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In Oakland, School Program Focuses on Black Boys’ Success

In Oakland, School Program Focuses on Black Boys' Success

In 17 Oakland public schools, a district-run program dedicated solely to the nurturing and development of black boys is seeing results four years into its operation. It’s called the Manhood Development Program, and black boys enrolled in its classes and mentoring initiatives have improved their grades and reading capacity, according to a new report (PDF) released today by the district’s Office of African American Male Achievement.

But that’s not all. The program, which was conceived as an initiative to decrease school suspensions and increase graduation rates for black boys in 2010, is dedicated to identity development and emotional nurturing of youth.

Half the students enrolled in the MDP report that by the ninth grade, they’ve seen someone get shot, according to the report, called “The Black Sonrise.” Meanwhile, only 28 percent of California’s black boys scored “proficient” or higher on a state English exam. While black boys are just 17 percent of Oakland’s public school enrollment, they’re 75 percent of students who get arrested while at school. The dynamics are not unrelated, the district determined.

In order to address what the Office of African American Male Achievement calls the “epidemic failure” of black boys, the MDP put together classes which are currently offered in 17 district schools to 450 students. The classes, which are held every five days a week during the school day, bring together a mix of “high-achieving,” “average,” and “under-achieving” students for a program “predicated on evidence-based community-defined best practices and insights.” The classes allow black boys learn from their peers and black men to support each other in an academic environment that’s all too often hostile to them and offer curriculum by and about other African-Americans.

“They’ve seen victimization everywhere they look — at the hands of police or sometimes at the hands of schools,” Vajra Watson, director of research and policy for equity at UC Davis and author of the report, told the UC Davis News Service. “And [they’ve] changed that into empowerment to know where they come from, who they are and importantly where they’re going.”

Read the report in full (PDF).

Black Lives Matter Shuts Down I-93, Oscar Nominations, Jobless Claims Rise

Black Lives Matter Shuts Down I-93, Oscar Nominations, Jobless Claims Rise

Here are some of the stories I’m reading up on this morning: 

TAGS: Morning Rush

Rikers Island To End Solitary Confinement of Older Teens

Rikers Island To End Solitary Confinement of Older Teens

Rikers Island jail will extend its recently announced ban on solitary confinement to older adolescents, aged 18-21. Only 16- and 17-year-olds had previously been covered under an earlier announcement and the extension is being hailed “an innovation.” According to Christine Herrman, director of the Segregation Reduction Project at the Vera Institute, even the most innovative jails punish inmates over age 18 with solitary confinement. Of nearly 500 inmates, ages 19-21 in the facility, 103 are currently in solitary. Not everyone is pleased, however.

Corrections officers’ union president Norm Seabrook vowed to sue for every guard assaulted under the new policy.

A federal investigation into Rikers found what it described as, “a deep-seated culture of violence.” In 2014, according to data obtained by the Associated Press, guards set a record for use of force—many times against teens. 

Read more in The New York Times.

 

 

Black Churches Announce Scholarships for Students at Normandy High School

Black Churches Announce Scholarships for Students at Normandy High School

Seniors at Normandy High School got a surprise announcement Monday when black church leaders gathered in the school gym to announce that 11 students would receive a full ride to colleges operated by the churches, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported.

Michael Brown graduated from Normandy High School days before he was shot and killed this past August by a Ferguson, Mo., police officer. His killing reignited national conversations about race and the policing of black people in the U.S. Brown’s death also shined a light on the larger educational inequities faced by Brown and his classmates. Normandy High School has for years struggled with accreditation issues and posted alarmingly high school discipline rates.

The scholarships, which will include full tuition, were offered by colleges run by African-American Methodist churches: African Methodist Episcopal, African Methodist Episcopal Zion; and Christian Methodist Episcopal. The scholarship program “means a lot,” Brown’s father, Michael Brown Sr., told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

How to Tell If Your Memoir’s Being Whitewashed for Network TV

How to Tell If Your Memoir's Being Whitewashed for Network TV

Remember back in November when Eddie Huang took to Twitter to sound off about voiceover lines he was being fed for “Fresh Off the Boat,” the upcoming sitcom loosely based on his eponymous memior? Now, the celebrity chef has written a no-holds-barred essay for New York magazine about whitewashing, images of Asians in media, the TV business and his clashes with writers of the ABC show set to premiere on February 10. 

