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NOW IN RACIAL JUSTICE

Chicago to Close 61 Public School Facilities to Address $1 Billion Deficit

Chicago to Close 61 Public School Facilities to Address $1 Billion Deficit

On Thursday, Chicago Public Schools (CPS) officials proposed a plan close 54 schools in an effort to address a $1 billion budget shortfall. Student advocates say the schools closures will disproportionately affect students of color and endanger the lives of those who may have to cross gang boundaries to attend school.

The Associated Press reported there are 54 schools slated to close but the Chicago Tribune reports 61 facilities could be shut down—that comes to nearly 13 percent of all elementary and middle schools in the district.

The Chicago Tribune breaks down the numbers:

Officials said the shutdowns would affect 30,000 students, almost all in kindergarten through eighth grade and most now attending poorly performing schools in African-American neighborhoods on the South and West sides where enrollment has sagged in recent years.

CPS officials argue that by redirecting resources from closing “underutilized facilities,” students will have access to better performing options close to their current schools.

A press release sent out by CPS Thursday included promises of air conditioning in every classroom, libraries in every schools, iPads for all students in grades 3-8 and that “all students with disabilities, students in temporary living situations, and English Language Learners will continue to receive required services to support their learning.”

But while CPS officials refer to the facilities slated to absorb students as “welcoming schools,” they’re also preparing for enhanced security measures to address “anticipated frictions” as students from differing neighborhoods are forced to mix.

Since 2008, more than 530 youth have been killed in Chicago with nearly 80 percent of the homicides occurring in 22 African-American or Latino community areas on the city’s South, Southwest and West sides, according to the Chicago Reporter.

The AP reports many of the schools identified for closure are in high-crime areas of Chicago where gang violence contributed to a marked increase in the city’s homicide rate last year. The district plans to have community groups help students travel to their new locations safely.

Charter Schools are expected to profit from the move to merge schools, the Chicago Tribune reports. “Altogether, six charters will be allowed to expand or open new campuses in underenrolled neighborhood schools, including some high schools.”

Watch This Interview With Nigerian Author Chinua Achebe

Watch This Interview With Nigerian Author Chinua Achebe

Chinua Achebe, considered by many to be the grandfather of African literature, has died. The author of the classic “Things Fall Apart” was 82 years old. Watch this relatively recent interview with CNN where the Achebe talks about the importance of storytelling both in his native Nigeria and in his teaching career in the United States.

FOX Developing OJ Simpson Drama

FOX Developing OJ Simpson Drama

Fox is working on a project currently titled “The Run Of His Life: The People Vs. O.J. Simpson” from Nina Jacobson (The Hunger Games franchise) and Brad Simpson (World War Z) and based on legal journalist Jeffrey Toobin’s best-selling book of the same name about the Simpson trial.

“Everybody remembers where they were when O.J. Simpson, riding in a white Bronco, led the police on a low-speed chase all over Los Angeles,” Fox noted in its announcement, crediting the event with the emergence of the 24-hour news cycle and “the birth of reality television.”

The Hollywood Reporter has more details:

Both projects hail from FX Productions, which recently hired former HBO exec Gina Balian to oversee the newly launched division as it supplies content to FX, the Fox Movie Channel and broadcast cousin Fox. Fox topper Kevin Reilly at the time said the network was hungry for longform content — which FX has found success with in American Horror Story — that will start as 10- to 12-part events that can either stand alone or evolve into franchises. 

[…] 

For its part, the Simpson project recounts the “Trial of the Century,” starting with the former football star fleeing police in his white Bronco through his murder trial for the 1994 slayings of his ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend Ron Goldman and the news cycle that followed. Golden Globe winners Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski (The People vs. Larry Flint) will pen the project.

Deadline Hollywood points out this is not Fox’s first crack at Simpson: In 2006, network was set to air an interview with Simpson based on his proposed book If I Did It, which was going to be published by ReganBooks, an imprint owned by Fox owner News Corp.

TAGS: OJ Simpson TV

Meet Bryant Johnson, Justice Ginsburg’s Personal Trainer

Meet Bryant Johnson, Justice Ginsburg's Personal Trainer

Earlier this week The Washington Post profiled Bryant Johnson, a records manager by day and personal trainer to two very powerful women in the evenings. The Virginia native trains Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and her colleague Justice Elena Kagan in the Supreme Court’s ground-floor gym.

