Here and Sphere note —- as aftermath to the Zimmerman case and to President Obama’s dramatic speech, a conversation and then some has begun in America’s Black communities and among commentators. High on our list of cutting edge commentators is Ron Wynn, of Nashville, TN, who speaks out on Being Black in America with an insistence that reminds us of Bill Press speaking out on progressive politics. we at here and Sphere highly esteem both men, but especially Ron Wynn, whom we are honored to call personal friend.

Being Black in America — and the raw topic of black on black violence that is part of the general conversation — are talks that every American of good will should at least listen closely to, maybe even join. Thus the following Guest Editorial shall serve to begin that conversation at Here and Sphere.


^ news commentator Ron Wynn of Nashville, TN

Wynn : “The current issue of Ebony magazine has the third in a continuing series on crime and violence in the Black community, this one focusing on Chicago. Time’s array of articles on race and the Martin verdict include a lengthy column by Philadelphia mayor Michael Nutter on the need for less talk and more action in regards to killings and crime in Black neighborhoods. These on top of a series of columns, essays, and articles I’ve seen on  Black websites ranging from Black Voices and Black America com. to The Root and Black Agenda Report. I mention this only because I still see people saying that no one’s talking about nor cares about crime in Black neighborhoods, and in particular Blacks who kill other Blacks. If you want to believe that, fine, but there’s ample evidence that shows you are incorrect making that in Black neighborhoods. These on top of a series of columns, essays, and articles I’ve seen

A friend of Wynn’s then commented thus : “This should also serve as a reminder to folks (or a revelation) that Ebony Magazine has dealt with the Black-On-Black crime matter as far back as 1979. I remember and still have this copy of the publication.

WYNN : “There are a few (just a few) truly concerned people in the Black community who honestly haven’t seen these articles or know about the ongoing battles against crime that many have been fighting for years. But much of this rhetoric is standard right-wing deflection stuff, designed to try and quell the anger over the unjust Martin verdict. The people at National Review or on the Wall Street Journal editorial board could care less how many Black people died in Chicago on any weekend.

Wynn also attended a Nashville area protest of the Trayvon Martin / Zimmerman verdict. Here is his report  :

“Incredible experience this afternoon at the Federal courthouse. For almost two hours (actually close to three since I got there 45 minutes early) a diverse crowd that truly represented the spectrum of Nashville got together to hear words of wisdom, inspiration, information and education at the prayer vigil for Trayvon Martin. But it was much more that just a vigil. Speaker after speaker urged all of us to do more than just show up today and go home. Voter registration, community advocacy and citizen participation were repeatedly emphasized, and a host of viewpoints were represented during the event. I was thrilled to see so many of my friends and others I didn’t know by name, but were delighted to see. A truly memorable event.”:

You can (and should) connect to Ron Wynn at Facebook. Meanwhile, Here and Sphere shall be reposting his Facebook reports on Being black in America from time to time as we go forward.



President Obama gave an unscripted, 18 minute speech yesterday, on race relations, race perceptions, and racial injustice in America as they live on today, 50 years after Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech. It was a speech that touched us at Here and Sphere to the core; it spoke to our soul and to yours. In it the President laid bare the fear and discouragement that black men feel every day as others make clear their wariness of Black men’s presence.

It is horrific to go about knowing that people fear you; that they assume that your presence is a menace. It collapses one’s soul, wounds one’s dignity, cripples one’s confidence. It makes one angry, bitter, determined — not always in a positive way; and this is very understandable. you would react the same.

The specific occasion for the President’s words was People v. Zimmerman. Not the verdict, not even the evidence and testimony, most of it garbled or amateurishly handled. What occasioned the President speaking was simply that the entire mindset which gave rise to the Zimmerman case should never, ever have taken place. Not the profiling of Trayvon Martin, not Zimmerman’s disregard for police advice, not the tracking of Martin. None of which was justified in any way whatsoever. A young man going about his peaceful business was killed as a result.

People, we must do better. We must rid OURSELVES of the fears that corrode us and injure men of color. The President said it all, eloquently as he has ever spoken of it; his speech should be required reading for every American, young and old. To that end, we reprint it entire, as follows :


THE PRESIDENT: “I wanted to come out here, first of all, to tell you that Jay is prepared for all your questions and is very much looking forward to the session. The second thing is I want to let you know that over the next couple of weeks, there’s going to obviously be a whole range of issues — immigration, economics, et cetera — we’ll try to arrange a fuller press conference to address your questions.

