New America Media - Wed, 03/05/2014 - 00:51
Admirers of 12 Years a Slave are still basking in the Academy Awards’ afterglow. The fact that a film by a black screenwriter and black director—depicting a black man’s painful but ultimately triumphant true life story—won several Oscars, including the... The Root http://publisher.namx.org/mt-cp.cgi?__mode=view&blog_id=19&id=103
Colorlines - Wed, 03/05/2014 - 00:35
With the announcement of the My Brother's Keeper initiative last week, President Obama unveiled his first effort explicitly aimed at the social and economic dimensions of racial injustice after nearly five years in office. Its focus on improving the life chances of men of color is welcome and badly needed. But there's an open question as to whether My Brother's Keeper is structured in a way that can make any difference.
The truth is that given the limited goals of My Brothers Keeper it may be too unambitious for the task required. That's because nearly half of black and Latino men in communities across the country are without work. The level of incarceration for black and Latino men is higher than the incarceration rate in many authoritarian regimes around the world with black and Latino men up to six times more likely to be jailed than whites. College completion levels for these men is the lowest of any other group in America.
But the way that My Brothers Keeper is set up makes it appear that we are at the beginning of a crisis rather than in the desperate throes of one. Its two main objectives--the generation of another study on the challenges facing men of color and the coordination of $200 million in private philanthropy in pilot programs in communities across the country over five years--underscore the point.
The reality is that the economic, educational and criminal justice disparities faced by black and Latino men have been studied exhaustively for the past 50 years. All the while the situation has worsened. That's because the issues facing men of color are systemic rather than individual, and systemic problems require widespread remedy.
To that end here are four actions that President Obama can champion right now that we know can a big difference in the lives of black and Latino men.
1. Make Work Pay for Single Men.
Given the fact that black and Latino men are disproportionately employed in lower wage, hourly-jobs, too many work but can't earn enough to live. That's why there's something called the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) that's designed to ensure that low-wage workers can make ends meet . Through an average lump-some payment of more than $2,000 each year it provides working poor families with the critical help they need to stay afloat. That's how it manages to keep 10 million people out of poverty, half of them children.
The difficulty is that the EITC is currently designed for parents. According to the White House a single-person earning minimum wage is eligible for up to only $25 (PDF) a year in EITC help. This puts single men at an immediate disadvantage and it needs to be changed.
In a positive step this week, President Obama announced an expansion for singles, but it would require congressional action. In the meantime, the White House could also explore ways to begin to unilaterally enlarge and retool the program while it waits for Congress.
2. Break the School to Prison Pipeline.
Disproportionate school discipline is a key driver for both high levels of unemployment and incarceration for black and Latino men. As I've written before, students who are suspended are up to five times less likely to graduate. Each year the Department of Education collects detailed information about racial disparities in school discipline. This existing data could be used by the government to mandate that each of the thousands of schools who receive federal education funds create an action plan and a timetable to eliminate racial disparities in school discipline.
3. Transform Prisons Into Education Centers.
Six out of ten of the 2.3 million people behind bars are men of color. The lack of education is an important reason for why they're in the criminal justice system. According to the National Education Association, eight of 10 of those behind bars did not finish high school.
The link between educational attainment and prison is why New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, has proposed a program to fund associate and bachelor degrees in New York's prisons. The governor points out that it costs $60,000 to incarcerate someone but only $5,000 a year to educate each prisoner all while "giving a real shot at a second lease on life."
Those who earn degrees in prison are less likely to come back. A study by the Rand Corporation shows that those leave prison with a high school degree are 30 percent less likely to return and those with a college degree are up half as likely end up in the criminal justice system.
A call by President Obama for a similar effort on a national scale could make a big difference. And given the fact that he runs all of the federal government's prisons, Obama could begin laying the groundwork for that to happen.
