i am

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harlem, usa
same-gender-loving contemporary descendant of enslaved africans. community activist, feminist, health educator, independent filmmaker, mentor, playwright, poet & spiritual being. featured at, in & on africana.com, afrikan poetry theatre, angel herald, bejata dot com, bet tonight with tavis smiley, blacklight online, black noir, brooklyn moon cafe, gmhc's barbershop, klmo-fm, lgbt community services center, longmoor productions, nuyorican poets cafe, our corner, poz, pulse, rolling out new york, rush arts gallery, saint veronica's church, schomburg center for research in black culture, sexplorations, the citizen, the new york times, the soundz bar, the trenton times, the village voice, upn news, uzuri, venus, vibe, wbai-fm, wnyc-fm & wqht-fm. volunteered with adodi, bailey house, inc., black men's xchange-new york, colorofchange.org, drug policy alliance, east harlem tutorial program, imagenation film & music festival, presente.org, save darfur coalition, the enough project, the osborne association, the sledge group & your black world. worked on films with maurice jamal & heather murphy. writing student of phil bertelsen & ed bullins. mjt975@msn.com.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

South Carolina Judge vacates racialized conviction of black male teen executed in 1944

a south carolina judge on wednesday vacated the 1944 conviction of a 14 year-old black teenager. judge carmen tevis mullen said the boy, george stinney, jr., did not receive a fair trial in the murders of two white girls. 

stinney was convicted by an all-white jury after a one-day trial and a ten-minute jury deliberation. he died in the electric chair less than 90 days after the killings of betty june binnicker, 11, and mary emma thames, 7. stinney was the youngest person executed in america in the past century.

judge mullen said she was not overturning the case on its merits, although scant records made the case almost impossible to relitigate. the judge said few or no defense witnesses testified and it was "highly likely," the boy's confession to white police officers - amidst prevailing racial segregation - was coerced.   

"from time to time we are called to look back to examine our still-recent history and correct injustice where possible. i can think of no greater injustice than a violation of one's constitutional rights, which has been proven to me in this case by a preponderance of the evidence standard," judge mullen wrote.

the girls disappeared on march 23, 1944, after leaving home in the small mill town of alcolu on their bicycles to look for wildflowers. they were found the next morning in a ditch with their skulls crushed. stinney was taken into custody the same day and confessed within hours, according to the ruling.

last year, members of stinney's family petitioned for a new trial. his sister, anne ruffner, 77, testified in a january hearing: her brother could not have killed the girls because he was with her that day. citing the lack of a transcript from the original trial, no surviving physical evidence and only a handful of official documents, judge mullen firmly overturned the conviction.

ruffner, and two other siblings - both were run out of town shortly after stinney's arrest - were pleased with the judge's ruling, said the family attorney matthew burgess. "this is something that's been weighing on them for seven decades now. they are happy to hear that their brother has been exonerated," burgess said.      


Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Kobe Bryant passes Michael Jordan for third place on all-time NBA scoring list

kobe bryant on sunday night hit two free throws at the 5:24 mark of the second quarter during the los angeles lakers game against the minnesota timberwolves. bryant surpassed hall-of-famer michael jordan - his idol and mentor - for third place on the nba's all-time scoring list with 32,293 points.

bryant was immediately hugged by his teammates, his coaches and his opponents. the fans in minnesota showed their appreciation with a standing ovation. timberwolves owner glen taylor presented him with a game ball and kobe waved to the crowd with a warm smile. he finished with 26 points in their win. ironically, minnesota is where bryant played his first nba game.

jordan, in a statement to the associated press, said, "i congratulate kobe on reaching this milestone. he's obviously a great player, with a strong work ethic and has an equally strong passion for the game of basketball. i've enjoyed watching his game evolve over the years, and i look forward to seeing what he accomplishes next."

bryant is a little over 4,600 points behind hall-of-famer and longtime utah jazz power forward karl malone, who is in second place. hall-of-famer and six-time nba champion kareem abdul-jabbar is the league's all-time leading scorer with 38,387 points. afterwards, kobe was asked on nba-tv if he wanted to eclipse the record. bryant said, "thinking about 38,000 points makes my back spasm."

the lakers honored bryant by decking the team's charter plane with some garland, congratulatory signs and a chocolate-frosted cake. bryant, 36, is a five-time nba champion, 16-time all-star, 15-time all-nba team member and 12-time all-defensive team member. but the lakers are 8-17: on pace to win just 25 games. bryant's two-year, $48.5 million contract runs out in 2016. 



