Black People Voted on Election Day, Too, By the Way

The growing electoral strength, power and concerns of Latino and Asian-American voters have rightfully garnered significant attention in the two weeks since the re-election of President Obama. But the same can’t be said of black voters who were also a key component of the president’s victory. An under-reported NAACP “Battleground State” poll of 1,600 black voters is worth a look for those who have been disturbed about the comparative silence in pundit-land about the continued and future role that African Americans play at the polls and in policy, particularly in relation to other racial and social justice constituencies.

Here are some highlights from the slidedeck released by the civil rights organization the week of the election:

  • The increased turnout and almost uniform electoral support of Obama, when compared to support for John Kerry in 2004, was decisive in battleground states like Florida, Ohio, and Virginia (Slide 6).
  • Jobs and the economy are the priority issue for black voters, as they are for other racial groups (Slide 9).
  • Black voters continue to believe the federal government should play a role in protecting “minority” interests such as voting rights, public education, housing opportunities, and affirmative action (Slide 10).
  • There’s overwhelming support for the DREAM Act—71 percent strongly supporting and 23 percent supporting (Slide 15).
  • Half of black respondents supported marriage equality (Slide 15).
  • Black support for marriage equality rises to a safe majority figure of 57 percent when a religious exemption for performing ceremonies is included (as was the case in the popularly approved policies in Maine and Maryland), with only 31 percent opposed. That’s a margin of 26 percent that expands to 41 percent for black voters aged 18-30. (Slide 16)

It’s important to also note that black voters anticipate being far less enthusiastic about the Democratic ticket without Obama at its head in 2016 (Slide 18). And while the Democrats enjoy a significant lead over Republicans on black perception of how hard the parties are working on critical problems such as poverty, health care, and job opportunities, both parties get a failing grade when it comes to working hard and caring about the monumental issue of the mass incarceration of African Americans.

One last point: an unfortunate byproduct of elections is the not-always-subtle jockeying for title as the decisive constituency, and I certainly don’t mean to suggest here that black voters should make that claim. But neither should others. The truth is there were several key constituencies that made Obama’s victory a reality, and a re-emphasis on examining how we can collectively advance and enrich each other’s racial and social justice struggles—in both policies and practices—is paramount in the time between the first Tuesday in November every four years.

Dom Apollon is research director of’s publisher, the Applied Research Center, which served as a paid consultant to Pacific Market Research, the polling firm that administered and oversaw the NAACP poll.

Man Sentenced to 3 Years For Leading Mississippi Prison Riot

Man Sentenced to 3 Years For Leading Mississippi Prison Riot

Juan Lopez-Fuentes became the first inmate to be sentenced for a riot that rattled a Mississippi federal prison in May. Lopez-Fuentes was sentenced in federal court yesterday to 40 months in prison and $1.3 million in restitution, the Natchez Democrat reports.

The riot in the Adams County Correction Facility, a privately operated federal prison for immigrants convicted of crimes, left one prison guard dead. Inmates in the facility said they were revolting against abusive prison conditions at the hands of guards employed by the Corrections Corporation of America, the country’s largest prison company.

As I reported days after the riot:

At 5 p.m. on Sunday evening, an inmate reportedly phoned a local TV station with a cell phone, sending photos to confirm that he was indeed held inside the facility.

“They always beat us and hit us,” the prisoner told the local reporter. “We just pay them back. We’re trying to get better food, medical (care), programs, clothes, and we’re trying to get some respect from the officers and lieutenants.”

Two other men have been charged for allegedly participating in the riot. Yoany Oriel Serrano-Bejarano pleaded not guilty in October. A jury trial has been set for next month. Pedro Gonzalez De Los Reyes was charged this month for his part in the riot. He has yet to be arraigned.

Lopez-Fuentes pleaded guilty in August to taking part in the riot. In a complaint filed by the federal government in August, Lopez-Fuentes was alleged to be “an active participant in the riot and appeared to be in charge of the inmates involved in the standoff.” The complaint goes on to describe Lopez-Fuentes as a negotiator, wielding power over inmates and hostages and forcing hostages to act as intermediaries in negotiations between inmates and guards.

