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Archive for July 16th, 2013

Why the Zimmerman Jury Failed Us

Posted by Admin On July - 16 - 2013 ADD COMMENTS

Why the Zimmerman Jury Failed Us

The Root

By  Lawrence D. Bobo

 
(The Root) –– America is racist at its core. I used to doubt this simplistic claim. Today I cannot. The murder of Trayvon Martin demands total, simple, honesty. A jury in Florida failed us. We have not seen a moral failure this grave since a similarly all-white jury in Simi Valley, Calif., in 1992 acquitted the four LAPD officers who beat Rodney King.

Writing in the same year as that ill-fated verdict, the distinguished civil rights lawyer Derrick Bell declared that “racism is an integral, permanent and indestructible component of this society.” In most circumstances, I treat this declaration as a foil: a claim to be slowly picked apart as, at best, too easy and, at worst, deeply unfair and wrong. Not today.

The most elemental facts of this case will never change. A teenager went out to buy Skittles and iced tea. At some point, he was confronted by a man with a gun who killed him. There is no universe I understand where this can be declared a noncriminal act. Not in a sane, just and racism-free universe.

There is only one universe in which such a judgment can happen. It is the same universe in which jurors can watch slow-motion video of four armed police officers beating a man and conclude that the man being beaten dictated everything that happened.

Two features of this universe loom large. First, it requires immersion in a culture of contempt, derision and at bottom, profound dehumanization of African Americans, particularly black men. You have to be well-prepared to believe the very worst about black people in order to reach such a conclusion. In particular, you have to proceed as if that person constituted a different, lesser former of humanity. Without that deep-rooted bias in the American cultural fabric, we would find that people would readily bring a powerful sense of basic shared human insight and empathy to the Trayvon-Zimmerman encounter.

Second, it requires that the panel judging whether or not a crime has taken place include not a single member of the victims’ racial background group. It really doesn’t work without that condition. The odds that anyone in the jury room openly rejected the arguments of “reasonable racism” — i.e., that enough of these people are criminals that it is basically OK to treat them all as suspects till they prove otherwise — went from low to near absolute zero when a singularly nondiverse jury was empaneled, as was true in Simi Valley. As a result, there was almost certainly nobody there who would say during the deliberations: “No, it is not OK to view me, a law-abiding black person, as criminal. It is not OK to ask me, in my own neighborhood, if I ‘belong,’ ‘what I’m doing’ or ‘where am I going.’ ” And it certainly is not OK to do so armed with a gun and in a presumably threatening manner. This is why diverse juries are critical to achieving justice in a case like Zimmerman’s.

But that is not the jury that was empaneled. In fact, the defense was wisely strategic in opting for a six-person jury; this decreased even further the odds that the panel would include someone likely to raise such concerns.

I feel ineffable anguish for Trayvon’s parents. Their son has, effectively, been murdered twice. No parents should have to suffer such pain and indignity. I feel sad for black parents from one end of this country to the other, especially the parents of young black boys. What do you tell a black teen today? What should they take from this trial? That a prosecutor wasn’t as good as the defense in a particular trial? That the evidence just wasn’t strong enough? That six honest people did their duty? I don’t think so. This just isn’t good enough.

The reason it isn’t good enough is that the elemental facts of this case will never change, and this jury made the wrong, morally bankrupt decision. We have public trials so that we may all observe and see a system dedicated to justice under the law striving toward that end. On too many dimensions, this trial sent the wrong message.

Truth is, however, I expected no more than what we got. As soon as the jury was empaneled, I had the terrible feeling of déjà vu and dreaded expectation that this would prove to be another Simi Valley situation. And it did.

I might not feel so bitter if the U.S. Supreme Court had not just gutted the Voting Rights Act. I might not feel so bitter if the same court had not just effectively established, in my estimation, an unattainable standard for constitutionally permissible consideration of race in pursuit of diversity in admission to colleges and universities. Indeed, I might not feel so bitter if stop and frisk was not an accepted practice in arguably the most tolerant city in America. But all of these things are true. And it sickens me.

Aggravating me almost as much is the lack of any organized, focused response to all these conditions from within the African-American community. To be sure, this is not the place or time for another critique of black leadership or the black middle class.

Were he still with us, I think Derrick Bell would counsel realism, which to him meant giving up on the naive dream that America would ever relinquish a commitment to racism and white supremacy. I am angry, outraged and disappointed with this verdict, but even at this moment, I cannot embrace this level of pessimism.

The path ahead is not an easy one. Trayvon’s killing demands justice. The need to bear witness here is clear. A decision that is the living embodiment of racism in our body politic happened, even if not a single member of that jury understood themselves as acting in such a way (I’m quite sure they didn’t). That is the power of cultural racism: When it is this deeply embedded in our basic cultural toolkit, it need not be named or even consciously embraced to work its ill effects.

Lots of us are disappointed and angry right now. Seething bitterness, however, is not a solution, nor is violence or striking out. The way forward is one of hard work on social and political organizing, as well as of forcing honest and painful discussions, and a passionate insistence on change and justice. This country still has a serious problem with racism. Let’s stop pretending this isn’t case or that it is all somehow healing itself. The second murder of Trayvon Martin compels this conclusion.

