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, January 08, 2019

Cyntoia Brown Granted Clemency by Tennessee Governor

cyntoia brown was granted executive clemency on monday by tennessee governor bill haslam. brown was tried as an adult and convicted of first-degree murder, among other charges. brown is now eligible for release from prison august 7, 2019.

brown, a victim of child sex trafficking, was sentenced to life for killing 43 year-old johnny allen in 2004. brown was 16 then, and living with her 24 year-old boyfriend, a pimp named kut throat, who forced her into prostitution and raped her.

haslem said, "cyntoia brown committed, by her own admission, a horrific crime at the age of 16. yet, imposing a life sentence on a juvenile that would require her to serve at least 51 years before even being eligible for parole consideration is too harsh, especially in light of the extraordinary steps ms. brown has taken to rebuild her life."

tennessee's supreme court in december ruled brown must remain in prison at least 51 years before release eligibility. a lawsuit for her argued mandatory life sentences without parole for juveniles is unconstitutional. the court rejected the suit, inspiring the women's march to announce nationwide protests for brown - and other sex-trafficking victims - on january 19.

some notable celebrities, including rihanna and kim kardashian west, publicly joined people around the country who supported brown, after pbs produced a documentary about her in 2011, "me facing life: cyntoia's story." 

under the conditions for her release, brown will be required to get a job, undergo regular counseling and work at least 50 hours of community service. in a statement through her lawyers, brown thanked haslem "for your act of mercy in giving me a second chance. i will do everything i can to justify your faith in me."    


Sunday, January 06, 2019

Pennsylvania Court rules Mothers' Drug Use while Pregnant isn't Child Abuse

the pennsylvania supreme court ruled on december 28 mothers who use illegal drugs while pregnant cannot be considered perpetrators of child abuse towards newborn children under the state's child protection law.

the court's main opinion said the law's definition of a child does not include fetuses or unborn children, and victims of perpetrators must be children under the child protective services law (cpsl).

"the fact that the actor, at a later date, becomes a person who meets one of the statutorily-defined categories of a 'perpetrator' does not bring her earlier actions - even if committed within two years pf the child's bodily injury - under the cpsl," wrote justice christine donohue. 

two justices who dissented said what should matter is when the injury shows itself, and that can be after the child is born.

in december 2017 supreme court justice geoffrey moulton submitted an opinion, stating a mother's substance abuse while pregnant "may constitute child abuse" if child welfare authorities can prove she "intentionally, knowingly or recklessly caused, or created a likelihood of, bodily injury to a child after birth."

while a judge said he agreed with moulton's opinion, he challenged it by stating,"there is also no doubt that most pregnant women who use illegal drugs during their pregnancies do so not because they wish to harm their child, but because they are addicted to the drugs."

the case involves a child who spent 19 days in williamsport hospital last year after birth being treated for drug dependence that caused severe withdrawal symptoms. the mother's lawyer calls the decision a victory for public health and the rights of women and children.     

Friday, January 04, 2019

Latino Youth Targeted by Curfew Law in Denver

cities such as austin and san antonio have decriminalized or eliminated curfew violations - arresting youth who remain out of their homes at late hours - but denver's curfew law, which began in 1994, is still on the books.

a recent review by the denver post reported female and male latino youth, who comprise 41% of their teen population, accounted for 67% of the city's arrests. the police department asserts they target areas with "a lot of juvenile activity" and deploy extra curfew runs during cinco de mayo. 

curfew citations mandate female and male youth undergo a months-long program and can result in fines, a permanent record and consequences for immigration proceedings.

"the numbers here suggest that if you happen to be a mexican kid living in denver, then that's a crime," said councilman paul lopez, who represents the area most targeted by law enforcement. the denver post highlighted stores which include a latina girl ticketed for stopping at a convenience store on the way home from her late shift at a restaurant.

the latina youth was saving money for college, but quit the job to avoid potential encounters with the police. these culturally insensitive problems existed for years, but denver's police department made data errors (uncovered by local media) which hid the existence of racial disparities.      

Sunday, December 30, 2018

Senate Passes Legislation to make Lynching a Federal Crime

the senate on wednesday december 19 passed a bill to make lynching a federal crime. the landmark bill would add a section on lynching to the part of the u.s. code of law dealing with crimes related to civil rights. the section on lynching would be added right after the section on hate crimes.

the justice for victims of lynching act of 2018 was proposed in june by three black senators: cory booker (d-nj), kamala harris (d-calif) and tim scott (r-sc). the bill now goes to the house of representatives. 

the bill says if two or more people are convicted of killing someone because of their "actual or perceived race, color or religion, or national origin," they can be sentenced to up to life in prison. if the lynching victim experiences "bodily harm," the perpetrators face no less than ten years in prison.  

