76-Year-Old White Man Gets Life Term for Murder of 13-Year-Old Black Boy

76-Year-Old White Man Gets Life Term for Murder of 13-Year-Old Black Boy

Many are still reeling from George Zimmerman’s acquittal. But in Milwaukee, at least there’s this:

A 76-year-old Milwaukee man who fatally shot his unarmed teenage neighbor was sentenced to life in prison Monday, days after telling the court he killed the boy for justice because he believed he stole his shotguns.

John Henry Spooner’s home had been burglarized two days before the May 2012 shooting, and he suspected 13-year-old Darius Simmons as the thief. So he confronted the teen, demanded that he return the guns and then shot him in the chest in front of his mother when he denied stealing anything.

Spooner’s own home surveillance cameras captured the shooting, and prosecutors aired the footage in court.

A jury found Spooner guilty of first-degree intentional homicide last week, a conviction carrying a mandatory life sentence. The judge could have allowed for the possibility of parole after 20 years, but rejected that option, citing Spooner’s lack of remorse and desire to also kill the teen’s brother.

It’s also worth pointing out that Simmons’ mother witnessed the shooting and was initially detained by police as her son lay dying. The Huffington Post points out that, much like in the Zimmerman case, race was almost never mentioned. But apparently this guy was beyond reproach. 

Spike Lee Wants to Raise $1.25 Million on Kickstarter For a New Film

Spike Lee Wants to Raise $1.25 Million on Kickstarter For a New Film

Legendary filmmaker Spike Lee is asking for your help to make his next feature film. Lee launched a Kickstarter campaign on Monday with the goal of raising more than $1 million dollars. 

“The only way to insure, as an indepdendent filmmaker, that your vision gets on screen is when you bring the money to the table,” he said in a Kickstarter video.

So far, Lee’s Kickstarter campaign is doing extrordinarily well, raising more than $90,000 in a little over a day. Lee explains more on his Kickstarter page:

I have a different vision of what Cinema can be, a different vision of what some under-served Audiences might want to see. That is why I am here on KICKSTARTER, to raise the Funds for The New Spike Lee Joint, to get this BAD BOY financed. Nothing in Life is Free and if you want something you got to pay for it. If you have liked any of my Films in the past, this is the price it costs to see another one (which can be less than the cost of one Movie Ticket). We feel the different levels on contributions make it affordable for everyone to GET DOWN FOR THE CAUSE.

The campaign ends on Wednesday, August 21. 

A Seattle ‘Boylesque’ Troup Did Their Version of Robin Thicke’s ‘Blurred Lines’

A Seattle 'Boylesque' Troup Did Their Version of Robin Thicke's 'Blurred Lines'

Yay for folks who think criticially about gender. From Mod Carousel:

It’s our opinion that most attempts to show female objectification in the media by swapping the genders serve more to ridicule the male body than to highlight the extent to which women get objectified and does everyone a disservice. We made this video specifically to show a spectrum of sexuality as well as present both women and men in a positive light, one where objectifying men is more than alright and where women can be strong and sexy without negative repercussions.

(H/T Jezebel)

From Federal Prison, Lauryn Hill Thanks Supporters

From Federal Prison, Lauryn Hill Thanks Supporters

A message from Ms. Lauryn Hill, from Tumblr:

“I have known since very young to look for the purpose and lesson in everything, including the trials.  Although it has taken some adjustment, I cannot deny the favor I have encountered while in here, and general warm reception from a community of people who despite their circumstances, have found unique ways to make the best of them.  Thank you for the letters of concern and well wishes that I receive in the mail every day.  Although I may not be able to write everyone back, please know that they have been received, read, acknowledged, and appreciated. With Love back, MLH”

Hill also thanks a number of fans by name for their encouragement.


TAGS: Lauryn Hill

A Justice for Trayvon Toolkit for White Allies

A Justice for Trayvon Toolkit for White Allies

Showing Up for Racial Justice (SURJ), a network of white racial justice activists, has put out a Justice for Trayvon Action Kit (PDF) that has a variety of concrete things people can do—some quick, some more involved, some more policy change oriented, others more oriented toward cultural change. It’s a really great resource to get informed and involved locally, and includes a list of short (tweeting), medium (donating to a racial justice group), and long-term actions (joining a local organization). Check out the entire toolkit.

Rep. John Lewis Debuts His New Graphic Novel at Comic-Con

Rep. John Lewis Debuts His New Graphic Novel at Comic-Con

Fans flock to Comic-Con each year to see costumed superheroes walk among glammed up gods. This year, civil rights hero Rep. John Lewis was a top attraction at the 2013 Comic-Con International comic book convention in San Diego to promote his new graphic novel “March,” which tells the story of his role in the civil rights marches and demonstrations he helped lead as a Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee activist in the 1960s. (Read more about those protests here.)

According to Roll Call’s “Heard on the Hill” blog, Lewis received a “hero’s welcome” at the convention, where he gave a presentation on the book project. More 100 people camped out in anticipation of his talk and he was “swarmed by supporters” at the moment of his arrival. 