The riot left 24-year old prison guard Catlin Carithers dead and several other guards injured.

Family members and advocates in touch with inmates in the prison say that conditions inside the facility were also deadly for inmates. In May and then again in September, I reported on a man named Juan Villanueva whose sister says he’s still be alive had Adams prison officials adequately responded to rapidly spreading cancer:

According to his sister [Angelica Moreno], Villanueva’s illness was ignored for months while locked up in Adams County and his condition deteriorated. “They killed my brother,” she said. Moreno says her brother was prescribed repeated doses of antibiotics even after he complained of pain and was regularly vomiting blood. When months later he was finally taken to an emergency room and diagnosed with cancer, his illness had advanced significantly, but still the prison failed to transport Villanueva to all of his chemotherapy appointments, according to Moreno.

Just before the Adams facility erupted into violence in May, Villanueva was moved to a North Carolina medical facility where two months later he died. His body was flown to Los Angeles, where his family held a funeral.

The Adams County facility is one of a dozen similar private prisons for non-citizens convicted of crimes. As I reported in September:

“Many of the inmates are charged criminally for what’s called “illegal reentry” when they’re picked up by Border Patrol trying to return to the country after a previous deportation. The facilities are among the only ones that the Bureau of Prisons has privatized and their expansion promises more profits for companies, like the Corrections Corporation of America, which runs the Adams County Correctional Center where Moreno’s brother was held.

The federal government anticipates the facilities will continue to expand for at least the next eight years:

Despite this track record or neglect and violence, the federal government plans to expand the incarceration of non-citizens in private facilities. A report released on Wednesday by the Government Accountability Office revealed that the BOP projects it will add an 1500 CAR inmates every year until 2020, which will expand the population in these federal facilities to nearly 36,000. The GAO notes that the Board of Prisons annual projections are conservative and “therefore, the actual number of inmates would likely be higher than the projections.”

Felipe Montes Enters Final Day Of Testimony In Fight For His Kids

Felipe Montes Enters Final Day Of Testimony In Fight For His Kids

UPDATE [4:00 p.m. EST]

Arguments in the case over Felipe Montes’s parental rights came to a close today. Judge Michael Duncan told parties in the Alleghany County courthouse in Sparta, NC that he will reach a decision on the widely reported case next week.

His decision will determine the fates of Felipe Montes, who was deported two years ago for driving violations, and of his three children, who are currently in foster care.

The hearing, which ended this afternoon, was dominated by the children’s legal advocate who previously argued that Montes’s three children should be adopted. In court today, the advocate recommended instead that the children remain with their foster families but in a guardianship arrangement rather than through adoption. This would allow Montes some maintain some contact with the boys even if they stay in the United States.

Montes’s attorney pushed back, maintaining that her client’s parental rights should remain fully intact, and that the children should be reunified with him, whether he’s in the United States or Mexico. The decision is now firmly in the Judge’s hands.

“It’s been a lengthy trial, it’s been emotional, it’s been complicated, at times it’s been frustrating,” Judge Duncan said in closing.

Ultimately, “this case is all about three children,” he added. “This case will have long lasting, far reaching effects on these children and I do not take that lightly.”

A final ruling is expected on November 27th.

Testimony in Felipe Montes’s protracted legal case for his parental rights is expected to come to a close today. A final decision in the closely watched case is near.

Montes, a deported father who was allowed to return to the country on a rare humanitarian permit from the government, took the stand yesterday in Alleghany County, North Carolina to ask the judge to reunite the family.

“Why do I fight?” he said yesterday, in response to a question from his attorney, Donna Shumate. “Because I did not abandon my children. I got taken away from them. I got deported.”

Singer Erin McKeown Releases Song About U.S.-Mexico Border Wall

Singer Erin McKeown Releases Song About U.S.-Mexico Border Wall

Writer and performer Erin McKeown attended the Facing Race conference over the weekend and spoke to editorial director Kai Wright about her new song “The Jailer.”