The reason I actually wanted to come out today is not to take questions, but to speak to an issue that obviously has gotten a lot of attention over the course of the last week — the issue of the Trayvon Martin ruling. I gave a preliminary statement right after the ruling on Sunday. But watching the debate over the course of the last week, I thought it might be useful for me to expand on my thoughts a little bit.

First of all, I want to make sure that, once again, I send my thoughts and prayers, as well as Michelle’s, to the family of Trayvon Martin, and to remark on the incredible grace and dignity with which they’ve dealt with the entire situation. I can only imagine what they’re going through, and it’s remarkable how they’ve handled it.

The second thing I want to say is to reiterate what I said on Sunday, which is there’s going to be a lot of arguments about the legal issues in the case — I’ll let all the legal analysts and talking heads address those issues. The judge conducted the trial in a professional manner. The prosecution and the defense made their arguments. The juries were properly instructed that in a case such as this reasonable doubt was relevant, and they rendered a verdict. And once the jury has spoken, that’s how our system works. But I did want to just talk a little bit about context and how people have responded to it and how people are feeling.

You know, when Trayvon Martin was first shot I said that this could have been my son. Another way of saying that is Trayvon Martin could have been me 35 years ago. And when you think about why, in the African American community at least, there’s a lot of pain around what happened here, I think it’s important to recognize that the African American community is looking at this issue through a set of experiences and a history that doesn’t go away.

There are very few African American men in this country who haven’t had the experience of being followed when they were shopping in a department store. That includes me. There are very few African American men who haven’t had the experience of walking across the street and hearing the locks click on the doors of cars. That happens to me — at least before I was a senator. There are very few African Americans who haven’t had the experience of getting on an elevator and a woman clutching her purse nervously and holding her breath until she had a chance to get off. That happens often.

And I don’t want to exaggerate this, but those sets of experiences inform how the African American community interprets what happened one night in Florida. And it’s inescapable for people to bring those experiences to bear. The African American community is also knowledgeable that there is a history of racial disparities in the application of our criminal laws — everything from the death penalty to enforcement of our drug laws. And that ends up having an impact in terms of how people interpret the case.

Now, this isn’t to say that the African American community is naïve about the fact that African American young men are disproportionately involved in the criminal justice system; that they’re disproportionately both victims and perpetrators of violence. It’s not to make excuses for that fact — although black folks do interpret the reasons for that in a historical context. They understand that some of the violence that takes place in poor black neighborhoods around the country is born out of a very violent past in this country, and that the poverty and dysfunction that we see in those communities can be traced to a very difficult history.

And so the fact that sometimes that’s unacknowledged adds to the frustration. And the fact that a lot of African American boys are painted with a broad brush and the excuse is given, well, there are these statistics out there that show that African American boys are more violent — using that as an excuse to then see sons treated differently causes pain.

I think the African American community is also not naïve in understanding that, statistically, somebody like Trayvon Martin was statistically more likely to be shot by a peer than he was by somebody else. So folks understand the challenges that exist for African American boys. But they get frustrated, I think, if they feel that there’s no context for it and that context is being denied. And that all contributes I think to a sense that if a white male teen was involved in the same kind of scenario, that, from top to bottom, both the outcome and the aftermath might have been different.

Now, the question for me at least, and I think for a lot of folks, is where do we take this? How do we learn some lessons from this and move in a positive direction? I think it’s understandable that there have been demonstrations and vigils and protests, and some of that stuff is just going to have to work its way through, as long as it remains nonviolent. If I see any violence, then I will remind folks that that dishonors what happened to Trayvon Martin and his family. But beyond protests or vigils, the question is, are there some concrete things that we might be able to do.

I know that Eric Holder is reviewing what happened down there, but I think it’s important for people to have some clear expectations here. Traditionally, these are issues of state and local government, the criminal code. And law enforcement is traditionally done at the state and local levels, not at the federal levels.

That doesn’t mean, though, that as a nation we can’t do some things that I think would be productive. So let me just give a couple of specifics that I’m still bouncing around with my staff, so we’re not rolling out some five-point plan, but some areas where I think all of us could potentially focus.

