i am

My photo
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 29, 2010

Happy Kwanzaa Everyone!!!

the season of kwanzaa has come again, the celebration & season of joyous harvesting & sharing of good in the world. founded in 1966 by dr maulana karenga, professor of black studies at california state university-long beach, this year marks the 44th anniversary of the recovery & reconstruction which has found a valuable & enduring place in the hearts, homes & daily lives of over 30 million people throughout the african disapora. the seven day celebration is dec 26-jan 1.

the nguzo saba is a vital source of practices & principles to bring, increase & sustain good in the world. they represent values & vital teachings of our ancestors about how we are to live decent lives, rightfully relate to each other & the world & teach our children by word & deed what it means to be an african man & woman in this world. each of the seven days we practice a different principle & learn to incorporate them into our daily lives .

day 1: umoja (unity) speaks to the ancient african ethical understanding: we come into being & flourish in relationship & that being of & with each other, logically & morally leads us to being for each other in real & mutually rewarding ways. umoja cultivates in us a sense of oneness with each other & a responsibility to each other, our people, hue-manity & the world. umoja calls on us to stand in solidarity with the suffering, oppressed & struggling peoples of the world in their rightful resistance to oppression & their just quest for the good life we all deserve & want. umoja makes us conscience of our obligation to care for the environment as sacred space & preserve & promote its flourishing, health & wholeness.

day 2: kujichajulia (self-determination) obligates us to respect our own cultural way of being hue-man in the world & to avoid dignity-denying & self-deforming imitations of others. kujichajulia urges us to define ourselves by the life & dignity affirming ways we walk & work in the world & to name ourselves in deep-rooted respect for our identity as bearers of dignity & divinity. kujichajulia calls on us to create for ourselves in the good-producing & world-preserving ways of our ancestors & to speak for ourselves in ways revealing our rootedness in our own culture & our commitment to the goodness & uniqueness of being african in the world.

day 3: ujima (collective work & responsibility) encourages us to commit ourselves to work & struggle to build the caring family, moral community, just society & good world we all deserve & want to live in. ujima teaches us to constantly search for & sustain common ground in the best of our moral values & to engage in cooperative projects for the common good. ujima demands we increase our efforts to confront & solve the persistent & pervasive hue-man problems of disease, homelessness, hunger, needless deaths, poverty & war which disfigures the face & future of hue-manity.

day 4: ujamaa (cooperative economics) is a principle of shared work & shared wealth of the world. ujamaa calls for & cultivates economic practices which demonstrate due respect for the dignity & life-affirming necessity of work, the right to a life of dignity & decency & a right to an equitable share of the good & goods of the world. moreover, as a project of cooperative creation & sharing of good, ujamaa seeks care & support of the vulnerable & a rightful relationship with the environment protecting it from the evils of depletion, plunder & pollution.

day 5: nia (purpose) speaks to us of our collective vocation to do good in & for the world & to restore our people to their traditional greatness defined by this ongoing creation & pursuit of the good. in this practice we follow the path of service like the heroes & sheroes before us who sacrificed their lives so we could live fuller, freer & more meaningful ones. the lessons of rev dr martin luther king jr's teachings on service as the substance of greatness, malcolm x's teaching on offering one's life as a testimony of social value & dr mary mcleod-bethune's teaching that we must live our lives so that at the end we are able to stand tall on the platform of service.

day 6: kuumba (creativity) calls on us to always do as much as we can in the way we can in order to leave our community & the world more beautiful & beneficial than we inherited it. kuumba teaches us to reaffirm the ancient african ethical commitment to constantly heal, repair & transform the world - called serudjta in ancient egyptian. kuumba requires us to revere life & to apply the active arm & healing hand to end the social injustice & persistent suffering around us & throughout the world. kuumba challenges us to become & be examples of the new world we struggle to bring into being.

day 7: imani (faith) is founded in the ancient ethical & spiritual teachings of our ancestors, forged in struggle & reaffirmed in the reality of every day life directed toward doing good in the world. amidst the cynicism, despair & evil in the world, we believe in the eventual triumph of good in the world. we dare to believe eventually thru acts of deep & enduring loving kindness, hard work & long struggle africa will come into her own again; the people of darfur, haiti, the congo & the survivors of katrina & all other oppressed & suffering people will be liberated, recover & rebuild their lives & forge a future of expansive freedom, justice & forward movement.

heri za kwanzaa - happy kwanzaa!

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Obama Signs Repeal Of Don't Ask Don't Tell Military Policy

president barack obama brought the arduous political struggle over the military's controversial "don't ask don't tell" policy to a close wednesday, signing legislation that will bring an end of their ban on openly gay men & lesbian women serving in the armed forces.

the bill repeals a 1993 law ushered in during the clinton administration. obama signed the bill in front of a jubilant crowd of supporters at the department of interior. among those in attendance included vice-president joe biden, house speaker nancy pelosi (d-ca), senate majority leader harry reid (d-nev) & joint chiefs chairman adm. mike mullen.

"this is a good day...i'm overwhelmed & i've never been prouder," obama said. he said the repeal "will strengthen our national security & uphold america's ideas." "no longer will tens of thousands of americans in uniform be asked to live a lie." "this is the right thing to do for our military," said the commander-in-chief. "it's the right thing to do, period."

continually exhorted by a supportive audience, obama said, "this is a moment more than two centuries in the making...over the course of u.s. history, gay americans fought just as hard as & gave just as much to protect the country as anyone else...we are a nation that believes all men & women are created equal."

passage of the repeal was a major political victory for obama & congressional democrats. obama repeatedly promised to repeal the ban during the 2008 presidential election. the crowd chanted "yes we can" as obama was introduced before the historical signing - a reference to his popular campaign slogan.

massachusetts rep. barney frank, an openly gay democrat, called the bill's passage, "the biggest single thing," in terms of the progress of gay rights in america. air force lt. col. victor fehrenbach said, "he made a promise to me a year & a half ago...he looked me in the eye & said i'm going to get this done." air force veteran jeff cadavona said, "when i was in the military in the 60's, they'd hammer you over for being openly gay...if they found you out they'd kick you right out."

the change won't be immediate, however. the white house noted the repeal may take several months to enforce. the pentagon has an 87-page implementation plan for the repeal. over the next few weeks, military officials need to examine & rewrite a series of directives, policies & regulations related to the current law.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Georgia Prisoners' Strike Makes History

on december 9, 2010 thousands of prisoners in six of of georgia's state prisons initiated the largest prisoner strike in u.s. history. they united across racial & religious boundaries to demand an immediate end to the cruel & dehumanizing conditions which damage the lives of prisoners, their families & the communities they return to.

prisoners demand access to families, a living wage for work, an end to cruel & unusual punishment, decent health care, decent living conditions, increased educational opportunities, just parole decisions, nutritional meals, self-improvement & vocational opportunities. their demands are not only fair & just, but mandatory under the u.s. constitution & international human rights laws.

its not just in georgia where oppressive conditions exist. prisoners across america are denied basic medical care, exposed to illnesses, obstructed from accessing the court, subject to routine dehumanization, separation from their families & violence. u.s. jails & prisons are in constant violation of the international covenant on civil & political rights, the united nations convention against torture & other cruel, inhuman & degrading treatment & the standard minimum rights for the treatment of prisoners.

its imperative concerned members of the general public, faith-based communities, human rights advocates, legal community members & social justice activists mobilize in support of prisoners & their families today. georgia prison authorities have reportedly reacted to the prison strike with violence. the threat of retaliation will remain for the foreseeable future & we must rise to the occasion with increased action & vigilance.

the legal community has a unique role & serious responsibility in working to support prisoners & communities targeted by policies of mass incarceration. the forces fighting against race & class-based policies must be strengthened & supported. under the guise of a war on drugs, the u.s. government has constructed the largest prison economy on the planet, incarcerating more of its own people than any place else in the world.

when evidence of the pervasive targeting of communities of color at every level of the criminal legal system is recognized for what it is, there is only one conclusion to arrive at: mass incarceration is the new jim crow. like the old jim crow this system serves to perpetuate economic inequality, institutionalized racism & political disenfranchisement. it seeks to divide people of color & poor whites in order to keep middle-class & working communities enslaved on an economic & political plantation prioritizing profits over folks' decency & democracy.

the transcending of the politics of racial antagonism by the prisoners in georgia striking for their human rights & human dignity is a profound call for the renewal of visionary mass movements for freedom & social justice. our communities outside of these walls are in dire need of human rights as well: a livable planet, educational opportunities, food, health care, housing, jobs & peace. in building an integrated, mass movement for human rights inside & outside the prisons we are working to undermine the conditions of economic, political & social oppression fueling apathy, crime & violence.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Beyond The Fair Sentencing Act

this year's historic vote in congress to scale back the harsh & racially disparate mandatory sentences for federal crack cocaine offenses was a watershed event in the movement for a humane approach to american drug policy. the fair sentencing act expects to benefit about 3,000 defendants annually, with an average sentence reduction of 27 months.

defendants convicted of possessing as little as five grams of crack - the weight of two pennies - no longer receive a mandatory five years in prison; the quantity-based sentencing disparity between crack & powder cocaine offenses has been significantly reduced. the true value of the new law will be seen, however, only if it helps secure widespread drug policy reform.

as welcome as the new reforms are, they leave in place the broad structure of mandatory sentencing for most drug offenses, under which judges have no discretion to weigh mitigating circumstances such as the defendant's age, history of abuse & parenthood. as such, the current drug policies have produced the most bizarre outcomes: in 2004, a 55 year prison sentence was imposed on weldon angelos, a 24 year-old music producer in utah with no prior felony convictions.

