After an unprecedented release from solitary confinement on Tuesday, Herman Wallace died today at age 71. Wallace had spent more than 40 years in solitary, and was taken into hospice to be treated for terminal liver cancer immediately after his release.
As Colorlines reported earlier this week, Federal Judge Brian A. Jackson gave the order to have Wallace immediately released because women were excluded from his grand jury. Despite the judge’s ruling, on Thursday he was re-indicted by a West Feliciana Parish grand jury who insisted he was not innocent.
In 1972 Wallace, along with fellow Black Panther Party members Robert Hillary King and Albert Woodfox, was put in solitary confinement after being convicted of fatally stabbing a prison guard at Louisiana’s Angola Prison. They came to be known as the Angola 3, and they maintained their innocence in the guard’s death. They insisted that they had been targeted for establishing a prison chapter of the Black Panther Party in 1971. Wallace was initially imprisoned on robbery charges.
On Tuesday night Wallace was met by supporters and loved ones, including Robert King—who had been the only member of the Angola 3 to be release from prison—and artist Jackie Sumell, with whom he worked on an art project where he imagined his dream house. He would have turned 72 on October 13.
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) just released a new video to draw attention to the problem of juvenile prisoners being held in solitary confinement. The video comes amid a multi-year campaign waged by the organization to end the practice of placing youth offenders, many of whom are charged with adult crimes and housed in adult facilities, in solitary confinement for up to 22-24 hours each day
The video, like the problem itself, is hard to watch, but difficult to ignore, according to the group.
It’s a problem that’s especially prevalent for youth of color who are in the country’s jails and prisons. Though overall youth incarceration has decreased in recent years, youth of color are still more likely to end up behind bars than their white counterparts. According to the group, African-American youth in New Jersey are more than 4.5 times more likely to be incarcerated in a state youth prison. And in South Dakota, Native American youth make up more than 40 percent of the state’s incarcerated youth, but just 13 percent of the overall population.
Lauryn Hill is scheduled to be released from federal prison today after serving a three-month sentence for tax evasion. The former Fugees singer has marked the occasion with the release of a new track called “Consumerism.” The track is a seething indictment of all of the world’s -‘isms, about which Hill wrote:
“Consumerism is part of some material I was trying to finish before I had to come in. We did our best to eek out a mix via verbal and emailed direction, thanks to the crew of surrogate ears on the other side. Letters From Exile is material written from a certain space, in a certain place. I felt the need to discuss the underlying socio-political, cultural paradigm as I saw it. I haven’t been able to watch the news too much recently, so I’m not hip on everything going on. But inspiration of this sort is a kind of news in and of itself, and often times contains an urgency that precedes what happens. I couldn’t imagine it not being relevant. Messages like these I imagine find their audience, or their audience finds them, like water seeking it’s level.”
“René and Yolanda helped paint the neighborhood into what it is today,” Sarah Guerra, the operations manager at the Brava Theater and one of the many artists in the neighborhood who are organizing support efforts, told Mission Local.
Rio Yañez, 33, added: “There’s a lot going on that I am trying to reconcile with. Both of my parents have made a pretty large cultural investment with the city, but there’s not a lot of protection at this point.”
“Rent control is what afforded my parents with the opportunity to live in this city and make art. Being an artist means they have no savings, no retirement, no health care. They live check to check. For their dedication to art, that’s where they are. With elderly people like them, with limited income, this essentially makes them homeless.”
Yet another twist of irony brought forward by the government shutdown is the fact that the nation’s September jobs report, issued by the Bureau of Economic Analysis, won’t be revealed tomorrow because there’s no one on the job to do so. As Jared Bernstein, Senior Fellow at the Center of Budget and Policy Priorities writes in The New York Times, the absence of the critical spreadsheet is “one of the more mocking symbols of the government shutdown.’” With double-digit unemployment in black and Latino communities, as well as for those under the age of 25, the monthly Employment Situation Report—as the data stream is formally known—is critical to assessing the economic health of communities of color and youth.
It’s hard to overstate the importance of the jobs report. It is one of the most important pieces of economic information in the world. The jobs number is arguably the best indicator for determining the health of the economy overall. It’s what the Federal Reserve—the nation’s central bank—uses to decide how much money to pump into the economy and what Wall Street uses to figure out what to invest in and when. But due to the shutdown, it will remain stuck on the desktops those of who administer it.
Earlier today Senator Mary Landrieu, who chairs the Senate’s Small Business Committee, announced that the nearly $100 billion a year in federal government small businesses contracts are at risk. This includes the $15 billion that flows directly to black and Latino firms annually. “This is a tea party shutdown,” Landrieu emphasized.
