Echo: Native American Activist’s Body Found In Jail One Day After Sandra Bland

Another day, another suspicious death of an activist in jail, found just like Kindra Chapman — and one day after Sandra Bland’s death in a Texas jail cell.

Fifty-three-year-old Rexdale W. Henry was allegedly discovered deceased July 14 inside his Neshoba County Jail cell in Philadelphia, Mississippi. Like Bland, Henry found himself in jail over something as minor as a small, unpaid traffic violation, and somehow, for some reason, it cost him his life.

Shake that question gnawing at you as to why anyone should ever be locked up for nonviolent crimes when they are no physical danger to the community, or themselves, and consider the details. After all, Henry isn’t the first Native American to have died under questionable circumstances in the company of law enforcement. Denver Police gunned down Paul Castaway, July 12, merely two days before, when the despondent Lakota man put a knife up to his own throat in despair.

Apparently, that was enough of a “threat” for cops in Denver to lie and claim he rushed them with the knife, so of course they had to shoot him dead. But nearby surveillance cameras show the truth. Make no mistake of the dangers of racism in this country.

And then you add in the activism and social justice work of a Sandra Bland (as evidenced by the video below) or a Rexdale W. Henry, and you’ve got yourself a real target for the system.


Posted by Larry Robinson on Thursday, July 23, 2015

Which system?

The racist systems all around us – that systemic racism you’ve heard about here and there but never really understood. The same racist Neshoba County system that turned a blind eye, and even participated in the now historical murders of three Civil Rights activists in the 60s, James Chaney, Andrew Goodman and Michael Schwerner.

And when folks like Bland and Henry come up dead under such conditions, under such systems, and for so little offense, eyebrows are sure to get to jumping. Why shouldn’t they?

Which is why the eyebrows of Henry’s friends, family and fellow activists started leaping like fish jumping skyward from gnarly rivers of skepticism the moment they found out about his “suicide.” They are so convinced the authorities are hiding Henry’s murder they elected to have his body transported to Florida, by the good graces and charity of anonymous donors, for an independent autopsy after his funeral July 19.

That will be in addition to an autopsy being conducted by the Jackson state crime lab, as well as an investigation by the Mississippi Bureau of Investigation.

But you know what Ida B. Wells used to say, right? Remember?

“Those who do the killing write the reports.”

Obviously, those close to Henry electing for the alternative autopsy are hoping for answers that will confirm their suspicious, as just in the Bland case, suicide made no sense.

But the friends and loved ones of Henry will need a good bit of luck for much of any justice to occur even if they do find something in their independent autopsy. The Michael Brown case certainly confirms that, as does the pathetic attempt to justify Bland’s “suicide” by saying she had marijuana in her system – a substance of which traces can remain within the body for up to 30 days, yet hardly means one is “stoned” or suicidal. That’s absurd. So, even if Henry’s alternative autopsy yields evidence of note, it will likely be rationalized, trivialized and dismissed, ultimately. Bet on it.

Still, as a friend, family, loved one or fellow activist with your boots on the same ground, you want to know what happened. Folks want to know what happened to Henry, and they will do all they can to seek justice, even if they never get it. At least, in the end, it will all be known, if nothing else.

It will be known, for example, that local WTOK reported Henry was discovered by corrections officers, deceased, at roughly 10 a.m., local time, but that others had seen him alive and well, certainly not so despondent as to be suicidal, only a half hour before.

Two Syracuse University law professors, Janis McDonald and Paula Johnson, put the picture into a little more perspective:

“At a time when the nation is focused on the terrible circumstances of the brutal death of Sandra Bland, it is critical to expose the many ways in which Black Americans, Native Americans and other minorities are being arrested for minor charges and end up dead in jail cells.”

And in a racist country, Henry had more than just being Choctaw working against him. He was also known in the community and to police as a “lifelong community activist.” He was in the running for the Choctaw Tribal Council, too, when he was arrested a week later, on July 9.

And with a minor traffic violation? Might as well have painted a target on his back, and that’s the sad truth of the state of affairs in America today. “Post-racial” America.

Henry’s family plans to make the results of the independent autopsy known as soon as they are available.

Bang the drum.

Featured image via Pixabay