Ok, so the federal government is shut down. That sucks. But today’s also when pieces of the Affordable Care Act go into effect. And in case you’ve got questions, “Lydia Cole” is the woman with the answers.
Brandon Bass, 28, is a top athlete. He starred in college at Louisiana Tech and is entering his third season at power forward for the Boston Celtics. But there’s at least one thing that his athletic prowess didn’t allow him to do: swim.
“My son’s the first one in the family to learn how to swim,” Bass told the Boston Globe. “If you threw me out in the ocean, I would drown.”
Bass and his family grew up in Baton Rouge, Louisiana without a real place to swim. When he was a kid, a neighbor who was his age drowned, and the memory stuck with him. Now, he’s conquering his fears by volunteering with 10 young children at the Boston Boys and Girls Club who are all learning how to swim. Like the kids, Bass is afraid.
“I’m nervous, because I don’t know how to float,” he told the Globe. “I can’t tread water.”
Bass’ situation isn’t unique. According to a report released in 2008, 60 percent of black children can’t swim. In his book “Contested Waters: A Social History of Swimming Pools in America” author Jeff Wiltse writes about how municipal swimming pools were often segregated during mid-20th century when swimming became a popular recreational activity in the United States. The impact of those policies are still being felt by people like Bass, who grew up in communities where virtually no one swam.
Here’s video from Bass’ first swim lesson.
(h/t Bleacher Report)
In spite of the government shutdown targeted to stop it, Obamacare will take a major step forward today. For the first time, millions of uninsured Americans will be able to purchase affordable health care on one of dozens of healthcare exchanges. The opening of the healthcare exchanges will be an important tool in meeting the health needs of people of color. Uninsured rates for Latinos are up to three times that for whites. For blacks, it’s up to twice as high compared to whites. The ability to sign up on affordable plans is welcomed by many.
Government-operated websites, with an interface much like those used to buy airline tickets or book car rentals, will list available health insurance products. Plans purchased on the exchanges will kick in on January 1, 2014 and sign up closes on March 31, 2014. The launch of healthcare exchanges will not be affected by a government shutdown.
Since more than seven out of 10 people eligible for help under the law don’t know it, here are some key points to understand about getting the healthcare that you, your friends, and your family might need:
Health insurance is mandatory. Under the Affordable Care Act, all Americans citizens and certain immigrants must sign up for health insurance. Failure to do so will result in an annual tax penalty.
Visit healthcare.gov to determine which plan is best for you. Enter basic information such as age, state of residence, and income in order to get the options available to you. Results will vary by state, and prices will vary depending plans, which range from the bare-boned Bronze option to the feature-rich Platinum plans.
For millions, coverage will be free or involve minimum costs. Given the combination of the health care law’s extension of Medicaid to the working poor and/or subsidies for individuals making up to $46,000, monthly healthcare costs for many could cost less than a daily cup of coffee. As Phil Galewitz of Kaiser Health News points out, subsides for a family of four in certain states like Florida could cost only $30 a month.
Spread the word and explore your options.
More than 30 people have successfully crossed the U.S.-Mexico border at the Laredo port of entry in Texas, as part of the National Immigrant Youth Alliance’s Bring Them Home campaign. Today’s very public border crossing is a follow-up to what the Dream 9 did about two months ago.
As they prepared to enter into Texas, the group of about 35 crossers, surrounded by friends, family and supporters began shouting louder and louder chants in English and Spanish, including, “Undocumented! Unafraid!”
Among the 35 or so who crossed was 13-year-old Ingrid Gallegos. The Gallegos family left Phoenix, Ariz., because they were scared of living under Sheriff Joe Arpaio as undocumented immigrants—but they say it’s been much worse in Mexico.
Speaking by phone this morning, Galleges said she’s leaving any fear she has behind in Mexico as she attempts to make her journey to relatives—including her 8-year-old brother, Javier—in Phoenix. But she may be detained in a juvenile facility as her case is processed, and there is no guarantee that she will even be allowed to stay in the United States.
But none of that sways her. “I know very well what I’m doing,” said Gallegos. “And I am not afraid anymore.”
Her father, Plácido Gallegos, said goodbye not only to 13-year-old Ingrid, but to 16-year-old Jessica today as well. He says his daughters never got used to being back in Mexico, and will be safer with relatives in Phoenix. “It hurts me to separate myself from them, but they deserve a chance to live out their dreams,” he said.
Citing privacy laws, the U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency declined to comment on any specific case, but made clear that anyone wanting to enter the U.S. must demonstrate admissibility.
