I have been putting off posting my essay on this story for some time. I would sit down in front of my laptop and attempt to write my thoughts on this horrible crime, only to push away from the computer and compose myself, and promise myself that I would try again the next day. Only thing is, I would do the same thing the next day, and the next, and the next.
Finally, I told myself today I will speak to this tragic event; tragic in that the value of human life matters so very little to so many people. Tragic in that so few people know of this story. Tragic in that this story speaks of the heartlessness and inhumanity that so many people show towards their fellow human beings.
But first, here is the story of what happened to a Haitian mother and her young son on June 18, 2007:
Dunbar Village Housing Projects is a public housing apartment complex in the North Tamarind area of West Palm Beach, Florida, which is adjacent to the neighborhoods of Pleasant City and Northwest and is in the northern part of the city. The complex is often called Dunbar and is known for its crime ridden streets and townhouses. According to The Palm Beach Post, prior to a woman being gang raped on June 18th, 2007, police were called to the housing complex almost two times a day. (Built in the late 1940s for West Palm Beach’s low-income black American citizens, Dunbar Village is one of the first housing projects in the state of Florida. It was named for the black American poet Paul Lawrence Dunbar.)
That this crime happened in this community with the mother and son screaming and crying for their lives while these “humans” attacked them brutally, speaks volumes about the coldness and deadness in these people who attacked this defenseless mother and her child:
“WEST PALM BEACH – Mother and son huddled together, battered and beaten, in the bathroom – sobbing, wondering why no one came to help.
Surely the neighbors had heard their screams. The walls are thin in the violence-plagued housing project.
For three hours, the two say, the 35-year-old Haitian immigrant was raped and sodomized by up to 10 masked teenagers as her 12-year-old son was beaten in another room.
Then, mother and son were reunited to endure the unspeakable: At gunpoint, the woman was forced to perform oral sex on the boy, she told a TV station.
Afterward, they were doused with household cleansers, perhaps in a haphazard attempt to scrub the crime scene. The solutions burned the boy’s eyes.”
No one came to the mother and child’s cry for help. No one called 911. No one did anything:
“The thugs then fled with a couple hundred dollars’ worth of cash, jewelry and cell phones.
In the TV interview, the mother described how she and her son sobbed in the bathroom, too shocked to move. Then, in the dark, they walked a mile to a hospital because they had no phone to call for help.
So far, three teenagers – ages 14, 15 and 16 – have been arrested.
Welcome to Dunbar Village, a place residents call hell.”
The reaction of some of the residents to this heinous crime was unfathomable:
“So a lady was raped. Big deal,” resident Paticiea Matlock said. “There’s too much other crime happening here.”
I guess humans destroying and annihilating each other is now so normal, that a mother and her innocent son can be subjected to vicious, savage and sadistic brutality. I guess, “Big deal”, if this woman who uttered those words ever needs for someone to come to her cry for help. I guess big deal that there are many people outside of this community who know nothing of this crime. I guess, “Big deal”, that the Reverends Al and Jesse have yet to speak out on this hateful crime. I guess, “Big deal” that it happened to a black woman and her son. I guess, “Big deal”, that it happened in a black neighborhood, afterall, they are just “animals” so who cares? I guess, “Big deal”, what can you expect of those who live below the poverty level? I guess, “Big deal”, all of them that live there have no morals nor are they respector of other human beings lives, what the hell, why not write them all off?
That this mother left Haiti in search of a better life, came to America only to end up being raped, beaten and sodomized, is the ultimate insult to her and her son. That she fled a country where destitute poverty, third-world conditions, corrupt government, lack of potable drinking water, sub-standard housing conditions, practically non-existent health care exists—-that she and her son were so hatefully abused when they came to America to escape a hard life in Haiti, only to experience this horrid crime of debasement and depravity is so heartbreaking.
“Dunbar Village was the only place the 35-year-old Haitian immigrant could afford on what money she got by selling Avon products or delivering phone books.
