A Request

To Concerned Allies Who Mean Well:

Please don’t travel to Detroit unless you plan to remain for longer than a few hours, a day, or a week.  Please don’t abandon Detroit to a fate like the one Jena, Louisiana is enduring after your last march for “justice.”  I wrote a long time ago about the need for clear goals and understandings before mobilizing any mass descent upon any town.  If brownfemipower is right, and Rev. Al and Jesse are going to “mobilize” you to “march” to Detroit for Aiyana Jones, please understand she is not the only reason you are marching.  Please understand that the issue is bigger than the murder of Aiyana Jones.

I am not saying that Aiyana does not deserve justice, or that the cops who took her life should not face consequences.  I am saying that you should write your media outlets and ask them why they have not dedicated as much mainstream attention to Aiyana as they have to Yeardley Love.  I am saying you should question the claim that “the suspect was found inside the home” when the police executed the search warrant.  I am saying you should question the necessity of filming a documentary of any kind during a high-pressure moment of capturing a homicide suspect.

Question the increasing militarization of police forces and the increasingly militarized raids they conduct.

Think about the consequences of your marches; think about the consequences of your actions.  Reach out to the activists who know the communities and families of Detroit; lend them your ears and tell your senators, your representatives, your media makers to listen to them.  Listen to what they ask of you before trying to provide what you cannot give and what they cannot afford to maintain, what they cannot afford to keep.

LA Times: “School rallies around dismissed Watts teacher deemed too ‘Afro-centric'”

Students and fellow educators are rallying behind a fired Jordan High School teacher they say was sacked for encouraging political activism among her students.

About 60 students rallied Wednesday at the Watts campus, while a colleague of the fired teacher said he and 15 other instructors planned to resign or transfer to other schools to protest the dismissal of Karen Salazar, a second-year English teacher.

(From Angry Brown Butch)

Punishing Radicalism: Mumia Abu-Jamal, Andrea Smith, and Due Process

When I ran The Anti-Essentialist Conundrum, I linked a post about one of many political prisoners in the United States right now, Mumia Abu-Jamal. (A consequence of nuking one’s blog is not knowing which post it was, or who wrote the post you linked. *sigh*)

Mumia Abu-Jamal is a renowned journalist from Philadelphia who has been in prison since 1981 and on death row since 1983 for allegedly shooting Philadelphia police officer Daniel Faulkner. He is known as the “Voice of the Voiceless” for his award- winning reporting on police brutality and other social and racial epidemics that plague communities of color in Philadelphia and throughout the world. Mumia has received international support over the years in his efforts to overturn his unjust conviction.

Mumia Abu-Jamal was serving as the President of the Association of Black Journalists at the time of his arrest. He was a founding member of the Philadelphia Chapter of the Black Panther Party as a teenager. Years later he began reporting professionally on radio stations such as NPR, and was the news director of Philadelphia station WHAT. Much of his journalism called attention to the blatant injustice and brutality he watched happen on a daily basis to MOVE, a revolutionary organization that works to protect all forms of life–human, animal, plant–and the Earth as a whole.

[...]The prosecution claimed that the shot which killed Faulkner came from Mumia Abu-Jamal’s legally registered .38-caliber weapon, contradicting the medical examiner’s report that the bullet removed from Faulkner’s brain was a .44-caliber. This fact was kept from the jury. Moreover, a ballistics expert found it incredible that police at the scene failed to test Mumia’s gun to see if has been recently fired, or to test his hands for powder residue. One of the most damning prosecution claims was that Mumia confessed at the hospital. However, this confession was not reported until nearly two months after December 9th, immediately after Mumia had filed a brutality suit against the police. One of the officers who claims to have heard the confession is Gary Wakshul. However, in his police report on that day he stated, “the Negro male made no comments.” Dr. Coletta, the attending physician who was with Mumia the entire time, says that he never heard Mumia speak.

The star prosecution witness, a prostitute named Cynthia White, was someone no other witness reported seeing at the scene. During the trial of Billy Cook (Mumia’s brother) just weeks before Mumia’s trial, White gave testimony completely contradictory to what she stated at Mumia’s trial. Her testimony at Billy Cook’s trial placed someone at the scene who was not there when police arrived. This corroborates the other five witness accounts that someone fled the scene. In a 1997 hearing, another former prostitute, Pamela Jenkins, testified that White was acting as a police informant. Other sworn testimony revealed that witness coercion was routinely practiced by the police. In 1995, eyewitness William Singletary testified that police repeatedly tore up his initial statement–that the shooter fled the scene–until he finally signed something acceptable to them. The following year, witness Veronica Jones came forward to testify that she had been coerced into changing her initial statement that two men fled the scene. Witness Billy Cook, who was present the whole time, has stated very clearly that Mumia is absolutely innocent.

Due to police manipulation of witnesses, fabrication of evidence, and the rights of the defense severely denied, Mumia was found guilty. He was sentenced to death during the penalty phase based solely on his political beliefs. Mumia has been unjustly separated from his family for twenty-two years, with the threat of death looming over his head.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit reviewed Abu-Jamal’s case, and they affirmed the federal district court decision to conduct a new sentencing hearing and invalidate the death penalty sentence, rather than award Abu-Jamal a new trial. (Via Xicano Power.) Robert Bryan, the lead counsel for Abu-Jamal, spoke with Juan Gonzalez and Amy Goodman of Democracy Now about the pros and cons of the court’s decision:

On the one hand, the death penalty—the court threw out the death penalty in this case, even though Mumia remains on death row today, and if the state appeals or seeks further relief, nothing will change, at least for the present. The court did order a new jury trial on the issue of whether he should be on death row. In effect, what they did, as I said, was throw out the death penalty. So that’s the good part of the decision. And having done this type of work defending people facing the death penalty for over three decades, I can tell you any time the death penalty gets thrown out is a real victory.

On the negative side, as Juan just pointed out, the jury—the court ruled against granting a new jury trial on the issue of guilt and innocence. And we were rather astounded that the court made that ruling. The silver lining to that ruling, to that dark cloud, is that it was a split court. We were before three judges. Two judges ruled against us; a third judge, Judge Ambro, rendered a forty-one-page dissent in which he strongly criticized the majority and said that racism was a work in this case, that racism—that the prosecution engaged in removing people of color, African Americans, from sitting on the jury of Mumia Abu-Jamal.