Johnson grew up on his grandparents’ farm on the Northern Neck of Virginia. He was raised largely by his mother, a deaf grandmother and many aunts. Growing up closely with the strong women in his life is perhaps what helps him feel comfortable pushing the justices to do just one more push up.

The State of HIV in Black America: A Visual Breakdown (Infographic)

Whether you are male or female, gay or straight, live in an urban area or a rural area, if you are a person of color — especially an African-American — you are disproportionately at risk for contracting HIV.

The folks at TheBody.com created the infographic below because “knowing exactly what the numbers are behind the HIV epidemic among African Americans is the first empowered step in joining the fight against HIV.”

(Click on the infographic if you’d like to see a larger image.)

Deported Father Who Returned To U.S. Makes Final Plea To Remain

Deported Father Who Returned To U.S. Makes Final Plea To Remain

With just two days left before he is scheduled to board a plane to Mexico, Felipe Montes, who was deported two years ago and returned to the U.S. in August to reclaim his children, is making a last ditch effort to remain in the country. Yesterday, the Latino advocacy group Presente.org launched a petition calling on federal immigration authorities to allow the father to stay in the United States.

“I want to stay here with my kids. They are born here and they are U.S. citizens,” Montes said by phone today. “I will take them to a place they don’t know, they know nothing about and they’ve never been there.”

Montes was deported in December 2010 and his three U.S.-citizen children were placed in foster care in Sparta, N.C., where he’d lived for nearly a decade. After Colorlines.com broke his story in February of last year, Presente launched a petition calling on Alleghany Country to reunite the boys with their father in Mexico. The petition garnered more than 20,000 signatures, but the county still refused to send the boys to Mexico. They remained in the care of local foster families.

In August, under pressure from the Mexican consulate, Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials granted Montes a rare humanitarian parole that allowed him to return to the U.S. so that he could attend hearings on his parental rights, which he ultimately won. That parole expires on Saturday and Montes and his boys are expected to return to Mexico. But Montes has long said that outcome is a distant second best to being allowed to stay in the U.S. with his kids and his wife, Marie Montes, who was deemed unfit to care for the children alone because of drug abuse.

If March Madness Were Based on Black Grad Rates, Who Would Win?

If March Madness Were Based on Black Grad Rates, Who Would Win?

The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) basketball tournament officially starts tomorrow and everyone is filling out their March Madness brackets, forecasting who will win this year’s tournament. Even President Obama got in to the bracket game, on Tuesday he picked the Indiana Hoosiers as the team to take it all in this year’s NCAA men’s basketball tournament.

But one thing not a lot of people are talking about is the graduation success rates of the actual basketball players, especially the black athletes.

How did Obama’s pick score with black basketball player graduation rates? Not so good.

On average only 45% of the black basketball players at the Indiana University Bloomington graduate, compared to 100% of the white players, according to a study released yesterday.   

On Tuesday, The Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport (TIDES) at the University of Central Florida (UCF) released its annual study that compares graduation rates and academic progress rates for Division I teams that have been selected for the men’s and women’s brackets of the 2013 NCAA Basketball Tournaments.

The report “Keeping Score When It Counts: Academic Progress/Graduation Success Rate Study of 2013 NCAA Division I Women’s and Men’s Basketball Tournament Teams,” shows African-American players’ graduation success rate is significantly lower than their white teammates, especially for males.

White male basketball student-athletes on tournament teams graduate at the rate of 90 percent versus only 65 percent of African-American male basketball student-athletes. White female basketball student-athletes on tournament teams graduate at a rate of 94 percent compared to 88 percent for African-American female basketball student-athletes.

The gap for men decreased by three percentage points from a 28 percent gap in 2012, while the gap for women decreased from eight percent in 2012.

Other distressing results found in the study:

The graduation success rates data shows nine women’s tournament teams (16 percent) have a 30-percentage point or greater gap between the graduation rates of white and African-American basketball student-athletes. Five of the teams (eight percent) with a 30-percentage point or greater gap experience higher graduation rates for white student-athletes while four teams (six percent) have a similar disparity in favor of African-American student-athletes.

Fifteen women’s teams (27 percent) have a 20-percentage point or greater gap between the graduation rates of white and African-American basketball student-athletes. Eleven of the teams (19 percent) with a 20 percentage point or greater gap experience higher graduation rates for white student-athletes, while four teams (six percent) experience higher graduation rates for African-American student-athletes. 