on three separate occasions angelos sold about $350 worth of marijuana to a police informant. at each sale, angelos possessed a gun, which he neither used nor threatened to use. yet under the terms of federal mandatory penalties, judge paul cassell, a george w. bush appointee, was required to impose what was essentially a life sentence, which he called "unjust, cruel & even irrational."

in recent years states across the nation have re-evaluated their excessive sentencing policies. michigan's extremely punitive "650 lifer law," whereby even a first-time offender convicted of selling 650 grams of cocaine or heroin would receive a life sentence without parole - the same as for 1st-degree murder - was finally scaled back in the late 90's after being on the books for 27 years. former republican governor william milliken, who signed the law into effect, called it "the worst mistake of my career." similarly, the rollback of new york's notorious rockefeller drug law in 2009 marked a milestone after decades of vigilant campaigning.

the federal crack reform continues this incremental move towards just sentencing policies, but there is more work to do. drug courts, for example, have proven to help divert low-level offenders into treatment rather than prison, but many of them impose strict criteria for admission, often focusing on cases in which prison terms would be unlikely to be imposed even without the program.

school-zone drug laws, imposed with the inarguable goal of reducing drug sales to children, often apply as well to drug sales between consenting adults. this has been a predictable racial impact, because large portions of densely populated urban areas, disproportionately comprising communities of color, lie within a school zone. in new jersey, 96% of such penalties were imposed on african-americans or latinos, an outcome which this year persuaded the legislature to restore discretion to judges in such cases.

the first test of the impact of the fair sentencing act will come when the u.s. sentencing commission votes on whether to apply the guideline changes retroactively to the thousands of people who committed their crack cocaine offense before the bill was signed. additionally, the commission's report on mandatory sentencing, due out in 2011, may help to strengthen the long-standing & much documented argument about excessive punishments.

ultimately, the scope of reform can be measured only by our ability to level the unbalanced playing field in addressing substance use. while the so-called war on drugs has been waged for decades, it is actually two distinct wars. in well-heeled (read: white) communities substance use is treated as a public health issue best served by prevention & treatment. in low-income communities of color, substance use is often viewed as a criminal justice problem to be solved with more police, prosecutors & prisons.

our challenge is to implement drug policy broadly, fairly & rationally.

Friday, December 03, 2010

Federer Beats Nadal In ATP World Tour Finals

world # 2 roger federer of switzerland defeated world #1 rafael nadal of spain, 6-3, 3-6, 6-1 to win the atp world tour finals in london last sunday. federer was dominiant in his usual all-court brilliance. this was the most highly anticipated match of the year. their friendly & respectful rivalry marked only the 2nd time they've played this year, with nadal winning in str8 sets on clay this summer.

the 29 yr-old king federer, a husband & proud father of twin daughters, was gracious in his acceptance speech. he was visibly thrilled to beat nadal, the heir apparent to his crown. this was the 22nd time the two have played each other in their career. the 24 yr-old nadal leads 14-8. federer did not lose a match in the year-end eight-man championship round robin.

nadal finished an impressive year, winning 71 matches & seven titles. nadal became the 1st male since rod laver to win the french open, wimbledon & us open in the same year. he amassed over $7 million in prize money for the year & now has 9 major titles. federer won the australian open for his record 16th major title.

fans & pundits wondered would federer regain his swagger this year. he welcomed new coach paul annacone, whose success with federer's idol, the beloved american champion pete sampras, is well documented. annacone's presence has been evident in federer's aggressive play. he's been returning serve with conviction, particularly on the backhand wing, as well as chipping & charging from time to time. also, he is moving forward earlier in the point & shortening the rallies.

federer once remarked he wanted to win 20 majors b4 he retires. he recently said he'd like to play in the 2016 olympics, which will take place in brazil, even tho he'll be 35 then. 2010 was admittedly a disappointing season for the humble champion, federer took great pride in beating nadal in a tournament most players regard as the 5th major. 250,000 adoring fans in england witnessed great tennis all week, capped by an exciting final with the two best male athletes in white shorts.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Senate Approves $4.6 Billion for Black Farmers and Native Americans

the senate has approved almost $4.6 billion to settle long-standing claims brought by native americans & black farmers against the government. the money has been held up for months in the senate as democrats & republicans squabbled over how to pay for it. the two class action lawsuits were filed over a decade ago.

the landmark settlements include almost $1.2 billion for black farmers who say they've suffered discrimination at the hands of the agriculture department. $3.4 billion would go to indigneous landowners who claim they were swindled out of royalties by the interior department. the legislation was approved by senate voice vote friday & sent to the house.

president barack obama praised the senate for passing the bill & urged the house to move forward. his administration is also working to resolve separate lawsuits filed against the usda by hispanic & women farmers. said obama, "while these legislative achievements reflect important progress, they also serve to remind us that much work remains to be done."

elouise cobell, a member of the blackfeet tribe from browning, montana & the lead plaintiff in the native americans' case said friday it took her breath away when she found out the senate passed the bill. she said she felt despondent after the chamber tried & failed to pass the legislation many times. two people who would have benefited from the settlement died on her reservation this week.

said cobell, "its 17 below & the blackfeet nation is feeling warm. i don't know if people understand or believe the agony you go through when one of the beneficiaries passes away without justice." john boyd, head of the national black farmers association said the passage of the black farmers' settlement is also long overdue. said boyd, "26 years justice is in sight for our nation's black farmers."

bi-partisan lawmakers have said they support resolving the long-standing claims of discrimination & mistreatment by federal agencies but funding has been caught up in a fight over spending & deficits. republicans repeatedly objected to the settlements when they were added on to larger pieces of legislation. but senate majority leader harry reid (d-nev) satisfied conservative complaints by finding spending offsets to cover the rest.

the legislation also includes a one-year extension of the temporary assistance for needy families program, which gives grants to states to provide cash assistance & other services to the poor, & several native american water rights settlements in arizona, montana & new mexico sought by senator jon kyl (r-ariz).

in the native american case, at least 300,000 indigenous people claim deception from royalties overseen by the interior department since 1987 for things like gas, grazing, oil & timber. the plaintiffs would share the settlement. the cobell lawsuit dragged on for 15 years.

one judge in 2008 comparing it to the charles dickens "bleak house," which chronicles a never-ending legal suit. using passages from that novel, us district judge james robertson noted "the suit has, in course of time, become so complicated...no two lawyers can talk about it for five minutes without coming to a total disagreement as to all the premises."

the native american plaintiffs originally said they were owed $100 billion, but were willing to settle for less as the trial wore on. after more than 3,500 court filings & 80 court decisions, the two sides finally reached a settlement in december. cobell said, "personally i still think we're owed a hundred billion dollars, but how long do you drag this thing out?" she said, "do you drag it out until every beneficiary is dead? you can't do that."

cobell said she feels confident about passage in the house, where the two settlements already have passed twice as part of larger pieces of legislation. for the black farmers, its the second round of funding from a class-action lawsuit originally settled in 1999 over allegations of widespread discrimination by local agriculture department offices in awarding loans & other aid. its known as the pigford case - named after timothy pigford, a black farmer from north carolina who was an original plaintiff.

the government has paid more than $1 billion to about 16,000 farmers, with most getting payments of about $50,000. the new money is intended for people, some estimates say about 70,000 or 80,000, who were denied earlier payments because they missed filing deadlines. the amount of money each would get depends on how many claims are successfully filed.

the bill passed friday would be partially paid for by diverting dollars from a surplus in nutrition programs for women & children & by extending customs user fees. interior secretary ken salazar said, in refernce to the passage of the cobell settlement: "this is a day that will be etched in our memories & our history books."

the obama administration has aggressively moved to resolve the discrimination cases after most of them have lingered a decade or more in the courts. last month, the agriculture department offered native american farmers who say they were denied farm loans a $680 million settlement. agriculture secretary tom vilsack said the passage "marks a major milestone in usda's efforts to turn the page on a sad chapter in our history."

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Rangel Found Guilty Of 11 Ethics Violations

a house ethics subcommittee found representative charles rangel (d-ny) guilty on 11 counts of violating house rules "by clear & convincing evidence," rep. zoe lofgren (d-calif), the chair of the house ethics subcommittee announced tuesday.

rangel was found guilty of breaking house rules related to reporting rental income from his villa in the dominican republic, of using a rent-controlled apartment in harlem for campaign activities & rules against using congressional stationery to raise funds for a center at new york's city university to be built in his name. after receiving news of the verdict, rangel blasted the findings, "unfair & unfortunate."

the popular new yorker was clearly incredulous, asking, "how can anyone have confidence in the decision of the ethics subcommittee when i was deprived of due process rights, right to counsel & was not even in the room?" rangel continued, "i can only hope the full committee will treat me more fairly & take into account my entire 40 years of service to the congress before making any decisions on sanctions."

but lofgren affirmed her subcommittee's verdict & the process they used to warrant their arduous decision. said the chairwoman, "this has been a difficult assignment, time-consuming & we have approached our duties diligently & that includes every member of this subcommittee...we have tried to act with fairness, led only by the facts & the law & i believe that we have accomplished that mission."

representative michael mccaul (r-tex), the top republican on the subcommittee, endorsed their findings, but said the rangel matter has broader implications for the entire house. "i'm hopeful as we move forward with this matter into the next phase, that at the end of the day we will be able to begin an era of transparency & accountability, a new era of ethics that will restore the credibility of this house," he said.

rangel faced charges stemming from a 21-month investigation. the rare & historic trial began monday, more than two years after the congressman recommended the ethics subcommittee fully monitor him following various non-stop media reports of irregularities in his personal financial disclosure reports to the house & his untidy tax filings. rangel refused to file income taxes from 1998 to 2008.

although rangel insisted he never knowingly violated house rules, he stepped down from his chairmanship of the powerful house ways & means committee in march of this year following a ruling from the subcommittee on gift rules violations. after moving on, he defiantly kept a high profile on capitol hill & in his harlem district, steadfastly maintaining his innocence at every opportunity. he was re-elected to a 21st term on november 2.

in an extraordinary speech on the house floor in august, rangel held forth for over 30 minutes to defend himself - before going home to new york to campaign for re-election. he said, then, there was "not one scintilla of evidence" to prove him guilty of the violations & demanded the ethics subcommittee publicly try him so he could answer the allegations.

yet when the eight-member house panel began the hearing, rangel calmly walked out of the proceedings, deeming them unfair & a violation of due process as he sat perturbed with no legal representation. he explained he'd spent nearly $2 million in legal fees in the run-up to the trial & asked the subcommittee to delay his hearing until he could find & raise more money to pay for more lawyers.

the subcommittee said no.

rangel exclaimed, "the committee has deprived me of the fundamental right to counsel & has chosen to proceed as if it is fair & impartial & operating according to rules, when in reality they are depriving me of my rights." despite his absence, the subcommittee's staff attorneys continued with their case, making an early motion to end the hearing with no further evidence or witnesses against rangel. they granted their judgment & then went into closed executive session to debate each count against him.

now that rangel has been found guilty, the full committee will meet to make a recommendation to the full house about punishment. ultimately, their decision on his political future could potentially range from censure to expulsion to reprimand.

