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When the past is present…

“…The great force of history comes from the fact that we carry it within us, are unconsciously controlled by it in many ways, and history is literally present in all that we do.” James Baldwin


Ferguson police chief resigns after scathing Justice Dept. report

By Carey Gilliam,

The police chief of Ferguson, Missouri, resigned on Wednesday, following a scathing U.S. Justice Department report that found widespread racially biased abuses in the city’s police department and municipal court.

Ferguson Police Chief Thomas Jackson at a press conference held August 13, 2014.

Ferguson Police Chief Thomas Jackson at a press conference held August 13, 2014.

The resignation of Chief Thomas Jackson, which the city announced in a brief statement, is the latest in a string of departures since the Justice Department… probe had uncovered a range of unlawful and unconstitutional practices.

Protesters had called for Jackson’s removal since the fatal shooting of an unarmed black teenager by a white Ferguson police officer on Aug. 9…

But it was the Justice Department findings that the police department was routinely targeting African-Americans for arrests and ticketing, largely to raise revenue for the city, that led to what the city called a “mutual decision” for Jackson to resign.

Jackson’s departure follows those of Ferguson City Manager John Shaw and Municipal Judge Ronald Brockmeyer earlier this week…

“Chief Jackson stepping down is long overdue,” said Patricia Bynes, a local Democratic leader. “It should not have gotten to this point. All the things that the Justice Department found that happened under his watch, you really have to question what made him think he could still be chief of police.”

Read the full article here.

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‘Bloody Sunday’ Anniversary Commemorated With March Across Selma Bridge

By Tami Chapelle, Reuters News Service

SELMA, Ala., March 8 (Reuters) – Tens of thousands of people paraded across a Selma, Alabama bridge on Sunday to commemorate the 1965 “Bloody Sunday” march, not waiting for dignitaries who had planned to lead them in marking the 50th anniversary of a turning point in the U.S. civil rights movement.

Marchers cross the Edmund Pettus Bridge in imitation of the 1965 "Bloody Sunday" march.

Marchers cross the Edmund Pettus Bridge in imitation of the 1965 “Bloody Sunday” march.

In contrast to the police violence that marked the original march half a century ago, the mood was often celebratory, at times festive, as an estimated 70,000 demonstrators cheered, sang “We Shall Overcome” and carried signs as they walked across the Edmund Pettus Bridge.

Bloody Sunday on March 7, 1965, took its name from the beating that roughly 600 peaceful civil rights activists sustained at the hands of white state troopers and police who attacked them with batons and sprayed them with tear gas…

A large throng of people started walking across the bridge at the appointed time, before dignitaries could be brought to the front to lead them.

Among the throng were demonstrators who took part in the 1965 march, as well as others calling for immigration and gay rights.

President Barack Obama visited Selma on Saturday and declared the work of the U.S. civil rights movement advanced but unfinished in the face of ongoing racial tensions.

“Fifty years from Bloody Sunday, our march is not yet finished, but we’re getting closer,” said Obama, the first black president of the United States.

The anniversary comes at a time of renewed focus on racial disparities in the United States and anger over the treatment of black civilians, among them 18-year-old Michael Brown, whose killing by a white police officer in Ferguson, Missouri, last year sparked widespread protests…

Read the full article here.

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Culture of Abuse and Racism Revealed in Ferguson Police Department

By Charles F. Coleman Jr.,

The Department of Justice’s investigation into law-enforcement practices in Ferguson, Mo., is nearly complete, and the full findings could be released to the public as early as this week… Information that has leaked out… appears to confirm allegations of long-standing abuses by Ferguson police against the town’s residents. Specifically, the DOJ reportedly found evidence of excessive use of force, rampant racial profiling, as well as an undercurrent of racism that extended beyond the police force and to the local court system.

…The findings serve as validation for what many have been saying for decades. The frustrations we saw displayed by Ferguson residents were not simply about Michael Brown’s death, but also about decades of oppression and abuse at the hands of Ferguson police.

Ferguson police officers at an August 2014 rally.

Ferguson police officers at an August 2014 rally.

The DOJ reportedly found that Ferguson police officers routinely used excessive force when dealing with black suspects, even where those suspects ultimately were not guilty of any crime. Justice officials also found that black motorists in Ferguson were far more likely to be stopped and searched… The significance of this sort of racial profiling is multidimensional: Where the police made arrests—even for minor traffic violations—blacks were found to have been held in jail for longer periods than whites, and when tickets or summonses were issued that only furthered the vicious cycle of Ferguson’s municipality funding itself on the backs of its poorest citizens.

The DOJ could reach a settlement that would provide various forms of injunctive and possibly monetary relief. This would likely include completely revamped training for officers, a revised system and new measures for department oversight and possibly initiatives to increase the number of black officers on the police force.

