AFL-CIO Praises Obama’s Perez Pick

AFL-CIO Praises Obama's Perez Pick

President Obama announced Monday that he would nominate Thomas E. Perez, who heads the Civil Rights Division at the Justice Department, to be the next secretary of labor. The American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO), the largest federation of unions in the United States, applauded the nomination.

“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.

“At a time when our politics tilts so heavily toward corporations and the very wealthy, our country needs leaders like Tom Perez to champion the cause of ordinary working people. And working families need and deserve a strong advocate as their Secretary of Labor — one who will vigorously enforce job safety standards, wage laws, and anti-discrimination rules, and who will speak out forcefully for working families and their workplace rights, including their right to join together to improve their lives and working conditions.

“President Obama has chosen such an advocate in Tom Perez, and we congratulate him on this nomination.”

Oscar Grant Film ‘Fruitvale’ Gets Official Release Date


“Fruitvale,” written and directed by first-time filmmaker Ryan Coogler will be released on October 18th.

The Sundance grand jury prize for dramatic film winner depicts the final 24 hours in the life of Oscar Grant—the 22-year-old Oakland, Calif., resident shot by police at the Fruitvale subway stop in 2009.

The Weinstein Company acquired the distribution rights for the U.S., Canada, U.K., Australia, and South Africa; and worldwide international sales rights for “Fruitvale.” Deadline Hollywood reports The Weinstein Company agreed to “a commitment for a big theatrical release.

NYPD Issues Memo Ordering Cops to Run Criminal Checks on Domestic Abuse Victims

NYPD Issues Memo Ordering Cops to Run Criminal Checks on Domestic Abuse Victims

The New York Post is reporting that a new memo sent out by the Chief of Detectives Phil Pulaski “requires detectives to look at open warrants, complaint histories and even the driving records” of domestic abuse victims.

The NY post has the details:

The directive tells detectives that when they are investigating cases of domestic violence, they should run a search that cross-references all NYPD databases. 


Beside warrants, a person’s criminal record and history of making criminal complaints should be checked, the directive says.

Gawker published a statement from the NYPD saying they’ll indeed run background checks but that the department has no “must arrest” policy.

“While it is standard practice and policy for detectives to investigate victims’ backgrounds to help lead them to the victims’ assailants, the NYPD - contrary to a published report - has no “must arrest” policy that applies to domestic violence victims. In fact, the discovery of open warrants on domestic violence victims often results in their warrants being vacated,” said NYPD spokesman Paul Browne.

Marilyn Chinitz, a lawyer who represents victims of domestic abuse told The Post the directive could further dissuade victims from reporting abusers.

One in every four women will experience domestic violence in her lifetime, with most cases never reported to the police, according to The Public Policy Office of the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence. [PDF]

Only approximately one quarter of all physical assaults, one fifth of all rapes, and one half of all stalkings perpetuated against females by intimate partners are reported to the police.

“They would not report a crime because they would fear getting locked up. It would empower the perpetrator, and there’s going to be more domestic violence as a consequence, and you’re endangering children,” Chinitz told the Post.

The Fiscal Policy Institute estimates there are about 535,000 unauthorized immigrants living in New York City and the new directive could impact this group especially hard. Abusers often use their partners’ immigration status as a tool of control, according to a Georgetown Journal on Poverty Law and Policy report published in 2000. [PDF] The new NYPD directive could further prevent immigrant women and men from reporting their abusers due to fear of deportation.

Brooklyn Artist Reveals Strategy Behind Anti-Street Harassment Posters

Brooklyn Artist Reveals Strategy Behind Anti-Street Harassment Posters

Tatyana Fazlalizadeh’s posters about street harassment have gotten plenty of attention recently. From the New York Times to Fast Co, Fazlalizadeh’s posters have raised raised eyebrows because they’re so simple and to the point. They feature a simple aesthetic, usually a hand-drawn face of a black woman with notes that ring true for most women who’ve been harassed on the street. Captions have messages like, “My name is not baby”, and “Stop telling women to smile.”