Monday, November 08, 2010

Free The Imprisoned Scott Sisters

on xmas eve in 1993, a robbery occurred near the small town of forest, mississippi. no one was hurt & perhaps $11 was taken. two african-american sisters, jamie scott, 21, & gladys scott, 19, were convicted of the most draconian sentences imaginable short of the death penalty. each were sentenced to two consecutive life sentences in prison. they've been imprisoned ever since, despite the lack of credible evidence.

jamie, now 38, is seriously ill due to kidney failure. she is on dialysis thrice weekly & suffers from excruciating headaches which they treat only with tylenol. 36 year-old gladys is trying to get her sister hospitalized asap. they were accused of luring two men into a trap, in which the men had their wallets taken by acquaintances of the sisters, one of whom had a shotgun. three teenagers, ages 14-18, pleaded guilty to robbing the men. in their initial statements to investigators they did not implicate the women.

but a plea deal was arranged in which the teens were required to swear the women were involved. as part of the deal, two teens were obliged to testify against the sisters in court. howard patrick, age 14 at the time of the robbery, said the pressure from authorities to implicate the sisters was immediate. patrick testified, "they said if i didn't participate with them they would send me to parchman & make me out a female."

patrick was referring to mississippi state prison, which was once the notoriously violent parchman prison farm. the lawyer questioning patrick said, "in other words, they would send you to parchman & you would get raped, right?" "yes sir," said the frightened teenager. the teens were sentenced to eight years in prison each & were released after two years.

..."mississippi goddamn," as nina simone sang.

among the many people invested in helping the scott sisters include naacp president ben jealous, who is actively seeking a pardon from mississippi governor haley barbour. said jealous, "it makes you sick to think that this sort of thing can happen...that these women should be kept in prison until they die - well, that's just so utterly inhumane."

why were mississippi authorities insistent on oppressing the scott sisters with life sentences, yet let the teenagers, who unquestionably committed the robbery. serve lighter sentences? life sentences for robbery can only be imposed by juries in mississippi, but its extremely rare for that sentencing option to even be included in the instruction given to jurors.

chokwe lumumba, an attorney representing the scott sisters, captured the prevailing legal sentiment when he said, "i don't think mississippi law anticipates that you're going to be given this instruction in a case where nobody gets hurt & $11 is allegedly stolen. in the majority of cases, even the ones that are somewhat nasty, they don't read that instruction."

even the original prosecutor, ken turner, who is now retired & believes the sisters are guilty, has said he thinks it would be "appropriate" to offer them relief from their punitive sentences. turner recently told the clarion ledger in jackson, mississippi, "it was not a particularly egregious case." the appeals process for the women has long since been exhausted. as such, it is up to governor barbour, who is considering petitions on the sister's behalf, to do what is decent, humane & right.

"mississippi goddamn..."

the mississippi department of corrections confirmed governor barbour's role in pardoning five cases of life sentences - four for murder, signed into executive order july 16, 2008. radley balko, in an article for slate magazine, noted none of the five men were given relief because of concerns they had been unfairly treated by the criminal justice system. there were no questions about their guilt or the fairness of the proceedings against them.

but they did have one thing in common. all five men had been enrolled in a special prison program "that had them doing odd jobs around the governor's mansion." again, why were the scott sisters mistreated with such heinous contempt? a spokeswoman for the governor said she referred the matter to the state's parole board. under mississippi law, the governor does not have to follow the board's recommendations: he can act autonomously.

some mississippi observers have characterized the governor's actions as acts of mercy; others have called his deeds dangerous abuses of power. in response to jamie's illness, gladys & others have offered to donate a kidney for transplant. evelyn rasco, the women's mother, told the clarion-ledger, "i wish they would just hurry up & let them out. i hope that is where it is leading to. that would be the only justified thing to do." but if the governor refuses to act with a pardon or clemency, her daughters are both likely to suffer an unjust death in prison.

"...mississippi goddamn!!!"

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

San Francisco Giants Win 2010 World Series

the san francisco giants defeated the texas rangers 3-1 in game five, on the road, to win the 2010 world series. the giants' title is their first since 1954, when the team was based in new york & led by hall-of-famer willie mays. mays' grandson, the much maligned, current giant star & all-time major league home run leader barry bonds threw out the first pitch in game one at candlestick park in san francisco, which the giants won 11-7.

34 year-old veteran giants shortstop edgar renteria was named world series most valuable player. renteria hit .412 with two home runs & six runs batted in. he becomes the fifth shortstop in mlb history to win mvp & the fourth player to hit game clinching homers in separate world series. renteria was a key member of the 1997 florida marlins championship squad.

san francisco ace & two-time cy young award winner tim lincecum won both the opening & closing games, pitching brilliantly in game five with a one run, three hit, two walk, 10 strikeout performance in eight innings. giants closer brian wilson saved game five, retiring the side in 10 pitches.

the giants pitching dominated the series. in addition to lincecum's greatness, matt cain won game two, throwing seven & two-thirds innings in their 9-0 victory. cain's streak of 21 1/3 consecutive shutout innings in the postseason highlighted their incredible starting pitching. 21 year-old lefthander madison baumgarner led the giants to a 4-0 game four win, surrendering three hits in eight innings. texas only had one base runner reach second base in the last two games.

other giant standouts included outfielders cody ross & andres torres, rookie catcher buster posey, second baseman freddie sanchez, infielder juan uribe & first baseman aubrey huff, all of whom delivered timely hits & made defensive gems. uribe was a member of the 2005 world series champion chicago white sox, as was his teammate aaron rowand, who delivered a two-run triple in their game two blowout.

the texas rangers made their first world series appearance. manager ron washington won the respect of his team & inspired them to accomplish several firsts during this exciting 2010 postseason. texas made the playoffs for the first time since 1995, won their first playoff series ever & became first time american league champions by defeating the defending world series champion new york yankees in six games.

rangers hitters batted a paltry .190 during the world series, scoring just 12 runs in five games. their star lefty cliff lee, sporting an intimidating 7-0 postseason record entering the fall classic, was beaten twice by the giants. texas' powerful 3-4-5 hitters, josh hamilton, vladimir guerrero & nelson cruz were a combined 7 for 54.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Who Am I?

i am...


son. brother. cousin. nephew. uncle. in-law.

citizen. neighbor. student. classmate. dancer. singer. choreographer. musician. athlete. coach. instructor. employee. co-worker. boyfriend. lover. partner. actor. model. best friend. associate. taxpayer. voter.

activist. counselor. educator. intern. organizer. supervisor. trainer. volunteer. essayist. poet. mentor. tutor. columnist. filmmaker. playwright. artist. feminist. humanitarian. sgl.

assertive & withdrawn. compassionate & judgmental. disciplined & apathetic. faithful & insecure. generous & selfish. kind & sarcastic. loving & indifferent. peaceful & destructive. resilient & neglectful. selfless & egotistical. trustworthy & manipulative. understanding & intolerant.

being. consciousness. healing. spirit. warrior.

complex. passionate. vulnerable.


