What Critical Race Theory Is — and Isn’t

By Faith Karimi, CNN

(CNN)Critical race theory. You may be hearing those three words a lot these days. Lawmakers in Tennessee and Idaho have banned its teaching from their public schools’ curriculum, while parents in Texas are opposing a school district‘s efforts to combat racism with lessons in “cultural awareness” — seen by some as critical race theory.It’s a concept that’s been around for decades and that seeks to understand and address inequality and racism in the US. The term also has become politicized and been attacked by its critics as a Marxist ideology that’s a threat to the American way of life. To get a deeper understanding of what critical race theory is — and isn’t — we talked to one of the scholars behind it.

What’s critical race theory?

Critical race theory recognizes that systemic racism is part of American society and challenges the beliefs that allow it to flourish. 

“Critical race theory is a practice. It’s an approach to grappling with a history of White supremacy that rejects the belief that what’s in the past is in the past, and that the laws and systems that grow from that past are detached from it,” said Kimberlé Crenshaw, a founding critical race theorist and a law professor who teaches at UCLA and Columbia University.A young boy drinks from the "colored" water fountain on the county courthouse lawn in Halifax, North Carolina, in 1938. A young boy drinks from the “colored” water fountain on the county courthouse lawn in Halifax, North Carolina, in 1938. Critical race theorists believe that racism is an everyday experience for most people of color, and that a large part of society has no interest in doing away with it because it benefits White elites. Many also believe that American institutions are racist and that people are privileged or oppressed because of their race. While the theory was started as a way to examine how laws and systems promote inequality, it has since expanded. “Critical race theory attends not only to law’s transformative role which is often celebrated, but also to its role in establishing the very rights and privileges that legal reform was set to dismantle,” Crenshaw told CNN. “Like American history itself, a proper understanding of the ground upon which we stand requires a balanced assessment, not a simplistic commitment to jingoistic accounts of our nation’s past and current dynamics.”

Who came up with the idea?

Crenshaw is one of its founding scholars and hosted a workshop on the critical race theory movement in 1989. But the idea behind it goes back much further, to the work of civil rights activists such as W.E.B. Du Bois, Fannie Lou Hamer and Pauli Murray. “Everything builds on what came before,” Crenshaw said, adding that “the so-called American dilemma was not simply a matter of prejudice but a matter of structured disadvantages that stretched across American society.”Crenshaw said she and others “took up the task of exploring the role that law played in establishing the very practices of exclusion and disadvantage.”

“Words That Wound: Critical Race Theory, Assaultive Speech, And The First Amendment,” a book by several legal scholars.

Some of the theory’s earliest origins can be traced back to the 1970s, when lawyers, activists and legal scholars realized the advances of the civil rights era of the 1960s had stalled, according to the book, “Critical Race Theory: An Introduction.” Crenshaw was among a group of intellectuals, along with Derrick Bell, Alan Freeman and Richard Delgado, who attended a 1989 conference in Wisconsin that focused on new strategies to combat racism. In 1993, Delgado, Crenshaw, Mari Matsuda and Charles R. Lawrence wrote the book, “Words That Wound: Critical Race Theory, Assaultive Speech, and the First Amendment.”Some critical race theorists also believe notions of race are products of social thought and relations, not biology. “They correspond to no biological or genetic reality; rather, races are categories that society invents, manipulates, or retires when convenient,” Delgado and Jean Stefancic wrote in “Critical Race Theory: An Introduction.”

How has it evolved over the years?

The theory has a passionate group of followers who are mostly academics. It has inspired at least a dozen books, more than 250 law review articles and several conferences. “At this point, it is wider than any specific discipline or school of thought. It isn’t even exclusively American,” Crenshaw said.The concept has taken on new urgency since the killings last year of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and other African Americans by police officers led to a national reckoning on race. Demonstrators hold signs honoring George Floyd and other victims of police violence during a protest on March 28, 2021, in Minneapolis. Demonstrators hold signs honoring George Floyd and other victims of police violence during a protest on March 28, 2021, in Minneapolis. Over the past year many Americans have called for for an examination of systemic racism — in part through education such as the teaching of The New York Times’ 1619 Project in schools. That Pulitzer Prize-winning project reframes American history around the date of August 1619, when the first slave ship arrived on America’s shores. 

Where is it taught?

Cornell and Harvard universities have conducted research on it. So have the National Institutes of Health. The theory has also led to similar groups focused on Asian American, Latino and Indian racial experiences.The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had scheduled training on critical race theory last fall before the program was canceled by President Trump’s White House. So far, President Biden has been more receptive to critical race theory. His administration is promoting education programs — opposed by many conservatives — that address systemic racism in the US and the country’s legacy of slavery.

Why is there so much resistance to it? 

Critics have slammed the theory, with conservatives accusing it of poisoning discussions on racism. President Trump opposed the teaching of the 1619 Project in schools and banned federal agencies from conducting racial sensitivity training related to critical race theory. His administration called it “divisive, anti-American propaganda.”Former President Trump: "Critical race theory is being forced into our children's schools."Former President Trump: “Critical race theory is being forced into our children’s schools.””Students in our universities are inundated with critical race theory. This is a Marxist doctrine holding that America is a wicked and racist nation, that even young children are complicit in oppression, and that our entire society must be radically transformed,” Trump said. “Critical race theory is being forced into our children’s schools, it’s being imposed into workplace trainings, and it’s being deployed to rip apart friends, neighbors and families.”Tennessee state Sen. Brian Kelsey, a Republican, argued last week on Twitter that critical race theory is harmful to students because it “teaches that American democracy is a lie. It teaches that the rule of law does not exist & is instead a series of power struggles among racial groups.”But Crenshaw notes that merely acknowledging the nation’s history of racism has long been vilified as unpatriotic and anti-American. “It bears acknowledging that we’ve been here before: For his non-violent agitation for civil rights, MLK was targeted by the FBI as the most dangerous man in America,” she said. “The civil rights and Black freedom movements were targeted, surveilled and disrupted by the FBI. Black Lives Matter has been framed by some in law enforcement as a terrorist organization. So racial justice work … has always had an uneasy relationship with the federal government.”

How California Politicians who owe $2 million in Campaign Fines don’t get Punished

Many politicians failing to pay back fines are raising questions about whether California is effectively enforcing its campaign finance law.

California’s secretary of state’s office has failed to collect $2 million in fines owed by politicians, lobbyists and campaign donors who the office says filed disclosure reports late, a CalMatters analysis shows. It’s allowed some of the largest fines to languish for many years with no consequences to those who are supposed to pay up.

The debts are owed by a range of political players, according to a list published on the secretary of state’s website that details outstanding fines as of April 1. It shows fines owed by 26 state lawmakers and 21 superior court judges, as well as former legislators, losing candidates, ballot measure campaigns, Democratic and Republican clubs and corporate and labor-backed political action committees.

Some of the fines are very small. About 300 of them are less than $100, reflecting paperwork filed a few days late — a routine violation of campaign finance law that’s the political equivalent of a parking ticket. 

But 45 of the fines are more than $10,000, and some are for violations more than a decade ago — raising questions about whether California is effectively enforcing its campaign finance lawthat is meant to promote transparency and prevent corruption.

“Enforcement in California is horribly lax up and down the scale, whether it’s regulatory compliance or criminal compliance,” said Jon Coupal, president of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association. “The rules ought to be clear, they ought to be fair, they ought to be enforceable and they ought to be enforced.”

The secretary of state’s office sends three letters to people who owe the fines, but doesn’t take steps beyond that to collect the money, spokesperson Joe Kocurek said. In the past, he said, staff members called people who were behind on paying their fines, but that became too time-consuming. 

The problem has persisted long before Shirley Weber, the current secretary of state, took office in January. Still, she said she’ll look into the issue to see if any changes should be made. Though $2 million is a tiny portion of California’s more than $200 billion annual budget, it’s roughly as much as the state spends to educate about 190 students for a year.

“It’s a large amount of money, and so the question is: What can we legitimately do?” Weber said in an interview this week. “They’ve done things in the past, (but) what good is a fining system, if you can’t enforce it?” 

Sam Mahood, a spokesperson for U.S. Sen. Alex Padilla — who was secretary of state for six years before Weber — said the office “has limited resources and enforcement mechanisms to collect late fines.” Even so, it collected more than $3.6 million in fines during Padilla’s tenure, he said. 

The lax enforcement is a far cry from the experience ordinary Californians face if they, for example, neglect to pay a traffic ticket. Those fines increase when people don’t pay. Eventually, people can be charged with a misdemeanor for not paying, or have their tax refunds seized through a debt collection process. 

“Once you get a fine in the criminal justice system, it compounds and increases and it easily takes over your life if you are low-income,” said Natasha Minsker, a lobbyist who has pushed for more leniency in traffic fines.

“The fact that these fines (on politicians and judges) can go unpaid without any consequence, it’s definitely an illustration of privilege.”

A bureaucratic maze

Legislators write laws and judges enforce laws, so they have an especially high duty to obey them. CalMatters analyzed the list posted on the secretary of state’s website and contacted lawmakers and judges who, according to the list, owed more than $1,000 as of April 1. CalMatters also contacted campaigns that owe more than $30,000 and politicians who owe relatively small amounts but hold prominent positions.

The process revealed a byzantine system of accountability. Until CalMatters contacted them, many officials on the list said they had never been notified about an outstanding fine. Others said they were aware of it, but were negotiating to have it reduced or waived. Some were confused that the secretary of state was lodging campaign finance violations because they had already resolved an issue with the Fair Political Practices Commission. While the FPPC is responsible for enforcing broader provisions of the campaign finance law, both agencies can levy fines for late disclosure reports. The Commission on Judicial Performance also can discipline judges for violating campaign finance law.

The largest outstanding fine for a public official is nearly $38,000 owed by Alameda County Superior Court Judge Jennifer Madden stemming from her 2016 campaign. She did not return multiple messages seeking comment. In 2019, she paid a $4,000 fine to the FPPC for failing to file required campaign disclosures in 2016. 

CalMatters found several instances where officials said they are working to resolve the fines, either by paying them off or asking to have them waived:

  • Assemblymember Eloise Reyes, a San Bernardino Democrat, owes nearly $15,000 from her 2016 campaign. She said in a statement that her attorneys are working to resolve the issue “and once that occurs any outstanding fines will be paid as soon as possible.”
  • State Sen. Shannon Grove, a Bakersfield Republican, owes a total of $3,940 from campaigns in 2012, 2014 and 2018. The fines “should have been paid in full when we were first notified,” Grove said in an email. “I regret the payment was not made on time, as promised to me. I have been assured by my Treasurer that the fines will be paid in full by (mid-April).”
  • Stanislaus County Superior Court Judge Annette Rees owes $2,410 from her 2020 campaign. She said the secretary of state notified her of the fine last month — a year after she had resolved the same issue with the FPPC, which resulted in a warning letter. “I filed an appeal of the (Secretary of State) fines,” Rees wrote in an email. “I am currently awaiting a decision in my appeal.”
  • Sen. Steven Bradford owes $1,490 and Assemblymember Chris Holden owes $1,160, both from their 2020 campaigns. The Los Angeles Democrats have asked to have the fees waived, according to their lawyer Stephen Kaufman. “Once they receive a determination from the Secretary of State, the committees will pay any remaining fees that have not been waived or reduced,” Kaufman said by email.
  • Marin County Superior Court Judge Sheila Shah Lichtblau owes $1,090 from her 2016 campaign. Her treasurer, David Lichtblau, said he filed required disclosures on time with the county elections office, but that the secretary of state didn’t accept the forms through the county’s electronic filing system. He said that he resubmitted them directly to the state, and that he and the county registrar requested that the state waive any penalties. The secretary of state “recently admitted the waiver was never processed,” David Lichtblau wrote in an email, adding that he has re-submitted the request and expects the fine to be waived in the next two weeks. 
  • Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon owes $90, from his 2016 and 2020 campaigns. He believes the fines should be waived, said his campaign spokesperson Bill Wong: “Sometimes there is a mistake in billing. While it’s in dispute, we are not going to pay it.”  

