Supporters Stand in Solidarity for CeCe McDonald Murder Trial

The murder trial of CeCe McDonald is officially underway. McDonald is a black transgender woman who’s on trial for killing a man who she says physically harassed her outside of a Minneapolis-area bar. The trial officially began yesterday, but will be in full swing this morning as the woman’s supporters gather at the court house for support.

McDonald is on trial for second degree murder following the death of Dean Schmitz. But McDonald and her supporters are adamant that Schmitz’s death is a case of self-defense after the man allegedly yelled racist and homophobic slurs at McDonald. After the altercation, McDonald had to get 11 stitches to her face and there were reports that Schmitz had a swastika tattoo on his chest. Still, McDonald was interrogated by police without an attorney present and placed in solitary confinement.

Supporters say that McDonald’s case is a striking example of bias against transgender and black people in the criminal justice system. “People were very enraged about what had happened to her and the refusal of Hennepin County to recognize her right to self-defense,” Katie Burgess, executive director of Trans Youth Support Network, told Democracy Now.

South L.A.’s Community Coalition on the Civil Unrest [Video]

South L.A.'s Community Coalition on the Civil Unrest [Video]

South L.A.’s Community Coalition launched earlier this month with 20 commentary videos by different community leaders and activists, elected officials and residents who share their stories of the Civil Unrest erupted on South L.A. streets in 1992.

The site includes videos from L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, a local news anchor, community activists, residents and academics.

Community leaders, including U.S. Congresswoman Karen Bass, founded Community Coalition as a non-profit organization in 1990 in response to the 1980’s crack cocaine epidemic that devastated South LA.

To watch more videos from South L.A. community members on the Civil Unrest of 1992 visit

TAGS: LA Riots

Want To Report Airport Racial Profiling? There’s an App for That

Want To Report Airport Racial Profiling? There's an App for That

Since Sept. 11, Sikhs have been subjected to ethnic and religious profiling at the airport that the community has struggled for years to combat. Those with dark skin, or people who wear turbans have been pulled aside for extra pat downs and discriminatory questioning while trying to get through airport security. Community reports show that at some airports, a full 100 percent of Sikh travelers must go through secondary screening before they make it to their gate. Through it all, the federal government has insisted that it doesn’t engage in profiling. Now, advocates are turning to technology to help people report the profiling they experience at airports.

Today, the Sikh Coalition unveiled a mobile app called “FlyRights” to help Sikh travelers and others who are subjected to profiling at the airport to report their concerns straight to the Department of Homeland Security and the Transportation Security Administration.

“The TSA asserts it doesn’t profile,” the Sikh Coalition’s Director of Programs Amardeep Singh said in a statement. “This application will allow us to better assess whether that’s true. All travelers now have an easy way of speaking to their government on the issue of airport profiling.”

The Sikh Coalition says that part of the impetus for the app was the perplexingly few incidents officially reported to the government, given the community’s actual experiences. During the first half of 2011, DHS’s Office of Civil Rights received only 11 official complaints of improper TSA screenings, which the group says doesn’t comport with reality.

“Up until now, victims of racial profiling at our nation’s airports had no easy way to call attention to this unfortunate trend,” Rep. Judy Chu said in a statement. “The Sikh Coalition’s new app changes that. Travelers now have the power to fight racial profiling right at their fingertips.”

The app, out today, is available for both Android and iPhone users.

No Charges for Border Patrol Officer Who Killed Mexican Teen

No Charges for Border Patrol Officer Who Killed Mexican Teen

In June of 2010 a Border Patrol officer patrolling the El Paso-Juarez border reportedly ran into Mexico while trying to arrest border crossers, and shot and killed Sergio Adrian Hernandez Huereca, a 15-year-old Mexican teen. On Friday, federal prosecutors announced that they didn’t have enough evidence to file criminal charges against the officer for the killing, the AP reported.

The officer violated Border Patrol policy regarding when the use of force is allowed, the Department of Justice acknowledged. However, Border Patrol agents are “generally” allowed to use lethal force when rocks are being thrown at them, as the government alleges Huereca was doing before he was killed.

The AP reports:

The U.S. Justice Department also concluded that no federal civil rights charges could be pursued, saying that “accident, mistake, misperception, negligence and bad judgment were not sufficient to establish a federal criminal civil rights violation.”