For some brief background, before the start of a trial, the prosecution, defense, and judge conduct a process of jury selection called the voir dire. A pool of potential jurors enter the courtroom (thinking of excuses to get out of serving), and the judge or the lawyers ask the potential jurors questions about their abilities to decide the case in question fairly and impartially. In most jurisdictions, the lawyers can ask questions — Maryland, which is in the minority on this issue, has the judge ask potential jurors questions.

During this process the prosecution and defense have two mechanisms for eliminating jurors from the panel until they receive the final 12 triers of fact: challenges for cause and peremptory challenges. Challenges for cause are unlimited, and they are used when the lawyers and/or judge determine that a juror’s conscious or unconscious biases will affect his/her impartiality. Peremptory challenges, however, are limited depending on the type of case before the jury. Peremptory challenges can be used for any reason by either side. In crimes carrying the possible penalty of death, the peremptory challenges are very high and the voir dire is more stringent.

The exclusion of people from juries on the basis of race via peremptory challenges has affected the state and federal court system through a large portion of United States jurisprudence. Prosecutors would routinely strike black Americans from the juries of black defendants using peremptory challenges; as a result the trial, conviction, and sentencing would not be determined by a proper jury of the defendant’s peers.

The seminal case that outlawed this practice of excluding people from juries on the basis of race is Batson v. Kentucky, 476 U.S. 79 (1986). The Court at that time articulated a test where defendants could challenge the prosecutor’s peremptory challenges if it followed a pattern of removing members of a certain race from the panel. Upon being challenged, the judge asks the prosecutor to go back and give legitimate reasons for striking the jurors removed. If the prosecutor cannot provide satisfactory reasons, the jurors stricken are reinstated.

Getting back to Abu-Jamal’s case, Robert Bryan notes in the Democracy Now interview that the Supreme Court reinforced the principles of the Batson case earlier this month in its decision in Snyder v. Louisiana, 128 S. Ct. 1203 (2008). Justice Alito, who wrote the majority opinion for the court, reinforces the importance of upholding the general principles of Batson:

As previously noted, the question presented at the third stage of the Batson inquiry is “‘whether the defendant has shown purposeful discrimination.'” The prosecution’s proffer of this pretextual explanation naturally gives rise to an inference of discriminatory intent.

[...]In other circumstances, we have held that, once it is shown that a discriminatory intent was a substantial or motivating factor in an action taken by a state actor, the burden shifts to the party defending the action to show that this factor was not determinative. [...]We have not previously applied this rule in a Batson case, and we need not decide here whether that standard governs in this context. For present purposes, it is enough to recognize that a peremptory strike shown to have been motivated in substantial part by discriminatory intent could not be sustained based on any lesser showing by the prosecution.

However, the Third Circuit decision in Abu-Jamal’s case does not take the extra step to order a completely new trial for him — only to have his sentencing redetermined by a new jury.

But since the jury during the course of a normal jury trial decides the defendant’s guilt and innocence, as well as recommends a sentence of life or death, why won’t Abu-Jamal’s entire case — guilt or innocence determination included — be reevaluated in a new trial by a new jury?

The poor logic in this case reminds me of the poor logic of the University of Michigan in denying tenure to Andrea Smith, an eminent Native American feminist scholar.

Jointly appointed in the Program in American Culture and the Department of Women’s Studies, Dr. Smith’s body of scholarship exemplifies scholarly excellence with widely circulated articles in peer-reviewed journals and numerous books in both university and independent presses including Native Americans and the Christian Right published this year by Duke University Press. Dr. Smith is one of the greatest indigenous feminist intellectuals of our time. A nominee for the 2005 Nobel Peace Prize, Dr. Smith has an outstanding academic and community record of service that is internationally and nationally recognized. She is a dedicated professor and mentor and she is an integral member of the University of Michigan (UM) intellectual community. Her reputation and pedagogical practices draw undergraduate and graduate students from all over campus and the nation.

With this type of record, the reasons for denying tenure seem incomprehensible. However, the fabric of Andrea Smith’s work consistently challenges the racism, sexism, colonialism, and systematic disenfranchisement and violation of Native Americans at the hands of the United States and its supporting institutions. (See her published work, Conquest: Sexual Violence and American Indian Genocide, as an example.) This trend of radical thought and activism, when considered along with the fact other women of color professors at the university being denied tenure, indicates a more invidious reasoning is afoot for these decisions.

Comparatively, since Abu-Jamal’s incarceration and long wait on death row, he has written a series of published works about the nature of his imprisonment, his life on death row, and the legitimacy of the operation of the U.S. criminal justice system. His lawyer thinks, and I agree, that the reluctance of the court to award a new trial for Abu-Jamal stems from a reluctance to accord any substantial benefit to him because of the body of his work, despite the fact the remedy would be entirely appropriate considering the prior history of his case:

What’s interesting about this decision yesterday, and Judge Ambro raised this question twice in his forty-one-page dissent, and that is, why is this case being treated differently from other cases? Why is the majority, the other two judges, treating this case differently? It’s what we often think of as the Mumia exception. And that is, the law is one thing for everyone else, but the courts seem to strive to carve out an exception for Mumia Abu-Jamal, because obviously he’s outspoken, he’s very critical of the establishment. And I might say that the big issue lingering over all of this is that he is absolutely not guilty of murder.

The overarching result of this decision is Mumia Abu-Jamal gets the option between facing death (again) or receiving life in prison, even if his attorney presents exculpatory evidence that proves his innocence. On what planet is this choice just?

Why is it seemingly a facet of this system that if you challenge its illegitimacy or its flaws — within its logic, using its rules, with acknowledgment of the paths constructed to allow everyone following them a fair chance at life — its response results in more erosion of its so-called just and neutral foundation? I hold little doubt that the penalties lodged against Abu-Jamal and Smith stem from their work to criticize and to expose the history and cycle of unjust and immoral practices this society encourages daily. And it’s sickening to be raised under such high ideals about this country’s capabilities when its foundation can’t even face up to its own history, its own consequences from the bloodshed implanted into its legacy.

The criminal justice system of the United States, along with many of its other institutions, needs redemption and transformation desperately. It needs restoration and drastic transformation into a system that truly tries and judges people accused of crimes fairly and impartially, granting the appropriate remedies and levying the appropriate punishments when required. And Mumia Abu-Jamal’s case is one of many cases that proves our system has a long road to travel before it reaches its highly lauded standards of due process and equal protection under its laws. Through its everyday application, these guarantees of rights, justice, and liberties seem to exist for people only in this country’s deluded idealizations of itself.

Apparently you are a citizen once you are sentenced to death.

