Diversity Headlines

FBI Will Investigate Lennon Lacy's Hanging Death in North Carolina

Colorlines - Mon, 12/15/2014 - 09:24

At the family's request and ahead of an "awareness" march this past Saturday meant to drum up attention, the FBI has agreed to investigate the hanging death of a black 17-year-old high school football player. Lennon Lacy was found this August hanging from a wooden swing set in the middle of a trailer park in Bladenboro, North Carolina. Lacy's family had requested that the feds step in after local officials ruled his death a suicide and closed the case within five days. The family, aided by the local chapter of the NAACP and bolstered by findings of their own private forensic investigation, strongly disagrees.

"We don't know what happened to my son three months ago, and suicide is still possible. But there are so many unanswered questions that I can't help but ask: Was he killed? Was my son lynched?" Lennon's mother Claudia Lacy writes in a Guardian op-ed.

Lacy's ex-girlfriend, according to CNN, was a 31-year-old white woman (age of consent in the state is 16*) and a local Klu Klux Klan rally had taken place in a nearby town in the weeks before his body was found. Some speculate that Lacy's interracial relationship with an older white woman could be motive in this small North Carolina town. 

*Post has been updated since publication to include North Carolina's age of consent.

Categories: Diversity Headlines

Marcus Mariota Becomes First Polynesian Heisman Winner

Colorlines - Mon, 12/15/2014 - 09:22
Marcus Mariota Becomes First Polynesian Heisman Winner

University of Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota became the first person of Polynesian descent to win college football's most coveted prize. Mariota walked away with the Heisman trophy on Saturday night, the annual award that honors the best players in the college game. 

The Hawaiian-born Mariota gave a heartfelt acceptance speech:

Mariota told Polynesian children to use his Heisman win as motivation and to "strive for greatness."

Read more at NFL.com. 

Categories: Diversity Headlines

D'Angelo Dedicates New Album to Resistance in Ferguson, Occupy Wall Street

Colorlines - Mon, 12/15/2014 - 07:33
D'Angelo Dedicates New Album to Resistance in Ferguson, Occupy Wall Street

It's been less than 24 hours since D'Angelo dropped his long-awaited new album "D'Angelo and the Vanguard: Black Messiah," but it's already a classic. It's the first project from the singer in nearly 15 years and, as reported in GQ a couple years ago, is the culmination of years of hardship in the singer's life. During a listening session for the album last Friday, a lyric pamphlet laid out the album's inspirations:

["]Black Messiah["] is a hell of a name for an album. It can be easily misunderstood. Many will think it's about religion. Some will jump to the conclusion that I'm calling myself a Black Messiah. For me, the title is about all of us. It's about the world. It's about an idea we can aspire to. We should all aspire to be a Black Messiah.

It's about people rising up in Ferguson and in Egypt and in Occupy Wall Street and in every place where a community has had enough and decides to make change happen. It's not about praising one charismatic leader but celebrating thousands of them. Not every song is politically charged (though many are), but calling this album "Black Messiah" creates a landscape where these songs can live to the fullest. "Black Messiah" is not one man. It's a feeling that, collectively, we are all that leader.

You can stream the album below:

Categories: Diversity Headlines

Sydney Hostage Standoff, Massive Protests Continue, Cosby Breaks Silence

Colorlines - Mon, 12/15/2014 - 07:09
Sydney Hostage Standoff, Massive Protests Continue, Cosby Breaks Silence

Here's what I'm reading up on this morning:

  • Some 30 people are being held hostage in Sydney, Australia's business district; five have escaped so far. 
  • Muslim cleric Sheikh Haron has been named as the suspect in Sydney's hostage standoff--and #IllRideWithYou trends on Twitter as commuters offer Muslims travel with them to help keep them safe. 
  • Tens of thousands of people took to the streets of New York, Washington, D.C. and other cities this past Saturday to protest the killings of unarmed black people. 
  • Elizabeth Warren says she's not running for president. For now.
  • Five takeaways from the rather failed climate talks in Lima, Peru. 
Categories: Diversity Headlines

Black Lives Matter - It’s More than Police Killings

New America Media - Mon, 12/15/2014 - 06:41
I have struggled with the theme of “Black Lives Matter” in the protests against police killings of Black men in America. I totally agree with the sentiment, but I have just had trouble with the message that seems so basic... David Muhammad http://publisher.namx.org/mt-cp.cgi?__mode=view&blog_id=19&id=103
Categories: Diversity Headlines

In L.A., Civilians Will Have Power Over Sheriff's Department

Colorlines - Sun, 12/14/2014 - 18:30
In L.A., Civilians Will Have Power Over Sheriff's Department

The scandal-plagued Los Angeles Sheriff's Department will soon have a separate board to police it after the county Board of Supervisors approved a measure to move forward with the creation of a civilian oversight board last week.

