Immigration Debate Begins While Advocates Demand Obama Halt Deportations

Immigration Debate Begins While Advocates Demand Obama Halt Deportations

As the full Senate prepares to begin debate today on the sweeping immigration reform bill, President Obama gave a speech from the White House urging Congress to pass the legislation. Focusing on the economic benefits of reform and trumpeting his administration’s significant expansion of deportation and border enforcement, Obama said that Congress has no excuse not to pass the bill.

“If you’re actually serious and sincere about fixing a broken system, this is the vehicle to do it,” Obama said. “There is no good reason to engage in procedural games.”

But immigration advocates say that the President must take a leading part in the move toward immigration justice by slowing deportations, which have separated hundreds of thousands of families and left communities riddled with holes.

A group of Congresspeople and immigrants with the support of nearly 500 organizations will deliver a letter to the President tomorrow morning calling on his administration to stop removing immigrants at the current rate of over 400,000 each year. “The best way to open a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants is for you to immediately suspend deportations,” the letter reads, “at a bare minimum, for those who would eventually be eligible for the Senate bill’s legalization program. ”

In his speech, the President said his deportation policies, which have removed historic numbers of people each year, have worked. “Today deportation of criminals is at its highest level ever,” he said.

Advocates are not having it: “There continues to be a wide distance between the President’s rhetoric and his record,” said Pablo Alvarado, the director of the national Day Laborer Network, said in a statement. “To close the gap, the President must cease the 1,100 daily deportations he currently oversees.”

In his speech, Obama also responded to Republican calls for more border security saying, as he often has, that the border is now more secure than ever. “We made border security a top priority,” the President said, adding that his administration doubled the number of agents on the border. 

The Senate immigration bill, which supporters say can pass with more than 60 votes, is expected to face significant challenges from Republicans who will introduce amendments to harden border enforcement provisions and make the path to citizenship more difficult, especially for low-income immigrants.

Senator Marco Rubio, Republican from Florida, who helped draft the legislation in the spring as a member of a bipartisan Gang of Eight Senators, has said recently that the current bill will become law as written. Rubio, along with Senator Tom Coburn of Oklahoma are threatening to introduce an amendment to give Congress power to draft and certify a border enforcement plan that the administration would then need to implement.  Currently, the bill requires that the Department of Homeland Security implement new border enforcement measures before those on a path to citizenship can move ahead. The congressionally drafted plan could result in even more build up of armed agents and technology on the US-Mexico border. Advocates say the region can’t sustain more militarization. But other members of the Gang of Eight Senate group, including New York Democrat Sen. Chuck Schumer, have said they are open to considering the proposal.  

Another amendment, from Sen. John Cornyn, R-Tex., would expand border enforcement to require that border patrol apprehend at least 90 percent of attempted crossers before any undocumented immigrant can gain a green card.  The amendment could derail the path to citizenship entirely since the 90 percent goal is by most accounts unattainable.  Senate Majority Leady Harry Reid called the amendment a “poison pill.” Another amendment from Sen. Paul Rand, R-KY., would require that Congress to stage a vote each year on the progress of border security.

Other Republicans will propose amendments to make it more difficult for undocumented immigrants to gain citizenship by increasing costs.  Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, plans to introduce an amendment that will require unauthorized immigrants to pay all unpaid back taxes from the entire period since arriving in the US. The bill already requires significant tax payments by applicants to the provisional path to citizenship. Though many undocumented immigrants now pay taxes, those who have not always paid income and other taxes may find the requirement impossible to meet, especially for those who’ve been in the country for decades.

While the Senate is expected to pass legislation in the next month, the fate of immigration reform in the House is less clear. House Speaker John Boehner said on “Good Morning America” today that he’s confident the House will pass a bill. “I think, no question, by the end of the year we could have a bill. No question,” he said.  But for immigration advocates who say immigration enforcement has already reached an extreme, the bill’s likely rightward drift to gain Republican support in the House raises concerns about what the law will ultimately mean for non-citizens.

