Updated: 2 hours 2 min ago
Wed, 08/06/2014 - 08:00
Put simply, D'Souza is the best of the best. He's the crown jewel of Indian America, and trust us, he's all yours. He's a proud graduate of Dartmouth Univeristy, which is totally not a frat-infested wastehole. He worked for the Reagan White House, as a policy advisor. He did that right out of college, too. Such a smart boy! Oh, and he might have been born in Mumbai, but this brown beefcake is all-American, baby. He was proudly naturalized as an American citizen in 1991 and has been demonstrating his love for America ever since.
Dinesh doesn't just take a rosy view of America, he really likes white people. Like, all white people. (Hear that, guys? That's you!) Colonialism was A-OK in his book. The problem with African colonialism is that it didn't last long enough, according to Dinesh. And India's colonization by the British, well, that was just necessary, as it helped India progress into the modern age. So you definitely won't get any of that annoying white guilt if you hang out with him. Heck, if you steal anything from him, he'll probably just thank you for trying to civilize him!
Wed, 08/06/2014 - 07:59
New York City's Sikh community is asking authorities to investigate the recent attack of a Sikh man as a hate crime.
Sandeep Singh, 29, was crossing a street with friends in Queens, New York, last week when a man in a pick-up truck began yelling at them. The driver exited his car and exchanged words with Singh, a married father of two. According to witnesses, the driver called Singh a terrorist, and told him to go back to his country.
The driver returned to his vehicle and Singh stood in front of it in protest. That's when the driver ran him over--dragging Singh about 30 feet. Surveillance cameras caught the attack. Singh remains in the hospital and his attacker remains at large.
Singh has issued a statement through the Sikh Coalition that explains that the attack was motivated by hate: "I was attacked because I am a Sikh and because I look like a Sikh. Justice should be served so that no one else goes through what I have been through. We need to create a world without hate."
According to the Village Voice, the Department of Justice requested that the local police commander meet Sikh leaders on Monday to discuss the Singh attack, as well as other issues facing the community:
In addition to hate crimes, Sikh leaders cited experiences being robbed, mugged or physically attacked that they feel have not been adequately investigated by local police.
"There's a sense that there is a real apathy in the 102 [precinct] in Richmond Hill, as it applies to this community," Singh says.
That feeling is compounded by the fact, that the NYPD--unlike police forces in London, Toronto and Washington D.C.--prohibits officers from wearing turbans, a rule that prevents observant Sikhs from serving in the police force.
The Sikh Coalition is pressing for the investigation to dig deeper and find Singh's attacker.
Wed, 08/06/2014 - 07:37
It's hard to imagine why it's taken 16 years for the media to finally get up in arms against Dan Snyder's entrenched refusal to change the racist name of the Washington, D.C., football team. But a new Deadspin piece by Dave McKenna sheds some light on Snyder's manipulative tactics that predated his recent launch of a preposterous promotional website:
When the team was losing the public relations battle with star player LaVar Arrington over a 2005 contract negotiation, [WRC Sports Director George] Michael took the lead in trashing the beloved player as lazy and unintelligent until the fans turned against Arrington. He had members of WRC's news crew pose as working journalists while staffing the 30-minute infomercials produced by Redskins Broadcasting, which had names like "Redskins Nation" and "Redskins Late Night" and were aired during time Snyder bought on the station and on others in the market. (Click here for a Snyder-produced promotional video for team-owned productions featuring future ESPN anchor Lindsay Czarniak and future NFL Network face Dan Hellie.) Michael never disclosed his or his station's contractual ties to the team on the air and, more sleazily, tried to hide them by directing viewers who wanted to provide feedback to an email address with an "nbc.com" address, though the network had no hand in the shows' production.
Wed, 08/06/2014 - 07:32
There's no doubt that the Internet has fundamentally shifted how this generation makes and listens to music. Sure, there's Spotify and Pandora, which have changed the way we consume culture. But there are also countless DJs and MCs who've sampled sounds from across the globe thanks to the accessibility of online beats.
In this video from Remezcla's Cultura Dura's tour, Venus X, Füete Bill?te and Álvaro Díaz talk about how today's music has been influenced by the Internet and Latino double consciousness.
Wed, 08/06/2014 - 07:17
A two-year federal investigation released Monday reveals a "pervasive" and "deep-seated culture of violence" throughout the adolescent facilities of Rikers Island, the nation's second largest jail. "Adolescent" refers to those ages 16 to 18. The island's three adolescent facilities house about 500 teens daily, most of whom, according to U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara, "have not yet been convicted of crime, and about half of whom have been diagnosed with a mental illness."
The 79-page report is extraordinary in its description of the brutality levied at these inmates--by others and corrections officers--and the lengths to which officials went to cover up their beatings or disappear reports of abuse and more. Many young inmates requested solitary confinement for their own protection.
Two wardens in charge of the above facilities during the period under inquiry were recently promoted within the Department of Corrections, according to today's Daily News.
Read the full federal report, available at The New York Times.