George Zimmerman Won’t Have to Turn Over $200K He Raised in Donations

George Zimmerman Won't Have to Turn Over $200K He Raised in Donations

Proceedings at a planned hearing today in the Trayvon Martin murder case over administrative details were eclipsed by a bigger issue: $204,000 in undisclosed donations that George Zimmerman raised through his now-defunct website. A Florida judge ruled today that the self-appointed neighborhood watchman won’t immediately need to hand them over, CNN reported.

State prosecutors argued that in light of this new disclosure, which Zimmerman’s attorney Mark O’Mara said he didn’t know about until this week, Zimmerman’s bond ought to be increased. Zimmerman failed to disclose the amount at his bond hearing last week, where a judge set bail for the self-appointed neighborhood watchman at $150,000 after the Zimmermans said they could not afford the proposed $1 million bond. Zimmerman was released Sunday night after posting 10 percent of his bail.

CBS reported:

Meanwhile, according to CNN, the attorney for Trayvon Martin’s family says Zimmerman should be back in jail because during a recent bond hearing he did not report to a judge that he had $204,000.

Tuition Hikes, Budget Cuts Won’t Stop $300K Remodel of CSU Fullerton President’s Home

Tuition increases at the California State University system may be have become a regular tradition, and the statewide network may have shut off enrollment for the spring 2013 term due to the state’s seemingly unending state budget crisis. But CSU Fullerton is still going ahead with a $300,000 remodel of incoming president Mildred Garcia’s university-owned home. The money won’t come from state funding, but instead from a campus auxiliary organization.

Yet, that perk comes in addition to a contract which gave Garcia a base salary of $324,500, the maximum pay raise allowed for her transfer as outgoing president of CSU Dominguez Hills in Carson, California Watch reported. She’ll also be given free housing and an annual $12,000 car allowance.

California Watch reports:

Also in March, CSU Fullerton began work on fixing up Garcia’s future home, the historic C. Stanley Chapman house, also known as El Dorado Ranch. Located just a few miles from the downtown Fullerton campus, the two-story, eight-bedroom, 5,800-square-foot house is nestled on a 3.9-acre parcel with a tennis court. The property was last assessed at $3.4 million in 2011, property records show.

Lights Off, Lights On? Left Eye May Join TLC’s Reunion Tour With Hologram Help

Sometimes, it’s like the ’90s never left us. And now with the help of technology, they never have to. TLC is planning a reunion tour for later this year that may include Lisa “Left Eye” Loopes, the much-beloved rapper who died ten years ago this week.

TMZ reports that the remaining members of the trio, Tionne Watkins and Rozonda Thomas, better known as T-Boz and Chili, are in talks to make sure Left Eye is included in the tour, perhaps by projecting her image and including her vocals on tracks, a la Tupac’s turn at this year’s Coachella festival.

So far the tour’s booked in five cities, with hope for more. Will you be there?

First Ever Cosmo for Latinas Issue Gets Zoe Saldana Cover

zoe_latinacosmo.jpgThe inaugural issue of “Cosmopolitan for Latinas” is just days away from landing on newsstands, and Zoe Saldana, the actress with Puerto Rican and Dominican roots, will be gracing its cover.

The magazine launch, at its most basic, is a commercial acknowledgement of the new demographic realities in this country: Latinos are the fastest growing ethnic group in the U.S., and based on Census projections, are expected to become the largest non-white group in the country in a matter of years.

It’s also a chance to reach out to and highlight the voices of Latinas in the U.S.

It extended to Cosmo for Latinas’ cover subject choices. “We went with Saldana because, other than being stunningly beautiful and fashionable, she’s a mysterious figure, and not many know she’s Latina,” Cosmo Latina Editor Michelle Herrera Mulligan told Mamiverse. Herrera Mulligan said that she was taken with Saldana’s uniquely American journey. Saldana was born in Queens, New York, but raised in the Dominican Republic, making her exactly the kind of modern, bicultural Latina whose voices Herrera Mulligan wanted to highlight.

The magazine hits newsstands on May 1.

Nationwide Protests Against SB 1070 End with Nine Arrests in Phoenix

Nationwide Protests Against SB 1070 End with Nine Arrests in Phoenix

Not content to let the fight against the SB 1070 be handled by the federal government alone, immigrant rights activists turned out across the country yesterday on the day the Supreme Court heard oral arguments in the case to demand an end to Arizona’s SB 1070.