Friday, December 05, 2014

Family of Black male teen in Cleveland Fatally Shot by White male police officer Files Lawsuit

the family of a young boy slain last month by a police officer in cleveland, ohio filed a federal civil rights lawsuit on friday. the suit names the city, and two officers involved, a day after the u.s. department of justice (doj) found the city's police systematically uses excessive force against civilians.

tamir rice, 12, was tragically shot on november 22 while carrying a replica gun - which typically fires plastic pellets. officer timothy loehmann killed rice just two seconds after his police car pulled up beside rice at a park. frank garmback, the second officer named in the suit, was driving the car.

both officers are white. rice is black.

the officers confronted rice "in a surprise fashion and fired multiple shots at him without any adequate investigation," the suit said. rice was described as an african-american sixth grader who loves basketball. the lawsuit also noted loehmann had resigned from a suburban police department after a bad review which cited his immaturity and "dismal" handgun performance.

the doj report on thursday highlighted more than a dozen incidents to uncover a troubling pattern of departmental misconduct. u.s. attorney general eric holder launder the investigation: it revealed officers shooting at low-risk suspects, using chemical spray and tasers on handcuffed people and employing unreasonable force on the impaired or mentally ill.

jeffrey follmer, president of the cleveland police patrolman's association, said he hoped the federal investigation would result in more training and more officers on the street. ohio governor john kasich on friday announced the creation of a state task force to improve relations between communities and their police departments.        



Wednesday, December 03, 2014

No Indictment for the NYPD officer whose illegal chokehold killed Eric Garner

a staten island grand jury chose today not to indict the policeman whose illegal chokehold ultimately killed eric garner july 17, 2014. daniel pantaleo, the 29 year-old white officer who murdered garner, a black male father of six, made his first public statement since garner's death. pantaleo said, "it was never my intention to harm anyone."

upon learning of the grand jury decision, eric garner's widow, esaw, told the new york daily news, "oh my god. are you serious? i'm very disappointed. you can see in the video that he (the cop) was wrong. garner's 19 year-old son, eric snipes, said, "oh man, this is not fair. it's not fair how he could get away with murder. i feel disgusted. i'm never going to see my pops again."

the grand jury consisted of 15 white and eight black or latino jurors. grand juries, by law, operate in secrecy and hear only evidence presented by prosecutors. defense lawyers are barred from the process and 12 of the jurors have to agree for a final decision to be made. 

staten island district attorney daniel m. donovan, jr. impaneled the grand jury in september and they heard testimony from the officers involved in garner's arrest. but an indictment was only considered against officer pantaleo; the other cops received immunity.  

president obama weighed-in after consulting with u.s. attorney general eric holder. obama said, "this is an issue we've been dealing with for too long and it's time for us to make more progress than we've made. we're seeing too many instances where people do not have confidence that folks are being treated fairly. when anybody in the country is not being treated equally under the law, it is my job as president to solve it. 

cops approached garner, 43, in front of a tompkinsville beauty supply store accusing him of selling loose cigarettes. a cellphone video showed garner arguing with the cops when pantaleo jumps him from behind and place him in a chokehold - banned by the nypd in 1994 after the killing of anthony baez who was placed in one - while dragging him to the ground with his knee firmly on garner's neck.

garner suffered from asthma. he screamed repeatedly, "i can't breathe, i can't breathe, i can't breathe." the next day pantaleo and his partner, officer justin d'amico, were put on desk duty. police commissioner william bratton on july 22 ordered all 35,000 nypd officers be retrained in the use of force. state senator bill perkins declared at a city hall rally, "this was a murder."

on july 31 new york city mayor bill de blasio joined rev. al sharpton and other community leaders in a round-table discussion on historically oppressive relationships between the black and latino communities in nyc, and the police. bratton was also in attendance. on the following day, the city medical examiner rules garner's death was a homicide.

in october, garner's family announced they plan to file a $75 million wrongful death lawsuit. they intend to name the city, the nypd and eight police officers as defendants. embattled attorney sanford rubenstein will represent the garner family in court. 

mayor de blasio called wednesday "a painful day for so many new yorkers." but after speaking with holder, the mayor said the justice department will look into pantaleo's actions. de blasio said, "the federal government is engaged and clearly poised to act." esaw garner also spoke with holder, who assured her the feds would investigate her husband's senseless killing.      