McKeown’s song “The Jailer” about the U.S.-Mexico border wall premiered on NPR Monday morning.

Erin McKeown tells NPR about the inspiration for the song:

“Last year, I took a trip to Nogales, Arizona to see the wall being built between the U.S. and Mexico. I was struck by how it appeared to be a violent spine rising out of the beautiful desert. While standing next to it, I asked our guide, a local charter school teacher, why the wall was made of long columns of steel set close to each other, not a solid surface like other borders I’d seen. “They built it so the water could get through,” he said. This got me thinking about the toll a wall takes on the hearts of those it divides and on the soul of the builder of the wall.”

Visit to listen to McKeown’s song ‘The Jailer.’

Erin McKeown’s album, MANIFESTRA, comes out January 15.

Might Rep. Allen West Allege Voter Fraud to Avoid Conceding?

UPDATE [11:00 a.m. EST]: This morning, Allen West finally conceded to his challenger Rep. Patrick Murphy. West released a statement saying his legal team “does not believe there are enough over-counted, undercounted, or fraudulent votes to change the outcome of the election.” So while the race has finally been put to rest it’s disappointing that West continues to invoke the possibility of voter fraud among his electorate. While there have been snafus and questionable activity on the part of poll workers, there’s not been any evidence of fraudulent votes. So, it’s not enough to say his campaign “does not believe there are enough … fraudulent votes” to change the outcome. He needs to be honest with voters and say there has been no proof of voter fraud to begin with.

It’s roughly 12 days since Election Day and African-American Tea Party Rep. Allen West still has not conceded a loss in his race against the Democrat Patrick Murphy. In that race, where conservative SuperPACs and advocacy groups like Americans for Prosperity poured over $17 million in for West over Murphy’s $4 million, Murphy came out the unofficial winner by a very slim margin, less than 1 percent of the votes. But a number of voter machine malfunctions and other maladies led to the West campaign demanding a recount, which was granted by a canvassing board, especially after 306 uncounted ballots turned up.

That recount was executed over the weekend with a legal requirement for an official count to be turned in by Sunday at noon. But the St. Lucie County Canvassing Board wasn’t done recounting by that time, so the victory remains with Murphy. When the recount was finished around 2 p.m. yesterday, it turned out that Murphy had an even wider margin of victory — 2,146 more ballots than West.

But West isn’t conceding as of noon today, and is exploring a few Hail Mary options described below by the Palm Beach Post:

West’s options are limited. Shortly after noon, his legal team began discussing an emergency exemption in the law that permits final returns to be filed after the deadline. That exemption defines emergency as any occurrence “that results or may result in substantial injury or harm to the population or substantial damage to or loss of property to the extent it will prohibit an election officer’s ability to conduct a safe and orderly election.”

West, R-Palm Beach Gardens, also could challenge the official results using a rarely used law that allows the loser to contest the final results after all the ballots have been certified. Under that law, unsuccessful candidates or taxpayers living in the district can challenge the results by filing a legal complaint by Nov. 30 — that is, within 10 days of the final certification, which will happen Tuesday.

The complaint, called an election contest, can be filed only under several strict conditions: misconduct, fraud, bribery or corruption by an election official; the winner is not eligible for office; illegal votes or rejection of enough legal votes to change or create doubt in the results. West’s legal team declined to say whether an election contest would be filed.

There has been some voter weirdness — like a cartridge of votes from one precinct that wouldn’t load results, which ended up holding up the recount process that pushed them past the deadline. But there’s been no evidence of fraud or corruption. Still, True the Vote, which has been cheering hard for Rep. Allen West all along, is on the premises and wants everybody to know that they are “watching these recount proceedings very closely, as should every American who values the sanctity of their vote.”

They also said: “Secretary Detzner, Governor Rick Scott and Attorney General Pam Bondi have shown great leadership on a national scale in promoting election integrity. The State of Florida takes great care in ensuring that voter rolls are maintained in accordance with federal election laws and has also committed to prosecuting interstate voter fraud.”

