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, October 31, 2012

California Death Row Inmate Spared Execution

a federal appeals court has overturned the death sentence of california's longest serving death row inmate, a 54 year-old mono indian man convicted in 1978 for killing a woman during a drug & alcohol fueled carjacking.

douglas stankewitz, who spent 34 years awaiting execution, will be sentenced to life without the possibility of parole unless prosecutors decide within 90 days to retry the penalty phase of his trial, which would consider punishment only - not guilt or innocence.

the decision late on monday by the ninth circuit court of appeals comes just a week before californians vote on a referendum to abolish the death penalty in their state. in 2006, a federal judge halted all executions in california, saying a three-drug lethal injection protocol risked causing inmates too much pain & suffering before death. the state revised its protocol, but executions have not resumed.

an appeals court panel, in a two-to-one decision, ruled stankewitz received ineffective legal counsel during the penalty phase of his murder trial, when he was sentenced to die. his lawyer, they wrote, failed to investigate & present evidence "including evidence of his deprived & abusive upbringing, potential mental illness, long history of substance abuse & use of substantial quantities of drugs leading up to the murder."

in a recent interview with reuters inside san quentin state prison, stankewitz called the death penalty "a joke," & described how long delays in the appeals process, coupled with ineffective counsel, had led him to spending more than three decades waiting to die. during the interview stankewitz said, "they can't kill me because the system is messed up so bad."

stankewitz suffered alcohol exposure in the womb, was removed from his home at age six after his mother beat him & bounced between foster care facilities where he was severely troubled & abused, court documents show. just 19, he & a group of friends carjacked theresa graybeal, 22, from a k-mart parking lot in modesto. they drove across rural heartland to fresno, roughly 100 miles away, where graybeal was shot & killed.      

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

The Wrath of Hurricane Sandy: State-by-State

from the carolinas to wisconsin, the super storm hurricane sandy is churning off the east coast & is expected to join up with two other weather systems to create a huge & problematic disaster for up to 50 million people. listed below is a snapshot of what is happening, &/or what is expected, state-by-state.

carolinas - the u.s. coast guard rescued 15 members of a crew forced to abandon a tall ship off the north carolina coast, but the captain is still missing. the hms bounty was originally built for the 1962 film, mutiny on the bounty, starring marlon brando. the hms bounty has also been featured in other films, including one of the pirates of the caribbean movies.

connecticut - the university of connecticut closes tuesday, joining hundreds of other schools & school systems across the state. the closure includes uconn's law school & the uconn health center, but the john dempsey hospital will remain open during the storm. power outages: 117,400.

delaware - dover air force base has relocated some aircraft in anticipation of the storm, & the federal emergency management agency (fema) has requested the base be used as a staging area for support & supplies. some residents of the low-lying areas of the base have been ordered to evacuate. power outages: 1,800.  

illinois - the powerful storm is expected to extend as far as chicago, where the national weather service already has issued high wind warnings & lake shore flood warning for tuesday & wednesday. water may pile up on the south shore of lake michigan, said louis uccelini, director of environmental prediction for the national oceanic & atmospheric administration.

kentucky - sandy is expected to bring snow to far southeastern kentucky. a winter storm warning is in effect for harlan, letcher & pike counties through wednesday morning. forecasters say snow could accumulate four to ten inches in high elevations & one to three inches in lower elevations.

maine - virtually all maine public schools opened monday but some closed early before the heaviest rain & wind. state officials say the biggest concern is wind, which is expected to cause widespread power outages. the state's utilities say they have crews poised to deal with expected power outages, including some from canada. power outages: 26,000.

maryland - baltimore mayor stephanie rawlings-blake says vehicular travel is banned on city roads beginning at 6:00 pm monday. the restrictions do not apply to hospital employees, medical providers or uniformed personnel. governor martin o'malley earlier monday closed the bay bridge.

massachusetts - voluntary evacuation recommendations have been issued in lynn, new bedford, plum island & scituate. the recommendations are for just certain sections of the communities that could be affected by flooding. a red cross spokeswoman said just a few people stayed at its shelters sunday night, but she expects more people monday night & into tuesday. power outages: 222,000.

michigan - michigan utilities say high winds could cause power outages in the state & they're keeping an eye on the weather to respond to power problems. dte energy company said gusts of 50 mph monday & into tuesday could affect some of its 2.1 million customers.

new hampshire - governor john lynch has urged all drivers to be off the roads by 3:00 pm. lynch declared a state of emergency & directed non-essential state workers to be released from work monday afternoon. he also urged other employers to consider releasing their workers early. the governor has put 100 new hampshire guard soldiers on active duty. power outages: 99,000.