On September 22 Prabhjot Singh, a Sikh physician who teaches at Columbia University, was attacked in his neighborhood of Harlem by a group of young men who allegedly yelled the words “Osama” and “terrorist” at him. That same week, news surfaced of a Sikh man who was harrassed and humiliated by police in Mississippi for wearing articles of faith, and later threatened by a judge for refusing to remove ‘that rag’ off his head.
In response, on Sunday a group of students from Columbia University Sewa organized an “American Cultural Awareness Day” at the site where Singh was attacked in Harlem, to bring attention to ongoing incidents of violence and discrimination against Sikhs in the U.S.
“With the hate crime against our beloved professor and the Sikh man who was threatened by a judge in Mississippi, it is clear that respect and acceptance acceptance are still lacking in many of our communities,” Gurbani Suni, one of the events organizers, says. “We hope that community outreach events will help us embrace our differences and celebrate our unity and diversity.”
Nearly 100 people attended Sunday’s event, which brought together both local communities members and Sikh students involved with the university organization.
Miss Major Griffin-Gracy has a story to tell and two San Francisco-based filmmakers are determined to tell it.
A pioneering transgender activist and elder, Miss Major, as she’s formally known to circles in the Bay Area and across the country, participated in the Stonewall Rebellion of 1969 and now works as the Executive Director of the Transgender GenderVariant Intersex Justice Project (TGIJP). She’s formerly incarcerated, a former sex worker, and an icon in the world of Bay Area queer politics.
Annalise Ophelian and StormMiguel Florez have been working on a documentary about Miss Major’s life since last February, but they’ve recently taken to Kickstarter to help bring the film across the finish line:
As queer and transgender filmmakers, we want to see our stories and our communities represented on screen with authenticity and fierceness. We believe all audiences, LGBTQ and straight, are smart and savvy enough to feel compelled by stories that don’t need manufactured drama to be dramatic. We love documentary films that challenge the way we think and feel without offering easy answers, and inspire us to break through stereotypes and preconceived notions. And we’re committed to bringing innovative visual storytelling and high production values to this work, to create art that stirs the senses and takes the viewer on a journey.
So far they’ve raised more than half of their goal of $25,000, but there are only eight days left to raise more money.
In case you missed it: Once again, Janelle Monáe is dealing with rumors about her sexual orientation. She had a pretty killer response recently on “Sway in the Morning:”
I feel love has no sexual orientation. Love has no religious belief. Love is the purest and most important thing we can possess for ourselves and for others. I keep my personal life very much to myself. I want everybody to focus on my music.”
Longtime emcee Rah Digga has a new project on her hands. The Newark, New Jersey native has launched a Kickstarter campaign to raise $20,000 for The NJ Dance Network, a facility that the artist and several community members are trying to establish in an abandoned building in the city’s downtown. According to the Kickstarter page:
It is a chance for children that do not attend the one (1) performing arts school (Arts High) in the city to receive some formal training. The goal is to develop full-scale dance recitals, theatrical productions to be performed in our city, and basically act as a stomping ground to deter talented kids from getting into trouble with their idle time.
Rah Digga is also working on a new EP called “Hood House: So Jersey” that’s scheduled to drop this December. It’ll feature participants from the NJ Dance Network. According to the rapper, “It is my hope that employing people directly from the community would be a great way to boost morale and offer them a chance to experience pop culture in a positive environment while utilizing his or her natural born talents.”
Roy Choi is a Korean-American chef who gained a huge following with his gourmet Korean taco truck Kogi. He’s got an autobiography called “L.A. Son: My Life, My City, My Food” due out November 5 and what makes him unique is how unafraid he is to talk about food as an important part of a city’s culture, along with its crime and missed opportunities (check out his presentation at MAD3 posted above). But, as the chef wrote over at his blog recently, there’s one chapter that you won’t see in the book:
I’m very proud of it and think it represents LA, immigrant life, food, and my growth well. It feels and smells like LA and OC. It extends itself like a good album. I hope you will like it. There are 12 chapters but one didn’t make the cut. So here is a b-side before the book even comes out. It’s not edited, it’s still raw.
You can read the so-called “lost” chapter over at Choi’s blog RidingShotGunLA.com.
(h/t Angry Asian Man)
This year’s annual BET Hip-Hop Awards ceremony in Atlanta was a celebration of old and new trendsetters in the industry. The night began with a tribute to pioneering artist MC Lyte, who received the “I Am Hip-Hop Award” during Saturday’s taped show at the Boisfeuillet Jones Atlanta Civic Center.
“Please keep the dream alive, I am with you,” MC Lyte told the crowd.
And one person who’s definitely keeping hip-hop alive right now is Kendrick Lamar, who wowed spectators with a four-minute freestyle.
