The Worst of the Worst tells the story of Connecticut’s sole supermax prison, where many inmates are held in solitary confinement for months and even years at a time.
Trayvon Martin’s parents, Sybrina Fulton and Tracy Martin, did a series of interviews on Thursday, opening up publicly for the first time since George Zimmerman was acquitted in the death of their son. During an interview on “Anderson Cooper 360”, they both expressed their shock at the verdict, and the justice system, in general.
“When I heard the verdict, I kind of understand the disconnect,” Fulton said, according to CNN. “Maybe they (jurors) didn’t see Trayvon as their son. They didn’t see Trayvon as a teenager. They didn’t see Trayvon as just a human being that was minding his own business.”
UPDATE 9:02 ET 07/18/13: Communications staff from the Advancement Project just reported to me that Gov. Rick Scott has agreed to meet with the Dream Defenders and he is in a session with them right now that began with a prayer circle. I’m told the students are telling him they do not plan to leave the state capitol until their demands concerning the Trayvon Martin Act are met. More news to come soon.
Students from around Florida have converged at the state capitol in Tallahassee demanding that Gov. Rick Scott heed their demands concerning racial profiling and school-to-prison pipeline issues in the wake of the George Zimmerman verdict. The youth — mostly Latino and African Americans — call themselves the “Dream Defenders” and have occupied the building since Tuesday making pleas to speak with the governor. Leaders of the Defenders say Gov. Scott has so far refused to meet with them so they plan to stay overnight, through the weekend if necessary, until the governor responds.
The Dream Defenders have been organizing around the killing of Trayvon Martin since the murder happened last spring. Today, hundreds of students, some as young as nine years old, are gathered to convince state lawmakers to pass the “Trayvon Martin Act.” The bill would address racial profiling, “Stand Your Ground” laws and school-to-prison pipeline issues — “the three pillars that led to George Zimmerman getting away with killing Trayvon Martin,” said Dream Defender Philip Agnew on a media call.
Despite the governor’s rebuff of their request to meet with him, Agnew said, “We’re not going anywhere. The State House Legislative building is a great place to live,” and joked that he even has some change-of-address forms.
According to Dream Defender Ciara Taylor, the number of students occupying the building have “doubled” since they started Tuesday. Annie Thomas, of the Miami-based Power U Center for Social Change, said students there are “living in a state of fear” due to schools’ “zero tolerance” policies that lead to students of color getting excessively suspended and expelled. Trayvon Martin lived and went to school in Miami Gardens and was in Sanford the day he was murdered because he was serving a ten-day suspension from school.
The Defenders’ occupy action has earned the support of civil rights groups like the NAACP, which is holding its national convention not far away in Orlando. The NAACP’s state chapter excused one of its directors, Dale Landry, so he could travel to Tallahassee and support the Defenders. Landry delivered a letter from the Florida NAACP president that told Gov. Scott to listen to the concerns of the organized youth.
“Parents across the state are questioning whether Stand Your Ground laws protect their children from vigilantism and racial profiling,” said Landry.
Landry also said that by Gov. Scott’s refusing to meet with the Defenders, “he is affirming the sentiment that the state places no value on the lives of black and brown youth.”
Earlier this week, President Barack Obama endorsed New York City police commissioner, and stop-and-frisk cheerleader, Ray Kelly as an adequate replacement for Janet Napolitano as head of the Department of Homeland Security. Under Kelly, the New York Police Department’s policy on randomly stopping people in the streets and then questioning and patting them down for weapons and drugs, imposed a stiff burden on black and Latino residents. According to the ACLU in New York, between 2002 and 2011, black and Latino New Yorkers made up close to 90 percent of those stopped by police — 88 percent of whom had no weapons or drugs on them when it happened. Kelly has staunchly defended the policy regardless of the racial profiling it codifies and its fruitless conclusions.
But Obama told Univision on Wednesday that “Kelly has obviously done an extraordinary job in New York,” and that the police commissioner is “one of the best there is” — an “outstanding leader in New York.”
“Mr. Kelly might be very happy where he is,” said Obama. “But if he’s not I’d want to know about it. ‘Cause, you know, obvioiusly he’d be very well qualified for the job.”