Wed, 08/06/2014 - 07:08
Junot Díaz and Edwidge Danticat have been friends for 20 years now. Danticat hails from Haiti and Díaz, across the border in the Dominican Republic. In the summer issue of Americas Quarterly the two immigrants from the island of Hispaniola discuss a shared responsibility to fight the Dominican Republic's landmark constitutional ruling last September that left more than 200,000 people of Haitian descent stateless. Due to intense international pressure, including from Díaz and Danticat, the Dominican Republic this May established a pathway to citizenship. But the battle is far from won. As Danticat says, "Two novelists are not going to solve this problem"--but it's always a treat to listen to them try anyway:
Why should the world--and especially citizens of the Americas--be paying attention to what's going on in the Dominican Republic? Given that you are both children of the island of Hispaniola living in the U.S., why is this issue important to you?
DIAZ: ...that island is my birthplace and one of my two homes; and if people like me don't fight its injustices, don't fight for the better future we deserve, who will? As a Dominican living in the U.S., it matters to me a whole hell of a lot that political elites in the D.R. are inflaming ethnic-racial hatred against Haitians to divide the pueblo and keep it from organizing against its real enemies--the elites themselves....
DANTICAT: Both Junot and I--correct me here if I am wrong, Junot--grew up in relative poverty on our respective sides of the island....
DIAZ: Oh yes, poverty aplenty.
DANTICAT: In both our lives, even when we were living on the island, we were also aware of our relative privilege when we traveled to see the relatives or spent time in the campo or the pwovens [rural provinces]. That makes you extraordinarily aware of what opportunity means. And it makes you hypersensitive to seeing not just a few but a slew of rights and opportunities being taken away in one swoop.
You hope you would always speak up. Even when the issue is not as clear as this. You hope you would speak up if someone is sleeping on the floor in an immigration cell in Texas, or if people are being tortured in Guantánamo, no matter what their nationality. People's lives are being affected here in a way that touches their children and their children's children.
Read the full interview on Americas Quarterly.
Wed, 08/06/2014 - 07:06
Tyga, the 24-year-old rapper from Compton whose song "Rack City" became a huge hit a few years ago, has plenty of fans. No doubt his mom is one of them. But how awkward is it for his mom to actually read the lyrics to her son's turn-up anthem? Really, really awkward, as shown on this clip "Words From Your Mother" on "Jimmy Kimmel Live."
Wed, 08/06/2014 - 07:04
Here's what I'm reading up on this morning:
- Liberians are dumping the bodies of Ebola victims on the street rather than face quarantine. As the second Ebola patient arrives in the U.S., Spain is preparing to bring back one if its citizens also diagnosed with the virus.
- The ceasefire in Gaza holds for a second day.
- After the killing of a U.S. general, another insider attack in Afghanistan claims seven more lives.
- Missouri executes its seventh inmate this year.
- Gold prices jump nearly 7 percent this year.
- A Russian cybergang has stolen more than one billion (billion with a b) passwords.
- The San Antonio Spurs have a new assistant coach: the WNBA's Becky Hammon.
- Taking a small dose of aspirin everyday for ten years can reduce your chance of developing cancer.
Tue, 08/05/2014 - 13:09
In support of the third Life Cycles of Inequity report on the ongoing challenges that non-fatal gun violence victims, their families and their communities face, Colorlines hosted a Twitter chat from 1 p.m. to 2 p.m. today. We asked our followers to weigh in on our 10 questions, as well as to share their personal experiences with gun violence, PTSD and other long-term trauma.
The response was overwhelming. Our panel included reporter Carla Murphy (@carlamurphy), whose article, "Criminals, Victims, and Black Men Left Behind," served as the foundation of our discussion, as well as MSNBC's Trymaine Lee (@trymainelee) and ProPublica's Nikole Hannah-Jones (@nhannahjones).
Tue, 08/05/2014 - 13:03
It's hard to imagine now that there was ever a time when American football didn't have a strong pressence of black athletes, but it wasn't until 1946 that four African-American players broke professional football's color line. Now a film that's set to debut next month is out to tell their stories.
The men in question are Kenny Washington, Woody Strode, Marion Motley and Bill Willis , four little-known players who integrated the game one year before Jackie Robinson did the same for Major League Baseball with the Brooklyn Dodgers. The film is scheduled to premiere on EPIX on Tuesday, September 23 at 8 p.m. ET, but you can watch the trailer above.
(h/t Shadow and Act)
Tue, 08/05/2014 - 11:50
Editor's note: Our series "Life Cycles of Inequity" explores the ways in which inequity impacts the lives of black men. Each month, we focus on a life stage or event in which that impact has been shown to be particularly profound. This article was reported in partnership with the Investigative Fund at the Nation Institute.
The first time Jeremy Berry got shot it was late March 2012 and he called himself trying to help a homey from his block. Berry, about 5'9", slim in build, lives in the Roseland section of Chicago's South Side. He jumped into a fistfight, first with his hands and then throwing a brick. When Berry missed his target, the guy "upped a gun" and shot him. He spent a week in the hospital and three months recovering at his aunt's house. The bullet remains in his right butt cheek.
The second time Berry got shot, it was June 2013 and he was hanging outside on the corner, "in the wrong place at the wrong time." A basketball game with young men from another block in Roseland soured when a player from Berry's block complained of a stolen watch and money. Berry didn't participate in the tit-for-tat retaliations that followed, but that didn't matter. He lived on the block, so he was included automatically as a target. One bullet hit a friend of his in the neck--he survived--and another tore through Berry's chest. He stayed longer in the hospital this time, about nine days, and he spent two-and-a-half months recovering at a friend's home. He also got a gun.