Monday, December 01, 2014

ACLU files lawsuit against Iowa regarding felons' voting rights

the american civil liberties union (aclu) of iowa recently filed a lawsuit against the state of iowa. the suit challenges the constitutionality of the state's disenfranchisement laws prohibiting anyone convicted of a felon from voting.

earlier this year, the iowa supreme court questioned whether all felonies necessarily constitute an "infamous crime," which the iowa constitution states would disqualify a person from voting. the court previously ruled any crime punishable by a prison sentence should be considered as such; the legislature in 1994 defined the term as a felony.

the lawsuit asks the court "to declare that the iowa constitution prohibits the disenfranchisement of people convicted of lower-level felonies (such as non-violent drug offenses); and seeks an injunction to stop the state from bringing criminal charges against iowans with past lower-level felonies who register to vote."

aclu filed the lawsuit on behalf of kelli jo griffin, an iowa woman who lost her right to vote in 2008 following a non-violent drug conviction. griffin's lawyers told her once she completed probation in january 2013 she'd be allowed to vote - which was the state's policy under former governor, democrat tom vilsack after he issued an executive order.

griffin says she didn't know this policy had been reversed in 2011 by republican governor terry branstad when she cast her ballot last year. the state charged griffin with voter fraud, and she could have faced up to 15 years in prison. after three months and $10,000 in legal fees, the jury acquitted her of all charges: yet she remains blocked from voting under current state law.

iowa is one of four states banning all felons from voting unless they receive clemency from the governor. when branstad took office he required an application to the governor, including a credit check. since his felony disenfranchisement policy went into effect, about 8,000 iowans have completed their felony sentences. 

but only 12 had their voting rights restored.

the provision is breeding confusion among bureaucrats and former offenders. new data released friday revealed iowa disenfranchised at least 12 legitimate voters because of errors maintaining the felon database. secretary of state matt schultz said the data is so "filled with so many inaccuracies that it could take years to fix."

u.s. attorney general eric holder spoke on criminal justice reform at georgetown university law center in february. holder weighed in on the policy reversal of branstad. regarding the governor's actions, holder said, "that's moving backwards, not forward. it is unwise, it is unjust and it is not in keeping with our democratic values. these laws deserve to not only be considered, but repealed."


Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Grand Jury Decision: No Indictment for Police Officer Darren Wilson

a grand jury on monday decided not to indict police officer darren wilson. on august 9, wilson, a white male, shot and killed michael brown, an unarmed 18 year-old black male in ferguson, a suburb of st. louis, missouri. 

the announcement was made last night by st. louis county prosecutor robert mcculloch. most grand jury proceedings are swift and simple: a few witnesses are called, the prosecutor makes a case for an indictment and the jurors vote. but this grand jury met for an extraordinary long session, hearing what mcculloch said was "absolutely everything," which could be considered evidence or testimony.

what happens in the grand jury room is almost always kept secret. but the controversial prosecutor insisted on making the transcripts of the proceedings available to the public immediately after the session concluded. unlike most defendants, wilson testified before the grand jury.
the grand jurors met in a st.louis county courthouse on 25 separate days. they heard 70 hours of testimony from about 60 witnesses. they reviewed forensic reports, medical documents, police radio logs and tapes of f.b.i. interviews with bystanders.

after three months of hearing evidence, the grand jury began its deliberations last friday at 3:04 pm. by monday afternoon, they were finished. the jury was comprised of nine whites and three blacks - seven women and five men. mcculloch released thousands of pages of documents to the public last night. he said the testimony and many eyewitnesses did not match the physical evidence.  

wilson testified in september. wilson said brown's face, after being stopped on canfield drive, "looked like a demon." he said brown reached into his vehicle, fought him for his gun and was so physically overpowering he "felt like a five year-old holding onto hulk hogan." wilson said brown made "a grunting, like aggravated sound," as he ran towards him. wilson fired seven shots: one was fatal.

