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.

Saturday, November 01, 2014

Former Florida A&M Band Member Convicted in Hazing Death

a former florida a&m band member accused of being the ringleader of a brutal hazing ritual known as "crossing bus c," which ultimately led to the senseless death of a drum major, was convicted on friday of manslaughter and felony hazing. 

prosecutors said dante martin, 27, was known as the "president of bus c." they said martin organized initiations requiring fellow band members to try and make their way through a pounding gauntlet of drumsticks, fists and mallets from the front of the bus to the back of the bus.   

after a football game in november 2011, two other band members went through the bus - and the hazing - before robert champion, 26, of decatur, georgia. after the ritual, champion said he had trouble breathing. he subsequently vomited, collapsed and died in a parking lot.

martin was convicted of misdemeanor hazing counts in their beatings. he will be sentenced january 9, and he was taken into custody. champion's parents sat silently as the verdicts were read. martin sat with his head down. manslaughter is punishable by up to 15 years in prison in florida.

the senseless death of champion eventually cast an ominous cloud over the school's nationally acclaimed band, which played at super bowls, and before u.s. presidents. the band was suspended for more than a year after his death; a number of school officials resigned in the aftermath. several other former band members have pleaded guilty to lesser charges, and three others await trial.

defense attorneys told jurors the ritual was more akin to a competition, and there was no actual hazing. they said champion and the others voluntarily participated. during closing arguments, defense attorney richard escobar said, "you can't take it in isolation and act like it was just any other band. brutal as it was, foolish as it was...it was competitive."

but prosecutor jeff ashton said testimony made it clear band members sought a certain measure of acceptance, brotherhood and respect when "crossing bus c." ashton humbly challenged the defense's argument. he said, "tradition didn't kill robert champion, tradition isn't to blame. tradition is not an excuse...it's not a defense to those that got caught."            



Thursday, October 30, 2014

San Francisco Giants Win 2014 World Series

the san francisco giants beat the kansas city royals 3-2 in a thrilling game seven to win their third world series in five years. the giants are the first road team since the pittsburgh pirates in 1979 to win a game seven; they did so in front of a sellout crowd of 40,535 fans at kauffman stadium in missouri. 

giants left-hander madison bumgarner was named world series most valuable player. bumgarner won two of the four games, saved one and threw more innings this postseason than any pitcher in history. he has the lowest career earned runs average (era) in world series history at 0.25, and, after his five shutout innings of relief in game seven, lowered his era in this series to 0.43 - the lowest since hall of famer sandy kaufax in 1965.

bumgarner said, "i wasn't thinking about innings or pitch count, i was just thinking of making outs. i thank the team for leaving me in there and trusting me to go out there." giants manager bruce bochy said, "it's incredible what he did. truly, it's historic. there's no way i would take him out. i just jumped on that horse and rode it." 

royals manager ned yost said, "yeah, it was hopeless." royals designated hitter billy butler said, "he's definitely the difference in this world series. if there's one guy who separated himself, and carried his team, it's bumgarner." giants starting pitcher and injured teammate matt cain said, "he didn't lose a bit of energy. sometimes you wonder if he's got a pulse."

the giants' popular and charismatic third baseman pablo sandoval, affectionately known as "the panda," tied his teammate and right fielder hunter pence for the most runs batted in during the 2014 postseason with 12. also, sandoval raised his career world series batting average to .427, which is the highest in major league baseball history among players with at least 45 at-bats.

home teams had won nine straight game sevens. teams hosting the first two games, as did kansas city, had won 23 of the last 28 titles. 1985 was the last year the royals were in the fall classic, and they were down three games to two. but they emerged victorious, playing at home, winning game seven with a shutout pitched by bret saberhagen, who threw out the first pitch on sunday.

eight players, including bumgarner and cain, have been on all three world series rosters for the giants: whom some are now calling a dynasty. before this run, manager john mcgraw (1905, 1921-22) was the only giant with three titles. last night, bochy became the 10th manager to win three world series championships - the other nine are in the hall of fame.  