In a 3-2 vote, the Board of Supervisors voted to authorize the creation of a civilian oversight board and to put together a so-called work group that will generate recommendations on the composition, duties and powers the commission will have. 

"It's a huge victory for human rights," says Patrisse Cullors, the executive director of Dignity and Power Now, a group that has organized for accountability of the embattled Sheriff's Department since 2012. "This civilian board is dedicated to all the victims, families, and survivors of sheriffs' violence."

Community groups have long been calling for reform of the Sheriff's Department, which is the fourth-largest law enforcement agency in the country and runs the nation's largest jail system. But in recent years, the county and federal government have joined the chorus. The county jail system is inching toward a federal consent decree stemming from the treatment of mentally ill inmates in the system. This summer, 18 L.A. County deputies were indicted for blocking a 2011 federal probe into alleged misconduct in the jails. Six were convicted.

As it is, 40 percent of the people in the county jail system are black even though blacks make up just 13 percent of Los Angeles County, points out Rev. Peter Laarman, a member of the Justice Not Jails police accountability coalition. "The jail system here is a gulag filled with black and brown bodies."

Justice Not Jails recently released a list of the 601 people it says were killed by law enforcement officers in Los Angeles between the years or 2000 and 2014. The list was based on records from the Los Angeles County Coroner's office. Of the 326 people killed in the last seven years, according to Justice Not Jails, 82 percent of them were black or Latino, more than half were under the age of 30, and 98 percent were male. 

In his last report on the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department, published this past August, Special Counsel Merrick Bobb cited a decidedly "anti-reform counter movement" that took hold under former Sheriff Lee Baca's tenure. "Across the Department, deputies were affirmatively encouraged to 'work in the gray zone'--an apparent green light for unconstitutional or near-unconstitutional misconduct," Bobb wrote. 

Baca resigned in disgrace earlier this year.

The civilian oversight board motion was authored by Supervisors Mark Ridley-Thomas and Hilda Solis, a former Obama cabinet member and newly elected member of the five-person board. "The sheriff's department has long required a level of scrutiny that has been missing," Ridley-Thomas said in a statement. "The time has come."

The vote came amidst public outrage and ongoing protests across the nation over the non-indictments of the police officers who killed Eric Garner and Michael Brown, both of them unarmed black males. Supervisors noted the national climate in their remarks, and said the protests proved the urgency of the issue. "Across the country, public trust in the people charged with keeping us safe has fallen to a new low," says Supervisor Hilda Solis, a newly elected member of the five-person board.

We are the people that have been in your jails," Kim McGill, the executive director of the South Central-based Youth Justice Coalition said in her appeal to the board. "[We're] the people that buried our family members when they've been killed by sheriffs." McGill referenced an invocation given at the start of the meeting urging board members to serve "the orphan, the widow, and the stranger." 

What It'll Take to Make It Work

For Dignity and Power Now's Cullors, the ideal civilian oversight commission will have independent legal power, including subpoena power, and it will guide the work of the new inspector general, Max Huntsman. The commission will be a nine-member board, including one appointee each from the Board of Supervisors and four from the community. No current or former law enforcement members will be on the board.

The county's brand new sheriff, Jim McDonnell, who ran as a reformer of the troubled department, has backed the concept of the commission. McDonnell has recommended that Huntsman report to the commission once it's created, and that the board should include seven to nine people.

The success of the commission will depend on transparency and accountability, Inspector General Huntsman said at last Tuesday's meeting. "[Accountability] begins with access, and requires interactions with the sheriff, and that's why I think it's so critical that our elected sheriff states his full support for this concept."

In other words, the work is just beginning.

"By no means are we ready to pop the champagne just yet," says Justice Not Jails' Laarman. "So many things can be muted unless we continue to organize."

Samuel Paz, a Los Angeles attorney who has represented clients who have been brutalized and stabbed while in Sheriff's Department custody, points out that decades' worth of efforts at accountability and oversight have not been able to sufficiently reform the agency. "The real deficiency in oversight has been the inability of the county for any of its oversight systems to effectively look at the conduct of supervisors," he says."It's this mechanism, a wink and a nudge, where even if there is a shooting or conduct which violates policy, [sheriff's deputies] know they won't be held accountable, and they won't lose their jobs. They know that even if there's punitive damages it'll be paid by the county." In 2013, the Board of Supervisors approved a $733,000 payout to Paz's client who was stabbed while in county jail. 

Cullors, also a co-creator of #BlackLivesMatter, is already getting to work. But, she says, "One thing we're going to start doing is claiming our victories. This is all of our victory."