That’s why President Obama visited the Latino-owned M. Luis Construction business in Maryland this afternoon. “The longer [the shutdown] goes on the worse it will be,” the president warned the crowd.
Correction: An earlier version of this post stated that UW-Madison was the first university to offer Hmong-American studies. While a young field of study, other universities have established programs. Thanks to multiple commenters for chiming in.
Come fall 2014, students at University of Wisconsin-Madison will be able to enroll in the university’s first Hmong-American studies courses taught by Professor Yang Sao Xiong, who was hired for the school’s the first tenure-track post in that subject. It’s all kinds of history in the making.
While the college has offered courses on Hmong language and culture in the past, Xiong will teach and research the Hmong-American experience. It’s an important distinction. “Hmong-Americans are at a stage where they want to focus on critical issues affecting them — poverty, health, race, and politics — just like many other social movements,” Xiong told Wisconsin’s Capital Times. The courses will live in the university’s Asian-American Studies Program and the School of Social Work, and were established after years of fractious community relations and organized advocacy from the local Hmong community. Fittingly, Xiong’s first course offering will focus on Hmong social movements in the U.S. from the 1980s to today, the Capital Times reports.
The U.S. Hmong population blossomed in the wake of the Vietnam War as people fled their native Laos. During the war many Hmong were recruited by the CIA to fight for the U.S., and eventually emigrated as refugees. Today Hmong communities are concentrated on the West Coast and in the upper Midwest—around 45,000 live in Wisconsin alone.
Michelle Rodriguez came out as bisexual this week and the world collectively shrugged its shoulders and said, “Duh.” In an interview with Entertainment Weekly, the 35-year-old Latina actress said:
“I don’t talk about what I do with my vagina, and they’re all intrigued. I’ve never walked the carpet with anyone, so they wonder: What does she do with her vagina? Plus, I play a butchy girl all the time, so they assume I’m a [lesbian]…. Eh, they’re not too far off.” Elaborating, “I’ve gone both ways. I do as I please. I am too … curious to sit here and not try when I can. Men are intriguing. So are chicks.”
As I’ve said over and over again lately, the rate at which celebrities have been coming out over the past two years is unprecedented and honestly quite thrilling, and M-Rod’s revelation is the cherry on top of the sundae that might actually be an endless sundae bar, if you get my drift. She’s also the latest in a long line of women of color to come out over the past year, like Raven Symone, Brittney Griner, Jasmine Jordan and Charice, bucking the flawed stereotype (often offered as an excuse for whitewashed lesbian media) that women of color just aren’t out.
Angel Haze is out with a new video. The rapper, who isn’t shy about discussing her bisexuality and androgynous style, is still working on her debut album “Dirty Gold,” which doesn’t have a release date yet.
This morning, the Department of Labor issued the following message:
“Due to the lapse in funding, the Employment Situation release which provides data on employment during the month of September, compiled by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics, will not be issued as scheduled on Friday, October 4, 2013. An alternative release date has not been scheduled.”
The reason for this is probably that the Bureau of Labor Statistics is working with only three staffers, down from its normal 2,409 employees, according to the department’s memo on the government shutdown.
Of the total 16,304 people who would normally be working right now at Labor, only 2,954 are currently in effect—less than 20 percent of its full capacity. The Office of Workers Compensation seems to be the only program under Labor working with a significant staff—1,328 out of the usual 1,606—with most of them collecting salary from sources other than congressional appropriations. The rest of Labor’s programs are largely depleted of staff right now.
Here’s why this is a problem:OO
Last week, an Administrative Law Judge, an officer of the Labor Department, found Bank of America liable for intentionally discriminating against hiring hundreds of black workers, ordering the company to pay $2.2 million dollars to settle a case that had been open for decades. Good thing that was settled when it did—there are no judges working right now out of the 122 usually on the bench. Not one of the 726 staffers is currently working in the Office of Federal Contract Compliance, the body that audited Bank of America and found the racial employment discrimination.
Since 2008, that office has reviewed over 19,000 companies that operate with federal contracts, and won more than $45 million in financial remedies for 84,000 workers who were affected by discrimination. Those reviews are now on pause, thanks to the shutdown.
Unemployment insurance will continue to be administered, and if the shutdown lasts longer than seven days Labor employees will become eligible for unemployment benefits themselves. While the unemployment numbers won’t be made available this week as scheduled, figures on weekly unemployment insurance claims will. Labor in fact reported today that new claims increased to 308,000 last week, up 1,000 from the previous week.
And the Job Corps program, which offers GED, diploma and workforce training to young men and women of low-income backgrounds—and also those who’ve had trouble with the law—will continue to run. Of the 55,031 students enrolled in Job Corps in 2011, 51 percent were African American and 16.4 percent were Latino. The program runs from a separate pot of money, and so its staff and contractors are set at least through November. But there have been problems with Job Corps funding as the Inspector General recently found.
