Young folks with Forward Together, an Oakland-based reproductive justice group, have released “20 Condoms”, a sex positive, protection endorsing riff on Macklemore and Ryan Lewis’s song “Thriftshop.”
A few years ago, Attorney General Eric Holder joked that David Simon needed to create another season of the HBO drama “The Wire” — “I have a lot of power … Mr. Simon,” said Holder. In response, Simon told Holder to use that power then to stop the War on Drugs.
“He can’t do it,” Simon told me when I interviewed him a couple years ago.
Maybe Simon was wrong about that. In an NPR interview yesterday, Holder suggested that a conclusion to the drug war was in the works.
“The war on drugs is now 30, 40 years old,” Holder told Carrie Johnson at NPR. “There have been a lot of unintended consequences. There’s been a decimation of certain communities, in particular communities of color.”
According to Johnson’s report, Holder has been working with attorneys on a number of proposals that would reverse policies like three strikes laws and max-out sentences for low-level dealers. These reforms are expected to be announced as early as next week.
“We can certainly change our enforcement priorities, and so we have some control in that way,” Holder said in the NPR report.
“Attorney General Holder is clearly right to condemn mass incarceration and racial disparities in the criminal justice system,” said Bill Piper, director of national affairs for the Drug Policy Alliance. “Both he and the president have an opportunity to leave a lasting legacy by securing substantial, long overdue drug policy reform.”
The Alliance is calling for the Obama administration to push for The Smarter Sentencing Act, a bill with bi-partisan support in Congress that would lower mandatory minimums for certain drug offenses, make the recent reduction in the crack/powder cocaine sentencing disparity retroactive, and give judges more discretion to sentence certain offenders below the mandatory minimum sentence if warranted.
Holder hinted in June that reforms were coming when he spoke at the American Film Institute’s screening of “Gideon’s Army,” a documentary about the challenges of the public defender system in America. In that speech, he spoke about some of the root problems that have led to mass incarceration of young black men, which he observed when he was a Superior Court judge in Washington, D.C.
“Day after day, lines of young men—most often African American young men— streamed through my courtroom,” Holder said of his time as a judge. “In some cases, they had committed serious crimes. In almost every case, they had had long histories of interactions with social services—and educational and juvenile justice systems— which had failed to interrupt the dangerous and potentially avoidable trajectory that led them to my courtroom.”
Looks like it might be time for season six of “The Wire.”
New York City can no longer permanently store the names of people who have been stopped-and-frisked when cases had been “dismissed or resolved with a fine for a noncriminal violation.” The New York Civil Liberties Union reached an agreement with the city yesterday on a 2010 lawsuit, requiring the city to purge the database of names within 90 days. According to the NYCLU, the NYPD has allegedly gathered hundreds of thousands of names since it began the practice in 1999.
Decried by many as a form of racial profiling that does little to reduce crime, the NYPD’s controversial stop-and-frisk tactic remains in effect despite widespread protests and efforts by the New York City Council.
Slate isn’t waiting around for Washington, DC’s NFL franchise to get its act together and change its racist name. David Plotz writes at Slate:
Americans think differently about race and the language of race than we did 80 years ago. We now live in a world, for instance, in which it’s absolutely unacceptable for an NFL player to utter a racial slur. Changing the way we talk is not political correctness run amok. It reflects an admirable willingness to acknowledge others who once were barely visible to the dominant culture, and to recognize that something that may seem innocent to you may be painful to others. In public discourse, we no longer talk about groups based on their physical traits: No one would ever refer to Asians as yellow-skinned. This is why the majority of teams with Indian nicknames have dropped them over the past 40 years.
The entire piece is really worth reading. It’s also worth noting that Slate is owned by The Washington Post Company.
Darryl McDaniels, widely known as DMC from the pioneering rap group Run-DMC, has some choice words for today’s highest selling rap artists. In an interview with the UK’s Metro recently, DMC called the state of hip-hop “disrespectful.”
“Ninety-eight per cent of hip hop music that’s out now I say is just bad demos,” the 49-year-old DMC said, before adding: “Lil Wayne, Jay Z ain’t hot, it’s just they’re programmed so many times people are brainwashed,” DMC said.
