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Free After 3 Years: Chicago's Jon Burge Who Tortured 100 Black Men

Thu, 10/02/2014 - 10:42
 Chicago's Jon Burge Who Tortured 100 Black Men

Signs that things may be bad where you live: if your state's general assembly ever creates something called a Torture Inquiry and Relief Commission (TIRC). Today, according to human rights lawyer Flint Taylor, former Chicago police commander Jon Burge, 66, walks free on early release from federal prison in North Carolina after having been "convicted of lying about torturing over 100 African-American men at stationhouses on Chicago's South and West Sides." Note that Burge was convicted in 2010 for perjury--not his deeds. The Illinois general assembly created TIRC in 2009 to deal specifically with Burge, other officers under his command and the claims made by scores of their torture victims. Burge made news earlier this year when the city's pension board, the Chicago Tribune reports, allowed him to keep his $4000-a-month pension.

In a must-read, Taylor recounts the costs to citizens, taxpayers and of course victims--some of whom remain in prison based on confessions coerced under torture. Taylor writes:

The contrast between the official treatment of the torturers and their victims has spurred activists, torture survivors and lawyers working with the Chicago Torture Justice Memorials Project (CTJM) to campaign for the passage of a city ordinance that would address this appalling discrepancy. Introduced into City Council last October by Aldermen Joe Moreno and Howard Brookins, the "Reparations Ordinance" calls for the establishment of a $20 million fund to compensate torture survivors who have so far received little money or nothing at all.

The 40-year Burge saga is far from over. To learn the backstory, start here at the Chicago Reader.

(h/t In These Times)

Categories: Diversity Headlines

Federal Civil Rights Charges Unlikely for George Zimmerman

Thu, 10/02/2014 - 10:41
Federal Civil Rights Charges Unlikely for George Zimmerman

The chances of exacting some kind of accountability for George Zimmerman's killing of Trayvon Martin are dimming, the Washington Post reports. The Justice Department's open investigation into whether or not Zimmerman's actions constituted a federal civil rights violations will likely conclude with no charges. 

The Washington Post's Sari Horwitz reported:

The federal investigation of Zimmerman was opened two years ago by the department's civil rights division, but officials said there is insufficient evidence to bring federal charges. The investigation technically remains open, but it is all but certain the department will close it.

Investigators still want to "dot their i's and cross their t's," said one official, who like others spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to comment on the matter.

This week GQ published a look at where the Zimmerman family is today, two years on from 17-year-old Martin's death.

Categories: Diversity Headlines

Listen: Mary J. Blige Drops New Single 'Nobody'

Thu, 10/02/2014 - 10:40
 Mary J. Blige Drops New Single 'Nobody'

Mary J. Blige's upcoming album "The London Sessions" doesn't drop until December 2, but she released a new song this week called "Nobody" that's got plenty of fans excited. Listen.

(h/t Jezebel)

Categories: Diversity Headlines

Organized Labor Takes on Race and Michael Brown

Thu, 10/02/2014 - 10:23
Organized Labor Takes on Race and Michael Brown

Back in 1999, Victor Narro co-organized* up to 100 Los Angeles-based day laborers--mainly Latino and many undocumented--to attend the AFL-CIO convention, the nation's largest labor gathering. Now, he admits, they were all a little naïve. Without affiliate status, the group learned at the entrance that they could not share the hall with the representatives of 12 million union workers. "We felt like, 'Why would [certain] workers not be allowed into the AFL-CIO convention?'," Narro says.

What Narro, who is now a project director at the UCLA Labor Center, recalls more vividly though, is the unofficial greeting: A grip of ironworkers and others in the construction trade formed and, "basically told us we had no business being there. We're not a union. We take away union jobs." Echoing a sentiment shared by many working people of color today, Narro says, "We felt that we were not part of the labor movement." The last decade has given Narro hope however that an unprecedented all-workers movement, not just a union member-only movement, could one day become a reality.

There are signs that traditional labor leadership, if not its dwindling white male rank and file, is taking steps to better include workers of color. Not only has it recognized the growing strength of alt-labor models like those built over the last 15 years by veteran organizer Narro. It's slowly beginning to address the racial justice concerns of workers of color, too.