Categories: Diversity Headlines

The 43 Missing in Mexico - Thoughts From a 'Normalista' in the U.S.

New America Media - Sun, 12/14/2014 - 00:25
Above: Carolina Arceo (r) attended a rally in Merced, California to call attention to the Mexican government's role in the case of 43 student activists who were abducted in the state of Guerrero. (photo: Alyssa Castro)Editor’s Note: The 43 young... Carolina Arceo, as told to Andres Reyes http://publisher.namx.org/mt-cp.cgi?__mode=view&blog_id=19&id=103
Categories: Diversity Headlines

North Carolina Family Wants Feds to Investigate Black Teen's Hanging Death

Colorlines - Sat, 12/13/2014 - 06:12
North Carolina Family Wants Feds to Investigate Black Teen's Hanging Death

The family of Lennon Lacy, a black 17-year-old found hanging from a swing set in a North Carolina trailer park in August, wants a federal inquiry into his death. Local Bladenboro authorities ruled the high school football player's death a suicide due to depression and closed the case within five days. Family members say the investigation happened too quickly. The local NAACP "has been careful to not call the teen's death a lynching," the ABC affiliate reports. "However, it's raising the possibility that Lennon may have been a victim of ongoing racial tensions from whites in his community." 

A separate examination of Lacy by a pathologist hired by the family and the NAACP "found a number of inexplicable oversights," according to IBT:

Lacy's hands were not bagged to protect them from contamination, no photographs were taken by police at the scene and the shoes found on Lacy's feet did not match the ones his family had last seen him wearing and were a size and a half too small. The shoes found on Lacy's body were removed from the body bag sometime between when the body was placed inside it and when it was delivered to the state medical examiner. Additionally, Daily Kos reports that different agencies on site argued over evidence being taken and the need for an autopsy.

Most notably, though, Roberts' examination found that given Lacy's height, weight and items at the scene where his body was found, it would have been virtually impossible for him to hang himself.

There will be a march this Saturday in Bladenboro, N.C., to honor Lacy and "bring awareness to the case." Read more about it on the Guardian and IBT.

Categories: Diversity Headlines

Hearts, Minds, Sugar and Sleep: Health/Mental Health in Black Elders

New America Media - Sat, 12/13/2014 - 00:15
WASHINGTON, D.C.—Researchers on health conditions among older African Americans linked the development of chronic illness to mental health at November’s annual scientific meeting of the Gerontological Society of America in Washington, D.C.One study found that African Americans who suffer from... Frederick H. Lowe http://publisher.namx.org/mt-cp.cgi?__mode=view&blog_id=19&id=103
Categories: Diversity Headlines

CA Advocates Hope Low-Income Black Elders Ready for New Health Program

New America Media - Sat, 12/13/2014 - 00:15
 SAN BERNARDINO, Calif.--Like thousands of other low-income Californians, Lana Grissom wasn’t elated about the state’s new Cal MediConnect (CMC) health care program, despite its promise of smoother sailing for patients long bounced from one medical bureaucracy to another—with the best... Corey Arvin http://publisher.namx.org/mt-cp.cgi?__mode=view&blog_id=19&id=103
Categories: Diversity Headlines

In San Francisco and Los Angeles, Ethnic Studies on Its Way to Classrooms

Colorlines - Fri, 12/12/2014 - 16:54
In San Francisco and Los Angeles, Ethnic Studies on Its Way to Classrooms

Ethnic studies, as an option to San Francisco students, and as a requirement for Los Angeles students, is on its way to high school classrooms in the two cities. San Francisco's school board paved the way for the expansion of a pilot ethnic studies program in city schools this fall, the San Francisco Chronicle reported. By the 2017-2018 school year, Los Angeles public high schools will be required to offer at least one semester of ethnic studies, and in order for students to graduate in the 2018-2019 school year students will need to take a course, AP reported.

Both changes were backed by strong student and community support. Ethnic studies courses can translate to concrete educational benefits for students, one researcher has found. According to a new study of Tucson's now-outlawed ethnic studies program, those who took the Arizona border city's ethnic studies courses graduated in higher rates than students who didn't. (A 2011 analysis conducted by Tucson Unified School District and requested by an opponent of the city's ethnic studies program disputes those findings, however.) 

Cynthia Liu, over at Valerie Strauss' Washington Post Answer Sheet blog, argues that graduation rates aside, ethnic studies courses offer something deeper, argues: self-knowledge that's often denied to students of color:

Ethnic Studies is a path to self-understanding for students otherwise denied the histories of those who speak and look like them, but it's also how all people can empathize across lines of race, culture, religion, ethnicity, and language and feel in our bones the deep commonalities of shared hopes, struggles, and dreams of our individual lives. Yes, empathy can be taught. Anti-racism can be learned and racism and bigotry unlearned. But first we have to set aside blinkered monocultural lenses.