Seven Surprising Facts About Asian-American and Middle Eastern Boys

Seven Surprising Facts About Asian-American and Middle Eastern Boys

new report released Monday by Asian Americans/Pacific Islanders in Philanthropy takes a rare look at an often overlooked subgroup of young people: Asian American, Pacific Islander and AMEMSA boys and young men. AMEMSA stands for Arab, Middle Eastern, Muslim and South Asian—it’s a handy acronym worth remembering in a post-Sept. 11 U.S. context, where members of these communities often have overlapping experiences, but more typically, are seen as indistinguishable from each other.

So what ought we know about the boys and young men of these communities? Some of the facts may surprise you—and to the extent that they do, serve to highlight the grave misunderstandings the wider public has of Asian-American and AMEMSA communities broadly. Misunderstandings abound in part because of a stubborn model minority myth that suggests that all Asian Americans are wealthy, high-achieving and well-educated. The reality is far from that blanket picture. The U.S. Census Bureau’s own “Asian” category now encompasses 23 different Asian subgroups, all of whom have vastly different migration histories and cultural backgrounds. Some Asians came to the U.S. as refugees of war in the 1970s, some as laborers in the 19th century, some as newly recruited engineers to the tech industry. With all that difference and with no unifying linguistic or cultural binder, Asians are a truly difficult community to categorize. 

So what about those facts?

Judge: George Zimmerman May Not Be Called a “Vigilante” During Juror Questioning

Judge: George Zimmerman May Not Be Called a

Today, 16 months after Trayvon Martin was murdered, his killer George Zimmerman finally went on trial. And the first thing his lawyers did was try to delay the trial even further. Florida Circuit Judge Debra Nelson put the kibosh on that right away, the Detroit Free Press reported, but did rule that the prosecution is barred from using the words “profiled,” “vigilante,” “wannabe cop,” and “self-appointed neighborhood watch captain” during questioning of potential jurors. Those words were deemed “inflammatory,” the paper reported.

And then jury selection process began. Some 100 potential jurors showed up today after 500 summons were sent out. For more on what to expect during this trial, read Eric Mann’s account here.

The Detroit Free Press streamed the proceedings live today. Juror questioning will begin again tomorrow.

Big Freedia’s ‘Queen of Bounce’ Reality TV Show to Launch This Fall

Big Freedia's 'Queen of Bounce' Reality TV Show to Launch This Fall

The world will be able to take a closer look at New Orleans-based emcee Big Freedia. The reigning bounce music diva’s new reality show, “Queen of Bounce,” will premiere this fall on Wednesday, September 18 on Fuse TV. The show will follow Freedia and other bounce artists, including Katey Red, Sissy Nobby, and Mr. Ghetto.

More from the New Orleans Times-Picayune:

“Big Freedia: Queen of Bounce” is one of three new music-focused programs on Fuse debuting this year. On July 24, the network premieres “G-Thing,” a show that follows Italian-American rapper G-Fella and his family as they try to launch an independent record label, and “Insane Clown Posse Theater.” The latter is a program featuring the infamous clown-faced rappers Violent J and Shaggy 2 Dope: the show includes the pair’s commentary on new music videos and pop culture phenomena as well as comedy sketches and interviews with special guests. “Insane Clown Posse Theater” previously was available as an online series; this summer, it graduates to the TV screen.

Earlier this year Pitchfork released an intriguing 27-minute documentary on Big Freedia. Check it out if you haven’t already. Seems like it’s just a taste of what’s to come this September. 


Fight Begins to Save Country’s Oldest Black Bookstore

Fight Begins to Save Country's Oldest Black Bookstore

The foreclosure crisis has devastated black families and businesses across the country, including the country’s oldest black bookstore. Marcus Bookstore, a landmark San Francisco black -owned business that opened in 1960 and survived the razing of the city’s historic African-American Fillmore district, is on the brink of closure. And now a fierce battle has started to save it.