Judges and lawmakers owe outstanding fines

More than two dozen state legislators and 21 judges owe outstanding fines for filing campaign disclosure forms late, according to the California Secretary of State. Some of them said they were never notified of the fines or that they were issued by mistake. Here’s a look at those who owed more than $1,000 as of April 1, 2021. 

Judges and lawmakers owe outstanding fines

In other cases, officials said they were unaware that the secretary of state’s list shows they owe outstanding fines until CalMatters raised questions:

  • Assemblymember Carlos Villapudua, a Stockton Democrat, owes more than $10,000 from his 2018 run. A campaign spokesman said Villapudua was not notified of the fine. Last year, Villapudua paid a $483 fine to the FPPC for filing 2018 campaign disclosures late. He “never got anything from the secretary of state saying, ‘You owe $10,000,’” said Lee Neves. 
  • Santa Clara County Superior Court Judge JoAnne McCracken owes $4,097 from a 2010 campaign. She said it must be an error because she never received notice of a fine. “To my knowledge, I do not have an outstanding fine nor did I fail to comply with any reporting requirements during my 2010 campaign for judge. In fact, your email is the first time I have heard of this,” McCracken wrote to CalMatters. 
  • Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Efrain Matthew Aceves owes $1,450 from his 2016 campaign. He also said he had no knowledge of the fine until contacted by CalMatters. “I want to follow the law to the letter of the law,” Aceves said in a phone interview. “What’s odd to me is that there weren’t any notifications at all, and now it’s five years later.”
  • Sen. Richard Roth, a Riverside Democrat, owed $1,120 from his 2016 campaign. He was unaware of the fine until questioned by CalMatters, attorney James C. Harrison said, but promptly paid up after learning of it. Days later, Roth’s campaign heard from the secretary of state’s office “that the fine was assessed in error and that they would be returning Senator Roth’s check,” Harrison said in an email.
  • GOP gubernatorial candidate John Cox, who says he will challenge Gov. Gavin Newsom if there’s a recall election, owes $650. “California residents face a maze of burdensome regulations covering nearly every part of their lives,” he said in a statement. “This is a perfect… example.”
  • State schools superintendent Tony Thurmond owes $550 from a 2014 campaign for Assembly. His spokesperson David Beltran called it a clerical error and said “it’ll be paid immediately.” 

Weber did not address any specific fine but said that her office may have difficulty collecting some debts if campaign committees disband after an election.

“Some of these folks on this list haven’t been in existence in forever. And so as a result… who do you contact?” she said. 

Confusing enforcement

The FPPC has its own log of outstanding fines — which stands at $414,112 for cases from 2014 to 2020, according to spokesperson Jay Wierenga. It includes fines for various violations of California’s political ethics law, not just for filing disclosure reports late. But its procedure can include more repercussions than the secretary of state’s: It refers outstanding debts to the Franchise Tax Board, which can garnish tax refunds and state lottery winnings.

Bob Stern, who helped write California’s campaign finance law in the 1970s, said it was intentionally designed with multiple channels of enforcement, even though that comes with some inefficiencies. 

“We were concerned that if you put it all in one agency there could be a problem,” Stern said. “It was a conscious decision we made to have different agencies enforce the law because we wanted to ensure there was somebody out there who would enforce the law.”

But that divided responsibility and an apparent lack of coordination has also led to some confusion. 

A 2014 campaign committee that hoped to overturn a law allowing transgender students to use the bathroom of their choice (but never qualified for the ballot) owes more than $42,000 in fines, according to the secretary of state. Treasurer John Fugatt said the committee had paid off its fine to the FPPC: “My understanding is that the secretary of state fees are then waived once an FPPC agreement is reached. Not sure why these are still showing as due.”

Similarly, the secretary of state’s list shows that unsuccessful Assembly candidate Robert Bernosky, a Hollister Republican, owes more than $34,000 from a campaign in 2012. But his attorney Harmeet Dhillon said Bernosky paid a $2,500 fine to the FPPC and was never notified that his name sat on a list of outstanding fines: “If the secretary of state is defaming people with nonsense like this, that just underscores the incompetence of the office.”

VP Kamala Harris and Sen. Tim Scott both say “America is not a Racist Country” but why are their Responses Taken Different?

How to address American Racism while Scott is called an “Uncle Tom” and Harris gets a “pass”

Joe Biden and Kamala Harris were forced to run the media’s “racist country” gauntlet. Don’t answer dumb questions!

By CHAUNCEY DEVEGA

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VP Kamala Harris and Sen. Tim Scott

Tim Scott is the only black Republican in the U.S. Senate. In that role, like other Black conservatives, Scott is a professional “best black friend” and human shield against accusations of racism. In so many ways, Scott and other Black conservatives fulfill many white racists’ American Dream of compliant, sycophantic, loyal and submissive Black people.

Following President Biden’s speech to Congress last Wednesday, Scott was selected to give the Republican response. 

In a wide-ranging rebuttal to Biden’s discussion of race and racism, Scott offered a series of personal anecdotes: 

Nowhere do we need common ground more desperately than in our discussions of race. I have experienced the pain of discrimination. I know what it feels like to be pulled over for no reason. To be followed around a store while I’m shopping. I remember, every morning, at the kitchen table, my grandfather would have the newspaper in his hands. Later, I realized he had never learned to read it. He just wanted to set the right example. I’ve also experienced a different kind of intolerance.

I get called “Uncle Tom” and the N-word — by ‘progressives’! By liberals! Just last week, a national newspaper suggested my family’s poverty was actually privilege because a relative owned land generations before my time. Believe me, I know our healing is not finished.

The climax of Scott’s rebuttal to Biden’s speech to Congress came with this proclamation: “Hear me clearly: America is not a racist country. It’s backwards to fight discrimination with different discrimination. And it’s wrong to try to use our painful past to dishonestly shut down debates in the present.”

Scott’s claims are internally incoherent. In his rebuttal as well as in others comments, Scott has repeatedly offered clear evidence that America is a “racist country.”

Scott’s real goal in his rebuttal to Biden’s speech was not to tell the truth about racism and white supremacy, but instead to repeat Republican talking points about how Democrats and liberals are the “real racists” in America. Scott says such a thing with deep commitment and a straight face, even as today’s Republican Party is trying to impose a new version of Jim Crow American apartheid on Black and brown people across the country. 

Writing at Mother Jones, Nathalie Baptiste aptly describes Scott’s response:

Scott’s speech may have been chock full of GOP talking points, but there was an old favorite that wasn’t explicitly deployed but was obviously implied. In the aftermath of the Trump presidency, the coronavirus pandemic, and the racial justice protests that exploded across the country after the murder of George Floyd, America embarked on a fragile but badly needed racial reckoning. White conservatives needed someone to tell them that they weren’t racists resisting a changing world, but rather the progress on racial equality was something that was being inflicted on them. The GOP needed a Black friend. By laundering and displaying the party’s tired talking points, Sen. Scott served as just that. His speech gave white conservatives cover. After all, we all know that it’s impossible to be racist if you happen to have a Black friend.

Scott and his allies are wily. He set an obvious trap for the Democrats, one that America’s mainstream news media was eager to help facilitate. As they so often do, the Democrats blundered into it.

Answering the ludicrous question “Is America a racist country?” is now a gauntlet that the American news media is forcing prominent Democrats to run through.

In an interview that aired last Friday on NBC’s “Today” show, President Biden responded this way: 

No. I don’t think the American people are racist, but I think after 400 years, African Americans have been left in a position where they are so far behind the eight ball in terms of education and health, in terms of opportunity. I don’t think America is racist, but I think the overhang from all of the Jim Crow and before that, slavery, have had a cost and we have to deal with it.

In an appearance last Thursday on ABC’s “Good Morning America,” Vice President Kamala Harris offered this answer to the same question: “No. I don’t think America is a racist country, but we also do have to speak truth about the history of racism in our country and its existence today. I applaud the president for always having the ability and the courage, frankly, to speak the truth about it.”

During the segment, GMA host George Stephanopoulos asked Harris about the GOP’s rebuttal to Biden’s speech, made by Sen. Tim Scott — in which the South Carolina senator said, “America is not a racist country.” 

Stephanopoulos used the opportunity to ask the vice president about the statement:

“Senator Tim Scott said last night that America is not a racist country. Do you agree with that, and what do you make of his warning against fighting discrimination with more discrimination?” he asked.

“Well, first of all, no, I don’t think America is a racist country,” the vice president declared. “But we also do have to speak truth about the history of racism in our country and its existence today.” 

Harris continued by thanking Biden for “always having the ability and the courage, frankly, to speak the truth about [racism in America]. He spoke what we know from the intelligence community, one of the greatest threats to our national security is domestic terrorism manifested by white supremacists.

Both the political left and right expressed frustration over Harris’ remarks, though for seemingly very different reasons.

Filmmaker and activist Bree Newsome responded to Harris, writing on Twitter, “The establishment keeps framing racism as something in America’s past but can’t pinpoint exactly when it supposedly ended… because it never did. All this language about ‘America isn’t racist’ is to mollify white people who are offended by the topic.

“The Black republican and the Black cop agree: America not racist!” another Twitter userwrote — referring to Harris, the former San Francisco district attorney, as a “cop.” In that position, she “oversaw 1,900 convictions for pot offenses” alone, The Mercury Newspreviously reported. 

The political right also fumed over Harris’ appearance, taking umbrage at the “but” after her statement. “Kamala Harris sort of agreed with Tim Scott, and then she used the word ‘but…'” right-wing radio host Wayne Dupree tweeted.

The conservative media sphere also called out the perceived hypocrisy in how both messages were received.

Ben Shapiro’s Daily Wire also weighed in with a similar statement:

“Leftists On Twitter Rip Tim Scott For Saying ‘America Is Not A Racist Country.’ Kamala Harris Now Says Same Thing, To Silence.”

On Twitter, Princeton University professor and activist Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor highlighted the tensions and contradictions of Biden and Harris’ comments:

Democrats want it both ways … they want to curry favor with the mov’t by decrying “systemic racism” while Biden claims no one is racist and Harris says the US is not a racist country … someone smarter than me please explain how all of this can be true???

On the most basic level, “Is America a racist country?” is a dunderheaded question, one that suggests there must be a simple answer to describe a complex reality. The question is also tainted at its origins: Republicans and other members of the white right who ask such a thing are not actually committed to creating a true multiracial democracy and to defending Black and brown people’s equal human and civil rights. 

“Is America a racist country?” is also an updated version of the empty patriotism embodied by such right-wing slogans and threats as “America! Love it or Leave it!” and, for that matter, “Make America Great Again.” It is also stained by a long history in which the civil rights movement and the Black Freedom Struggle (along with other pro-democracy and progressive struggles) were attacked by white conservatives as “socialist” or “communist.”

“Is America a racist country?” is just another example of the way right-wing authoritarians reject critical thinking as being somehow disloyal or unpatriotic.

For Democrats and others on the left, there is another aspect to the “racist country” trap as well. There is no answer that will satisfy those people who have already decided that you are guilty. 

In that way, “Is America a racist country?” is the political equivalent of being asked in court when you stopped beating your wife.

