Colorlines - Mon, 08/18/2014 - 16:17
President Obama disappointed people again with his remarks on Iraq and Ferguson, Missouri--two places where troops have now been deployed. Nine days into the Ferguson crisis let's remember that Obama the candidate approached race head-on in 2008, inspiring voters who would make history voting him into office:
"We the people, in order to form a more perfect union."
Two hundred and twenty one years ago, in a hall that still stands across the street, a group of men gathered and, with these simple words, launched America's improbable experiment in democracy. Farmers and scholars; statesmen and patriots who had traveled across an ocean to escape tyranny and persecution finally made real their declaration of independence at a Philadelphia convention that lasted through the spring of 1787.
The document they produced was eventually signed but ultimately unfinished. It was stained by this nation's original sin of slavery, a question that divided the colonies and brought the convention to a stalemate until the founders chose to allow the slave trade to continue for at least twenty more years, and to leave any final resolution to future generations.
Of course, the answer to the slavery question was already embedded within our Constitution -- a Constitution that had at is very core the ideal of equal citizenship under the law; a Constitution that promised its people liberty, and justice, and a union that could be and should be perfected over time.
And yet words on a parchment would not be enough to deliver slaves from bondage, or provide men and women of every color and creed their full rights and obligations as citizens of the United States. What would be needed were Americans in successive generations who were willing to do their part -- through protests and struggle, on the streets and in the courts, through a civil war and civil disobedience and always at great risk -- to narrow that gap between the promise of our ideals and the reality of their time.
This was one of the tasks we set forth at the beginning of this campaign -- to continue the long march of those who came before us, a march for a more just, more equal, more free, more caring and more prosperous America. I chose to run for the presidency at this moment in history because I believe deeply that we cannot solve the challenges of our time unless we solve them together -- unless we perfect our union by understanding that we may have different stories, but we hold common hopes; that we may not look the same and we may not have come from the same place, but we all want to move in the same direction -- towards a better future for of children and our grandchildren.
This belief comes from my unyielding faith in the decency and generosity of the American people. But it also comes from my own American story.
I am the son of a black man from Kenya and a white woman from Kansas. I was raised with the help of a white grandfather who survived a Depression to serve in Patton's Army during World War II and a white grandmother who worked on a bomber assembly line at Fort Leavenworth while he was overseas. I've gone to some of the best schools in America and lived in one of the world's poorest nations. I am married to a black American who carries within her the blood of slaves and slaveowners -- an inheritance we pass on to our two precious daughters. I have brothers, sisters, nieces, nephews, uncles and cousins, of every race and every hue, scattered across three continents, and for as long as I live, I will never forget that in no other country on Earth is my story even possible.
It's a story that hasn't made me the most conventional candidate. But it is a story that has seared into my genetic makeup the idea that this nation is more than the sum of its parts -- that out of many, we are truly one.
Throughout the first year of this campaign, against all predictions to the contrary, we saw how hungry the American people were for this message of unity. Despite the temptation to view my candidacy through a purely racial lens, we won commanding victories in states with some of the whitest populations in the country. In South Carolina, where the Confederate Flag still flies, we built a powerful coalition of African Americans and white Americans.
This is not to say that race has not been an issue in the campaign. At various stages in the campaign, some commentators have deemed me either "too black" or "not black enough." We saw racial tensions bubble to the surface during the week before the South Carolina primary. The press has scoured every exit poll for the latest evidence of racial polarization, not just in terms of white and black, but black and brown as well.
And yet, it has only been in the last couple of weeks that the discussion of race in this campaign has taken a particularly divisive turn.
On one end of the spectrum, we've heard the implication that my candidacy is somehow an exercise in affirmative action; that it's based solely on the desire of wide-eyed liberals to purchase racial reconciliation on the cheap. On the other end, we've heard my former pastor, Reverend Jeremiah Wright, use incendiary language to express views that have the potential not only to widen the racial divide, but views that denigrate both the greatness and the goodness of our nation; that rightly offend white and black alike.
I have already condemned, in unequivocal terms, the statements of Reverend Wright that have caused such controversy. For some, nagging questions remain. Did I know him to be an occasionally fierce critic of American domestic and foreign policy? Of course. Did I ever hear him make remarks that could be considered controversial while I sat in church? Yes. Did I strongly disagree with many of his political views? Absolutely -- just as I'm sure many of you have heard remarks from your pastors, priests, or rabbis with which you strongly disagreed.
But the remarks that have caused this recent firestorm weren't simply controversial. They weren't simply a religious leader's effort to speak out against perceived injustice. Instead, they expressed a profoundly distorted view of this country -- a view that sees white racism as endemic, and that elevates what is wrong with America above all that we know is right with America; a view that sees the conflicts in the Middle East as rooted primarily in the actions of stalwart allies like Israel, instead of emanating from the perverse and hateful ideologies of radical Islam.
As such, Reverend Wright's comments were not only wrong but divisive, divisive at a time when we need unity; racially charged at a time when we need to come together to solve a set of monumental problems -- two wars, a terrorist threat, a falling economy, a chronic health care crisis and potentially devastating climate change; problems that are neither black or white or Latino or Asian, but rather problems that confront us all.