Chris Roberts at the San Francisco Examiner has the story in detail:

“We’re not asking for a handout,” said Gregory Johnson, who with his wife, Karen run the bookstore. “It would be one thing if we didn’t have the money,” Karen Johnson added, as they sat in the bookstore’s incense-scented ground-floor space, indoor plants adding to the cool refuge from an unseasonably hot afternoon. “But we do. We have the money and The City behind us.”

The trouble at Marcus Books began in 2006. Like so many other people during the real estate boom, the family took out a loan in order to pay expenses, Karen Johnson said during an interview at the bookstore Friday.

And like so many others, the loan — $950,000, with fixed monthly payments but a high 10 percent interest rate — turned out to be “predatory,” she said. Monthly payments on the building ballooned to about $10,000, according to Dr. Mary Ann Jones, executive director of Westside Community Services.

The family has contacted the office of Attorney General Kamala Harris, which is investigating the loan’s legitimacy, according to attorney Julian Davis. But in the meantime, a last-minute effort by the Johnsons to buy the property from creditors missed a deadline.

Family members have started a petition on to asking the building’s new owners to “save the legacy of Marcus Books and keep the country’s oldest black-owned Bookstore in San Francisco.” See the petition on

Jasmine Johnson, granddaughter of the store’s founders, wrote a powerful piece on the challenges facing black-owned bookstores for last year when Harlem’s Hue-Man closed its doors:

The challenges black bookstores face are no romance. Advancing technology and digitization are increasingly central to the book-buying market; a desire for immediate ownership (even though it is technically only licensing) and quick-click purchasing has made brick-and-mortar stores synonymous with the slow, aging, and nostalgic. “For me, closing was a complete no-brainer,” Allen says. “The rent was going to go up, but even if I could have negotiated the same rent, I wouldn’t have done it. The market is costly, the space is inadequate, the vision is backward. This is 10-years-back; we need a 20-years-forward vision.”


Hue-Man is the stuff that community is made of—a space where we interact with others through the mutual valuation of literacy. The generosity found there characterizes many independent black businesses. They give as far as their means can stretch. Kindness often makes more acute the gaps in inventory. Regardless, we get to know us better by being there.

Read the entire piece.

TAGS: books

Cicely Tyson Made History at Last Night’s Tony Awards

Cicely Tyson Made History at Last Night's Tony Awards

After a 30 year absence from Broadway, Cicely Tyson became the oldest person to win an award for her starring role as Miss Carrie Watts in The Trip to Bountiful. Rod McCullom noted that received the “longest standing ovation of the night”, reported The New York Times. Watch her acceptance speech in the video above.

The Times also notes that black actors had a huge night at the Tonys in general last night:

…at a time when only 15 to 20 percent of actors on Broadway are black, half of the major acting awards went to African-Americans. Cicely Tyson, at age 88, won her first Tony for best actress in a play as a neglected mother in “The Trip to Bountiful”; Patina Miller, best actress in a musical as the Leading Player in “Pippin;” Mr. Porter, best actor in a musical as the drag queen Lola in “Kinky Boots”; and Courtney B. Vance, best featured actor in a play as a newspaper editor in “Lucky Guy.”

Read more at Rod 2.0 and at the New York Times.

Ryan Coogler and Octavia Spencer Talk About Spending Time With Oscar Grant’s Family

Ryan Coogler and Octavia Spencer Talk About Spending Time With Oscar Grant's Family

Ryan Coogler’s “Fruitvale Station” is about a month away from hitting theaters nationwide in the United States. The film, a Sundance favorite, has already gotten rave reviews based on its gripping portrayal of the last day of Oscar Grant’s life before he was gunned down by former BART police officer Johannes Mehserle. That’s not an easy talk for any filmmaker, but Coogler, the film’s writer and diretor, and Spencer, who plays Grant’s mother Wanda, were able to prepare for their roles by speaking with surviving members of Grant’s family. Watch them talk about the experience in the interview that’s above.