That’s not what our reporting has shown in Florida

But if an unsuccessful candidate ends up not challenging the results, sounds like there might be some taxpayer Vote Truthers who will.

Undocumented Can Apply for FEMA Sandy Relief Through Citizen Kids

Undocumented Can Apply for FEMA Sandy Relief Through Citizen Kids

If history repeats itself undocumented immigrants will be a large part of Hurricane Sandy recovery efforts but they themselves won’t qualify for financial assistance from FEMA.

Undocumented Immigrants on the eastern seaboard are among those bearing the brunt of Hurricane Sandy but many of them won’t be able to access FEMA subsidies unless their is someone with legal resident status in their home.

People issued a legal permanent resident card - commonly referred to as “a green card” - may apply for assistance if they have disaster-related losses. Other non-citizens who can apply with FEMA include those with legal resident status because of asylum, refugee status, parole status, suspension of deportation status or status as victims of domestic violence.

Only one member of a household needs to be eligible to qualify the entire household for assistance, so parents and guardians may apply for FEMA subsidies on behalf of a minor child here with legal resident status. A household with family members with mixed immigration status may be eligible for disaster assistance as long as someone with legal resident status is in their home.

FEMA says they do not collect information on the immigration status of other household members.

The irony is that while some undocumented immigrants will not be able to access FEMA assistance they will likely play a major role in Sandy recovery.

Immigrant labor made was a major part of rebuilding New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina in 2005. In the days after Katrina the government dropped the federal requirement to pay minimum wage and lifted a requirement for companies to prove their workers’ legal status.

If history repeats itself, low-wage and hazardous jobs that involve mold and other toxic environments will be saved for undocumented immigrants.

But so far labor laws are fairing better than they did after Katrina, according to Patrick Vinck, a researcher at the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative who studied the contribution of the immigrant workforce in rebuilding New Orleans after Katrina.

“So far we haven’t seen any of the rules change,” Vinck told PRI’s “The World” earlier this month. “That being said immigration enforcement is still there and that very often prevents undocumented worker from seeking help, from demanding that they work in safe conditions, so they will be working in that challenging environments regardless of the requirement from the federal government”

Los Angeles Finally Gets Korean-Language Lakers Games

Los Angeles Finally Gets Korean-Language Lakers Games

Last Friday, for the first time ever, Koreans in Southern California were able to watch Lakers games in their native language. Time Warner Cable SportsNet’s Korean Secondary Audio Programming (SAP) is the first-ever for English-language television.

Time Warner Cable Sports partnered with Radio Seoul to provide Korean-language SAP for games on Time Warner Cable SportsNet. Sports writer and commentator Paul Lee will call all the games in Korean.

1.4 million Koreans reported their race in the 2010 Census to be either Korean alone or in combination with any race. The largest ethnic Korean population is in Southern California (LA, Orange, San Bernardino, Riverside and Ventura Counties.)

“We are extremely proud to partner with Radio Seoul to provide the first-ever Korean SAP for English-language  television,” said David Rone, President, Time Warner Cable Sports, in a statement. “Between Time Warner Cable SportsNet’s Korean SAP and Time Warner Cable Deportes, the first Spanish-language regional sports network, we’re able to speak to Southern California sports fans in their own languages and include them in a way they’ve been never included before.”

According to the 2009 American Community Survey, 30.4% of Korean Americans speak English only, 69.6% speak a language other than English at home, and 41% speak English less than “very well.”

The popularity of the Los Angeles Lakers among Koreans extends beyond the borders of Southern California and the United States. Leslie Berestein Rojas reminds us on Multi-American blog that in 2011 thousands of Koreans greeted Kobe Bryant in Seoul when he arrived to conduct a basketball mini-clinic with young local players.

“The NBA recognizes that it’s got an international brand that’s become profitable thanks to a range of fans. It’s encouraging to see that the Lakers are making an effort to reach out to its Korean-speaking audience because it’s a hint at just how powerful and racially diverse sports fans are in the U.S.,” said’s news editor Jamilah King.