Monday, October 04, 2010

American Scientific Experiment or Bio-Chemical Genocide?

america faces global outrage after their recent exposure of infecting patients in a guatemalan mental hospital with sexually transmitted diseases (std's) in scientific experiments. government officials provided prostitutes to patients from 1946 to 1948 to test if the new drug, penicillin, could prevent std's. none of the tests proved successful & the results were hidden in medical archives for decades.

president barack obama apologized for the emergence of the american government's role in their deliberate attempt to mistreat mental illness patients. but medical historian susan reverby from wellesley college in massachusetts unearthed the shocking details of the tests while researching archives in pennsylvania.

almost 700 men & women were exposed to gonorrhea & syphilis during the research. if the patients failed to contract the illnesses they were intentionally inoculated. obama called guatemalan president alvaro colom to apologize after becoming aware of this secretive disaster friday. u.s. secretary of state hilary clinton called to apologize the night before.

white house press secretary robert gibbs said, "obviously this is shocking, it's tragic, it's reprehensible, it's tragic & the u.s. by all means apologizes to all those who were impacted." arturo valenzuela, the u.s. assistant secretary of state for western hemisphere affairs, said in her conversation with colom, clinton expressed 'her personal outrage & deep regret that such reprehensible research could occur.'

guatemalan embassy official fernando de la cerda said his country hadn't known anything about the scientific experiment until clinton's telephone apology thursday night. de la cerda said, "we appreciate this gesture from the usa, acknowledging the mistake & apologizing...this must not affect the bilateral relationship."

reverby made the discovery last year while combining the archived records of dr john cutler, a government researcher involved in the infamous tuskegee study from 1932 to 1972 which tracked 600 african-descended male sharecroppers in alabama who had syphilis without ever offering them treatment. she found cutler also led the guatemalan project, which is believed to be on a much bigger & more burdensome scale.

during the tuskegee experiment scientists knew the men were infected with syphilis, yet they withheld treatment to track the progression of the disease. but in guatemala, inmates, prisoners & soldiers in mental asylums were wilfully infected, sometimes by using prostitutes provided by the scientists during jail visits or sometimes by pouring the germs onto skin abrasions caused by the research.

reverby shared her disturbing find to health professionals at a conference in may. a month later she provided the government with her discovery resulting in last week's white house apology & has since posted them on her website. said reverby, "i was just completely blown away. i was floored. i expected to find something on tuskegee. there was nothing. what he left behind were these records from the guatemalan study."

unlike tuskegee, most of the subjects were treated - which is why reverby said she did not publicize her findings sooner. she felt no one was in immediate danger, adding, "it's not like i could have stopped something that was happening now." strict regulations today make it clear it's unethical to experiment on people without their consent & require special steps for any work with such vulnerable populations as prisoners. but these regulations were absent in the 1940's.

the u.s. government has ordered two independent investigations to uncover exactly what took place in guatemala & to make sure current bio ethics rules are adequate. the inquiries will be led by the prestigious institute of medicine & the presidential commission for the study of bio ethical issues. dr arthur caplan, a university of pennsylvania bio ethicist said, "we've made some obvious moral progress. the sad legacy of past unethical experiments is that they still shape who it is that we can get to trust medical researchers."

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Bishop Eddie Long Sued For Sexual Abuse And Other Claims By Four Men

bishop eddie long was recently sued by four male plaintiffs for various coercive charges, most notably sexual abuse. long presides over the new birth missionary baptist church, the largest church in georgia, with 25,000 members & host to former u.s. presidents carter, bush & clinton.

the first two plaintiffs, maurice flagg & anthony robinson, claim long used his position as spiritual counselor & leader to take the young men, aged 17 & 18 respectively at the time of the alleged abuse, on trips out of state & perform sexual acts with them. robinson & flagg are now 20 & 21 years old. prominent atlanta attorney b.j. bernstein, who represents three of the plaintiffs, described long's relationship with the boys as odd.

bernstein says, "it was essentially a marriage ceremony where there were candles, an exchange of jewelry & biblical quotes given." another plaintiff, jamal parris, detailed how long allegedly gave him his personal cell number just two weeks after the two had met & claims long encouraged him (parris) to call him (long) 'daddy.'

parris said he joined new birth in 2001 & later became long's personal assistant. he claims long would ask him to remain in his private office after church where long engaged him in sexual misconduct. parris eventually left the church & found out from other young male church members they too had sexual contact with long.

eddie legrande, father of spencer legrande, a plaintiff from north carolina, told the journal constitution he witnessed long take on the role of father to his (then) teen aged son. legrande also saw the gifts lavished upon his son. said legrande, "he would call him dad in front of me...i'm very hurt about it...if the accusations are true, i think he should be banned from his church...i think he should do jail time & pay the victims for the hurt...he should be used as an example."

after several days of silence in the midst of these shocking allegations, long addressed his loyal congregation by neither confirming nor denying the charges. reading from an ipad, long said, "there have been allegations & attacks on me. i have never in my life portrayed myself as a perfect man. but i am not the man that's being portrayed on the television. that is not me." long was interrupted by thunderous applause from supporters, many of whom arrived two hours early for the sunday service.

long went on to compare himself to the biblical tale of david fighting the giant. the bishop said, "please hear this. i've been accused. i'm under attack. i want you to know as i said earlier i am not a perfect man. but this thing i'm going to fight. i feel like david against goliath, but i've got the rocks & i haven't thrown one yet."

in a brief statement to the press, long stated, "on the advice of counsel, i am not going to address the allegations & attacks against me, again, as i stated earlier, i want this to be dealt with in a court of justice & not in the court of public opinion."

some young male supporters wore 'i support eddie long' t-shirts...

the suits allege long, one of the most powerful pastors in america, used church funds to give the young males cars, cash & gifts. new birth missionary baptist church is also named as a defendant. civil rights leader & former naacp chairman julian bond called long a "raving homophobe," saying if the allegations are true, "it will be a sad victory for gay rights."

long is the spiritual mentor of rev. bernice king, youngest daughter of coretta scott king & rev. dr. martin luther king, jr & new chair of the southern christian leadership conference. bond refused to attend the june 2006 funeral of coretta scott king - held at the mega-church, where bernice is a pastor. said bond, "i knew her attitude towards gay & lesbian rights...i just couldn't imagine that she'd want to be in that church with a raving homophobe & i couldn't see myself in that church either."

bond, an avid & longtime supporter of lgbt rights continued, "it's just sort of typical of people who are raving homophobes who are secretly homosexual & who are homophobes because they are filled with so much self-loathing & self-hate that they've got to let it come out in some way & it comes out in homophobia." long's virulent anti-gay attitudes are well-known, as are those of rev. bernice king.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Rafael Nadal and Kim Clisters Win 2010 US Open Singles Titles

world #1 rafael nadal of spain defeated world #3 novak djokovic of serbia 6-4, 5-7, 6-4, 6-2 to capture his first us open singles championship. the 24 year-old sexy spaniard becomes the first man since (fellow lefty) aussie rod laver in 1969 to win three consecutive majors in one year; earlier he won the french open & wimbledon. nadal's historic victory makes him the seventh man to claim all four majors in a career. amazingly for one who grew up on clay, he has nine major singles titles.

nadal impresses folks with his determination, humility & willingness to improve every aspect of his all-court game. his serve, once a liability, is now clocked at 135 mph. he volleys with conviction. nadal's aggressive backhand is a major weapon off the ground & when he moves forward he rarely misses an overhead. his conditioning, power & speed are equally exciting for fans & intimidating for opponents.

after nadal won a highly competitive first set, djokovic won four of the next five games. nadal broke back to tie the second set at four games all but the match was re-scheduled for monday due to the rain. when play resumed nadal got stronger & eventually wore down the personable serb. djokovic showed tremendous poise in defeating roger federer in five hard-fought sets during their third str8 us open semi-final showdown, destroying the possibility of a crowd-favored, media anticipated nadal-federer final.

kim clisters of belgium beat vera zvonereva of russia 6-2, 6-1 to win her third us open singles crown. clisters defended her title with powerful ground strokes, solid net play & unwavering defensive ability. clisters won the hearts of millions last year upon returning to the tour after early retirement. she became the third mother to win a major. clisters defeated 30 year-old american hopeful venus williams in a three set thrilling semi-final.

the 26 year-old zvonereva, playing the best tennis of her career, reached her second str8 major final; she lost the wimbledon crown to serena williams. the talented russian seemed overwhelmed from the start, making unforced errors from all parts of the court. clisters' experience was more than enuf to rattle her opponent, as she played with confidence, maturity & patience. during her acceptance speech, zvonereva was in tears, yet warmed the hearts of the crowd when she said, "i love new york." clisters' ranking climbed to #5 & zvonereva has achieved a career high #4.

the us open men's doubles title went to american twin brothers bob & mike bryan. the bryans are the winningest men's doubles pair in history. the women's doubles crown went to american vania king & serbian yaroslava shevdova. king & shevdova won wimbledon earlier this year. the mixed doubles title went to americans bob bryan & liezel huber.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Will America Save Troy Davis?

a federal district court decision puts georgia death-row inmate troy anthony davis back on track for execution, despite doubts about his guilt raised during a june 24 evidentiary hearing. judge william t. moore, jr., ruled executing an innocent person would violate the united states con-stitution & davis didn't meet the extraordinarily high legal bar to prove his innocence. in '91 davis was convicted of killing police officer mark macphail.

larry cox, executive director of amnesty international usa, said, "nobody walking out of that hearing could view this as an open-and-shut case." cox further stated, "the testimony that came to light demonstrates doubt still exists, but the legal bar for proving innocence was set so high it was virtually insurmountable. it would be utterly unconscionable to proceed with this execution, plain and simple."

davis' hearing obscured the following: 1) four witnesses admitted in court they lied at trial when implicating davis & they didn't know who shot officer macphail; 2) four witnesses implicated another man as the one who killed the officer, including a man who says he saw the shooting & could clearly identify the alternative suspect, who is a family member; 3) three original state witnesses described police coercion during questioning, including one man who was 16 years old at the time of the murder & was questioned by several police officers without his parents or other adults present.

laura moye, director of aiusa's death penalty abolition campaign said, "the troy davis case is emblematic of everything that is wrong with capital punishment. in a system rife with error, mistakes can be made. there are no do-overs when it comes to death. lawmakers across the country should scrutinize this case carefully, not only because of its unprecedented nature, but because it clearly indicates the need to abolish the death penalty in the united states."

note: this writer disagrees with moye's assertion, "because of its unprecedented nature." mumia abu-jamal, whom, like davis, is a man of african descent, was convicted & sentenced in 1982 for the murder of philadelphia police officer daniel faulkner after a trial many viewed as racially biased. black men con-stitute over 45% of the death row population. jamal, once a peabody award-winning radio reporter & now critically-acclaimed author, has a case eerily similar to davis, yet remains on death row, 28 years later.

any wonder folks feel the justice system, is criminal...

