait until the next movie? The Second Coming? Or just the next obscure case that is not on film? What happens when there are not witnesses? When it’s just the cop’s word vs. the dead Black man!

George Floyd died, but do Black folk finally get a chance to live freely in a country they built.

Oliver Thomas  

By Ro Brown

 In case you haven’t noticed, it appears the road to resurrecting a downtrodden football program if you are a Historically Black College or University (HBCU) is through “celebrity.” Two HBCU traditional football powers hired new head coaches without any head coaching experience.

Jackson State and Tennessee State, two storied football programs, have decided to hire “celebrity coaches.”  Men who were great football players but lacking the experience or credentials for the job.

Former Star Athletes to Lead Prominent Programs

Jackson State hired Deion Sanders as their head coach. Sanders was arguably the greatest cornerback in the history of the game.  He was certainly the most colorful.  And he was a first ballot Pro Football Hall of Famer. But he has never been a head football coach at any level.

Tennessee State has followed suit with their selection. They announced that 1995 Heisman Trophy winner and 4-time Pro Bowl running back Eddie George is the new head man in Nashville.

Make no mistake, hiring “Coach Prime” (his self-bestowed moniker) at Jackson State has been a windfall for JSU. All 6 games have been televised by ESPN. No other Jackson State football game was previously aired on ESPN’s main channel. And most believe a Southwestern Athletic Conference (SWAC) marketing agreement with Pepsi was fashioned due to the presence of the man who performed at the highest level in baseball and football simultaneously.

 Sanders served as the offensive coordinator of his son’s high school football team. George has no coaching experience.  Qualifications that one would consider inadequate at two of the “blueblood” programs of HBCU Football.

HBCU Success

Since 2014, Jackson State has an overall record of 24-32 and a conference worksheet of 19-27.  Not happy times for a program with 3 Black National Championships, 16 Southwestern Athletic Conference crowns, including 8 during the decade of the 1980’s under College Football Hall of Fame coach W. C. Gorden.  Pro Football Hall of Famers, Walter Payton, Lem Barney, Jackie Slater and Robert Brazile were JSU Tigers.

Tennessee State went 58-61 under alum Rod Reed over 11 seasons.  TSU fans were spoiled by 12 Black National Championships under the direction of College Football Hall of Fame coach John Merritt and Coach Henry Keane. Keane should be in the College Football Hall of Fame, but isn’t.  The Tigers have produced loads of pros including Pro Football Hall of Famers Richard Dent and Claude Humphrey.

Hopefully, both legends will restore these programs to their rightful places among college football’s elite.  But it raises questions.

Can they coach?  We’ll find out.  After six games “Coach Prime” is 3-3 having dropped 3-in-a-row.  Those who follow recruiting say the best is yet to come. Sanders has the number 1 ranked fall recruiting class in the nation at the Football Championship Series (FCS) level.  A recruiting haul containing prized high schoolers (including his 4-star rated son) quarterback and college transfers.

But every year, all HBCU’s have transfers from FBS or Power 5 and Group of 5 conferences.  Another question is, has Deion attracted a higher quality athlete than the other HBCU’s? Or do we think so simply because it’s Deion Sanders doing the selling?

And then there’s the question of opportunities…or lack of…for black coaches.  If you are a black coach who has worked and toiled in hopes of someday becoming a head coach, how do you feel that great, ex-players are automatically moved to the front of the hiring line despite little or no experience?

Lost Opportunities for experienced African American coaches?

 “We were not looking for a cookie-cutter solution to our goal of putting winning back into our football program.  We wanted to think outside the box,” said Glenda Glover, TSU President.

Let’s hope both Coach Prime and Eddie George succeed at Jackson State and Tennessee State.  Despite the fact that it could mean bad news for those aspiring coaches who weren’t as supremely athletically gifted as these two new head coaches.  More HBCU’s will certainly make similar hires if they are successful.

I’m sure Sanders and George will be able to successfully convince a 5-star recruit or two to their campuses.  But if you think HBCU’s will be in constant competition with LSU, Alabama, Clemson and Ohio State for the cream-of-the-crop of young Black talent you are kidding yourself.

Coach Prime and Coach George will face each other on Saturday, September 11, in the annual Southern Heritage Classic at the Liberty Bowl Stadium in Memphis.

But here’s another question.

If Deion Sanders was a high school senior right now, would he choose Florida A&M instead of Florida State?  And would Eddie George attend Central State instead of Ohio State?

 Just wondering.

by Kristen A Carter M.S.

False Hope Syndrome Reveals a Big Problem with Dieting

How to overcome past dieting failures.

THE BASICS

  • “False Hope Syndrome” is believing that a diet will be effective despite it having failed in the past.
  • This mindset could be driven by a need for control over the dieting process.
  • False Hope Syndrome may lead people to overestimate the amount of weight they’ll lose, how quickly they’ll lose it, how easy it will be, and the benefits weight loss will provide.
  • To increase the chances of success, people can acknowledge that losing weight is a long-term process, and view setbacks as an opportunity to learn and grow.
Gerd Altmann/Pixabay

Source: Gerd Altmann/Pixabay

In this country, 40 percent of us are on a diet at any given time. Many times, people have gone on a diet four, five, or even ten times.

The question is: Why do people continue to use the same strategy to lose weight time and again, even though the effort repeatedly fails? 

What Is False Hope Syndrome?

For an answer, we have to take a look at what the research tells us about the “diet mentality.” Part of the mentality can be described as false hope, or the “False Hope Syndrome.”1 One way of looking at this is that dieters are persistently convinced that their next attempt will work, in spite of evidence to the contrary. Clinging to false hope actually gives the dieter a feeling of control over the dieting process. That sense of control all but eliminates access to lessons that could be learned from any prior failed attempts.

