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.

Friday, July 25, 2014

New Publication Acclaims Prison Population Reduction Without Harming Public Safety

the sentencing project works for a fair and effective u.s. justice system by addressing unjust racial disparities and practices, advocating for alternatives to incarceration and promoting reforms in sentencing policy.

their recent publication: fewer prisoners, less crime - a tale of three states, profiles the success of california, new jersey and new york. each of these states have reduced their prison population by about 25%, while seeing their prospective crime rates generally decline at a faster pace than the national average.   

some of the book's key findings include:

* new jersey and new york led the nation by reducing their prison population by 26% between 1999 and 2012, while the nationwide state prison population increased by 10%.

* california downsized its prison population by 23% between 2006 and 2012. during this period, the nationwide state prison population decreased by just 1%.

* during their periods of decarceration, violent crimes fell at a greater rate in these three states than they did nationwide. between 1999-2012, new york and new jersey's violent crime rate fell by 31% and 30% respectively, while the national rate decreased by 26%. between 2006-2012, california's violent crime rate drop of 21% exceeded the national decline of 21%.

* between 1999-2012, new york's property crime rate fell by 29% and new jersey's by 31%, compared to the national decline of 24%. between 2006-2012, california's property crime drop of 13% was slightly lower than the national reduction of 15%.

these astounding prison population reductions result from complimentary changes in policy and practice designed to reduce admissions to prison and lengths of stay.

each of these states' experiences affirm criminal justice policies - not crime rates - are the prime drivers of changes in prison populations. they also prove society can effectively reduce prison populations without harming public safety.        

Monday, July 21, 2014

A Stressful Day With MTA

last friday i was headed to queens to meet some friends around noon. i swiped my reduced fare, unlimited metro, ready to board the b train downtown. but there was a message which read: see agent. the agent informed me the card was cancelled. puzzled and embarrassed, I asked why. he suggested I phone customer service. 

I felt like florida after losing james on good times - damn, damn, damn...

normally i'd demand an explanation; as if i were innocent. at the beginning of this month, i noticed a $35 overdraft fee on my bank statement. yet there was no creditor listed. i quickly called to seek a refund. three days they returned the money. shortly thereafter, i received a notice from my bank stating mta was unable to charge $56 from my savings for my card.

this is (only) the second time i've been penalized by mta for neglecting to have money in my savings account. when i got the card i set up the agreement online. i don't drive and use the card regularly, but not daily. sometimes more than six weeks or two months go by without mta replenishing $56 for the monthly half-fare card.

initially i thought the card was cancelled because of the expiration date. however i realized i needed to make amends. i waited almost 15 minutes (!) to speak with a person, to no avail. i called again later, waiting almost ten minutes with the same result. finally, exasperated and worried about my future travel security, i called and spoke with someone who gave me three options.

1) mail the card in for a replacement card; 2) get a temporary card from a bus or subway agent; 3) come in to the office for a replacement card. sigh. i was tempted to ask her: can i buy a vowel? but she may have neither understood nor appreciated my daytime talk show reference at 5:15 pm on a friday afternoon. i couldn't bear going the weekend and not have some answers.

i got to the lower manhattan office around 8:45 am. there were about 25 people waiting outside. i surrendered my sense of entitlement and terminal uniqueness one prayer at a time. surprisingly, the line moved swiftly, as did my intolerance with people who don't speak english, forget why they're standing in line at 8:45 am, or lack adequate identification.

the customer service agent, a pleasant, older black man, informed me i could get a replacement card in the mail if i pay mta $81.27. they were also charging me $25.00 for the error. he said the card would be mailed in about three weeks, and i could use a temporary card until then.

he also suggested i "get out of the system and use a regular card like you used to." although he was looking at a computer screen and had access to my past, i felt violated. how do you, specifically you, know i once used a regular card? why do you want me to opt out of the system? i'm a customer, not a professional athlete.

my cynicism, distrust and resentment with authority began to resurface. clearly this would benefit the bureaucracy, one well documented with historical cash flow problems. he said i could pay $25.27 and simply put money on a temporary card whenever i needed to. and, they would mail me, in about three weeks, a replacement card with no money on it.

i just wanted them to take the $56 out of my savings account while i was at the office. can't they just push a button or something? i have $60.88 in the account, but i couldn't negotiate because i left my debit card at home. i didn't think i would need it. i thought they would give me a replacement card, like the agent said on friday. she said it would probably take about 15 minutes. she was wrong.

i don't like her right now.

i felt manipulated into doing what he wanted. the stress, worry and uncertainty began to overwhelm my sleepy brain. i became uber-conscious of the other people in line waiting to be served and didn't want this ordeal to go on much longer. I wanted to act like an adult, but felt like a child trying to make a grown up decision.

i thought if i only paid them $25.27 i'd have more cash to hold me over until my reparations check arrives. what's the big deal about the inconvenience of putting money on a card from time to time? besides, i need to address my laziness and procrastination issues anyway. i resigned myself to a couple of weeks of walking more and riding less. i told him to cancel the account.

