Colorlines - Thu, 10/16/2014 - 08:38
Archie Panjabi, the actress who plays the gun-toting, ass-kicking investigator Kalinda Sharma in the CBS drama "The Good Wife," has signed on to headline a new pilot with 20th Century Fox TV. From Deadline:
Panjabi had been thinking about moving on from the show for a while. "Archie is an amazing actress who helped build Kalinda from the ground up as an enigmatic, powerful, and sexy character," The Good Wife creators Robert and Michelle King said in a statement. "It's been a pleasure to write for her, and we'll be sad to see her go; but we still have her for the rest of Season 6, so let's not exhaust our good-byes yet. We look forward to meeting all the wonderful new characters Archie brings to the screen. But either way, we're keeping the boots."
Panjabi won a 2010 Emmy for her role on the show, becoming one of the most recognizable actress of South Asian descent in Hollywood. The new pilot is tentatively set for the spring or fall of 2015.
Colorlines - Thu, 10/16/2014 - 07:39
This is what I'm reading up on today:
- Dallas' Texas Presbyterian is in damage-control mode, but lax U.S. guidelines may be to blame for the hospital's failure to stop the spread of Ebola.
- RIP Elizabeth Peña, 1959-2014.
- Remember that awful video of tech bros kicking brown kids off of a San Francisco soccer field? Longtime residents of the city's Mission District rallied on Wednesday to change the city's Park and Recreation reservation policies.
- Lucas may be able to use Venmo to send cash to friends, but Ahmed apparently can't.
New America Media - Thu, 10/16/2014 - 00:30
Traducción al españolPictured above: Alex Camacho holding a photo of his son, Brandon Xavier. The young man took his own life last year. Today, Alex and his wife Iraida are helping prevent suicide through their foundation Brandon’s Key 4 Life.... Johanes Roselló, Translated by Elena Shore http://publisher.namx.org/mt-cp.cgi?__mode=view&blog_id=19&id=103
New America Media - Thu, 10/16/2014 - 00:05
LOS ANGELES -- The real-life story of José Osuna -- like the character Jean Valjean in Victor Hugo’s novel Les Misérables -- gives credence to the idea that a second chance is sometimes all you need to turn your life... Julian Do http://publisher.namx.org/mt-cp.cgi?__mode=view&blog_id=19&id=23
Colorlines - Wed, 10/15/2014 - 15:40
The United States is just three weeks into the latest phase of its effort in Iraq against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria--the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria militant group--but already there are calls for it to escalate.
This past Sunday on CNN, Senator John McCain (R-Ala.) advocated for a greater number of U.S. ground troops to get directly involved in fighting the group. ISIS is "winning, we're not," McCain complained. McCain is not alone. His sentiments have been echoed by others in Congress and among key American allies around the world such as the United Kingdom and Turkey.
The problem is that the unfinished business in Iraq and Afghanistan shows us that scaling up the military campaign against ISIS will create severe costs that won't be shouldered equally by all Americans. Sadly this fact is lost on many involved in the debate.
Before launching headlong into a third Iraq War it's important to step back and review the costs of the past 13 years of combat. Not surprisingly, the sacrifice of war, monetary and otherwise are disproportionately borne by people of color and the young.
According to The Costs of War project at Brown University, the total costs for the second Iraq War and the ongoing one in Afghanistan is $4.4 trillion. Cost-wise, these two conflicts should be considered as one because it has long been established that the war in Iraq prolonged the one in Afghanistan by drawing away resources from it and causing it to drag on. Everyone in the country could go to college for nearly a decade free of charge with $4.4 trillion.
What's astounding is that this eye-popping price tag could very well be the tip of the iceberg. As Costs of War points out "each additional month and year of war adds to that toll. In fact, total costs could stretch as high as $6 trillion in the coming years as veterans benefits and the like tally up.
Beyond the monetary issues there are others that are beyond measure.
Nearly 7,000 Americans have lost their lives in Iraq and Afghanistan. But these numbers exclude military contractors, the private paramilitary outfits hired by the government to supplement the work of the armed forces. Folding them into official casualty figures nearly doubles the number of U.S. deaths.
