41 Immigration Reform Activists Arrested in Washington DC

41 Immigration Reform Activists Arrested in Washington DC

If you thought the House of Representatives might make a decision on immigration reform before the five-week summer recess, think again. Today is the last day before the summer recess and immigration reform won’t be resolved before September. To protest Congress’s continued inaction on this issue, activists came together in Washington DC yesterday and blocked traffic in an act of civil disobedience. Forty one people were arrested, among them union members from the AFL-CIO and the United Farm Workers. 

Meanwhile, other activists continued riffing on Rep. Steve King’s (R-Iowa) choice words equating immigrants to beefy drug runners by hand delivering cantaloupes to 224 members of Congress. Here’s one young undocumented woman in the act. 

In solidarity with recent actions, undocumented immigrants and advocates started flexing their calves for immigration reform and sharing photos of their calves via social media with the hashtag . None of the calves pictured appear to be cantaloupe-sized. 

Kidnapper Ariel Castro Sentenced to Life in Prison Without Parole

Kidnapper Ariel Castro Sentenced to Life in Prison Without Parole

Ariel Castro, the man who kidnapped and tortured 3 women for 11 years in his Cleveland home, was sentenced to life in prison (plus 1,000 years) without parole. For several hours the judge, counsel, witnesses, and survivors listened to horrifying details of how he captured the women, physically and sexually assaulted them, and kept them in deplorable conditions. 

Castro avoided the death penalty by pleading guilty to 977 counts including kidnapping and murder last week. Today, he told the courtroom. “I’m not a monster, I’m sick,” and seemed surprised when he learned he could have no future contact with the 6-year-old daughter he fathered with Berry. 

When Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus and Michelle Knight were rescued by neighbor Charles Ramsey in May, it put a spotlight on the ongoing crisis of violence against women in the U.S. During the sentencing, Knight read a statement, saying to Castro, “I will live on, and you will die a little every day,” and, “writing this statement gave me the strength to be a stronger woman.”

Jay Smooth: The Magical Danger of Sagging Pants

Jay Smooth: The Magical Danger of Sagging Pants

Our very own Jay Smooth just posted a new video in response to Don Lemon’s rather ludicrous recent comments about black America. It’s brilliant and funny, and we’re pretty you’ll want to watch and share this one!

Check the video after the jump. 

15 Shots at Unarmed Black Man Were OK, Says Fla. Sheriff

The two Escambia County, Fla., deputies who fired 15 shots at 60-year-old Roy Middleton as he retrieved cigarettes from a car in his mother’s driveway were following standard procedure according to the county sheriff.

Middleton, who is black, was shot in the leg a little before 2:45 Saturday morning, the Pensacola News Journal reports. Police were called to the home by a neighbor reporting possible car theft. Police said they saw a metal object in Middleton’s hand and claimed that he lunged toward them. But Middleton, who was unarmed, told the News Journal that he backed out of the car with his hands up and police began shooting: “It was like a firing squad. Bullets were flying everywhere.”

In an interview with CNN, Escambia County County Sheriff David Morgan said the shooting was warranted. “Right now we are comfortable from a training perspective that our officers did follow standard protocols,” he said in a Thursday interivew. “I believe the standard we use and train to is a landmark U.S. Supreme Court case which is a reasonable test.”

According to ThinkProgress, the officers are on paid administrative leave pending an investigation. 

h/t: ThinkProgress

Eagles Receiver Riley Cooper Apologizes for Using the N-Word

Eagles Receiver Riley Cooper Apologizes for Using the N-Word

Riley Cooper gave what seemed like a heartfelt apology at a press conference today for using the N-word at a Kenny Chesney concert in June. In a video that surfaced yesterday, Cooper is caught on tape saying, “I will jump that fence and fight every (N-word) here, bro.” He first apologized via Twitter yesterday. 

Allegedly he’d been drinking (which he acknowledges is “no excuse”), and became frustrated when an African-American security guard would not let him go backstage. When asked if he frequently uses the N-word, he said he did not because he was, “raised way better than that,” and added that his parents were “disgusted with his actions.” He says the Eagles heavily fined him, but the NFL says it will not take further action

In the wake of Paula Deen’s dramatic fall from grace after her own racist behavior emerged, it seems apologies for using racial slurs are coming rather swiftly. 

‘A Girl Hanged Herself Here’

'A Girl Hanged Herself Here'

When the Dream 9 entered the Eloy Detention Center last week in Florence, Arizona, they planned to start organizing. That effort has now grown into a hunger strike protesting the conditions in one of the most notorious immigrant detention centers in the country—and a deportation machine that continues to remove more than 1,000 people per day out of the United States. 