Number one, precisely because law enforcement is often determined at the state and local level, I think it would be productive for the Justice Department, governors, mayors to work with law enforcement about training at the state and local levels in order to reduce the kind of mistrust in the system that sometimes currently exists.

When I was in Illinois, I passed racial profiling legislation, and it actually did just two simple things. One, it collected data on traffic stops and the race of the person who was stopped. But the other thing was it resourced us training police departments across the state on how to think about potential racial bias and ways to further professionalize what they were doing.

And initially, the police departments across the state were resistant, but actually they came to recognize that if it was done in a fair, straightforward way that it would allow them to do their jobs better and communities would have more confidence in them and, in turn, be more helpful in applying the law. And obviously, law enforcement has got a very tough job.

So that’s one area where I think there are a lot of resources and best practices that could be brought to bear if state and local governments are receptive. And I think a lot of them would be. And let’s figure out are there ways for us to push out that kind of training.

Along the same lines, I think it would be useful for us to examine some state and local laws to see if it — if they are designed in such a way that they may encourage the kinds of altercations and confrontations and tragedies that we saw in the Florida case, rather than diffuse potential altercations.

I know that there’s been commentary about the fact that the “stand your ground” laws in Florida were not used as a defense in the case. On the other hand, if we’re sending a message as a society in our communities that someone who is armed potentially has the right to use those firearms even if there’s a way for them to exit from a situation, is that really going to be contributing to the kind of peace and security and order that we’d like to see?

And for those who resist that idea that we should think about something like these “stand your ground” laws, I’d just ask people to consider, if Trayvon Martin was of age and armed, could he have stood his ground on that sidewalk? And do we actually think that he would have been justified in shooting Mr. Zimmerman who had followed him in a car because he felt threatened? And if the answer to that question is at least ambiguous, then it seems to me that we might want to examine those kinds of laws.

Number three — and this is a long-term project — we need to spend some time in thinking about how do we bolster and reinforce our African American boys. And this is something that Michelle and I talk a lot about. There are a lot of kids out there who need help who are getting a lot of negative reinforcement. And is there more that we can do to give them the sense that their country cares about them and values them and is willing to invest in them?

I’m not naïve about the prospects of some grand, new federal program. I’m not sure that that’s what we’re talking about here. But I do recognize that as President, I’ve got some convening power, and there are a lot of good programs that are being done across the country on this front. And for us to be able to gather together business leaders and local elected officials and clergy and celebrities and athletes, and figure out how are we doing a better job helping young African American men feel that they’re a full part of this society and that they’ve got pathways and avenues to succeed — I think that would be a pretty good outcome from what was obviously a tragic situation. And we’re going to spend some time working on that and thinking about that.

And then, finally, I think it’s going to be important for all of us to do some soul-searching. There has been talk about should we convene a conversation on race. I haven’t seen that be particularly productive when politicians try to organize conversations. They end up being stilted and politicized, and folks are locked into the positions they already have. On the other hand, in families and churches and workplaces, there’s the possibility that people are a little bit more honest, and at least you ask yourself your own questions about, am I wringing as much bias out of myself as I can? Am I judging people as much as I can, based on not the color of their skin, but the content of their character? That would, I think, be an appropriate exercise in the wake of this tragedy.

And let me just leave you with a final thought that, as difficult and challenging as this whole episode has been for a lot of people, I don’t want us to lose sight that things are getting better. Each successive generation seems to be making progress in changing attitudes when it comes to race. It doesn’t mean we’re in a post-racial society. It doesn’t mean that racism is eliminated. But when I talk to Malia and Sasha, and I listen to their friends and I seem them interact, they’re better than we are — they’re better than we were — on these issues. And that’s true in every community that I’ve visited all across the country.

And so we have to be vigilant and we have to work on these issues. And those of us in authority should be doing everything we can to encourage the better angels of our nature, as opposed to using these episodes to heighten divisions. But we should also have confidence that kids these days, I think, have more sense than we did back then, and certainly more than our parents did or our grandparents did; and that along this long, difficult journey, we’re becoming a more perfect union — not a perfect union, but a more perfect union.

Thank you, guys.”