4. Focus Job Training Programs on Men of Color.
Another way to help remedy the job skills gap fueled by incarceration and educational barriers is to focus existing job training programs on black and Latino men. Currently the federal government spends $18 billion a year on job training programs.
As a report by Congress' General Accounting Office details, many of the nearly 50 job training initiatives are scattered across nine governmental departments with most of their money sent to the states in the form of grants to fund uncoordinated efforts (PDF) at the local level.
One way to better organize these patchwork programs is to target them on those who need help the most. Some, such as those that concentrate on the disabled and Native Americans already do that. But President Obama could issue an executive order asking that priority be given to efforts that are directed at men of color.
These are but a few of the ideas of ways in which we can help black and Latino men right now in a big way. Others include dramatically expanding federal national service programs such as AmeriCorps which gives volunteers a stipend and future educational assistance to serve in country's hardest-hit communities; ramping up school-to-work apprenticeships to ensure that when students leave high school they land good-paying jobs and opening housing, educational and health benefits far more widely to single men.
The bottom line is that we don't need to wait five years-- a time beyond President Obama's term in office--to take dramatic action for those most at risk in America. The good news is that there's no reason to do so.
Colorlines - Tue, 03/04/2014 - 23:57
President Obama released his new budget proposal for the coming fiscal year that starts October 1, and it's a relatively safe package of spending wishes carefully customized to not rock the boat for this year's mid-term elections. The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities calls it "a solid blueprint that would reduce deficits, alleviate poverty, and boost investment in areas needed for future economic growth, such as infrastructure, education, and research."
Some of Obama's proposals, as listed in a fact sheet sent form the White House to the press:
- Supports a "Preschool for All" initiative, in partnership with the states, to provide all low- and moderate-income four-year-olds with access to high-quality preschool,
- Provides 100,000 teachers in 500 districts with access to professional development to help them make effective use of new broadband connectivity,
- Raises the minimum wage to $10.10 and indexing it to inflation thereafter, while also raising the minimum wage for tipped workers for the first time in over 20 years,
- Expands the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) for childless workers aged 21 to 24, doubling the maximum credit to $1,000.
The Wall Street Journal is reporting, meanwhile, that the GOP isn't feeling Obama's anti-poverty measures. Rep. Tom Price (R., Ga.), the vice chairman of the House Budget Committee, said that Obama "wants to take more taxpayer money and throw it at programs that don't work."
Wade Henderson, president and CEO of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, felt differently, saying in a press statement,"By expanding the earned income tax credit and other middle class tax cuts and providing needed investments in jobs and infrastructure, this budget provides pathways out of poverty for millions of families."
Obama hopes that this budget, if passed, will drop the deficit by $434 billion come 2024. The fact sheet from the White House states that under Obama the deficit has already been cut in half as a share of the economy, the largest four-year deficit reduction since the demobilization from World War II.
The Department of Justice, which is hoping to bulk up its "Smart on Crime" initiatives to reduce mass incarceration and racial bias in the criminal justice system, would get a nice stack -- $173 million targetted toward those efforts:
- Requests $15 million for U.S. Attorneys, including prosecution prioritization, prevention and reentry work and promoting alternatives to incarceration such as the establishment of drug courts and veteran courts,
- Sustains $15 million for the Bureau of Prisons to expand the Residential Drug Abuse Program at the federal level and $14 million provided in the FY 2014 appropriation to assist inmates with reentering society and reducing the population of individuals who return to prison after being released,
- Requests $115 million for the Second Chance Act Grant program, through state and local assistance programs, to reduce recidivism and help ex-offenders return to productive lives,
- And $273 million to help meet the nation's civil rights challenges--including an $8 million program increase.
Hmm, between the call for more resources for schools and teachers, and funds for keeping people out of prison, it looks like a plan to help hammer away at that school-to-prison pipeline in America.