Shortly after arriving at Eloy, the Dream 9 say their phone use was unfairly restricted. In protest, they began a hunger strike—but six were placed in solitary confinement for their decision to do so. Most are back in the general population, but two remain. At the time of publication, 24-year-old Lulu Martinez and 22-year-old Maria Peniche have spent 104 out of the last 108 hours in complete isolation. Mohammad Abdollahi works with the National Immigrant Youth Alliance (NIYA), which organized the action that resulted in the Dream 9’s detention, and he remains in steady contact with the nine. He says that when Martinez and Peniche are brought out of their individual cells and into the yard once a day, they are shackled and interact only with guards.

But Martinez and Peniche aren’t the only ones facing horrid conditions at Eloy. Thesla Zenaida, who met the Dream 9 at Eloy and is now participating in a hunger strike along with other women detainees, explained in a phone call that a guard’s treatment at the detention facility drove a fellow detainee to suicide.

Look, a girl hanged herself. A girl was hanged here. [After] she was hanged, they didn’t want to take her body down. And for the same reason—because they treat us poorly. A guard treated her poorly, and that guard is still working here. They us like the worst dogs.

There were in fact two apparent suicides at Eloy in as many days in March of this year.

The NIYA’s presence at and near Eloy is also inspiring those on the outside with loved ones in detention as well. Jesus Magaña, 24, says that his sister Alejandra Pablos has been at Eloy for two years. Magaña says the 29-year-old had permanent residency after arriving to the U.S. at the age of two—but was picked up by authorities after two misdemeanor convictions. The vigils outside of Eloy have renewed his hope that his sister might be released. Pablos refuses to allow herself to be deported to Mexico because she has no family there, and is afraid what she’ll face in a country she doesn’t know.

Magaña returned from service in the Air Force one year ago, and recently moved from California to Arizona in order to be closer to his sister, whom he visits every weekend. He says he can’t imagine being separated from his sister, who has always supported him and wrote him for the four years he was on duty. “It’s like we were both deployed—she was in Eloy and I was in Kuwait,” says Magaña. “But they get treated worse here than I was in deployment.”

Magaña says that treatment includes humiliating remarks and the constant threat of solitary confinement. He adds that Pablos explained that she’s been told by guards that 70 women in various pods have joined the hunger strike—but that she was warned that if she did so, she would “face charges.”

The NIYA has started a campaign encouraging supporters to hold a one-day hunger strike in solidarity with the strikers inside Eloy.

TAGS: Dream 9 Eloy NIYA

Black Girls Code Founder Kimberly Bryant Gets White House Nod

Black Girls Code Founder Kimberly Bryant Gets White House Nod

Kimberly Bryant, a biotechnology and engineering professional and founder of the nonprofit Black Girls Code, was one of 11 people to receive the White House Champions of Change for Tech Inclusion award today. The award is given to celebrate people in the U.S. “who are doing extraordinary things to expand technology opportunities for young learners—especially minorities, women and girls, and others from communities historically underserved or underrepresented in tech fields.” 

Bryant founded San Francisco-based Black Girls Code in 2011 as a way to close the digital divide for girls of color. So far the organization has trained  more than 1,500 girls to work in technology fields such as robotics, video game design, mobile phone application development and computer programming. Bryant says she aims to reach one million girls by 2040.

NPR Digs Into Jay Z’s Beef With Harry Belafonte

NPR Digs Into Jay Z's Beef With Harry Belafonte

Over at NPR’s Code Switch blog, Gene Demby offers his own analysis about Jay Z’s public skirmish with Harry Belafonte and ends with this:

Black celebrityhood operates much differently now — and it’s different in large part because of the efforts of Belafonte and so many of his contemporaries. Jay Z and so many of us who grew up listening to his music inherited a world dramatically different than Belafonte. Whatever world the next generation inherits will have its own distinct guidelines and understanding of what social responsibility looks like.

Belafonte is criticizing Jay Z and Jay Z isn’t bowing in deference —after, all that’s not how hip-hop has ever worked. (Belafonte has since said he’d like to meet in person with Jay Z to squash their beef.) Whatever you think about the merits of their arguments, they are operating from two deeply disparate cultural contexts. Belafonte was at the peak of his fame in a world where he fought just so people could exercise the right to vote. Now, we live in a world where Jay Z gets quoted by the first black president. Just 20 years ago, that last scenario would have felt like jokey speculative fiction.

