Jorge Rivas, Friday, September 14 2012, 11:35 AM EST
The District of Columbia Office of Human Rights (OHR) has launched a groundbreaking Transgender and Gender Identity Respect Campaign that advocates are calling the first government-funded campaign focused exclusively on the betterment of transgender and gender non-conforming people.
The five campaign ads feature actual community members, and will appear citywide on bus shelters in the fall and winter of 2012.
“This District is committed to ensuring that all people are protected from discrimination, and that includes discrimination against the transgender and gender-non-conforming communities,” said Mayor Vincent C. Gray in a statement. “This landmark campaign from the Office of Human Rights is an important piece of a larger effort by my administration to ensure all residents have equal access to employment, housing and public services and accommodations regardless of gender identity or expression.”
D.C. residents and visitors who see an ad are encouraged to photograph it and post to social media using the hashtag #TransRespect, in hopes the campaign’s mission expands beyond D.C.
On my way to a briefing on Capitol Hill yesterday I stumbled upon a lively scene in a foyer at the Rayburn House Office Building. A bunch of beefy guys in suits or polo shirts or military garb were gathered around tables at the “Unmanned Systems Caucus Technology & Science Fair,” which was not a science fair like the kind I remember. This science fair, organized by the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International, was actually a drone show and on tables around the room sat some very fancy, very tiny flying things. The toys were mostly military devices that the company representatives said they’re now marketing to cops and civilians. Table hands from companies like Lockheed Martin, Boeing and RP Flight Systems told me they’d come to show the hottest new drones, robots and mini blimps to House members and staffers. They were there at the invitation of the above mentioned caucus, which notes on it’s website:
The mission of the U.S. House Unmanned Systems Caucus is to educate members of Congress and the public on the strategic, tactical, and scientific value of unmanned systems; actively support further development and acquisition of more systems, and to more effectively engage the civilian aviation community on unmanned system use and safety.
A rep from RP Flight Systems explained that his companies drones helped put out fires. But across the room a man in camo who looked just out of combat showed me his drone for cops.
Jorge Rivas, Thursday, September 13 2012, 3:30 PM EST
Lately it’s been a rare occurrence when President Obama talks race but at a campaign stop in Colorado Wednesday he mentioned it and even identified himself as mixed-raced.
“Education was a gateway for opportunity for me, let’s face it, as a mixed kid from Hawaii born to a single-mom, it’s not likely to become President of the United States,” Obama told supporters at a campaign stop Golden, CO.
The President was delivering a speech on how education can be a gateway of opportunity.
“A little black girl from the south side of Chicago, who’s mom is a secretary and dad is a blue collar worker, is not likely to become First Lady of the United States but it happens because she got a great education,” the President went on to say.
While the comments may seem ordinary they’re not. The last time the President addressed race was at the height of the Trayvon Martin media coverage in March and he didn’t actually use the words “race” or “black,” instead he went with “If I had a son, he’d look like Trayvon.”
“The bottom line is that in order to remain in the White House, the president needs to give this community [Latinos] a reason to show up at the polls. The number one issue for Latinos, like all Americans, is jobs and the economy.”
Jorge Rivas, Thursday, September 13 2012, 12:42 PM EST
Two suspected bank robbers that led Los Angeles police in a high speed car chase Wednesday threw fistfuls of cash out of the window as they were being pursued. Footage from news helicopters showed the suspects driving a black Volvo SUV and throwing dollar bills out the window as neighborhood residents ran out to pick up the cash.
“It’s our neighborhood stimulus package!” resident Diane Dorsey told the Los Angeles Times as she watched the mayhem from her front yard at the corner of Kansas and Vernon avenues.
The Huffington Post also points out a nearby resident called the local NBC affiliate to express similar “stimulus” gratitude.
“I’m just so glad this person came to throw this money in the ‘hood, basically,” said the An unidentified 23-year-old resident who called in to KNBC”. “You usually see robbers and they take their stuff and they leave. But this guy came over and tried to help us out … So It’s more like all of us are supporting the robbers and the cops.”
