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Activists Launch Campaign Against NYC’s Teen Pregnancy Ads

Activists Launch Campaign Against NYC's Teen Pregnancy Ads

Remember those really problematic teen pregnancy billboards that we talked about last week? The ones that are seemingly trying to shame teens out of getting pregnant? Well, reproductive rights activists in the city have launched a campaign to show that they won’t be bullied.

The New York Coalition for Reproductive Justice launched its “No Stigma! No Shame” campaign this week to get the city to address systemic issues relating to teen pregnancy. In a letter written to community members, the coalition’s lead organizer Jasmine Burnett wrote the following:

We fail as a society when we shame young people instead of teaching them what they need to know to make the best decisions about their lives. For those of us who do direct service, education and advocacy around issues of poverty, access to comprehensive sex education, contraception, family planning and addressing health disparities that have historically impacted communities of color, we are acutely aware of the budget cuts to programs and services that could address and reverse these conditions within our communities. The New York Coalition for Reproductive Justice is holding HRA accountable for reinforcing negative stereotypes about the decision-making ability of young people instead of investing in programs and policies that encourage young people to thrive.

Campaign organizers will hold a meeting on Monday, March 18 at 26 Bleeker Ave at 6pm.

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You’ll Love This Inspiring Video From New Orleans School Kids

You'll Love This Inspiring Video From New Orleans School Kids

In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans’s school system was, like everything else in the city, turned upside down. That’s led to the creation of Kids Rethink New Orleans Schools, a youth-based non-profit that believes students should have a say in how their schools are run. This video shows how students in the program imagined what “wellness” meant to their communities. It’s a fun, engaging, and inspiring look at youth leadership. Enjoy!

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Actress Michelle Williams Compares Native Americans to Munchkins

Actress Michelle Williams Compares Native Americans to Munchkins

Actress Michelle Williams was recently cast in “Oz the Great and Powerful.” Should be a career boost, right? Right. Unless you go on the record comparing munchkins in a movie to Native Americans’ fight for life and land in the United States.

“Quadlings, Tinkers and Munchkins didn’t mean much to me; it wasn’t my language,” Williams said of the groups of misfits her character benevolently rules over in an interview with the Los Angeles Times last week. “But when I thought of them as Native Americans trying to inhabit their land or about women getting the right to vote, it made a lot more sense.”

Colorlines.com fam and The Nation blogger Aura Bogado wrote an open letter to Williams to address the matter. Bogado writes:

Native Americans are not Munchkins, Ms. Williams—and neither were the suffragettes who fought for your right to vote. To even suggest a comparison between imaginary Munchkins in a film and Natives in real life fighting for untold stakes is perilous because it sustains the entirely racist notion that Natives are cute creatures that require safekeeping. Unlike the costume you wore and later discarded, Natives cannot shake off five centuries of injustice after a photo shoot. There is no photo shoot. The struggle for Native land, sovereignty, healthcare, education and even running water remain real yet silent. That silence is only deepened when you make ludicrous statements that liken Natives to Munchkins.

Read more at The Nation.

Obama’s Labor Department Nod is Very, Very Good News

Obama's Labor Department Nod is Very, Very Good News

Word is out that Obama might be nominating Justice Department civil rights head attorney Thomas Perez to replace outgoing Labor Department Secretary Hilda Solis. Who is Perez? Remember those voter ID battles last year that the Justice Department went hard in the paint for, in Texas, South Carolina, and Florida? That was Perez. Remember how Justice went from defending the Defense of Marriage Act to defending, or at least no longer fighting against marriage equality? That was Perez. Remember how Justice started bringing the pain to banks that engaged in discriminatory housing and payday lending? Yup, that was all Perez.

Perez in fact restored the Justice Department’s civil rights legacy of protecting people of color after the Bush administration effectively defanged them for almost a decade. Perez served as Montgomery County, Md.’s first elected Latino council representative from 2002 to 2006 and later served as labor secretary under Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley. He’s advocated strongly for immigrant workers, and for all these reasons, his pick for U.S. Labor will be loved by progressives and hated by conservatives, as Adam Serwer noted this morning at Mother Jones.