What struck me in Jay Z’s now infamous interview with Elliot Wilson was that while much of the world (ie. Bruce Ratner, Samsung) sees him as a symbol of all that’s young and black and hip in America, Jay himself seems a lot more closely aligned with struggles of the uber wealthy sliver of the country’s elite. It’s why he’s thrown himself into his new venture as a sports agent: he wants to protect the interests of wealthy people like himself. There’s nothing inherently wrong with that. But it’s not activism or social responsibility. It’s self-interest. 

Court Allows Oscar Grant’s Father to Sue Ex-Bart Cop

Court Allows Oscar Grant's Father to Sue Ex-Bart Cop

A federal appeals court issued a ruling this week that will allow Oscar Grant III’s father to sue ex-BART officer Johannes Mehserle, the man convicted in the younger Grant’s death.

According to the Los Angeles Times:

A three-judge panel of the U.S. 9thCircuit Court of Appeals unanimously upheld a trial judge’s decision to permit the suit by Grant’s father, Oscar Grant Jr., against Johannes Mehserle, who shot Grant on the platform of BART’s Fruitvale Station in Oakland in the early morning hours of New Year’s Day 2009.


Lawyers for Mehserle had urged the 9th Circuit to examine whether the relationship between Grant and his father was close enough to justify a civil rights lawsuit alleging loss of companionship.

But the court declined to determine the contours of the relationship, observing the facts were disputed.

The case also presents some of the challenges faced by the families of the incarcerated. The elder Grant is serving a life sentence for murder, according to KQED’s Bay Area News Blog. In a rather uncomfortable moment, his attorney, Panos Lagos, told reporters ,“Even a murderer is entitled to consideration of his feelings and the loss of his only child.”

“Fruitvale Station”, a film based on the younger Grant’s death, is now showing in theaters nationwide. 

Here’s What You Probably Didn’t Know About ‘Orange is the New Black’

Netflix’s “Orange is the New Black” is the talk of the town, but here are some facts about the show might come as a surprise. From Buzzfeed:

Laverne Cox’s (Sophia) real-life twin brother played her pre-transition in the flashback sequence in Episode 3. 


That third episode was directed by Jodie Foster. 


This is Crazy Eyes in real life (actress Uzo Aduba). She’s also a Broadway actor and appeared in Godspell.


(Jesse Grant/Getty Images) 

This is the real Piper and Larry:


Larry wrote a modern love piece in the New York Times.

Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences Elects First Black President

Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences Elects First Black President

Cheryl Boone Isaacs has been elected president of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. She’s the first African-American and third woman to lead the powerful 86-year-old organization that’s responsible for the Oscars.

From The Hollywood Reporter:

Boone Isaacs, a marketing executive who has served stints at Paramount and New Line, is the first African-American to head the 86-year-old Academy and only the third woman to serve as president.


Boone Isaacs succeeds Hawk Koch, who served as Academy president for the past year, but ran up against term limits after completing nine successive years on the board. A longtime Academy insider, Boone Isaacs represents the public relations branch on the board and is currently serving her 21st year as a governor, having returned to the board in 2011 after a hiatus. For the past year, she served as first vp while also producing the fourth annual Governors Awards in December.

It’s an important moment atop Hollywood’s hierachy. As we pointed out last year, the group that votes for the Oscars is 94 percent white — despite a rapidly diversifying movie-going demographic. 

‘Asian Girlz’ Is Quite Possibly the Worst Video on the Internet Right Now

'Asian Girlz' Is Quite Possibly the Worst Video on the Internet Right Now

Think of the worst Asian-fetish tropes that you can imagine. Got ‘em? Now watch this disgusting “Asian Girlz” video by “Day Above Ground”, a band that claims to sound like Led Zepplin, the Doors, Linkin Park…and Wu Tang Clan. While the song has already generated lots of controvesey, the band defended itself on its YouTube page, writing the following note:

We appreciate all the criticism and support. Our song “Asian Girlz” was not written with any malicious, hateful, or hurtful intent. We know it is racy and does push the boundaries further than other songs out there. Understand that we do not promote or support racism or violence. We love everyone no matter what race, religion, or sexual orientation. Please respect our decision to delete any violent, insensitive, or hurtful comment and also one that supports racism. We hope that we can continue with our lives with much love and peace.

Just because someone didn’t intend to be racist doesn’t erase the impact of their actions. Angry Asian Man managed to listen to the whole song and decipher some of its most awful lyrics, which you can read after the cut.

