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, December 29, 2014

Mo'Ne Davis: 2014 AP Female Athlete of the Year

13 year-old mo'ne davis on monday was named female athlete of the year by the associated press. the award is voted on by news directors and u.s. editors, and davis became the youngest winner in history. she beat out mount saint joseph freshman lauren hill - who played her first college basketball game while battling terminal cancer - and 18-time major tennis champion serena williams.

davis tossed a two-hitter to help philadelphia beat nashville 4-0 in the little league world series opener for both teams. davis, the first girl to play for a u.s. team in south williamsport since 2004, had eight strikeouts and no walks. her team was later eliminated after losing to teams from las vegas and chicago. but that was only the beginning...

davis appeared on the cover of sports illustrated. her jersey is displayed in baseball's hall of fame and was named sports kid of the year by sports illustrated kids. she met the obamas at the white house, starred in a spike lee directed car commercial (the ncaa said it wouldn't hurt her eligibility), marched in the macy's thanksgiving day parade with her teammates, and presented soul train's song of the year award to pharell williams.   

the personable teenager is a gifted three-sport athlete. just an eighth-grader, davis is a point guard for her high school varsity basketball team, and plays soccer. also, she's an honor student who handled the media attention with grace, maturity and poise. she said, "a lot of adults around me help me out, taught me to be respectful, to be calm during everything and not let anything get to you." 

davis hurled whiffle balls to jimmy fallon on nbc's tonight show, threw out the first pitch at game four of the world series, and signed a book deal. "it's been really fun, got to do a lot of things, meet a lot of cool people," she said. "my favorite thing to do was playing in williamsport or going to the white house. the obamas just seemed like a regular couple, no different from anyone else," davis said. 

while most folks still talk about her baseball feats, davis concentrates on basketball. "it's making me a lot better, helping me make decisions. in middle school i can get away with small things. the girls now are a lot taller so i'm working on my jump shot and ball handling a lot." she aspires to play for the university of connecticut, and, eventually, the wnba.

steve bandura, a recreation leader for the philadelphia parks and recreation department, and director of the anderson monarchs sports programs, has helped coach davis since she started playing sports. his son, scott, was the catcher for the taney dragons - their now-famous little league team. bandura says davis has maintained her "natural personality" with the celebrity status and media onslaught.

"she's still the same person, still a kid who wants to do kid things. she has fun meeting celebrities and all that but the bottom line is she loves to play sports, go to school and have fun. the adults make a bigger deal out of it. her teammates understand she's breaking down barriers and they're proud of her. they've been together so long, it's like she's their sister," bandura said.

on the pitching mound, davis embodied the confidence of a veteran. her demeanor, focus and presence delighted baseball fans young and old from all walks of life. davis is clearly aware of her newfound place in society as a role model. her message to people - especially girls: "always follow your dreams. if there's something people tell you that you can't do it, go for it."   



Wednesday, December 17, 2014

South Carolina Judge vacates 1944 conviction of black male teen

a south carolina judge on wednesday vacated the 1944 conviction of a 14 year-old black teenager. judge carmen tevis mullen said the boy, george stinney, jr., did not receive a fair trial in the murders of two white girls. 

stinney was convicted by an all-white jury after a one-day trial and a ten-minute jury deliberation. he died in the electric chair less than 90 days after the killings of betty june binnicker, 11, and mary emma thames, 7. stinney was the youngest person executed in america in the past century.

judge mullen said she was not overturning the case on its merits, although scant records made the case almost impossible to relitigate. the judge said few or no defense witnesses testified and it was "highly likely," the boy's confession to white police officers - amidst prevailing racial segregation - was coerced.   

"from time to time we are called to look back to examine our still-recent history and correct injustice where possible. i can think of no greater injustice than a violation of one's constitutional rights, which has been proven to me in this case by a preponderance of the evidence standard," judge mullen wrote.

the girls disappeared on march 23, 1944, after leaving home in the small mill town of alcolu on their bicycles to look for wildflowers. they were found the next morning in a ditch with their skulls crushed. stinney was taken into custody the same day and confessed within hours, according to the ruling.

last year, members of stinney's family petitioned for a new trial. his sister, anne ruffner, 77, testified in a january hearing: her brother could not have killed the girls because he was with her that day. citing the lack of a transcript from the original trial, no surviving physical evidence and only a handful of official documents, judge mullen firmly overturned the conviction.

ruffner, and two other siblings - both were run out of town shortly after stinney's arrest - were pleased with the judge's ruling, said the family attorney matthew burgess. "this is something that's been weighing on them for seven decades now. they are happy to hear that their brother has been exonerated," burgess said.      

