Colorlines

NOW IN RACIAL JUSTICE

Two Minnesota Students Record a Terribly Racist Rant in Blackface

Two Minnesota Students Record a Terribly Racist Rant in Blackface

[Update 11/21/12 8:15pm EST: YouTube has removed the video as a violation of policy that prohibits hate speech.  The students have also issued a statement.]

According to the YouTube description of this video the two stars of this terribly racist blackface rant are University of Minnesota Duluth students. 

The two young women go through a variety of stereotypes in the 5-minute video—they touch on gangs and gun violence, slavery, fried chicken, collard greens, apes… the list goes on. 

According to the university’s website,11,806 students were enrolled in the Fall 2011 semester. 1.2 percent or 139 of them are black.

The percentage of blacks in the Duluth community is just slightly higher at 2 percent. [PDF]

[Update: The two students have identified themselves and issued an apology. They spoke to the university newspaper The Statesmen:

Both women in the video, Rachel Cooper and Jessica Heid, responded to the video.

“We were doing facials and it happened to have been a brown facial mask,” Cooper said in an email. “We had to leave it on for 12 minutes. During that 12 minutes, we horribly decided to make a video that we regret and are not happy about. This was made over a year ago.”

Cooper continued her email in an apologetic manner.

“I am saddened and sick to my stomach and sorry for anybody it offends. It was not mine or hers intention at all and we are embarrassed about it. We understand we cannot do anything about it now but apologize and inform people we did not paint our faces or put that on to purposely make a video. It was something that just happened after putting the facial cream on and we are so deeply sorry. This video does not define our true selves at all.”

Jessica Heid also replied to the video.

“That video does not define who we are… it was accidental… we did not intend to hurt anyone with it.”

According to The Statesmen, the administration refused to comment any further beyond the Nov. 15 email that stated, “We take appropriate action in instances like this… we can affirm our disapproval of the video, and reaffirm our goal of providing an environment where students live, study, and learn from and about each other in an inclusive and supportive way. We hope that out of this distressing incident will at least come some broader understanding and personal growth.”

Perhaps the University should contact Ohio University’s student group “Students Teaching About Racism in Society”  to license the image below and put it all over campus.



L.A. Mexican-American Man Arrested in Alleged Al-Qaeda Plot

L.A. Mexican-American Man Arrested in Alleged Al-Qaeda Plot

After months of investigation, the FBI arrested four California men accused of a terror plot. The arrest came just day before the men were allegedly going to board a plane to Afghanistan.

The arrests are raising serious questions on what methods the federal government uses to search for domestic terrorists in communities of color.

The Associated Press has details of four men arrested:

The defendants, including a man who served in the U.S. Air Force, were arrested for plotting to bomb military bases and government facilities, and for planning to engage in “violent jihad,” FBI spokeswoman Laura Eimiller said in a release.

A federal complaint unsealed Monday says 34-year-old Sohiel Omar Kabir of Pomona introduced two of the other men to the radical Islamist doctrine of Anwar al-Awlaki, a deceased al-Qaida leader. Kabir served in the Air Force from 2000 to 2001.

The other two — 23-year-old Ralph Deleon and 21-year-old Miguel Alejandro Santana Vidriales— converted to Islam in 2010 and began engaging with Kabir and others online in discussions about jihad, including posting radical content to Facebook and expressing extremist views in comments. They later recruited 21-year-old Arifeen David Gojali.

Among those arrested was 21-year-old Miguel Alejandro Santana who was born in Mexico. Santana lived with his parents who are devout Catholics, the L.A. Times reported Tuesday.

“Though we know little about the case at this point, early local news reports suggest that it resembles many other federal and local domestic anti-terrorism investigations: the plot may never have developed without the involvement of a paid government informant,” said Seth Freed Wessler, Colorlines.com’s investigative reporter.

“As FBI Special Agent David Bowdich said, ‘There was no way they were going to get on that plane.’ The comment suggests that the plot may always have been in the FBI’s control. If that’s the case and this case turns out to be like similar ones in which paid informants instigated and facilitated terrorism plots that the government concocted, it raises serious questions about the federal government’s search for domestic terrorists in communities of color,” Wessler went on to say.