The most important problem with “Is America a racist country?” is that the question itself is based on a malicious and grossly incorrect set of assumptions. Racism is not an opinion. It is a fact. Moreover, the fact that America is a racist society, and that racism and white supremacy negatively impact the life chances of Black and brown people, is one of the most overdetermined and repeated findings of social scientists and other experts.

One can reasonably discuss the dimensions and varieties of racism in America, and how it contours and structures American society to the benefit of white people and the disadvantage of black and brown people. One can also reasonably discuss questions of data and discover new insights from history. One can have a productive discussion about whether and how America can be redeemed from its racist origins.

But the fact and reality of racism and other systems of privilege is that such systems of power give unearned advantages to those individuals and groups defined as being “white,” as compared to nonwhites. That is a settled question. 

Who is the audience for the public ritual of asking and answering this question?

Today’s Republican Party is a white supremacist organization. When Tim Scott, Donald Trump, Lindsey Graham, Ron DeSantis and other prominent Jim Crow Republicans and Trumpists offer their thoughts about racism in America, they are speaking almost exclusively to racially resentful or outright racist white people — because those people are the foundation of the contemporary Republican Party and the Trump movement. 

As public opinion polls and other research shows, a high percentage of white Americans, especially white Republican voters, actually believe that “racism” against white people is as big a problem, if not bigger, than racism against Black and brown people. This same public is also being radicalized into accepting and in some cases participating in acts of white supremacist terrorism and other forms of violent extremism by Fox News and the right-wing echo chamber.

Many white Americans are also motivated by white grievance and white victimology, and by “culture war” issues more generally. “Is America a racist country?” is part of the same white right-wing fantasy world where “political correctness,” “cancel culture,” “critical race theory” and “wokeness” are all part of some Stalinist or Maoist re-education program to oppress or destroy white people. 

What matters most for the creators and directors of the “racist country” political theater is to validate white racial anxiety and the fear of being “replaced” by nonwhite people. 

When Biden, Harris and other leading Democrats and voices are asked “Is America a racist country?” their intended audience is the public at large. Democrats also face a particular challenge in answering that kind of question because the Republican Party and the right-wing media have spent decades branding them as “un-American,” “anti-white” and unpatriotic.

Democrats on the Left attacked Senator Tim Scott with racist epithets after he called them out for the very same racism.

Quote: “The Left’s demeaning of any African American who strays from leftist orthodoxy is one of the ugliest acceptable smears in our political discourse.”

Scott said Democrats are only interested in “virtue-signaling”.

“Race is not a political weapon to settle every issue the way one side wants. It’s far too important,” Scott said.

The racist response from liberals was very, very rich. There is a certain irony to the fact that Leftists have determined to be as racist as possible to Tim Scott in order to prove him wrong when he says America isn’t racist.

Late night hack Jimmy Kimmel mocks Sen. Tim Scott for being the only black GOP Senator. Guess how many Democrat senators are black? TWO. Dems didn’t elect a black senator until 1994, while back in 1870 Hiram Revels of Mississippi became the first African American senator….he was Republican. If you’re gonna talk race, at least get facts straight.

The Democratic Party is a multiracial coalition: White Democrats are much more likely to acknowledge that racism and white supremacy are deadly realities in America than are white Republicans. As for the Democrats’ most loyal base, African-American voters, they have centuries of experience in navigating and trying to survive American racism. As a group, Black and brown people understand intimately that America is a racist country.

Nonetheless, Biden, Harris and other leading Democrats must still be careful in addressing the “racist country” attack.

Writing at the Washington Post, Karen Attiah warns that “Republican denial is a familiar story,” and goes on to address Harris’ comments:

Let’s stipulate that as a Black and South Asian woman, Harris has to perform a delicate dance as vice president. And the past few years have certainly seen the proliferation of weird word salads to avoid the word “racist” in media and politics. (Yes, “racially tinged,” “racially charged” and “implicitly biased,” I’m looking at y’all.) Harris didn’t get where she is by not knowing where our traps and tripwires lie.

Still, did she have to take a cue from Scott’s tap-dancing on race? Let me venture out on an extremely sturdy limb here: Harris absolutely knows that America remains a racist country. More than that, her denial of it is harmful.

When a Democrat is asked by a compliant member of the news media whether America is a racist country, how should they respond?

Primarily, they should avoid yes or no answers to such a silly question. A longer, better answer might be something like this: “Real patriotism means dealing with the truth and not lying to yourself or other Americans about it. I want America to be a better country. Solving the problem of racism is part of that commitment. Fighting back against racism and white supremacy is a patriotic act.”

Of course, there’s also a much shorter answer: “America elected Donald Trump.”

The Truth about Uncle Tom and Tim Scott is No Uncle Tom

by Vivian “Vicki” Jackson

Who was Uncle Tom in Stowe’s novel? A Maryland slave, Josiah Henson, was abolitionist Harriet Beecher Stowe’s choice to depict in her anti-slavery novel, “Uncle Tom’s Cabin,” which was influential in starting the Civil War.Josiah Henson used the Underground Railroad to escape to freedom, he protected fugitives, and he made several trips to bring other slaves to freedom. He settled in Canada where he established a school for fugitive slaves and he worked to organize the Afro-Canadian community that emphasized independence from any white patronage.The climax of the novel “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” is a tearjerker. Uncle Tom is asked to reveal where two runaway slave women were hiding. He knew that concealing their whereabouts would bring about his own death. He protected them anyway and Tom was beaten to death Unfortunately, Uncle Tom’s true character is only contained within the pages of the novel. The stage productions omitted Tom’s protective abolitionist attitude because it was not financially profitable regarding ticket sales. Therefore, stage producers “changed” Uncle Tom’s image into a man whose English is poor, and who will sell out black people for any white person’s favor. It is that “distorted” image of him as being a sell out that made “Uncle Tom” a negative connotative term. Josiah Henson, the real Uncle Tom, was an author, abolitionist, and minister. His settlement in Canada was the last station of the Underground Railroad. He died in Canada at the age of 93.We do a disservice to Josiah Henson/Uncle Tom by comparing him to such black people as Tim Scott and Clarence Thomas. They are no Uncle Toms. I shared this with my students throughout my career. Share with your friends, children, and grandchildren. Let’s not distort the images of our Black Abolitionists.

The REAL UNCLE TOM: Josiah Henson

Conflicting narratives were fed to us for generations, negative indoctrination was at the forefront of those self hate teachings from white Americans!!! Josiah Henson was definitely not a SAMBO the likes of white man’s Senator and other so-called Black Republicans!!! There are SAMBOS!!! BUT, HE IS NO UNCLE TOM!!!

‘She Embarrassed Everyone Who Supported Her’: Amanda Seales Hits Back at VP Kamala Harris for Saying America Isn’t a Racist Country

Posted byBy Atahabih Germain | May 4, 2021 CommentsComments (0)

Those familiar with actress and social justice activist Amanda Seales, know she presents herself as having a zero-tolerance policy for minimizing topics on the well-being of Black and brown bodies in America. When it comes to the subject of racism, Seales’ tell-it-how-she-thinks-it-is approach applies to anyone regardless of status

So it came as no surprise that when Vice President Kamala Harris agreed with the only Black Republican in the Senate, Sen. Tim Scott‘s controversial viewpoint following President Joe Biden’s “first address to congress,” Seales had much to say. Following Biden’s speech on Wednesday, April 28, Scott claimed that “America was not a racist country,” setting some quarters of social media ablaze. 

(L-R) Amanda Seales and Kamala Harris. Photo by Leon Bennett/WireImage. Joe Raedle/Getty Images

“Ok! So, everybody on some bullsh-t. Cool, cool, cool, cool, cool, cool, cool, cool, cool,” Seales began her fiery post she uploaded to her Instagram page on Saturday, May 1. “That was dumb and embarrassing and she embarrassed everyone who supported her.”

In the caption of the nearly 30-second clip, the “Insecure” star wrote, “Damn, Kamala. The paradoxical political pandering is TIRED and insulting to the constituency that supported you along with affirming the doubts of those that didn’t,” and added, “Please fix this ASAPtuously.”

During Harris’ 2020 presidential campaign run, Seales had often advocated for the candidate, using her social media platforms to encourage all her supporters to go out and vote despite the hesitancy many reserved for the now-vice president. Harris’ record as the top prosecutor in San Francisco and then California before being elected to the U.S. Senate from that state was one of the issues the Black community had with her as a presidential candidate. 

Still, Seales promoted Harris. The 39-year-old even once wrote on Twitter, “STOP SAYING KAMALA HARRIS IS JUST AS BAD DONAL TRUMP” in response to those who did not favor Harris. She added, “JUST STOP. SH-T IS NOT ACCURATE OR HELPFUL AND ANNOYING AF.”

Still, Seales’ remarks garnered mixed reactions from many. While some agreed with the actress and were equally stunned at Harris’ statement, many either condemned Seales’ critique of Harris or reiterated their anti-Harris beliefs. 

“What’s dumb and embarrassing, is a BW who claims to advocate for blackness, demeaning this BW based on a spliced 12 second clip.” They added, “If you knew a damn thing about our VP, you’d know she’s been among the loudest to speak on America’s “Achilles Heel”, it’s racism.” The user concluded her post by telling the former “The Real” host to “think next time.”

Sen. Tim Scott offered his thoughts last Wednesday as part of the Republican rebuttal to President Biden’s congressional address, with Scott stating: “Hear me clearly. America is not a racist country. It’s backward to fight discrimination with different types of discrimination and it’s wrong to try to use our painful past to dishonestly shut down debates in the present.”

The following day Harris was interviewed on “Good Morning America,” where she was asked whether she agreed with Scott’s statement. She replied, “No, I don’t think America is a racist country, but we also do have to speak truth to the history of racism in our country and its existence today.” The vice president faced harsh criticism following her statement.

When asked by Craig Melvin whether he too thought America was racist, the President Biden responded, “No, I don’t think the American people are racist. But I think after 400 years, African-Americans have been left in a position where they are so far behind the eight ball in terms of education, health in terms of opportunity.” He added, “I don’t think America is racist but I think the overhang from all of the Jim Crow — and before that, slavery — have had a cost.”

6-Year-Old Boy Sent to Court for Picking Tulip

“Should children who believe in Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy be making these significant life choices?”

A 6-year-old boy who was brought to court after picking a tulip is the latest example used by advocacy groups attempting to raise the minimum age for entering the juvenile justice system in North Carolina.

Attorney Julie Boyer’s child client was on trial for injury to real property after he stopped to pluck the flower from a yard near his bus stop, according to The Herald-Sun. Boyer said she gave him crayons and a coloring book during the proceedings, as he didn’t have the mental capacity to understand what was happening to him.

Boyer and others argue against the state’s juvenile justice law which holds the lowest minimum age in the world to enter the juvenile courts at 6. The maximum age was changed a few years ago from 16 to 18. Parents are still part of the process, but a child defendant is “expected to assist in his or her defense,” per the outlet.

“Should children who believe in Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy be making these significant life choices? I think the answer is no,” Chief District Court Judge J. Corpening told WECTNews.

The National Juvenile Justice Network and the Juvenile Justice Advisory Committee recommend raising the minimum age to at least 10. State Rep. Marcia Morey introduced a bill to make it that age in March, after her first attempt in 2019 failed.

Lyana Hunter, a New Hanover County public defender’s office employee, said bringing young children to court can be quite detrimental.

“A 6-year-old — we’re talking about someone that’s in kindergarten, first grade. They don’t understand the process, they don’t understand what’s going on,” she told WECTNews. “The earlier that you introduce a child to the criminal justice system, the higher the chances are that they will remain in the criminal justice system.”