Lawrence D. Bobo is the W. E. B. Du Bois Professor of the Social Sciences and Chair of the Department of African and African American Studies at Harvard University.

Race in America – Past and Present

Posted by Admin On July - 16 - 2013 ADD COMMENTS

America’s Twentieth-Century Slavery

(Part 1 of an 11-part Series on Race in America – Past and Present) 

 

By Douglas A. Blackmon

A cry for help: Having exhausted all other options, a desperate young woman named Carrie Kinsey wrote this letter directly to President Theodore Roosevelt asking him to help her brother, who had been taken to a forced labor camp nearby. “Let me have him,” she writes. “He have not don nothing for them to hase him in chanes.”

The horrifying, little-known story of how hundreds of thousands of  Blacks worked in brutal bondage right up until World War II.

On July 31, 1903, a letter addressed to President Theodore Roosevelt arrived at the White House. It had been mailed from the town of Bainbridge, Georgia, the prosperous seat of a cotton county perched on the Florida state line.

The sender was a barely literate African-American woman named Carrie Kinsey. With little punctuation and few capital letters, she penned the bare facts of the abduction of her 14-year-old brother, James Robinson, who a year earlier had been sold into involuntary servitude.

Kinsey had already asked for help from the powerful White people in her world. She knew where her brother had been taken-a vast plantation not far away called Kinderlou. There, hundreds of Black men and boys were held in chains and forced to labor in the fields or in one of several factories owned by the McRee family, one of the wealthiest and most powerful in Georgia. No White official in this corner of the state would take an interest in the abduction and enslavement of a Black teenager.  

Confronted with a world of indifferent White people, Mrs. Kinsey did the only remaining thing she could think of. Newspapers across the country had recently reported on a speech by Roosevelt promising a “square deal” for Black Americans. Mrs. Kinsey decided that her only remaining hope was to beg the president of the United States to help her brother.

“Mr. Prassident,” she wrote. “They wont let me have him…. He hase not don nothing for them to have him in chanes so I rite to you for your help.”  

Considered more than a century later, her letter courses with desperation and submerged outrage. Yet when received at the White House, it was slipped into a small rectangular folder and forwarded to the Department of Justice. There, it was tagged with a reference number, 12007, and filed away. Teddy Roosevelt never saw it. No action was taken. Her words lie still at the National Archives just outside Washington, D.C.  

As dumbfounding as the story told by the Carrie Kinsey letter is, far more remarkable is what surrounds that letter at the National Archives. In the same box that holds her grief-stricken missive are at least half a dozen other pieces of correspondence recounting other stories of kidnapping, perversion of the courts, or human trafficking-as horrifying as, or worse than, Carrie Kinsey’s tale. It is the same in the next box on the shelf. And the one before. And the ones on either side of those. And the next and the next. And on and on. Thousands and thousands of plaintive letters and grimly bureaucratic responses-altogether at least 30,000 pages of original material-chronicle cases of forced labor and involuntary servitude in the South decades after the end of the Civil War.

“i have a little girl that has been kidnapped from me … and i cant get her out,” wrote Reverend L. R. Farmer, pastor of a Black Baptist church in Morganton, N.C. “i want ask you is it law for people to whip (col) people and keep them and not allow them to leave without a pass.”

A farmer near Pine Apple, Ala., named J. R. Adams, writing of terrible abuses by the dominant landowning family in the county, was one of the astonishingly few White southerners who also complained to the Department of Justice. “They have held negroes … for years,” Adams wrote. “It is a very rare thing that a negro escapes.”

A similar body of material rests in the files of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, the one institution that undertook any sustained effort to address at least the most terrible cases. Dwarfing everything at those repositories are the still largely unexamined collections of local records in courthouses across the South. In dank basements, abandoned buildings, and local archives, seemingly endless numbers of files contain hundreds of thousands of handwritten entries documenting in monotonous granularity the details of an immense, metastasizing horror that stretched well into the twentieth century.  

By the first years after 1900, tens of thousands of African-American men and boys, along with a smaller number of women, had been sold by southern state governments. An exponentially larger number, of whom surviving records are painfully incomplete, had been forced into labor through county and local courts, backwoods justices of the peace, and outright kidnapping and trafficking. The total number of those re-enslaved in the seventy-five years between the end of the Civil War and the beginning of World War II can’t be precisely determined, but based on the records that do survive, we can safely say it happened to hundreds of thousands. How many more African- Americans circumscribed their lives in dramatic ways, or abandoned all to flee the South entirely, to avoid that fate or mob violence? It is impossible to know. Millions. Generations.  