Witness tells @ktla reporter that the money thrown out in #SouthLA was their “stimulus package.” Gotta love people’s honesty. #pursuit
The South L.A. neighborhood, where the suspected bank robbers were finally apprehended, is one of the top three neighborhoods in LA County with the highest rates of foreclosures. According to the most recent records, 33% of the predominantly black and Latino residents in the 90037 neighborhood make less than $15,000 a year.
Jorge Rivas, Wednesday, September 12 2012, 5:50 PM EST
A group in Selma, Ala. known as the Friends of Forrest are renovating a monument honoring Civil War Confederate Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest who was the first “Grand Wizard” of the Ku Klux Klan. The City Council approved renovation is stirring controversy because some say the statue sits on public land.
Forrest, a slave owner and a slave trader, was tapped to be the Ku Klux Klan’s first Grand Wizard - or supreme leader, the KKK’s highest position — at a meeting in April 1867, according to Anti-Defamation League.
The memorial is being repaired after the bust of Gen. Forrest was stolen in March from the 7-foot-tall granite monument it rested upon at a cemetery in Selma, reported The Birmingham News.
Imara Jones, Wednesday, September 12 2012, 1:42 PM EST
According to Census Bureau data released this morning, after three years of climbing, the nation’s overall poverty rate has plateaued at 15.1 percent.
With almost 50 million Americans unable to make ends meet, poverty remains stuck at the highest level in almost two decades. Official poverty for a family of four is defined as $23,021 and at $11,484 for an individual.
These record-levels of poverty point to an unending harsh situation for too many. But for people of color, youth, and women, the data is even more dire.
Close to 1 out of three blacks, and one out of four Latinos, is poor.
Poverty falls hardest children. One out of five in poverty is below the age of 18, double the rate for those over 65.
The poverty rate for women is 20 percent higher than that of men.
Jorge Rivas, Wednesday, September 12 2012, 10:40 AM EST
We’ll keep this post short since there are more pressing news stories than Chris Brown’s neck tattoos. But just in case you were wondering, his representatives have denied allegations that his new neck tattoo of a woman’s face with strange markings on it was an homage to his ex-girlfriend Rihanna.
“His tattoo is a sugar skull [associated with the Mexican celebration of the Day of the Dead] and a MAC cosmetics design he saw,” Brown’s rep told the good people at TMZ. “It is not Rihanna or an abused woman as erroneously reported.”
Jorge Rivas, Wednesday, September 12 2012, 10:09 AM EST
The Obama administration has received an estimated 72,000 Deferred Action applications from young undocumented immigrants seeking to avoid deportation and get a work permit since the program started Aug. 15. The Homeland Security Department said Tuesday that a “small group” of applications has been approved and those immigrants are being notified this week about the decision, according to the Associated Press.
“Following a thorough, individualized case review, USCIS has now begun notifying individuals of the determination on their deferral requests,” DHS spokesman Peter Boogaard said in a statement to the AP. He said about 72,000 applications have been received since the program’s Aug. 15 start.
The department would not provide a specific number of just how many applications were approved.
DHS told the AP “background checks, including finger prints checks, are being conducted on each immigrant before an application can be approved.” The average wait time for approval is expected to be about four months to six months.
“President Obama’s announcement brings peace and relief to many DREAMers,” Lorella Praeli, a member of the United We Dream network, told Colorlines.com last month. “It is one step in the right direction after years of work that will allow students to apply their professional degrees and know that they need not fear deportation, that they will be able to continue living as Americans in the only country they call home.”
ICE has pledged to keep the information that DREAMers provide in their applications confidential and away from the enforcement side of the Department of Homeland Security unless the applicant commits fraud by lying on their applications, or if applicants have serious criminal records.
Aura Bogado, Wednesday, September 12 2012, 9:25 AM EST
The fourth floor of Union Square’s Barnes and Noble was packed with fans who arrived hours in advance of Junot Díaz’s 7 p.m. appearance on the day his new book was released. Bookstore workers, who declined to give their names, told Colorlines.com that more than 400 chairs were set up to host anxious audience members, and then allowed a standing room only crowd to join those lucky enough to get seats—up to 1,000 people in total by one estimate. Workers then enlisted the help of the New York Police Department to begin managing some 200 people who showed up between about 6 and 7 p.m. to hear Díaz present his new book, “This is How You Lose Her.”