As for the tulip-picking defendant, the judge dismissed the case after the boy’s mother “couldn’t make the intake meeting,” according to The Herald-Sun.

“He gets served with papers. His mom gets served with papers,” Boyer explained. “It was just appalling.”

Acting as his own attorney, Philly man is acquitted of murder after nearly 13 years in prison

Hassan Bennett, right, pictured with his father in Philadelphia after being acquitted of second-degree murder. (Courtesy of Hassan Bennett)
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By  Meagan FlynnReporterMay 9, 2019 at 4:13 a.m. PDT

Wearing a suit felt like a sham.

Hassan Bennett had been locked up for nearly 13 years — 4,614 days, he said — and so when he recently stood before the jury in a Philadelphia courtroom, he didn’t want to pretend he had been anywhere else. He dressed for court each day in his powder-blue prison uniform, with “DOC” written on the back in big bold letters, and throughout the 11-day trial, explained to jurors why they could not find him guilty of second-degree murder.

“They told me not to wear a prison uniform. I’m here in front of you in a prison uniform,” the 36-year-old told jurors during his closing argument, as he recounted to The Washington Post. “They told me not to let you see my prison arm band. I show you my prison armband. They told me not to stand in front of you representing myself.”ADVERTISING

And yet there he was — representing himself without the help of any attorneys, with a mandatory life sentence on the line. It was his fourth time on trial for the ambush shooting death of Devon English in 2006, and Bennett’s second time acting as his own lawyer. But on Monday, he made sure it would be the last.

Achieving an exceedingly rare feat, the pro se defendant with no law degree was acquitted of murder.

The jury deliberated for 81 minutes. For Bennett, it was 76 minutes too long.

“I was sitting in the holding cell thinking, after five minutes, what’s taking so long?” he said. “When the jury came in and they called me up, I already knew it was a not-guilty verdict.”

The brash confidence is a product of more than 12 years of preparation from a Pennsylvania prison, studying case law in the library by day and meticulously drafting legal briefs in his cell by night, using a flickering TV as a light source.

He told the story to The Post by phone on Wednesday evening while strolling with his goddaughter through a neighborhood park, periodically hanging up by accident because, he said, he is only just learning how to use a touch screen cellphone. “Sorry,” he said. “It’s my first time. I had to ask the kid what to do.”

His story starts on a September night in 2006, when police accused Bennett of masterminding a plot to kill 19-year-old English after losing $20 to him in a dice game; a second teenager, 18-year-old Corey Ford, was shot in the legs and the buttocks. Lamont Dade, 16, was also arrested in the shooting, to which he pleaded guilty in 2008 and was sentenced to 25 to 50 years in prison.

In their original statements to police, both Dade and Ford identified Bennett as the shooter — but later, at Bennett’s trial, they recanted, saying a homicide detective coerced them into making the statements.

Bennett maintained his innocence from the start. He told police he was on the phone with a friend at home when he heard the shots ring out, then ran to the scene to see what happened. But he said his original lawyer failed to introduce the phone records or call the witnesses that he believes would have supported his alibi, saving him years in prison.

His first trial in 2008 resulted in a mistrial, his second in conviction months later. As he petitioned for a third trial, his post-conviction appellate attorney lost appeal after appeal — until finally, in 2014, against the advice of every sane person in the legal system, Bennett told a judge he wanted to do it himself. He said he was tired of losing.

“They told me, if you mess up here, your tail is done,” he said. “Well, I’m not gonna mess up then. There is no room for error. This is the time you rely on yourself. They call it crunchtime in basketball, when the best player in the game gets the ball with five seconds left and it’s his last shot. He wins or loses on this shot. That’s how I felt.”

From then on, Bennett’s casual study of the legal system turned rigorous. To teach himself to write in legalese, he sought the help of his cellmate, nicknamed “Brother Mook” — a legal-savvy mentor who would rip up Bennett’s handwritten draft petitions into tiny shreds if he failed to write them in the proper format. “He was like my Yoda,” Bennett said.

Eventually, after reviewing every trial transcript and police record in his own case, he turned his attention to former Philadelphia homicide detective James Pitts, who interviewed Ford and Dade to obtain their witness statements against Bennett.

In recent years, Pitts has been accused of coercing witness statements in at least 10 cases, and in some murder cases, judges have vacated convictions because of Pitts’s misconduct, as the Philadelphia Inquirer reported. (Mired in scandal, he is on desk duty while the police department investigates, the Inquirer reported.) Bennett petitioned a court for a new trial on the basis that Pitts had used the same coercive tactics to obtain statements from Ford and Dade identifying him as the shooter.

A judge did not grant that request, but in 2017, Philadelphia Common Pleas Court Judge M. Teresa Sarmina vacated Bennett’s conviction and granted a new trial on the grounds of ineffective counsel. Bennett’s third trial last September, when he first represented himself, resulted in a hung jury — with all but one juror finding Bennett not guilty. ““If the defendant knew how close he was [to acquittal], he would have been crushed,” juror David Scott, a college professor, told the Inquirer afterward.

But Bennett said he was not crushed. By the time trial No. 4 rolled around, he was feeling more at ease than ever, as though a guilty verdict weren’t a possibility.

In his opening statement last month, he told the jury it was a case about using common sense — and asked jurors to remember a song from “Sesame Street.” He described himself as a suspect who didn’t fit the description, like Oscar the Grouch in a photo array of fruits. “One of these things just doesn’t belong here,” he sang.

“The Commonwealth will try to tell you that Oscar the Grouch belongs because Oscar the Grouch is always seen on the corner. He has a smart mouth. He’s nobody’s favorite on Sesame Street,” Bennett said. “But that doesn’t make him guilty when the evidence shows he’s not guilty.”

His case was that simple, he said. He submitted the phone records. He called the three witnesses he said corroborated his alibi. He cross-examined Ford and Dade, who again maintained Bennett was not at the scene.

And then he called Pitts.

He accused the former homicide detective of coercing statements from Ford and Dade — and questioned why, if Pitts were credible, prosecutors elected not to call him as a witness. Pitts denied the accusations. But the jury, Bennett told The Post, ultimately “saw through his hogwash.”

“Why didn’t the prosecutor call Detective Pitts?” he asked the jury, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported from the courtroom. “He’s the lead detective. He’s the head honcho. Pitts worked the witnesses for hours on end. We can’t tolerate this misconduct. We can’t tolerate these actions.”

Spokespeople for the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office didn’t respond to a request for comment late Wednesday, but told the Inquirer the office disagreed with the jury’s verdict. The victim’s family has long believed Bennett was guilty, saying that every new trial is “bringing back the pain of Devon’s death,” the Inquirer reported.

“I’m still trying to cope with it. I think it is wrong. I think the whole process is unfair,” Arturo Alleyne, English’s father, told the Inquirer of Monday’s acquittal. “All of this will be cleared up by God.”

Leaving the courthouse on Monday, Bennett said the first thing he did was go home and have a home-cooked meal with his family. He’s spent his time this week re-acclimating to life on the outside, asking his 10-year-old goddaughter to teach him how to use an Android, remembering to look for cars when crossing the street.

But by Friday, he said, he plans to get back to work. He said the court-appointed attorney who was required to be on “standby” throughout his trial — in case he decided he no longer wanted to represent himself — invited him to his office to discuss how Bennett could assist with briefs or investigations. He plans to study for the bar exam, he said, and to one day have clients of his own.

He said he already knew where he thought he might open his office.

“People from our neighborhood, from low-income neighborhoods, they don’t really know the law,” he said. “But see, there are people from the legal community that don’t know about the low-income neighborhoods. They don’t know about ‘the hood,’ as they call it.

“I am that bridge.”

Color of Change’s Rashad Robinson has had enough of corporate America’s empty platitudes

Robinson’s civil rights nonprofit is pushing companies to get on the right side of history—whether or not they’re ready.

Color of Change president Rashad Robinson mobilizes his nonprofit’s 7 million members for change. [Photo: Dee Dwyer]

BY WESLEY LOWERY LONG READADVERTISEMENTADVERTISEMENTADVERTISEMENT

Rashad Robinson was on a zoom call with his staff in June when he got the news.ADVERTISEMENT

The TV show Cops, a mainstay of American culture for 32 years, the foundation for decades of ride-along-with-the-police programming that deifies law enforcement, was going off the air. It was a major moment in television history, and one that, for many, seemed to have materialized out of thin air—a knee-jerk response to the racial politics of the moment. In reality, it was the culmination of a seven-year-long campaign by Robinson and Color of Change, the civil rights organization that he helms.

Color of Change had long viewed Cops as blatant public relations for law enforcement that reinforced racial stereotypes—and that was beamed directly into millions of living rooms each week. In 2013, in the wake of the shooting deaths of Trayvon Martin and Jordan Davis, both unarmed Black teens, and outrage over police stop-and-frisk enforcement in New York City and elsewhere, the nonprofit launched a social media campaign calling on Fox, the show’s then distributor, not to renew it. Next came a petition, targeting Fox executives and advertisers. Then came the meetings with network execs. A protest outside of Fox’s L.A. studios was in the works when the network suddenly announced, in May 2013, that it would no longer air the show. But Cops had staying power, soon landing at Spike TV (now the Paramount Network). It would take another half decade of public and private pressure by Color of Change—along with the racial reckoning brought on this summer by the deaths of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and George Floyd—to knock the show off the air in the United States. (Cops is still producing episodes for international markets.)

“Is it canceled canceled?” Robinson recalls asking. He had trouble, at first, believing the news. He had no time to celebrate beyond a quick smile, however. There were more battles to wage.

It should come as no surprise that Color of Change was one of the forces behind the Cops cancellation. What began 15 years ago as a scrappy digital upstart focused on marshaling an online response to stories of racial injustice is now one of the heavy hitters in American civil rights activism. The organization’s presence can be felt in nearly every racial civil rights battle currently taking place in America—from corporate boardrooms to television sets to prosecutors’ offices and judges’ chambers.

Color of Change has launched a political action committee, pouring money into the coffers of progressive prosecutors who vow to bring accountability for police killings and brutality. It’s behind a sustained campaign to change how Black and brown people are represented by Hollywood. And, increasingly, the organization is a player in the business world.

Over the past year, Color of Change has further solidified its role as both lead agitator and diversity adviser for corporate America. It led the recent campaign to demand that Facebook and other social media companies take aggressive action to rid their platforms of hate speech, pressuring hundreds of advertisers, including Coca-Cola, Unilever, and Verizon, to pull their money. Through the “Beyond the Statement” campaign, which launched in June, Color of Change is challenging corporate America to do more than offer empty platitudes in the wake of racial unrest. It has targeted fast-food companies, including McDonald’s and Burger King, along with retailers such as Nike, for talking about racial justice while not paying workers a living wage. And the group has gone after investment firms that release statements about equity but also give money to police unions and foundations.

“It’s a 21st-century approach to issues that date back to 1619,” says Chris Lehane, Air­bnb’s senior vice president for global policy and communications. He credits the organization for “holding us accountable” for racism on the platform in 2015. Since then, Airbnb has worked closely with Color of Change on issues of diversity within the company and on the platform.

Robinson, who has led Color of Change since 2011, sees his mission as creating a new infrastructure for civil rights activism, mobilizing online outrage into tangible force that “holds corporations accountable, that pushes for changes to how the media engages, that changes the narrative and the stories that we tell ourselves about change. And that tills the soil for long-term policy change.”