Writes Serwer:

Immigration reform advocates have high hopes for Perez, the child of exiles from the Dominican Republic. Gustavo Torres, head of the immigrant advocacy organization CASA de Maryland, told Mother Jones last year that while serving on the group’s board, Perez played a key role in turning the organization into an influential force. “We were a very small organization; we were dreaming of how we could make a difference,” Torres said. Perez “helped us develop a strategic plan to expand the organization around the state.” Perez, Torres says, “truly believes in integrating the immigrant community, and believes in comprehensive immigration reform.”

If he’s officially selected, he will have no easy passageway through the Senate. Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa and Rep. Darryl Issa of California are expected to hammer him fiercely on a fair housing discrimination lawsuit Perez allegedly helped make go away in St. Paul, Minnesota. Sen. Grassley also believes that Perez’s civil rights division has been overreaching in it’s federal law challenges.

Meanwhile, an official nod from Obama would signal that his administration is not shying away from supporting organized labor and immigrant workers rights.

Mississippi Won’t Ever Let Anyone Tell You How Much Soda to Drink

Mississippi Won't Ever Let Anyone Tell You How Much Soda to Drink

New Yorkers have narrowly escaped Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s plan to ban larger soda sizes. On Monday, a judge in Manhattan struck down a rule capping soda sizes in an effort that Bloomberg framed as one that couple curb stubbornly high obesity rates in communities of color. New Yorkers, after all, can and should be allowed to do whatever they want (according to the ads that ran agains the move). The same is apparently also true in Mississippi, where lawmakers there have passed a law to never let any high minded, health conscious politician tell you how much soda you’re allowed to drink.

From NPR’s Morning Edition:

A bill now on the governor’s desk would bar counties and towns from enacting rules that require calorie counts to be posted, that cap portion sizes, or that keep toys out of kids’ meals. “The Anti-Bloomberg Bill” garnered wide bipartisan support in both chambers of the legislature in a state where one in three adults is obese, the highest rate in the nation.

The bill is expected to be signed by Gov. Phil Bryant, a Republican. It was the subject of intense lobbying by groups including the restaurant association, the small business and beverage group, and the chicken farmers’ lobby.

The soda ban was an imperfect and unpopular way to address a very real problem: skyrocketing rates of obesity and diabetes in poor black and Latino communities. Health in any major city is often a racializied issue, and this was certainly a racialized solution; no one mentioned banning grande caramel frappaccinos at Starbucks. Legislative back-and-forths like this would almost be funny if there weren’t real lives at stake.

NYPD Kills Teen Who Witness Says Was Just Adjusting Belt

NYPD Kills Teen Who Witness Says Was Just Adjusting Belt

Two plainclothes New York City Police officers shot and killed a teenage boy late Saturday night in East Flatbush, Brooklyn. Police officers say Kimani Gray, 16, adjusted his waistband in a “suspicious manner” before they fired 11 rounds.

Local news sources however are offering conflicting reports.

An eyewitness told Pix11 that Gray was “running for his life” when he was shot dead and never brandished a weapon.

“‘He was running for his life, telling the cops, ‘Stop,’” witness Camille Johnson told Pix11 in the video report seen at the top of this story. “They really are, seriously, walking around, shooting little kids,” Johnson went on to say.

The New York Times interviewed Gray’s sister who reported Kimani did not own a gun: 

Mr. Gray’s sister, Mahnefah Gray, 19, said that a witness to the shooting told her that her brother had been fixing his belt when he was shot. She, among others who knew Mr. Gray, said they had never known him to have a gun. Even if he had one on Saturday night, he would not have pointed it at police officers, Ms. Gray said.

However, Paul J. Browne, the chief spokesman for the Police Department tells the Times a much different story.

“After the anti-crime sergeant and police officer told the suspect to show his hands, which was heard by witnesses, Gray produced a revolver and pointed it at the officers, who fired a total of 11 rounds, striking Gray several times,” Mr. Browne said.

