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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

 

Mostly Black Cities, Mostly White City Halls

Cleveland Stroud, the only black Council member in Conyers, Ga., says whites have represented their changing constituency well.

Cleveland Stroud, the only black Council member in Conyers, Ga., says whites have represented their changing constituency well.

By RICHARD FAUSSET, nytimes.com

CONYERS, Ga. — Since moving to this small city on the eastern flank of Atlanta’s suburban sprawl, Lorna Francis, a hairdresser and a single mother, has found a handsome brick house to rent on a well-groomed cul-de-sac. She has found a good public school for her teenage daughter.

Something Ms. Francis, who is black, has not found is time to register and vote. She was unaware that the most recent mayoral election was held last November.

“Life’s been busy — I’ve been trying to make that money,” Ms. Francis said one morning this month from her two-car garage, where she was micromanaging a particularly complex hairdo for a regular client. “And honestly, I only vote in major elections.”

That kind of disengagement is one of the many reasons that only one of the six elected positions in this municipality of 15,000 is held by an African-American, even as a wave of new black residents has radiated out from nearby Atlanta, creating a black majority here for the first time in the city’s 160-year history.

Disparities between the percentage of black residents and the number of black elected officials are facts of life in scores of American cities, particularly in the South. The unrest that followed the shooting death of 18-year-old Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., has emphasized how much local elections can matter, and prompted a push there for increased black voter participation.

The disparities result from many factors: voter apathy, especially in low-visibility local elections; the civic disconnect of a transient population; the low financial rewards and long hours demanded of local officeholders; and voting systems, including odd-year elections, that are often structured in a way that discourages broad interest in local races.

But Ferguson has become a vivid example of the way a history of political disengagement and underrepresentation can finally turn toxic.

Read full article here.

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From Slavery to Ferguson: America’s History of Violence Toward Blacks

John Matteson, Distinguished Professor of English at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, talks about slavery within the context of American law, and how slavery may have helped frame today’s attitudes and behaviors.

By Breanna Edwards, theRoot.com

Recent events haunting black communities like ghosts of a violent era that many thought long gone—such as the tragic deaths of Trayvon Martin, Eric Garner and Michael Brown—hark back to a collective memory of enslavement.

English Professor John Matteson teaches a free course on Literature & Law of American Slavery at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice.   COURTESY OF JOHN JAY COLLEGE OF CRIMINAL JUSTICE

English Professor John Matteson teaches a free course on Literature & Law of American Slavery at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice.
COURTESY OF JOHN JAY COLLEGE OF CRIMINAL JUSTICE

John Matteson, Distinguished Professor of English at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York City, believes that the violence exhibited today is contextually linked to slavery and has become part of the culture over time.

“Slavery was a form of privatized law enforcement,” Matteson explained to The Root. “What it did was take a number of the powers that are typically reserved to the government—the power to discipline … the power over another person’s life—and it conferred those powers on private individuals. And there’s this continuing undercurrent in particularly Southern culture where there’s a reluctance to get the government involved if you can avoid it, because there’s just a sort of general distrust of centralized authority.”

These are some of the connections that Matteson hopes students taking his free eight-week course, Literature & Law of American Slavery, will be able to absorb and question as they go through his class….

“In terms of the underlying interest, one of the things that I’m really fascinated by is the way in which this epoch in our history, which seems to have taken place so long ago, continues to rear its head and to affect attitudes in our culture, ranging from law enforcement to race relations to the ways that parents treat their children,” Matteson continued.

He referenced an August segment on MSNBC host Melissa Harris-Perry’s show, in which she spoke about the recent deaths of young black men at the hands of law enforcement and the correlation to the infamous Supreme Court Dred Scott decision in which then-Justice Roger Taney said in 1857 that the black man has “no rights which the white man was bound to respect.”…

Cycle of Abuse: the abused child is at risk of growing up to become an abusive husband or father or officer of the law.

The Generational Cycle of Abuse: the abused child is at risk of growing up to become an abusive husband or father or officer of the law.

