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, March 31, 2016

Obama Commutes Sentences of 61 Federal Inmates with drug offenses

president barack obama commuted the sentences of 61 federal inmates on wednesday, all of whom were held on drug charges. the progressive actions demonstrate the administrations' ongoing commitment to grant clemency to people with unforgiving convictions during the so-called war on drugs era.

the announcement came one day after the commander-in-chief vehemently criticized the previous american policy of engaging in a "war on drugs." during a national drug abuse and heroin summit on wednesday, obama said, "for too long we've viewed drug addiction through the lens of criminal justice...drug abuse is a health problem, not a criminal one."

over 33% of the people granted early release yesterday would have otherwise served life sentences. none of them, however, were serving life sentences for marijuana-only crimes. the commutation makes those sentences expire on march 30, 2017, and would remit the unpaid balance of the fine.

each of the 61 individuals were primarily charged with distribution of drugs. they were sentenced when the government prided itself on ruthlessly prosecuting folks with drug charges - an oppressive tactic which disproportionately warehoused men of african descent. 

"i am gratified that president obama continues to use his powers to release individuals who deserve a second chance at life," said anthony papa, the drug policy alliance's media relations manager. papa was granted clemency in new york after serving 12 years for a first-time nonviolent drug offense. he was sentenced to 300 months imprisonment with five years supervised release.

"with so many people waking up each day with the hope that they too will find mercy and redemption, i hope that today's grants portend even more grants over the remaining ten months left in president obama's term," said cynthia w. roseberry, project manager for clemency project.  pro bono legal project clemency project 2014 helped process clemency applications for 25 of the prisoners.

obama has reduced more sentences than all (!) of the last six presidents - combined. these were the first clemency grants he issued since december, when he granted the largest set of commutations in his presidency: 95 federal prisoners, and two pardons. obama has now commuted the sentences of almost 250 people.

norman l. reimer, executive director of the national association of criminal defense lawyers, and a partner in the project to process inmate applications said, "the 61 grants today add to an increasingly impressive total, but we urge the president and his team to vastly increase the pace, and continue granting commutations on a regular basis throughout the remainder of his term."

deputy attorney general sally yates said, "through cooperative bipartisan efforts with congress, the u.s. sentencing commission and reform advocacy groups, we hope to soon realize systemic change in the length of prison sentences for these low-level drug offenders and to provide better tools for a safe and successful reentry into the community."  


Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Overrepresentation of Native Americans in the Criminal Justice System

the overrepresentation of native americans in the criminal justice system is a nationally underreported story, according to a feb 11 article in nieman reports. the national council on crime and deliquency revealed native americans were admitted to prison at over four times the rate for whites.

a 2014 report by the centers for disease control (cdc) showed police kill native americans at almost the same rate as black folks. researcher christopher josey said, "news media are communicating that native americans are not a vital part of the national conversation on race."

earlier this month, a report by the council of state governments justice center stated native americans make up seven percent of the population in montana. yet, they account for nearly 20% of the state's arrests.

montana's commission on sentencing will reconvene in june and september to analyze successful prison diversion efforts recently undertaken in new mexico and washington. some of their goals include reducing both racial disparities and the overall prison population. 

jim taylor, legal director at the aclu of montana, said the state's department of corrections has more than three decades of documented native american oppression. 

taylor said, "there's really been no interest in drilling down and seeing what's going on. we think there needs to be more study done by the state and more training throughout the system on cultural differences and the effects of historical trauma."

Monday, March 28, 2016

Women's basketball coach fired after sexual orientation discrimination charges from assistant coach and player

prairie view a&m basketball coach dawn brown was fired this week amidst controversy. earlier this season, brown suspended an assistant coach and player after she learned they were dating each other.

the university told brown she was removed because she violated title ix by discriminating against the players. brown says the school's own title ix administrator approved the players' suspension. "clearly, i feel betrayed and unjustly penalized by this action," brown said.

brown said the ladies' relationship broke a team rule she implemented before this season. the rule states, "players may not have nonprofessional relationships with other players, coaches, managers, trainers, or any other persons affiliated with the program." brown also said she "collaborated with my title ix office in drafting" the new rule.

brown further stated both former players were suspended indefinitely but retained their scholarships and remained at the school. moreover, brown said the players were punished for breaking other team principles - which she declined to specify.

the former players filed a complaint alleging their dismissal was due to their sexual orientation, and the resulting action violated title ix. the 1972 landmark case prohibits sexual discrimination in any education program or activity receiving federal financial assistance.

but according to the houston press, title ix wasn't applied to sexual orientation until three months ago. in december 2015, u.s. district judge dean pregerson in california ruled a case - involving two pepperdine university women's basketball players targeted by the coach for an intimate partnership - deserved legal protection. 

garry rosenfield, brown's agent, said prairie view a&m gave his client a choice to resign or be terminated for cause. rosenfield said, "we definitely think this is a case of scapegoating." dennis cordell, president of coaches, inc., a sports marketing agency, said brown will appeal. "we feel she's been wrongfully terminated," cordell said.

brown led the panthers to the 2014 swac championship, and a number 16 seed in the ncaa tournament this year. prairie view a&m lost to connecticut 87-44 in the first round. brown was 41-51 in three seasons, including a 13-15 record this season.  

Friday, March 11, 2016

Joe's Crab Shack apologizes for a lynching photo on a dining table in Minnesota

on wednesday night, a black couple were dining at a joe's crab shack restaurant in roseville, minnesota. chauntyll allen and tyrone williams noticed a photo embedded inside their table top of a large group of white people watching at least one black person being lynched.

on the bottom of the picture it reads, "hanging at groesbeck, texas on april 12th 1985." at the top of the caption it says, "all i said was that i didn't like the gumbo."

the couple immediately spoke to a manager. "although the manager was apologetic about the lynching depiction, that does not change the fact that this sickening image of black men being lynched was intentionally embedded inside of a table," said williams.

allen said, "seeing a picture of two black men being lynched was the last thing that i expected to see at what was supposed to be a family-friendly restaurant. as you can imagine, seeing that imagine ruined my appetite and my pre-birthday dinner. it is hard to believe that this type of racism is still going on in 2016."

"this disturbing incident that occurred at joe's crab shack, demonstrates that racism is still alive and well in this country. it is sickening to know that someone would make a mockery of black men being savagely lynched and then use that imagery for decorative purposes," said nekima levy-pounds, minneapolis naacp president.

the minneapolis naacp is demanding an immediate public apology by the corporate offices of joe's crab shack. they want: 1) prompt removal "of any and all lynching or otherwise racially-offensive imagery," from its restaurants; and 2) a donation to a local community-based organization serving african-american youths and teenagers.

david catalano, coo ignite restaurant group, joe's crab shack parent company said,"we understand one of the photos used in our table decor at joe's crab shack restaurant in roseville, minnesota was offensive. we take this matter very seriously, and the photo in question was immediately removed. we sincerely apologize to our guests who were disturbed by the image and we look forward to continuing to serve the roseville community."     

the city of roseville issued its own statement friday, calling on the restaurant chain to make sure this type of imagery is not displayed anywhere else. they stated, "the city of roseville was shocked and saddened to learn of the racist imagery being openly displayed at the roseville location of national restaurant joe's crab shack."

their statement also said, "the city condemns this type of display in the strongest possible terms and calls on joe's crab shack to remove any and all racist imagery not only from its roseville location, but all of its restaurants nationwide immediately. this type of display is wholly unacceptable and unwelcome in the city of roseville."