Colorlines

NOW IN RACIAL JUSTICE

Once Again, Poor People With Cell Phones Become Scapegoats for the Right

Louisiana Republican Senator David Vitter took to the floor this week to introduce an amendment that would gut the federal government’s Lifeline Wireless program as part of an amendment to the farm bill. The program, which others on the Right have said gives out free “Obamaphones”, offers subsidized cell phones to people who otherwise couldn’t afford them.

Vitter has become one of the loudest opponents of the program, which I’ve written before is a case study in how the right uses race to pervert the spending debate. Vitter used a bunch of racially coded language to express his outrage with the program. “I think the whole program is an entitlement mentality gone wild,” he says. “We have started the notion that folks are entitled to the government providing them with almost everything under the sun.”

It’s worth taking another look at the fact vs. fiction when it comes to these so-called “Obamaphones.” Check them out after the jump.

Minneapolis Teens Trade Hip-Hop Producing Training in Exchange for Homework

Minneapolis Teens Trade Hip-Hop Producing Training in Exchange for Homework

An after-school program set up by the North Community YMCA in Minneapolis gives young kids the opportunity and equipment needed to make rap music as a reward for keeping up with their schoolwork. Founder of the program called Beats And Rhymes say their mission is to “provide challenging, positive youth and career development opportunities for low income, culturally-diverse youth.”

The young students have rapped and rhymed about fun subjects like Cheetos and Khaki pants but they also get political in other songs with messages about bullying, violence and drugs.

Beats and Rhymes has a partnership with the Nellie Stone Johnson Community School, where close to 97 percent of the students are black, Latino or Asian.

Zimmerman Defense Team Releases New Evidence in Trayvon Martin Case

Zimmerman Defense Team Releases New Evidence in Trayvon Martin Case

On Thursday, Defense attorneys on the George Zimmerman case released evidence they discovered on Trayvon Martin’s cell phone, including text messages in which he wrote about taking part in an organized fight, smoking marijuana and being suspended from school. They intend to use the reputation-damaging evidence about Trayvon to paint a different picture of him than the one that’s been shared by his family and supporters.

Orlando Sentinel has the details:

The evidence packet contains more than two dozen photos, including one that shows Trayvon with gold teeth and two of him making an obscene gesture. Those have been widely circulated online since shortly after the shooting, and it’s not clear where defense attorneys found them, but as of Thursday, they officially became part of Zimmerman’s criminal case.

The text messages that Trayvon wrote about fighting may be the most damaging to the state.

Circuit Judge Debra S. Nelson will decide if the evidence is admitted in to the case next week, the AP reports. However, it’s unclear when the trial will start because yesterday Zimmerman’s attorneys also filed paperwork asking the judge to delay the start of his trial for six weeks.

Racially Segregated ‘Black-Only Pods’ in Florida County Jail

Racially Segregated 'Black-Only Pods' in Florida County Jail

U.S. Department of Justice investigators found a number of unconstitutional practices at the Escambia County Jail facility in northwest Florida that “constitute serious risks to prisoner safety,” according to the Justice Department’s findings letter. Among those problems were insufficient access to mental healthcare for the inmates, and racial segregation of black prisoners. Said the U.S. Department of Justice in a release:

Specifically, the department concluded that known systemic deficiencies at the facility, stemming mainly from staffing shortages, continue to subject prisoners to excessive risk of assault by other prisoners and to inadequate mental health care. Additionally, the department found that until recently, the jail had an informal policy and practice of designating some of its housing units as only for African-American prisoners. By segregating some of its prisoners on the basis of race, the jail not only stigmatized and discriminated against many of its African-American prisoners, it also fanned combustible racial tensions within the jail.

The racial segregation of black inmates into “black-only pods” had been occurring for decades. Justice officials first discovered the practice in October last year during a tour. They warned Escambia County Jail officials then that this was a breach of 14th Amendment equal protection rights. According to the findings letter, “For decades, the Jail’s officials have assumed that segregating on the basis of race would lead to a safer facility.”

Deputy Assistant Attorney General Roy Austin, Jr., who wrote the findings letter, said such assumptions were “unproven and untethered to data” and “insufficient to justify an explicit racial classification.”