He then added the oft-heard refrain that hip-hop has strayed from its roots.
It’s turning out to be a great year for Issa Rae. After years of building a loyal fanbase on YouTube with her hit Web series “The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl”, Rae was tapped by ABC’s Shonda Grimes to work on a comedy series called “I Hate L.A. Dudes.” Then it was announced that Rae would play the role of Nina Simone in an upcoming Lorraine Hansbarry biopic. And now there’s news that Larry Wilmore and Rae will co-write a comedy series loosely based on Rae’s popular YouTube series. She will also star in the project.
Wilmore is known for his role “The Daily Show” as the Senior Black Correspondent.
The campaign to bring the Dream 9 home proved successful. The nine transnational activists who crossed the southern border at a port-of-entry two and a half weeks ago were released from the Eloy Detention Center late Wednesday.
The nine, who are part of the National Immigrant Youth Alliance, had established credible fear Tuesday, and were seeking parole pending an asylum hearing. They arrived to Tucson from Eloy in two groups, to the joyful tears of family, friends, and supporters. Adriana Diaz, Claudia Amaro, Lizbeth Mateo, Lulu Martinez and Maria Peniche arrived first; Ceferino Santiago, Luis Leon, Marco Saavedra and Mario Felix arrived a short while later. Twitter and Facebook users followed the #BringThemHome hashtag, and watched a Ustream live feed of their release with excitement.
The asylum process can be a long one—but all nine are entitled to remain in the US until a hearing date. The nine will hold a press conference near a border fence in Nogales, Ariz., later today, close enough so that Mexican press can participate. The Dream 9 will then begin their individual journeys back home to their families and communities in the US in the coming days. Lizbeth Mateo begins her first year at Santa Clara University School of Law on Monday.
Transgender television personality B. Scott has filed a $2.5 million suit against BET for gender discrimination, claiming to be humiliated by the network, forced into wearing men’s clothes, and then being yanked off of BET’s awards show earlier this summer. The suit was first reported by TMZ.
Scott recounted the incident in an open letter on July 1, writing, “It’s not just about the fact that BET forced me to pull my hair back, asked me to take off my makeup, made me change my clothes and prevented me from wearing a heel. It’s more so that from the mentality and environment created by BET made me feel less than and that something was wrong with who I am as a person.”
BET later issued a staement saying that it “regret[s] the miscommunication” and “embrace[s] all gender expressions.”
Scott released a personal statement on Wedsnesday, writing:
Over the years my love muffins and strangers alike have questioned me about my gender identity. What IS B. Scott? As a society we’ve been conditioned to believe that a person has to be ‘exactly’ this or ‘exactly’ that. Biologically, I am male — as my sex was determined at birth by my reproductive organs.
Scott included a definition of what it means to be transgender as “the state of one’s gender identity not matching one’s assigned sex” and concluded by writing, “It is also by that definition that BET and Viacom willingly and wrongfully discriminated against my gender identity during the 2013 BET Awards Pre-Show.”
After 18 seasons of exclusively white bachelors, ABC has announced the first ever Latino star of the popular TV show “The Bachelor.” Juan Pablo Galavis, a Venezuelan former soccer player, is a doting father who says he’s looking for a great stepmom for his daughter Camila. He was dumped by Desiree on Season 9 of “The Bachelorette,” but this time he’ll be the one doing the dumping.
ABC came under fire last year when it was accused of being racist against potential contestants, even leading to a lawsuit that was later dismissed. The show’s Executive Producer Mike Fleiss didn’t seem terribly bothered by the racism accusations in an interview with Salon.com, saying:
“We really tried, but sometimes we feel guilty of tokenism. Oh, we have to wedge African-American chicks in there! We always want to cast for ethnic diversity, it’s just that for whatever reason, they don’t come forward. I wish they would.”
Yeah, I wonder why they won’t come forward. It is yet to be seen, but Galavez could represent a step in the right direction for diversity on the show.
The school year is almost here and officials in Oakland Unified’s School District wanna get the message out: attendance is necessary. And school is fun. This is the cutest thing I’ve seen today. Seattle Seahawks star ruunning back and Oakland native Marshawn Lynch even makes a cameo at around 54 seconds.