Student Abandoned in Tiny Government Cell to Receive $4.1 Million

Student Abandoned in Tiny Government Cell to Receive $4.1 Million

The UC San Diego student who was picked up in a bust last year and left stranded in a Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) holding cell is about to get paid. Daniel Chong, now 25, was questioned and then told he was free to go after government agents raided a friend’s home that Chong was visiting. They never filed any charges against him. But instead of setting him free, authorities placed him in a 5’ x 10’ cell (that’s about the size of a small trailer), with no windows, no food, no water and no toilet facilities. He would spend five days there before being taken to a hospital to recover. Chong then spent three days in intensive care at Sharp Memorial Hospital, healing from failing kidneys, a punctured lung, and dehydration. 

As is common for anyone being held in solitary confinement, Chong began hallucinating, and says he was forced to drink his own urine. Thinking death was imminent, he began chewing on his own eyeglasses in order to break them and scrawl a final message to his mother with broken glass on his arm. He lost four pounds in almost as many days. Chong says he screamed for help to no avail—although he could clearly hear agents just outside the cell where he was being held. The DEA issued a rare apology after his release. 

The student subsequently filed a $20 million lawsuit against the DEA. According to NBC7 San Diego, Chong’s attorney announced a settlement today at just more than $4 million. Chong continues to be treated for posttraumatic stress disorder. 

Here’s Spike Lee’s List of 6 Essential Films Streaming on Netflix

Here's Spike Lee's List of 6 Essential Films Streaming on Netflix

Spike Lee made an essential films list over at Shadow & Act. It’s a long list, 86 films in total. But here are the six that you can find streaming on Netflix:

Federico Fellini’s “8 1/2” (1963)

John Scleshingter’s “Midnight Cowboy” (1969)

Roman Polanski’s “Chinatown” (1974)

Steve Jamwes’ “Hoop Dreams”

Terrence Malick’s “Days of Heaven” (1978)

Vlittorio De Sica’s “The Bicycle Thief” (1948)

Obama Reassures on Voting Rights Protections

Obama Reassures on Voting Rights Protections

Yesterday, President Obama brought Attorney General Eric Holder and his new Secretary of Labor Thomas Perez to meet with civil rights leaders and lawmakers over how the Voting Rights Act will still be enforced. Obama assured those in attendance that his administration would not shy away from voting rights protection, according to reports from the meeting. Before moving to Labor, Perez was in charge of enforcing Voting Rights Act provisions as director of the civil rights division. 

 D.C. Beltway news site The Hill, said the activists in attendance “were encouraged by the comments made by the president and administration officials.”

Alabama Congressman Napoleon Bracy, who represents Mobile on the state’s Gulf Coast, told a local news station that he was pleased with the meeting.

“The Voting Rights Act took a black eye; now we understand that the Department of Justice is here and going to do what they can to protect our voting rights,” Bracy told the station. “The Department of Justice is not going to lay down; anybody that’s trying to discriminate against people, not allow them to have their right to vote, will have to answer to the Department of Justice.”

Alabama was one of the states covered by Section Five of the Voting Rights Act, before it was stripped of its power, meaning Alabama no longer has to clear its election changes with the federal government to ensure no racial discrimination resulted. Meanwhile, the state has a photo voter ID law that will go into effect next year.

Texas State Rep. Trey Martinez Fischer, chairman of the Mexican American Legislative Caucus, was also in attendance. The Dallas Morning News reported that he came out “optimistic that the administration will do what it can to fill the void created by the Supreme Court.”

“If you look at an issue as contentious as the Voting Rights Act, you want an all of the above strategy,” said Martinez Fischer after the meeting. “You want to have a congressional plan, you want to have an outreach plan, you want to have a litigation plan.”

Attorney General Holder announced last week that the Justice Department was suing Texas under Section Three of the Voting Rights Act, which would bail the state back into preclearance coverage. Holder’s actions have apparently touched a nerve with Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott, who wrote an op-ed in the Washington Times today saying that, “The president’s partisan use of the Voting Rights Act actually hurts many minority voters in Texas.”

Holder is suing Texas over their redistricting law, which a federal court had already invalidated because, as one of the judges said, the parties “provided more evidence of discriminatory intent than we have space, or need to address here.” Those words came from U.S. Circuit Judge Thomas Griffith, who was appointed by Pres. George W. Bush. During that trial, the presiding judge Rosemary Collyer, also appointed by Bush, said, “It’s really hard to explain (changes to the map) other than doing it on the basis of reducing minority votes.”

Al Sharpton, the MSNBC news host and director of the National Action Network, was in attendance and tweeted about it beforehand.

He blogged about it afterward in The Huffington Post, tying voting rights attacks to other racially charged issues of the day: 

Today, as we continue to deal with the fight against ‘Stand Your Ground’ laws that set the climate for the George Zimmerman verdict, as well as the attack on voting rights, it’s becoming apparent that the politics of distraction are in full effect. The chatter is being drummed up by people like Fox News’ Bill O’Reilly, and cosigned by others like Don Lemon of CNN. Nice try, but we see you.