since the launch of its feb '07 report, where is the justice for me? the case of troy anthony davis, facing execution in georgia, amnesty international has campaigned intensively for a new evidentiary hearing or trial & clemency for davis. aiusa has collected hundreds of thousands of clemency petition signatures & letters from across america & around the world. archbishop desmond tutu of south africa, pope benedict xvi, former us president jimmy carter, as well as lawmakers within & around georgia have joined the call for davis' clemency.

amnesty international is a nobel peace prize winning grassroots activist organization with more than 2.8 million activists, supporters & volunteers who campaign for universal human rights from more than 150 countries. aiusa investigates & exposes abuses, educates & mobilizes the public & work to protect people when dignity, freedom, justice & truth are denied.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Yes, I'm Really 50!

friday august 6 was an incredible milestone 4 me. god blessed me with 50 years of life on planet earth. i felt compelled 2 affirm, honor & value the gift of life by sharing a few thoughts here, albeit briefly, about being 50, black, male & same-gender-loving in america.

someone told me a long time ago every day above ground is a blessing so live it like its the last day u have. or something to that effect. my memory these days is as reliable as a cell phone call not dropping in the middle of an important conversation. or one you're too afraid to end bcuz the person on the other end is boring you to, in the words of actor/comedian bill murray, h-e-double hockey sticks.

i don't live my life like its the last day i have. somewhere along the way i developed a nasty sense of entitlement. perhaps u could call it spiritual arrogance? i have a way of dismissing folks who don't stimulate my body, mind or spirit. & not in that order, either. i've become so detached from folks, when i meet someone who excites me emotionally, intellectually or spiritually i just don't know how 2 react or what 2 do.

one of my cousins in chi-town, a gifted writer, once said, i believe in referring 2 an anonymous member of our wacky family, "i can only take people in small doses." my quintessential spirit connected with her insight immediately! what a relief 2 know u don't think uniquely when tryna deal with challenging family dynamics. but i digress...

black men die prematurely in america: rick james, gerald levert, tupac shakur, luther vandross, i.e. lest i 4get the assassinations of malcolm, martin & medgar. 50 is, indeed, a cultural milestone 4 this african-descended brotha. when i stopped drinking & drugging in the summer of '95 i knew i needed 2 take care of myself in a serious way: the revolution will not be televised but i can still get my shit together b4 god calls me home.

i stopped telling folks my age many, many yrs ago bcuz nobody believes me. apparently, i don't look like a 50 year-old black man. the brotha at work. the brotha at school. the brotha on the corner. the brotha in the gym. the brotha on christopher street, wall street or 125th street. the brotha on bet, cnn or pbs. like michael jackson told ola ray in the landmark '83 thriller video, "i'm not like other guys." while peeping paul mooney, the godfather of comedy, at caroline's on broadway last saturday nite he said "michael was not a pedophile, but he was definitely x-files."

michael jackson was born 342 days b4 me & died suddenly last june.

after all the pain i've endured - most of it self-inflicted - i used 2 wonder why god kept me alive when so many of my heroes & sheroes are gone 2 soon. as my father put it, "god did not put u on this earth just so u can feel good." damn, damn, damn. seems being of service 2 my community has divinely energized my compromised immune system: my negative sense of self has been replaced by a positive concern 4 others.

african people have been in america since 1441. we've been called everything but a child of god, yet i like calling myself black. black like miles davis. black like grace jones. black like tiger woods. yeah, i went there. have u eva felt like a tiger in the woods? like someone was chasing u & u d'nt know why but u started running nowhere fast? whycome white folk wanna b black, until the police come? ok, i'm being silly. perhaps i don't know where i'm going with this latest post?

on tha real, i'm grateful 4 a life worth living. i'm grateful folks trust me with their feelings & shortcomings. i'm grateful 4 the gift of self-awareness. i'm grateful 4 an intimate relationship with a loving god. i'm grateful 4 friends who care about my joy & my pain. i'm grateful my sexuality is fostered with the spirit of self-determination. i'm grateful 4 organic & vegetarian food. i'm grateful 4 thrice wkly workouts at the gym. i'm grateful 4 daily prayer & regular meditation. i'm grateful 4 my apt in the village of harlem. i'm grateful 4 integrity, respect & self-love. i'm grateful 2 b grateful :-)

i'm single & unemployed. most brothas i know are single: str8, same-gender-loving, or otherwise. the unemployment rate 4 black men in nyc is almost 50%. been that way long b4 a black man moved into the white house. my newfound reality? i've learned 2 b happy with or without money, with or without a partner & with or without the approval of others.

...how old am i? yes - i'm really 50 & free 2 b me!

Monday, August 09, 2010

Will Prison-Based Gerrymandering In New York End Legally?

new york state recently passed legislation to end prison-based gerrymandering in new york. their courageous decision brings new york's redistricting process in line with basic principles of democracy & will serve as a model for other states in the effort to count incarcerated populations correctly in the next round of redistricting.

prior to this new legislation, new york counted prison populations during the redistricting process as most states do: by counting them where they're incarcerated, a practice known as prison-based gerrymandering. this unethical practice violates the principle of one person, one vote enshrined in the 14th amendment of the us constitution, which requires election districts be roughly equal in size, so elected officials each represent the same number of constituents.

prison-based gerrymandering artificially inflates population numbers - as such, political influence - in districts where prisons are located, at the expense of other districts. about 60,000 incarcerated persons are in new york state & the accurate counting of incarcerated folk is essential to fair representation throughout the state.

african-americans living in new york are incarcerated at a rate more than eight times higher than whites living in new york. also, african-americans & latinos account for 30% of the state's population, yet over over 70% of its prisoners. 98% of new york's prison cells, however, are located in in disproportionately white state senate districts.

john payton, president & director-counsel of the naacp legal defense & education fund said, "because incarcerated persons in the us are disproportionately african-americans & other people of color, the current counting of incarcerated persons at their place of incarceration, rather than at their pre-arrest residence, severely weakens the voting strength of entire communities of color." payton further stated, "ending prison-based gerrymandering in new york will enable state & local officials to better fulfill their obligations under the federal voting rights act."

like most states, new york defines a person's domicile as a place where that person voluntarily resides. article two, section four of the new york constitution says an incarcerated person retains the place of residence he or she had prior to arrest. incarcerated persons do not choose the districts where they're confined & can be removed at any time at the discretion of the department of correction services.

unlike myself, incarcerated persons have no opportunities to interact with or develop enduring ties to the surrounding communities. they can't use local services, such as libraries or parks. most importantly, they cannot vote in those communities: they are not constituents of those districts, yet how many new yorkers are aware of these historical indiscretions?

incarcerated persons remain legal residents at their pre-incarceration addresses. they maintain ties to the outside world thru their families & other relationships in their home communities. at the end of their sentences they're released to those communities. the average length of incarceration is less than three years, but the prison count remains in effect for a decade. by counting incarcerated residents of these communities elsewhere, prison-based gerrymandering deprives these districts of the just level of political representation to which they're entitled.

this landmark legislation follows similar bills in delaware & maryland earlier this year. "we urge governor paterson to sign this important legislation into law & call on other states to enact similar legislation before the next redistricting cycle begins, " said dale ho, assistant counsel in ldf's political participation group. ho further stated, "moving forward, the census bureau should ease the burden on state & local governments by changing its enumeration methods to count prisoners in their home communities in the next decennial census."

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

The Leo Role Call

these dynamic peeps are born under the zodiac sign of leo:

marsha ambrosius. louis armstrong. james baldwin. lucille ball. antonio banderas. count basie. angela bassett. tony bennett. halle berry. barry bonds. kobe bryant. fidel castro. co co chanel. roger clemens. roberto clemente. bill clinton. george clinton.

carl crawford. viola davis. robert de niro. alexandre dumas. bill evans. patrick ewing. roger federer. laurence fishburne. marcus garvey. alex haley. mata hari. isaac hayes. thierry henry. jason heyward. alfred hitchcock. dustin hoffman. whitney houston.

iman. marvin isley. mick jagger. magic johnson. madonna. benjamin mays. george michael. helen mirren. barack obama. sean penn. alex rodriguez. pete sampras. wesley snipes. hilary swank. andy warhol. isaiah washington.


Thursday, July 29, 2010

NYC Awards $7 Million Settlement in the Slaying of Sean Bell

new york city awarded a seven million dollar settlement in the case of sean bell, the unarmed african-american killed by nypd in a 50-bullet barrage on nov 25, 2006. bell, 23, died around the corner from a queens bar where his bachelor party took place. two of his friends, joseph guzman & trent benefield, were also wounded. undercover police were investigating complaints of prostitution at the club.

bell's death ignited community outrage & inspired social change. the deal awards $3.25 million to the estate of bell, $3 million to guzman & $900,000 to benefield, minus 30% for legal fees. a day after learning of the settlement, during a news conference guzman said, "nobody wins in this case." guzman was shot 17 times & still wears a leg brace.

william bell, sean's father, told the daily news wednesday he's outraged. bell lashed out at michael palladino, a top police union official who called his slain son drunk - suggesting he brought on his own demise. palladino called the settlement "an absolute joke." said bell, "he thinks life is a joke...i don't think life is a joke."

upon learning of the settlement tuesday palladino fumed, "bell was intoxicated and tried to run the cops over." he further lamented the cops were "doing their lawful duty." he also said, "the settlement was excessive and disregards sean bell's actions and culpability."

the bell estate payout will benefit two young daughters he had with nicole paultre bell, the beautiful, poised & resilient fiancee who legally took his name after his death. she called the settlement, "reasonable," but poignantly added, "the girls will never have their father."

at a two-month trial in 2008, detectives marc cooper, gescard isnora & michael oliver said they opened fire on a car carrying bell & his friends because they believed the men were armed & the men defied orders to halt & tried to drive away. no weapons were found.

a judge who heard the case instead of a jury cleared the officers of manslaughter & other charges. he said in a decision prosecution witnesses who testified the officers opened fire without warning lacked credibility. the officers remain on modified duty & face departmental charges which could result in their dismissal.

