Ferguson to St. Charles County March

Videos are on my YouTube Channel and live coverage on Twitter @STLAbuBadu . Yesterday we gathered for the Ferguson to St Charles County protest in defense of the Hunter-Butler family.  No family should face harassment because they don’t fit into a defined racial, cultural or lifestyle category.  For far too long racism has been allowed to fester in St. Charles County.  People have had enough.

It was a beautiful gathering.  Here are some photos.

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Marching

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Posted on Highway N for Black Lives Matter

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Marching through the Lake St Louis subdivision

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Maritha Hunter-Butler Speaks

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Abdul Butler ready to defend

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Pledges to bring Black Lives Matter signs to St. Charles County

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A woman whose family was racially harassed in St. Charles County

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Christopher Winston Speaks

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Talal and Brian in the background

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EJ, Heather, and Mama Chad among others.

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Syed Abdul-Basit at the Ferguson to St Charles County BBQ

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Umar Lee at the Ferguson to St Charles County BBQ

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Photo courtesy of Richard Reilly

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Photo courtesy of Richard Reilly

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Photo courtesy of Richard Reilly

Laclede Cab Fired Me for Black Lives Matter- My Response

In 2005 I was looking for a job. I’d just moved back to St. Louis after another stint in Brooklyn. The first job I had was working as a courier. I’d drive my souped-up Chevy around St. Louis delivering documents and blasting my radio all day. The money wasn’t good though.

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In my cab in 2005 chillin in College Hill by the Water Tower

A friend of mine had been driving a cab for a long time for Allen Cab. Allen is now out of business;  but back in the day was known as the “hood cab company”. He suggested I drive a cab. My friend Kelly Von Plonski from Subterranean Books also suggested cab driving may be good for me because I like to talk to people.  I decided to talk to my grandfather who had been a cabbie in St. Louis in the 1950’s. Grandpa told me driving a cab was hard; but I should give it a try.

I first applied to St. Louis County Cab. They told me I had to shave my beard. Not wanting to shave my beard I headed down to Laclede Cab and got hired immediately. 

For ten years I worked for Laclede Cab outside of three time periods.  In 2006 I went back to New York getting a job working for a market-research company and driving a livery-cab on the side.  In 2008 I went to Washington, DC to work as an aid to Imam Mahdi Bray of the Muslim American Society Freedom Foundation.  I came back to St. Louis with Fatimah (my then wife) and her sons. In 2009 I had a brief stint in Dallas due to family reasons and drove a cab down there and did some work for ACORN.

Laclede Cab would always hire me back because I had a good relationship with General Manager Kenny Whitehorn. Kenny is a great guy and runs Laclede Cab on a daily basis. He’s also the highest ranking African-American at the company.  I went to McCluer North with his nephew Jesse. 

Not everyone is as cool as Kenny. When I got hired the president was Jerry Standley.  To say Jerry wasn’t a people person is an understatement.  He was known for having a hot temper and firing people just for the hell of it. Before I was hired he reportedly walked around with a ruler measuring drivers hair to make sure it wasn’t too long. Shortly after I was hired he began offering a $100 reward for any driver who’d snitch on another driver for having a cell phone. 

Jerry Standley retired in 2006. However,  his son Stan remained as the company controller.  Sam has the honor of being a convicted child-rapist in North Carolina. For years if you wanted a de-seg VICC school-trip taking African-American children in the city to school in the suburbs you had to talk to Sam. Yep good ‘ole Sam the registered sex-offender just the one you want with all the addresses of the kiddos.

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Sam Standley. Registered sex offender and controller at Laclede Cab. A child-rapist is cool to Laclede Owner Dave McNutt. Fighting racism and police-violence isn't.

Every time I had to see the degenerate Sam Standley I had to hold my tongue.  When I asked around as to how the hell this guy has a job for a company that transports kids everyone at Laclede said this is Dave McNutt’s company he does what he wants.

Not every had a problem with Stan. When Jerry Standley retired Adam McNutt ,son of Dave, took over as president.  He was slow to the draw and on the soft side unable to deal with and intimidated by gruff working-class cabbies. Apparently in order to solve this problem retired ex St. Louis County Police Major Ted Hylla was brought in. Later Adam would lead the way to computer-dispatching and modernization. 

