Archive for February 11th, 2012

11
Feb
12

florida’s shame

Deeply affected by Alex King’s unfair sentence, a reader from South Africa sent me this poem today about South Africa’s treatment of black children during the apartheid era. “Nelson Mandela said ‘never again.’ I think he meant that towards the USA and the world, as well,” he said.

To a Small Boy Who Died at Diepkloof Reformatory

by Alan Paton

Small offender, small innocent child
With no conception or comprehension
Of the vast machinery set in motion
By your trivial transgression,
Of the great forces of authority,
Of judges, magistrates, and lawyers,
Psychologists, psychiatrists, and doctors,
Principals, police, and sociologists,
Kept moving and alive by your delinquency,
This day, and under the shining sun
Do I commit your body to the earth
Oh child, oh lost and lonely one.

Clerks are moved to action by your dying;
Your documents, all neatly put together,
Are transferred from the living to the dead,
Here is the document of birth
Saying that you were born and where and when,
But giving no hint of joy or sorrow,
Or if the sun shone, or if the rain was falling,
Or what bird flew singing over the roof
Where your mother travailed. And here your name
Meaning in white man’s tongue, he is arrived,
But to what end or purpose is not said.

Here is the last certificate of Death;
Forestalling authority he sets you free.

 

On orders from then-governor Charlie Crist, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement concluded an investigation in 2009 into a cemetery at the Florida School for Boys, by then renamed the Arthur G. Dozier School for Boys, in Marianna FL. The investigation was inadequate, a whitewash. Its report identifies 31 boys buried beneath white metal crosses on the campus, and found no evidence that the school or the staff contributed to their deaths. A separate cemetery for black boys went unacknowledged and unexamined.

Yet investigators also admitted that they relied heavily—at times exclusively—on incomplete and deteriorated records kept by the school; they did not exhume remains or use ground penetrating radar to determine how many bodies are in the ground or where they are placed; they didn’t know the exact whereabouts of any of the remains because the graves had been unmarked for years until a superintendent ordered Boy Scouts to make 31 markers based only on an educated guess and which were arbitrarily placed  by workers based on “how they thought they should be arranged.”

The decades of state-sponsored brutality, torture, and murder at the school would have never come to light had a small group of former inmates (called the “White House Boys” after the cinder block White House, a torture facility on the school’s campus) filed a lawsuit against various Florida agencies for the abuse they suffered there. The abuse wouldn’t have come to light had the St. Petersburg Times not covered it in a special report, “For Their Own Good” (http://www.tampabay.com/features/humaninterest/article992939.ece), about dozens of men who said they were severely beaten there as boys in the 1950s and ’60s.

Around the time of the investigation, the St. Petersburg Times spoke with two men who say they were forced as boys to dig child-sized holes on the campus. These men, suspicious of authority, would not cooperate with investigators, fearing the investigators would destroy evidence. Mark Perez, FDLE chief of executive investigations, claimed “hundreds” of witnesses “did not provide any first-hand knowledge . . . that would refute the information provided in these records.”

But the St. Petersburg Times found that investigators did not talk to several people who were willing to talk and had direct knowledge of suspicious deaths. They did not talk to Roger Kiser, a founder of the White House Boys, and they didn’t talk to Johnnie Walthour, a 75-year-old Jacksonville man who told the Florida Times-Union a friend died after a beating in the early 1950s.

If you read the St. Petersburg Times story, you will see that a former superintendent and staff members at the school say these atrocities never happened. But as we see Florida’s approach to “justice” in the continuing persecution of Alex King, it is impossible to believe such self-serving claims of innocence.

These abusers of children want us to believe they are kindly church-going old men who go fishing with their grandchildren and scratch puppies behind the ears. But we know better. We are intimately familiar with the culture of injustice and abuse they fostered and which has metastasized into Florida’s present day system. Justice will be done!

“Though the mills of God grind slowly, yet they grind exceeding small;
  Though with patience He stands waiting, with exactness grinds He all.”

~ Baron Friedrich von Logau from the Sinngedichte

۞

Groove of the Day 

Listen to Bob Marley performing “Time Will Tell”

 

This license plate is now available for sale for $25 from http://www.kingbrostrust.org. Please enter "license plate" as a note. $15 of the price will help defend Alex King against this injustice.