Colorlines

NOW IN RACIAL JUSTICE

Jay Smooth: Leave Michelle Obama Alone With Your Random Opinions

Jay Smooth: Leave Michelle Obama Alone With Your Random Opinions

Jay Smooth, host of New York’s WBAI-FM hip-hop show “Underground Railroad,” has something to say to a writer (who shall remain nameless so we don’t give him anymore clicks) that argued Michelle Obama hurt her husband’s re-election campaign when she said that if she could be anyone in the world she’d want to be Beyoncé.

The video comes via Animal New York who will be premiering two new Jay Smooth videos a week.

Diane Tran, Jailed Texas Honor Student, Turns Down 100K

Diane Tran, Jailed Texas Honor Student, Turns Down 100K

Earlier this week Diane Tran made national headlines after a Texas judge threw 17-year-old teen in jail for missing school. Now she’s in the headlines again for turning down a 100K check that a website started in her name fundraised for her.

ABC News reports:

“We saw her trying to work and trying to go to school and trying to do all these things and then to have the judge put her in jail for missing school just seemed a little harsh,” said Paul Dietzel, who helped raise the money for Diane Tran. HelpDianeTran.com is a project of the Louisiana Children’s Education Alliance.

But Tran didn’t want the money: “There’s some other kid out there struggling more … than me,” she said.

According to KHOU, Precinct 1 Justice of the Peace Lanny Moriarty, at the Montgomery County District Attorney’s request, signed an order that vacates the contempt of court conviction that sent Diane Tran to jail last week.

Dad Who Fears Heights Rides Ferris Wheel for 25 Hours to Raise Money

martinez-family.jpgThe Martinez Family. (Pacific Parks)

On Friday morning Gus Martinez broke the world record for the longest time spent on a Ferris wheel. The Los Angeles police detective rode a Santa Monica, Calif. ferris wheel for 25-hours to raise funds and awareness for Special Olympics Southern California.

Martinez’s 23-year-old son, Jason, is a Special Olympics athlete with Down syndrome.

“I am trying to do this for the organization and to put the word out there to recognize people with disabilities,” Martinez told ABC News. “There is nothing but goodness in them and we need to do whatever is in our means to help them.”

“I cannot deal with heights — absolutely not — but as long as I don’t look down I will be fine, I just look at the view,” Martinez went on to say.

Guinness World Records’ strict guidelines for the “Longest Ride On A Fair Ground / Theme Park Attraction” attempts allow a 5-minute break per hour and the contender can never fall asleep.

“Special Olympics athletes are real athletes… no endorsements… no scholarships… just pure joy to train and compete. Being in this SOSC world of athletes, parents, volunteers… it’s a bit of change from working with the crime-related activity I typically focus on day in and day out,” Martinez said in a press release.

California Senate Votes Against Lowering Penalties for Drug Possession

California Senate Votes Against Lowering Penalties for Drug Possession

On Thursday, California State senators rejected a bill that would have downgraded charges for simple possession of heroin, cocaine and methamphetamine from a felony to a misdemeanor.

Senate Bill 1506, by Sen. Mark Leno, D-San Fransisco, would have changed the penalty for simple possession of drugs under state law from a felony, which is punishable by up to three years behind bars, to a misdemeanor, which is punishable by up to one year behind bars.

The measure garnered only 11 votes, 10 votes short in the 40-member Senate.

SB 1506 would have made the criminal justice system fairer for blacks and Latinos, who are arrested and sentenced disproportionately for low level drug offenses, according to the bill’s co-sponsors who include the ACLU of California, Ella Baker Center for Human Rights, and the California NAACP.

“No data begins to suggest that putting felonies on these mostly young people and incarcerating them for longer periods of time in any way benefits their recovery from drug use,” Leno told the Sacramento Bee.

The Ella Baker Center for Human Rights issued a statement saying the defeat of SB1506 flies in the face of a recent poll finding that 70% of Californians support such a law.

“California Senators had an unprecedented opportunity to create a much needed solution that would save California $200 million per year and make our communities safer. While many state leaders lacked to courage to support reform, Californians continue to watch schools close and vital services end,” read a statement from the Ella Baker Center sent to Colorlines.com.