Cory Booker Close to Officially Announcing Senate Run

Cory Booker Close to Officially Announcing Senate Run

Politico is reporting that Newark mayor Cory Booker will run for U.S. Senate, with an official announcement slated for tomorrow. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie announced a special election to replace deceased Sen. Frank Lautenberg scheduled for October, with a primary in August — a surprise since his options were to hold a special election on the day of the November general election or appoint someone immediately as a placeholder until the November 2014 Senate elections.

Political commentators are saying that Christie decided against holding a special election this November because he’s up for re-election himself, and having someone like Booker on the ticket could drive up black votes for the Democratic Party ticket, boosting the chances of their pick for governor Barbara Buono. Meanwhile, Christie could have just appointed someone from his own Republican Party. But holding an early special election allows Booker to run for the Senate seat without threatening Christie’s re-election chances — though having two elections so close will reportedly cost the state’s taxpayers millions of dollars

Meanwhile, PAC Plus, a D.C.-based Super PAC devoted to supporting progressive candidates of color, tells Buzzfeed that they plan to raise and spend as much as $2 million to get Booker elected for Senate. The campaign is simply called “Help Cory Win.”

“Here we are talking about the post-Obama world, and where the Obama coalition is going to go,” PAC Plus founder Steve Phillips told BuzzFeed. Phillips also is chair of Power PAC, a political action committee based out of San Francisco. “We think that Cory is one of the people who is best positioned to advance that movement.”

If Booker wins, he’ll become the ninth African American to serve in the Senate and could potentially bring the total number of African Americans serving in the Senate to two.

Andra Gillespie, author of the book The New Black Politician: Cory Booker, Newark and Post-Racial America, says that would be both “remakable and sad,” because, “by 2013, you’d hope that we’d have more than just two black Senators,” given African Americans are 13 percent of the population.

Gillespie believes that as a senator, a lot of the criticism he’s sustained lately, like being out of touch with city and defending Wall St. moochers like Bain Capital, will “fall away,” given the Senate is a different environment than the mayor’s office.

Says Gillespie, “What irritated people about him locally won’t be amplified as much in the Senate race. Doesn’t mean it won’t be used against him, but I think people will be far less likely to not use the ‘he’s-not-black-enough’ charge as he runs for Senate.”

SF Giants’ Sergio Romo Records Video in Support of Immigration Reform

SF Giants' Sergio Romo Records Video in Support of Immigration Reform

San Francisco Giants pitcher Sergio Romo has recorded a video in support of immigration reform. The video appears on Major League Baseball’s YouTube channel.

“I’m first-generation Mexican-American. Both of my parents were born in Mexico,” he says in the video. “My dad always spoke of the American dream as a man hard working, earning his keep, being able to take care of his family in a respectful manner.”

Romo, a first-generation Mexican-American, created the video in partnership with The Dream is Now campaign that is pushing Congress to pass the DREAM Act. The Dream is Now is spearheaded by the Emerson Collective which was founded by Laurene Jobs and Davis Guggenheim.

“When I hear of a student being undocumented, I take it as a kid going to school, just trying to learn to do better so I don’t find anything negative in that,” says Romo, who was born in California. Two million undocumented people “deserve a chance to live their dream and we will all win if they do.”

Real Life Black Hair Exhibit You Can Touch in NYC’s Union Square

Real Life Black Hair Exhibit You Can Touch in NYC's Union Square

Just imagine, an interactive public art exhibit where everyone can “explore the tactile fascination with black hair by” touching real life black hair on real life black women. 

The organizers of the event from describe the event as: “an interactive public art exhibit, dubbed You Can Touch My Hair, where strangers from all walks of life will have the welcomed opportunity to touch various textures of black hair.”