This is not an easy story for Americans to receive, much less accept. The idea that not just civil rights but basic freedom itself was denied to an enormous population of African-Americans until the middle of the twentieth century fits nowhere in the triumphalist, steady-progress, greatest-generations accounts we prefer for our national narrative. That the thrilling events depicted in Steven Spielberg’s recent film Lincoln-the heroic, frenzied campaign by Abraham Lincoln leading to passage of the Thirteenth Amendment abolishing slavery-were in fact later trumped not just by discrimination and segregation but by the resurrection of a full-blown derivative of slavery itself.  

This story of re-enslavement is irrefutably true, however. Indeed, even as Spielberg’s film conveys the euphoria felt by African-Americans and all opposed to slavery upon passage of the amendment in 1865, it also unintentionally foreshadows the demise of that brighter future. On the night of the amendment’s passage in the film, the African American housekeeper and, as presented in the film, secret lover of the abolitionist Congressman Thaddeus Stevens, played by the actress S. Epatha Merkerson, reads the amendment aloud. First, the sweeping banishment of slavery. And then, an often overlooked but powerful prepositional phrase: “except as a punishment for crime.”  

It began with Reconstruction. Faced with empty government coffers, a paralyzing intellectual inability to contemplate equitable labor arrangements with former chattel, profound resentment against the emancipated freedmen, and a desperate economic need to force Black workers back into the fields, White landowners and government officials began using the South’s criminal courts to compel African Americans back into slavery.  

In the first years after the Civil War, even as former slaves optimistically swarmed into new schools and lined up at courthouses at every whisper of a hope of economic independence, the Southern states began enacting an array of interlocking laws that would make all African-Americans criminals, regardless of their conduct, and thereby making it legal to force them into chain gangs, labor camps, and other forms of involuntarily servitude. By the end of 1865, every Southern state except Arkansas and Tennessee had passed laws outlawing vagrancy and defining it so vaguely that virtually any freed slave not under the protection of a White man could be arrested for the crime. An 1865 Mississippi statute required Black workers to enter into labor contracts with White farmers by January 1 of every year or risk arrest. Four other states legislated that African Americans could not legally be hired for work without a discharge paper from their previous employer-effectively preventing them from leaving the plantation of the White man they worked for.  

After the return of nearly complete White political control in 1877, the passage of those laws accelerated. Some, particularly those that explicitly said they applied only to African-Americans, were struck down in court appeals or through federal interventions, but new statutes embracing the same strictures on Black life quickly replaced them. Most of the new laws were written as if they applied to everyone, but in reality they were overwhelmingly enforced only against African- Americans.  

In the 1880s, Alabama, North Carolina, and Florida passed laws making it a crime for a Black man to change employers without permission. It was a crime for a Black man to speak loudly in the company of a White woman, a crime to have a gun in his pocket, and a crime to sell the proceeds of his farm to anyone other than the man he rented land from. It was a crime to walk beside a railroad line, a crime to fail to yield a sidewalk to White people, a crime to sit among Whites on a train, and it was most certainly a crime to engage in sexual relations with-or, God forbid, to show true love and affection for-a White girl.  

And that’s how it happened. Within a few years of the passage of these laws, tens of thousands of Black men and boys, and a smaller number of Black women, were being arrested and sold into forced labor camps by state officials, local judges, and sheriffs. During this time, some actual criminals were sold into slavery, and a small percentage of them were White. But the vast majority were Black men accused of trivial or trumped-up crimes. Compelling evidence indicates that huge numbers had in fact committed no offense whatsoever. As the system grew, countless White farmers and businessmen jostled to “lease” as many Black “criminals” as they could. Soon, huge numbers of other African-Americans were simply being kidnapped and sold into slavery.

The forced labor camps they found themselves in were islands of squalor and brutality. Thousands died of disease, malnourishment, and abuse. Mortality rates in some years exceeded 40 percent. At the same time, this new slavery trade generated millions of dollars for state and local governments-for many years it was the single largest source of income for the state of Alabama. As these laws and practices expanded across the South, they became the primary means to terrorize African- Americans, and to coerce them into going along with other exploitative labor arrangements, like sharecropping, that are more familiar to twenty-first-century Americans.

This was the terrifying trap into which Carrie Kinsey’s young brother had been drawn. After a trip through the counties near Kinsey’s home, W. E. B. Du Bois, who was then teaching at Atlanta’s Morehouse College, described in 1905 one such convict farm. “It is a depressing place-bare, unshaded, with no charm of past association, only a memory of forced human toil-now, then, and before the war,” he wrote. He described Black farmworkers who never saw wages because charges for rent and food always exceeded any compensation. “A dismal place it still remains, with rows of ugly huts filled with surly ignorant tenants,” Du Bois wrote. “And now and then it blazes forth in veiled but hot anger.”

Du Bois could easily have been describing Kinderlou, where Kinsey’s brother was taken. Encompassing 22,000 acres, it was an enterprise that dwarfed any antebellum definition of the word “plantation.” Owned by state Representative Edward McRee and his brothers, Kinderlou was an unparalleled center of economic and political power in Georgia. By 1900, the siblings had inherited the enterprise from their father, a noted Confederate officer named George McRee. Each lived in a lavish mansion within a square mile of the center of the plantation, basking in the subtropical warmth of the Gulf Coast.  