With unemployment among black and Latino youth so high—not to mention with African Americans in general—it’s important that the Labor Department operates at full capacity to help get people paid.
Just in case you missed Big Freedia setting the world record for twerking, you’ll have plenty of opportunities to see the Queen of Bounce in action. Big Freedia’s new reality TV show debuted Wednesday night on Fuse TV:
The show’s first two episodes reportedly trace the history of bounce music and Freedia’s place in it, along with featuring fellow New Orleans-based artists Sissy Nobby and Ward Buck.
It’s pretty wacky. (Reality shows are supposed to be wacky.) What the show really seems to present, though it’s likely too early to tell, is the world of a gracious, mellow and hardworking performer surrounded by a little bit of crazy, but also - more so - a solid community of friends, family and fans. Will that provide enough drama to sustain a reality show? For the New Orleanians and others who’ve been rooting for Big Freedia since the star began to rise, we can hope.
Von Diaz, Thursday, October 3 2013, 12:43 PM EST
As Colorlines previously reported, the government shutdown—now in its third day—disproportionately affects communities of color. And one particularly under-resourced community is already feeling the effects.
According to an article by the Associated Press, the Crow Tribe in Montana has been seriously affected by the shutdown. Of the 13,000 members of the tribe, 300 have been furloughed, which is about half of its employees. Transportation systems have also been suspended as a result, as has home health care for seniors. And like many other communities nationwide, there are concerns about federally funded nutritional and educational programs that these communities rely on.
Some tribes are able to weather the shutdown by drawing from their reserves, but these temporary cuts remain worrisome since other federal cuts were approved earlier this year.
The Washington Redskins certainly aren’t the only team in American professional sports with a racist name problem. The Cleveland Indians lost to the Tampa Bay Rays in the American League wild-card game Wednesday night. Some fans, quite predictably, showed up sporting ‘redface.’
This morning, Colorlines hosted a chat with our steadily growing Twitter community about the federal government shutdown and its potential longterm implications. We invited columnist Imara Jones to expound on his continued coverage of the shutdown and invited our followers to pose questions and tweet comments about everything from their predictions on how long the furloughs will last to the Tea Party’s strong belief that, by taking away much needed employment and social services, it has the country’s best interest at heart.
Here’s a Storify feed of our Twitter chat. Read what’s already been said and continue the discussion, using the hashtag #shutdownchat.
Headed by House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), the bill was introduced at a press conference today by Reps. Joe Garcia (D-Fla.), Jared Polis (D-Colo.), Judy Chu (D-Calif.), Suzan DelBene (D-Wash.) and Steven Horsford (D-Nev.). Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.) is expected to sign on as well.
House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said the government shutdown may not affect the bill’s chances. “[The bill] has strong support from the American public. It has a probability of moving forward,” he said during the press conference.
Despite Rep. Hoyer’s optimism, it seems unlikely any immigration bill could move forward considering current budget disputes in Congress and with such few legislative days left in the calendar.
It’s hard to believe that it’s been nearly 10 years since Dave Chappelle walked away from his hit comedy series “Chapelle’s Show.” Essayist Rachel Kaadzi Ghansah has a really thoughtful piece up over at The Believer that looks past the headlines and into the people and places that helped form one of the best comics in recent memory. Though Ghanash explains that Chappelle politely but firmly turned down a request to be interviewed, she does talk to some of those closest to him, including his mother, longtime collaborator and co-creator of “Chapelle’s Show” Neal Brennan, along with comedic legend Dick Gregory.
To tell that story, Ghanash situates herself in Chapelle’s town of Yellow Springs, Ohio, to talk about what the comic’s work means to the discussion of race in America. Here’s a snippet:
Chappelle did such a good job of truth-telling, on every subject, that nobody knew what to do when he just stopped talking. In no way did his quitting conform to our understanding of the comic’s one obligation: to be funny. To talk to us. To entertain us. To make us laugh. We aren’t used to taking no for an answer, to being rejected, especially not by the people who are supposed to make us smile. Especially not by black men who are supposed to make us smile. And yet Chappelle did just that. And so, like everyone, I wondered what had happened. What had happened, and, more so, what had brought Chappelle to—and kept him in—Yellow Springs?At a stand-up appearance in Sacramento in 2004, a frustrated Chappelle lashed out at his hecklers from the stage, yelling, “You people are stupid!” So what was it about this small college town—where hippies slipped me bags of Girl Scout cookies, where Tibetan jewelry stores and fair-trade coffee shops dotted the main street, and where kindly white ladies crossed the street to tell me my wild hair was giving them life—that made it more satisfying than celebrity or fame?