‘If God Forgives Us, Then Our Community Should Forgive Us Too’

'If God Forgives Us, Then Our Community Should Forgive Us Too' Play

Tayna Fogle is a mother of two, a grandmother of six, a basketball champion and a formerly incarcerated individual who spent a decade in prison. After a decade in prison and having the right to vote taken away from her she went on to fight through months of legal proceedings to be able to vote again.

Today she works with Kentuckians for the Commonwealth as an organizer and voting rights activist to help other formerly incarcerated individuals regain their right to vote.

In the video at the top of this page, Fogle talks about her work and her experience on the first day of Facing Race 2012 in Baltimore.

Earlier this month the Marguerite Casey Foundation and Equal Voice profiled Fogle in a video titled “Power of Voice.” Watch the video and learn more about Fogle’s work below.

First Black Olympic All-Around Champion Met First Black U.S. President

First Black Olympic All-Around Champion Met First Black U.S. President

President Barack Obama talks with members of the 2012 U.S. Olympic gymnastics teams in the Oval Office, Nov. 15, 2012. Pictured, from left, are: Steven Gluckstein, Savannah Vinsant, Aly Raisman, Gabby Douglas, Steve Penny, USA Gymnastics President, McKayla Maroney, Kyla Ross, and Jordyn Wieber. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

Ruling: South Carolina’s ‘Papers Please’ Provision Moves Forward

Ruling: South Carolina's 'Papers Please' Provision Moves Forward

Welcome to the post-SB 1070 world. The latest stop, South Carolina, where a judge’s ruling Thursday will mean that the most contentious “papers please” provision of the state’s anti-immigration SB 1070 copycat law will move forward for implementation.

The provision and the law, modeled on Arizona’s SB 1070, mandates that state law enforcement officers inquire about a person’s immigration status if they suspect a person is undocumented. In U.S. District Judge Richard Gergel’s ruling, he nodded toward the Supreme Court’s ruling on sB 1070 earlier this year which allowed for future legal challenges to the law after it goes into effect. Judge Gergel, also in accordance with the Supreme Court’s ruling, blocked provisions making it a state crime for people not to carry their papers and provisions which criminalized undocumented immigrants’ daily life.

Much of the law had been blocked in December while the federal court awaited the ruling from the Supreme Court. Already in effect from South Carolina’s law are the state’s now mandatory statewide employment check requirements.

Texas Governor Wants Welfare, Unemployment Applicants To Pee In A Cup

Texas Governor Wants Welfare, Unemployment Applicants To Pee In A Cup

Texas Governor Rick Perry this week threw his weight behind a bill to require all welfare and unemployment applicants to submit to a drug test. The bill, SB 11, was filed on Monday by Republican state Senator Jane Nelson. It deem those who fail a drug test ineligible for assistance for up to a year.

The Texas bill takes the drug testing regime a to new extremes. Not only will a failed test lead to loss of benefits, it also requires the Texas Health and Human Services Commission to report mothers and fathers who fail tests to Child Protective Services.

As I reported earlier this year, dozens of state legislatures considered similar bills in the last two legislative sessions and in several states they became law.

Keeping Up With Colorlines at the Facing Race Conference in Baltimore

Keeping Up With Colorlines at the Facing Race Conference in Baltimore

The Facing Race Conference—the largest national, multi-racial gathering of racial justice leaders, educators, journalists, artists, and activists—starts tonight! Close to 1,400 people are expected to gather in Baltimore and you can keep up with the conference and writers online.

If you’re on Twitter you can use the #FacingRace hashtag to keep up with conference goers.

Also videos from the conference will first be posted on the Applied Research Center’s Facebook Page. You can “like” them using the widget below to stay up to date. (If you’re not Facebook, you can follow @racialjustice on Twitter.)

Colorlines staff will be participating in the following panels:

Jamilah King will moderate “Can You Hear Me Now? How Activists and Artists are Rebuilding the Media” 

Friday, November 16, 11:15am -12:45 pm

People of color generally pay more for fewer communication services and are sometimes left on the sidelines of some of today’s biggest tech innovations. This session will focus on how people of color are using public policy and art to push forward a new media framework. What are the promises — and the pitfalls — of today’s do-it-yourself ethos? What organizing strategies yield the most effective results? And how are communities responding?