Fans waited in two disorganized lines on the third floor, only to hear that they wouldn’t gain entry to Díaz’s talk and book-signing. As Díaz made his way through the third floor, he greeted friends and strangers who were not able to get a seat, and quickly made his way up the escalator as disappointed admirers looked on. Those who didn’t get a fourth floor spot were visibly disappointed, and as some tried to make their way up the escalator, NYPD officers stopped them. The last time the bookstore’s fourth floor was filled to capacity was during Tina Fey’s reading almost a year-and-a-half ago.
If you want to guarantee a spot to see and hear Díaz, he’ll be the keynote speaker at Facing Race, which takes place in Baltimore November 15-17. Díaz will join a vast group of people who work and report on racial justice issues at the conference, organized by Colorlines.com publisher, the Applied Research Center.
Aura Bogado, Tuesday, September 11 2012, 2:45 PM EST
66 percent of American Indians and Alaska Natives who were eligible to register to vote in 2008 did so. The other 34 percent—more than one million people—did not. There’s a concerted effort to register Native voters in 2012, and make an big impact on Election Day.
Meet Voting Rights Watch’s newest community journalist, Hillary Abe. He works for College Horizons, a national non-profit focused on facilitating the higher education of Native American, Alaska Native and Native Hawaiian youth. Hillary is also an accomplished videographer, and aspiring filmmaker. He recently shot and directed a short video in Northern Arizona geared towards mobilizing rural Native youth to vote. Check out and share his video, and expect to see more from him about the Native vote this election season.
Jorge Rivas, Tuesday, September 11 2012, 1:00 PM EST
Dominican American Pulitzer Prize-Winning author Junot Díaz released his latest book today. “This Is How You Lose Her” follows the story of protagonist Yunior’s downward spiral after his fiancée finds out he’s cheated on her.
“When I finished my first book, Drown, I realized that the theme of infidelity, which runs through the book, needed sort of a much more upfront presentation, and I concocted this project. It just really interested me,” Díaz told NPR’s Steve Inskeep. “But you know, sometimes you chart out a course and you think it’s going to be an afternoon walk, and you realize it takes you half your life.”
“I grew up in a world, [a] very New Jersey, American, Dominican, immigrant, African-American, Latino world. And, you know, I went to school and it was basically the same. I went to college; it was basically the same, where largely I wasn’t really encouraged to imagine women as fully human. I was in fact pretty much — by the larger culture, by the local culture, by people around me, by people on TV — encouraged to imagine women as something slightly inferior to men. And so I think that a lot of guys, part of our journey is wrestling with, coming to face, our limited imagina[tion] and growing in a way that allows us not only to imagine women as fully human, but to imagine the things that we do to women — that we often do blithely, without thinking, we just sort of shrug off — as actually deeply troubling and as hurting another human being. And this seems like the simplest thing. A lot of people are like, ‘Really, that’s like a huge leap of knowledge, of the imagination?’ But for a lot of guys, that is.”
Jorge Rivas, Tuesday, September 11 2012, 10:22 AM EST
Univision anchor Maria Elena Salinas remembers covering the events of September 11, 2001.
“If there is one thing I remember from the week it’s all the people that were being interviewed that would take a moment to show a picture—regardless of what was being asked from them—they showed a picture of a loved one [asking] ‘have you seen my brother, have you seen my mother, have you seen my sister, have you seen my wife?’ It was one after another,” Salinas says in the video above.
Salinas goes on to say that for Latinos and immigration in general, “everything’ has changed since 9/11.
Last week, Jorge Rivas reported on the parts of the internet caught up by a Nicki Minaj line on Lil Wayne’s new Dedication 4 mixtape: “I’m a Republican, voting for Mitt Romney / You lazy bitches are fucking up the economy…”
While most folks assumed Minaj, who often raps from the point of view of different assumed personas, was just engaging in artistic license, some folks thought she was making a real confession of her politics. (Not sure where these folks were when Jay-Z and Nas released “Black Republican” in 2007.)
