Lately, I’ve had this sense of urgency to get out, be more vocal and apart of the change I want to see in our community. This burning desire to fight for equality for our people has weighed heavily on my heart. However, I didn’t know how to get started, where to go or who to talk to about how I was feeling. Four days before the murder of Botham Jean, I sent an email to civil rights activist and journalist Shaun King to get some advice as to how I can lend my help to the cause. I have yet to receive a response but when Botham was murdered, I felt it was confirmation that I needed to get out and get busy.
Since Botham’s passing, there have been several rallies and protests that have occurred. A part of me wanted to be go out in solidarity but I was hesitant to say the least. I got word of a town hall meeting being held at a local church in Dallas on what would have been Botham’s 27th birthday. I decided that I would be a part of the town hall with the anticipation of getting more answers about the case as there are a lot holes in the story. The town hall opened up with prayer from the host pastor followed by words from the attorneys representing the family of Botham Jean’s family. Allison Jean, Botham’s mother called in to thank the community for our efforts and to reinforce that she will not stop fighting until justice is served for her beloved son.
The tension in the church’s sanctuary rose as members of the panel were introduced which consisted of Dallas District Attorney Faith Johnson. Dallas Police Chief Renee Hall was also invited to the town hall but could not attend due to a family matter. Sadly, there wasn’t anyone else there to no represent the Dallas Police Department in Chief Hall’s absence. Needless to say, this did not sit well with attendees.
One of the first questions presented to Ms. Johnson was if she was going to change the charge from manslaughter to murder. Instead of answering the question directly, Ms. Johnson insisted on explaining the process by which charges are garnered and who issues them. She assured the crowd that all the evidence will be presented to the grand jury and alluded that a murder charge could be given to Amber Guyer if such evidence supports it. Unfortunately, Ms.Johnson never plainly stated the charges would be upgraded which angered the crowd even the more. Instantly there were chants of “vote her out”, “no justice, no peace” being exclaimed all over the building. There was even a faint voice of an elderly woman that repeated “murder not manslaughter.”
This was my first time at a rally so I was sitting there in disbelief yet chuckling on the inside. I couldn’t believe how people were being blatantly disrespectful in a house of worship. The cussing and fussing took me by surprise. I understand individuals were frustrated and angry but I think there has to be a better way to channel that energy in effort to obtain understanding so we can work as unified team to facilitate change. Roland Martin was in the building to help moderate the town hall. Unfortunately, he was over an hour late and he was unsuccessful in corralling the crowd. At one point, protesters rushed the altar/stage where the panelist were seated while demanding answers to their questions.
When asked about the grand jury proceeding and when it would take place, Faith Johnson said she didn’t know. Later during the town hall, she was asked a 2nd time and stated it was a secret. Her inconsistencies pissed folks off even the more. Ms. Johnson lamented that it’s the goal of her office to ensure justice prevails in this case. However, some Dallas county citizens have lost faith in Faith Johnson which is evident by the backlash from the recent mistrial of former Mesquite police officer Derick Wiley. Mr. Wiley was accused of that shooting Lyndo Jones in the back twice. Mr. Wiley apprehended Mr. Jones because he assumed he was stealing a vehicle which in fact belonged to Mr. Jones.
The rally ended on a low note leaving people with more questions than answers. Ms. Johnson has her work cut out for her and desperately has to get this case right in order to win back the trust of Dallas residents. This is a case that is being monitored all across the nation and internationally. The world is watching to see if our criminal justice system will get it right this time around.