Who is Heather Ellis, you ask? Don't worry, you will know soon enough. We'll be damned if Sean Hannity and Michelle Malkin will be the ones telling you though. When it goes through their filter it will come out as perfectly fine that a woman should spend 15 years in jail for cutting in line at Wal-Mart, and we shouldn't pay attention to the police officer handing her Ku Klux Klan calling cards, because of course this is not a racial incident, and the man who makes friends with people like neo-Nazi Hal Turner and a woman who writes for the white nationalist website VDARE are the ones you can trust to tell you the truth on that. Now that we got that preemptive strike on those two clowns out of the way, let us explain. For the past few weeks black radio stations and television programs have been talking about an 2007 incident in Kennett, MO, where a woman named Heather Ellis got into a scuffle at a local Wal-Mart after she was accused of cutting in line. Heather and her cousin went to separate lines and when her cousin found the shorter line, Heather joined him. That's where someone got mad, accusing her cutting line by the cashier, which led to an altercation. When Ellis was asked to leave the store, she argued with the managers, which led to the police being called. Ellis was eventually charged with disturbing the peace, resisting arrest and two counts of assaulting a police officer, which apparently is what in Missouri they call cops banging someone's head against a police car while they are saying they are not resisting arrest.. Ellis, a college student on her way to medical school, is fighting the charges, particularly since she doesn't have a history of this kind of behavior, and she refused to sign a plea deal. That is why the prosecutor went after her on the felony counts, hence the 15 years. Now say what you will, but the racial concerns did not arise unil Ellis was handed KKK cards from a Kennett police officer warning her about her actions. The cards stated, "You've just been paid a social visit by the Ku Klux Klan; the next visit will not be social." The officer claims that he only showed the family the cards to make them aware of the situation, but folks are not too sure about that. As of this writing, the original prosecutor stepped aside after some public remarks made in regards to the case. He is being replaced by Morley Swingle, the prosecutor for Cape Girardeau County, MO, which is 100 miles away. Now you can be sure the latest in the conservative race war against blacks will be launched this week after this march takes place because Cape Girardeau is where Rush Limbaugh was born and raised, and the Limbaugh family are big players in the legal circles in this county. So just know that this time the conservative race war will be personal, but we will be fine. They did it to the Jena Six and all of them are going to college instead of prison now. They did it to Harvard Prof. Henry Louis Gates, and they were completely ignored. They will just be background noise. Listen to those that are affected, not race-baiting couch potato conservatives
Dr. Boyce Watkins, TheGrio.com
On November 16, 2009, the Your Black World Coalition, NAACP, National Action Network, and Southern Christian Leadership Conference plan to converge on the small town of Kennett, Missouri to fight for justice in the case of Heather Ellis, a 24-year-old college student who faces 15 years in prison for cutting line at a Wal-Mart.
When Justin and Journi, my assistant's children, brought this case to my attention, I was heartbroken. Their passion about the charges pushed me to action, so I reached out to others to form the "Journey for Justice" to honor the two young children who inspired us to take action in Heather's case.
I have spoken with the Ellis family extensively, and I've also spoken with those who are familiar with the case. It is my opinion that this trial represents one of the greatest travesties of justice imaginable. The greater concern is that Heather's dilemma is not the root of the problem - it is merely a symptom of broader systemic patterns of civil injustice.
In nearby Poplar Bluff, MO, a 15-year old boy, Walter Currie Jr., was doused with gasoline and set on fire by his classmates, with the perpetrator allegedly yelling racial epithets as he did it. Heather's case is just the tip of the iceberg when referring to the ultra-conservative Bootheel area, less than 100 miles away from the town where Rush Limbaugh was born.
Here are the 5 reasons why we will march on Kennett and why we are not going to stop:
1) A mind is a terrible thing to waste
Heather Ellis could be your child or my own. She wasn't out in the streets stealing, killing or using drugs. She was in college planning to go to medical school. Who would think that one trip to Wal-Mart could destroy the future of a hard working, ethical, preacher's daughter with no criminal record? Heather is not just the child of Pastor Nathaniel Ellis, she is a child of everyone.
2) This is part of a pattern of injustice
According to several of the town's leaders, Kennett's local TV stations mysteriously went to a blue screen when the family's press conference was scheduled to appear on local television. Surrounding towns had good reception, and some suspect that someone may have conspired to shut down the airwaves to avoid giving the case local publicity. The prosecutor in the case, Stephen Sokoloff, has a reputation for slamming horrific sentences onto people of color in the community and has requested a change of venue to nearby Bloomfield, MO, which has less than 40 African Americans in the entire town. Only the United States Justice Department has the power to intervene in response to such legal bullying, which is why we are reaching out to Attorney General Eric Holder.
3) Fighting the Ku Klux Klan
The family has been threatened by the KKK and a major in the local police force personally delivered the threat to the family. This is not to say that any members of the local police force are affiliated with the Ku Klux Klan, but the family argues that the town is so small that everyone knows everyone. As a result, they've had a difficult time finding an attorney who is not somehow connected to Prosecutor Sokoloff.
4) The Jena 6 was not enough
For every six cases of injustice that we see, there are another 60,000 cases that we don't see. The goal in this situation is not only to help the family of Heather Ellis, but to continue a prolonged strategy of developing legal and social infrastructure to support those who endure such tragedies on a regular basis. The legal system destroys as many black youth as the educational system, and it's time for this trauma to end.
5) Black leadership starts in the mirror
While I applaud Rev. Al Sharpton's support for this case, the truth is that he can't do it all by himself. Emails flood in for people asking for help, but emails should also be flooding in from those offering to help. The model of activism for the 21st century should not involve turning to a select few African-American social superheroes. Instead we should be training ourselves and our children to be captains of our own destiny - mobilizing thousands of brave and conscientious citizens behind legitimate social causes.
A leader can be killed, but a movement can live forever - our dreams must always survive.