Between them, an empire bustled with enslaved laborers. Consuming the bulk of an entire county, Kinderlou included thousands of acres of lushly fertile sandy loam, and thousands more of dense pine and hardwood. On a private spur of the Atlantic Coast Line Railroad thrust into the center of the plantation, dozens of boxcars waited at all times for the hundreds of thousands of bushels of tomatoes, watermelons, cantaloupes, corn, tobacco, and cotton. The McRees owned their own cotton gins, compresses to make bales, and warehouses to store enormous quantities of lint. A five-horsepower steam engine ground the plantation’s sugarcane to make syrup. Five 80-foot-long barns were built to cure tobacco, and a factory produced thousands of pallets, wooden crates, and baskets for shipping produce. Deep in the forests, McRee turpentine camps collected rosin for their naval stores distillery.  

Initially, the McRees hired only free Black labor, but beginning in the 1890s they routinely leased a hundred or more convicts from the state of Georgia to perform the grueling work of clearing land, removing stumps, ditching fields, and constructing roads. Other prisoners hoed, plowed, and weeded the crops. Over the course of fifteen years, thousands of men and women were forced to Kinderlou and held in stockades under the watch of armed guards. After the turn of the century, the brothers began to arrange for even more forced laborers through the sheriffs of nearby counties in Georgia and Florida-fueling what eventually grew into a sprawling traffic in humans.

A Black worker in 1904 described to a journalist how he arrived at the farm at age 10 as a free laborer. A few years later, he attempted to leave to work at another plantation. Before sundown on the day of his departure, one of the McRees and “some kind of law officer” tracked him down. The new employer apologized to the McRees for hiring the young worker, saying he would never have done so if he had known “this nigger was bound out to you.”

“So I was carried back to the Captain’s,” the man said later. “That night he made me strip off my clothing down to my waist, had me tied to a tree in his backyard, ordered his foreman to gave me thirty lashes with a buggy whip across my bare back, and stood by until it was done.”

When his labor contract finally expired after a decade, the man was told he could leave Kinderlou, so long as he could pay his accumulated debt at the plantation commissary-$165, the rough equivalent of two years’ labor for a free farmer. Unable to do so, of course, he was compelled to sign a contract promising to work on the farm until the debt was paid, but now as a convict.  

He and other “prison laborers” slept each night in the same clothes they wore in the fields, on rotting mattresses infested with pests. Many were chained to their beds. Food was crude and minimal. The disobedient were tied to a log lying on their backs, while a guard spanked their bare feet with a plank of wood. After a slave was untied, if he could not return to work on his blistered feet, he was strapped to the log again, this time facedown, and lashed with a leather whip. Women prisoners were held across a barrel and whipped on their bare bottoms.

In the summer of 1903, the assistant U.S. attorney in Macon, Georgia, began a brief investigation into Kinderlou’s army of Black laborers held against their will. He discovered that the brothers had arrangements with sheriffs and other officers in at least six other Georgia counties. These law enforcement officials would seize Blacks on the grounds that they were “committing crimes,” often specious and sometimes altogether made up, and then sell them to the McRees and other businessmen, without ever going through the regular processes of the criminal courts. When the McRees learned of the investigation, they hastily freed the workers being held involuntarily. At least forty fled immediately.

James Robinson, the brother of Carrie Kinsey, may have been one of them, though federal officials never connected her allegations to the Kinderlou investigation. Even if Kinsey’s brother’s case had been investigated, her letter misspelled the name of the plantation.

In November 1903, a grand jury indicted the McRee brothers on 13 specific counts of holding African-American men and women illegally. Many of those enslaved had never been charged or tried in any fashion. Several public officials were indicted for conspiring to buy and sell Blacks arrested on trivial or fabricated charges and then turning them over to the McRees. Sheriff Thomas J. McClellan, resorting to an audacious legal defense employed repeatedly in the handful of slavery cases brought by federal officials in the early twentieth century, argued that since no federal law specifically made slavery a crime, he could not be guilty of violating it. In effect, he claimed slavery was not illegal in the United States.  

A member of the U.S. Congress submitted a legal brief in support of the sheriff, and prominent state officials sat at the defendants’ table during a hearing on a challenge to their charges. Across Georgia, operators of lumber camps, where thousands of other men were being held under similarly dubious circumstances, watched the proceedings closely. Appearing with his brothers before a Savannah courtroom, Edward McRee assured the judge that while his family had held many African Americans in the four decades since slavery’s abolition, they had never intended to enslave anyone or break the law. “Though we are probably technically guilty we did not know it,” he told the court. “This custom has been [in] existence ever since the war…. We never knew that we were doing anything wrong.”

The judge, hoping to avoid inflaming the anger of local whites, dispensed symbolic punishments. The McRees were allowed to plead guilty and pay a token fine of $1,000. In the wake of that trial and other failed prosecutions in the first years of the century, the U.S. Department of Justice turned a blind eye to such practices for the next 40 years. Only the advent of World War II, a declining need for low-skill laborers, and a new era of federal prosecution would finally bring a true end to American slavery.  