According to diet behavior researchers Polivy and Herman (2002), False Hope Syndrome plays out in the dieting process in four ways: 

  • Overestimation of the amount of weight that will be lost
  • How quickly the weight will be lost
  • The ease with which this will happen
  • An unrealistic expectation of positive effects on the rest of their lives

Why are these attitudes and expectations so prevalent and how do they lead to diet failures? 

According to Polivy and Herman, one of the issues that stem from these beliefs is that the dieter did not try hard enough. Dieters assume that changing food intake involves inhibiting behaviors and not giving in to temptation. Understandable. This can easily happen since eating in itself is extremely rewarding. The logical conclusion is that one must be highly motivated and exert a great deal of willpower in order to succeed.   article continues after advertisement

Reading between the lines, false hope actually lays the blame on the diet itself, as not being up to the task. This gives dieters hope that the next attempt at a different diet will be more successful.  Unfortunately, this means that many dieters are looking to external factors rather than to their own internally-driven attitudes and behaviors. Down the road, this means that there is not enough mental preparation for difficulties that will inevitably arise. 

In addition, we humans like to feel that we are in control over a given situation. Here is where false hope thrives. False hope gives us the illusion of control. If we are clinging to unrealistic scenarios, we can think that a big change is going to happen. Many of us think that the perfect diet will finally get us to lose weight forever. In the future our lives will improve, and we will be happier. 

Media and marketing often contribute to creating false hopes and unrealistic expectations. Marketing for diets is often couched in terms of being easy or even effortless. In fact, the diet industry thrives by making promises and then getting repeat customers.2

To summarize, we have:

  1. A diet mentality blames the diet for the failure, in addition to creating feelings in the dieter that they have not tried hard enough. This is actually two sides of the same coin. The assumption is that dieting is the way to overcome being overweight. This keeps dieters trying again and again, rather than reflecting on their own habits and behaviors and possibly changing their approach.   
  2. A situation where reflecting on how to change habits and behaviors can be discouraging, depressing, or even overwhelming. Often dieters are likely to stick with the limited options of either being on a diet or not being on a diet. Choosing false hope within these options can seem much more attractive. 
  3. We also have media and marketing making dieting look easy. This can reinforce thinking that losing weight is just a matter of finding the right diet. 

How to Diet Successfully 

The fact is that losing weight, and keeping it off, is difficult. The evidence for this is overwhelming. Very few people manage to succeed, particularly when using dieting as the model. 

It is possible to abandon the process and the false hopes that have not panned out in the past, and replace them with a more realistic and scaled down approach. Two major mental shifts need to accompany the new effort. 

  1. Realize that losing weight and keeping it off is a long-term project. This may feel daunting. But setting up a series of small changes in habits and behavior can lead to progress that can be celebrated all along the way as specific strategies that have stayed with you. This is in contrast to strategies and programs coming from others that didn’t work. 
  2. A shift from seeing each effort as a personal failure to seeing it as a chance to evaluate and learn. This would include taking a look at the diet strategy as one that has not worked in the past and being open to exploring one’s own habits, behaviors, assumptions, and attitudes that may be keeping one in false hopes. This includes letting go of the ideal of achieving fast, easy, weight loss that “changes our life” and instead seeing that as “false hope.” Then it is possible to start exploring how to make a series of small changes, an approach that has been proven to be effective.3,4,5 

“It is not weight loss that is impossible; it is unrealistic weight loss.”

by Rubin Khoddam Ph.D.

Find your motivations, barriers to change and potential solutions.

KEY POINTS

  • Three fundamental questions can help guide us when we are trying to make changes in our lives, big or small.
  • We can first ask ourselves what is motivating us and why. It can be helpful to identify three reasons for wanting change.
  • Change is not linear, so we may want to identify thoughts, feelings, events, stressors, or people that could get in our way.
  • Finally, we can identify potential solutions to overcome barriers, such as setting a schedule or having a partner to hold us accountable.
Pexels / Alexas Fotos

Source: Source: Pexels / Alexas Fotos

If you’re Googling, “therapist near me,” you’re probably ready to make some shifts in your life. There are three fundamental questions that you need to ask yourself when making any change. It doesn’t matter if that change is something as big as deciding to get sober or as small as wanting to drink more water throughout the day.

We utilize these three questions when helping individuals get sober, but other changes we may try to make follow a similar process. The only difference is that substance users are often more stigmatized in society and drugs exert a much more powerful influence on our body and minds than other things.

Let’s start with the first question:

1. What’s motivating me?

This is the flagship question. It’s easy to tell ourselves what not to do. Don’t drink. Don’t eat that extra cookie. Don’t _______.

However, as long as we tell ourselves what not to do, we’re not focusing on what we want to do. And when we do tell ourselves what not to do, it’s like telling ourselves “Don’t think about vanilla ice cream! Don’t think about vanilla ice cream! Don’t think about vanilla ice cream!” What happens when we do that? Do we think about it less? Actually, it’s quite the opposite. We think about it more. I wasn’t thinking about vanilla ice cream before, but all of a sudden I am now. So instead of trying not to think about something, we should begin to explore the things we do want to think about and the direction we do want to move in.

To help us stay in the direction of change, we have to think about our reasons for changing. So ask yourself, what’s motivating you? What are the top three reasons that you want to make this change? Use these answers as the GPS for your behavior.

2. What gets in my way?

It’s unrealistic to expect change to be a linear process – far from it. Change is a roller coaster. Change can happen in big spurts at times and small increments at other times. And if we’re completely honest with ourselves, we can go in the opposite direction of the change we’re actually hoping to make.