A woman who identified herself as Gray’s cousin corroborated with the police department’s story and told NY1 that the teenager was carrying the handgun for a friend. She also thought that Gray was trying to alert police that he had a weapon, rather than use it.

Gray’s sister Manefah challenged those statements. 

“Fixing his belt, fixing his belt was technically what he had. He had to really pull it because he had a skinny waist. So probably he was grabbing his belt to squeeze it,” said Mahnefah Gray. “They thought he was grabbing back to get a gun. He’s 16 years old. What is he pointing a gun at over six police, knowing that they would kill him? He has common sense.”

Yes, Racism is a Public Health Risk

Yes, Racism is a Public Health Risk

There’s been lots of talk nationally about Stop-and-Frisk, the New York Police Department’s controversial policing tactic. On Monday, the issue is set to finally go to court, where critics will argue that it infringes on people’s constitutional rights. Over at the Atlantic, doctoral student Jason Silverstein lays out a compelling case that racism — or, in this case, the racial profiling that critics of Stop-and-Frisk say are central to the way it’s implemented — doesn’t just make people feel bad, but that’s actually bad for people’s bodies.

A new study by Kathryn Freeman Anderson in Sociological Inquiry adds evidence to the hypothesis that racism harms health. To study the connection, Anderson analyzed the massive 2004 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, which includes data for other 30,000 people. Conceptually, she proposes a simple pathway with two clear steps. First, because of the prevalence of racial discrimination, being a racial minority leads to greater stress. Not surprisingly, Anderson found that 18.2 percent of black participants experienced emotional stress and 9.8 percent experienced physical stress. Comparatively, only 3.5 and 1.6 percent of whites experienced emotional and physical stress, respectively. 
Second, this stress leads to poorer mental and physical health. But this is not only because stress breaks the body down. It is also because stress pushes people to cope in unhealthy ways. When we feel stressed, we may want a drink and, if we want a drink, we may also want a cigarette. But discrimination is not just any form of stress. It is a type of stress that disproportionately affects minorities. 
Here we see how racism works in a cycle to damage health. People at a social disadvantage are more likely to experience stress from racism. And they are less likely to have the resources to extinguish this stress, because they are at a social disadvantage.

It’s a really intriguing read, an important one. See the whole thing at The Atlantic.

SXSW: Who’s Making Money From Their YouTube? Not Black People

SXSW: Who's Making Money From Their YouTube? Not Black People

YouTube’s slogan is “broadcast yourself” and it’s been celebrated as the new media platform that will revolutionize how marginalized groups are presented in the media. But the network is not much different than old media—90 of the top 100 YouTube video creators are white and mostly male.

In 2009 YouTube launched what they call the Partner Program that allows some of the popular content owners to make money from the videos they uploaded to the video sharing site. YouTube will not say how much people are paid for their content but according to earning reports there are thousands of video content creators on YouTube who are making more than $100,000 a year.

Only two of YouTube’s top 100 personalities are black (DeStorm, Kingsley), according to Chase Hoffberger at DailyDot.com who organized a panel at South by SouthWest called “YouTube and Racism.”

In the Colorlines.com video above YouTube stars Franchesca Ramsey and Andre Meadows along with scholar Jenny Ungbha Korn discuss YouTube Racism and how black video content creators have to work much harder to be seen.

Zerlina Maxwell Offers 5 Ways We Can Teach Men Not to Rape

Zerlina Maxwell Offers 5 Ways We Can Teach Men Not to Rape

Just in case you missed it, Zerlina Maxwell went on FOX News this weekend and brilliantly put rape culture on blast. While appearing as a guest on Hannity, the prolific writer and social media commentator said that when it comes to preventing rape, we must look beyond the reactionary impulse to just give women more guns. Instead, we need to teach men not to rape.

“I think that the entire conversation is wrong. I don’t want anybody to be telling women anything. I don’t want men to be telling me what to wear and how to act, not to drink. And I don’t, honestly, want you to tell me that I needed a gun in order to prevent my rape. In my case, don’t tell me if I’d only had a gun, I wouldn’t have been raped. Don’t put it on me to prevent the rape.”