"The proposed budget released today by the President shows a clear and unequivocal commitment to expanding the middle class and providing educational, economic, and employment opportunities for all Americans," said Henderson. "If implemented, this budget would change the lives of students and families across this country for the better; we call on Congress to pass it."
Colorlines - Tue, 03/04/2014 - 23:53
An employee at a Canadian Sears store has been fired after video of a racially charged exchange with an Asian customer was posted online.
The video, which you can see above, catches the employee in the middle of a heated exchange with a customer over removing his child off a display lawnmower. After several moments of arguing, the employee says to the customer, "Let me guess, you came off the boat?
A spokesperson for Sears confirmed with the Canadian Broadcasting Company that the employee has been fired.
(h/t Angry Asian Man)
Colorlines - Tue, 03/04/2014 - 23:48
As a teen Ismael Nazario did time in New York City's Rikers Island prison for assault and robbery charges. "Without being convicted he says he spent a total of 300 days in solitary. The longest stretch was four months," reports Daffodil Altan for NewsHour. It was excrutiating, Nazario says. "Like, my eyes would start playing tricks on me. I would start seeing black dots. And I'd focus on them. It's crazy. It looks crazy when I demonstrate it, how it used to look. You see the black dots and you just focusing on the black dots and your eyes is just follwoign them around all over the cell. You're trying to escape seeing the black dots. But you can't, there's no black dots there. It's crazy."
Today he's a youth counselor in Brooklyn. But back on Rikers, solitary confinement proved to be a profoundly destructive practice. After long stretches in solitary confinement, which requires 23 hours of total isolation in a small cell, Nazario started talking to himself, pacing back and forth, screaming through a small slit in the door at his cell, a not uncommon response to the solitary confinement. For years advocates have been highlighting the dangers of solitary confinement, which many prison reform advocates consider tantamount to torture.
Folks are finally listening. In late February New York state announced that it's rolling back its use of solitary confinement for the most vulnerable populations, including youth, pregnant inmates and those with mental disabilities.
Watch the rest of the PBS NewsHour segment.
New America Media - Tue, 03/04/2014 - 23:04
The CEOs of some private firms that have taken over government functions are earning as much as $8 million a year, according to a new report titled, “Exposed: America’s Highest Paid Government Workers.”The report, published by the Center for... NNPA http://publisher.namx.org/mt-cp.cgi?__mode=view&blog_id=19&id=103
New America Media - Tue, 03/04/2014 - 23:00
A new Israeli law giving Muslim and Christian Arab citizens separate representation on a national employment commission drew fierce criticism from the Palestinians on Tuesday, Feb. 25."This law aims to create a new reality among our people based on religion... Arab American News http://publisher.namx.org/mt-cp.cgi?__mode=view&blog_id=19&id=103
New America Media - Tue, 03/04/2014 - 22:57
The National Hispanic Media Coalition (NHMC) honored Cesar Chavez director Diego Luna, Academy Award-nominated Demian Bichir, legendary actor and filmmaker Edward James Olmos, actress Emily Rios, American Hustle and Nebraska executive producer George Parra, and Comcast NBCUniversal on February 28... Latinola.com http://publisher.namx.org/mt-cp.cgi?__mode=view&blog_id=19&id=103
Hyphen Blog - Tue, 03/04/2014 - 22:27
Hyphen catches up with keyboardist Borahm Lee of the electronic duo Break Science. He's played with the likes of Lauryn Hill and Kanye West, but these days you'll find him in Los Angeles doing his own thing.
Colorlines - Tue, 03/04/2014 - 22:22
De La Soul is going all out to celebrate their 25th anniversary. Last month, the group surprised fans and made their entire catalogue available for free. Now, they just dropped this track, produced by J. Dilla. It's part of a mixtape that will be out later this year. Here's their message to fans:
It's been 25 Years since our "Three Feet High" release. We have a lot great memories and an incredible journey. Amazingly enough, our fans stuck around, supported and still want more. Ok, but before you get that, here's a little De La over Dilla Beats.