Knowing that change is not linear, let’s be realistic and think through all the barriers. Identify all the thoughts, feelings, external events, stressors, and people that you can see as getting in your way. For example, these may include feelings of laziness, cold weather, boredom, or thoughts like, “I’m a piece of sh*t,” “they’re a piece of sh*t,” “what’s the point?”, etc. The more specific your barriers are and the more you can identify, the less scary they become when they show up. These barriers are a natural part of change and the fact that you’re experiencing them should be a signpost that you’re actually on the right path. Now that you know what they are, the question becomes how do I deal with them effectively?

3. What are potential solutions I could utilize when encountering barriers?

The truth is that we have all made some change in our lives – big or small. So we already have some tools to change even when we don’t think we do. This question is all about getting at your strengths and skills from the work you have already done up until this point.

Maybe you realized that when you set schedules, you’re able to keep to your change schedule better. Or perhaps you know that if you stay consistent in your spiritual practice, you’re able to ground yourself in something deeper that helps you when you’re feeling unmotivated. It could be that you know that when you call somebody daily as an accountability partner that helps you stay the course.

Change isn’t linear.

Whatever it is that keeps you afloat, recognize those things and let them guide you towards change.

If you’re online typing, “therapist near me,” into the browser, it’s important to realize that with all three of these questions, it’s not a one-and-done situation. We have to keep reminding ourselves of these answers because change is not linear. Some days we wake up at a 10 out of 10, motivated to change. Other days we are at a 2 out of 10. Sometimes we make lots of change and some days we do the exact opposite of what we hoped for. This is why we have to keep our reasons to change at the forefront of our minds.

Area Voters See Familiar Faces in Runoff

As early voting begins, the tension in the race for Congress has ramped up significantly.  Each side is accusing the other of distortions and lies.  Attack ads are flying. Third parties have evaluated some of the attacks and found many to be untrue.  But there is one ad that stands out above all others. The Gary Chambers endorsement for Karen Carter Peterson.  It shows Karen Carter Peterson and Gary Chambers talking to a constituent of Petersons.

Bad Ad

The ad is bad on many different levels.  The Karen Carter Peterson Campaign produced the ad. It is supposed to show the significance of the Gary Chambers endorsement of Karen Carter Peterson.  How the Baton Rouge native and resident, Gary Chambers, provides street credibility in New Orleans for Karen Carter Peterson.  But is shows the exact opposite.

Gary Chambers and KCP

Gary Chamber was a surprisingly strong third place finisher in the primary.  In Peterson’s Senate district, he captured more votes than KCP.  In fact, he almost made it to the runoff. She only beat him by two points.  So many predicted his endorsement might tip the scales in the election.  And nobody was surprised to see KCP put together a string of commercials touting his endorsement of her. 

But the ad in question actually shows the Chambers endorsement might not be so influential after all.  The results of the primary are more likely akin to familiarity breeds contempt than a new strong progressive wave flooding the streets of New Orleans.  Being a New Orleanian, I know a good flood when I see it.  Chambers results are more like some aggravating street ponding than a park your car on the neutral ground and hope it’s high enough when the street fills with water kinda thing.

The KCP record is more likely the issue for her. KCP has not only missed numerous votes in the Senate, but according to her own ad, she has not even been in her hood with her people.  So that she lost in her own district is not astonishing. People were fed up with the status quo. Her anti-incumbency stank even wafted to Troy Carter.  But Carter also got more votes in her district than she did. 

Gary Chambers offered a fresh, new progressive alternative for frustrated voters.  He is a dynamic public speaker. He was able to convince a large number of people to put an X next to his name.  But a look at the video, shows that the average New Orleanian pays little real attention to Chambers.  His Baton Rouge accent and demeanor is a square peg in the round hole that is New Orleans.  People respect, understand and simultaneously ignore him in real life.  Just look at the video. 

Chambers’ success should be measured in Baton Rouge.  But there, the same contempt exists for him.  He ran a strong third in his hometown too.  And in Baton Rouge, most of the elected officials have endorsed Troy Carter. 

All in all, the Gary Chambers 15 minutes of political fame seems exhausted in this election.  He may have a bright future in Baton Rouge elections.  But does anyone think Gary Chambers could move to New Orleans and get elected mayor?  City Council?  Or if we had – dog catcher?

Mr. Chambers seems to be a fine young man who wants to make a difference.  Hopefully, he can find a path to success that makes him happy and benefits the people.

But the 2nd Congressional District won’t be decided because Gary Chambers endorsed KCP.

Arousal, Orgasm, and Post-Coital Behavior

Why is sexual arousal important?

Arousal is essential for sex, evolutionary theorists argue, because sex is gross. Naked bodies, bodily fluids, and unusual sounds are all generally things that, outside of a sexual context, many people find disgusting. Disgust is a core human emotion, and an important one: It helps to alert us to potential pathogens and foster survival. But sexual disgust can prevent couples from reproducing and so humans may have evolved to allow sexual arousal to supersede disgust, thus perpetuating the species.

Is sexual arousal a reliable feeling?

Not always. Often sexual arousal is a sign of passion and commitment between partners. At other times, it may just be the residual effect of driving over a bridge, watching a scary movie, or riding a roller coaster. Research finds that the high arousal states generated by fear or (nonsexual) physical excitement, such as a racing heart or sweaty palms, can easily be misread by an individual as attraction to the person they are with at those moments. It may be best to avoid making romantic or sexual commitments in these moments.

Do men and women experience sexual arousal differently?

According to research, they do. Studies of male and female sexual response when prompted to view arousing subliminal images have found that women experienced less arousal then men in those conditions. One theory to explain this and similar findings: For women, an unfamiliar man, even an attractive one, may appear threatening, and in evolutionary terms, a woman would be expected to be more selective about partners, as opposed to men, who may be more likely to allow themselves to be aroused by any attractive potential partner.

