Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., was a good man. He died honorably, fighting a decent battle for the welfare of all — men, women, children, and animals alike. His message was one of equality, not segregation. King challenged us:
Never, never be afraid to do what’s right, especially if the well-being of a person or animal is at stake. Society’s punishments are small compared to the wounds we inflict on our soul when we look the other way.
That said, I won’t look the other way as Reverend Ron Wright hoards the media’s attention surrounding Justice the puppy’s animal cruelty case with what I view as divisive, counterproductive rhetoric.
If you’re unfamiliar, Wright is the fancy suit wearin’, sweet talkin’ reverend who appears to be racing toward every camera and reporter he can wrangle, spieling sweet Lordy Lordy Hallelujahs over the bail bond amount set for Darius Ewing. Ewing, who turned himself in under felony warrant last month, reportedly lit a stray puppy named Justice on fire for amusement. The puppy, who was hung first before being set ablaze, died a week and a half later from serious burn injuries. Wright surprised just about everybody when he zeroed in on this case as being racial, which I believe is nothing short of manipulating the facts.
I gave Ron Wright the benefit of a doubt when I first became aware of his public mission. After all, we seemingly have many binding interests. Truth is, after witnessing his behavior in person and during interviews over the course of the past few weeks, I’m not only wary of, but also disappointed by this so-called preacher man parading around like just about everything except a humble servant to his faith.
I’m not the only one put off by Wright’s antics. As reported by The Dallas Morning News in 2008, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, a longstanding African-American civil rights organization first led by Dr. King, issued an official statement claiming Wright was “not authorized” to speak for the group, calling statements he made “unfounded”:
Dexter M. Wimbish, Esq.
SCLC General Counsel
SCLC Statement of Clarification of Dallas Representatives
The national office of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference has become aware of public statements made concerning issues involving the shooting of an unarmed man in Dallas, Texas. The statements made by Rev. Ronald Wright, Peter Johnson and others as it related to SCLC are not authorized by the National SCLC. In additional there is no regional SCLC office located in Dallas, Texas nor has the Board of Directors authorized the creation of a regional office.
There is a properly sanctioned Dallas Chapter in the City of Dallas with established leadership under the direction of SCLC President Derrick Bowman and any public comments held attributable to SCLC should come from that chapter or the national SCLC office. The Southern Christian Leadership Conference employs a systematic approach to nonviolence and conflict resolution that includes conducting a fact finding phase before making unfounded statements such as those attributed to Rev. Ronald Wright.
Ouch. What a complete mutilation of Wright’s legitimacy amongst his religious and political peers.
Likewise, activists today are questioning Ron Wright’s motives for such aggressive finger pointing in the Darius Ewing case. Richard Hunter, an animal rights advocate who adopted one of Michael Vick’s dogs, recently challenged Wright-and-Ewing supporter, Bonnie Mathias, when she asserted Ewing’s bond was set unfairly high. Hunter requested:
Jim Wenger co-founder of DFW Rescue Me, the group that sponsored Justice’s medical care, agrees this case is strictly about a violent crime. When asked outside the courtroom, he told reporters: “It’s an animal cruelty issue. His bond was set where it was because he was a flight risk, it’s a felony.”
In the press, though, Wright maintained, “It [the bond] says that dogs are more important when it comes to African-American men.” For good measure, Wright added, “Women and dogs are even when it comes to getting bail.”
(Yes, you really just read that.)
I wager I’m not alone in my failure to connect with Wright’s cavalcade of Crazytown logic. In fact, reality couldn’t differ more from the hot air rolling off Wright’s tongue. Our society has clearly indicated through repeated example that dogs are unimportant and acceptably cast aside when inconvenient. Obviously, an animal isn’t capable of committing the heinous act for which Darius Ewing turned himself in, yet, in the event a dog is apprehended for malicious behavior, there is no bond, no trial, no jail sentence, no reprieve. There’s death. So I’d say, despite how the rev paints the comparison, Darius Ewing’s prospects look a lot better than they would for any canine in his position — guilty or otherwise. As for Wright’s commentary equating women to dogs in relation to “getting bail,” I think it’s safe to assume no bondsman would consider a paw print any sort of legally binding signature. Let’s face it: Dogs have nothing over people of either sex or any color of the rainbow unless we’re discussing mugshots, and then I readily admit dogs have the upper hand. (I hope Ron Wright is okay with that injustice.)
