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.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Grand Jury Decision: No Indictment for Police Officer Darren Wilson

a grand jury on monday decided not to indict police officer darren wilson. on august 9, wilson, a white male, shot and killed michael brown, an unarmed 18 year-old black male in ferguson, a suburb of st. louis, missouri. 

the announcement was made last night by st. louis county prosecutor robert mcculloch. most grand jury proceedings are swift and simple: a few witnesses are called, the prosecutor makes a case for an indictment and the jurors vote. but this grand jury met for an extraordinary long session, hearing what mcculloch said was "absolutely everything," which could be considered evidence or testimony.

what happens in the grand jury room is almost always kept secret. but the controversial prosecutor insisted on making the transcripts of the proceedings available to the public immediately after the session concluded. unlike most defendants, wilson testified before the grand jury.
the grand jurors met in a st.louis county courthouse on 25 separate days. they heard 70 hours of testimony from about 60 witnesses. they reviewed forensic reports, medical documents, police radio logs and tapes of f.b.i. interviews with bystanders.

after three months of hearing evidence, the grand jury began its deliberations last friday at 3:04 pm. by monday afternoon, they were finished. the jury was comprised of nine whites and three blacks - seven women and five men. mcculloch released thousands of pages of documents to the public last night. he said the testimony and many eyewitnesses did not match the physical evidence.  

wilson testified in september. wilson said brown's face, after being stopped on canfield drive, "looked like a demon." he said brown reached into his vehicle, fought him for his gun and was so physically overpowering he "felt like a five year-old holding onto hulk hogan." wilson said brown made "a grunting, like aggravated sound," as he ran towards him. wilson fired seven shots: one was fatal.

in 2011, the number of times the new york police department stopped young black men exceeded the number of young black men in the city. young black males are 21 times more likely to be shot dead by police than their white peers - mainly at the hands of white police officers.

michele alexander is an acclaimed civil rights lawyer and legal scholar. alexander is also the author of 'the new jim crow.' she says the u.s. today has a "system of social control unparalleled in world history." no other country imprisons as much as its ethnic or racial people. in fact, the u.s. currently incarcerates a greater percentage of its black population than south africa did - under apartheid.

alexander poignantly writes in her book, "the fact that more than half of the young black men in many large american cities are currently under the control of the criminal justice system (or saddled with criminal records) is not - as many argue - just a symptom of poverty or poor choices, but rather evidence of a new racial caste system at work."

melissa harris-perry is a renowed author, cultural critic, msnbc talk show host, political commentator and wake university professor of politics and international affairs. perry said, "from 2006 to 2012, a white police officer killed a black person at least twice a week in this country." can you imagine this country's reaction if black police officers killed white boys at all - or, in similar numbers?

black men encounter constant surveillance (jordan dunn, eric garner, treyvon martin), violence (sean bell, amadou diallo, michael griffith) and shockingly high chances of correctional supervision for matters the rest of the population does not. black men also face discrimination in education, financial services, housing, political and voting rights after exiting prison. 

marcus garvey said, "people who don't know their history are doomed to repeat it." the world will never know if and/or how michael brown would have evolved from teenager into manhood. the brown family will have to endure the coming holiday season with one less member. this writer feels michael brown was wrong for stealing cigars...

and darren wilson was wrong for killing him. 



Saturday, November 22, 2014

Who inspires this NFL player to advocate for domestic violence today?

pittsburgh steelers veteran cornerback william gay vividly remembers arriving at the hospital and not knowing why his family members were crying uncontrollably. gay was just seven years old, but he sensed there was something wrong.

gay soon learned his mother had been shot in the back three times. her assailant was gay's stepfather, who shot himself in the head, as the .38 caliber revolver landed between the bodies. sadly, he died instantly, while gay's mother, carolyn hall, pased five hours after being in the hospital.

although he grew up in a challenging tallahassee, florida housing project, gay was unaware of the problems at home between his mother and stepfather. there was no fighting or visible bruises on his mother. the painful stigma of domestic violence inherits a community-based, don't ask, don't tell policy - by default. 

gay, 29, says, "i dealt with a lot of anger because i felt like, why me? i threw out that question a lot. i got to a point where i didn't care. i felt like no one cared about me. didn't care about school. i lashed out at people."

on march 14, 1992, gay lost his mother to domestic violence. gay was unequivocally shattered but his uncle, army veteran ronald hall, offered him guidance, direction and tough love. hall said, "william, you cannot blame the world for what is happening. in order for you to be a better person, you better let it go. you're going to end up in jail or dead. he took it to heart."