Given my background, my politics, and my professed values and ideals, there will no doubt be those for whom my statements of condemnation are not enough. Why associate myself with Reverend Wright in the first place, they may ask? Why not join another church? And I confess that if all that I knew of Reverend Wright were the snippets of those sermons that have run in an endless loop on the television and You Tube, or if Trinity United Church of Christ conformed to the caricatures being peddled by some commentators, there is no doubt that I would react in much the same way
But the truth is, that isn't all that I know of the man. The man I met more than twenty years ago is a man who helped introduce me to my Christian faith, a man who spoke to me about our obligations to love one another; to care for the sick and lift up the poor. He is a man who served his country as a U.S. Marine; who has studied and lectured at some of the finest universities and seminaries in the country, and who for over thirty years led a church that serves the community by doing God's work here on Earth -- by housing the homeless, ministering to the needy, providing day care services and scholarships and prison ministries, and reaching out to those suffering from HIV/AIDS.
In my first book, Dreams From My Father, I described the experience of my first service at Trinity:
"People began to shout, to rise from their seats and clap and cry out, a forceful wind carrying the reverend's voice up into the rafters....And in that single note -- hope! -- I heard something else; at the foot of that cross, inside the thousands of churches across the city, I imagined the stories of ordinary black people merging with the stories of David and Goliath, Moses and Pharaoh, the Christians in the lion's den, Ezekiel's field of dry bones. Those stories -- of survival, and freedom, and hope -- became our story, my story; the blood that had spilled was our blood, the tears our tears; until this black church, on this bright day, seemed once more a vessel carrying the story of a people into future generations and into a larger world. Our trials and triumphs became at once unique and universal, black and more than black; in chronicling our journey, the stories and songs gave us a means to reclaim memories that we didn't need to feel shame about...memories that all people might study and cherish -- and with which we could start to rebuild."
That has been my experience at Trinity. Like other predominantly black churches across the country, Trinity embodies the black community in its entirety -- the doctor and the welfare mom, the model student and the former gang-banger. Like other black churches, Trinity's services are full of raucous laughter and sometimes bawdy humor. They are full of dancing, clapping, screaming and shouting that may seem jarring to the untrained ear. The church contains in full the kindness and cruelty, the fierce intelligence and the shocking ignorance, the struggles and successes, the love and yes, the bitterness and bias that make up the black experience in America.
And this helps explain, perhaps, my relationship with Reverend Wright. As imperfect as he may be, he has been like family to me. He strengthened my faith, officiated my wedding, and baptized my children. Not once in my conversations with him have I heard him talk about any ethnic group in derogatory terms, or treat whites with whom he interacted with anything but courtesy and respect. He contains within him the contradictions -- the good and the bad -- of the community that he has served diligently for so many years.
I can no more disown him than I can disown the black community. I can no more disown him than I can my white grandmother -- a woman who helped raise me, a woman who sacrificed again and again for me, a woman who loves me as much as she loves anything in this world, but a woman who once confessed her fear of black men who passed by her on the street, and who on more than one occasion has uttered racial or ethnic stereotypes that made me cringe.
These people are a part of me. And they are a part of America, this country that I love.
Some will see this as an attempt to justify or excuse comments that are simply inexcusable. I can assure you it is not. I suppose the politically safe thing would be to move on from this episode and just hope that it fades into the woodwork. We can dismiss Reverend Wright as a crank or a demagogue, just as some have dismissed Geraldine Ferraro, in the aftermath of her recent statements, as harboring some deep-seated racial bias.
But race is an issue that I believe this nation cannot afford to ignore right now. We would be making the same mistake that Reverend Wright made in his offending sermons about America -- to simplify and stereotype and amplify the negative to the point that it distorts reality.
The fact is that the comments that have been made and the issues that have surfaced over the last few weeks reflect the complexities of race in this country that we've never really worked through -- a part of our union that we have yet to perfect. And if we walk away now, if we simply retreat into our respective corners, we will never be able to come together and solve challenges like health care, or education, or the need to find good jobs for every American.
Understanding this reality requires a reminder of how we arrived at this point. As William Faulkner once wrote, "The past isn't dead and buried. In fact, it isn't even past." We do not need to recite here the history of racial injustice in this country. But we do need to remind ourselves that so many of the disparities that exist in the African-American community today can be directly traced to inequalities passed on from an earlier generation that suffered under the brutal legacy of slavery and Jim Crow.
Segregated schools were, and are, inferior schools; we still haven't fixed them, fifty years after Brown v. Board of Education, and the inferior education they provided, then and now, helps explain the pervasive achievement gap between today's black and white students.
Legalized discrimination -- where blacks were prevented, often through violence, from owning property, or loans were not granted to African-American business owners, or black homeowners could not access FHA mortgages, or blacks were excluded from unions, or the police force, or fire departments -- meant that black families could not amass any meaningful wealth to bequeath to future generations. That history helps explain the wealth and income gap between black and white, and the concentrated pockets of poverty that persists in so many of today's urban and rural communities.
A lack of economic opportunity among black men, and the shame and frustration that came from not being able to provide for one's family, contributed to the erosion of black families -- a problem that welfare policies for many years may have worsened. And the lack of basic services in so many urban black neighborhoods -- parks for kids to play in, police walking the beat, regular garbage pick-up and building code enforcement -- all helped create a cycle of violence, blight and neglect that continue to haunt us.
This is the reality in which Reverend Wright and other African-Americans of his generation grew up. They came of age in the late '50s and early '60s, a time when segregation was still the law of the land and opportunity was systematically constricted. What's remarkable is not how many failed in the face of discrimination, but rather how many men and women overcame the odds; how many were able to make a way out of no way for those like me who would come after them.