Escambia County’s population is 23.1 percent African-American, and 70 percent white. The county jail has 1,442 prisoners, 65 percent of whom are black and 35 percent white.

A new sheriff for Escambia, David Morgan, told the Justice Department this past April that the segregation had stopped but Austin wrote that the Justice Department “will want to ensure that any agreement we reach with the Jail completely and permanently eliminates racially segregated housing units.” Their investigation concluded that “the practice of segregating on the basis of race has compromised security by exacerbating racial tensions within the Facility.”

Escambia County is 23.1 percent African-American, and 70 percent white.

Other Justice Department findings:

  • Prisoner-on-prisoner assaults are a common occurrence, owed to a shortage of correctional staff, resulting in serious harm to prisoners
  • The jail does not provide timely and adequate access to appropriately skilled mental health care professionals
  • The jail routinely fails to provide appropriate medications to prisoners with mental illness
  • The jail provides inadequate housing and observation for prisoners with serious mental illness who are at risk for self injury or suicide

Austin wrote that these are all violations of the 14th amendment and the 8th amendment, which protects those convicted of criminal offenses.

Jennifer Lopez Calls New Verizon Deal to Court Latinos ‘No Brainer’

Jennifer Lopez Calls New Verizon Deal to Court Latinos 'No Brainer'

Jennifer Lopez is embarking on an ambitious new business venture. The entertainer, who has long reigned as one of the most popular Latinas in show business, has teamed up with Verizon Wireless to launch a new mobile brand aimed specifically at the country’s fast-growing Latino population. The venture, Viva Movil, has already begun to sell smartphones, tablets, and Verizon Wireless plans on its website.

In an interview with the Los Angeles Times, Lopez revealed that while the products have already been selling online, she plans to open more than a dozen Viva Movil stores in cities with large Latino populations, including Los Angeles, New York, and Miami. The first stores are set to open on June 15.

But what, exactly, does it mean for a store to “cater” to Latinos? According to Lopez, it boils down to accessibility. Employees will speak both English and Spanish and stores will be equipped with play areas for children since “Latinos often like to shop together as a family,” she says.

“It was a no-brainer to finally cater to an overlooked segment of the population that has emerged, to actually do something that caters specifically to them,” Lopez told the Times.

Lopez’s foray into the tech industry underscores the tremendous buying power of Latino smartphone users in the United States. It’s a consumer base that Verizon has long been in the business of courting; in 2010, the company launched an ambitious advertising campaign featuring a diverse group of young, savvy cell phone users who were determined to “Rule the Air.” Advocates criticized the company for blatantly courting users of color while also fighting against regulatory efforts to protect Internet access for vulnerable, low-income users.

Nonetheless, the company is moving forward. And for good reason. From the Times:

Lopez cited “staggering” demographic statistics that showed the Latino population had grown 43% in the last five years, compared with 5% growth for non-Latinos. Latinos currently make up more than 16% of the U.S. population, and that figure is expected to grow to 30% by 2050.

The devices and plans sold by Viva Movil are the same as Verizon’s, although Verizon doesn’t own a stake in the new company. Customers can purchase smartphones including the iPhone 5, Galaxy S 3 and the BlackBerry Z10 and sign up for Verizon’s 4G LTE network service.

In announcing the partnership, Verizon noted that Latinos are an especially important customer base for the industry and represented $1.2 trillion in buying power last year. The country’s No. 1 wireless carrier cited a recent Nielsen report that showed that 75% of Latinos in the U.S. own smartphones, higher than the overall percentage of Americans who own smartphones, at 63%.

It’s a smart business move, but will have profound implications on the industry. Research has shown that while everyone is jumping on the smartphone bandwagon, black and Latino users are more likely to depend on their phones for basic access, and Verizon is among the country’s most expensive Internet service providers.

Local Election Officials Show Bias Against Latino Voters, Especially on Voter ID

Local Election Officials Show Bias Against Latino Voters, Especially on Voter ID

Three Harvard grad students experimented with whether there was ethnic prejudice in local election administration by emailing every local or county election official, commission and supervisor in 48 states with Latino-sounding and non-Latino-sounding names and examined the responses. What they found were that local election officials were three-and-a-half to four-times more likely to respond to the emails that came from the non-Latino name, Greg Walsh, than the Latino name, Luis Rodriguez.