as i went home to get a money order, i started to feel like i fell for the banana and the tail pipe. (note: if you haven't seen beverly hills cop, that joke will probably elude you. and that's okay). i reflected on the day's events and decided to follow my instinct and trust my spirit. even if his intentions were sincere, i was not going to let him influence my choices.

i returned in about 90 minutes with a money order for $81.27. i wanted to resolve this issue with the same agent. i did, yet he seemed disappointed i changed my mind about closing my account. he also admitted he kept my paperwork nearby just in case. he said he was confused about how to handle the situation but nonetheless offered to have the new card sent by fed ex no later than friday.


on my way out, i noticed a buddy sitting in the waiting area. he gave me a hug and probably sensed my distraught look. i told him the situation from start to finish. his compassionate ear, quiet reassurance and warm smile genuinely comforted me. but when he put a $10 bill in my hand, i was ready to cry. the kindness of god's angels continue to feed my spirit and restore my faith in humanity.      

Wednesday, July 09, 2014

Rand Paul Seeks to Restore Voting Rights in Federal Elections

kentucky senator rand paul has introduced a bill which restores voting rights in federal elections to those convicted of non-violent felonies. this initiative is the newest addition to a series of criminal justice reforms backed by paul.

paul has supported legislation to scale back mandatory minimum sentencing for those convicted of drug offenses. he also supports various other reforms, including reclassifying some felony drug offenses as misdemeanors.

speaking on meet the press last sunday, paul said, "if we're the party of family values and keeping families together, and the party believes in redemption and second chances, we should be for letting people have the right to vote back."

voting rights advocates have praised the recent legal proposals made by paul. but human rights advocates prefer legislation introduced by senator ben cardin, which would extend voting rights to those convicted of any felony upon leaving prison.

paul is a staunch conservative, yet he drew some right-wing criticism. roger clegg, ceo of the center for equal opportunity, a conservative think tank focusing on race and ethnicity, strongly disagrees with paul's views. clegg said, "paul has shown himself to be someone who does not take the constitution seriously."  

paul says re-enfranchising people convicted of non-violent felonies would help reduce current racial disparities. at present, nearly eight percent of the black population cannot vote. similarly, under two percent of the non-black population cannot vote.

"there's a racial outcome to the war on drugs. three out of four people in prison for non-violent drug offenses are black and brown. white kids are using drugs at the same rate black kids are," paul said. 


Sunday, July 06, 2014

Petra Kvitova and Novak Djokovic Win 2014 Wimbledon Singles Titles

petra kvitova of the czech republic dominated eugenie bouchard of canada 6-3, 6-0 to capture the 2014 wimbledon singles crown. kvitova won her first and only major singles title at the all-england club in 2011. the 24 year-old lefty was brilliant from start to finish. she never let bouchard gain any rhythm and claimed her second major in 55 minutes.

kvitova plays better on grass than any other surface. her career record at wimbledon is 26-5, which give her an .839 winning percentage. her winning percentage at the other three major is .667. at all the other events kvitova's winning percentage is .681. she remains the only player born in the 1990s to win a major singles title.

after the match, kvitova was surprised at the high level of her tennis. she said, "this is the best tournament for me. i mean, a few shots was really incredible, and i really couldn't believe that i made it actually. i said, oh my god, this is good." bouchard said, "for sure, she was on. we know that when she's on, she's very tough to beat. especially on this surface." kvitova finished with 28 winners.

the previous time a runner-up won only three games in the wimbledon final was 1992, when steffi  graf beat monica seles. before that, it last happened in 1983, when martina navratilova - another czech lefty - beat andrea jeager. kvitova was thrilled to have navratilova, the nine-time wimbledon champion, present her with the prestigious trophy. 

novak djokovic of serbia defeated roger federer of switzerland 6-7, 6-4, 7-6, 5-7, 6-4 to win the 2014 wimbledon singles championship. djokovic also emerged victorious at the all-england club in 2011. he now has seven major singles titles and regained the #1 ranking he lost to rafael nadal of spain last year. 

most of the centre court crowd of about 15,000 cheered raucously for the iconic federer. but the personable 27 year-old djokovic continued to believe in himself and play high quality tennis, despite his career setbacks. he lost his past three major finals, and five of his last six, including against nadal last month at the french open, and to andy murray last year at wimbledon.

djokovic said during the on-court ceremony, "it was a great match to be part of. he's a magnificent champion and a great example of a great athlete and great role model for many kids." djokovic then addressed federer directly and said, "i respect your career and everything you have done. thank you for letting me win." federer said, "it was close, you know. novak deserved it at the end, clearly, but it was extremely close."

boris becker, the three-time wimbledon champion who began coaching djokovic this season was relieved. becker said, "it could've gone either way in the fifth set." his old rival as a player, stefan edberg, a two-time wimbledon champion, now works with federer. djokovic later dedicated this victory to his pregnant fiancĂ©e "and our future baby," and to jelena gencic, his first tennis coach, who died last year.   