Maxwell’s comments got lots of attention and caused a ripple effect on weekend social media. Implicit in them was that the problem isn’t just individual behaviors, but a culture of patriarchy. This morning, she followed them up with a piece at EBONY.com on five ways we can teach men not to rape. “Rape culture is a pervasive part of our society because of social conditioning,” Maxwell wrote. “Yet we struggle to find ways to avoid patterns of victim blaming and many of us would rather advise women on the precautions they should take to avoid being raped as opposed to starting at the root of the problem: teaching men and boys not to be rapists in the first place.”

Here’s a snippet of the five points that Maxwell makes. To read the entire list, march on over to EBONY.

1. Teach young men about legal consent: Legal consent is number one for a reason. Without it, sexual contact with someone is rape whether you intended to rape or not. A woman who is drunk, unconscious, sleeping cannot give legal consent. And it’s not about a woman simply saying “no,” it’s really about making certain she’s saying yes.

2. Teach young men to see women’s humanity, instead of seeing them as sexual objects there for male pleasure: There is a reason why women are shamed into silence and teenage boys in Steubenville, Ohio are caught on camera laughing about gang raping an unconscious girl at a party. The dehumanization of women spans all areas of American life.

3. Teach young men how to express healthy masculinity: The question that’s being asked about what women can do to prevent violence against them is the wrong question. It’s not what can a woman say or do that can prevent being attacked. We need to turn that paradigm.

4. Teach young men to believe women who come forward and not to blame the victim: The vast majority of women do not report their rapes to the police and many more only tell one or two people in confidence.

5. Teach young men about bystander intervention: Both Men Stopping Violence and Men Can Stop Rape have bystander intervention workshops for men of all ages. “It’s about community accountability,” says Pandit, “We require men to talk to other men in their lives and tell them about these programs. It is important that we have community networks that hold men accountable.”

TAGS: Rape

Celebrate The International Woman in Your Life With the ‘Meet My Immigrant Mom’ Tumblr

On this International Women’s Day, the Domestic Workers Alliance, a national group organizing for the rights of domestic workers, has rolled out the sweetest of tributes to immigrant mothers, those truly international women. It’s a tumblr called “Meet My Immigrant Mom,” and it is as simple as that. Each post includes a snapshot of a woman with a short introduction to her written by her child.

Christine, writes of her mother Anne, “What I respect the most about her is her deep sense of self-dignity and self-worth. Even if her English isn’t 100% perfect, she always stands up for herself and demands to be treated with respect. The funny thing is, when she first immigrated from South Korea, she was quiet and shy, but its hard to believe now! Sometimes we have to remind her to use her “indoor voice”!”

Julie from New Hampshire, pictured in front of a blooming garden with her mom, says she loves her mom’s fighting spirit:

She has hurdled some hard obstacles in her life, including breast cancer and has always persevered. My mother grew up in poverty, living with nuns in an orphanage at one point (because her mother couldn’t take care of her) in Mexico City and then she moved to Tijuana. My mother moved to the United States when she was in her mid 20’s. She was the first member of her family to immigrate. She put herself through community college and with little English behind her, she found a job working for a radio station.

In a very un-Internet-like move, the stories are entirely free of irony or sarcasm. The stories betray no hints of hurt or disappointment, it’s just love. They are affectionate public tributes to ordinary women who are heroes to their children for loving and living bravely. And, they’re looking for more. Send them your story here.

Colorado’s In-State Tuition ASSET Bill One Signature Away From Law

It only took ten years, but Colorado has finally done it. In a 40-21 vote Friday the Colorado House approved the ASSET bill, the state’s tuition equity bill, which would allow undocumented students who graduated from high school in Colorado to pay the same in-state tuition that their peers pay for college, the Yuma Pioneer reported.