This endorsement seems tone deaf given the current conversations nationwide around national security. Kelly’s “extraordinary” work in New York City has led to the city council passing the Community Safety Act, which scales back the police’s ability to racially profile considerably. Kelly’s stop-and-frisk policy is being challenged in federal court by the Center for Constitutional Rights right now. Obama’s own Justice Department may be sending in a federal monitor to ensure that NYPD stops racial profiling. The following, questioning and apprehension of targeted black males is at the crux of the current debate around George Zimmerman’s killing Trayvon Martin.
In the same week that Obama asked, in response to the Zimmerman verdict, if “we’re doing all we can to widen the circle of compassion and understanding in our own communities,” the Kelly that Obama has endorsed has insisted that NYPD “disproportionately stop[s] whites too much and minorities too little.” Besides the fact that 90 percent of those stopped were black or Latino, he’s also conducted widespread surveillance programs targeting Muslims, as reported by the New York ACLU. The judge in the federal lawsuit has not taken kindly to Kelly’s skewed racial statistics. In that federal trial, state Sen. Eric Adams, a retired NYPD captain, testified that Kelly told him stop-and-frisk was “targeted and focused on” black and Latino New Yorkers “because he wanted to instill fear in them that every time that they left their homes they could be targeted by police.”
Last year, Kelly told Esquire magazine that stop-and-frisk “is a lifesaver,” responsible for crime going down 80 percent over the previous two decades. He bragged that in 2011, 8,000 weapons were confiscated through stop-and-frisk.
The ACLU’s fact sheet on stop-and-frisk says the decline in murder began before 2002, when Kelly became commissioner and that it hasn’t reduced the number of shootings much — “In 2002, there were 1,892 victims of gunfire and 97,296 stops. In 2011, there were still 1,821 victims of gunfire but a record 685,724 stops,” reads the sheet.
Also, the ACLU found that guns were uncovered in less than .2 percent of the stops, making stop-and-frisk “an intrusive, wasteful and humiliating police action.”
Is this what the entire nation will look like under a Kelly Homeland Security administration?
Last month our editor Kai Wright made the link between the online data-mining intrusion of the federal government with the profiling policies of Kelly.
The logic used to defend secretly collecting the communications data of people not accused of any crime is the same logic used to defend NYPD’s stop-and-frisk program and Homeland Security’s deportation apparatus. The logic of “national security” was developed and honed by law enforcement practices inside communities of color. It is one of the more striking examples of a basic truth: racial injustice is cancerous; it eats the national body from the inside out.
Justin Lin is a busy man. In the middle of directing the Fast & Furious franchise in 2007, Lin embarked on bringing to life a mockcumentary about trying to finish Bruce Lee’s film “Game of Death.” Now, it looks like the director is taking it one step further. Accoridng to Deadline:
Fast & The Furious 6 director Justin Lin and Seven Stars Studios’ Bruno Wu’s joint venture has partnered with Bruce Lee Enterprises for a TV series based on material written by the iconic Enter The Dragon actor. Details are sketchy on the one-hour drama, but it looks like Lin could direct the pilot, my sources say. CAA is repping the drama and Perfect Storm is planning to begin meeting with potential showrunners soon. This project — a passion for Lee, I’ve heard - is the first one Lin has formally gotten involved with since F&F6 came out in May.
This year’s Emmy nods are out. No surprises: House of Cards, Breaking Bad, and Mad Men lead the way. But, of course, the nominations really white.
Kerry Washington’s Olivia Pope — who, along with Don Cheadle and Alfre Woodard, Morgan Freeman, and Oprah were the only actors of color nominated for a major Emmy award this year — reacts to this structural issue in Hollywood:
It’s Nelson Mandela’s 95th birthday. While the ailing anti-Apartheid hero remains hospitalized in South Africa, the subject of his legacy — and how exactly to portray it on film — has been up for discussion. Tambay A. Obenson points out over at Shadow and Act that Mandela’s story is most often told alongside that of a white character, which puts Mandela’s own life in the background:
Last week, 30,000 inmates in California’s state prisons began a hunger strike to call for an end to the use of indefinite solitary confinement. Here’s a written and visual piece from Michael D. Russell, an inmate in Pelican Bay State Prison’s Special Housing Unit (SHU):
There is a stark contrast between the majestic mountain scenery that surrounds Pelican Bay State Prison, and the utter desperation of life that exists behind its walls. Most of the men here wear the look of those crushed under years of carrying a heavy burden. Their faces tell a story all their own — one of unrealized potential, punishing consequences, and possibilities of future success that no longer exist.
