Friday, September 15, 2006

Just the Facts, Sir

Just the facts, Sir.
Robert W. Stanford
(originally published letter to Peace/Life Connections September 2006)

I am a human/civil rights activist and as such, one of the many duties I have taken upon myself over the past few years, is to monitor the conduct of law enforcement throughout Stanislaus

Over the past two months, there have been significant incidents of police conduct and procedure which have been extremely questionable. One in which involved an un-armed black man who
was shot by one of three officers. This occurred in Modesto.

And then of course there was the incident some in the public has deemed more notable – the rather ambiguous riot occurring in downtown Modesto over this last Labor Day weekend.

Though very few individuals have asked me about the first case, constantly by many people, I am being asked about the second.

In both of these cases, there exists a lack of evidence for any potential victims of Civil Rights Violations/Abuses. Such as consistent witnesses, video footage or photos. At least that
I know of at this time that is publicly available.

In other words, at the time of this writing, one would have no way of effectively presenting either of these cases in a court of law citing Civil Rights violation/abuses.

I feel that, personally, as a Civil Rights activist, I am left with no alternative but to do my very best to appropriately utilize these perceptions – That there “may” have, in one or both instances, occurred police misconduct which resulted not just simply within the Civil Rights violation/abuse of individuals of color, but at the general public at large (there is no difference). And then again, maybe not. Yet, another perception with the same insufficient amount of evidence.

Either way, there is now dialogue commencing between the general concerned public and local law enforcement. And law enforcement is immediately addressing police procedure reviews.
It is the perception, at this point in time, that can be used as a powerful force to send a positive message to ALL law enforcement what the expectations are in our communities – That we
demand and insist on having for ALL people, equal justice and our innocence until guilt is proven to the sincerest effort that truly proper police and legal procedure will allow. Not just on the
streets, but in our court and prison systems as well.

And in the meantime – Let us all cut right to the chase, wake up and realize that Respect and Dignity is a two-way street. Get me some video
and/or pictures. My contact information is below.

Copyright 2006 Robert Stanford all rights reserved.

For the Want of a Glass of Water

For the Want of A Glass of Water

Robert W. Stanford

(originally published Stanislaus Peace/Life Connections September 2006)

My name is Robert Stanford and I am a Civil/Humanrights advocate and activist. I am also aCaucasian, with a family history of immigrationto the United States rescued from Naziconcentration camps of Poland.

I grew up on a goat farm in Delhi, surrounded by Mexican immigrants, most of which could not speak English, but this did not deter my Grandparents and myself from working and communing with thesepeople over several years, without being able to communicate in a conventional sense.

My best friend was named Pedro, who spoke only Spanish, while I spoke only English. But I remember many dinners and evenings our families spent together as well as countless hours and events of my childhood comprised of Pedro and me.

When I contemplate what it would take to elicit compassion and understanding for undocumented Mexican immigrants from a seemingly hostile,competitive and heartless general public, too easily do I forget my own life experiences that have made it so much easier for me to open my mind and heart to undocumented Mexican immigrants despite any language or cultural barriers that might exist.

In the summer of 2005, I organized a coalition comprised of the only people I could convince to flock to my banner – Latino Senior Citizens,who themselves in their youth had worked in the fields of the Central Valley, to seek out small farms throughout Stanislaus, San Joaquin and Merced counties, delivering bottled water, health and pesticide information to undocumented migrant Mexican farm workers.

On one of these excursions I encountered an elderly undocumented Mexican woman. It was all she could do to walk over to me, navigating the furrows of the dirt field with legs that were tired and weak from hours of squatting with noshade or relief. When she reached me, I held out a bottle of the iced water I had brought. She ignored this and instead wrapped her arms around me and held me so tight, that I could feel her heart beat through the fabric of my perspiration-soaked t-shirt.

It was right then and there that I had a moment of clarity. I knew exactly who these people were, that were dying in record numbers at our border as well as in our very own fields. They were our Mothers, our Fathers, our Brothers, our Sisters, and our children – our Family.

A few days later, I stood respectfully before the Stanislaus Board of Supervisors pleading for understanding of the fatalities being suffered by migrant farm workers in our very own communities here in the Central Valley.

With great passion, emotion and tears, I spoke without rehearsal,“They are dying in our fields today, to put food on your table tomorrow!” I said, banging myfist on the podium.

One look at their indifferent white faces showed me that clearly I had wasted my time. For the same reason my voice and actions are marginalized by the local media, my passion and feelings were dismissed by these people.

How could I possibly know anything about the plight of a Mexican farm worker? I was not a Mexican, and even if I were, what would be their excuse then? To not so easily prevent the loss of a precious human life.

All for the want of a glass of water.

Robert Stanford