The law addresses a fundamental inequity in higher education for undocumented immigrants. Because undocumented students are technically not considered residents of their home states, even if they grew up their their entire lives, they must pay out-of-state tuition when they’re ready to go for college. That tuition can be two and three times the in-state price, and because undocumented students are barred from accessing federal aid and loans, the price of college becomes prohibitively expensive. Colorado, like more than a dozen states before it, decided that such a move was shutting off young people’s futures and doing no good for the state itself.

The bill is now headed to Gov. John Hickenlooper’s desk, who has said that he would sign it into law.

McDonald’s Guest Workers Strike and Demand Meeting With Company CEO

McDonald's Guest Workers Strike and Demand Meeting With Company CEO

A group of student guest workers from Asia and Latin America walked out of the Pennsylvania McDonalds where they’re employed on Wednesday, saying that they’ve been paid less than the minimum wage and are housed in subpar and overcrowded apartments. The workers are all students who came to the U.S. on J-1 visas, which the State Department bills as a cultural and educational exchange program.

“I told my parents about where I’m living, and they were like, ‘what”…it really worried my parents,” said Sabrina Tan, a Malaysian finance student, in a video released yesterday by the National Guestworker Alliance, which is organizing the students.

The Alliance filed complaints with the State Department and Department of Labor.

“Each student paid at least $3,000 to participate in the U.S. State Department’s J-1 student guestworker program- a program designed to offer foreign college students a summer cultural exchange in the United States,” the complaint to the DOL read. “Instead, McDonald’s franchisee Andy Cheung/ Cheung Enterprises LLC and Geovisions used the J-1 program to source cheap, exploitable workers from Latin American and Asia and then treated them as a sub-minimum wage surplus workforce at the fast food chain franchises.”

According to a statement from Alliance, the students plan to deliver a written request for meeting to McDonald’s CEO today at 3pm.

Yesterday McDonalds said it would investigate the claims.

“We take the well-being of the employees working in McDonald’s restaurants seriously,” McDonald’s said in a statement to PennLive. “We are working closely with the franchisee to investigate the claims surrounding (Cheung’s) program.”

The strike comes as members of Congress are debating the future of guest worker programs as part of the broad immigration reform legislation. Human rights groups say that guest worker programs like the J-1 visa are rife with exploitation and abuse because workers’ immigration status is often tied to their employer.

Last Month’s Good Job Numbers Still Spell Trouble for Blacks and Latinos

Last Month's Good Job Numbers Still Spell Trouble for Blacks and Latinos

Welcome news came on the unemployment front this morning. The Department of Labor reported that the unemployment rate in the U.S. fell to the lowest level in four years, dropping to 7.7 percent. With job creation at 236,000 jobs last month, America is approaching employment growth levels that could make a real dent in unemployment. Several more months at close to 250,000 and the economy may well be on it’s way.

But don’t break out the fireworks yet. Disturbingly, black and Latino unemployment remains frighteningly high. This fact pushes me to point out two giant yellow caution signs flashing before the February jobs report.

The first is that we’ve been at “good news” points before. Remember “green shoots” and “recovery summer” and the other economic cheerleading platitudes which never materialized? The bottom line is that one month’s bump doesn’t equal a trend.

Just last year, the economy seemed poised to take off. In the 3rd quarter of last year economic growth for example shot up to 3.1 percent into clear recovery territory. But the next quarter it fell back to earth, barely eking out any growth at all. Why’s that? The answer lays in Washington.

Political gridlock in Washington prevents the economy from getting any traction. The House GOP’s commitment to preserve a special place for the wealthy through tax cuts financed by budget cuts is creating enormous uncertainty. The schizophrenia in Washington is showing up in herky-jerky economic data.

Moreover the policies that DC ends up agreeing to also halts any forward momentum we might have.

As part of the fiscal cliff deal last month, the White House and Congress agreed to allow payroll taxes—which hit middle and low wage earners the most—to rise by $125 billion. This increase is forecast to shave growth in 2013.

And the downdraft of uncertainty and off-beat policies doesn’t end there.

With almost a million job cuts looming as a result of sequestration—alongside impending budget battles on keeping the government running for the rest of the year and raising the nation’s debt ceiling—who know’s what the true employment outlook for the rest of the year might be?

