Nov 2 2011

Desperate Ex-Skinhead Turns to Former Black Enemy to Escape Life of Hate

“I wasn’t on any great mission for the white race. I was just a thug.” -Bryon Widner

Bryon Widner gets frequent migraines and has to stay out of the sun. He calls it “a small price to pay for being human again.”

Before he fell in love and married his wife, Julie, Bryon Widner had once devoted his life, his heart and his body to the cause of white supremacy. A pillar in the neo-Nazi movement, Widner was one of the most violent and well-known skinheads in the nation, and he had the tattoos to prove it. A blood-soaked razor, swastikas, and the letters “HATE” stamped across his knuckles, were but a few of the outrageous messages his body was broadcasting to the world.

After marrying in 2006, Widner and his wife (who had also been an active white supremacist) changed their minds about the movement and began trying to build a life free of hatred. Widner left behind his old ties, and looked forward to a future in which his children could look at him and be proud.

Unfortunately, and, understandably, Widner could find few people willing to look past his hate-filled tattoos to determine if the man behind them really did want to change his life.

Unable to afford the expensive removal procedure, Bryon began experimenting with homemade concoctions to try to burn the tattoos from his face and body.

He reached the point, he said, where “I was totally prepared to douse my face in acid.”

In desperation, Julie reached out to a black man whom white supremacists consider their sworn enemy.

Daryle Lamont Jenkins runs an anti-hate group called One People’s Project based in Philadelphia. The 43-year-old activist posts the names and addresses of white supremacists on his website, and alerts people to their activities. Jenkins has been the target of death threats and vicious hate speech from various white hate organizations around the country.

The Widners had sought advice from the right man. Jenkins’ introduced them to T.J. Leyden, a former neo-Nazi who is now an activist for tolerance.

Leyden knows better than most the barriers faced by those seeking to turn their backs on their neo-Nazi roots to begin anew.

Leyden ultimately led the Widners to the Southern Poverty Law Center, based in Montgomery, Ala.  Through the help of the SPLC an anonymous donor paid the estimated $35,000 it cost to free Bryon from his prison of ink. The donor’s conditions were that Widner get his GED, get counseling and pursue either a college education or a trade — he was happy to comply.

Read the entire AP article at the Salt Lake Tribune.


Jul 18 2011

White Hate Crime Convict Scheduled to Die July 20; Bangladeshi Victim Wants Him Spared

When terrorists attacked America on 9/11, Mark Anthony Stroman went on a murderous rampage to, as he put it, “exact some measure of equality and fairness for the thousands of victims of September 11.”

With specific intent to kill Middle Eastern-looking men, Stroman shot 46-year-old Pakistani immigrant Waqar Hasan in the head on September 15, 2001. Six days later, he shot Bangladesh native Raisuddin Bhuiyan in the face at a gas station where Bhuiyan worked. He survived but was left blind in one eye. On October 4, Stroman walked into a gas station operated by 49-year-old Vasudev Patel and killed him with a shot to the chest. Patel was a Hindu, not Muslim, Arab or Middle Eastern. Stroman was convicted of Patel’s murder and sentenced to die.

With his execution date approaching, Stroman, a former member of the Aryan Brotherhood, has publicly declared his remorse, both for his actions and the underlying hatred that fueled them. “I cannot tell you that I am an innocent man. I am not asking you to feel sorry for me, and I won’t hide the truth,” he said from Texas death row at the Polunsky Correctional Unit. “I am a human being and made a terrible mistake out of love, grief and anger and, believe me, I am paying for it every single minute of the day.”

In a surprising twist to a story born of hatred and violence, one of Stroman’s biggest supporters is Bhuiyan, a devout Muslim, who survived being shot in the face by Stroman and whose testimony helped convict his attacker. Despite the pain Stroman has caused him and all of the victims’ families, Bhuiyan does not want him to die. “In order to live in a better and peaceful world, we need to break the cycle of hate and violence. I believe forgiveness is the best policy…” he said. “I forgave Mark Stroman many years ago. I believe he was ignorant and not capable of distinguishing between right and wrong. Otherwise, he wouldn’t have done what he did.”

Stroman is reported to have cried when he was told about Bhuiyan’s efforts to have his death sentenced commuted. “I am sorry to say I made innocent people pay for my rage, anger, grief and loss,” he said. “I have destroyed my victims’ families as well as my own. Out of pure anger and stupidity, I did some things to some men from Pakistan, India, Bangladesh and Saudi Arabia. And, now, I sit on death row awaiting execution. And, by no means, am I proud of what I have done.”

Barring a last-minute intervention, Stroman will die for his crimes on Wednesday, July 20, 2011.

Read more at CNN.com.


Jun 16 2011

‘Black Like Me’ White Author Darkened His Skin to Write About "Being Black"

Today is my birthday. And Tupac’s Too.

Another June 16th human being I really love is John Howard Griffin.

6/16/20 – 9/9/80

I hope you already know all about this man, but if not, he was a White anti-racist who grew up in the South and wanted to do something to reach the hearts and minds of White Americans, most of whom were in denial about the conditions under which Black people lived.

Griffin conducted an experiment in 1959 (years before the Civil Rights movement) that included shaving his head, darkening his skin with lamps and pharmaceuticals and living as a Black man in the deep south.

Though he endured for several weeks, he ended up cutting the experiment short, as he found that being a Black man was too difficult for him to maintain for long. He wrote a book about his experiences that made him a celebrity and (to some) a villain.

“Nothing can describe the withering horror of this. You feel lost, sick at heart before such unmasked hatred, not so much because it threatens you as because it shows humans in such an inhuman light. You see a kind of insanity, something so obscene the very obscenity of it (rather than its threat) terrifies you. It was so new I could not take my eyes from the man’s face. I felt like saying: “What in God’s name are you doing to yourself?”

“Suddenly I had had enough. Suddenly I could stomach no more of this degradation- not of myself but of all men who were black like me.”

“When all the talk, all the propaganda has been cut away, the criterion is nothing but the color of skin. My experience proved that. They judged me by no quality. My skin was dark.”

Mr. Griffin knew when he conducted his experiment he would forever be putting himself at odds with those in America who didn’t want the ugliest realities of racism to be exposed and so vividly expressed by someone White. After his book “Black Like Me” was published in 1961 he and his family received continual death threats. They left their Texas home and eventually moved to Mexico.

“John Howard Griffin was one of the most remarkable people I have ever encountered…He was just one of those guys that comes along once or twice in a century and lifts the hearts of the rest of us.” -Studs Terkel

Here is an excellent article about Griffin’s life, his experiment and his writings: JimCrowMuseum <<–Highly suggested reading!