Of course, these matters aren’t solely about race; they also have a lot to do with the generational nature of violence. “I would suspect also that when you find a violent cop, or somebody who’s excited about the prospect of vigilante justice, I would guess … that you’re going to find that those abusive cops and the gun-toting nuts are very often people who themselves have experienced abuse,” Matteson said.

“Because abuse, as we know, is something that replicates itself from generation to generation,” he continued, “and if people start their lives by viewing everything through a lens of violence, it’s going to turn up in racial violence, but it’s also going to turn up in domestic violence. It’s going to turn up in the dysfunction of the individual human being in a myriad of ways.”

Editor’s note: The free, open, online noncredit course Literature & Law of American Slavery starts Sept. 30. Go here to enroll.

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Eric Holder Resigning as Attorney General

Attorney General Eric Holder is the first African American to hold this position.

Attorney General Eric Holder is the first African American to hold this position.

The New York Times

WASHINGTON — Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. will resign his post, the Justice Department said Thursday. Mr. Holder will remain in office until a successor is nominated and confirmed.

Mr. Holder, the 82nd attorney general and the first African-American to serve in that position, had previously said he planned to leave office by the end of this year.

Particularly in President Obama’s second term, Mr. Holder has been the most prominent liberal voice of the administration.

The Justice Department said Mr. Holder finalized his plans to leave in an hourlong conversation with Mr. Obama at the White House over Labor Day weekend.

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A Family Rooted in Two Realms

In “black-ish,” Anthony Anderson and Tracee Ellis Ross lead a family wrestling with racial issues. From left, Marsai Martin, Marcus Scribner, Yara Shahidi and Miles Brown as their children.

In “black-ish,” Anthony Anderson and Tracee Ellis Ross lead a family wrestling with racial issues. From left, Marsai Martin, Marcus Scribner, Yara Shahidi and Miles Brown as their children.

By NEIL GENZLINGER, nytimes.com

 

A lot of people in the television business are said to be curious to see how “black-ish,”ABC’s new comedy, is received when it has its premiere on Wednesday night. What they should really be curious about, though, is where the series goes after its funny but talking-point-heavy first episode.

The sitcom centers on a black family in Los Angeles, the Johnsons, struggling with prosperity. Andre (Anthony Anderson) works at an advertising agency; in the premiere, he’s on the verge of a major promotion. Rainbow (Tracee Ellis Ross) is an anesthesiologist. Their four children are smart and adorable.

If this puts you in mind of the Huxtables of “The Cosby Show,” that’s no accident. But more than the Huxtables ever were, the Johnsons are wrestling with whether their comfortable lives are causing them to forget that they’re black.

Well, Andre is doing most of the wrestling. The other family members display varying degrees of indifference to the issue, and therein lies the comedy. Andre, we learn in an introductory voice-over, grew up in less-than-middle-class fashion, and success leaves him conflicted.

The new tv family is struggling with what it means to be prosperous in this ABC comedy, beginning on Wednesday night.

The new tv family is struggling with what it means to be prosperous in this ABC comedy, beginning on Wednesday night.

“I guess for a kid from the ’hood, I’m living the American dream,” he explains. “The only problem is, whatever American had this dream probably wasn’t where I’m from. And if he was, he should have mentioned the part about how when brothers start getting a little money, stuff starts getting a little weird.”

The episode then visits in rapid succession — always comically — a formidable range of issues Andre encounters as a result of this duality. At work, he worries that he is receiving a promotion only because he’s black. At his computer, he laments that white celebrities are intruding on black culture.

At home, he tells his lighter-skinned wife — a “pigment-challenged mixed-race woman,” he calls her — that she’s not black enough. He is dismayed that his older son is trying out for field hockey instead of basketball. The dinner table discussion (yes, we’ve found the last family in America that still eats together around a dinner table) focuses on whether the children know that Barack Obama is the first black president. Even fried chicken comes in for scrutiny, although not from Andre, but from his father, winningly played by Laurence Fishburne.

Read full article here.