Monday, October 27, 2014

Serena Williams Captures Year-End Championship Trophy at the WTA Finals

serena williams defeated world #3 simona halep of romania 6-3, 6-0 on sunday to win the wta finals in singapore, japan. williams finished the year as the world's top-ranked woman, claimed the title for the fifth time and became the first player since monica seles in 1992 to emerge victorious three consecutive years at the year-end championships.

the 18-time grand slam winner sought revenge after being dominated 6-2, 6-0 by halep four days earlier. because of the unique format, halep, in her semi-final match with ana ivanovic of serbia, could have eliminated williams from advancing if she lost in straight sets. but the confident 22 year-old decided to give it her best effort, regardless of the dynamics involved.

williams said after the win, "i had to play more serena-style tennis, and just do what i do best: enforce myself. that's what i was trying to do." halep said, "i gave everything today, and, you know, that was my level today. wasn't my best day, but i'm still happy and i'm still enjoying this moment because it's a good moment for me."

the 33 year-old american was forced to withdraw from the china open earlier this month due to a left knee injury: leaving her on painkillers. williams said, "i didn't expect this. i just started training because i had such a knee in beijing so i wasn't even sure if i would play here. and now i've won the billie jean king trophy again so for me it's just really amazing, i'm so excited." 

during the ceremony, williams proudly lifted the trophy, received a winner's check for $2,047,000 and was given a specially cultivated orchid. she finished 2014 with a 52-8 record and seven tournament victories, including an historic win at the u.s. open - tying chris evert and martina navratilova with 18 major singles titles. king, evert and navratilova were all on hand to watch the match.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

U.S. Commission on Civil Rights to Review Felony Disenfranchisement Reforms

florida and tennessee are two of 11 states which restrict people with felony convictions from voting, even after they served their prison sentence, and no longer are on parole or probation. in both states, voting rights may only be restored through an individual application or petition. recently, the florida and tennessee state advisory committees (sac) each prepared reports on felony disenfranchisement to the u.s. commission on civil rights. 

in 2007, former republican governor - and the current democratic candidate for governor - charlie crist revised florida's rules of executive clemency to automatically restore voting rights for most people convicted of non-violent offenses. about 25,000 people were granted clemency in 2009. 

"this is four times the number of persons receiving clemency in that year than the average number of clemencies on an annual basis since the mid-1990s," reported the sac.

but in 2011, florida's new governor, republican incumbent rick scott, amended the new rules: forcing the clemency board to review all cases of voter restoration individually. also, the 2011 rules added more paperwork for each case, regardless of the level of offense. at the time of this change, over 95,000 cases were pending review for automatic restoration.

the florida sac asserts if the 2007 clemency rules were brought back, it would allow people who have made full restitution to participate in the democratic process. they also said this would assist in the successful reintegration into society.   

tennessee has complex disenfranchisement laws. due to a series of amendments in the last 30 years, restoration of voting rights depends on the year a person was convicted, as well as the type of offense. in 2006, new legislation was passed to streamline the process, allowing most people - upon completing their felony sentence - to apply for a "certificate of restoration," from the board of probation and parole.        

the aclu of tennessee noted in the sac report though, burdensome multi-step paperwork and the requirement to pay all court-ordered restitution and child support fees before applying may deter many people from seeking voter restoration.

the tennessee sac recommends the general assembly and the governor learn from states with less restrictive disenfranchisement laws, and remove any unnecessary barriers to restoring voting rights in order to cultivate productive members of society.  

   

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Supreme Court Upholds Controversial Voter ID Law in Texas

the supreme court said on saturday texas can use their new voter identification law for the november election. a majority of the justices rejected an emergency request from the justice department and civil rights groups to prohibit the state from requiring voters to produce certain forms of photo identification to cast their ballots.

the law was struck down by a federal judge last week, but a federal appeals court put that ruling on hold. the judge found almost 600,000 voters - many of them black and latino - could be turned away at the polls because they lack acceptable identification. early voting in texas begins monday. 

the supreme court's order was unsigned, as it typically is in these situations. justices ruth bader ginsburg, sonia sotomayor and elena kagan dissented. each of them said they would have left the district court decision in place. 

the controversial law sets out seven forms of approved identification. the list includes concealed handgun licenses, but not college student id's, which are accepted in other states with similar legislative measures.

the 143-page opinion from u.s. district judge nelva gonzales ramos called the law an "unconstitutional burden on the right to vote." ramos also said the law is the equivalent of a poll tax: she found the republican-led texas legislature purposely discriminated against non-white voters.   

ramos issued her ruling october 9. five days later, the fifth u.s. circuit court of appeals in new orleans put her decision on hold. they cited a 2006 supreme court opinion warning judges not to change the rules too close to election day. 

the challengers in texas said the last time the supreme court allowed a voting law to be used in a subsequent election after it had been found unconstitutional was in 1982. that case from georgia involved an at-large election system which existed since 1911.

texas urged the supreme court to let the state enforce voter id at the polls in a court filing which took aim at the ruling by ramos, an appointee of president obama. attorney general greg abbott, a republican who's favored in the gubernatorial race, called ramos' findings "preposterous," accusing the judge of ignoring evidence favorable to the state.

the court intervened in three other disputes in recent weeks over republican-fueled restrictions on voter access. in wisconsin, the justices blocked a voter id law from being used in november. in north carolina and ohio, the justices allowed limits on early voting, provisional ballots and same-day registration to remain in, or take effect.

in june 2013, the court eliminated the heart of the voting rights act, which prevented texas and eight other states with histories of racial oppression from changing election laws without permission. critics of the texas measure said the new id requirement has not been used for congressional or senatorial elections, or a high-turnout statewide election for governor.      






