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.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

U.S. Supreme Court To Hear Affirmative Action Challenge Of White Female Student

on october 10, the u.s. supreme court will hear fisher v. university of texas, no. 11-345, a major challenge to affirmative action in higher education. the case was brought by abigail fisher, a white woman who says she was denied admission to the university of texas based on her race. the university selects parts of its class by taking race into account, as one factor among many, in an effort to ensure educational diversity.

nine years ago the court endorsed that university's approach in a five-to-four vote. the majority opinion in the case, grutter v. bollinger, was written by justice sandra day o'connor. in fact, she said she expected it to last for a quarter of a century. but o'connor retired in 2006.

o'connor was succeeded by justice samuel a. alito, jr., a president george w. bush appointee who consistently votes to limit race-conscious decision-making by the government. chief justice john g. roberts, jr., another bush appointee, has made no secret of his distaste for what he calls,"a sordid business, this divvying us up by race."

justices anthony kennedy, antonin scalia & clarence thomas all dissented in the grutter case, which suggests there now may be five votes to limit or overturn it. the aim of such a decision may depend on the intricacies of the admissions system in texas. the university provides automatic admission to students in texas who graduate in roughly the top ten percent of their high school classes. their system generates diversity, partly because many texas high schools remain racially homogeneous.

ms. fisher narrowly missed the cutoff at a high school whose students have above-average test scores for the state. she was rejected for one of the remaining spots under the part of the admissions program considering applicants' race. the court may uphold the texas system under grutter, or it may rule against it by saying, for instance, race-conscious admissions are forbidden where a race-neutral method - like the ten percent program - can said to be working fairly.


Monday, September 24, 2012

Colonoscopy 101

last wednesday morning i had a colonoscopy. first time. the procedure was unpleasant yet worthwhile. they were supposed to anesthetize me - but didn't. or, should i just say, whatever local medication they injected me with refused to do the job. i felt the black snake inside me. my stomach was in knots. i wanted to ask my male doctor, "before you hit it, can we get to know each other better? how about dinner & a movie? a little foreplay..."

so i'm making light of a dark situation. but that's who i be.

the preparation was horrible. tuesday, i had to drink a gallon of water mixed with a chemical which has too many syllables to pronounce, much less remember. every 15 minutes i had to drink a glass of this stuff, which kinda tasted like salt & alka seltzer. my doctor told me it would taste like gatorade. she lied. that shit was nasty. p-funk. the bomb.

after a couple of hours my head started to spin. my equilibrium was unbalanced. my stomach was nauseated. i began to vomit as i sat on the toilet releasing liquid waste. i felt like linda blair. unplugged. i called a female friend who has more health issues than myself. she assured me the drink was the hard part & everything else would be was a piece of cake. uh, okay, i guess. 

around 10 pm i began to experience slight emotional relief. i called another friend. a guy. why? because i value balance in my relationships. we laughed at the absurdity of it all. his compassion was comforting. other friends, diverse men & women, told me what to expect before the procedure. i appreciate their support, primarily because it came from their personal experience with having a colonoscopy themselves. some more than one.

more than once? oh mah goodness....

to my delight & surprise, i woke up spiritually refreshed wednesday morning. in fact, i was pleased at how i felt before undergoing the unknown. but i serve a loving god. his wisdom is infinitely better than my own. as such, i was unafraid of the outcome. they told me i had some internal hemorrhoids. most importantly, no cancer was found! i don't have to do another colonoscopy in 7-10 years.

in the immortal words of madea, "ha-le-loo-yer."

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Pennsylvania Set To Execute Death Row Sexual Assault Victim

unless the state's board of pardons prevents it, pennsylvania will execute terrance "terry" williams, 46, by lethal injection. williams is on death row for the 1984 murder of amos norwood, who sexually abused wlliams as a child. months earlier, williams had killed another man who also raped him. governor tom corbett set an execution date of october 3, which would make williams the first person put to death in the state in 13 years.

prosecutors characterized williams as a serial killer, but the jurors never heard evidence of the years of horrific abuse he suffered from older men. child advocates, judges, prosecutors, the jurors who found him guilty & the victim's wife say he should not die. additionally, over 345,000 people have signed a petition on colorofchange.org to grant him clemency. a similar viral show of support for a death row inmate was given to troy davis a year ago.

terry williams' case has exposed the inherent flaws in the precarious administration of the death penalty, while acting as a catalyst in the push for a death penalty moratorium in the keystone state. williams could become the first non-volunteer execution since 1978. all three of those who were executed since the u.s. supreme court reinstated the death penalty waived their remaining appeals.

