Hung Jury for Michael Dunn’s Count of First-Degree Murder

Hung Jury for Michael Dunn's Count of First-Degree Murder

A jury of 12 people in Duval County, Fla., could not make a unanimous decision about whether to find Michael Dunn, 47, guilty in connection to the killing of 17-year-old Jordan Davis. The jury did find Dunn guilty of three counts of attempted murder, and of shooting a firearm.

Dunn, who is white, shot and killed Davis, who was black, after complaining about what Dunn described as “thug music” coming from Davis’ friend’s SUV in a Jacksonville convenience store parking lot in November 2012. Dunn testified that he saw the barrel of a gun in the vehicle—yet an investigation revealed that there was never a weapon in the SUV. He claimed that the vehicle’s music was blaring “ridiculously loud,” yet he also says he heard Davis threaten to kill him.

Dunn grabbed his semi-automatic pistol from his car’s glove compartment, fired nine bullets into the vehicle Davis was occupying, along with Tevin Thompson, Leland Brunson, and Tommie Stornes, and killed Davis. Dunn, along with his fiancé, who was purchasing snacks at the convenience store when the killing occurred, returned to the hotel room where the two were staying, ordered pizza and went to sleep. The following morning, they drove home, nearly 200 miles away from Jacksonville. It was then that Dunn finally contacted a friend in law enforcement about turning himself in.

While awaiting trial, Dunn wrote numerous letters that indicate his anxiety over the jury’s racial makeup and his deepening prejudice against black people. In one letter, Dunn explains:

“I just got off the phone with you and we were taking about how racist the blacks are up here. The more time I am exposed to these people, the more prejudiced against them I become.”

In another, Dunn complains that “jails are full of blacks,” and proposes a troubling solution:

“This may sound a bit radical, but if more people would arm themselves and kill these fucking idiots when they’re threatening you, eventually they may take the hint and change their behavior.”

He also wrote about his plans to find a “slimy civil-law lawyer” to sue Duval County for “reverse-discrimination.”

Jurors could not come to one decision about the charge of first degree murder, but did find Dunn guilty for the attempted murders of  Tevin Thompson, Leland Brunson, and Tommie Stornes, who were riding in the SUV with Davis the evening of his death.

Dunn has maintained that he was acting in self-defense. The case stems out of Florida—where more than one million people carry concealed weapons—and has consistently drawn parallels to the George Zimmerman case, which ended in a not guilty verdict for Zimmerman in connection to the killing of Trayvon Martin.

Brooklyn Comedian Gives Us Valentine’s Day Gone Wrong

Brooklyn Comedian Gives Us Valentine's Day Gone Wrong

Whether you love or loathe Valentine’s Day, this take on it from Brooklyn comedian Marie Faustin will make you chuckle. 

(h/t Afropunk)

What Did Prince Look Like in 1977?

What Did Prince Look Like in 1977?

West Hollywood’s Mr. Musichead Gallery is set to exhibit a set of photos of Prince from 1977. Photographer Robert Whitman was apparently the first to shoot Prince, who was either 18 or 19 at the time, in his studio, at a friend’s home and on the streets of Minneapolis.

The exhibition, which runs for a month, opens for a private reception on February 20, and then to the public on February 21. 

(h/t Flygirrl.) 

Palestinian ‘Arab Idol’ Winner Booted From World Cup Performance

Palestinian 'Arab Idol' Winner Booted From World Cup Performance

Palestinian “Arab Idol” winner Mohammad Assaf said at a recent press conference that he’s been banned from performing at the World Cup opening ceremony this summer because of some “countries” or “groups” — he didn’t specify who — pulled the plug.

Milanna Knezevic explains over at Policy Link:

Assaf, a former wedding singer, has become somewhat of Palestinian hero; when his victory was announced, people in Gaza and Ramallah poured onto the streets in celebration.

In addition to singing patriotic Palestinian songs, Assaf has made political statements on a number of occassions: “We are searching for our rights, for peace, unity and the end of the occupation and illegal Israeli settlements,” he said to the New York Times in December.

But Assaf’s popularity, which has made headlines abroad, has also drawn criticism.

In an email complaining to Secretary of State John Kerry, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that Palestinian children are “educated to hate Jews, while Palestinian officials continue to call for their deaths.” He also included a link to one of Assaf’s performance of ali al-keffiyeh, a Palestinian folk song.