Huang writes about how he fought the sanitized palate of producers and studio heads for a truer depiction of his childhood growing up the son of Taiwanese immigrants in suburban Orlando. What he gets isn’t exactly what he wanted, but it’s something. Huang writes:

This show isn’t about me, nor is it about Asian America. The network won’t take that gamble right now. You can’t flash an ad during THE GAME with some chubby Chinese kid running across the screen talking shit about spaceships and Uncle Chans in 2014 because America has no reference. The only way they could even mention some of the stories in the book was by building a Trojan horse and feeding the pathogenic stereotypes that still define us to a lot of American cyclope. Randall was neutered, Constance was exoticized, and Young Eddie was urbanized so that the viewers got their mise-en-place. People watching these channels have never seen us, and the network’s approach to pacifying them is to say we’re all the same. Sell them pasteurized network television with East Asian faces until they wake up intolerant of their own lactose, and hit ‘em with the soy. Baking soya, I got baking soya!

Our parents worked in restaurants, laundromats, and one-hour photo shops thinking it was impossible to have a voice in this country, so they never said a word. We are culturally destitute in America, and this is our ground zero. Network television never offered the epic tale highlighting Asian America’s coming of age; they offered to put orange chicken on TV for 22 minutes a week instead of Salisbury steak … and I’ll eat it; I’ll even thank them, because if you’re high enough, orange chicken ain’t so bad.

Read the rest at Vulture.

Charlie Hebdo Sells Out, Rikers Guards Set Record for Force

Charlie Hebdo Sells Out, Rikers Guards Set Record for Force

Some of this morning’s headlines:

Al Qaedaclaims responsibility for the Charlie Hebdo attacks.

New edition of Charlie Hebdo sells out within hours of Al Qaeda’s announcement.

Rikers Island guards set record for use-of-force reports in 2014.

Astronauts evacuated from U.S. section of space station.

Ohio bartender accused of threatening to kill John Boehner.

Kurt Cobain’s suicide note is now on a T-shirt.

A timeline of the drama between MLK’s feuding children

TAGS: Morning Rush

Tips for ‘Moderate Muslims’ Who Want to Make Mainstream America Feel Safe

Tips for 'Moderate Muslims' Who Want to Make Mainstream America Feel Safe

Over at Salon, Al Jazeera America’s Wajahat Ali put together a tongue-and-cheek checklist for what he calls “moderate Muslims” who want to reassure the world (read: non-Muslims) that they aren’t terrorists. Some tips:

1. Use excessive, inflammatory language in sensitive, volatile situations. This is your first step in becoming a Moderate.

2. Generalize! Generalize! Generalize!

3. Callously exploit a tragedy to advance divisive political agendas.

4. When asked for no reason if you support ISIS, say, “No.”

5. Taylor Swift — Learn her. Love her. Embrace her. When confronted with bigotry and fear-mongering, simply recite “Haters gonna’ hate, hate, hate, hate, hate. Shake it off! Shake it off!”

6. Invite representatives of minority communities to have a civil conversation, but then cut them off when they begin to speak.

7. Don’t wear keffiyahs. (Unless you are Rachael Ray or white hipsters.)

8. Don’t wear long beards. (Unless you are a cast member of “Duck Dynasty” or, again, white hipsters.)

9. Don’t eat halal food. (Unless you live in Manhattan.)

10. Don’t have an ethnic accent — America will be unable to understand or empathize with you. (Unless you are Arianna Huffington or Arnold Schwarzenegger.)

Read more at Salon.

TAGS: Muslim

Video: Debunking the Myth of Race in 3 Minutes

Video: Debunking the Myth of Race in 3 Minutes Play

Vox’s Jenée Desmond Harris explains why race isn’t actually a real thing.  

Europe’s Muslims Under Attack, Green Card Bias, Keystone XL Moving Forward

Europe's Muslims Under Attack, Green Card Bias, Keystone XL Moving Forward

Here’s what I’m reading up on this morning:

  • At least 16 mosques in France have been attacked—including by firebombs—since the Charlie Hebdo attack. 
  • A 66 year-old man with a history of PTSD and mental illness, Andrew Brannan, is set to be executed by the state of Georgia today. 
  • Oil may fall as low as $20 a barrel (it’s under $50 a barrel already). 
  • There’s a new trailer for “House of Cards,” Season 3. 
TAGS: Morning Rush

More Police in Schools Means More Student Arrests [Infographic]

More Police in Schools Means More Student Arrests [Infographic]

It ought not come as a surprise by now. Institutions with school resource officers—that is, school-based law enforcement personnel—report student arrests for disorderly conduct at nearly five times the rate of schools without similar personnel on campus, according to an infographic released by Boston University. The graphic examines the unequal toll that zero-tolerance policies and discipline have on black and Latino students, and the long chain of consequences that harsh discipline can trigger for young people—including lockup, expensive court-related fees and fines, and a cycle of arrest and jail time. The takeaway is that harsh discipline not only doesn’t benefit its targeted students, it also sets them on a path that’s dangerous and difficult to correct.


