All photos by the author On Saturday night in Brooklyn, solemn quiet hung over the area surrounding Myrtle Avenue and Tompkins Avenue in Bedford-Stuyvesant, where a few hours earlier Ismaaiyl Brinsley “assassinated” NYPD officers Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos while they were eating lunch in their …
I just got word the other day about yet another senseless murder that can be attributed to our nations current gun violence epidemic. Unlike many of the other instances, this one hit really close to home for me due the victim Jonathan Messenberg, aged 18 being an AmeriCorps member volunteering his time to others when it happened.
Although it’s always tragic when someone so young has their life cut so short, this instance really broke my heart to learn about. This particular young man was murdered shortly after beginning his first project during his Corps year with AmeriCorps National Civilian Community Corps which should have been a 10 month stint. This is the same program I participated in several years ago and credit as being a major influencing event in my life thus far. This young man was in New Orleans to do some good for others, and it cost him his life.
In response to Joseph’s murder, NCCC has opted to remove both teams in New Orleans at the time, indefinitely.
I disagree with this response the organization has taken, unless there exists some sort of concrete evidence that his work with AmeriCorps was a factor in his death. We do no service in shielding those we would encourage to tackle the tough issues of today and tomorrow from the very situations we would encourage them to become familiar with and take on. Allowing what appears to be a random act of violence thought to be in some way gang related occurring in a densely populated urban setting known to offer the inherent risks associated with violence to serve as justification for teams abandoning their current projects is a bad call all around damaging any reputation for being a committed agent of change the organization may enjoy within the communities it serves. Rather than sticking around until the task at hand is completed, they have opted to abandon these communities, probably to the very same gangs at the root of the problem.
Reading his family’s description of him, I was able to relate to him on many levels as a person. His motivations for joining were much like my own and those of others in applying to the program; the opportunity to act upon personal convictions, helping others. By focusing on the needs of others and not yourself for a change, you become connected to something larger and more important than your own ambitions; offering a true sense of community. Exposure to this shared sense of community provides participants with a generally more well-rounded and healthy life perspective.
For what was essentially a selfless act by Jonathan to result in him paying the final price of his life at the age of 18 is well beyond being tragic. My opinion is that it is one of those rare moments where the worlds twisted sense of irony is on full display, clearly visible for all to see.
Like most deaths that come as a result of gun violence, very little rhyme or reason has been left for others to begin to attempt piecing together any explanation to the inevitable question, WHY.
Ultimately it will add up to nothing more than a terrible choice by whoever pulled the trigger and the bad luck on the part of Joseph’s inadvertently being in the wrong place at precisely the wrong time. Its the only possible explanation regardless of working hours devoted to detective work, or creative ways to try to slice and dice it; this unsatisfying excuse for an explanation and its unsavory nature as close to one as will ever exist.
To know first-hand how much the program would have influenced and benefited someone like the victim, actively interested in influencing the world around them only makes the loss all the more devastating, and wasteful; if that’s even possible.
For reasons we will never fully grasp, Jonathan never had the full opportunity to interact and grow as a conscious citizen among other people of similar interests. He will no longer be able to later bring his experiences in the benefits of direct action to his future community or organization. For his life to be cut short at precisely the time he stood to gain the most by virtue of his surroundings is an absolute travesty and a waste; a disservice to our future.
Gone forever is yet another potential community leader of the future both willing and able to take an active approach towards fulfilling our often neglected civic duty of ensuring we work to leave posterity with an improved product from that which we inherited. By working to change the injustices we notice in society and not passing the buck off, we make sure that those who follow are less likely to become burdened with fixing the broken remnants of decrepit or discredited ideologies or entities they had nothing to do with.
For someone driven enough to turn their beliefs into actions to be cut down by men a lesser quality and scruples than himself only further salts an already festering wound.
what a waste, what an utter waste.
Speaking from my own experiences with the same program, as well as the general consensus of those I shared that experience with, I know that his time with AmeriCorps and what it taught him would have changed his life in so many meaningful ways; if only he had that opportunity or option.
I know that I can speak for all service oriented members of the AmeriCorps family both past and present when I say he is on our minds today as we reflect upon our shared loss; he is gone, but not forgotten. My thoughts go out to his AmeriCorps teammates, his friends and most importantly his family as they mourn their sudden loss; may the ideals he stood for live on within each of you helping to guide your actions toward helping to carry out his goal of creating a better society than the one we currently live in, ensuring his memory and his passion will continue to live on.