More than 100 years after Carrie wrote her letter, I received an unexpected call from a man who identified himself as Bernard Kinsey. He believed he was one of Carrie’s cousins.  

Her letter had haunted me through years of research for the book I wrote on re-enslavement. What those few lines conveyed-the seizure of a teenage boy and his sale to a powerful businessman, the abject refusal of authorities to assist her, the brutalization of thousands of other Blacks on the same plantation, the heroism of Carrie in seeking the aid of President Roosevelt, and, finally, the futility of her letter-captured the entire epic tragedy of Black life in the rural South in the time between the Civil War and World War II. Even to this day, I find myself turning back to her story, resifting census records and cemetery records, looking for the fate of her brother. Did he escape? Did he die at Kinderlou? The answer still eludes me.  

Bernard Kinsey represented the counter story. He told me that the Kinsey family fled to Florida not long after the McRee trial of 1903. Bernard’s father opened one grocery store. Then more. Bernard graduated from Florida A&M University in 1967, and a few years later he became one of the first Black employees of Xerox Corp. Twenty years later, he retired as a senior executive, one of more than 10,000 African Americans at the company. He then became a major civic leader in Los Angeles, a successful entrepreneur and philanthropist, and one of the leading collectors of African- American art and artifacts in the U.S.

Here was the valiance of African-Americans who persevered against immeasurable odds. Here was the miracle that American society survived its sweeping betrayal of its own values, its collective dishonoring and debasement of Lincoln’s achievement, the euphoric crowds of 1865 and all those who had died in the Civil War. Ultimately, it is only in a full revelation of all three narratives-of Lincoln and the Thirteenth Amendment, of re-enslavement and the failure of American character, and of the slow ongoing resurrection of our values through the struggle of citizens such as Bernard Kinsey-that we can begin to understand the progress we have made, and the progress we have yet to achieve.  

A few weeks after the publication of my book, the great-great-granddaughter of a White industrialist and enslaver of thousands in Atlanta wrote me to describe her pain at discovering a personal connection to these events-and the importance of not looking away from them.

“We did not know of any of this before,” she wrote. “But I believe that the ghosts of slavery and racism and the terrorism inflicted within our own country must not be hidden away but brought out into the open…. Without the whole truth, we live only in illusions.”

Douglas A. Blackmon is the author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning “Slavery by Another Name: The Re-enslavement of Black Americans from the Civil War to World War II.” He teaches at the University of Virginia’s Miller Center and is a contributing editor at the Washington Post. This article, the first of an 11-part series on race, is sponsored by the W. K. Kellogg Foundation and was originally published by the Washington Monthly Magazine.

Student Loans and American Skills: Different Times, Two Different Reactions

Posted by Admin On July - 16 - 2013 ADD COMMENTS
By William E. Spriggs
 
 
 
On Oct. 4, 1957, the Soviet Union shocked America with the successful launch of Sputnik I, the first man-made object launched into Earth orbit. The 20th century quickly became passé, the race was on for the 21st century and America realized the race would be won with technical skill and know-how. So, the response was quick. By September 1958, President Eisenhower and the 85th Congress, with the Senate almost evenly split between 49 Democrats and 47 Republicans voting 62-26, put in place the National Defense Student Loan program.
 
Concerned that America could not produce enough skilled people if college was left to the wealthy, the loan program was to make sure that talented but less well-off American children could have access to a college education to make sure we would have enough teachers to keep class sizes down, scientists and engineers to meet the technical challenges and skilled linguists for a global society.
 