What separated Dave Chappelle not just from Neal Brennan but also his fans is that he was suddenly vaulted into the awkward position of being the world’s most famous interlocutor in a conversation about race—the one conversation no one likes having.
Despite the partial government shutdown, the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) will remain intact in all 50 states through October.
The program, which feeds about 9 million low-income pregnant women, babies and children up to age 4, will be funded through a combination of USDA contingency funds, rebates and money left over due to belt-tightening under sequestration.
Although WIC offices remain open, Rev. Douglass Greenaway, president of the National WIC Association, says the shutdown has already affected recipients. “WIC moms have a level of trust in the program. We’re already seeing moms not showing up for appointments because they think the offices are closed.”
And if the shutdown exceeds a month and state WIC programs run out of money Greenaway predicts serious health concerns for the pregnant women, babies and young children who rely on the food items they obtain using WIC vouchers or checks. “If the program shuts down, we’ll see pregnant women not getting adequate nutrition, placing them at risk for pre-term delivery. We’ll see breastfeeding moms not producing enough milk. And we’ll see some moms diluting infant formula or substituting cow’s milk or water for formula,” he says.
WIC serves 53 percent of infants up to age one in the United States.
You probably remember that hilarious GOP televised debate two years ago, where Texas governor and then-presidential hopeful Rick Perry was trying to name five federal agencies he wanted to close down. He mentioned the departments of commerce and education, but then he stumbled, having forgot the other three.
At first Perry agreed, saying, “EPA! There you go,” but then changed his mind, saying EPA needed to only be “rebuilt.” Not able to remember the final three, he settled with an “Oops.”
But perhaps Romney’s suggestion was prescient because EPA is, for all intents, shuttered, thanks to the government shutdown.
EPA chief Gina McCarthy warned last week that if the government closed it would mean that her agency “effectively shuts down.”
“The vast majority of people at EPA will not be working,” said McCarthy at an event sponsored by The Christian Science Monitor newspaper, as reported in The HIll.
She wasn’t kidding. Of the 16,205 employees at EPA, less than a 1,000 are expected to go to work under the shutdown, according to their contingency plan. For “excepted” activities EPA must perform to ensure the safety of human life and protection of property, only 613 employees, or 3.85 percent of their total capacity, will remain on board. For “exempt” staff — those engaged in military, law enforcement or health care activities, or those paid by a source other than congressional annual appropriations — only 296, or 1.83 percent of the employees will remain on board.
If a hurricane happened to strike — we’re just a little past the halfway point of hurricane season, which ends November 30 — EPA does retain staff that could respond by helping contain oil spills, hazardous waste disposal and other needed monitoring. They will continue legal counseling and litigation for certain high profile cases, the BP oil spill civil trial for example.
Also untouched by the shutdown are many activities EPA is helping carry out to restore damages from the BP oil spill, which is paid for with BP fines, and also “Superfund” activities, which is remediation of areas where hazardous waste has built up or is out of control. Superfund sites — for example a place where a shuttered chemical plant once operated, but either didn’t dispose of its materials properly or didn’t bother at all — are often located in low-income communities or communities of color, and its funded by billing companies responsible for the pollution.
At the Congressional Black Caucus Annual Legislative Conference last month, Lisa Garcia, EPA associate assistant administrator for environmental justice, said that despite the cuts they would still try to preserve their grant-giving program that helps community-based organizations build capacity — the kind of grants that allow those organizations to assist in Superfund remediation in their own neighborhoods.
“Even during the time of sequestration and budget reductions we hold our small environmental justice grants closely to our heart and no one can touch it,” said Garcia. “I don’t want to say you can cut other things because we don’t want any cuts, but we will look seriously at other cuts to save those capacity building grants. They are important to communities and we recognize that.”
Von Diaz, Wednesday, October 2 2013, 10:59 AM EST
For the 125th anniversary issue of National Geographic magazine, photographer Martin Schoeller captured a series of images that explore the increasingly multiracial face of the U.S. The striking images speak as much to increased racial diversity as the complexities of racial self-identification. Beginning in 2000 the U.S. Census allowed people to choose more than one race. Nearly seven million people selected multiple races that year and in 2010, 32 percent more people chose to do so. Each of the photographs depicted in this October 2013 issue includes both the self-ID chosen by the person photographed, and the boxes they checked on either the 2000 or 2010 census.
In the accompanying article, author Lise Funderberg talks about the significance of this change in the census:
Although the multiple-race option is still rooted in that taxonomy, it introduces the factor of self-determination. It’s a step toward fixing a categorization system that, paradoxically, is both erroneous (since geneticists have demonstrated that race is biologically not a reality) and essential (since living with race and racism is).