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Laclede Cab Vice President Ted Hylla is a retired St Louis County Police Major. Since the Ferguson Movement and my involvement in #BlackLivesMatter we haven't spoken.

No one at Laclede knows exactly what Ted does other than walk around drinking coffee all day. A frequent question is “what the hell is Ted doing here?”. Interestingly while Ted seems to do very little and the African-American GM does everything on a day to day basis Ted outranks the GM.

A lot of drivers think Dave McNutt may have got help from Ted Hylla on some criminal stuff in the past and McNutt has taken care of him in retirement. That’s just speculation with no evidence.  What I do know is that while Ted promotes himself as a stand-up guy and law and order type on a daily basis he can be seen laughing and joking with a child-rapist like best buddies. 

Ted stopped talking to me over my participation in Ferguson protests and the Black Lives Matter movement.  His son is currently a St. Louis County cop based in North County last I heard.  I never was mad at Ted over that. I was working hard doing my job and he had his pro-police position.  Knowing that we would argue and disagree we just avoided each other. 

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Dave McNutt to the right. His son Adam, President of Laclede Cab in the middle, and Dave Jr to the left.

One man runs Laclede Cab and that is Dave McNutt.  It was his call to fire me after receiving complaints from racist trolls.  While I’ve put hundreds of thousands of dollars into the pockets of Dave McNutt he wasn’t man enough to fire me face to face. Instead he had Kenny Whitehorn come in from vacation.  I love Kenny,  no hard feelings to him; because I know all he did is what Dave McNutt told him to do.

My Twitter feed and Facebook inbox is flooded with support.  I’m feeling the love. Now I just need to translate that into a new job with the quickness and if I can’t do that crowd-funding for the time being.  Several people have remarked this may be a blessing in disguise. People say I’m over-qualified to be a cabbie.  Why is an award-winning writer with bylines in The Guardian and Politico driving a cab?

The truth of the matter is not only do I like driving a cab there hasn’t been a lot of full-time job offers on the table.  Driving a cab you get to meet and talk to all sorts of people from low places to high places.  I talk to them, listen to their stories,  and they listen to mine. I’ll miss them. 

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Taking my grandfather a WWII combat veteran from the 1st Marine Division to the polls in 2012 to vote for President Barack Obama.

I have some great Laclede Cab memories.  Driving Fatimah to the hospital to give birth to my daughter,  taking my daughter home from the hospital in the cab, picking up famous people,  having passengers turn into friends,  and other family memories. Some sad ones to. Hearing sad stories and called to tragic scenes to pick people up.

A lot of people have mentioned I should drive for Uber.  My opposition to Uber was never about supporting companies.  It was about supporting working-class jobs. The issue of me being fired over exercising my constitutional right to free-speech highlights the need to organize cabbies.  Cabbies need a union. We need a voice at the table,  a grievance process,  collective bargaining,  health care,  sick days,  a pension. I’ll continue to work towards these efforts. 

I will also miss seeing a lot of the people I had a relationship with at Laclede. Drivers,  the cashier,  the guys that check our oil.  I say to them, especially the drivers,  without a union you can be next.

The party don’t stop.  This dunya is temporary.  Everything is a test.  Allah-willing better things on the road ahead.

If you support Black Lives Matter and freedom of speech and believe my firing to be unjust give Laclede Cab a call at 3145351162 or 3146523456 and ask to speak to Dave, Adam or Ted.

St. Louis Region: Political State of the Game 1 Year After Mike Brown

Intro

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Mike Brown. Rest in peace.

More than a year has passed since Darren Wilson shot and killed the unarmed Mike Brown on Canfield Drive in Ferguson.  That moment started a movement against police repression that has since went global.  The world has changed.  Black Lives Matter is part of the national dialogue with even presidential candidates having to take a stand.  Locally what has happened?  What has changed,  what is the same,  and what does the future hold?

Ferguson

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Protesters take to the roof of the old Ponderosa in Ferguson

Unfortunately not much has changed in Ferguson or surrounding municipalities and thus there is no need for protests to end.  Sure a couple of cosmetic changes have been made such as the firing of some racist employees after emails were made public and Chief Thomas Jackson resigned.  Other than that things are about the same. Predatory courts, agressive policing,  and a city council that still doesn’t look like the city of Ferguson. 