Fifty thousand American men and women were wounded in action, with another 330,000 having suffered some variation of post-traumatic stress disorder caused by their time at war. Added to these dramatic impacts is the grim fact that nearly 200,000 Afghani, Iraqi and Pakistani civilians have been killed in these conflicts since 2001.
Although the deaths and injuries cause unconscionable pain, the ramifications of these casualties are not spread evenly throughout society.
Nearly half of all those who've died in the war are under the age of 25. When it comes to race, close to two out of five of those serving in the U.S. armed forces is black or brown. And once they return from the battlefield, according to the Institute for Veterans and Military Families, black veterans are more likely than their white counterparts to be unemployed (PDF).
The war has also impacted historically marginalized communities in other ways. Iraq and Afghanistan diverted the nation's attention and financial resources from investments necessary to ensure that the working poor have an economic shot. For instance, additional capital promised to schools identified as struggling by No Child Left Behind wasn't delivered as planned. In fact, during some of the Iraq War's most active years, No Child Left Behind school assistance was half of what the law pledged. Schools serving the nation's poorest children were hung out to dry for low test scores but were not provided the help needed to turn them around.
The two wars have done more economic damage than underfunding. The sky-is-the-limit approach to military spending since 2001 created the massive debt that's been used to justify the rolling back of economic opportunity programs that helped build the middle class. The entire cost of Iraq and Afghanistan were not paid for directly, rather they were charged to the nation's credit card. Concern over this mounting debt is what fueled the Tea Party. Once in office, conservative members of Congress went about slashing everything from food assistance, to housing help to pre-school education under the banner of getting the nation's fiscal house in order.
As I have written before their arguments don't hold up to scrutiny. The nation is nowhere near broke, but that was never the point. A wing of the Republican Party has always sought to run up the nation's debt and then use it as an excuse to shrink the government programs they oppose. This even has an unfortunate name: "starve the beast." Yet the money being shoveled out the door for the two wars was the sort of justification for which they'd worked for so long. They've spent most of President Obama's time in office using it to advance their aims.
The United States is not fully into a third Iraq War, but its important to remember that there students on the verge of entering high school who've never known a time when the United States is not a war. Hopefully as decision-makers and the national security establishment will consider what's next in the Middle East they will recall the staggering economic, political and social costs that continue to reverberate across the nation from the last set of wars in the region.
Colorlines - Wed, 10/15/2014 - 14:54
The FBI effort to quash black nationalist "subversion" in the 1950s and '60s set the agency up well to continue infiltrating and destabilizng black Muslim communities when Sept. 11 provided a 21st century mandate to fight the threat of Muslim "radicalization," The Nation argues this week in its report about Ayyub Abdul-Alim.
Abdul-Alim, who's Puerto Rican and black, grew up in New York City and was living in Springfield, Massachusetts, when he was first approached by an FBI agent in 2010. The agent's invitation to become an informant grew into harassment and hounding. Then police, Abdul-Alim says, planted a gun on him and arrested him in 2011. In custody, a police officer, also working with the FBI, offered Abdul-Alim a trade--his freedom for a lucrative contract as an FBI informant. He refused, and ended up paying dearly.
Arun Kundnani, Emily Keppler, and Muki Najaer, reporting for The Nation, put Abdul-Alim's case in historical perspective:
Since 9/11, a key element in the FBI's counter-terrorism tactics has been the aggressive recruitment and deployment of large numbers of informants among Muslim communities in the United States. Part of the purpose is to gather information on political or community activism, which the FBI frames as a precursor to extremist violence. But the tactics also fit a familiar pattern--one that harkens back to the FBI's history of targeting the civil rights and Black Power movements of the 1960s, when it was likewise asserted that extremist ideologues were fueling violence.
Today, black Muslims stand at the intersection of the War on Drugs' institutional racism and the War on Terror's institutional Islamophobia: their race frames them as prone to gang violence, their religion as a terrorist threat. Abdul-Alim's case shows the extreme measures the FBI is willing to use to pressure Muslims to work as informants on the terror war's domestic front.
Read the story in its riveting entirety at The Nation.
Colorlines - Wed, 10/15/2014 - 13:49
According to the Associated Press (AP), an undocumented student who left to Mexico in hopes of helping his mother battle cancer will be allowed to return to the United States on temporary humanitarian parole.