“Each day, she would shower, cook for her son, braid hair for her friends, and hope for relief from her chronic backaches. She was a university student in Haiti who came here and worked in a nursing home until she fell and hurt her back.
“She did not socialize with neighbors or buy the sin some of them sold.
“On Sundays, she made sure her son’s slacks were pressed, his tie knotted handsomely. She wore a bright smile and her best dress and drove two miles to the services in French and Creole at St. Ann Catholic Church.
“The single mom found the St. Ann congregation around 2000, after she and her son were granted green cards to relocate from Port-Au-Prince, Haiti, to live near her father in West Palm Beach.
“She usually arrived early and sat in the front row. Her son was her shadow. He sat with her, stood by her, listened to her conversations.
“She prayed. She read the liturgy. She sang in the choir.
“But she has not been back in three Sundays. And she has not returned to Dunbar Village since 3 a.m. June 19, when she walked a mile to the hospital in searing pain, her son holding her up.”
Or what about this crime that occured less than a mile from Dunbar Village; a crime where a 14-year-old raped and robbed a 42-year-old woman?
The perverse acts of these accused were violent and degenerate. People have to ask themselves what has happened to the minds and souls of these young men that raping, sodomizing and terrorizing a mother and her son was something that could be so cavalierly done, that these attackers cared so little for themselves, and therefore could not care about the humanity of another human being? That they committed these crimes and did not care whether or not they would be caught (one of the attackers left a used condom behind)?And what more horrific crimes did they have in mind to commit if the three who were caught would have been able to go on to commit more psychotic and damnable crimes? (The other 7 attackers remain at large.)
Many so-called black organizations have yet to speak out on this vicious crime, and what was done to the other woman in the second crime.
Rev. Sharpton can declare August 7, 2007 a “National Day of Shame”, over misogynistic rap lyrics. But, there is no day of shame response from him about what happened to this mother and her son. Where is the outcry from him?
Rev. Jackson can offer an unsolicited scholarship to the Duke rape accuser, but, where is he in offering a scholarship to this mother? She too is a student and not only is she in need of medical and psychological treatment, she also is in need of financial help for her school and for her not being able to return to work due to this trauma. Where is the outcry from him?
The N.A.A.C.P, which is still supposed to champion the cause of all black people, whether black American or Haitian. Where is the outcry from them?
The Southern Christian Leadership Conference, which is supposed to investigate heinous crimes committed against defenseless black people, where are they? Why have they not spoken out against this crime? Where is their outrage?
The National Council of Negro Women. The “organization of organizations” that was created to protect black women’s concerns, in the national as well as the international arena. The NCNW which was created by the great Mary McCloud Bethune in 1935. The organization founded to help black women realize their goals. Where is the outrage from the NCNW?
Where is NOW? The National Organization of Women. They jumped on the Duke rape case last year. So far nothing has been heard from them. Where is their outrage?
Presidential contender Senator Barack Obama, who is so busily championing the cause of Genarlow Wilson; Sen. Obama who feels that the crime of statutory rape did not occur in the Wilson case. Where is his outrage?
Where is the voice of Senator Hillary Clinton decrying the painful humiliating denigration that this defenseless woman and her son suffered in this crime? Where is her outrage?
Where is Senator John Edwards? Did he not speak of championing the causes of the poor, the downtrodden, the plight of society’s underclass? Where is his outrage?
Russell Simmons, the rap magnate who made much money off the backs of black women, is crying about the rights of dogs in the Michael Vick case? But, where is his voice in what has happened to this mother and her son? Where is his outrage?
I’ll tell you where everyone’s misplaced outrage is. It is that this black mother and her son do not have the right to be accorded humanity. The black woman victim in this crime is just another devalued black woman who has no right to live in so many people’s eyes. Not to mention that this crime does not fit all of the following:
It does not involve a white-beating-up-on-a black crime.
It does not involve a cop-beating-up-on-a-black crime.
The victim is Haitian, and definately not a “petite, blue-eyed, blonde-haired, upper-middle class PRETTY WHITE WOMAN.