Can men smell a sexually aroused woman?

Recent research suggests that heterosexual men are able to process distinct olfactory signals linked to female sexual arousal, and that they experience greater sexual arousal themselves when they encounter those scents. However, other researchers have questioned the accuracy of these findings, and their potential implications for sexual relationships.

The Keys to Better Sex

What are the keys to a great sex life?

When sex therapists and researchers discuss what makes for a truly great sex life, their lists are mainly composed of emotional or psychological factors, not physical ones. Communication is vital to a satisfying sex life, as are being intimate, vulnerable, and transparent with a partner; allowing oneself to be open to new experiences, and to fun; being in sync with each other, emotionally and sexually; and an ability to be in the moment and to be open to transcendent feelings

Do people enjoy sex less now than they used to?

Some researchers believe that the pace of contemporary life, as well as distractions like cellphones, are leading couples to derive less pleasure from their sexual encounters. Therapists suggest that individuals and couples spend more time becoming open and attuned to their bodies, and to their bodies’ signals of arousal and pleasure before, during, and after sex, to restore higher levels of satisfaction

Is foreplay equally important to women and to men?

Contrary to the stereotype that men are primarily interested in rushing into intercourse and climax, research has found that men desired an average of 18 minutes of foreplay, very close to the average of 19 minutes sought by women. Women, however, significantly underestimate how much foreplay their male partners wanted. Other research has found that longer foreplay leads to greater relationship satisfaction for men and women.

How important is kissing before sex?

For women, kissing can be very important. Much more than men, women report finding it important to kiss a partner before sex, and they are more likely to report using kissing as a way to evaluate their interest in a new partner when considering having sex with them or not.

Are makeup and breakup sex really better?

They may be. The theory of arousal transfer suggests that powerful stimuli in one area can be transferred to another. Anger, for example, is an arousing emotion. In relationships, that high arousal state may be transferred to a high arousal state during makeup sex after a fight is resolved. Similarly, a couple breaking up may transfer the painful emotions of deciding to separate into intense sex as they say goodbye. Couples report intense lovemaking at these times, but there is a downside if, say, a couple rushes to makeup sex without truly resolving their conflict, or if a couple extends the life of a failing relationship because of great breakup sex.

Should couples schedule sex?

According to many sex therapists, they should. Different levels of sexual desire challenge many couples, but for others with high levels of desire for each other, the calendar becomes the enemy of satisfying sex because of conflicting work schedules, child care, or other commitments. Scheduling sex even days ahead of time can help a couple restore sexual goodwill, block out time for greater affectionate touch during sex, and, after the fact, elevated relationship satisfaction.

Orgasm

What is orgasm?

An orgasm, or climax, is the intense and usually pleasurable release of sexual tension after sexual arousal and stimulation. During orgasm, one’s heart rate and blood pressure rise, breathing becomes faster and heavier, and involuntary muscle contractions occur, not only in the genitals but often in the hips, chest, head, and limbs. In men, orgasm typically involves the ejaculation of semen, though not always. In some women, orgasm also leads to the release of ejaculate.

How often do people achieve orgasm?

Research suggests that only about one in four women regularly reach orgasm during vaginal sex, while more than three quarters of men do. For males and females alike, orgasm is achieved faster and more reliably through masturbation. There are distinct health benefits in orgasm, including higher levels of oxytocin, which promotes bonding between partners, and increased blood flow to the brain.

How does the female orgasm benefit relationships?

Orgasms enhance a woman’s sexual pleasure, and the sexual satisfaction of their partners. But the female orgasm benefits relationships in other, more subtle ways. Women who report more orgasms with a partner, research suggests, may be more genetically compatible with that person. Women who have more orgasms with a certain partner also tend to evaluate that person as more creative, confident, and funny. These factors all lead to stronger bonding between two partners.

What Happens After Sex

What is sexual afterglow?

Some researchers believe that the most important part of sex occurs after climax. The term sexual afterglow refers to the positive feelings that follow pleasurable sexual experiences, and some research suggests that it, and not the sex itself, determines how positively people feel about their sexual partners. Cuddling, kissing, and other expressions of intimacy after sex can increase afterglow, boost satisfaction, and extend the positive effects of sex on a relationship.

What do couples talk about after sex?

Research on “pillow talk” following sex has debunked the myth that men fall asleep first after sex: There’s no evidence of a gender difference. Also, women who reach orgasm during sex tend to talk more intimately after sex, revealing more about themselves. The release of the hormone oxytocin during sex, which promotes bonding, may foster this effect. Men with higher levels of testosterone after sex, however, appear to talk less, limiting bonding.

How long do partners feel good about each other following sex?

About 48 hours. Research on post-coital sexual and relationship satisfaction has found that partners experience elevated positive feelings about each other, and about their connection, for an average of two days following sex.

Is it more important for men or women to experience great sex?

Women. Research into relationship satisfaction finds that a woman’s sexual desire for her partner is more closely linked to relationship satisfaction than a man’s. Women’s levels of satisfaction with a relationship are also much more variable than men’s, which tend to remain at a consistent high level.

Tips for being heard and respected.

By Marty Nemko Ph.D.

SUMMARY

  • How we communicate matters, but we may have picked up bad habits throughout life.
  • Some tips for better communication include putting yourself in a listener’s shoes and keeping most utterances under one minute or talks under 20 minutes.
  • Some other tips include speaking more slowly than in conversation, having good posture and making eye contact about two-thirds of the time.

Sometimes it’s not what you know or even who you know, but how you say it. Here are 11 tips for saying it well, whether a one-minute report at a staff meeting or a keynote to a cast of thousands.