[warning: impromptu incoherent conspiracy theorist legal ramblings of a second-year law student with no immediate access to internets] 

The more reading I do surrounding Medellin v. Texas, the more upset I get because the decision to ignore the International Court of Justice’s ruling in this matter reinforces three principles:

Principle 1. The United States of America continues to have no respect for international law or the rights of human beings.

Principle 2. The United States of America has a half-assed interpretation of its own law and does not honor its word when working with international bodies through governmental loopholes.

Principle 3. President George W. Bush is a power hungry git who manages to be wrong even when he should be right.

First, a news commentary from U.S. Senator Tom Coburn (TX), written around 2007:

In mid-October, the U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments on a criminal case from Texas that poses yet another threat to our sovereignty. The case involved Jose Ernesto Medellin, a foreign citizen convicted and sentenced to death in 1994 in the brutal rape and murder of two teenage girls in Houston.

Long after his sentence was final, Medellin’s lawyers came up with a new appeal point. They argued that because Medellin was not a U.S. citizen, and under the Vienna Convention the Mexican consulate should have been notified when he was arrested, his appeal should be reopened. This argument was accepted in 2004 by a foreign tribunal, the International Court of Justice in The Hague.

Medellin was indeed born in Mexico, but lived in the U.S. most of his life. He speaks, reads and writes English, and attended U.S. schools. Disappointingly, the Bush Administration has issued a directive to Texas officials attempting to enforce the foreign court’s judgment, and also backed Medellin’s side at the U.S. Supreme Court.

I have argued that the President lacks constitutional authority to direct Texas to reopen Medellin’s conviction. In my opinion, the President cannot by himself transform an international treaty, and especially a foreign court’s judgment, into domestic law.

So…when people come over to America to find work and raise families, attempt to learn English as much as possible (when they’re not working to support said families), and try to live as far under the radar as possible even though citizenship would be totally desirable, they’re damned dirty illegal aliens who need to get out, get out, get out.

But when people come over to America, live here their whole lives, read, write, and speak fluent English — but commit heinous crimes and get sentenced to death, and they say blatantly, “I AM NOT A CITIZEN OF THIS COUNTRY; THERE ARE LAWS ABOUT THIS FACT” and want their rights as entitled by international law — they’re American enough that a state can ignore international law and Mexico’s request to intervene?

I did not realize the United States has never recognized the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties. Apparently, we signed it; but the geniuses in the U.S. Senate around that time never made it binding on our government. It appears that the same principles govern the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations — we may have signed it but the U.S. Senate didn’t give its advice and consent to the treaty to make it fully binding. Mexico challenged the United States’ actions in the International Court of Justice in The Hague under the latter treaty in 2004, and the World Court ruled that the U.S. must recognize the provision in the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations and notify Mexico that its nationals are in prison so they can provide aid and consult with the incarcerated men, according to Article 26, Paragraph 1(c):

[Article 26, Paragraph 1(c)]
With a view to facilitating the exercise of consular functions relating to nationals of the sending State [...] consular officers shall have the right to visit a national of the sending State who is in prison, custody or detention, to converse and correspond with him and to arrange for his legal representation. They shall also have the right to visit any national of the sending State who is in prison, custody or detention in their district in pursuance of a judgement. Nevertheless, consular officers shall refrain from taking action on behalf of a national who is in prison, custody or detention if he expressly opposes such action.

In relevant part, today’s Supreme Court decision collectively screws Mexican nationals sentenced to death for various crimes around the country, including Mr. Medellin:

In a case that mixes presidential power, international relations and the death penalty, the court sided with Texas and rebuked Bush by a 6-3 vote.

The president was in the unusual position of siding with death row prisoner Jose Ernesto Medellin, a Mexican citizen whom police prevented from consulting with Mexican diplomats, as provided by international treaty.

An international court ruled in 2004 that the convictions of Medellin and 50 other Mexicans on death row around the United States violated the 1963 Vienna Convention, which provides that people arrested abroad should have access to their home country’s consular officials. The International Court of Justice, also known as the world court, said the Mexican prisoners should have new court hearings to determine whether the violation affected their cases.

Now, I hate when President Bush tries to extend his power illegally. I do. And I think our Cowboy Prince fucked all these men over because he was trying to extend his presidential power illegally. Or (and this is more insidious) he wanted more assurance that if an international court ever tries to prosecute him and his buddies for war crimes, the United States would have complete freedom to ignore the rulings as non-binding even if the executive branch orders it. Congress takes forever to do mostly everything; it’s unlikely that both houses would jump at the chance to enforce an international court order, especially with Nancy “Impeachment Off the Table” Pelosi running (more like ruining) the House of Representatives. (But that is my inner conspiracy theorist going craaaaaazy.)

[White House Press Secretary Dana Perino] noted that the administration’s position in the case was focused on the authority it believed the president has to compel a state to comply with international agreements. “The argument of the United States in this case in no way condoned or defended the heinous crime,” Perino said.

Bush, who oversaw 152 executions as Texas governor, disagreed with the decision. But he said it must be carried out by state courts because the United States had agreed to abide by the world court’s rulings in such cases. The administration argued that the president’s declaration is reason enough for Texas to grant Medellin a new hearing.

I slightly forgive Justice Stevens for his concurrence because he was caught in a Catch-22 — either illegally broaden the President’s power because the Senate is full of pricks and doesn’t give all the treaties the U.S. signs force (rough translation: make it so the President can ignore Congress in yet another way) or refuse to give the Cowboy Prince any power and screw a bunch of Mexican nationals because this country will not comply with their international rights (rough translation: ignore international law completely and pretend the U.S. isn’t subject to anything but itself; America fuck yeah rah rah barf).

Justice John Paul Stevens, while agreeing with the outcome of the case, said nothing prevents Texas from giving Medellin another hearing even though it is not compelled to do so.

“Texas’ duty in this respect is all the greater since it was Texas that – by failing to provide consular notice in accordance with the Vienna Convention – ensnared the United States in the current controversy,” Stevens said.

In the scheme of this entire matter, the argument from Texas would make no sense IF the United States enforced the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations. Let’s look at some quick facts from the Forbes article.

Medellin was arrested a few days after the killings of Jennifer Ertman, 14, and Elizabeth Pena, 16, in Houston in June 1993. He was told he had a right to remain silent and have a lawyer present, but the police did not tell him that he could request assistance from the Mexican consulate.

