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.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Macy's faces another discrimination lawsuit

in a discrimination lawsuit filed on friday, an african-american shopper said macy's security personnel stopped him after he bought a $2,400 louis vuitton bag and an alarm went off as he tried to exit the store.

club promoter halim sharif said he was detained, and his bag was searched. yet a half-dozen white customers left the store - at the same time - without being detained or searched. sharif said those very same customers also set off alarms at the macy's flagship store's west 34th street exit.

the incident happened april 19, 2013. sharif said he was the only person stopped. he said he has cellphone audio and video to prove his claim. he told the new york times, "it was as clear as black and white. there was no gray area. i saw people exit before me and after me, and none of them looked like me. they lacked pigmentation."

the 37 year-old promoter, who indicated he's suing macy's for unspecified damages, said he decided to speak up after reading accounts of four alleged instances of racial profiling at macy's, and another retailer: privately owned barney's new york. 

brooklyn resident kayla phillips, who alleged she was racially profiled at barney's in february, also filed a discrimination lawsuit on friday in brooklyn supreme court, according to the daily news. macy's, through a representative, said the company was looking into sharif's allegation, but would have no comment due to pending litigation.

according to the representative, "macy's has a zero tolerance for discrimination of any kind. if macy's policies have not been upheld, we will take swift and immediate action." both stores named in the lawsuits said new york city police department officers were the culprits in earlier incidents targeting black shoppers, including phillips, rob brown, trayon christian and art palmer. the nypd said its officers were merely acting on information provided by store employees.

macy's joined several retailers whom signed a customer 'bill of rights' earlier this month. civil rights leaders, including rev. al sharpton, met with retailer representatives to draft the document, which is to be posted on participating department store websites. other signatories include barney's new york, macy's-owned bloomingdale's, and hudson's bay company subsidiaries lord & taylor, and saks fifth avenue.     



Wednesday, December 25, 2013

NYC Mayor-elect De Blasio's daughter reveals substance use issues

chiara de blasio, daughter of new york city mayor-elect bill de blasio, released a five-minute video detailing her struggles with anxiety, depression, alcohol and marijuana. the free-spirited 19 year-old spoke openly about her personal struggles with courage, grace and humility.

a college sophomore who played a central role in her father's successful campaign, chiara de blasio was candid about her painful past. she said, "it made it easier, the more i drank and did drugs, to share some common ground with people. it didn't start out as, like, a huge thing for me, but then it became a really huge thing from me."

de blasio said she thought she could leave the problem behind when she went to college in california, only to realize her "physical insecurity" got worse. she said, "my mom was trying really hard to help me and my dad was really busy. they were both very emotionally committed to trying to find out some way to get me better."

she said she eventually found success in group therapy at a treatment center in new york. de blasio said, "removing substances from my life opened so many doors for me. i was actually able to participate in my dad's campaign. getting sober is always a positive thing, and by no means is it easy - it's the hardest thing i've ever done - but it's so worth it." 

in a statement accompanying the video, bill de blasio and his wife, chirlane mccray, said they were "so proud of chiara and love her deeply." they said, "as parents, our instinct has been to protect our daughter and privately help her through a deeply personal struggle. but not only has chiara committed to own her health, she is also committed to helping young people everywhere who face similar challenges."

the campaign did not say what prompted it to release the video on christmas eve, a day when many news consumers are more concerned with family, money, shopping or traveling - instead of current events. but the announcement was framed in a way to help other families who struggle with depression and substance use during the holiday season.

during the campaign, de blasio spoke about his father's battle with substance use, particularly alcohol. his father later committed suicide. white house drug policy director gil kerlikowske released a statement late tuesday praising chiara de blasio's decision "to give voice to the millions who suffer from substance abuse disorders."  