Dario Guerrero Meneses, 21, is a student at Harvard. After his mother, 41-year-old Rocio Meneses Díaz, was unsuccessfully treated for cancer in the U.S., Guerrero accompanied her to Mexico for alternative care this past summer. Nevertheless, she passed away a week later, on August 14.
Guerrero's lived almost his entire life in the U.S., first arriving at the age of 2. And although he obtained Deferred Status for Undocumented Immigrants, which largely protects him from deportation, Guerrero was ineligible to return immediately.
Guerrero, who will soon be a father himself, petitioned for the ability to return on humanitarian grounds through U.S. Citizenship and Immigration services; he was approved Tuesday. AP posted his reaction and specified that the move doesn't carve out a permanent solution:
"Oh my God. I don't know. I feel good!" Guerrero said as the news brought tears of joy to his aunts and cousins. Guerrero said he was excited to resume his education and take up new family responsibilities.
This parole is temporary. It lasts for two years and does not give him legal residency, let alone a clear path to U.S. citizenship.
You can read the full story over at AP.
New America Media - Wed, 10/15/2014 - 12:00
An Indian national convicted of killing a 10-month-old girl and her grandmother in a kidnapping for ransom gone awry has been sentenced to death in Pennsylvania.The jury’s decision to hand down the death penalty on Tuesday night after convicting Raghunandan... New India Times http://publisher.namx.org/mt-cp.cgi?__mode=view&blog_id=19&id=103
Colorlines - Wed, 10/15/2014 - 11:49
A new PBS series presents, as millennials site .Mic* notes, an "unironic" look at how white Americans experience their racial identity. Last week's first installment of the 22-episode series by filmmaker Whitney Dow* is a little more than a minute of interviews with residents of Buffalo, New York, one of the country's most segregated cities. Expect more as Dow will interview more than 1,000 people around the country. Some of his goals, as shared in his artistic statement:
"...to engender debate about the role of whiteness in American society and encourage white Americans to become fully vested participants in the ongoing debate about the role of race in American society.. ...The Whiteness Project hopes to bring everyday white Americans, especially those who would not normally engage in a project about race, into the racial discussion--to help them understand the active role their race plays in every facet of their lives, to remove some of the confusion and guilt that many white people feel around the subject of race and to help white Americans learn to own their whiteness--and everything positive and negative it represents--in the same way that every other ethnicity owns its ethnic identity.
Check your local PBS station for showtimes.
*Post has been updated since publication to to reflect that PolicyMic.com has changed its name to .Mic and to correct the misspelling, "Down."
Colorlines - Wed, 10/15/2014 - 09:22
Vonderrit Myers Jr., the 18-year-old black man who was shot and killed by St. Louis police last week, had gunshot residue on his hands and clothing, according to crime lab results. The findings, reported by St. Louis' KSDK, are an added piece of evidence as investigators and the public work to build a coherent timeline of events before a uniformed off-duty St. Louis police officer shot and killed Myers last Wednesday. The findings don't, however, reconcile the divergent accounts of what happened before Myers was killed.
KSDK's Kevin Held reports:
The tests confirm gunshot residue on Myers' hand, the inner waistband of his jeans, and on his T-shirt. Investigators say the presence of gunshot residue on a person's hands could mean that individual fired a gun, was near a gun when it was fired, or touched an object with gunshot residue on it. Also, people who are shot at close range can have gunshot residue on their person.
In the wake of the shooting, Myers' family insisted that he was unarmed and holding a sandwich. According to police, the uniformed off-duty officer approached Myers and two others last Wednesday before they scattered. When the cop confronted Myers, police say, Myers discharged a gun three times before the cop responded with gunshots of his own, killing the teen.
Myers' prior interactions with the criminal justice system show that he was "no angel," the St. Louis Police Association said according to the St. Louis American. It's a loaded descriptor though. The New York Times, in its much-criticized profile of slain teen Michael Brown, also described Brown as "no angel," a phrase the paper reserved for convicted white rapists and murderers, a Nazi field marshal and Magic Johnson. Brown and Myers, both black and 18 years old, were shot and killed by police officers exactly two months apart.