All together, the physical recovery from both shootings leached seven months from Berry's life. "I got myself shot that first time," Berry says, speaking in the Southern-tinged drawl of the black Midwest. "After the second time, I felt like I had to protect myself."
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And, he admits, he wanted revenge.
"But God took me off the street to teach me to turn the other cheek. Everything happened for a reason. God is never late, " Berry says, lapsing into the church-speak he uses whenever conversation glints at his future. It's not the prosperity gospel, though. This stretch of S. Michigan Avenue, 20 minutes by bus from the last stop on the el train, is storefront church territory. Berry's mantra is the half praise, half plea of the survival sermon.
At 22 years old, Berry has been homeless since turning 17 and largely unemployed since graduating from high school. He likes to work with his hands and began working on cars when he was 9. Now, older adults in the neighborhood look out for him, offering him odd jobs like cutting grass or household repairs. When a kind offer appears, or when need and Chicago's winter winds overtake his pride, he couch surfs around the neighborhood. At one point in his life, he dabbled in selling drugs.
Berry is a poster child for young, black men who're at risk of getting killed. Yet, even though he has been shot twice in 15 months, he is not a poster child for crime victims--not in a society that too often demands innocence as a prerequisite for a compassionate response.
Despite a two-decade decline in violent crime nationwide--homicide, in particular--pockets of sustained violence remain in many urban neighborhoods. The fear of becoming a victim today is less a citywide threat, more a neighborhood one in poor sections of places like Chicago, New Orleans and St. Louis, and smaller cities like E. St. Louis, Camden and Baton Rouge, too. In May, President Obama's "My Brother's Keeper" initiative for boys and men of color issued a progress report that highlighted homicide as the leading cause of death for black males ages 10 to 24. But like much discussion about violence and black men, the report contained less detail about the much larger number of victims of violent crime who, like Berry, survive the assaults. What happens to them?
In the United States, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, for every gunshot homicide there are roughly six non-fatal shootings caused by assault. Unlike homicides, however, non-fatal shootings and their impact on the health, educational, social and economic outcomes of survivors, families and their communities are vastly understudied. Yale University sociologist Andrew Papachristos reviewed six years of Chicago Police Department data, running through September 2012, and found that one in 200 black men are victims of a non-fatal shooting each year. That's 12 times the city average. Further, they are concentrated in specific neighborhoods; roughly 70 percent of these victims can be found in small networks comprising less than 6 percent of Chicago's population. The data suggests neighborhoods full of the walking wounded.
Yet, in Chicago, advocates, parents and service providers told Colorlines that there are little to no victim services available for these wounded men--to the point that victims, their families and communities are shouldering alone the financial and psychic costs of crime. There does exist a national apparatus for helping people affected by violent crime recover--an $11 billion fund Congress established to support crime victims. But young black men have largely fallen through the cracks of these programs, in part because law enforcement often serves as arbiter of who's a deserving victim and who's not, deciding who gets aid and who must fend for themselves.
Service providers in Chicago also say the lack of an organized response aimed at black male victims is a lost opportunity to stop the cycle of violence. The hours and days following a shooting mark a singular point of vulnerability and are therefore a sweet spot for intervention. Failing to respond in that moment not only wastes the opportunity, it also pushes young men even further off the grid and into the only system that will have them: criminal justice.
"People don't think of African-American males as being victims of violence," says Waldo Johnson, an associate professor of social work at the University of Chicago, who has studied the health of black men and boys on Chicago's South Side for 20 years. "People think of young black males as the ones who perpetrate violent crime, and if they are victims, then that's part of what they experience while doing things they shouldn't be doing."
For the past several summers, Chicago has predictably made national headlines for its gun violence. The city has not disappointed this summer. "At Least 40 Shot In Chicago Weekend Wave of Violence," The Huffington Post declared in mid July. That came two weeks after the long July 4th weekend, in which more than 80 people were shot, 16 fatally.
As in other cities, popular attention and compassion homes in on homicides, particularly when dramatized by the loss of an obvious innocent. When 11-year-old Shamiya Adams was killed by a stray bullet in mid July, it brought a kind of selective attention to the 40 other people shot that same weekend. Dozens of people were shot over the July 4th weekend, but news media focused most intensely that week on 17-year-old Marcel Pearson, who was killed just days before college orientation.
Jeremy Berry is not that kind of victim. A self-described C student in high school, he almost didn't graduate. Like many victims of violence, losses of various kinds began at home. His stepfather died when he was 12, his father when he was two. His mother is addicted to drugs, as is one of his older brothers. Two more brothers are in jail, another is in and out of lockup.
One weekday afternoon, over duplicate orders of pancakes and extra portions of country ham at one of the Roseland neighborhood's few operating businesses, Berry and his friend since childhood, Dominique Harris, 23, describe how normal it is to get shot at around here.
"Our whole block been shot," Harris says. "A good chunk of 'em," qualifies Berry, the more reserved of the two. Harris was shot himself last August.