The other cautionary sign flashing is that black and Latino unemployment remain at economic-depression levels. One of out of seven blacks and one of out 10 Latinos is out of work. If this trend holds, it’s a worrying sign.

Blacks and Latinos falling behind as the rest of the economy falls forward is not where we need to be. With black and Latino wealth in the tank, the lack of jobs is a double blow. It could mean that the divide between black and brown communities and the rest of America becomes that much greater.

As I have long advocated, that’s why we need race-specific policies. Why? Because black and brown unemployment has race-specific dimensions that need targeted remedies.

Until Washington gets its act together and gets back on the side of average Americans, our jobless numbers—like all other economic indicators—are likely to be up and down.

Indiana Man Apologizes for Viral ‘Why I’d Hate to Be Asian’ Video

Indiana Man Apologizes for Viral 'Why I'd Hate to Be Asian' Video

Samuel Hendrickson is sorry.

The Indiana student sparked widespread outrage this week when he posted a video listing all the reasons he wouldn’t want to be Asian.

“Most Asians look alike,” Hendrickson says in the video. “I don’t want to look like everyone else.” The video also includes dumb remarks like “If I was an Asian man, chances are I’d probably be with an Asian woman and guess what? I don’t find Asian women attractive. Kill me.”

Hendrickson also lists not wanting to get “double chink eye” while smoking weed.

The video was initially posted on Facebook and then re-posted on YouTube by a disgusted viewer.

Hendrickson has been slammed as a “moron”, “ignorant”, and as a “loser” by outraged viewers on social media.

After the video went viral on Thursday, Hendrickson tweeted out an apology. “Well, I’m hated by the entire Asian race apparently over a joke #bummer’.

Later, he tried to get sincere. “I am honestly very, very sorry. I wlll take on your hate and words but I would like you to know, that I know what I was wrong. #imsorry”

TAGS: Videos

5 Really Bad Teen Pregnancy Prevention Ads

5 Really Bad Teen Pregnancy Prevention Ads

It’s often not the most ideal thing in the world for a teenage couple to get pregnant. But there are prevention strategies that work, and ones that simply don’t. That much was made clear to me while reporting on a controversial new series of teen pregnancy prevention billboards that are slated to go up around New York City.

“Fear-based messages just don’t work in teen pregnancy prevention strategies,” she says. “[And these] ads are saying—falsely—that teen pregnancy is going to make you poor and keep you poor, but we know that poverty keeps you poor,” Haydee Morales of Planned Parenthood told me yesterday on the phone.

Lecturing or shaming anyone into doing — or not doing — anything usually doesn’t work. And that’s especially true for young people who are often yelled at by their families, schools, and society at large. Gretchen Sisson is a Research Sociologist at the University of California at San Francisco and has studied methods to reframe conventional approaches to teen pregnancy prevention. And to get the point across about just how awful the history on this is, she put together a few of the most offensive ads on Tumblr.

“I compiled these public service announcements to stress the point that the advertisements in New York, as problematic as they are, represent the rule and not the exception,” Sisson wrote to me over email on Wednesday. “The majority of teen pregnancy prevention campaigns rely on shaming young parents — a stigmatizing, fear-based tactic that alienates young people. When ads like these appear in communities with higher rates of teenage childbearing and a young person sees them, she’s seeing an image that might be insulting to her older sister, her aunt, or her own mother.”

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Text: “I had sex so my boyfriend wouldn’t REJECT me. Now, I have a baby. And no boyfriends.”

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Justice Department Urged to Investigate Marco McMillian’s Murder

Justice Department Urged to Investigate Marco McMillian's Murder

The National Black Justice Coalition (NBJC) is urging the U.S. Department of Justice’s Community Relations Service (CRS) and Civil Rights division to launch an investigation into the murder of Marco McMillian. The NBJC wants the agency to investigate the murder as a potential racially-motivated and/or anti-gay hate crime.