Medellin, who speaks, reads and writes English, gave a written confession. He was convicted of murder in the course of a sexual assault, a capital offense in Texas. A judge sentenced him to death in October 1994.

Texas acknowledged that Medellin was not told he could ask for help from Mexican diplomats, but argued that he forfeited the right because he never raised the issue at trial or sentencing. In any case, the state said, the diplomats’ intercession would not have made any difference in the outcome of the case. [Emphasis added.]

Now, if I’m reading the particular provision of this treaty correctly, Medellin could not forfeit such a right if he was not made aware that he had it. Reason being, the provision of the treaty mentions that the national has to expressly oppose the intervention of the consulate in order for the consul not to act on his behalf. Express, the opposite of implied, meaning that people have to know about what they’re forfeiting and say, “I forfeit it; bah and humbug,” before it is forfeited. Similar to how an arrested criminal has to waive Miranda rights by saying “I waive my Miranda rights” or by signing a form stating they understand their Miranda rights and expressly waive them to talk with the police.

These circumstances obviously didn’t happen here. And obviously, the opportunity for a foreign government to intervene and possibly to get these death row inmates better representation, etc., would’ve made no difference. Yeah, right. Sure.

At least someone had the balls to question whether or not compliance with a World Court ruling is debatable, according to the SCOTUSblog recap of the October 2007 oral argument:

Among the Justices, only David H. Souter spent some time exploring whether the Court could avoid a decision that would reject the President’s authority to implement the World Court judgment by simply ruling, on its own, that the international tribunal’s decision on the Mexican nationals was binding. Questioning Cruz, for example, Souter wondered whether there was any “positive rule, in international or domestic law, which precludes this Court from being the implementing authority” of a World Court decision? The state’s lawyer replied that the Court was “the final authority to determine federal law,” but said that, if it were to do so in the Medellin case, it would have to overrule its ruling of a year ago in the case of Sanchez-Llamas v. Oregon finding that the Vienna Convention does not give foreign nationals a right to claim violation of their Convention rights if such claims are barred by state criminal procedures.

Souter was one of the three justices to dissent with the holding (along with Breyer and Ginsburg…of course).

Medellin’s lawyer and the Justice Department take the view that the Sanchez-Llamas decision only dealt with an interpretation of the Convention’s meaning, not with an actual Court judgment in a specific case. Medellin contends, though, that the judgment is binding on the state on its own terms, under the Supremacy Clause, but the government takes the view that it is to be implemented because the President has said so. [Emphasis added.]

So if I’m correctly understanding the argument of Medellin’s lawyer, Donald F. Donovan, when an international court rules on a treaty provision being violated, the federal government must treat that ruling as binding authority and enforce it because the federal government agreed to honor the treaty upon signing it and the executive branch has the job of executing the treaty. Not because Le Bastard Bush said so — and I don’t doubt that was the whole of the smirking chimp’s argument.

I’m utterly floored that one of Roberts’ challenges to all this is asking where the Supreme Court comes into the equation:

If the World Court’s judgment on the Mexican nationals’ legal rights here were binding federal law inside the U.S., Roberts wondered, would the Justices have any authority to second-guess the content of that law? “We would have no authority to review the judgment itself?” he asked with notable skepticism.

Uhhh…NO. The Supreme Court presides over the law of the United States, not the international law of the World Court. I know how “World Court” sounds a little like “World Series,” with the latter mostly involving baseball teams from the United States and the former involving international law binding on most of THE WORLD. But no, Roberts, you and the Black Robe Crew 4 Lyfe do not have automatic judicial review of cases heard in the World Court because it involves more than the United States, sry 2 say. No crazy backasswards sovereignty over the world for you.

The Supreme Court, however, can dictate how the federal government enforces treaties. That clever ploy of the U.S. signing treaties without the Senate binding the country to the agreement is real cute under these circumstances. Now, if we go by today’s ruling, the Supreme Court intervenes by telling the executive branch that it cannot enforce a treaty because it infringes upon the will of the states,

thereby ignoring the World Court’s enforcement of a treaty to which the United States SHOULD be held accountable,

AND ignoring the Supremacy Clause of the Constitution when Bush, God bless/damn him, tries to enforce the treaty

…to appease the state of Texas (as well as a few others).

Did I get that right?

Way to go, Roberts & Co. Powerful Americentric Jackasses ‘R’ U.

News Bulletin: Agena and Aliyah Battle, Sedrick Harrington

URGENT:
Please, if you have any ideas where these four people can be, contact the authorities IMMEDIATELY.
(Hat-tip to Donna for the update.)
(Thanks, Deidra.) 
agena battlealiyah battlesedrich harrington

23-month-old twins Agena and Aliyah Battle, and 3-year-old Sedrick Harrington have been reported missing from Columbus, Georgia since March 5, 2008 (pictured above from l. to r.). Their suspected kidnapper is their father, 28-year-old Eddie Harrington:

eddie harringtonAccording to the mother, Eddie Harrington, her fiancée and the father of her children, may have taken the children because he thought that it would make her happy. At the time he left, Eddie was probably depressed and was not taking his medication. There is a picture of Eddie on the NCMEC with braids but it’s not the most accurate. Eddie is bald and wears glasses. Eddie is also described as a 28 year old black male, standing at 5 feet 9 inches and weighting 195 pounds.

Sedrick Harrington, one of the missing children, is three years old and has a birthmark on his right arm. Her mother told me that he has a speech problem but is a very bright and imaginative little boy. She said that when he was bored, he would grab a book, look at the pictures and make his own story out of it. Agena and Aliyah Battle, the 1 year old twins who always fight with each other but cannot go to bed without each other, do not have any known birthmarks but they do respond to their names.

When Eddie left, he was driving a dark green 2002 Chevrolet Impala with a cracked windshield and an Indiana license plate with the number 93-L4740.

Authorities are still trying to track down their whereabouts. The group of four hasn’t been discovered for five days. The mother has issued another plea today for people to keep looking out for Harrington and the three children.

battles and harrington“Agena and Aliyah has on a pink shirt with white sleeves and pink plaid pants. One of the girls has on all white K-Swiss sneakers and the other has on pink, white, purple, Nike sneakers.

“Eddie has on a black T-shirt with black pants and brown and white sneakers; he also is wearing his glasses.

“I’m not sure what Sedrick has on, but I do know he has on his Spider-Man play sneakers. Sedrick also has a greenish color to his right arm from birth.

“Please air this stating that they are still missing. I have not eaten or slept well since they’ve been gone. I need them home. I am crying for your help. I have tried to do my daily routine but I cannot function well with out them.”