The gap in those responses grew three points wider when their emails contained questions about voter ID.

The students were able to find qualitative bias as well, meaning even when election officials responded to the Latino name, the information included was less accurate or informative than the information given to “Greg Walsh.”

“Our results indicate that changes to existing voting regulations are likely to differentially increase information costs for Latino voters because public officials are less responsive to their inquiries than to non-Latinos,” wrote the study’s authors.

The Washington Post asked True the Vote president Catherine Engelbrecht about the study. She didn’t pass it to her Latino counterpart Voto Honesto — which appears to no longer exist — but rather the Texan of German background took it upon herself to dismiss the findings, calling it “a conclusion in desperate search of a viable methodology.”

This is a clumsy flip of the common rejoinder against her own advocacy for voter ID laws, which voting rights advocates call “a solution in search of a problem.”

Says Aura Bogado, our Voting Rights Watch reporter from last year, and current blogger for The Nation: “The study is especially worrisome when one considers that elections officials still do not view Latinos—who makes up the nation’s fastest growing population—as a legitimate voting base.”

Recent voting data from Census on last November’s elections show a drop in the Hispanic voting rate from 2008

Zimmerman Attorneys Insist Jurors Should Hear About Trayvon Martin’s Pot Use

Zimmerman Attorneys Insist Jurors Should Hear About Trayvon Martin's Pot Use

An attorney for George Zimmerman, the neighborhood watch leader charged with fatally shooting 17-year-old Trayvon Martin, is pressing a Florida judge to allow autopsy blood results be presented to jurors because they show the teenager tested positive for marijuana use.

Defense attorney Don West argued in his written response filed Tuesday that the marijuana use is relevant because Zimmerman told a police dispatcher shortly before shooting Trayvon that he believed the Miami Gardens teenager was suspicious and may have been on drugs.

The Orlando Sentinel points out West’s response comes two weeks after prosecutors filed paperwork asking Circuit Judge Debra S. Nelson to ban defense attorneys and witnesses from telling jurors the autopsy results found marijuana in Martin’s blood.

Judge Nelson will likely rule on the issue during a day-long hearing May 28 in Sanford, the Orlando Sentinel reports.

Senate Accepts Deal to Kick Formerly Incarcerated Off Food Benefits

Senate Accepts Deal to Kick Formerly Incarcerated Off Food Benefits

Yesterday, Sen. Vitter of Louisiana offered up an amendment to permanently drop anyone ever convicted of a violent crime from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). According to Robert Greenstein, president of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, Democrats in the Senate obliged him. The amendment is for a farm bill, which is currently being debated in the Senate.

Says Greenstein:

The amendment would bar from SNAP (food stamps), for life, anyone who was ever convicted of one of a specified list of violent crimes at any time — even if they committed the crime decades ago in their youth and have served their sentence, paid their debt to society, and been a good citizen ever since. In addition, the amendment would mean lower SNAP benefits for their children and other family members.

So, a young man who was convicted of a single crime at age 19 who then reforms and is now elderly, poor, and raising grandchildren would be thrown off SNAP, and his grandchildren’s benefits would be cut. … Democrats accepted it without trying to modify it to address its most ill-considered aspects.

Two-thirds of SNAP recipients are children, elderly or the disabled, and two-fifths of SNAP households live below half the poverty line.

4.1-SNAP.jpg

According to Greenstein, if this amendment ends up in the farm bill and passes, it would hit African Americans particularly hard:

Given incarceration patterns in the United States, the amendment would have a skewed racial impact. Poor elderly African Americans convicted of a single crime decades ago by segregated Southern juries would be among those hit.

Sen. Vitter is claiming that his amendment is only aimed at preventing those convicted of violent crimes from obtaining benefits, apparently under the logic that stripping them of what may be their only form of income assistance will lead to less violence. Curiously, he didn’t propose that johns who’ve hired sex workers would also be banned from SNAP.