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Michael Brown Memorial Rebuilt After Fire

By Jim Salter, AP,  in Huff Post Black Voices

A rain-soaked memorial on Sept. 10, 2014, at the location in Ferguson, Mo., where teenager Michael Brown was shot and killed by police Officer Darren Wilson in August.  SCOTT OLSON/GETTY IMAGES

The memorial on the side of the street where teenager Michael Brown was shot and killed by police Officer Darren Wilson.
SCOTT OLSON/GETTY IMAGES

FERGUSON, Mo. (AP) — Anger spilled over Tuesday after fire destroyed one of two memorials on the street where Michael Brown was killed, a site that has become sacred to many in Ferguson and others nationwide focused on interactions between minorities and police.

How the fire happened wasn’t immediately clear, but it stoked fresh resentment among those who question whether the shooting of the unarmed, black 18-year-old by a white Ferguson police officer on Aug. 9 is being adequately investigated.

“It’s the same as if somebody came and desecrated a grave,” Anthony Levine of Florissant, another St. Louis suburb, said as he studied the charred scene and shook his head.

Many who gathered at the site Tuesday blamed police for the blaze, even as the chief said officers did everything they could to keep the stuffed animals and other items from burning….

FERGUSON, MO - AUGUST 19: Lakiah Payne (L) and Michael Brown's sister, Deja Brown, visit a memorial for him that is setup on the spot where he fell after he was shot by police on August 19, 2014 in Ferguson, Missouri. Protesters have been vocal asking for justice in the shooting death of Michael Brown by a Ferguson police officer on August 9th. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

FERGUSON, MO – AUGUST 19: Lakiah Payne (L) and Michael Brown’s sister, Deja Brown, visit the memorial for him on the spot where his body was left lying in the street for over four hours after he was shot on August 19, 2014 in Ferguson, Missouri. Protesters have been asking for justice. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

Two memorials were put up the day Brown was killed. The one not damaged by fire is in the middle of Canfield Drive — a narrow band of stuffed animals, crosses, handmade signs and other items at the exact spot where Brown was shot.

The smaller memorial that burned sat a few feet away with teddy bears, blankets and signs circling a light post. It often included candles that were sometimes lit.

Many residents at the fire scene doubted a candle was the culprit, though. Most were certain someone set the blaze. Some said they smelled gasoline….

Ferguson Police Chief Tom Jackson said in an emailed statement that the fire left him “saddened.” He said the first officer on the scene tried to extinguish the blaze but couldn’t. The Fire Department eventually put it out.

Tweets-burning-memorial-2014-09-23 21.39.09By late morning, the memorial already had been rebuilt with fresh teddy bears, a blanket and new signs. The light post and sidewalk remained charred. About 75 people joined hands in prayer, shouting, “We are Mike Brown!”

To read the full article, click here.

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Black Lens Program Schedule – Films by African Americans at the MKE Film Festival

John Ridley, Director of "JIMI: All Is By My Side," received an Oscar for the  screenplay of "12 Years a Slave."

John Ridley, Director of “JIMI: All Is By My Side,” received an Oscar this year for the screenplay of “12 Years a Slave.”

Wesley Morris, who  keynotes the festival, won a Pulitzer Prize in 2012 for his film criticism.

Wesley Morris, who keynotes the festival, won a Pulitzer Prize in 2012 for his film criticism.

This year the Milwaukee Film Festival introduces its program of films by emerging and established black filmmakers, including Milwaukee’s own John Ridley, the 2014 Academy Award-winning screenwriter of 12 Years a Slave.

The keynote address on the “State of Cinema” will be delivered by Wesley Morris, winner of the 2012 Pulitzer Prize for Criticism.

Please come out and support this work!

Black Lens showtimes and links to trailers.

Tickets can be purchased online or at the festival’s four venues.

Spotlight Film – JIMI: All Is By My Side

  • JIMI: All Is By My Side, directed by Milwaukee native son  John Ridley.
    Milwaukee native John Ridley brings us an intimate portrait of rock legend Jimi Hendrix. Magnetically portrayed by Outkast’s Andre Benjamin (a pure embodiment on par with Jamie Foxx’s Ray Charles), this is Jimi Hendrix as an artist on the verge of creative breakthrough.