Enjoy and look out for the new mixtape Smell The DA.I.S.Y. all beats by J Dilla. Peace... and in advance, You're Welcome.
Colorlines - Tue, 03/04/2014 - 22:03
And you get a car! And you get a car! OK, so it's not nearly the same as Oprah gifting free wheels to her studio audience but, global behemoth Google will cover two years of mass transit for 31,000 working-class kids in San Francisco. Google is the city's second largest tech employer. The $6.8 million dollar donation comes, notes the Chronicle, "as tech companies are facing a backlash from city residents upset about rising housing costs, gentrification, a wave of evictions, and perceived aloofness from those companies and their employees."
Through the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency, the money will extend the life of an existing pilot program, originally won in 2012 by grassroots organization, People Organized to Win Employment Rights (POWER).
Google and city leaders appear to agree that the donation is a first step.
(h/t San Francisco Chronicle)
Colorlines - Tue, 03/04/2014 - 18:24
A complex case is unfolding in New Jersey that's pitting some members of the Indian-American community against their county prosecutors. Pre-trial motions are underway, according to The Record, in the case of a 21-year-old Indian-American man accused of taking part in the firebombing of Jewish facilities two years ago. Supporters of Aakash Dalal, according to New York-based weekly, News India Times, allege that he is being treated like a terrorist and last week rallied community members to protest his multi-million-dollar bail and treatment. The former Rutgers student, according to the weekly, has been held in solitary confinement in an 8x6 cell for the past two years.
Aakash Dalal is accused along with co-defendant Anthony Graziano, 23, of firebombing synagogues and other Jewish facilities. In one of the attacks, Graziano is accused of throwing Molotov cocktails into the living quarters of Congregation Beth El in Rutherford, where a rabbi lived with his family. They escaped unharmed. Prosecutors say Dalal used electronic communication to plan the attacks and encourage Graziano to set several facilities on fire.
In addition to arson, conspiracy and bias intimidation, Dalal faces additional charges tacked on after arrest in 2012, for conspiring to murder the assistant prosecutor then handling the case.
Dalal's parents, on advice of their attorney, according to the weekly, did not share details of the case during last week's community meeting. Both men face up to life in prison if convicted.
Read the latest on The Star Ledger.
(h/t Voices of NY)
Colorlines - Tue, 03/04/2014 - 18:12
If you were born in the United States, you are automatically a U.S. citizen. What would you do, then, if you found yourself stripped of your passport and deported to another country? Blanca Maria Alfaro knows firsthand.
Alfaro was born in Houston, Tex., in 1979. She left the U.S. just shy of her 5th birthday and largely grew up in El Salvador with her father. Her mother, a naturalized U.S. citizen, remained in Texas. Alfaro, who grew up speaking Spanish, has few memories of her early childhood in the U.S. but she always knew she was a citizen. Around the time she turned 16, with U.S. birth certificate in hand, she applied and was approved for a U.S. passport. She saved up some cash and purchased a round-trip ticket to New York in 1998. Alfaro’s partner had family there, and she wanted take a short vacation there. But that two-week trip was cut short by immigration authorities at New York City’s JFK Airport.
“They put me into a room with a lot of immigration agents,” recalls Alfaro. She was shackled and handcuffed and repeatedly asked to write her down name only to have the paper torn up by the agents. Alfaro, who was just 18 at the time, was confused; it was her first time traveling alone, and the agents mostly spoke to her in English, which she didn’t understand. But it soon became clear to her that she was being accused of falsifying her identity.
For the first few hours, Alfaro says she stood by what she knew to be true: She was born in Texas, and had a birth certificate and other documents to prove it. But as the hours wore on, Alfaro says she started to feel defeated.
Alfaro signed a sworn statement that consisted of more than 30 questions. The document indicates that the statement was given “In the Spanish language,” and without the use of an interpreter.