Put yourself in your listeners’ shoes.

 What do they need to hear? Want to hear? Fact- or feeling-centric? Formal or informal?

Length. 

Keep most utterances under 30 seconds, certainly under a minute. That ensures that your conversation partner(s) has a fair chance to participate, that s/he doesn’t forget what s/he wanted to say, nor think you’re egotistical. Tip: Many speakers lose track of time. To keep your utterances to a minute or less, practice by talking while looking into a timer or watch that has a second hand. You may be surprised to see how quickly a minute goes by.

It will help to, before you speak, take a deep breath to calm yourself and to get a moment for your brain to fire a zillion times in deciding what to say, and say your most important thing first. During your first 30 seconds, your light is green, second 30 yellow and at 60 red. Yes, there’s the rare time to run a red light, for example, when stopping would truly omit something important, but that is rare.

Another rule of thumb: Speak approximately your share of the time. In a two-person conversation, that’s 30 to 50 percent of the time, unless it’s expected that you have most of the content, which you might go as high as 70.

If giving a talk, generally keep it to 20 minutes—unless you’re compelling, many people’s attention fades after that. You can add time for Q&A. Usually, I do the Q&A right before my final story. I want to end with something more powerful than the answer to someone’s question.

Focus.

Stay conscious of whether most people in your audience will appreciate that detail or tangent. Usually, it’s wise to minimize both. People tend to listen with one ear or get distracted. By keeping to a structure, people will more likely stay with you. A day, let alone a week after a talk, most people remember little from it. Think back to a talk you attended a week or more ago. How much do you remember? So err on the side of structure and simplicity.

Speed.

Because many people don’t listen intently, in addition to using an easy-to-follow structure such as: “I want to make two points today,” speak more slowly than in conversation. That also gives people time to process, to apply what you’re saying to their situation. A relatively slow pace also conveys confidence. Excessive speed can imply that you’re insecure or a huckster. Of course, like a musician, vary your pace. When it feels right, speed up for a few words or, more often, slow down for emphasis. The effect can be dramatic.

Appeal to both head and heart.

 Compelling, not-obvious statistics and facts appeal to the head, emotional anecdotes and addressing core values appeal to the heart. For example, political pollsters find that it’s wise to invoke emotion-triggering concepts such as decency, equality, and progress and to paint the other side as elitist, radical, and of ill-begotten wealth.

Posture. 

There was a reason that rich people used to send their teens to deportment school. Shallow though it is, you gain credibility by standing erect but relaxed with shoulders back and chin straight out or looking slightly up. I first saw the power of the chin when I noticed that, when making a controversial point, President Obama raised his chin slightly. That made him seem more confident and powerful. Since then, I’ve noticed that when the news or entertainment media or advertisers want to make a character look good, they’re often portrayed with chin raised—check it out. But don’t raise your chin too much. It can make you look conceited.

Eye-contact.

 Rule of thumb: Look your conversation partner in the eye two-thirds of the time. More can make you look psychotic, less can make the person feel you don’t care about him or her. When speaking to a group, make eye contact for one second with the person on your far left, then to the next person, and when you reach the person on your far right, reverse direction. On a videoconference, focus your eyes, just above the lens. That gets you that slightly raised chin.

In a video-call, even if the other participants have turned off their video, keep yours on. That way other speakers can see your eye contact and nods of agreement.

Timbre. 

Both men and women should speak near the bottom of their natural range. That’s another easy albeit shallow way to gain credibility. But don’t go beneath the bottom of your natural range—you’ll sound artificial and perhaps gravelly.

Smile.

In perhaps the ultimate example of a shallow way to improve people’s reaction to you, start with a smile and, when it feels appropriate, smile again.

Interrupting. 

The standard advice— “don’t interrupt”— is too black-and-white. Yes, err toward that but if a person is long-winded or you have something important to say that would obviate what’s likely to be a long dissertation, it’s okay to interrupt.

With some people and in some cultures, interrupting is more acceptable. Read your audience: Case by case, consciously decide whether it’s worth interrupting. You’re often wise not just to let the person finish but to count “One-Mississippi” to yourself before responding. A one-second pause conveys that you’re taking the other person’s statement seriously and aren’t just waiting for them to shut up so you can share your pearls. The one-second pause also gives you a moment to think before speaking, something that most of us could use. If you think you might be interrupting too often, see “Why Interrupting Is More Harmful Than You Think.

Speaking for elevation.

 Normally, you want to be conversational in tone and language. But occasionally, when trying to inspire, it’s appropriate to use loftier language and even invoke the wisdom of others. For example, if I were giving a talk to educators, I could do worse than to invoke Martin Luther King: “The function of education is to teach one to think intensively and to think critically. Intelligence plus character— that is the goal of true education.”

The takeaway

We began speaking before we were 1 year old, so much of how we speak is ossified. To break out of fossilized bad practice requires, well, practice. Pick one or two of the aforementioned tips and practice, whether with a timer, camcorder, or friend. 

Working on your communication skills may be among the most potent ways to improve not just your career but your personal life.

On December 5, 2020, New Orleans elected its first ever progressive District Attorney.  Jason Williams was a criminal defense lawyer for over 20 years before being elected. He replaced former DA Leon Cannizzaro, described by New Orleans papers as a traditional tough on crime prosecutor.  An unprecedented coalition of grassroots justice organizations came together over a year before the election, as The Peoples DA Coalition, to help make it happen.

The Peoples DA Coalition

The Peoples DA Coalition, made up of over 30 local justice organizations, worked for over a year to “create a District Attorney’s office that is ethical, equitable, compassionate, and accountable to all of its constituents so that we may end the era of mass incarceration in New Orleans.”