Sen. Vitter also proposed an end to the so-called “Obama Phone” program, which started under President Ronald Reagan to help elderly and low-income with cellphone service, particularly in rural areas.

Voter Suppression Group Sues IRS For Delaying Their Voter Suppression

When IRS officials publicly apologized last week for sorting out tax-exemption applications from tea party groups, one tea party network seized the moment to claim victimization by the federal government. True the Vote, a conglomerate of conservative tea party and “Patriot” groups across the nation seeking restrictive voting laws, claimed that their application for 501(c)3 status was wrongfully put through rigorous review by the IRS. Now they are suing the IRS claiming that due to their “perceived conservative policy positions and affiliation with Tea Party organizations” they were “systematically targeted… for additional review and scrutiny … [and] was deliberately subjected to numerous unnecessary and burdensome requests for information about its operations and affiliations,” as it reads in their complaint.

For the record, the IRS officials have said that political bias was not a motivation for their sorting of applications. The inspector general who investigated the situation found no political bias, only that IRS officials in a Cincinnati office used “inappropriate criteria” for the sorting. So far as we know, the IRS employees sorted this way because of a spike in 501(c) 4 tax exemption status applications — the bulk of those from tea party and patriot groups. Meanwhile, a decrease in IRS staff and resources burdened their capacity to effectively deal with the application deluge.

But despite True the Vote’s claim, nothing that IRS officials are accused of or have admitted to would support True the Vote’s accusation. The criteria used to sort out applications was to find any application that had the words “Tea Party,” “Patriot” or “9/12” [a reference to conservative groups started by Glenn Beck] in the applicant’s name. One reason for this might be that many of these groups have flouted tax laws while some have called publicly for the elimination of taxes and the IRS altogether. Either way, True the Vote has none of those keywords in their name, so they can’t claim they were part of the sorted group.

They do have “Vote” in their name, though, and if they did receive extra scrutiny, it could be because 501(c)3 groups are not supposed to engage in activity that influences how people vote when it comes to political candidates and campaigns. And yet, True the Vote intervened in the recall election for Gov. Scott Walker in Wisconsin last year, and they are currently leading an intervention in Rep. Allen West’s already failed re-election run as we speak. In that sense, True the Vote wasn’t profiled by the IRS, they profiled themselves.

True the Vote’s founder Catherine Engelbrecht said in a press release: “After answering hundreds of questions and producing thousands of documents, we’re done waiting. The IRS does not have the power to pocket veto our application.”

The IRS does have the authority to request for additional information from an organization seeking non-profit status if that group’s activities have engaged in questionable political activity. As Kim Barker and Justin Elliott reported at ProPublica:

In the 1970s, that meant flagging all applications for primary and secondary schools in the south facing desegregation. In the 1980s, during the wave of consolidation in the health-care industry, all applications from health-care nonprofits needed to be sent to headquarters. The division’s different field offices had to send these applications up the chain.

The fact that True the Vote’s membership largely consists of tea party members only adds to their dubious reputation. But True the Vote has been down the litigious road before — a few times actually. Last year, they basically created a cottage industry out of shaking down states with nuisance lawsuits around election practices, while pressuring those states to put restrictive voting polices in place. Looks like the IRS is just the latest caught in their scheme.

Hear me discuss True the Vote and the IRS flap on NPR’s “Tell Me More” here:

Young Black Women Led 2012 Youth Voter Turnout

Young Black Women Led 2012 Youth Voter Turnout

Give it up for young African-American women. While youth voter turnout in the 2012 election was down overall, it was young female voters, and young black female voters at that, who led the youth turnout in the 2012 elections.

According to a new analysis by the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement at Tufts University, young black women posted the highest voter turnout of all young voters in 2012. In fact, young black women voted at a higher rate than any gender, racial or ethnic subset of voters between the age of 18 and 29. At 60.1 percent voter turnout, young black women out-voted the next highest group, young white women, by 11 percentage points. Women vote in larger numbers than men no matter the metric, be it by marital or employment status or educational attainment.