Colorlines - Wed, 10/15/2014 - 09:16
This Vine is by far the most hilarious thing Michelle Obama's ever done to push her campaign against childhood obesity. Watch and laugh!
Colorlines - Wed, 10/15/2014 - 08:31
The finalists for this year's National Book Awards were announced Wednesday morning and a handful of writers of color -- and books about issues important to communities of color -- made the list. Here are six to watch out for, running the gamut from fiction and non-fiction to poetry and young-adult literature.
In fiction, Rabih Alameddine's "An Unnecessary Woman" follows protagonist Aaliya Sohbi who lives in Beirut and is caught in a mid-life crisis. She's unconventional -- no husband, no kids and not particularly aligned with any religion -- but she's haunted by memories of the Lebanese Civil War. Author Alameddine, is a Lebanese-American writer who was born in Jordan and migrated to California in his teens.
America is rife with war stories from Afghanistan, but reporter Anand Gopal's debut book, "No Good Men Among the Living: America, The Taliban and the War Through Afghan Eyes," provides an intimate account of the conflict from the Afghani perspective. Gopal previously served as an Afghanistan correspondent for The Wall Street Journal and The Christian Science Monitor and is currently a fellow at the New America Foundation.
In "Citizen: An American Lyric," Jamaica-born poet Claudia Rankine recounts everyday microaggressions to document the stress of being black in America. Rankine is currently an English professor at Pomona College and she's previously won fellowships from the Academy of American Poetry and the National Endowment for the Arts.
In his latest collection of poetry, Fred Moten tries to umpack the the musicality of James Brown and William Parker. Currently a professor of English at the University of California at Riverside, Moten is also the co-founder of a small press called Three Count Pour.
Steve Sheinkin's "The Port Chiago 50: Disaster, Mutiny, and the Fight for Civil Rights" revisits the 1944 case of 244 mostly black sailors who protested unsafe working conditions and the 50 who were later charged with mutiny. The men had good reason to take a stand: On July 17 of that year, more than 300 sailors at the segregated Navy base of Port Chicago, California, were killed in a massive explosion.
With "Brown Girl Dreaming," a series of childhood poems, author Jacqueline Woodson offers up a searing take on growing up in South Carolina in the 1960s and 70s. Woodson has also won the Margaret A. Edwards Award for lifetime achievement in writing for young adults and the Coretta Scott King Award. She lives in Brooklyn.
The awards will be announced on November 19 in New York City. You can also listen to NPR's announcement of the finalists here:
Colorlines - Wed, 10/15/2014 - 08:18
Broadcast live streaming video on Ustream
Addressing an audience of prosecutors and policymakers gathered in New York City late last month, U.S. attorney general Eric Holder said, "As you've noted, what gets measured is what gets funded and what gets funded is what gets done." In 2013, the federal government sent nearly $4 billion in criminal justice grants across the country to places including St. Louis. States and cities depend heavily on federal funding to augment slashed police and prosecutorial budgets. Resistant-to-change institutions also use federal funds to test new policies. "Federal grants," according to a new Brennan Center report, "have an outsize impact on state and local criminal justice practices." And grant money typically flows to agencies and organizations that quantify impact, damage, harm or success. Dollars flow, as Holder says, to what gets measured--and today's panel being livestreamed out of Washington, D.C. is an insider's look at what's getting measured.
Can "evidence-based criminal justice research" improve policing in high crime or urban communities of color? To find out, watch "Stop and Frisk: The Role of Police Strategies and Tactics in Police-Community Relations," livestreamed today from noon to 1:30 p.m. EST at The Urban Institute in Washington, D.C. Panelists include: Cathy Lanier, chief of police, D.C.; Ronald L. Davis, community oriented policing services, U.S. Department of Justice; Tracie L. Keesee, Center for Policing Equity, UCLA (which had been evaluating the St. Louis County PD's traffic stops in the months before Michael Brown's murder).
And ICYMI, check out video from last night's Town Hall on Race, Policing and Civil Rights, for activist and community leaders' perspectives on the pace and possibility of stop-and-frisk and police accountability reform.
Colorlines - Wed, 10/15/2014 - 07:08
Here's what I'm reading up on this morning:
- A second Dallas hospital worker who was treating Thomas Eric Duncan has tested positive for Ebola.