Seth Freed Wessler will moderate “Shattered Families: Racial Justice and Systemic Change in Child Welfare” 

Friday, November 16, 2012 11:15am - 12:45 pm  

The child welfare system is tasked with protecting children from harm. Yet the system targets families of color in unfair ways. Hundreds of thousands of children in foster care are there because the child welfare system feeds off of the effects of poverty and of structural racism embedded in other systems like criminal justice and immigration and inequity embedded in tribal relationships to U.S. institutions. This panel will explore child welfare practices in communities of color, solutions for more equitable policy and strategies for protecting families.

Channing Kennedy will moderate “Like Racism, But Funnier: Social Change Through Internet Jokes” 

Saturday, November 17, 2012 11:00 am - 12:30 pm

 How do we reclaim comedy from the status quo? In this no-holds-barred workshop, three of your favorite social justice joke scientists (W. Kamau Bell, Negin Farsad, Samhita Mukhopadhyay) lay out case studies and strategies for making people laugh (and think), for putting dehumanizing comedy on blast, and for turning the inevitable backlash into positive change.

Julianne Hing will moderate “Tell Your Story, Move Your Campaign” 

Saturday, November 17, 2012 11:00 am - 12:30 pm

Stories, well-crafted and honestly told, have the ability to move people to action. But they can be tricky for progressives, who often get hung up on facts and complicated dynamics, and as a result, it can be harder to share solutions and reach possible allies. Learn strategies from organizers including the Drop the I-Word campaign who have developed a strong narrative as a core component to their campaigns, and are using new media strategies to communicate with more people because of it.

Franchesca Ramsey.

Jorge Rivas will moderate “No Budget? No Problem! 2013’s New Tools For Creating Content and Telling Your Story”

Saturday, November 17, 2012 1:45 pm - 3:15 pm 

Video and audio experts will discuss their best practices, what tools they’re using and what platforms you should be considering. SoundCloud fellow Will Coley and YouTube sensation Franchesca Ramsey will be speaking.

Viola Davis Honored By Domestic Workers

Viola Davis Honored By Domestic Workers

Viola Davis was honored by the National Domestic Workers Alliance in Washington, DC on Wednesday night. Davis received the “Voice of Love Award: Uplifting the Voices of Domestic Workers in Popular Culture” award.

Actress Cicely Tyson was honored with the “Lifetime of Leadership Award.”

Check out the National Domestic Workers Alliance’s Storify timeline below of the event last night.

Rep. Gutierrez Introduces Republicans On House Floor to ‘America’s Latinos’ [Video]

Congressman Luis Gutierrez took the House floor this morning to make an introduction.

“I would like the Republican Party to meet America’s Latinos,” he said.

“It’s hard to meet us all at once, because there are more than 53 million of us, but let me tell you a little bit about who we are and what we do,” added Gutierrez.

Illinois Democrat Rep. Gutierrez called on Republicans to join Democrats to pass immigration reform.

“I believe Election Day was check-mate for the Republican Party’s extreme, unfair and intolerant anti-immigrant policies,” he said.

“Whatever your reason for coming to the table, please come,” the Congressman added. “Together we can fight for justice for immigrants.”

BP Agrees to Pay $4 Billion Settlement for Gulf Coast Disaster

BP Agrees to Pay $4 Billion Settlement for Gulf Coast Disaster

News reports say that BP has entered into a settlement with the Department of Justice for criminal penalties for the 2010 BP oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico. According to The Washington Post, BP has agreed to pay $4 billion over five years for their role in the explosion of the Deepwater Horizon drill, which led to 11 workers dying and a lot of Gulf fisherfolk put out of work. Early estimates for BP fines were placed at $20 billion, for violation of the Clean Water Act and a number of other environmental protection statues. The plea will keep BP from going to trial with the federal government, which sought to prove criminal willful negligence on BP’s part.