But for all those who scratched and clawed their way to get a piece of the American Dream, there were many who didn't make it -- those who were ultimately defeated, in one way or another, by discrimination. That legacy of defeat was passed on to future generations -- those young men and increasingly young women who we see standing on street corners or languishing in our prisons, without hope or prospects for the future. Even for those blacks who did make it, questions of race, and racism, continue to define their worldview in fundamental ways. For the men and women of Reverend Wright's generation, the memories of humiliation and doubt and fear have not gone away; nor has the anger and the bitterness of those years. That anger may not get expressed in public, in front of white co-workers or white friends. But it does find voice in the barbershop or around the kitchen table. At times, that anger is exploited by politicians, to gin up votes along racial lines, or to make up for a politician's own failings.
And occasionally it finds voice in the church on Sunday morning, in the pulpit and in the pews. The fact that so many people are surprised to hear that anger in some of Reverend Wright's sermons simply reminds us of the old truism that the most segregated hour in American life occurs on Sunday morning. That anger is not always productive; indeed, all too often it distracts attention from solving real problems; it keeps us from squarely facing our own complicity in our condition, and prevents the African-American community from forging the alliances it needs to bring about real change. But the anger is real; it is powerful; and to simply wish it away, to condemn it without understanding its roots, only serves to widen the chasm of misunderstanding that exists between the races.
In fact, a similar anger exists within segments of the white community. Most working- and middle-class white Americans don't feel that they have been particularly privileged by their race. Their experience is the immigrant experience -- as far as they're concerned, no one's handed them anything, they've built it from scratch. They've worked hard all their lives, many times only to see their jobs shipped overseas or their pension dumped after a lifetime of labor. They are anxious about their futures, and feel their dreams slipping away; in an era of stagnant wages and global competition, opportunity comes to be seen as a zero sum game, in which your dreams come at my expense. So when they are told to bus their children to a school across town; when they hear that an African-American is getting an advantage in landing a good job or a spot in a good college because of an injustice that they themselves never committed; when they're told that their fears about crime in urban neighborhoods are somehow prejudiced, resentment builds over time.
Like the anger within the black community, these resentments aren't always expressed in polite company. But they have helped shape the political landscape for at least a generation. Anger over welfare and affirmative action helped forge the Reagan Coalition. Politicians routinely exploited fears of crime for their own electoral ends. Talk show hosts and conservative commentators built entire careers unmasking bogus claims of racism while dismissing legitimate discussions of racial injustice and inequality as mere political correctness or reverse racism.
Just as black anger often proved counterproductive, so have these white resentments distracted attention from the real culprits of the middle class squeeze -- a corporate culture rife with inside dealing, questionable accounting practices, and short-term greed; a Washington dominated by lobbyists and special interests; economic policies that favor the few over the many. And yet, to wish away the resentments of white Americans, to label them as misguided or even racist, without recognizing they are grounded in legitimate concerns -- this too widens the racial divide and blocks the path to understanding.
This is where we are right now. It's a racial stalemate we've been stuck in for years. Contrary to the claims of some of my critics, black and white, I have never been so naive as to believe that we can get beyond our racial divisions in a single election cycle, or with a single candidacy -- particularly a candidacy as imperfect as my own.
But I have asserted a firm conviction -- a conviction rooted in my faith in God and my faith in the American people -- that working together we can move beyond some of our old racial wounds, and that in fact we have no choice is we are to continue on the path of a more perfect union.
For the African-American community, that path means embracing the burdens of our past without becoming victims of our past. It means continuing to insist on a full measure of justice in every aspect of American life. But it also means binding our particular grievances -- for better health care, and better schools, and better jobs - to the larger aspirations of all Americans -- the white woman struggling to break the glass ceiling, the white man whose been laid off, the immigrant trying to feed his family. And it means taking full responsibility for own lives -- by demanding more from our fathers, and spending more time with our children, and reading to them, and teaching them that while they may face challenges and discrimination in their own lives, they must never succumb to despair or cynicism; they must always believe that they can write their own destiny.
Ironically, this quintessentially American -- and yes, conservative -- notion of self-help found frequent expression in Reverend Wright's sermons. But what my former pastor too often failed to understand is that embarking on a program of self-help also requires a belief that society can change.
The profound mistake of Reverend Wright's sermons is not that he spoke about racism in our society. It's that he spoke as if our society was static; as if no progress has been made; as if this country -- a country that has made it possible for one of his own members to run for the highest office in the land and build a coalition of white and black; Latino and Asian, rich and poor, young and old -- is still irrevocably bound to a tragic past. But what we know -- what we have seen -- is that America can change. That is true genius of this nation. What we have already achieved gives us hope -- the audacity to hope -- for what we can and must achieve tomorrow.
In the white community, the path to a more perfect union means acknowledging that what ails the African-American community does not just exist in the minds of black people; that the legacy of discrimination -- and current incidents of discrimination, while less overt than in the past -- are real and must be addressed. Not just with words, but with deeds -- by investing in our schools and our communities; by enforcing our civil rights laws and ensuring fairness in our criminal justice system; by providing this generation with ladders of opportunity that were unavailable for previous generations. It requires all Americans to realize that your dreams do not have to come at the expense of my dreams; that investing in the health, welfare, and education of black and brown and white children will ultimately help all of America prosper.
In the end, then, what is called for is nothing more, and nothing less, than what all the world's great religions demand -- that we do unto others as we would have them do unto us. Let us be our brother's keeper, Scripture tells us. Let us be our sister's keeper. Let us find that common stake we all have in one another, and let our politics reflect that spirit as well.