The police are requesting help and tips.

Authorities issued an AMBER Alert. They believe [Eddie Harrington] could be headed right for Kentuckiana.

“We’ve done a follow up investigation and determined he has contacts in Tennessee, Florida and of course, he is from Indianapolis, Indiana,” says Lt. Mark Starling with the Columbus, Georgia Police Department.

Harrington has Indiana license plates, number 93-L4740 on his 2002 dark green Chevy Impala. It also has a cracked windshield.

“If the vehicle passes, you grab the cell phone. Call 911. Let us know. Alert us to it. That way we can respond with units on the interstate or on county roads. Wherever the vehicle was seen and try and get it stopped,” says ISP Trooper Phil D’Angelo of the Sellersburg post.

If you see a dark green 2002 Chevrolet Impala with a cracked windshield and an Indiana license plate with the number 93-L4740, please call the Columbus, GA Police Department at 706-653-3400. Any tips on this case are appreciated.

P.S. See the video dedicated to the missing children.

News Bulletin: The Lester Street Murders

I’m sure you’ve noticed the missing person spotlight on Becky Sue Jenny Sharon the Third on my sidebar. Yes, that’s meant to be social commentary and snark blended into a poignant package; no, it is not my doing. The new initiative spotlights the underreported stories of missing black children involving bloggers like Mr. HustleKnocker of HustleKnockin’ (who created the graphic), Deidra of Black and Missing, and Gina of What About Our Daughters.

One story that hasn’t gotten the level of reporting it should have is the Lester Street Murders in Memphis.  Mini-roundup of blogger coverage:

At What About Our Daughters (I recommend listening to the podcast, too):

Tragic losses, but in light of last night’s topic about missing and murdered Black children, I was struck by the fact that the news coverage isn’t proportional with the statistics. For example I just learned about some more senseless murders in Memphis on the podcast last night. Four adults and two children were murdered plus several other children were seriously injured The two children who were killed were stabbed to death.

Three youngsters found wounded but alive in a house where six other people were slain are under police protection, and not even their relatives can visit them in the hospital. AP

They are calling these the Lester Street murders.

At Electronic Village:

Police found nine people (four adults and five children) inside 722 Lester Street in Memphis earlier this week.father of the five children was 29-year old Cecil Dotson. He was one of four adults and two toddlers murdered in the home.

Only three of the children were alive. The Memphis Police discovered the bodies of Cecil Dotson (shown in photo), Hollis Seals, Marissa Williams, Shindri Roberson, and two young boys at the house on Monday, March 3, 2008. This wasn’t a simple killing like we see on television. These killers were sadistic. The children were killed and cut-up and the parents were forced to watch.

At Black and Missing:

Governor Phil Bredesen announced Thursday that the State of Tennessee will offer a $50,000 reward to anyone who can provide information leading to the arrest and conviction of the person or persons responsible for the Lester Street killings.

[...]Three youngsters found wounded but alive in a house where six other people were slain are under police protection, and not even their relatives can visit them in the hospital.

Authorities said the children are considered witnesses.

“Nobody will see those children,” said homicide detective Joe Scott. “This is a sensitive investigation. We’re keeping everything under the wraps right now.”

Police have offered no motive for the killings, which apparently occurred over the weekend at a small brick house in a neighborhood where low-income homes sit near cheap motels and junkyards.

Back to Electronic Village:

Police announced today that 33 year-old Jessie Dotson will be charged with six counts of first degree murder and three counts of attempted first degree murder. The police say that the Lester Street Massacre was the result of a family argument between two brothers that turned deadly.

As we shared with you earlier, Jessie Dotson just got out of prison January 26th, after serving time for second degree murder. Police say Jessie Dotson shot and killed his brother Sunday, March 2nd, after an argument, and then shot the three other adults in the home. He also stabbed the five children. Three of the children survived and are being treated at Le Bonheur Children’s Medical Center.

And returning to What About Our Daughters:

In other news, there has been an arrest in the case, the brother of one of the victims has been arrested in the GRUESOME torture and murder case:

Sources within the Memphis Police Department state that Jessie L.Dotson Jr. confessed to killing his brother and three other adults,along with killing two children and brutally beating three other of his young relatives and has been charged with First Degree Murder in the case of the Lester Street murders. Jessie is the brother of Cecil Dotson one of the victims. Thaddeus Matthews

This is semi confirmed by the announcement that the police are holding a press conference to announce an arrest in this case later today:

Memphis, TN – The Memphis Police Department is holding a news conference at 3:00 p.m. to announce the arrest of a suspect in the Lester Street Murders.

On Monday, March 3, 2008, Memphis police found four adults and two kids dead at a home on Lester Street in Binghampton. They found the bodies of Cecil Dotson, Marissa Williams, Shindri Roberson, Hollis Seals and two children, plus three children critically hurt. CW30

These were truly gruesome murders. The baby’s fingers were cut off. A knife was found lodged in the head of one of the children who were murdered. Three other children are in the hospital recovering from wounds in addition to the four adults who were murdered. Insane and barbaric.

So why aren’t we hearing more about this case in the media?  With up-to-the-minute coverage?

Shirley Chisholm is NOT to be forgotten now or ever.

keeping honest chisholmThe thing that angers me about Obama and Clinton is this is NOT a historical first with regards to a black person or a woman seeking the presidency. The REAL historical first is Shirley Chisholm back in 1972.

Clinton has been using Chisholm’s legacy as a pawn with black folks and black women since one of the things she did as a junior senator is contribute to legislation honoring her. That’s it.

Obama, on the other hand, has channeled her “Unbought and Unbossed” campaign into an appeal to the people, catered to the hopes of young people with complete audacity, and has painted himself as the Every Person Candidate. That’s it.

Just as Chisholm did! Before Jesse Jackson, even!

It’s no coincidence or surprise from either politician to give her lip service about what she did. I mean, I read these words from Chisholm and it sounds like something Obama’s used in his speeches in almost the exact same words:

“You can be part of the system without being wedded to it,” I say. “You can take part in it without believing that everything it does is right. I don’t measure America by its achievement, but by its potential. There are still many things that we haven’t tried — that I haven’t tried — to change the way our present system operates. I haven’t exhausted the opportunities for action in the course I’m pursuing. If I ever do, I cannot at this point imagine what to do next. You want me to talk to you about revolution, but I can’t do that. I know what it would bring. My people are twelve percent of the population, at most fifteen percent. I am pragmatic about it: revolution would be suicide.”