NYC Budget Cuts Could Displace 10,800 Low-Income Kids

NYC Budget Cuts Could Displace 10,800 Low-Income Kids

The parents of 10,800 New York City kids are in danger of losing their subsidized child care as early as the end of June due to budget cuts and Mayor Michael Bloomberg restructuring the funding system for day care programs. Day care centers in the city’s Latino, Asian and black communities are the hardest hit.

The Epoch Times breaks down the numbers:

Ronald Richter, commissioner of the New York City ACS, explained 6,500 spots in city-funded centers would lose their funding unless a $71.5 million shortfall is filled.

In addition, 4,300 vouchers, which allow parents to receive subsidized child care at non-city funded centers, would also lose their funding unless an $11.8 million shortfall was filled.

When asked what parents are supposed to do with their children, who no longer have subsidized child care, when they go to work, Richter replied, “We, for families who are losing ACS, are going to work with them to try to answer person by person that question. We will obviously, based on what you are looking at, not have a satisfactory answer for each individual and that is painful.”

Washington Heights, which is predominantly black and Latino could be one of the areas hardest hit by the budgets cuts and restructuring, according to the Manhattan Times:

“The 10033 zip code is wiped out,” explained Nereida Hill, Executive Director of the Washington Heights Day Care Center, located on 175th Street between Broadway and St. Nicholas Avenue.

Hill was referring what amounts to an eradication of most of the early childhood education programs in the 10033 zip code.

Hill noted that while the discussion in light of Mayor Bloomberg’s proposed cuts on recent budget cuts has focused on after-school programs, three daycare service providers - the Washington Heights Day Care Center, Quo Vadis Daycare, and La Familia Day Care - may be forced to close.

Tea Partier Rep. Joe Walsh, (R-Ill) Says Democrats Got Blacks ‘Dependent Upon Government’

Tea Partier Rep. Joe Walsh, (R-Ill) Says Democrats Got Blacks 'Dependent Upon Government'

Won’t spend too much time on this story because Illinois Tea Party Rep. Joe Walsh has an ongoing list of racist remarks against everyone who isn’t white.

Just last month Walsh said President Obama only got elected because he’s black, in March he called the President a ‘sexy messiah’, and last year he accused the media of protecting Obama just because he was black.

And now this, from a town hall meeting in Schaumburg, Illinois on Sunday:

“The Democratic Party promises groups of people everything. They want the Hispanic vote, they want Hispanics to be dependent upon government, just like they got African-Americans dependent upon government. That’s their game. Jesse Jackson would be out of work if they weren’t dependent upon government. There’d be no work for him.”

Racist attacks on poor people are nothing new though. Check out Seth Freed Wessler’s analysis piece on the old familiar ploy.

SunTrust Settles Lending Discrimination Suit for $21 Million‎

On Thursday, the Justice Department announced SunTrust Banks Inc.’s mortgage-lending division would pay $21 million to settle charges that borrowers were charged higher fees based on their race or national origin between 2005 and 2009.

The settlement comes after a two-and-a-half-year investigation by the DOJ which included reviewing internal company documents and data on more than 850,000 residential mortgage loans SunTrust Mortgage originated between 2005 and 2009. The DOJ found SunTrust Mortgage’s regional retail offices and national network of mortgage brokers engaged in a pattern or practice of discrimination that increased loan prices for many black and Latino borrowers.

Legal Experts Say Gay Marriage Question Will Hit Supreme Court Before End of 2012

On Thursday, a Boston federal appeals court ruled the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act is unconstitutional because it denies equal benefits to gay and lesbian couples. Legal experts believe the gay marriage question will come to the U.S. Supreme Court sometime before the end of the year.

The unanimous three-judge decision marks the first time an appeals court has declared the federal law unconstitutional.

Florida Judge Blocks Restrictive Voter Registration Law

Florida Judge Blocks Restrictive Voter Registration Law

Today, a federal judge blocked key parts of Florida’s restrictive HB 1355 voting law, which after it was passed last year placed onerous demands on organizations wishing to register voters and stage voter registration drives. The Brennan Center for Justice is calling this a “a breakthrough victory for Florida voters and voting rights advocates nationwide.” The mandates placed upon voter registration organizations were so maddeningly difficult to navigate that it caused The League of Women Voters to shut down their registration operations.

The Florida chapter president Deirdre McNab told Al Sharpton on his show, “These new laws frighten people from registering voters.”