Pelican Bay State Prison is a maximum-security prison, where many men spend years in the Security Housing Unit (SHU) — 23 ½ hours a day, locked in a windowless cell. I’ve spent a quarter of my life in this prison’s cages, in its mud, learning to deal with the loud rhythm, the madness and isolation, the absence from my family and friends that has turned me into a total stranger, with so much empty uncertainty. I don’t sit here and cry. Nobody does.
The full character of a man shows itself in the SHU, where there is nowhere to hide. And today, I stand proudly back-to-back with all those strong respectful men, whose choice it is to now venture into a hunger strike and work stoppage, in peaceful protest.
In a 3-to-2 decision, South Carolina’s Supreme Court has ruled that the Native child whose case went to the US Supreme Court will be placed back with the white family that sought to adopt her.
In its ruling, the US Supreme Court held that Dusten Brown, and his daughter, Baby Veronica—who are both citizens of the Cherokee Nation—were essentially not protected under the Indian Child Welfare Act. As such, the case was bounced back to the South Carolina court. After the ruling, Brown ironically attempted to adopt his own daughter in Oklahoma, since the high court didn’t recognize his rights as a parent. But Oklahoma declined to hear the petition, claiming that South Carolina retained exclusive jurisdiction of the case, since that was where the potential adoptive parents resided.
The South Carolina court agreed Wednesday to terminate Brown’s parental rights, ruling against him and Cherokee Nation. The ruling means that Matt and Melanie Capobianco, the white couple that sought to adopt Veronica, will now regain custody and finalize the adoption.
In their dissenting opinion, two of the justices drew attention to the fact that although Veronica was temporarily placed in pre-adoptive care with the Copabiancos, she was placed with her birth father while still a baby. Just a couple of months shy of age four, she’s now being taken from her father in what the justices are calling “an abrupt transfer,” that is not necessarily in Veronica’s best interest.
Brown does have five days to petition for a rehearing, though it remains unclear what legal avenues he may have left to pursue.
The official full trial for a state constitutional challenge against a photo voter ID law passed in Pennsylvania began this week, and already two startling issues have emerged: One, there are still hundreds of thousands of Pennsylvanians who don’t have the necessary identification to vote over a year since civil rights groups challenged the law saying it would disenfranchise many voters; and two, the chairman of the Pennsylvania Republican Party said that the voter ID law was instrumental in cutting votes for Obama by about five percent.
As reported by Think Progress, Pa. Republican Chairman Rob Gleason was asked in a state cable network news show was asked if the legal controversy around the voter ID law affected last year’s elections.” Gleason said it did, basically bragging, “we cut Obama by five percent” and that he thought “voter ID helped a bit in that.”
This comment is consistent with Gleason’s Pa. GOP colleagues state Rep. Mike Turzai who said the law would help Mitt Romney win Pennsylvania and Rep. Daryl Metcalfe, the bill’s sponsor, who said those who couldn’t comply with the law were “the lazy who refuse to exercise the necessary work ethic.”
It will be interesting to see how Gleason’s comments play out in the current trial over whether the law comports with the state’s constitution. Last year, the civil rights groups challenging the law successfully won a preliminary injunction that stopped the voter ID mandate from going into effect for the November elections (though poll workers could still ask for ID, voters didn’t have to show it). The state lost in those hearings because they couldn’t prove, per the many judges’ instructions, that the law wouldn’t lead to even one person disenfranchised. Here, Gleason is admitting to five percent of voters disenfranchised.
Which was consistent with the testimony of former Temple University professor Bernard Siskin, who said in the current trial to determine if the law should be permanently banned that as many as 511,000 Pennsylvania voters lacked the right ID to vote. According to the report from Philly.com, Siskin’s research found that among 900,000 African-American registered voters, about 89,000, or 10 percent, lacked ID, along with 11 percent of Asian American voters, as opposed to five percent of white voters.
He also testified that almost two percent of the 5.7 million people who voted in November would have been disenfranchised if the law was in place then.