This morning, Obama was asked about the lyric in a phone interview Orlando hiphop station Power 95.3’s The Obie And Lil Shawn Morning Show. You can listen to Obama’s answer above, in which he explains that he and Michelle aren’t old yet, and that they try to keep their iPods current and in touch with popular culture.
But the real magic happens when the President of the United States has to explain Nicki Minaj’s ouvre to the nation. “I’m not sure that’s actually what happened,” said Obama. “She likes to play different characters, you know, so I don’t know what was going on there.” Not sure if President Carter ever had to expound on David Bowie’s Thin White Duke period.
Minaj confirmed on Twitter that she was, you know, rapping:
Ha! Thank you for understanding my creative humor & sarcasm Mr. President, the smart ones always do… *sends love & support* @barackobama
The scrutinization of True the Vote, and their voter-stalking Tea Party co-signers across the nation, is growing. Today, Common Cause and Demos released a report called “Bullies at the Ballot Box” that raises awareness about groups who determined to challenge voters at the polls, even at risk of intimidating voters away from the polls. Says the report:
As we approach the 2012 elections, every indication is that we will see an unprecedented use of voter challenges. Organizers of True the Vote claim their goal is to train one million poll watchers to challenge and confront other Americans as they go to the polls in November. They say they want to make the experience of voting ‘like driving and seeing the police following you.’ There is a real danger that voters will face overzealous volunteers who take the law into their own hands to target voters they deem suspect. But there is no place for bullies at the ballot box.
Colorlines readers may recognize that “police following you” line from our Voting Rights Watch 2012 reporting on the group True the Vote, which you can read here.
The “Ballot Bullies” report examines laws around challenging voters in ten states, looking namely at how well or bad voters are protected from pre-Election Day voter registration challenges that can lead to reckless purging, voter caging, being challenged at the polls on Election Day, and the behavior of obnoxious poll watchers. According to the report Florida and Pennsylvania have some of the worst voter protection laws, says the report, yet these are pivotal states that hold tremendous sway in the upcoming presidential elections. True the Vote has a substantial presence in Florida and has pressed hard for Gov. Rick Scott’s reckless purging program there.
People of color in particular should be most wary of these groups:
“With comments about the ‘illegal alien vote’ and ‘the food stamp army,’ King Street Patriots and their allies have created a climate of fear that voter fraud is rampant in minority precincts and used that fear to justify their discriminatory targeting of poll-watching efforts - again, without evidence to support the targeting.”
The King Street Patriots is the Houston-based Tea Party group that gave birth to True the Vote and it’s spawn of poll harassers around the U.S.
This report follows another released by the Brennan Center for Justice last week, “Voter Challengers,” which delves deep into the racial history and politics behind poll watching in America.
Today is an historic day for Chicago’s public schoolteachers. The city’s teachers are striking today for the first time since 1987 after negotiations for a new contract for Chicago Public School’s 25,000 schoolteachers ended. The strike will affect hundreds of thousands of students and their family. It’s just the second week of school for the nation’s third largest school district.
For all the city and union politics at play, the exact reasons that compelled teachers to strike can quickly get lost in the fray. Chicago schoolteacher Xian Barrett took to his blog to explain to CPS CEO Jean-Claude Brizard why he’s headed to the picket line today:
When you make me cram 30-50 kids in my classroom with no air conditioning so that temperatures hit 96 degrees, that hurts our kids.
When you lock down our schools with metal detectors and arrest brothers for play fighting in the halls, that hurts our kids.
When you take 18-25 days out of the school year for high stakes testing that is not even scientifically applicable for many of our students, that hurts our kids.
The op-ed was authored by Ward Churchill, a native activist and former ethnic studies professor; Kathleen Cleaver, former member of the Black Panther Party and Yale law professor; and Natsu Taylor Saito, a George State University law professor. The piece suggests that Aoki still has many prominent supporters from his many years as a prominent activist, despite damning evidence that he also worked as an FBI informant.