Before the initial bond hearing, Wright made claims that his dog Sadie was poisoned as a retaliatory measure for his championing Darius Ewing’s case, that he thought someone threw meat dipped in antifreeze or something over his fence. Again, as in the instance with the SCLC, Wright’s accusations are unfounded and reprehensible. According to articles like this one, he didn’t rush to file for police investigation. He didn’t get an official opinion by physically visiting a licensed veterinarian or obtaining a necropsy — something you would need to do to prove a serious allegation worthy of reporting. He provided no body, no evidence. He offered no photo of the dog in the state of death which he described. Nah, Wright called Shaun Rabb from Fox 4 News over to scavenge around in the ramshackle backyard to view poor Sadie’s grave instead. The condition of that dog’s dilapidated, potentially dangerous living quarters — full of what appear to be plants poisonous to canines and construction materials with jagged edges — in combination with Wright’s immediate, speculative actions demonstrate to viewers like myself that his primary concern was not in stopping the possible poisoning of other dogs in his area. It might seem the intention was, sadly, to use Sadie’s death as a platform to further try Darius’s case in the media, to imply blame in a manner where Wright could easily also later step back and say, Oh, I never told anyone it was an animal rights activist who did this. I just said I thought it was retaliation. But, really, what other reason would there have been for calling a camera crew? Generally, people who are grieving the loss of an animal don’t stumble over themselves trying to speed dial reporters. I feel terrible for the rev’s dog. Sincerely, I do feel awful for the way she was left to fend for herself in that filthy backyard within close proximity to where another dog was recently known to be burned to death by someone Darius’s family and supporters insist is still at large. I feel sorry for how Sadie had to seek shelter in that decrepit dog house. I feel sickened her owner turned her death into something fit more for a drama llama than for a beautiful German Shepherd. Hopefully, someone is capable of getting to the root of this issue for Sadie and her animal brethren, who cannot speak for themselves.
What I’ve said might seem harsh given the heartbreaking circumstances of Wright’s dog, but we are talking about a public figure whose track record is not one of obvious concern for animal welfare, someone who bullied his way through an entire crowd post-hearing in order to reach the bevy of cameras outside the courtroom. Once in front of the microphones, Ron Wright carelessly segregated viewers by waving his familiar flag about an issue that’s got nothing to do with anything except an animal being hung and lit on fire. Remember, this case attracted international attention. Great weather for glory-seeking if you’re into that swarmy sort of thing.
Click to view footage of the rev holding his position: “It reeks of racism.” I wonder: If Darius Ewing had been a white man, would Ronald Wright have claimed a bond of the same amount “reeked of racism?” Would that even have created a blip on the reverend’s justice radar? Naw, come on.
As I was trying to help an older woman leave the hectic area near the media, Rev. Wright shoulder-checked my entire right side. I felt uncertain it was intentional even though it was definitely rude, yet decided to let it go. In the video link above, he narrowly misses doing the same thing to another female (marker :44), barreling past the smiling woman in all manners of pompous self-importance as she is forced to literally scale the side of the doorframe to avoid making contact. A gentleman only steps aside when he’s a gentleman, I suppose.
Then I observed him perform the same move at a later time on Jim Wenger, DFWRM. This time, Wright seemed to avoid the open spaces to the right and left of Wenger, and appeared to move directly in front of the animal advocate in a physically confrontational manner. Refusing to participate in the rev’s pissing match, Jim continued to proceed toward our group, and I asked, “Did Wright really just body-check you? That’s what it looked like from over here.” To which, Jim casually replied, “Tried to, didn’t he?”
