True the Vote is Reloaded, Still Firing Blanks on Voter Fraud

After most of True the Vote’s plans last year were ruined by exposure by the press, some may have thought they might crawl away into a corner and rethink this whole voter harassment and suppression thing. Nope. True the Vote is back in 2013 reloaded with new offshoots and new plans — even as the old plans continue proving to be misfires. Last year, they launched “Voto Honesto,” their “Hispanic initiative” on electoral reform, pushing for voter ID and proof of citizenship laws to vote and register. This year they’ve jumped off with two new groups:

  • True the Vote NOW: A new initiative described as: “We promote ideas that actively protect the rights of legitimate voters, regardless of their political party affiliation.” Basically, it’s a lobbying arm that sends people to the Texas legislature to push for True the Vote’s electoral reform laws. Right now, they are running with the “13 for ‘13 Legislative Recommendations,” which is modeled after the 22 legislative recommendations True the Vote sent to the Texas legislature in 2011. Six of those 22 became law in Texas, including a photo voter ID law — the strictest in the nation — that was eventually ruled a violation of the Voting Rights Act by a federal court. In their new “13 for ‘13” package they’ve doubled-down, this time not only asking for proof of citizenship for people to register but attacking early voting. They are asking Texas legislators to trim the early voting period, allow video cameras to record and live-stream the early voting sign-in areas and voting lines, and to give early voting clerks the power to dismiss “non-performing poll workers.” We’ll be tracking to see how many of these become law.

  • Citizen Patriot Response: Remember those videos where a guy dressed like a pimp and a woman dressed like a prostitute pretended to go into ACORN (RIP) offices and ask for public benefits? The guy was James O’Keefe. The woman was Hannah Giles. They’ve since split up, but Giles is now working with True the Vote founder Catherine Engelbrecht to form Citizen Patriot Response, an outfit that portends to help promote the charitable activities of Tea Party and “liberty-minded” groups — basically a PR group to help reverse the negative tarnish those groups have earned for their real-life, less-than-charitable activities. It shouldn’t be overlooked that Engelbrecht and Giles have also partnered with Brandon Darby, who was once known as a “radical, left-wing” activist instrumental best known for his humanitarian efforts in New Orleans after Katrina until it was revealed that he was an FBI informant responsible for the entrapment and arrests of environmental and political activists. We’ll be tracking them as well.

Watch Darby talk about his conversion from left to right here:

Finally, the many claims of voter fraud by True the Vote have been proven false calls all too frequently. Their poor record on that continues. Yesterday, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement closed out several investigations into voter fraud in the state finding no evidence of it occurring. One of those cases came from True the Vote who alleged last year that several dozen people had been voting in both Florida and Rhode Island. The Florida law department found that to be untrue. As reported in Florida’s News Herald yesterday:

Another recent case that has been closed involved whether one voter had cast ballots in both Florida and Rhode Island. The case was initiated by the group called True the Vote, which initially said 36 people had voted in Florida and other states.

FDLE closed the case after state election officials were told by Rhode Island authorities that the name of the voter there was probably wrong and was listed incorrectly because of a poll worker’s error.

Photo: Mary J. Blige and Angela Bassett as Coretta Scott King and Betty Shabazz

Photo: Mary J. Blige and Angela Bassett as Coretta Scott King and Betty Shabazz

Yesterday Lifetime released an image of Angela Bassett and Mary J. Blige in the upcoming “Betty & Coretta”.

The film, which premieres Saturday, February 2, will tell the dual real-life stories of Coretta Scott King (Bassett) and Dr. Betty Shabazz (Blige) after their husbands’ tragic assassinations.

DC Mayor Says Redskins Football Team Must Consider a Name Change to Return to Town

DC Mayor Says Redskins Football Team Must Consider a Name Change to Return to Town

On Monday the D.C. Council announced it wanted to bring the team back to Washington. But mayor Vincent Gray said on Wednesday the team’s nickname and mascot is unacceptable and that there needs to be a discussion before a move can even be considered.

“I think that if they get serious with the team coming back to Washington, there’s no doubt there’s going to have to be a discussion about that,” Gray said after a news conference, according to the Washington Post, “and of course the team is going to have to work with us around that issue.”

“I think it has become a lightning rod, and I would be love to be able to sit down with the team … and see if a change should be made,” he said. “There’s a precedent for this, and I think there needs to be a dispassionate discussion about this, and do the right thing.”

