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.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Black Lives Matter: Fact or Fiction?

the colorado chapter of the naacp was the target of a bombing three weeks ago. boko haram entered the nigerian town of baga a couple of weeks ago. they killed about 2,000 residents - many of them children, women and the elderly. yet these (and other) acts of terrorism against black people and institutions have failed to generate much attention in america. 

do black lives matter?

most of the western world focused their gaze on no. 10 rue nicolas-appert, paris, france: the location of satirical magazine charlie hebdo. about three weeks ago, an al-qaida-led terrorist attack left 12 people dead. also, in a separate, but related terrorist attack two days later in paris, four hostages were killed by a gunman at a kosher supermarket.

the hebdo massacre is largely viewed as an attack on freedom of the press and free speech. inspired by civil rights marchers in the u.s. on sunday, over 50 world leaders such as gabon president ali bongo ondimba and israeli prime minister benjamin netanyahu linked arms in unity. they led an estimated 3.7 million people in a march of solidarity for charlie - a magazine whose anti-islam bent has been ignored.

ironically, many of the heads of state and high-ranking ministers present at the march represent countries with disturbing records of free speech. these countries, among them algeria, egypt, gabon, hungary, russia and turkey, routinely suppress public demonstrations and imprison journalists whose views are not shared by their respective government bodies.

after months of racial and social unrest sparked by the state-sanctioned killings of unarmed black people across the u.s., their so-called liberal allies had a national audience and timely opportunity to proclaim "black lives matter" at the golden globe awards on sunday. instead, hollywood luminaries such as kathy bates, george clooney, jared leto and helen mirren declared "je suis charlie."

hip hop artist, actor and activist common was the only (!) person who mentioned the protests around the country. but his remarks were framed as "all lives matter," further marginalizing an historically oppressed group. fox news correspondent shannon bream said after the hebdo attacks it's difficult to tell who the "bad guys" are if you "can't see what color they are."

do black lives matter?

lassana bathily, the black muslim who saved the lives of several shoppers when amedy coulibaly burst into parisian kosher market hyper cacher, was not hailed as a hero. in fact, he was initially considered a suspect because of his skin color. bathily told bfmtv, "they told me, get down on the ground, hands over your head. they cuffed me and held me for an hour and a half, as if i was with them."

the washington post recently weighed in. they described cherif kouachi, who, along with his brother, said kouachi - both now dead - are denounced for carrying out the attacks. the post said, "radical islam simmered in the 19th arrondissement. its skyline was crowded with the sort of high rises the associated press described as 'public housing slums that breed violence and crime.'..."he drank, smoked pot, slept with his girlfriend and delivered pizzas for a living...and spent a lot of time listening to rap music."   

apparently, rap music is partly to blame for the hebdo attacks. this default mainstream narrative is fueled by a youtube video of kouachi rapping. our society's instinctive need to contextualize these crimes through a supremacist lens magnifies the recurring pathology of black men as inhuman, predatory and violent. meanwhile, wounds from the deaths of african-descended folk remain unaddressed, unresolved and untreated.      

do black lives matter?





Thursday, January 22, 2015

Raise the Criminal Responsibility Age in New York State for all Youth

new york and north carolina are the only two states in the u.s. which prosecute all 16-17 year-olds charged with a crime in the adult criminal justice system, regardless of the alleged crimes' severity. new york also treats 13-15 year-olds accused of committing certain serious crimes as "juvenile offenders." 

juvenile offenders are prosecuted as adults - unless their cases are referred to family court. 16 and 17 year-olds in new york state who get detained or incarcerated via a criminal court order are confined in adult prisons and jails. juvenile offenders are confined in youth facilities (at least) until they are 18 years old. 

each year over 45,000 kids aged 16 and 17 are arrested as adults in new york state. because the law defines them as adults, they can be questioned by police without parental notification and confined alongside adults in prisons and jails.

young people housed in adult prisons are in grave danger. they're 50% more likely to face attacks from other prisoners, twice as likely as adults to be assaulted by prison staff, and five times more likely to be raped or sexually assaulted than their peers in youth centers. children in adult jails are also 36 times more likely to commit suicide than those in youth facilities.

youth in adult prisons and jails are often kept in solitary confinement for up to 23 hours a day - for months at a time. extended isolation can be psychologically shattering for anyone, but it is especially harmful for developing adolescent minds.   

research demonstrates prosecuting and sentencing children as adults not only presents threats to children's safety and well-being, but also decreases public safety. young people who are charged as adults have been shown to be more likely commit future acts of violence and return to prison at much higher rates than youth who were prosecuted as youth.