Alfaro was bound for an entire night and the shackles and handcuffs weren’t removed until she agreed to sign a statement swearing that her name was Maria Mabel Alfaro—her half-sister’s name. One of the agents threatened her with prison.
Bryan Johnson, a Long Island, New York-based attorney who has been helping Alfaro for about a year, who has scoured government documents related to to the case, finds the admission troubling. “They asked her leading questions,” he says.
And that’s true: The statements were a series of yes or no questions, that gave little room for actual answers. Nevertheless, Alfaro was exhausted from the interrogation, and finally felt relief after agreeing to sign the document. She was stripped of her passport and was deported to El Salvador the next day.
“It’s because I speak Spanish and the immigration agents are racist,” says Alfaro. “They can’t believe that someone who doesn’t speak English can actually be a citizen. It’s like speaking Spanish makes you criminal.”
Not Yet Home
When Alfaro returned to El Salvador, she was determined to set things straight. She went back to the embassy and explained what happened at JFK airport in New York and they agreed to help her obtain a new passport.
Alfaro had given birth to a son, Oscar, in 1996; in 1997, she welcomed another, Eduardo. In 1999, she once again visited New York, and started thinking that it would be a great place to raise a family. She was able to make several visits back to the U.S. with little incident and as time passed, she started thinking of returning home permanently. But those hopes would once again be dashed.
In 2005, Alfaro headed to the U.S. embassy in El Salvador to register her children’s citizenship. At that time, however, embassy officials confiscated her passport. They claimed they had evidence that her birth was registered in El Salvador. Alfaro had at one time hired a corrupt lawyer who obtained a fake Salvadoran birth certificate in order to help her get a local identification. But that document had already been rejected by a Salvadoran court.
Still, Alfaro found herself without a U.S. passport. Wanting to return to the U.S., Alfaro gathered all the documents she could think of—her U.S. birth certificate, vaccination records, airline tickets dating back to 1984—and hired a coyote to help her cross into the United States in 2013.
“It cost me $7,000 to return to the United States that time,” she says, Alfaro rode ina truck from El Salvador through Mexico. She spent several days crossing through the desert from Mexico into the United States, dodging border agents and braving the elements.
Once she arrived, her sister, Iris, who’s been living in Houston for years, picked her up and drove her to immigration officials at a nearby port of entry. And it was then that an entirely new nightmare began.
“I was so nervous, I think I was shaking,” says Alfaro adding that immigration agents pushed her around and threatened her sister with trafficking charges. Alfaro was then taken into custody. She spent her first couple of nights in a field office before landing in two separate detention facilities over two weeks.
“I prayed for God to keep me,” she says. Alfaro’s relatives helped find a lawyer that would work on her case. But just as arbitrarily as immigration agents detained her, they released her. Alfaro’s sister picked her up from detention in Jena, La., and brought her home to Houston. She eventually received her third U.S. passport from authorities late last year, while living with her in-laws in Long Island, New York.
Today, Alfaro lives in Long Island with her two older children. Her two younger children are still back in El Salvador with her husband. The family remains split, but Alfaro hopes to reunite everyone soon.
Now 17, her son Oscar is a high school junior. He’s lived in New York for the past four years, and is fluent in English. He, his brother, and their mother returned to El Salvador on their U.S. passports in January for a brief visit. When they returned to the JFK a little over a week ago, immigration authorities took Alfaro in for questioning. This time, however, Oscar was able to witness and understand what his mother was being subjected to.
“They were laughing at her and when they looked at my documents they started to talk and make fun of me, too,” says Oscar. He says the agents changed their tone when they realized he spoke English.
Oscar and his mother both tried to text their attorney but an agent screamed, “No phones!” and compelled Alfaro to show him her private text messages. They were held for about an hour.