The latest indicator, labor observers say, was provoked by Michael Brown's killing in Ferguson. It came three weeks ago in the form of a little-publicized but powerful speech by AFL-CIO president Richard Trumka. During his remarks Trumka--a former mine worker from western Pennsylvania--urged the mostly white audience attending their St. Louis convention to honestly tackle racism. "We cannot wash our hands of these issues," he said, before recounting how local labor had instigated a 1917 pogrom against African-American migrants in St. Louis. "Racism is part of our inheritance as Americans. Every city, every state and every region of this country has its own deep history with racism. And so does the labor movement."

After watching Trumka's speech on YouTube (his second on race), Atlanta-based organizer Tamieka Atkins says she is more inclined to count herself as part of the labor movement. "I generally say that I belong to the domestic workers movement--or the workers rights movement because I haven't felt represented by labor," says Atkins, director of the first and largely African-American chapter of the Latina and immigrant National Domestic Workers Alliance. As a sign of their growing strength, the 10,000-member alliance boasts a newly announced MacArthur "genius" grant winner in Ai-Jen Poo and domestic workers' bills of rights wins in four states.

"Now, because of this speech and other overtures,"--like dedicating a major part of the 2013 AFL-CIO convention agenda to non-union, undocumented and women workers--"I see more of an opening to say, I belong," Atkins says.

Belonging means more than ticking off new non-white members, however. As Narro notes, it means transformation--and when it comes to workers of color that means integrating individual on-the-job concerns with "off-the-clock" community concerns like climate change, racial profiling, mass incarceration and, certainly, police violence. And therein lies the rub for organized labor as it looks toward the future.

Among the lines and metaphors most quoted back to this reporter from Trumka's post-Ferguson speech is, "Our brother killed our sister's son." Officer Darren Wilson is union, as is Michael Brown's mother. Trumka notably frames police violence towards young black men as a union "family matter." But organizer Douglas Williams, who's also policy committee chair of Moral Mondays-Alabama, sees more than an insular quarrel. He sees a fundamental internal conflict--and a clear choice being made.

"[Consider] the fact that the Missouri Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for Michael Brown's murderer, and you see the importance of [Trumka's] speech," Williams says, adding that, "when someone with the gravitas of Richard Trumka stands up and gives such an unequivocal endorsement of racial equality and working-class power, it is a signal that the FOP are the people who are out of line."

Trumka, in his speech, said he supports demilitarizing police, which, BuzzFeed reports, directly counters the position of the police union that falls under the AFL-CIO, the International Union of Police Associations (IUPA). (The FOP does not belong to the AFL-CIO's 56-member federation.) Still, in keeping with the IUPA position, he urged people not to judge the specifics of Officer Darren Wilson's case until investigations were complete.

For workers of color, the impact of racial issues, of which the Brown killing is only one example, can overtake traditional labor concerns about wages and benefits. "Some of our members are union, many of them are not. I might have a union contract, but that doesn't stop the police from shooting me in the street," Los Angeles Black Worker Center director Lola Smallwood-Cuevas says, adding that Trumka's speech was, for her, "one of the proudest moments of belonging to the labor movement."

Amaya Smith, national media director for the AFL-CIO, says the federation is tackling the issues surrounding Brown's killing. "In Ferguson, the AFL-CIO leadership in partnership with the Coalition of Black Trade Unionists spent time meeting with and listening to local leaders and is actively looking for ways to duplicate those conversations nationally in labor halls and councils," she says. Practical applications like "economic training [for union members] around mass incarceration," for example, would be one way for the body to breathe life into Trumka's speech, says Steven Pitts, associate chair of the UC-Berkeley Labor Center.

"One of the most interesting parts of the meetings in Ferguson is that community leaders often wore three hats--and one of them was often union member," Smith says. "I think mainstream labor may not understand that a lot of the folks who've been working on the ground in Ferguson are also union members. They've already been part of this larger [social justice] fight."

Immediately, Smith says, many union members are stepping up to support the planning of the upcoming National Weekend of Resistance in Ferguson from October 10-13. In Atlanta, Atkins is arranging for five women to attend. And over Labor Day weekend Smallwood-Cuevas took a 36-hour bus ride from Los Angeles to Ferguson with other worker center members as part of Black Lives Matter.

