i am

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harlem, usa
same-gender-loving contemporary descendant of enslaved africans. community activist, feminist, health educator, independent filmmaker, mentor, playwright, poet & spiritual being. featured at, in & on africana.com, afrikan poetry theatre, angel herald, bejata dot com, bet tonight with tavis smiley, blacklight online, black noir, brooklyn moon cafe, gmhc's barbershop, klmo-fm, lgbt community services center, longmoor productions, nuyorican poets cafe, our corner, poz, pulse, rolling out new york, rush arts gallery, saint veronica's church, schomburg center for research in black culture, sexplorations, the citizen, the new york times, the soundz bar, the trenton times, the village voice, upn news, uzuri, venus, vibe, wbai-fm, wnyc-fm & wqht-fm. volunteered with adodi, bailey house, inc., black men's xchange-new york, colorofchange.org, drug policy alliance, east harlem tutorial program, imagenation film & music festival, presente.org, save darfur coalition, the enough project, the osborne association, the sledge group & your black world. worked on films with maurice jamal & heather murphy. writing student of phil bertelsen & ed bullins. mjt975@msn.com.

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.