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When the past is present…


Black Teen with White Parents Mistaken for Burglar, Assaulted by Cops in His Home

By John Vibe,

DeShawn Currie was feeling comfortable and cared for by his foster parents, and then he was assaulted by police in his own home.

DeShawn Currie was feeling comfortable and cared for by his foster parents, and then he was assaulted by police in his own home.

A North Carolina teen was recently assaulted and pepper sprayed by police in his own home, after he was mistaken for a burglar.  18-year-old DeShawn Currie has been living with foster parents Ricky and Stacy Tyler in Wake County, North Carolina for about a year.

The Tylers love DeShawn as their own son and they have taken him into their home, in hopes to provide him the safe and loving environment that he needs to thrive in the most important years of his life.

Unfortunately, some of the Tyler’s neighbors were not familiar with the family dynamics of the home, and decided to call the police to report a burglary when they saw the young man entering his home after school one day.  DeShawn did not climb through a window or struggle to get inside, but simply walked through the unlocked door of the home.  The only thing that actually made his neighbors suspicious, was the color of his skin.

When police arrived on the scene they treated DeShawn like a criminal without asking any questions.

“They was like, ‘Put your hands on the door, I was like, ‘For what? This is my house.’ I was like, ‘Why are y’all in here?” DeShawn said in an interview.

When DeShawn asked the officers why they were in his home, they pointed at photos of white people hanging on the wall and told him that he was lying.

“I’m feeling comfortable, I had moved into my room, and I’m feeling like I’m loved. And then when they come in and they just profile me and say that I’m not who I am. And that I do not stay here because there was white kids on the wall, that really made me mad,” DeShawn later told reporters.

During the entire altercation, police were shouting profanity at the young man, and pointing multiple guns at his face.  When DeShawn stood firm and insisted that he was in fact in his own home, police attacked him with pepper spray.

When Stacy Tyler came home from work she saw her son DeShawn in the driveway being treated by paramedics for the injuries that police had inflicted.

“Everything that we’ve worked so hard for in the past years was stripped away yesterday in just a matter of moments,” father Ricky Tyler added.

The police department has defended their actions, saying that that DeShawn did not obey the officer’s orders to the letter, despite the fact that they were intruders in his home and had no right to be there barking orders at him.

Watch this Young Turks commentary about how DeShawn’s case involves white privilege.

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NAACP and Family Lawyers Are Looking Into Lennon Lacy’s Hanging Death

Lennon Lacy

Lennon Lacy

BY: ,

On Monday night, lawyers Al McSurely and Allen Rogers met with Claudia Lacy and Larry Walton to discuss the next step in the investigation into what McSurely called “the probable murder” of Lacy and Walton’s 17-year-old son, Lennon Lacy.

While the parents of boys like Trayvon Martin and Jordan Davis waged uphill battles hoping to see their sons’ killers put behind bars, the biggest obstacle for Lennon’s family is the fact that police in their small North Carolina town insist that their son took his own life.

In August, Lennon was found hanging by his neck from a swing set in the middle of a trailer park near his home in Bladenboro, N.C. Authorities quickly ruled out foul play in his death and have since labeled it a suicide. But Lennon’s parents have met the reports with disbelief, as have many of Bladenboro’s black residents.

McSurely, an attorney working with the NAACP’s North Carolina chapter and Lennon’s family, told The Root that he and the family are looking to find out who killed Lennon and that they “have a rough idea of who some of those people might be.”

“What we’re trying to decide now, after talking to several witnesses who have come forward to us, is how we’re going to play that with the DA,” said McSurely, adding that the family may take the case to the FBI or U.S. Department of Justice. “It’s not like Ferguson or Trayvon’s case in the sense that here, we don’t know who shot him. In this case, somebody strangled him and took his body over there and … hung him up there in the middle of the night.”

Lennon’s autopsy was released last week by Chief Medical Examiner Deborah Radisch, and all signs pointed to suicide. But far from assuaging his family’s concerns, the autopsy, like every part of the investigation so far, has made them more suspicious.

Radisch noted in the autopsy’s “summary and interpretation” section that Lennon had attended the funeral of his uncle the day before his death, indicating that Lennon “had been depressed over the recent death of his uncle.” This finding confused and upset the family because they say it has no relevance to physical and forensic-analysis findings.

