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.

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.