new jersey - all roads into & out of ocean city are closed due to flooding that has cut off the popular jersey shore resort community. hurricane sandy already had flooded most of atlantic city, sweeping away an old section of the city's famed boardwalk. power outages: 434,000.

new york - mayor michael bloomberg said the city's public schools will remain closed on tuesday after being shut down monday. earlier, governor andrew cuomo said the brooklyn-battery tunnel & holland tunnel would close at 2:00 pm monday. airports in the metropolitan new york city area are open, but air carriers are not operating. power outages: 451,967.

ohio - residents of low-lying areas & along lake erie were told to watch for flooding. utilities are anticipating high winds that could blow down trees & poles. snow is fore casted in some areas.

pennsylvania - officials from the state transit agency & the pennsylvania turnpike have instituted speed restrictions over concerns about high winds. they've also ordered certain vehicles, including empty trucks & motorcycles, off some highways. the national weather service says southeastern pennsylvania could get winds reaching 75 mph & rainfall up to 10 inches. power outages: 74,000.

rhode island - officials are concerned about wind driving water north up narrangansett bay, which could create flooding in low-lying areas of the upper bay, including cranston, providence & warwick. about 2,600 national grid customers were without power, mostly in barrington & other parts of bristol county. power outages: 80,000.

tennessee - snow is expected in higher elevations, where a freeze warning has been issued. high winds are expected in many areas.

vermont - governor peter shumlin declared a state of emergency to provide access to national guard troops in a state still recovering from the devastating effects of the remnants of hurricane irene. culverts & storm drainage basins in some spots have been cleared of debris. power outages: 13,170.

virginia - a curfew is in place on virginia's swamped chincoteague island. officials say the entire 37-square mile island is underwater, & there is no way off the island because a causeway to the mainland has been closed. the 3,500 islanders who decided to tough out sandy have been told to keep off the streets. power outages: 9,500.

washington, d.c. - taxis originating in washington are authorized to add an emergency flat rate of $15 per trip because of the hurricane, starting monday. the price is supposed to expire at noon tuesday, but can be extended if considered necessary. the capital's area transit system shut down rail service for the first time since 2003. power outages: 2,300.

west virginia - governor earl ray tombin declared a state of emergency monday. sandy is expected to bring high winds & heavy rains & leave behind flooded towns & as much as three feet of snow on the state's highest ridge tops. eastern parts of the state can expect to get up to six inches of rain. 14 counties are under blizzard warnings.

wisconsin - with waves expected to reach as high as 33 feet tuesday on lake michigan, the port of milwaukee is taking steps to protect its boats & docks. the hurricane is expected to create dangerous conditions on the great lakes. the national weather service issued gale & storm warnings for the lakes through wednesday.


Saturday, October 27, 2012

Alabama Constitution: Amendment Four Vote Could Amend Segregationist History

legal segregation ended decades ago in alabama. sadly, civil rights workers & community rights activists suffered the wrath of fire hoses, police dogs & racism in the early 60's. but segregation is still mandated by the state's constitution; voters on november 6 will get their second chance in recent years to eliminate an anachronism that still exists on paper.

amendment four - the proposal to delete the constitution's archaic language affirming segregation - is tucked amid routine issues of bonds, city boundaries & sewers on a crowded election day ballot. in 2004 the state narrowly voted to keep the outdated & racially controversial language, which brought national ridicule upon itself.

ironically, alabama's two largest black political groups are opposed. they say the proposed changes would erase some of the polarizing text, but would retain segregation-era language saying there is no constitutional right to a public education. also, the state's main teachers' group back them in a "no" vote. supporters of amendment four say it's time to shed the last reminders of an era of discrimination & project a more welcoming image of a modern state eager to draw companies & jobs to alabama.

the people of alabama were not reluctant to amend the 111-year old constitution in the past. in fact, they've approved more than 800 amendments in their history, making theirs the nation's longest state constitution. it is now four times longer than the average constitution & on november 6 alabama could get 30 more amendments added to its heft.

but making changes involving segregationist language often is vexing difficult. for example, the u.s. supreme court declared anti-miscegenation laws unconstitutional in 1967. however, it wasn't until 2000 when alabama voters removed the state constitution's ban on interracial marriage. even still, 40 percent of the people voted to keep the controversial ban. 

today, black groups are leading the opposition to change. the alabama democratic conference & the alabama new south alliance say the change, backed largely by white republicans with a pro-business approach, looks like a "feel good" change but is not. said black democratic senator hank sanders of selma, a new south founder, "it is a wolf in sheep's clothing. it seems so good but is so bad."

