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Clemency Double Standard

Donnella Harriel

Chelsea Manning

Rev William Barber

Kelvin Seabrooks

Barber To Step Down From NAACP

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The Rev. William Barber, who led the state NAACP in blocking North Carolina’s attempts to limit voting rights and fiercely supported gay rights, said he’s stepping down as state chapter president and will focus on a poor people’s campaign like the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. was building when he was slain.

 Barber gained prominence in launching “Moral Monday” protests in North Carolina this decade and trained others in more than 20 states in such peaceful civil disobedience. But he said Wednesday that after 12 years as an NAACP state leader, he wants to focus on the new campaign and “a national call for a moral revival.”

 “We need a moral narrative because somewhere along the line we’ve gotten trapped in this left vs. right conversation,” said the 53-year-old NAACP leader in an interview via conference call.

 Barber also leads a nonprofit called Repairers of the Breach and said that group, along with the Kairos Center, Union Theological Seminary and others will lead a movement that will concentrate on 25 states and the nation’s capital where voter suppression, poverty and other problems are prevalent.

 The groups plan major actions next summer, which would mark the 50th anniversary of the start of King’s campaign in 1968.

 Barber said more details would be forthcoming at a news conference Monday.

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This is the tale of two Americas.

 On one side we have a white, transgender U.S. Army soldier who committed one of the most heinous acts of espionage in American history. She was court-martialed and received 35 years for her crimes.

 One the other side we have a black woman in Florida that was convicted of selling drugs and she received a life sentence.

 Both of these women received clemency from President Obama in 2016, but their paths are as different as their skin color.

 Chelsea Manning entered the Army as Bradley Edward Manning. During the Iraq War she leaked classified information to WikiLeaks.

 Manning was ultimately charged with a total of 22 offenses which included aiding the enemy that is punishable by death. Instead of the death penalty she was given 35 years.

 Manning was released Wednesday from Fort Leavenworth in Kansas after serving only about seven of her 35-year sentence.

 When she walked out of prison she had $150,000 that was raised for her by her ACLU attorney. Musician Michael Stipe has dedicated all proceeds from the sale of his benefit album to Manning as well. In addition she has the support of the LGBTQ community.

 Donnella Marie Harriel of Martin County, Fla. was convicted in 2004 of possession with intent to distribute 50 grams or more of cocaine. She was given a sentence of 264 months in prison, which equates to a life sentence.

 Before he left office, President Obama grated 214 commutations and 11 of those were from South Florida alone. One of them was Harriel. Her release date is set for June of this year, but instead of being met by a large sum of money and a vast support system, she will be met by a new jail sentence.

 When Harriel was arrested on her federal charges it caused her to violate her parole in Martin County Florida. After serving almost 14 years of her sentence in a federal penitentiary, and missing out on her children’s lives, she will still have to face a 15-year sentence for a parole violation.

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From the moment you meet him you can see his heart through his smile. The light and positivity that glows from this man’s aura is beautiful. You would never know the depth of the scares, both seen and unseen, unless he told you.

 Kelvin Seabrooks’ story is one that could be mistaken for a fiction novel if it weren’t actually true. He had six siblings growing up in the poorest part of Charlotte in the 1960s and ’70s. There were five boys and two girls. Food was scarce, space was limited and peace inside the home was nowhere to be found.

 As if being hungry and sleep deprived wasn’t enough, Kelvin was hit by a car at the age of nine. The accident temporarily paralyzed him from the waist down. This is just his first nine years.

 That accident shook Kelvin’s world. He was in a coma for three days before he opened his eyes. When he finally came around everyone, including his doctors, thought that he would never walk again. He was a young, poor, black boy in the racist South who now had debilitating disability. Could it really get any worse than that? Death might have been a blessing to many in this situation. For Kelvin, the blessing was the car accident itself.

 When he woke up from the coma he thought he was in heaven. It was so quiet. He was in a bed. There was food to eat. Who would have thought that being hit by a car would be the biggest blessing in your life?

 Kelvin didn’t die. Like a Phoenix he rose from the ashes and soared. The catalyst was when he fell out of that hospital bed trying to pick up something that he dropped. When he hit the floor he felt his legs. He felt that tingle, that glimmer of hope. Hope has the power of love and hate combined, and once it’s in you it is virtually impossible for anyone to remove it from you. It was hope that gave him motivation and it was God that gave him strength.

 That whole series of events, from getting hit by the car to being in a coma to temporary paralysis, were a lesson and an awakening to 9-year-old Seabrooks. If he could endure this most harsh physical punishment and still live and breathe then nothing was off the table. It was simply a matter of will.

 Kelvin took his newfound perspective and began playing baseball for the Police Athletic League (PAL). Sports was a great distraction from the harsh reality of his life. He even began attending an afterschool program at a local Episcopal Church. Unfortunately this is where he met his next challenge in life.

 He wasn’t long recovered from the physical blow of his accident when a mental and emotion blow struck. The pastor at the Episcopal Church called Seabrooks into his office one afternoon. The pastor locked the door, closed the blinds and began hugging and kissing him.

 Of course Kelvin was told not to tell anyone, but he did. He told his mother and she didn’t believe him. He told his aunt and she too dismissed his story. Yet another tragedy at such a young age with no one to turn to.

 All of this hardship in one young man’s life before the age of 11. But God is a force like none other and the lessons you learn are meant for you to grow through and to share.

 At the age of 11, Seabrooks walked off of the baseball field and into the ring. The local PAL had boxing and he was a natural. He had been mentally and emotionally fighting for his life for a while now, why not take all of that experience and manifest it into a physical advantage. So he fought. And he won.

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