But there is some good news in all of this. Shakira, who performed at the World Cup’s opening ceremony back in 2010, has reportedly decided to boycott this year’s opening ceremony in Brazil in protest of Assaf’s ousture. 



‘Grey’s Anatomy’ Star Jesse Williams Speaks Out on Jordan Davis Murder

'Grey's Anatomy' Star Jesse Williams Speaks Out on Jordan Davis Murder

Jesse Williams thinks everyone in America should be outraged over the death of black teenager Jordan Davis, and they should channel that outrage to the man on trial for his murder, Michael Dunn, the 47-year-old white man who reportedly shot Davis over loud music. “It is not a black problem,” Williams told HLN. “It is a white problem. This is an American problem. It is a societal problem.”

De La Soul to Give Away Entire Catalogue to Celebrate 25th Anniversary

De La Soul to Give Away Entire Catalogue to Celebrate 25th Anniversary

Pioneering hip-hop group De La Soul is giving away the best ever Valentine’s Day gift—their entire catalogue for free starting Friday, February 14 (yes, today) until Saturday at noon EST. The music will be available on the group’s website

“It’s about allowing our fans who have been looking and trying to get a hold of our music to have access to it,” De La Soul member Posdnuous told Rolling Stone. “Its been too long where our fans haven’t had access to everything. This is our way of showing them how much we love them.”

Get your hard drive ready.

(h/t Rolling Stone)

Twitter Reacts to Upcoming George Zimmerman Interview

Twitter Reacts to Upcoming George Zimmerman Interview

The call went out on Twitter early this morning: #CancelTheInterview. Next Tuesday, CNN’s Chris Cuomo will air an interview with George Zimmerman, the man whom a Florida jury last year acquitted of killing 17-year-old Trayvon Martin. His death and his parents’ grief prompted demonstrations across the country.

A petition with more than 500 signatures so far, has also been posted. Zimmerman resurfaced in the news recently because of an on-again, off-again boxing match, originally with rapper DMX. That fight was called off via Tweet on February 8th. But conflicting reports suggest a fight, opponent and location unknown, may happen after all.

Is it irresponsible for journalists to interview Zimmerman? Or, is the media simply doing its job? Weigh in.

White Sports Anchor Quotes Audre Lorde to Defend Michael Sam

White Sports Anchor Quotes Audre Lorde to Defend Michael Sam Play

Sports anchor Dale Hansen sent shockwaves throughout the sports world this week when he quoted Audre Lorde on live TV in Dallas to defend Micheal Sam. It’s an impassioned defense even before he quotes Lorde, but to see an older white man do this on television in the South? Amazing.

Read the full transcript of Hansen’s comments.

(h/t Mother Jones)

Comic Explains San Francisco’s Class War, by the Numbers

Comic Explains San Francisco's Class War, by the Numbers

In case you haven’t already heard, San Francisco is in the middle of a class war. The city’s tech-driven gentrification is now part of a national conversation about income inequality. But if there’s one symbol for it in San Francisco, it’s the much-maligned Google buses that shuttle workers from the city’s hottest neighborhoods to the company’s campus in neighboring Mountain View.

But Bay Area-based journalist Susie Cagle is tired of talking about the buses. She’s more interested in talking about money, and to that end, she’s made a brilliant comic that details what’s happening in San Francisco. For us, it’s particularly worth nothing that as the city gets wealthier, it also gets decidedly whiter. My colleague Julianne Hing has reported on the increase in evictions in the city, which have pushed many families of color out of their longtime homes. 

Read Susie Cagle’s comic over at Medium. 

Black Students Most Underrepresented Among AP Test Takers

Black Students Most Underrepresented Among AP Test Takers

Despite big gains in the number of AP exam test takers in the last decade, large racial gaps among test-takers persist according to a new report released by the College Board (PDF) this week. In 2013, the College Board administered 3.1 million AP exams for 1 million students, compared to the 1.3 million exams the College Board administered in 2003 for 514,163 students. Still, AP exam takers are more likely to come from wealthier families, and black students in particular are underrepresented among those who take AP tests, which offer high school students a chance to gain college-level credit. 