None of this changes the fact that voter turnout among young whites, blacks and Latinos declined between 2008 and 2012, however. But in keeping with the historic turnout among black voters broadly in 2012, these youth vote numbers add another layer to the conversation. Check out just the youth voter turnout for female voters, broken down by race:

circle_youthvotergraph_052213.jpg

For the rest of CIRCLE’s findings, see their fact sheet (PDF).

Deported Parents Who Return Found Dead In Desert or Locked Up In Prison

Deported Parents Who Return Found Dead In Desert or Locked Up In Prison

The Obama Administration has deported some 1.5 million people since taking office and as Colorlines.com revealed last year, more than one in five are parents of U.S. citizens. Many more have other relatives here. As the comprehensive immigration reform bill moves from committee to the Senate floor, many immigrants and immigration reform advocates will be watching a provision that would permit some deportees to return to the United States if they left behind U.S. citizen spouses, children or parents. Now, a set of new reports and investigations reveal what’s at stake as members of Congress consider what some advocates are calling the “right to return” provision: without a legal route to come back, many are travelling back over the border to reunite with their family, and thousands are ending up dead in the desert or locked up in federal prison.

Walmart Security Allegedly Suspected Father of Kidnapping Biracial Kids

Walmart Security Allegedly Suspected Father of Kidnapping Biracial Kids

A Prince William County, Virginia father is speaking out after a Walmart security guard allegedly called police to report a possible kidnapping because the man’s three young daughters appeared to be of a different race.

The father, who only identified himself as Joseph, is white and his wife of ten years is black and according to a Walmart manager that meant their children “didn’t fit.”

WTTG has the details:

On Thursday evening, Joseph took all three girls to the Walmart in Potomac Mills in Woodbridge to cash a check. He says they weren’t there long, but spent a few extra minutes in the parking lot while he buckled the girls in and then made a phone call.

Joseph says he then went to up his wife, Keana, and as they were arriving home, they were shocked to find a Prince William County police officer waiting for them.

“He asks us very sincerely, ‘Hey, I was sent here by Walmart security. I just need to make sure that the children that you have are your own,’” Joseph says.

Immigration Bill Leaps Forward, Heads to Full Senate

Immigration Bill Leaps Forward, Heads to Full Senate

The Senate Judiciary Committee last night passed a massive immigration reform bill and sent it to the Senate floor. The audience in the panel room began to chant “sí se puede.” Most observers expected the markup of the bill to last to the end of this week, but the Senators spent long days Monday and Tuesday as well as last week to consider 200 amendments. In the end, the legislation passed the committee with significant bi-partisan support in a 13-5 vote. Though it remained similar to the original bill introduced last month by the Gang of Eight, many of the approved amendments, and some that were rejected, will significantly impact immigrants and their families.

In a dramatic ending to the markup of the bill, the committee completed the legislation without the the inclusion of immigration rights for bi-national same-sex partners. The amendment had promised to pull thousands more into reform. A 2011 report from the UCLA’s Williams Institute estimated that there are 40,000 gay and lesbian couples barred from applying for immigration benefits for noncitizen partners that are available to married opposite sex couples.

In principle, the amendment to allow gay and lesbian U.S. citizens to sponsor their non-citizen partners for green cards had broad support from Democrats. But as it came under attack from Republicans, some Democrats indicated they would not back the provision if it would repel Republicans.

Republicans, including South Carolina Republican Sen. Lindsay Graham, who was a member of the Gang of Eight Senators that drafted the bill, said the amendment would derail the legislation.

“You’ve got me on immigration. You don’t have me on marriage,” Graham said. “If you want to keep me on immigration, let’s stay on immigration.”

Ultimately, committee Chair Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., withdrew the amendment. “I take the Republican sponsors of this important legislation at their word that they will abandon their own efforts if discrimination is removed from our immigration system,” Leahy said.

The other major sticking point yesterday was debate over visas for science and technology workers. Utah Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch, who has been walking the fence on the bill, and Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York offered a compromise amendment to simplify the H1-B visa program for so-called STEM visas in ways that tech companies like Microsoft and Facebook support.