gay received a scholarship to the university of louisville before entering the national football league as a fifth-round draft pick for the steelers in 2007. just one year later, pittsburgh won the super bowl and gay was now part of a championship team.

in the spirit of humility, gay has worked at the women's center and shelter of greater pittsburgh for many years. he speaks to mothers about domestic abuse. "to hear it from someone who was a child whose mother was murdered really resonates," said shirl regan, chief executive officer at the shelter. "those talks are done off-camera. nobody sees that. that's on his time. he does that because it comes from his heart."

the nfl - and their embattled commissioner roger goodell - has zero credibility with past domestic violence policies. most players, among them jovonnie belcher, greg hardy, ray mcdonald, adrian peterson and ray rice have seen their arrests, charges and/or indictments handled either lightly, or without sanction. gay is in the unique position of helping players avoid violence against wives, partners or children.

many nfl players use pink cleats, towels and wristbands in october to raise breast cancer awareness. but gay faces a possible fine: he wore purple shoes in honor of domestic violence awareness month. he proudly bears a tattoo on his arm reminding him of his mother's tragic death. gay says, "even though she wasn't here, my mom molded me into the man i am today. i still pray to her all the time."            

Friday, November 21, 2014

National Basketball Players Association Prepared to Appeal Jeff Taylor 24-Game Suspension

national basketball players association executive director michele roberts wrote a firm statement on thursday suggesting the union is prepared to appeal the recent 24-game suspension of charlotte hornets small forward jeffrey taylor. 

roberts said the suspension is "excessive, without precedent and a violation of the collective bargaining agreement (cba)." nba commissioner adam silver on wednesday announced taylor would serve his suspension after he plead guilty to a misdemeanor domestic violence charge in michigan. taylor is currently on paid leave.

under terms silver established, taylor would get credit for the 11 games he's already missed this season, but would have to forfeit salary for all 24 games. roberts contends the ruling exceeds silver's power under the cba.

roberts said, "the cba contemplates a minimum 10-game suspension in any case involving a conviction for a violent felony, including domestic violence. in contrast, jeff taylor was charged with a misdemeanor that is likely going to be dismissed at the end of a probationary period." she said the union appreciates the societal overtones of domestic violence, but "the commissioner is not entitled to rewrite the rules," under the cba. 

silver said, "it is appropriate in light of mr. taylor's conduct, the need to deter similar conduct going forward and the evolving social consensus - with which we fully concur - that professional sports leagues like the nba must respond to such incidents in a more rigorous way."

according to the nba's investigation, on sept. 24 taylor was in an east lansing hotel with a woman he had a romantic relationship with. taylor was drinking heavily, and they argued loud enough for the hotel security to be called. he shoved her out of their room and into the hallway, which caused her to hit her head on a door.

taylor grabbed her by the arm. the woman had a bump on her head, and marks on her arm - which police later verified - but she refused medical attention. taylor punched a hole in the wall, and was arrested by east lansing police, whom called him "belligerent and uncooperative." he pleaded guilty to misdemeanor domestic violence and destruction of hotel property oct. 29, and was sentenced to 18 months probation.  



Sunday, November 16, 2014

2014 Major League Baseball Year-End Awards

listed below are the major league baseball year-end award winners for 2014:

rookie of the year, american league - jose abreu, chicago white sox.
rookie of the year, national league - jacob degrum, new york mets.

manager of the year, american league - buck showalter, baltimore orioles. 
manager of the year, national league - matt williams, washington nationals.

cy young, american league - corey kluber, cleveland indians.
cy young, national league - clayton kershaw, los angeles dodgers.

most valuable player, american league - mike trout, los angeles angels.
most valuable player, national league - clayton kershaw, l.a. dodgers.

Thursday, November 06, 2014

California Voters Pass Proposition 47 on Sentencing Reform

voters in california on tuesday passed proposition 47, a progressive ballot measure re-classifying six low-level property and drug offenses from felonies to misdemeanors. these offenses include check fraud under $950, shoplifting and theft, as well as personal use of most illegal drugs.

state savings resulting from this initiative are estimated to be $150 million annually. the money will be used to support mental health and drug treatment, school truancy and dropout prevention, victim services, and other programs designed to expand alternatives to incarceration. 

this historic vote allows individuals currently serving prison terms for eligible offenses to apply to have their felony sentences reduced to misdemeanors, and persons who have completed their felony sentence to apply to the court to have their conviction changed to a misdemeanor. about 10,000 incarcerated people will be eligible for resentencing under the new law.

since california reached its peak prison population in 2006, prisoner counts have decreased every year. this dramatic change was primarily driven by the state's efforts to comply with a court order to reduce prison overcrowding. 