The Justice Department could also decide to sue the Ferguson Police Department over its violations. In either case, the DOJ can afford to be fairly aggressive in the relief it demands because of the highly publicized nature of the investigation and the clear and indisputable nature of its findings…

If there is any bright spot to be gathered from this investigation, it is the sense that local police are now being policed…

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These Two Teens Aren’t Just Sisters — They’re Twins

By Cavan Sieczkowski, the Huffington Post

Twins Lucy (left) and Maria Aylmer pose in identical clothing.

Twins Lucy (left) and Maria Aylmer pose in identical clothing.

When Lucy and Maria Aylmer tell people they are twins, disbelief is one response.

The 18-year-olds from Gloucester, U.K. are two of the five children born to their Caucasian father and Jamaican mother. While their other siblings have a blend of features from their parents, Lucy and Maria are opposites: Lucy has fair skin and red hair, while Maria has caramel skin and dark hair.

No one ever believes we are twins because I am white and Maria is black,” Lucy said, according to World Wide Features. “Even when we dress alike, we still don’t even look like sisters, let alone twins.”

Fraternal twins develop from two eggs fertilized by separate sperm cells. The BBC reports that for a biracial couple expecting twins, there is about a 1 in 500 chance those twins will have different skin colors.

The Aylmers are proud of their uniqueness.

“Now we have grown older, even though we still look so different, the bond between us is much stronger,” Lucy said. “Now we are proud of the fact that we are each other’s twin sister.”

Read the full article here.

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Don’t fight with police, Detroit chief advises youth

By Eric D. Lawrence, Detroit Free Press

Terrence Sherrer was skeptical.

The 15-year-old from Canton had just watched a group role-play a traffic stop.

Teenagers role-play a traffic stop.

Teenagers role-play a traffic stop.

The Detroit officer seemed satisfied when he asked where the driver was headed. To the mall, he was told. Other questions got similar, brief responses, and the advice from the driver, retired Wayne County Sheriff’s Lt. Tyrone Carter, was that you have a right not to say a lot.

Terrence, who is black, said the encounter would probably be different if the officer was white and had stopped a car with three black people inside. In this case, the officer was black, too.

That conversation was part of a two-hour program organized by the B.A.L.L. (Bridging Athletic, Learning and Life Skills) Foundation held today in Detroit. It brought about 50 people, including officers from Detroit Police, parents and children to the East Campus of Triumph Church on East Grand Boulevard in Detroit.

Helping kids interact with police was the goal of the session. Don’t argue with the police, announce what you’re doing when you reach toward the glove compartment, or better yet, keep your license and registration in an overhead glasses compartment. Being able to tell your story if you are wronged during a traffic stop or any other interaction with the police is the key, according to Carter.

The event featured an address by Detroit Police Chief James Craig, who spoke about the journey that brought him to head the Detroit Police Department and the connection Detroit’s department has with the community.

Detroit Police Chief James Craig

Detroit Police Chief James Craig

Craig encouraged the audience not to paint all police with the same brush. He said police officers are like any other group of people — most good and some bad.

Craig also passed on the advice his own father had given him: “Do not argue with the police. Do not fight with the police. Bad things happen.”

If an officer mistreats you or engages in an unethical traffic stop, report it, because there’s a process to deal with those situations, Craig said.

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Attorney General Nominee Loretta Lynch Clears Senate Judiciary Committee

By Jennifer Bendery, the Huffington Post

WASHINGTON — The Senate Judiciary Committee voted Thursday to confirm Loretta Lynch as the next U.S. attorney general, bringing her one step closer to becoming the first African-American woman to hold the post.

U.S. Attorney General nominee Loretta Lynch

Senators in both parties have hailed Lynch’s qualifications. Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) described her as “well-qualified,” and Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) said Lynch has “the character, the determination and the experience to be a strong, independent attorney general.”

Lynch, a twice-confirmed U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of New York, has waited months for a vote. She was nominated by Obama in November, but didn’t get a hearing until late January. Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), who chairs the committee, delayed her vote until Thursday.

“We’re going to be voting — finally, finally, finally — on the nomination for Loretta Lynch,” said Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), the committee’s ranking Democrat. “I’ve been here for 40 years, and no attorney general … has ever had to wait this long for a vote.”

Lynch’s nomination now heads to the full Senate for a vote.

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103-Year-Old Civil Rights Icon: ‘Thank God I Learned That Color Makes No Difference’

By Sasha Bronner, the Huffington Post

Amelia Boynton Robinson was nearly beaten to death in 1965 during the first march in Selma, Alabama, led by Martin Luther King Jr. She was 53 years old at the time. A graphic photo of Boynton Robinson, severely beaten and collapsed, spread around the world and became an iconic image of the civil rights era.

Amelia Boynton Robinson in Selma, 1965.

Amelia Boynton Robinson in Selma, 1965.

Boynton Robinson survived the brutality and chaos of the time and is alive today to talk about it, at 103 years old. One of the nation’s oldest civil rights activists, she remains an essential figure of the movement. She was the first woman and first African-American to ever run for Congress in Alabama.  Boynton Robinson is portrayed in the movie “Selma,”  which she calls “fantastic,” by actress Lorraine Toussaint.