The show airs on October 15th. Stay tuned for video from this year’s awards ceremony.
(h/t CBS News)
Celebrated author and poet Dr. Maya Angelou has been awarded two major literary awards this year. Earlier this month the National Book Foundation announced that Angelou will receive the 2013 Literarian Award for Outstanding Service to the American Literary Community, her first major prize. Last Thursday, the Norman Mailer Center and Writers Colony announced they would be awarding Angelou a lifetime acheivement award. Author Junot Díaz is also being honored with a distinguished writing prize by the Mailer Center this year.
Best known for her influential autobiography “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings,” which paved the way for generations of writers to explore issues of race, gender, and sexual violence, Angelou published her seventh autobiography titled “Mom & Me & Mom” this year at age 85.
Late last night word leaked to the Associated Press, The New York Times, and The Charlotte Observer that the U.S. Department of Justice plans to sue North Carolina over its recently passed Voter Identification Verification Act (VIVA), which among other things imposes a strict mandate on voters to have certain photo voter identification in their possession to access their ballots.
U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder is expected to make a full announcement about this today during a press conference in the state. According to the media outlets that broke the news last night, the Justice Department will aim specifically at VIVA sections that mandate photo ID, strip the first seven days and final weekend from early voting, ban same-day registration, and limit out-of-precinct voting. Civil rights advocates have criticized those provisions as unduly burdensome for people of color, college students, women, and elderly voters — all voting populations that tend to favor the Democratic Party.
It is not yet clear what form or fashion Holder’s legal challenge will come in, but he’s expected to declare the voter ID law a violation of the Voting Rights Act. A few lawsuits have already been filed against it, including one co-signed by the American Civil Liberties Union and Southern Coalition for Southern Justice, another filed unilaterally by SCSJ, and one co-signed by the Advancement Project and the North Carolina NAACP state conference. The lawsuit filed by SCSJ alone argues that the law violates voting rights protections in the state’s constitution, while the other two make claims under the federal Voting Rights Act and the U.S. Constitution. All of them target the same VIVA provisions that Holder’s legal challenge reportedly will focus on.
Holder has already intervened to enforce Voting Rights Act protections in a voter ID law case out of Texas. He’s also challenged that state’s redistricting law under the VRA. In both of those cases, federal courts had already struck the laws after finding both inadvertent and intentional racial discrimination in how they would be applied.
Courts reviewed and ruled against these laws when Texas was subject to VRA Section Five “preclearance,” which required the state to prove that its new election laws would not result in racially discriminatory disenfranchisement before implementing them. The U.S. Supreme Court’s Shelby v. Holder ruling in June invalidated Section Five’s coverage formula that captured all of Texas. In the new lawsuits, Holder is seeking for Texas to be re-entered into preclearance oversight under VRA’s Section Three.
In North Carolina, 40 of the state’s 100 counties were subject to the same Section Five preclearance auditing as Texas. Holder reportedly will request a Section Three preclearance bail in, but it’s not yet clear if will seek that for the entire state or for the 40 counties recently covered under Section Five.
Holder has announced on a number of occasions since the Shelby ruling that he would vigorously enforce the remaining tools of the Voting Rights Act to protect voters of color. Sen. Hagan, a Democrat, has not been alone in asking Holder to use those tools in North Carolina: State Attorney General Roy Cooper, also a Democrat, has expressed objections to VIVA and started a petition asking Gov. Pat McCrory (R) to veto the bill before he ultimately signed it into law.
Read the rest at Facing South
Following up on last month’s action by the Dream 9, a new, larger group of undocumented immigrants will attempt to return to the United States today. The so-called Dream 30 will attempt to cross the border at the Laredo, Tex., port of entry with the goal of a chance to stay in the U.S. through some form of legal relief. The youngest of the crossers is 13-year-old Ingrid Gallegos. Her 16-year-old sister, Jessica, will be crossing as well. The two sisters became involved with the National Immigrant Youth Alliance (NIYA), the group organizing the action, after their mother encountered the Dream 9 at the Eloy Detention Center in Arizona last month.
The Dream 30 crossing is different from the NIYA’s previous action; the group won’t enter Mexico with the express purpose of crossing back into the United States. They’ve all been deported or they’ve left the United States under dire circumstances such as the serious illness of a loved one in Mexico. But it’s very likely that, like the Dream 9, the Dream 30 will spend time in an immigration detention center.
One member of the Dream 30, Lorena Vargas, has been out of the United States for more than a year. Last Thursday, Vargas was in Nuevo Laredo, directly across from Laredo, Tex., in the Mexican state of Tamaulipas, participating in a legal training. She took a break to speak with me by phone.
