Tuesday, June 10, 2008

The Teachable Moments Of Mildred Beaubrun's Death

If you have not be following the tragic story of Orlando resident Mildred Beaubrun, then please check these links at Symphony's blog, Essential Presence to become familiar with the back story.
Everyone should be mourning the inexplicable and senseless murder of a young woman who celebrated her final birthday dying in a hospital room. A young woman who will forever be a teenager, never an adult woman.

Yet, while we mourn, we need to start paying attention and taking action. Mildred Beaubrun was not the first to suffer this kind of pointless violence and she will not be the last, if we do not admit to ourselves and to the public that black women and girls are just not safe in our society. Black women and girls are overlooked and devalued victims of violent crime everyday, every year. Instead of becoming angry, frustrated, whining or lamenting that unfortunate status, we must become protective and proactive for one another.

In my view, Mildred Beaubrun should still be alive. She would still be alive if black women in large numbers had paid attention and took action about the equally senseless murder of Sakia Gunn in 2003. Sakia Gunn was murdered o n Mother's Day in eerily similar circumstances to Ms. Beaubrun. While her home state of New Jersey staged a vocal outcry, the rest of the world failed to take notice. Too many black women and girls still have never heard of Sakia Gunn and that is a shame. A documentary is being made about her life and murder, please visit the site here.
We can mourn and save lives at the same time. I have yet to read any information to help black women and girls protect themselves from violent verbal assaults, physical abuse, sexual assault, and life-threatening violence. Where is the black equivalent of the organization, Girls Fight Back? And if we don't have one, we need to contact Girls Fight Back and start a partnership to help get their self-defense training program to become more available to black women and girls. I can vouch for the effectiveness of their program. They provide basic commonsense ideals that may just save you from being hurt or murdered.

Very few women have ever been in a physical altercation, it's what makes us perfect victims. If you have never been grabbed or struck, resulting in intense physical pain, your mind is thinking "I'm hurt" or "I've been struck" instead of "I have to get away" or I need to fight back." By the time the thought of self-defense kicks in, a woman is already often times in an indefensible position to escape harm.

I can't tell you how many adult and young black women I see skipping down the street yapping on a cellphone or zonked out with an I-Pod at its highest volume, completely indifferent to their surroundings and the people around them. Do you know what you are saying to a potential predator - Hi! Make me a victim!

I have a dumb ass black colleague who always refuses rides home from the local watering hole that all the young faculty and staff hangs out at it. She thinks that "pretending" to talk on her cellphone while walking the three blocks to her home is safe. WTF? I always look at her wonder if they put adults on milk cartons.

You never engage in an altercation with a stranger. Never! You really don't know who is crazy or how crazy they actually may be. That was part of the tragic mistake made the nights Sakia Gunn and Mildred Beaubrun died. And I am not blaming the victims here. It is a natural and human reaction to respond to insults and threats, but a knife or gun and some cowardly individuals desire to use those weapons, escalates a verbal dispute to a life-ending tragedy.

A woman has the right to be angry and offended when approached in a negative and threatening manner, but we need to understand the stakes are high.


Anonymous,  June 10, 2008 at 7:44 AM  

I put up a challenge on my blog for all Black women bloggers to set up a women's self-defense class in their areas. It doesn't take a lot of effort. For many, just a call to the local police department who do these classes for free.

Naima June 10, 2008 at 11:31 AM  

There are a lot of crazy people out there, especially these hyper sensitive (and not in good way) men walking around. Young women must just ignore these men, I know both Mildred and Sakia were with a group with their friends so they might have thought they were safe & sometimes when you are a teen with a bunch of your friends you are hyper respond to people in ways you might not have if you were alone.

Miss Issues June 10, 2008 at 1:03 PM  

Personally, I believe all this hooking up, the glorification of casual sex and sexism in urban culture is causing black men(especiall those 25 and younger) to become passive aggressive jerks. A lot of young men out here are not but narcissitic predators. It's amazing, a lot them believe just because they are interested in us we should jump at a chance to be with them.
We are ignoring a real problem in our communities, the openly disrespect of woman and the dangerous predatory out look on relationships.
As a teen-ager, I experienced being call a 'bitch' even when I politely told a guy I had a boyfriend. I see it's gotten worse

sevenofnine June 11, 2008 at 2:04 PM  

Thank you for this teaching moment.
In domestic violence relationships, fighting back often only makes matters worse. We all have heard of relationships, where the partners try to outdo each other by hitting harder, or destroying each other's property, when the best course of action is to leave. ASAP

MILDRED BEAUBRUN and her friends, in fact were trying to leave. Almost all of their exchanges happened while Mildred's friends, and their attackers, were in moving cars! This is a very dangerous scene! Unless you've been kidnapped, it's best never to fight in a moving car.
As you say, they should have kept quiet, and taken the shortest route to safety!

SAKIA GUNN's death was a different story.
Professor Tracy, you do injustice to Sakia by NOT saying she was a lesbian. Her death was ruled a hate crime!
Sakia and her friends were coming home at 3am from places where gay people hang out in the New York's Greenwich village. Sakia's attacker Richard McCullough was trying to pick her up. Her friends told him not to bother because they was gay. He became outraged, pulled out a switchblade and stabbed Sakia!
KEITH BOYKIN has an informative memorial to Sakia which you can read here:


In his memorial to Sakia, Mr. Boykin remembers Sakia's favorite gym teacher SHANIA BARAKA, Amiri Baraka's child who along with her friend RAYSHAWN HOLMES, was killed by Mr. Baraka's son in law Ibn el-Amin Pasha aka
(James Coleman,)
Shania and Rayshawn were both gay!

