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#IfTheyGunnedMeDown: Missouri shooting sparks debate

The fatal shooting of 18-year-old Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, and the ensuing protests and riots have galvanized social media with the hot-trending hashtag #IfTheyGunnedMeDown.

The campaign was spawned by the specific use of a photo of Brown, who was set to begin his first day of college on Monday. The photo, from his Twitter page, shows him in a red Nike tank top flashing a peace sign. Critics say the photo can imply that Brown was throwing up a gang sign and that there were dozens of other photos – of him smiling, laughing, or even in his high school cap and gown that could have been used.

Linda Chavers, an African-American literature professor who recently taught at Temple University, said people are using social media as a way to write their own story.

“Black Twitter does a really good job of reframing the traditional ways that we talk about issues such as police brutality, discrimination and violence,” said Chavers, who tweets at @contrarynegress. “Specifically, it is a way for us to talk about things that concern us, such as when we are killed. The hashtag is saying, this is my narrative, versus mainstream media talking about what I am wearing or my troubles in school.”

The premise of the hashtag campaign is simple.

Posters tweeted two photographs of themselves and asked the question, “Which one of these photographs would the media use if I were gunned down in the streets?”

The results were compelling. Read some of the Tweets.

>> Read more trending stories

@King_Ghidorah5 posted a photo of him lying mean-faced on a bed with his sweat pants sagging. He contrasted that with a photo of himself in a military uniform, reading books to children in a school.

In his post, @MandingoRFC looks at the camera while his friend flashes a peace sign. Next to it is a photo of him holding a poster of a young Nigerian girl. He was wearing a T-shirt reading #BringBackOurGirls, to call attention to their kidnappings. His gaze is more worried than intimidating.

On his Facebook page, more than 90 percent of the photos of Muhammad Malik, an inventory control manager at Versace USA, show him in a suit and tie.

So he posted one of them, with a picture of him in a black tank top wearing a black doo-rag. His arms are folded, showing his arms full of tattoos.

He said he took the selfie one day on vacation while he was getting ready to put on a suit and go out.

“Any time we have one of these tragedies, the media doesn’t pick the best picture to portray the victim. It is not fair,” he said. “So when I saw the hashtag, I said, ‘If it happened to me, what picture would they use? Someone could pick one picture and paint a picture of me.”

With that, Malik also cleaned up his Facebook page. Taking out vacation and party photos that might misrepresent him.

“I have a 23-year-old son. He is out there being a young guy,” said Malik, who tweets as @mr_mookie. “I always tell him the same thing, you have to really be careful of what you post, because you never know when that is gonna come back to bite you. If you not around to speak, these photos are gonna speak for you.”

Fahamu Pecou is an artist and scholar who specializes in representations of black masculinity.

The typical narrative in America “has historically worked to justify inequitable treatment of black males within society by imaging them as violent and criminal,” Pecou said. “The #IfTheyGunnedMeDown campaign is a smart and savvy response to the propaganda machine that continues to perpetuate an implied inherent criminality of black men.

“A part of resisting the outright assault on people of color is raising awareness to the way hegemonic systems of racism and prejudice inform and influence not only police reaction to young black people, but society as well.”