As they eat, above their heads a mock rifle hangs from the ceiling, welcoming customers to The Ranch Steakhouse. Images of movie gunslingers Clint Eastwood and Gene Autry line fake wood-paneled walls. Animal prey speak to the man-and-his-gun theme. Young antler ceiling lamps and a stuffed pheasant perch diagonally across from a diptych of Martin Luther King, Jr., and Barack Obama. "45 Years Later," reads the message above King. Above Obama: "At Last." (Photo below: Dominque Harris and Berry. Carla Murphy/Colorlines)
"You can ask for a show of hands in a classroom of 35 kids and have the vast majority know somebody who was shot or somebody who was shot and killed," says Susan Johnson, a senior minister at Hyde Park Union Church and executive director of Chicago Citizens for Change, which is home to Chicago Survivors, a crisis response team serving families of homicide victims, aged 26 and under.
When beginning Chicago Survivors four years ago, Johnson and her team surveyed a single block in a neighborhood just south of Hyde Park, the University of Chicago's leafy home base. Of 22 single-family homes, 12 had lost an immediate family member to violence. Eight of those households had lost more than one.
"[This] is so contrary to the way that I grew up or the way that any previous generation grew up," Johnson says. "I think it's hard for us to absorb what it means to be saturated with that level of violence."
James Doherty is head of trauma surgery at Advocate Christ Hospital in Oak Lawn, a suburb of Chicago. He sees much of the damage from gunfire. Advocate Christ is one of five trauma centers serving the South Side of Chicago and its southern suburbs. It is the main trauma center for most of the expansive South Side and where Berry and Harris were treated in 2013. Last year, 90 percent of Advocate Christ's 386 gun shot victims were black men. Seventy-five percent were under 30 years old and 80 percent were either uninsured or on Medicaid. Given an estimated mortality rate of 10 to 15 percent, roughly 80 percent of Advocate Christ's gunshot victims likely returned to their South Side neighborhoods last year.
"In terms of the volume of trauma and severity of injuries we're seeing, this is definitely a serious public health issue," Doherty says. Asked whether he'd call it a crisis, he adds, "I'd be careful calling anything a crisis because it implies it's on someone's radar and resources are being mobilized."
Thirty years ago Congress did in fact mobilize resources to help people deal with the consequences of violent crime. The initiative has done little, however, to help men like Berry and Harris, or neighborhoods like Roseland.
The Victims of Crime Act (VOCA) passed in 1984, tucked into President Ronald Reagan's omnibus anti-crime package. By drawing only on fees and fines assessed to people and corporations convicted of federal crimes, along with private dontions, the law established dedicated funding to help individuals recover from violent crimes.
There are two funding streams, one for assistance and one for compensation. The latter is most well known to the general public, and it allows individuals to apply to state agencies for direct reimbursement of the cost of things like counseling, medical care, funerals or even travel costs to receive treatment. The victim assistance fund, on the other hand, typically flows through state agencies to nonprofit organizations that serve their communities or a particular population of victims. According to Department of Justice guidelines, each of VOCA's priority areas--domestic violence, sexual assault, child abuse and "previously underserved" crime victim populations, however a state defines them--must receive 10 percent of annual funding. That leaves another 60 percent to be distributed according to the needs of each state.
In addition to VOCA, each state operates its own state victim assistance and compensation programs. These programs are jointly funded by VOCA and by the states, which charge their own fees and fines to people convicted of crimes in state courts. And some state programs, including Illinois, draw significantly on taxpayer dollars, too.
Over the past decade, this entire apparatus has been critiqued consistently by victim advocates for serving far too few survivors and families. For example, 6.8 million people, mainly in urban areas, become victims of violent crime annually. In 2012, victim assistance from VOCA reached nearly 3.4 million people, or just under half. The numbers for victim compensation, on the other hand, are far lower. According to a June 2014 report by the John Jay College of Criminal Justice, all of the nation's victim compensation programs reimburse about 200,000 people each year, so just under 3 percent of crime victims.
Johnson, of Chicago Survivors, helps parents and siblings of homicide victims to immediately apply for victim compensation. She says a big problem is the central role law enforcement plays in the process. In Illinois, victim compensation is administered through the attorney general's office. Claims analysts make crucial recommendations about who should get compensation to the Court of Claims, which ultimately approves or denies applications. Sources familiar with the process told Colorlines that both the analysts and the judges rely heavily on police reports to help determine whether a victim or his family will receive compensation.
Eligibility rules for victim compensation vary by state, but two broad guidelines, in practice, bar many young, black male victims of violent crime. One guideline comes from VOCA itself, which directs states to consider whether victims cooperate with police and prosecutors' investigations--a complicated proposal in high crime neighborhoods with tense police-community relations. The other guideline comes up at the state level. Illinois' victim compensation statute requires a victim not have contributed in some way to his or her own injuries through "his own wrongful act." According to the National Association of Crime Victim Compensation Boards, whose members are the administrators of state programs, most states have a similar rule.
"Typically the biggest problem that we have is that somewhere there is a police document that associates the victim with gang affiliation," Johnson says. Sitting across the heavy oak table in her church's upstairs office, the tinkle-voiced, white grandmother of three makes a face. "It can be that the crime is a gang-related crime, but the victim is an innocent victim. And we don't see that disassociation made in the police write-ups. So then the victim of the crime gets tainted with that, and then the victims compensation will be denied."