Jeanina Jenkins, who works at the Ferguson McDonald's, may not be union but she's typical of workers of color who integrate expectations of fairness, equality and justice both on and off the job. Jenkins earns $7.97-an-hour, an increase from the $7.50 she made last April when she decided to join the fast-food worker strikes. Jenkins was finishing up her shift when she heard shots fired the Saturday afternoon that Brown was killed. Since then, she's been double-timing it on the picket line, in Ferguson streets and in strategy meetings with local youth ever since.

On the Saturday afternoon that we speak on the phone, she's standing in front of the police station demanding the release of recently arrested protesters.

"People around here know me 'cause as a fast food worker, I've been striking for a long time. But out here, I'm just Jeanina. This is really about Michael Brown," she says.

  • Post has been updated since publication to accurately reflect that in 1999 Victor Narro did not organize up to 100 day laborers on his own.
Categories: Diversity Headlines

First Ebola Case in Dallas, Obama's Upcoming Economy Talk, Wild Chimps Develop Culture

Thu, 10/02/2014 - 09:15
First Ebola Case in Dallas, Obama's Upcoming Economy Talk, Wild Chimps Develop Culture

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

*Post has been updated since publication to reflect that Obama will speak at Northwestern on Thursday, October 2, rather than today, October 1. 

Categories: Diversity Headlines

Aziz Ansari Talks Comedy, Dating and Social Media

Thu, 10/02/2014 - 09:03
Aziz Ansari Talks Comedy, Dating and Social Media

Aziz Ansari is taking an unusual approach to his comedy routines these days: he's doing sociological research. In an interview with Camille Cannon at Vegas Seven, the comedian talked about why the research is crucial to his new routine and book, "Modern Romance."

In addition to Modern Romance being the subject and title of your stand-up tour, you're writing a book about it. What's that process like?

It's ambitious. I've been doing [stand-up] about dating and stuff, and I started meeting with sociologists and academics and got into these interesting conversations about dating and technology and how relationships have changed over the last few generations. I've been working with sociologist [and Going Solo author] Eric Klinenberg for more than a year. We interviewed hundreds of people and a bunch of notable academics. I don't think there's been anything similar to it from a comedian. It's a really funny book, but it's also really interesting, and I think people will dig it.

You're also crowdsourcing on Reddit, and you promote a link to that thread on Twitter. Does it ever feel super meta to conduct research on technology and relationships using social media?

I never even thought about that until you said it, but that's true. It's weird. When we did these focus groups for the book, we'd have like 30 people in different cities, and we'd speak to them for an hour or so and then we started thinking, "Oh, it'd be great if we could get people from other parts of the country, because we can't physically be everywhere." With Reddit, you're kind of everywhere. Everyone participates.

Read more at Vegas Seven

Categories: Diversity Headlines

Following Ferguson: Grand Jury Being Investigated For Possible Misconduct

Thu, 10/02/2014 - 08:09
 Grand Jury Being Investigated For Possible Misconduct

News broke yesterday that St. Louis County officials are investigating the grand jury charged with deciding whether to indict Officer Darren Wilson in the killing of 18-year-old Michael Brown. Grand juries are sworn to secrecy but according to the Washington Post, activist and active Tweeter Shaun King informed the St. Louis County prosecutor's office that at least one juror may be talking. Evidence so far is a snapshot of the following Tweets:

Within seconds of posting this, her friends told her to delete it and she did. It was screenshotted first. pic.twitter.com/b6kTf9p40h

-- Shaun King (@ShaunKing) October 1, 2014

Speaking to the St. Louis Post Dispatch, Peter Joy, director of the Washington University School of Law's Criminal Justice Clinic said, "This is in the realm of rumor and speculation. If I were a betting person, I would assume that this is just some person who made up something out of thin air."

The St. Louis County prosecutor's office is investigating. Protesters have been calling for county prosecutor Robert McCullough to be replaced.

Watch for more as this story develops.