—- posted by Michael Freedberg / Here and Sphere



On a hot humid Saturday night in mid-July, the world (or at least the Social Media world) reacted to the “not guilty” verdict given to George Zimmerman. The reactions (at least on this writer’s Facebook feed) varied from the “First Casey Anthony, now this? (Expletive) Florida,” to the “The Jury made their call. Now it’s time to move on to real issues, like Obama and the NSA.”

Confession: I admit to having posted my Verdict rage, as well, on Facebook. I felt that evidence sufficient to convict Zimmerman of second-degree murder of 17-year old Trayvon Martin was a slam dunk for the Prosecution. Naive of me. I had indeed forgotten that this Florida, home to the Casey Anthony acquittal as well as the year 2000 Florida Recount.
So what did this verdict mean to Millennials — “Generation Y”… “Hipsters” — whatever you may want to call them ? Gen Y has pretty much earned the reputation of being both apathetic and lethargic — mostly by being both apathetic and lethargic. A game of “Candy Crush” and the posting of “Grumpy Cat Memes” appear to enage more Y’ers than the use of Facebook to organize marches against student loan debt and the endless drug war that has imprisoned good people and cost many innocent lives. Most Millennials shy away from discussing sociological and economic issues. It’s complicated, and, after all, nobody wants to alienate others by stating an opinion.

Nonetheless, the Zimmerman Verdict we could not ignore. the finding was too impossible. Tweets and posts roiled our outrage. In several cities, protests broke out the next day in solidarity for Martin. Oakland’s and Los Angeles’ protests even turned violent.

Flash forward now to almost a week later. As I sit here in my favorite Coffee House in Downtown Lowell, Massachusetts, I look around and overhear my peers lingering over their iced drinks talking about the issues of the day. People here in this ordinary American city are still talking about the Zimmerman verdict. Apparently some of us haven’t moved on the next outrage — I’m speaking, of course, about the July issue of Rolling Stone with accused Boston Bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev on its cover.

So here’s what we’re saying :

“To me, it seems like a flash in the pan. For my generation, there will be a big discussion about issues like the Zimmerman case. But I’m not sure that it will lead to any real discussion to any changes in the judicial system” — Kofi Edzie, 24, from Lowell.

“The only silver lining here is that it is bringing race back into the discussion, but as a young millennial, I think that we have all of these immediate concerns such as student loan debt for example, that I don’t think that social media is going to inspire any of my peers to make any changes,” Edzie added.

Another coffee adept, who wished to remain anonymous, said that he credits Social Media for bringing Millenials to discussion of race in the 21st century.

“I don’t think that it’s fair to say that things won’t change, but you have to give our generation some credit for at least opening up the dialogue on race. I don’t think that it’s fair to dismiss our generation as ADHD,” opined my unnamed table neighbor.

There were also Generation X’ers at the coffee house, such as Kevin Fahy, who felt somewhat more cynical.

“I don’t think that anything is going to change. I just came back from Ocala, Florida, where my folks live, and a lot of people down there think that Zimmerman did the right thing. Of course, a lot of them are older, upper class retired folks,” said Fahy, 52 and also a Lowellite. Semi-retired from working security for many years, Fahy feels that today’s Millenials fail to utilize their energy to organize for social causes.

“This isn’t the civil rights marches of the sixties. This isn’t Kent State. People aren’t going to get off their asses to do anything, even change the channel on their TV’s,” Fahy tells me.

Fahy may yet be wrong. It’s hard to expect immediate moral commitment from a generation inundated with “Grumpy Cat” memes and living the distraction life on Social Media. That said, Gen Y’s are young yet, very young. They will grow. If there’s any good to be extracted from this depressing tale of a young man walking home after buying some Skittles and Iced Tea, it’s this. Gen Y has not yet spoken. It will. Perhaps.

There’s hope, and plenty of it, for what a generation still finding its way and place will say and do. A generation that may very well rise up and do whatever it takes to advance justice, by any means necessary.