"Some of these people are fathers and have children," she adds. (Photo below: Gun shot victim memorial in Chicago. Scott Olson/Getty Images)
Whether a Chicago police officer's report should weigh so heavily in determining victim compensation is a fair question. Nearly every Chicagoan interviewed in the course of reporting this article, on and off the record, from service provider to victim to parent to clergy, described police-community relations as no less than horrible. The city has a long rap sheet for tolerating police misconduct, including torture. All but one service provider also challenged the conventional wisdom that most of Chicago's gunshot victims belong to gangs. And some questioned the philosophy behind a victims program that penalizes any victim of violent crime. A few work closely and well with the Chicago Police Department in a bid to improve relations. But they're also aware that, as Johnson says, Chicago's 50-year history of racist policing is "a big burden to overcome."
"Police don't see us as innocent," Harris says. "They see us as a gangbanger. They see us on the block, they could care less if somebody die."
Berry argues that labeling everyone a gang member overlooks why violence is actually happening. "It's people on the block that's all different gangs," he says, rattling off a burst of acronyms for each set. "They all rocking with each other. It's all about what block you're on. It's a block thing. And everybody wanna be tough. People out here killing each other for nothing. It ain't even over money."
Berry and Harris both say they applied for victim compensation following their shootings--Berry after his first, only. But Ann Spillane, chief of staff in the attorney general's office, says the office has no record of a claim for Harris. Berry, she said, filed a claim for two bills. One bill, for his ambulance service, was paid directly to the vendor. His hospital bill, however, was not reimbursed. The hospital never verified to the state that it followed proper billing procedures for indigent care, as is required by law, so the claim had to be rejected. "[Victims are] going through a difficult part of their lives [and] the law does require a fairly significant amount of documentary support," says Spillane. "There can be some back and forth and it can be frustrating on both sides."
Spillane also acknowledged that police reports play a role in recommending whether a claim is approved. "We do review the police report. But we also go to great lengths to look at other sources," she says, including talking to victims and victim advocates. "We do make sure that we're being thorough and that we're talking to the victim and getting all the underlying records to make sure we understand what happened and we are fair and balanced as we can be while we're complying with the law. Our goal if at all possible is to make sure the victims get compensated."
The Costs of Violence
In Harris's shooting, the bullet missed his heart by centimeters, he was told. After leaving the hospital, he says, "I couldn't even wash myself up. I was temporarily handicapped for like a month and a half. After, I got some strength and started to breathe better. But I couldn't lift anything. I couldn't do anything I needed to do. Bending over tying my shoes, I needed help putting on my pants. I was sweating constantly. I had to keep a towel."
While recovering, he lost two jobs. One was on-call security for events like Lollapalooza and Taste of Chicago and the other, a parent leader in a community group for young parents. For the past six years, Harris has been a stepfather to his girlfriend's 7-year-old son.
Between the two of them, Berry and Harris owe tens of thousands of dollars in medical bills--excluding the portion not already written off by hospitals or covered by Medicaid. Berry can't pin down the exact cost. It is too big to comfortably express.
"They be sending 500-something-dollar bills, $600 bills, all types of bills," Harris jokes, shaking his head. "They showed me every time I pulled up for morphine."
A long list of barriers got in the way of victim compensation helping Harris and Berry pay these bills. But that may not be the biggest way the victim services apparatus has failed to impact their lives. The biggest failure may lie in the near absence of funding for community groups that could provide Harris and Berry the counseling and support they need to heal and, for those who need it, to interrupt retaliations in neighborhoods like Roseland. Advoacte Christ Hospital's Doherty, a self-described middle-aged white guy, says people like him are not "credible messengers." Such messengers do exist, but they are powerfully overwhelmed and underfunded.
"I've known Jeremy since he was about 15-years-old," says Diane Latiker, founder of the community group Kids Off the Block. "He was--is--an awesome young man. Whenever I had a conversation with him it would be on a different level. He was very smart."
Latiker coached basketball when Berry was a teen, and he would stop by the courts to play. Eventually he began to talk. Given his difficult home life, he had a lot to talk about. Gun violence and block conflicts cut those sessions short, however. He stopped seeing her after his second shooting.
"The guy who shot me lives in Miss Diane's area," Berry says. So he and Harris stopped going over there, to avoid more trouble. "We don't want Miss Diane getting shot."
"And we don't wanna get shot neither!" Harris says. "Just when we ride pass they be showing us little gun signals."
"I be a little sad sometimes not being able to talk to her though," Berry admits.
Without Latiker in his life, Berry was left with no consistent emotional support or mentorship. To this day, no older adult has asked Berry, he says, about either of his shootings, the impact they've had on his life, what his needs may have been immediately after recovery, how the shootings interfered with plans to work, to earn enough money to give a little something to friends who offer him shelter during the Chicago winter. (Photo below: Memorial service for 11-year-old gun victim Shamiya Adams. Scott Olson/Getty Images)
Latiker, nominated a CNN Hero in 2011 for her work with Roseland's youth, had to close the doors to her center for several weeks this summer due to lack of funding. "It's mainly because of the population I work with," she speculates, meaning, low-income boys and young men who may either belong to a gang, know someone in a gang or live in an area known for gang violence. Kids Off the Block began in her apartment and it has survived for eight years mainly because of individual donors. "With all the exposure we've received--and we've gotten a lot--we've still not been able to get funding."