Categories: Diversity Headlines

Slain Mexican Student Identified

New America Media - Fri, 12/12/2014 - 16:00
Argentine forensic specialists have confirmed that human remains found in southern Mexico are those of one of the students who disappeared in late September in the city of Iguala, Ayotzinapa Rural Normal School students said.The remains are those of Alexander... VOXXI.com http://publisher.namx.org/mt-cp.cgi?__mode=view&blog_id=19&id=103
Categories: Diversity Headlines

CIA Torture Report: What Now?

Colorlines - Fri, 12/12/2014 - 13:20
 What Now?

Earlier this week, the Senate Intelligence Committee finally made public the executive summary of their milestone investigation into the C.I.A.'s use of torture at secret prisons overseas during the Bush administration. The report details the brutal "enhanced interrogation" techniques used on detainees, as well as the torture program's efficacy (or lack thereof), based on the agency's own documentation. Their findings also reveal the C.I.A.'s duplicity, how it provided false information on the extent, scope, and utility of their practices to members of Congress, the White House, the Department of Justice and the media. While President Obama banned the C.I.A.'s use of torture upon taking office, he has also ruled out the possibility of criminally prosecuting the officials and officers responsible.So what happens now that the report is out? Here is what a few leading Muslim American activists and thinkers told Colorlines:

Zahra Billoo, executive director, Council on American-Islamic Relations, San Francisco Bay Area Office

What is your reaction to the revelations made in the report?  Short answer: horrified, but not surprised. Longer answer: We knew these types of things were happening, but I am horrified to learn of the unimaginable extent of them. The report is a critical step towards accountability, but the people who planned and carried the actions out need to be held accountable. They are criminals, nothing less. Prosecuting them is how we will ensure this never happens again.

What can we do to move forward? Contact our elected officials and the Department of Justice to encourage prosecution of those involved.

Alejandro J. Beutel, independent analyst and researcher on American Muslims and U.S. national security

What is your reaction to the revelations made in the report?The report is a 6,000-page documentation of utter moral depravity and strategic incompetence. In an exercise of blind anger and arrogance, some of our highest officials completely ignored the advice of experts, including professional interrogators (many of whom since have taken a stand against torture), outsourced its plans for prisoner interviews to [private contractors] and led our nation down a terrible path. Our nation's top officials and those who followed their unlawful orders have violated their oaths to uphold the Constitution and the public trust that comes with it.

Moreover, this makes our nation less safe. Like many of my fellow Americans after 9/11, I felt fear and outrage and I demanded justice for those who died in the Twin Towers and the Pentagon. Since then, I've worked as an advocate for American Muslim communities, as well as researcher who analyzes various forms of hate. In my experience of observing violent extremists like Al-Qa'ida [PDF] and their ilk, one of the most consistent strategies they use to recruit people has been to tap into grievances over foreign policies, including pointing to the abuses that took place at Abu Ghraib and elsewhere.

I ask my fellow Americans and myself: Is this justice? Is this security? I don't think so.

What can we do to move forward?  There's no magic-bullet solution. We have to lobby Congress very hard. There also needs to be a grassroots movement that exposes the moral horror and the practical shortcomings of torture. Thankfully American opinion is strongly against torture. There are also groups like Human Rights First and the National Religious Campaign Against Torture who have been doing excellent work on the issue. They and the members of Congress that have worked to get this report exposed to the public and they deserve our support.

Linda Sarsour, executive director, Arab American Association of New York

What is your reaction to the revelations made in the report?  The CIA report was worse than I had expected it to be. It was absolutely horrific and barbaric and that's with most of it redacted. As an American Muslim knowing that the majority of the victims of torture were Muslim made it very personal for me. I felt emotional thinking about the victims and their families and the trauma they would carry forever. We as Americans are quick to call other nation states barbaric without ever reflecting on the pain, torture and murder that we have inflicted on Muslims and other people of color across the world. I couldn't help but to feel a sense of responsibility, a complicity in these crimes against humanity. We are supposed to be the superpower, the best country in the world, and this CIA report and the continuation of civil and human rights violations against our own citizens, let alone victims in other parts of the world, makes one question if we have lost our moral compass or whether we ever possessed one it at all.