Congress passed a law earlier this year that would direct BP’s criminal fines to the Gulf Coast states, to use for restoration projects, as opposed to going to Treasury — a victory for Gulf Coast advocates who pushed for that. There is still outstanding civil litigation for those who lost business or whose health was affected by the oil disaster. That was settled earlier this year for $8 billion, a great portion of which will go toward opening up health centers across the Gulf, which was also pushed for by advocates.

The Washington Post says BP still likely will be able to do business with the US and drill in the Gulf.

It was unclear how BP’s plea would affect its ability to bid on contracts to supply fuel to the U.S. military. BP has been a major supplier of fuel to the Pentagon in the past. But analysts expect that it will not impair the company’s ability to lease areas of the Gulf of Mexico or explore for oil and gas there. The company said that it “has not been advised of the intention of any federal agency to suspend or debar the company in connection with this plea agreement. BP will continue to work cooperatively with the debarment authority.”

Others put the fine into perspective.

“It is the largest criminal fine ever because BP’s epic crime against this region’s environment, cultures and human health is the largest crime ever to face potential prosecution,” says Derrick Evans, Managing advisor for Gulf Coast Fund for Community Renewal and Ecological Health. “BP knows this as well as the fact that they are getting off cheap.”


40k Sign Petition Urging FCC Lower Prison Phone Rates

40k Sign Petition Urging FCC Lower Prison Phone Rates

It’s estimated that there are over 2.7 million kids in the United States who have at least one parent in prison, most of which are hundreds of miles away from their homes. That figure is just one glimpse into the collective impact that mass incarceration has on communities, the cost of which can actually be boiled down to dollars and cents. The national campaign to lower the cost of prison phone rates is gaining momentum, as today activists and family members with the Campaign for Prison Phone Justice deliver a petition with 40,000 signatures to the Federal Communications Commission in an effort to force the legislative body’s hand in finally taking action on the issue.

According to inmates and their families, calls can often cost as much $20 for just a 15 minute call. Today’s rally will feature FCC Commissioner Mignon Clyburn, faith leaders from Rainbow PUSH and the United Church of Christ, and families of inmates. At issue is something called the Wright Petition, which seeks to cap the cost of prison phone calls.

“I have spent over $25,000 over the last 10 years just trying to stay in touch with my son in prison,” said Lillie Branch-Kennedy in a recent press release. “There is no reason prison agencies and phone companies should be profiting off of families like mine, forcing us to choose between putting food on the table or keeping in touch with our loved ones. We rely on these calls to stay focused on building a new, healthy life together after our loved one’s release.”

On Wednesday, the FCC announced that they are at least willing to look into the issue. The Commission is circulating a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on interstate calls and rates. The NPR is a public notice that, in this case, seeks to add or change the rules that govern interstate calls to and from prisons. The vast majority of prison phones are operated by private companies that, in many cases, offer what have come to termed as “kickbacks” to individual states.

Obama Promises Immigration Reform Push in January

Obama Promises Immigration Reform Push in January

The drive to pass comprehensive immigration reform went into high gear yesterday when President Obama said he expects a bill will be introduced by January. The comments at the President’s first press conference since his re-election come amid a flurry of bipartisan support for an immigration overhaul.

“My expectation is that we get a bill introduced and we begin the process in Congress very soon after my inauguration,” he said, adding that he is “very confident that we can get immigration reform done.”

Last week and over the weekend, a number of leading Republicans in Congress said they were ready to support an immigration reform bill. Last Thursday, House Speaker John Boehner told ABC’s Diane Sawyer, “This issue has been around far too long.” And on Sunday, South Carolina Republican Sen. Lindsay Graham told CBS’s “Face the Nation,” that the GOP’s approach to immigration has “has built a wall between the Republican Party and Hispanic community.”

In addition to a path to citizenship for some undocumented immigrants, Republicans and President Obama agree that any immigration reform package must include additional immigration enforcement on the border and require those applying for papers to learn English and pay penalties. It would also impose penalties on companies that hire undocumented workers.