Saturday, July 05, 2014

Protesters and supporters of immigration clash in California small town

demonstrators in murietta, california waited hours on friday for buses full of undocumented immigrants who may not arrive. there were chants, and at least one physical fight, between opponents of an expected transfer of undocumented immigrants and those who showed up to support them. one woman fainted from heat exhaustion; it was over 90 degrees.

"we need to stop these busloads of illegals," said liz herger, who was one of about 75 protesters opposing the expected transfer. "we are an economically depressed area and we already don't have jobs...who's gonna take care of them? we're not going to," herger said. three women and two men were arrested throughout the course of the day, police said.

protesters on both sides showed up after customs and border protection said it may transfer undocumented immigrants from overburdened facilities in texas to murietta every three days. the last time they tried to make a transfer was tuesday.

murietta, a town of about 103,000 people nearly 80 miles southeast of los angeles, became a flashpoint in the immigration crisis after protesters on tuesday blocked the road to an intake facility. they subsequently prevented three buses carrying about 140 migrants from getting through. the buses eventually turned around and went to another facility.

the controversial transfer is part of a federal plan to relieve texas facilities overwhelmed with over 50,000 unaccompanied children who poured across the border since october. a crowd supporting the migrants shouted at protesters across country roads. chants of "usa, go home," and "stop breaking the law," were met with "refugees are not illegal," "racists! racists!" and, "si si puede!" which means, yes we can, in english.

"this country is based on immigration and I cannot believe how kids aren't being welcomed. it blows my mind," said osvaldo delgado, of mexican descent. his parents came to the u.s. legally. delgado said, "they're fleeing for their lives." it isn't clear if - and/or when - the next attempt to transfer undocumented immigrants to the murietta facility will be made.


Monday, June 30, 2014

New York's Highest Court Says No To Fracking

the court of appeals in albany on monday upheld rulings allowing individual towns and cities to act using a principle known as home rule, under which they can vote to keep away industries they deem as threats to common resources. in the case of fracking, this can mean air and water, even if state and federal laws say otherwise.

the 5-2 decision applies specifically to challenges to bans in the upstate towns of dryden and middlefield, but means bans passed in about 170 other new york communities are also immune to similar challenges. the state now waits for new york governor andrew cuomo to decide on whether to life the moratorium on fracking, in place since july 2008.

governor cuomo said he first needs to see the results of a health impact review his office undertook in 2012. but now, even if he does decide to welcome frackers into the state, individual communities officially have a legal way to opt out - and, if enough do, the gas and oil industry could decide new york is no longer worth their while.  

the majority opinion was written by associate judge victoria graffeo, who said, "these appeals are not about whether hydrofracking is beneficial or detrimental to the economy, environment or energy needs of new york, and we pass no judgment on its merits. these are major policy questions for the coordinate branches of government to resolve."

graffeo also said, "the discrete issue before us, and the only one we resolve today, whether the state legislature eliminated the home rule capacity of municipalities to pass zoning laws that exclude oil, gas and hydrofracking activities in order to preserve the existing character of their communities." 

john armstrong of frack action and new yorkers against fracking said in a statement, "we applaud the court for once again affirming the right of new yorkers to ban fracking and its toxic effects from their communities. as chief judge lippman said, you don't bulldoze over the voice of the people."

armstrong further commented, "but water and contaminations don't stop at local boundaries, and governor cuomo must ban fracking statewide to protect our health and homes from the arrogant and inherently harmful fracking industry."   


Friday, June 20, 2014

Five Men Wrongly Convicted to Receive $40 Million Settlement from NYC

five men wrongly convicted, and later exonerated, of brutally raping a female jogger in central park in 1989 were awarded a $40 million settlement from new york city. the attack became known as the central park jogger case. it made national headlines, polarized communities and raised concerns about racism in the criminal justice system. 

the five men, all black and latino, were between age 14-16 when they confessed after lengthy police interrogations. antron mccray, kevin richardson, raymond santana, korey wise and yusef salaam each soon recanted, insisting they were coerced by nypd officers under duress, exhaustion and fear. in 2002, matias reyes confessed to the crime: dna tied him to the rape.

the jogger, trisha meili, a 28 year-old white investment banker, nearly died, was severely traumatized and has no memory of the experience. the settlement requires approval from the city's comptroller, and from deborah batts, the federal judge in manhattan who presided over the case, which polarized the nation at the time. 

jonathan moore, one of the lawyers for the men, declined to comment. a spokeswoman for the city's law department also declined to comment, citing pending litigation. the deal comes six months after mayor bill de blasio, who called for a settlement, took office. his predecessor, michael bloomberg, resisted settling the case, with city lawyers repeatedly saying the convictions withstood legal scrutiny regardless of whether they were later vacated.

an internal review by the manhattan district attorney's office, which moved to throw out the convictions in 2002, found the boys' original confessions included "troubling discrepancies." a judge vacated the convictions. by then, however, all five had been released from prison after serving between five and 13 years.

the five men sued the city in 2003 for wrongful conviction and violation of their civil rights. they sought $250 million in damages. the lawsuit gained renewed attention in 2012, when the critically-acclaimed documentary filmmaker ken burns released, "central park five." burns' film cast the men as victims of racial tension, and a rush to judgment by the city.