I might have been surprised a bit more if I hadn’t also witnessed Wright’s less-than-professional courtroom etiquette where he audibly laughed and shook his head as the detective testified that Ewing cussed at him, telling him: “F*** the police. Suck my d***. Come get me if you want me.” During the hearing, there were several moments I could not understand what the witness was saying because Wright was holding conversation with the woman next to him. Their recurring laughter at the cops who were on the stand was unbelievably disrespectful. When the witness discussed the arrest of Ewing, including how he was detained by Homicide at the police station, Wright could no longer contain himself: “Homicide. It was just a dog. This was all FOR A DOG!” And then he and the people near him giggled insensitively, rolling their eyes, making faces, shaking their heads as they cracked up. It was like being trapped within close proximity to the live action, mannerless rendition of People of Walmart (dot com). This version of Wright beyond the camera’s scope was a completely different guy from the one who was traipsing around with Shaun Rabb after Sadie died. He certainly didn’t tell Rabb she was “just a dog.” No, he saved that for the courtroom when he refused to contain his thoughts out of consideration for others, including the gentlemen who sat behind him respectfully the entire time — also there in support of Ewing. Perhaps, those guys didn’t miss the teaching in Proverbs 29: 11:
A fool utters all his mind, but a wise man keeps it in ’til afterwards.
In the hallway, Wright and members of Darius Ewing’s family were upset the bond was reduced by half. That wasn’t good enough for them even though it was really quite a victory. A family member said the bond should be $1,500 because that’s what they could afford (making the cash portion $150). Seriously. Look, I realize there is a chance Darius could be innocent and understand that his family doesn’t want to see him go to jail. Got that. However, the guy’s behavior for the past four years — supported by his record of breaking probation, refusing to turn himself in under a juvenile warrant for a different violent crime, and his sign-throwing, gun-glorifying Facebook photos — doesn’t suggest that he’s the kind of person who won’t run or who’s incapable of committing a crime like the one with which he’s been indicted. Last week’s judicial due process involved a bond hearing, not a determination of guilt or innocence. The reverend went on camera saying he wanted fairness for Darius Ewing. What in the world did he think was happening that day when the judge heard both arguments before granting the defense a 50% reduction?
The family is still trying to scrape funds together to free Ewing. Maybe Reverend Wright could find it in his heart to sell a few suits or something.
Or maybe he could give them the “due’s” [sic] he collects from his website. Oddly, Wright charges a fee to be a part of his civil rights-seeking, justice-y group, or to paraphrase his referral to that when publicly telling one woman online she needed to pay up: “their” was a “memebership” rate she needed to submit. (For what, the spellchecked version?)
Also suggested by the website is for the reader to conduct a search for Rev. Wright’s name online using terms the web admin, presumably Wright, provided. So, naturally, I obliged. Turns out he doesn’t have a very heavy amount of Google juice outside of his involvement in Justice’s case, and I was immediately pointed back to his website. (Well. That was informative.) I couldn’t find anything about his church. No schedule of his speaking events. There was his Twitter, at least, where he claims God “commission” him. (I would love to hear the story of God commissioning him to charge people membership fees to utilize similar services they can easily and independently access elsewhere for free.) His last tweet was forever ago, which is odd for a community leader, given today’s necessity for social media, especially since his target members are clearly using technology. He last parted Twitter with a fantastic message about Michael Jackson having been a “historian.” Amazingly, I never knew MJ was a historian. Good thing I took the time to visit Ron’s Twitter trail where 24 followers await his next pearls of wisdom. In a rabbit hole worth noting, his first tweet mentions Jenny, the controversial elephant from the Dallas Zoo, but not because he was worried about her welfare; he was irritated that the proposed “Tax payers monies” [do I need to keep sic-ing?] were being spent unwisely (proposal was to upgrade her living conditions or release her to sanctuary, another blog altogether). His concern, of course, only mentioned money, not the animal’s welfare. Again.
I guess I’m just bewildered as to why anyone would want to enlist the services of Rev. Ron Wright as a third party when s/he can obtain information and referrals for no membership charge elsewhere and from professional resources that are written using competent communication skills. In less than five seconds at the library, you can look up the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and all subsequent language. If Wright truly was capable of delivering the goods, his group might have secured a non-court appointed attorney who specializes in cases meeting the criteria Wright deems applicable. Likewise, can the Justice Seekers not afford to pony up 5G for bail bond after being in business for two years? You’d think the Rev would consider Darius’s treatment a top priority since he is so adamant about that in the press. Truth of the matter is Ewing’s still sitting in jail and on his second court-appointed lawyer since the case took shape (last one recused herself). The only individual who remotely benefits from this case is the reverend, who appears before reporters more than any other person legitimately involved in the courtroom drama surrounding Justice the puppy, usually peddling the name of his group along the bottom of the TV screen and rehashing his convoluted, racial message. For the record, I come from multiple generations of southern ministers who are degreed theologists, with decades upon decades of international missionary work and professional church leadership experience. Even if Wright’s poorly articulated hootin’-and-hollerin’ hadn’t raised my eyebrows, a lifetime of dealing with people who truly know how to craft religious touchdowns every Sunday morning would have eventually made it impossible for me to take this camera hog seriously.