It was League of Women Voters’ lawsuit against former Secretary of State Kurt Browning that brought U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle’s injunction.

Said Judge Hinkle: “Together speech and voting are constitutional rights of special significance; they are the rights most protective of all others, joined in this respect by the ability to vindicate one’s rights in a federal court … [W]hen a plaintiff loses an opportunity to register a voter, the opportunity is gone forever, … And allowing responsible organizations to conduct voter-registration drives — thus making it easier for citizens to register and vote — promotes democracy.”

According to the Brennan Center for Justice (PDF), black and Latino Floridians are more than twice as likely to register to vote through community-based voter registration drives than white voters. According to the New York Times, 81,471 fewer Floridians have registered to vote as of May 2012 than during the same period before the 2008 elections.

The voter registraion restrictions were one of just many problems with Florida’s HB 1355 law. The law also impacts early voting, particularly on the Sunday before Election Day, which for at least the last three major elections, thousands of African American churches used for the “Souls to the Polls” campaign. That campaign was largely instrumental in helping President Obama get elected and bringing record voter turnout among Floridians of color. I hope that Judge Hinkle’s decision today is just the first step in knocking down the many other provisions in this bill that place unfair burdens on people of color from trying to participate in democracy freely and fairly.

For more information on registration numbers in Florida among black and Latino voters, see my previous blog, ”Is Black and Latino Voter Registration Threatened or Not?” Also, here’s a press release from the Brennan Center for Justice and a copy of the judge’s decision (PDF).

Latino or Hispanic? Neither. Try Country of Origin

The Pew Hispanic Center recently published a report that found most immigrants from Spanish-speaking countries don’t embrace the term “Hispanic.” And even fewer prefer the term “Latino.”

Below are key findings as published in the report “When Labels Don’t Fit: Hispanics and Their Views of Identity:”

pew-latino-terms-study.png

When it comes to describing their identity, most Hispanics prefer their family’s country of origin over pan-ethnic terms. Half (51%) say that most often they use their family’s country of origin to describe their identity. That includes such terms as “Mexican” or “Cuban” or “Dominican,” for example. Just one-quarter (24%) say they use the terms “Hispanic” or “Latino” to most often to describe their identity. And 21% say they use the term “American” most often.

“Hispanic” or “Latino”? Most don’t care—but among those who do, “Hispanic” is preferred. Half (51%) say they have no preference for either term. When a preference is expressed, “Hispanic” is preferred over “Latino” by more than a two-to-one margin—33% versus 14%.

Most Hispanics do not see a shared common culture among U.S. Hispanics. Nearly seven-in-ten (69%) say Hispanics in the U.S. have many different cultures, while 29% say Hispanics in the U.S. share a common culture.

Most Hispanics don’t see themselves fitting into the standard racial categories used by the U.S. Census Bureau. When it comes to race, according to the Pew Hispanic survey, half (51%) of Latinos identify their race as “some other race” or volunteer “Hispanic/Latino.” Meanwhile, 36% identify their race as white, and 3% say their race is black.

Latinos are split on whether they see themselves as a typical American. Nearly half (47%) say they are a typical American, while another 47% say they are very different from the typical American. Foreign-born Hispanics are less likely than native-born Hispanics to say they are a typical American—34% versus 66%.

Walmart Backs Away From ALEC’s Quest to Suppress Black Voters

Walmart Backs Away From ALEC's Quest to Suppress Black Voters

Walmart Stores Inc., announced late Wednesday it’s suspending its membership with the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), the right-wing policy group that has worked to suppress the black vote and promoted “Kill at Will” gun laws.

“We feel that the divide between these activities and our purpose as a business has become too wide. To that end, we are suspending our membership in ALEC,” Wal-Mart vice president of public affairs and government relations, Maggie Sans, told Reuters. Sans is stepping down as secretary of ALEC’s corporate board.

“The ColorOfChange community welcomes Wal-Mart’s decision to cut ties with ALEC, the right-wing policy group that has worked to suppress the Black vote. With this move, the company acknowledges that it has heard the voices of everyday people who believe in transparency in government and who see the particular impact ALEC’s model laws have had on Black communities nationwide,” ColorOfChange.org Executive Director Rashad Robinson said in a statement.