The suspects were detained inside the informant’s Honda Civic, according to a witness interviewed by KTLA.

The FBI informant, who has worked as a confidential source for four-and-a-half years, had received a total of $250,000 in payments through October. The source was previously convicted of trafficking in pseudoephedrine, according to a footnote in the criminal complaint.

The four men arrested are facing a maximum of fifteen years in federal prison.

TAGS: FBI

Full Text of Jesse Jackson Jr.’s Resignation Letter

Rep. Jesse Jackson resigned from Congress Wednesday, saying in a letter that he is cooperating with a federal investigation “into my activities” but blaming his health problems for his decision to step down just two weeks after his re-election.

“I am doing my best to address the situation responsibly, cooperate with the investigators, and accept responsibility for my mistakes, for they are my mistakes and mine alone,” Jackson said in the two-page letter dated Nov. 21. “None of us is immune from our share of shortcomings or human frailties and I pray that I will be remembered for what I did right.”

The announcement comes two weeks after Jackson won re-election without campaigning.

The 47-year-old Jackson had not been on Capitol Hill since late May. He has been on medical leave for bipolar depression.

GMA’s Robin Roberts’ Interview with Sister Sally-Ann on MDS-Bone Marrow Treatment

robin-roberts-obama.jpgRobin Roberts of ABC’s Good Morning America interviews President Barack Obama on May 9, 2012. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

In May 2012 “Good Morning America” host Robin Roberts got the interview of her life when President Obama announced his support for gay marriage in front of her.

But just a month later Roberts would have her own major announcement: Her cancer was back.

And it was every cancer survivors’ worse nightmare. The treatment that helped her beat breast cancer years before had now led her to a more serious health problem. 

“Sometimes treatment for cancer can lead to other serious medical issues and that’s what I’m facing right now,” she told viewers. “The reason I am sharing this with everybody right now is because later today I begin what’s known as pre-treatment.”

Roberts was referring to treatment for a bone marrow transplant to treat her blood related cancer. She’s been off the air since June.

In a new interview that aired Monday on New Orleans’ WWL-TV Roberts tells her sister and donor, Sally-Ann, about her setback following recovery from the bone marrow transplant.

Robin described the hospital stay as “just a little tune-up, check under the hood, kick the tires a little bit. And uh, it’s not a journey that goes like this, it’s a journey that zig-zags and there are complications and things like that. But I feel good, I feel stronger every day, I’m past the halfway mark for the hundred days, which is the most critical portion of the time, so I am blessed.”

Bone marrow transplants are often the only treatment for blood-related cancers.

But African-Americans are least likely to find at least one potential match compared to other race groups, according to Black Bone Marrow group. Blacks only have an estimated 66% likelihood of having a donor on the national registry who is willing and able to donate. For whites its 93%

Visit Marrow.org to find out more about bone marrow donation and sign up for a registration kit.

Rep. Jesse Jackson to Deliver Resignation Letter to Boehner Today

Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. will announce his resignation from Congress “momentarily” in a letter to House Speaker John Boehner, Jackson’s brother Jonathan Jackson told the Chicago Tribune.

The announcement comes two weeks after Jackson won re-election without campaigning.

The 47-year-old Jackson had not been on Capitol Hill since late May. He has been on medical leave for bipolar depression.

DEA Agent Says He Was Told Not To Enforce Drug Laws In White Areas

DEA Agent Says He Was Told Not To Enforce Drug Laws In White Areas

Meet Matthew Fogg, a former U.S. Marshal whose exploits led him to be nicknamed “Batman.” When he noticed that all of his team’s drug raids were in black areas, he suggested doing the same in the suburbs.

“If we were locking up everybody, white and black, for doing the same drugs they would’ve done the same thing with prohibition, they would’ve outlawed it,” Fogg says in the video produced by Brave New Films. “If it were an equal enforcement opportunity we wouldn’t be sitting here anyway.”