Meanwhile, the free ID cards the state is supposed to send out to those without ID have been distributed slowly and not widely. According to civil rights law organization Advancement Project, one of the lawyers challenging the law, the state has issued fewer than 17,000 of them since the law passed 16 months ago.
Yeah, you read that correctly. From the Los Angeles Times:
The W.E.B. Du Bois Institute at Harvard University and the Hip-Hop Archive announced the Nasir Jones Hip-Hop Fellowship on Tuesday. The goal of the fellowship is to provide chosen scholars and artists with an opportunity to show that “education is real power.”
The mission of the Hip-Hop Archive, according to the announcement, is to seek projects from scholars and artists that build on the rich and complex hip-hop tradition; to respect that tradition through historically grounded and contextualized critical insights; and most important, to represent one’s creative and/or intellectually rigorous contribution to hip-hop and the discourse through personal and academic projects.
We all know about Juror B37, who provided an exclusive interview and whose dream of publishing a book and profiting from the Zimmerman trial appears to have vanished. Now, nearly all of the jurors that served with her have weighed in.
According to a statement published Tuesday by the Eighteenth Judicial Circuit, four jurors have issued a statement distancing themselves from their colleague in the jury box:
We, the undersigned jurors, understand there is a great deal of interest in this case. But we ask you to remember that we are not public officials and we did not invite this type of attention into our lives. We also wish to point out that the opinions of Juror B-37, expressed on the Anderson
Cooper show were her own, and not in any way representative of the jurors listed below.
The full statement is signed by Jurors B51, B76, E6 and E40—which means that so far, we’ve heard from all of the white jurors who served on the case.
That leaves the one woman of color—Juror B29—who has remained silent since Saturday’s verdict. As we noted previously, Juror B29 appeared to have been wiping a tear from her eye during the state’s closing rebuttal. If she does emerge, we might better understand how the jury found Zimmerman not guilty on all charges in connection to the killing of Trayvon Martin.
Cameroonian LGBT activist Eric Ohene Lembembe, Executive Director of the Cameroonian Foundation for AIDS (CAMFAIDS) had recently warned supporters of “anti-gay thugs.” Now, it appears that he’s become one of their latest victims.
Lembembe was found tortured and killed in his home in the Cameroonian capitol of Yaoundé. For years, he had fought against the rising tide of LGBT violence that had recently washed over the West African country, violence so brutal that a report by Amnesty International found the country’s authorities guilty of “grave human rights violations — including forcing suspected gay men to undergo forced anal exams. In a detailed look at the report, blogger Rod McCullom called Cameroonian President Paul Biyah head of one of Africa’s most repressive anti-LGBT regimes.
Friends reportedly found Lembembe’s body on Monday and reported that both his neck and feet appeared to be broken and that he had been branded with an iron, according to a graphic report in the Huffington Post.
The U.S. Department released a statement condemning Lembembe’s murder. “We deplore the brutal murder of Eric Ohena Lembembe, who was found tortured to death in his home in Yaoundé yesterday,” the statement read. “We condemn this terrible act in the strongest terms and urge the Cameroonian authorities to thoroughluy and promptly investigate and prosecute those responsible for his death.”
Over at The Daily Beast, Neela Ghoshal recounted the important work that Lembembe did on behalf of the LGBT community and people living with HIV and AIDS.
When Lembembe spoke, th[e] snickers [of Cameroon’s military police] trailed off. “I am Cameroonian, like you,” he said. “Let’s be serious. We all know that gay people exist in Cameroon. In fact, they exist in all of our families. And we all know that they are mistreated. Would you tolerate this abuse if this were your brother? Would you laugh at it, if this were your sister?” Lembembe picked up the stories where I had left off, and the gendarmes listened. They didn’t commit to taking action, not at this initial meeting, where defenses where high, but they listened.
Lembembe’s brand of activism was beginning to shake things up in Cameroon. Along with a cadre of other young, outspoken LGBT-rights activists in Yaoundé and Douala, Lembembe was impatient for change. Statements by President Paul Biya at a news conference in France and by Biya’s foreign minister at the U.N. Human Rights Council, to the effect that Cameroon was “not yet ready” for full equality for its lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender citizens, got under Lembembe’s skin. He did not see why he should be treated like a second-class citizen for one day longer.