barely 18, williams killed norwood, 56, with a tire iron, set him on fire & left him in a cemetery. at age 17, he killed herbert hamilton, 50, by cutting his throat with a knife, for which he received 27 years. but the jury in his capital murder case didn't know norwood, a church leader, sexually abused him from the age of 13 & raped him until he bled the previous night. also, williams endured poor legal representation. his new attorneys argue prosecutors knew about the abuse, but told williams' co-defendant, marc draper, to testify robbery was the motive for the killing.

sadly, williams' life began in tragedy. he was brutally beaten by his mother & alcoholic stepfather with belts, extension cords, fists & switches. at age 6, he was raped by an older boy in the neighborhood. in middle school a teacher repeatedly raped him. when a robbery landed him in juvenile detention, he was gang raped by two older boys. as a teenager, williams was sexually exploited by older men - in exchange for clothes, food, money & other gifts.

although williams suffered post-traumatic stress disorder as a result of the ongoing violence he experienced, he received no mental health treatment or counseling. williams used alcohol & other drugs to self-medicate, as well as self-mutilation & suicide attempts to deal with his pain. eventually, he fatally attacked two of his abusers.

five of the jurors who sentenced williams say they were unaware of his long history of sexual abuse. they said this information would have influenced their decision. furthermore, a number of jurors say they want a life sentence for williams, rather than death. moreover, the jurors were not instructed life sentences means life without parole. pennsylvania is the only state where such an instruction is not required.

"the reason that i opted for the death sentence was because i was under the impression that if we sentenced terry williams to life in prison then he could get out on parole," said one of the jurors. "if i had known that a life sentence meant life without parole, i personally would have voted for a life sentence & i think other people probably would have voted for life too," the juror said. mamie norwood, the widow of amos norwood, says the execution goes against her christian beliefs & she has forgiven williams.

meanwhile, dozens of child advocates, former judges & prosecutors, law professors, mental health professionals & religious leaders, including the archbishop of philadelphia, have publicly demanded a commutation of terry williams' impending death sentence. they join a host of human rights organizations & the european union in calling for williams' clemency.

the williams case is front & center in the national consciousness, primarily due to two recent high-profile sex abuse scandals in pennsylvania. jerry sandusky, a former assistant coach at penn state university, was convicted of sexually abusing young boys. a scathing report from former fbi director louis frech found university officials failed to intervene & protect children. 

ironically, the archbishop of philadelphia - despite his support of williams - is under fire for providing cover to men of the cloth who abuse kids. monsignor william j. lynn, former secretary clergy for the archdiocese of philadelphia, was recently found guilty of endangering children & protecting predatory priests from the law. lynn was sentenced three to six years.

with 216 people condemned to death, pennsylvania has the fourth largest death row population in america, behind california, florida & texas. alabama is in fifth place. according to the death penalty information center, 61% of death row inmates in the keystone state are african-american, 30% are white & eight percent are latinjo. yet, the 2010 census states blacks are only 11% of the state's total population. also, six pennsylvania inmates have been released from death row due to evidence of innocence, of the 140 such inmates across the nation.

a study commissioned by the pennsylvania supreme court found pay for court-appointed criminal defense lawyers in philadelphia is "grossly inadequate" & "unacceptably increases the risk of ineffective assistance of counsel in individual cases & is primarily responsible for the first judicial district's growing inability to attract a sufficient number of qualified attorneys willing to accept court appointments in capital cases."

marc bookman of the atlantic center for capital representation wrote, "court appointed lawyers in philadelphia rarely visit their clients much, seldom file motions on their behalf & never use a jury questionnaire." he also said, "this is not a technical issue...death sentence after death sentence has been reversed based on the quality of legal defense in philadelphia."

in light of these problems & the scheduled execution date, a bipartisan state senate commission wrote a letter to governor corbett calling for a postponement of all executions until it completes its study on the effectiveness of the death penalty. the commission will release its findings, which will discuss the cost, fairness, impact & proportionality of the death penalty, in 2013.


Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Serena Williams & Andy Murray Win U.S. Open Singles Titles

serena williams defeated world #1 victoria azarenka of belarus, 6-2, 2-6, 7-5 to win her fourth u.s. open women's singles crown. the 30 year-old african-american now has 15 major singles titles. as williams thoroughly dominated the first set, cbs commentator & international hall of famer john mcenroe called her the greatest female women's tennis player in history.

but williams had to withstand a furious comeback by her opponent, the 2012 australian open champion. the 23 year-old azarenka began the year with a 26-match win streak. she is dominant on hard courts - her favorite surface - & felt confident going into the final, despite her 1-9 record against williams, who first won the u.s. open as a 17 year-old teenager in 1999.

azarenka's competitive spirit & punishing ground strokes gave her an edge. in the past she would fold under duress but her mental toughness is now an asset. after winning the second set 6-2, she broke williams twice & led 5-3 in the final set. down match point on azarenka's serve in game eight, williams broke back & continued to fight like a champion. when azarenka's backhand sailed out, she hit the ground in amazement, smiling at her latest accomplishment.

andy murray of britain defeated world #1 novak djokovic of serbia, 7-6 (12-10), 7-5, 2-6, 3-6, 6-2 to win his first major singles title. murray sunk to his knees after the last point, letting tears of joy freely as he became the first brit since fred perry in 1936 to emerge victorious in a major men's singles championship. previously, murray was 0-4 in major final matches.

the hard-fought & highly contested match lasted four hours & 54 minutes, tying a record for the longest u.s. open men's singles final, set in 1988, when mats wilander defeated ivan lendl. ironically, lendl serves as murray's new coach. the first set was nearly 90 minutes. but the tiebreaker lasted almost 25 minutes, setting a record for the longest tiebreaker in u.s. open men's singles finals history.

both players gave a tremendous effort with brilliant shot making from all parts of the court. their back court rallies were long & punishing - one lasted 54 shots in total. murray was up 4-0 in the second set & seemed destined for a straight set victory. undaunted by murray's fine play, djokovic, the defending champion, roared back to tie the match at two sets all. but murray's perseverance was too much for djokovic. he held serve in game eight, to finally win a major singles title.   

Wednesday, September 05, 2012

First Lady Michelle Obama Electrifies DNC

the democratic national convention is taking place in charlotte, north carolina this week, following the republican national convention which was held in tampa, florida. last night, before 20,000 people diverse in age, culture, faith, gender & orientation - unlike the gop contingent - first lady michelle obama electrified the audience with a brilliantly moving testimony to her husband, family & nation.

her message was simple: president barack obama is just like you. "barack knows the american dream because he's lived it," she said. the first lady tried to reassure voters her husband shares their values of faith, hard work, perseverance & sacrifice. as such, she drew a stark contrast between obama & gop nominee mitt romney, although she never mentioned his name in her powerful speech.

first lady michelle obama reminded folks of their tough times together as a couple when "we were so young, so in love, so in debt...our combined monthly student loans was more than our mortgage," said the first lady. the comment drew laughter from the packed house. mrs. obama said her husband got his favorite coffee table from a dumpster & sometimes wore dress shoes a size too small.

with a mix of personal anecdotes & policy talk, the first lady's speech was her most poignantly political to date. said the first lady, "today, after so many struggles & triumphs & moments that have tested my husband in ways i never could have imagined, i have seen first hand that being president doesn't change who you are - it reveals who you are."

she painted a portrait of a leader who knows first hand the struggles of everyday americans who listen to them with compassion & empathy as president, while he also tries to keep their best interests at heart & in mind. said mrs. obama, "that's the man i see in those quiet moments late at night, hunched over his desk, poring over the letters people have sent him...i see the concern in his eyes & i hear the determination in his voice as he tells me, "you won't believe what these folks are going through michelle, it's not right, we've got to keep working to fix this. we've got more work to do."

the first lady sought to counter republicans trying to depict obama as something other than a typical american, while implying romney can't relate to people burdened with a recessive economy. yet neither obama nor romney live like the average working-class american who struggles daily with credit card debt, health care costs & mortgage payments. both men are millionaires who have access to power, privilege & resources few americans will ever experience.

as she stood in the center of the convention's blue-carpeted stage rocking a bright pink dress, mrs. obama's words spoke to the core contrast between the democratic party platform & the republican party platform. democrats say the president is pushing policies to boost the middle class, while romney wants to protect the wealthy & hope their success trickles down. the crowd roared with chants of "four more years."

mrs. obama delved more deeply into the details of her husband's policies than in any of her previous speeches, demonstrating her courage, growth & integrity. the first lady promoted signing of the lily ledbetter act giving women equal work for equal pay, his health care overhaul, push for tax cuts among middle incomer earners & the auto bailout he engineered early on in his presidency. she said, "in the end, for barack, these issues aren't political, they're personal."

the first lady is the most popular figure in this year's presidential campaign. in fact, she earns higher favor ability ratings than the commander-in-chief, his republican rival, the other contender for first lady, or either candidate for the vice presidency. according to the latest associated press-gfk poll, 64% of americans said they had a favorable view of mrs. obama, compared to 53% for the president.