Cory Booker Plans to Live Off Food Stamps for One Week

Newark, N.J., Mayor Cory Booker plans to live off food stamps for one week. Booker’s decision came by way of a challenge after Twitter user “Twitwit” told him that “nutrition is not a responsibility of the government.” 

Booker made the announcement on Twitter after an exchange with a self-described “Daughter of the American Revolution (DAR), fighting against any and all forms of socialism/communism.”

Booker responded to “Twitwit” and challenged her to see if they could both live off food stamps for a week. “Lets you and I try to live on food stamps in New Jersey (high cost of living) and feed a family for a week or month. U game?”

China’s Next Top Model is 72-Year-Old Grandfather Liu Xianping

chinese-grandpa-internet-sensation2.jpg China’s Next Top Model is 72-year-old grandfather Liu Xianping.

Mr. Xianping’s granddaughter needed a model for her online store that sells clothing  for teenage girls and thought it’d be funny if she dressed up her grandfather. Mr. Xianping agreed to be photographed and the shots went viral overnight.

The Daily Mail translated parts of a China Newsweek interview with the grandfather. In the excerpt below, Mr. Xianping explains why he’s proud of helping his granddaughter:

Posing in a sequence of outfits, his long slim legs and slender physique shows Yuekou’s clothing off to its full advantage - and has earned the store infinite more hits than if a regular model had been used.

Indeed, since Liu’s photographs, posted on Tmall, one of China’s leading retail sites, went viral, sales at Yuekou have increased fivefold.

Liu’s legs are reportedly the envy of women all over China - even the world. ‘He has such a good figure,’ offbeatchina.com reported one fan as saying. ‘He has such a good figure, especially those legs!’ and another likening the elderly gent to Karl Lagerfeld.

For his part, Liu told China Newsweek that he is glad to model for the store - and happy to be able to help his family.

‘Why unacceptable for someone like me to wear women’s clothes? Modelling for the store is helping my granddaughter and I have nothing to lose,’ he said.

‘We were very happy on the day of the shooting. I’m very old and all that I care about is to be happy.’

Check out the pictures below.

Illinois’ Most Powerful Politicians Back Licenses for Undocumented

Illinois' Most Powerful Politicians Back Licenses for Undocumented

Illinois State Senate President John Cullerton’s effort to grant driver’s licenses to undocumented immigrants is getting high profile, bipartisan support.

Gov. Pat Quinn, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, House Republican Leader Tom Cross and former Illinois governors Jim Edgar and James Thompson attended a press conference on Tuesday to announce support for “legislation that requires all Illinois drivers to get licensed and be insured.”

The bipartisan group of politicians plan to propose the law when the legislature convenes on November 27. Gov. Quinn has pledged to sign the bill if it reaches his desk.

“This is a safety issue that impacts every driver in Illinois and we should join together to take swift action to save lives,” Gov. Quinn said in a statement. “Making sure all motorists, regardless of their background, are licensed and insured will drive economic growth and ease the financial burden on all Illinois motorists.”

Chicago Mayor Emanuel has also publicly supported the new law that would benefit an estimated 250,000 unlicensed immigrants.

“I strongly support state legislation that will allow every Chicagoan, regardless of legal status, to enjoy the rights and responsibilities that come with a driver’s license,” said Mayor Rahm Emanuel in a statement. “I commend Senate President John Cullerton for his leadership to introduce legislation during the 2012 veto session to require all Illinois drivers, including undocumented drivers, to get trained, licensed and insured. I will be a strong advocate for this bill as we work to make Chicago the most immigrant-friendly city in the country.”

Washington state and New Mexico are the only states that currently allow undocumented immigrants to get licenses. Utah allows driving permits. As the fifth most populous state, Illinois would be the biggest state to adopt such a law.

Starting January 1, 2013, immigrants in California that have received work permits through the federal Deferred Action program will be eligible for Driver’s licenses. The following states will also grant temporary driver’s licenses to individuals with a federal work permit: Texas, New York, Florida, North Carolina, Oregon and Georgia.