Vice president and chief of campaigns Arisha Hatch oversees Color of Change’s political work. [Photo: Dee Dwyer]

The nonprofit is structured almost like a newsroom or a political campaign, with different staff members clustered around areas of expertise and focus: criminal justice, technology, Hollywood, media representation. They identify opportunities to bend the structure of culture and society and apply what Arisha Hatch, the group’s vice president and chief of campaigns, calls an “inside-out approach”: pressuring decision makers by leveraging Color of Change’s massive reach to flood organizations with calls, emails, and the specter of boycotts.

The organization’s email list ballooned from 1.7 million members in the spring to more than 7 million members in October, and its text-message list grew from around 100,000 people to nearly 6 million. And that digital infrastructure, combined with financial independence—unlike many civil rights groups, Color of Change does not accept corporate donations—has allowed the organization to be seemingly everywhere.

If you’re a newly woke company, wondering how best to devote money and resources to fight racism, the group is likely your first call. And if you’re a corporation or organization besieged by racial controversy, Color of Change is likely leading the digital picket line.


Color of Change was born out of the federal government’s disastrous mishandling of Hurricane Katrina, in 2005. James Rucker, a Black computer scientist working with MoveOn.org, had been interested in finding a way to apply the nonprofit’s digital organizing and fundraising strategy—empowering regular people to work together to apply political pressure through strength in numbers—to issues important to communities of color.

Then the hurricane hit, leaving millions stranded and the news channels playing clips of Black Americans begging for help from rooftops and wading through neck-deep water. “Those in power don’t fear disappointing or neglecting or turning their back on Black folks,” Rucker says, articulating the problem that he saw.

He called a friend, the activist and now CNN host Van Jones, and they soon launched Color of Change. It began with a single email, sent to 1,200 people. Before long, they had 10,000 signatures on a high-profile petition demanding an urgent, robust response from local and federal officials. They had spent more than a year largely focused on the aftermath of Katrina when Rucker learned about six Black teenagers in Louisiana who were facing 20-year sentences after an altercation that left a white high school student hospitalized. The Black teens were being charged with attempted murder for what looked like a schoolyard fight. Color of Change sprang into action in support of the teens, who became known as the Jena 6, raising nearly $300,000 for their legal defense. With the case now in the spotlight, the local prosecutor reduced the charges.

Within a few years, Color of Change had amassed a powerful digital following and an email list of nearly a million people. It began launching even more high-­profile campaigns, including a 2009 effort to get Fox News host Glenn Beck, who called President Barack Obama a racist, kicked off the air, by applying pressure to advertisers. The group’s tactics—online boycotts, hashtags, and petitions—raised eyebrows in traditional civil rights spaces, but they filled an important void. “What they were able to do is step into a space where many entities in the social justice community and great society were still figuring it out,” said Derrick Johnson, national president of the NAACP.

When Fox News canceled Beck’s show two years later, Color of Change staffers gathered in the organization’s office to watch the final broadcast. By then, Rucker had realized two things: that his group’s digital activism could deliver results and that it would need new leadership to channel that energy toward even bigger fights—someone with a master’s understanding of power and influence.

Rucker reached out to Robinson, who at the time was second in command at the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD). In his six years there, Robinson had gained a reputation as a smart strategist, capable of targeting media companies to bend public opinion. But, by 2011, Robinson was ready for a new challenge.

“It was a big deal for a lot of Black folks that had worked inside the movement that I got to drive things,” he recalls of his time at GLAAD, “but I also saw the limitations of my representation.” So in 2011, he took a risk—and a pay cut—to become executive director of Color of Change, which then employed only five people full time. (Today, there are 153 employees.) “I went from having a lot of resources at my disposal to wondering would I have money three months from now to pay folks,” Robinson recalls.

From Presence to Power: How Color of Change has already shaped business and society

He quickly began exploring new directions for the organization. Color of Change continued its media campaigns, applying public pressure to turn TV advertisers against the likes of Bill O’Reilly, but also took the lead on a number of social justice issues, raising awareness of police and vigilante killings and advocating for the prosecution of police misconduct. Following the 2012 shooting of Trayvon Martin, in Sanford, Florida, Color of Change was among the first groups to illuminate the role of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a conservative public policy organization, in the spread of so-called Stand Your Ground laws. After online petitions and a deluge of emails and phone calls from Color of Change members, Pepsi, Coca-Cola, and Kraft Foods announced that they would withdraw their memberships to ALEC. Three months after Martin’s death, with Color of Change members gathered outside Amazon’s annual shareholders meeting in Seattle, attempting to deliver a petition full of signatures, the e-commerce giant became the 16th company to end its ALEC membership.

“Companies invest a lot of effort and resources in managing the way people perceive and feel about their brand. So when you have a group of activists come out and start pointing out the hypocrisy in saying one thing and doing the other, that puts them in the danger zone,” says Nandini Jammi, cofounder of the online activist group Sleeping Giants, which also helped pioneer advertiser boycotts in the digital era. Robinson says that those early fights were not necessarily the organization’s most successful or influential, but they set the stage. “They allowed us to prove to members and those that joined us that investment in working with Color of Change was going to have benefit,” he says. “And it proved to the targets that they couldn’t ignore us.”

Robinson knew how to turn attention into power. He had grown up on eastern Long Island, New York, in a Black family that had landed there after the Great Migration. “When you’re Black [and living] in a community for multiple generations, you have a relationship to not just the Black community but the white people in the community,” Robinson recalls. “You have an idea about power and how you’re seen.” During high school, he produced and hosted a political talk show, Riverhead Teen Talk, on the local public access television channel, where he occasionally debated local callers. While studying political science at Marymount University, in Virginia, he worked as an organizer. A few years later, he appeared as a campaign manager on a short-lived Showtime reality show called American Candidate, in which 10 contestants mounted mock presidential bids.

One of Robinson’s earliest lessons was that “Black faces in high places” politics had its limits. Like most Black Americans of his generation, he’d grown up in a household with Ebony and Jetmagazines on the coffee table. A new wave of Black bankers, businessmen, and police chiefs was celebrated as the key to fundamentally changing a nation that, since its inception, has worked against its Black residents. But as more Black faces ascended­—even to the White House—inequity and disparity persisted.

This same realization later powered the Black Lives Matter movement. A new generation of young people became disenchanted as, even during the administration of the nation’s first Black president, it seemed little about the structures and systems under which they lived were changing. Robinson and Hatch, who joined Color of Change in 2012 and is now the group’s second in command, have steered the organization toward addressing these root problems even as they tackle of-the-moment issues that are making headlines.

Color of Change leverages its membership to move from “presence to power,” Robinson says, by forcing decision makers to confront the real people impacted by the choices they make. He says he also hopes to disrupt the “magical thinking” that is too common in activist spaces. “We’re trying to help people recognize that we can’t have charitable solutions to structural problems. You don’t solve the Flint water crisis just by sending water bottles. You don’t solve the crisis of inner-­city education and education at Black and brown schools by doing mentorship and service days. Those are ways to help, but those are not ways to undo the inequality,” he explains.

“People have a lot of Schoolhouse Rock theories about how change happens,” Robinson continues. “We’ve done a lot in our movement to talk about systems that hurt Black people. How do we actually change [them]? Otherwise we will get a lot more programs that work to fix Black people, and Black families, as opposed to working to fix the structures that hurt us.”


Perhaps no campaign has taken on more urgency for Color of Change, or been higher profile, than its battle with Facebook. For years, the organization has been among the groups pressuring the social media juggernaut to audit its internal diversity and inclusion efforts and publicly pressing the platform to more aggressively curb users and groups that post hate speech and calls to violence.

Despite periodically agreeing to a call or a meeting with civil rights organizations, Facebook had done frustratingly little in response to their demands, Robinson says. Moments after an hourlong video call with Zuckerberg and other Facebook officials in June, Robinson told The Washington Post: “What was clear coming out of that meeting is Mark has no real understanding of the history or current impact of voter suppression, racism, or discrimination. He lives in a bubble.”

[Photo: Dee Dwyer]

By early summer of 2020, the civil rights community was incensed that Facebook had allowed President Trump to declare “when the looting starts, the shooting starts,” in response to the George Floyd protests, and infuriated that far-right groups continued to abuse the platform. “It became clear that no amount of bad press affected Facebook,” says Jessica González, co-CEO of Free Press, a media advocacy group that works closely with Color of Change in the tech sector. “It became clear that going after advertisers was going to be an important strategy.”

Color of Change began organizing an advertiser boycott. Leaning on its membership ranks, it petitioned major companies to refuse to spend money with Facebook until the platform made a serious commitment to addressing the spread of hate speech. A coalition of groups took out a full-page ad in the Los Angeles Times to announce the “Stop Hate for Profit” campaign, and placed a flurry of phone calls urging corporations to pause any ad buys on Facebook and other social media companies. At the time of Floyd’s death, many advertisers were already reconsidering their financial commitments due to the pandemic. Now, corporate America was scrambling for ways to show its support for racial justice. Once the first few companies signed on, others lined up. Soon, hundreds of companies had pulled or paused their advertising on Facebook and other platforms.

In July, Facebook chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg met with the campaign’s leaders, who demanded she take more seriously the threat created by allowing racism to fester on the platform. The meeting, Robinson said publicly, was a “disappointment.” His sharp comments were yet another part of the strategy, aimed at showing the company that small concessions wouldn’t be a means of blunting criticism in the future. Facebook ultimately committed to installing a more permanent civil rights infrastructure within the company. More recently, it’s taken steps to combat the spread of hate speech and ban the conspiracy group QAnon from the platform.

“While [the campaign] hasn’t led to as many changes as I would like, my little civil rights organization is taking on the biggest communications platform the world has ever known,” Robinson says. “And has forced a scenario in which Mark and Sheryl have to deal with our attacks, which are rooted in their failures, and also have to still work with us.”

Officials at Facebook say they now consider Color of Change a partner, albeit an at times adversarial one. “They have been an important part of some of the changes that we’ve been making, and I think that they are really masterful at what they do,” says Ru­chika Budhraja, a Facebook spokesperson who has been involved in the negotiations with Color of Change.

Ashley Boyd, vice president of advocacy and engagement at Mozilla, who works with Color of Change on diversity issues, says the technology space is particularly ripe for this kind of pressure. The sector’s “move fast and break things” mindset is often blamed for reinforcing unethical decision-making, but Boyd notes that it also makes many of these companies uniquely prepared to undergo significant changes quickly. Color of Change’s effectiveness, she says, stems from the way it uses storytelling to force companies to see the consequences of their actions for communities they are otherwise inclined to overlook. The organization has had particular success with Airbnb, which recently announced a new effort to track racism on its platform, and Pinterest, which banned images of plantation weddings in 2019.

[Photo: Dee Dwyer]

At the same time, Color of Change has redoubled its efforts in Hollywood. Building on the model Robinson learned at GLAAD, which fought for more complex portrayals of gay and lesbian people on television, Hatch has set out to alter the way Black Americans are shown on the big and small screens. The group has waged an all-out assault on any programming riddled with stereotypes. In addition to the Cops campaign, it stopped Oxygen from airing a reality series about the rapper Shawty Lo, titled All My Babies’ Mamas, which intended to make comedy of the fact that he’d fathered 11 children by 10 different women, and it petitioned Bravo to turn its cameras off during fights that broke out during its Real Housewives series.

The organization also now offers consulting services to Hollywood writers rooms and works directly with production companies to make sure they’re factoring in inclusion and representation from the very beginning of the process. Color of Change has released a groundbreaking report on the lack of diversity among writers and showrunners, and the first-of-its-kind “Normalizing Injustice” study, published in early 2020, on how crime entertainment distorts our understanding of the criminal justice system. Robinson and his team have worked with creatives like director Ava DuVernay and producer Dream Hampton to promote award-winning projects such as the Central Park Five miniseries When They See Us and Surviving R. Kelly.