Said Warren Rojas at Roll Call:

Activists pressed him about how to restore Voting Rights Act protections that the Supreme Court recently struck down. Frustrated parents fished for guidance about justice for Trayvon Martin, the African-American teen killed in Sanford, Fla., by acquitted gunman George Zimmerman. Admirers swooped in for chummy pictures, pumping the stoic politician’s hand while praising his “courage,” “determination” and “character.”

Lewis co-authored “March” with his congressional aide Andrew Aydin, whose college dissertation was based on a comic book that proved instrumental among 1960s civil rights activists. In 1958, an organization called the Fellowship on Reconciliation produced “Martin Luther King and the Montgomery Story,” a 16-page comic book that illustrated the work and achievements of the Montgomery, Ala. bus boycott and the nonviolent methods of King and his fellow civil rights activists. 


The comic book moved 200,000 copies, which was impressive —  that would placed it among the top 30 highest-selling comic books in the nation in 1960. It also “apparently sparked the imagination of budding activist Lewis,” reports Roll Call. 

Now Lewis is helping write his own comic series — “March” is a three-volume set — that he hopes young people will read and then pass “it on to other members of their family or to their students,” he told Rojas.

At last week’s Senate hearings on the Voting Rights Act, where Lewis testified, Sen. Patrick Leahy recognized “March,” showing his signed copy and telling the audience that he’d be giving copies to all five of his grandchildren. 

Melissa Harris-Perry Wears Tampon Earrings on MSNBC

Melissa Harris-Perry Wears Tampon Earrings on MSNBC

From Mediaite:

On her MSNBC show Sunday morning, Melissa Harris-Perry brought attention to Texas’ recently-passed abortion regulations—and the burnt orange-clad demonstrators who had fought their passage—in her own way: with a pair of homemade tampon earrings.

“My producer Lorena made for me last week some tampon earrings,” Harris-Perry said as she put on the jewelry. “The Texas state legislature said that you couldn’t bring tampons in, when these women were going to, in fact, stand up for their own reproductive rights.”

Some folks on Twitter weren’t impressed. But it’s safe to say that Harris-Perry made her point.

People Wanna Buy Kanye West’s $120 Plain White ‘Hip-Hop’ T-Shirts

Because an album featuring God isn’t enough, Kanye West is still out to prove to the world that his genius knows no bounds. West recently teamed up with high-end brand A.P.C. to release an all-white “hip-hop” t-shirt costs that $120. And, like all things Yeezus, the shirts are actually a hit and quickly sold out last week.

Behold, art:


For those of you who are absolutely bummed that you won’t be able to spend most of your Con-Ed money on the Yeezus empire, Target’s also selling much more reasonably priced knock-offs.

TAGS: Kanye West

Transgender Actress Laverne Cox: ‘Orange is the New Black’ is a Big Deal

Transgender Actress Laverne Cox: 'Orange is the New Black' is a Big Deal

I tried, and mostly failed, to watch Netflix’s much talked about new comedy-drama “Orange is the New Black” over the weekend. The show, based on a real life story, follows a WASP’y Connecticut white woman who’s sentenced to spend 15 months in prison on drug charges stemming from her rebellious post-college days.

I’m still very early into the show, but so far I just don’t think it’s all that funny. I felt the same way about “Weeds”, another show that was created by Jengi Kohan.* I get that I’m supposed to be laughing at the irony of white folks in black situations, but to what end? Both shows seem to traffic in tired racial tropes. Sometimes, that’s fine (see: the first two seasons of “Arrested Development”). But so far, I’m just not moved.

One bright spot in “Orange is the New Black” is Laverne Cox, who brings viewers one of the first developed transgender characters on mainstream(ing) television. Here’s an interview she did earlier this month.

*Post has been updated since publication.

Jay Z and Beyoncé: The Latest Artists to Speak Out for Trayvon

Jay Z and Beyoncé: The Latest Artists to Speak Out for Trayvon

Days after she made a fan catch the Holy Ghost at one of her concerts, Beyoncé joined husband Jay Z in New York City to protest the acquittal of George Zimmerman’s murder charges in the death of Trayvon Martin. The two attended a rally with Martin’s family, led by Al Sharpton.

“Jay Z and Beyoncé said they didn’t want to speak and they didn’t come for a photo op,” Sharpton told the crowd of thousands on behalf of the celebrity couple. “Jay Z told me, ‘I’m a father. Beyoncé is a mother.’ We all feel the pain and apprehension—the laws must protect everybody, or it doesn’t protect anybody. We do not come from hate, we come from love of children,” Sharpton continued.

The stars are just the latest big-name entertainers to come out in support of Martin’s family. OkayPlayer had a roundup of reactions to the verdict:


Tavis Smiley Slams Obama’s Trayvon Remarks: ‘You Can’t Lead From Behind’ On Race

President Obama made news last Friday when he unexpectedly addressed Trayvon Martin’s murder and the role of race in America. “Trayvon Martin could’ve been me 35 years ago,” the president said in a rare moment in which the nation’s first black commander-in-chief directly addressed race. The Washington Post even went as far as to dub it a “remarkably personal speech.”