Read More


  • A college student from Gwinnett County is doing his part to help fight hunger using technology.  Jack Griffin, a junior at the University of Michigan, was just a sophomore at Peachtree Ridge High School when he was touched by a news story showing kids his age homeless and in need of food.  “It’s such an invisible problem that, if you’re not impacted by it, it’s so hard to see,” he tells WSB.  While trying to find a place to volunteer, he found the search so cumbersome he knew it would be difficult for those in need to find them.   So, while still in high school, Griffin created the non-profit FoodFinder to help people locate nearby food pantries or free meals. He raised money to develop a website and then added a phone app last year.  “Eighty percent of these kids still have access to a phone. Sixty percent still have access to a smart phone. It’s not an iPhone 7-type deal, but they are going to have access to the internet because it’s a huge lifeline,” says Griffin.  He says organizations that offer food programs including the USDA have partnered with Foodfinder to make sure information on location and times are available on the app.  “There is about a thousand free resources all across the state of Georgia,” he says, with that number reaching more than 3,000 right now to make sure kids are fed during the summer months.  Griffin, who is a business major and community action minor, is working this summer to get the word out about the app and increase access to free meals. 
  • A grand jury indicted former DeKalb County Commissioner Stan Watson with theft Tuesday after he receiving about $3,000 in advances for government trips that he never took. Watson, 63, faces a single count of theft by conversion in DeKalb Superior Court, according to DeKalb District Attorney Sherry Boston’s office. Watson withdrew advance checks in January 2016 for conferences in Chicago and Savannah, but then he resigned from office in March 2016 to run for DeKalb Tax Commissioner. “The state alleges the expense money w as then converted to personal use and not repaid until approximately one year later, well after Watson’s resignation,” according to a press release from Boston’s office. “County policy requires any funds advanced for travel but not actually used for said travel be returned to the county immediately.” A warrant was issued for Watson’s arrest, and he’s expected to surrender to authorities, the release said. Watson didn’t immediately return a phone message seeking comment. Exclusive to subscribers: Read the full story on myAJC.com. MYAJC.COM: REAL JOURNALISM. REAL LOCAL IMPACT. The AJC's Mark Niesse keeps you updated on the latest happenings in DeKalb County government and politics. You'll find more on myAJC.com, including these stories: Accused politicians try to undermine ethics oversight in Georgia DeKalb Sheriff Mann could retain office even if found guilty DeKalb police, firefighter pay raise plan revealed Never miss a minute of what's happening in DeKalb politics. Subscribe to myAJC.com. In other DeKalb news:
  • A man convicted of robbing Waffle House restaurants in Cobb and Gwinnett counties will spend the rest of his life in prison. >> Read more trending news Cobb County Superior Court Judge C. LaTain Kell handed down the sentence Friday after a jury convicted Robbin Haynes, 23, of armed robbery, aggravated assault and possession of a firearm during commission of a felony for the 2014 crime. Haynes and another man, Otis Lee Barnes, used a gun and large, orange bolt cutters to rob restaurant workers off Highway 92 near Sandy Plains Road on March 13, 2014. They got away with $400. That restaurant wasn’t the only one they hit. Investigators say the pair robbed two other Waffle House restaurants the same way. >> Related: Waffle House co-founder dies a month after business partner In a release sent to WSB-TV, Assistant District Attorney Lauryn Perry, who prosecuted the case, said, “Mr. Haynes committed three armed robberies in about 24 hours. The first occurred in Gwinnett County, the second one in Cobb County and the last one in Gwinnett County. He showed a lack of compassion for his victims and a streak of violence that the state believes is reflected in his sentence.” Haynes was previously convicted in Gwinnett County for the two related armed robberies there and was sentenced to life in prison. In addition to the life in prison sentence, the Cobb County judge also added a mandatory five years to serve in prison on the firearms charge. Haynes’ sentence will run concurrently with the sentence imposed in Gwinnett. Barnes, 25, pleaded guilty to charges in both counties. He was sentenced in Cobb County to 20 years, with 10 years to be served in prison.
  • Residents at a DeKalb County apartment complex finally have temporary stairs to reach their second-story units. Channel 2 Action News first reported how firefighters had to rescue people stuck on the second floor of the Maple Walk Apartments in Decatur earlier this month. Channel 2's Sophia Choi learned residents were using ladders to reach their second-floor homes. Even though it was unsafe, residents said they had to get into their homes after waiting weeks. 'I got a ladder and came home. I had no choice. I didn't have the funds to stay out anymore,' resident Shawta Tiller said. As of Tuesday, they have temporary wooden steps to use. The DeKalb County fire marshal toured the construction site weeks after the complex removed their stairs. Residents said despite promises of payments for hotel rooms, they have received nothing. So after a week or so, they decided to use ladders to get in. TRENDING STORIES: Body found in locked Walmart bathroom that employees thought was out of order for days Woman could face jail time over garden Man who robbed 3 Waffle Houses in 24 hours sentenced to life in prison 'It was very dangerous, because trying to take groceries, just trying to get your things up it was just very scary and dangerous,' resident Tyler Reese said. The fire marshal said the county evacuated residents on three separate occasions for using those unsafe ladders. Channel 2 Action News was with the code enforcement officer who checked out a host of other problems at the complex, including mold and holes inside units, and major structural problems like a sagging balcony. 'It's not just the building with no stairs, most of the buildings around here look like this, with debris all over the hallway and the ceiling gone,' one resident said. The county said the owners of the complex were late in following their orders, and they will be cited for the delay. 'The building department is waiting for that structural analysis pending to be submitted by the ownership. That's where the permanent fixes will take place,' DeKalb fire marshal Joe Cox said. Choi contacted the apartment manager, who declined to comment.
  • The German Parliament plans to vote Friday on whether to legalize same-sex marriage — only days after Chancellor Angela Merkel backed off her conservative party's long-standing refusal to budge on the issue. The German news agency dpa reported Wednesday the Parliament's legal committee had given its OK for the vote to take place Friday. Merkel surprisingly said Monday she could see lawmakers making the issue a 'decision of conscience,' voting according to individual preferences rather than along party lines. Her comment came ahead of Germany's Sept. 24 election in which all of Merkel's potential coalition partners, including the center-left Social Democrats of her challenger, Martin Schulz, are calling for same-sex marriage to be legalized. Germany has allowed same-sex couples to enter into civil partnerships since 2001.
  • NATO's chief says U.S. allies are projected to spend around $12 billion more on defense this year, after President Donald Trump berated them for failing to boost military budgets. NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said Wednesday that 'we have really shifted gears. The (spending) trend is up and we intend to keep it up.' Unveiling new figures, Stoltenberg said European allies and Canada have increased spending by almost $46 billion over the last three years. He said 25 of NATO's 29 allies aim to raise defense spending in 2017. Only the United States, Britain, Estonia, debt-burden Greece and Poland met NATO's spending targets last year. Romania says it will meet the 2 percent of GDP guideline this year, while Latvia and Lithuania plan to in 2018.