- Police in Hong Kong attack protestors, brutally beating one on video, repeatedly kicking him after throwing him to the ground.
- Anita Sarkeesian cancels a talk after security measures aren't taken to address the threat of a mass shooting.
- More than 100 black candidates fill November's ballots--a record high.
- Retail sales fell more than expected in September.
- The Man Booker Prize goes to Australian novelist Richard Flanagan.
- It wasn't just you. September was actually the hottest month ever recorded.
Colorlines - Wed, 10/15/2014 - 06:20
The federal government recognizes 566 tribal governments within the United States. By all accounts, the process by which tribal entities apply for and attain--or are rejected from--federal recognition is cumbersome. In May, the Department of the Interior suggested a batch of rule changes that would streamline the process. Connecticut has become ground zero for conflict between tribes seeking federal recognition and lawmakers who say this status would diminish local and state tax revenues, lead to land claims and expand Indian gaming.
Why Federal Recognition Matters
For Native American tribes, federal recognition creates nation-to-nation relationships with the federal government that acknowledge their self-determination and tribal sovereignty. When they become federally recognized, tribes can establish their own zoning and land-use laws on their reservations. In general, these tribes are also exempt from local and state taxes; free of many state laws; and allowed to pursue big gaming such as high-stakes bingo, slots and casinos.
The process for obtaining federal recognition was established in 1978. The Department of the Interior sets the standards and an Indian Affairs assistant secretary decides each petition on a case-by-case basis. The process is a long one--as Nedra Darling, spokeswoman for Office of the Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs points out, it can often take decades. Indeed, a look at petitioners awaiting consideration includes the Muscogee Nation of Florida, which sent a letter of intent 36 years ago.
In 2005, a Government Accountability Office report indicated that the "tribal recognition process was ill-equipped to provide timely responses to tribal petitions for federal recognition," and it recommended an overhaul. Nearly a decade later, the Bureau of Indian Affairs is taking on the issue.
This past May, Indian Affairs assistant secretary Kevin Washburn issued a proposal outlining changes. The current policy requires tribes to prove that they've had "continuous political authority and community" since 1789 and that "an external entity" has identified the group as Indian since 1900. Washburn's plan require tribes to illustrate their political authority and community since 1934.
Public comments on the proposal were supposed to close on August 1, but extension requests were so overwhelming that the deadline was stretched to September 30.
Enter the States
Twenty-three states have their own system for recognition. State-recognized tribes are ineligible for tribal gaming and they must pay local and state taxes. Under Washburn's proposal, tribes that have been state-recognized since at least 1934 would be eligible to petition for federal recognition.
Federal recognition doesn't guarantee that these tribes will live on a reservation."If a state-recognized tribe receives federal recognition, it would have to undergo an additional application process," explains Darling. "[It would be under] a separate regulation ... to obtain federal trust land."
Still, it's almost certain that after a state-recognized tribe is federally recognized, their reservation will become federal trust land. This paves the way for land use-changes including the potential advent of casinos. Critics in California and Connecticut have expressed concerns that they will lose some of their tax base, and that new casinos will bring in traffic that wears on state infrastructure and roads.
There are two federally recognized tribes within Connecticut--the Mashantucket Pequot and the Mohegan Indian Tribe. The state recognizes the Eastern Pequot Tribal Nation, the True Golden Hill Paugussett Indian Nation and the Schaghticoke Tribal Nation.
Connecticut's congressional delegation, which is made up of two senators and five representatives (all Democrats), opposed an early discussion draft of Washburn's proposed changes in 2013. This summer all seven lawmakers objected to the final draft during Indian Affairs' public comment period.
Within the last decade or so, two of Connecticut's state-recognized tribes--the Eastern Pequot and the Schaghticoke--gained federal recognition. But that didn't go uncontested by the state: During his stint as Connecticut's attorney general, now-Senator Richard Blumenthal fervently opposed federal recognition for both. And he won.
In a 195-page request for the Department of the Interior to reconsider its recognition of the Schaghticoke in 2005, Blumenthal wrote, "there was no Schaghticoke Tribe when colonists settled the area." He did this despite the fact that Connecticut recognized and established a reservation for the tribe in 1736. Blumenthal also demanded federal recognition be revoked from the Eastern Pequot--a tribe for whom Connecticut first established a reservation in 1683. In an extraordinary move, under pressure from the state of Connecticut, the Bureau of Indian Affairs rescinded federal recognition for both tribes.