I might dislike Rev. Wright’s modus operandi, but I support him fully when he says Darius Ewing is innocent until proven guilty. That is how we do it here, and I would have things no differently. Saying that, I’m no cheerleader for Darius Ewing based upon the evidence presented thus far, which was actually much more damning than I’d imagined it might be, but I believe it’s only fair to allow Darius his day in court and to afford him the shot to tell us the truth. Without doubt, we know Justice was brutally, fatally abused in Darius’s apartment complex. If Ewing didn’t do it and is a dog lover as his grandmother assured the media, he probably knows the felonious party and should be man enough to tell the public who committed the crime. If Darius burned Justice alive, coming forward with that truth will be the only thing that will truly set him free in the end — even if that freedom means he must pay for his crime in jail. I know it may not be a popular view, but I have no hate in my heart for Darius Ewing. Justice’s abuse angers and saddens me deeply, but hate makes it difficult to move toward resolution.
Going further, Wright should not have to deal with racial slurs being left on his voice mail any more than I should have to deal with being called a “white b**ch” by one of Ewing’s supporters. Having read derogatory comments on Darius Ewing’s Justice for Justice Facebook page from both white and black individuals, I am disappointed people feel the need to radiate racism about something that isn’t remotely about that topic. Racists of any color who are using this case as an opportunity to spread contempt should understand their commentaries detract from the root of this issue, regardless of whose side they support.
Unlike the rev, I’m not a local celebrity or a public figure, nor do I choose to put myself in front of cameras. I do, however, have the same rights and the same freedom of speech as he does, even as a regular old Joe. Rev. Wright has accomplished some good things in the past. As a watchful citizen, I encourage him to focus on uniting the community with his power instead of portraying insensitivity toward an entire movement, thus compromising the greater good. When a leader in any facet creates a detrimental environment for a cause worthy of supporting, I feel it’s against the advice of Dr. King to ignore such behavior, especially when it concerns the very things King died defending: Fairness and dignity for all. Animals included.
Again, MLK cautioned:
Never, never be afraid to do what’s right, especially if the well-being of a person or animal is at stake. Society’s punishments are small compared to the wounds we inflict on our soul when we look the other way.
Duly noted, Dr.
RIP, poor Sadie and Justice. May the world learn compassion through your tragedies; may your unnecessary sacrifices reveal the path toward kindness and respect for all creatures.
We had to name the kittens we found a couple of weeks ago just to keep things straight. They’re funny. They’re like magic. We settled on Penn, Jillette, and Teller. I think it’s fitting.
This morning the vet said she thought they were around six to seven weeks old at this point, which breaks my heart because now we’re sure they weren’t fully weaned by their mom and that they definitely had to weather a couple of terrible thunder storms — complete with tornado activity — when they were only a couple of weeks old under the neighbors’ shed. Poor guys. The thought of a homeless, hungry mother cat protecting her newborns under those conditions is especially heartbreaking.
Even though I’ve enjoyed this pile of kittens scampering around, I feel enormous guilt because one of them looks exactly like a stray I saw a number of times running around my neighborhood. I assumed s/he’d been someone’s outdoor pet and hadn’t done anything. Sadly, I should have known better because there was no collar, and the cat spent a lot of nights foraging around in my backyard only to quickly disappear when the dog went to the backdoor and whimpered for us to let her out. Having noticed coyotes running along the back fence, I hope she didn’t fall prey and that I can trap her eventually to eliminate further litters.