Six out of the tournament’s 68 teams have an academic progress rate score that falls below the NCAA’s new 930 line, which could lead to future penalties. Those teams are Southern, James Madison, Saint Louis, New Mexico State, Oregon and Oklahoma State.

Dr. Richard Lapchick, the primary author of the study noted the 65 percent graduation rate for African-American basketball players was significantly higher than the 38 percent for all male African-American college students.

This year, Duke, Notre Dame and Villanova had a team in both the men’s and women’s tournament each of which had a 100 percent graduation rate on both teams.

Kimani Gray’s School Sent a Letter to Parents Praising His Academic Abilities

Kimani Gray's School Sent a Letter to Parents Praising His Academic Abilities

Earlier this week Kimani Gray’s high school, The Urban Assembly School of Design and Construction, sent a letter to parents and staff in honor of the teen who was fatally shot by undercover cops last week after he allegedly pulled a gun on them.

The New York Post published an excerpt of the letter sent to parents and staff:

“We believed in his potential from the day he entered our school,” wrote principal Matt Willoughby. “He traveled for over an hour each day from East Flatbush to Midtown West to our little architectural themed high school. The year and a half we had with Kimani allowed us to get to know his best self.

“Kimani made great strides this year academically. He was taking an extra English class after school; he was writing a dramatic dialogue in another English class; his group in Design class was working on a project to design a school. Now they are working to complete their project without him.”

“He always smiled, he came to school every day, and the kids here miss him,”a teacher told the New York Post. “That says a lot.”

Will Black Magazines Ever Share Their Covers With White Women?

Will Black Magazines Ever Share Their Covers With White Women?

On Monday actress Jada Pinkett Smith posted a mock-up issue of Essence Magazine with Charlize Theron on the cover to spark a conversation with her Facebook followers. Pinkett-Smith posted the image and asked her more than three million followers if black magazines should be more inclusive and include white women on their covers.

Pinkett-Smith also included a mock-up cover of Cosmopolitan Magazine with Queen Latifah to put things in perspective.

“To my women of color, I am clear we must have something of our own, but is it possible to share in the spirit in which we ask our white sisters to share with us?”, Pinkett-Smith asked.

The 41-year old actress who grew up in Baltimore told her followers that she was genuinely interested in having that conversation because she didn’t have an answer for herself. Her question, originally published on Facebook on Monday, is published in its entirety below.

Will there ever be a day in which women will be able to see each other beyond race, class, and culture?

There is a question I want to ask today. I’m asking this question in the spirit of thinking outside of the box in order to open doors to new possibilities. These possibilities may be realistic or unrealistic. I also want to make it clear that there is no finger pointing here. I pose this question with the hope that it opens a discussion about how we can build a community for women based upon us all taking a deeper interest in one another. An interest where skin color, culture, and social class does not create barriers in sharing the commonality of being… women. With love and respect to all parties involved, my question is this…if we ask our white sisters, who tend to be the guardians of the covers of mainstream magazines, to consider women of color to grace these covers, should we not offer the same consideration to white women to grace our covers? Should women extend their power to other women simply because they are women? To my women of color, I am clear we must have something of our own, but is it possible to share in the spirit in which we ask our white sisters to share with us? I don’t know the answer and would love to hear your thoughts.

The question has sparked some controversy amongst Pinkett-Smith’s followers. At the time this story was published the Facebook discussion included close to two-thousand comments with mixed feelings.

The opinions varied but the commenters who think ethnic magazines should keep their covers ethnic were more forthcoming with their thoughts. Check out some of the responses below.

Welcome Jay Smooth to the Colorlines.com Team!

Welcome Jay Smooth to the Colorlines.com Team!

Colorlines.com is excited to announce that Jay Smooth is the newest addition to our crew.

As the founder of WBAI Radio’s groundbreaking “Underground Railroad” hip-hop show, an acclaimed cultural commentator through his “Ill Doctrine” video series, and many high-profile media appearances on NPR, CNN, MSNBC, TEDx, and others, Jay has been one of the most accessible voices for 20 years on race and culture.

“We’re so excited to welcome Jay to the team,” said Rinku Sen, executive director of the Applied Research Center (ARC) and Colorlines.com’s publisher. “His skill in connecting individual lived experience to systems and rules is an enormous asset to our work.”