The exhibit took place Thursday evening and will take place once again on Saturday, June 6 from 2 to 4pm in NYC’s Union Square Park. For more information visit 

North Carolina Repeals Its Racial Justice Act

North Carolina Repeals Its Racial Justice Act

Showing proof of systemic racial bias will no longer be an option to spare North Carolina death-row inmates from execution. On Wednesday the North Carolina legislature repealed its Racial Justice Act, the only law of its kind of the nation, which allowed death-row inmates to appeal their cases if they could show that racial bias played a role in their sentencing.

Racial justice advocates have said that the law, which has undergone revisions, is a necessary and important tool which acknowledged the reality of well-documented systemic racial discrimination and racial disproportionality in the criminal justice system. But critics argued that the law is more troublesome than it’s worth, and has been exploited by people who are using it as an indirect way to halt executions around the state. Since its passage, critics pointed out, the Racial Justice Act has been invoked by all but two death-row inmates, including those who are white. 

Kentucky, too, has a Racial Justice Act, but it is not retroactive. Defendants may only invoke the law prior to trial. In that way, North Carolina’s law was singularly unique. Since it was enacted in 2009, the law has been plagued by controversy and repeal efforts. This week, those voices won.

“It’s incredibly sad,” Rep. Rick Glazier, a supporter of the law, told the New York Times. “If you can’t face up to your history and make sure it’s not repeated, it lends itself to being repeated.”

Colorado Joins Parade of States Granting Driver’s Licenses to the Undocumented

Colorado Joins Parade of States Granting Driver's Licenses to the Undocumented

On Wednesday Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper made Colorado the eighth state in the nation to extend driver’s license eligibility to undocumented immigrants, Reuters reported.

Colorado’s law requires that applicants show identification from their home country, proof of residence in Colorado and a state income tax return, and they must be renewed every three years.

Driver’s licenses for the undocumented are a heated issue—as is just about any kind of right undocumented immigrants could have—but lawmakers have increasingly observed that it’s not even so much an issue of immigrant rights as it is primarily one of public safety. Immigrant rights advocates in New Mexico have defended their state’s driver’s license law by showing that extending driver’s license access decreases the number of uninsured drivers on the road, and increases the likelihood that people report accidents, pay fines and speak to authorities.

It’s been a big year for undocumented immigrants and driver’s licenses. Just last week the Connecticut state Senate passed its own driver’s license bill, which Gov. Daniel Malloy has pledged to sign. In recent weeks Oregon and Nevada passed their own laws, as well. 

The Colorado law will go into effect on August 1, 2014.

Whole Foods Suspends Workers For Speaking Spanish

Whole Foods Suspends Workers For Speaking Spanish

Not everything is healthy at Whole Foods. Two employees at the natural foods supermarket chain in Albuquerque, New Mexico are saying that they were suspended for speaking Spanish to each other during work hours.

From NBC Latino:

Bryan Baldizan told The Associated Press he and a female employee were suspended for a day after they wrote a letter following a meeting with a manager who told them Spanish was not allowed during work hours.

“I couldn’t believe it,” said Baldizan, who works in the store’s food preparation department. “All we did was say we didn’t believe the policy was fair. We only talk Spanish to each other about personal stuff, not work.”

He said Whole Foods officials told them about company policy and issued the suspensions.

One Whole Foods exeuctive told NBC Latino that the company believes in “having a uniform form of communication for a safe working environment.

Hundreds of Teens Behind Bars Report Sexual Assaults by Staffers

Hundreds of Teens Behind Bars Report Sexual Assaults by Staffers

Hundreds of teens are raped and sexually assaulted during their time in the country’s juvenile detention centers, according to a new survey released today by the U.S. Department of Justice. And most of the assualts happen at the hands of staff members working at these facilities. 