Amber Riley Breaks Down in Tears as She Opens Up About Body Image

Amber Riley Breaks Down in Tears as She Opens Up About Body Image

“Glee” star Amber Riley was featured on the MTV series “This Is How I Made It” and broke down in tears as she admitted her struggles with her body image as a Hollywood actress.

The 26-year-old “Glee” actress said: ‘Hollywood is a very hard place to be in. It really is. Being the person I am, you know, the size I am, being a woman, being a black woman, there’s not a lot of roles for us.

Only 14.8% of roles on television go to black actors, according to the latest SAG-AFTRA Casting Data Report.

“This Is How I Made It” airs on Saturdays at 12pm.

Walmart is Nation’s #1 Employer of Latinos, and Also Big Funders of Anti-Immigrant Efforts

Walmart is Nation's #1 Employer of Latinos, and Also Big Funders of Anti-Immigrant Efforts

Walmart is the largest employer of Latinos in the United States. But the company and the founding family—the Waltons—have disproportionately supported politicians who have overwhelmingly anti -immigrant records, according to the United Food & Commercial Workers’s Making Change campaign.

Making Change compared the Walton family and Walmart PAC political contributions to Congressional candidates with the scorecard published in the William C. Velasquez Institute Immigrant Justice March 2010 Interim Report. They found the vast majority of recipients of funding voted against the DREAM Act, supported E-verify, immigrant detention, and militarization of the U.S.-Mexico border.

Read their report below. And then go watch this 2-minute video that explains why you don’t want to line up for Walmart’s black Friday deals this week.


Gmail’s 57th Supported Language is Cherokee, Its First Native American Tribal Language

Gmail's 57th Supported Language is Cherokee, Its First Native American Tribal Language

Cherokee has become the first Native American language fully integrated into Gmail. That means users can now exchange emails and instant message chats entirely in the Cherokee Syllabary, just as they would in English, Spanish or other languages.

Google worked with the The Cherokee Nation and Durbin Feeling - the author of the Cherokee-English Dictionary - to translate hundreds of Gmail terms from English to Cherokee.

“When Google decides to support a language, it’s not just about which ones have the largest number of speakers. In order to do business around the world, we need to support languages with millions of speakers, such as Japanese, French or Arabic,” Craig Cornelius, a Google software engineer, said in a statement. “But we also want to include less spoken languages in order to help preserve the culture and diversity that come with them.”

A 2002 survey of the Oklahoma Cherokee population found that “no one under 40 spoke conversational Cherokee.” The partnership with Google is part of an effort to use technology to encourage a new generation to learn the language.

Software engineer Craig Cornelius explains how this partnership came about on the Gmail Blog:

It was just coincidence that I, a Google engineer working on the internationalization of Google products, ended up carpooling back to San Francisco with Vance Blackfox, member of the Cherokee Nation (CN) from an event we’d both attended. But that coincidence kick-started a collaboration that would result in Google Web Search in Cherokee and, starting today, Gmail in Cherokee.

After a 2002 survey of the Oklahoma Cherokee population found that no one under 40 spoke conversational Cherokee, the Cherokee Nation saw an opportunity to use technology to encourage everyday use of the language among the younger generation. Vance connected me with the language technology department at the Cherokee Nation, and the Gmail team worked closely with their highly organized team of volunteers, which ranged from university students to Durbin Feeling—Cherokee living treasure and author of the Cherokee-English Dictionary. Together, we were able to find and implement the right words for hundreds of Gmail terms, from “inbox” (ᎧᏁᏌᎢᏱ) and “sign in” (ᏕᏣᏙᎥ ᎰᏪᎸᎦ) to “spam” (ᎤᏲᎢ).

Gmail in Cherokee and the Cherokee version of Google Web Search both include a virtual keyboard for typing the syllabary writing system invented by Sequoyah in the early 1800s. Now Cherokee students can easily contact their tribal elders, e.g., “Joseph wants to chat” (“ᏦᏏᏫ ᎤᏚᎵ ᎦᏬᏂᎯᏍᏗ”) and connect instantly. As Joseph Erb, Language Technologist at the Cherokee Nation put it, “Projects like these give more life to our language in our communities. It is not just about preserving our language and culture. It is about using our language each day and every day and continuing who we are as a people. And this give us that chance each time we check our email.”