There is an effort to force a recall vote to try and remove Mayor James Knowles from office.  While I’d like to see Knowles gone I don’t think there is the kind of ground-game and political organization to make this happen.  If there is a recall vote there is little doubt in my mind Knowles will remain in office. 

Political organizing takes a long time and Knowles is representing a deeply-entrenched establishment. Organizers need to be looking at the long-game and not the short-game. Much of Ferguson,  definitely amongst renters,  is transient.  Others feel no connection to the system. Organizing is hard work with deferred gratification (if any). A lot of money has been sent to this area in the last year.  It would be nice if some could go to experienced grassroots politics organizers with a history of winning.

North County

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Ferguson sped up the white-flight process from North County.  30 years on with whites having already fled from most of North County Ferguson convinced many remaining whites to leave for St. Charles County and further points west.  In their mind they can’t live in North County without an agressive police presence.  While not a single white person in North County was killed in the protest movement the site of African-Americans taking to the street sent a shock wave of terror throughout white North County.  The ones who are staying are either hardcore committed solid old North County stock,  tied to a system that benefits them,  or too poor or old to go anywhere else.

Hazelwood is still in good financial shape due to corporate headquarters.  The Ritenour School District (and to a lesser extent Pattonville) benefitting from an influx of Mexican-American, South Asian and Arab immigrants. However,  much of North County is in serious trouble.  Failing schools,  vacant homes,  high rates of poverty,  and high rates of crime. 

The quality of life is down. Closed shopping malls, 15 closed movie theatres from my childhood in North County,  and numerous closed sports clubs for kids. Once a powerhouse in soccer and wrestling those sports are now on life support in North County.  Catholic schools loot the once powerful Suburban North Conference of many of the best football and basketball players. Factories closed. Companies gone.  Churches closed. My grandmother’s church (Bellefontaine Baptist Church) once boasted a large and lively congregation. Now they’re lucky to get ten people on a Sunday.

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A march in Florissant. Reminiscent of the old Florissant. Not the current diverse city.

Florissant,  where I spent much of my childhood,  is in transition.  The city is still stable; but unless there is an agressive plan of attack it will soon rapidly crumble.  A small town reshaped as a suburban bedroom community after World War II the city of Florissant depends on the strength of housing prices,  quality of life,  good schools,  and city services.  All of those are slipping.

The Florissant of my childhood was an openly racist place. Racist police that found themselves repeatedly under investigation. The old racist element is moving out to St. Charles County or dying.  Left behind is a younger much more diverse population dealing with disinvestment.

The establishment in Florissant still looks as it did 40 years ago. White mayor, white city council,  a mostly all-white police department,  and a board of the Ferguson-Florissant School District that is white.

In the months before the death of Mike Brown over 1000 African-American parents and students attended a Ferguson-Florissant School board meeting protesting the firing of Dr.  Art McCoy,  the popular African-American school superintendent at the time,  by the all-white board.

Florissant will accept change or die. The police of Florissant will reform or they’ll see their own gas stations and stores burned and looted and the remaining tax-base move out of North County. 

Mayor Schneider of Florissant can work to make Florissant an inclusive city and undo the mistakes of his predecessors or he can watch Florissant become a hashtag. 

In the long run nothing can stop the population decline of North County of both white and African-American residents. The ship has sailed. A city can be reborn, it’s always the urban-core, has history, has character,  and is more walkable and transit-friendly. Once a suburb declines it’s over.  The only thing that can save a declining suburb is an infusion of new residents such as a wave of immigrants.  That’s why if North County and St. Louis County leaders are smart (which is highly questionable) they’d do everything they could to lure an organization like the International Institute to North County and lobby for 200,000 refugees over 15 years starting with Syria and the Rohingya.  That would breath life into North County. 

Positives from Movement in North County: A court-reform movement,  police-reform legislation out of Jefferson City,  and what everyone knows is a path that will lead to the disincorporation of many of these useless municipalities and their police departments.  Pressure must be applied to speed up change.

St. Louis County

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If there was ever a St. Louis County Executive out of place it’s Steve Stenger speaking on Ferguson.  By comparison Stenger almost makes Congressman Lacy Clay look competent.  The Stenger – McCullough team is looking out for South County and West County.  North County doesn’t seem to be a priority unless it’s to declare a state of emergency.  No visible plan for economic or education development,  no serious transit plan, and no leading on police-reform. 