The survey covered by both secure juvenile detention facilities and group homes, and involved more than 8,500 boys and girls. In total, 1,720 of those surveyed reported being sexually assaulted, and some of them said that they had been violated on more than 10 occassions. There are currently roughly 70,000 young people in the country’s juvenile detention facility.

Allen Beck, the author of the report, said that the rate of staff assaults on juvenile inmates is more than three times higher than that of adults.

More from ProPublica’s Joquain Sapien:

The highest incidence of staff sexual misconduct occurred in Ohio, South Carolina, Georgia and Illinois, while other states like New York, Massachusetts and Delaware, reported no abuse. At the Paulding Regional Youth Detention Center in Georgia and the Circleville Juvenile Correctional Facility in Ohio, one in three youngsters surveyed said they’d suffered sexual abuse at the hands of staff members. 


The report gives some insight into how staff members victimize the youngsters under their care and supervision. In the majority of cases, the survey found, staff members establish a personal relationship with the inmate first by sharing details of their personal lives, sharing pictures, or giving gifts. The report indicates that one instance of abuse usually leads to more. 

Read more about the survey over at ProPublica and see the entire survey from the Bureau of Justice Statistics. 

Report: Immigration Enforcement Takes Heavy Toll On Kids’ Physical And Mental Health

Report: Immigration Enforcement Takes Heavy Toll On Kids' Physical And Mental Health

There’s been lots of talk recently about what immigration reform could mean for families. But with all attention on the reform of citizenship and border enforcement laws, it’s easy for policy-makers to miss the day-to-day fallout of the country’s immigration policy. A new report released yesterday by the Oakland-based health advocacy group Human Impact Partners finds that the congressional failure to pass immigration reform, coupled with the Obama administration’s historic levels of deportation, has punishing effects on the mental and physical health of the nearly 5 million American kids whose undocumented parents are threatened with deportation. 

“If the current rate of deportation continues, 152,000 children this year will have a parent detained or deported and this actually creates a change in the health of these children including issues like detachment,” said Lili Farhang, one of the report’s authors.

Human Impact Partners based its findings on original research and analysis of existing data and studies on the children of immigrants and of deportees. The report reads:

[T]hese children and their families live with anxiety about the future, fearful that arrest, detention or deportation will tear their families apart. Anxiety and fear are only part of the damaging impacts of their families’ precarious legal status. Children of the undocumented may also suffer from poverty, diminished access to food and health care, mental health and behavioral problems and limited educational opportunities—particularly when a parent is arrested and detained or deported.”

The researchers reviewed over 500 responses to a survey of immigrant parents and their children. The sample included undocumented and documented adults so that the researchers could compare the potential impact of a legalization program.

The authors found that children of undocumented parents were less likely to see a doctor or mental health professional and that three-quarters of the undocumented mothers and fathers surveyed said that their children experienced symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, compared to forty percent of documented parents’ kids. Similarly, undocumented parents themselves reported feeling increased levels of stress, fearfulness, sadness, withdrawal and anger.  The health outcomes are a result of fears of deportation and the economic effects of undocumented status, which increases poverty and food insecurity.  

The increased levels of stress and fear and other health problems are unsurprising in the face of the deportation of 90,000 parents of U.S. citizen kids each year, a number that revealed in December though a Freedom of Information Act request.

Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard, D-Calif., who has introduced legislation to protect children from long term separation from their detained and deported parents, said the findings “should shock our conscience” and demand immediate action by the Obama administration.

“While it’s critical that any comprehensive immigration reform proposal include protections for immigrant families, this study shows we can’t continue waiting for Congress to act,” Roybal-Allard said in a statement. “I once again call on the Administration to end the unjust deportation of parents.”

The authors recommend a broad path to citizenship and a rollback of federal programs that use local cops to enforce immigration laws. They call for the inclusion of immigrants on a path to citizenship in federal health programs. The current immigration reform bill in the Senate excludes immigrants who apply for legal status from federal healthcare programs and subsidies.