amendment four would excise antiquated language regarding poll taxes & separate schools many people consider to be racist in origin. nonetheless, critics say the language being proposed in the amendment as a substitute undermines funding for public education by reaffirming there is no right to a public education at taxpayers' expense in alabama.

alabama's constitution once provided for "a liberal system of public schools throughout the state for the benefit of the children." but after the u.s. supreme court banned school segregation in 1954, folks' attitudes changed. irate alabama citizens voted in 1956 to amend the constitution & subsequently thwart the prospects of societal integration.

republican state senator arthur orr of decatur - amendment four's sponsor - said he knows other states have used the racist language against alabama when competing for industries. said orr, "it's important symbolically to send a message to our sister states & to the world that alabama is a different place than it was 50 years ago."

orr's proposal drew support from republican governor robert bentley, alabama's chief recruiter for new industry. alabama has had success in recent years luring major industries, including an airbus assembly plant for mobile, & securing expansions at its auto assembly plants. also, the governor vowed not to take a salary until the state's 8.3 percent unemployment rate dropped to 5.2 percent.

no black members of the legislature voted for orr's proposal last year when lawmakers decided to put it on the november 6 ballot. sanders & joe reed, chairman of the alabama democratic conference, said no one pays attention to the school segregation & poll tax language because it has been effectively dead for 50 years. they said removing it is not worth the cost of restating there is no right to a public education.

the alabama education association (aea) saw public education funding drop more than $1 billion in the past five years. class sizes increased, some school revenue shifted to non-education functions of government & teaching positions were cut. they worry if voters reiterate there is no right to a public education, a cash-strapped legislature will move even more money away from public schools to other functions. aea attorney bobby segall said, "it has all kinds of implications in the future for the diversion of education funds & for the funding of education generally."

orr sought to word the amendment by seeking to strip harmful language on segregation without entangling himself in the tax issue. said orr, "in 2004, alabama took a black eye because the amendment was voted down...what they heard outside the state is alabama votes to reaffirm its commitment to segregationist language & poll taxes. they didn't understand the argument over the full potential for increased property taxes."

retired university of alabama law professor martha morgan, an expert on alabama's constitution, says voting"no" on november 6 is likely to give the state another black eye. morgan said," it's better to get a black eye than to inflict a mortal wound to public education by taking away the right to public education." no matter the outcome, the issue could divide alabama again next year. othni lathram, director of the alabama law institute, said a state commission working on updating alabama's constitution is already scheduled to take up the document's education provisions in 2013.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Athletes Endorse Presidential Candidates

its less than three weeks before the increasingly contentious presidential election. tonight is the third in a series of debates between president barack obama & republican nominee mitt romney. a number of high-profile athletes have publicly endorsed their candidate for u.s. president. listed below are these individuals & the man they want inaugurated in the white house january 20, 2013:

president barack obama

muhammad ali, boxing legend. carmelo anthony, new york knicks all-star forward. victor cruz, new york giants all-pro wide receiver. gabby douglas, 2012 olympic gold medalist, all-around gymnastics. grant hill, los angeles clippers forward. 

lebron james, miami heat all-star forward. derek jeter, new york yankees all-star shortstop. magic johnson, part owner, los angeles dodgers. michael jordan, minority owner, charlotte bobcats. floyd mayweather, five-division world boxing champion.

mitt romney

greg anthony, basketball analyst, cbs, nba tv & tnt. chris dudley, 14-year nba veteran. john elway, executive vp of football operations, denver broncos. rowdy gaines, three-time olympic gold medal swimmer. dorothy hamill, olympic gold medalist, figure skating.

hulk hogan, 12-time world champion wrestler. vince mcmahon, world wrestling entertainment chairman. jack nicklaus, 14-time major golf champion. kim rhode, olympic skeet shooting champion. kristi yamaguchi, olympic gold medalist, figure skating. 

Indiana Fever Win FIrst WNBA Title

the indiana fever defeated the minnesota lynx 87-78 to win their first wnba championship title before a raucous sellout home crowd in indianapolis, indiana. the fever won the best of five series three games to one in a brilliant display of team defense, offensive rebounding & clutch shooting. the defending champion lynx sought to become the first team to repeat since los angeles in 2001 & 2002.

first-team all-star forward tamika catchings led four fever women who scored in double figures. catchings was named most valuable player of the finals, averaging almost 25 points per game. the 2011 wnba mvp & 2012 wnba defensive player of the year added the one caveat missing from her illustrious basketball resume. "when you come into this league, your goal & dream is to win a wnba championship...twelve years later, it's so sweet right now," said catchings.