Fast Co.’s Zak Stone caught up with Fazlalizadeh recently and the artist revealed the strategy she’s used to place the ads.

“I’ve put them in places where I’ve personally been harassed, and where I know street harassment is prevalent—which, honestly is everywhere,” she told Stone. “So, I’ve placed them on mailboxes in downtown business areas, on abandoned buildings in residential areas, on spare walls in tourist areas. Anywhere I can.”

See more of Fazlalizadeh’s work at her Tumblr, “Stop Telling Women to Smile.



TAGS: Art Brooklyn

This Is Why It Sucks to Be Stopped and Frisked in New York City

This Is Why It Sucks to Be Stopped and Frisked in New York City

Today marks the beginning of an important trial in New York City to determine the constitutionality of the NYPD’s Stop and Frisk program. Long before the NYPD’s signature program went to trial, men of color have documented their experiences. Here’s what they have to say.

Back in 2010, the team made its way to Brownsville, Brooklyn, a largely black and Latino neighborhood that’s considered by many to be the epicenter of the Stop-and-Frisk program. We heard first hand accounts from young men who said they’d been stopped up to twenty times. The takeaway: it sucks.

While there has been a ton of really important reporting on the impact of Stop-and-Frisk, there wasn’t much documented evidence of what the ordeal entails. That all changed in the fall of 2012 when published exclusive video recorded by a young man named Alvin, who recorded his encounter with cops in Harlem.

The New York Times has had some stellar reporting that’s uncovered important details about Stop-and-Frisk. Reporters there dug through data and came up with hard numbers on how black and Latino young men are disproportionately stopped, and how so few of those stops actually result in finding illegal firearms.

A Tribe Called Red Brings Dubstep Powwows to SXSW

A Tribe Called Red Brings Dubstep Powwows to SXSW

Ottawa based Native Producer/DJ crew A Tribe Called Red will play South by Southwest on Friday and Saturday nights. DJ Shub, DJ NDN and Bear Witness will bring their unique mix of Native powwow chants, hip-hop and dubstep beats to the music festival in Austin, Texas.

The DJ collective’s self-titled 2012 debut album was released for free online without the backing of a record label—the DJ crew says they’re interested in controlling their own image.

“If you’re First Nations in Canada, just the fact that you’re even alive is a political statement,” Ian “DJ NDN” Campeau told last month.

“We’re always being looked at through the lens of colonialism, and we’re never portraying ourselves. We’re starting to take control of that, but it’s really just beginning. Something as simple as being photographed laughing can start to change the way we’re perceived, and challenges the stereotype,” Bear Witness told

If you’re not in Austin you can still enjoy A Tribe Called Red’s music by downloading their latest album for free on

A Tribe Called Red will perform in Austin, Texas on Friday and Saturday night.

Grey_star Friday, March 15

1:00AM - 1:50AM 

Speakeasy 412 Congress Ave

Saturday, March 16 

10:00PM -10:45PM 

Townhouse 303 W 5th St

A Two-Minute Video Explains Why Jail Is Not the Answer for Youth Crime

A Two-Minute Video Explains Why Jail Is Not the Answer for Youth Crime

Jail is no place for kids who make mistakes. So argues Mistakes Kids Make, a new MacArthur Foundation-funded storytelling project, which unveiled a video and new website Thursday as part of an awareness-raising campaign to build momentum to reform the juvenile justice system.

The project engages viewers directly, asking readers: Have you ever gotten high? Shoplifted? Vandalized property or gotten into a fight? They’re not uncommon activities. The problem is that in recent decades, and especially for kids of color in poor communities, these transgressions can become arrestable offenses with lifelong consequences. The well-produced video makes no mention of the racial inequity which is so rampant throughout the juvenile justice system, but it does make a compelling argument for why a juvenile justice system with harsh automatic punishments which treats kids in a one-size-fits-all manner does little good for society. They’re not alone in arguing that youth would be better served with alternatives like counseling, social services, job opportunities and education.

