Senator Stephanie Flowers' 'stand your ground' speech is fierce, raw, and sadly necessary.

Arkansas state senator Stephanie Flowers lit up the state legislature in a debate over "stand your ground" laws.

Debates that involve guns tend to bring out people's passions. But when you're a mother of a black son debating a law that statistically makes it less likely for him to see justice if he's killed, your passion may be stronger than most.

State senator Stephanie Flowers shared her feelings in a legislative debate over Arkansas' "stand your ground" laws, taking issue with the bill being rushed through without proper debate.


"I'm the only person here of color," she said. "I am a mother, too. And I care for my son as much as y'all care for y'all's. But my son doesn't walk the same path as yours does. So this debate deserves more time."

Flowers pointed out that black boys and black men are regularly killed in Pine Bluff, where she lives. "For a long times since I've been back here in Arkansas," she said, her voice rising, "I have feared for my son's life!"

But she was just getting going.

Research shows racial disparities in how stand your ground laws are prosecuted.

For a little background, Arkansas law says that people can use deadly force if they feel threatened and are "unable to retreat with complete safety." A bill to remove that "duty to retreat" provision was on the table. Its passage would mean that a person wouldn't be required to try to get away before using deadly force if they felt threatened.

Despite significant controversy over them, stand your ground laws have been adopted by more than half the states in the U.S. However, research has shown racial disparities in how stand your ground cases are prosecuted. "Stand your ground" shooters are twice as likely to be convicted if a victim is white than if the victim is a person of color.

Flowers did not mince words as she shared her feelings.

As the senator got going, she laid into why open carry laws make stand your ground laws absurd, and vice versa.

"I worry about my son, and I worry about other little black boys and girls! And people coming into my neighborhood, into my city, saying they got open carry rights, walkin' down in front of my doggone office in front of the courthouse! That's a bully! Do I have a right to stand my ground with some crazy ass person walkin' around with a doggone gun? I don't know what the hell he intends to do! But I know I am scared, I feel threatened."

Flowers then pointed out some people in the legislature that carry guns, at which point the committee chairman told her she needed to stop. But Flowers wasn't having it.

"No, I don't!" she said. "What the hell are you gonna do, shoot me?!"

"I'm telling you, this deserves more attention!" she continued. "You wanna come up here with all these NRA bills ... I'm talking about my son's life!"

"Do what the hell you're gonna do! Go ahead! But you can't silence me."

Flowers got her point across. The bill was defeated by the committee 4-3, with one Republican voting with the three Democrats.

Flowers said what so many have wished they could say to lawmakers, and people are loving her for it.

Twitter users have responded to video of Flowers' fiery speech with a virtual standing ovation.

Thank you for speaking truth to power, Senator Flowers.

The senator's full remarks can be seen here. Watch the highlight video shared by Now This below:

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Brian Olesen never imagined he would end up homeless.

The former U.S. Air Force medic had led a full and active life, complete with a long career in the medical field, a 20-year marriage, and a love of anything aquatic. But after hip surgery and chronic back pain left him disabled in 2013, he lost his ability to work. Due to changes in eligibility requirements, he couldn't qualify for federal veteran housing programs. His back issues were difficult to prove medically, so he didn't qualify for disability. Though he'd worked his whole life, having no income for five years took its toll. He got evicted from a couple of apartments and found himself living on the streets.

But in 2018, two things completely turned Olesen's life around. He was able to both qualify for disability and to move into an affordable housing community in Miami's Goulds neighborhood called Karis Village.

When people think of affordable housing, they don't usually picture a place like Karis Village. The 88-unit development is brand new, and built with an attention to design that is not always expected for developments that serve as home to people on limited incomes. The apartments have tile floors, marble countertops, and all new appliances and furniture, and the grounds are beautiful and well-kept, with a playground and common areas for residents to gather.

Brian Olesen in his kitchen at Karis VillageCapital One

Karis Village isn't just a housing development; it's a home and a community. Half of the units are set aside for veterans who have experienced homelessness, like Olesen. The other half are largely occupied by single-parent families.

"To me, this building was just a gift," says Olesen. "All of the different parties that got together to put this building together… making half the building available to veterans. We've got no place to go."

Addressing veteran homelessness was one of the goals of Karis Village, which was built through a partnership that included Carrfour Supportive Housing — a mission-driven, not-for-profit affordable housing organization in southern Florida — and Capital One's Community Finance team. More than just an affordable place to live, the community has full-time staff on hand to help coordinate services—from addiction recovery programs to transportation options to job search and placement. Also included are peer counselors who provide emotional and psychological support for residents.

Karis Village, an affordable housing community in Miami, Florida.Capital One

Carrfour President and CEO Stephanie Berman says the core function of the services team on site is to build a supportive community.

"Often when you think of folks leaving homelessness and coming into housing, you think of shelters or some kind of traditional housing," she says. "You don't really think about a community, and that's really what we build and what we operate. What we're really striving to create is community. We find that our families thrive when you create a sense of community."

The intention to create a supportive community at Karis Village was a priority from the get go. Fabian Ramirez, a Capital Officer on Capital One's Community Finance team, says the bank did a listening tour in southern Florida to explore community development and affordable housing options in the area and to hear what was most needed. After deciding to partner with Carrfour, the bank provided not only an $8 million construction loan and a $25 million low income housing tax credit (LIHTC) investment to help build Karis Village, but it also kicked in a $250,000 social purpose grant to help fund the social support services that would be put in place for residents.

"It's not just all about providing the brick and mortar," says Ramirez. "It's about being able to contribute to the sustainability of the development and of the lives of the people who move into the building."


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Olesen says he and his fellow residents benefit greatly from the network of support services offered in the building. He says a counselor comes to meet with him once a month, sometimes right in his apartment. He also gets help maintaining a connection with the Veteran Affairs office. Other services include social workers and counselors for drug addiction and alcoholism.

Olesen loves being around other veterans, and he says hearing the sound of children playing keeps the community lively. He says anywhere else he could afford to live on disability wouldn't be nearly as nice and would likely involve shared kitchens and bathrooms and neighborhoods you wouldn't want to go out in at night.

If it weren't for Karis Village, Olesen says he doesn't know where he would be today: "I had nowhere to go and this is a safe, beautiful place to spend my retirement."

"I don't think they could have done a much better job of putting this place together and supplying us with what we need," he says. "I have so much appreciation for the ability to have a place to live. And then you add to that that it's beautiful and completely furnished and you didn't need to bring anything—I don't know what more you could ask for."

Karis Village and another development for veterans built the same year enabled the neighborhood of Goulds to meet the requirements set forth by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to declare an end to veteran homelessness in the area.

Ending veteran homelessness altogether is a complex task, but communities like Karis Village show how it can be done—and done well. When government agencies, non-profit organizations, and corporate funding programs come together to solve big problems, big solutions can be built and maintained.

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