“An autopsy cannot determine whether a person was depressed—you can’t tell that from physical signs, so why was it put in the report?” Lennon’s brother, Pierre Lacy, told The Guardian. “That’s a red flag to me—it’s not factual.”

The family also noted that missing entirely from the autopsy was the fact that Lennon was wearing white shoes, with the laces missing, that were a size-and-a-half too small for him. His family insists that on the night of his death, Lennon was wearing a pair of black Jordan sneakers that he had recently purchased for the start of school. Though the autopsy carefully notes that Lennon was wearing “black socks, a pair of navy blue nylon sports pants, a navy blue nylon short-sleeve shirt and multicolored boxer shorts,” it makes no mention of his shoes.

Read full article here.

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Man gets life without parole for murdering Florida teen over loud music

By Ray Sanchez, CNNmichaeldunn_101714

A Florida judge Friday sentenced Michael Dunn to life in prison without parole for the 2012 shooting death of 17-year-old Jordan Davis.

The sentence, imposed nearly two years after Dunn shot and killed Davis during an argument over loud music, also carries an additional 90 years for three convictions of attempted murder and firing a weapon into a vehicle.

“This case demonstrates that our justice system does work,” Duval County Judge Russell Healey said moments before sentencing Dunn.

Dunn, 47, who is white, was convicted of first-degree murder this month for shooting into an SUV full of African-American teenagers at a Jacksonville, Florida, gas station after an argument over loud music from the teens’ vehicle.

Prosecutors did not seek the death penalty in the racially-charged case, which drew comparisons to the shooting death of unarmed 17-year-old Trayvon Martin by neighborhood watchman George Zimmerman.

Zimmerman, who maintained that he acted in self-defense, was acquitted last year by a Florida jury.

Dunn claimed he acted in self-defense because he believed Davis was reaching for a gun. No weapon was found.

“Mr. Dunn, your life is effectively over,” Healey said. “What is sad… is that this case exemplifies that our society seems to have lost its way.”

Read full article here.

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I raised my sons to be racially neutral

Two mixed-race boys, one lighter skinned than the other. Did I make a mistake telling them they were the same?

By ,

A photo of the author's sons: Brennan, left, and Colin.

A photo of the author’s sons: Brennan, left, and Colin.

One Saturday night in St. Louis about decade ago my younger son, then a teen, was driving around town with two white friends. I’m black and my husband is white, so our two sons are biracial. This particular son has his father’s straight hair and aquiline nose. His skin is brown like mine.

The friend in the back seat behind my son stuck a paint pellet gun out the back window and shot a stop sign…

As a young family, we usually didn’t talk about race or even acknowledge it, because at the time we didn’t see the need. Then one night at the dinner table I got my first reality check when our younger boy, who was 7 at the time, said, “Dad, I want white skin and braces. And a new first name, like Michael.”…

While raising my boys, I often wondered: Should I have “the talk” with them about being black? The decision was complicated by our older son’s appearance. With his curly hair and rounded nose, he has always looked more like me than his dad, but unlike his brother, his skin appears completely white. This detail had always made “the talk” seem absurd. Should I poison the well of innocence by telling his brother that he was different?…

In bi- and multi-racial families, children's skin color and facial features are expressed in ways that complicate our expectations of "white" and "black." Because these classifications historically carry importance social weight, is it possible for these children to live "race neutral"?

In bi- and multi-racial families, children’s skin color and facial features are expressed in ways that complicate our expectations of “white” and “black.” Because these classifications historically carry importance social weight, is it really possible for these children to live “race neutral”?

Then came the phone call about the paint pellet incident. My husband went to the station and handled everything. About 10 days later, we all appeared in juvenile court to learn what the punishment would be. The white kid with the gun was most culpable and had a later court date, but they all got into trouble.

While my husband and one of the other fathers talked to the lawyer, a different policeman said to my son and me, “If I saw one of these paint pellet guns sticking out a car window, you don’t know how close I’d be to shooting you.”

Editor’s Note: What would you do as the parent of these boys?

Read the full article here.

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Quvenzhané Wallis Looks Forward To (Hopefully) Being Nominated For An Oscar Again

Wallis attends the "Kahlil Gibran's The Prophet" premiere during the Toronto International Film Festival on Saturday, Sept. 6, 2014, in Toronto.