Friday, December 20, 2013

President Obama Commutes Eight 'Unduly Harsh' Drug Sentences

president obama on thursday commuted the sentences of eight federal inmates throughout the united states. all eight were convicted of non-violent crimes involving crack cocaine. each inmate spent more than 15 years in prison.

at the time of the convictions, mandatory sentencing laws required severe punishment for drug offenders who possessed, sold or used crack cocaine. however, the sentencing guidelines for drug offenses involving powder cocaine were far less oppressive.

in 2010, obama signed the fair sentencing act, which lessened the punishment for crimes involving crack cocaine. the new guidelines made sentencing similar for both forms of the drug. after the laws changed, numerous inmates remained incarcerated with long sentences for their previous crimes.

as reported by cnn, obama commuted the eight drug offenders' sentences as they were "unduly harsh and issued outdated sentencing regime." obama also said releasing the inmates is "an important step toward restoring fundamental ideals of justice and fairness."

a bi-partisan bill introduced by senators richard j. durbin and mike lee allows for the release of inmates sentenced before the fair sentencing act was signed. if the bill passes, the law would provide inmates with an opportunity to have their cases reviewed for early release. 

the new york times reports families against mandatory minimums estimates nearly nine million inmates will qualify for early review if the bill gets legalized. under current law, the inmates would have been released years ago, saving the taxpayers thousands of dollars. the president's actions foster an urgency to relax sentencing guidelines filling u.s. prisons with non-violent offenders.    

the bureau of prisons was given 120 days to release the six men and two women. one inmate was sentenced to 20 years, another was sentenced to 24 years. four were sentenced to life, one was sentenced to life at age 17 and another was sentenced to three life terms at age 22. obama's bold and compassion decision gives each inmate an opportunity to reunite with their families and become productive members of society.     

Friday, December 06, 2013

TransAfrica Mourns Nelson Mandela

the entire transafrica family is saddened by the loss of nelson rolihlahla mandela on thursday. we wish to take this opportunity to express our sincere condolences to the people of south africa and the mandela family. the african world has lost an unparalleled leader and hero. mandela inspired people in every corner of the globe, and that is why the loss of this great man echoes around the world.  

nelson mandela, the nobel peace prize laureate and first president of a multi-racial democratic south africa, persevered and inspired others in the pursuit of truth and justice until his final days. whether it was leading the struggle against apartheid regime, championing the cause of people with hiv/aids, or challenging the great powers of the globe to build a better world: mandela continuously gave us strength to speak truth to power.

nicole lee, president of transafrica said, "we will continue to carry on mandela's legacy of courageous activism. even when unjustly imprisoned on robben island by the apartheid government, he and his fellow activists in the liberation movement inspired us all with their vision of a free, just and democratic south Africa. no obstacle was too great for nelson mandela in his quest for a brighter tomorrow. as we work to change powerful systems that perpetuate economic and social injustice, we are reminded of madiba's courage."

danny glover, actor, activist and chair of transafrica's board of directors said, "today, i join with the people of south africa and many millions around the world in mourning the loss of nelson rolihlahla mandela. let not sadness overcome us, let us rejoice in his life-long sacrifice for freedom, and retain his living memory as we remain forever vigilant in sustaining freedom, democracy and human dignity. madiba treated me like a son and i am forever grateful for his personal guidance and wisdom."

to mandela, attaining a free and just south africa did not mean taking over power and forgetting the poor and disenfranchised. both during his time in office and out, mandela worked tirelessly to resolve conflicts within the  african continent. throughout his life, mandela embodied the sentiment "another world is possible," and this was most eloquently illustrated with his statement at the rivonia trial in april, 1964: 

"during my lifetime i have dedicated myself to this struggle of the african people. i have fought against white domination, and i have fought against black domination. i have cherished the idea of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. it is an ideal which i hope to live for and to achieve. but if it needs be, it is an ideal for which i am prepared to die."

even in his final days mandela challenges us. he said, "if we are to stop the aids epidemic from expanding we need to break the cycle of new hiv infections. all of us working together with government, communities and civil society can make the difference that is needed. together we have the power to change the course of destiny."