The Washington Post also points out the Redskins was one of the last teams to hire a black player.

“Recall that the Redskins, under avowed racist owner George Preston Marshall, did not field a black player until 1962, after Interior Secretary Stewart Udall threatened to deny the team the use of what would later be named RFK Stadium unless it integrate,” Mike DeBonis wrote for WaPo.

The Redkins played in D.C. from 1937 to ‘97 when they moved to Landover, Md.

Watch DREAMer’s Personal Plea Shortly After Mother Taken in ICE Raid

Watch DREAMer's Personal Plea Shortly After Mother Taken in ICE Raid

Erika Andiola’s mother and brother were taken from her Arizona home in a raid last night. She recorded this video shortly after.

Maria Arreola, and her brother, Heriberto Andiola Arreola, were taken into immigration custody, and while Andiola’s brother was released, her mother faced imminent deportation. But Andiola herself is not just any young Latina. She’s a well-known undocumented immigrant activist from Arizona who has fought against SB 1070 and anti-immigrant state laws, and advocated for the DREAM Act and humane immigration policy. She is a co-founder of the Arizona Dream Act Coalition and served on the board of United We Dream, a national network of immigrant youth organizations who have successfully defended undocumented immigrants from deportation with public campaigns.

Andiola’s family is but just one of the hundreds of thousands that have been affected by detention and deportation. Just last year alone, the Obama administration deported 409,846 immigrants in 2012, a new record even for Obama, who’s overseen the most aggressive deportation record of any administration.

The immigrant rights world has risen up swiftly to call for justice for Andiola’s family. Stay with for more information.

What the Treasury Really Needs is People Power, Not Just Jack Lew

What the Treasury Really Needs is People Power, Not Just Jack Lew

By Washington standards, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with Jack Lew. Lew was announced this morning as Treasury Secretary-designate by President Obama.

If confirmed, he will replace Tim Geithner. Geithner is the present embattled leader at Treasury who many argue was consistently a day late and a dollar short in addressing the needs of average Americans during the country’s worst financial crisis in eight decades. During Geithner’s tenure, black and Latino wealth fell to the lowest level ever recorded.

And that’s the problem. Lew’s part of Washington’s failed consensus on the budget and financial issues. Their fundamentally unfair approach holds that working class Americans should bear a disproportionate share of fixing the nation’s financial woes. This despite the fact that, as I’ve written before, the deficit was caused almost entirely by tax cuts which disproportionately benefited the rich.

To be frank about it, the government needs more revenue to get the economy going again and to provide economic opportunity for everyone through smart investments in transportation, housing, education, and scientific research. But that’s not what’s on offer from either the White House nor Capitol Hill right now. Spending cuts have outnumbered tax increases by almost 3-to-1 in budget agreements over the past year.

Don’t get it twisted. No one can argue that Lew isn’t infinitely qualified for the job. His A1 resume spans both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue. Lew was the federal government’s budget director not once but twice. He’s hardworking and decent beyond belief. But Lew’s not what we need right now. As Obama’s current Chief of Staff, he helped broker the “fiscal cliff” deal which could actually harden existing inequities.

Rather than a product of the DC machine, Americans require a Treasury Secretary who will put real people first and fight for economic opportunity despite calls for austerity. Given Lew’s nomination, we’re not likely to get it.

MSNBC’s Melissa Harris-Perry Talks Immigration Reform with Seth Freed Wessler’s investigative reporter Seth Freed Wessler sat down with Melissa Harris-Perry to discuss the current state of immigration reform.

Wessler told Harris-Perry “the pressure is really on” for comprehensive immigration reform.

Wessler also reflected on his encounters with dozens of immigrant parents in U.S. detention centers. “These parents…are losing touch with their kids…their kids are being taken out of these families and are stuck in foster homes.”

The federal government conducted more than 200,000 deportations of parents who said their children are U.S. citizens in a timespan of just over two years, according to new data obtained by The figures represent the longest view to date of the scale of parental deportation.

Seven (Yes, 7!) Slave-Themed Films Coming in 2013


2013 is going to be the year of the slave-theme movies.

Shadow & Act’s Tambay A. Obenson compiled a list of all the slave-themed films currently in production and found there’s seven films (that he knows of) in the works that will be released in 2013.