Schaghticoke Chief Richard Velky says it was a striking blow for his nation of about 325.
Members of the Schaghticoke tribe began their petition for federal recognition in 1981. They underwent a rigorous, 23-year process and were finally federally recognized in 2004. Just a year later, their recognition was taken away. "It [has been] a long and brutal path," says Velky.
Connecticut Rewrites the Rules
In a letter rejecting Washburn's May 2014 proposal, Connecticut lawmakers suggested their own language that would allow tribes that have been denied federal recognition to reapply for it but give third parties--such as the state lawmakers themselves--veto power over the Bureau of Indian Affairs. As the proposed rule changes stand now, Connecticut might have the power to veto federal recognition for the Schaghticoke and other tribal nations that apply. The changes could also mean that these nations might have an opening for federal litigation.
Despite its numerous letters and requests to Indian Affairs, Velky says he's surprised that Blumenthal and the state of Connecticut hasn't contacted the Schaghticoke themselves.
"[Blumenthal] never ever called us in and sat down and said, 'Look, let's discuss this,'" says Velky. "For [the state], it all seems to be based around casinos."
The two federally recognized tribes within Connecticut operate two casinos; federal recognition of more tribes could mean even more casinos in the state. That's what worries some lawmakers.
At this point, the proposed changes are just that--proposals. And it's unclear whether the third-party veto will make its way into the final rule change. "The department is in the process of reviewing all comments received on the proposed rule," says the BIA's Darling. Officials haven't set a deadline for the final approval of the rules.
Velky says he'll wait.
"This hurts the elders the most," he says, explaining that he's deeply disappointed that the Schaghticoke have lost about 65 people since they started the federal recognition process more than three decades ago. "It's just ludicrous."
New America Media - Wed, 10/15/2014 - 00:15
Pictured above: Hyo-jin Gong plays a psychiatrist on the recently aired South Korean TV drama, "It's OK, That's Love." ???SAN FRANCISCO – South Korea is notorious for having one of the world’s highest suicide rates. For years now, it has... YeoJin Kim http://publisher.namx.org/mt-cp.cgi?__mode=view&blog_id=19&id=103
New America Media - Tue, 10/14/2014 - 15:51
More than 10,000 Californians who purchased health insurance on Covered California are now in danger of losing it. During the Open Enrollment period, a total of 1.4 million Californians bought insurance on Covered California, the state’s online health insurance marketplace.On... Viji Sundaram http://publisher.namx.org/mt-cp.cgi?__mode=view&blog_id=19&id=68
New America Media - Tue, 10/14/2014 - 14:25
Introducing 19 Vietnamese Americans candidates with origins from Little Saigon in Orange County, California. On Tuesday, November 4th, American voters will vote for elected officials from federal, state, county, school district, special district and city. In Little Saigon, there are19 ethnic... Nguoi Viet http://publisher.namx.org/mt-cp.cgi?__mode=view&blog_id=19&id=103
Colorlines - Tue, 10/14/2014 - 14:06
The Los Angeles Unified School District is asking a judge to reveal the immigration status of children who were sexually abused by their Miramonte Elementary schoolteacher, Mark Berndt. The request claims that if children seek monetary damages for future earnings losses, their status should be weighed.
In a motion first reported by NBC 4 News Los Angeles and obtained by Colorlines today, LAUSD attorneys outline the argument:
Thus, to the extent the plaintiffs in this lawsuit seek loss of earnings or lost wages, their immigration status is directly relevant to the determination of their potential for future earning capacity and, thus, is relevant to the determination of damages.
As Colorlines has reported, immigration status has been a central theme in this case--with parents expressing deportation concerns. Then-Sheriff Lee Baca issued a letter to parents in 2012 assuring them that there wouldn't be questions about status.
Berndt was originally investigated by the district in December 2010--but it didn't suspend the teacher until the following February. He wasn't arrested until January 2012. Parents and guardians weren't told about the initial investigation and didn't hear about it until about a year later. Berndt pleaded no contest in 2013 to molesting 23 children and is serving 25 years.
