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, 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.


Saturday, September 27, 2014

Ferguson Police Ordered To Stop Wearing 'I Am Darren Wilson' Bracelets

the department of justice (doj) on friday ordered police officers in ferguson, missouri to stop wearing bracelets in solidarity with darren wilson, the white cop who last month shot and killed michael brown, an unarmed black male. the bracelets say, i am darren wilson.

christy lopez, deputy chief of the special litigation section of the justice department's civil rights division, wrote a letter on friday to ferguson police chief thomas jackson. lopez writes, "these bracelets reinforce the very 'us versus them' mentality that many residents of ferguson believe exists."

lopez admits in the two-page letter she's unclear if ferguson officers specifically are now or have been wearing the bracelets. additionally, she understands jackson agreed to prohibit officers from wearing the bracelets while in uniform and on duty, and to ensure other officers from local agencies will observe the prohibition.

the letter comes after residents told a doj official about the bracelets this week at a community meeting. they complained officers wore the bracelets tuesday while patrolling folks' protests over the tragic death of 18 year-old brown august 9. protesters demand wilson's arrest. the doj has been investigating the shooting, while a grand jury is deliberating about whether to charge wilson.

residents said officers patrolled the community without name tags, or with their names covered by black tape. lopez, in the letter, asked the embattled police chief to ensure officers will follow department policy and wear their name tags.

"allowing officers to remain anonymous when they interact with the public contributes to mistrust and undermines accountability," says lopez, in a separate letter to jackson, written on tuesday. that letter was released on friday. lopez further writes, "the failure to wear name plates conveys a message to community members that, through anonymity, officers may seek to act with impunity."



Friday, September 26, 2014

Attorney General Eric Holder Announced He Will Resign Pending A Successor

attorney general eric holder announced his resignation on thursday at an emotional white house ceremony. president barack obama praised holder saying he did a "superb job," and mentioned holder will leave his post at the justice department once a successor is confirmed.

holder acknowledged his family and colleagues by saying, "i thank you all for joining me on a journey that now moves in another direction, but that will always be guided by the pursuit of justice and aimed at the north star." 

holder, 63, also expressed gratitude for obama, whom he called his colleague adding, "but the bonds between us are much deeper than that. in good times and bad, in things personal and professional, you have been there for me. i am proud to call you my friend."

holder is the first black to hold the nation's top law enforcement position. he's been in the job for nearly six years, since obama began his (own historic) reign as commander-in-chief. if holder remains in the position in december, he would be the third longest-serving attorney general. 

"i have loved the department of justice ever since as a young boy i watched robert kennedy prove during the civil rights movement how the department can - and must - always be a force for that which is right. i hope that i have done honor to the faith you placed in me, mr. president, and to the legacy of all those who served before me," said holder.    

under holder, the department of justice (doj) sought to protect voters' rights, women's rights and lgbt rights. obama said holder helped lower the crime rate and incarceration rate by 10% in six years. the doj also encouraged judges to use discretion in sentencing low-level drug offenders, reduced the disparity between crack and powder cocaine penalties from 100-1 to 18-1, and eliminate "draconian" mandatory minimums.

holder made criminal justice reform his top priority in 2014. he went to ferguson, missouri last month after michael brown, an unarmed black male, was killed by a white police officer, darren wilson. holder wants to restore trust between law enforcement and black and brown communities. he plans to go to scranton, pennsylvania on friday, and complete his goal of visiting all 93 u.s. attorney's offices.

before he was sworn in as the 82nd attorney general in february 2009, holder served as president bill clinton's deputy attorney general, the first black to hold to hold that position. the columbia law school graduate was previously u.s. attorney for the district of columbia and served during ronald reagan's administration as an associate judge at the superior court of the district of columbia.    



Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Georgia's Incarceration Rate for Blacks drops 20% in five years

the incarceration rate among blacks in georgia dropped by 20% in five years. the change signals a shift in their approach to sentencing and offender treatment. driven to cut costs and improve outcomes, lawmakers increasingly reject tough-on-crime models which once defined the state.

instead, they're adopting public health-based solutions, including treatment centers for drug addicts and inmates with mental illness, as well as accountability courts offering alternatives to incarceration for offenders working to experience drug-free living and optimum mental health.

georgia's progressive reforms have improved outcomes for offenders of all ethnic groups. in fact, they've cut the state's overall incarceration rate by 15% since 2009, which is both remarkable and historic considering the state's dark past with black prisoners. 

though blacks are currently over-represented in georgia prisons - making up more than 60% of the state population but less than 32% of the overall state population - the encouraging decline affirms success towards fair sentencing practices and outcomes.      

Saturday, September 20, 2014

National Organization of Women President demands NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell Resign Imnmediately

the national organization for women (now) president terry o'neill wants national football league (nfl) commissioner roger goodell to resign effective immediately. goodell held a hotly anticipated press conference on friday to address the maligned league's current stance on domestic violence issues.

goodell, in the almost 45-minute conference, admitted he 'made a mistake in the ray rice matter' and was 'sorry' for it. goodell asserted he would not resign, but would hire a personal conduct committee, before the 2015 super bowl, to establish a policy of higher standards and moral integrity. goodell also promised greater transparency in the league's handling of such issues in the future.

but o'neill questions goodell's leadership qualities. she said, "glaringly absent from mr. goodell's remarks is a commitment to conduct an independent investigation into all of the incidents of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault and stalking on his watch. roger goodell's steadfast refusal to broach these questions speaks a lot louder than his formulaic mea culpas and repeated promises that he's going to do better." 

o'neill said, "now continues to demand that he resign and that his successor appoint a thorough, independent investigator with full authority to unpack all relevant aspects of the nfl's response to incidents of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault and stalking, and to make serious recommendations for change. the time for half measures and pr feints is long past. roger goodell must go."