In the aftermath of George Zimmerman’s acquittal on all charges related to the shooting death of Trayvon Martin, the continued racial profiling of young black men has become even bigger news than usual. On Tuesday, Essence Magazine launched a social media campaign called #HeIsNotASuspect to challenge the negative images of young black men in the media. Its aim is to end racial profiling by targeting the often unacknowledged victims of violence targeted at young black men: the black mothers, grandmothers, aunties, sisters, and girlfriends who are often left behind to pick up the pieces.
So far, the campaign has unearthed beautiful images and declarations of love. Check them out after the jump.
Within hours of a Florida jury’s decision to acquit George Zimmerman of all charges related to the death of Trayvon Martin, the NAACP launched a peition calling on the Justice Department to prosecute the former neighborhood watchman on civil rights charges. The petition quickly picked up steam — even crashing the civil right’s organization’s website for severala hours — and has now recieved over one million signatures.
“I knew I was not alone in my outrage, anger, and heartbreak over this decision,” NAACP President Ben Jealous said in an official statement obtained by The Grio. “When a teenager’s life is taken, and there is no accountability for the man who killed him, nothing seems right in the world. But we cannot let these emotions rule us.”
“This is the power of one million voices,” he added. “One voice in angry protest can be ignored, but when one million people speak as one - and thousands more take to the street in peaceful protest, rallies and vigils - we can change the world.”
The Justice Department has confirmed that the Zimmerman case is under review.
You can read the peition, which is addressed to Attorney General Eric Holder, after the jump.
The Colorlines community has grown dramatically in the past couple of years—and it’s still growing bigger every month. But we’re not just interested in size around here; we’re interested in meaningful engagement. So I’m proud to introduce our newest Colorlines Editorial Fellow, Stacia L. Brown. For the next 12 months, Stacia will be devoted to you, developing new ways to foster productive dialogue with and among our readers. In sum, she’s here to increase the sense of community between our readers, the Colorlines reporters and the newsmakers we cover.
So how will Stacia engage with all of you? Well, we’re going to expiriment and find out. There’ll be Twitter chats around news events in which racial justice plays a crucial role. There’ll be Google+ Hangouts, with live discussion in social media. We’ll grow more active in moderating discussions in the comment sections of our articles. And more stuff we haven’t thought of yet. We also invite you to reach out to us via email at email@example.com.
We’re in good hands with Stacia. She’s the founder of Beyond Baby Mamas, a social media community dedicated to single mothers of color. The group provides a safe space for moms to share stories and dialogue on issues large and small, from the political to the emotional. She’s also a founding blogger at PostBourgie and a regular contributor to The Atlantic’s The Sexes blog and to Huffington Post Live. Most importantly, she’s part of our commuinty already, and many of you have likely met her on Twitter already.
So speak up! We’re ready to listen.
And you’ll get your first chance later this week. On Thursday, we will delve into George Zimmerman’s acquittal with a live chat. Colorlines News Editor Aura Bogado will lead a Google Hangout panel of youth, organizers and faith leaders to explore the question, What is justice in this case—beyond sending an individual to jail? Join the conversation on Twitter with @colorlines and at #HoodiesUpNext, Thursday, July 18 at noon.
Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson wrote about the lessons he learned from the Zimmerman verdict, all of which basically boil down to one, unescapable truth. Here’s an adaptation from the drummer’s Facebook note posted after Zimmerman’s acquittal.
Radio personality Tom Joyner has reportedly offered Rachel Jeantel a full college scholarship, funded through his Tom Joyner Foundation. From Business Insider:
The website Joyner founded, confirmed the news. Jeantel spoke to Joyner on his radio show Tuesday morning.,
He said to her: “If you want to graduate from high school, and go to an HBCU, even if it’s not in Florida but especially Florida,like Florida Memorial, Edward Waters or FAMU, if you want to do that, I want to help you do that. I will help you get tutors to get you out of high school, tutors to help you pass the SAT and I will give you a full ride scholarship to any HBCU you’d like.”
An oldie but goodie, here’s a snippet of William Greaves’ 1989 film Ida B. Wells: A Passion for Justice. In it, writer Toni Morrison reads from the pioneering black journalist’s memoirs about life in the South during reconstruction and her crusade to bring attention to the lynching of black men. Wells was born in Holly Springs, Mississippi on July 16, 1862.