Showing posts from July, 2016

On air and water needs: pets vs. prisoners

Something strange was happening at the prison. I was at Bellamy Creek Correctional Facility in Ionia yesterday with attorney John Smietanka, hoping to try to help a poor black man who got seriously crapped on by the judicial system.  Unfortunately, we arrived at the prison just in time for the shift change.  Corrections officers were arriving in droves.  I’m a newsman.  I notice little things.  That’s how I helped to inform my community for many, many years.  I mentioned to attorney Smietanka that the officers must be planning an outdoor exercise on this hot summer day.  Each guard was carrying a jug of water.  In fact, the majority of them were carrying gallon jugs.  We thought no more of it until we had a break in the middle of our legal conference.  “What’s the story with the water,” I asked the prisoner.  “Every CO is bringing in bottles and jugs of water.”  His face turned angry.  “The water here isn’t drinkable,” he said. “You should see it.  It’s brown when it comes out

July 24: A very special day!

July 24 is a red-letter day!  For two reasons.  First, it’s our youngest son Matthew’s birthday.  And second, it’s the day that Maurice Henry Carter walked out of prison into the free world, after spending 29 years behind bars for a crime he did not commit.  I was at his side when he walked out of the Duane L. Waters Prison Hospital on this date in 2004. Matt would agree that his birthday in 2004 was special, because as a young reporter for the Grand Haven Tribune, he was assigned to cover Maurice Carter’s release.  His story was on the front page of the newspaper.  His picture of Maurice holding his freedom papers high above his head graces the cover of my book SWEET FREEDOM. Neither Maurice, nor Matt, nor I could have predicted our future involvement with prisoners.  My 9-year battle to free Maurice led to the formation of what we now know as HUMANITY FOR PRISONERS.  Maurice kept insisting that there was a critical need for an organization like ours, while I quietly dealt wi

On anger and injustice

Many years ago I spoke at a prayer breakfast.  I had recently assumed the prestigious position of President and General Manager of Radio Station WGHN in Grand Haven, and I was still in my 20s.  I knew a lot in those days.  The topic of my remarks was “Righteous Indignation,” and I pointed out that even Jesus got angry with the money changers in the temple…that, if for the right reasons, it was OK to get angry. Well, there are some things that still make me angry, but I must admit that 50 years later, my thoughts have tempered on the subject of anger.  I’m hearing and reading about anger higher than any levels that I can remember.  The newspapers, the TV, social media, are all bursting with vitriolic comments. I’ve found three quotes that I appreciate:  one from a famous philosopher, one from the brother of Jesus, and one from a theologian.  Here goes: On anger: “Anybody can become angry — that is easy, but to be angry with the right person and to the right degree and a

No getting around it: It's racism

Many of us are in a state of denial these days, as we read and hear about white police officers shooting young black men.  We don’t like the word racism, we don’t like to talk about it, and we especially don’t like to admit that it still exists…even in our own hearts.  One would think that, in my first career as a broadcast journalist, I might have seen a lot of and know a lot about racism.  But that wasn’t the case.  The bulk of my local news coverage occurred in the Grand Rapids, Holland and Grand Haven markets.  In those days we could count the number of black families in Holland or Grand Haven on one hand. No, my first real dealings with racism occurred when I tried to free a black man who had been wrongly convicted.  He was charged by a white prosecutor, was found guilty by an all-white jury, and sentenced to life in prison by a white judge.  He had been accused of shooting and injuring a white cop, and somebody of color had to pay. While leading the fight to free Mau