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  • Writer's pictureTiasia Newman

Ms. April: A Black Mother's Story Who Refuses To Let Northern State Prison Facility Break Her Soul!

Misogynoir Reality Chat September 9, 2023

For the love of Joshua.

I had the pleasure of meeting Ms. April Johnson. She is a lovely woman who exists with overwhelming grief. She lost her son Joshua Johnson-Mcmillan on January 3rd, 2020. He was allegedly found unresponsive in his cell at Northern State Corrections Newark, N.J. I could go on and on about why the listed cause of death is a total sham, but for now, I will focus on one task at a time. Most media outlets want the reader to side with the government when speaking on people being killed, abused, exploited, and neglected in the U.S. Correction and criminal justice system. More often, when said inmates or offenders are Black.

Many phrases and terms are used when reporting crimes committed by and against people of color. You could be 52 years old and own four thriving businesses, let you make the news for the wrong reason. They'll discuss the public intoxication charge you got on your 21st birthday in Las Vegas. Mind you, this is while telling the world about your death. On my mama, you know I'm right.

The trick is that as soon as you hear those words, you close your heart and mind to that person who, no matter what their name is on the screen, you see SUSPECT, INMATE, and CRIMINAL. How easily does society speed past another black man or woman dying in prison without caring why? What about that PERSON's family? Their brother, sister, and their favorite aunty?? How long will we as a culture turn our backs in pardon to the least deserving organizations society has to offer? When it's our nephew, little cousin, grandbaby, or son, then we want to stand up against the system.

Forbes Magazine Article, "Misogynoir: The Unique Discrimination That Black Women Face"

Meanwhile, Sister Maryanne has been crying in the same pew since her son was killed by the cops in the 80s. Now, suddenly, you understand why she is in the prayer line every week. Your private thoughts are now giving you pause for laughing the Sunday her wig fell off while she was slain in the spirit. I'm saying that you should not have to go through the same experience as someone to empathize with them. Imagine your semi-pro basketball player son, who has never been in trouble, is locked up for being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Now he's facing beefed-up charges and is later convicted while being moved from jail to jail, having never spent a day behind bars. When you find him and can speak to him, you find out he has been viciously attacked and given 1000 days in administrative segregation. You're finally in contact with him regularly, and he has a plan for his release with about 400 days left in his sentence and is looking forward to his future. One day, out of the blue, the jail calls and says your 6 foot 3 inches 240-pound son hung himself with an 18-inch piece of fabric from a light fixture bolted against the wall, not the ceiling.

When you're done telling me to shut my mouth and keep on talking, you'll know this is just a glimpse of Ms. April's among thousands of other mothers' reality long after their children are lowered into the ground. Her plight requires more than tragically losing her child. Her mission to clear Joshua's name is at the top of her list of grievances, along with the names of the people who facilitated the lie along the way.

Have you ever tried sleeping with a broken heart? A mother should never have to bury a child, regardless of the situation. Ms. April's tears sting just as much as a mother who has lost her child due to a car accident, cancer, or a drug overdose. We, the black culture, must begin to rewire the way we relate to our people. Reject the narrative mainstream media presents to have us blame our people for the injustice against them. When white men shoot up schools, not only do they live to tell about it, the media calls them "troubled teens" or "scared little boys who were bullied." But when police kill black men, they are "thugs and gang members" or "career criminals." There was a time when we, as a people, stood together and fought for what was right. Now, we sit alone on the couch and let the news tell us who we should fight.

So the next time you hear a story about a black man being killed in police custody, remember this: every cop charged in George Floyd's murder will be in prison for less time than his daughter has already lived without him.

If you happen to watch the news and see an inmate has committed suicide by hanging in a jail cell using a piece of a sheet, followed by the medical examiner confirming rope burns on the victim's neck, while the image of the cell shows there is no way that particular manner of death could've taking place inside of it, listen to everything the reporter doesn't say to hear Ms. April's bedtime story. Remember darling, the show must go on in good fashion.

Jill Scott's food-for-thought rendition of the Star-Spangled Banner

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