In 2003, Apple added the font “Plantagenet Cherokee” to its MacOS operating system. In 2010, Cherokee became the first Native language and one of only 40 worldwide languages integrated into the iPhone’s operating system.

Mass. Becomes 13th State to Allow Some Undocumented Students to Pay In-State Tuition

Mass. Becomes 13th State to Allow Some Undocumented Students to Pay In-State Tuition

In a letter sent Monday to the Board of Higher Education, Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick said undocumented immigrants who have obtained a work permit through the Deferred Action program are now eligible to pay in-state tuition in the state’s public colleges and universities.

The decision will cut tuition fees by about 50 percent for undocumented students attending state colleges.

For example, the state’s flagship college, the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, charges state residents $13,230 in tuition and fees; students from outside the state pay more than twice as much, $26,645. The state’s flagship college, the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, charges state residents $13,230 in tuition and fees; students from outside the state pay more than twice as much, $26,645.

“Our experience has been that the difference between in-state and out-of-state tuition is a prohibitive barrier,” Paul Reville, the state’s secretary of education, told the NY Times.

“It’s a step in the right direction but it’s not a substitute for comprehensive immigration reform, we still need that,” Patrick told reporters on Monday, according to the Associated Press.

Massachusetts officials estimate the state has 15,000 to 17,000 residents in the age group affected by the change in the deportation policy, according to the New York Times. Officials would not guess how many might take advantage of new state and federal rules.

Massachusetts Treasurer Steven Grossman told the AP that immigrants would not take the spots of legal residents in the state’s schools. “No place at one of our public colleges and universities will be denied to any other child or student,” Grossman said.

This week’s decision comes after a 2004 attempt by the Massachusetts state Legislature to pass a bill allowing undocumented immigrants to pay in-state tuition. Then-Governor Mitt Romney vetoed the measure, and subsequent efforts failed.

Currently, 12 states have laws allowing undocumented students who meet specific requirements to receive in-state tuition rates at public postsecondary institutions, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Earlier this month, Maryland became the first to adopt such a law by popular vote.

Why You Shouldn’t Line Up For Walmart’s Black Friday Deals

Why You Shouldn't Line Up For Walmart's Black Friday Deals Play

Don’t call it Black Friday anymore. The kickoff to the national holiday shopping frenzy has now officially merged with Thanksgiving day itself, with Walmart leading the Thanksgiving evening creep by opening its doors at 10pm on Thursday this week. And the Thursday night opening has given workers at over 1,000 Walmart stores planning a Black Friday strike even more reason to walk out from work.

The planned action has been in the works for some time, long before Walmart announced its Thursday evening opening. The strike comes after months of such walkouts that started in Los Angeles area stores and spread to Maryland, then Texas, for a total of nine states this fall. Workers say they are upset over much more than just having to leave their families on Thanksgiving evening.

“It’s a real hardship for me to go on strike. For those of us who live paycheck to paycheck every hour counts. All we’re doing is speaking out for change,” said Sara Gilbert, a manager at a Seattle Walmart who is protesting what she says are the retail giant’s retaliatory measures to silence workers who’ve raised their voices about working conditions. Since workers with OUR Walmart, a United Food and Commercial Workers union-backed organization, have spoken up about bad pay and inconsistent and unfair hours, they say they’ve been excluded and punished. She joined other Walmart workers in Seattle, Dallas and Oakland who went on strike last week.

Last week Walmart took its first formal steps to cracking down on this next phase of worker organizing by filing an official labor practice complaint with the National Labor Relations Board, charging that the walkouts threaten to disrupt its business and scare away shoppers. The NLRB is working to address the issue quickly, but in the meantime OUR Walmart is keeping up the pressure.