Obenson has dubbed the current Hollywood trend  the “slave movie fever” and says the 150 year anniversary of the Civil War may be why all the studios are flocking to the slave genre.

Steve McQueen’s “Twelve Years A Slave,” an adaptation of Solomon Northup’s autobiography, is perhaps getting the most attention. The film about a man living in New York during the mid-1800s that’s kidnapped and sold into slavery in the south has a respected black director and a spectacular cast. The cast includes Quvenzhané Wallis, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Michael Fassbender, Ruth Negga, Adepero Oduye, Alfre Woodard, Lupita Nyong’o, Brad Pitt and Michael K. Williams.

Another film, “Big Ben Jones,” will star former NFL linebacker Jeremiah Trotter as an escaped slave. Cuba Gooding Jr. also stars in “Something Whispered,” and Danny Glover co-stars in the upcoming slave uprising film, “Tula, The Revolt.”

Feel overwhelmed? 

The good news is we may actually see a black actor or director win an Oscar in 2014. 

McQueen has said before that he “could never make American movies - they like happy endings.” (He’s also not afraid to talk about the politics of race.) “Twelve Years A Slave” is expected to come with a wildly different take on the subject compared to ‘Django.’ 

Visit “Shadow & Act” to read about the rest of the films.

Virginia Governor Says Restore Voting Rights for Nonviolent Felon Offenders

Virginia Governor Says Restore Voting Rights for Nonviolent Felon Offenders

[UPDATED 5:03 p.m.: This post was updated with a correction that changes the number of states that permanently bars felony offenders from voting from three, which I originally listed by error, to four. It also adds information from the NAACP on the number of people in Virginia whose vote was restored by Gov. Bob McDonnell to date — B. Mock]

Yesterday, Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell announced in his 2013 State of the Commonwealth speech that he supports Republican-sponsored bills to automatically restore civil rights — including voting rights — for nonviolent felony offenders. Virginia is one of four states that permanently bars felony offenders from voting or running for office even after they’ve already served time in prison and any probation/parole sentence. The governor alone can restore those rights and only after a cumbersome process that includes a two-year wait for nonviolent offenders or a five-year wait for violent offenders. There are roughly 350,000 Virginians, most of then African Americans, disenfranchised due to this law.

Gov. McDonnell is now saying the wait is over for nonviolent offenders — or at least that it should be. Automatic rights restoration will only happen with an amendment to the state’s constitution, which can only be done by the state legislature. According to The Washington Post, Republicans in that legislature gave Gov. McDonnell’s appeal a lukewarm response, and those who head the committees responsible for creating such legislation oppose automatic rights restoration.

However, McDonnell was clear about his support for it, saying:

“While we have significantly improved and fast-tracked the restoration of civil rights process, it’s still an executive process. As a nation that believes in redemption and second chances, we must provide a clear path for willing individuals to be productive members of society once they have served their sentences and paid their fines and restitution. It is time for Virginia to join most of the other states and make the restoration of civil rights an automatic process for non-violent offenders.”

Civil rights advocates for voting rights and erasing felony disenfranchisement welcomed McDonnell’s support.

“The governor has embraced the principle of redemption and the legislature should follow his lead,” stated Judith Browne Dianis, co director of Advancement Project. “Evidence shows that voting reduces the likelihood of recidivism helping to strengthen our families and communities. These are citizens often trying to rebuild their lives. They live and work in our neighborhoods. They pay taxes. They should not be denied the right to raise their voice in the ballot box.”

“Governor McDonnell is again leading the way for states still practicing felony disenfranchisement to eradicate themselves from antiquated and racially biased disenfranchisement laws,” said Benjamin Todd Jealous, President and CEO of the NAACP.  “As we continue to fight these battles on the ground, we hope that legislatures across the United States and especially in Kentucky, Iowa, Florida and Virginia make automatic restoration of rights a permanent fix in their state constitutions.”

According to the NAACP, McDonnell has restored the voting rights of 4,423 people to date, which is officially more than the number of people whose rights were restored under the previous governor Timothy Kaine, who currently represents Virginia in the U.S. Senate. McDonnell is in the last year of his term as governor of Virginia. Governors are limited to one term in the state.