Aura Bogado, News Editor for Colorlines.com, has been on the scene at the Eloy Detention Center for the past 6 days reporting on the so-called Dream 9. This group of undocumented youth left the U.S. then attempted to re-enter by pentitioning on humanitarian grounds, and were detained on July 22. She has been covering these young people’s experiences day-to-day as they participated in hunger strikes and were put in solitary confinement, and brought attention to the harsh realities inside the immigrant detention facility. As of yesterday, all 9 had established credible fear, which is one step towards getting an asylum hearing.
In this live Google Hangout today, Bogado talks with journalist Maria Hinojosa from NPR’s Latino USA, activist Yajaira Saavedra—whose brother Marco Saveedra is one of the Dream 9, and immigration attorney Matthew Kolken.
There have been many opinions on how to deal with City College of San Francisco’s impending loss of accreditation. The college, which serves more than 90,000 students, has been beset by political woes and fiscal mismanagement. One idea that seems to be picking up steam is to merge the school with neaby San Francisco State University, creating something akin to City University of San Francisco.
The idea’s been floating around Bay Area news outlets this week and was formally introduced at an Open Forum at the school on Monday. While City College stands to lose its accredition next July, San Francsico State’s accreditation was just renewed for another ten years.
Robert Shireman works as the executive director of California Competes and is a former Deputy Secretary at the U.S. Department of Eduaction. He recently wrote the following at the San Francisco Chronicle, which was adapted by the Huffington Post:
San Francisco State is not a stuffy, ivory tower university incompatible with the grassroots nature of a community college. Much to the contrary, San Francisco State was praised by its accrediting agency for its commitment to social justice and civic engagement, representing “the gold standard” for an urban university, “not merely aspiring to be responsive to diversity but embracing it wholeheartedly as the intellectual and civic lifeblood of the university.”
San Francisco State and City College already serve many of the same students and offer similar programs. More than 80 percent of the City College students who transfer to the California State University system go to San Francisco State. In addition to traditional academic courses, the university extension offers hundreds of courses in adult education and job training. And San Francisco State long ago committed itself to serving all comers with its Open University program, inviting anyone to enroll in its courses.
It’s an intriguing and somewhat radical idea. Still, there’s a monumental fight being waged to save City College of San Francisco in its current form as shown in this video in which faculty and staff sat down at the bargaining table with CCSF administrators this week.
Over at The Aerogram, Kavita Das writes about writes about a new initiative called South Asian American Perspectives on Yoga in America (SAAPYA):
SAAPYA was founded by Roopa Singh, Esq., who is both a yoga teacher and part-owner of Third Root, a Brooklyn-based health and wellness center. Singh founded SAAPYA as a “platform and network for the voices of yoga teachers and students from across the South Asian diaspora.”
But for Singh, SAAPYA is also a deeply personal endeavor. She has long viewed herself as a cultural “bridge.” But as an advocate, organizer, and yoga teacher, she became concerned by the dual trends of yoga’s growing popularity and the loss of South Asian heritage. Singh says, “while we have more spaces that feel more reflective of who we are as a diasporic presence in this country, we find that we’re being simultaneously segregated out of these much needed, patiently awaited spaces.”
You can watch an unedited SAAPYA discussion in its entirety over on YouTube. The group recently brought folks together to talk in New York City. Note: It’s a discusion that lasts over two hours, but it’s certainly interesting.
Pioneering Japanese-American sculptor Ruth Asawa died of natural causes on Tuesday. She was 87 years old.
From the San Francisco Chronicle:
“Ruth Asawa will be remembered for the extraordinary wire sculptures that so beautifully interweave nature and culture,” said Timothy Burgard, curator of American art at the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco. He characterized her “as a pioneering post-World War II modernist whose works have transcended the multiple barriers she faced as an Asian American woman artist working with traditional ‘craft’ materials and techniques. She lived to see all of these confining categories challenged and redefined.”
For more than five decades, Asawa’s work influenced the American art world. Her elegant steel structures have become staples of public art in the Bay Area, known especially because Asawa initially designed them using oragami paper models. Back in 2009, Asawa discussed her work with KQED, Northern California’s public television station.
San Francisco’s School of the Arts now bares Asawa’s name.