Colorlines - Tue, 10/14/2014 - 13:38
In the days after white police officer Darren Wilson killed black 18-year-old Michael Brown, the Ferguson Police Department released a security video taken from Ferguson Market & Liquor that allegedly shows Brown participating in an unrelated theft. Many South Asians who saw the video began to wonder whether the store worker in the video was South Asian and whether the business was South-Asian owned and operated. It is. An Indian businessman, Mike Patel, owns not only Ferguson Market and Liquor but also leases several other stores, including a beauty supply store and Sam's Meat Market and More, to other immigrants, some of whom are Arab-American.
Those of us who remember the tensions that arose between Korean-owned business owners and African-Americans in Los Angeles after the Rodney King verdict in 1992 were concerned about what might occur in Ferguson, Missouri. As the events unfolded in mid-August, I asked civil rights attorney Angela Oh, who was an important figure in building bridges between communities in Los Angeles, for advice. She was clear: Monitor the media because they often inflame tensions. Remember that the underlying problems that communities of color and immigrants face are similar--structural racism, economic distress, neglected neighborhoods. And give people opportunities to connect with each other to find solutions to these shared challenges.
October 10, I traveled to Ferguson to join a group of South Asians, Muslims, Arabs and Asian-Americans for the National Weekend of Resistance.We were there to stand in solidarity, to learn and listen, and to lift up the central message that black lives matter. During the weekend, Faizan Syed, executive director of the Council on American Islamic Relations in St. Louis, organized visits for us with a few Arab, Muslim and South Asian small-business owners in St. Louis and Ferguson.
We started at Yeatman Market on the north side of St. Louis, an area known to be violent. Palestinian-American Zuhdi Masri has owned the store for 32 years. Working closely with local African-American leaders, including Metro St. Louis Coalition for Inclusion and Equity's Ramona Williams, Masri has been able to broker agreements between area gangs. As we left, Linda Sarsour from the National Network of Arab American Communities took pictures with children who were playing outside the market near a gazebo. "You wouldn't have seen kids playing there a few years ago," said Masri.
We then drove out to Ferguson's West Florissant Avenue, where many small businesses - beauty supply, take-out restaurants, small markets and liquor marts - still had reminders of August unrest on their storefronts. Sheets of plywood with spray-painted messages such as "open for business" covered parts of the stores.
At the Ferguson Market & Liquor, I spoke with a clerk who didn't want to be identified. The clerk* said that he knows and appreciates his regular customers, who are mostly African-American. He said that even though it suffered some damage, people from the community stood guard outside of the store during the unrest. When I asked him about racial tensions between the immigrant store owners and African-American residents, he shrugged it off. There's some shoplifting and name-calling here and there, he said. "But the real problem is with cops who stop African-Americans" without cause.
The Ferguson Market & Liquor clerk and other immigrant workers might not be on the streets of Ferguson with African-American protestors night after night, but there seemed to be an understanding of the racial realities in Ferguson, especially when it comes to police. And, there seemed to be tacit support of the call for justice, which might also be the opening to have deeper and broader conversations. In fact, over the coming months, Neelu Panth and DeBorah Ahmed, who work with A Better Family Life in St. Louis, are planning roundtables between immigrant small-business owners and African-American leaders in the area.
In my short time inside Ferguson Market & Liquor and some of the other stores, I noticed a familiar back-and-forth between customers and workers that comes with seeing each other often. Here's a Facebook post from Sam's Market and More written on August 16, after the store was damaged, that speaks to that rapport:
During this hard time, SAMs meat market staff would like to thank all the [people who] came to the store asking if we need some help. [We can't] forget the people [who] helped us and [gave us] a hand... At this time all we can promise [is that we'll] be back as soon as we can, in business [and] to continue supporting our community.
Perhaps Ferguson is sparking not only a national awakening about the urgency of police brutality but also opportunities for people to address their shared struggles at the most local level - based on the simple understanding that this is "our community."
Deepa Iyer is the former executive director of South Asian Americans Leading Together. Along with writing and consulting, she serves on the board of Race Foward, Colorlines' publisher. She tweets at @dviyer
*Post has been altered since publication to lessen detail about clerk and to quote him.
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