The maximum loan a student could take out was $1,000 a year and $5,000 over a lifetime. That figure needs to be put in context in two ways. Adjusted for inflation, that would be $8,060 today, compared with the current program’s cap of $5,500 a year. But, to put $1,000 in the context of college tuition, in 1958 tuition to the Ivy League University of Pennsylvania was $1,050 a year for undergraduates.
The loans were backed by the U.S. Treasury, so the legislation fixed the payback at the cost of money to the U.S. government-3 percent. To put that 3 percent in context, in 1958, the prime rate that leading banks charged good corporate clients was 4 percent and home mortgage interest rates were running close to 5 percent. There was built-in loan forgiveness for students who entered the K-12 teaching corps. So, to summarize, in less than one year, a Republican president and a Democratic Congress put in place a program to expand college opportunity so that an American child could borrow and pay for tuition to any college in the United States, including the Ivy League, and borrow the money at a rate less than the prime rate for American corporations or home mortgage rates of the day.
Now, in 2013, the 21st century is here. What policy makers understood in 1958 would happen is upon us. We live in a global economy where the success of a nation is dependent on the ability to train a highly skilled work force. And what is the reaction? Well, the Senate passed an immigration reform bill that will increase the flow of highly skilled workers into the United States by estimates of 40,000 a year. And, Congress left town for district days to celebrate American Independence, letting the interest rate on college student debt double to 6.8% at a time when the prime rate is 3.25 percent and mortgages are around 4.3 percent.
On Tuesday, the president met with the Congressional Black Caucus which raised the regulatory changes the Department of Education made that resulted in denying college loan access to middle income African American families by arbitrarily changing the way their creditworthiness was determined. African American families that had been receiving loans then were denied loans, throwing students out of school midway in their studies. More than 15,000 of these families had students at historically black colleges and universities-the schools that graduate almost one in three African Americans earning baccalaureates in science, technology, engineering or math; the very skills America lacks. So, does this mean the response from this president and this Congress is that facing a need to increase skilled workers, we will import them and “save” on having to do something to lift American children?
As a nation we are facing the same crossroads faced in 1958, but what a difference 55 years makes in American policy response. Rather than double down our investment on American children and give them every advantage to pull our nation forward to meet the challenges ahead, we would rather “outsource” the skill development and “import” the talent.
On Friday, July 5, right after Independence Day, the Labor Department reported that the unemployment rate for 18- to 19-year-olds-our current crop of high school graduates-was 22.6 percent. For those 20 to 24-including those who would have recently finished college or community college-the unemployment rate was 13.5 percent. For 18- to 19-year-olds, that is an improvement over the record level of 25.3 percent they had in December 2009, but it still is worse than any monthly unemployment rate in history before 2009, except for two months in the 1982-83 downturn, when it peaked at 22.8 percent. These numbers are not acceptable. Four years into a “recovery,” we cannot leave our young people with no jobs and turn our back on them in helping to make their investment in education affordable.
Young people are not fooled. The government stepped in to bail out Wall Street when it collapsed of its own folly. The Federal Reserve stepped in to hand money at virtually zero interest to keep banks afloat. So, clearly government is “not the problem” if you are a group that can pay your way to the table; government is “the answer.”
To economists, interest rates tell us the price of the future. It is called the “discount rate,” letting us know how much you would “discount” getting money in the future rather than today. When we set high interest rates on loans to students, we are saying that now is more important than their future. When we would rather give money to banks or corporations at lower rates we are betting more of our future on them than on our children. Worse, as Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) points out, by charging our children higher rates, the government nets $51 billion above its cost of obtaining funds.
So, when we are more concerned about keeping the tax rates low for corporations that keep their money offshore and hide behind foreign tax-haven borders than in creating policies to hire our own children, it says even more. And, when our response to a skills shortage is to import people rather than develop our children, we say even more. Two different times, two different policy reactions….says a lot about us.
William Spriggs serves as Chief Economist to the AFL-CIO and is a professor in, and former chair of the Department of Economics at Howard University.  Bill is also former assistant secretary for the Office of Policy at the United States Department of Labor.

This is the Moment for Action on Climate Change

Posted by Admin On July - 16 - 2013 ADD COMMENTS

By Benjamin Todd Jealous

President/CEO of the NAACP

 
President Obama kicked off the summer with a high-profile environmental speech at Georgetown University. He put forth a plan to limit carbon emissions for coal-fired power plants, and called for America to double renewable energy sources. As the details of this plan emerge, it is important to remember who is most affected by coal pollution: low-income communities and communities of color.
 
 
Pollution from coal-fired power plants is estimated to cause 13,200 premature deaths and 9,700 hospitalizations in the United States every year. It has been linked to asthma attacks, lung inflammation, chronic bronchitis, irregular heart conditions, and birth defects. None of the so-called “emissions controls” introduced in the past few years have gone far enough to diminish those numbers.
 
 
If we look deeper, we can see exactly which communities and neighborhoods bear the brunt of the impact. According to Census data, the six million Americans who live within three miles of a coal plant have an average income of $18,400, compared with $21,857 nationwide. Thirty nine percent are people of color.  As a result, emissions from coal combustion often harm those who are least able to afford the effects of exposure.
 
This is no accident. The simple fact is that very few people want a coal plant in their backyard. Therefore, power companies have a strong incentive to maintain plants in the area of least political resistance. To add insult to injury, the sight of spewing smokestacks often brings property values down even further. The coal-fired power plant has come to serve as cause and symbol of urban and suburban blight.
 
In November 2012, the NAACP and our partners released a report to raise awareness about the disparate impact of coal pollution, titled, Coal Blooded: Putting Profits Before People. The report created the first ranking system that judged coal plants based on their demographic impact as well as their emissions levels.
 
 
Coal Blooded was written as a guide for local NAACP units and other community groups to take action. Each of the nation’s 378 plants operating at the time of the report received an easily-referenced “Environmental Justice Performance” score based partly on the race, income, and density of the surrounding neighborhood. Already, NAACP units have started to host education and advocacy activities in communities that are host to the most harmful power plants.
 
 
The message of these activities is straightforward: we need to transition away from coal power and replace coal plants with profitable, clean energy alternatives. And we need to focus our energy on coal plants that have the most harmful impact on their surrounding communities.
 
 
Coal power is not without its supporters, even in the communities most affected by pollution. However, the negatives almost always outweigh the positives. No coal plant is worth the cost – in emotional loss and loss of productivity – when children are getting sick, grandparents are dying early, and mothers and fathers are missing work.
 