catchings had won three olympic gold medals & an ncaa championship at tennessee in 1988, but never a wnba crown. her fever team lost to the phoenix mercury in 2009, despite being up two games to one. this time, she had her father in the crowd cheering her on - along with legendary volunteers coach pat summit. fever no. 2 scorer katie douglas missed most of the series with a severely sprained knee, but with 3.2 seconds left in the game, she checked in to a loud ovation.

indiana held minnesota below 40 percent field goal shooting in all three of their wins. lynx all-star point guard lindsey whalen said, "they played tough defense. they contested shots & they made it tough for us to get in the lane a little bit. i think that was the theme of the whole series. they were just tough & give them credit for the way they played."

seimone augustus, minnesota's all-star guard & leading scorer in the playoffs, was held to eight points on just 3-of-21 shooting from the floor sunday. augustus shot 6-for-30 in the last two games of the series after the fever switched guard briann january over to guard her. catchings said january, who was on the wnba first team all-defense squad, did her job. "she set the tone...all her (augustus') baskets were hard...she used up all her energy in the first quarter," said catchings.

whalen scored 22 points & dished out eight assists. ironically, the lynx were 25-0 this year when whalen had seven or more assists in a game. lynx all-star forward maya moore - 2011 wnba rookie-of-the-year - finished with 16 points. said the lynx's fiery coach cheryl reeve, "it was hard being the hunted, as we all know. there's a reason this hasn't been done in over ten years. i really felt like if there was a team that could do it, it was our team."

fever guard erin phillips scored 18 points, while teammates shavonte zellous & january had 15 points each. said zellous, "coming into halftime, we said we have 20 minutes & we're not going back to minnesota to close this thing out." phillips said, "they made some huge runs at us & gave it everything at us & i'm just relieved more than anything because we deserve this. we've been through so much as a team, we've lost in crucial times & we've stuck together. i'm just so proud right now."

Monday, October 08, 2012

WNBA 2012 Year-End Awards

the 2012 women's national basketball association (wnba) is currently in post-season mode. each year, before the champion is duly crowned, the wnba recognizes individuals for their worthy accomplishments. this year's recipients are as follows:

most valuable player - tina charles, connecticut sun.
defensive player of the year - tamika catchings, indiana fever.
sixth woman of the year - renee montgomery, connecticut sun.
most improved player - kristi toliver, los angeles sparks.
rookie of the year - nneka ogwumike, los angeles spatks.
coach of the year - carol ross, los angeles sparks.  

Thursday, October 04, 2012

Tigers' Miguel Cabrera Wins Triple Crown

miguel cabrera of the detroit tigers achieved a milestone in baseball yesterday. cabrera won the triple crown, finishing the season with 44 home runs, 139 runs batted in, while hitting .330. he is the first player since carl yastrzemski of the boston red sox in 1967 to accomplish such an extraordinary feat. in fact, of the nearly 18,000 men who've played major league baseball, only 12 have won a triple crown.  

in the fourth inning of the tigers final regular season game against the kansas city royals in kansas city, cabrera was pulled from his third base position by tigers manager jim leyland. the royals fans stood in unison as cabrera walked slowly to the dugout & tipped his cap in appreciation. he was 0-for-2 in the game, but nobody cared. they were witnessing history & the fans shared their admiration & respect - even for an opposing player. 

during the month of august cabrera hit 18 home runs with 51 runs batted in. media pundits began to consider baseball history. but 45 years had passed since yaz' remarkable season & the likely hood of cabrera's success was steadily challenged by the angels' mike trout for the batting crown & the rangers' josh hamilton for the home run crown. also, he'd entered the royals series in a slump, hitting .200 with one homer in seven games.

cabrera took the home run lead from rangers center fielder hamilton with a blistering right field shot on monday. he went 4-for-5 that day. tuesday cabrera was 2-for-3, distancing himself in the batting race between him & angels rookie phenom trout, whom some consider his greatest threat for the american league most valuable player race.

"right now, i don't know how to explain it...it was hard the last two weeks because everybody talked about that...it was kind of hard to focus...kind of hard to go out there...right now, it's an unbelievable feeling. wow," said cabrera. tigers catcher alex avila said, "this is one of the greatest things ever achieved. i had chills today once it happened. we probably won't ever see this again. it's been 45 years & it's gotten harder & harder." said leyland, "this is history."

cabrera joins hall of famers like ty cobb, rogers hornsby, jimmie foxx, ted williams, mickey mantle & frank robinson with his triple crown deed. said yastrzemski, "i am glad that he accomplished this while leading his team to the american league central title." said robinson, "miguel has been outstanding all year long, by coming to play every day, showing his discipline at the plate & making the most of his great talent."