First, the authors aren’t surprised by the allegations:
This is a classic example of how truth is mixed with falsehood to rewrite history and promote a more sweeping agenda. The goal is to discredit the movements of the 1960s and ’70s and key activists of that era who might serve as role models for coming generations. The failed prosecution of former Black Panthers in the well-known case of the “San Francisco 8” is just one of many recent examples.
The authors critique Seth Rosenfeld’s reporting, before putting his work within a long history of FBI-inspired ‘disinformation’:
A key weapon in their arsenal is the spreading of false and derogatory information - “disinformation,” in the counterintelligence vernacular - to “disrupt, destabilize, discredit, and destroy” radical activists and organizations. The FBI has utilized numerous techniques to convey such disinformation, from planting rumors in targeted communities to mass dissemination of half-truths or outright lies through the press, electronic media and books claiming to provide “objective” analyses.
The government’s use of disinformation for repressive purposes traces back at least as far as its campaigns to “neutralize” the anarchist and Garvey movements during and shortly after World War I. Since the process was systematized in the 1930s, an ever-greater flow of material crafted by the FBI’s in-house spinmeisters and an unknown number of contract writers, collaborating scholars, and cooperating journalists, has been devoted to burnishing the bureau’s public image while degrading its adversaries.
In August, news that Aoki was listed as an FBI informant sent shockwaves throughout the progressive community. The news was felt especially hard in the Bay Area, which Aoki called home and had for decades made a name for himself first as a radical activist with the Black Panther Party and student movements of the 1960s, and then as a longtime educator in the East Bay. Last week, the Center for Investigative Reporting released over 200 pages of FBI files it had obtained on Aoki’s role with the FBI. The files, many of which are redacted, show that Aoki was listed as an FBI informant for 16 years.
A 20-year-old Bronx bodega worker was accidentally shot and killed by a NYPD officer responding to an armed robbery inside the store early Friday morning, according to law enforcement officials.
Reynaldo Cuevas was shot and killed when he ran into the responding officer as he rushed out of the robbery scene at full speed, according to NYPD Commissioner Raymond Kelly.
“Mr. Cuevas … ran full-speed into the officer,” Kelly said. “The two became entangled, at which point, we believe, the officer accidentally discharged his weapon.”
NBC New York reports the robbers remained barricaded inside the store for over three hours until they were taken into custody. Police said the three suspects who participated in the robbery are expected to be charged with felony murder, in addition to robbery counts.
On Thursday the Justice Department released its findings determining that the Topeka Correctional Facility (TCF), an all-female facility in Topeka, Kan., under the jurisdiction of the Kansas Department of Corrections (KDOC), fails to protect women prisoners from harm due to sexual abuse, misconduct from correctional staff and other prisoners in violation of their constitutional rights. The Justice Department delivered a letter detailing the findings to Governor Samuel D. Brownback and Secretary of the KDOC Ray Roberts.
More from the DOJ on the investigation’s findings:
The investigation concluded that TCF fails to protect women prisoners from sexual abuse and misconduct from correctional staff and other prisoners in violation of their constitutional rights. TCF has a past history of officer-on-prisoner and prisoner-on-prisoner sexual abuse and misconduct. The women at TCF live in an environment with repeated and open sexual behavior, including sexual relations between staff and prisoners and non-consensual sexual conduct between the female prisoners. Much of the inappropriate sexual behavior, including sexual abuse, continues and remains unreported due to insufficient staffing and supervision, a heightened fear of retaliation, a dysfunctional grievance system and inadequate investigative processes. To date, KDOC and TCF have failed to remedy the myriad systemic causes of harm to the women prisoners at TCF despite repeated, well-documented and detailed investigations and audits exposing the problems.
“Our investigation has revealed that multiple deficiencies in the operations of the Topeka Correctional Facility have exposed female prisoners to harm and the serious risk of harm from prisoner-on-prisoner and employee-on-prisoner sexual abuse and assault,” said Thomas E. Perez, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division. “It is our strong desire to work with both the facility and the Kansas Department of Corrections to implement reforms to address these repeatedly-documented deficiencies.”
The investigation was conducted by the Civil Rights Division’s Special Litigation Section and focused on whether prisoners at the facility were subject to sexual abuse in violation of their constitutional rights.