Disclosure:  I provided early research advice to the authors of the report.

Dramatic Reading of Racist YouTube Comments Left on ‘What Kind of Asian Are You?’ Video

Dramatic Reading of Racist YouTube Comments Left on 'What Kind of Asian Are You?' Video

Last week we posted a YouTube Comedy Week video that poked fun of people who ask Asian-Americans  “What Kind of Asian Are You?”

The creators of the video are back with a new video in which actors Stella Choe and Scott Beehner read some of the terrible racist comments left on the original video.

The original video was co-directed by David Neptune and Ken Tanaka—I should note Tanaka is a character developed by comedian David Ury. Ury plays a white guy adopted by a Japanese family in search of his biological parents in the U.S. Video below.  

Kid President’s Got a Plan to Fix U.S. Education [VIDEO]

Kid President's Got a Plan to Fix U.S. Education [VIDEO]

Everyone’s favorite future president has a message for the country. There’s no way he’ll get to the Oval Office unless he gets through school first. And what he, and schoolchildren around the country need are simple: access to healthy food, early education and an engaging, vibrant classroom experience.

That’s the message he and a cast of other irresistibly cute kids are sharing as part of a new video produced by SoulPancake for the Schott Foundation’s Opportunity to Learn Campaign. (Disclosure: Schott Foundation is a funder of the Applied Research Center, which publishes

The three asks are seemingly simple enough. But far too many kids go to school in the U.S. without access to any of the three. And the political conversation about these issues quickly becomes a distant abstraction for people. “When you talk to folks about the opportunity gap in education, most people don’t really know what you’re talking about,” said Joe Bishop, the executive director of the Opportunity to Learn Campaign. 

But the opportunity gap is real. More than 22 percent of the nation’s kids live in poverty, Bishop said, and fewer than half of U.S. children have access to pre-kindergarten. It turns out that these sorts of barriers end up having a huge impact on kids’ educational success. Researchers are finding that the achievement gap between kids who are wealthy—and have access to reliable health care, three square meals a day and early education—and those who are poor—and who must sometimes do without any of those three—shows up even before kindergarten. And because a disproportionate number of black and Latino families live in poverty, the opportunity gap is especially relevant to communities of color.

So listen up when Kid President talks. And head to the Opportunity to Learn page to learn more.

Attorney General Holder Memorializes Civil Rights Patriot Medgar Evers

Attorney General Holder Memorializes Civil Rights Patriot Medgar Evers

Fifty years ago, a white supremacist named Byron De La Beckwith shot and killed civil rights activist Medgar Evers as he stood in the driveway of his home in Jackson, Mississippi. The assassin’s bullet did what years of death threats, firebombings and other racialized intimidation had attempted, by ending his life, but it also invigorated civil rights activists throughout the South and beyond.

Today, a wreath was laid at the Arlington National Cemetary in Washington, D.C. during a service memorializing the life of Medgar Evers, who served as the NAACP’s first field secretary of the South. U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder spoke at the ceremony and recognized Evers’ work as “the foundation” that led to Barack Obama becoming the first black president and he becoming the first black head of the justice department.  

“We gather today to thank Medgar Evers for his vision, his leadership, and his enduring impact,” said Holder. “In the eye of history he stands with Garvey, Malcolm, Wilkins and King.”

Holder noted that on June 11, 1963, Evers’ last day alive, “two brave students,” James Hood and Vivian Malone integrated the University of Alabama under the protection of National Guard, whose armed staff had to escort the two past a hostile Gov. George Wallace who stood in front of the university’s doors. Malone would later become Holder’s sister-in-law. 

“Those of us who are old enough to remember that infamous ‘Stand in the Schoolhouse Door’ will never forget that moment, the progress that it marked, or the justice it secured,” said Holder. “Nor will we forget that, years earlier, Medgar Evers - who came from a family that had long fought against racial oppression - showed the same incredible courage when he did what was unthinkable then:  registering to vote and applying to the University of Mississippi Law School.”