Categories: Diversity Headlines

Watch Janet Mock Interview Tracee Ellis Ross

Thu, 10/02/2014 - 07:31
Watch Janet Mock Interview Tracee Ellis Ross

One week after the premiere of her new show "Black-ish," actress Tracee Ellis Ross sat down for an interview on Larry King Live with guest host Janet Mock. "I think this is a show that needs to be on the air," Ross said. "I think the opportunity of a show like this is that the world gets to see a family being a family and that raising children is very similar for everyone."

And speaking of family, Ross opens up about growing up with her own famous mom, Diana Ross. "What the world knows of my mother honestly does not hold a candle to who she is as a mom."

Categories: Diversity Headlines

Cartel Leader Beltrán Arrested, Jobless Claims Down, 35K Walruses Ashore in Alaska

Thu, 10/02/2014 - 06:59
Cartel Leader Beltrán Arrested, Jobless Claims Down, 35K Walruses Ashore in Alaska

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

  • Jobless claims fell way below Bloomberg's consensus; this will make for a positive employment report on Friday. 
  • Facebook apologizes to the LGBT for its name policy; in a post, chief product officer Chris Cox (is his legal name Chris or Christopher, though?) explained that the community pretty much made Facebook do better. 
  • Workers paint over a Banksy piece in England, which makes me wonder when graffiti is graffiti and if actual graffiti can ever be sanctioned. 
  • Climate change's latest victims? 35,000 walruses on an Alaskan shoreline.
Categories: Diversity Headlines

In Jordan Davis Retrial, Florida Jury Says, 'Guilty'

Wed, 10/01/2014 - 14:17
In Jordan Davis Retrial, Florida Jury Says, 'Guilty'

In a retrial, Michael Dunn, 47, was found guilty this afternoon of the first degree murder of 17-year-old Jordan Davis. Outside a Jacksonville, Florida, convenience store in November 2012, Dunn shot and killed Davis after an argument over the volume of the teenager's music. This February, the so-called "loud music" trial ended with Dunn convicted on three counts of attempted second-degree murder. The jury deadlocked on the first-degree murder charge, however. With today's conviction, and already looking at 60 years in prison, Dunn now faces the possibility of life without parole.

Read more of this developing story at NBC News.

Categories: Diversity Headlines

New Plan Will Let Child Migrants Apply for Refugee Status from Central America

Wed, 10/01/2014 - 14:14
New Plan Will Let Child Migrants Apply for Refugee Status from Central America

The Obama administration announced a plan Tuesday which will allow several thousand children from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras to apply for refugee status before attempting the treacherous journey to the U.S. 

"We are establishing in-country refugee processing to provide a safe, legal and orderly alternative to the dangerous journey that children are currently undertaking to join relatives in the United States," White House spokesperson Shawn Turner told the New York Times, adding that the program will "not be a pathway for children to join undocumented relatives in the United States."

The program was put together in response to a child migrant crisis this summer that overwhelmed authorities. It was announced in a memo that also capped refugee visas for the fiscal year 2015 at 70,000. Refugees from Latin America will be allowed 4,000 of those visas, reported the New York Times. Some 65,000 unaccompanied minor migrants crossed into the U.S. this year, fleeing endemic violence, poverty and conscription into gangs. 

Categories: Diversity Headlines

Dept. of Ed: School Districts Must Eliminate Racial Disparities in Funding

Wed, 10/01/2014 - 12:58
 School Districts Must Eliminate Racial Disparities in Funding

In a letter (PDF) addressed to states, school districts and schools around the country, the U.S. Department of Education warned today that racial disparities in school funding "persist," and that school districts have a legal responsibility to "provide students with equal access to these resources without regard to race, color, or national origin."

"Chronic and widespread racial disparities in access to rigorous courses, academic programs, and extracurricular activities; stable workforces of effective teachers, leaders, and support staff; safe and appropriate school buildings and facilities; and modern technology and high-quality instructional materials further hinder the education of students of color today," the letter reads. The guidance is a follow-up to data the Department of Education released this spring which found ongoing, widespread disparities between affluent and white students and poorer students and students of color, Education Week reported. For example, among schools serving the highest concentrations of black and Latino students, only 66 percent offered chemistry, and only 74 percent offered Algebra 2, according to the letter. 