Despite the treatment she’s received, Alfaro wants to bring her family together to the country of her birth. She’s working to bring a case against the U.S. government for violating so many of her rights. “I know that I’m a citizen, and I feel that I’m a citizen,” says Alfaro. “Maybe one day, I’ll be treated like one.”
Until then, Alfaro’s case illustrates what little recourse U.S.-born citizens have when confronted by immigration authorities. Government agencies like the State Department can make unilateral decisions that can dramatically alter a person’s life—even if the person in question isn’t an immigrant. And if that sounds Kafkaesque, you might want to think again.
“In Kafka’s world, it’s even better, because at least there’s a judge there,” says Johnson.
New America Media - Tue, 03/04/2014 - 12:00
Columbia — On Monday afternoons, the halls of Dar al Taqwa Islamic Center are filled with voices of excited children, playing tag with siblings and friends, showing off snow globe art projects. A cluster of 20 mothers meet in the... Hena Zuberi http://publisher.namx.org/mt-cp.cgi?__mode=view&blog_id=19&id=103
New America Media - Tue, 03/04/2014 - 11:10
AUSTIN, Texas--The number of seniors living in Central Texas is soaring – and so is the cost of living, causing many to seek affordable housing outside the city.That’s making The Golden Girls far more than a funny 1980s TV show on... Veronica Zaragovia http://publisher.namx.org/mt-cp.cgi?__mode=view&blog_id=19&id=103
Colorlines - Tue, 03/04/2014 - 02:20
Kendrick Lamar and Schoolboy Q sat down for an interview with Billboard recently and the "good kid, m.A.A.d city" rapper answered two big questions: How does he really feel about Macklemore's post-Grammy apology text? And when is he gonna drop a new album?
On Macklemore, Kendrick Lamar was gracious and diplomatic:
"That text surprised me, but Macklemore is a genuine dude. However it panned out, I wish him much success. He touched people's souls, and no one can take that away. Really, the whole Grammy moment was incredible. Not everyone gets that shot."
Later in the interview Anthony Tiffith, who heads Lamar and Q's label Top Dawg Entertainment, hinted at plans to release a new album from Lamar in September.
Colorlines - Tue, 03/04/2014 - 02:14
Jurors in a federal court in Detroit last Thursday awarded $1.2 million to a Muslim and Arab-American man who argued that he had been discriminated against in his workplace because of his religion, race and appearance. Ali Aboubaker, 56, who is originally from Tunisia, wears a long beard. He worked for Washtenaw County for 17 years as a bus driver and a maintenance technician before they fired him in 2008. His attorney describes the two-week jury trial as a "he-said, she-said," case, in which ultimately, the jury believed Aboubaker more.
(h/t Detroit Free Press)
Colorlines - Tue, 03/04/2014 - 02:13
Part PSA, part crowdsourced rebuke, part catalogue of everyday racism, #ITooAmHarvard is the newest social media conversation to pick up on the race dialogue happening around the country on college campuses. Tune into the Twitter conversation and scroll through the Tumblr for a quick tour of the stunning array of ignorant questions and statements these students have heard, as well as the retorts one assumes they're regularly tempted to say in response.
(h/t Latoya Peterson)
New America Media - Tue, 03/04/2014 - 01:18
Image: Students rally in front of the SFUSD offices in support of the Safe and Supportive Schools Resolution.SAN FRANCISCO -- The Board of San Francisco Unified School District voted last week to pass the Safe and Supportive Schools Resolution, which will... Vanessa Tagliabue http://publisher.namx.org/mt-cp.cgi?__mode=view&blog_id=19&id=103
New America Media - Tue, 03/04/2014 - 00:55
Robert Lopez made history when he won the Oscar® for Music (Original Song) at the 86th Academy Awards® for writing the music and lyrics of “Let It Go” from “Frozen” (along with his wife Kristen Anderson-Lopez).Robert is only the twelfth... 8Asians http://publisher.namx.org/mt-cp.cgi?__mode=view&blog_id=19&id=103
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