St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney Bob Mcculloch is gonna retire with a legacy of not taking police crimes seriously and ignoring the cries from the African-American community.  Stenger has time to improve his legacy although he’s shown no signs of improvement since defeating Charlie Dooley.  We got what we expected. 

St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar is part of the same team. I’ll give him that he seems competent and has the respect of his department;  but his heavy-handed policing illustrates the dire need for a civilian-review board in St. Louis County. 

St. Louis City

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Mayor Francis Slay and Chief Sam Dotson. Photo from St. Louis Public Radio

Mayor Francis Slay carefully navigated the past year.  He responded to the protest movement with bending his position on the civilian review board and investing more in social services and jobs programs. However,  he could only go so far without losing his rabidly pro-police white base.

President of the Board of Alderman Lewis Reed had a golden opportunity to show leadership after the death of Mike Brown.  He failed to inspire. The last year has seen Reed talk about Ferguson with the same lethargic lack of inspiration he had while campaigning for mayor. 

I don’t see Mayor Slay as being vulnerable in 2017. A Slay-Reed rematch would play out the same as last time.  The only thing that can bring this race into question is the entering of a white candidate who could split the white-vote. This doesn’t count favorites of the Cosmopolitan Cartel such as Alderman Scott Ogilvie, or Ed Domain who are low single digit candidates.

St. Louis Police Chief Sam Dotson was being touted as a future mayor. That’s done.  Dotson is toast politically.  Crime is on the rise and he hasn’t articulated a decent plan to combat it. Many in the African-American and social-justice community are upset by the police-brutality he’s oversen. White cops are calling Dotson a wimp and a p****  for not cracking down on protesters harder and see him as a poodle of Slay. I’ve been told race-relations in the department are at an all time low.  There is open-mutiny and insubordination going on in the department.  Rumors have it that major criminal corruption indictments including murder are getting ready to come down for officers.  The St.  Louis City police department is broken.

Who broke the department?  It was an archaic department with numerous problems to begin with and it couldn’t stand the heat of the protest movement.  In the year since the killing of Mike Brown the Black Lives Matter movement has taken down the political career of Sam Dotson and the city police department.  The civilian review board was the beginning. Massive changes are coming. All thanks to the movement. 

Some career advice to Dotson since I think he’s a nice guy. Resign. Do so now.  Bow out gracefully. Take a job working with youth in St. Louis, learn something and rebrand your image. Then take a stab at politics.

The resigning of Jennifer Joyce opens up some interesting possibilities.  Will the movement get behind a viable candidate who will actually charge rogue officers?

This will be Slay’s last term. 2021 will look like Game of Thrones with the possibility of Tishaura Jones,  Antonio French,  Scott Ogilvie, FX Daly, Steve Conway, Shane Cohn, Alderman Carter, Winston Calvert,  Martin Casas, and even Russ Carnahan all running for mayor. Each of these candidates will have part of their fate tied to how well they get along with the movement. 

St. Charles County

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St. Charles County is resistant to any positive change.  For those of you who haven’t witnessed the hate of St. Charles County firsthand (which is nothing but the old North County racists in newer cul de sacs with bigger Walmarts and buffet lines) please check out the great This American Life podcast on the racist resistance to integration from parents in the Francis Howell School District.  St. Charles County is a hub for bigotry and bigoted politics.  That’s why the Millenial Activists United protest on Highway 70 was so beautiful (something I suggested a year ago). St. Charles County is dragging down our region with its Confederate conservatism. Counties to the west even worse. It will need a steady dose of protests, activism and organizing to be dragged into the 21st Century. 

Congress

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State Senator Maria Chappelle-Nadal in a moment of truth calling out Missouri Governor Jay Nixon.

I supported the campaign of Congressman Lacy Clay last time around. I knew he was lazy and incompetent; but I didn’t see a Carnahan commitment to North County.  In retrospect I should’ve  voted for Carnahan.  With a world looking to his district Clay managed to crawl from kicking it on the eastern shore of Maryland to Ferguson a handful of times. With really nothing to offer Clay let Congressman Emmanuel Cleaver from Kansas City lead on the issue.  That’s unacceptable. 

For this reason if she chooses to announce I’ll support the candidacy of Stare Senator Maria Chappelle-Nadal if she decides to run. Maria is a friend,  a supporter of the movement,  and someone who is far from lazy.