Chisholm’s the one who paved the way. All these folks can spin Obama and Clinton as historical firsts and discard the importance of her run post-Civil Rights Acts era. I don’t buy the “first with a chance” theory. The fact that she ran knowing that she may not win reflects more on the superficiality of the American people than it does on the merits of her campaign and her spirit. Junior Congresswoman vying for the ticket, all of that. People have thrown lip service in her direction and a few quick glances; but if they look at her ideals you can see so much of her in this season. So much, and yet not enough.

campaign chisholmSuch leaders must be found. But they will not be found as much as they will be created, by an electorate that has become ready to demand that it control its own destiny. There must be a new coalition of all Americans — black, white, red, yellow and brown, rich and poor — who are no longer willing to allow their rights as human beings to be infringed upon by anyone else, for any reason. We must join together to insist that this nation deliver on the promise it made, nearly 200 years ago, that every man be allowed to be a man. I feel an incredible urgency that we must do it now. If time has not run out, it is surely ominously short.

And ironically, when I look back at descriptions of how Chisholm ran her campaign and garnered support, tactically Obama’s rhetoric squares with hers. (Aside: Why is this historical first’s biography out of print?)

On Young People and Change

One question bothers me a lot: Who’s listening to me? Some of the time, I feel dishearteningly small and futile. It’s as if I’m facing a seamless brick wall, as if most people are deaf to what I try to say. It seems so clear to me what’s wrong with the whole system. Why isn’t it clear to most others? The majority of Americans do not want to hear the truth about how their country is ruled and for whom. They do not want to know why their children are rejecting them. They do not dare to have to rethink their whole lives. There is a vacuum of leadership, created partly by the bullets of deranged assassins. But whatever made it, all we see now is the same tired old men who keep trucking down front to give us the same old songs and dances.

chisholm legacy

There are no new leaders coming along. Where are they? What has happened suddenly? On the national level, on the state level, who commands respect, who is believed by a wide enough cross section of the population to qualify as a leader? I don’t see myself as becoming that kind of a leader. My role, I think, is more that of a catalyst. By verbalizing what is wrong, by trying to strip off the masks that make people comfortable in the midst of chaos, perhaps I can help get things moving.

It may be that no one can have any effect on most adults on this society. It may be that the only hope is with the younger generation. If I can relate to them, give them some kind of focus, make them believe that this country can still become the America that it should have been, I could be content. The young may be slandered as “kooks” and “societal misfits” by frightened, demagogic old men, but that will not scare them. They are going to force change. For a while they may be beaten down, but time is on their side, and the spirit of this generation will not be killed. That’s why I prefer to go around to campuses and talk with the kids rather than attend political meetings. Politicians tell me I’m wasting my time and energy. “They don’t vote,” I’m told. Well, I’m not looking for votes. If I were, I would get the same kind of reception that a lot of political figures get when they encounter young people, and I would deserve it.

There are many things I don’t agree with some young zealots about. The main one, I suppose, is that I have not given up — and will not give up until I am compelled to — my belief that the basic design of this country is right. What is essential is to make it work, not to sweep it away and substitute — what? Something far worse, perhaps.

Most young people are not yet revolutionary, but politicians and police and other persons in power almost seem to be conspiring to turn them into revolutionaries. Like me, I think, most of them are no more revolutionary than the founders of this country. Their goals are the same — to insure liberty and equality of opportunity, and forever to thwart the tyrannous tendencies of government, which inevitably arise from the arrogance and isolation of men who are securely in power. All they want, if it were not too fashionable for them to say so, is for the American dream to come true, at least in its less materialistic aspects. They want to heal the gaping breach between this country’s promises and its performance, a breach that goes back to its founding on a Constitution that denied that black persons and women were full citizens. “Liberty and justice for all” were beautiful words, but the ugly act was that liberty and justice were only for white males. How incredible that it is nearly 200 years since then, and we have still to fight the same old enemies! How is it possible for a man to repeat the pledge of allegiance that contains these words, and then call his fellow citizens “social misfits” when they are simply asking for liberty and justice?

Such schizophrenia goes far back. “All forms of commerce between master and slave are tyranny,” intoned Thomas Jefferson, who is rumored to have had several children by black women on his estate. If the story is true, the great democrat was a great hypocrite. Even if it is not true, it has verisimilitude. It could be a perfect metaphor for the way our country was founded and grew, with lofty and pure words on its lips and the basest bigotry hidden in its heart.

The main thing I have in common with the kids is that we are tired of being lied to. What we want is for people to mean what they say. I think they recognize at least that I’m for real. They know most adult are selling something they can’t deliver.

I wonder if Gloria Steinem even remembers what she wrote about Shirley Chisholm as she shills for Sen. Clinton, or if any of the Obamaniacs recognize the person who tried it first.

Perhaps the best indicator of her campaign’s impact is the effect it had on individual lives. All over the country, there are people who will never be quite the same: farm women in Michigan who were inspired to work in a political campaign for the first time; Black Panthers in California who registered to vote, and encouraged other members of the black community to vote, too; children changed by the sight of a black woman saying, “I want to be President”; radical feminists who found this campaign, like that of Linda Jenness in the Socialist Workers’ Party, a possible way of changing the patriarchal system; and student or professional or “blue-collar” men who were simply impressed with a political figure who told the truth as she say it, no matter what the cost.

The Chisholm candidacy didn’t forge a solid coalition of those people working for social change; that will take a long time. But it began one. If you listen to personal testimony from very diverse sources, it seems that the Chisholm candidacy was not in vain. In fact, the truth is that the American political scene may never quite be the same again.

So perhaps it is time for the electorate to ask ourselves honestly what we want to see our President do, instead of listening to what they want to do for us.

With more straight talk and crystal clear positions. (PDF) Her announcement speech:

I stand before you today as a candidate for the Democratic nomination for the Presidency of the United States of America. (Clapping.)

I am not the candidate of black America, although I am black and proud. (Clapping.)
I am not the candidate of the women’s movement of this country, although I am a woman, and I am equally proud of that. (Clapping.)

I am not the candidate of any political bosses or fat cats or special interests.” (Clapping. cheers).

I stand here now without endorsements from many big name politicians or celebrities or any other kind of prop. I do not intend to offer to you the tired and glib clichés, which for too long have been an accepted part of our political life. I am the candidate of the people of America. And my presence before you now symbolizes a new era in American political history.