Outside the Supreme Court yesterday, hundreds gathered to protest Arizona’s law. A few hours later, hundreds more community members gathered in Phoenix with the same message. Immigrant families and activists, carrying a banner that read: “ICE, Stop Deporting Arpaio’s Victims. Not One More. No SB 1070. No S-Comm. No Arpaio” stood boldly in front of immigration offices to protest the law. In Arizona, protests ended with nine arrests, reported.

SB 1070 requires law enforcement officers to question anyone they suspect may be undocumented, and allows police officers to detain someone while they’re determining their legal status. Immigrant and civil rights advocates have argued that the law all but compels law enforcement officers to racially profile people, and amounts to a bald attack on immigrant communities. 

And yesterday, people gathered to fight back. Below are some photos from the protests.

“We call on the federal government to stop collaborating with the Sheriff,” the nine arrested protestors said in a statement. “Arpaio needs to be brought to justice, but ICE has been his partner in crime. We’re willing to go to jail so not one more day goes by under the terror created by their collaboration, so that not one more family is torn apart.”

After the jump, more photos from Thursday’s protests.

NYT Report: Prosecuting Moms for Drug Use Is Personhood in Disguise

New York Times Magazine published an important and long narrative on Sunday about “chemical endangerment” prosecutions of new moms who’ve given birth children believed to have been exposed to drugs. The piece tells the stories of several Alabama women who were prosecuted criminally under a state law that makes it a crime to explose children to drugs. But in interpreting the laws, prosecutors and courts have treated fetuses as children.

Emma Ketteringham, who directs legal advocacy at the National Advocates for Pregnant Women, told the Times that chemical endangerment laws are essentially, “personhood measure[s] in disguise.”

Marco Rubio Meets with Latino Dems, DREAMers on Alternative Youth Immigration Bill

Florida Sen. Marco Rubio is making good on his proposal to work on an alternative DREAM Act. Yesterday he met with congressional Democrats Illinois Rep. Luis Gutierrez, New Jersey Sen. Robert Menendez and Texas Rep. Charles Gonzalez for conversations about an alternative to the bill, the Huffington Post reported.

Rubio’s plan would likely gut the key relief that the DREAM Act offers undocumented youth who’ve been raised in the U.S.: a chance at eventual U.S. citizenship. It’s been rumored that Rubio’s alternative plan would grant a set of undocumented immigrant youth who clear a host of hurdles some kind of legal status without affording them a chance at becoming citizens someday.

Rubio’s not just trying to get Democrats onboard. He’s also reached out to immigrant youth themselves.

From the Washington Post:

Gaby Pacheco, a vocal immigrant activist, accepted a tantalizing invitation last week from an unlikely source: Republican Sen. Marco Rubio wanted her to help craft a bill that could legalize the children of some illegal immigrants.

Two hours later, Pacheco and other activists got a different pitch from their more familiar White House allies. Be wary of Rubio and his plan, two of President Obama’s top advisers told them in a meeting. It wouldn’t go far enough and wasn’t likely to succeed.

The group was polite but noncommittal. “We’re not married to the Democratic or Republican parties,” said Pacheco, 27. “We’re going to push what’s best for the community.”

The DREAM Act has been around for ten years and came the closest it ever did to passing in 2010 when the House cleared it in an historic vote. Yet the legislative language, and the bill’s political prospects, have dimmed in the virulent anti-immigrant climate, and many immigrants who were once youth when the DREAM Act was first introduced in 2011 are today adults. A win of any kind is long overdue. It may just be that Rubio’s ambitions and the immigrant community’s desperation can help both sides find common ground.

Colbert Shows Anti-Immigrant ‘Environmental’ Group’s Ties to Hate

Colbert Shows Anti-Immigrant 'Environmental' Group's Ties to Hate

Last night on the Colbert Report, Stephen Colbert and his writers thoroughly took apart a slick new TV commercial by a group called Californians For Population Stabilization. The ad uses bogus science to claim that the real environmental crisis in California is caused by undocumented immigrants. Colbert debunks that quickly, but then moves on to the source of the bad science: the Center for Immigration Studies, one of several “unbiased” organizations founded by influential nativist John Tanton, and a driving force behind SB 1070 and its copycats.

