May 10, 2007 - Issue 229
Keeping It Real
Benton Harbor 2007:
A Case Study Of State Sanctioned Suppression
Of Black Voting Rights
By Larry Pinkney
The town of Benton Harbor, in Berrien County, Michigan has its own special brand of state sanctioned de facto terrorism against its Black citizens, in the insidious form of the suppression of Black voting rights. This is no doubt a microcosm of the disenfranchisement that is stealthily and steadily being played out against people of color and the poor in communities across America, while the US Government hypocritically spews to the rest of the world a horribly disingenuous rhetoric of its supposed belief in democracy and the sacredness of the right to vote.
In 2005, Reverend Edward Pinkney, 59, a Black political activist in Benton Harbor, Michigan had the unmitigated audacity to refuse to acquiesce to the role of being a "house Negro," and in defiance of the Benton Harbor white power structure and its surrogates, organized and spearheaded a successful recall election of an at large city commissioner who was believed by many to be corrupt. As a result of the successful recall election Rev. Pinkney was immediately charged with, among other things, possessing absentee voter ballots, but in March 2006, a mistrial was declared in all of the five charges against him as a result of jurors having clearly voted along racial lines. Nevertheless, the white prosecutor, in 2007, retried Rev. Pinkney, this time utilizing an all white jury, which resulted in Pinkney's being convicted in the span of a few short hours of the closing argument at the trial. Thus, Rev. Pinkney could face up to 20 years in prison, when in fact his only crime is the one of being Black, while exercising his human and political rights on behalf of himself and all justice loving people in Benton Harbor, Michigan and throughout America. On May 14, 2007, Rev. Edward Pinkney is to be sentenced. All of us should be standing in court with Rev. Pinkney, physically and/or in spirit, and demanding that he receive justice and a real jury of and by his peers - which jury must include Black people. Nothing less than freedom, dignity, and justice for all Black people, people of color, and all justice loving people in America is what is at stake.
It should further be noted that Benton Harbor Black political activist, Rev. Edward Pinkney, of his own volition on April 13, 2007, underwent a polygraph test administered by an examiner with the Oakland County Sheriff's Department in Detroit, Michigan, which he passed on all issues.Though inadmissible in court, it provides additional proof of his innocence. Not surprisingly, however, the white judge and prosecutor in Benton Harbor have refused to acknowledge in any meaningful way the results of the polygraph test, in addition to refusing to have such a test administered under their own auspices. It is most informative that when polygraph test results point to the innocence of an accused - particularly a Black accused person - said tests are deemed unreliable or non-credible; but if said polygraph tests either rightly or wrongly pointed to the guilt of an accused person, the results somehow become meaningful.
The biased and sullied motivation, on the part of the state, to prosecute Rev. Pinkney and the racist tactics utilized to do so, are obvious. Moreover, it is an unspeakable, intolerable outrage and injustice that a Black person anywhere in America be tried by an all white court and/or jury. Indeed, it is unacceptable that any person of color, be they Black, Red, or Brown, be subjected to this ongoing, hideous form of 21st century American judicial apartheid.
As the case of Rev. Pinkney makes crystal clear, the message to Black America from the racist white American power structure continues to be unmistakable and it is: "We will use all of our systemic machinery, from the media to the courts, to suppress your legitimate human, political, and economic rights; and we shall do this in the name of justice, freedom, and democracy." However, to be truly Black is to be actively politically conscious, and our resounding reply, in both word and deed must be, "We shall not stand for injustice. We shall have independent thought, and our spirit will never be crushed!" As Harriet Tubman repeatedly demonstrated, "We shall not be moved!"
It is imperative to actively concern ourselves with the events regarding Rev. Edward Pinkney in Benton Harbor, Michigan. His struggle is our own. In the warrior tradition of dear brother Malcolm X of the 20th century, Rev. Pinkney is today one of our own 21st century Black princes, doing battle on behalf of us all. The personal responsibility of all justice loving people - each and every one of us, regardless of color - is to inform ourselves of these matters and act accordingly.
In a coming column, I shall address the importance of Black people in America and throughout the African Diaspora drawing the connections between our ongoing political, cultural, social, and economic struggle with that of Brown and Red peoples. In this context, this column will address the struggle of wrongly imprisoned Native "Indian" political activist Leonard Peltier, who is of enormous significance to all politically and socially conscious people, including Black people. So stay posted, and most of all, may we continue to keep it real in this, our ongoing struggle.
Note: Reverend Edward Pinkney and BC Columnist Larry Pinkney are related in the struggle and their ancestors might have also been the "property" of the same white slaveholder.
BC Columnist Larry Pinkney is a veteran of the Black Panther Party, the former Minister of Interior of the Republic of New Africa, a former political prisoner and the only American to have successfully self-authored his civil/political rights case to the United Nations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. Click here to contact Mr. Pinkney.