I was walking on the sidewalk on 14th street in Harlem (it is 114th but I learned that real longtime
Harlemites do not say 114, and it took me 23 years) late one evening and a young man, no a boy,
on his bike almost ran me over. I was somewhat famished, and on the way to get Thai takeout of
Frederick Douglas Boulevard. I do not believe there was anything amiss in my gait nor was I
sauntering or swaying, but somehow, I was in his path.
Time was that riding a bike on the sidewalk might cause a police officer to grab hold of a youth,
throw him on the floor and tap his pockets. No now. Not in this pandemic. Presently every and
anyone can ride a bike, a scooter, a unicycle or whatever on the sidewalk. Small children and dogs
sometimes scatter in order not to get run over. The new denizens of Harlem have no idea that riding
anything of the sidewalk was carte blanche for police to throw young black bodies on the ground
and rifle through pockets looking for whatever. That is White privilege.
As I looked at this young man, he stared back with his Latin baby face and continued west on the
sidewalk; me going east. He then turned his bike around and came towards me again; mind you
not at me. He proceeded past me, then turned to head back west; and this time almost did hit me.
I stopped dead -so to speak – in my tracks and gave him the parent stare. He looked me straight in
the eye and said: What nigga? For some that fighting words so I asked his age. He said fourteen.
Fifteen may never come for uttering those words with his attitude said to the wrong person might
cause him to be on his back. Fighting words they are to a true nigga, and most anyone. But I be
light skinned, and in my sixth decade.
The second incident concerns two young white girls on 25th street right in front of the office of
the erstwhile first black president, William Jefferson Clinton. They were placing literature for a
particular candidate on poles and any where else they could. Noticing and knowing that it could
cause said candidate some trouble with the authorities, I simply informed them. Mind you, I was
well dressed in a nice suit- it presently escapes me if it was Brooks Brothers, Rothmans, Calvin,
or Hugo- a bow tie, bespectacled and my felt tilted just so. I reached to touch the lit and said if you
put it there, I will take it down. Big mistake I made; monumental even. Their retort was: mind your
own business! Who asked you anyway? They might have been college students, probably not much
older than Tessa Majors- rest in power.
A litany of bitches lurched from mouths, not mine. I was shocked. Two white girls on 25th street
about a couple years older than my 16-year-old daughter but not as old as my 24-year-old daughter
cussed me out on 25th street. This was where I once met Paul Mooney and tried to shake his hand.
Before he hugged me, he said: I do not shake the hands of niggas I do not know. I laughed. He
laughed. He passed away a few days ago. I was not laughing now. Me? Not with white girls calling me a bitch on 25th street in front of Bill’s office. I would seek out the candidate later to tell her
about the incident. Once found, she listened. She would see me again a few days later and accuse
me of lying. Anyone can run for anything.
The third incident was in a hardware store. As I waited to pay for my merchandise a young African
American man, at least younger than me, reached across my arm to get something on the counter.
He was right behind me in line as I was paying for my wares. I said yo, instead of excuse me
because he did not appear to be the excuse me type. To my surprise he said: Sir I do not have
Covid. The surprise was that he insulted me with a moniker I thought was better suited to my late
cop dad. But telling me also that he did not have Covid added injury to insult. I was going to ask
him for the certificate or passport but sensing my “annoyment” he quickly offered: Well, if you
feel some type of way about it, do something. For a moment I was confused; but I caught myself
and tried to make light of the situation. Then I looked him dead in the eye and said in my best
Bernie Mack impression: Maybe I do motherf’er. Suddenly I was not sir anymore. But he
understood the gravity of his transgression. He did look like he could take me; but since I been
working out, I often tell myself I wish a motherf’er would try me. And this ain’t no comedy.
I recount these stories because Covid has ushered in insecurity – and not food type because that is
an antiseptic euphemism for everyone is hungry and some, even babies are starving – crass
behavior, an increase in crime but not to the point that the alarmists like Dermot Shea would have
you believe, and ATV’s scaring folk and ambulance and police sirens everywhere and every
minute, it seems. It is an assault on the senses and sensibilities, and indeed our soul. Common
courtesy and respect are not in vogue, at least not that I see. Black girls and women are in.
And the black male moniker refrain is violent crime. Anytime you hear references to “violent
crime” that is the larger society’s way of saying control the black male. Maybe it’s just me, but
how about we invest in black males from early on. Let us not place handcuffs on them because
they are bored in kindergarten and may act up a bit. Can we embrace their spirit? Can we celebrate
their genius? Can we just take our forearms off their windpipes, our knees off their necks, and
allow boys to be boys and not hunt them from birth? Can we actually see them? Can we?
In any event it does seem like up is down; sideways is straight; and may be anything goes. It is
every man or woman for himself/herself/they-self. The world is spinning still. But not out of
control because it is still on its axis. Let us scrupulously examine the offered changes. We ought
to reject what is toxic to our collective health and well-being. Embrace that which is good, even if
different and not necessarily what we would choose; and accept that a creator is in control, even
when it does not appear so.
Yet all this cannot occur unless we have some law, not by itself, and order premised on JUSTICE
and Mercy. We must acknowledge what has been done to people of color in this nation, indigenous
people, brown people, women, children, LBGTQ and the poor. That is the first step, and just a
beginning to redemption.
I am the son of a Jamaican cop and Nurse’s aid mother. A defense attorney with Asian in my in-
laws’ DNA. I am a Homicide lawyer charged with defending sometimes what might appear indefensible. I am not afraid of Law enforcement. They know that. I know some – not a small percentage either – are out of control; most have no relationship to those they serve. There is no such thing as a blue life. They are not pigs. They are scared, terrified even. And such persons cannot be public servants. Police officers must be accountable to us. They must earn the
community’s respect through courtesy, professionalism, respect and I add restraint. They either
work with and for us or find a different calling.
The new chief law enforcement officer of New York County is destined to deal with the former
guy, and liar in chief. There must be consequences when you relentlessly attack the very foundation and fabric of our society and set man against woman and grab whatever.
It is now time to return, not to what was, but a new and better understanding that all are entitled to
liberty, justice, and the pursuit of happiness; and that societal wrongs -even those committed over
four hundred years ago – can be corrected if we face the daring truth and accept the consequences.
The courage to tell the truth is in all of us. The truth is black boys are hunted from birth. The larger
truth is BLACK BOYS ROCK. Period!
I am Neville Onielle Dexter Mitchell. In 1991 I worked on Antron McCray’s (he off the exonerated
teenagers) appeal in the office of C. Vernon Mason. In 1994 I taught briefly at Ossining State
prison. From 1997 to 2001 I taught black boys at Horizon Academy on on Rikers Island that they
are valuable. Using DMX’s raps I cajoled some into accepting their brilliance. I’ve scraped,
scratched, crawled and clawed to defend the poor, the rejected, disaffected and the downtrodden.
Those who profess to want to take bias out of the system are the personification of that bias. As hot as their programs and offerings are now, I was that in ’91. Rest in peace X.
These things and so much more are why I am running as a WRITE-IN candidate for Manhattan
District Attorney. If you believe as I do, then call 929-977-4449 and volunteer a few seconds,
minutes, or hours to my campaign. Election day is June 22, 201. Let us DO THIS!
We need Justice Today; not Tomorrow. Say my name; spell my name; write it on your ballot:
I am a New District Attorney for a new Day.
A new D.A. for a new Day. Justice TODAY; not tomorrow!