The Baby Veronica saga brought national attention to the complexities and failures of the U.S. adoption system. This week a group of Minnesota-based adoptees launched “Gazillion Voices,” an online magazine that aims to inject race into the adoption conversation and provide a platform for adult adoptees to talk about their experiences.
In an interview with Minnesota Public Radio, “Gazillion” founder Kevin Vollmers, along with contributors and fellow adoptees Shannon Gibney and Laura Klunder, discussed the often harsh realities of being a person of color growing up in an adoptive white families. They said adoption success stories often overshadow the stories of loss
“There’s this story out there that we started when we fell out of the plane, we were destined for our adopted families, and that we are just like you, we are exceptional—we are not like the the poor, undocumented communities we were born from,” Klunder says in the radio interview.
Gibney said her family tried to erase her race by insisting they “didn’t see color,” but that those attitudes made it difficult for her when she hit puberty and people in her community began to treat her differently.
Vollmers insists that adoption agencies need to do a better job of preparing adoptive parents for the challenges their children will face, and says the adoption storybook narrative can be harmful and problematic.
“Sure, many adoptions turn out great for all involved. However, those adoptions only make up some of the whole “adoption story” in the U.S. What’s storybook about international and domestic adoptees being “rehomed” into the foster care system when their adoptions disrupt in their adoptive families? What’s storybook about adoptive parents who discover their Ethiopian and Chinese children were actually not true orphans, but rather have families in their place of birth?” he told me by email.
Through this and other such stories, Volmers and his contributors aim to complicate notions around adoption in the U.S., and amplify the voices of adoptees in a conversation they say has been largely dominated by parents and institutions.
More than 60 inmates at the Guantánamo Bay Naval base remain on hunger strike today, marking six months of protests. The strike, which began in March after a routine cell search, has put Guantánamo back in the spotlight and brought attention to the 86 inmates who have already been cleared for release, as well as others who have not been formally charged.
Some well-known celebrities are speaking out against the protest. Yasiin Bey (aka Mos Def) produced a video response to the hunger strike, where he demonstrated the standard procedure used by US agents for force-feeding detainees. Most recently, singer PJ Harvey released a haunting song dedicated to Shakur Amer, a UK citizen detained at Guantánamo Bay for 11 years without being charged.
Today marks the 48th anniversary of the signing of the Voting Rights Act into law by President Lyndon B. Johnson, after months of civil rights organizing, sit-ins, bloodshed and deaths compelled the federal government to intervene in the struggle against Southern states that were denying African Americans the ballot. It’s hard to celebrate this since the U.S. Supreme Court went all Mortal Kombat on the Voting Rights Act, pulling out its heart, the coverage formula for Section Five’s preclearance provision. But fortunately it wasn’t a fatality. The Voting Rights Act’s remaining organs remain intact, and the SCOTUS ruling has not dimmed the resolve of American citizens who’ve been rallying like revolutionaries to protect civil rights. Below are five reasons to celebrate the spirit of the Voting Rights Act on its 48th birthday, despite the right-wing attacks to finish it.
1. Eric Holder — He was supposed to have retired from the Justice Department already. But AG Holder is proving to be an OG on the civil rights battlefield. Along with President Obama, Holder has vowed to defend and enforce what remains of the Voting Rights Act by any means necessary. Considering previous attorneys general have left voting rights hanging, we couldn’t have a better Justice Department right now.
2. Moral Mondays — Florida, Texas and Ohio are probably hype right now about North Carolina. The former three states have been the historical posterkids for voting rights violations. But now North Carolina has overtaken the stage, front and center, for proposing and passing the most restrictive elections policies in the nation. Rev. William Barber has been leading the state NAACP, the historic “HK on J” coalition, the “Forward Together” movement, and thousands of North Carolina residents in weekly peaceful and prayerful demonstrations at the state’s legislature building to protest voter suppression. Hundreds have been arrested, including celebrities and journalists. And even though the state general assembly ended session last week, the Moral Mondays protests are continuing in other cities.