Tech companies say there are not enough U.S. workers to fill jobs. But labor groups, including the AFL-CIO call the amendment “anti-worker.” It’s not yet clear what impact the compromise will have on the already fragile relationship between labor and business groups. But Democrats apparently decided the risk of alienating part of their labor support was worth it to gain support from Hatch, who could prove a bellwether for other conservatives in the Senate.

The Senators considered dozens of other amendments yesterday. They passed one from Senator John Cornyn, a Texas Republican, that could make it more difficult for the Secretary of Homeland Security to grant return permits to deportees with U.S. citizen family members. The panel rejected an amendment from Hawaii Democrat Sen. Mazie Hirono that would have allowed U.S. citizens to petition for their siblings and adult children if the petitioner could prove they face significant hardship without their relative.

On Monday, the Senators passed a set of amendments aimed at protecting detainees, including one limiting the use of solitary confinement and another providing significant new protections for detained parents.

The bill will move now to the Senate where reform proponents hope it will take no more than a month to pass. Immigration reforms greatest challenge reamins in the House, where a group of lawmakers are currently finishing their own immigration bill.

Watch 9-Yr-Old Asean Johnson Fire Up Protesters to Fight School Closures

Watch 9-Yr-Old Asean Johnson Fire Up Protesters to Fight School Closures

Nine-year-old Asean Johnson may need to stand up on a chair to be seen above the podium from which he speaks, but he holds in him a wisdom and fire well beyond his years. Watch him address the crowds that assembled Monday to protest Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s school closures agenda, which will affect Garvey Elementary School, where Johnson is a student, and a proposed 53 other schools in the district.

“Kids need safety. Rahm Emanuel is not caring about our schools. He’s not caring about our safety,” Johnson said at the rally. “He should be invested in these schols, not closing them. He should be supporting these schools, not closing him.”

Emanuel’s projected plan to shutter dozens of schools is ostensibly a bid to address a serious budget shortfall. And yet, teachers, parents and students in Chicago have come together to argue that shutting down schools is a wrong-headed move that overwhelmingly and disproportionately affects communities of color. (Asean Johnson’s addressed the racial inequity in Emanuel’s agenda too.)

Alas, despite months of protest, including multiple acts of civil disobedience and Johnson’s own passionate pleas, the Chicago Tribune reports that perhaps just five of the projected 54 schools may be saved.

West Coast’s Second Largest Paper Drops the Term ‘Illegal Immigrant’

West Coast's Second Largest Paper Drops the Term 'Illegal Immigrant'

The San Francisco Chronicle changed its style on the term “illegal immigrant” Monday, Poynter.org reports. The Chronicle is the largest newspaper in Northern California and the second largest on the West Coast, according to its publisher the Hearst Corporation.

The San Francisco Chronicle’s announcement comes after the Associated Press changed its style on the term in April, followed by the Los Angeles Times in May. The New York Times urged its writers to “consider alternatives when appropriate.”

The newspaper’s new style will “essentially match” the Associated Press’ style on the term, David Steinberg, copy desk chief at the Chronicle, said in an email to Poynter.org.

Below is the Chronicle’s new stylebook entry on “illegal immigration:”

Illegal immigration

Entering or residing in a country in violation of civil or criminal law. Except in direct quotes essential to the story, use illegal only to refer to an action, not a person: illegal immigration, but not illegal immigrant. Acceptable variations include living in or entering a country illegally or without legal permission.

Except in direct quotations, do not use the terms illegal alien, an illegal, illegals or undocumented immigrant. This prohibition also applies to headlines.

Do not describe people as violating immigration laws without attribution.

Specify wherever possible how someone entered the country illegally and from where. Crossed the border? Overstayed a visa? What nationality?

People who were brought into the country as children should not be described as having immigrated illegally. For people granted a temporary right to remain in the U.S. under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, use temporary resident status, with details on the program lower in the story.

The San Francisco Bay Area, Central Coast, and San Joaquin Valley have substantial populations of undocumented immigrants, according to The Public Policy Institute of California.