What can we do to move forward?  From Ferguson to New York to Abu Ghraib, the United States has a problem with transparency and accountability. We must hold all those responsible for engaging in torture practices accountable; they must be tried for the crimes they have committed. As Americans we need to speak out and speak loud against torture because it is a threat to our national security. Our country has an obsession with terrorism committed by Muslims while ignoring our role in fueling anti-American sentiment by waging unjust wars and using tortures against citizens of other nation states. As activists and organizers, we must connect the dots between the movements --from economic justice, police reform, anti-war, to anti-torture--it's all related. We must not allow the rest of the world to know us only through the evils of our government leaders.

Azhar Azeez, president of the Islamic Society of North America

What is your reaction to the revelations made in the report?  We are appalled by the report because it shows how far we as a country have fallen in dealing with brutal terrorists. We willfully violated the very norms that America has prided itself on. We used the very techniques that others used on our soldiers not to get the truth, but to use their answers for propaganda. This report is not about the terrorists and their well-known brutality. It is about us and our moral failures at a time when our leadership was most crucial. There is no better way to defeat the lawlessness of the terrorists than to maintain our morals and values even in the face of our worst enemy. 

In Islam we are taught, even when dealing with our most deadly enemies, to treat them humanely. The Prophet Muhammad said, "Verily, God will torture those who torture people in this world."

What can we do to move forward? The best way to move forward is not retribution but truth, accountability and reconciliation. It is hard to talk about moving forward because, while President Obama has rightfully condemned torture as both a moral crime and an ineffective tool, unfortunately, he has replaced torture with drone attacks that often kill civilians and perhaps lead to the creation of more terrorists.

Our government should also hold those who were responsible in authorizing and carrying out these policies accountable to the fullest extent of the law and to insure that sufficient oversight is implemented to prevent such policies from ever being implemented again. So far we have not seen any indication from President Obama nor the Congress that they are willing to take those into account.

Hoda Elshishtawy, national policy analyst for the Muslim Public Affairs Council*

What is your reaction to the revelations made in the report? I'm not surprised with the release of the report, but I am shocked at the content, torture and the subsequent coverup of the program. The fact that the CIA led these torture practices and called them interrogation techniques is appalling and antithetical to the values our nation holds. What's more concerning is the fact that the torture methods did not result in any credible information; at best we already knew that information, at worst the information was wrong. In fact, by CIA agents' own admission, those techniques were not effective and yet they continued. 

What can we do to move forward? We need to continue to put pressure on Congress to ensure a more transparent and robust oversight committee. We need to call on Congress to support other members' legislation to reform these rubber-stamped programs to ensure a culture shift from these ineffective, heavy handed practices to something more productive. We need to make the CIA come under the fold of oversight; the fact that they spied on the very Committee tasked to oversee them is an ironic and abysmal failure on our part to keep the agency under control.

Khalil Meek, executive director of Muslim Legal Fund of America.

What is your reaction to the revelations made in the report?  wish I could say that we're surprised, but the growing institutionalized bigotry against Islam and Muslims has poisoned how law enforcement and our intelligence agencies view Muslims in America and abroad. Muslims aren't seen as worthy of the same legal standing, civil rights or liberties other people are afforded.  This is demonstrated by the cruelty we find in the pages of this report - a cruelty that was made easy by virtue of their expressed religious beliefs.

Another troubling development is the potential for information gathered through torture to be used in federal prosecutions. The justification for investigating the Holy Land Foundation came from a confession that foreign agents obtained through torture. How much other so-called evidence came from tortured confessions? This calls into question not only this case, but every national security case prosecuted in the country.

What can we do to move forward? The most obvious answer is to stop torturing people. But we can't stop there. We have innocent people sitting in prison because of coerced confessions. Hamid Hayat is on example. After being bullied into a confession by federal agents, he confessed to training at a camp in Pakistan that didn't even exist when he was over there. Yet, he is sitting in prison thanks to the flawed mentality that torture and coercion are acceptable means to the truth.

We the people must hold law enforcement and intelligence agencies to high moral, ethical and legal standards. One thing this torture report spells out is that truth cannot arise from coercion. ...When law enforcement take the pledge to "defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic," we must understand that one of the greatest domestic enemies is the temptation to circumvent the rule of law and to trample upon the constitutional rights of the innocent through coercion, torture or changing the rules of the courts to unfairly favor prosecutors in trials based on the religious or other First Amendment activities of the defendants.

We should also review all convictions that were gained in any part through the use of evidence or intelligence obtained by use of torture or other violently coercive means. Criminals needs to be prosecuted, but the integrity of those prosecutions are jeopardized when the integrity of our system is threatened by those who use torture or other misconduct to achieve convictions. Innocent until proven guilty is not a quaint sentiment. It's the American way of life and it must be protected.