    SAT 10/4 – 7pm Oriental Theatre

25 to Life

  • SAT 10/4 – 7pm Times Cinema
  • TUES 10/7 – 11am Oriental Theatre

CRU

  • SUN 9/28 – 4:30pm Times Cinema
  • TUES 9/30 – 7:45pm Oriental Theatre

Evolution of a Criminal

  • TUES 9/30 – 3pm Oriental Theatre
  • FRI 10/3 – 9:30pm Fox-Bay Cinema

Freedom Summer

  • FRI 9/26 – 4:15pm Oriental Theatre
  • MON 9/29 – 7pm Fox-Bay Cinema

Hollywood Shuffle

  • FRI 10/3 – 7pm Oriental Theatre

Things Never Said

  • WED 10/1 – 7:30pm Oriental Theatre
  • THUR 10/2 – Oriental Theatre
Through A Lens Darkly:   Photography has played an important role for 175 years in documenting and shaping the African-American experience. Used as both an instrument of oppression and a tool for social change while defining and shaping images of “black” or “blackness” in American popular culture. Thomas Allen Harris’ film exposes hidden histories in these photographs.

Through A Lens Darkly: Photography has played an important role for 175 years in documenting and shaping the African-American experience. Used as both an instrument of oppression and a tool for social change while defining and shaping images of “black” or “blackness” in American popular culture. Thomas Allen Harris’ film exposes hidden histories in these photographs.

Through a Lens Darkly: Black Photographers and the Emergence of a People

  • THUR 10/2 – 2pm Fox-Bay Cinema
  • TUES 10/7 – 2pm Times Cinema
  • THUR 10/9 – 7:30pm Oriental Theatre

‘Til Infinity: Celebrating 20 Years of the Souls of Mischief

  • SAT 9/27 – 9pm Oriental Theatre

Two films about black musicians that may also be of interest:

Finding Fela

  • MON 9/29 – 1:15pm Oriental Theatre
  • FRI 10/3 – 7:30pm Oriental Theatre
  • WED 10/8 – 9:30pm Fox-Bay Cinema

Take Me to the River

  • SUN 10/5 – 4:30pm Oriental Theatre
  • MON 10/6 – 7:30pm Oriental Theatre
  • WED 10/8 – 2:00pm Times Cinema

Keynote: The State of Cinema

  • SAT 9/27 – 12:00pm Colectivo Coffee on Prospect (FREE non-ticketed event, open to the public)
 

4 Black People Receive the MacArthur ‘Genius’ Grant

By le, theRoot.com

Four black Americans will be among those receiving a no-strings-attached, $625,000 stipend—paid out in installments over the next five years—to keep doing what they do best: being geniuses.

MacArthur 2014 “genius” grant recipients Jennifer Eberhardt, Terrance Hayes, Steve Coleman and Rick Lowe  COURTESY OF THE JOHN D. AND CATHERINE T. MACARTHUR FOUNDATION

MacArthur 2014 “genius” grant recipients Jennifer Eberhardt, Terrance Hayes, Steve Coleman and Rick Lowe
COURTESY OF THE JOHN D. AND CATHERINE T. MACARTHUR FOUNDATION

That’s right, the MacArthur Foundation named 21 “extraordinarily creative people” as the 2014 recipients of its annual MacArthur Fellows Program—widely referred to as the “genius” grants. Four African Americans are among this year’s consortium. These individuals were nominated by an anonymous and esteemed group of people who are experts in their fields. The fellows had to demonstrate not only that they are brilliant self-starters in their respective professions but also that they are pushing the limits on future work that has “the potential for the fellowship to facilitate subsequent creative work,” the foundation’s site reads.

Here are the four black recipients:

Jennifer Eberhardt, a social psychologist investigating the subtle, unconscious ways that people racially code and categorize others, with a particular focus on how race and visual perceptions of people affect policing and criminal sentencing.