For we have a choice in this country. We can accept a politics that breeds division, and conflict, and cynicism. We can tackle race only as spectacle -- as we did in the O.J. trial -- or in the wake of tragedy, as we did in the aftermath of Katrina, or as fodder for the nightly news. We can play Reverend Wright's sermons on every channel, every day and talk about them from now until the election, and make the only question in this campaign whether or not the American people think that I somehow believe or sympathize with his most offensive words. We can pounce on some gaffe by a Hillary supporter as evidence that she's playing the race card, or we can speculate on whether white men will all flock to John McCain in the general election regardless of his policies.
We can do that.
But if we do, I can tell you that in the next election, we'll be talking about some other distraction. And then another one. And then another one. And nothing will change.
That is one option. Or, at this moment, in this election, we can come together and say, "Not this time." This time we want to talk about the crumbling schools that are stealing the future of black children and white children and Asian children and Hispanic children and Native American children. This time we want to reject the cynicism that tells us that these kids can't learn; that those kids who don't look like us are somebody else's problem. The children of America are not those kids, they are our kids, and we will not let them fall behind in a 21st-century economy. Not this time.
This time we want to talk about how the lines in the emergency room are filled with whites and blacks and Hispanics who do not have health care; who don't have the power on their own to overcome the special interests in Washington, but who can take them on if we do it together.
This time we want to talk about the shuttered mills that once provided a decent life for men and women of every race, and the homes for sale that once belonged to Americans from every religion, every region, every walk of life. This time we want to talk about the fact that the real problem is not that someone who doesn't look like you might take your job; it's that the corporation you work for will ship it overseas for nothing more than a profit.
This time we want to talk about the men and women of every color and creed who serve together, and fight together, and bleed together under the same proud flag. We want to talk about how to bring them home from a war that never should've been authorized and never should've been waged, and we want to talk about how we'll show our patriotism by caring for them, and their families, and giving them the benefits they have earned.
I would not be running for president if I didn't believe with all my heart that this is what the vast majority of Americans want for this country. This union may never be perfect, but generation after generation has shown that it can always be perfected. And today, whenever I find myself feeling doubtful or cynical about this possibility, what gives me the most hope is the next generation -- the young people whose attitudes and beliefs and openness to change have already made history in this election.
There is one story in particularly that I'd like to leave you with today -- a story I told when I had the great honor of speaking on Dr. King's birthday at his home church, Ebenezer Baptist, in Atlanta.
There is a young, 23-year-old white woman named Ashley Baia who organized for our campaign in Florence, South Carolina. She had been working to organize a mostly African-American community since the beginning of this campaign, and one day she was at a roundtable discussion where everyone went around telling their story and why they were there.
And Ashley said that when she was nine years old, her mother got cancer. And because she had to miss days of work, she was let go and lost her health care. They had to file for bankruptcy, and that's when Ashley decided that she had to do something to help her mom.
She knew that food was one of their most expensive costs, and so Ashley convinced her mother that what she really liked and really wanted to eat more than anything else was mustard and relish sandwiches. Because that was the cheapest way to eat.
She did this for a year until her mom got better, and she told everyone at the roundtable that the reason she joined our campaign was so that she could help the millions of other children in the country who want and need to help their parents too.
Now Ashley might have made a different choice. Perhaps somebody told her along the way that the source of her mother's problems were blacks who were on welfare and too lazy to work, or Hispanics who were coming into the country illegally. But she didn't. She sought out allies in her fight against injustice.
Anyway, Ashley finishes her story and then goes around the room and asks everyone else why they're supporting the campaign. They all have different stories and reasons. Many bring up a specific issue. And finally they come to this elderly black man who's been sitting there quietly the entire time. And Ashley asks him why he's there. And he does not bring up a specific issue. He does not say health care or the economy. He does not say education or the war. He does not say that he was there because of Barack Obama. He simply says to everyone in the room, "I am here because of Ashley."
"I'm here because of Ashley." By itself, that single moment of recognition between that young white girl and that old black man is not enough. It is not enough to give health care to the sick, or jobs to the jobless, or education to our children.
But it is where we start. It is where our union grows stronger. And as so many generations have come to realize over the course of the 221 years since a band of patriots signed that document in Philadelphia, that is where the perfection begins.
Colorlines - Mon, 08/18/2014 - 14:56
During roughly six weeks between July and August 1964, there were seven so-called "race riots." Five people died as a result, and there were nearly 1,000 injuries and nearly 2,500 arrests. It all started in Harlem when a white off-duty lieutenant named Thomas Gilligan shot and killed black 15-year-old black James Powell--who was left to bleed to death on the ground. The unrest spread from New York all the way to Chicago. These moments have been historically thwarted by the Watts Riots of 1965, but have been chronicled as precursors.
A special commissioned tasked with figuring out the Watts Riots in 1965 identified a deep dislike of police, inadequate education and a job crisis as reasons for the events of the summer of 1964, which occurred in four different states. The commission turned its report over to California Governor Pat Brown in 1965--not to be confused with his son, Governor Jerry Brown, who's in power there today.
Read past the antiquated terms like "Negroes," and a lot of this still reads true today:
The University of Southern California has made the commission's report available in full online.
Colorlines - Mon, 08/18/2014 - 14:26
President Obama will dispatch Attorney General Eric Holder to Ferguson, Missouri, this week, the president announced Monday afternoon in a press conference. Holder will meet with Department of Justice and FBI investigators who currently have separate and ongoing probes open into the police shooting death of African-American teen Michael Brown at the hands of Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson.
While the majority of Obama's prepared remarks were a regurgitation of his remarks on the situation last week, he did address the plight of young black men and their lack of trust in the criminal justice system. "In too many communities, too many young men of color are left behind and seen only as objects of fear," Obama said.