Nearly half, or 48.1 percent, of U.S. students qualify for free or reduced lunch, but among AP exam takers 27.5 percent qualify for free or reduced lunch. Black students were 14.5 percent of the graduating class of 2013 in the U.S., but 9.2 percent of the nation’s AP exam takers. Black students are the most underrepresented racial group among AP exam takers. In only two states in the country—Hawaii and Idaho—is there parity between the two.

American Indian students were 1 percent of the 2013 U.S. high school graduating class but 0.6 percent of those who took AP exams, while Latino students made up roughly 19 percent of both the graduating class and AP exam takers. Asian American and Pacific Islander students are 5.9 percent of students who graduated from high school in 2013 but 10.7 percent of AP exam takers. White students are 58 percent of those who graduated from high school in 2013 but 56 percent of AP exam takers.

What’s more, the College Board found that nearly 300,000 students who are AP-ready haven’t taken an AP-level courses. Read the full report (PDF) for more, including state-by-state breakdowns.

Nicki Minaj Exploits Malcolm X For Her Song’s Tasteless Artwork

Nicki Minaj Exploits Malcolm X For Her Song's Tasteless Artwork

Best line of the day comes from For Harriet, “The image is a musician’s equivalent of using MLK’s portrait for party flyers.”

But this is probably even worse since the iconic photo of Malcolm X was taken at a time when he genuinely had to protect his family’s safety while Minaj just wants to tell the world that she’s sexy.

Jailed, for Being Poor

Jailed, for Being Poor

U.S. courts continue the practice of locking up people for being poor—in effect, criminalizing poverty. A new Human Rights Watch report estimates that private probation companies in the state of Georgia, for example, collect a minimum of $40 million in fines, annually. Clients are typically charged with misdemeanors, like Thomas Barrett, who pled guilty to shoplifting a $2 can of beer. After failing to pay the $200 criminal fine, Barrett racked up more than $1,000 in extra fees to his probation company. So he was jailed. At the time, according to the report which focuses on Georgia, Alabama and Mississippi, Barrett was selling his own blood plasma twice a week to raise money. 

The ACLU first investigated debtors’ prisons in several southern states in 2010. Four years later, according to a new report, the ACLU in Washington state finds that in one county, 20 percent of its jailed population is in for unpaid fines and fees. Throughout the state, criminal debt grows into the thousands of dollars with help from a 12 percent annual interest rate.

Georgia’s private probation industry, which is largely unregulated and not subject to open records laws, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, is dominated by former law enforcement officers. 


The 2pac Movie Finally Has a Director: His Friend, John Singleton

The 2pac Movie Finally Has a Director: His Friend, John Singleton

The highly anticipated and often delayed 2pac biopic is one step closer to actually becoming a reality. John Singleton has been tapped to rewrite, direct and produce the film, which he’s long wanted to do anyway.

“Tupac was the guy who I planned to do a lifetime of films with,” Singleton told Variety. “His passing deeply affected my life as well as countless people in this world. His life story [is] important to my generation.”

Singleton directed Shakur in his breakthrough role in the film “Poetic Justice” alongside Janet Jackson, and has grown close with the slain rapper’s family since his death in 1996. Here’s how close the two were back in 1994:


The next step is casting the actor who will play 2pac. Singleton said that he hopes to begin production in June.


Comcast’s Merger With Time Warner Means Even Fewer Choices For You

Comcast's Merger With Time Warner Means Even Fewer Choices For You

Comcast has agreed to buy Time Warner Cable in a deal that’s worth an estimated $45.2 billion. It’s the latest in a series of high-profile mega mergers in the telecommunications world, after 2009’s Comcast/NBC Universal deal and AT&T’s failed 2011 acquisition of T-Mobile. But this latest deal is one of perhaps even more massive proportions than any of the previous mergers since it would create a video and Internet juggernaut that’s already got 30 million subscribers and operates in some of the country’s biggest media markets, including New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago and Washington, D.C.