The fact is that juvenile incarceration can very quickly close off children’s futures. It is the most salient predictor of eventual adult incarceration, in fact. And, as the video argues, “66 percent of kids who have been incarcerated never return to school.”

Find out more at and learn about how you can speak up on this issue.

Maryland House of Delegates Votes to End Death Penalty

On March 15, the Maryland House of Delegates decisively passed (82-56) a bill that would replace the death penalty with life without parole, clearing the way for Maryland to become the sixth state in six years to abandon capital punishment. The measure will now go to the governor, who has pledged to sign it.

Maryland becomes the 18th state to abolish the death penalty, and the sixth in six years—and the first state below the Mason-Dixon line to end its capital punishment program.

Among the groups credited with turning the tide this year were the NAACP and the Catholic Church. The NAACP, led by president Ben Jealous, made Maryland repeal a national priority, according to the Baltimore Sun.

“Final vote in the MD House: 82-56. Today we accomplished a milestone that the Maryland NAACP has worked toward for more than a century,” Jealous tweeted shortly after the vote. “Today we finish the mission advanced by Juanita Mitchell and Thurgood Marshall: abolishing the death penalty in MD,” he went on to say.

Five states - Connecticut, Illinois, New Mexico, New York, and New Jersey - have repealed the death penalty since 2007, according to the Death Penalty Information Center. A total of 17 U.S. states have put an end to state-sanctioned executions.

Family of Slain Woman Killed by Chicago Police Officer’s Aimless Shots Wins $4.5 Million

Family of Slain Woman Killed by Chicago Police Officer's Aimless Shots Wins $4.5 Million

Rekia Boyd, 22, died on March 22, 2012, just a day after she was shot in the back of the head by a off-duty Chicago police detective Dante Servin. Boyd’s family filed suit last April alleging that Servin opened fire after having an argumenton with one person among a group of individuals Boyd was standing with in Douglas Park.

On Wednesday, close to a year after her death, the Chicago City Council approved a $4.5 million settlement for Boyd’s family.

WLS-TV has more details: 

Rekia’s Boyd’s family will receive $4.5 million as part of a wrongful death settlement approved by the city council. But justice, they say, will not be served until and unless Detective Servin is criminally charged.

“Superintendent (Garry) McCarthy and State’s Attorney (Anita) Alvarez should accelerate their investigation and bring charges,” said Bishop Tavis Grant. “It’s very clear this woman was murdered.”

Boyd’s family is still troubled that the officer is still with the department. Detective Servin was placed on administrative duty after the shooting where he remains today.

“We didn’t even get a damn I’m sorry yet. We’re still waiting,” Boyd’s brother, Martinez Sutton told WLS-TV.

Kimani Gray’s Mother Speaks: ‘He Was Slaughtered’

On Wednesday, Kimani “Kiki” Gray’s mother spoke at a news conference to talk about her son who died on Saturday night after being shot seven times by two NYPD police officers.

Carol Gray told reporters that her son was slaughtered.

“He was slaughtered,” Gray told a room filled with reporters, the AP reports. “And I want to know why.”

“Today was very hard,” she said, and paused for a long moment before she was able to finish the sentence. “I had to choose the color of the casket that I wanted,” Gray’s mother said at the press conference.

Justice Department Will Investigate Cleveland Police

The Justice Department announced today that it has opened a pattern or practice investigation into use of force by the Cleveland Division of Police (CPD). The investigation will focus on allegations that CPD officers use excessive force, including unreasonable deadly force, and on the adequacy of CPD’s training, supervision, and accountability mechanisms that are essential to effective, constitutional policing.

The Justice Department’s investigation will determine whether CPD officers engage in a pattern or practice of using excessive force in violation of the Constitution and federal law. This investigation will include a comprehensive review of CPD’s policies, procedures, training, accountability systems, and community engagement. As part of this investigation, the Justice Department will reach out to community members and groups for help in identifying potential problems within the police department.

