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, August 12, 2013

Federal Judge Says NYPD 'Stop & Frisk' Tactics Violates Constitutional Rights

on monday a federal judge said the new york police department's (nypd) controversial 'stop and frisk' tactics violates an individuals constitutional rights. over the last decade the nypd have questioned millions of mostly black and latino people, a tactic many people view as racial profiling.

the judge, shira scheindlin of manhattan federal court, ordered an independent monitor to oversee the program. but she did not order an end to the tactic. four men have sued the city, saying they were unfairly targeted by the nypd. scheindlin ruled their fourth and 14th amendment rights were violated.

the fourth amendment protects against unreasonable searches, and the 14th amendment guarantees equal protection under the law. scheindlin found the police had used the tactic 4.4 million times between 2004 and 2012 - 80% of the people stopped were black and latino.

scheindlin wrote, "the city's highest officials have turned a blind eye to the evidence that officers are conducting stops in a racially discriminatory manner. in their zeal to defend a policy that they believe to be effective, they have willfully ignored overwhelming proof that the policy of targeting 'the right people' is racially discriminatory and therefore violates the united states constitution."

to stop someone, she wrote the police need more than an "unparticularized suspicion or hunch." and to proceed to a frisk, the officer must reasonably suspect the person is armed and dangerous, she wrote. scheindlin noted 88% of the stops resulted in no arrests or tickets. but she emphasized she was making no ruling about the effectiveness of the tactic in fighting crime, only its unconstitutionality.

scheindlin wrote, "many police practices may be useful for fighting crime - preventive detention or coerced confessions, for example; but because they are unconstitutional they cannot be used, no matter how effective." outgoing mayor michael bloomberg planned a press conference monday afternoon to address the ruling. he has vigilantly defended the tactic.

in april, bloomberg said, "there is no doubt that stops are a vitally important reason why so many fewer gun murders happen in new york than in other major cities, and why we are the safest big city in america." scheindlin stressed she was not halting the 'stop and frisk' practice, only trying to make sure it was carried out to protect the liberties and rights of new yorkers. she appointed an outside lawyer to study the program, report back to the court, and to issue public reports every six months. 


Thursday, August 01, 2013

The Durbin-Lee Smarter Sentencing Act

after decades of "get tough" rhetoric, democrats and republicans are unifying their efforts in the spirit of equality, fairness and justice. the smarter sentencing act, s. 1410, introduced today by senators durbin, and lee, takes two significant steps forward.

first, it reduces overly harsh penalties for drug offenses and allows judges greater flexibility in sentencing. second, it extends the more equitable crack cocaine provisions of the fair sentencing act retroactively to individuals serving prison terms under the now discredited 100-to-1 sentencing disparity.

the smarter sentencing act recognizes what advocates, practitioners and scholars have long understood: ever increasing criminal penalties are not an effective way to keep americans safe. nowhere is this more true than in the area of mandatory minimum penalties, which apply a one-size-fits all approach prohibiting federal judges from assessing cases on an individual basis.

not only are mandatory minimums a primary driver of skyrocketing federal prisons, but they result in racial unfairness. the toxic combination of the so-called war on drugs and diminishing judicial discretion has filled more than half of our federal prisons with individuals convicted of drug offenses, few of whom are kingpins of the drug trade.

this bill does not eliminate mandatory minimums. by reducing penalties and restoring discretion to judges, it will help to mitigate their harshest effects. s. 1410 compliments the fair sentencing act to reduce the disparity in sentences for crack and powder cocaine offenses  - a disparity which disproportionally penalizes African-American communities. the senate should pass this legislation to address unjust criminal justice system penalties which fuel racial disparities in sentencing.