Paris Rally, Low Gas Prices and Golden Globes

Paris Rally, Low Gas Prices and Golden Globes

Here’s what I’m reading up on this morning: 

  • John Kerry says he’ll soon be in Paris, which was the site of a massive rally attended by nearly 4 million people in support of France’s 17 slain police officers, journalists and other civilians.* Attendees included heads of state who coincidentally routinely imprison and kill journalists. 
  • Bionic implants may allow people paralyzed from spinal cord injuries to walk again. 

*An earlier version of this post read that 17 journalists were killed in France; the post has been amended to reflect that 17 people, including journalists, were killed. 

TAGS: Morning Rush

Climate Change Will Create More Environmental Refugees

Climate Change Will Create More Environmental Refugees

Natural disasters like Typhoon Haiyan—which devastated the Philippines in 2013—displace more people than war, according to the Internal Displacement Monitoring Center in Geneva. And as climate change sets off increasingly lethal natural disasters, so will the numbers of environmental refugees increase, Reuters reported.

It is a reality that governments must prepare themselves for. In 2013, some 22 million people were displaced by extreme natural disasters like typhoons, earthquakes and tsunamis, a number three times the number of those who were forced to migrate because of war, according to the IDMC. 

“Many more people in a growing population live more exposed to extreme weather,” Jan Egeland, the head of the Norwegian Refugee Council, which runs the IDMC, said this week at a conference in Oslo, Norway.

Climate change, rising sea levels, and extreme weather are decimating people’s homes and access to safe food and water. In 2011, experts predicted that by the year 2020, just five years from now, some 50 million people will be forced to migrate because of environmental degredation. Earlier this summer, New Zealand accepted a family Grist called the world’s first official environmental refugees, who cited climate change as the reason why they had to flee their homeland.

#OccupyLAPD Is Camping Out for Ezell Ford and Omar Abrego

#OccupyLAPD Is Camping Out for Ezell Ford and Omar Abrego

A growing group of people, organized by Black Lives Matter, has been camped out in front of the Los Angeles Police Department’s headquarters since December 29 protesting the extrajudicial killings of Ezell Ford and Omar Abrego in August. The ongoing encampment ranges from about five to 30 people at any given time. 

Organizers, who are using the hashtag #OccupyLAPD, says they won’t leave until their two demands are met: they want officers Sharlton Wampler and Antonio Villegas—who shot and killed Ezell Ford, an unarmed black man on August 11—to be terminated; they’re also demanding District Attorney Jackie Lacey file murder charges against Wampler and Villegas, based on an autopsy released in late December. Chief Charlie Beck has agreed to meet with the group today, nearly two weeks after the encampment began.

The autopsy for Omar Abrego hasn’t yet been released, but graphic video of his killing shows a group of officers holding an unarmed, bloodied, screaming and handcuffed Abrego down on August 2. Abrego was declared dead on August 3.

We caught up with Povi-Tamu Bryant, who works with Black Lives Matter in Los Angeles, today to ask about the encampment.

Why did you decide to camp out in front of the LAPD headquarters?
Ezell Ford’s autopsy was released December 29 and it clearly indicates that he was murdered. After its release, we wanted to put pressure on the city to begin the process of justice for Ezell Ford and to value his life by terminating the officers who were responsible for killing him, Sharlton Wampler and Antonio Villegas, as well as pressing murder charges against them. We’ve been camped out in front of the LAPD headquarters pressing for those demands and we’ll be staying until our demands are met.

You’ll be meeting with LAPD Chief Charlie Beck soon—but how has the LAPD responded so far?
We’ve had a range of what I’d call intimidation tactics used against us. In the early morning hours, we’ve had a really big group of about 30 police officers breaking down our encampment and surrounding us. We’ve also done a lot of sidewalk art trying to hold up our resilience and healing as we’re in this process together. But for the past four or five days, officers have power washed it off the street, which I think is an excessive and unnecessary use of resources during California’s drought.