Immediately upon taking office, New Orleans District Attorney Jason Williams showed why he is on the way to becoming a progressive prosecutor.  He established a vigorous civil rights unit to review questionable convictions, began to reduce the instances where the prosecution required cash bail, quit using Louisiana’s habitual offender law, mostly stopped prosecuting juveniles in adult court, dismissed hundreds of low level drug cases, and granted new trials to dozens of people convicted by non-unanimous juries. More changes are coming.

How did Louisiana elect such a progressive candidate? Louisiana is a deep south state which has for years been locking up more of its citizens than any other?  

There were three keys to New Orleans electing its first progressive prosecutor.  Two were traditional.  The third was unprecedented.   First, the winner of the race, Jason Williams, was an excellent campaigner and a well-known and respected candidate.  But he faced challenges because he had run and lost before and he faces uncertainty because of outstanding federal criminal tax charges.  Second, it helped that the incumbent retired at the last minute.  But other incumbents have retired before and no reform prosecutor emerged.  Third was the remarkable emergence of a vigorous nonpartisan grass roots coalition of dozens of organizations and scores of activists who identified the important issues, educated the community, and activated people to vote for big time reform in the criminal legal system.    

The organization that led the New Orleans community nonpartisan efforts to elect a reform prosecutor is the Peoples DA Coalition.  It brought a surge of grass roots organizing and energy for major reform into the criminal legal system in New Orleans in their focus on this election.

In the works more than a year

The idea started 14 months before the election.  A few criminal justice advocates wondered if it just might be possible to create a broad-based community coalition. The coalition would educate and activate voters. They wanted to make the fall 2020 election for New Orleans District Attorney a referendum on dramatic changes in the criminal legal system?  There had been some statewide progress on reform in the past few years, why not push for stronger reform locally?   They quickly decided that no one organization could quarterback such an effort. So they brought together a wide range of other organizations to dream and plan and work for real change.  

The Peoples DA Coalition grew to include over 30 community organizations and hundreds of activists.  Their shared goal was to elect a District Attorney who was serious about changing the criminal legal system and to be responsive to the people of New Orleans.  The organizations involved included those led by formerly incarcerated residents and crime survivors. Also wrongfully convicted people and families with incarcerated loved ones joined. Immigrant rights groups and others focused on criminal justice reform in New Orleans participated.

Together these thirty plus organizations recognized the opportunity to create a new vision for the New Orleans District Attorney’s Office.  They demanded “a reform Prosecutor who embraces fairer, safer, more effective approaches to criminal justice.”

The coalition refused to back or oppose any specific candidate.  They were clear.  Their goal was to listen to and organize with grassroots organizations and to bring about serious change in the way the criminal legal system worked in New Orleans.  How?  By educating the city-wide community and activating people to turn out and vote for serious reform in the race for prosecutor.  Their plan was that whoever was elected was accountable to the people.

Headed by Retired & Respected Judge

Former Criminal Court Judge Calvin Johnson was asked to lead the coalition.  Judge Johnson is a highly regarded justice leader. He served as a law professor, former chief judge of the Orleans Parish Criminal District Court. And after retiring from the bench, he was criminal justice coordinator for the City of New Orleans.

Judge Johnson has been aware of the need for dramatic changes in the criminal legal system for over 50 years.  “In 1962, when I was just 14 years old, a young football player in my hometown of Plaquemine was accused and prosecuted for allegedly assaulting his white girlfriend. I remember sitting in the balcony of the courthouse and watching as this Black teenage boy was denied anything close to a fair trial. It was then that I realized how tragically flawed the system is. That moment sent me on my life’s journey toward advocating for a system that doesn’t punish people simply for being Black.”

Why did Judge Johnson agree to lead this specific effort?  “As a former judge who has spent most of my adult life operating within the system, I can state unequivocally that the district attorney is the single most powerful person in the criminal justice system. If we are serious about fundamentally changing the trajectory of a system that over-polices, over-prosecutes and over-incarcerates, then we must elect a district attorney who is actually for reform.”

Non Profit Organization

The Peoples DA Coalition established itself as a tax-deductible non-profit, said Johnson, and from the beginning did not endorse any candidate.  It was able to raise some local and national funds from individuals and foundations to hire two staff.  They asked Louisiana native Victoria Coy to come on as coordinator.  Color of Change, a national racial justice advocacy organization, partnered to help on several levels including helping create the organization’s website, strategizing, and running the technology for online forums.

The hardest and most important early work of the coalition was hammering out a shared policy agenda that people could get behind.  Creating a comprehensive policy platform which reflected the transformative vision of dozens of organizations was challenging. Over eight months of meetings, members organized themselves into twelve different working groups, each working on one criminal justice issue, developing detailed lists of concerns and demands for action.   

Growth

During these months, the Peoples DA Coalition continued to grow and broaden.  More organizations joined.  Ministers joined. Lots of young people.  Judge Johnson observed “It was exciting to see all these young committed smart people and be in the room working with them.”

Ultimately the Peoples DA Coalition agreed on a twelve part policy platform which included over 70 specific demands for reform.  Every one of the candidates running to be elected DA would be asked for their positions on each.  The community insisted that going forward the DA of New Orleans operate their office in dramatically new ways.  For example, would the DA promise not to seek the death penalty? Would the DA dramatically reduce requests for cash bail and pretrial detention? And would the office use restorative justice processes where possible? 

Would the DA listen to, inform and communicate with survivors of crimes?  Or would the DA stop the school to prison pipeline by refusing to prosecute behavior which can be handled through the school system?  Would the DA create an internal wrongful conviction review process?  Would the DA train all prosecutors and staff on an ongoing basis about racial bias?  And dozens more.