It’s worth pointing out that this isn’t the first time that anti-immigrant forces have used the environment to slip their agenda into left-of-center spaces; kudos to Colbert for calling it out.

H/T to the New York State Immigrant Action Fund.

Philadelphia Public School System Braces for Dissolution

Philadelphia Public School System Braces for Dissolution

Philadelphia district staffers and education consultants have proposed a dramatic plan to close 64 Philadelphia public schools over the next five years in the face of a seemingly irreversible budget crisis. The schools would be transferred to so-called “achievement networks,” smaller pilot programs which run by charter school networks and other education nonprofits.

From the Philadelphia Public School Network Notebook:

Chief Recovery Officer Thomas Knudsen said that more direct academic services “are now going to be pushed directly into the field,” although a document sent by Chief Academic Officer Penny Nixon to principals over the weekend still called for some academic services to run out of the central office.

It’s time to move away from “command and control” to a “service delivery” model for a diverse school portfolio, Knudsen said.

The plan, while saying that it is premised on giving parents more choices, doesn’t include any direct promises that schools will get what most parents say they want - smaller classes, art and music teachers, libraries, nurses, adequate security - all of which has been cut this year. And it relies on being able to attract and keep talented principals and teachers in an atmosphere of fiscal austerity, find the money to properly train and support them, and have the resources to give them the materials they need.

The plan, announced Wednesday, is aimed at closing a $218 million budget shortfall for this year alone, and a projected $1.1 billion shortfall by the year 2018. Knudsen projects that 40 percent of Philly schoolkids will be enrolled in charter schools by then.

Connecticut Gov. Malloy Signs Bill to Repeal Death Penalty

Today Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy signed a bill abolishing the death penalty in his state for future crimes.

“Although it is an historic moment — Connecticut joins 16 other states and the rest of the industrialized world by taking this action — it is a moment for sober reflection, not celebration,” Malloy said in a statement, CNN reported. Malloy, a former prosecutor, said he signed the repeal in part because of the death penalty’s “unworkability.”

In the last five years, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York and Illinois have all abolished their death penalty policies, CNN reported.

The compromise bill that Malloy signed states that people convicted of a capital offense will receive a sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole. Connecticut still has 11 people on death row though, and the new law will not apply to them.

After Review, ICE Puts 16K of 300K Deportation Cases on Hold

After Review, ICE Puts 16K of 300K Deportation Cases on Hold

Immigration officials have suspended 16,544 deportation cases and are moving steadily through a review of nearly 300,000 cases in the deportation queue, Immigration and Customs Enforcement announced this week.

The Obama administration announced the deportation review last August as a response to the searing criticism it had received for its record-breaking deportation rate that included DREAM Act-eligible youth, parents of U.S. citizen children and people who had never been convicted of anything. Immigration officials pledged to pore over the 300,000 cases of people slated for removal and administratively close the cases of those who didn’t present a threat to their communities and were not a high priority for removal.

ICE said that as of April 16, it has reviewed 219,554 pending cases of immigrants slated for deportation, and moved to suspend 7.5 percent of deportation cases. Nearly 3,000 cases have been administratively closed.

Government-Funded Crisis Pregnancy Centers Won’t Hire Non-Christians

We’ve discussed the role of Christian-centered Crisis Pregnancy Centers (CPCs) in the war on women’s reproductive health rights. In a new report, The American Independent details how some CPCs funded by the government require prospective employees, volunteers and board members to “know Christ as their Savior and Lord,” provide church references or declare that they are “mature Christians” on their applications.

Take Texas, which recently gutted its family planning budget but allocated more than $8 million to its Alternatives to Abortion program. CPCs eligible for that funding seem to discriminate against non-Christian job seekers, reports the Independent:

The Life Center, a crisis pregnancy center in Midland, Texas, is looking for a new receptionist. The receptionist is expected to be bilingual in English and Spanish, proficient in Microsoft Word and Excel, and in agreement with the Life Center’s “Common Christian Beliefs.” Typed on each page of the three-page job application is: “The Life Center is an Equal Opportunity Employer” - even on the page that asks for a church reference.

Applicants for the open executive director position at the LifeTalk Resource Center in Frisco, Texas, have to prove they are “mature Christians.” The Dallas Pregnancy Resource Center is only hiring “committed Christians.”

