Speaker for Martin Luther King Jr. Day Breakfast sees “A War on Black Boys”
Michelle Bernard will be the keynote speaker Monday, Jan. 19 at the 27th Annual Martin Luther King Jr. Breakfast, which benefits the Crispus Attucks Community Center.
Six years after a black family moved into the White House, Bernard, 51, who is black, considers the country more racially polarized than any time she can remember.
A frequent guest on MSNBC and CNN, Bernard said in a phone interview she thinks an anti-Obama backlash is partly responsible for a retreat in civil rights and social justice.
Seeing a black man take charge of the world’s most powerful nation, she said, left a “nasty taste in the mouths of some.”
Bernard will have an opportunity to elaborate when she speaks here Monday, Jan. 19 at the 27th Annual Martin Luther King Jr. Breakfast sponsored by the Crispus Attucks Community Center, named for a black man killed in the 1770 Boston Massacre.
More than 240 years later, the national spotlight is once again on black men dying at the hands of civil authorities, spurring protests by the Black Lives Matter movement, including a recent die-in at Park City mall.
On cable TV, Bernard has chosen provocative words to express her dismay at the unpunished killings of Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, Eric Garner and other black men.
“It is an absolutely deplorable situation that the United States, which is supposed to be the greatest nation on Earth, sits back and allows black boys to be murdered,” Bernard said on MSNBC’s “Hardball” a week after a white police officer shot the unarmed Brown at least six times.
“There is a war on black boys in this country. In my opinion, there is a war on African-American men,” Bernard said on the show.
In a recent phone interview, Bernard didn’t back away from her comments.
“The fact that he was tall and large and allegedly stole a cigarillo doesn’t mean Michael Brown should be shot down dead,” said Bernard, a former Washington attorney and lobbyist. “That to me is war.”
She said she was shaken when her son, while watching the news, turned and said, “Mom, is a policeman going to shoot me?”
“I thought I was going to cry,” Bernard recalled. “No child should feel that way. I would be remiss and irresponsible as a mother if I didn’t teach the reality of the world we live in.”
She said her son’s question prompted a long discussion in which she stressed education.
“From my perspective, if he has equal access to an excellent education and strives for excellence, he will always be safe,” Bernard said. “But I don’t know that to be true for certain.”
Bernard said she once pushed back against criticism that Obama wasn’t doing enough for black America. Now she thinks she may have been wrong.
“Maybe there is more the president can do in his last two years instead of worrying about people who antagonize him,” she said. “Maybe he needs to focus on what’s important for people of color and underserved communities.”
She said more must be done to improve inner-city education, ending “the school-to-prison pipeline, with one minor infraction and you’re in prison.”
Bernard said she doubts having more black officers helps communities living under “a police state.”
“African-American cops can be a problem also if we have a type of police force that’s militarized or looking for any excuse to be cowboys and shoot someone,” she said.
Cheryl Holland-Jones, Crispus Attucks’ executive director, said some will not agree with Bernard, but the theme of her remarks, “The Journey to Justice,” is appropriate given “the series of events that have taken place.”
“The journey we are on is to restore faith in each other,” Holland-Jones said. “Hopefully, her talk will lead us to conversations with some solutions to neutralize the animosity.”
“We hope all our speakers will leave the audience feeling they have been given a mission to move forward and to do something positive in the community in which we all live,” she said.
If you go
Time: 7 to 9 a.m.
Place: Franklin & Marshall College Alumni Sports & Fitness Center
Cost: $70. Scholarships available.
Benefits: Crispus Attucks Community Center.
Emcee: Ron Martin, WGAL news anchor.
Honorary chair: Barbara Hough Roda, LNP executive editor.
Performances: F&M’s I Have A Dream Choir and Music for Everyone Strings at Crispus Attucks.
Event sponsor: Franklin & Marshall
Dream Maker sponsors: Fulton Bank, Hagelgans & Veronis, High Companies, LNP Media Group, NXTbook Media, Steinman Foundation
By JEFF HAWKES | Staff Writer | Posted: Tuesday, December 23, 2014 9:57 am