 
Moreover, it is possible to maintain jobs and livelihoods without relying on dirty coal. As President Obama rightly noted in his speech, the future of American energy independence lies in clean energy – an emerging sector that is poised to create millions of jobs and ensure an affordable power supply far into the future.
 
 
America is moving beyond coal. As we do so, it is important to remember the human impact of coal pollution. Climate change is more than an environmental issue – it is a civil rights and human rights issue as well.
 
Ben Jealous is president/CEO of the NAACP.
 

Felony Trial for Gary Wagaman Postponed Until September 16

Posted by Admin On July - 16 - 2013 ADD COMMENTS

Prosecution failed to review key evidence, requested continuance to interview police officers

 

CHICAGO, IL – The bench trial for Mr. Gary Wagaman on four counts of felony aggravated battery against a Chicago police officer has been postponed until September 16 at 9am. Wagaman is alleged to have thrown a deadly weapon—a frying pan—at the officer. He was arrested along with other protesters at a “casserole” march on June 6, 2012 that was held in solidarity with student strikes in Montreal. Casserole marches typically include protesters using pots, pans, and kitchen utensils as noise makers. Nearly all of the people arrested that day had their charges dropped and one was acquitted at trial. Only Wagaman continues to face charges, which supporters say are politically motivated and designed to scare people away from exercising their First Amendment rights to free speech and assembly.

What: Felony trial for Gary Wagaman (case no. 12 CR 11384)

When: Monday, September 16, 9am

Where: 2650 S. California Ave, Courtroom 207, Chicago

Supporters point to the commonplace use of police violence and trumped up charges against protesters across the country as indicative of a pattern of state repression against dissent. The Chicago Police Department (CPD) also has a notorious history of using violence and intimidation against protesters in the streets, as clearly seen in the CPD’s responses to last year’s North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) protests. Wagaman’s arrest is one of many arrests that occurred across the country during solidarity marches with the student strike in Montreal and as students and their allies have taken to the streets to protest exorbitant student loan interest rates and soaring student loan debt at home.

Supporters will pack the courtroom to show the strong community support for Wagaman and refusal to tolerate repressive police violence and politically motivated prosecutions.

Visit https://www.facebook.com/FreeGaryWagaman?fref=ts for more information.

What is important is that this is not over

Posted by Admin On July - 16 - 2013 ADD COMMENTS

 Marc Morial

President, National Urban League 

The times have called for swift and organized action (see the National Urban League’s official response to the Trayvon Martin trial verdict here: http://iamempowered.com/node/116984) and the National Urban League has called an Emergency Town Hall at the 2013 National Urban League “Redeem the Dream” Conference.  The Town Hall, moderated by Melissa Harris-Perry, will feature an address from Attorney General Eric Holder and convene the community to tackle recent attacks on voting rights, affirmative action, civil rights and justice!

We will Redeem the Dream and commemorate the 50th Anniversary of the March on Washington while charting the course for the present and future of civil rights and urban advocacy at Conference —- but your participation is needed!

There is still time to register for this important event, attend the Town Hall and hear from civil rights and urban advocacy leaders and influencers including:

Congressman John Conyers, Congressman John Lewis, Barbara Arnwine, Rev. Al Sharpton, Michael Eric Dyson, Rev. Jesse Jackson, Sr., Ryan Coogler  (director of major motion picture, Fruitvale Station), Melissa Harris-Perry and  more!

We look forward to seeing you in Philadelphia!

Register at http://conf2013.iamempowered.com/

 

Beyond the verdict in Sanford

Posted by Admin On July - 16 - 2013 ADD COMMENTS

Marc Mauer

The Sentencing Project

As have all Americans, we have followed the trial in the tragic death of Trayvon Martin with great concern. The outpouring of emotion following the verdict this weekend is a strong statement of the degree to which this case has touched people and resonated with deep feelings about race in America today.

Unfortunately, we have been here before. The high profile cases of Rodney King, O.J. Simpson, the Jena 6, and others have all produced national conversations about race, justice, and politics. These dialogues have been constructive in many ways, but of course we need to do much more than engage in such discussions only when a single case rises to that level of understanding.

As we look back on recent decades, modest progress has taken place on these issues. In many jurisdictions, attention to racial profiling has resulted in changes in policy and practice. In the court system, the excessive penalties often applied to defendants of color and others in drug cases have led to reforms in mandatory sentencing laws at the federal and state levels. In both the adult and juvenile justice systems, the number of incarcerated African Americans has begun to decline modestly in recent years.

Even so, we still are faced with a society and a criminal justice system in which one of every three African American males, and one of every six Hispanic males, can expect to go to prison in his lifetime if current trends continue. A shameful truth is that too often it appears that there is a different criminal justice system for whites and blacks, and for the wealthy and the poor, in our country. This is an unconscionable situation that can only be addressed through ongoing and comprehensive change.