— Dave Morrison / Here and Sphere Guest Contributor



By Curtis Atchison, house music DJ and track producer

“We’re all blitzed with the same images, propaganda and distorted information wherever we turn. Mainstream media (regardless of ideological leanings) tends to be nothing more than overgeneralized information, watered down for the lowest common denominator to ingest.
“I know when I was growing up, I saw much of the same gripes and complaints people are voicing today. But I did have a mother who was willing to explain things to me the best way she knew how, without trying to make it about “white people” or “black people”. She wanted to make sure things were as objective as possible so I could form my own opinions, but kept me in line to make sure at the very least I wouldn’t physically act out on any discriminations or bigotries I developed. That’s the best she could do, and because of my love for my mother that’s the best I can try to live up to.

“Case in point… right now I’m helping to raise four nieces and nephews in my family. They all know I’m in a committed relationship with another man of a different skin color. My family has opened their arms to him, and out of respect for me they have the kids refer to him as “Uncle” even though we’re not married. They run up to him, give him hugs & kisses and show him love that only another family member could give. But once in a while they do come in with conflicting messages about how life is “supposed to be”. I know they hear many negative things about “white people”. But then they see my partner and the love he bestows and they aren’t able to make the connection between their newly “acquired knowledge” and the man they see in front of them. Even though he’s white, they grew up thinking that he was “Italian” and not “white”.

Same thing on an LGBT level. The kids have no problem jumping into our arms and always want to stay with “the Uncles”. But I know they hear messages from other outside sources about how the LGBT lifestyle is a sin and all that other stuff. And occasionally, those thoughts come into the home whenever they see me kiss my partner. The six year old on rare occasions will go, “Ewww! You two kissed!” But in the next five minutes, he’s asking us when we get married how would they know who the bride is?

IMO, media and outside forces can only do so much to mold minds. If that was your only connection to learning about society, I could see how that could affect you negatively. Beyond that, one needs to be surrounded by loving people who can help them see things through the headlines and the generalizations. OK, now I’m babbling and I have a new mix show to work on…”



The jury that gave its verdict did not spend 16 plus hours deliberating because it wanted to acquit Zimmerman. It spent that time trying to figure out the evidence. What did it mean ? What was really going on ?

Their task was not made easy by the prosecution’s incompetent trial preparation. Key witnesses gave ineffective testimony, even damaging testimony. It is Law School 101 that you never, ever put a witness on the stand for direct examination — cross examination is another matter entirely — without knowing what he or she is going to testify to. In the Zimmerman case, several prosecution witnesses said things that, in trial prep,, should have been shaken out. The coroner couldn’t remember. Martin’s girlfriend changed her testimony. A police witness said that Zimmerman’ s story sounded true. Neighbors who had heard or seen snippets of the altercation went this way and that as to what happened.

Given such a muddle, it’s a wonder that the jury didn’t make its finding in an hour or two.

They did not do that. Instead, they did pretty much what we at Here and Sphere did, in our two editorials : they tried to make sense of the known facts.

These were :

1.Zimmerman defied the advice of the poloice 911 dispatcher to not follow Martin.
2.Zimmerman followed Martion without identifying himself.
3.Zimmerman put Martin in fear, and that fear was reasonable. Zimmerman continued to follow, without identifying himself –even after Martin asked, “why are you following me?” all Zimmerman said was to ask “what are you doing here ?” — Martin defended himself.
5. Martin gave Zimmerman quite a beating.

Up to this point, there could be no question that Zimmerman had acted recklessly. We at here and Sphere have assumed — as has most of America — that Zimmerman’s reckless conduct, leading to the shooting of Martin, was criminally culpable, as reckless conduct resulting in a death is held to be in most jurisdictions; and that one cannot claim self-defense if things go against you as a result of your own reckless conduct.

But what if the jury, in its lengthy deliberation, put a question at first rather startling  : “Did Martin, otherwise reasonably defending himself, go too far ? Did he himself use excessive force ?”

One who is put in fear to the extent of reasonably defending himself certainly has the lawful right to use force to do so. But only so much force as will deflect the attack. Once the person putting you in fear is giving up, you have a legal duty to stop.

The law puts this limit on defenders because, for very solid public policy reasons, it cannot allow defenders to wreak their own mayhem. We see, in videos and photos, what happens when an attacker is pummeled by defenders — pummeled and even killed. Being attacked makes a person angry. Anger all too readily begets crime. the law wants to prevent that, and it is right to do so.