the bell settlement follows other multi-million dollar payouts in high-profile civil lawsuits involving the nypd. in june the city agreed to pay a record amount for a civil rights lawsuit when it settled for $9.9 million with barry gibbs, an innocent man who spent 19 years in prison - after being framed by a police detective.

in 2001, the city & police union agreed to pay $8.7 million to abner louima, who was beaten & sodomized with a broomstick in a police precinct by officers. after legal fees, louima was left with about $5.8 million. the plaintiffs in the bell case said they would now lobby for pending state legislation calling for a special prosecutor for police shootings, more firearms training & other measures.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Racialized Marketing Masks Publishing Industry Cultural Biases

sue monk kidd's best-selling novel, the secret life of bees, was published by penguin books. the story was set in the south with african-american characters. kidd's novel garnered fame, fortune & recognition, in addition to being utilized on screen in a film of the same name starring queen latifah, jurnee smollet & alicia keys.

kathryn stockett's novel, the help, also published by a penguin books imprint, sold one million books w/in a year of publication. her accolades & awards include the prestigious south african boeke prize. the help is being adapted for the screen under the production of academy-award winning director steven spielberg.

both authors have realized their dreams. yet they are not the first white women to pen stories of the black american south & achieve success. in 1928, julia peterkin wrote a novel, scarlet sister mary, for which she received the pulitzer prize in fiction. kidd's & stockett's novels explore racism while celebrating the power of friendship & acceptance. the covers of both novels did not reveal the race of the characters, yet they were both marketed to black & white audiences.

bernice l. mcfadden's debut novel, sugar, was recently published by a penguin books imprint. set in the 1950s south, the story - akin to kidd & stockett - deals with racism & celebrates the power of friendship & acceptance. the original cover depicted a beautiful black woman standing behind a screen door. sugar was marketed solely to african-american readers. this type of marginalization is uniquely known among african-american writers as seg-book-gation.

the practice of seg-book-gation is culturally biased, financially impotent & historically demonizing. literature about the oppressed written by the oppressor has a long tradition. the disturbing trend can be traced to colonialism, a movement not only physical but textual, the evidence of which can be found in the diaries, journals & letters of colonists, plantation slave owners & settlers.

representation of african-americans by white folk in texts records a his-tory of inferiority. based on these perceptions, as well as institutional, legal & societal oppression, african-americans have endured enslavement, genocide, medical apartheid & segregation. inferiority is a fundamental tool to ethnic distancing in society. today, this tool is used with great precision in the mainstream publishing industry.

although the distancing may not be total, as a few african-american authors have enjoyed mainstream success, the brilliant work of many african-american authors is racialized in bookstores as african-american literature. this type of marketing implies our literature is anomalous & singular, but not universal. african-descended authors' works, then, are not viewed as people, rather, as a genre, much like mysteries, romances or thrillers.

if you walk through any local bookstore in america, or major bookstore abroad, you will not see sections of books labeled with the following categories: british literature, korean literature, pakistani literature and/or white american literature. none of these ethnicities are objectified or singled out the way african-american writers are.

mainstream publishing houses contort themselves to acquire books glorifying crime, drugs & illicit sex. known as hip hop fiction or street-lit, these novels often reinforce stereotypical images african-americans fought hard to overcome. we are the descendants of great literary pioneers who first gave voice to the african-american experience, yet somewhere we lost our way; today folks embrace, by default, a genre denigrating a cultural institution which took hundreds of years to construct.

2010 is arguably the 90th anniversary of the birth of the harlem renaissance. 50 years ago we honored the transition of zora neale hurston, a fiercely independent, yet misunderstood cultural icon during the renaissance. in 1950, hurston's poignant essay, what white publishers won't print, published in the negro digest, addressed current challenges faced by african-american authors seeking the american dream.

hurston wrote, "for various reasons, the average, struggling, non-morbid negro is the best-kept secret in america. his revelation to the public is the thing needed to do away with that feeling of difference which inspires fear, and which ever expresses itself in dislike." the sistah speaks truth to power!

...but is anybody listening?

Monday, July 05, 2010

Rafael Nadal and Serena Williams Win 2010 Wimbledon Singles Titles

rafael nadal of spain defeated the czech republic's tomas berdych 6-3, 7-5, 6-4 to capture his 2nd wimbledon singles crown. nadal did not defend his 2008 victory at the famed all-england club last year due to injury. the buffed & handsome 24 year-old now has 8 major singles titles in his glorious young career. the only major nadal has not won is the us open, yet he's regained the #1 ranking, again, from roger federer of switzerland.

federer was soundly beaten in the quarterfinals by the hard-hitting berdych 6-3, 4-6, 6-1, 7-6, his 2nd str8 quarterfinal loss in a major tournament. federer, who later admitted he weathered back & leg injuries during the event, drops to #3 - his lowest ranking since nov '03. serbia's novak djokovic, whom berdych dominated in the semifinals in str8 sets, rises to #2. berdych's amazing run at wimbledon catapults him to #8 in the world.

serena williams defeated russia's vera zvonareva 7-6, 6-2 to win her 4th wimbledon singles title. williams passes billie jean king & is now 6th on the all-time list of women's major singles champions, led by margaret court-smith of australia with 24 wins. zvonareva, in her 1st ever grand slam final, competed mightily, yet could not handle the aggression, experience & savvy of williams. her sistah, venus, lost in the quarterfinals.

earlier this year, williams, the 2010 australian open champion, conceded she wanted to win a calendar grand slam. williams won 4 str8 grand slam tournaments, though not in the same year; the feat was dubbed the serena slam. however, she lost in the quarterfinals of this year's french open to australia's hard-serving samantha stosur. williams' triumph is her 13th, a number she says is lucky 4 her.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Lakers Beat Celtics In Game 7 Of NBA Finals

the los angeles lakers defeated the boston celtics 83-79 in game 7 of the 2010 nba finals at the staples center in los angeles b4 a frenzied & purple sellout crowd. the lakers defended their 2009 title, repeating as champions 4 the second time in a decade. neither team shot well from the floor, yet the solid defense of both squads made it close at the end, as the lakers overcame a 13 point deficit midway thru the 3rd quarter. this was the most watched nba final since the bulls defeated the jazz in 1998.

kobe bryant was named nba finals mvp 4 the second str8 year. the 31-year old superstar now has five rings, equaling laker hall-of-famer magic johnson, just one shy of all-time great kareem abdul-jabbar. laker coach phil jackson won a record-setting 11th title, his 5th with the lakers. jackson guided the chicago bulls in the mid-90's to 6 championships - the only team 2 three-peat twice, '91-'93 & '96-'98. jackson has 113 wins with chicago & 112 wins with the lakers.

the last nba finals' game 7 took place 16 years ago when the eighth-seeded houston rockets won the last 2 games against the favored new york knicks in 1994. the lakers now have 16 titles in 32 championship games, compared with the celtics' 17 wins in 22 finals. the stored rivalry was their 12th final in nba history, unparalleled in team sports. boston has a 9-3 edge. the last time these two greats played a game 7 was in 1987 when the lakers, led by magic, kareem & james worthy, prevailed over the celtics' larry bird, kevin mchale & robert parrish.

pundits have already begun 2 speculate on the immediate future of celtics coach doc rivers, the 2008 champion, as well as lakers coach phil jackson who earlier this year suggested retirement may become a reality. celtics guard ray allen is among the free agents this summer, as july 1, 2010 will go down as the most hotly anticipated day in nba history. other free agents include lebron james, dwayne wade, amare' stoudamire, chris bosh, joe johnson, yao ming, dirk novwitzki & carlos boozer.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

South Africa Honors Soweto Uprising During 2010 World Cup

south africa, the host country of the fifa 2010 world cup soccer tournament, observed the 34th anniversary of the june 16, 1976 soweto uprising. historically recognized as the catalyst to the anti-apartheid movement, thousands of students from the black township of soweto gathered to embody self-dertermination & march in protest at being forced to go to school in afrikaans, the language of the white supremacist minority regime.

police opened fire on the unarmed students, killing hundreds, including a 13 year-old teenager. hector pieterson was the first - in the spirit of crispus attacks - to die in the violence. photographs of a demonstrator carrying away the boy's limp body caused international outrage & stoked resistance to legalized apartheid & socialized racism.

the anniversary is now commemorated as youth day, coinciding this year with south africa's match against uruguay, its 2nd game in a world cup. how far has the country come since the end of apartheid in '94? said national football team captain aaron mokoena, "we all know what the day means for south africans & especially for the youth...it would be very special to win the game on the day...it is a day we all remember."

the soweto of 2010 is a far cry from the impoverished slums which the students marched through in 1976. the township originally established to house white johannesburg's black labour force. today landscape parks, a massive shopping mall, a newly renovated golf course & sports-paved streets are recognizable traits of a modern city.

soccer city stadium sits at the township's edge. and orlando stadium, the students' destination in the 1976 march, hosted a star-studded world cup kick-off concert last week featuring the black eyed peas, john legend & shakira. south africa is the venue for the world cup's opening & closing matches. long live the students of soweto!