Penn, the largest kitten — the one who found us — is gray and orange. When we first pulled him from the rose bush, he bit three people and was so feisty that I could barely get him into a carrier. When we tried to pet him, he’d spit and hiss, completely full of piss and vinegar. I couldn’t blame him. When we caught the other two kittens, who were huddled together in fear that first night, Penn would stand in front of them like a protective sibling. Now he lies in our laps and lets us rub his belly. He’s definitely the most curious, definitely the one who is first out of their large kennel every morning.
Jillette is the smallest. Solid black with the most beautiful blue eyes. An all-out people cat. When the other kittens are exploring and playing, Jillette follows us around and mews to be picked up. When we do, she always purrs…and purrs…and purrs. Even so, she’s the first one to the food and growls at the other kittens if they so much as look at her while she’s eating.
Teller is a gray and white kitten with white markings around her eyes. If you talk to her, she’ll talk back. If any of these kittens are mind readers, it’s Teller. I believe Teller was the first one who was brave enough to meet our resident adult cat, Clover, who is also a gray and white tabby.
When we first took the kittens into our home, we weren’t sure what our own animals would think. We’ve got some seriously spoiled pets around here. Since we do a fair amount of short-term fostering for dogs, our cats, Banksy and Clover, and our dog, Nova, are pretty predictable when it comes to acclimating to canine visitors, but baby cats? That was new. However, getting to know our three animal pals in this new light has been almost as awesome as watching the kittens hop around and tackle each other.
Nova, a dog who became ours because she wasn’t fitting in very well in other foster packs, surprisingly became an instant nanny for the kittens. In fact, she loved them so much that she wouldn’t let them out of her sight and spent a lot of time wrangling them to sleep at her side much like a mother cat might have done. After she had them where she wanted, Nova cleaned them and watched over them. We’d say, “Hey, Nova, are those your babies?” and she’d lick their heads and look at us, like, “Duh, can’t you see?”
Clover, a feral cat we adopted from the pound two years ago, watched all of this from the doorway. I could tell she wanted to come closer, but was hesitant. Shortly, though, Clover stopped spending the whole of her night at my feet and started sleeping on top of the kittens’ kennel. When they mewed, Clover would become alert, worried. At this point, Clover and Nova share nanny duty full on, and I’ve caught Clover kissing these kittens more than just a few times.
Banksy, our obese Tortie who throws nonstop temper tantrums, is furious. Her favorite activity is lying belly-up wherever we are as long as it’s in the most high traffic area. She looks exactly like a leopard seal when she does this, for the record. I’m not sure why she’s so grumpy, but the kittens really bring it out of her — even more so than an empty food dish. And that is saying a lot. Several nights ago, Teller tried to approach her to play, but Banksy pulled her paw back to slap the baby. Faster than I could separate them, Clover and Nova were between kitten and Fat Fatty — Clover ready to fight, Nova poking Banksy backward with her dog snout. The kitten ran back to her siblings with Clover right behind her.
Right now it’s nap time for everybody. Clover’s on the kitten crate; Nova is in her Chill Out Cave aka the bedroom, which is the only way I can get Nova to stay away from her kittens so they can rest. Otherwise, Nova patrols the premises like a shark, protecting the babies from fat Banksys, intermittently nosing them to make sure they are responsive. Banksy is guarding her private food supply.
I’m staring at them all with a familiar pang. I know it’s temporary and that I’m a bridge for these guys. Today when the vet said, “One more week before you can adopt them out,” I looked at the cluster of furry young kittens and knew it was going to be a little tougher for me than usual. I’ve watched them grow from itsy bitsy, teeny tiny feral creatures into beings that love their human and domestic animal counterparts. Clover and Nova are going to miss their important job assignments, too.
So…one week before I deliver them to their spot in the rescued cat condo at the pet supply store where they’ll be certain to get the most exposure possible. Even though the employees there shower the cats with affection, I’m still compelled to check in on them daily like a mother hen until they’re…gone.
Let the adoption application review process begin. Sad face/happy face.
If you’re looking for one of the coolest kittens ever and live in the DFW area, please, let me know so I can forward an app. Photos are here.
As a side note, I’d like to add that not one, but TWO rescue groups offered to help place these kittens within the first week. If you find yourself in a similar situation, please understand there are always options available if you need assistance. Turning your back on homeless animals, especially in your neighborhood, is never the right solution and will only create further problems down the line for yourself, your resident animals, and your community.