And if law still matters in this country, we must prosecute every single person involved in these despicable acts - everyone from individuals carrying out the acts to the people responsible for authorizing or justifying them. Torture is injustice. Our pledge is "with liberty and justice for all," and that needs to matter for our nation to have a just and fair society.

*Post has been updated since publication to include responses from Meek and Elshishtawy

Categories: Diversity Headlines

Three Takeaways from Remezcla's Best of 2014 Lists

Colorlines - Fri, 12/12/2014 - 12:01
Three Takeaways from Remezcla's Best of 2014 Lists

Remezcla has published a series of lists illustrating 2014's best songs, best music videos, best music trends, best Instagram accounts and best breakout artists. That's a lot of bests--but well worth the look.

The first pick is gonna require an explanation for those of us who don't speak Spanish or aren't familiar with the most hilarious of song requests in 2014. The hook to Corona's 1993 hit song is: "This is the rhythm of the night." The thing is, those lyrics could easily sound like, "Esas son Reebok o son Nike?" in Spanish, which translates to, "Are those Reeboks or Nikes?" At some point this year, a Spanish-language listener called the song request in to a station--thinking the song was about a pair of sneakers. His misheard lyrics song request was honored with a good chuckle.

"Son Reebok o son Nike?" went on to live a life of its own in music. So Remezcla included it on its list of favorite music trends of the year. Here's one remix from Los XL:

No Reeboks of Nikes on the best song list--but check out Princess Nokia's "Bikini Weather Corazón en Afrika" from the list:

And finally, don't forget muralist Alexis Diaz's gorgeous Instagram account:

acrilico y tinta china sobre canvas 2x2 metros para #current @arsenalmontreal Montreal, Canada.

A photo posted by Alexis Diaz (@alexis_diaz) on Oct 10, 2014 at 2:14pm PDT

Check out all of Remezcla's 2014 lists--which feature nearly 100 songs, videos and artists you should know about--on their site. It's seriously worth it. 

Categories: Diversity Headlines

EPA Administrator: Enviro Groups Must ‘Reflect Communities They Serve’

New America Media - Fri, 12/12/2014 - 11:37
WASHINGTON, D.C. — EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy said Tuesday that the nation's leading environmental institutions would be more effective at protecting public health if they were more diverse. “We know that as we look at issues like clean water, clean... Anthony Advincula http://publisher.namx.org/mt-cp.cgi?__mode=view&blog_id=19&id=63
Categories: Diversity Headlines

Thurgood Marshall Condemned Chokeholds in 1983

Colorlines - Fri, 12/12/2014 - 10:07
Thurgood Marshall Condemned Chokeholds in 1983

More than three decades ago, the Supreme Court confronted whether the police violate a person's constitutional rights when they use chokeholds in routine encounters with the public--precisely the dynamic we recently witnessed in the killing of Eric Garner. A lower court had banned their casual use, but in Los Angeles v. Lyons (1983) a five-four majority of the Court overturned that ruling. In effect, they allowed the police to continue using life-threatening chokeholds even against persons who pose no threat of violence.

A blistering dissent came from Justice Thurgood Marshall, the first African-American to sit on the nation's highest court. Marshall aimed much of his ire at the majority's tortured legal reasoning, which held that even if the commonplace application of chokeholds raised constitutional issues, plaintiff Adolph Lyons--choked unconscious seemingly for driving while black--was not the right person to sue, since he couldn't be sure he would be choked again.

Before wading into the arcane legal fight, however, Marshall emphasized the human dimension of what happened:

When Lyons regained consciousness, he was lying face down on the ground, choking, gasping for air, and spitting up blood and dirt. He had urinated and defecated. He was issued a traffic citation and released.

Lyons' extreme physical reaction to being choked--loss of consciousness and bowel control--were not exceptional, Marshall carefully showed, but typical of the harrowing physiological consequences that come with choking persons into submission.

The majority ignored this human reality. Likewise, still today most of us don't understand fully what chokeholds do. Listen as Marshall condemns this lethal violence--in a way that, because of what the Supreme Court decided that day, foreshadowed Eric Garner's needless killing:

Although the City instructs its officers that use of a chokehold does not constitute deadly force, since 1975 no less than 16 persons have died following the use of a chokehold by an LAPD police officer. Twelve have been Negro males. 


It is undisputed that chokeholds pose a high and unpredictable risk of serious injury or death. Chokeholds are intended to bring a subject under control by causing pain and rendering him unconscious. Depending on the position of the officer's arm and the force applied, the victim's voluntary or involuntary reaction, and his state of health, an officer may inadvertently crush the victim's larynx, trachea, or thyroid. The result may be death caused by either cardiac arrest or asphyxiation. An LAPD officer described the reaction of a person to being choked as "do[ing] the chicken," in reference apparently to the reactions of a chicken when its neck is wrung. The victim experiences extreme pain. His face turns blue as he is deprived of oxygen, he goes into spasmodic convulsions, his eyes roll back, his body wriggles, his feet kick up and down, and his arms move about wildly.