“I know people will say we’re doing this for attention, but unfortunately they’re just ignorant to what our reality is” she told me. “This is a really delicate and difficult situation.”
Vargas was just six years old when she and her mother, Mirna, left Michoacan, Mex., for Tucson, Ariz. Her mother became a U.S. citizen in 2010.
After securing citizenship, Vargas’s mother hired a lawyer to prepare her daughter’s immigration papers. They traveled to the U.S. Consulate in Ciudad Juarez, Mex., to apply for Lorena’s visa. Mother and daughter did just that in February 2012. They expected to return to Tucson the same day, but Lorena was denied entry.
According to Daniel Aguilera, Mirna Vargas’s boyfriend, officials at the U.S. Consulate told the family that they believed Lorena had gone to the Mexico in April 2002 to process her birth certificate. Leaving the United States would make her ineligible for a visa. Aguilera says they have plenty of evidence to the contrary including Lorena’s school attendance records, but the consulate’s office won’t budge. In fact, he says, they’ve barred her from applying for reentry until 2022.
“We even got Senator John McCain to try to intervene,” says Aguilera, a U.S.-born citizen who helps people file legal documents—including immigration papers—for a living. He says the family even wrote to Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano. But the consulate operates under the auspices of the State Department and has no appeals process.
In Mexico Lorena Vargas’ life was swiftly turned upside down. She first stayed with a family friend in the state of Hermosillo. Weeks later, however, the federal police mistook her for a person working in organized crime, which is rampant in the area where she was residing. She was arrested and held for three days until her mother came down from Tucson to clear the matter. Vargas was released without charges and the family decided that she would be safer in her own apartment. They picked one in Agua Prieta, Sonora. Then she was sexually assaulted.
“It’s kind of hard to talk about it,” Vargas told me. “It was a horrible experience.”
After the assault, Vargas reached out to her paternal grandfather in the state of Michoacan. At first, she made strides in reconnecting with family she hadn’t seen since she was six years old. But progress came to a halt when they realized that Vargas is a lesbian. “My grandfather basically told me that he didn’t want to know anything about me ever again,” Vargas said. For the last few weeks, she’s been staying with yet another family friend.
“I still can’t get it in my head that Mexico is somehow my country,” Vargas said. “But we’re coming home. We are coming home.”
In an official guidance issued by the Department of Education today, the Obama administration encouraged colleges and universities to continue to use race-conscious admissions policies to compose their incoming classes. The guidance is the administration’s first clarification to schools on how to proceed after the Supreme Court issued its ruling in Fisher v. Texas this summer.
“The Departments of Education and Justice strongly support diversity in higher education,” the letter said. “Racially diverse educational environments help to prepare students to succeed in our increasingly diverse nation. The future workforce of America must be able to transcend the boundaries of race, language, and culture as our economy becomes more globally interconnected.”
With its guidance, the Department of Education is trying to head off colleges’ skittishness about how to use race-conscious admissions policies after the Supreme Court essentially opened the door to future legal challenges this summer.
At the upcoming New York Film Festival, award-winning filmmakers Michael Camerini and Shari Robertson, the team behind “Well-Founded Fear,” will premier a series of nine documentaries charting the past decade in U.S. immigration reform efforts. The series is part of the “How Democracy Works Now” segment, and takes a close look at the politicians and activists behind one of the nation’s most explosive and controversial political issues. Highlights include exclusive interviews with the late Senator Ted Kennedy, and intimate conversations with Cecilia Muñoz, who now works for the Obama administration but was still an immigration activist during filming.
The New York Film Festival opens on September 27, and the immigration series will be screened at locations throughout the city October 11 to 13.
(h/t Feet in Two Worlds)
The U.S. Constitution guarantees religious freedom, and therefore bars law enforcement officers from discriminating against people based on their race, ethnicity, national origin or faith. But Mississippi traffic cops and Pike County Court Judge Aubrey Rimes apparently weren’t going to let that little old document deter them from harassing and humiliating a Sikh truck driver named Jagjeet Singh after pulling him over. And now the ACLU of Mississippi and United Sikhs want state officials to investigate Singh’s treatment.