in 2011, the number of times the new york police department stopped young black men exceeded the number of young black men in the city. young black males are 21 times more likely to be shot dead by police than their white peers - mainly at the hands of white police officers.

michele alexander is an acclaimed civil rights lawyer and legal scholar. alexander is also the author of 'the new jim crow.' she says the u.s. today has a "system of social control unparalleled in world history." no other country imprisons as much as its ethnic or racial people. in fact, the u.s. currently incarcerates a greater percentage of its black population than south africa did - under apartheid.

alexander poignantly writes in her book, "the fact that more than half of the young black men in many large american cities are currently under the control of the criminal justice system (or saddled with criminal records) is not - as many argue - just a symptom of poverty or poor choices, but rather evidence of a new racial caste system at work."

melissa harris-perry is a renowed author, cultural critic, msnbc talk show host, political commentator and wake university professor of politics and international affairs. perry said, "from 2006 to 2012, a white police officer killed a black person at least twice a week in this country." can you imagine this country's reaction if black police officers killed white boys at all - or, in similar numbers?

black men encounter constant surveillance (jordan dunn, eric garner, treyvon martin), violence (sean bell, amadou diallo, michael griffith) and shockingly high chances of correctional supervision for matters the rest of the population does not. black men also face discrimination in education, financial services, housing, political and voting rights after exiting prison. 

marcus garvey said, "people who don't know their history are doomed to repeat it." the world will never know if and/or how michael brown would have evolved from teenager into manhood. the brown family will have to endure the coming holiday season with one less member. this writer feels michael brown was wrong for stealing cigars...

and darren wilson was wrong for killing him. 



Saturday, November 22, 2014

Who inspires this NFL player to advocate for domestic violence today?

pittsburgh steelers veteran cornerback william gay vividly remembers arriving at the hospital and not knowing why his family members were crying uncontrollably. gay was just seven years old, but he sensed there was something wrong.

gay soon learned his mother had been shot in the back three times. her assailant was gay's stepfather, who shot himself in the head, as the .38 caliber revolver landed between the bodies. sadly, he died instantly, while gay's mother, carolyn hall, pased five hours after being in the hospital.

although he grew up in a challenging tallahassee, florida housing project, gay was unaware of the problems at home between his mother and stepfather. there was no fighting or visible bruises on his mother. the painful stigma of domestic violence inherits a community-based, don't ask, don't tell policy - by default. 

gay, 29, says, "i dealt with a lot of anger because i felt like, why me? i threw out that question a lot. i got to a point where i didn't care. i felt like no one cared about me. didn't care about school. i lashed out at people."

on march 14, 1992, gay lost his mother to domestic violence. gay was unequivocally shattered but his uncle, army veteran ronald hall, offered him guidance, direction and tough love. hall said, "william, you cannot blame the world for what is happening. in order for you to be a better person, you better let it go. you're going to end up in jail or dead. he took it to heart."

gay received a scholarship to the university of louisville before entering the national football league as a fifth-round draft pick for the steelers in 2007. just one year later, pittsburgh won the super bowl and gay was now part of a championship team.

in the spirit of humility, gay has worked at the women's center and shelter of greater pittsburgh for many years. he speaks to mothers about domestic abuse. "to hear it from someone who was a child whose mother was murdered really resonates," said shirl regan, chief executive officer at the shelter. "those talks are done off-camera. nobody sees that. that's on his time. he does that because it comes from his heart."

the nfl - and their embattled commissioner roger goodell - has zero credibility with past domestic violence policies. most players, among them jovonnie belcher, greg hardy, ray mcdonald, adrian peterson and ray rice have seen their arrests, charges and/or indictments handled either lightly, or without sanction. gay is in the unique position of helping players avoid violence against wives, partners or children.

many nfl players use pink cleats, towels and wristbands in october to raise breast cancer awareness. but gay faces a possible fine: he wore purple shoes in honor of domestic violence awareness month. he proudly bears a tattoo on his arm reminding him of his mother's tragic death. gay says, "even though she wasn't here, my mom molded me into the man i am today. i still pray to her all the time."