The LAPD does not distinguish between felony and misdemeanor suspects. Moreover, the officers are taught to maintain the chokehold until the suspect goes limp, despite substantial evidence that the application of a chokehold invariably induces a "flight or flee" syndrome, producing an involuntary struggle by the victim which can easily be misinterpreted by the officer as willful resistance that must be overcome by prolonging the chokehold and increasing the force applied. In addition, officers are instructed that the chokeholds can be safely deployed for up to three or four minutes. Robert Jarvis, the City's expert who has taught at the Los Angeles Police Academy for the past [12] years, admitted that officers are never told that the bar-arm control can cause death if applied for just two seconds. 

More than three decades before the New York police choked Eric Garner to death after confronting him, supposedly for peddling loose cigarettes, Justice Marshall tried to leverage his place on the Supreme Court to educate the whole country about the violent, life-wasting reality of routine chokeholds. How much longer and how many more deaths until the nation listens?

Ian Haney Lopez teaches constitutional law at UC Berkeley. Follow him at @ianhaneylopez and ianhaneylopez.com

Categories: Diversity Headlines

House Avoids Shutdown, Fed Approves Pot on Reservations, Mumps Spreads Through NHL

Colorlines - Fri, 12/12/2014 - 07:28
House Avoids Shutdown, Fed Approves Pot on Reservations, Mumps Spreads Through NHL

Here's what I'm reading up on this morning:

  • The federal government is "allowing" tribal nations (which already have tribal sovereignty) to grow and sell marijuana on reservations, regardless of what the state the reservation is in thinks about it. Not sure if this means medical marijuana would be reimbursed by flexible spending accounts when purchased on the rez. 
  • Like us on Facebook? Cool. Dislike us on Facebook? Not so much
Categories: Diversity Headlines

Former Supermodel Beverly Johnson Accuses Bill Cosby of Drugging Her

Colorlines - Thu, 12/11/2014 - 11:27
Former Supermodel Beverly Johnson Accuses Bill Cosby of Drugging Her

Beverly Johnson is the latest and highest profile woman, along with fellow model and friend Janice Dickinson, to publicly accuse Bill Cosby of drugging her. (Dickinson also accuses Cosby of rape.) Johnson, a former supermodel and businesswoman writes in Vanity Fair:

I struggled with how to reveal my big secret, and more importantly, what would people think when and if I did? Would they dismiss me as an angry black woman intent on ruining the image of one of the most revered men in the African American community over the last 40 years? Or would they see my open and honest account of being betrayed by one of the country's most powerful, influential, and beloved entertainers?

As I wrestled with the idea of telling my story of the day Bill Cosby drugged me with the intention of doing God knows what, the faces of Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, Eric Garner, and countless other brown and black men took residence in my mind.

Read the rest in Vanity Fair, which reports, Cosby's attorneys declined to comment.

Categories: Diversity Headlines

Meet the 24-Year-Old Filipina-American Who Raised $650K on Kickstarter

Colorlines - Thu, 12/11/2014 - 10:39
Meet the 24-Year-Old Filipina-American Who Raised $650K on Kickstarter

The next few weeks will be busy for Angelia Trinidad. After raising more than $650,000, she closed out her second Kickstarter campaign last week. That sum is a whopping 6,584 percent of her modest $10,000 goal. This isn't chump change. According to Kickstarter's statistics, only 1,619 successfully funded projects have raised more than $100,000--less than 2 percent of all projects. So what is Trinidad's illustrious product that 23,000 people backed?

An old-school paper planner.

I can't say for sure why so many people have shelled out between $25 to $30 for what Trinidad has named the "Passion Planner." But I can tell you why I did. I arrived at the Passion Planner Kickstarter page via a Facebook share. As someone who has experimented with many types of calendars--including a very DIY system that I map out on plain graph paper--it didn't take much to get me to follow the link. A few minutes after watching Trinidad's video, I was putting in my credit card information and pressing "send."

I talked to Trinidad late last Friday as she was riding to her home in her parent's garage in the San Diego suburbs. I wasn't surprised when she told me she's listened to over 150 self-help books at three times the normal speed while driving the two-hour stretch between her San Diego home and Los Angeles where she often conducts business.

It's these little life hacks that Trinidad uses and shares across her social media platforms. Her posts  make her sound like a young, female Filipina-American version of the two authors who have inspired her the most--Tim Ferris and Don Miguel Ruiz.