Friday, June 04, 2010

Obama Extends Benefits To Same-Sex Couples

president barack obama ordered government agencies wednesday to extend additional benefits to same-sex partners of federal employees, including child care services & expanded family leave. the initiative comes a year after obama signed a memorandum giving federal workers' same-sex partners a first round of benefits including dependent-care & visitation rights. additionally, obama asked federal agencies to determine what other benefits could be given to domestic partners without congressional action.

among the results of his review he announced included: access to credit union & other memberships when those are provided to federal workers; child-care services & subsidies; giving domestic partners the same status as 'family members' when federal appointments are made; more flexibility to use family leave to attend to the needs of domestic partners & their children; as well as relocation benefits.

as with obama's memo a year ago, this one covers only benefits that can be extended under existing law, without congressional approval. legislative action would be required for a full range of health care & other benefits. in fact, health care benefits are the ultimate piece-de-resistance' for many activists, which obama supports wholeheartedly. in a statement, obama called on congress to extend health benefits to same-sex partners.

obama said, "while this memorandum is an important step on the path to equality, my administration continues to be prevented by existing federal law from providing same-sex domestic partners with the full range of benefits enjoyed by heterosexual married couples."

several times during obama's historic presidential campaign he pledged to support the lgbt community, which has been critical of his actions as commander-in-chief. the white house recently backed a compromise on the military "don't ask, don't tell" policy on gays in the military that would move ahead on repeal but still allow the pentagon time to implement new policies. in april, obama moved to grant same-sex partners full visitation rights in hospitals.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Aiyana Stanley Jones Slain By Detroit Police

this weekend, a seven year-old african-american girl, aiyana stanley jones, was shot & killed by detroit police. at the time of the shooting, aiyana was on a couch sleeping. detroit police entered her home to execute a search warrant in a homicide investigation & they threw a flash bang - also known as a stun grenade - thru the front window of jones' apartment.

eventually jones caught fire. as her grandmother tried to put out the flames, police entered & a gun went off. aiyana was shot in the neck & pronounced dead in the hospital. her father, charles jones, had to wait several hours b4 he was able to find out what happened to his precious daughter.

detroit police came to jones' home searching for a suspect in the recent shooting death of 17 year-old jerean blake, who was gunned down in front of his girlfriend on friday. blake's story is also a tale of senseless police brutality, a painful reminder of the domino effect this type of violence can have on a community.

sadly enuf, the police didn't find the suspect they came to apprehend. as such, they left jones' home without resolution. aiyana's family is now traumatized, yet their horrific story raises important questions: why are military-type weapons used in civilian homes? how do we hold law enforcement accountable while honoring their human fallibility? why do these types of crimes occur disproportionately among folks of african descent & low-income folks? what can we do to heal our wounded spirits?

instead of being excited about her friends at school, jumping rope & playing games, aiyana stanley jones is six feet under. violence towards african-descended women & children is not uncommon. black people & other progressive folk will, no doubt, honor her memory. however, we live in a white supremacist society which values the lives of people who don't look like aiyana. when a similar tragedy befalls becky, megan or suzie, america mourns for months...

who will cry for the little girl?

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Long Live The Spirit Of Lena Horne

activist, actress, dancer & singer lena horne transitioned monday, may 10 at the remarkable age of 92. born in (do-or-die) bed-stuy, brooklyn, new york, june 30, 1917, the classy & elegant lena mary calhourn horne took the stage as a dancer at harlem's famed cotton club when she was just 16. she later became a singer there, playing to packed houses (of white patrons only) with band leaders cab calloway & duke ellington.

nine years later she signed with mgm studios & became one of the first women of african descent to be showcased in hollywood for her stunning beauty & wonderful talent. at 25, horne was the first african-american to sign a long-term movie contract with a major hollywood studio. she was given a screen test by mgm & signed after a studio scout saw her performing in a new york club.

horne brought something uniquely her own to every role, whether cast as a principle or extra. her presence was captivating yet not intimidating; she exuded a quintessential spirit despite enduring anti-black & anti-female oppression in the white male capitalist patriarchal entertainment industry. oscar-winning actress hattie mcdaniel once said, "i'd rather get paid $200 a week to play a maid, than $2 a week to be a maid." horne's signature song was "stormy weather," & she was determined to break the prevailing stereotypes of black women as domestic servants, nannies or wenches.

african-american film historian donald bogle wrote, "she would sing a song in the film, then she would disappear...the studio could cut those scenes out if they felt that audiences in the south might object." horne's butterscotch complexion became a blessing & burden as she was often expected to pass for white in order to appear desirable for a leading white male actor. she worked during the jim crow era when interracial marriage was illegal, yet never compromised her dignity, faith & self-respect.

horne complained she was used as "window dressing" in white films, mostly limited to singing performances that could be easily edited out for play in southern theaters. she defiantly rejected studio plans to promote her as a latin american. also, her stepfather, miguel rodriguez, negotiated her contract for her never to play a maid or "tarzan extra." she began taking singing lessons in 1935, eventually landing a part in the all-black broadway production "dance with your gods." five years later she became the first african-american singer to tour with a white group.

the black community admired her tireless efforts to foster fair treatment & racial equality in the workplace. she remained steadfast yet fully aware of the career risks. while touring with the uso during world war 2, horne stood up for black soldiers who were forced to sit behind german prisoners during one of her performances. after the uso withdrew her from the tour, she used her own money to travel to sing for the troops. horne sued american restaurants & theaters for racial discrimination, knowing she'd be using the "coloreds only" back door entrance before going on stage.

horne has a daugher & son from her first marriage, which ended in 1944. she married again in 1947 to lennie hayton, who was then mgm's music director. she decided to keep the marriage secret for several years - hayton was white. but when the public learned of their marriage the couple received hate mail & threats of violence.

during the turbulent 60's horne became an associate of paul robeson, a man whose political & social consciousness inspired her to seek justice. like horne, robeson was an artist of integrity who believed in his convictions & was convicted for his beliefs. the black power movement fueled their desire to awaken the spirit of oppressed folk globally. horne joined in the historic march on washington. later that decade, she was invited with james baldwin, harry belafonte & lorraine hansberry by robert f. kennedy to a special dinner to discuss growing racial tension in the country.

by 1981, horne enjoyed a resurgence of her career with a hit show on broadway. "lena horne: the lady & her music," garnered her a special tony award & two grammys. in 1978, her passionate role as glinda, the good witch, in the all-black musical the wiz, co-starring michael jackson & diana ross, was critically acclaimed. in 1989 she received a lifetime achievement award for her soulful singing. in 1995, her jazz album, "an evening with lena horne," earned her another grammy. she became a cultural icon.

horne's memorable guest appearances on such emmy-award winning television shows as sesame street, the cosby show & a different world broadened her audience & widended her appeal. we learned, in fact, from the youth inspired cosby spin-off, a different world, jada pinkett-smith's character, lena james, the free-spirited transplant from baltimore, was named after lena horne.

lena horne embodies self-determination. she once said, "my identity is very clear to me now...i am a black woman...i am free...i no longer have to be a credit...i don't have to be a symbol to anybody...i don't have to be a first to anybody...i don't have to be an imitation of a white woman that hollywood sort of hoped i'd become...i'm me & i'm like nobody else."

long live the spirit of the legendary, lovely, luminous lena horne...

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Fasting for Freedom

i'm in the middle of my quarterly five-day fast. my intention during this, now, decade-old ritual, is to drink orange juice in the morning, organic juices & water during the rest of the day, in addition to snacking on fresh fruits & organic nuts. bcuz i live with a compromised immune system some folks are concerned about the physical challenges. but hey, like my former primary care physician once told me when i struggled, several yrs ago, with the decision to take hiv meds: its my body, my life, my choice.

how do i feel right now? anxious, confident, determined & proud of myself for doing what i've come to know is god's will for me. fasting has helped me build a more positive self-image. fasting inspires me to choose spiritually in my relationship with food. fasting teaches me self-discipline, a valuable quality lacking in my new way of life. in the spirit of unconditional loving acceptance, fasting has become a way of life for a brotha.

when i first started fasting i didn't ask for help nor know what i was doing. after three days i rewarded myself with some popeye's chicken - which sent me to the bathroom, calling ralph. since that nasty episode i've read some books, talked to others & worked closer with a loving god. depriving my body of food is often accompanied by light headaches, mild nausea and/or a sense of disorientation. i've learned to expect some discomfort yet not panic or bug the pluck out.

at the moment, janet jackson is singing younglove, from her debut album of the same name, on an old episode of soul train, which is now accessible on the centric channel. on the tennis channel, roger federer is playing marcos baghdatis in a highly-contested third round match of the indian wells classic. multi-channel surfing can be fun when you have a sony bravia 46' flat screen tv to play with.

as always, i'll break the fast at noon with a huge salad filled with almonds, bananas, croutons, raisins & walnuts. lata, around 3:00 pm, i'll walk to the uptown juice bar on 125th st & enjoy some broccoli, brown rice, vegetarian noodles & tofu. for someone raised on grease, sugar, pork & chocolate, who knew food could be exciting, fun & healthy? with freedom comes responsibility. fasting is a vehicle for growing into mature consciousness. but don't get it twisted: god has the keys to this ride...