Frank Ocean to GQ: ‘I’m Not Trying to Sell You Sex’

Frank Ocean to GQ: 'I'm Not Trying to Sell You Sex'

reg_634.ocean.ls.112012.jpgR&B singer Frank Ocean is tired of people trying to get into his business. In response to a question from GQ writer Amy Wallace about whether or not he identifies as bisexual, Ocean responded:

You can move to the next question. I’ll respectfully say that life is dynamic and comes along with dynamic experiences, and the same sentiment that I have towards genres of music, I have towards a lot of labels and boxes and shit. I’m in this business to be creative—I’ll even diminish it and say to be a content provider. One of the pieces of content that I’m for fuck sure not giving is porn videos. I’m not a centerfold. I’m not trying to sell you sex. People should pay attention to that in the letter: I didn’t need to label it for it to have impact. Because people realize everything that I say is so relatable, because when you’re talking about romantic love, both sides in all scenarios feel the same shit. As a writer, as a creator, I’m giving you my experiences. But just take what I give you. You ain’t got to pry beyond that. I’m giving you what I feel like you can feel. The other shit, you can’t feel. You can’t feel a box. You can’t feel a label. Don’t get caught up in that shit. There’s so much something in life. Don’t get caught up in the nothing. That shit is nothing, you know? It’s nothing. Vanish the fear.

Read the whole interview over at GQ.

Ocean made headlines earlier this year when he he posted a note on Tumblr about falling in love with a man for the first time. Many took it as a coming out letter of sorts, and it heightened the sense of anticipation for his hit album, “Channel Orange.” Whatever its intention, it’s been clear in the months since that Ocean has challenged traditional norms of sexuality in hip-hop — though he obviously still wants folks to respect his privacy.

(Photo: Peggy Sirota / GQ)

Campaign Focuses on Young, Gifted, Transgender and Black

Campaign Focuses on Young, Gifted, Transgender and Black

Today is Transgender Day of Remembrance, an annual date to recognize the struggles and perseverance of members of the transgender community. Leading up to the internationally recognized event, the National Black Justice Coalition launched its #BlackTransProud social media campaign to raise awareness about what it means to, as organizers put it, “live at the intersection of racial justice and trans equality.”

More from the National Black Justice Coalition:

In 2010, according to the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs, transgender women represented 44% of anti-LGBT murders but only represented 11% of the total reports. Within LGBT communities, transgender people represent 8.6% of the general population. Most hate crimes go unreported because of police bias. In fact, NCAVP’s findings suggest that transgender people of color are three times more at risk for anti-LGBT violence from police officers.

There is an epidemic of murders against the Black trans community, yet our nation is deadly silent. Together we can change that.

People.com editor Janet Mock wrote this in solidarity with the campaign:

I’m a woman. I’m black. I’m trans. And I’m alive. That’s a radical idea if you really think about it because trans women of color - specifically black and brown bodies - are active agents in our own survival despite unbearable statistics, lack of resources, dehumanizing media stories and exiling from many spaces.

And this notion of survival and resistance isn’t new.

We’ve always been survivors (I bow to Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera as I write this). For me, personally and politically, there’s no separating my womanness, my blackness, my transness from my me-ness.

The day caps off Transgender Awareness Week, a time in which deliberate attention is paid to the health disparities, histories of violence, and resilience of the trans men and women around the world.

Black People Voted on Election Day, Too, By the Way

The growing electoral strength, power and concerns of Latino and Asian-American voters have rightfully garnered significant attention in the two weeks since the re-election of President Obama. But the same can’t be said of black voters who were also a key component of the president’s victory. An under-reported NAACP “Battleground State” poll of 1,600 black voters is worth a look for those who have been disturbed about the comparative silence in pundit-land about the continued and future role that African Americans play at the polls and in policy, particularly in relation to other racial and social justice constituencies.