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Kobe Bryant passes Michael Jordan for third place on all-time NBA scoring list

kobe bryant on sunday night hit two free throws at the 5:24 mark of the second quarter during the los angeles lakers game against the minnesota timberwolves. bryant surpassed hall-of-famer michael jordan - his idol and mentor - for third place on the nba's all-time scoring list with 32,293 points.

bryant was immediately hugged by his teammates, his coaches and his opponents. the fans in minnesota showed their appreciation with a standing ovation. timberwolves owner glen taylor presented him with a game ball and kobe waved to the crowd with a warm smile. he finished with 26 points in their win. ironically, minnesota is where bryant played his first nba game.

jordan, in a statement to the associated press, said, "i congratulate kobe on reaching this milestone. he's obviously a great player, with a strong work ethic and has an equally strong passion for the game of basketball. i've enjoyed watching his game evolve over the years, and i look forward to seeing what he accomplishes next."

bryant is a little over 4,600 points behind hall-of-famer and longtime utah jazz power forward karl malone, who is in second place. hall-of-famer and six-time nba champion kareem abdul-jabbar is the league's all-time leading scorer with 38,387 points. afterwards, kobe was asked on nba-tv if he wanted to eclipse the record. bryant said, "thinking about 38,000 points makes my back spasm."

the lakers honored bryant by decking the team's charter plane with some garland, congratulatory signs and a chocolate-frosted cake. bryant, 36, is a five-time nba champion, 16-time all-star, 15-time all-nba team member and 12-time all-defensive team member. but the lakers are 8-17: on pace to win just 25 games. bryant's two-year, $48.5 million contract runs out in 2016. 



Friday, December 05, 2014

Family of Black male teen in Cleveland Fatally Shot by White male police officer Files Lawsuit

the family of a young boy slain last month by a police officer in cleveland, ohio filed a federal civil rights lawsuit on friday. the suit names the city, and two officers involved, a day after the u.s. department of justice (doj) found the city's police systematically uses excessive force against civilians.

tamir rice, 12, was tragically shot on november 22 while carrying a replica gun - which typically fires plastic pellets. officer timothy loehmann killed rice just two seconds after his police car pulled up beside rice at a park. frank garmback, the second officer named in the suit, was driving the car.

both officers are white. rice is black.

the officers confronted rice "in a surprise fashion and fired multiple shots at him without any adequate investigation," the suit said. rice was described as an african-american sixth grader who loves basketball. the lawsuit also noted loehmann had resigned from a suburban police department after a bad review which cited his immaturity and "dismal" handgun performance.

the doj report on thursday highlighted more than a dozen incidents to uncover a troubling pattern of departmental misconduct. u.s. attorney general eric holder launder the investigation: it revealed officers shooting at low-risk suspects, using chemical spray and tasers on handcuffed people and employing unreasonable force on the impaired or mentally ill.

jeffrey follmer, president of the cleveland police patrolman's association, said he hoped the federal investigation would result in more training and more officers on the street. ohio governor john kasich on friday announced the creation of a state task force to improve relations between communities and their police departments.        



Wednesday, December 03, 2014

No Indictment for the NYPD officer whose illegal chokehold killed Eric Garner

a staten island grand jury chose today not to indict the policeman whose illegal chokehold ultimately killed eric garner july 17, 2014. daniel pantaleo, the 29 year-old white officer who murdered garner, a black male father of six, made his first public statement since garner's death. pantaleo said, "it was never my intention to harm anyone."

upon learning of the grand jury decision, eric garner's widow, esaw, told the new york daily news, "oh my god. are you serious? i'm very disappointed. you can see in the video that he (the cop) was wrong. garner's 19 year-old son, eric snipes, said, "oh man, this is not fair. it's not fair how he could get away with murder. i feel disgusted. i'm never going to see my pops again."

the grand jury consisted of 15 white and eight black or latino jurors. grand juries, by law, operate in secrecy and hear only evidence presented by prosecutors. defense lawyers are barred from the process and 12 of the jurors have to agree for a final decision to be made. 