“Thank god I learned that color makes no difference,” Boynton Robinson said Friday at an awards luncheon at the Soho House in West Hollywood, California. “My parents [were] an example for what they wanted their children to be.”

“I look back at the time that we fought and when those heads were beaten,” she said. “I look at what God brought to us. Dr. King cracked the door open. People rose up and felt that they were just as good as everybody else.”

Boynton Robinson wishes that after everything she fought for, the state of race relations were more positive. “People have hate within their souls and that’s what we have to get rid of,” she continued.

But Boynton Robinson is neither bitter nor disappointed. As she looks back on everything she has seen and experienced, her perspective is positive. “It makes me realize that this is where I belong,” she said.

“This is where God sees me — at this age, at 103 years old — in order that I might be able to reach out and pull [people] up.”

Amelia today, speaking at an awards luncheon.

Amelia today, speaking at an awards luncheon.

Read the full article here.

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John Legend Uses ‘Glory’ Best Original Song Win To Discuss America’s Prison Problem

By Jessica Goodman, the Huffington Post

“Glory” from “Selma” won Best Original Song at the 2015 Oscars on Sunday night. John Legend and Common accepted the award after performing a moving rendition of the song to a tearful audience. “‘Selma’ is now because the struggle for justice is right now,” Legend said.

John Legend (L) and Common accept their Academy Award

John Legend (L) and Common accept their Academy Award

He continued with a politicized message and mentioned America’s staggering incarceration rate: “We know that the Voting Rights Act that they fought for 50 years ago is being compromised right now in this country today. We know that right now, the struggle for freedom and justice is real. We live in the most incarcerated country in the world. There are more black men under correctional control today than were under slavery in 1850. We are with you, we see you, we love you and march on,” he concluded.

It was a huge win for “Selma,” which made waves when its director Ava DuVernay was snubbed for a Best Director nod. The film was also nominated for Best Picture.

Read the full article here.

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Can Reforming Culture Save Black Youths?

By Greg Thomas,

In a new book, Harvard sociology professor Orlando Patterson explores the way in which culture can be used to understand and improve the lives of young African Americans.


Jamaican-born Orlando Patterson, a Harvard sociology professor since 1969, likes to tackle big issues. In the newly released The Cultural Matrix: Understanding Black Youth, Patterson and more than 20 other scholars focus on the contemporary state of young black people in the United States.

Considering recent tragedies and protests involving black youths, the police and the legal system—along with the centuries of devastation wrought by racial bias—a work exploring the impact of culture is both timely and welcome. Though we are far from achieving a post-racial society, whatRalph Ellison called conscious culture can point a way.

Patterson and his fellow contributors wrestle with hip-hop culture; the values of disconnected youths; continuity and change in neighborhood cultures; street violence and relations with city police; gender relations and class distinctions; barriers to entry in the workforce; religious and social organizations; and family programs. Patterson and his peers present a balanced, rigorous interpretation of culture, with ample empirical evidence, and include the actual voices and viewpoints of black youths.

Patterson dismisses the culture-of-poverty thesis as inaccurate and incomplete and makes a case that the retreat from cultural analysis by his fellow sociologists has been too extreme.Patterson offers sociology a way to re-enter a policy discourse with the lives of disconnected youths at the center.

Read the full article here.

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A Kaffeeklatsch on Race

By Charles Blow, New York Times

Charles Blow writes a regular Op-Ed column for the New York Times. He authored a recent memoir, "Fire Locked Up in My Bones."

Charles Blow writes a regular Op-Ed column for the New York Times. He authored a recent memoir, “Fire Locked Up in My Bones.”

In our collective imaginations, we tend to conceive of the constantly called-for “national conversation on race” as having the formality of some grand conclave of consciousness — an American Truth and Reconciliation equivalent, a spiritual spectacle in which sins are confessed and blame taken and burdens lifted.

This may be ideal, but it is also exceedingly unlikely in this country, particularly in this political environment. There will be no great atoning. Reparations will not be paid. There will no sprawling absolution.

blk attitudes re policeYet we can still have a productive conversation. Indeed, I would argue that we are in the midst of a national conversation about race at this very moment. Its significance isn’t drawn from structure but from the freedom of its form.

Every discussion over a backyard fence or a cup of coffee is part of that conversation. It is the very continuity of its casualness that bolsters its profundity.

We need to stop calling for the conversation and realize that we are already having it.

Last week the F.B.I. director, James Comey, added his voice to that conversation, particularly as it relates to the relationship between law enforcement and communities of color. There were portions I found particularly potent coming from a man in his position.

He gave a list of “hard truths”…

For a video of James Comey’s speech, click here.

To read Charles Blow’s full analysis of Comey’s speech, click here.

For more Breaking News, click here.