Here are some highlights from the slidedeck released by the civil rights organization the week of the election:

  • The increased turnout and almost uniform electoral support of Obama, when compared to support for John Kerry in 2004, was decisive in battleground states like Florida, Ohio, and Virginia (Slide 6).
  • Jobs and the economy are the priority issue for black voters, as they are for other racial groups (Slide 9).
  • Black voters continue to believe the federal government should play a role in protecting “minority” interests such as voting rights, public education, housing opportunities, and affirmative action (Slide 10).
  • There’s overwhelming support for the DREAM Act—71 percent strongly supporting and 23 percent supporting (Slide 15).
  • Half of black respondents supported marriage equality (Slide 15).
  • Black support for marriage equality rises to a safe majority figure of 57 percent when a religious exemption for performing ceremonies is included (as was the case in the popularly approved policies in Maine and Maryland), with only 31 percent opposed. That’s a margin of 26 percent that expands to 41 percent for black voters aged 18-30. (Slide 16)

It’s important to also note that black voters anticipate being far less enthusiastic about the Democratic ticket without Obama at its head in 2016 (Slide 18). And while the Democrats enjoy a significant lead over Republicans on black perception of how hard the parties are working on critical problems such as poverty, health care, and job opportunities, both parties get a failing grade when it comes to working hard and caring about the monumental issue of the mass incarceration of African Americans.

One last point: an unfortunate byproduct of elections is the not-always-subtle jockeying for title as the decisive constituency, and I certainly don’t mean to suggest here that black voters should make that claim. But neither should others. The truth is there were several key constituencies that made Obama’s victory a reality, and a re-emphasis on examining how we can collectively advance and enrich each other’s racial and social justice struggles—in both policies and practices—is paramount in the time between the first Tuesday in November every four years.

Dom Apollon is research director of Colorlines.com’s publisher, the Applied Research Center, which served as a paid consultant to Pacific Market Research, the polling firm that administered and oversaw the NAACP poll.

Man Sentenced to 3 Years For Leading Mississippi Prison Riot

Man Sentenced to 3 Years For Leading Mississippi Prison Riot

Juan Lopez-Fuentes became the first inmate to be sentenced for a riot that rattled a Mississippi federal prison in May. Lopez-Fuentes was sentenced in federal court yesterday to 40 months in prison and $1.3 million in restitution, the Natchez Democrat reports.

The riot in the Adams County Correction Facility, a privately operated federal prison for immigrants convicted of crimes, left one prison guard dead. Inmates in the facility said they were revolting against abusive prison conditions at the hands of guards employed by the Corrections Corporation of America, the country’s largest prison company.

As I reported days after the riot:

At 5 p.m. on Sunday evening, an inmate reportedly phoned a local TV station with a cell phone, sending photos to confirm that he was indeed held inside the facility.

“They always beat us and hit us,” the prisoner told the local reporter. “We just pay them back. We’re trying to get better food, medical (care), programs, clothes, and we’re trying to get some respect from the officers and lieutenants.”

Two other men have been charged for allegedly participating in the riot. Yoany Oriel Serrano-Bejarano pleaded not guilty in October. A jury trial has been set for next month. Pedro Gonzalez De Los Reyes was charged this month for his part in the riot. He has yet to be arraigned.

Lopez-Fuentes pleaded guilty in August to taking part in the riot. In a complaint filed by the federal government in August, Lopez-Fuentes was alleged to be “an active participant in the riot and appeared to be in charge of the inmates involved in the standoff.” The complaint goes on to describe Lopez-Fuentes as a negotiator, wielding power over inmates and hostages and forcing hostages to act as intermediaries in negotiations between inmates and guards.

The riot left 24-year old prison guard Catlin Carithers dead and several other guards injured.

Family members and advocates in touch with inmates in the prison say that conditions inside the facility were also deadly for inmates. In May and then again in September, I reported on a man named Juan Villanueva whose sister says he’s still be alive had Adams prison officials adequately responded to rapidly spreading cancer:

According to his sister [Angelica Moreno], Villanueva’s illness was ignored for months while locked up in Adams County and his condition deteriorated. “They killed my brother,” she said. Moreno says her brother was prescribed repeated doses of antibiotics even after he complained of pain and was regularly vomiting blood. When months later he was finally taken to an emergency room and diagnosed with cancer, his illness had advanced significantly, but still the prison failed to transport Villanueva to all of his chemotherapy appointments, according to Moreno.