We wanted to deliver a letter to Chief Beck requesting a meeting with him on Tuesday, but two of our members were denied access to the headquarters even though other folks were being allowed access. We were told that headquarters was closed to anyone without official police business—and so they were denied access and arrested.

But you’ve also had a lot of supporters, too. 
We’ve had really amazing support from people. We started with a smaller encampment and have been able to expand it because of huge community support. Folks have been supporting by providing meals throughout the day—we’ve been able to provide breakfast, lunch and dinner for everyone nearly every day. We’ve also had folks donate tents, sleeping bags, blankets and hand warmers that came in really handy when it was cold last week. We’ve had passerby cars honking in support. We’ve had brilliant artists come out and show up for us.

We’ve had movement folks from L.A. too. On New Year’s Eve, Occupy Venice came out and flashed up #BlackLivesMatter on LAPD headquarters. We had our own little bat signal and that was really fun!

Do you know whether the District Attorney’s office is considering your demand to bring charges against Wampler and Villegas?
We’ve been told that the two officers are on desk duty and not out on patrol. We’ve been in communication with the District Attorney Lacey’s office, but she’s currently out on leave. Her office has expressed some interest in following up with us, so we’re prepping for a meeting with her to sit down with her so she can hear from the community directly about the importance of pressing charges against these two officers

You work with Black Lives Matter and have been evoking Omar Abrego—who was a non-black Latino. Why is that?
It’s significant to acknowledge the different ways in which folks are experiencing police brutality, and to also understand that black folks and brown folks have some similar and some different experiences with police. In Los Angeles in particular, Omar Abrego and Ezell Ford lived in the same community, were being police by the same officers and were killed within days of each other.

For Black Lives Matter, it’s important to acknowledge the disparities and differences that black folks experience police violence—while also acknowledging that black identity isn’t limited. When we say that black lives matter, we’re talking about all black lives and that includes Afro-Latino folks, black immigrant folks, black queer folks, black trans folks. We’re trying to lift all that up right now. 

NYPD Officers Do Less; City’s Young Black Men Exhale

NYPD Officers Do Less; City's Young Black Men Exhale

For three weeks now, the nation’s largest police force appears to have launched a major work slowdown*. In New York City, police union officials deny an organized action but there’s no denying statistics showing that arrests for low-level offenses and parking and traffic tickets are way down. During the first week of 2015 and in a city of 8 million, NYPD arrested three people for turnstile jumping, compared to 400 during the same week in 2014. More than 16,000 parking summonses were handed out in early 2014; a little over 1,000 were handed out over the same week this year—at a loss of about $10 million-a-week in city revenue. And courts are less busy, too, the Daily News reports, as misdemeanor arraignments are also down.

While commentators parse its implications, the apparent work slowdown comes after December’s brazen daylight ambush of two Brooklyn officers, which cracked open a subterranean rift between officers and mayor Bill de Blasio. And perhaps unintentionally, the NYPD’s work slowdown is also answering protesters and many city residents’ calls to either end or rein in “broken windows” policing. So how’re those most affected reacting to the latest trend in policing? The Marshall Project’s Eli Hager went to Brooklyn’s Marcy projects to find out. One resident, 28-year-old Devaughn Rozier says:

“You normally see they’d be posted up on Marcy and Floyd, Marcy and Stockton, Marcy and Myrtle; they’d be posting up on all these corners,” he says, sizing up a nearby group of high school boys, the same way he says the police eye him and his friends. “They’d be up on the roofs of the projects, in groups of three. They’d be saying the probable cause for searching me and running my ID was I lived in a building with drug trafficking going on in it, even though that building has, like, 5,000 people staying there.”

“Now,” he says, smiling, “that’s free land.”

Read more at TMP.

*A previous version of this post stated incorrectly that NYPD officers have gone “on strike.” There’s no indication of a labor walkout or full work stoppage.

Video: Police Killings Create Unity in South Los Angeles

Over at Fusion, Jorge Rivas and Hector Batista catch up with residents of a South Los Angeles neighborhood that was rocked by the police killings of Omar Abrego and Ezell Ford. Both men died within weeks and blocks of one another last summer, and their communities have united around calls for justice.