Big Field of Candidates

In the summer of 2020, five people were frequently mentioned as candidates.  The incumbent DA Leon Cannizzaro, Jason Williams, and three former Judges Arthur Hunter, Keva Landrum, and Morris Reed.

As qualifying approached, the Peoples DA Coalition stayed nonpartisan.  Even though some members of the coalition preferred one or more of the candidates, the coalition itself focused on issues and refused to get behind one candidate.  The coalition had to do that, stressed Judge Johnson, because “regardless of who was elected, we wanted accountability. Whoever is elected, we will have accountability of the elected candidate to the people.”

On the last day to qualify for the election, the sitting District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro announced he was not going to run for reelection.

“We were surprised when the sitting DA dropped out, but we continued forward,” said Johnson.

On August 18, 2020, the Peoples DA Coalition publicly announced their detailed 70 part platform. “It’s time for us to have a prosecutor, a DA who recognizes that the purpose of the justice system is to make people better,” said Judge Johnson at the online unveiling of the platform. “To make our city better. To make the justice system better. That’s the prosecutor’s role. That’s the prosecutor’s job. And the People’s DA Coalition is going to hold the prosecutor to it.”

In September, the coalition held an online forum for the candidates to respond to the policy platform.  Victoria Coy said 900 people attended.  The candidates all pledged to “actively root out wrongful convictions, stop bringing criminal charges against sex workers, ditch the use of habitual offender laws and reserve jail before trial for the most serious offenses.” 

The focus on reform of the system was not always viewed kindly. 

Rafael Goyeneche is a former prosecutor and the president of the Metropolitan Crime Coalition. The MCC is a conservative tough on crime watchdog group. When interviewed by Matt Sledge of Nola.com, Goyeneche “expressed some skepticism of all the “reform” talk. “‘Reform’ doesn’t necessarily mean better,” Goyeneche said. “The candidates need to realize that they’re no longer going to be criminal defense attorneys, their obligations are not going to be to the defendants but to the public, to the victims and citizens.”

In the weeks running up to the election, the coalition targeted precincts for education and outreach.  Members knocked on doors and made thousands of calls. They also texted to get the word out. They focused on the importance of the election and the important issues in the DA race.  

Political observers expected Jason Williams and Judge Arthur Hunter, a retired progressive criminal court judge to split the reform vote.  The more traditional vote appeared to be going to retired Judge Keva Landrum. Landrum landed far more endorsements than any other candidate.  Judge Morris Reed remained on the ballot but did not really campaign and was not expected to contend.  

Run Off

The election on November 3 ended up with former Judge Keva Landrum winning 35 percent of the vote. Jason Williams edged out Judge Hunter 29 to 28 percent.   

Local media characterized the runoff as “a choice between a defense attorney who rarely fails to denounce what he sees as a racist criminal justice system and who also serves as at-large city councilman, and the more measured reforms touted by an experienced former prosecutor and judge.”

Landrum was seen by many as “the more moderate candidate.” Williams “cast himself as a progressive who has been fighting for a more just and humane criminal legal system for his entire career.”

In other media reports both candidates “talked about advancing reforms, but their positions and records reveal a divide in how they would likely approach being a DA.  Williams has promised more of a clean break with the office’s punitive past and embraced the People’s DA platform enthusiastically.”

Members of the coalition continued to work hard to educate people about the candidates and work for voter participation.  Pastor Gregory Manning, a member of the Peoples DA Coalition strongly urged people to vote. ““We are at a crossroads in our community,” said Manning, a pastor in the Broadmoor neighborhood. “It cannot be simply that we continue to lock people up and allow the criminal justice system and the jail system and the bail bondsman to benefit financially off of the incarceration of our people, especially African American people, people of color.”

Ultimately, members of the Peoples DA Coalition made over 90,000 calls, knocked on hundreds of doors and sent thousands of texts to potential voters, according to Coy.

On December 5, 2020, Jason Williams won the race by a convincing margin, 58% to 42%.  

The fact that Williams, the most progressive candidate, won came as a surprise to many.  His fundraising trailed his opponent by over $150,000.  He had many fewer endorsements from city power brokers.  New Orleans had never elected a progressive prosecutor.  

Since taking office, as noted above, District Attorney Williams has taken action.  He has not opposed requests for new trials for those convicted in New Orleans by 10-2 jury verdicts.  He has dismissed hundreds of minor drug and outdated cases.  Also he has created a new Civil Rights Unit to investigate cold cases and reverse wrongful convictions.  He has reversed the policy of the office and is not seeking life in prison for juveniles convicted of murder.  

There was an overwhelming mandate from the voters. Traditionally conservative tough on crime critics like Rafael Goyeneche were not fans of reform plans before the election. They are really worried now.  “This is a grand experiment and only time will tell how this experiment plays out,” Goyeneche said. “I think that you are taking real risks with the public and public safety.”

The Peoples DA Coalition goal remains the same. “Our mission is to create a District Attorney’s office that is ethical, equitable, compassionate, and accountable to all of its constituents so that we may end the era of mass incarceration in New Orleans.” The focus should be on safety, not on jail and prison.

Fight for change continues

But even though the election is over.  Organizing for real and lasting change is not. The Peoples DA Coalition and Color of Change are following through on their promise to hold the winner of the race accountable. 

On Thursday April 8, Color of Change and the Peoples DA Coalition have scheduled their first forum with District Attorney Jason Williams.  They intend to discuss bail, pretrial detention, transparency, accountability and juvenile justice, just like they promised.  Readers can register to join that discussion online.  

It is impossible to say exactly how much impact the Peoples DA Coalition had on the race. But Judge Calvin Johnson summed it up.  “I will be 74 shortly.  To see where we are in terms of how this community thinks about justice and people?  That was amazing.”