But some of black America isn’t impressed. Over the weekend, PBS host Tavis Smiley went on “Meet the Press” and said that Obama was “pushed to that podium.”

I appreciate and applaud the fact that the president did finally show up. But this town has been spinning a story that’s not altogether true. He did not walk to the podium for an impromptu address to the nation; he was pushed to that podium. A week of protest outside the White House, pressure building on him inside the White House pushed him to that podium. So I’m glad he finally arrived.

But when he left the podium, he still had not answered the most important question, that Keynesian question, where do we go from here? That question this morning remains unanswered, at least from the perspective of the president. And the bottom line is this is not Libya, this is America. On this issue, you cannot lead from behind.

Smiley also took to Twitter after the president’s remarks, calling his race “mild” and his words “weak as pre-sweetened Kool-Aid.”


Obama: Trayvon ‘Could’ve Been Me 35 Years Ago’

Obama: Trayvon 'Could've Been Me 35 Years Ago'

President Obama made a surprise visit at the daily White House press briefing today to make statements following the Zimmerman trial verdict. Obama mentioned last year that Trayvon Martin could have been his son. Today he claimed, “Another way of saying that is, Trayvon Martin could’ve been me 35 years ago.”

At times, Obama appeared to be addressing white Americans looking for explainations about the massive rallies, vigils, and marches that have erupted since the verdict. “When you think about why in the African-American community, at least, there’s a lot of pain around what happened here,” he said. “It’s important to recognize the African-American community is looking at this issue through a set of experiences and history that doesn’t go away.”

The president’s remarks also included some suggestions on moving forward—recalling his work as a state Senator: 

Number one, precisely because law enforcement is often determined at the state and local level, I think it would be productive for the Justice Department, governors, mayors to work with law enforcement about training at the state and local levels in order to reduce the kind of mistrust in the system that sometimes currently exists. 

When I was in Illinois, I passed racial profiling legislation, and it actually did just two simple things.  One, it collected data on traffic stops and the race of the person who was stopped.  But the other thing was it resourced us training police departments across the state on how to think about potential racial bias and ways to further professionalize what they were doing. 

You can read Obama’s entire remarks on the White House website. 

Asiana Airlines Won’t Sue Bay Area News TV, After All

Asiana Airlines Won't Sue Bay Area News TV, After All

From the San Francisco Chronicle:

Asiana Airlines has dropped its threat to sue a local TV station for an on-air gaffe identifying the pilots in this month’s plane crash by racially offensive names, a spokesman said Wednesday.

The South Korean airline had said it would sue KTVU-TV after the station misidentified the four pilots aboard Asiana Flight 214 when it crashed at San Francisco International Airport on July 6.

FUN: An Illustrated Account of Jay Z’s 99 Problems

FUN: An Illustrated Account of Jay Z's 99 Problems

Say goodbye to Jay Z’s hyphen, and hello to his 99 Problems:


TAGS: Jay Z Tumblr

Hoodies Up Next: Keep Our Justice for Trayvon Chat Going

Hoodies Up Next: Keep Our Justice for Trayvon Chat Going

Colorlines received overwhelming feedback to yesterday’s live chat discussing how to find true Justice for Trayvon Martin through long-term activism. Twitter discussion was especially robust, during our live-tweet session and during the rest of the day. We’ve collected some quotes from our panelists Jasiri XKai M. GreenJessica Pierce, and Sharisse T. Smith, as well as from our host, Colorlines’ Aura Bogado.  We’ve also added tweets from viewers and followers that came in after the chat, using the hashtag #HoodiesUpNext

If you missed it live, you can watch anytime here. You can still join the Twitter discussion by tweeting @colorlines with #HoodiesUpNext. See Thursday’s conversation after the jump.

Marc Anthony Sings ‘God Bless America’, Then Has to Prove He’s an American

It’s happening again. Another American-born Latino sings the national anthem at a professional sporting event, and white racists are beside themselves. This time it was Marc Anthony, a Grammy-winning New York-born Puerto Rican singer who’s sold more than 12 million records, who sang the national anthem at this week’s MLB All Star Game. 

One geographically challenged person asked on Twitter, “Why is a Mexican, Marc Anthony, singing god bless America? Doesn’t he know this is AMERICA’s song?”

You can see more of the racist backlash over at the Public Shaming Tumblr.

Anthony defended himself during an appearance on ABC’s “Live with Kelly and Michael”, telling the audience: “To set the record straight, I was born and raised in New York…And I’m more Puerto Rican than ever, and more New York than ever.”

Take a Look at ‘The Worst of the Worst’, Connecticut’s Supermax Prison

Take a Look at 'The Worst of the Worst', Connecticut's Supermax Prison

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: The Justice System ‘Didn’t Work For Us’

Trayvon Martin's Parents: The Justice System 'Didn't Work For Us'

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.”

Students Have Taken Over Florida Governor’s Office Demanding Justice For Trayvon

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.”

Is Obama Poised To Create Stop-and-Frisk Nation?

Is Obama Poised To Create Stop-and-Frisk Nation?

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. 

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