youth who are convicted of adult crimes may have to carry that mark with them for the rest of their lives, making it difficult for them to get on the right path and become productive and healthy adults. the aftermath of a lifelong criminal record often includes the permanent denial of educational loans; barriers to employment, housing and benefits; potential deportation, and the loss of housing for both themselves and their families.      
this issue impacts some communities much harder than others. because they are more likely to be targeted by the police and are disproportionately represented at virtually every point in the justice system, young people of color are more likely than white children to bear the serious and lasting consequences of being charged and incarcerated as adults.

over the last decade, many states have successfully raised the age of criminal responsibility without overwhelming the courts or the youth justice system. usually a leader in criminal justice reform, new york state is shamefully behind on this issue. this outdated law puts our children and our economy at risk.

all children have a right to safety, and to access developmentally-appropriate services, programs, education and treatment. raising the age in new york state would increase public safety, limit dangers to youth, and provide healthier opportunities for our young people to grow and develop..

Wednesday, January 07, 2015

2015 Major League Baseball Hall-of-Fame Welcomes Four Players

randy johnson, pedro martinez and john smoltz are three superstar pitchers who dominated in an era of baseball offensive hitters. they were elected on tuesday into the 2015 hall-of-fame, along with craig biggio. it's the first time in 60 years writers selected four players in one year.

johnson, a five-time cy young award winner with 303 victories and 4,875 strikeouts, was selected on 534 of 549 ballots by veteran members of the baseball writers association of america (bbwaa). the big unit is widely regarded as the most intimidating left-hander ever, and his 97.3 percentage was the eighth highest in the history of voting.

"i don't think people quite understand how difficult it is to be 6-foot-10 and be throwing a ball 60 feet, 6 inches away. in order to do that, you have to be consistent with your release point and where you're landing and your arm slot and all that. for someone 6'1, 6'2, there's less body to keep under control and it's a lot easier," johnson said.   

martinez, a three-time cy young award winner with 3,154 strikeouts, was on 500 ballots. slight but intense, the 5'11 master was 219-100, led the majors in era five times and helped the 2004 boston red sox win their first world series title in 86 years. martinez is now the second dominican hall-of-famer. san francisco giants pitcher juan marichal was elected in 1983.

"my body would change half an hour before the game, and i would just become this serious, focused person because my dad reminded me you've got to be serious about your job. i saw everybody as an enemy, and i saw everybody as like in a jungle: you just kill to survive. and that's the intensity and the focus i had to keep to do it every day on a day-to-day basis. and that's the kind of chip on the shoulder that people thought i had, even though that was my way to concentrate and do the day-to-day things that i did in baseball," martinez said.

smoltz was picked on 455 ballots. smoltz, the 1996 national cy young award winner, was 213-155 with 154 saves - the only pitcher in history with 200 wins and 150 saves. his brilliant postseason record was 15-4. smoltz said, "i realize the cloud has covered a multitude of so many different people, and i realize that the media and people have a hard time distinguishing and determining."

biggio appeared on 454 ballots, 42 more than the 75% needed, and up from 68.2% in his first time and 74.8% last year. biggio had 3,060 hits and 668 doubles in 20 years - all with the houston astros. he was a catcher who shifted to his perennial all-star position at second base and spent three years in the outfield. "i was a nervous dog this morning. i haven't been this anxious in a long time. maybe it does mean a little bit more this year," biggio said.    

the humble and talented quartet will be inducted in cooperstown on july 26. the last time four players were voted in together by the bbwaa was in 1955. the honorees were joe dimaggio, gabby hartnett, ted lyons and dizzy vance.


Thursday, January 01, 2015

Former NYPD detective admits to boosting arrests by planting drugs on innocent people

stephen anderson, former nypd narcotics detective, gave disturbing and shocking testimony in brooklyn supreme court last week. anderson said planting drugs on innocent people to boost arrest numbers and quotas is a common practice amongst officers here.

the unethical practice is known as "flaking." anderson said narcotics squads in brooklyn and queens used flaking often. he was snared, along with a group of other officers, for flaking four men in queens in 2008. anderson now cooperates with prosecutors to share classified and cancerous information of a proud organization in america's largest city.

anderson said, "it was something i was seeing a lot of, whether it was from supervisors or undercovers and even investigators. it's almost like you have no emotion with it, that they attach the bodies to it, they're going to be out of jail tomorrow anyway...nothing is going to happen to them anyway."

the drug policy alliance (dpa) is the nation's leading organization promoting drug policies grounded in compassion, science, health and human rights. the mission of the dpa is to advance those policies and attitudes which best reduce the harms of both drug use and drug prohibition, and to promote the sovereignty of individuals over their minds and bodies.   