I have always earnestly believed in the great potential of America. Our constitutional democracy will soon celebrate its 200th anniversary, effective testimony, to the longevity to our cherished constitution and its unique bill of rights, which continues to give to the world an inspirational message of freedom and liberty.

We Americans are a dynamic people…

More on the inside of the campaign.

And no white feminist would dare say she neglected women’s rights.

But I understand why most people now would rather have you forget her. She is perhaps the first black woman who knew her place and dared to ask people to help her get there.

shirleychisholm1972.gif

“The Chisholm candidacy… confused and unsettled the niggers — and by niggers, I don’t mean just the black niggers, but also the student niggers and the woman niggers and the poor niggers — plus a whole lot of other people who thought they were revolutionaries but discovered they couldn’t dig her wig.”

— Florynce Kennedy, lawyer, black activist, a founder of the National Organization for Women and the Feminist Party

(Above quote added for Daisy after I recognized the speaker! Hehe, gracias! ;))

Support Southall Black Sisters

Message from the Facebook group from Sabrina Southgate on more things you can do to help:

Save Southall Black Sisters
ACTION ALERT!!

Things you can do currently to support the Save SBS campaign:

1. Come to the Million Women Rise march on Saturday. The march as a whole will gather in Hyde Park at 12 and then make its way to a rally at Trafalgar Square from 3-6pm at which SBS will be speaking.
Southall Black Sisters, and its supporters, will be gathering between 11.30-12.30 at Marble Arch. Please come and show your support for this vital campaign. We will be taking photos to release to the press to show how outraged we all are by this decision so the more of us that are there, the better.
It is a women and children only demo but the male supporters of SBS are still encouraged to come and stand on the sidelines (as it were!) to offer their support.

2. Sign the newly created online petition on the Number 10 website to urge the Government to clarify it’s position on ‘community cohesion’ in relation to organisations providing non-generic, essential services to vulnerable people, such as those provided by Southall Black Sisters. (***NOTE: YOU HAVE TO BE A UK CITIZEN TO SIGN THE PETITION.*** I will contact the person who distributed this message to see if there can/will be a corresponding petition for those of us who live outside of the UK.  –M)
3. Write to your MP asking them to sign the Early Day Motion (a formal motion submitted for debate in the House of Commons) in support of SBS – EDM 1122.You can find and write to your local MP via this website. A template letter will be posted on the Facebook group very soon.

4. I know many of you have already but please do vote in the poll on the Ealing Times website. The local authority will be taking note of this kind of public demonstration of feeling. (It’s at the bottom right hand side of the page.)

5. A letter is being submitted to the press ASAP to draw their attention to the campaign’s presence at the Million Women Rise demonstration on Saturday 8th March. If you would like to have your name attached to this letter to show your support please give your consent on the wall of the group ASAP.

Thank you all for your continued support.

Ren Ev’s Snooker for Southall.

Aaminah has information about how to send a donation to Southall Black Sisters via postal mail:

For those in the UK who would like to send a check directly, it can be sent to Southall Black Sisters 21 Avenue Road Southall Middlesex UB1 3BL

She also has information about directly depositing donations into the organization’s account. Please contact Aaminah or the organization itself for more information on how to use this method of donation.

Additional Ways to Help:

What can you do to help?

Southall Black Sisters is under threat of closure — please support us

Dear Friends

Southall Black Sisters is under threat of closure

We are writing to you to request support for our organisation. We are currently facing threat of closure as a result of our local authority’s (Ealing) decision to withdraw our funding as of April 2008.

Since the mid eighties our ‘core’ funding has been provided by Ealing. Over the years we have on average received £100,000 per annum from the local authority and this is utilised to provide advice, advocacy, counselling and support services to black and minority women in the borough who experience violence and abuse. The experience and insights gained through this work has led us to become a strategically important service, providing advice on policy and legal developments to government, and international, national and local organisations and professionals. The Ealing grant has, of course, had to be supplemented by funds raised elsewhere.

The local authority’s decision is based on the view that there is no need for specialist services for black and minority women and that services to abused women in the borough need to be streamlined. This view fails to take account of the unequal social, economic and cultural context which makes it difficult, if not impossible, for black and minority women to access outside help or seek information about their rights. In effect the council proposes to take away essential life saving services provided by SBS. Ealing council suggests that we either extend our service to cover the needs of all women in the borough or that we set up a consortium of groups to provide such a service for the same sum of money. The amount of funds available to the voluntary sector in Ealing has shrunk year in, year out, but the withdrawal of funds to SBS will have a number of far reaching consequences:

* The attempt to compel us to meet the needs of all women will mean that we will have to reduce our services to black and minority women across London and the country. Abused black and minority women, who already face considerable racism, discrimination and cultural pressures, will no longer have access to a specialist service. We have never denied our services to any woman who contacts SBS but our focus has out of necessity, and in recognition of the demographic composition of the area, been on meeting the needs of black and minority women who continue to be one of the most disempowered sections of our society. The suicide rates of Asian women for example, are already three times the national average and homicides – where abusive men and families kill their wives, daughters or daughters-in-law – are also high within some black and minority communities. In all likelihood, any reduction in our services will see a rise in suicide and homicide rates amongst black and minority women.

* We will no longer have the same national impact in terms of our input in policy and legal development in relation to black and minority women, which has been highly effective over the years. Our campaigns in such critical areas of work as forced marriage, honour killings, suicides and self harm, religious fundamentalism and immigration difficulties, especially the ‘no recourse to public funds’ issue, will have to be drastically cut back .

* A unique, specialist and experienced organisation (members of the staff and management committee have a combined experience of over 50 years) will lose its identity – an identity that has become synonymous with high quality service provision. We are seen as a ‘flagship’ organisation. Indeed Harriet Harman, the deputy prime minister in her speech at the House of Commons on 18 July 2007, made specific reference to SBS as exactly the kind of group that the State should support.

…we will work on the issue of empowering women in black and Asian communities. Women play a crucial role working together in their communities, whether they are working to reduce crime in their area, like Mothers Against Guns…, or whether they are Asian women, like Southall Black Sisters, working to support other Asian women. We want to do more to support and empower those women as they tackle problems within, and build bridges between, communities

This statement was made in the context of debates on cohesion in which she specifically identified groups like ours as key to building cohesion between and within communities. It is therefore of grave concern that at a time when all local authorities have a duty to promote cohesion, Ealing Council has chosen to undermine a group that has historically and effectively worked across religious and ethnic lines within black and minority communities precisely to bridge differences and build a sense of citizenship. Ironically, the Council is seeking to set up Muslim women only groups under its ‘cohesion’ strategy – the demand for which does not exist!