ColorOfChange.org launched a campaign in December 2011 to educate corporations about ALEC’s role pushing voter suppression laws nationwide.

Walmart is the 18th group to end ties with ALEC. Last Friday Amazon.com announced they would no longer renew their membership with ALEC and before them other groups including the Coca-Cola Co., Kraft Foods Inc., McDonald’s Corp., and Procter & Gamble Co., withdrew support.

Wal-Mart is the largest private employer of blacks in the U.S., according to ColorOfChange.org.

Federal Agencies Use Finger Prints, DNA to Track Immigrant Communities

Federal Agencies Use Finger Prints, DNA to Track Immigrant Communities

Last week the Immigration Policy Center (IPC) and the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) released a report that outlines the current state of U.S. government collection of biometric information and the problems that could arise from these growing databases of records. According to the report there is a growing push to link biometric collection with immigration enforcement and immigrant communities are already affected by the way this data is collected, stored, and shared.

According to the report “From Fingerprints to DNA: Biometric Data Collection in U.S. Immigrant Communities and Beyond” the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) takes approximately 300,000 fingerprints per day from non-U.S. citizens crossing the border into the United States.

But it’s not just undocumented immigrants who are affected.

More Than Half of Black Male Students in Oakland Schools May Drop Out

More Than Half of Black Male Students in Oakland Schools May Drop Out

More than half of black male students in the Oakland Unified School District are at risk of dropping out, according to new analysis from the community advocacy organization Urban Strategies Council.

From kindergarten through 12th grade, black boys struggled with attendance, suspension, and maintaining a C average, according to the reports.

Joanna Lin at California Watch has more on the reports:

Among African American males who were not on track to graduate, 73 percent in elementary school were chronically absent, missing 10 percent or more of school days for any reason, according to the findings released this week. In middle school, the same percentage had been suspended at least once. Nearly two-thirds of high schoolers were chronically absent and had less than a C average; 41 percent had been suspended at least once.

“We need to understand what’s going on if we’re going to effectively intervene and improve outcomes and graduation and success of African American males,” said Junious Williams, chief executive officer of the council.

The council’s reports on dropout indicators are part of Oakland Unified’s African American Male Achievement Initiative, an effort launched in 2010 to improve academic and social equity for black boys. The findings provide “a sense of urgency” for the district, said Chris Chatmon, executive director of the district’s Office of African American Male Achievement.

Black boys made up 17 percent of Oakland Unified students in 2010-11, but they represented 42 percent of students suspended, according to the report.

Johnny Depp Made Honorary Member of Comanche Nation

johnny-depp-hon2.jpgWhen producer Jerry Bruckheimer released a photo of Johnny Depp in costume as Tonto for this summer’s upcoming blockbuster The Lone Ranger they both received a lot of criticism for what many called an exaggerated and inaccurate rendition of the Comanche Indian he’s suppose to play. But now, as of last week, Depp is an honorary member of the Comanche tribe.

Comanche Nation tribal member LaDonna Harris told CBS she had read in interviews that Depp identified himself as being part Native American, so she thought it would be fun to adopt him - a tradition she says is common in Comanche culture. Harris got the go ahead from her sons and then proceeded to contact Depp through a friend who is working as a cultural consultant on the upcoming film.

On May 16th, the tribal chairman presented Depp with a proclamation at Harris’ Albuquerque home. She said the Comanche adoption tradition means she now considers Depp her son.

Some people are still feeing uneasy about the Depp’s portrayal of an American Indian on film.

“It’s really complicated for me,” Adrienne Keene, a Cherokee writer who blogs under Native Appropriations told E Online. Harris is “very well respected in Indian country. But my reaction is mixed, because I feel like others will say the adoption excuses Johnny from any sort of criticism for his portrayal of Tonto.”

The Comanche Nation is based in Lawton, Okla. About half of its 15,000 members live in southwestern Oklahoma.

Depp identifies in real life as part Cherokee and Creek Indian, based on a Kentucky great-grandmother’s ancestry.

SEIU Pushes for Health Care for Transgender Workers

On Tuesday, the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) passed a resolution that recommends locals now bargain for trans-inclusive heath care in contracts. SEIU has more than 2.1 million members in Canada, the United States and Puerto Rico that are part of the service industry, including janitors, the security guards, and health care professionals.