This is another teachable moment because gay people are still being killed in this country, just because they are gay! While remembering SAKIA GUNN, Mr. Boykin also remembers GREGORY LOVE, a student at Morehouse College in 2002, who was stabbed after he went into a shower stall occupied by another student to pick up his contact lenses. This enraged the other student, the son of a conservative minister, so much, that he came back with a baseball bat and killed Mr. Love!

Did you know that according to Rev. Irene Monroe writing in the BLACK COMMENTATOR (for many years):

"Morehouse was listed on the Princeton Review's top 20 homophobic campuses."


Rev Monroe suggests that it is still impossible to be openly gay at Morehouse!

Isn't this is a teachable moment just like Morehouse having its first white valedictorian?

Professor Tracey June 11, 2008 at 4:01 PM  

@Seven Of Nine,

One, You clearly STILL have NOT learned to STOP coming on my blog and start lecturing me about things I am already completely aware about! What I chose to post or not post is my damn choice!

Two, Please don't try to change the tone of my post. I wrote a post for ALL women to learn from, not just gay women. I provided multiple links to Ms. Gunn's story, every one that reads the post will know that her murder was a hate crime. The POINT of the post is that ALL women are in danger and that ALL women need to take responsibility to protect each other!

Three, as far as I am concerned, Mildred's death was a hate crime as well. The hatred of women!

Four, the crimes were not different! BOTH women were approached by men with UNWELCOMED advances! Both women engaged in verbal and physical altercations with the men that approached them! Both women were MURDERED by the one of the MEN that approached them!

Five, you don't know what the hell you are talking about with the Morehouse story at all. Mr. Love is alive and well and graduated from Morehouse. He was the one attacked by the baseball bat and his attacker was sentenced to prison! There was no stabbing!

Six, this is MY blog, not the "What's wrong at Morehouse College Weekly" I was sick of talking about Morehouse with the valedictorian piece when the story about them TRYING to make changes to prevent homophobia on campus. (you didn't mention or know that did you?) I didn't feel like fighting another war on my own blog by tackling homophobia at Morehouse and by black men. I am not interested in fighting every day, all the time.

Seven, here is your teachable moment - start your own blog and you write about it!

sevenofnine June 12, 2008 at 5:54 PM  

June 12, 2008

My Dear Professor Tracy,

I stand corrected! Keith Boykin's memorial to SAKA GUNN, cited above, from which I learned about the Morehouse shower incident, only states:

"On November 3, 2002, Morehouse College student Gregory Love was searching for
his contact lenses when he looked into an occupied shower stall in his dormitory.
He apologized for the mistake, but the enraged student in the shower left the bathroom, came back a few minutes later with a baseball bat, and struck Love repeatedly, leaving the bloody body on the bathroom floor... "

Boykin, in his piece, doesn't say whether Mr. Love lived or died.

Rev. Monroe, cited above, also refers to the shower incident.

"On November 4, 2002, a Morehouse College student sustained a fractured skull from his classmate, sophomore Aaron Price, not surprisingly the son of an ultra-conservative minister. Price uncontrollably beat his victim on the head with a baseball bat for allegedly looking at him in the shower."

It touches my heart to hear of your long-time concern about the homophobia at Morehouse. It really didn't sink in for me until Rev. Monroe wrote about it only two weeks ago. Perhaps it was hearing about male gay bashing from a (Black) woman who is also a minister that made the difference for me. Women are the moral gate keepers!

I also thank you for your multiple references to the Sakia Gunn case; including Keith Boykin's article "Sakia Gunn Remembered" which I have referred to at length.

I realize that your wrote this post for ALL women to learn from, not just gay women, and I fully support your conclusions that:

"ALL women are in danger and that ALL women need to take responsibility to protect each other!"

When there is a rapist on the loose our neighborhood, we all know that it is best to post signs, and alert everybody to be on guard.
The same is true for homophobia. All of us, both male and female, have male and female aspects to our personalities. Homophobia teaches men not to be "sissies", or "soft" and to suppress the female aspect of their personality. In other words homophobia teaches men to be hard and unfeeling, which are the qualities employed by rapists and batterers.

I refer you to Aisha Shahida Simmons documentary NO! about rape and date rape in the Black community. http://notherapedocumentary.org/

Many of the incidents cited in the movie take place at the traditionally Black Colleges, including Spellman.

Likewise, homophobia teaches women to be feminine, so that they won't be "butch," and to suppress the male aspects of their personality. These male aspects, e.g. "sports, physical conditioning, martial arts," are what enable women to protect other women, and themselves - which is the theme of your post.

What I have learned from our exchange is that homophobia hurts women as well as men, and that we should call it out, sound the alarm, the same way we do when there is a rapist on the loose in our neighborhood.

In addition, I learned that men (like myself) may listen more closely when it is a woman who is speaking out about homophobia, especially the homophobia
that is rampant in our Black community.

Best Wishes,


P.S. If I haven't told you before, you blog has the best artwork, and photos in the blogosphere. Thank you for today's photos of Sakia Gunn, and Sara Jones, and that great Michelle Obama cartoon - showing her "bullet deflecting hair."
I am truly indebted to you!

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