We also need to address the new challenges posed by immigration and asylum difficulties, growing racism and religious intolerance. But without adequate funding, SBS is now in danger of closing down.

Current Position

Following legal action, we have compelled Ealing Council to carry out a race equality impact assessment. This had not been undertaken prior to making a decision to withdraw our funding.

Although the Council has now undertaken such an assessment, it is only in relation to the new domestic violence policy. In other words it only assesses whether or not all women ‘may’ be able to access the new service. The Council maintains that withdrawing funding from SBS will have no adverse consequences for black and minority women! The assessment is also flawed since it does not consider the consequences for black and minority women if SBS services are cut or closed. We have submitted detailed representations pointing out the flaws in their assessment procedure with a view to taking further legal action if necessary, Over 50 users of our services have also written to the Council protesting at their high handed decision.

Your Support

The issues raised by the Council’s actions have wider ramifications for all black and minority women’s organisations. It is imperative that we act now. We ask you to write to the leader of Ealing Council, Jason Stacey whose details are to be found on the model letter that follows.

We would be grateful for any support that you can give us. If you do not have time to draft a letter, please contact Hannana Siddiquior call 020 8571 9595 for more information. Please let us have a copy of any letter you send and any reply that you receive.

If you are able to support us in any other way please contact us. We look forward to your response.

Yours sincerely

Pragna Patel
Chair of Southall Black Sisters

Add: Southall Black Sisters, 21 Avenue Road, Southall, Middlesex UB1 3BL
Tel: 020 8571 9595
Fax: 020 8574 6781
Email: southallblacksisters[at]btconnect.com

Hat-tips to BA and BFP.

There’s still history being made elsewhere

Via Yale Daily News by way of What About Our Daughters?:

Last year, Harvard University welcomed the first female president in its history. In a few months, the university will mark another milestone: the installation of the first black female as dean of Harvard College.

In a statement Tuesday, the university announced the appointment of Evelynn Hammonds, Harvard’s senior vice provost for faculty development and diversity and a professor of the history of science and African-American studies, to the top post in Harvard College. The appointment comes just as Yale administrators are launching an effort to encourage more racial diversity within the upper ranks of the University’s administration.

“This is an exciting moment of change for the College, and Evelynn’s academic values and leadership qualities promise to serve our undergraduates well,” Harvard President Drew Gilpin Faust, who last year became the first woman to be elevated to Harvard’s presidency after nearly four centuries of male rule, said in a statement.

Hammonds, 55, will be the first female and first black person to hold the position of dean of the college. Yale has never had a black or female dean of Yale College, although Judith Rodin, who went on to become the first female president of the University of Pennsylvania, was appointed Dean of the Graduate School in 1991.

Hammonds’ job places her in charge of matters ranging from academic affairs to student life to the general administration of Harvard College, the oldest undergraduate school in the United States. [Emphasis added.]

Report Details Black Women’s Challenges

From the Washington Post:

NEW YORK — This is a triumphant time for black women: Condoleezza Rice in the global diplomatic spotlight, Michelle Obama captivating campaign crowds as a potential first lady, billionaire Oprah Winfrey playing political kingmaker.

It’s also a traumatic time: Rutgers University basketball players disparaged by radio host Don Imus, a black woman kidnapped and tortured by whites in West Virginia, the home-owning dreams of black women disproportionately dashed by foreclosures.

That remarkable mix is the focus of this year’s State of Black America report, issued Wednesday by the National Urban League. It features essays looking at the array of challenges faced by African-American women: economic, social, psychological and medical.

“The one thing that is certain is the need to hear and amplify the voices of black women,” longtime civil rights activist Dorothy Height writes in the foreword. “Too often, our needs, concerns, struggles, and triumphs are diminished and subordinated to what is believed to be the more pressing concerns of others.”

Julianne Malveaux, the president of Bennett College for Women in Greensboro, N.C., contends in the report’s opening essay that the image of black women in popular culture has barely improved in the year since the Imus incident.

White men continue to dominate on TV’s Sunday morning news shows, she writes, while “the gyrating, undulating image of African-American women in rap music videos and, by extension, on cable television is as prevalent as ever.”

The report delves deeply into economics, noting that black women are more likely than white or Hispanic women to be running a household and raising children on their own. According to Malveaux, black women hold more jobs nationwide than black men, yet _ despite their breadwinner roles _ earn less on average, $566 a week compared to $629 for black men.

In an essay about the home loan crisis, Andrea Harris, president of the North Carolina Institute for Minority Economic Development, suggests that black women have suffered disproportionately. Assessing recent federal data on subprime loans, which are a main culprit in the foreclosure epidemic, Harris says black women received far more of these loans in 2006 than white men.

“It is easy to imagine the devastation that is headed toward African-American women and their communities,” Harris writes.

An essay by Dr. Doris Browne, a public health expert, details the above-average rates of cancer, diabetes and heart disease among black women.

On an upbeat note, former Labor Secretary Alexis Herman notes in her essay that black women are making huge strides as entrepreneurs. The number of businesses owned by them increased by 147 percent between 1997 and 2006, compared to an overall business growth rate of 24 percent, she wrote.

Another of the essayists, Melanie Campbell of the National Coalition on Black Civic Participation, said in an interview that disparities in health care and economics are the paramount issues for black women as the election campaign unfolds.

Exit polling shows that black women have become a larger force within the Democratic electorate compared to 2004, and Campbell said their expectations for policy changes also are rising.

“We want to go beyond being thought about,” she said. “We want action.”

The president of the Urban League, a 98-year-old black empowerment organization, hailed women as “the backbone of the black family” _ constantly surmounting obstacles. Marc Morial called for expansion of programs that would assist black women in starting businesses, protect more of them from predatory lending schemes, and provide more of them with affordable, high-quality child care.

“When black women hurt, the American family suffers,” Morial wrote. “But by uplifting black women, especially those struggling hardest to keep their families together and their dreams on track, we lift up every American community.”

A year ago, the Urban League focused its State of Black America report on the difficulties facing many young black men, including their high rates of crime and imprisonment. This year’s theme was welcomed by black women who believe their particular concerns often are overlooked.

“I’m heartened that we’re delving into this issue in depth in a way that we haven’t in the past,” said Avis Jones-DeWeever, a public policy expert with the National Council of Negro Women.

“For us, it’s two steps forward, one step back,” she added. “But we do have a lot to be proud of.”

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