And while that’s great for business, it means even fewer choices for consumers. John Bergmayer, Senior Staff Attorney at the D.C. watchdog policy group Public Knowledge, explained it this way in a statement released on Wednesday:

“If Comcast takes over Time Warner Cable, it would yield unprecedented gatekeeper power in several important markets. It is already the nation’s largest ISP, the nation’s largest video provider, and the nation’s largest home phone provider. It also controls a movie studio, broadcast network, and many popular cable channels. An enlarged Comcast would be the bully in the schoolyard, able to dictate terms to content creators, Internet companies, other communications networks that must interconnect with it, and distributors who must access its content. By raising the costs of its rivals and business partners, an enlarged Comcast would raise costs for consumers, who ultimately pay the bills. It would be able to keep others from innovating, while facing little pressure to improve its own service. New equipment, new services, and new content would have to meet with its approval to stand any chance of succeeding.”

The deal would give Comcast control of more than a third of the U.S. pay-TV  U.S. and more than half of the U.S. triple-play market for video, voice and Internet service, according to Free Press. That boils down to unprecedented control over the market, one in which consumers of color are already losing. People of color make up more than 36 percent of the U.S. population but hold just over 7 percent of radio licenses and 3 percent of TV licenses. 

To get a sense of what this lack of choice looks like, check out this graphic. It’s dated (from 2011, before NBC Universal’s merger with Comcast), but it paints a pretty descriptive picture of just how few choices consumers really have:


What Is Latina Fashion? Ámbar Is Target’s Answer

What Is Latina Fashion? Ámbar Is Target's Answer

It’s only a matter of time before Latinos become the new majority in the country. In California, that’s mere weeks away. With an eye on those demographic shifts, this week Target released Ámbar, a 39-piece line of women’s clothing geared toward the Latina shopper. The collection will be available online and in 50 stores around the country.

“With the rate the Hispanic population is growing, it is critical for us to offer a relevant assortment at a great value,” Target’s segmentation merchant Jenny Panske said in a statement.

So what exactly is Latina fashion? And how much does that differ from the way non-Latinas dress? That’s not totally clear.

“While we think the new line will appeal to just about anyone with a flair for style, Ámbar was designed specifically with the Latina fashionista in mind,” Target’s online magazine writes. According to Target that means bold colors, bright florals, on-trend black and white prints, colorblocking and easy silhouettes. Distinct fashion this is not.

It’s probably better then to think of the line as aggressively focused market segmentation instead of an actual aesthetic statement. But hey, at least Target didn’t try to sell huaraches or sombreros directly to Latina and Latino shoppers. Those they market to everyone.

Drake Admits That The Best Rap Albums Don’t Always Win Grammys

Drake Admits That The Best Rap Albums Don't Always Win Grammys

Drake decided to enter the fray in the Macklemore vs. Kendrick Lamar Grammy controversy. When asked by Rolling Stone to comment on Macklemore’s infamous “You got robbed” apology text to Kendrick after his big win for best rap album, Drake didn’t hold back, saying, “That shit was whack as fuck.”

“I was like, ‘You won. Why are you posting your text message? Just chill. Take your W, and if you feel you didn’t deserve it, go get better — make better music,’” he told Rolling Stone. “It felt cheap. It didn’t feel genuine. Why do that? Why feel guilt? You think those guys would pay homage to you if they won?”

That’s the comment that’s getting all the headlines, but what was actually even more interesting was Drake’s admission that the best albums don’t always win at the Grammy’s.

“This is how the world works: He made a brand of music that appealed to more people than me, Hov, Kanye and Kendrick. Whether people wanna say it’s racial, or whether it’s just the fact that he tapped into something we can’t tap into. That’s just how the cards fall. Own your shit.”

Of all people, Drake should know. In 2013, he took home the award for Best Rap Album for his second album “Take Care,” beating out a The Root’s phenomenal “Undun.” In fact, there are about two dozen hip-hop stalwarts, including 2pac, Biggie, Rakim and Nas, who have fewer Grammy’s than Macklemore. 

The big picture? The Grammy’s rap awards are more a matter of popularity than anything else. That doesn’t mean that the albums that win aren’t good, but usually, they’re not the best.

How Did Sexist, Anti-Asian Posters Wind Up USC and UCLA?

How Did Sexist, Anti-Asian Posters Wind Up USC and UCLA?

That’s the question at the center of two campus investigations currently taking place on Los Angeles college campuses, according to the LA Times. Officials at USC and UCLA are trying to figure out how fliers wound up on each campus containing curses and racist language about Asian women dating white men.