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

New Orleans Saints Win Super Bowl XLIV

the new orleans saints defeated the indianapolis colts 31-17 to win their first ever vince lombardi trophy as the 44th super bowl champion of the national football league. saints all-pro quarterback drew brees completed 32 of 39 passes for 288 yards, two touchdowns & no interceptions. he was unanimously awarded the game's most valuable player. brees' 32 completions tied a super bowl record, held by new england patriots all-pro quarterback tom brady. the exciting game, played in front of 74,059 fans, made history as the most watched television program, ahead of the last episode of m*a*s*h.

most of the pundits expected a shootout between brees & colts all-pro quarterback peyton manning. not many expected the saints defense to hold the high-powered colts' offense to just 17 points. in fact, the game was a tale of two halves as indy led 10-6 going into the 3rd quarter, yet were outscored 25-7 the rest of the way - matching the biggest comeback in super bowl history. the colts made an impressive goal-line stand just b4 the 1st half ended, as the saints came up short on a surprisingly conservative 4th down running play. however, the saints got the ball back quickly & ended the 1st half with a long field goal - one of three, 40+ yards by placekicker michael hartley - a super bowl record.

saints head coach, known for his bold, aggressive play-calling, decided to open the 2nd half with an onside kick. it worked. brees then calmly picked apart the colts interior with the precision of a surgeon, charging the saints to a 13-10 lead behind running back pierre thomas' touchdown scamper. another saints field goal increased their lead to six points until manning engineered one of his textbook drives, giving the colts a 17-16 edge. brees' goal-line touchdown pass to tight end jeremy shockey, coupled with his two-point conversion to lance moore gave the saints a 24-17 lead.

it seemed we were headed for a thrilling overtime game with manning at the helm. but with 3:12 left in the 4th quarter, safety tracy porter, shadowing manning & his target, all-pro wide receiver reggie wayne the whole play, intercepted his pass & ran 74 yards for a score, the 3rd longest in super bowl history. the crowd erupted. the saints sideline went wild. the colts fans were stunned. porter's pick, equally as dramatic as his interception of brett favre in the nfc title game, was the game's only turnover; one manning will always regret.

perhaps the four-time nfl mvp colts qb is human, after all.

the people of the city of new orleans & the state of louisiana, who continue to suffer the devastating aftermath of hurricane katrina, amidst the contemptuous indifference of our government, will be partying on bourbon street for days to come, as mardi gras officially begins sometime next week. the saints, whose maligned fans once wore bags over their heads during home games, played with tremendous determination, heart & pride. all of the players, veterans & rookies alike, felt their victory was for the people, who needed something to feel good about after being betrayed, displaced & neglected.

after the game, brees said, "four years ago who ever thought this would be happening when 85 percent of the city was under water from hurricane katrina...most people not knowing if new orleans would ever come back or if the organization and the team would come back...this is the culmination of that belief and that faith." added porter, "we weren't the aints...we were a team of destiny, a team that can make big plays." finally, saints linebacker scott fujita remarked, "look around the stadium...it was like six or seven-to-one (saints fans)...the black and gold just poured into miami...the whole world was behind us...this was bigger than just a game for the saints...we are the world's team."

who dat, who dat, who dat say gonna beat dem saints?

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

One Year After Daddy Transitions

xactly 368 days ago god called my father home. he lived 80 years & suffered a short bout with lung cancer. my father transitioned three days after his earth day & three days b4 barack hussein obama was inaugurated as america's 44th president - the seventh of african ancestry. also, my father shares the same earth day as miami heat all-pro guard dwayne wade, whom, like my father, is a proud chicago native.

i felt compelled to acknowledge this milestone of sorts. something ritualistic about a year later makes me wanna reflect. reflection is good 4 the soul: the soul yearns to know itself thru its own experience. nana imhotep gary byrd taught me experience is always the best teacher. coming to terms with my father's homegoing was not difficult, primary bcuz god has granted me the serenity to accept the things i cannot change. seems this writer has matured in some ways.

still, i miss dad. i miss his annoying phone calls at no o'clock in the morning. i miss his reply of 'prosperity' when i'd answer my phone (his call) with the standard greeting of 'peace.' i miss our spirited dialogues about black people, family values, history, movies, religion, sports, world affairs, i.e. i miss his nervous, somewhat vulnerable, laughter when i'd catch him off-guard with a funny, goofy or silly remark. i was pleased to make him laugh & appreciated him more when we shared those moments.

my father, slowly over a period of time, began to truly listen to his son. he listened to my joy, my pain, my dreams, my struggles, my sexuality, my spirituality, my goals, my failures, my needs & my shortcomings. my father, slowly over a period of time, began to share with his son what his life was like as a fatherless little boy, as a teenager, as a korean war veteran, as a newlywed, as an entrepreneur, as a divorced man, as a retired adult & as an elder. we cultivated a relationship based in honesty, mutual respect & trust.

part of sanity is effectively relating to others...

oddly enuf, he boldly predicted obama would win. he said america was ready 4 change & america would not, in 2008, elect a white male, whom, in his mind, did not represent change. he also said america was neither ready nor willing to elect a female, especially, if she was white, bcuz, again, a white candidate symbolized past/current political failures. of course, i dismissed his prediction with my usual rebellious nature. but what do i know about politics? in the '04 prez election i voted 4 ralph nader, knowing damn well he was gonna lose.

when i was a kid my father taught me to respect all people, no matter who they are & where they come from. he taught me to work hard, make sacrifices & try to do the best that i can in whatever i endeavor. he said he never met anyone who "wanted to be unsuccessful." he believed in self-determination, asserting, "if you want something done in this world, you better do it yourself, or you'll be waiting for other people to do things for you the rest of your life."

just b4 he left this earth he insisted i become a sportswriter. why? good question. bcuz there are very few black sportswriters in america & he thought i could make money (to eventually buy him the black mercedes benz he joked about incessantly) doing two things i love: sports & writing. sounds logical, right? but i'm not a logical person. my heart is not in it. maybe if i were a quarter century younger i could shift gears & go 4 it. just 4 him. maybe in my next lifetime. 4 now, i'm happy being me. grateful we connected as men.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Haiti Suffers Catastrophic Earthquake

in what some are calling one of the world's most catastrophic disasters, the island of haiti suffered a major earthquake tuesday. the number of deaths are estimated at 100,000. over 40,000 bodies are buried. relief, repair & recovery will undoubtedly take years. international relief organizations are mobilizing a response to the 7.0 earthquake that rocked port-au-prince, destroying the national palace, many government ministries, major hotels & private residencies in the 250 year-old capital city.

the world is watching. god is omnipresent. recent memories of the tsunami, katrina & 9/11 have resurfaced in my psyche. my deepest condolences go to the families, friends & loved ones of haiti, both here & abroad. the full dimensions of the earthquake are unknown. folks on the blogosphere continue to share their varied perspectives. one thing is certain: the men, women & children of haiti are wounded & they need to heal.

most communications with haiti were cut-off, leaving much of the on-ground reporting to haitians & foreigners armed with internet connections & mobile phones. the sad news trickled out in twitter feeds & cell phone pictures from eyewitnesses. they showed collapsed roofs, slabs of concrete & bodies in the streets. what witnesses reported but mercifully did not record were the screams of the desperate & the trapped & the occasional cheers when survivors were pulled from the rubble.

my primary sources of information are cnn, keith olberman & ny1. their non-stop, round-the-clock coverage has been, at times, difficult to watch. cnn showed disturbing footage of haitian men & women - still alive, unable to pry themselves free of rubble, as citizens can be seen in the foreground walking by, looking for lost ones, traumatized by the unfolding tragedy. mothers were seen trying to cover the eyes of their children. in fact, when one of the journalists walked inside of a classroom of teachers & students who miraculously survived, then showed footage of a building destroyed with teachers & students inside, i felt their loss.

raymond joseph, haitian ambassador to the us, said on cnn's situation room with wolf blitzer, "this is a catastrophe of major proportions...the place is really bad now."haiti was still trying to recover from the devastation of a series of back-to-back hurricanes that flooded the northern town of gonaives & the central plain that has been haiti's breadbasket.

haiti is the poorest & second most densely populated country in the western hemisphere. also, haiti has struggled with political turmoil, including the ouster of president jean-bertand aristide in 1991, his restoration by us president clinton in 1994, his re-election in 2001 & his hasty departure, again, shrouded in mystery: he claims he was kidnapped by the us military & forced into exile in south africa. a united nations peacekeeping force under brazilian command has been in haiti since his ouster & remains after the election of current president rene preval.

the obama administration has offered $100 million in relief aid. obama said of the haitian people, "you will not be forsaken...we need an international effort." while many americans are willing to help, folks are encouraged to make cash donations & other supplies to respectable capacity-building organizations genuinely invested in the independence, self-determination & self-reliance of the haitian people. unfortunately, high levels of corruption & scandal peak when folks are most vulnerable; often, the people who need the most help never get it.

obama, in an unlikely yet not unique move, has enlisted former presidents george w bush & bill clinton to serve the haitian people. clinton was named special envoy to haiti. their responsibilities are unclear as of this writing. perhaps bush can somehow redeem himself? the recent us policy toward haitian immigrants is pretty ugly...

haitian refugees interdicted by the us coast guard are not screened to see if they may have valid claims to refugee status. only those who take the initiative to clearly proclaim their fear of return to haiti will be allowed to make an asylum claim. only three of more than 1,000 haitians intercepted since february 1 have been screened as a result of their protestations; these 3 were returned to haiti without a full asylum hearing. haitians who reach the us without being interdicted are put into fast-track removal procedures, during which they are subject to mandatory detention & are not eligible for release on bond.

this package of measures is only applied to haitian people!

i feel compassion for the people of haiti & their loved ones. people on the island are desperately frightened, homeless & hungry. the lack of water, food & medical supplies augments a deteriorating infra-structure for which such aid is forthcoming from countries around the world. time is of the essence. some natives utilize homeopathic remedies to tend to the biological wounds of their loved ones. some folks are being buried on top of each other. some are simply too shocked to act.

haitian-born samuel dalembert, the 7'1 center for the nba's philadelphia 76ers has generously pledged $100,000, while at the same time admits, "i feel helpless." grammy award winning musician/rapper wyclef jean has offered his organization, yele, as a resource for financial contributions. the 2009 world series champion new york yankees have pledged $500,000. the city of new york is launching a $1 payroll donation for all city employees. amidst the darkness & despair folks' selfless service challenges my cynicism towards our government & my wavering faith in humanity.

thank god the obama administration will help. we should help. we are all god's children. each one, teach one is more than just an african proverb. but where did the $100 million come from? amazing how we can assist others abroad & neglect our basic needs at home. i intend to make a cash donation. not sure how much or when, but, i will, sooner than lata. am i my brother's keeper? no doubt.