3. Dream Defenders — Go ahead and scold them for wearing their pants sagging. One thing youth of color have been standing upright on is the fight against the criminalization of what many are calling the “Trayvon Generation.” There are many examples of these new young warriors, but one of the more visible symbols these days is the Dream Defenders, a coalition of Florida youth advocacy groups who’ve been organizing around unjust laws like “Stand Your Ground” gun policies for over a year now. The Dream Defenders have been camped out at the Florida Capitol building in Tallahassee for four weeks, joined by civil rights leaders like Jesse Jackson and Harry Belafonte. This week they will be joined by rapper Talib Kweli, League of Young Voters executive director Biko Baker and the aforementioned Rev. William Barber, all to draw attention to civil and voting rights violations in the state.
4. The Democracy Initiative — The green movement has been long criticized for silo-ing themselves off from the non-environmental issues that plague communities of color. After witnessing the attack on voting rights, and realizing it may be impossible to enact a green agenda when democracy itself is compromised, environmental organizations like Sierra Club have now joined the voting rights fight. They are joined, also, by groups that focus on Latino interests, immigration rights, labor rights, marriage equality and concerns of the gay and lesbian communities — all banded together in the wake of the SCOTUS ruling on the Voting Rights Act. Many of them are part of a coalition called The Democracy Initiative, which includes the NAACP, which has vowed to fight the conservative attack on voting rights as a united front.
5. The NAACP Legal Defense Fund — In many ways, this fight for voting rights protections for African Americans began with the NAACP LDF, and they have remained at the leadership of that fight. Ever since the 1944 Smith v. Allwright case, which the late former LDF attorney Thurgood Marshall called one of the “most important cases” in civil rights history, they’ve been involved in almost every major court case involving the Voting Rights Act, including the Shelby v. Holder Supreme Court hearing in February. NAACP LDF president Sherrilyn Ifill provided the blueprint for defending voting rights in Colorlines last month. Given their history of victories on this front, it’s worth feeling optimistic that though things still aren’t all right, there are still gladiators who refuse to back down.
—5:01 EST Update: All nine of the activists have now established credible fear, a step toward an asylum hearing. Supporters are now hoping the Dream 9 will be eligible for parole, which would allow them to return to the United States until their asylum hearing dates.
Seven of the Dream 9 reached a critical milestone late Monday, when it was learned that they had established a credible fear that their return to Mexico would result in harm or death. According to Dream 9 attorney Margo Cowan, Adriana Diaz, Ceferino Santiago, Claudia Amaro, Luis Leon, Lulu Martinez, Maria Peniche and Mario Felix can now move forward on their asylum hearing. The seven can now apply to be placed on temporary release while they prepare for their hearing. But for now, all nine remain in detention; Martinez and Peniche remain in solitary confinement at Eloy Detention Center, where they’ve been for more than a week.
The news about the seven is remarkable because this step of the process has been completed quickly—the Dream 9 crossed the southern border into the U.S. just two weeks ago. According to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, there’s an estimated 45-day wait for an initial hearing and a six-month time frame to complete the process from start to finish. But it’s not unheard of for detainees who have already fled torture, persecution and even the murder of their loved ones in their countries of origin to wait years in detention before being granted asylum and finally released.
A group of people gathered outside of the Eloy Detention Center last night, soon after it was confirmed that the seven had established credible fear. Among them was Elvia Amaro, who’s in Arizona from North Carolina. Her daughter, 37-year-old Claudia Amaro, was one of the first to be confirmed to have moved forward in her asylum process. Her mother prayed outside of the detention center, giving thanks.
As of 11:30 am EST, authorities have not commented on the applications of Lizbeth Mateo and Marco Saavedra. That doesn’t mean they’ve been denied; applications are decided on a case-by-case basis, and theirs are still being processed. It’s expected that there will be an update about Mateo and Saavedra on Tuesday. In the meanwhile, the National Immigrant Youth Alliance, which is now working with the families of other detainees held at Eloy, is asking supporters to demand the immediate release of the Dream 9.
Spike Lee’s Kickstarter campaign has been met with a mix of excitement and curiosity. Excitement over the mysterious next Spike Lee Joint, and curiosity — by some — about why a director of Lee’s stature would need to turn to crowdsourcing in the first place. Lee deftly responded to that criticism in a recent interview with Bloomberg TV.
(h/t Bloomberg TV)