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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


How to Talk to Young Black Boys about Trayvon Martin

Eight talking points about the potentially fatal condition of being black, by Touré


Florida’s Disastrous Self-Defense Law

The Stand Your Ground law gives citizens the right to use force in public if they feel threatened. Citizens feel threatened all the time, whether it’s from the approach of an aggressive panhandler or squeegee pest or even just walking down a poorly lighted street at night. In tightly congested urban areas, public encounters can be threatening; a look, a physical bump, a leer, someone you think may be following you.

As Florida police chiefs predicted in 2005, the law has been used to justify killings ranging from drug dealers’ turf battles to road rage incidents. Homicides categorized as justifiable have nearly tripled since the law went into effect.

Trying to control shootings by members of a well-trained and disciplined police department is a daunting enough task. Laws like “stand your ground” give citizens unfettered power and discretion with no accountability. It is a recipe for disaster.

Opinion piece by John F. Timoney, former Miami police chief, Philadelphia police commissioner and deputy police commissioner in New York.



Deryl Dedmon Pleads Guilty In Mississippi Hate Crime Hit-And-Run Of James Craig Anderson

Dedmon, 19, admitted that he and a group of white teens were partying in Puckett, a small town outside the capital city, when he suggested they find a black man to harass and went to Jackson because of its majority-black population. They found Anderson before dawn outside a hotel. He was beaten before Dedmon ran over him with his pickup truck, an act caught on the hotel surveillance camera. Prosecutors said Dedmon and others had targeted blacks for harassment before, usually homeless or drunk people who weren’t likely to report it to police.

The victim’s sister, Barbara Anderson Young, fought back tears when she addressed the court. She asked that the death penalty notbe given to her brother’s murderer.

Deryl Dedmon, who went looking with friends for a black man to hurt and killed James Craig Anderson

Deryl Dedmon, who went looking with friends for a black man to hurt–and killed James Craig Anderson.

“We, the Anderson family, are praying for racial reconciliation not just in Mississippi but all over this land and country. We are praying for the defendant, Dedmon, and his family that they find peace.”


Teacher sues CPS after suspension for slur during ‘teachable moment’

Lincoln Brown, 48, says he used the n-word in front of his majority African-American class at Murray Language Academy on Oct. 4 last year after one of his students passed a note to a girl with rap lyrics including the n-word. He discussed the use of the racial slur in Huckleberry Finn in an attempt to show “how upsetting such language can be,” but just as he used the n-word, the school’s principal, Gregory Mason walked into the classroom, the lawsuit alleges.

Brown — who grew up in Hyde Park and has taught in black neighborhood schools for 21 years — “attempted to give his own denunciation of the use of such language” according to the lawsuit filed Thursday.

Lincoln Brown, public school teacher in chicago, suspended for saying "n****r" while teaching about hurtful language

Lincoln Brown, public school teacher in Chicago, suspended for saying the word "n****r" while teaching about hurtful language

“It’s so sad — if we can’t discuss these issues, we’ll never be able to resolve them,” Brown said Thursday as he prepared to begin his suspension from the Hyde Park school just a few blocks from President Barack Obama’s Kenwood home.


Slavery Homework Problem: Another Georgia Elementary School Under Fire For Math Problem Referencing Slaves (VIDEO)

“A plantation owner had 100 slaves,” the question read. “If three-fifths of them are counted for representation, how many slaves will be counted?”

A school spokesperson said the question was meant to educate students on both social studies and math, and that the teacher would not be punished.

The incident is reminiscent of a similar controversy at another Georgia school that erupted in January. Parents were outraged after students were sent home with math word problems using explicit examples of slavery.

“Each tree had 56 oranges,” the first question starts. “If 8 slaves pick them equally, then how much would each slave pick?”

Slavery Math Problem

Slavery Math Problem

“If Frederick got two beatings per day, how many beatings did he get in 1 week?”


The Bullet Next Time: An Open Letter to My Unborn Son

A father instructs his son on the dangerous and degrading realities of life as black male in America.


Racism Is the Problem Here

The Stand Your Ground law does not permit the use of deadly force against an initial aggressor unless “the person reasonably believes that he or she is in imminent danger of death or great bodily harm and that he or she has exhausted every reasonable means to escape such danger.” Ordinarily, one would expect that a reasonable force requirement would provide ample protection against idiosyncratic or morally suspect behavior. But this is not the case when victims happen to be black.


Is Trayvon Martin this generation’s Emmett Till?

Trayvon Martin may very well become this generation’s Emmett Till.

The February 26th shooting death of the 17-year-old Martin by George Zimmerman — a self-appointed neighborhood watch captain in Sanford, Florida — has captured national attention and garnered universal outrage. Nearly six decades ago, Emmett Till was murdered at a time when the lives of black boys were not highly regarded, and the rights of black Americans were under siege.

The Trayvon Martin case is now a turning point in American history, and not just for African-Americans. And you’ll find this case at the intersection of racial violence, civil rights and criminal justice.

One Million Hoodie March for Justice for Trayvon Martin in NYC

One Million Hoodie March for Justice for Trayvon Martin in NYC


Florida’s Stand Your Ground Law

There’s been a lot of talk about Florida’s Stand Your Ground (SYG) Law since the death of Trayvon Martin.  So I decided to take a look at this law (which approximately 20 other states have adopted).  The law allows gun owners to shoot (and kill) in self-defense if they feel threatened. Before Stand Your Ground, gun owners had to retreat in such situations, unless they were in their homes. There was a high legal threshold to cross before shots could be fired justifiably on streets, sidewalks or in other public settings.

Reports of justifiable homicides in Florida have spiked. For the first half of this decade, the state counted an average of 34 justifiable homicides a year, as few as 31 and as many as 43. In 2009: 105.

Trayvon Martin

Trayvon Martin, 17 y/o, shot and killed in Florida while walking home from the store.

The first six months of 2010: 44.


Family Tree’s Startling Roots

Thirty-nine lashes “well laid” on her bare back and an extension of her indentured servitude was Elizabeth Banks’s punishment for “fornication & Bastardy with a negroe slave,” according to a stark June 20, 1683, court document from York County, Va. That record and others led to the recent discovery that Banks, a free white woman despite her servitude, was the paternal ninth great-grandmother of Wanda Sykes, the ribald comedian and actress.

The unique thing about Wanda is that she descends from 10 generations of free Virginia mulattos, which is more rare than descendants of mixed-race African-Americans who descend from English royalty. More than 1,000 mixed-race children were born to white women in colonial Virginia and Maryland, but their existence has been erased from oral and written history.

Ms. Sykes’s family history was professionally researched for “Finding Your Roots With Henry Louis Gates Jr.,” a new series that has its debut Sunday on PBS.

Wanda Sykes

Wanda Sykes