Asked by ABC News reporter Ann Compton about whether Obama would consider going to Ferguson himself or doing anything more, personally, to addres the crisis in Ferguson, Obama basically said no, because he has to be careful about not "prejudging these events before investigations are completed."
"Obviously we've seen events in which there's a big gulf between community expectations and law enforcement perceptions aroun the country. This is not something new," he said. "It's always tragic when it involves the death of someone so young."
"Part of the ongoing challenge of perfecting our union has involved dealing with communities that feel left behind, who as a consequence of tragic histories often find themselves isolated, often find themselves without hope, without economic prosepcts," Obama continued. "You have young men of color in many communities who are more likley to end up in jail or in the criminal justice system than they are in a good job or in college. Part of my job that I can do without any potential conflicts is to get at those root causes. Now, that's a big project. It's one that we've been trying to carry out now for a couple of centuries."
Citing the work of My Brother's Keeper, the White House initiative to support boys and young men of color, Obama said that part of that work ought to begin by making sure that the criminal justice system upholds "the basic principle of everybody is equal before the law."
Colorlines - Mon, 08/18/2014 - 13:56
By this weekend, the show of military force by local police in Ferguson, Missouri, had prompted a response from Congress. The chair of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.) promised to review the Pentagon program that since the 1990s has transferred $4 billion in surplus military equipment to police forces. But many concerned with the policing of communities of color are also saying that demilitarizing local police really isn't the point--or, as comedian John Oliver says, it "would just change the optics." Writing for MSNBC, Columbia University professor Dorian Warren, a board member of Race Forward, which publishes Colorlines, explains:
"...the demilitarization argument does nothing to challenge or change the fact that 'nearly two times a week in the United States, a white police officer killed a black person during a seven-year period ending in 2012,' according to FBI statistics. ...That's everyday local policing, and has nothing to do with the militarization of local police forces....The choke-hold that killed Eric Garner or the multiple gunshots that killed Michael [Brown] were not military-grade weapons.
New America Media - Mon, 08/18/2014 - 13:16
On Aug. 6th, 2014, parents, students and community leaders along with special guest Christopher J. Steinhauser, superintendent of the Long Beach Unified School District (LBUSD) met to grade LBUSD on its first-year implementation process of the Local Control Funding... Nisa Cheng http://publisher.namx.org/mt-cp.cgi?__mode=view&blog_id=19&id=103
Colorlines - Mon, 08/18/2014 - 13:12
Actor Jesse Williams spoke all sorts of truth about what's happening in Ferguson this morning on CNN. Jezebel put together some of his most pointed statements:
"We also have to talk about the narrative and making sure that we're starting at the beginning. You'll find that the people doing the oppressing always want to start the narrative at a convenient part, or always want to start the story in the middle. This started with a kid getting shot and killed and left in the street for four hours. I've never seen a white body left in the street for four hours in the sweltering heat. The cop doesn't call in the shooting, the body isn't put in an ambulance, it's shuttled away in some shady unmarked SUV.
There's a lot of bizarre behavior going on and that is the story, that's where we need journalism. That's where we need that element of society to kick into gear and not just keep playing a loop of what the kid may have done in a convenience store. That's unfortunate, if that happened, that's going to be factored in, like it or not. But we need journalism to kick in and start telling the story from the beginning, this is about finding justice for a kid that was shot, an 18-year-old that was shot, period.
This idea that because he stole a handful of cheap cigars, what's that $5? I've lived in white suburbs of this country for a long time, I know plenty of white kids who steal stuff from a convenience store. [There's] this idea that every time a black person does something, they automatically become a thug worthy of death when we don't own drug crimes. We're not the only ones who sell and do drugs all the time. We're not the only ones that steal and talk crazy to cops.
There's a complete double standard and a complete different experience that a certain element of this country has the privilege of being treated like human beings, and the rest of us are not treated like human beings, period. That needs to be discussed, that's the story. That's what gets frustrating for people -- because you don't know five black folks, five black men in particular, that have not been harassed and felt threatened by police officers. You can't throw a rock and find five of them. We're not making this up."
New America Media - Mon, 08/18/2014 - 12:22
Jesse Jackson told The American he hopes that the U.S. Department of Justice sees the Ferguson Police shooting of Michael Brown on Saturday and resulting community violence as “systematic of a national crisis.” - Jackson said, “It was a crime... NNAP http://publisher.namx.org/mt-cp.cgi?__mode=view&blog_id=19&id=103
Colorlines - Mon, 08/18/2014 - 12:18
Joe Morton, the actor who plays Olivia Pope's father on ABC's "Scandal," just won a Creative Arts Emmy for Outstanding Guest Actor. From The Hollywood Reporter:
When my category came up, I looked for a door marked 'exit,'" joked Morton from the stage, acknowledging that he didn't expect to hear his name.
Backstage, Morton expressed his appreciation for the award: "It's an incredible feeling to have been in the business this long -- this is the first time I've been up for one of these things. And given who I was quote unquote up against, it's terrific."
He added: "My head is in the clouds somewhere, and my feet are trying to touch the ground."
Papa Pope don't play.