Hatch, who launched Color of Change’s political action committee in 2018, also used DuVernay’s When They See Us to encourage Black voters to push for reform-­minded district attorneys. The organization helped to elect more than a dozen in the 2018 midterms, and released a full slate of endorsements ahead of the 2020 election, signaling a new front for Color of Change.

While Robinson concedes that his organization has made progress, this work is part of a long game. None of us knows what will bring the next moment of reckoning. But when it comes, Color of Change, and its millions of members, will be ready.


Wesley Lowery is a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and author of They Can’t Kill Us All: The Story of the Struggle for Black Lives.

Passing of Ali Woodson, Petition to President Obama, KPFA Thank You’s, Free Tix to Yoshi’s, BET LensOnTalent

NEWS NOW!
http://NowTruth.org/
(510) 394-4701
EMAIL: nowtruth@nowtruth.org Twitter: http://twitter.com/nowtruth



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Tribute to Ali Ollie Woodson (The Temptations) – Whatever It Takes:

انّا للہ و انّا الیہ راجعون  Inna lillahi wa inna ilayhi raji’un) Surely we belong to Allah and to Him shall we return…

I am sad to inform you that former Temptation lead singer Ali Ollie Woodson has died after a battle with cancer. He was 58 with a wife and two children. A friend, client and arguably the BEST SOUL R & B VOICE EVER, not only of the Temptations, but EVER!!
The best a cappella performance I have ever witnessed was the improv rifting he did at an appearance on the Arsenio Hall Show with Evander Holyfield and Hammer where Ali saaaaang during the entire commercial break that was soo incredible that Arsenio could not stop him when the show returned from break Arsenio let him continue into the show after the commercial break because the crowd was going totally bananas!! Arsenio let him continue to saaaang after the show resumed and we ALL just sat and listened mesmerised in complete amazement, wonder and joy, now Keep in mind that show had Evander Holyfield and Hammer as guest as Evander was preparing for a title fight!!!!! At the Stag Festival in Romania, he did a featured segment with the Temptations that is still being raved about where he continued to sing solo for 20 minutes while the others went to the dressing room and changed! You can listen to his music at http://www.aliolliewoodson.com/

Biography

He is, quite simply, the Voice. The name Ali Ollie Woodson may not be familiar to large numbers of readers, but to those in the Soul music business he is known as one of the greatest modern singers.  In a career that spans 25 years, he has worked as lead singer for the Drifters and (the post-Teddy Pendergrass) Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes.  He has also served as guest vocalist on dozens of recordings of artists from Freda Payne to Paul Jackson, and as a backing vocalist for Whitney Houston, Rachelle Ferelle and Aretha Franklin.  However, his true coming out was as the lead singer of the Temptations from 1984-1996.

Temptations fans consider the late 70s as perhaps the group’s darkest days, culminating with the departure of lead singer Dennis Edwards and the group’s ill-fated move to Atlantic Records.  The group’s return to Motown in 1980 brought some commercial life (and Edwards) back to the group, but the continuing revolving door of group members and producers resulted in a series of mediocre albums.  Then, when Edwards again quit the Tempts in 1984, the group called upon Woodson to take over lead vocals and former Earth Wind & Fire guitarist Al McKay to produce Truly for You.  The result was the greatest Temptations album of the past 25 years, and a permanent place for Woodson alongside Edwards and David Ruffin in Temptations history.  His gritty, expressive voice was the perfect contrast to the classically smooth Temptations’ harmonies, and his ability to delicately handle ballads gave the group a versatility it generally didn’t have during the Edwards years. Click here to watch a live performance in Japan with the Temptations of “Just My Imagination” and “My Girl” with just the accompanment of a piano! He also brought along songwriting skills, co-penning “Treat Her Like A Lady,” (click to watch video) the smash hit from that album. Watch the video of his performance of “Some Enchanted Evening” with the Temptations here:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=REW1qKnxjVY

Ali Ollie Woodson Testimony on TBN:

His work on the next year’s To Be Continued… was equally impressive, particularly the powerful ballad “Someone,” “Lady Soul” (click to watch video) perhaps Woodson’s finest recorded moment and “Special” (click to watch video), “Touch Me” (click to watch video) Oddly, Edwards rejoined the group, replacing Woodson in 1987 for Together Again, but was gone again within a year.  Woodson then reassumed the lead vocals spot through a handful of lesser albums, as the group struggled to find a contemporary sound.  Finally in 1995 the Temptations released For Lovers Only, a disc of covers of classic pop songs that brought renewed interest in the group.

By 1996, Woodson left the Temptations for good, and fans anticipated that a solo album would soon be on the horizon.  Instead, he worked on a number of different projects, performing in a series of stage plays, providing backing vocals on several soul and jazz albums, touring with other former Temptations Damon Harris and Richard Street , and briefly forming a group with two former Supremes.  Ultimately, he created the Emperors of Soul, a touring group covering Tempations’ and other Motown hits which has received positive reviews around the US .

It would be five years before Ralph Tee of Expansion Records would get Woodson back into the studio to record

Right Here All Along

Right Here All Along, Woodson’s long overdue first solo album.  It was a solid disc, and received kudos in most Soul music publications, which especially raved over his version of the ballad “Turn Out the Stars” (also covered at around the same time by the Manhattans).  It is available in the US through CD Baby.

“Lady Soul”

In 2002 Woodson was offered the lead vocalist position in the Spinners when poor health forced John Edwards to leave the group, but he instead recommended friend Frank Washington, who is now successfully fronting that group.  Woodson has continued to tour with Emperors of Soul, and was most recently seen on national TV as Aretha Franklin’s dynamic duet partner on the Spring 2003 PBS concert special, “Rhythm, Soul & Love.”  He also appeared on Juewett Bostick’s 2003 album It’s Not So Easy, singing “You Need Love.” Woodson later joined Dennis Edwards’ group, the Temptations Revue, ironically singing alongside the former Tempts member he replaced during his second stint with the mothership.

Never Give Up

Reports have come in in early 2009 that Woodson was ill. But by Spring of that year he had released his second album, Never Give Up, on his own Ollywood Records.

Ollie Woodson Farewell:

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MEDIA ADVISORY

June 1, 2010,  Oakland, CA:

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: TV * RADIO * PRESS * INTERNET *
You can click on any highlighted word to view or download that itemSign this petition Now to stand against Corruption; Governmental, Legal and Police Misconduct; White Collar Crime; Unfair Employment and Business Practices; Consumer Fraud; Islamophobia and Xenophobia and show YOUR SUPPORT for Government Transparency; Accountability; Civic Reform; Enforcing Ethical Standards; Civil Rights and Religious Freedom!

Contact:
Martin Silverman (510) 394-4701

nowtruth@nowtruth.org;On May 5, 2010 Abdul-Jalil al-Hakim filed an Ethics and “Whistle-Blower” complaint with Congresswoman Barbara Lee, State Assemblyman Sandre Swanson, Alameda County Supervisor Kieth Carson, Oakland California Mayor Ron Dellums, Oakland City Administrator Dan Lindheim, Oakland City Auditor Courtney Ruby, Oakland City Councilpersons Desley Brooks and Larry Reid’s offices against Oakland City Attorney John Russo, Mark Morodomi, Randy Hall, Janie Wong, Anita Hong, Sophia Li, Demetruis Shelton- current President of the National Bar Association, Elizabeth Allen, Erica Harrold, Michele Abney, Eliada Perez; former Oakland and current San Leandro City Attorney Jayne Williams; former Oakland City employee Pat Smith; Stephan Barber and others of the law firm Ropers, Majeski; Ronald J. Cook, Randy Willoughby, Alex Stuart, Annette Bening’s brother Bradley Bening and others of the law firm Willoughby, Stuart & Bening; for constructing fraudulent fabricated evidence in 1999 and planting that evidence favorable to the defendants in the case files SIX years AFTER the case was closed; engaged in spoliation of remaining evidence in the court files from 1991; and fostered witness testimony based on this planted evidence in the al-Hakim v CSAA and the underlying Rescue Rooter case that was created thru EXTRINSIC FRAUD with accompanying testimony procured thru admitted suborned and solicited perjurious acts by John Russo and others, they engaged in actions to destroy the litigation of al-Hakim’s legal case; they engaged in actions to coverup their unlawful acts.

We have over 30,000 signatures and implore you to click on any one of the links and sign the Petition To The Honorables President Barack Obama and United States Attorney General Eric Holder to raise it’s investigation of corruption involving Attorney General Jerry Brown, Oakland City Attorney John Russo, former Oakland and current San Leandro City Attorney Jayne Williams, former District Attorney Tom Orloff, and current District Attorney Nancy E. O’Malley.

http://ex-why.com/petition-to-the-honorable-president-barack-hussein-obama-ii/

http://nowtruth.org/petition-to-the-honorable-president-barack-obama/

http://superstarmanagement.com/petition-to-the-honorable-president-barack-obama/

http://amwftrust.org/petition-to-the-honorable-president-barack-hussein-obama-ii/

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On Saturday, May 29, 2010 Radio Station KPFA made a special “Thank You” announcement on air for the invaluable food donation and heartfelt community service efforts of:

Abdu and Razak at the “Oakland Halal Meat Market”, 31st & Telegraph Ave, Oakland;
“SemiFreddis”, Owner Tom Franier, Ann Marina, and Kenny with their delicious apricot scones, YUUUUUUMMMMM!;
Mahasin, Brenda, Abdul, and Faheem at the “New Africa Kitchen Halal Resturant” and “Masjidul Waritheen”; and
“Trader Joe’s” Markets. You can click on this link to listen to or download the announcement. http://www.box.net/shared/doa4smp0cf

Download now or listen on posterous

KPFA- GospExp HalalSemiNewAfricaTJs 5-29-10.m4a (3124 KB)Congratulations and our “Thanks” to ALL!

KPFA also made an on-air “Thank You” announcement from the Aaron & Margaret Wallace Foundation to Beth Alsberg, the 70- 8th Grade students, 22 parents and teachers and administrators at Prospect Sierra School whom volunteered as customer service reps at Lincoln Child Center, St. Vincent de Paul, Wardrobe for Opportunity, OTX the Oakland Technology Exchange Center-all from Oakland, CA, – Bay Area Rescue Mission in Richmond CA, and KPFA Radio in Berkeley CA.    You can listen to or download the announcement at this link. http://www.box.net/shared/y0skkr77rm

The students while at KPFA made station promo’s that are now being aired in rotation! Thanks to ALL of YOU for allowing ALL of US to benefit from YOUR generosity!

Thanks for allowing us to help and support you ALL!

The Aaron & Margaret Wallace Foundation provides FREE food; clothing; computers; private school and college admissions educational opportunities; assists with referrals for job training and placement; rental assistance; social services assistance; homelessness assistance; mental and physical health assistance; medical assistance and legal aid assistance referrals for ANYONE whom has the need at the Aaron & Margaret Wallace Foundation website.
Anyone can register at http://AMWFTRUST.ORG by submitting an online request form in a strictly confidential submission and they can also feel free to call the number (510) 394-4101 as well.
Thanks again for the opportunity to serve you and let’s ALL do more and better for those less fortunate.

Free Tickets to John Handy’s Thursday Show at Yoshi’s Oakland!