McMillian was a black gay mayoral candidate in Mississippi whose dead body was found beaten and burned along the Delta last week. Although authorities have arrested 22-year-old Lawrence Reed and charged him with McMillian’s death, they have said that the killing was personal, not political.

In a letter to the U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, NBJC Executive Director and CEO Sharon Lettman-Hicks writes:

After speaking extensively with the family, community and anti-violence coalition members like the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs (NCAVP), NBJC feels the perpetuation and validation of the “gay panic” defense is irresponsible. The conflicting reports as well as the current racial and anti-LGBT climate in Mississippi is justification enough for a federal investigation.

NBJC is standing firmly with Marco McMillian’s family so that their concerns do not fall on deaf ears. The details of this case just aren’t adding up. Whether on the basis of race or sexual orientation, hate is hate. If there is the possibility that McMillian was murdered because of who he is, that warrants the Department of Justice’s involvement.”

The letter goes on to cite the disturbing uptick in recent Mississippi hate crimes.

In 2011 the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) report released a report that detailed a spike in Mississippi anti-gay and racially-motivated hate crimes. According to NBJC’s letter, local activists expressed concerns that the numbers may be twice as high than what is officially on record due to underreporting and fear of retaliation. The report also revealed that more than two-thirds of Mississippi’s counties failed to file a report with the Justice Department.

In 2011, James C. Anderson, 48, died tragically in a Jackson, Mississippi, parking lot. Surveillance video shows two carloads of white teenagers beating and robbing Anderson. They later ran him over repeatedly with a truck. Witnesses report one teenager yelled “white power,” and the driver of the pickup shouted a racist slur. Anderson and his partner, James Bradfield, of 17 years were raising a child together. Last year, three men were convicted under the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act of 2009.

Just last month, when an openly gay couple, Dr. Ravi Perry and Prince Paris, were invited to speak at a Mississippi Historically Black College and University, local pastors rallied and protested the lecture. The public outcry resulted in the institution scaling down the visibility of the event and distancing itself.

George Zimmerman Skips ‘Stand Your Ground’ Hearing

George Zimmerman Skips 'Stand Your Ground' Hearing

In a move that’s stunned observers, George Zimmerman announced on Tuesday that he would waive his right to a Stand Your Ground hearing.

The hearing was scheduled for April 22. If Zimmerman proved to a judge that he had indeed acted in self defense, the hearing could have led to the dismissal of his murder charges. But, as ABC News noted, the hearing could have also led to Zimmerman taking the stand and becoming his own worst enemy.

Under Florida’s Stand Your Ground law, Zimmerman is entitled to immunity and if he can prove he shot and killed Martin Feb. 26, 2012 self defense. If self defense was determined, all criminal proceedings would have immediately stopped, and Zimmerman would have walked free.

But Zimmerman’s legal team also risked the possibility that the judge would reject the motion and the hearing would give prosecutors an opportunity to pick apart Zimmerman’s testimony.

For now, George Zimmerman’s defense team will spend its precious time and money trying to pick apart Trayvon Martin’s high school and social media history. Stay tuned.

It’s Not Just Chicago: 100 Youth Homicides in Miami Since 2009

Miami is reeling from a wave of gun violence which, like in Chicago, has claimed the lives of youth and devastated communities along the way. Most recently, 17-year-old Jose Videa was shot in the stomach while he waited for a school bus last Monday. His was just the latest in a string of gun-related incidents over the last week which claimed the lives of two other Miami youth.

It’s been a deadly couple of years. Since 2009, more than 100 youth have been killed in Miami-Dade County, and at least 81 of those homicides involved guns, the Miami Herald reported. It’s wearing down those in Miami in charge of keeping kids safe.

From the Miami Herald:

And close to half were students of Miami-Dade County public schools, according to Superintendent Alberto Carvalho, who began campaigning against youth violence after Aaron was shot Dec. 19 while riding his bike from a friend’s house in Wynwood at 9 p.m.

“I made a promise when I became superintendent that I would attend the funeral, a viewing, a burial for every single child who would die a violent death in Miami. I am tired,” Carvalho, superintendent since late 2008, said during a news conference on the first day back from winter break. “We’ve covered this one time too many. I’ve attended over 40 such events, and it’s time to stop.”