(h/t The Hollywood Reporter)
New America Media - Mon, 08/18/2014 - 12:15
From Ferguson, Mo., to similarly afflicted hoods: It’s about time to put the hands down and roll the sleeves up.The strategy? A shrewdly engineered calculus for political engagement that fundamentally reshapes contemporary Ferguson. Sure, most of us are not on... The Root http://publisher.namx.org/mt-cp.cgi?__mode=view&blog_id=19&id=103
Colorlines - Mon, 08/18/2014 - 11:48
It was bad enough that Ferguson's police chief, Tom Jackson, released video of Michael Brown shortly before he was shot and killed by officer Darren Wilson--against the Department of Justice's suggestion. The storeowners that Michael Brown visited before his death also made clear they never even called 911.
But authorities in Ferguson continued to make even more trouble over the weekend, especially when it came to dealing with journalists during the ongoing state of emergency. Here are just five of the ways Ferguson continues to get things wrong:
Saturday's press conference turns to chaos
Governor Jay Nixon called a press conference on Saturday during which he announced a state of emergency--which was met by community members asking questions Nixon wasn't exactly comfortable answering (jump to 04:18 for the first audience response):
Accredited reporters were allowed to remain in a "staging area," which impeded them from doing their jobs. While some reporters refused to accommodate the police's request, other stayed behind in this zone:
What I can see. pic.twitter.com/QxPwp7Qa7m-- Matt Pearce (@mattdpearce) August 17, 2014
Lying to reporters about use of tear gas
One of the perils of journalists remaining in the police-sanctioned staging area is that they're influenced by what the police say is happening over what is actually occurring. For example, police used tear gas on Saturday night but convinced journalists in the staging are that it was only smoke--and many inaccurately reported it that way:
Police throwing smoke at protestors. Official at media area says there has been no tear gas used tonight. https://t.co/kchqCuiaF6-- Yamiche Alcindor (@Yamiche) August 17, 2014
Failing to get help a gunshot victim
Police were out in full force this weekend, yet failed to get a gunshot victim to the hospital Saturday night. USA Today reported that Missouri's State Highway Patrol Captain Ronald Johnson claimed "police used tear gas in an effort to reach the wounded person, but that other protesters already had taken the shooting victim to the hospital." We're not really sure how tear gas would help get a victim to a hospital--and his community got him there instead. This is presumably the gunshot victim being lifted off the ground on Saturday:
Middle-of-the-night press conferences
In what seems like a willful effort to avoid questions from the press (as well as local residents), Ferguson keeps hosting press conferences in the middle of the night. Writer Tina Vásquez pointed out just how problematic this is:
Ferguson PD doing another middle-of-the-night press conference. Obviously.-- Tina Vasquez (@TheTinaVasquez) August 18, 2014
Colorlines - Mon, 08/18/2014 - 11:45
The Creative Arts Emmys happened over the weekend and "Orange is the New Black" won even more critical praise. The awards show isn't the televised Emmys ceremony that we're used to -- those happen next month -- but focus on more of the technical aspects of making TV.
Uzo Aduba, who plays Suzanne "Crazy Eyes" Warren on "Orange is the New Black," took home the award for outstanding guest actress in a comedy.
(h/t US Magazine)
Colorlines - Mon, 08/18/2014 - 11:39
This past weekend marked the one-year anniversary of Islan Nettles' savage killing in Harlem. Nettles, a 21-year-old transgender woman, was beaten while walking near her home with friends on August 17, 2013 and died in the hospital days later. Police have been mysteriously silent about the investigation into her death, and no has been charged in her murder.
Shortly before her death, a man was charged in her assault, but those charges were later dropped. Another man has since come forward and claimed responsibility, but he says he was too drunk to remember exactly what happened. While the Manhattan District Attorney's Office said last November that they're still "aggressively investigating" the case, Nettles' supporters are tired of waiting.
In an op-ed for the New York Daily News, Michael Silverman, executive director fo the Transgender Legal Defense and Education Fund, spelled out some of the frustration. "It's been a year and there has been little visible effort spent on finding justice," Silverman wrote. "For the transgender community -- scarred by a long and difficult history of violence and an often uneasy relationship with law enforcement -- the vacuum of information makes reasonable community members question whether or not resources are truly being directed towards this investigation."
The Anti-Violence Project, a New York City-based advocacy organization, published a statement marking the anniversary and showing that Nettles' death wasn't an isolated event.
In 2013, twelve transgender women of color were killed throughout the United States,' AVP wrote. 'Since June 1st of 2014, we have lost five more.
'This is an epidemic and it's one that hits close to home: in New York City, transgender and gender non-conforming people reported violence at increasing levels (up 21% from 2012). This violence has a specific impact of transgender people of color: 74% of all reports of hate violence came from people of color.'
New America Media - Mon, 08/18/2014 - 10:13
We’ve all seen ads for Fitbits, Jawbones, Gearfits – perhaps even tracked our own health with a specialized home glucometer or blood pressure cuff. These devices can help collect data that can help motivate an individual and track progress, but... Kathleen Masterson http://publisher.namx.org/mt-cp.cgi?__mode=view&blog_id=19&id=103
Colorlines - Mon, 08/18/2014 - 08:38
Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson shot 18-year-old Michael Brown at least six times, twice in the head, according to a private autopsy released Sunday evening, the New York Times reported. The autopsy was performed by Dr. Michael M. Baden, a former chief medical examiner for New York City, and requested by Brown's family.
The autopsy results were released on the same day that Attorney General Eric Holder announced that the Department of Justice will perform its own autopsy alongside ongoing investigation the agency is conducting into Brown's death.
Frances Robles and Julie Bosman reported for the New York Times:
Dr. Baden said that while Mr. Brown was shot at least six times, only three bullets were recovered from his body. But he has not yet seen the X-rays showing where the bullets were found, which would clarify the autopsy results. Nor has he had access to witness and police statements.