Oscar Disaster: ‘Django’ Costume Designer Revealed in Glitch Didn’t Get a Nomination

Oscar Disaster: 'Django' Costume Designer Revealed in Glitch Didn't Get a Nomination

Earlier this week I wrote about an glitch that revealed a page announcing the ‘Djanco Unchained’ costume designer received an Oscar nomination. The news made international headlines after Vanity Fair published screen shots of the page that announced the nominee one week early.

“This is the third Academy Award nomination for Sharon Davis,” read the page on that featured images the costumes she created for ‘Django Unchained.’

But in the end it turned out Davis did not receive a nomination.

The worst part is Vanity Fair actually contacted Davis when they saw the page to get a statement.

“Oh my gosh! I haven’t even lost weight!” Davis told Vanity fair when the reporter delivered the news. “I never thought about an Oscar in my life. When they called me for Ray, I thought it was a prank call. I said, ‘Am I going to open the door and see one of those fake, standing Oscars?’”

TAGS: Django Oscars

Denzel and Quvenzhané Are The Only Actors of Color Nominated for Oscars

Denzel and Quvenzhané Are The Only Actors of Color Nominated for Oscars

Out of the twenty Oscar nominations for actors announced this morning, only two went to actors of color.

Denzel Washington was nominated in the best performance by an actor in a leading role category for playing the boozy airline pilot in “Flight.”

Quvenzhané Wallis star of the widely acclaimed “Beasts of the Southern Wild,” earned a best-actress Oscar nomination on Thursday morning.

This is Denzel’s sixth career Academy Award nomination, making him the most honored black actor in history, according to TheGrio. He’s won twice before: supporting actor for 1989′s Glory and best actor for his villainous role in 2001′s Training Day.

Neither Jamie Foxx or Kerry Washington were nominated for their roles in “Django Unchained.” However, Christoph Waltz, who played the man who saved them from the slave trade, earned a nomination in the supporting actor category.

A 2012 L.A. Times investigation found The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, the group that votes for the Oscars, is nearly 94 percent white and 77 percent male, Blacks made up about 2 percent of the academy, and Latinos made up less than 2 percent.

Quvenzhané Wallis Is Youngest to Get Oscar Nod for ‘Best Actress’

Quvenzhané Wallis Is Youngest to Get Oscar Nod for 'Best Actress'

Quvenzhané Wallis star of the widely acclaimed “Beasts of the Southern Wild,” earned a best-actress Oscar nomination on Thursday morning.

‘Beasts of the Southern Wild’ was also nominated for the coveted Best Picture award.

Wallis was only 6-years-old when she appeared in her first acting role in “Beasts of the Southern Wild.” She competed with thousands of other elementary-aged girls for the role of Hushpuppy, a child who struggles to come to the gripes with the pending loss of both her father and her coastal home.

The full list of nominees in the performance by an actress in a leading role category are:

  • Jessica Chastain in “Zero Dark Thirty”
  • Jennifer Lawrence in “Silver Linings Playbook”
  • Emmanuelle Riva in “Amour”
  • Quvenzhané Wallis in “Beasts of the Southern Wild”
  • Naomi Watts in “The Impossible”

This year the category includes the youngest nominee and the oldest nominee, as Riva is 85-years-old.

The 85th Academy Awards will air live on February 24.

Labor Secretary Hilda Solis Tells Colleagues She is Resigning

Labor Secretary Hilda Solis Tells Colleagues She is Resigning

Labor Secretary Hilda Solis is leaving her position in President Barack Obama’s cabinet, the Associated Press reports. Solis’ departure will make her the fifth member of the administration to leave the cabinet since the election.

The White House confirmed Solis’ resignation with the following statement:

Over her long career in public service - as an advocate for environmental justice in California, state legislator, member of Congress and Secretary of Labor - Hilda Solis has been a tireless champion for working families. Over the last four years, Secretary Solis has been a critical member of my economic team as we have worked to recover from the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression and strengthen the economy for the middle class. Her efforts have helped train workers for the jobs of the future, protect workers’ health and safety and put millions of Americans back to work. I am grateful to Secretary Solis for her steadfast commitment and service not only to the Administration, but on behalf of the American people. I wish her all the best in her future endeavors.

Solis’ resignation comes at a time when the Obama administration is receiving criticism for appointing less women to his second-term cabinet.

David Weigel at breaks down the demographics of the five cabinet members that have departed:

I’m told that Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis will step aside soon, making her the fifth member of the administration to leave the cabinet (or announce her deparature) since the election. Only two of these departures — Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta and Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner — are white and male. Lisa Jackson, who’s leaving the EPA, is African-American, and Solis was the first Hispanic woman to take charge of Labor.

