AIDS Quilt Returns to Washington


AIDS quilt

AIDS quilt

The AIDS Memorial Quilt has returned to Washington, D.C., for the first time in 16 years, marking the 25th anniversary of The NAMES Project and thirty years in the struggle to stop the spread of HIV and AIDSaround the world.

Every morning volunteers take on the laborious process of unfolding the panels of the quilt on the National Mall and then packing them up in the evening, a process that can only be described as a labor of love.

The quilt has over 94,000 names of AIDS sufferers on it and has been seen by over 18 million people worldwide.  Through tours and special events, the quilt has raised over $4 million for direct services for people living with AIDS.

For the quilt’s creators, this patch of green lawn in the heart of the nation’s capital holds special significance — the quilt was first displayed there in October of 1987 during the National March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights, a time when many felt the federal government was turning its back on the AIDS epidemic.

The quilt is the brainchild of San Francisco gay-rights activist Cleve Jones, who in 1987, helped found The NAMES Project. Today, the quilt consists of 48,000 panels and takes up 1.3 million square feet, making it impossible to view in its entirety at any one time. If a visitor were to spend one minute to view each panel, it would take over 33 days to see the entire quilt.

Justice Department won’t prosecute Eric Holder for contempt


Attorney General Eric Holder testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, June 7, 2012, before the House Judiciary Committee oversight hearing on the Justice Department.

Attorney General Eric Holder testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, June 7, 2012, before the House Judiciary Committee oversight hearing on the Justice Department.

The Justice Department declared Friday that Attorney General Eric Holder’s decision to withhold information about a bungled gun-tracking operation from Congress does not constitute a crime and he won’t be prosecuted for contempt of Congress.

The House voted Thursday afternoon to find Holder in criminal and civil contempt for refusing to turn over the documents. President Barack Obama invoked his executive privilege authority and ordered Holder not to turn over materials about executive branch deliberations and internal recommendations.

In a letter to House Speaker John Boehner, the department said that it will not bring the congressional contempt citation against Holder to a federal grand jury and that it will take no other action to prosecute the attorney general. Dated Thursday, the letter was released Friday.

Deputy Attorney General James Cole said the decision is in line with long-standing Justice Department practice across administrations of both political parties.

Read more of the story here.

Black Gymnast Is Top Olympic Contender

From the Washington Post

Gabby Douglas

Gabby Douglas

Today, with what the Associated Press calls “cover girl looks, a personality that leaps through the TV set and a nickname [the Flying Squirrel] you won’t soon forget,” 16-year-old gymnast Gabby Douglas — who’s expected to be chosen for this year’s Olympic team — might just follow in her footsteps as one of gymnastics’ next big stars, not to mention the black community’s next collective athletic crush.

Not only has Douglas emerged as world champion Jordyn Wieber’s main rival, finishing a mere 0.2 points behind at the U.S. gymnastics championships two weeks ago, she could be the brightest star on a powerful U.S. team that could turn the London Olympics into its own heavy medal show …

The U.S. team will be picked Sunday, following the Olympic trials in San Jose, Calif. Barring an injury, Douglas is considered a lock for London along with Wieber and Aly Raisman. In addition to the team competition and all-around, Douglas has medal potential on uneven bars, where her release moves are so big and effortless that national team coordinator Martha Karolyi has dubbed her the “Flying Squirrel.”

Read more of the story here.

This Day in Black History: Buffalo Soldiers Unit Created

From the African American Registry

Buffalo Soldiers of the 25th Infantry Regiment, 1890

Buffalo Soldiers of the 25th Infantry Regiment, 1890

On June 28, 1866, an Act of Congress authorized the creation of two cavalry and four infantry regiments, “which shall be composed of colored men.” They were organized as the 9th and 10th Cavalry and the 38th through 41st Infantry.

The 9th and 10th Cavalry would go on to play a major role in the history of the West, as the “Buffalo Soldiers”
These were the Buffalo Soldiers, members of African-American cavalry regiments of the U.S. Army who served in the western United States until 1896, mainly fighting Indians on the frontier. On September 21, 1866, the 9th Cavalry Regiment was activated at Greenville, LA, under command of Colonel Edward Hatch, and the 10th Cavalry Regiment at Fort Leavenworth, KS, under command of Colonel Benjamin
Grierson. the 38th through 41st infantries (these four were later reduced to the 24th and 25 infantries), which often fought alongside the cavalry regiments. The congressional order required their officers to be white.

Read more of the story here.

Original Emancipation Proclamation Copy Sells For More Than $2 Million

By Verena Dobnik for the Huffington Post

A rare original copy of President Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation sold Tuesday at a New York auction for more than $2 million.

It’s the second-highest price ever paid for a Lincoln-signed proclamation – after one owned by the late Sen. Robert Kennedy that went for $3.8 million two years ago.