The Bilerico Project’s Bil Browning has more details on the vote:

During yesterday’s gathering the delegates passed a resolution that the many SEIU locals bargain for trans-inclusive heath care as part of their contracts. The SEIU International offices already offer trans-inclusive health care benefits to employees.

I went to watch as the delegates debated the issue and came away incredibly impressed. While I expected there to be push back on the measure, instead it was brought to the floor and the delegates were allowed 40 minutes to debate. Every single person who got up to speak was in favor of the resolution; no one spoke in opposition. It easily passed.

Michelle Obama Has Candid Chat About Approval Ratings with Jon Stewart

First Lady Michelle Obama stopped by “The Daily Show” Tuesday night, not only to promote her new book on gardening and eating right, but to chat candidly with Jon Stewart about how her approval rating is higher than President Obama.

“You have an approval rating that’s like 85-90%,” Stewart told the First Lady. “You’re ice cream!”

“I’m vegetables,” Mrs. Obama corrected.

Obama Awards Highest Honor to Toni Morrison, Dolores Huerta [Photos]

Obama Awards Highest Honor to Toni Morrison, Dolores Huerta [Photos]

On Tuesday, President Barack Obama awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom—the Nation’s highest civilian honor—to 13 individuals who have made meritorious contributions to the security or national interests of the United States, to world peace, or to cultural or other significant public or private endeavors. This year’s recipients include cultural icons like Bob Dylan and Toni Morrison, as well as Dolores Huerta, who cofounded the United Farm Workers with Cesar Chavez.

At the ceremony held Tuesday, the President said:

Together, the honorees on this stage, and the ones who couldn’t be here, have moved us with their words; they have inspired us with their actions. They’ve enriched our lives and they’ve changed our lives for the better. Some of them are household names; others have labored quietly out of the public eye. Most of them may never fully appreciate the difference they’ve made or the influence that they’ve had, but that’s where our job comes in. It’s our job to help let them know how extraordinary their impact has been on our lives. And so today we present this amazing group with one more accolade for a life well led, and that’s the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

Ex-Rutgers Student Dharun Ravi Convicted of Spying on Roommate Apologizes, Heads for Jail Thursday

Ex-Rutgers Student Dharun Ravi Convicted of Spying on Roommate Apologizes, Heads for Jail Thursday

Former Rutgers University student Dharun Ravi convicted of using a webcam to spy on his male roommate kissing another man just days before the roommate committed suicide publicly apologized on Tuesday for the first time.

Dharun Ravi said in a statement issued through his lawyer he was sorry for what he called his “thoughtless, insensitive, immature, stupid and childish choices.”

TAGS: Dharun Ravi

Arson Attack Suspected in New Orleans Women’s Clinic Fire

Arson Attack Suspected in New Orleans Women's Clinic Fire

A New Orleans health center with a focus on community health education and outreach for women and transgender people was destroyed in a suspicious fire early Friday morning. The Women With A Vision office’s worst damage was concentrated in room where the group stored all of the resources they use to educate their community and the organization’s leaders are calling it a hate crime.

According to the Women With A Vision website their mission is to improve the lives of marginalized women, their families, and communities by addressing the social conditions that hinder their health and well-being. Deon Haywood, executive director of Women With a Vision told the Times Picayune her clients are people who are the least likely to be helped by other groups — poor, often homeless, working in the sex trade, and previously incarcerated.

Haywood went on to point out their Mid-City office is often the first stop for women just released from Orleans Parish Prison.

“They really help the people no one else will,” Bill Quigley, an attorney for the organization told the Times Picayune. He described it as a hate crime.

Quiqley pointed out a laptop computer and a television were stolen but many other items were left behind that would likely have been taken if the motive were purely robbery. Quigley described the event to the Times Picayne as a hate crime.

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New Video Attack Stokes Sex-Selective Abortion Panic

New Video Attack Stokes Sex-Selective Abortion Panic

On Tuesday, anti-abortion activist Lila Rose’s group Live Action released a highly edited “undercover sting” video that claims Planned Parenthood is facilitating gender selective abortions.

Live Action claims U.S. census data and national vital statistics illustrate sex-selection is a growing problem in the United States but MediaMatters points out Centers for Disease Control data from 2008 that says 91.4% of abortions were performed before the 13th week of pregnancy, before gender is identifiable.

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