We are thrilled to welcome him as ARC’s Video and Multimedia Producer, to develop our multimedia strategies and produce exciting work to engage people on racial justice issues.

At Colorlines, we have sought to elevate stories and voices that have been left out (“Do Cops Make Schools Safe? Students Answer”), cover lifestyle and culture (“Los Fixie Riders”), and use video reporting to cover and break news stories (“Watch Colorado Poll Watcher Report ‘High Concentration of People of Color’”). We can’t wait to get started on new projects with Jay!

Alabama Republican Congressman Says Obama ‘Overusing’ ICE Detention

Alabama Republican Congressman Says Obama 'Overusing' ICE Detention

In a heated House Judiciary Committee hearing this afternoon, Alabama Republican Rep. Spencer Bachus, a conservative, said that the Obama administration is detaining too many people in immigration detention.

“Are you overusing detention?” Bachus asked Immigration and Customs Enforcement chief John Morton. Bachus said under the Obama administration, “It looks to me maybe there’s an overuse of detention by this administration.”

ICE holds over 400,000 people in detention annually.

Morton was called before the committee to answer questions on recent news that ICE opened detention doors for over 2000 immigrant detainees. Most are now tracked through supervised release programs.

House Judiciary Committee chair Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-VA), and the chair of the immigration subcommittee, Rep. Trey Gawdy (R-SC), challenged Morton to defend the recent detainee releases. At points in questioning, Gawdy raised his voice in apparent anger.

In a statement earlier this month, Gawdy said, “Considering the government’s primary function is public safety, it is very concerning to me that the Department of Homeland Security had plans to reduce spending by releasing thousands of illegal immigrants and criminal aliens.”

But Bachus, who spared briefly with Goodlatte during the hearing today, sounded remarkably like an immigrant rights advocate. Rights groups have long said that the federal government overuses immigration detention for people who could be released during their deportation proceedings.

“Something more important than budgets is the immigration detention policy,” Bachus said. “How many of them could be released to family members?”

“Why are they detained at all?” Bachus asked.

Morton repeated today that the detainee release was a decision by ICE officials in response to looming budget cuts because of the government sequester. Republicans including Gawdy say they don’t beleive him and argue that the release appears to have been a political ploy by the Obama administration to scare lawmakers into avoiding the sequester.

“It does look like the decision to release detainees was a political determination and not a monetary determination,” Rep. Gawdy said.

This post has been updated since publication

Poll Finds 63 Percent of Latino Voters Personally Know an Undocumented Immigrant

latino-voters-graphic-undocumented.png

Immigration reform is once again the number one political issue for Latino voters.

Latino Decisions released new polling data [PDF] today that found 58 percent of Latino registered voters now cite immigration reform as the top priority for Congress and the President, up from 35 percent in November 2012.

On the Latino Decisions blog, Matt Barreto summarized the polls findings and explained why immigration reform is back on top as the number one issue for Latinos voters:

One reason is that 63% of Latino voters say they personally know someone who is an undocumented immigrant, either a member of their family or a close personal friend. Further, 39% of Latino voters say they personally know someone, or a family who has faced deportation or detention for immigration reasons, and increase of 14 points over 2011, when 25% of Latino voters said they personally knew someone who had faced deportation or detention. It is clear that the immigration reform issue is one that Latinos agree with in principle, but that Latino voters are also directly connected to, and intertwined with the undocumented immigrant population in the United States. Finally, the poll asked Latino voters if they knew any young immigrants who had applied for the 2012 “deferred action” program that would allow DREAM Act-eligible immigrants to live in the U.S. and attend college with temporary visas. More than one in five Latino voters (22%) knows someone who has already applied for deferred action, with 18% saying they know someone who is eligible, but not yet applied.

“There is no segmenting Latinos into those for whom immigration is important and those who have little interest. Immigration reform is a highly salients issue across all generations, national origin groups and even political parties. Latino voters are asking for comprehensive immigration reform. Period,” said Gary Segura, co-founder of Latino Decisions in a statement.

Latino Decisions interviewed 800 Latino registered voters via landline and mobile phone, across all 50 states, from February 15-26, 2013. Interviews were conducted in English or Spanish.

The poll was sponsored by America’s Voice, National Council of La Raza, and SEIU.