The latest copy of the 1863 document ordering the freeing of slaves, which was auctioned at the Robert Siegel Auction Galleries, went to David Rubenstein, managing director of The Carlyle Group investment firm. The American seller remained anonymous.

The $2.1 million purchase price includes a buyer’s premium.

This price and the one for the Kennedy copy are the highest ever paid for the proclamation, reflecting a “growing appreciation for documents that capture the most important moments in our history,” said Seth Kaller, a dealer in American historic documents and expert on the Emancipation Proclamation; he’s handled eight signed copies.

The document will go on public exhibit somewhere in Washington, he said. The name of the institution is yet to be announced.

Lincoln signed the proclamation during the Civil War, freeing all slaves in states then in rebellion. The proclamation also provided a legal framework for the emancipation of millions of other slaves as the Union armies advanced.

Forty-eight copies were subsequently printed, with Lincoln signing all of them.

The president donated them to the so-called Sanitary Commission, a precursor of the modern Red Cross that sold the documents privately to provide medical care to Union soldiers.

Only about half of the 48 proclamation copies have survived.

Read more of the story here.

Hull-House Museum Exhibit Explores a Chicago Gang’s History and Impact

From the Huffington Post

Conservative Vice Lords

Conservative Vice Lords

The University of Illinois at Chicago’s Jane Addams Hull-House Museum on Friday opens a new, off-site exhibit exploring the history and impact of the Conservative Vice Lords, one of the city’s most well-known gangs.

And that history is, perhaps, a surprising one, according to Lisa Junkin, the museum’s education coordinator and exhibit co-curator. Though the gang’s predecessor (the Vice Lords) was a notoriously violent group, the ’60s-era CVL were incorporated as a non-profit organization engaged in the civic life. Nevertheless, CVL members were targeted by police during the city’s “war on gangs.”

Junkin said the exhibition, which features photos, artifacts and audio interviews with former CVL members, “doesn’t glorify or demonize gangs.”

“Rather, it challenges widely held views of gang members as unredeemable thugs through an untold story of the Conservative Vice Lords fighting for the life of their community,” she said in a release announcing the exhibit.

Room4Debate: Does the Supreme Court Arizona Ruling Pave Path To Racial Profiling?

By Laurie Kellman of the Huffington Post

Reaction to the Supreme Court Ruling

Reaction to the Supreme Court Ruling

Congressional Democrats and Republicans scrambled for election-year gain from the Supreme Court’s ruling Monday that threw out key provisions of Arizona’s immigration law but upheld one that requires police to check the status of people who might appear to be in the U.S. illegally.

Democrats said the ruling risks encouraging racial profiling, while Republicans said it strengthens the right of states to make and enforce their own immigration policies. In hot pursuit of Hispanic voters this presidential and congressional election year, members of both parties said the elected branches of the federal government need to overcome deep divisions and enact long-term laws affecting the nation’s 11 million illegal immigrants.

The court unanimously upheld the “show me your papers” requirement of the state’s law. But even there, the justices said the provision could be subject to additional legal challenges, and they blunted somewhat its effectiveness by prohibiting officers from arresting people on immigration charges.

The court struck down three major provisions of the Arizona law, including one requirement for all immigrants to obtain or carry registration papers, another making it a state criminal offense for an illegal immigrant to seek work or hold a job and a third allowing police to arrest suspected illegal immigrants without warrants.

Democrats said the decision shows President Barack Obama was right to challenge the law’s constitutionality and praised him for deferring the deportation of some young illegal immigrants. But they also said the decisions could encourage discrimination.

“I am greatly concerned that the provision putting American citizens in danger of being detained by police unless they carry their immigration papers at all times will lead to a system of racial profiling,” said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, a Democrat from swing-state Nevada.

Republicans, meanwhile, chastised Obama for his executive order and said the court appeared to validate some of the controversial law.

“The Arizona law was born out of the state’s frustration with the burdens that illegal immigration and continued drug smuggling impose on its schools, hospitals, criminal justice system and fragile desert environment, ” Arizona Republican Sens. John McCain and Jon Kyl said in a joint statement.

Read more of the story here.

Ask the Readers: What are your views on the Supreme Court ruling?

This Day in Black History: The Marine Corps Integrates

From the African American Registry

On this date in 1941, the Marine Corps formally integrated. This was a result of President Roosevelt signing Executive Order 8802 months before Pearl Harbor.

FDR officially opened to Blacks one of America’s most celebrated all-white strongholds. In previous years, the Truman order and the Fahy Committee could not budge the services segregation. It was at the urging of his wife, Eleanor, and threatened by civil rights activist A. Philip Randolph with a march on Washington that the Fair Employment Practice Commission was established which prohibited racial discrimination by any government agency.