LAist notes that the crude and poorly written flyers include lines that read, “Asian cunt sluts have low self-esteem up xi ass” and “Mexican womyn don’t worship honkie white boy like Asian cunts do!” The website also notes that the fliers are reminiscent of racist fliers posted at UCLA in 2012 that called Asian women “Honkie white-boy worshipping Whores” and Alexandra Wallace’s 2011 YouTube rant.  

In a letter condemning these most recent flyers, UCLA’s Asian Pacific Coalition issued the following statement this week:

Every year, at least one discriminatory and racially biased incident occurs, and many more go unreported. To allow these attacks to remain unaddressed, whether they are intended to hurt or draw attention, is to tacitly endorse the marginalization of our community, to accept being painted as perpetual foreigners, and to allow for the exotification and objectification of women of color.

These racially biased incidents cannot continue.

The Daily Bruin reported that 50 students gathered in protest this week to denounce the flyers. A coalition of Los Angeles-based universities have also banded together to issue the following statement: “To allow these attacks to remain unaddressed, whether they are intended to hurt or draw attention, is to tacitly endorse the marginalization of our community, to accept being painted as perpetual foreigners and to allow for the exotification and objectification of women of color.”



Twin Sisters, Separated At Birth, Reunite and Make a Film

Remember that show “Sister, Sister” from back in the late ’90s? It followed two teenage identical twin sisters (played by Tia and Tamara Mowry) who were separated at birth, found each other, and then, along with their adopted parents, made a family.

The real-life story of Samantha Futerman and Anaïs Bordier is even better.

The identifcal twin sisters weren’t only separated at birth, but adopted by families on differen continents. Now they’re making a film about their journey, which was also picked up by “Good Morning America. Here’s their story:

(h/t Angry Asian Man)

TAGS: Video

Cal State L.A. Students Push for Ethnic Studies Requirement

Another showdown is brewing over ethnic studies, this time at California State University, Los Angeles, where students are demanding that the administration add an ethnic studies requirement to the school’s general education curriculum.

On Tuesday, 75 students showed up to an Academic Senate meeting to make their demands public, arguing that the courses are an important part of developing critical thinking skills in an increasingly multicultural society.

“College students who take an ethnic studies class can go out and uplift their community,” Jelani Hendrix, a 23-year-old Pan-African studies major, told the Los Angeles Times. “They can show that all of us are more alike than different.”

But ethnic studies programs throughout the California State University system, and the country, face tremendous hurdles as universities slash budgets and the programs suffer from dwindling enrollment. Cal State Long Beach recently moved to reduce the status of its Africana Studies program and a group of faculty from across the 23-campus Cal State system have advocated for a moratorium on proposed changes.

“General education requirements should be open to all departments and programs,” said Gretchen Peterson, chairwoman of the Cal State LA sociology department told the Times. “Ethnic studies should be integrated throughout the curriculum.”

The 55-member academic senate, which includes students and college deans, rejected a similar ethnic studies requirement last month. It’s expected to take up the issue again next week.

In the video below, students and faculty speak out at a press conference in Los Angeles. 

Chicana College Student Claims Police Assaulted Her in Hospital

Chicana College Student Claims Police Assaulted Her in Hospital

In March of 2012, Aloni Bonilla was pulled over by a local police officer for suspicion of driving under the influence. After police escorted her to the hospital for a blood sample after a breathalyzer at the scene found traces of alcohol in her system. What happened next, which Bonilla chronicled in a video she posted to YouTube last year, is the now the subject of an appeal before the L.A. County Superior Court. Here’s more from Jorge Rivas at Fusion:

Bonilla claims the 20-minute video uploaded to the video sharing site shows the officer using excessive force and contradicts statements made in the police report. She took the officer to court to dispute the charges in the police report that Bonilla says the video proves are false.

The officer contends that Bonilla waved her arms around and approached him to try to head butt him. The video shows the CHP officer pushing Bonilla against the wall and then forcing her to the floor. He then pins Bonilla down with his knee.

Bonilla ended up with a black eye from hitting a wall-mounted medical device, according to court documents. Today, she has five slipped discs in her spine and neck she says were a result from the altercation with the officer.

Bonilla, who at the time was a math major at Cal State Los Angeles, was charged with and convicted of vandalism, resisting arrest and failure to provide a driver’s license. She’s appealing her conviction and the judges who heard her case are expected to make a decision in the next two weeks. 

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