Black women and children are slaughtered day in and day out, but practically little to no major coverage is given to them. Black women are raped, abused, tortured, murdered, and their dead bodies put into cardboard boxes, doused in gasoline, and then set on fire.
Black women have half their faces blown away by jealous former boyfriends and mostly only the local news will cover it.
Black women are disparaged in racist, sexist rap lyrics that promote the sexualized gendered racism against black women. Sexualized gendered racism that comes from the lips of black men who are plagued with self-hatred and demonic, vitriolic hatred of black women, hatred that puts money into the pockets of the white men who run the music industry that gets fat and rich off of the controlling images of black women.
Black women are degraded, assailed, denigrated and defiled constantly in America and very few people speak up; many people do not care about the safety and welfare of black women and black girls.
Open season was declared on black women over 400+ years ago, and there is no end nor let up to that war on us any where in sight.
Black women are the only ones who can and usually speak up for us, for we know that if we do not do it, no one else (save a few people) will.
Black women have always been the “slaves of slaves”, and the silence of the NCNW on this crime is deafening. It is one thing to not have some of the men of your race not speak up for you. It is another when one of the highest black women’s organizations in America does not speak out against this crime. It is shameful that the NCNW does not come to the aid of this woman and give her and her young son succor and comfort.
Black women are being savaged. The proverbial beat-down on black women is part of a long and brutal history of one form of attack after another.
And where are the high-profile black women “leaders” who should be speaking out on this crime? Can they not speak up for black women?
I for one will not wait on the Als, the Jesses, the NCNW, nor anyone else.
The unbrideled sanctioned violence against black women and girls must be stopped. And to remain silent about it and not speak up against it will not stop it. It will only escalate and tear to pieces everyone who dares step in its way. It must be confronted; it must be challenged by all, and not just by black women, for black women are the canary in the coalmine. What affects us, will eventually affect ALL women. To think that what only harms and destroys black women is the problem only of black women is wrong and foolish. The very survival of black women is imperiled. We are under seige. War has been declared against us. And the silence of the rest of America not addressing our casualties must be faced up to and spoken about and not run from. And the silence from major news sources, the lack of TV coverage, the silence of the community will not stop this out-of-control violence against black women. People are silent on the atrocities carried out against black women and girls, because, what the hey, they are only just black women and girls, who cares about their lives, their sanity, their safety? By ignoring the sufferings of black women and girls, we sow the seeds for our own destruction. As long as these crimes are being committed against black women and girls, many people do not care, and many people will not speak up for fear that their speaking up will make them “black women lovers”, to use a take on the old saying, “nigger lovers”. Well, this country, and this world, can stand to have many more black women lovers; this country and this world can stand to have more people who care enough to break the silence on the destruction that is going on against black women and girls.
If black women can take care of the white master’s children he had with the white woman, as well as take care of the children she had forced on her by the master suring slavery; if black women can take care of the poor whites who passed through her segregated community, if black women during the rabid mob rule of lynchings could take care of the children of white people; if black women can take care of and feed hungry whites during the Civil Rights Movement, while white people were murdering and destroying black men and women who attempted to exercise their rights as U.S. citizens, then white people can and should also care about what happens to black women and girls.
If black women can work in solidarity with Native Americans in the South, even while those same Native Americans of the Five Tribes kept black women in bondage; if black women could bear the children of Native American men while those same Native American men sold and bartered those children as if they were so much wheat, so much corn; if black women could show humanity towards Native American people while those people of the Five Tribes continued to return runaway black enslaves to their white masters, then so too should Native Americans care about what happens to black women and girls.
If black women can feed and give comfort to Latino people who lived in the South during segregation and not raise a hand in violence against Latinos; if black women can give love, kindness and loyalty to Latino men during segregation, then so too should Latinos care about what happens to black women and girls.