Wallis attends the “Kahlil Gibran’s The Prophet” premiere during the Toronto International Film Festival on Saturday, Sept. 6, 2014, in Toronto.

By ,

Quvenzhané Wallis has accomplished more than most kids her age. At 9 years old, she became a household name as the youngest actress ever to receive an Oscar nomination for Best Actress for her role as Hushpuppy in the 2013 film, “Beasts of the Southern Wild.” Now, at age 11, she’s set to star as the titular character in a remake of “Annie,” the iconic 1982 movie adapted from the Broadway musical by the same name.

Directed by Will Gluck, produced by Jay Z, Will Smith and Jada Pinkett-Smith, 2014’s “Annie” co-stars Jamie Foxx as Will Stacks (an update of the character Daddy Warbucks). Cameron Diaz will play the cruel and incorrigible Ms. Hannigan.

“It was really fun and everybody was really nice,” Wallis told HuffPost

Quvenzhane Wallis, joined by her four-legged co-star, Sandy, reads aloud from Banfield Pet Hospital's first-ever children's book, "My Very, Very Busy Day," at a book launch event at the Children's Museum of Manhattan, on Oct. 15, 2014, in New York City.

Quvenzhane Wallis, joined by her four-legged co-star, Sandy, reads aloud from Banfield Pet Hospital’s first-ever children’s book, “My Very, Very Busy Day,” at a book launch event at the Children’s Museum of Manhattan, on Oct. 15, 2014, in New York City.

Entertainment of working with the all-star cast while promoting a new book released by Banfield Pet Hospital, “My Very, Very Busy Day.” “And Jamie Foxx was, of course, very funny. He told me to have fun and always be yourself.”

Wallis is confident that this role will help her — and her puppy purse — make it back on the red carpet during award show season. Asked if she’s hoping to get another Oscar nomination one day, the actress said, “For ‘Annie,’ of course, and yes!”

“It was really exciting because it was a great opportunity and it’s not like it happens every single day,” Wallis said of her experience as a nominee in 2013. As for how she made it this far, Wallis, who wants to be a veterinarian someday, insists it’s all about following your dreams.

“Stay confident and don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t do it,” Wallis said, “because, trust me, you can. Look at me!”

“Annie” hits theaters Dec. 19, 2014.

Read full article here

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South Africans Battle To Overturn Apartheid Evictions

By: Sofie Ribstein, BBC News

Lily Lawrence and her children have fond memories of their old home. The Red Hill ruins are a daily reminder of The Group Areas Act passed in 1950.

Lily Lawrence and her children have fond memories of their old home. The Red Hill ruins are a daily reminder of The Group Areas Act passed in 1950.

At the far end of the African continent, Redhill was once a village, home to more than 70 predominantly mixed-race (or coloured, as they are referred to in South Africa) families.

But stone walls are still standing, reminders of a precious past for those who were forcibly removed in the late 1960s by South Africa’s white minority regime.

“Here was the lounge and this used to be the kitchen with a fireplace and the small bedroom at the back,” says 78-year-old Lily Lawrence, walking through the old stones which were once her home.

The Group Areas Act, passed in 1950, was a pillar of the brutal apartheid regime.

Among other things, it led to the removal of non-whites from real estate considered desirable by the government. Over the following decades, thousands of families were forced to leave their homes and relocate to barren land.

The effects of this policy have yet to be reversed. Even in post-apartheid South Africa, much of the most fertile territory is still in the hands of a few thousand white commercial farmers.

President Jacob Zuma has given people an opportunity to lodge land claims

President Jacob Zuma has given people an opportunity to lodge land claims.

Just after his re-election to a second term in office in May, South African President Jacob Zuma announced the creation of another window for lodging claims for the restitution of land.

Under the 1950 law, Mrs Lawrence, her husband and their four children had no other choice but to leave their land.

“It was so heartbreaking, tears, tears and tears,” says Mrs Lawrence, recalling the day they left. She says the family had to leave much of their furniture behind – including heirlooms – as it could not be taken up the stairs of the flat they were moving to.

Today, two of her children, Margaret and George, are doing everything possible for this past not to be forgotten. They were only eight and 13 years old when they left Redhill.