The Zimmerman jury surely debated whether or not Martin, at first properly defending himself, had gone too far. Once Zimmerman had been knocked to the ground, it was up to Martin to step back; to not continue beating Zimmerman up. It appears from the testimony that he did not step back. And thus Zimmerman’s claim of self defense revived, after being negated by his own, original recklessness. Martin, in going too far, initiated culpable conduct of his own.

This is what the jury must have concluded; because otherwise their verdict makes no sense. and verdicts that take 16 plus hours to reach are not given casually or thoughtlessly.

None of this changes the bigger picture: that Martin was going lawfully about his business; was profiled and hunted down because he was Black; and that Zimmerman acted recklessly and with animus. Had Martin been White, or had Zimmerman not been filled with animus against “punks,” Martin would be alive today, and Zimmerman would not be facing Civil Rights charges. Instead we have had to live through a case that much of America sees — rightly — as the result of Black men being seen not as people but as problems (as said Minister E. G. Warnock of Atlanta, GA.)

Yet if none of our analysis changes the bigger picture, it does explain the verdict and makes sense of how and why it was found.

—- Michael Freedberg / Here and Sphere


He is smiling tonight. He killed an entirely innocent 17 year old boy, and he is found not criminally culpable.

George Zimmerman not guilty ? Hard for us at Here and Sphere, who were not in the courtroom, to dispute a jury’s finding. We felt strongly that Zimmerman was criminally culpable, at least to the extent of manslaughter. He initiated the chain of events, he stalked Martin, he deemed Martin a suspect, he put Martin in  fear, he did not identify himself, he allowed Martin to feel that he needed to defend himself.

Reasonable doubt, however, there sure was, about the level of wrong in Zimmerman’s actions, in a case difficult for a jury to grasp the facts of. Faced with a criminal verdict standard of “beyond a reasonable doubt,’ the jury eventually — after two days of thorough deliberation — decided that reasonable doubt existed.

Not doubt that Zimmerman was wrong. Wrong he was. Doubt about HOW wrong. Manslaughter wrong ? Manslaughter requires the conduct leading up to it to be reckless. Not merely negligent, or mistaken, or tortious, but reckless.

We at here and Sphere felt that Zimmerman’s conduct was reckless, given that he disregarded police advice about following Martin. The jury gave Zimmerman the benefit of their doubt about that. Legally, they had ample grounds for doing so. Nor do we question the jury’s diligence or its obvious concern to “get it right.” Still, their finding has consequences for civil peace in Florida.
The not guilty finding makes it clear that, in Florida, a man who follows another, in the dark, unidentified, and putting you in fear, is going to be given the benefit of the doubt if an altercation ensues, and YOU ARE NOT. Thus you had better be very very careful if you find yourself in that position. Very careful and PRAY.

We would have hoped that the jury would consider the above and other public policy consequences of a not guilty finding. It is hard for us to imagine behavior more blameworthy than Zimmerman’s on that night. This entire event could have been prevented if he had simply listened to the police 911 operator.

But no, he HAD to go do what he did. And now we know that a jury, a year later, is not going to second-guess him to a criminal extent.
 In Florida, a stalker with a gun will now know that he has the benefit of the doubt — because doubt, there is — if he does what Zimmerman did — disregard police advice ! — and an altercation ensues.
There is only one way that Florida can resolve the terrible public policy consequences of this finding : pass legislation disallowing association watchpeople from carrying loaded weapons.
Do you think that such a law will pass, in the current national climate about guns everywhere ? We think it extremely unlikely, at least in Florida and in about 30 other of our 50 states..
 What is more likely to happen, in a state like Florida, where concealed carry of loaded guns is common, and where a “stand your ground” defense is permitted, by law, in trials involving shootings, is that many more ordinary people will now arm THEMSELVES, so that if they find themselves in Martin’s position, they can shoot the stalker if they think they have to. Then THEY will have the benefit of the doubt on their side.
 This finding opens the door to anarchy. Guns will be the answer. Guns and shooting, injury and death. That or else a ton of fear. Or both.

It is not a happy day in America. but it hasn’t been a happy day, as far as shocking gun killings are concerned, for many, many, many years in this nation fixated on — obsessed by — insisting on promoting more of — armed vigilantes everywhere.

— Michael Freedberg / Here and Sphere