Rick Lowe, a public artist using art to reimagine and revitalize struggling communities. His program has transformed derelict properties in Houston’s predominantly African-American 3rd Ward into a visionary arts venue and community center. He has since begun similar work in other cities, including current projects in Dallas and Philadelphia.

Steve Coleman, a jazz composer and saxophonist infusing traditional jazz with an eclectic range of other musical styles, including music from West Africa, South India, Brazil and Cuba.

Terrance Hayes, a poet crafting musical, almost improvisational, verse that delves into issues of race, gender, current events and family. He often uses humorous wordplay and references to pop culture, including poems that speak in the voices of David Bowie, Jorge Luis Borges and Strom Thurmond.

Read more at the MacArthur Foundation.

Find more Breaking News here.

 

Beating our black children furthers the legacy of slavery

By , theGrio.com

If it can be said that real men don’t hit women, then we should also say real men don’t beat children.

Adrian Peterson and some tweets supporting his "whupping with a switch" as an effective traditional punishment.

Adrian Peterson and some tweets supporting his “whupping with a switch” as an effective traditional punishment.

Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson was indicted on a felony charge for beating his four-year-old son with a switch — a tree branch — in an act that exceeded “reasonable discipline” according to the Montgomery County, Texas, District Attorney’s office.  The NFL player punished his son for pushing another one of his children off of a motorbike video game, and Peterson said the whooping was not unlike the discipline “he experienced as a child growing up in east Texas.”

The boy reportedly suffered from numerous injuries, including cuts and wounds to his ankles, legs, hands, back, buttocks and scrotum.  The child also said his father hit him with belts and put leaves in his mouth while he was being hit, pants down, with the switch.

As a black father with a four-year old son, I cannot imagine ever beating my beautiful child.  I cannot and will not treat my son like a slave….

We all cringe with horror, perhaps even cry, when we view depictions of brutality in films such as 12 Years a Slave.  It feels far too familiar, too close to home.  If we recoil at the sight of slaves being beaten, then why would we subject our own children to the same treatment? The purpose of whippings, floggings and other forms of abuse under slavery was clear — to subjugate and control black people with arbitrary cruelty, beat them down not just physically but also spiritually and psychically, and reinforce the master’s control over them.

In "12 Years a Slave," the recent film adaptation of Solomon Northup's account of his enslavement, Northup is forced to severely beat Patsey, his friend.

In “12 Years a Slave,” the recent film adaptation of Solomon Northup’s account of his enslavement, Northup is forced to severely beat Patsey, his friend.

In some cases, enslaved black parents — who really had no rights over their own children, and perhaps had to care for the master’s children at the expense of their own — beat their children to please their owner, or to ward off more severe punishment from the master.

So how can this in any way benefit our children today?…

Many parents physically discipline their children, and black folks are no exception.  And corporal punishment is not illegal in most states unless it causes severe harm.  But just because something is legal does not mean it is right.  And if you wonder how far you can go and steer clear of child protective services before crossing the line into criminal child abuse, then you have missed the point….

beat child w:beltBut in the end, if a criminal prosecution, league sanctions and maybe even an ousted commissioner are the only takeaways from this high profile case of child abuse, then there is a missed opportunity for society, and for black America, to deal with a serious problem.  We must break the cycle of trauma that passes from generation to generation like the DNA and heal both the victim and the victimizer.  We must challenge societal norms concerning definitions of manhood, and black manhood, and the notion that one must use physical violence against others as a means of controlling them….

In the meantime, it is time to give the switch a final resting place.  Let’s not go there anymore.

To read David Love’s full opinion piece, click here.

For more opinion on this subject from African American thinkers and fathers, click on:

For other Breaking News, click here.

 

No ‘Rainbow Families’: Canadian Fertility Clinic Refuses to Match White Patients With Nonwhite Donors

BY: , theRoot.com

Dr. Calvin Greene, the administrative director at the Regional Fertility Program, told the Calgary Herald that his stand on race mixing is firm and has been policy since the clinic opened in the 1980s.

Dr. Calvin Greene, the administrative director at the Regional Fertility Program, told the Calgary Herald that his stand on race mixing is firm and has been policy since the clinic opened in the 1980s.