Those who fail to address these gaps leave themselves to federal investigation. Read the letter in full here (PDF). 

Categories: Diversity Headlines

ICYMI: On CNN, Reza Aslan Teaches 10-Minute Seminar on Bigotry

Wed, 10/01/2014 - 12:56

The original aim of this past Monday's CNN Tonight segment appears to have been to use a recent monologue by comedian Bill Maher to engage religious scholar Reza Aslan in a debate about the violent intentions of Islam. That sorta happened. Really though, over the course of 10 minutes CNN anchors--poorly armed with generalizations but not specific facts--participated in a master class, led by Aslan, on bigotry. At one point Aslan uses the word "stupid," as in the serious, dictionary definition of the word. Watch above.

(h/t MediaMatters)

Categories: Diversity Headlines

Here is the Okinawan Rapper Who Was Inspired by 2pac

Wed, 10/01/2014 - 09:27
Here is the Okinawan Rapper Who Was Inspired by 2pac

During a 1994 interview with Vibe, 2pac famously uttered, "I'm not saying I'm gonna' change the world, but I guarantee that I will spark the brain that will change the world." Twenty years later, the slain rapper's influence is felt all over hip-hop, from Kendrick Lamar and Lil Wayne to lesser-known rappers far outside of America's rap studios.

One of those rappers is 27-year-old Akiko Uraski, a native of Okinawa, a small island off the coast of Japan. Uraski raps under the name "Awich" and, in an interview with Vogue, she talked about how listening to 2pac helped shape her political understanding of Okinawa's struggle for independence and resistance to U.S. military troops stationed on the island.

"Tupac was my textbook," Awich told Vogue. "It was really fascinating to learn from him. What he says in his songs and interviews, turning negativity into strength, I felt a lot of positivity about that. I was obsessed with their struggle, and I think, I saw a similarity in the Okinawan people."

Here's the video for Awich's song "In the Battle."

Awich also told Vogue about the parallels she sees between traditional Okinawan music and black American music. "Okinawan songs are so hip-hop to me. They talk about struggle, they talk about the blues." 

Categories: Diversity Headlines

It's Now Easier to Find Government Data on Asian-Americans

Wed, 10/01/2014 - 09:11
It's Now Easier to Find Government Data on Asian-Americans

For decades, Asian-Americans and Pacific Islanders have been left out of big studies that focus on race and ethnicity. A couple of years ago, Pew released a comprehensive report called "The Rise of Asian-Americans," but even that was widely panned for playing up the model minority myth.

"Our community is one of stark contrasts, with significant disparities within and between various subgroups.," Congresswoman Judy Chu, chair of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus, said back in 2012 after the release of Pew's report. "The 'Asian Pacific American' umbrella includes over 45 distinct ethnicities speaking over 100 language dialects, and many of the groups that were excluded from this report are also the ones with the greatest needs."

The White House Initiative on Asian-Americans and Pacific Islanders just launched a new initiative that it hopes will offer broader statistical data on the diverse set of ethnicities that make up the AAPI community. On Tuesday, the initiative announced that Data.gov/AAPI is open for business.

"The launch of Data.gov/AAPI marks an important milestone for better understanding and responding to the complex needs of AAPIs, now the fastest growing racial group in the country," WHIAAPI executive director Kiran Ahuja said in a press release.

Already, the trove of information offers an important glimpse into the often underreported experiences of Asian-Americans and Pacific Islanders.

  • In the first year of college, Asian American and black students have the highest enrollment rates in remedial education courses. Explore the data.
  • Of the immigrant orphans adopted by United States citizens, nearly half are of Asian descent. Explore the data.
  • Pacific Islanders have among the highest unemployment rates of all racial and ethnic groups. Explore the data.
  • The AAPI community is expected to more than double to over 47 million by 2060. Explore the data.

The new website features roughly 2,000 data sets and reports from nearly 50 federal, state, city and county sources. See more at Data.gov/AAPI.