It is my sincere hope no more of these tragedies are required in order for us to urge our elected leaders away from the lofty rhetoric surrounding the issue on both sides and down a path of common sense in our approach to gun control in this country. Even by settling on things like mandatory background checks which it is generally agreed should already exist (unless of course you’re the NRA) offers the potential of decreasing the number of gun related deaths we now see.
- A Day in Grey for Joseph Massenburg (americorpsalums.org)
- AmeriCorps member from Chicago area slain in New Orleans (thegrio.com)
- Volunteer community shocked at AmeriCorps teen’s murder (wwltv.com)
- Thank You for Being “Made In AmeriCorps” (americorpsalums.org)
- AmeriCorps Volunteer From Chicago Area Gunned Down In New Orleans (hiphopwired.com)
- Matteson teen fatally shot while volunteering in New Orleans (wgntv.com)
- AmeriCorps making a difference (jsonline.com)
- After slaying, AmeriCorps pulls 2 teams out of La. (utsandiego.com)
- National service and the sequester (strongerdemocracy.org)
A judge recently ordered George Zimmerman to turn himself in to authorities after revoking his bail. It appears that this came as a result of the large sum of money that Zimmerman had raised via the internet for his defense. According to authorities they have a recording between Zimmerman and his wife discussing moving this sum of money from a PayPal account to a different account. Zimmerman is now at trial for 2nd degree murder, for the tragic incident that resulted in the death of unarmed teenager Trayvon Martin. The circumstances surrounding this case caught the nation by storm, captivating audiences from coast to coast, especially the long gap between the incident and Zimmerman’s arrest.
Personally, I look at his bail being revoked as karma finally working its way back into the universe. His free pass of over a month, before even being arrested, seems more than enough. This whole case from start to finish has taken on the subtle overtones of a Ringling production, I keep waiting for the bearded lady to make her cameo, or shake hands with those who smell of cabbage. Zimmerman was in hiding for an undisclosed length of time prior to being arrested under the auspices of it being for his own safety. Strangely enough, he appears to have gone into hiding so well that his original lawyers lost contact with him. Regardless of whether it was for his own safety or not, I would imagine that Zimmerman’s innate ability to channel Houdini would be cause enough to make the judge feel sketchy regarding his flight risk. Combine his inner ninja with a very successful internet campaign to raise money for his defense, (the sum of which is uncertain to the best of my knowledge), and it would be a safe bet, he in fact does pose a flight risk.
Im going to go ahead and be honest about the fact it is extremely hard for me to stay unbiased on this case. Many of the issues which I see to be central to the case, such as racism, beaurocratic incompetence and injustice, in addition to combatting them are very central to my beliefs. Despite my first urge to demonize Zimmerman like a Jehova Witness going door to door during football season, without at least attempting to look at all the facts. Even when looking at everything as objectively as possible, from a different point of view, I cant help but reach the same conclusion.
Regardless of all the media hype, or intense rhetoric surrounding the case from both sides, my belief is that he should have been tried for a lesser crime. I feel that he 100% is responsible for what happened that night and needs to be held accountable. If he would have followed the directions of law enforcement, he never could have come into harms way, even if harms way is a 17 yr old skittle toting madman. His life and his property were not in jeapordy as the situation was described to police, he fulfilled his duty by notifying the proper authorities of “suspicious” activity. By his desire to be there when the police arrived and “busted” the bad guy (again, 17 yr old skittle toting mad-man), he exhibited something more than someone just trying to do their civic duty. George Zimmerman wanted to be a hero that night, but like many a man who set out to be a hero; things didn’t go his way (*allegedly).
George Zimmerman’s quest to be a hero, appears to have followed much the same path as his predecessor, Don Quixote, nothing but mishap. Whether the loss of life included any sense of malice or pre-meditation, is for a jury to decide, but I think that there is at bare minimum a solid case for a variety of manslaughter charges to successfully be prosecuted. Even if the death was purely accidental, he is still responsible for pulling out the gun and pulling the trigger. Unfortunately, after the Johannes Mehserle case in Oakland, I don’t have very much faith in the justice system working out in favor of its namesake; especially when young African-American males are concerned.
Also, I really can’t stand the current treatment given the young victim by the media in all this. After becoming a martyr through the early reports of the crime, things have come full circle. Currently, it is much more likely to hear young Martin’s character be dragged through the mud, than to hear him spoken of as an innocent victim. I remember hearing recently that Trayvon Martin’s toxicology screening was made public…Not only do I see this as being pointless, I feel like it has become character assassination upon someone who has absolutely no opportunity to defend themselves. For all I’m concerned (for all anyone should be for that matter) this kid could have smoked like he was on tour with Ice T. or Cypress Hill. What he does on his free time holds absolutely zero relevance on the events that followed. He could have lit up directly in front of the neighborhood watch and it wouldn’t matter. Zimmerman was not designated, or trained to follow him, nor does he hold any official title which would require him to do so. He was somebody attempting to be a good Samaritan, and things went wrong, good intentions do NOT excuse what followed.