A NYT analysis published yesterday found Obama has named 33% more men than women as appointees in new cabinet.

From the White House down the ranks, the Obama administration has compiled a broad appointment record that has significantly exceeded the Bush administration in appointing women but has done no better than the Clinton administration, according to an analysis of personnel data by The New York Times. About 43 percent of Mr. Obama’s appointees have been women, about the same proportion as in the Clinton administration, but up from the roughly one-third appointed by George W. Bush.

The New York Times pointed out last month that while it has been 15 years since a white man served as secretary of state or secretary of labor, other positions of power have only gone to men.

Yet no woman or minority member has ever led the Pentagon, the Central Intelligence Agency or the Treasury Department. The White House chief of staff has also always been a white man.

Solis’ resignation is published in its entirety below.

Megdar Evers’ Widow to Deliver Convocation at Inauguration

Megdar Evers' Widow to Deliver Convocation at Inauguration

The widow of slain Civil Rights organizer Medgar Evers will deliver the invocation at President Obama’s inauguration.

Myrlie Evers-Williams is believed to be the first woman, and layperson other than clergy, to deliver the prayer that precedes the ceremonial oath of office, according to The Washington Post.

The president’s inaugural planners also announced Cuban-American Richard Blanco will be the 2013 inaugural poet.

The inaugural ceremony will take place on Jan. 21, Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

‘Cotton Club Parade’ Moves to Broadway

'Cotton Club Parade' Moves to Broadway

After two short runs at New York City Center, “Cotton Club Parade” - a musical revue celebrating the Harlem nightclub during the Duke Ellington years - will move to Broadway this fall, its producers announced on Wednesday.

“Cotton Club Parade,” according to press notes, “celebrates Duke Ellington’s years at the famed Harlem nightclub in the 1920s and ’30s, when the joint was jumping with shows featuring big band swing and blues music. The vibrant production features singers, dancers, and the world renowned Jazz at Lincoln Center All Stars, under the direction of Wynton Marsalis.”

A press release notes theatre, casting, creative team and ticketing information for the Broadway run will be announced at a later time.

ACLU Wins Full Severance Pay for Troops Discharged Under ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’

ACLU Wins Full Severance Pay for Troops Discharged Under 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell'

After two years of ACLU litigation the Pentagon has agreed to pay full separation pay to all service members involuntarily separated from the military after Nov. 10, 2004, because of their sexual orientation.

As the ACLU points out, if you serve six years in the military and are then discharged involuntarily, Congress says you’re entitled to separation pay to help ease your transition to civilian life. But the military had a policy - not required by any law - of cutting that separation pay in half if you’re discharged, even honorably, for “homosexuality.”

Under the terms of the agreement, service members covered by the lawsuit will be contacted by the government and notified that they are eligible for payments, the New York Times reports.

A 2010 Service Women’s Action Network report found women and people of color were disproportionately discharged under don’t ask, don’t tell:

Even though black women comprise less than one percent of servicemembers, they represented 3.3 percent of all don’t ask, don’t tell discharges. Women in general appear to have been targeted under the policy. According to a 2010 Service Women’s Action Network report, women were 15 percent of the armed forces in 2008, but comprised 34 percent of the don’t ask, don’t tell discharges. People of color represented just under 30 percent of active duty personnel, but 45 percent of don’t ask, don’t tell discharges.

The Pentagon discharged more than 14,000 servicemembers under the policy between when it took effect in December 1993 and its official end in September 2011.

Tyler Perry Tops Razzie Nominations For Worst Achievement in Film

Tyler Perry Tops Razzie Nominations For Worst Achievement in Film

On Wednesday, The Razzies committee announced this years nominations for worst achievements in film for the past year.

Director-actor-writer Tyler Perry garnered multiple nominations, including worst actress for his recurring role in drag as Madea in “Madea’s Witness Protection,” worst actor for “Good Deeds” and “Alex Cross,” and worst director for “Madea” and “Good Deeds.”

Rihanna also earned a nomination in the Worst Supporting Actress for her role in “Battleship.”

This year’s winners will be announced on 23 February, the night before the Oscar show. Full list of nominees is below.