Singh was driving through the state in January when he was pulled over for a flat tire. After officers detained him they called him a “terrorist” and mocked the articles of faith he wears and carries. In a letter (PDF) sent to state officials on Wednesday, ACLU-Mississippi’s legal director Bear Atwood detailed Mississippi officers’ degrading treatment of Singh. It’s worth reading every word:
As a devout Sikh, Mr. Singh wears a turban and carries a kirpan. A kirpan is a small, spiritual sword that is sheathed and sewn to the waistband. It is designed and worn as an article of faith, much as a cross is worn by devout Christians. Contending, wrongly, that his kirpan was illegal, the officers demanded that Mr. Singh remove it. When Mr. Singh explained that he was a Sikh and that the kirpan was a sacred religious article, the officers laughed at him and mocked his religious beliefs. One officer declared that all Sikhs are “depraved” and “terrorists.” They continued to taunt him, and forced Mr. Singh to circle his truck with his hands on his turban while they searched the vehicle. Finally, not content with this humiliation, they arrested him, claiming that Mr. Singh had refused to obey an officer’s lawful command.
…When he returned to Mississippi on March 26, 2013, for his court date at the Pike County Justice Court, he once again suffered humiliation, harassment, and discrimination because of his religious beliefs. Waiting for his attorney in the back of the courtroom, he was stunned when four Highway Patrol officers approached him and ordered him to leave the courtroom. The officers stated that Judge Aubrey Rimes had ordered them to eject Mr. Singh from the courtroom because he did not like Mr. Singh’s turban. Moreover, they told Mr. Singh that Judge Rimes would punish him if he failed to remove his headdress.
When Mr. Singh’s attorney went to Judge Rimes’s chambers to inquire about the matter, he readily confirmed that he had expelled Mr. Singh from the courtroom because of his turban. He further stated that Mr. Singh would not be allowed to re-enter the courtroom unless he removed “that rag” from his head and threatened to call Mr. Singh last on the docket if he continued to wear the religious headdress.
Singh’s experience is hardly isolated. Hate crimes toward and bias-based bullying and discrimination of Sikhs are all too commonplace occurrence in this post-Sept. 11 era. The ACLU of Mississippi also plans to ask for a separate investigation and sanctions when it files a formal complaint with the Mississippi Judicial Commission.
In response to criticism over the use of deadly force, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) is now testing out dashboard cameras and overhauling basic training. According to the Associated Press, the response came from a series of reviews done by outside agencies as well as the department’s inspector general. At least 19 deaths have been attributed to CBP since 2010, among them a 16-year-old who was shot in the back at least seven times after a rock-throwing incident.
In a statement released this week, the ACLU says the new measures are insufficient, and made additional recommendations such as the use of cameras worn on the body. CBP says the new trainings will involve more real-life scenarios, and increased use of non-lethal weapons.
The online review site Yelp! recently joined the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) as a private sector member as at least 50 corporations and nonprofits have cut ties with organization. The controversial right wing organization is best known for promoting “Stand Your Ground” and voter ID laws, but are also connected to Arizona’s SB1070 and anti-union laws.
It has just been discovered that Yelp! paid ALEC at least $10,000 to join the organization on the same week as the Trayvon Martin case began, making the timing of their decision even more peculiar.
As Colorlines previously reported, ALEC has consistently disregarded the racial implications of the legislation they promote, most notably the “Stand Your Ground” law that was pivotal in the Trayvon Martin case. ALEC and Yelp! have joined forces to promote anti-SLAAP laws (strategic lawsuits against public participation), which are often used to intimidate people making statements on public forums.
There is a new website for people who want to encourage Yelp! to stop working with ALEC.
(h/t Color of Change)
The Dream 9 drew a lot of attention last month when they very publically crossed the U.S.-Mexico border. The nine were taken into detention but sent home to their various communities across the U.S. after just 17 days.
Now, an even bigger group of people will cross on Monday. Three of the estimated 30 crossers are minors—one is just 13 years old. The other two are just a bit older. They’re participating in the National Immigrant Youth Alliance’s new Bring Them Home campaign.
16-year-old Javier Galvan has called Jacksonville, Florida home for most of his life. He arrived when he was just three years old. But two years ago, when his grandmother fell ill in Michoacan, Mexico, he returned to be with her.
Since then, he’s faced a hard time trying to speak Spanish, especially in school. He’s endured verbal bullying and physical attacks. He says he wants to come back home to Jacksonville to finish school and eventually study medicine.
About a month after Awkward Black Girl’s Issa Rae debuted her new Web series called “The Choir,” the new show is already drawing criticism. The series is a dramedy about one church’s attempts to rebuild its dormant choir, but a recent episode that features a new song called “Christ WALK” by Rae that some find to be an insulting parody of Christian rap.
“Aside from it being disrespectful to put Christ’s name in a profanity-filled rap, Issa, you ought know better than to trivialize gang violence,” wrote one commentor on YouTube. “So many of our young urban youths are dying in the streets because they don’t see the seriousness of taking human life. This is very disappointing. Not funny in the least.”
(h/t Clutch Magazine)