"this is an historic piece of legislation that would criminalize lynching, attempts to lynch and conspiracy to lynch for the first time in america's history. we finally have a chance to speak the truth about our past and make clear that these hateful acts should never happen again without serious, severe and swift consequence and accountability," said harris.

almost 200 bills were introduced in congress during the first half of the 20th century in an effort to end lynching. historically, laws allowing federal prosecution of lynchers were stalled by southern democrats who threatened filibusters in order to block anti-lynching bills.

over 4,700 people were lynched in america from 1882 to 1968, according to researchers out of tuskegee university. almost 75% of the people lynched were black. a 2015 report by the equal justice initiative said nearly 4,000 blacks were lynched in the american south between the end of the civil war and world war two.

in 2005, the senate passed a resolution to apologize to victims of lynching, and their descendants, for its failure to enact anti-lynching legislation. similarly, in april, the country's first memorial dedicated to the victims of lynching opened in alabama.

harris said, "these crimes should have been prosecuted, there were victims who should have received justice but did not. 99% of all perpetrators of lynching escaped punishment by state or local officials. with this bill, we are finally able to change that and correct a burden on our history as a country."   

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

2019 NFL Pro Bowl Selections

listed below are the players selected for the 2019 nfl pro bowl:

american football conference
quarterback: patrick mahomes, kansas city chiefs (starter)
                      tom brady, new england patriots
                      phillip rivers, los angeles chargers

running back: james conner, pittsburgh steelers (starter)
                       melvin gordon, los angeles chargers
                       phillip lindsay, denver broncos

fullback: anthony sherman, kansas city chiefs 

wide receiver: tyreek hill, kansas city chiefs (starter)
                        deandre hopkins, houston texans (starter)
                        keenan allen, los angeles chargers
                        antonio brown, pittsburgh steelers

tight end: travis kelce, kansas city chiefs (starter); 
                 eric ebron, indianapolis colts

offensive tackle: taylor lewan, tennessee titans (starter)
                           alejandro villaneuva, pittsburgh steelers (starter)
                           eric fisher, kansas city chiefs

offensive guard: david decastro, pittsburgh steelers (starter) 
                           marshal yanda, baltimore ravens (starter)
                           quenton nelson, indianapolis colts

center: maurkice pouncey, pittsburgh steelers (starter)
            mike pouncey,los angeles chargers

defensive end:  j.j. watt, houston texans (starter) 
                        myles garrett, cleveland browns (starter)
                        melvin ingram, los angeles chargers

interior lineman: geno atkins,cincinnati bengals (starter) 
                             jurrell casey, tennessee titans (starter)
                            cameron hayward, pittsburgh steelers

outside linebacker: von miller, denver broncos (starter) 
                                jadeveon clowney, houston texans (starter)
                                dee ford, kansas city chiefs

inside linebacker: c.j. mosley, baltimore ravens (starter)
                             benardrick mckinney, houston texans

cornerback: xavien howard, miami dolphins (starter) 
                     jalen ramsey, jacksonville jaguars (starter)
                    stephon gilmore, new england patriots
                    denzel ward, cleveland browns

free safety: derwin james, los angeles chargers (starter)
                   eric weddle, baltimore ravens

strong safety: jamal adams, new york jets  

kicker: jason myers, new york jets

long snapper: tba

punter: brett kern, tennessee titans

return specialist: andre roberts, new york jets

special teamer: adrian phillips, los angeles chargers

national football conference
quarterback: drew brees, new orleans saints (starter) 
                      jared goff, los angeles rams (starter)
                      aaron rogers, green bay packers

running back: saquon barkley, new york giants (starter) 
                       todd gurley, los angeles rams (starter)
                       ezekiel elliott, dallas cowboys

fullback: kyle juszczyk, san francisco 49ers

wide receiver: julio jones, atlanta falcons (starter) 
                       michael thomas, new orleans saints (starter)
                       davante adams, green bay packers
                       adam thielen, minnesota vikings

tight end: zach ertz, philadelphia eagles (starter)
                 george kittle, san francisco 49ers

offensive tackle: tyron smith, dallas cowboys (starter) 
                           terron armstead, new orleans saints (starter)
                           trent williams, washington redskins

offensive guard: zack martin, dallas cowboys (starter)
                           brandon brooks, philadelphia eagles (starter)
                           trai turner, carolina panthers

center: alex mack, atlanta falcons (starter)
            max unger, new orleans saints.

defensive end: cameron jordan. new orleans saints (starter)
                        demarcus lawrence, dallas cowboys (starter)
                        danielle hunter, minnesota vikings

interior lineman: fletcher cox, philadelphia eagles (starter) 
                            aaron donald, los angeles rams (starter)
                            akiem hicks, chicago bears

outside linebacker: ryan kerrigan, washington redskins (starter) 
                                khalil mack, chicago bears (starter)
                                anthony barr, minnesota vikings

inside linebacker: luke kuechly, carolina panthers (starter)
                              bobby wagner, seattle seahawks

cornerback: kyle fuller, chicago bears (starter) 
                    patrick peterson, arizona cardinals (starter)
                    byron jones, dallas cowboys
                    darius slay, detroit lions

free safety: eddie jackson, chicago bears (starter)
                   harrison smith, minnesota vikings

strong safety: landon collins, new york giants

kicker: aldrick rosas, new york giants

long snapper: tba

punter: michael dickson, seattle seahawks

return specialist: tarik cohen, chicago bears

special teamer: cory littleton, los angeles rams     

Monday, December 17, 2018

WTA Changes Rules Impacting Players Returning from Injury or Pregnancy

the women's tennis association (wta) improved rule changes on monday to ensure players are not penalized upon returning from an injury (long absence) or pregnancy. the changes were prompted by the experiences of serena willliams and victoria azarenka - two former number one, and multi-major singles champions - who re-joined the tour after giving birth.