Mee Moua Politely Schools GOP Senator Jeff Sessions on Separating Families

Mee Moua Politely Schools GOP Senator Jeff Sessions on Separating Families

At a Senate Judiciary hearing on how comprehensive immigration reform should address the needs of women and families on Monday Senator Jeff Sessions (R-AL) argued family reunification policies should be cut out of the immigration system.

Immigration reform advocates at the hearing defended programs allowing immigrants to bring extended family members to the U.S., including adult siblings or adult children.

“Children will always be our children whether they’re over the age of 21 or not,” said Mee Moua, chief executive of the Asian American Justice Center and one of the witnesses at Monday’s hearing. “For us to start thinking about which members of our family we’re going to trade away is a dramatic and drastic departure from the core values of what has been driving this country since the founding days.”

At one point during the hearing Moua took the opportunity to give Sessions a history lesson and a piece of her mind.

Transcript of the exchange is below:

MOUA: Senator Sessions, coming from the Asian American community when in the 1880s we were the first people to be excluded explicitly by the United States immigration policy I’m well aware that this country has never hesitated in the way that it chooses to exercise its authority to permit people to either enter or depart its borders. And we know that the Asian American community in particular didn’t get to enjoy the benefit of immigration to this country until the 1960s when those restrictive policies were lifted. So I know very well and very aware that…

SESSIONS: Well let me just say, it seems to me. It’s perfectly logical to think there are two individuals, let’s say in a good friendly country like Honduras. One is a valedictorian of his class, has two years of college, learned English and very much has a vision to come to the United States and the other one has dropped out of high school, has minimum skills. Both are 20 years of age and that latter person has a brother here. What would be in the interest of the United States? …

MOUA: Senator I think that under your scenario people can conclude about which is in the best interest of the United States. I think the more realistic scenario is that in the second situation that individual will be female, would not have been permitted to get an education and if we would create a system where there would be some kind of preference given to say education, or some other kind of metrics, I think that it would truly disadvantage specifically women and their opportunity to come into this country.

On January 29, 2002, Mee Moua received over 51 percent of the votes in a four-way race to win the special election in Senate District 67 on St. Paul, Minnesota’s east side, becoming the first Hmong elected official in the United States.

(h/t Think Progress via Angry Asian Man)

Meet David Floyd, the Man At the Center of the NYPD’s Stop-and-Frisk Trial

Meet David Floyd, the Man At the Center of the NYPD's Stop-and-Frisk Trial

On the first day of testimony in the Stop-and-Frisk trial, lead plaintiff David Floyd took the stand and testified that he’d been humiliated by the NYPD when they stopped him twice near his Bronx home.

Here’s more from the Huffington Post:

The Center for Constitutional Rights, a non-profit civil rights legal group, is bringing the lawsuit, Floyd v. City of New York, against the city, alleging stop and frisk as it is currently being practiced violates constitutional protections against racial discrimination and unreasonable search.

…Floyd, who is black, is currently studying to become a doctor. He testified for more than an hour on Monday, wearing a dress shirt and tie, and recalled in a strong, even voice two police stops near his house.

In April 2007, Floyd said, he was stopped by three police officers who demanded his identification and then proceeded to pat him down from his groin to his ankle on both legs. Despite telling the officers that he did not consent to the search they went ahead, one using a finger to search in Floyd’s pants.

The entire stop lasted no more than 10 minutes, but for Floyd it was a jarring experience. He said he felt “frustrated, humiliated — because it was on my block where I live, and I wasn’t doing anything.” All he could think, he said, was that he wanted to get back to the safety of his home.

Floyd’s story is an interesting one, but it’s also a common one. Read more about his first day of testimony over at The Huffington Post.

NYPD Officer Says ‘There Are Definitely Quotas’ for Arrests

NYPD Officer Says 'There Are Definitely Quotas' for Arrests

This spells trouble for the outgoing administration of New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg:

Audio obtained by The Nation confirms an instance of New York City’s police union cooperating with the NYPD in setting arrest quotas for the department’s officers. According to some officers and critics of quotas, the practice has played a direct role in increasing the number of stop-and-frisk encounters since Mayor Michael Bloomberg came to office. Patrolmen who spoke to The Nation explained that the pressure from superiors to meet quota goals has caused some officers to seek out or even manufacture arrests to avoid department retaliation.

Watch the video above for details. And read more over at The Nation.