the dpa issued a statement. gabriel sayegh, managing director of policy and campaigns, said, "one of the consequences of the war on drugs is that police officers are pressured to make large numbers of arrests, and it's easy for some of the less honest cops to plant evidence on innocent people. the drug war inevitably leads to crooked policing - and quotas further incentivize such practices."

in september 2014, an officer in brooklyn secretly taped ominous department activity: uncovering an evil side to city policing. hundreds of hours of tapes revealed how bosses threatened street cops if they didn't make enough "stop and frisk" arrests. one of the tapes exposed a supervisor who said, "...but also tell them not to take certain robbery reports in order to manipulate crime statistics." 

the malicious tapes also refer to command officers calling crime victims directly to intimidate them about their complaints. the popular public radio show, this american life, did an in-depth feature on the padded stats in the corrupt brooklyn precinct - and the organized intimidation of the officer, adrian schoolcraft, who tried to blow the whistle.

last year, the nypd arrested over 50,000 people for low-level marijuana offenses. 86% of those arrested were black and latino. as such, marijuana possession became the number one criminal offense in the city. the dpa says these arrests are the result of "illegal searches" by the nypd, which are part of their controversial and oppressive "stop and frisk" practices.  

the statement issued by the dpa states, "marijuana was decriminalized in new york state in 1977 - and that law is still on the books. smoking marijuana in public or having marijuana visible in public, however, remains a crime. most people arrested for marijuana possession are not smoking in public, but simply have a small amount in their pocket, purse or bag."

additionally, the dpa's statement reads, "often when police stop and question a person, they say, 'empty your pockets' or 'open your bag.' many people comply, even though they're not legally required to do so. if a person pulls marijuana from their pocket or bag, it is then 'open to public view.' the police then arrest the person." 


Monday, December 29, 2014

Mo'Ne Davis: 2014 AP Female Athlete of the Year

13 year-old mo'ne davis on monday was named female athlete of the year by the associated press. the award is voted on by news directors and u.s. editors, and davis became the youngest winner in history. she beat out mount saint joseph freshman lauren hill - who played her first college basketball game while battling terminal cancer - and 18-time major tennis champion serena williams.

davis tossed a two-hitter to help philadelphia beat nashville 4-0 in the little league world series opener for both teams. davis, the first girl to play for a u.s. team in south williamsport since 2004, had eight strikeouts and no walks. her team was later eliminated after losing to teams from las vegas and chicago. but that was only the beginning...

davis appeared on the cover of sports illustrated. her jersey is displayed in baseball's hall of fame and was named sports kid of the year by sports illustrated kids. she met the obamas at the white house, starred in a spike lee directed car commercial (the ncaa said it wouldn't hurt her eligibility), marched in the macy's thanksgiving day parade with her teammates, and presented soul train's song of the year award to pharell williams.   

the personable teenager is a gifted three-sport athlete. just an eighth-grader, davis is a point guard for her high school varsity basketball team, and plays soccer. also, she's an honor student who handled the media attention with grace, maturity and poise. she said, "a lot of adults around me help me out, taught me to be respectful, to be calm during everything and not let anything get to you." 

davis hurled whiffle balls to jimmy fallon on nbc's tonight show, threw out the first pitch at game four of the world series, and signed a book deal. "it's been really fun, got to do a lot of things, meet a lot of cool people," she said. "my favorite thing to do was playing in williamsport or going to the white house. the obamas just seemed like a regular couple, no different from anyone else," davis said. 

while most folks still talk about her baseball feats, davis concentrates on basketball. "it's making me a lot better, helping me make decisions. in middle school i can get away with small things. the girls now are a lot taller so i'm working on my jump shot and ball handling a lot." she aspires to play for the university of connecticut, and, eventually, the wnba.

steve bandura, a recreation leader for the philadelphia parks and recreation department, and director of the anderson monarchs sports programs, has helped coach davis since she started playing sports. his son, scott, was the catcher for the taney dragons - their now-famous little league team. bandura says davis has maintained her "natural personality" with the celebrity status and media onslaught.

"she's still the same person, still a kid who wants to do kid things. she has fun meeting celebrities and all that but the bottom line is she loves to play sports, go to school and have fun. the adults make a bigger deal out of it. her teammates understand she's breaking down barriers and they're proud of her. they've been together so long, it's like she's their sister," bandura said.

on the pitching mound, davis embodied the confidence of a veteran. her demeanor, focus and presence delighted baseball fans young and old from all walks of life. davis is clearly aware of her newfound place in society as a role model. her message to people - especially girls: "always follow your dreams. if there's something people tell you that you can't do it, go for it."   



Wednesday, December 17, 2014

South Carolina Judge vacates 1944 conviction of black male teen

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.