Evers’ wife Myrlie Evers-Williams and a number of civil war veterans have continued to keep Evers’ legacy alive, and have ceremonies planned over the next seven days in his commemmoration. Many of those services will be in Jackson, Miss., where an African American named Chokwe Lumumba just was elected mayor after defeating another African American, Cornelius Griggs, who ran independently. It’s also a state where hate crimes and racial discrimination is still prominent.  

“Mississippi is a race-haunted place,” Susan Glisson, director of the William Winter Institute for Racial Reconciliation at the University of Mississippi, told NPR.  “It took grass roots — women and children and men — to lead the effort for social change, and it was much harder in Mississippi than other places. And that story needs to be told. It’s not just this easy, Martin stood up and Rosa sat down and everybody’s free.”

Got a Question About LGBT Organizing in the South? Let’s Hear It

Got a Question About LGBT Organizing in the South? Let's Hear It

From the recent spike in hate crimes against queer and transgender folks to the Supreme Court’s upcoming decision on the Defense of Marriage Act, LGBT rights have been in the news a lot lately. For generations the South has been fertile ground for innovative organizing strategies, and that’s certainly the case in today’s world of working toward equity in LGBT communities. This week’s publisher, the Applied Research Center, released our latest briefing paper on LGBT and racial justice organiainzg. “Better Together in the South: Building Movements Accross Race, Gender, and Sexual Orientation” is an important look at those working at the intersection of rights and racial justice. More directly, it showcases the work of an engaged cohort of groups who work on issue areas that range from employment, religion, immigration, and police reform — just to name a few.

Starting next week, we want you — yes, you — to be part of the conversation. At 2pm EST on Tuesday, June 11, I’ll be hosting a live video chat with Paulina Helm-Hernandez of Atlanta-based Southerners On New Ground (SONG) and Bishop Toniya Rawls of the Freedom Center for Social Justice in Charlotte, North Carolina. We’ll talk about the communities they’re helping to bring together, and their thoughts on what the rest of the country can be learning from the South. Tune in live at, and tweet your questions in with the hashtag #CLchat — I’ll read them live on air!

Susan Rice Becomes Third African American to Lead National Security

Susan Rice Becomes Third African American to Lead National Security

This morning, President Obama announced that he would be assigning the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice to the role of national security advisor, a position left open when Tom Donilon resigned from the post. In her new role, Rice will work directly with President Obama from the White House as his senior advisor on national security matters, and operates from the White House’s “Situation Room” during times of crisis. 

Rice’s name was floated last year as a possible lead contender to become secretary of state when Hillary Clinton retired from the role. But Republicans in the Senate vowed not to confirm her for that position, citing perceived missteps in the Benghazi flap while other conservatives claimed that Susan Rice was a “black radical.” Environmentalists also disapproved of Rice for State and accused her of being invested in creating the Keystone XL oil tar sands pipeline that they strongly oppose. She’s also been accused of enabling massive violence throughout Africa. 

As national security advisor to Obama, she does not need to be confirmed by the Senate nor win the approval of special interests. She’s expected to take up the West Wing of the White House in July. She is the third African American to assume this role. The first was Gen. Colin Powell, who served under Ronald Reagon in the late 1980s. Like Powell, Rice is of Jamaican lineage. She is also the second African-American woman for national security advisor, after Condoleezza Rice who served under George W. Bush. 

Rice will still have to contend with Republicans and conservatives who oppose her on sensitive national security issues like Benghazi. 

“She’s going to have her plate full, if she’s chosen,” Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina told The Washington Post.  “I will not be petty. I will put my differences on Benghazi aside and work with her.”

Filling Rice’s U.N. ambassador role is Samantha Power, who formally worked on Obama’s National Security Council and has been outspoken on genocide across the globe. Power’s nomination will have to be confirmed before the Senate. 

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