Dr. Baden provided a diagram of the entry wounds, and noted that the six shots produced numerous wounds. Some of the bullets entered and exited several times, including one that left at least five different wounds.
"This one here looks like his head was bent downward," he said, indicating the wound at the very top of Mr. Brown's head. "It can be because he's giving up, or because he's charging forward at the officer."
Colorlines - Mon, 08/18/2014 - 08:10
Amid the chaos in Ferguson, there are plenty of people who have come out in support of Darren Wilson, the police officer who shot unarmed 18-year-old Michael Brown more than a week ago. There's a Facebook group called "Support Darren Wilson" that had more than 14,000 likes by Sunday, August 17. These supporters are rallying around what they believe is an injustice done to WIlson: "This page only for Support of Officer Darren Wilson! He was doing his job! To protect and serve! no trash here you will be banned!"
Supporters also rallied outside of KSDK, St. Louis' local news station. T-shirts baring the message "Officer Darren Wilson -- I stand by you" were on sale for $7 and reportedly sold out.
A silent protest in support of Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson, who shot Mike Brown, starting in St. Louis pic.twitter.com/Qp30uyOQPV-- Jon Swaine (@jonswaine) August 17, 2014
T-shirts on sale with police-style badge saying "Officer Darren Wilson - I stand by you". $7, just sold out pic.twitter.com/nhXhn4Nvmd-- Jon Swaine (@jonswaine) August 17, 2014
There are perhaps 125 people at this pro-Darren Wilson protest. 124 white people and Martin Baker, aged 44 pic.twitter.com/6DaAHPlQtT-- Jon Swaine (@jonswaine) August 17, 2014
More supporters of Darren Wilson, officer who shot Mike Brown in Ferguson, protesting in downtown St. Louis pic.twitter.com/A6kUsnzGML-- Jon Swaine (@jonswaine) August 17, 2014
Colorlines - Mon, 08/18/2014 - 07:58
It wasn't the allure of another Grammy nomination or the possibility of teaming up with hip-hop heavyweights Kanye West and Mos Def that brought Mystic back to music. Instead, it was a professor at U.C. Berkeley, where the 39-year-old rapper is working toward finishing up a bachelor's degree in Interdisciplinary Studies. In the middle of a lecture about global poverty and the role of artists in facilitating social change, she broke down in tears and then sought advice from Professor Ananya Roy about what to do next. Roy's advice: Keep making music.
That's at least some of the story of how, 13 years after her debut solo album "Cuts for Luck and Scars for Freedom" spawned the hit "The Life" and earned her a BET award nomination for best female hip-hop artist, she's on the verge of releasing her second album "Beautiful Resistance." It's a journey that's had detours and pit stops. She met and buried her father, became committed to arts education, appeared in a few films, worked on the business side of a major label and went back to school. Each experience gave her perspective, some of which appears on the new album, which she began as a protest to George Bush's re-election in 2004. "I wasn't interested in the music business," she says of the time between albums. "I wanted to create music freely and on my own."
I spoke with Mystic by phone about the new album, which will be released digitally through W.A.R. records on August 26.
Tell me about what's been happening since "Cuts for Luck."
After "Cuts for Luck and Scars for Freedom" was released and the original distributing label folded, I went over to DreamWorks. We were going to re-release the album with new tracks on it with people like Mos Def and production from Kanye, Donelle Jones and other folks. Then DreamWorks was absorbed into Interscope, which was disheartening. I actually fought through a legal battle to get released from my contract. When I was finally released from my contract, I wasn't really interested in taking meetings with other labels that were interested. People were trying to figure out what was wrong with me, but there was nothing wrong with me [laughs]. I just wasn't interested. It had been heartbreaking watching people lose their jobs.
That was around 2003 or so, and I also decided that I really wanted to go back to school. I had dropped out of high school at the end of 11th grade, got my GED, and began working with children when I was 17. I always dreamt about opening a community arts center and elementary school in Oakland. So I entered into community college in about 2004 and fell into love with anthropology. I was still engaged with art here and there. I did stuff for a couple films, but really I was dedicated to school. I also started to record the "Beautiful Resistance" album around that time. That's how long ago this album was started, and I know that specifically because the title track was written after Bush stole his second election.
Were you still making music during this time?
While I was in school, I continued to record the album with [producer] Eligh. I'd go over and we'd work on music and I would go home and study. I was kind of balancing it all. I graduated in 2009 with an A.A. in anthropology, with honors. I was also working in the music industry on the business side of Universal Music, which was a fascinating experience. I got to learn about how the business works from the inside and obviously the digital aspects of the music industry, which were really growing.
Tell me about when you decided to finally release the album.
I got to Berkeley and one of my first classes was Global Poverty with Ananya Roy. She's an amazing professor and researcher, but in one of her later lectures during the semester she started talking about what she called "insurgent architects."We were talking about them about them in the context of the I.M.F. and United Nations, people who work from within institutions to help facilitate and create change even though those structures may not support the progressive kind of change that they think will be most impactful. She just talked about how insurgent architects could be anywhere, and they could include artists. I cried during the lecture, came home and sent her an e-mail in which, for the first time, I shared that I was an artist. I shared a couple songs and she wrote me back saying, "You gotta keep making music."
How did you react to that?
It created this shift within myself where I saw that it was possible for me to be a full-time student and pursue tools to be of greater service to children around the world, but also to be an artist and come back and try to use the platform to advocate for children and basic human rights issues. Here we are. I finished my first year at Berkeley. That's kind of a journey. I wasn't interested in the music industry, the business. I wanted to create music freely and on my own.
