James Powell and a half century later we are still at it.

Half a century ago our high school band from Michigan was invited to play a concert at the World's Fair.  All night bus rides, fund raisers, subways, lunch at the UN (still have the menu - crab soup was $0.60), sleeping in a NYC hotel (the Martinique on Herald Square), and police cars racing up Broadway in the middle of the night heading to Harlem.

For those who don't remember, a high school kid named James Powell was shot by an off duty office,
one Lt. Thomas Gilligan and things got quickly out of hand. There were riots in Harlem every day/night of our visit.  For kids born and raised in a virtually "white only" side of town and going to a high school of 3,600 with four black families, the entire thing was outside our realm of understanding.

Similar urban rioting broke out just about everywhere about then and over the next two years.  Watts, Rochester, Philly..the list was long...erupted.  It was harsh and hateful.  The police were caught in the middle as they often are.  Unfortunately, like Baltimore now, there was a shooting or
some sort of "cops on suspect" incident to start things off.

These things start little and get big fast.  The events are often muddled and, sadly, they lose importance in short order.  The focus shifts quickly to cop v. mob and the bad element that has no intention to peacefully protest or demonstrate but are fast to hurl a rock or worse, take a pot shot.

I watched the insufferable "Morning Joe" for a bit today until nausea overtook me.  They were interviewing and laughing at a fellow in Baltimore who was once with the State Police.  He noted that major sections of Baltimore, heavily African-American, have been decimated by poverty and, interestingly, by drug laws;  in that huge portions of the black population are "missing".  The conclusion was two-fold:
1.  1.5 million black males are in our prison system and NOT in a community and then, once released, with scant chance of future meaningful work or social advancement.
2. The vast majority of those in prison are there due to antiquated drug related laws.

More important, the police are put in the middle of upholding laws and, for some, destroying families due to enforcement practices for fairly minor crimes.

I'm not making light of drug infractions. But that is not the issue or point.

The point is that we haven't come very far in the last half century by any measure.  In particular, the "wake up" call I noticed heading up Broadway that night from my window in the Martinique Hotel off Herald Square is on snooze alarm.