Morehouse College Shootings: Elite Black Students Going Gangsta

I couldn’t believe what I was reading. Gangsta culture has reached the legacy students of Morehouse College, the black elite college that turned out the likes of Martin Luther King, Jr., Spike Lee, Lerone Bennett, Samuel L. Jackson, Edwin Moses, and Julian Bond. Schools like Morehouse, Fisk, and Howard were spoken of in my generation with awe and reverence. But of course, this isn’t my generation.

He aint all that cute: Joshua Brandon Norris, Morehouse '09, was allowed to graduate though he nearly shot to death fellow Morehouse man Frank Rashad Johnson at an Atlanta club Hallowe'en night, 2007 (Courtesy: CNN)

He ain't all that cute: Joshua Brandon Norris, Morehouse '09, was allowed to graduate though he nearly shot to death fellow Morehouse man Frank Rashad Johnson at an Atlanta club Hallowe'en night, 2007 (Courtesy: CNN)

Joshua Brandon Norris faced one count of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon and a second count for possession of a firearm during the commission of a felony. But in a court hearing in January, he was presented with what the judge described as “the break of your life.”

He pleaded no contest to the first count; the second charge was dropped. He got six years of probation, a $1,000 fine and 240 hours of community service. He avoided any jail time, and the plea also mandated that he “remain in college and complete your college degree,” according to court transcripts. The sentence was not the judge’s idea, but he followed the prosecutor’s recommendation.

Not only that, but Morehouse concurred by allowing Norris to finish his senior year instead of instigating his ouster, which under any circumstances at any other college or university would be warranted.

When one reads the particulars of what happened in late October 2007, one would think that this would be just the sort of thing ignorant school dropout gangbangers would pull some Saturday night in Oakland or Harlem. But no. Said Dr. Boyce Watkins:

Joshua Brandon Norris attended a Halloween Party in 2007 and was kicked out of the party for causing trouble. A few minutes later, everyone ducked for cover when they heard gunshots. The shooting victim, Frank Rashad Johnson, said that he got into an altercation with Norris, and that Norris rolled up a few minutes later in a Hummer and put a gun to Johnson’s head. Johnson then grabbed Norris by the arm and that is when the shooting started. Although he did not kill the victim, Norris shot Johnson three times. Yes, two Morehouse men getting “into some ol’ gangsta sh*t”. Wow.

According to Johnson, the two young men had merely exchanged words, but he had thought nothing more about it until Norris rolled up packing. Slight and thin from his photographs, Rashad Johnson had already lost his father three months before; he had taken some time off to grieve and stay by his mother before he decided to return to school. Now, with a bullet still in his leg, Johnson, a legacy student through his mother’s father, has moved back to California permanently to finish college and go on to law school om 2011. He no longer wants to be known as a Morehouse man because of the lenient treatment given to his assailant, who even from his mug shot looks like he lifts weights.

Norris was allowed to graduate this past weekend, continuing to live in high style in a $450,000 condo and driving his Hummer. As Watkins summed it up, “[…] the real Morehouse man, whose family had been at the school for three generations, was being run out of town by a rich, gun totting punk who thought he could shoot someone because he disagreed with him.” Watkins believes that it was also “Morehouse money” that got Norris off, including the class connections to that money–corporate donors and legacy donors. Naturally, the entire episode has scandalized many, appearing in Essence, Jack and Jill Politics, and other blogs and publications. It’s not necessarily just the leniency given to Norris, but the slack, quiescent behavior of Morehouse officials. They don’t possess a length of spine to maintain order. Any other college or university in the country would have kicked the so-and-so out of school, legacy or not.

(It almost mirrors the kind of reaction school officials had about the bullying of Carl Walker-Hoover. They made him sit with his tormentors. They refused to listen his mother’s pleas, even when she came to the school. They refused to discipline troublemakers. Now the boy is dead, and the bullies are still around. It’s the same thing in this case. When are school officials anywhere going to clamp down on misbehaving students, and protect the ones who want to learn and who aren’t anti-social?)

If this fool was given a slap on the wrist, I can well imagine further damage and injury he will inflict in the future on people and property. He appears like a loose cannon about to go off. If I were his family, I’d get him some anger management therapy and possibly, some drug and gun interventions. But then again, if this is the scion that’s going to uphold the family name, imagine what the parents are like. I don’t think I’d want to work for them.

Meanwhile, the Morehouse Maroon Tiger, the school newspaper, reports yet another shooting incident in which Morehouse officials and security may have failed the students again. Wrote contributing writer Chad Sanders:

The shooting occurred between 4:00 and 4:30 a.m., when [Caleb] Cooper and six other AUC students had gathered in the Morehouse parking lot beside Spelman College. According to Cooper, the altercation began when two men pulled up next to the students in a Ford Focus. The shooters allegedly made sexual innuendos toward one of Cooper’s female friends, at which point she rejected their advances.

Cooper says that he also made a comment toward the men in the car. Following a brief exchange of heated words, the men quickly exited the vehicle and “jumped” the Morehouse junior. After a brief fight, one of the men pulled out a weapon and fired two shots, one of which struck Cooper in the leg.

The junior commented on his injury, saying, “I’m really just lucky I didn’t get shot in the artery. If I had, I would have bled to death.” Cooper says that after the shooting, the attackers returned to their vehicle and fled the scene.

Morehouse security and an ambulance arrived, and Cooper was treated for his injuries. However, the junior is now criticizing school administration and campus police for their handling of the incident.

Cooper said, “I want it to be known that the Morehouse security guards, when they heard gunshots, they ran away.”

Don’t tell me these people don’t even know the difference between their students and the gangstas living outside the institution? And why aren’t campus police jacking up people who don’t have requisite campus IDs on their cars and in their possession? What is with these people?

They’re going to have make that distinction fast or something really stupid is going to happen that more media outlets than CNN, based in Atlanta, will pick up.

~ by blksista on May 20, 2009.

3 Responses to “Morehouse College Shootings: Elite Black Students Going Gangsta”

  1. I am so angry with Morehouse. My students would be kicked out of school for a toy gun, while this punk gets his degree. I have no respect for Morehouse anymore. God bless and heal Mr. Johnson and his family.


  2. Just goes to show you, today’s Morrehouse leadership is all about the all-mighty dollar!


  3. I am a single mother, and I lost respect for the Morehouse College leadership, in 2002, when I realized that if you are not rich or have a famous name, you are all but ignored by Morehouse. I sent my son to Morehouse, and repeatedly wrote letters and emails requesting a meeting or telephone conversation with my son’s dean and/or president to discuss a concern. I could not get even a brief reply to my email or phone call. My son was 3,000 miles away from home, yet my son’s dean would not return my calls. I have no doubt that if my name had been Cosby, Ms Winfrey or Denzel Washington, I would have had no problem. If I had been a single mother who failed to support, encourage and be involved with my child, then I would be criticized.


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