Last week more than 20 pastors from Miami gathered to demand an end to gun violence. Their proposals? More community policing, youth mentorship and an end to the “don’t-snitch” culture which means those responsible for shootings often go free. They’re not new ideas, and much more will be needed to curb rampant gun violence. But the issue is about much more than just guns—it’s also about poverty and community safety and the disenfranchisement of communities of color—and it’s one that won’t go away on its own.

Miami leaders are starting to come around to this reality. From the Miami Herald, again:

Carvalho, who days earlier had canvassed Allapattah with the family of Bryan Herrera, a Miami Jackson sophomore shot dead on his bicycle Dec. 22, worried that the issue would “die out as a result of time simply passing.”

That hasn’t happened, in part because kids keep getting shot.

Proposed Welfare Drug Testing Bill Tells Poor to Sign Away Rights

Proposed Welfare Drug Testing Bill Tells Poor to Sign Away Rights

A week after a federal appeals court ruled against a Florida law that required welfare recipients to pass a drug test, a Republican congressman reintroduced similar legislation at the federal level.

The bill, introduced by Rep. Stephen Fincher (R-Tenn), would require states to gather urine samples randomly from 20 percent of adults who receive benefits from the Temporary Aid for Needy Families program.

“By allowing random drug checks, we can ensure families who receive TANF benefits use them for their intended purpose of feeding, clothing and providing shelter for their children, while cutting the tie that enables drug abuse,” Fincher said in a statement yesterday. “It’s not unreasonable to ask folks to stay clean in order to receive federal assistance.”

The TANF program currently provides some very poor families with an average of less than $400 a month, though many eligible families with children do not receive welfare checks.

Recent attempts by states to impose mandatory drug tests on welfare recipients have revealed the bills are solutions in search of a problem. In Florida, which implemented a drug testing program for several months until a court blocked it, nearly 98 percent of applicants passed the drug test.

The 11th Circuit Court of Appeals’ ruling last week upheld the lower court’s decision blocking the Florida law. The decision also applies to a similar bill in Georgia.

The panel of judges said Florida failed to prove that drug abuse among welfare recipients is a serious problem. “The State has presented no evidence that simply because an applicant for TANF benefits is having financial problems, he is also drug addicted or prone to fraudulent and neglectful behavior,” the judges wrote.

The court’s core problem with the Florida and Georgia laws, however, had more to do with concerns that testing people without their permission and without any actual suspicion of drug use violates the 4th amendment protection against unreasonable search and seizure.

Fincher’s bill attempts to sidestep these constitutional concerns by requiring all welfare recipients to sign “a waiver of constitutional rights with respect to testing.”

“The State may not use any part of the grant to provide assistance to any individual who has not signed a waiver,” the language of the bill reads. Said differently, the bill asks poor people to sign away their 4th amendment rights.

When Fincher introduced identical legislation in 2011, it failed to clear committee and few think the bill has much of a chance this year.

Oberlin President Says ‘Significant Progress’ Has Followed Campus Hate Speech

The president of Oberlin college says that the Ohio college is making “significant progress” investigating a series of hate speech crimes on campus during Black History Month. The college, known widely as a place that’s liberal and forward-thinking, canceled classes on Monday in order to hold a series of rallies to help unify students.

The incidents in question included a “whites only” being written above a water fountain and a swastika scrawled across a science center window, according to the college newspaper the Oberlin Review. The paper also reported a series of physical assaults on campus in which the assailant made derogatory remarks about a student’s ethnicity.

More from USA Today:

“All these reports are being investigated thoroughly,” President Marvin Krislov said at an afternoon rally at Finney Chapel, the The (Cleveland) Plain Dealer reported. “We have made significant progress in the investigation of these instances.”

“We believe these actions represent the work of a very small number of very cowardly people,” he told a packed audience of 1,200 students. “I am shocked that this happened at our college, which I love. It hurts all of us.”

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