But the trauma of the forced removal remains. Margaret is an archivist at the Simon’s Town Museum. She collects pictures, texts, memories from the coloured community and tries to piece together their history.

Margaret (centre) was 13 years old when they were forced out of their home.

Margaret (centre) was 13 years old when they were forced out of their home.

She invites her mother to the museum to talk to schoolchildren. Twenty years after the end of apartheid, she wants the new generation to know what happened.

George, her brother, has embarked on a legal journey, trying to get the land back from the South African state. He says he registered the first land claim in 1998 – but since then, has only been to meetings and offered excuses for inaction.

“The only thing I want in my life is to come back to my land. I was born here, my roots are here. It is not so difficult, the government just has to sign the papers.”

Since President Zuma announced another window for the restitution, another 12,500 new claims have been lodged, according to the government-backed Land Claims Commission.

Read the full article here.

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Ferguson Has Awakened a Larger Struggle for Racial and Economic Justice in America

BY: ,

Author and activist Cornel West (center), members of the clergy and other demonstrators protest outside the Ferguson, Mo., police station on Oct. 13, 2014.

Author and activist Cornel West (center), members of the clergy and other demonstrators protest outside the Ferguson, Mo., police station on Oct. 13, 2014.

There’s a social-justice movement taking hold across the nation. Michael Brown’s death, which turned Ferguson, Mo., into a battleground this past summer, has helped catalyze a larger struggle for racial and economic justice in America.

And St. Louis, where 18-year-old Vonderrit Myers Jr. was shot and killed by an off-duty police officer, has witnessed roiling street demonstrations that recall the heyday of the civil rights and black power eras. Taking a page straight from the civil rights era, activists launched a “weekend of resistance” that featured civil disobedience, direct action protests, tense standoffs with police and arrests.

The issues raised—ending police brutality, raising the minimum wage, transforming race relations—attracted a cross-generational group of activists. Dozens of protesters stood outside Busch Stadium and reminded baseball fans of the political stakes that dwarfed the outcome of a Major League Baseball playoff game. “This is not a happy time,” one demonstrator told the New York Times. “They come here and watch a baseball game while we die; we go out and get pepper sprayed and hit with tear gas for peaceful protesting.”

Ferguson’s legacy has triggered outrage and inspiration. Young people, from St. Louis to California, Chicago to Boston, have become re-engaged in the political process.

They’re forging a new vision of democracy in America—one found on city streets where too many young black people fall victim to police shootings, and even larger numbers face burdens of poverty and failing public schools. They recognize that America’s criminal-justice system is incapable of recognizing black humanity, let alone our citizenship.

A generational divide still exists, however, between old- and new-school civil rights activists, with younger people at times chafing at the outsize presence of veteran organizers and older folks—sometimes forgetting the audaciousness and impatience of their younger selves. But a cross-section of activists, from NAACP presidents to rappers, have developed a working relationship that promises to help turn outrage into substantive policy transformation.

We stand at a pivotal moment in American history. Brown’s death picked at the scab of larger questions of racial and economic inequality that haunt the nation. And African Americans, as usual, have been called to the front lines in the ongoing struggle to press their country to live up to its democratic ideals.

Read full article here.

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Today: Crowd-Funding Campaign Launched to Publish “A Time of Terror: A Survivor’s Story”

Today the nonprofit Dr. James Cameron Legacy Foundation, parent organization of America’s Black Holocaust Museum, is pleased to announce a six-week effort to raise the money needed to republish Dr. Cameron’s memoir and properly preserve his original manuscript. This is the only known written account by the survivor of a lynching, and as such is an important historical document.

With his book, A Time of Terror: A Survivor's Story, circa 1994. Courtesy of the Cameron Family.

With his book, A Time of Terror: A Survivor’s Story, circa 1994. Courtesy of the Cameron Family.

Like Solomon Northrup’s 12 Years a Slave, it is a very personal story, full of intimate details and fascinating descriptions of the life of a black boy and his family in the South and North during the Great Migration and beginning of the Great Depression.

We are very excited about this 3rd edition of A Time of Terror, because it includes five never-before-published chapters, photographs, and materials useful to students and teachers. It will be published in both paperback and ebook formats, making it accessible for the first time to people around the world. The book will be sold through and other online booksellers. Proceeds from its sales and from speaking engagements will help support ABHM.