Your music has always centered around activism. It seems like you made this conscious decision to engage in that activism in a way that wasn't been recorded and shared with fans, which is as important as anything else.
Exactly. I don't know that it always fits within the music. That's why I think of the platform that the music provides me. It's not that I don't think that people would respond to it or I don't feel like sharing that part of myself. It would be a little bit more challenging to write lyrics that are about designing curriculum, but I think that whatever the album is after "Beautiful Resistance" -- there will be one and it won't take 13 years -- we will begin to see more in my music what I'm learning at Berkeley. I'm able to listen to this album and songs like "Country Road" and know that at the time I was taking an African-American studies class and we were looking at slavery. Then in a song like "Payback," I can tell that my references to Ancient Rome are because I was taking a Western Civilization course. I think being introduced to wider theoretical frameworks at Berkeley will definitely show up in my music in the future.
What strikes me is that a lot of the album is very California in tone. You have what's probably one of the more unique Californian experiences in that you've literally lived all over the state, including the actual Northern California. How did your experience growing up and living in different places in the state impact your music?
Most of my life has been in the Bay Area and I say I'm from Oakland because it's where I became a woman and discovered myself. But I was conceived in Berkeley, my mother took me to U.C. Santa Cruz with her when I was in kindergarden. That was in 1980 or so and it was the kind of environment where people believed that children have voices and I got to be around all these awesome students who were critical thinkers.
Then we lived in Visalia where my mom was working for the Legal Aide Society with farmworkers on water pollution issues; that was obviously a different experience. It was a part of California that was racist and my mother was very concerned that I would internalize that racism as a black child. Then we went to San Francisco and lived in the Mission District. I've just grown up around diverse people in California. But I think definitely the Bay Area has made me who I am because of the natural resistance and rebellion that exists here.
You open and close the new album with tracks with "mommalove" in the title. Can you talk to me about tapping into that energy? On "Cuts for Luck," one of the most popular songs was "Fatherless Child," so that seems like a little but of switch.
The intro "Mommalove" is actually a poem by a young woman who's also an amazing artist named Emoni Fela. Emoni and I connected via Myspace and she's become a daughter to me. To journey with her from the time that she was about 15 or 16 to being a young black woman in this country has been beautiful but also challenging. She calls me Mommalove, and I call her Lil' Mama -- and I was calling her that before the artist Lil' Mama blew up, no disrespect. I asked Emoni if she would write a poem and she wrote one about our relationship, mentoring, sisterhood, and the connection between women and young women. I made this intentional decision to put it first on the album because I was thinking that if nobody knows anything else about me, they will have a look into this beautiful, powerful relationship that I have with this brilliant young woman. The closing track, "Love, Mommalove" is a spoken word piece from me to her.
But describe the shift, because it's very palpable on this album.
There is a shift on this album. The song "Higher Ground" is a reference to my mother. The only references to my father on this album are in "Clean Paper" which is about me coming to understand that love is not supposed to hurt. I was having these behaviors where I would wait for these men and I was hurting inside. I had to love myself and examine how my father's absence in my life was impacting my romantic relationships. I think having my father come into my life right around when I was signing my [deal], that's why it was so present on the first album. I was also in my 20s and still processing that. I'm still on a journey.
But in the time since then, I've really grown into my relationship with my mom, who was the primary person who raised me. She showed me what it is to be dedicated to the community; she taught me how to be a black woman. Even though she's a white woman, she gave me the books, the inspiration to really love my identity. I've come back to her and realized that I've put her through painful things, so "Higher Ground" is an apology to her.
Colorlines - Mon, 08/18/2014 - 07:52
Here's what I'm reading up on this morning:
- Missouri Governor Jay Nixon sends his state's National Guard to Ferguson.
- Islamic State loses control of the Mosul dam.
- Without so much as a trial, Israel demolishes the homes of two men suspected of kidnapping and murdering three Israeli teens in June.
- Texas Governor Rick Perry, who's been indicted for corruption, may soon turn himself in for his mugshot and fingerprints.
- Dollar, Dollar and Dollar. Dollar General outbids Dollar Tree in a bid to acquire Family Dollar.
- Facebook creates a satire tag.
- Brittney Griner and Glory Johnson get engaged.
- Liberia welcomes a new Ebola treatment center after a makeshift facility is torn down by local residents.
New America Media - Mon, 08/18/2014 - 00:15
This year marks the 50th anniversary of the Wilderness Act, federal legislation that was signed into law in 1964 to preserve America’s wild spaces. Through that landmark conservation law, 100 million acres of wilderness have been set aside for the... Ngoc Nguyen http://publisher.namx.org/mt-cp.cgi?__mode=view&blog_id=19&id=70
New America Media - Sun, 08/17/2014 - 00:55
Photo: A local organizer in a town neighboring Ferguson, Mo., shows a typical "porch." (Courtesy, Silicon Valley De-Bug.)On the surface, the unrest in Ferguson, Mo., was about local police using deadly force on an unarmed young man. But on a... Andre F. Shashaty http://publisher.namx.org/mt-cp.cgi?__mode=view&blog_id=19&id=103
New America Media - Sun, 08/17/2014 - 00:05
LOS ANGELES -- Fifty years ago this year, the federal government created Upward Bound, a program to help low-income students enroll in college. Today, with poverty rates again soaring and college a distant dream for too many, the need is... Hector Perez-Roman http://publisher.namx.org/mt-cp.cgi?__mode=view&blog_id=19&id=103
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