It just makes me really sad that there are people out there who for whatever reason will never be able to look at this young man as a victim, regardless of the evidence. Trayvon Martin’s right to stand HIS ground is rarely spoken of, the NRA isn’t spinning it as if he would have lived if he had been packing. No its Zimmerman and HIS right to stand his ground….even if the ground hes standing is moving apparently… Are we really scared of black youth to such a degree these days? To where peoples first reaction is to shoot first and ask questions later? (even the police) Each and every negative aspect about his character will be more than enough for bigotry to hammer another nail into the coffin. This whole spin that perhaps Martin was a drug dealer is so ludicrous I mean seriously people; how many scary pot dealers or smokers do you know? Allowing the report that the 17 year old kid had marijuana in his system to dominate or taint the conversation, provides only a temporary distraction to the real issues;
Having been 17 once, I can assure you, the people who did not have THC in their system at one point or another at my school were the exception and not the rule. Does that mean that any one of my classmates deserved to be shot and killed as they walked home from a 7-11 by a self-appointed neighborhood vigilante? I should hope not. I’m not making any judgements about Zimmerman’s character or intentions, he just exercised poor judgement, resulting in the death of an innocent kid and he’s gonna have to pay the piper sooner or later. It appears the judge agrees with me about the sooner part…
Heres some more of my commentary on this sad soap opera;
- FLORIDA – Defense: George Zimmerman in police custody (claimyourinnocence.wordpress.com)
- George Zimmerman Back in Jail after Having Bond Revoked (VIDEO) (blippitt.com)
- Zimmerman credibility may be hurt by bond dispute – CBS News (cbsnews.com)
Alright Folks, Play-time is OV-ER!
I Would appreciate it if all the fine, charming, intelligent denizens of WordPress would honor me with some assistance. If I have sufficiently stroked your ego’s I was hoping that you, my fine friends, could help satisfy my personal curiosity (and perhaps your own) by giving 2.3 minutes of your time.
Lets Play a Little Game;Seeing as how George Zimmerman has finally at least been arrested for the death (accidental, or otherwise) of unarmed teenager Treyvan Martin, what next? Is He Guilty? Innocent? Will he be convicted? or will this be yet another miscarriage of justice from a state whose middle name must be FAILURE…. only recently getting clear of the “you-know-who shit-storm” ( and no, I don’t mean Voldemort). Chime in, voice your opinion and see how it stacks up to that of your neighbor!
- Zimmerman Questions (jhaines6.wordpress.com)
- Strength of case against George Zimmerman questioned (bazaardaily.com)
- Zimmerman Arrested On Murder Charge (pochp.wordpress.com)
- Zimmerman’s First Court Appearance (lezgetreal.com)
- Atty: Zimmerman bail hearing next week (kshb.com)
It Must Be Something In That Swamp Water:
I was checking my daily news feeds when I chanced upon this which is the most personally sickening thing (to me) to come out of the “great” state of Florida. This is saying something, because this is the very same ass-backwards state where twelve idiots voted to acquit a woman (who I wont give the satisfaction or publicity of naming), despite pretty compelling evidence of wrongdoing to the tune of criminal negligence at the least.
Alright alright, I know that I’m a little late to the game but this is a truly tragic tale. It’s the story about the murder of an unarmed adolescent at the hands of an adult with a firearm. 17-year-old Trayvan Martin (African-American) shot in the chest and killed on the night of February 26th, at the hands of George Zimmerman 28, as he was returning to a friends from the local 7-11. Trayvan had gone to buy snacks, much as you would expect any “teenager” to do. Understandably, this is a story which has swept and split the nation, about that age ol’ issue we can’t seem to outrun, or ignore, no matter how hard we try to…..RACE…. This case evokes such loud national outcry, near unanimous indignation, the likes of which we havent seen since the brutal murder and later public funeral of young Emmett Till. The Chicago youth murdered down in the Mississippi Delta while he was visiting family back in 1955.
Eerily Similar To Emmet Till
The Till case served as an epochal moment, beginning the “Movement” for many people. Pure, unabashed Southern racism and brutality on display for the whole world to see. Due to the good ole’ boys atmosphere filled with white indifference that “horse and pony show” trial, which resulted was all that a negro could hope to receive in the Jim Crow south ofde jure segregation.