The White House also released this video about the new website:

Categories: Diversity Headlines

Facing Race Spotlight: Queer Burlesque Dancer Ms. Cherry Galette

Wed, 10/01/2014 - 07:44

It's been nearly 10 years since choreographer and performance artist Ms. Cherry Galette met poet Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha at retreat for writers of color. At the one-week workshop Galette, who calls herself a "queer showgirl," and Piepzna-Samarasinha, a self-described "queer disabled Sri Lankan cis femme" performer bonded over the idea of starting a troupe made up of queer and trans people of color. In queer spaces, we faced so much racism [and] in straight people-of-color spaces, we faced so much homophobia," Galette says of why they formed the troupe,Mangos With Chili, in 2006.

On its website, Mangos With Chili is described as "the floating cabaret of queer and trans people of color bliss, dreams, sweat, sweets and nightmares." What that translates into is a wide variety of performance: there's poetry, there's burlesque, there's acting. Since their first cabaret in 2007, they've presented the work of about 150 queer and trans people of color.

On November 15, in Dallas, you can catch Mangos With Chili at Facing Race, the biennial conference held by Colorlines' publisher, Race Forward.

Cherry spoke with Colorlines about the group she co-founded and why burlesque is an important part of queer folks reclaiming their bodies.

How did Mangos With Chili start?

I met Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinhawhile we were both attending VONA [Voices of our Nation] in the Bay Area in around 2005. We just got to talking about our mutual experiences around performing and that's how rare it was to be part of an all QTPOC line-up. We just started building from there. We had different artistic visions, but I've always thought that's been a strength of Mangos: We have come across such different contexts, experiences and creative platforms to tell queer and trans people-of-color stories through performance.

>How important was it to have that space to incubate ideas for queer and trans performance?

I think about José Esteban Muñoz's work. He has this thing that's always guided me of queerness being a point of possibility and potentiality. Queers are so creative, and especially queer and trans people of color. We find courageous and creative ways to be together. We make shit happen. I think there's so much power in us being physically together and exploring that potential.

When people go to your shows, what can they expect?

We're a performance group that really embraces body positivity and wants to make a space for every body to be recognized. Along with that, we have a commitment to collective access. [We] want the stories of disabled queer and trans people of color showcased as well. Let me just be transparent about that: We've had our own learning curves around how to provide accessibility, in a good way. I just feel like it's important to acknowledge it.

How did you get involved in the arts?

I grew up the daughter of wonderful musicians. During my formative years my parents were migrant farm workers, but they would come home and jam out and they would also play on the weekends. It was really beautiful to see people share and dance with that music. In terms of my own performative path, ironically I started as a writer. It's the gateway drug. [Laughs.]

How did you start performing burlesque?

I kind of just went out there and did it. Back in 2004 a friend asked me to be a part of her show. That's when I put together my first two burlesque pieces. It was wonderful. I got to engage with the audience and tell a story. It's kind of funny because years later, a friend was helping me pack up all my things and she found this really pathetic looking pasty and said, "Oh, look! It's your first pasty!"

Why is it important that people of color are performing burlesque?

It gives us a chance to redefine sexuality on our own terms, to be more erotic on our own terms. We're able to address legacies of imperialism, colonization and slavery through our body's movements. When you put your body on stage, you're not only dealing with your own body and story, you're telling other people's stories who've had similar experiences.

Find out more about Galette's work and her Facing Race workshop about the role of art in the lives of queer and trans people of color. 

Categories: Diversity Headlines

Inmates and Families Charged to Send, Spend Their Own Money

Tue, 09/30/2014 - 13:03
Inmates and Families Charged to Send, Spend Their Own Money

With 2.4 million people locked up in the United States, prisons are big business, and not just for the private companies that operate them. The Center for Public Integrity has a multi-part look out today on the business scheme to make inmates and those newly released from prison pay to access their own money. 

The report focuses on JPay, a prisoner financial services company which sells debit cards and money transfer services to inmates and their families. Amirah Al Idrus reports for the Center for Public Integrity:

In Michigan, for example, JPay charges users 50 cents to check the card's balance at an ATM, $2 to withdraw cash, 70 cents to make a purchase and 50 cents a month for a maintenance fee. Even not using the card costs money. Doing nothing draws a $2.99 fee after 60 days. To cancel the card, it costs $9.95.