in a landmark 2011 decision, the u.s. supreme court in brown v. plata found the provision of health care in the california prison system to be constitutionally inadequate due to severe overcrowding. the state was required to reduce this figure to 137.5% of design capacity within two years.

also in 2011, california governor jerry brown signed assembly bill 109, commonly referred to as "prison realignment," which shifted to counties the responsibility for monitoring, tracking and incarcerating lower-level offenders previously bound for state prison. 

through assembly bill 109, california has made substantial reductions in its prison population, but has yet to reach the court-stipulated level. changes in policy and practice have resulted in higher jail populations, nonetheless, significant numbers of people are now under community service - rather than state prison.      

over 40,000 individuals are serving life prison terms in california. most were convicted of serious offenses, but research shows upon release many have low levels of recidivism. long-term sentencing reform works when focused on enacting policies and practices to provide opportunities to distinguish among individual circumstances, accomplishments in prison and degree of risk to public safety.   

Wednesday, November 05, 2014

Voters in San Francisco Approve Minimum Wage Hike For $15 An Hour

voters in san francisco on tuesday approved a minimum wage of $15 across the city, joining seattle, which raised it's pay to the same amount in june. like folks in seattle, workers in san francisco will see their wages augmented incrementally. by next may it'll be $12.25, and climb to $13 in 2016. in 2018, it will be $15: or, $31,000 a year for a full-time minimum wage employees.

minimum wage also got a boost in four traditionally conservative states after the midterm elections yesterday. in alaska, the hourly pay rate for low-wage workers increases to $9.75 by 2016. in arkansas, their pay is boosted to $8.50, while nebraska voters approved a new hourly salary of $9.00. south dakota workers next year will get $8.50.

the current federal minimum wage is $7.25 an hour. fast food workers and low-wage retail employees over the last two years organized living wage campaigns across the country. their advocacy led to strikes, protests and arrests for some. president obama supported a bill to raise wages to $10.10 per hour but it died on the senate floor in april. 

some large retail chains have raised hourly wages for their employees. gap, inc. - the parent company of the gap, banana republic and old navy - announced a new $10 minimum wage back in february. obama showed his appreciation the following month when he bought sweaters for the first lady and their daughters at a new york store.

workers at walmart, however, continue to advocate for a raise in salary. last month, 42 low-wage retail workers and their allies were arrested outside walmart heiress alice walton's park avenue co-op apartment in manhattan. inspired by voters in san francisco and seattle, they demand $15 an hour for their services.

some of their overworked and undervalued employees carried signs which read, 'walmart stole my american dream.' they're supported by members of unions, including the ufcw 888 local. the 888 local boasts a membership of over 10,000 workers in connecticut, new jersey, new york and pennsylvania. before marching, union organizers made sure only workers and allies without prior arrest records engaged in civil disobedience.


Saturday, November 01, 2014

Former Florida A&M Band Member Convicted in Hazing Death

a former florida a&m band member accused of being the ringleader of a brutal hazing ritual known as "crossing bus c," which ultimately led to the senseless death of a drum major, was convicted on friday of manslaughter and felony hazing. 

prosecutors said dante martin, 27, was known as the "president of bus c." they said martin organized initiations requiring fellow band members to try and make their way through a pounding gauntlet of drumsticks, fists and mallets from the front of the bus to the back of the bus.   

after a football game in november 2011, two other band members went through the bus - and the hazing - before robert champion, 26, of decatur, georgia. after the ritual, champion said he had trouble breathing. he subsequently vomited, collapsed and died in a parking lot.

martin was convicted of misdemeanor hazing counts in their beatings. he will be sentenced january 9, and he was taken into custody. champion's parents sat silently as the verdicts were read. martin sat with his head down. manslaughter is punishable by up to 15 years in prison in florida.

the senseless death of champion eventually cast an ominous cloud over the school's nationally acclaimed band, which played at super bowls, and before u.s. presidents. the band was suspended for more than a year after his death; a number of school officials resigned in the aftermath. several other former band members have pleaded guilty to lesser charges, and three others await trial.

defense attorneys told jurors the ritual was more akin to a competition, and there was no actual hazing. they said champion and the others voluntarily participated. during closing arguments, defense attorney richard escobar said, "you can't take it in isolation and act like it was just any other band. brutal as it was, foolish as it was...it was competitive."

but prosecutor jeff ashton said testimony made it clear band members sought a certain measure of acceptance, brotherhood and respect when "crossing bus c." ashton humbly challenged the defense's argument. he said, "tradition didn't kill robert champion, tradition isn't to blame. tradition is not an excuse...it's not a defense to those that got caught."