Department officials have met with Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson, CPD Chief Michael McGrath, and Director of Public Safety Martin Flask and will continue to work closely with both the city and CPD as the investigation progresses.

“Police officers across the country are called upon to protect and safeguard members of their communities and are afforded the authority they need to do so, including the authority to use deadly force,” said Thomas E. Perez, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division. “It is absolutely imperative that officers use that authority responsibly and within the boundaries of the law. We are eager to work together with the city of Cleveland and its police department to help ensure that its officers are best serving the individuals they are sworn to protect.”

To learn more about the investigation, click here. Click here to read Assistant Attorney General Tom Perez’s remarks at the

Today Marks the 5 Millionth ‘Stop-And-Frisk’ by NYPD Under Bloomberg, Says NYCLU


The NYPD is set to record its 5 millionth stop-and-frisk encounter under Mayor Bloomberg today, according to an analysis by the New York Civil Liberties Union based on an extrapolation of Police Department data.

“This disturbing milestone is a slap in the face to New Yorkers who cherish the right to walk down the street without being interrogated or even thrown up against the wall by the police,” said NYCLU Executive Director Donna Lieberman in a statement. “The NYPD’s routine abuse of stop-and-frisks is a tremendous waste of police resources, it sows mistrust between officers and the communities they serve, and it routinely violates fundamental rights. A walk to the subway, corner deli or school should not carry the assumption that you will be confronted by police, but that’s the disturbing reality for young men of color in New York City.”

Last year, the NYPD conducted 533,042 stop-and-frisks stops, with 473,300 of the stops, or 89 percent, resulting in no arrest or ticket. And 87 percent of people stopped were black of Latino, according to the NYCLU analysis.

Las Cafeteras Bring Activism and (Good!) Music to SXSW [VIDEO]

Las Cafeteras Bring Activism and (Good!) Music to SXSW [VIDEO] Play

The seven members of Las Cafeteras met in 2005 as students at free Son Jarocho classes at the Eastside Cafe in Los Angeles. The group says they use the folk music from Southern Veracruz, Mexico, as a tool to build autonomy, community and solidarity.

“The most beautiful thing about Las Cafeteras is that we we were organizers way before we were musicians,” band member Hector Flores told on Tuesday. “Really what we’re trying to do, in the legacy of those that came before us, we are trying to spread the songs of peace, love and resistance.”

“We’re honored to share this music and message everywhere we go and now that we’re at South by Southwest, here we go,” he goes on to say.

Las Cafeteras will play at an official SXSW showcase on Friday night.

DATE: Friday, March 15
TIME: 11 to 11:40 p.m.
PLACE: Copa, 217 Congress Ave.

Check out Las Cafeteras “going for the gold” in the “Olympics against oppression” in our exclusive video. For even more information on the band and their movement music, visit their website

Chicago Bulls Star Derrick Rose to Pay For Funeral of Slain 6 Month Old

Chicago Bulls Star Derrick Rose to Pay For Funeral of Slain 6 Month Old

Just when it seemed like the news out of Chicago couldn’t get any more heartbreaking, 6 month old Jonylah Watkins was shot and killed earlier this week. The child was shot multiple times in a car as her father changed her diaper. The girl’s father, Jonathan Watkins, was seriously injured in the shooting. The Chicago Bulls’s superstar point guard Derrick Rose has offered to pay for the baby’s funeral services.

According to NBC Chicago:

The Englewood [Chicago] native - who recently became a father last October when his son, Derrick Rose Jr. was born - has always felt a close connection to the plight of kids in Chicago, as evidenced by his speaking out during the recent Chicago Public School strike, and him shedding tears over the many obstacles that kids face during the launch of his new adidas sneaker, the Rose 3.0 in September.

The funeral is scheduled to be held next week.