Huell Howser Redefined Who Could Become a Californian

Huell Howser Redefined Who Could Become a Californian

Huell Howser, the public television host that passed away earlier this week, took his show “California’s Gold” across the state to highlight different communities. Howser took his camera where no other broadcast television show dared to go and allowed many Californians to see fair representations of themselves on television for the first time.

Howser was born and raised in Tennessee and moved to Los Angeles in 1981. He went on to host several public television programs but he’s most often recognized for hosting the long running television series “California’s Gold.”

Howser took his viewers to parks, museums, libraries, historic landmarks and any other place he found interesting. He would visit these places and conduct informal—but thorough—on the spot interviews. One week you could be watching Howser exploring Frank Sinatra’s house in Palm Springs and the next week he’d be in the Tehachapi Mountains visiting The Cesar Chavez Foundation.

“California’s Gold” ran for 18-seasons and started out the same year that California voters approved Proposition 187, the 1994 anti-immigrant measure introduced in response to the state’s changing demographics.

The show started at a time when the state was divided but “California’s Gold” still went in to a diverse set of communities and highlighted our differences so we could better understand each other and find similar interests.

For example, Howser went to a Low Rider Magazine car convention and showed that brown men with mustaches spoke perfect English, liked vintage cars and that they too were part of California. He also went to other historical monuments and Latino owned business to illustrate Latinos had a rich history in California.

His show wasn’t afraid to highlight the state’s complicated past either.

He visited Angel Island and discussed the detention of Chinese immigrants from 1910-1940. In another episode he explored internment camps that Japanese Americans were forced into during World War II. He visited Camp Pendleton and explored the Vietnamese refugee history there too.

He traveled to the bay area to feature the Oakland Black Cowboy parade and went to South L.A. to visit the Watt’s towers and the African American Firefighter Museum.

Howser even visited affordable housing developments. He traveled to the Signal Hill area in Long Beach to look at Abode Communities’ Las Brisas Community Housing complex.

While this may all sound like it was geared for an older public television audience, the show reached people of all ages, including young people in schools. “California’s Gold” was endorsed by a number of organizations including: the California Teachers Association; the California Federation of Teachers; the California School Boards Association and the California Council for the Social Studies.

In a recent interview with SoCal Connected, producer Phil Noyes recounted a common interaction Howser had with some viewers.

“People would walk up [to Howser] and say ‘you’re not from California, you’re not a Californian, listen to your accent!’,” said Noyes, who worked with Howser for almost 19-years.

“Huell would lean back and say ‘now what’s a Californian accent exactly? Is it the hundreds of thousands of Vietnamese people that live here? Is it the millions of Hispanic and Latino people that live here?’ and you could see them shrinking back in to their shell and his point was well taken, there’s no such thing as a California accent.”

And with his work, Howser help proved that no matter where you came from you could become a Californian too.


Watch Noyes and Howser’s long time cameraman Luis Fuerte retell this storiy on So Cal connected below.

Gay Cuban-American Poet Richard Blanco to Read at Obama’s Inauguration

Gay Cuban-American Poet Richard Blanco to Read at Obama's Inauguration

On Wednesday the president’s inaugural planners announced poet Richard Blanco will be the 2013 inaugural poet. Blanco will become the fifth poet in history to read an official inauguration poem and the first Latino and openly-gay poet to be given the honor.

The biography posted on Blanco’s website identifies him as a Cuban-American. The bio also notes the 44-year-old poet was conceived in Cuba, born in Spain and “imported” to the U.S. when he was only 45-days old. Blanco was raised in Miami by his mother who was a bank teller and his father, a bookkeeper.

President Obama picked Blanco because the poet’s “deeply personal poems are rooted in the idea of what it means to be an American,” according to an inaugural committee spokeswoman who spoke to the New York Times.

Blanco says he feels a connection to the President also.

“Since the beginning of the campaign, I totally related to his life story and the way he speaks of his family, and of course his multicultural background,” Blanco told the NYT. “There has always been a spiritual connection in that sense. I feel in some ways that when I’m writing about my family, I’m writing about him.”

Blanco lives in Bethel, Maine with his partner. He has less than two weeks to compose an original poem for the president’s ceremonial swearing-in on the steps of the Capitol on Jan. 21.