No second shooter on the grassy knoll here, just George Zimmerman. A murderer by any reasoned understanding of the term, yet he was never even placed under arrest by the Sanford police department. They cited his claim that he acted in “self defense” as reasoning for the lack of such an arrest. According to Florida state law he acted within his rights as far as the Sanford Police Department‘s concerned. He’s licensed to carry a firearm, and he was only protecting himself…..(from the skittle toting boogeyman)….right? Now I don’t know about any of you but I’ve had enough personal encounters with police and watched enough late night Law & Order to know the cops never take the first story someone gives them as complete unwavering truth. Toss in the fact that this resulted in the loss of another human beings life and he should have at least spent the night in jail while they went over the evidence and his account of the events and made sure that “self defense” rang true. Perhaps then, it would have dawned on them that his whole account is either total bullshit, or he’s mentally unstable. I mean, completely insane, and I’m talkin bat-shit crazy here people. The “self defense” defense kinda goes out the window when you are the one chasing the other person as they are running away from you. You’re the one packin heat, trying to play hero and save your neighbors from the “black menace”, or whatever it is he convinced himself of. Next thing you know he’ll say the twinkies made him do it…. I only say black menace because the majority of the 40 something calls he placed to the police involved…[drumroll]….[ding.ding.ding] you guessed it! African Americans.
Trayvan Deserves Justice:
Initially I began to look into this somewhat skeptically. Assuming there stood good chance that it was being exaggerated and blown out of proportion. I was fully prepared to have to separate fact from fiction in determining my own judgement. All it took was one listen to the 911 tapes which were released. Nearly instantly, I felt the need to vomit. Its a taste that still clings between my cheeks unwilling to vacate until justice is served. Very clearly you can hear the young boy yelling, no screaming out for help in sheer terror in the background as someone called police. And then you hear the gunshot that ended his suddenly truncated life, cut all too short by a man who dispatchers told to leave it to authorities. Perhaps it is the fact that most Americans when confronted with the facts of this case (which are the same in any article you read about it) have a similar response gastric response to mine which has led the government to assure the public that it will make sure that due process is observed and justice served….. Assurances which hold absolutely no meaning on the 20th of March for a murder on the 26th of February.
Apparently Sanford Police didn’t get that administration or law enforcement memo, or the one from the rest of the world for that matter. You know, the one that said “these times they are a chaaaangin” to quote Dylan, or that we now live in the 21st century where blatant racism is no longer accepted or allowed. This case was closed in their eyes, had been for some time and would have stayed that way had the pesky media not gotten ahold of it. A fact which draws yet another eerie parallel to the death of young Mr. Till, way back when, in 1955. Were it not for the media coverage it received and the movement it helped to galvanize, it was just one of countless, instances of southern white justice being served in the eyes of white Mississippi‘ans. Nothin out of the ordinary.
I would just like to make clear that my post draws upon many of the articles recounting this horrible tragedy and is not taken specifically from one or the other. It is merely my reaction to this terrible event, based upon the resources I had at my disposal. I have tried to fairly give credit/track-baks where I was able.
- Trayvon Martin: “Why Are You Following Me?” (tinfoilhatman45.wordpress.com)
- Trayvon Martin: When “Suspicion” Leads to (Wrongful) Death (decadentdiva.wordpress.com)
- DOJ to investigate Trayvon Martin shooting (thehill.com)
- Trayvon Martin: Another Victim of “Stand Your Ground” Law (fidlerten.com)
- HUMAN RIGHTS Petition! Don’t Turn Your Eye. Fight for ALL RIGHTS!! (inthemixwithtre.wordpress.com)
- FBI, DOJ to launch investigation in murder of Trayvon Martin (twitchy.com)
- What If Trayvon Martin Was Standing HIS Ground? (candidobservation.wordpress.com)
- Lawrence O’Donnell Panel Condemns The Injustice In The Trayvon Martin Case (mediaite.com)
- Everything You Should Know About The Trayvon Martin Case (theshaunsays.com)
- Rev. Al Sharpton: Why race matters in the Trayvon Martin tragedy (thegrio.com)
- Why Trayvon Martin murder is not just a ‘black problem’ (thegrio.com)
- Justice Dept. Investigating Florida Killing After Outcry – New York Times (nytimes.com)
- Is Trayvon Martin this generation’s Emmett Till? (thegrio.com)
- Trayvon Martin is the modern-day Emmett Till (themoxiesophic.com)
- Rep. John Lewis Compares Death Of Trayvon Martin To 1955 Lynching Of Teen Emmett Till (mediaite.com)
- Modern Day Lynching:Trayvon Martin is Emmitt Till of our Generation (sammyscoops.wordpress.com)