staten island district attorney daniel m. donovan, jr. impaneled the grand jury in september and they heard testimony from the officers involved in garner's arrest. but an indictment was only considered against officer pantaleo; the other cops received immunity.  

president obama weighed-in after consulting with u.s. attorney general eric holder. obama said, "this is an issue we've been dealing with for too long and it's time for us to make more progress than we've made. we're seeing too many instances where people do not have confidence that folks are being treated fairly. when anybody in the country is not being treated equally under the law, it is my job as president to solve it. 

cops approached garner, 43, in front of a tompkinsville beauty supply store accusing him of selling loose cigarettes. a cellphone video showed garner arguing with the cops when pantaleo jumps him from behind and place him in a chokehold - banned by the nypd in 1994 after the killing of anthony baez who was placed in one - while dragging him to the ground with his knee firmly on garner's neck.

garner suffered from asthma. he screamed repeatedly, "i can't breathe, i can't breathe, i can't breathe." the next day pantaleo and his partner, officer justin d'amico, were put on desk duty. police commissioner william bratton on july 22 ordered all 35,000 nypd officers be retrained in the use of force. state senator bill perkins declared at a city hall rally, "this was a murder."

on july 31 new york city mayor bill de blasio joined rev. al sharpton and other community leaders in a round-table discussion on historically oppressive relationships between the black and latino communities in nyc, and the police. bratton was also in attendance. on the following day, the city medical examiner rules garner's death was a homicide.

in october, garner's family announced they plan to file a $75 million wrongful death lawsuit. they intend to name the city, the nypd and eight police officers as defendants. embattled attorney sanford rubenstein will represent the garner family in court. 

mayor de blasio called wednesday "a painful day for so many new yorkers." but after speaking with holder, the mayor said the justice department will look into pantaleo's actions. de blasio said, "the federal government is engaged and clearly poised to act." esaw garner also spoke with holder, who assured her the feds would investigate her husband's senseless killing.      


Monday, December 01, 2014

ACLU files lawsuit against Iowa regarding felons' voting rights

the american civil liberties union (aclu) of iowa recently filed a lawsuit against the state of iowa. the suit challenges the constitutionality of the state's disenfranchisement laws prohibiting anyone convicted of a felon from voting.

earlier this year, the iowa supreme court questioned whether all felonies necessarily constitute an "infamous crime," which the iowa constitution states would disqualify a person from voting. the court previously ruled any crime punishable by a prison sentence should be considered as such; the legislature in 1994 defined the term as a felony.

the lawsuit asks the court "to declare that the iowa constitution prohibits the disenfranchisement of people convicted of lower-level felonies (such as non-violent drug offenses); and seeks an injunction to stop the state from bringing criminal charges against iowans with past lower-level felonies who register to vote."

aclu filed the lawsuit on behalf of kelli jo griffin, an iowa woman who lost her right to vote in 2008 following a non-violent drug conviction. griffin's lawyers told her once she completed probation in january 2013 she'd be allowed to vote - which was the state's policy under former governor, democrat tom vilsack after he issued an executive order.

griffin says she didn't know this policy had been reversed in 2011 by republican governor terry branstad when she cast her ballot last year. the state charged griffin with voter fraud, and she could have faced up to 15 years in prison. after three months and $10,000 in legal fees, the jury acquitted her of all charges: yet she remains blocked from voting under current state law.

iowa is one of four states banning all felons from voting unless they receive clemency from the governor. when branstad took office he required an application to the governor, including a credit check. since his felony disenfranchisement policy went into effect, about 8,000 iowans have completed their felony sentences. 

but only 12 had their voting rights restored.

the provision is breeding confusion among bureaucrats and former offenders. new data released friday revealed iowa disenfranchised at least 12 legitimate voters because of errors maintaining the felon database. secretary of state matt schultz said the data is so "filled with so many inaccuracies that it could take years to fix."

u.s. attorney general eric holder spoke on criminal justice reform at georgetown university law center in february. holder weighed in on the policy reversal of branstad. regarding the governor's actions, holder said, "that's moving backwards, not forward. it is unwise, it is unjust and it is not in keeping with our democratic values. these laws deserve to not only be considered, but repealed."