Each of these centers appears on a list compiled and publicized by the Texas health department of organizations that offer free sonograms to pregnant women and that do not provide abortion services or referrals.

It’s not just state funding either. In South Dakota, the Rapid City Care Net CPC received Obama-era stimulus dollars for “capacity building.”

Illinois’ African Women Entrepreneurs Fight For Their Right to Braid [Video]

Illinois' African Women Entrepreneurs Fight For Their Right to Braid [Video]

Hair braiding, done with time and care rather than with harsh chemicals, has been a connecting thread for African culture for a very very long time. But until recently, due to an Illinois law, professional hair braiders in the state were legally barred from operating a business without first attending 1500 hours of cosmetology school. It’s a regulation that not only posed a major barrier in terms of money and time, but which also didn’t make any sense, since most cosmetology schools don’t teach braiding; braiders could be perfect students and learn nothing relevant. As a result, high-skill African immigrant women entrepreneurs who’d learned their trade from their mothers were being pushed underground, and were vulnerable to legal action.

Then, in September 2011, groups like the Illinois Association of Hair Braiders and the United African Organization worked with state legislators to create a separate license for hair braiders. The new license requires 300 hours of classroom and practical experience, ensuring that applicants get relevant schooling and customers get qualified professionals. It’s a real victory for Illinois’ 24,000 professional hair braiders.

In this new video created by Emmanuel García at the Crossroads Fund, whose grant to the United African Organization helped with this lobbying campaign, the folks involved this victory discuss the old law’s skewed economic impact on African immigrant women and how they worked with the system to create a solution for everyone. Inspiring stuff!

20 Years Later: Live-Tweeting the L.A. Riots as They Happened

20 Years Later: Live-Tweeting the L.A. Riots as They Happened

As part of KNBC’s 20th anniversary coverage of the L.A. Riots they’re live-tweeting the events that led to the civil unrest in Los Angeles.

Each @RealTimeLARiots tweet corresponds to the actual date and time (sometimes down to the minute) of each major event as it unfolded back in 1992.

Currently, the account is chronicling the end of the trial of four police officers accused of beating Rodney King. On April 29 at 3:15 p.m., the verdict will be announced and the account will shift focus to the riots, complete with archive footage, photos and breaking news from around Los Angeles.

Supreme Court Skeptical of Striking Down Arizona’s SB 1070

Supreme Court Skeptical of Striking Down Arizona's SB 1070

I’ve just left the Supreme Court arguments over SB 1070. Check back at for more analysis and coverage throughout the week, and read our SB 1070 primer here.

The federal government got beat up today in the Supreme Court and if the Justices’ line of questioning is any sign, at least parts of Arizona’s SB 1070 are likely to stand. In the hearings, which began this morning at 10am and lasted for more than 20 minutes beyond the allotted time of an hour, the justices launched an aggressive line of questioning of the attorneys for the government and the state of Arizona.

As a general matter, the majority of the justices were skeptical of the federal government’s claim that Arizona’s SB 1070, which was enjoined soon after it’s passage by a lower court, fully preempts federal authority.

Most fundamentally, the justices took issue with the the government’s claim that the state of Arizona cannot mandate its cops to enforce immigration laws and detain undocumented immigrants. The argument here, which was central to Arizona’s appeal, is that the federal government regularly uses local police to detain undocumented immigrants through federal programs like the Secure Communities and 287g, which deputizes local police as immigration agents.

Paul Clement, who represented Arizona in the court said, “The Federal Government doesn’t like this statute, but they are very proud of their Secure Communities program. And their Secure Communities program also makes clear that everybody’s that’s booked at participating facilities is — eventually has their immigration status checked.”

He said Arizona merely, “borrowed the federal standard as its own.”

Four African Men School You on Hollywood Stereotypes [Video]

Four African Men School You on Hollywood Stereotypes [Video]

Written by Benard, Brian, Derrick, Gabriel and the Mama Hope Team the video hopes to dispel Hollywood stereotypes about African.

The video was directed and edited by Joe Sabia.

Mama Hope is a non-profit organization focused on building self-sufficient communities in Sub-Saharan Africa. Mama Hope partners with Community Based Organizations and invests in high impact, cost effective projects, that meet their fundamental needs for food, water, education and health care.

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