In a companion article, Center for Public Integrity reporter Daniel Wagner writes that families have few alternatives but to submit to this fee-filled world.

Inmates' need for money is inescapable, Nelson says. Those in northern Illinois are not issued cold-weather clothes, he says, leaving them vulnerable to frostbite unless they can get money to pay for prison-approved long underwear and boots.

...

Taken together, JPay and other prison vendors create a system in which families are paying to send the money, and inmates are paying again to spend it, says Keith Miller, who is serving 21 ½ years at Bland for a series of drug-related, violent crimes committed in his early 20s. The earliest he may be released is 2021, when his mother will be 87 years old.

"The fact that [my mother] has to pay the fees to send the money and then the fact that [prison agencies] make a certain cut off it seems to me that [the prisons are] double-dipping into the money they're sending," he said in an interview at the prison. "It really doesn't make sense to me that this should be allowed."

CPI will release the second half of its report on Thursday. Read the rest at the Center on Public Integrity.

Categories: Diversity Headlines

Rikers Island Will End Solitary Confinement for Its Youngest Inmates

Tue, 09/30/2014 - 13:01
Rikers Island Will End Solitary Confinement for Its Youngest Inmates

After a year of scathing media reports and a Department of Justice review, New York City is changing the way it treats its teen inmates. The city will stop holding 16- and 17-year-old inmates in solitary confinement, beginning at the end of the year, AP reported.

In August, the United States attorney's office released a report that said that Rikers Island, where the majority of New York City prisoners are held, too often turned to solitary confinement and had a "deep-seated culture of violence," the New York Times reported. The change will affect roughly 300 of Rikers Island's 11,000 inmates.

For more, watch this report of a former teen inmate at Rikers Island talking about the experience and lasting impacts of being held in solitary confinement while he was behind bars.

Categories: Diversity Headlines

Report: Sunday Talk Shows Rarely Mention Asian-Americans

Tue, 09/30/2014 - 09:36
 Sunday Talk Shows Rarely Mention Asian-Americans

When Fox News panelist Jonathan Hoenig used Japanese-American internment during WWII to make the case for racially profiling American Muslims last weekend, he caused an uproar. And rightfully so. Hoenig's comments were clearly meant to drum up even more racist hysteria aimed at Arab- and Muslim-Americans. But in another way, Hoenig's comments also represented another sad reality of political weekend talk shows: They rarely talk about Asian-Americans, and when they do, the coverage is generally really bad.

According to a new report from ChangeLab, America's Big Five Sunday shows -- "Face the Nation," "Fox News Sunday," "Meet the Press," "State of the Union" and "This Week With George Stephanopoulos" -- are rarely talking about Asian-Americans, the country's fastest growing racial group. Researchers examined over 130 episode transcripts from the Big Five shows between January and June of 2013 and found that Asian-Americans were mentioned just 13 times. 

"It's about time that [Asian-American] stories get told, and not just to benefit [Asian-Americans]," researchers write in the report. "Until our stories are told, our understanding of the experiences and political behavior of every other racial group in America is incomplete."

Read the full report here

Categories: Diversity Headlines

A Look at Williamsburg's Puerto Rican Past and Present

Tue, 09/30/2014 - 09:03
A Look at Williamsburg's Puerto Rican Past and Present

Williamsburg may be known today as one of America's white hipster capitols, but a new neighborhood storytelling project looks at how the neighborhood's working-class Dominican and Puerto Rican residents live and thrive today.

It all started with a 1984 documentary called "Los Sures." In a decade when economic disinvestment and rampant crime plaugued the area, many residents were at their wit's end, but also hopeful that their community could push forward. "I swear, I don't want to live here," says one resident in the film. "I would like to get out of here." The film, directed by Diego Echeverría, was re-released this month as part of this year's New York Film Festival.

On Saturday at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, it screened shortly after an updated version called "Living Los Sures," a collaborative web documentary about today's version of the Southside of Williamsburg. The powerful stories capture a diverse history of the neighborhood and you can listen to them here (grab a pair of headphones).

Here's the trailer for the new project:

LIVING LOS SURES TRAILER from UnionDocs on Vimeo.

(h/t Remezcla)

Categories: Diversity Headlines