Winners to be provided a pair of tickets and chosen from those that submit a “Petition to President Obama”

John Handy & His Music

Yoshi’s Oakland

June 3, 2010

510 Embarcadero West

Oakland, CA 94607

PH: 510.238-9200

Showtime: 8pm & 10pm

John Handy is an alto saxophonist who plays the tenor, saxello, baritone, clarinet, oboe and vocals. He is actually a consummate world musician and teacher who devoted his life to using music to elevate the human spirit. His soulful and fiery saxophone style is instantly recognizable to generations of jazz fans world-wide.

As a performer and composer he continues to sweep audiences into ecstasy with his vast range of creative, emotional, and technical inventiveness. With a superb knowledge and practical experience with music of several cultures, he fuses, with each selection, a musical genre that is coherent, provocative, logical, and enjoyable.

Known most readily as a saxophonist in jazz quartet and quintet settings, John Handy is also featured in solo, duets, and large ensembles ranging in size from big bands to concert bands, symphony orchestras, vocal groups, and choirs.

As a singer, he brings a kind of storytelling narrative to the blues that is entertaining, educational, and moving; while his “up tempo” scat vocals could be compared to the best scat singers anywhere. He sings ballads with inventiveness that is rare among singers.

John Handy has performed in the world’s great concert halls including Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center, Berlin Philharmonic Auditorium, San Francisco Opera House, Davies Hall; the major performance venues including Tanglewood, Saratoga (NY), and Wolf Trap; and the pre-eminent jazz festivals including the Monterey Jazz Festival, Newport Jazz Festival, Playboy Jazz Festival, Chicago Jazz Festival, Pacific Coast Jazz Festival; and international jazz festivals at Montreaux (Switzerland), Antibe (France), Berlin, (Germany) Cannes, (France) Yubari and Miyasaki (Japan) among others.

His album and CD covers read like a who’s who of record labels – Columbia, ABC Impulse, Warner Brothers, Milestone, Roulette, Boulevard, Quartet (Harbor), MPS Records and many others. His most recent recordings are “John Handy Live at Yoshi’s” and “John Handy’s Musical Dreamland” (available only on Boulevard Records, Stuttgart, Germany) “Centerpiece,” and “Excursion in Blue.” Some of his earlier works have been reissued on CD – “John Handy: Live at the Monterey Jazz Festival,” “The Second John Handy Album,” “New View,” and “Projections.” He recorded with Sonny Stitt, and recorded nine albums with Charles Mingus Jazz Workshop.

John Handy has taught at San Francisco State University, Stanford University, UC Berkeley, San Francisco Conservatory of Music, among others. He is a popular performer on university and college campuses where he also gives inspired lecture-demonstrations on the technical, academic, spiritual, and creative aspects of music, winning new converts to jazz.

John Handy has written a number of highly acclaimed, original compositions. “Spanish Lady” and “If Only We Knew” both earned Grammy nominations for performance and composition. The popular jazz/blues/funk vocal crossover hit, “Hard Work,” brought him fame in another realm; while “Blues for Louis Jordan” displayed his talents in rhythm and blues. His more extensive works include “Concerto for Jazz Soloist and Orchestra” which was premiered by the San Francisco Symphony; and “Scheme Number One” which was lauded as a fine example of fixed and improvised music by the great composer, Igor Stravinsky.

Although he is well known in the continental United States, John Handy has taken his music to Germany, Austria, Spain, Italy, France, England, Sweden, Luxemburg, Finland, Norway, Switzerland, Belgium, Holland, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Bahrain, United Arab Emirates, Algeria, Morocco, Tunisia, North and South India, Yugoslavia, Japan, Alaska, Canada, among other countries – all with great acclaim!

For the past 23 years, John has led John Handy WITH CLASS, featuring John Handy with three female violinists/vocalists in an unforgettable sound that captures the full range of jazz, blues, r&b, popular, and modal music. This innovative group creates a new musical expression which John refers to (tongue-in-cheek) as “Clazzical Jazz.” He continues to lead and perform in groups with a combination of instruments and vocals.

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BET “Lens on Talent”

BET is looking for the best and brightest filmmakers for the new season of Lens on Talent: A Johnson & Johnson Filmmaker’s Challenge.

Lens on Talent is a half hour short film showcase hosted by noted film, television actor Blair Underwood featuring the best short films from emerging African American talent.

Lens on Talent takes its search for new filmmakers to the next level.  Only the best of the best will be showcased in Lens on Talent with the grand prize winner having the opportunity to produce a Short Film to be aired on BET.

Casting Opportunities

You can go ¿eX-whY AdVenture? Casting Opportunities Page for your BIG chance to succeed in Entertainment, Film and Television. Here are some of the opportunites you will find there. http://ex-why.com/casting/about-2/
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” In a time of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act.” — George Orwell. For The Truth In The News!

” The Man Who Turn$ Hit$ Into Million$”

How a Grieving Family Saved A Troubled City with A Martyr

Abdul-Jalil Honored in Port Au-Prince, Haiti and Miami, Fla. for Relief Missions to Haiti
Abdul-Jalil’s Haas School of Business Profile
Linked In Profile on Abdul-Jalil
Abdul-Jalil on Twitter: @ajalil
Thanks You from Arch Bishop Joel Jeune to Abdul-Jalil
Abdul-Jalil’s “ooVoo” Video Chat Room
Abdul-Jalil on FaceBook
iPhone FaceTime: (510) 394-4501
AIM, Video Chat Screen Name: jalil@superstarmanagement.com
Skype Video Chat Screen Contact Name: Superstarmanagement
Portrait of Abdul-Jalil by Artist Buford Delaney in Paris, France


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“How a Grieving Family Saved A Troubled City with A Martyr”

From left, Octavia Spencer, Ryan Coogler, Melonie Diaz and Michael B. Jordan at the July 8 premiere of
From left, Octavia Spencer, Ryan Coogler, Melonie Diaz and Michael B. Jordan at the July 8 premiere of “Fruitvale Station”

The year 2009 began with a tragedy at an Oakland BART station. Shortly after 2 a.m. on New Year’s Day, BART police Officer Johannes Mehserle shot and killed 22-year-old Oscar Grant II, of Hayward, on the platform of the Fruitvale station after responding to reports of a fight on a train.

“Make no mistake about it Oscar Grant was Murdered, Executed by a BART cop!” That was the echoing sentiment boiling up from among the justifiably angry, restless community of Oakland and the surrounding communities that spread world wide as video of Oscar Grants execution was blared over and over on television screens all around the world. It had become the quintessential poster for the ultimate example of Police misconduct and abuse- a lawless execution as the Black victim lay face-down on the ground, hands behind his back, shot, then handcuffed as he dies- all caught on cameras for the world to see!

Also caught on camera for the world to see was the public reaction to the execution that led to violent protests, as the public “showed their outrage” with the costly destruction of property to areas around town.

The gunman police officer was allowed to go free, traveled outside the state of California until he was charged with murder and appended in Nevada after National public protest forced the District Attorney to file criminal charges. His attorney has argued he meant to fire his Taser gun when he shot and killed Grant.

The Oscar Grant movie: Fruitvale Station

As a result of the media coverage from the destructive protests, the Alameda County Superior Court found that it was unlikely that the gunman, former BART police Officer Johannes Mehserle, could get a fair trial in Oakland and the trial was transferred to Los Angeles.

The last time a police officer was convicted of a felony crime committed while on duty was the early 1990‘s when Abdul-Jalil al-Hakim knew his computer store was being burglarized by members of the Oakland Police Department but he could not complain to the police! al-Hakim turned to close friend Leo Dorado, then an Alameda County District Attorney prosecuting capital murder crimes, that lead to an investigation directed by Matt Golde conducted by the DA’s office of these rogue police activities. The case ended with the trial conviction of one officer, Newman Ng and the guilty plea of another, Kailey Wong. There was evidence of the involvement of over 15 police officers in these series of burglaries of businesses and the “fencing” of the stolen property. The problem was so rampant, even the Chief of Police George Hart had a stolen computer on his own desk at the station!!! Leo Dorado is now Judge Leo Dorado and Matt Golde, the son of former Judge Stanley Golde, brother of legal analyst Ivan Golde, is head DA of the Juvenile Division.

BART spokesman Linton Johnson said the agency is “trying to turn tragedy into triumph” by increasing transparency and enacting new policies. In August 2009, the BART board of directors voted unanimously to approve citizen oversight of the BART Police Department, and the agency is seeking a new permanent police chief.

For six months al-Hakim had been speaking with and advising Jack Bryson, father of two of Oscar Grant’s friends that were with him on the Fruitvale platform when he was murdered whom also were abused by BART police, regarding approaches to produce the proposed Oscar Grant anniversary event. Al-Hakim continued those conversations with the family spokesperson, Cephus “Bobby” Johnson.

In mid December as the date for the event neared, admitting that he knew nothing about producing any event, much less one of the magnitude of the January 1, 2010 Oscar Grant Anniversary Vigil, Cephus Johnson requested al-Hakim to produce the event for the family to assure that it would be handled properly and be a success! The event was less than 30 days away and Cephus only had an idea for a memorial as BART agreed to provide electrical power, to allow for a civil congregation and alter at the entrance of the station, and possibly at the scene of the shooting on the train platform in memory of Oscar’s death.

al-Hakim informed Cephus of the City and the Police Department’s requirements for assembly permits, security, sound and stage, possible entertainment and the fact that since the event was less than 30 days away, it was already too late to legally and properly secure them without some negotiating and special permission from the city and the police department.

al-Hakim discussed the idea of having an event that would capture the imagination of the nation and set a true landmark, a new paradigm in how to address social concerns in a large minority city with many, many, complex issues after having experienced such a tragic catastrophe.

al-Hakim proposed a “Celebration Of Oscar Grant’s Life” with a memorial prayer vigil and ceremony at the Fruitvale BART station to foster a comforting environment for those in attendance without the fear of any party provoking or intimidating the other at these events; to establish a working agreement with BART and Oakland Police department for the event to be held with a “low-to-no police presence” so there’s little or minimum possibility of confrontation between the expected attendees and law enforcement; and to have all the parties- the Oscar Grant family, BART, Oakland Police Department, and the Mayor/City to make a joint press release or have a joint press conference announcing the planned activities. This would make it possible for this events to occur and conclude in success and peace for everyone. This would be a phenomenal public relations coup that would rebuild the image of all the parties concerned while garnering a cache of goodwill you could not buy!

This would put the face of Oscar Grant on ALL the parties in a united platform of “We Are ALL Oscar Grant!” It would humanize the parties in the common bond of mankind and serve as an example for how these types of tragedies can be used to heal a strife-torn city. It would go a long way toward bringing the parties together publicly, promote reconciliation and potentially foster agreement.

Cephus thought it was an incredible idea but did not believe it was possible. al-Hakim asked him to discuss the possibility with the family and their attorney John Burris and let him know their response. Cephus returned with a resounding “Yes, if you can do!”.

al-Hakim first called long time friend, BART Director Carole Ward Allen who chairs the BART Police Department Review Committee and discussed the concept for her support.

He also called Linton Johnson, Public Information Officer for BART whom was unavailable and left him a voicemail message.

al-Hakim then called Jeffrey Thomason, Public Information Officer for the Oakland Police Department and explained to him the concept of the event and how it could be successful and problem free without the police presence. Thomason also thought it was an incredible idea but did not believe the family and their attorney John Burris would go along with it. Having already secured the family’s approval al-Hakim requested that Oakland Police Department stand behind their commitment and work with the family to secure needed permits and allow security with “no visible police presence”. He felt he could agree to do so wherein Thomason discussed the matter with the Chief and Captain, got approval and called al-Hakim back with a referral to the sergeant at the Eastmont Station that would be the liaison to secure all permits and verify the plan for a safe, trouble free event.