williams was unseeded at the 2018 french open; her first major after becoming a mother, despite winning the last major she played: the 2017 australian open. this year, williams was seeded #25 at wimbledon and #17 at the u.s. open, and lost in the finals of both majors.  

the new rule states players who return from an injury which keeps them out of competition for a year or longer may use a special ranking in 12 tournaments. no player will get bumped from her earned seeded position.

"these changes are designed to fully support players in their return to competition, while maintaining the highest standards of athletic competition and fairness," said wta ceo and chairman steve simon. the tour will ensure women at wta tournaments "are not penalized or prohibited from wearing leggings or compression shorts, without a skirt, dress or shorts over them."    

williams wore a provocative black bodysuit at the 2018 french open, where she pulled out with an injury before the fourth round. williams said she wore the compression suit because of a history of blood clots, including complications after childbirth.

this fall, the president of the french tennis federation said williams could no longer wear the bodysuit at the french open. williams responded with class and grace, but his polarizing remarks angered fans and, some of whom suggested were made with female censorship and racial overtones.

azarenka, a member of the wta players council, said she wants to make sure the wta is "the most progressive and inclusive association in sports." azarenka said, "our players should feel comfortable and confident to take time away from the courts to have a family or recover from an injury."

Saturday, December 15, 2018

Expanding Voter Protection Services for Formerly Incarcerated People

the new york city council passed a trio of bills this month to protect the voting rights of formerly incarcerated people and persons sentenced to probation. the full package includes:

introduction 367, sponsored by council member rafael salamanca, jr.

this bill requires the nyc department of probation to distribute written notices on the voting rights of persons sentenced to probation, during the intake process, for any person sentenced to probation. such written notice is to be developed in consultation with the voter assistance advisory committee.

introduction 514-a, sponsored by council member rory lancman

this bill requires the doc to provide written notice regarding the voting rights of formerly incarcerated persons in the state of new york to individuals upon release of doc custody, along with voter registration forms. 

it also requires the doc to make verbal reference to such written materials upon distribution and mandates yearly trainings for all relevant doc staff on, at minimum, voting laws, voter registration procedures, absentee voting, and determining eligibility to vote. 

additionally, the bill requires the nyc campaign finance board, with assistance from the voter assistance advisory committee, to include incarcerated and formerly incarcerated persons in activities they undertake aimed at encouraging and facilitating voter registration.

introduction 1115-a, sponsored by council member fernando cabrera

this bill requires the voter assistance advisory committee to develop and distribute guidance for agencies covered by the agency based voter registration law on the voting rights of formerly incarcerated persons. 

such covered agencies will also be required, when feasible and when requested to by an applicant currently on parole, to check publicly available information to inform such applicant if a restoration of their right to vote has been granted.  

"the issue of mass incarceration in our nation largely affects our black and brown communities, and with the pervasive misunderstanding of who can and can't vote, it's on us to educate and improve voter turnout," said council member salamanca.

"but having the right and knowing how to use it are two different things. my bill will bring those poles closer together and as a consequence make our city more democratic, more engaged and even more safe," said council member lancman. 

NC Governor Vetoes State Voter Suppression Bill

north carolina democratic governor roy cooper on friday vetoed legislation to implement a voter photo identification mandate added to the state's constitution in a recent referendum. 55% of voters approved a constitutional amendment last month requiring voter photo id.

"requiring photo ids for in-person voting is a solution in search of a problem. instead, the real election problem is votes harvested illegally through absentee ballots, which this proposal fails to fix," said cooper, referencing an investigation of alleged absentee ballot fraud in the state's ninth congressional district election in november.

cooper has repeatedly opposed voter id legislation over the years, saying it was unnecessary and would prevent many black, brown and poor citizens from exercising their right to cast ballots. republican leaders in the gop-dominated general assembly vowed late friday to override, a move some observers expect will lead to litigation.

the bill greatly expands the number of qualifying ids and exceptions compared to legislation blocked earlier this decade. permitted ids would include employee id cards for state and local governments, student ids from colleges and universities, and traditional driver's licenses and military id.

there also would be a new, free, photo voter identification card produced by county election boards. people having trouble obtaining an id could fill out forms at the polling site, and their ballots would likely be counted, too. 

federal judges struck down a 2013 state law including photo voter id and other voting restrictions. the judges ruled the law was approved with intentional racial discrimination in mind.