Shame on Them: Teen Thug Heart Transplant Patient Abandoned by Iconic Civil Rights Group
Anthony Stokes, the Black teenager with a criminal background whose battle to get a heart transplant was aided by a leading civil rights group, was subsequently abandoned by the group after he got his transplant and disappeared from the headlines.
The Southern Christian Leadership Conference, a group co-founded by civil rights icon the Rev.Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., took Stokes’ case to the national media in the summer of 2013 when the then fifteen year-old Stokes was denied a heart transplant over “non-compliance” issues. At the time Stokes was wearing a court-mandated ankle bracelet reportedly for fighting.
Less than two years after receiving a donor heart, Stokes died during a crime spree Tuesday night in Georgia. According to police Stokes carjacked a vehicle, took it to a house that he broke in to, fired a gun at the elderly female resident then fled in the stolen vehicle. Stokes was spotted by police who gave chase. He lost control of the vehicle hitting a female pedestrian. Then Stokes wrapped the vehicle around a utility pole. He was pronounced dead at a local hospital. Anthony Stokes was just seventeen years old.
Incredibly, the president of the Georgia state chapter of the SCLC told CNN on Wednesday that the group had referred Stokes to a mentor program in 2013 but had no involvement with him afterward. SCLC didn’t even bother to check to see if Stokes participated in the mentor program. They just abandoned him.
“When Stokes’ family was trying to get him a heart, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference advocated for the teen.
“SCLC’s the Rev. Samuel Mosteller told CNN that he was disappointed. “We got this young man a second chance in life,” he said.
“SCLC referred the teenager to a mentor program in the Atlanta area, but Mosteller said that he wasn’t sure if the teenager participated. “What happened between the time in 2013 to now, I don’t really know,” he said. “How much Anthony recognized the gravity of things and did what he needed to do to make himself a viable citizen, I don’t know. But we tried.””
In 2013 when the SCLC was engaged in a media blitz on behalf of Stokes, Mosteller told CNN the group had a ‘longtime relationship’ with Stokes.
“In the meantime, the story became public in local media. The Southern Christian Leadership Conference’s Georgia chapter got involved because Anthony’s family called, and the organization has “a longtime relationship with the child,” said the Rev. Samuel Mosteller, the chapter’s president.”
The warning signs of Stokes’ imminent demise were quite public. He was arrested on January 10, 2015 for ‘possession of tools for the commission of a crime and criminal attempt’ according to the Atlanta Journal Constitution. Stokes was released after posting $5,000 bond on February 3rd.
Stokes’ Facebook page had numerous photos of him holding guns according to media reports on his death. The New York Daily News noted:
“Photos from his Facebook page show selfies in which Stokes points a gun and clutches wads of cash. Several pictures feature Stokes smoking marijuana. Among his “likes” is the video game Grand Theft Auto 5.”
Anyone with an interest in the well-being of Stokes, like the SCLC for instance, could see by his postings he was falling fast and heading to a tragic end.
This week Mosteller and the Georgia SCLC made news by calling for Black people to avail themselves of their Second Amendment rights to protect themselves from police.
The national SCLC suspended Mosteller on Wednesday not for abandoning young Anthony Stokes, but for encouraging Black people to defend themselves.
The doctors, nurses at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, as well as the hospital as an institution, expended an enormous amount of effort saving the life of Anthony Stokes. Once the hot lights of the TV cameras were taken off him, the SCLC did not care at all about Anthony Stokes. They did not do the hard work needed to help a troubled teen get on the straight and narrow path to a happy, productive life. Anthony Stokes’ Black life did not truly matter to the SCLC.
Shame on the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. Shame on them.