A Canadian fertility clinic doesn’t want to create “rainbow families” so it refuses to match clients with donors of different ethnicities, claiming that children should be able to easily identify their “ethnic roots.”

A 38-year old white woman named Catherine (she didn’t want to give her last name) told the Calgary Herald that she was looking into the process of in vitro fertilization and was shocked when the Regional Fertility Program, a Calgary clinic, told her that she could only use sperm donors who were also white in order to avoid “creating rainbow families.”

“I was absolutely floored,” she told the newspaper.

Catherine believes that because of the clinic’s policy, many of the same men have been chosen by different patients in the area, which was one of the reasons she cited as having wanted to broaden her search to include other races.

“Frankly, it’s appalling how many people have the same donors, probably because of this policy,” she told the Herald. “A friend of mine just went through this process and used the donor that I would have picked.”

Dr. Calvin Greene, the administrative director at the Regional Fertility Program, told the newspaper that his stance on race mixing is firm and noted that the policy has been in place since the 1980s.

“I’m not sure that we should be creating rainbow families just because some single woman decides that that’s what she wants,” Greene told the Herald. “That’s her prerogative, but that’s not her prerogative in our clinic.”

Read more here.

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How Race, Gender And Fatigue Have Affected The Coverage Of Renisha McBride’s Death

By , HuffPost Live

 Renisha McBride and the man charged with second-degree murder in her death, Dearborn Heights, Mich., resident Theodore P. Wafer (From the Dearborn Heights Police)


Renisha McBride and the man charged with second-degree murder in her death, Dearborn Heights, Mich., resident Theodore P. Wafer (From the Dearborn Heights Police)

It’s no secret — the Trayvon Martin and Renisha McBride killings have striking similarities. Both were young black victims and in each case, the killers claimed self-defense. But despite the parallels, it appears that the two cases are being treated differently — even within the black community.

Although the Martin case elicited strong opinions and outrage from various communities, these same circles seem to have stayed quiet about McBride.

“I haven’t seen a lot about this in my newsfeed. I haven’t seen a lot of people posting about Renisha, said Brittney Cooper, Assistant Professor of Women’s and Gender Studies and Africana Studies at Rutgers University.

As Cooper explained in a recent HuffPost Live conversation, much of the reactionary difference could be explained by the sheer number of African American killings that have taken place recently.

“A lot of it’s fatigue. I mean we’re all heartbroken this week over the killing of Eric Garner last week,” she told host Marc Lamont Hill. “So, you know, it’s like every other week we’ve got somebody else being hemmed up by the police. Two weeks before that it was the detaining of Ursula Orr and slamming her on the ground in

In Oklahoma in 1911, a 13 year old black boy, L.D. Nelson, shot in the leg a white deputy who came to his house to investigate the theft of a cow. He and his mother, Laura, were dragged out of their jail cells by a mob. Laura was raped then hung from a bridge. L.D. was also hung there, after apparently being castrated.

In Oklahoma in 1911, a 13 year old black boy, L.D. Nelson, shot in the leg a white deputy who came to his house to investigate the theft of a cow. He and his mother, Laura, were dragged out of their jail cells by a mob. Laura was raped then hung from a bridge. L.D. was also hung there, after apparently being castrated.

Arizona…” she said.

Fatigue aside, there may be another reason that could explain why McBride’s story hasn’t had the same impression that Martin’s did.

“While there is a historical narrative that shows black men have faced violence from their white counterparts, we don’t often acknowledge that “black women have these violent encounters with white folks too,” Cooper said. “I don’t know that we know how to think about, fully, what happens when the kind of violence that we’d usually think would happen to a black man, then happens to black women.”

But the question of gender in McBride’s situation runs even deeper.

“Studies show that black women are frequently misperceived as black men or are often thought to be masculine and stronger than they actually are physically, Cooper said. “So there’s all kinds of stuff here going on about the misperceptions of femininity.”

Watch the video interview of Professor Brittney Cooper here.

Read more Breaking News here.