The slogan of the campaign is “Know the Past / Heal the Present.” As Congresswoman Gwen Moore reminds us in the campaign’s video, those who forget the past are doomed to repeat it. As a result of deaths of Trayvon Martin, Eric Garner, Mike Brown, Reneisha McBride and others, our nation is engaging in conversation about the dehumanization and false criminalization of black men and women – of a new Jim Crow. This has a long history in our country, and we won’t get past it without examining its sources. A Time of Terror: A Survivor’s Story can help with that process.

ABHM Resident Historian Dr. Robert Smith says about the book, “You can’t ask for a better primary document about the Jim Crow era, written by an intellectual who was also an activist.”

The fundraising effort will continue through November 28th.

Donors to the campaign will be acknowledged by name in the book and receive other “perks.” You can join the community of donors and supporters by visiting the campaign’s web page or donating online directly from the box below. And please spread the word! Thank you very much.



White Woman Comes to Black Man’s Aid, Tells Police to Leave

BY: .,

Jody Westby tells police, "please leave our neighborhood" after she sees them questioning her friend, who had done nothing wrong.

Jody Westby tells police, “please leave our neighborhood” after she sees them questioning her friend, who had done nothing wrong.

Last week, Washington D.C. police were called to investigate a suspected burglary. The police stopped a black man in a wealthy neighborhood who was minding his business and began questioning him. He told police that he had no idea why he was being stopped but believed that he was being singled out. Police told the man to sit on the ground. Jody Westby, who happened to be working from home this day saw the police harassing a man that she knew so she told her housekeeper to record the incident and walked outside to confront the police.

Westby, an attorney and CEO of CEO of Global Cyber Risk LLC, told told police that the man was a friend of many people in the area. She asked police for the address that gave the call for the burglary. When the police responded she informed them that they weren’t on the right street or in the right neighborhood. She then helped the man to his feet and told police, “please leave our neighborhood.” 

As police began to leave Westby shouted towards them, “just because he’s black doesn’t mean he’s here to rob a house. He works for us. He’s been in this neighborhood for 30 years.”

Westby told The Washington Post after the incident: “You got a white woman and a Hispanic woman standing up for a black man against two black cops…It was shameful how they behaved…It was very interesting, in the sense of getting a picture of how black cops treat black people…And how humiliating that was for him. And how they were treating him just like a dog.”

Read full article here.

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Parents Claim No Choice, No Voice, in Children’s Education

Students at the Dryades YMCA James M. Singleton Charter School Aug. 23, 2006, in New Orleans

Students at the Dryades YMCA James M. Singleton Charter School Aug. 23, 2006, in New Orleans

BY: ,

The key to success in any industry is innovation. That is at the heart of the reform movement that has overtaken public education over the last few years and shuttered public schools that were labeled failing or under-resourced. Many of the reformers likely had the children’s best interests in mind, like Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, who donated $100 million in 2010 to help turn around schools in Newark, N.J. Unfortunately, the reforms have not gone as planned.

In Newark, students and their parents in the city’s South Ward boycotted the first day of school to protest One Newark, the school-choice enrollment plan that moved some children far from their neighborhood schools. Weeks later, hundreds of high school students walked out of class in protest.

More than a month after school started, some parents say that hundreds of children still have not been assigned a school, and frustrations over transportation issues, uncertainty about where to send their children and dissatisfaction over closed neighborhood schools have led to many more not showing up for class.

“For me, as a parent, I know that my children deserve better,” says Sharon Smith, a mother with three children in Newark schools. “And not because they’re just mine, but because every child deserves the best opportunity that they can receive with education. But that’s not happening here. The parents here are stuck with whatever decision the district makes.”

Smith and other critics have chided One Newark on behalf of families without cars, who, she says, sometimes have to put children on two buses to get them to school. The plan doesn’t provide wholesale transportation, and many charter schools don’t offer it.

Zuckerberg’s $100 million matched donation has vanished, mostly into pockets of contractors and consultants and given to teachers unions as back pay. As Vivian Cox Fraser, president of the Urban League of Essex County, famously remarked in a New Yorker story about the debacle, “Everybody’s getting paid, but Raheem still can’t read.”

Read full article here.

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