N.Y. Judge Rules Part of ‘Stop-and-Frisk’ is Unconstitutional

N.Y. Judge Rules Part of 'Stop-and-Frisk' is Unconstitutional

New York City’s Stop-and-Frisk program finally had its day in court, and it lost. A federal judge in Manhattan has ordered the New York City Police Department to stop making stops for trespassing outside certain privately owned Bronx buildings without reasonable suspicion. Manhattan Judge Shira Scheindlin said the practice of stopping people suspected of trespassing outside private buildings in the Bronx was unconstitutional.

The New York Times has more details:

The decision appears to be one of the more significant federal rulings during the Bloomberg administration on the Police Department’s use of stop-and-frisk tactics, which the administration has credited with helping lower crime rates in the city.

The case was narrowly focused on police stops in front of the private residential buildings enrolled in the Trespass Affidavit Program in the Bronx. Under that program, which includes several thousand residential buildings, property managers have asked the police to patrol their buildings and to arrest trespassers.

But Judge Shira A. Scheindlin of Federal District Court in Manhattan ruled Tuesday that the Police Department was routinely stopping people outside such buildings without reasonable suspicion that they were trespassing.

“While it may be difficult to say where, precisely, to draw the line between constitutional and unconstitutional police encounters, such a line exists, and the N.Y.P.D. has systematically crossed it when making trespass stops outside TAP buildings in the Bronx,” Judge Scheindlin ruled.

“For those of us who do not fear being stopped as we approach or leave our own homes or those of our friends and families, it is difficult to believe that residents of one of our boroughs live under such a threat. In light of the evidence presented at the hearing, however, I am compelled to conclude that this is the case,” Judge Scheindlin went on to say.

Lawyers from the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) who previously filed a federal class action lawsuit that accused the NYPD of racial profiling praised today’s decision.

“The stops held unconstitutional today - for alleged trespasses outside the plaintiffs’ own apartment buildings in the Bronx - are part of a pattern of unconstitutional NYPD stops in all boroughs that have disrupted the lives of New Yorkers, particularly Black and Latino New Yorkers, for over a decade,” said Vincent Warren, director of CCR said in a statement.

“By consolidating today’s case with the Center for Constitutional Rights’ class action stop-and-frisk lawsuit, Floyd et al. v. City of New York, et al., Judge Scheindlin has correctly recognized that the stops held unconstitutional today are part of a larger problem identified by Floyd,” added Warren.

You can read Judge Scheindlin’s full ruling below.

Low Wage Group Facing Eviction As University of Maryland Expands

Low Wage Group Facing Eviction As University of Maryland Expands

A Baltimore- based group that focuses on organizing low wage workers is losing their community space because of what they call the University of Maryland’s “expanding presence”. The group United Workers fights for fair development in their city and now they’ve become victims of real estate developers themselves.

A letter published on the United Workers website states their landlord has given them a 30-day eviction notice to vacate their office and community space.

An excerpt of the letter published on United Workers’ website that details the sequence of events is below:

The fight for Fair Development hits home. United Workers is being evicted from its office and community space due to the expanding presence of the University of Maryland (UM) in West Baltimore.

Over the last few years, UM has bought much of the property around our current office for its business school and biopark, setting in motion the dominos of displacement that development inevitably triggers. Due to the UM development, our non-profit landlord has been priced out of a number of community spaces and is now forcing us out to make room for its own relocated community programs. While fighting to keep open the precious few community resources, such as rec centers and fire stations, we see this eviction as part of the untold story of human rights abuses systemic across Baltimore. The actions of the University of Maryland have largely gone unnoticed - from demolishing low-income housing in the community to massive land purchases that led to our eviction and, no doubt, the displacement of other community residents and institutions. The result has been increased power for the few, while the livelihood and empowerment of the community has been completely undermined.

Our landlord is imposing an eviction deadline of January 31, 2013. We are attempting to push back and may need your help! We will keep you posted. What we need now are solid leads on new locations for our office and community space. Though this is a frustrating situation, it also allows us an opportunity to find a space that can make us even more accessible to our community. We want to stay in West Baltimore, particularly either in the Hollins Market area, where we are currently located (21223), or in Sandtown Winchester (21217). West Baltimore has been important to our organizing, particularly in recent years. It is where we have fought to keep the rec centers open and succeeded in saving the Truck 10 fire station. We have been working to launch a food distribution program in the neighborhood around our office this month. That being said we will consider any space that is available.

You can continue reading the letter and stay connected to the group by visiting

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