Mixed Martial Artist Fallon Fox Is Paving the Way for Transgender Athletes

Mixed Martial Artist Fallon Fox Is Paving the Way for Transgender Athletes

On Friday mixed martial artist Fallon Fox will appear in her first professional fight since coming out as transgender. Fox, who came out in an interview with Outsports in March, already won a major battle when the Association of Boxing Commissions allowed her to compete as a woman, citing that she did not have a competitive physical advantage over her opponents.

Fox recently sat down with Yahoo Sports to talk all that’s led up to her history-making fight on Friday. The event will likely make Fox, who is mixed race, the highest profile transgender athlete in the country. She admits that it’s a role that she’s still learning to accept. But the fight will mark a hugely important moment in which a transgender athlete of color is capturing the sports world’s attention.

… She is now an unexpected role model for transgender athletes. While she remains a cautious speaker who is presently doing select interviews, she understands the obligation. She’s content in life. Her 16-year old daughter now lives with her in Chicago. She’s found an American society, while still with distance to travel, becoming more welcoming almost overnight. She’s chasing a dream.

[snip]

“I would say to those kids that were like me not to give up,” Fallon said. “I know they are young now and they may be in a position where bullies are against them, but if they don’t give up, someday they’ll have the opportunity to be themselves, to finally have a body that they love.”

Read more over at Yahoo Sports.

Even More of Your Favorite People Speaking Out Against Stop-and-Frisk

Even More of Your Favorite People Speaking Out Against Stop-and-Frisk

To help people understand that the NYPD’s Stop-and-frisk policy is everyone’s issue the creator of “This Week in Blackness” Elon James White issued an open call for submissions asking people to lend their virtual voices. White asked folks to submit videos of themselves rapping along to the song “10 Frisk Commandments.”

An excerpt from the “10 Frisk Commandments Remix” is below:

I’ve never known a time when I wasn’t really warned

about how blackness is perceived with some malice and some scorn.

But Mama I’m sure I didn’t do nothing wrong

And then she said that’s not the point I just don’t want to see you gone.

Growing up it was me who was questioning the fact that being black

That I was somehow always under some sort of attack

It was the bad kids, the thuggish ones, I will be okay

and that’s the same bullshit they used on Kimani Grey

The video features Pittsburgh-based rapper Jasiri X and Florida-based artist and producer Willie Evans Jr. rapping alongside comedian Baratunde Thurston, New York Councilman Juamaane Williams, writer and activist Janet Mock, New York State Senator Kevin Parker, and many more people from all walks of life.

“I look at the 10 Frisk Commandments Remix as true hip hop with a message.” said Elon James White. “This isn’t some wack song that tells everyone to sing kumbaya. This is a hard-hitting track with amazing production by Willie Evans Jr. and real-life perspectives that have been lacking in mainstream hip hop.”

The video ends by asking viewers to sign a ColorOfChange petition demanding that NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Commissioner Ray Kelly abolish Stop and Frisk.

1,500 Rally for Mark Carson in New York City’s Gay Mecca

1,500 Rally for Mark Carson in New York City's Gay Mecca

It was New York City’s largest LGBT rally in years, according to organizers. On Monday at least 1,500 people showed up to honor the life of Mark Carson and make a stand against the hate that led to his death. Carson was an openly gay 32-year-old black man who was shot and killed over the weekend in what authorities are investigating as an anti-gay hate crime.

The randomness of Carson’s death has shocked the city’s LGBT community. “Mark is not going to die in vain. We are not going to get beat up in vain,” one rally participant told Mother Jones. “Gay rights, we’re still fighting for them, and the fight is not over. We need to protect each other.”

New Revelations About NYPD’s Muslim Spying Program

New Revelations About NYPD's Muslim Spying Program

More information emerged from the Associated Press this week about the New York Police Department’s vast program to spy on Muslim communities. Court documents in a civil rights suit challenging the program reveal that the police Demographics Unit filed over 4000 reports in the last three years on Muslim community activities. In the same period, the Associated Press reports, the division logged the details of 200 conversations recorded in clandestine visits by police and informants.