All these years later women are still quoting Ms. Betty Wright. I am surprised how many women really believe having a piece of man is better than having no man at all. That has got to be one of the dumbest things I have ever heard. The reality is it is that piece of man that is leaving most of them in pieces. 

There are so many women that have wasted years trying to make something out of that same piece of man. No matter how hard they try, they just can’t seem to get him together. The sad part is at some point they just get tired of trying to get him together and just accept him for who he is. Even though she wants better, because she spent so much time trying to get it from him, she has given up on expecting better from any man. 

The truth is, if you spend enough time with somebody who doesn’t appreciate you, you will stop appreciating yourself. Even though he may not be treating you right, you’re not treating yourself right either when you accept it. You can’t expect anyone to give you anything you don’t demand. This is true when it comes to love, affection, consistency, commitment, respect, or anything else. 

The craziest part is many will read this and point the finger at other women. In the real world there are a lot of women with a piece of man. Some of them seem like they are trying to out pizza the hut. Then they make excuses for themselves, by saying ain’t no good men out here or all men are the same.

Keep this is mind, the minute you set the bar low, that is all you’re going to get. I don’t know too many, if any men that will automatically give a women anything she doesn’t ask for. I mean at the end if the day, you can’t expect much. After all he is just a piece of man. Just remember if you stay with him long enough, you will end up being a piece of woman. 

Book Review

Mostly Sunny, Partly Dramali In Between

By: Willmarine B. Hurst

I can see clearly now the rain is gone. It’s gonna be a bright sun shining day. Jimmy Cliff

Dr. Lisa Green-Derry is a wife, mother, grandmother, motivational speaker, scientist, educator, published author, teacher, and ordained minister.

In Mostly Sunny, Partly Dramali In Between, Green-Derry reveals “tidbits and snippets” of her life as a ‘NOLA BRAR” native (New Orleans, Louisiana Born, Raised and Returned).

From early childhood to teen mother to mature wife, distinguished minister, and philosopher of sorts, Green-Derry details little snippets of  her life with humor and heartache, with invisible scars and visible change, with fond memories and resolved traumas, and with a renewed spirit and zest for life.

 “Many of the ‘Dramalisades’ (the dramas of Lisa) are recollections of my life and others in my circle of influence. Others are compilations of writings done at various stages in my life.”  Green-Derry says the title comes from her former pastor, Rev. Dwight Webster, who would always reply “Mostly Sunny,” when asked how he was doing.

In Mostly Sunny, Green-Derry challenges you to rethink, redirect, and relearn how you process or have processed events, actions, and activities in your life.

“If you read with a willingness to unlearn, relearn, and expect something better, provocation may lead you to forgiveness, increased confidence, and strength to make plans for living your best life, while helping others to do the same,” she explains.

Growing up – The Front Porch

Growing up in the seventh ward of New Orleans, Lisa recalls fond memories of “the front porch at 3922 Buchanan Street.” The front porch was where she spoke to neighbors and played with her friends. Her front porch was also a window to the world beyond her house, into the streets, and across St. Bernard Avenue to the St. Bernard project/public housing complex. It also provided a view to the nursing home and porch where her grandmother lived.

“The front porch was so important that while pretending to not listen to what the grown folks were saying, we [children] sat below them on the steps,” reveals Green-Derry. The front porch was almost like a de-facto class. Green-Derry muses about the “jewels of wisdom” that came along with the gossiping and other such conversations on the ‘front porch.’

All Grown Up – Reality Hits

There are some stark contrasts and realities that Green-Derry speaks about, including trying to be a wife and mother while finishing college. She tells of a relationship gone bad; the heartache of losing her parents, and the devastation and destruction of Hurricane Betsy and Hurricane Katrina. Along the way, she discovered the power to speak truth and healing into her own life.

Healing Visible and Invisible Scars

            A guide to self-help, forgiveness, and a road map to navigating the pitfalls of mental and emotional unresolved trauma, Mostly Sunny is a first aid kit for the human spirit.

“A desire to resolve my pain, diminish unhealthy coping mechanisms, intermingled with success and strength. Unresolved trauma drives all of them.” That is one of the reasons for writing the book, Green-Derry explains. She wants the book to be a healing tool.

Overcoming and Renewed Life

Mostly Sunny is divided into five parts. The last part offers feedback from people who responded to her discussion on Post Traumatic Stress(ed) Daughters, (PTS (ed) D). After each chapter, there are questions she wants readers to consider. Forever the consummate teacher, Green-Derry writes about her coronavirus pandemic experience to share the impact of the virus on her life.

 “It is a thought catcher,” says New Orleans native Vivian McFarland of Mostly Sunny. “It made me look back on how I made it through.”  Lora Carmicle of Clinton, MS says Green-Derry “showed that everyday events can be used as prompts to explore personal healing.”

Green-Derry’s book meanders through her life and of those who have been a part of it. In no chronological order but Part One has a ‘jump off’ point  in “I Am Because.”

“The essays are lyrical, poignant, and nearly poetic prose,” says David Harrison of Ridgewood, NY. “The stories are honest, memory is stimulated; the struggles are real. Her healing is transparent, and the love is laudable.”

Mostly Sunny is an easy read but a very insightful and soul-searching book. It provides a sense of hope and healing. Linetta Gilbert of New Orleans, says, “Mostly Sunny is a testimony to how one can thrive throughout her/his life.”

If you’ve ever had or still have any unresolved issues, any lingering pain, any trauma in your life that you have not faced, then you might find that Mostly Sunny is just the book that you need to read!

Willmarine B. Hurst is a freelance writer in New Orleans. She can be reached at willmarine@gmail.com