Black Marines were housed in Montford Point, NC, and recruiting for them had been scheduled for June 1, 1942. A quota of 200 recruits each from Eastern and Central Divisions had been set, while the Southern was to furnish 500 of the initial 900 people. These men were to be enlisted in Class III (c), Marine Corps Reserve, and assigned to inactive duty in a General Service Unit of their Reserve District. Both the service record book and the enlistment contract were to be stamped “COLORED.”

The first African-American recruit to arrive at the camp was Howard P. Perry of Charlotte, NC, on August 26. From July 1942 through the end of the war, 20,000 Black men were trained at Montford Point and inducted into the Marine Corps. Black troops would train and become Marines, they would still be kept separate from the White troops. Unless accompanied by a white Marine, they were not allowed to set foot in Camp Lejeune. And after they were shipped off to battle zones, they served exclusively in all-Black units.

Read more of the story here.

Privilege: It’s Not Just for White Folks

by Stacia L. Brown for

logoPrivilege isn’t a term that springs immediately to mind in conversations about black women in this country. Between earning inequities, media misrepresentations, the “mule of the world” meme, and everything in between, we aren’t exactly the poster children for entitlement.

And yet there are several circumstances that can potentially place us at higher stations in life than those around us. Certainly, some of those circumstances are familial and relational. Wives are often in positions of privilege, as it relates to their husband’s other children. Children who have “full custody” of their fathers are privileged over their siblings who don’t. Maternal grandmothers may spend far more time with their grandchildren than paternal grandmothers. The possibilities along those lines are immense.

But there are plenty of other instances where black women may experience privilege. Some of those are cultural. Consider the hiring bias against applicants with “ethnic-sounding” names. In a hiring pool, Sharon Jones may have the unwitting upper hand over Shaquanita Jackson. Similarly, there are situations in which American-born black women find themselves at a distinct advantage over other women of the diaspora.

There’s economic, educational, and professional privilege. And then there’s the kind of inadvertent “leverage” black men will occasionally suggest we have.

Last semester, one of my freshmen insisted the young women in our predominantly black course were “better off” than the young men because they were “females.” “It’s easier for y’all to get jobs, y’all got lower car insurance, y’all can get assistance if you need it, and y’all don’t get profiled by the police like we do,” he asserted. While the girls argued his points, he wouldn’t be dissuaded. And, because I’ve had and heard the same exchange — with much older folks, over many years — enough to feel exhausted by it, I didn’t join in with the chorus.

Because of its connotations, privilege isn’t always something we want to own. The idea suggests an unearned superiority and the power to oppress. And who wants to be associated with that? But what Jones said in her reading was key: It isn’t the privilege or how we obtain it that matters as much as what we choose to do with it. If we use it to lord our better lot over those less fortunate, we abuse it and squander its ability to heal, reconcile, and improve.

Ask the Readers: Have you ever been roped into a debate over which oppressed group has it better: black women or black men, black Americans or black emigrants to America?

Is sexual harassment different from the perspective of black women?

From the

Sexual harassment has been back in the news with reports of a lawsuit against U.S. Olympics women’s basketball coach, Geno Auriemma.

Kelley Hardwick, an African-American NBA security official, claims Auriemma had her removed from an assignment to the 2012 London Games in retaliation, after she spurned his advances. In addition, she alleges she was paid less than her male counterparts and was “slammed hard” against the league’s “glass ceiling.”

In response, Auriemma called the claims “beyond false” and said he would defend himself “to the fullest.” The employment discrimination lawsuit, filed June 11 in state Supreme Court in Manhattan, names Auriemma, the NBA and USA Basketball as defendants.

Whatever the outcome of this case, it is a stark reminder that sexual misconduct in the workplace is still alive and kicking, even at the highest levels.

In fact, according to the National Council for Research on Women, at least half of all women will experience sexual harassment at some point in their lives.

“Sexual harassment is still pervasive, frequent and harmful,” high-profile Los Angeles attorney, Gloria Allred, told theGrio.

However, according to clinical psychologist, Nicole T. Buchanan, of Michigan State University, experts who investigate harassment have been disturbingly silent about issues facing women of color.

For African-American women, sexual harassment is rarely, if ever, about sex or sexism alone; it is  also  about race, says Buchanan. “Racialized sexual harassment is the way women of color are uniquely harassed in ways that combine race and gender.”

Advice columnist Deborrah Cooper, who says she herself has experienced sexual harassment in corporate America, agrees that gender and ethnicity play a role in how different women are treated, or mistreated, in the workplace. “White employees tend to feel superior”, co-workers are “less respectful towards black women,” and there is the perception that “sistas are of less value,” says Cooper.

For Buchanan, sexual harassment is inextricably intertwined with racist attitudes. “Sometimes drawing on stereotypes of black women, for example, the assumption that African-American women are hyper-sexual,” says Buchanan.

Buchanan states that black women are more vulnerable in the workplace, not only because of cultural norms, but economic inequality and organizational power. “Women of color tend to have less power and people with less power tend to be harassed or victimized.”