Shortly after, Linton Johnson returned al-Hakim’s voicemail and also thought it was an incredible idea but did not believe the family and their attorney John Burris would go along with it. Having already secured the family’s approval al-Hakim requested that BART stand behind their commitment and work with the family to secure needed permits, allow security with “no visible police presence”, provide sound and stage equipment, and allow the alter for the Oscar Grant Memorial. He agreed to do so if the family was in fact behind this proposal. al-Hakim assured him they were and informed him of the present state of the event with the help of BART Community Relations manager Roddrick Lee and to further allay his fears, al-Hakim gave him Cephus cell phone number and assured that Cephus would call him and Roderick.

Tatiana Grant

From there al-Hakim contacted Mayor Ron Dellums, City Administrator Dan Lindhiem and several of their staff members to inform them that the Oscar Grant family, BART, and Oakland Police Department had agreement on the event and would like to have the Mayor involved to join their efforts in this event representing the city. al-Hakim explained how this would be INCREDIBLY HUGE for the Oscar Grant family, BART, Alameda County Superior Court Administration, Oakland Police Department, and the City! This would be a ginormous step ahead in fostering civil relationships between what are publicly perceived as adversaries. This could be bigger than Rodney King’s ” Can We Just Get Along?”. They also agreed to go forward, so everything was in place.

Cephus spoke with both Roderick and Linton, where understanding and agreement was reached and the family began to plan for the “Celebration Of Oscar Grant’s Life” with a memorial prayer vigil and ceremony at the Fruitvale BART station, Friday, January 1, 2010 from 2:00 pm to 6:00 pm. The memorial would be hosted by the family of Oscar Grant with prayers and speeches from many of the Bay Area’s most prominent religious leaders in a civil congregation with alter at the entrance of the station and at the scene of the shooting on the train platform in memory of Oscar’s death.

At the conclusion of the memorial there, everyone would be invited to the Humanist Hall for a continuing evening of music, spoken word, poetry, food and drink until 11:00 pm.

With only days until the January 1, 2010 event, al-Hakim still had to meet with Oakland Police Department to discuss and present an acceptable plan to arrange the “no police presence, civil stand-by” type of a security enforcement for the short 3-4 hour time period for the Oscar Grant Events so those in attendance would not have any party provoking or intimidating the other at these events. He also had to assure them of a working agreement with BART for the event held at the Fruitvale Station with this same type of security so there’s little to no possibility of confrontation between the expected attendees and law enforcement. So al-Hakim brought on Gabrielle Wilson, a legal affairs reporter at KPFA; producer and co-host of “The Gospel Experience”, “Music of the World” and “Ear Thyme”; and Master of Ceremonies at many events around the Bay Area including the San Jose Jazz Festival to MC and assist in securing the entertainment and speakers.

al-Hakim met with the the sergeant at the Eastmont Station twice to secure all permits and verify the plan for a safe, trouble free event. At the first meeting, it was revealed to al-Hakim that Oakland Police had secured flyers, there was a Facebook page, and emails from a community activists organization allegedly associated with the event planning called the General Assembly (for Justice for Oscar Grant) detailing activities to incite violence at the vigil imploring attendees to “show your outrage!”. al-Hakim was shocked to learn of this activity as he knew of the group from working with the family but had not seen any flyers, email nor a FaceBook page inciting violence. al-Hakim assured the officers that the intent of the family was to have a peaceful vigil and was opposed to any other activity and would do all they could to insure that happened! The officers agreed to the plan that with the Nation of Islam providing on location security and BART and the Police on stand-by, we could work out an acceptable plan for the Fruitvale venue. But they insisted that the person, persons, or group that rented the Humanist Hall for the evening event would have to come forward with the contract, produce a security plan that they would reduce to 4-8 licensed security guards, event insurance, and would be liable for any and all damages that occurred as a result of any destruction stemming from the event. Like the police, the Humanist Hall requires that the person(s) in which whose name the rental is in must provide a plan for security for both inside and outside the venue, and how they plan to control exits from the venue in the event of something happening, and crowd control outside the venue. The police was concerned because they have had many problems with the Hall operating without permits and taking proper measures to secure safe events in the past. al-Hakim requested that the officers inform the family directly of these conditions and called Cephus from the meeting for them to do so. Cephus was unavailable so al-Hakim made an appointment for a second meeting for him and Jack Bryson, the named renter of the Hall so that all concerns could be resolved to the officers satisfaction since it was clear they wanted to work with the family to insure a safe, trouble free event.

al-Hakim discussed the meetings with the family and at another meeting again informed the “General Assembly” of the requirements of BART, Oakland Police Department and the City in order to have the events. al-Hakim expressed his concern for the family having their prayer vigil as planned without the decency of a few with opposing interest to make it their event, the police having more information about the happenings of the group then he had, and for obvious reason, decided that he no longer wanted to be associated with it.

https://i2.wp.com/farm4.staticflickr.com/3390/3332614386_34f1d8a102_n.jpg?resize=320%2C213It was clear that those with opposing interest from the Grant family’s wishes were intent on forcing conflict and advised Bryson not to meet with the police thus insuring a show down at the event. Since one of the agitators who would have an interest in filming any disturbance for their profit had donated a small amount of money for the rental, it was offered make to them to remove them from the decision making process. When they would not relent, that family canceled the Humanist Hall event and removed it from their schedule. Now, without any association to the family event, it exposed the those with divergent interest to have their own event without the shield of the family to hide behind. This was too much for them to overcome, along with the fact they did not want to address the reality that they would be combating the security provided by the Nation of Islam!

Begrudgingly but relieved, they relented and the family with a few people met with Oakland Police and the Mayors office and agreed to the exact same terms as negotiated a week earlier by al-Hakim.

On December 30, 2009 the “Oscar Grant family and BART issue joint statement on the New Year’s tragedy

“ Grant family calls for peace, love and forgiveness”

As the year anniversary of the tragic officer-involved shooting at Fruitvale Station of BART passenger Oscar Grant draws near, the Grant family and the BART Board of Directors are joining together to thank the public for their continued support for the reforms taking place in the BART Police Department.

Additionally, Oscar Grant’s mother, Wanda Johnson, wants to emphasize that people should honor her son’s memory on January 1 through “a day of celebration not demonstration.”  She added, “It is our hope that this day be a peaceful day to remember Oscar and the others who have been lost to violence.”

“We want the public to know we are a family of peace, love and forgiveness,” Oscar’s uncle Cephus Johnson said.

“In the year since my nephew was killed, I truly believe positive changes have occurred in the BART Police Department and many more will come. We want to thank the public for their continued involvement in making the BART Police the best it can be as we enter 2010.”

“On behalf of the BART Board of Directors, we want to again express our deepest and sincerest regret and our heartfelt condolences over the loss of Oscar Grant,” BART Director Carole Ward Allen said.  Ward Allen chairs the BART Police Department Review Committee, which is guiding the implementation of the changes within the police department. “We look forward to making more positive changes in 2010, including the hiring of a new police chief and working with the State Legislature to quickly amend the law so BART can implement independent citizen oversight of the BART Police Department.”

“This has been one of the most gut-wrenching episodes in BART’s history,” BART Board President James Fang said. “But through community involvement, non-biased professional assistance from the outside of BART and of course the extremely strong effort by our Board, particularly the efforts of Carole Ward Allen, we have learned from this tragic incident. Our prayers and deepest sympathies go to the Grant family on this inauspicious one-year anniversary of Oscar Grant’s death.”

“We want to thank the Grant family and the public for their support, which has been critical to making the reforms underway in the Police Department and we look forward to their continued support in the new year,” Director Ward Allen said.

On January 1, 2010 BARET issued the following press release:

BART Police Have Arrest-free New Year’s Eve

BART had an arrest-free New Year’s Eve despite dealing with crowded trains and the one-year anniversary of the shooting death of passenger Oscar Grant III in Oakland on Jan. 1, 2009.

BART carried about 87,800 passengers between 8 p.m. Thursday and 3 a.m. Friday, and carried about 302,800 passengers throughout the day, according to agency officials.

Many of the passengers were traveling to the annual fireworks show at San Francisco’s Embarcadero, where BART used a “skip-stop” schedule for the first time to alleviate overcrowding at its nearby station.

 photo oscargrant_flyer_web-2.jpgStarting at 8 p.m., trains on different lines skipped either the Embarcadero or Montgomery stations toallow the crowd to split evenly between the two stations, resulting in faster boarding times and less crowded platforms.

BART also assigned about 150 police officers, nearly 50 percent more than previous years, to patrol the system during the holiday. San Francisco and Oakland police officers and deputies from the San Francisco, Alameda and Contra Costa County sheriff’s departments also assisted near the stations during the evening.

There were a few isolated incidents on the system, but no arrests were made.

The relatively incident-free night stood in stark contrast to last year’s holiday, when former BART police Officer Johannes Mehserle shot and killed Grant, a 22-year-old Hayward man, at the Fruitvale station in Oakland. Mehserle, 27, and other officers had responded to reports of a fight on a train.

Mehserle has been charged with murder and is expected to stand trial sometime next year. His case has been moved to Los Angeles because a judge ruled it would be difficult for Mehserle to get a fair trial in Alameda County due to the extensive publicity the incident has received. Mehserle’s lawyer, Michael Rains, has admitted that Mehserle shot and killed Grant, but claims Mehserle meant to use his Taser to stun Grant and used his gun by mistake.

Grant’s family was among the people scheduled to attend a rally at the Fruitvale station at 2 p.m. today to mark the anniversary of Grant’s death.

BART General Manager Dorothy Dugger said in a statement that she was happy that this holiday turned out well for the agency.

“We couldn’t be more pleased at how this New Year’s Eve turned out,” Dugger said.

She thanked “our customers for continuing to put their faith in us to get them around the Bay Area quickly and safely.”

BART police Commander Daniel Hartwig said in a statement that, despite the few minor incidents, “New Year’s Eve 2009 was one of the smoothest I have ever seen in my nearly three decades at BART.”

“Fruitvale Station”

In the early hours of Jan. 1, 2009, Oscar Grant III, unarmed and lying face down on a subway platform in Oakland, Calif., was shot in the back by a white Bay Area Rapid Transit police officer. The incident, captured on video by onlookers, incited protest, unrest and arguments similar to those that would swirl around the killing of Trayvon Martin in Florida a few years later. The deaths of these and other African-American young men (Mr. Grant was 22) touch some of the rawest nerves in the body politic and raise thorny and apparently intractable issues of law and order, violence and race.

Fruitvale Station, Michael B. Jordan and Ariana Neal play father and daughter in this debut feature by Ryan Coogler, which opens on Friday in New York, San Francisco and Los Angeles. Mr. Jordan plays Oscar Grant, who was killed by a Bay Area Rapid Transit police officer.

Those matters are hardly absent from “Fruitvale Station,” Ryan Coogler’s powerful and sensitive debut feature, which imaginatively reconstructs the last 24 or so hours of Oscar Grant’s life, flashing back from a horrifying snippet of actual cellphone video of the hectic moments before the shooting. But Mr. Coogler, a 27-year-old Bay Area native who went to film school at the University of Southern California, examines his subject with a steady, objective eye and tells his story in the key of wise heartbreak rather than blind rage. It is not that the movie is apolitical or disengaged from the painful, public implications of Mr. Grant’s fate. But everything it has to say about class, masculinity and the tricky relations among different kinds of people in a proudly diverse and liberal metropolis is embedded in details of character and place.

Respectfully,

Abdul-Jalil