Latiker is familiar counsel for Roseland's boys and young men, including many who have been shot or otherwise victimized. But Kids Off the Block does not describe itself as a victims program--and Latiker never thought to describe it as such, either. She knew of victim compensation programs through conversations with her young men and their families, but until this reporting she had never heard of victim assistance grants for nonprofits. It's indicative of a sizable knowledge gap between organizations actually doing the work of victim assistance in neighborhoods dense with gun violence and federal and state victim assistance programs.
According to the state attorney general's annual list of grantees, during the past two years, the only organization with potential to overlap with young, black male victims that received funding from Illinois' state-funded victim assistance program was Parents Against Gangs. When asked about groups servicing young, black male crime victims, a spokesperson for the attorney general's office said this was the only group to apply that focused on "gang related violence." Founded in the Cabrini Green housing project in 1987 by Betty Major-Rose, following the murder of her daughter, Parents Against Gangs has since 1991 supported and counseled the families of homicide victims, most of whom are young, black and male. But even this group doesn't work directly with male survivors. Major-Rose has long wanted to expand to do so, but hasn't had the capacity.
"Immediately after victimization is the most crucial point for intervention--and you can't deal with just one person, you have to take the family as a whole," she says. "They're at their most vulnerable. They're ready to listen, ready to receive what you have to say and do for them. I've seen it for myself."
But Major-Rose's road-tested lessons are her own. Parents Against Gangs has an annual budget of $20,000, plus whatever comes out of Major-Rose's personal checking account, and a small roster of volunteers and family. Her husband is a substance abuse counselor and their two daughters, both of whom are now in psychology doctoral programs, help out. Their catchment area, she says, is all of Chicago.
Meanwhile, Legal Assistance Foundation Chicago was the only Chicago-area nonprofit with potential to reach young, black male victims to recieve funding from the state's VOCA portfolio during the last fiscal year. A multi-service agency that provides legal assistance to the poor, the organization helps crime victims to apply for compensation.
Cure Violence (formerly, Ceasefire) is likely the largest and best-known program whose work, though not defined as victim services, regularly puts them in contact with young, black male victims of violent crime. In fact, as its model is to interrupt violence, Cure Violence long ago began partnering with trauma centers like Advocate Christ to gain immediate access to victims and their families. According to the group's CFO, they have never received funding from either the state's victim assistance fund or through VOCA.
"Because Cure Violence is not a law enforcement program, we can't qualify for these Department of Justice grants that are specifically written for law enforcement programs," says Charles Ransford, Cure Violence's head of research and policy. "It's victims who are not comfortable working with police."
Forgiveness, and Healing
The yawning gap between young black male victims of violent crime and victim services nationally is known. In a May 2013 report, the first comprehensive review of victim assistance in 15 years, the Department of Justice identifies young men and boys of color as an underserved population. Among its recommendations, the report calls for more solid research into their needs, as well as a fresh look at how services are delivered, including whether, for example, victim services' volunteer-dependent model can effectively reach underserved populations. And My Brother's Keeper's May 2014 report recommends integrating public health approaches to violence prevention--approaches like the one Cure Violence uses--into the dominant and punitive criminal justice model.
Diane Latiker is wary that the investment needed for Roseland's young African-American men and boys will come. She knows one young man who was shot three times in the same month, after all. He's just one of many with similar experiences and to her, the outside world keeps on turning. She describes an acute abandonment felt by leaders in lower income neighborhoods, from Camden to Flint to Roseland, for whom violence has not gone away.
"The whole community is hurting. Sick. And there's no way to go," Latiker says. "You live there. You can't afford to move out. You can't afford to keep the lights on. There are lines for the food pantry. You tell a young man like Jeremy to get a job, straighten his life up. But society won't give him that opportunity. He has been trying and every door is shut."
Harris doesn't like the 4th of July anymore. It's the firecrackers. "I'm jumping and diving like it's a shot, all kinda crazy stuff," he says. "I'm paranoid."
A father and a boyfriend, he's anxious to work. He wants to marry and have a family. "I don't want to be a flirtin' man. I got six sisters, I don't need too many problems."
The gun Berry started carrying after he was shot the second time got him in trouble again last September. Police arrested him--his first time--on a felony weapons charge. So he found shelter last winter in Cook County Jail and other penal institutions. He's been out since March.
"You gotta have patience, man. When doing time, I always tell myself, 'There's always gonna be a better day from the day right now.' I always say, 'He has a blessing with our name on it. You gotta stay out here and be patient.'
"Everybody [out here] need to stop thinking they tough and go to church and learn how to forgive, man. Y'all want God to forgive y'all so you gotta learn how to forgive people."
Tue, 08/05/2014 - 11:47
Three Central American children who crossed the United States border unaccompanied testified before the Congressional Progressive Caucus last week, bringing lawmakers, press and a standing-room-only audience to tears. The kids journeyed from Long Island, New York, to Washington, D.C., for the first time with their attorney. Two of the three also brought along family members. None of the three who testified--Dulce Medina, Mayeli Hernández and Saúl Martínez--had met before, but they got to know each other over the course of the two-day trip. Here's a glimpse of their journey.