Just before the Adams facility erupted into violence in May, Villanueva was moved to a North Carolina medical facility where two months later he died. His body was flown to Los Angeles, where his family held a funeral.

The Adams County facility is one of a dozen similar private prisons for non-citizens convicted of crimes. As I reported in September:

“Many of the inmates are charged criminally for what’s called “illegal reentry” when they’re picked up by Border Patrol trying to return to the country after a previous deportation. The facilities are among the only ones that the Bureau of Prisons has privatized and their expansion promises more profits for companies, like the Corrections Corporation of America, which runs the Adams County Correctional Center where Moreno’s brother was held.

The federal government anticipates the facilities will continue to expand for at least the next eight years:

Despite this track record or neglect and violence, the federal government plans to expand the incarceration of non-citizens in private facilities. A report released on Wednesday by the Government Accountability Office revealed that the BOP projects it will add an 1500 CAR inmates every year until 2020, which will expand the population in these federal facilities to nearly 36,000. The GAO notes that the Board of Prisons annual projections are conservative and “therefore, the actual number of inmates would likely be higher than the projections.”

Felipe Montes Enters Final Day Of Testimony In Fight For His Kids

Felipe Montes Enters Final Day Of Testimony In Fight For His Kids

UPDATE [4:00 p.m. EST]

Arguments in the case over Felipe Montes’s parental rights came to a close today. Judge Michael Duncan told parties in the Alleghany County courthouse in Sparta, NC that he will reach a decision on the widely reported case next week.

His decision will determine the fates of Felipe Montes, who was deported two years ago for driving violations, and of his three children, who are currently in foster care.

The hearing, which ended this afternoon, was dominated by the children’s legal advocate who previously argued that Montes’s three children should be adopted. In court today, the advocate recommended instead that the children remain with their foster families but in a guardianship arrangement rather than through adoption. This would allow Montes some maintain some contact with the boys even if they stay in the United States.

Montes’s attorney pushed back, maintaining that her client’s parental rights should remain fully intact, and that the children should be reunified with him, whether he’s in the United States or Mexico. The decision is now firmly in the Judge’s hands.

“It’s been a lengthy trial, it’s been emotional, it’s been complicated, at times it’s been frustrating,” Judge Duncan said in closing.

Ultimately, “this case is all about three children,” he added. “This case will have long lasting, far reaching effects on these children and I do not take that lightly.”

A final ruling is expected on November 27th.


Testimony in Felipe Montes’s protracted legal case for his parental rights is expected to come to a close today. A final decision in the closely watched case is near.

Montes, a deported father who was allowed to return to the country on a rare humanitarian permit from the government, took the stand yesterday in Alleghany County, North Carolina to ask the judge to reunite the family.

“Why do I fight?” he said yesterday, in response to a question from his attorney, Donna Shumate. “Because I did not abandon my children. I got taken away from them. I got deported.”

Singer Erin McKeown Releases Song About U.S.-Mexico Border Wall

Singer Erin McKeown Releases Song About U.S.-Mexico Border Wall

Writer and performer Erin McKeown attended the Facing Race conference over the weekend and spoke to Colorlines.com editorial director Kai Wright about her new song “The Jailer.”

McKeown’s song “The Jailer” about the U.S.-Mexico border wall premiered on NPR Monday morning.

Erin McKeown tells NPR about the inspiration for the song:

“Last year, I took a trip to Nogales, Arizona to see the wall being built between the U.S. and Mexico. I was struck by how it appeared to be a violent spine rising out of the beautiful desert. While standing next to it, I asked our guide, a local charter school teacher, why the wall was made of long columns of steel set close to each other, not a solid surface like other borders I’d seen. “They built it so the water could get through,” he said. This got me thinking about the toll a wall takes on the hearts of those it divides and on the soul of the builder of the wall.”

Visit NPR.com to listen to McKeown’s song ‘The Jailer.’

Erin McKeown’s album, MANIFESTRA, comes out January 15.

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