Monday, October 06, 2014

Supreme Court decides not to review previously banned same-sex marriage rulings

the supreme court on monday chose not to review previously banned same-sex marriage rulings in indiana, oklahoma, utah, virginia and wisconsin. the court's historic decision came without explanation; delaying the need to determine the constitutionality of gay marriage in all 50 states.

clerks in marion county, indiana and dane county, wisconsin began issuing licenses to same-sex couples before noon. the u.s. court of appeals for the fourth circuit issued an order to allow same-sex marriages to begin in virginia at 1:00 pm. colorado, oklahoma and utah were expected to follow suit as soon as the 10th circuit court of appeals ordered the states to issue licenses.

virginia governor terry mcauliffe said, "this is a historic and long overdue moment for our commonwealth and our country." james esseks, a lawyer who heads the american civil liberties union's legal efforts concerning gay marriage said,"i'm blown away by this. it is a watershed moment for the entire country."
  

despite the court's surprising decision to not take federal action, there are challenges to same-sex marriage in every state. two appeals courts - in cincinnati, and san francisco - have heard challenges and could rule at any time. furthermore, the court may still take up the issue later in this term after more states weigh in.

in june 2013 the court struck down part of the defense of marriage act, which denied federal recognition of same-sex marriages performed in states where it was legal. their decision didn't rule on whether state bans were unconstitutional, but a number of federal court decisions have since ruled the reasoning of the opinion written by justice anthony kennedy commands such a finding.

the split in federal and state courts since last year's ruling in u.s. vs. windsor has been 40 to 2: state prohibitions violate the constitution's guarantees of due process and equal protection. the windsor case was decided on a five-to-four vote, with justices stephen g. breyer, ruth bader ginsburg, elena kagen and sonia sotomayor joining kennedy.

however, it only takes four votes to grant review of lower court decisions. as such, one of those who voted no in the windsor case - chief justice john g. roberts, jr., and justices samuel a. alito, jr., antonin scalia and clarence thomas - were unwilling to force the court to take up the issue of same-sex marriage now.  



  

Monday, September 29, 2014

California Signs Amended Sexual Assault Bill

california governor jerry brown will sign a bill to define when 'yes means yes,' and adopt requirements for colleges to follow when investigating sexual assault reports. the historic announcement on sunday makes california the first state in the nation to unequivocally protect students by changing the language and law of consent.

state lawmakers approved senate bill 967 by senator kevin de leon (d-la) last month, as states and universities across the country are under pressure to change how they handle rape allegations. campus sexual assault victims and women's advocacy groups delivered petitions to brown's office on september 16 demanding he sign the bill.

de leon said the progressive legislation begins a paradigm shift in how college campuses in california prevent and investigate sexual assaults. the familiar refrain of 'no means no,' is no longer the definition of consent - the new bill requires "an affirmative, conscious and voluntary agreement to engage in sexual activity."

"every student deserves a learning environment that is safe and healthy," de leon said in a statement sunday night. "the state of california will not allow schools to sweep rape cases under the rug. we've shifted the conversation regarding sexual assault to one of prevention, justice and healing," he said.

lawmakers say consent can be nonverbal, and universities with similar policies have outlined examples as a nod of the head or moving in closer to the person. the legislation says silence or lack of resistance does not constitute consent: someone who is asleep, drugged, drunk or unconscious cannot grant consent.      

advocates for victims of sexual assault support the change as empowering. savannah badalich, ucla student and founder of the group 7000 in solidarity, welcomes the new legislation. badalich said, "this is amazing. it's going to educate an entire new generation of students on what consent is and what consent is not...that the absence of a no is not a yes."

the bill requires training for faculty reviewing complaints so victims are neither asked insensitive questions nor made to feel shameful when filing grievances. the bill also provides much needed access to counseling, health care and other resources.  

sb 967 applies to all california postsecondary schools - public and private - receiving state money for student financial aid. the california state university and university of california systems are supporting the legislation; both adopted similar consent standards this year.

uc president janet napolitano recently announced the system will voluntarily establish an independent advocate to support sexual assault victims on every campus. an advocate office is a provision of the federal survivor outreach and support campus act proposed by u.s. senator barbara boxer and representative susan davis of san diego, both democrats.