Saúl Martínez sees the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge for the first time. The 15-year-old crossed from El Salvador in April and has spent more time in detention than in school, which he hasn't started yet.
Saúl Martínez, Dulce Medina, 15, Yeimi Medina, 10, and Lorena Hernández, 9, share a meal on a break during their trip to Washington, D.C.
On the night before the Congressional hearing, after checking into the hotel, Dulce, Lorena, Yeimi and Mayeli gather in a circle with Lorena and Mayeli's mom, María.
Dulce takes a portrait of Mayeli, Lorena , Yeimi and Edgar Marroquin, Yeimi and Dulce's stepfather.
Lorena and Yeimi smile at the camera while Mayeli reviews her testimony on the taxi ride over to Congress.
Lorena sits on the steps of the Rayburn House Office Building. She was only 8 years old when she and her sister, Mayeli, left Honduras and crossed the U.S. border last year.
Attorney Bryan Johnson, who drove his clients from Long Island to D.C. and arranged their meals and lodging, reviews testimony with Mayeli and Saúl while Edgar watches.
Yeimi and Lorena lead the way in the Rayburn House Office Building; Dulce and María follow.
Bryan comforts 12-year-old Mayeli while she testifies through an interpreter. Mayeli and her sister spent four days in immigration holding cells, where they felt like they were freezing.
Representatives Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), Keith Ellison (D-Mich.) and Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.) listen to testimony about overcrowded, cold holding facilities for children that didn't have as much as a private bathroom.
Yeimi is comforted by her stepfather. Nearly everyone who attended the hearing was moved to tears by the testimony they heard. Although she crossed the border herself as a 5-year-old, Yeimi was moved to hear her sister and new friends speak.
Saúl is hounded by the press following his testimony. He later shared that although it was difficult to testify and then be surrounded by reporters, it was worth it because Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.) welcomed them to the United States. "I got to the U.S. a few months ago, but no one ever said that to me before," he explained.
After the hearing, the children take a quick break to share a meal, do crosswords and color before returning to Long Island. Yeim's "Have a Heart" badge was issued as a call for compassion for refugee children. All of the children who visited Washington on this trip, however, have attained Special Immigrant Juvenile Status, which is different than refugee status.
Tue, 08/05/2014 - 11:20
Today marks the second anniversary of the Oak Creek, Wisconsin, Sikh gurdwara shooting, a murder-suicide that claimed the lives of seven people. White supremacist Wade Michael Page shot and killed six people before turning this gun on himself. Mass murders have become almost commonplace in the United States--but one thing that sets this shooting apart is the racial hatred that motivated the attack.
Over at NBC News, civil and immigrant rights advocate Deepa Iyer writes about how the Oak Creek community is healing and rebuilding after the massacre:
The Sikh Healing Collective was formed to address the mental health and trauma needs with resources that integrate language, cultural and faith norms, especially to assist the children who lost parents in the shooting, or witnessed unspeakable violence while hiding in the gurdwara's basement and kitchen pantry during the massacre.
Young Sikh Americans like Mandeep Kaur and Rahul Dubey began to take leadership positions both within the gurdwara and with non-Sikh groups, to better build partnerships and address the community's needs as a whole. Similarly, Oak Creek Mayor Steve Scaffidi has plans to build connections between various race and faith groups in town with interfaith organizations and events.
And buoyed by the testimony of Harpreet Singh Saini before the Senate Judiciary Committee about losing his mother in the massacre, organizations around the country came together to successfully advocate Department of Justice to include categories of Sikh, Arab and Hindu in tracking hate crimes at the federal level.
You can read Iyer's full dispatch over at NBC News. For full disclosure, Iyer is a board member of Race Forward, which publishes Colorlines.
Tue, 08/05/2014 - 10:36
Lots of Brooklynites have already taken advantage of Brooklyn Museum's First Fridays, the Target-sponsored monthly that features live music and free admittance for visitors. Now the museum has announced that starting on September 3, it will offer free admission for visitors under 20.
It's a timely move. Eighty percent of America's museum-goers are white, despite a rapidly changing racial demographic, according to data from the National Endowment for the Arts. Experts point to the fact that the cost of entry is usually prohibitively expensive.
In a statement released by the museum's director Arnold L. Lehman said that the move is in line with its mission:
I am delighted that we are able to expand our access to younger visitors by increasing free admission for those ages nineteen and under. This younger audience segment represents the future of all museums, and we must do everything possible to make it easier for them to visit. At the same time, the economic reality of inflation makes necessary this modest increase in our suggested admission fees for other audience segments.
Tue, 08/05/2014 - 08:38
Kathryn Slater-Carter owns a McDonald's in Daly City, California, and she's one of a few franchise owners speaking publicly about the minimum wage battle embroiling her industry. Slater-Carter is spearheading union-backed legislation in her state to give franchise owners more rights, a three-year-old effort getting more publicity since the National Labor Relations Board ruled recently that it will treat McDonald's as a "joint employer" of fast-food workers. Before, McDonald's could pass the buck on worker conditions to franchisees but this decision could potentially recalibrate the power balance between corporate and franchise owners. Slater-Carter explains that she and other owners are at the mercy of corporate decision-makers. She has a lot to say, too, about fast food workers and the challenges they face:
To be able to offer health insurance we would have had to raise prices significantly. And that's on low-income people. Part of the problem is, and this is what I told the McDonald's folks when they wanted us to lower our wages, the cost of living here is too high. ...