The speed at which Trinidad absorbs audiobooks is akin to the pace of her everyday life--on overdrive.

She says the source of her drive comes from her parents' immigration story. Her mom and dad migrated from the Philippines to San Diego when her dad was in the Navy. Her family lived the Navy way of life for 21 years. "A big part of [my drive] was my parents and thinking about everything they had to go through to get me to this situation. I'd be working really late, and I'd think this was nothing compared to what my parents had to go through to get me to where I am."

Trinidad's experience fits in with an immigrant narrative we hear over and over again. It's a story about young people motivated to gain success by their parents' sacrifices. What sets her apart is her journey and her hustle: halfway through college she changed her major from pre-med to art. But she still eschewed the traditional art world and gallery scene. "I didn't want a life where my livelihood is based on one person's opinion," says Trinidad who stresses that she's not "the typical entrepreneur." 

"I have some things going against me. The cards are stacked against me:  I'm young, a woman and a minority who is a first-generation American." she explains.

Still Trinidad, who points out that she comes from a middle class family, is quick to acknowledge where she has privilege: "I am well educated beyond traditional education through personal reading and I have a ironclad set of values and an amazing support system," she says. "I am blessed, oh so blessed, and I'm going to make the most out of every opportunity given to me."

Exceptionalism is, no doubt, a part of Trinidad's story. For example, while she was at UCLA she was the only Filipino art major despite a campus that is 33 percent Asian Pacific Islander. But the self-help devotee chooses to focus on what motivates her. "My reality is someone else's dream," she often says.

Trinidad's reality is a big selling point for a simple concept: "A paper planner designed with your passions and personal goals in mind," as she describes it. Clearly she's tapped into a market that, despite all our technological advances, is still strong for old school, low-tech tools to help us organize and focus our busy lives.

Where I start to lose Trinidad is her "if I can do this, anyone can" mantra. it's a prominent part of  her overall message that fails to acknowledge how exceptional her drive really is, and how, despite micro-funding platforms, it's still not an even playing field. Trinidad says she "actually made money from college  by spending two to three hours each day applying for scholarships" She continues, "[The American Dream is] like you have a nice house, a big nice car and you work for yourself, which I do. But, I don't think I'm ever going to drive a really expensive car; I still drive the car my parents got me when I was in high school and I still live with my parents ... A lot of people don't follow their dreams because they're scared of not having enough money. I wanted to erase that fear." 

For now, Trinidad is focused on the practical steps ahead of her such as finding a warehouse space in San Diego so she that she can move her planner's distribution from her parent's garage. She's also establishing the legal and financial systems necessary for a business at this scale. (it's important to note that on top of her Kickstarter haul, Trinidad has sold  a great number of planners through her website.) And Trinidad plans to create a planner based on an academic calendar, an undated version--and ways she can continue offering her popular tool for free for folks who can't afford to buy one. 

In the end what's so compelling about Trinidad is that she has an incredible level of focus on what really matters, a quality that flies in the face of much of the brouhahah we hear about millennials' apathy. "I think my version of the American Dream is just having enough and having lots of people that I feel close to," says Trinidad. "I value friendships and my family way more than money. I remind myself over and over again what my values are and what I want out of my life. What the Passion Planner does is helps you find out what matters, on paper."

Categories: Diversity Headlines

[Video] How Police Are Using Social Media to Lock Up Harlem Teens

Colorlines - Thu, 12/11/2014 - 09:52

Teens living in high-crime areas have a new concern: cops tracking them through their Instagram, YouTube, Facebook and other social media posts. A new Verge investigation uses Harlem as a case study to look at how police have been using social media's strength--cataloguing friends and friends of friends--to catch violent perpetrators and their innocent friends and siblings, too. As noted here and here, high crime neighborhoods are already highly surveilled, i.e. foot patrols, cameras (street corners, public housing, shops, laundromats), eye-in-the-sky surveillance towers, helicopters overhead and perhaps more. For teens in these neighborhoods, the Internet is no reprieve. From Verge:

Over the last five years, the New York City police department and Manhattan prosecutors office have ramped up their efforts to understand, oversee, and infiltrate the digital lives of teenagers from crime-prone neighborhoods like Harlem. They track the activity of kids through services like Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and Instagram, going so far as to create fake accounts and spark online friendships to sidestep privacy settings. A recent indictment discusses activity of crew members as young as 10, and arrested several 15-year-olds following a four and half year investigation.

Read (and watch above) journalist Ben Popper's story of brothers, Jelani and Asheem Henry on Verge.com. And the watchers may not be the NSA, but digital surveillance and online privacy also impact poor and working class communities of color. Learn more here and here.

Categories: Diversity Headlines
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