If black women can love, and bear the children of Chinese men during segregation; give their hearts and minds to Chinese men during segregation; if black women can watch those same Chinese men walk off and leave them, and the children they had with black women, because the white man drew a line on the ground and told Chinese men: “Choose us [white people], or choose them [black women], or else we will turn our backs on you and relegate you to the status of black people if you continue to seek solidarity with them”, and those same Chinese men who lived with those black women, who did not stand firm and say, “No, I will not leave this woman who gave me her love, her fidelity, her loyalty—-who bore my children through the pains of childbirth, I will stay with her.” If black women could watch those Chinese men walk off and leave them and their children to enter the arms of prejudiced whites and turn their backs on a race of women who have done them no harm, if black women can care for Asian people, then they too should care about what happens to black women and girls.
If black women can stand by the side of the black man during slavery, Reconstruction, Jim Crow segregation, risk lynching speaking up in the defense of black men and boys, take all the brunt of white society’s anger and rage when black men are accused of heinous crimes, if black women can still stand firm against any and all who defame and attempt to annihilate black men, then so too should black men care about what happens to black women and girls.
EVERYONE SHOULD CARE AND GIVE A DAMN ABOUT WHAT HAPPENS TO BLACK WOMEN AND GIRLS.
And their silence in standing by and watching this continued age-old war that is destroying black women and girls is the height of utter disregard.
Silence equals complicity.
Audre Lorde spoke about the tyranny of silence and how it leaves devastation in its wake:
“I have come to believe over and over again that what is most important to me must be spoken, made verbal and shared, even at the risk of having it bruised or misunderstood.
“In becoming forcibly and essentially aware of my mortality, and of what I wished and wanted for my life, however short it might be, priorities and omissions became strongly etched in a merciless light, and what I most regretted were my silences. Of what have I ever been afraid? To question or to speak as I believed could have meant pain, or death. But we all hurt in so many different ways, all the time, and pain will either change or end. Death, on the other hand, is the final silence. And that might be coming quickly, now, without regard for whether I had ever spoken what needed to be said, or had only betrayed myself into small silences, while I planned someday to speak, or waited for someone else’s words. And I began to recognize a source of power within myself that comes from the knowledge that while it is most desirable not to be afraid, learning to put fear into a perspective gave me great strength.
“I was going to die, if not sooner then later, whether or not I had ever spoken myself.
“My silences had not protected me.
“Your silence will not protect you.”
We can’t keep waiting to speak up in defense of black women and girls. We can’t keep waiting on someone else to speak up. So many missed opportunities, so many missed chances to do right. We all let those chances to make a difference pass us by. Chances many of us do not get again. We must not fret and worry about what someone else may think of what we say in defense of someone, anyone who has a different color, a different race, a different gender, a different nationality, a different socio-economical station in life. We risk living lives of paralysis if we sit around fearing what others may think of us when we speak up for and challenge the wrongs that daily go unacknowledged; wrongs that destroy so many lives.
The silence in not speaking up must cease.
The concern and caring that black women and children so desparately need is the contact that not only will help them, it will also help those who reach out to protect black women and children not just because they are black but because they are our fellow human beings who deserve just as much right to live lives of safety just as much as anyone else. The contact that other people make with black women in America, the contact that other Americans will need to look past the outer differences, and instead to acknowledge the inner humanity of all black women and children, will be the bridge that must be crossed to accept that black women and children should no longer have to suffer from cruelties and degradations other than just because they are black.
Crossing this bridge of outer differences, this bridge of indifference, this callousness of disregarding another human’s suffering will give strength to those who look at black women and children as what they are—members of the human race, not entities who are only worthy of contempt and disrespect.
There is a war going on in the lives of many black women and girls, and many people do not care and are beyond oblivious to it.
But, make no mistake, black women and girls are fighting a war for their very survival.
And it is time that ALL Americans cared enough to give a damn about what happens to black women and girls.
[A fund has been established for the young mother and her son.
Checks can be made payable to the Dunbar Village Victim Assistance Fund-St. Ann. They can be dropped off at any Wachovia branch or mailed to: St. Ann Catholic Church, 310 N. Olive Ave., West Palm Beach, FL 33401. The church’s phone number is (561) 832-3757.]