New Report Lays Out a Blueprint for Grassroots Communication Strategies

New Report Lays Out a Blueprint for Grassroots Communication Strategies

These days, there are lots of ways to tell a story. You’ve got traditional media outlets, blogs, Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube. But what happens when you don’t just want to tell a story, but you want to change it? That’s a big concern among today’s community organizers. And today, a coalition of grassroots communication strategists released a new report that offers insight into how some groups are making it work.

The report is called “Echoing Justice: Communications Strategies for Community Organizing in the 21st Century” and its key finding is that grassroots groups do a lot with just few resources to change the framing of stories. The report aims to lay out a path that will help more groups meaningfully create and interrupt the media messages that we hear about issues of racial justice. The coalition of groups who wrote the report include the Center for Media Justice, the Praxis Project, the Center for Story-Based Strategy, the Movement Strategy Center, and others.

In total, 56 grassroots organizations participated in a survey that found more than one third of them spend less than $10,000 annually on communications. Eighty percent of respondents said that their communications staff has a year or less of experience of training. That means that there’s lots of good work going on around issues of race, poverty, and gender equity, but comparatively few people hear about it. Compare those numbers to the seasoned right wing political operatives who spend millions to spread conservative messages. It’s a lopsided game.

The good news is that when grassroots groups make an impact, they do so in a big way. Like many big cities, Miami’s low income resident have felt the sting of a steady rise in gentrification over the past several years. In 2006, the Miami Workers Center was able to help change the perception of the city’s low-income residents by building a large and powerful community-based coalition that caught the eye of an investigative reporter at The Miami Herald. That collaboration ultimately led to the Pulitzer Prize-winning investigation “House of Lies”, in which that exposed a series of ill-fated government housing deals.

Read the whole report over at the Center for Media Justice’s website.

Touré Makes the Case Against Calling Immigrants ‘Illegals’ on MSNBC

Touré Makes the Case Against Calling Immigrants 'Illegals' on MSNBC

Visit NBCNews.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

On Monday writer and cultural critic Touré made a case to his co-anchors on NBC News’ “The Cycle” to stop labeling undocumented immigrants as “illegal immigrants.”

“We don’t say treat Martha as an illegal business woman,” Touré said after pointing out being in the country without proper authorization is a civil infraction and not a crime. His co-hosts conservative commentator S.E. Cupp, Salon writer Steve Kornacki and former Congressional candidate Krystal Ball all remained silent and quickly pivoted away from the i-word discussion.

Touré’s comments came in a segment about the Supreme Court hearing arguments over Arizona’s proposition 200, the 2004 measure that required proof of citizenship to vote.

Arizona Wants Birth Certificate to Vote, But Not For Weapons Permit

Arizona Wants Birth Certificate to Vote, But Not For Weapons Permit

Should you have to show your birth certificate in order to register to vote? Yesterday, the U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments over an Arizona state law passed in 2004 that requires proof of citizenship documents to determine voter registration legitimacy. The federal National Voter Registration Act says we only need to swear by affidavit that we are citizens, under penalty of perjury, to register to vote. But Arizona added the birth certificate test, mainly under the belief that unnaturalized immigrants were illegally registering and voting, despite any significant evidence supporting this. Instead, voting rights advocates say the law has made voting tougher for Latino- and Native Americans.

At issue is whether state voting laws can trump federal laws. If Arizona has its way, then copycat “proof of citizenship” laws could surface across the nation, creating unnecessary, additional burdens for voters, specifically people of color.

But on Monday, Justice Antonin Scalia — who last month pejoratively referred to the Voting Rights Act as a “racial entitlement” — said he saw nothing wrong with Arizona’s law. Ryan Reilly at Huffington Post said Scalia mocked the existing federal perjury penalty saying, “So it’s under oath, big deal. I suppose if you’re willing to violate the voting laws you’re willing to violate the perjury laws.”

Despite some waffling on the matter by Justice Anthony Kennedy, many voting rights advocates came out convinced that the Supreme Court would strike down Arizona’s law. Constitutional Accountability Center President Doug Kendall said:

“A majority of the Court, including Justice Kennedy, appeared to recognize that the entire point of having a single Federal form was to streamline the voter registration process, and that approving Arizona’s law would pave the way for a patchwork of 50 state forms. We are optimistic that that recognition will lead the Court to strike down Arizona’s law and respect Congress’ power to protect the right to vote in Federal elections.”