Obama added that a immigration reform bill would provide protections for young undocumented immigrations who entered the country as children.

Many immigration reform advocates say that while they expect the President and Congress to pass an immigration reform bill, they’ll also continue to push the president to halt deportations. Obama’s immigration agency has deported nearly 400,000 people in each of the last four years, more than any previous administration.

Romney: Obama Won Because He Promised Big ‘Gifts’ to Blacks, Latinos

Romney: Obama Won Because He Promised Big 'Gifts' to Blacks, Latinos

Mitt Romney is back with more forty-seven-percent-esque comments and this time he’s more upset.

The GOP presidential candidate that lost both the electoral college and the popular vote says President Barack Obama was only re-elected because he promised big policy gifts to blacks, Latinos and young people.

In a conference call with fund-raisers and donors to his campaign on Wednesday, Romney said the president wooed specific interest groups — “especially the African-American community, the Hispanic community and young people.”

Ashley Parker described the call on the New York Times’ “The Caucus” blog. An excerpt is below:

“With regards to the young people, for instance, a forgiveness of college loan interest was a big gift,” Mr. Romney said. “Free contraceptives were very big with young, college-aged women. And then, finally, Obamacare also made a difference for them, because as you know, anybody now 26 years of age and younger was now going to be part of their parents’ plan, and that was a big gift to young people. They turned out in large numbers, a larger share in this election even than in 2008.”

The president’s health care plan, he said, was also a useful tool in mobilizing black and Hispanic voters. Though Mr. Romney won the white vote with 59 percent, according to exit polls, minorities coalesced around the president in overwhelming numbers: 93 percent of blacks and 71 percent of Hispanics.

“You can imagine for somebody making $25,000 or $30,000 or $35,000 a year, being told you’re now going to get free health care, particularly if you don’t have it, getting free health care worth, what, $10,000 per family, in perpetuity — I mean, this is huge,” Mr. Romney said. “Likewise with Hispanic voters, free health care was a big plus. But in addition with regards to Hispanic voters, the amnesty for children of illegals, the so-called Dream Act kids, was a huge plus for that voting group.”

Romney went on to apologize to his donors on the call.

“I’m very sorry that we didn’t win,” Romney said. “I know that you expected to win, we expected to win, we were disappointed with the result, we hadn’t anticipated it, and it was very close, but close doesn’t count in this business.”

Solange Knowles’ TSA Afro Pat Down Disaster

Solange Knowles' TSA Afro Pat Down Disaster

Singer Solange Knowles took to Twitter on Wednesday after TSA security guards at a Miami airport demanded to search her afro.

Solange, Beyoncé Knowles’ younger sister, expressed some disappointment but quickly pivoted to poking fun at the TSA to her 1.3 million Twitter followers.

“I kid you not. This just happened to me,” Knowles tweeted along with a link to a story about a Dallas woman who claimed “she was humiliated at an airport when TSA agents patted down her” afro.

“Discrim-FRO-nation. My hair is not a storage drawer,” Knowles went on to say.

It appears the TSA afro pat downs is a fairly recent change or at least men and women who wear their hair naturally didn’t make news headlines until last year. The political news site covered the issue in July 2011 with the New York Times following the story a month later.

Take a look at Solange Knowles tweets below that inspired my rendering of events in the image at the top. (That is not an actual picture of Solange getting her afro pat down, it’s a combination of three images photoshopped together to illustrate the afro pat down.)

Infographic: How White is the New Fall 2012 TV Season?

Infographic: How White is the New Fall 2012 TV Season?

Americ Ngwije over at has illustrated the racial diversity of the Fall 2012 TV season.

NBC leads the pack as the network with the most diversity in its scripted programming. ABC and Fox are in the middle and CBS and CW are in the bottom.

NBC was the only network with an actor of color in every single one of its series. However, the analysis doesn’t look at the number of appearances or number of lines for each actor.

For example, Fox got a D grade but they’re also the network with “The Mindy Project” that stars “Mindy Kaling.” A show with a women in the leading role goes a long way compared to supporting actors of color who may just have a couple of lines in each episode.

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