TAGS: Chicago guns

NYPD Violence Looms in Third Day of Protests for Kimani Gray [PHOTOS]

NYPD Violence Looms in Third Day of Protests for Kimani Gray [PHOTOS]

Demonstrators gathered for a third straight day last night in East Flatbush, Brooklyn, to remember the life of 16-year-old Kimani Gray, who was shot and killed by New York Police Department officers earlier this week. The candlelight vigil was marked by concerns about violence, as demonstrators clashed with police officers once again. Reports vary on the number and nature of arrests, from a dozen to as many as 50. According to Gothamist:

An NYPD spokesman tells us they’re “still ascertaining and tabulating” the number of people arrested last night, explaining that some were issued summons while others were “sent through the system” (meaning at least one night in the Tombs). We saw at least 13 arrests, and the total number could easily be double that if not more. (The Post hears 50.) Many of those arrests resulted in a teenager on the pavement with three or four cops crowding over them. One particularly tense stand-off between a female demonstrator and a male police officer began with the cop telling her to get on the sidewalk, and her responding, “Or what, you’ll shoot me?” The officer, whose helmet had the number 7987 on it, said, “No, but I’ll slap you.”

According to those who have been touched by police violence in Brooklyn, the anger among protestors is understandable.

“I’m not going to tell people don’t be angry because we’re all angry,” said Franclot Graham, whose teenage son, Ramarley Graham, was shot and killed after police chased him into his Bronx home last year. A New York police officer has been charged with manslaughter in the death. “It’s OK to vent but you have to respect the family’s wishes and be peaceful,” he said.

Gray’s parents have said that they will not speak publicly as long as the violence continues because it will cloud their message. Their son was shot multiple times over the weekend. Witnesses have said that Gray was unarmed, while police contend that the teenager pointed a gun at then and prompted the gunfire.

Violence reportedly broke out at Wednesday night’s candlelight vigil after police detained Gray’s sister.

See more photos from last night’s protest and standoff with cops after the jump.

[This post has been updated since publication]

Study: Harris County, Texas Juries Twice As Likely to Demand Death Penalty for Black Defendants Than White

The U.S. criminal justice system is a reflection of the values and mores of the society it serves. Which is to say, racism is built into its bones. A new study, released today as part of an appeal filed in the case of death row inmate Duane Buck, offers but the latest evidence of that reality. In Harris County, Texas, juries and district attorneys mete out punishment that differs greatly depending on the race of the defendant. The study buttresses Buck’s argument that the death sentence he received in 1997 unconstitutional, and that his own case represents not just a one-time lapse of justice, but a systemic problem.

University of Maryland criminologist Ray Paternoster found in an analysis (PDF) of 504 Harris County cases similar to Buck’s between 1992 and 1999, Harris County prosecutors were more than three times as likely to seek the death penalty when the defendant was black than in cases when the defendant was white. Juries, too, treated white and black defendants differently. In cases similar to Buck’s, juries demanded the death penalty 20 percent of the time for white defendants, but 40 percent of the time when defendants were black. Buck is black.

“We are all at risk when our justice system allows prosecutors and juries to exercise lethal discretion based on race,” Sherrilyn Ifill, Director-Counsel for the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, said in a statement.

North Carolina’s Voter ID Bill Has Finally Arrived

North Carolina's Voter ID Bill Has Finally Arrived

The voter ID bill we reported was heading for North Carolina has finally arrived. State Republicans, who hold a super-majority in the state’s general assembly, announced last week they would move on the legislation they campaigned on to win that majority: Mandating photo ID for voters to cast ballots. Rep. David Lewis, who serves on the Republican National Committee, said they were going to “slow-walk” the legislation to make sure citizens adequately voice their concerns.

That stroll begins today with a public forum on voter ID legislation that starts this afternoon and is expected to go until late in the evening. Civil rights advocates argue that upwards of 500,000 of active North Carolinian voters — a third of whom are African Americans, and two-thirds of whom are women — lack a photo ID.