It should be noted that Arizona is where the extreme nativist Kris Kobach has pushed anti-immigrant laws like SB 1070 making life harder for people of color.

Also note, that while Arizona wants you to show a birth certificate to register vote, they don’t care much about if you have one if you want to register for a [concealed weapons permit] (http://www.azdps.gov/Services/Concealed_Weapons/Permits/Obtain/) — this in the land where former Congress member Gabby Giffords was shot along with thirteen others, six of whom were killed.

TAGS: Arizona

Meet (and Mourn) Wan Joon Kim, an Unlikely Godfather of Gangsta Rap

Meet (and Mourn) Wan Joon Kim, an Unlikely Godfather of Gangsta Rap

When you think about gangsta rap, plenty of names come to mind. NWA. Dre. Snoop. But here’s one that you probably don’t come up with right away: Wan Joon Kim, the longtime proprietor of the Compton Swap Meet. Kim died last week at the age of 79, but he played an important role in the distribution of early gangsta rap.

Wan Joon Kim opened a swap meet stall in the now-famous suburb of Compton in the mid-1980s. He sold some of the earliest work of those stars at a time when few knew them and fewer stores would sell their music.

From NPR:

…Wan Joon Kim didn’t intend to become the godfather of gangsta rap; in the beginning, his son Kirk says, he just wanted to support his family. Kim escaped North Korea on a fishing boat, and the family eventually wound up in the U.S. in 1976. Kirk Kim says at first his parents sold a random assortment of stuff at swap meets to make ends meet. Then: “Somebody was selling hip-hop CDs at one of these swap meets. My dad saw an opportunity. He saw these big lines in front of there, and he said, ‘I’m gonna try this.’ “

Last year, the Los Angeles times noted the significance of Kim’s place in hip-hop history given the racial hostilities that led up to and were inflamed by the L.A. uprisings of 1992. Kim says that his strategy was simple: just be nice. “Most of my customers were the gang-bangers and drug dealers, so I built a friendship with them,” Kim told the paper.

Rapper Bobby Wilson put it this way: “[Kim’s] in the heart of Compton.”

TAGS: Compton Music Rap

Obama’s New Labor Nominee Gave Him a Long Thank You en Español

Obama's New Labor Nominee Gave Him a Long Thank You en Español

At a news conference on Monday President Obama announced he would nominate Thomas E. Perez, who heads the Civil Rights Division at the Justice Department, to be the next secretary of labor.

“Thomas Perez reminds us if you’re willing to work hard you can find success in America,” Obama said at the conference held in the East Room.

Perez, 51, the son of Dominican immigrants thanked the president in Spanish and English early in his address.

“Muchisimas gracias Señor Presidente,” Perez said. He continued to speak in Spanishand told the president he was grateful for “this great honor of being nominated to serve in this position.” 

Labor unions and immigrant advocates applauded Perez’s nomination.

James P. Hoffa, general president of the Teamsters, told the NY Times that Perez was “the right choice” because of his history of advocacy. “In these difficult economic times,” Hoffa said, “workers need a fighter at the Labor Department who will stand up for them, and they are getting just that with Thomas Perez.”

The president of The American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO), the largest federation of unions in the United States, echoed Hoffa’s statements.

“Throughout his career, Perez has fought to level the playing field and create opportunities for working people, whether in the workplace, the marketplace or the voting booth,” AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka said in a statement.

Immigrant worker advocates also applauded the decision.

“The appointment of Thomas Perez as head of the Department of Labor brings immigrants one step closer to equal rights at the workplace. It is a signal of the need for full labor protections within immigration reform,” Pablo Alvarado, Executive Director of the National Day Laborer Organizing Network said in a statement.

“Perez would be a strong choice to lead the Department. He brings with him his local experience in labor and a deep understanding from his time on the board of Casa de Maryland.”

Alvarado was referencing CASA of Maryland, the Latino and immigration advocacy-and-assistance organization founded “in response to the human needs of the thousands of Central Americans arriving to the D.C. area after fleeing wars and civil strife in their countries of origin.”

“His experience with the civil rights division of the Department of Justice is good grounding to carry on the legacy of former Secretary Hilda Solis. Solis truly made the Department of Labor serve to advance the lives of workers and improve the status of low-wage and immigrant workers,” Alvarado went on to say.

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