FCC to Vote Next Week on Prison Phone Rates

FCC to Vote Next Week on Prison Phone Rates

Phone calls from prison may be getting a lot cheaper. The Federal Communications Commission will vote next week on an order to cut the rates that inmates pay for interstate phone calls. 

Acting FCC Chairperson Mignon Clyburn has been a strong advocate of reducing the rates that inmates pay to call home. 

“For too long, the high cost of long-distance calls from prisoners to their loved ones across state lines has chronically impacted parents and children, especially among low-income families,”Clyburn said in a statement. ” Multiple studies have shown that meaningful contact beyond prison walls can make a real difference in maintaining community ties, promoting rehabilitation, and reducing recidivism.”

An average collect phone call from prison has a $3.95 connection fee and rates as high as 90 cents per minute, according to advocates. That means that a typical 15 minute phone call could cost a family anywhere between $10 and $17.

(H/T The Hill)

Detroit’s Taxpayers Are Bankrolling the Emergency Manager’s Lavish Lifestyle

Detroit's Taxpayers Are Bankrolling the Emergency Manager's Lavish Lifestyle

While Detroit’s residents struggle with the prospect of the city’s impending bankruptcy, many are wondering why the man charged with managing it is living in the lap of luxury.

Emergency manager Kevyn Orr, whose legal residence is in Washington, DC, has taken criticism for racking up expensive food and lodging bills in the Motor City. Orr is reportedly living in a hotel penthouse that’s paid for by taxpayers despite also taking in a salary of over $275,000 a year. With that much money, critics say, Orr should have been able to find his own, far less expensive, lodging in the city.

Orr has reportedly also rung up a $3,000 room service bill for items ranging that include crab cakes, steak bites, calamari, and shrimp Caesar.

All of this despite the fact that many of Detroit’s residents are living in a city that’s had to cut back drastically on basic municipal services like garbadge collection and street cleaning. What’s more, Orr is arguing that Detroit’s must file for bankruptcy because the city simply can’t afford to pay the pensions it promised to thousands of former city workers.

(H/T Click On Detroit)

TAGS: Detroit

What to Watch For in the Second Season of ‘Orange is the New Black’

What to Watch For in the Second Season of 'Orange is the New Black'

Netflix’s new hit series “Orange is the New Black” has been renewed for a second season and will add at least one new cast member: Lorraine Toussaint, who will play a street wise former drug queen who used kids as runners. Toussaint is know mostly for her role on Lifetime’s “Any Day Now.”

(H/T Shadow & Act)

A Fast Food Worker Strike Is Likely Coming to a City Near You

A Fast Food Worker Strike Is Likely Coming to a City Near You

A fast food worker strike that began in New York City is now spreading nationwide. This week strikes are planned to take place in seven cities, making it the biggest fast food worker mobilization in the country’s history. Walk outs and demonstrations will be held in New York, Chicago, St. Louis, Detroit, Milwaukee, Kansas City, and Flint, Michigan.

The strikes began in November in New York City when more than 200 workers walked off the job and demanded better wages. 

Here’s Monday’s scene from New York City.

Study: Stop-and-Frisk Doesn’t Deter Youth Crime, It Accelerates It

You hear it time and again: Supporters of the New York City Police Department’s controversial Stop-and-Frisk program say that the project is a necessary tool to prevent crime from happening in some of the city’s hardest hit areas. But according to a new study published in the journal Crime and Delinquency, young people who are stopped, questioned, and frisked are more likely than those who were not to break the law.

From Time Magazine:

In the current study, Stephanie Wiley, a PhD candidate at the University of Missouri in St. Louis and her colleagues followed some 2,600 students enrolled in a classroom-based gang prevention program in seven cities from 2006 to 2013.  Over the course of that time, some teens were stopped by the police, some stopped and arrested and others were not.

By the end of the study, those who did have police contact early in the trial period reported committing five more delinquent acts on average, ranging from cutting classes to selling drugs and attacking people with a weapon, than those who were not stopped randomly by police. And the students who were arrested for any reason wound up committing around 15 more delinquent acts on average than those who were not. The rates held even after the scientists adjusted for the effect of age, race and previous delinquency that could also affect their odds of being targeted by the police.

 Wiley summed up the point this way: “The theory is that when you’re publicly labeled as delinquent, you start to take on that role and experience social exclusion,” says Wiley, “You might also become friends with others who are delinquent based on a shared background, values and beliefs.”

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