The AP, which first reported on the Demographics Unit two in 2011, also reported today that at least one police informant paid by the NYPD to spy on Muslims said he used a strategy called, “create and capture.” The AP, which viewed texts between the informant and a police detective, reports:

(Police informant Shamiur) Rahman told the AP last year that he made about $9,000 over nine months spying widely on friends and others. He said the NYPD encouraged him to use a tactic called “create and capture.” He said it involved creating conversations about jihad or terrorism, then capturing the responses and sending them to the NYPD.

[snip]

Rahman allowed the AP to review months of text messages with [detective Stephen] Hoban from January to September 2012.

“Hey bro,” Rahman told Hoban in one message. “I think im going to bring up jihad with these guys tonight, see what they say and know and then go home because everyones really just praying and stuff.”

The NYPD denies that they used the tactic. The city claims the demographics unit only followed leads. But there’s no evidence that the unit uncovered a single lead. Rather, it functioned to collect information on the mundane day-to-day lives of Muslims in New York and surrounding states. Informants and uncover police followed around Muslim student groups and one police report noted the location of a black Muslim pre-school in New Jersey.

TAGS: NYPD Spying

Senators Add Protection for Detainees to Immigration Bill

Senators Add Protection for Detainees to Immigration Bill

The Senate Judiciary Committee went into immigration high gear yesterday, working later into the evening on 50 amendments to the immigration reform bill. At the end of the day of markup, the bill was amended in a number of ways to protect the human rights and civil liberties of detainees. Rights groups claimed the votes as small victories in their long effect to chip away at the abuses of immigration detention and deportation.

Among the biggest victories for the rights of detainees was the passage yesterday of an amendment.pdf) from Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., to limit the use of solitary confinement for detainees. A recent investigation by the NY Times found that at least 300 Immigration and Customs Enforcement detainees are held in solitary confinement each day. This means they’re kept in a cell for at least 22 hour a day. Half are held in these conditions for more than two weeks at a time, sometimes in tiny windowless cells.

The Times investigation found that ICE lacks guidelines and rules for the use of solitary confinement. The Blumenthal amendment would send the agency clear limits on the practice, especially for young and mentally ill detainees, and require ICE to develop oversight mechanism for it’s hundreds of facilities, including the private and county jails with ICE contacts.

The senators also agreed on another Blumenthal amendment.pdf) that limits ICE’s authority to conduct raids near schools, hospitals, and religious institutions.

A major amendment sponsored by Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., and Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, would protect children of detained and deported parents from entering foster care or becoming stranded if their mother of father is taken by immigration agents. The amendment is the only one of the over 100 considered so far by the committee to have passed with full bi-partisan support with votes of approval from all 18 members of the committee.

The Humane Enforcement and Legal Protections for Separated Children Act.pdf), as the amendment is called, was introduced as a stand-alone bill by members of Congress in recent years but never became law. It allows parents to make addition phone calls to arrange for their kids’ care and makes it easier parents to take part in county child welfare and family court proceedings that affect parental rights and children’s custody. The amendment would also require that ICE consider the best interest of kids when making decisions about the detention of their mother or father.

A 2011 Colorlines.com investigation estimated that there were at least 5000 children of detained and deported parents in foster care around the country. Detained parents have often been excluded from the juvenile court proceedings where decisions are made about their parental rights and the future of their children.

The Senators narrowly fended off an amendment.pdf) from Sen. Grassley that would have barred from the path to citizenship any undocumented immigrant suspected of gang activity, even if they have not been convicted of any crime. As I’ve written before, provisions that bar immigrants on the basis of suspected gang attachments often rely on overly broad local standards for identifying gang membership and would have overwhelmingly impacted young immigrants of color. The immigration reform bill already includes a provision to exclude immigrants from the provisional path to citizenship if they are deemed to have participated in a gang and knew that their activity was criminal. The Grassley amendment would have vastly expanded this exclusion by forcing immigrants to prove that they didn’t know they were part of a gang.

The committee will continue markup today in hopes of making it through all amendments and sending the bill to the Senate floor soon after the Memorial Day weekend. Though yesterday’s votes suggest the path forward in committee could be a reasonably smooth one, a number of controversial amendments may create additional turbulence. Ultimately, the bill is expected to leave the committee and head to the Senate floor where the bill’s supporters hope it will garner broad support. The fate of immigration reform in the House remains far less certain.

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