Obama’s Plan for Free Community College, Domestic Robots, Cosby Makes Rape Joke

Obama's Plan for Free Community College, Domestic Robots, Cosby Makes Rape Joke

Here’s what I’m reading up on this morning:

TAGS: Morning Rush

Report: For Students of Color, College Life Filled With Microaggressions

Report: For Students of Color, College Life Filled With Microaggressions

Despite increasing diversity on college campuses, women and students of color report undergrad experiences filled with subtle yet denigrating microaggressions, according to a report (PDF) from Harvard University’s Voices of Diversity project.

Researchers looked into students’ experiences at four college campuses—Missouri State University, and three other anonymous universiites in the South, Midwest and Northeast—to explore a frequent claim that African-American and Latino students’ academic difficulties and comparatively lower graduation rates are unrelated to campus social climates.  

What researchers heard from respondents is African-American students are trying to get their education in an environment where their classmates express surprise that they’re enrolled at an elite private college. Muslim students go to school alongside students who jokingly wonder whether they’ve got bombs in their backpacks. Those experiences wear on students’ psyches, researchers found. Researchers also found that when available, women’s studies and ethnic studies courses “are held in low esteem,” by others on campus. And not unrelatedly, students of color and women reported feeling like their own contributions and ideas were not taken seriously by their peers when they spoke up in class.

“Simply changing the representation of various groups does not in and of itself ensure that the experiences of racial/ethnic minority and women students are as positive as those of their white and male counterparts,” the report’s authors wrote. “Since institutional change tends to be slow, one cannot assume that increases in numbers of students of color have been accompanied by adequate changes in what has been called the ‘chilly climate’ for students of color and for women in undergraduate populations at predominantly white institutions.”

h/t Inside Higher Ed

New Video of Tamir Rice Shooting Released; Shows Officers Handcuffing His Sister

New Video of Tamir Rice Shooting Released; Shows Officers Handcuffing His Sister

Cleveland officials yesterday released new extended video showing the 30 minutes following the fatal shooting of 12-year-old Tamir Rice by officer Timothy Loehmann. At 1:40 the video, which has no audio, shows Rice’s 14-year-old sister running onto the scene. Before she can reach her brother, Loehmann’s partner, officer Frank Garmback, rushes forward to force her to the ground. There, she struggles to get up while Loehmann comes over to guard her and Garmback returns to stand over Tamir. Ultimately, she’s handcuffed and placed in the squad car—steps away from where her brother lays dying.

On that Saturday afternoon in late November, Rice had been playing in the park with a BB gun, which, according to reports, looked like a real gun. Officers were responding to a call from dispatch. Loehmann, who shot Rice within two seconds of his squad car arriving on the scene, had previously been ruled unfit for duty.

The video shows grainy footage from the surveillance camera of the Cudell Recreation Center. According to the NEOMG, Cleveland’s police department “will hand over its evidence to Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Timothy McGinty’s office. Prosecutors will present the evidence to a grand jury, which will decide whether to criminally indict any officers involved.”

Freezing Temperatures, Cosby Back on Stage, 9 Measles Cases Linked to Disney Parks

Freezing Temperatures, Cosby Back on Stage, 9 Measles Cases Linked to Disney Parks

Here’s what I’m reading up on this morning:

TAGS: Morning Rush

Brooklyn D.A. Determined to Overturn Wrongful Convictions

Brooklyn D.A. Determined to Overturn Wrongful Convictions

After serving nearly 21 years in prison for murder, 46-year-old Derrick Hamilton this week became the 11th person in less than a year to have his name cleared by Brooklyn’s new district attorney. Ken Thompson’s central reform since taking office last January is the Conviction Review Unit (CRU). Staffed by 10 lawyers, the team’s priority, Thompson tells The New Yorker, “is to give freedom to people who were convicted during the…era of mass incarceration but don’t belong in prison.” 

One reason Thompson’s unit stands out, experts say, is that instead of relying on DNA evidence to exonerate the innocent, it reviews tougher cases where fault may lie in human errors like negligence, misconduct or judgment.

Hamilton, a father of five, has been out on parole since 2011. He maintained that he had been out of state when the 1991 murder occurred. As a result of Hamilton’s and a number of other accusations, the district attorney’s office has been reviewing more than 70 cases worked by discredited homicide detective Louis Scarcella, now retired.

Read more about Thompson’s CRU on The New Yorker.

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