Friday's lesson: If you fuck with Martin Lee Anderson, you fuck with Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton.
I trudged several uphill blocks with the famous black activists Friday morning. It was just me, Jesse and Al - and a cozy group of 600 or so pissed off protestors - who marched toward the capitol building where microphones waited to project so much rousing rhetoric crafted to appeal to Gov. Jeb Bush and scores of journalists willing to spread the message: Justice will be served.
Martin Lee Anderson, a 14-year-old black kid who violated probation, died after spending one day at the Bay County Sherrif's Office boot camp in January. The initial stated cause of death? Complications of a sickle cell trait, a usually benign blood disorder found most frequently among blacks. A videotape found later showed Anderson being punched and kicked by boot camp guards as he lay on the ground motionless after having collapsed while exercising his first day at the camp. He died in the hospital the next day.
After the tape was found, there was a second autopsy and a change in the cause of death. But there have been no arrests or firings. There hasn't even been so much as an investigation.
Sharpton and Jackson didn't keep their mouths shut about King and Diallo, and they're not going to keep their mouths shut now. They say they know that singing "We Shall Overcome" and chanting "Justice delayed/Justice denied" won't bring about a happier ending to this story. Marches don't solve problems. They expose problems, said Sharpton, who grew up in a housing project in Brooklyn and recounted a story from his impoverished childhood to illustrate the issue at hand.
"As long as momma had the lights out, roaches would sit at the table and eat all the food. As soon as the lights came on, they would run for cover," Sharpton said. "We need to turn on the lights."
Jackson is a mesmerizing speaker who rallied the crowd with something about choosing excellence over mediocrity, futures over funerals and sobriety over drunkenness and standing up to save the world. Backwards never; forward ever. Rah! Rah! Rah! I was impressed and slightly moved at the time, but it's late now. I'm tired.
Overall, I felt that Friday morning was little more than a display of an excessive amount of posturing punctuated with predictable sound bites that will likely get Jackson and Sharpton somewhere largely because of who they are. I seriously hope something wonderful - or at least logical - will come out of Friday's efforts. But I learned long ago never to hold my breath.