[If McDonald's workers unionized], I think the biggest negative effect would be that corporations, the big guys, couldn't suck as much money off the top. I have mixed emotions on unions, and I told SEIU this. Sometimes I think the union benefits are a little over the top. But by the same token, in this stagnant economy that we've got, the little people are getting screwed. So I'm sure you know of the lawsuits for wage theft from the employees against McDonald's operators in California. Wage theft is wrong, and it comes a point at which people do need to protect themselves and their interests. If they're working, they deserve to be paid.
Tue, 08/05/2014 - 08:35
Award-winning comic Gene Luen Yang has a new graphic novel out with Sonny Liew called "The Shadow Hero." It's based on a little-known character named the Green Turtle from a 1940s Chinese-American cartoonist named Chu Hing. The new novel is the sort of revisionist history that's also a cause for celebration; 27 artists did their own renderings of the Green Turtle to celebrate the occasion.
Yang spoke with GalleyCat's Maryann Yin about his research for the new project, and it's a fascinating look at the world and history of race and publishing in comics:
Q: Can you describe your research process for this project?
A: The main character of The Shadow Hero is a superhero called The Green Turtle. He is not our character. The Green Turtle was created in the 1940s by a Chinese American cartoonist named Chu Hing. Rumor is, Chu wanted his character to be a Chinese American but his publishers wouldn't let him do it. He reacted very passive-aggressively. If you look at the original Green Turtle comics, the main character almost always has his back to the reader. Supposedly, Chu did this so that he, and his reader, could imagine the hero as he intended, as a Chinese American.
I began my research by reading Chu's Green Turtle stories. They were the lead feature in a short-lived series called Blazing Comics. Like so many obscure superheroes from the 1940s, the Green Turtle is now in public domain. You can legally download scans of all the original comics from websites like The Digital Comics Museum.
Once our story began taking shape, I read a lot about early American Chinatowns. Even though our characters live in a fictional Chinatown, I wanted it to feel real. Sonny, too, did a lot of visual research on the Chinatowns in both New York and San Francisco.
(h/t Angry Asian Man)
Tue, 08/05/2014 - 07:31
"What would you do if Hamas attacked you?"-- That's the question posed to Americans yesterday in a brief but powerful op-ed by author Peter Beinart in The Atlantic. It aims to explain why it's so difficult for Americans in particular to criticize the state of Israel.
Revealingly, the question is rarely asked the other way: What would you do if your people had been under occupation for almost 50 years and your territory was blockaded by air, land, and sea? It's rarely asked because we Americans can't easily imagine ourselves as a stateless people. I suspect this goes to the heart of why people in the developing world generally identify more strongly with the Palestinians than Americans do. If you live in Nigeria or Pakistan, the experience of living under the control of another country yet not being a citizen of that country is fairly recent. (White) Americans, by contrast, have to go back all the way to 1776.
Read the rest at The Atlantic.
Tue, 08/05/2014 - 07:30
Here's what I'm reading up on this morning:
- Israel pulls out of Gaza for a 72-hour truce ahead of talks in Egypt.
- The Ebola death toll hits 887.
- A passenger plane is escorted to landing by a military jet in Manchester, England; police tweet that it's due to a bomb threat.
- The Nixon tapes are being released in parts starting today through Saturday, to coincide with the 40th anniversary of his resignation.
- Toledo, Ohio, lifts the water ban.
- Target's shares fall eight months after its massive data breach.
- Google removes some games like "Bomb Gaza," which allow players to bomb Palestinian children.
- Eating baked or boiled fish once a week boosts the health of your brain.
- Too cute. Horses use their eyes and ears to communicate with one another.
Tue, 08/05/2014 - 07:27
Quick, somebody give Laverne Cox her own show. She's killing it.
(h/t Team Coco)
Tue, 08/05/2014 - 06:03
The House of Representatives was set to go on vacation last Friday—but decided to extend its recess one day in order to pass two anti-immigration bills.
H.R. 5230 would speed up the process for deporting Central American children crossing the border into the United States and use some of the $694 million allotted in the bill to reimburse National Guard troops in Texas. The bill passed with the support of Texas Representative Henry Cuellar, who was the only Democrat to vote for the bill. Four Republicans voted against the bill, but it passed the House 223-189.
H.R. 5272 would essentially block President Obama from taking executive action on immigration. Obama introduced the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program the summer leading up to the last election in 2012, and is expected to expand the program this summer. The House bill, which passed 216-192, seeks to stop that.
The House is now on vacation for five weeks. Neither bill is expected to pass through the Senate. Obama has made clear that he believes the House is simply sending messages with the bills.
Meanwhile, activists continue to put pressure on Obama to meet with those most affected by immigration policy. Activists from various cities rallied in D.C. on Saturday in a march rally organized by the National Day Laborer Organizing Network. Two people hoisted massive banners 50 feet in the the from flag polls calling for an end to deportations.
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