Rev. William J. Barber, who leads the state NAACP, has been working with a widespread grassroots coalition to organize voters in opposition to the pending law. Today, he said:

“We find ourselves at another Edmund Pettus Bridge today in North Carolina,” said Rev. Barber. “This time, on our long march to a more democratic, more diverse, more humane society, those of us who picked up the baton from Viola Liuzzo, Jimmie Lee Jackson, Andrew Goodman, James Chaney, Mickey Schwerner and the hundreds who died to win the vote and the Voting Rights Act, are facing new barricades trying to block the way to a more perfect union through poll taxes disguised as voter ID, race-based gerrymandering, plans to roll back early voting, same-say registration and Sunday voting and attacks on the Voting Rights Act. This is what hypocrisy looks like. The multi-racial, re-emerging Southern Freedom Movement in North Carolina is what democracy looks like.”

The civil rights coalition says they’ll be pushing for legislation that expands ballot access, making voting an official constitutionally protected right, and making it more difficult for legislation that restricts ballot access to pass.


Activists Launch Campaign Against NYC’s Teen Pregnancy Ads

Activists Launch Campaign Against NYC's Teen Pregnancy Ads

Remember those really problematic teen pregnancy billboards that we talked about last week? The ones that are seemingly trying to shame teens out of getting pregnant? Well, reproductive rights activists in the city have launched a campaign to show that they won’t be bullied.

The New York Coalition for Reproductive Justice launched its “No Stigma! No Shame” campaign this week to get the city to address systemic issues relating to teen pregnancy. In a letter written to community members, the coalition’s lead organizer Jasmine Burnett wrote the following:

We fail as a society when we shame young people instead of teaching them what they need to know to make the best decisions about their lives. For those of us who do direct service, education and advocacy around issues of poverty, access to comprehensive sex education, contraception, family planning and addressing health disparities that have historically impacted communities of color, we are acutely aware of the budget cuts to programs and services that could address and reverse these conditions within our communities. The New York Coalition for Reproductive Justice is holding HRA accountable for reinforcing negative stereotypes about the decision-making ability of young people instead of investing in programs and policies that encourage young people to thrive.

Campaign organizers will hold a meeting on Monday, March 18 at 26 Bleeker Ave at 6pm.


You’ll Love This Inspiring Video From New Orleans School Kids

You'll Love This Inspiring Video From New Orleans School Kids

In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans’s school system was, like everything else in the city, turned upside down. That’s led to the creation of Kids Rethink New Orleans Schools, a youth-based non-profit that believes students should have a say in how their schools are run. This video shows how students in the program imagined what “wellness” meant to their communities. It’s a fun, engaging, and inspiring look at youth leadership. Enjoy!


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Actress Michelle Williams Compares Native Americans to Munchkins

Actress Michelle Williams Compares Native Americans to Munchkins

Actress Michelle Williams was recently cast in “Oz the Great and Powerful.” Should be a career boost, right? Right. Unless you go on the record comparing munchkins in a movie to Native Americans’ fight for life and land in the United States.

“Quadlings, Tinkers and Munchkins didn’t mean much to me; it wasn’t my language,” Williams said of the groups of misfits her character benevolently rules over in an interview with the Los Angeles Times last week. “But when I thought of them as Native Americans trying to inhabit their land or about women getting the right to vote, it made a lot more sense.” fam and The Nation blogger Aura Bogado wrote an open letter to Williams to address the matter. Bogado writes:

Native Americans are not Munchkins, Ms. Williams—and neither were the suffragettes who fought for your right to vote. To even suggest a comparison between imaginary Munchkins in a film and Natives in real life fighting for untold stakes is perilous because it sustains the entirely racist notion that Natives are cute creatures that require safekeeping. Unlike the costume you wore and later discarded, Natives cannot shake off five centuries of injustice after a photo shoot. There is no photo shoot. The struggle for Native land, sovereignty, healthcare, education and even running water remain real yet silent. That silence is only deepened when you make ludicrous statements that liken Natives to Munchkins.

Read more at The Nation.

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