At The Sentencing Project we are proud to have been one among many organizations and individuals who are advocating for reform and racial justice. This weekend’s events only remind us of the importance of continuing in these struggles, and we will welcome your active engagement with us in the weeks and months ahead.

Steppenwolf Theatre Company’s First Look Repertory features new work by Aaron Carter, Edith Freni and Janine Nabers

Posted by Admin On July - 16 - 2013 ADD COMMENTS

Eighth Annual Rep kicks off July 29 in the Garage Theatre

CHICAGO, IL – Performances begin in three weeks for Steppenwolf Theatre Company’s upcoming eighth annual First Look Repertory of New Work, featuring three developmental productions of new plays presented in rotating repertory July 29 – August 25, 2013 in the Garage Theatre (1624 N Halsted St). First Look 2013 includes: Annie Bosh is Missing by Janine Nabers, directed by Shade Murray; Buena Vista by Edith Freni, directed by ensemble member Tim Hopper; and The Gospel of Franklin by Aaron Carter. The 2013 festival also features free readings of three new plays: BARBECUE written and directed by Robert O’Hara; Tempo by Mike Batistick, directed by ensemble member Ian Barford; and Your Name Will Follow You Home by Carlos Murillo, directed by Dexter Bullard. Tickets to First Look Repertory of New Work ($20) are on sale now at steppenwolf.org/firstlook, 1650 N Halsted St or 312-335-1650. Student tickets ($15) are available with valid ID. Passes to all three plays are available for $45.

“Part of what makes First Look such an exciting program is introducing new plays to audiences for the first time,” comments Producer Jacob Padrón. “Our audience is the final and perhaps most important collaborator. I find it electrifying to sit in a dark theater knowing I am among the first to experience a new work. We hope the audience shares in the same sense of excitement.”

The mission of First Look Repertory of New Work is to develop plays for future production at Steppenwolf and other theaters across the country. Since its inception, 12 of the 21 plays presented during First Look’s first seven seasons have enjoyed subsequent world premieres at other theaters, including: Sarah Gubbins’ Fair Use, produced by Actors’ Express in Atlanta, Georgia; Jason Wells’ Perfect Mendacity, produced by Asolo Repertory Theatre in Sarasota, Florida; Wells’s Men of Tortuga, also produced by Asolo, with a second production at Profiles Theater in Chicago; The Butcher of Baraboo by Marisa Wegrzyn, produced by 2econd Stage Theatre in New York, with a second production at A Red Orchid Theatre in Chicago; 100 Saints You Should Know by Kate Fodor, produced by Playwrights Horizons in New York; Spare Change by Mia McCullough, produced by Stage Left Theatre in Chicago; Gary by Melinda Lopez, produced by Boston Playwrights’ Theatre in Massachusetts; When The Messenger is Hot by Laura Eason, produced by 59E59 Theaters in New York; Eason’s Sex with Strangers, produced by Steppenwolf, with a second production scheduled at Second Stage Theatre in New York; Pursued by Happiness by Keith Huff, produced by Road Theater Company in Los Angeles, California; The North Plan by Jason Wells, produced by Portland Center Stage, with a second production at Theater Wit in Chicago; and Oblivion by Carly Mensch is scheduled for Westport Country Playhouse in Connecticut.

The production team for First Look 2013 includes William Boles (scenic design), Joanna Melville (costume design, Annie Bosh is Missing), Sally Dolembo (costume design, Buena Vista), David Hyman (costume design, The Gospel of Franklin), Heather Gilbert (lighting design) and Kevin O’Donnell (sound design). Additional credits include: Erica Daniels (casting), Ryan Bourque (fight choreography), Cassie Wolgamott (lead stage manager), Michelle Medvin (stage manager) and Jonathan Nook (stage manager).

DEVELOPMENTAL PRODUCTIONS

Annie Bosh is Missing

A new play by Janine Nabers

Directed by Shade Murray

Featuring Jennifer Avery, Brittany Burch, Ian Paul Custer, Caroline Neff, David Seeber, Krenée A. Tolson and Phillip Edward Van Lear

Annie Bosh is back. 22 years old and fresh out of rehab, she finds herself working in a bowling alley, living in her mother’s ritzy subdivision, and desperate to move on with her life. Slipping out of the front gates, Annie wanders the chaotic streets of a post-Hurricane Katrina Houston, but what exactly is she looking for?

Janine Nabers is a 2012 New York Theatre Workshop playwriting fellow. Her plays include: Welcome to Jesus, Serial Black Face, Annie Bosh is Missing, A Swell in the Ground, West of the Willow Tree, Juniper, Jubilee and book to the musical Mrs. Hughes (composer/lyricist Sharon Kenny).

Buena Vista

A new play by Edith Freni

Directed by ensemble member Tim Hopper

Featuring Leah Karpel, Rich Komenich, Luigi Sottile and Karen Vaccaro

When Noah shows up at his family’s isolated Colorado cabin, he discovers his estranged mother has been squatting there for months. Then Dad walks in—questioning the reason for his son’s retreat—and Noah’s weekend getaway turns into a bizarre, snowed-in family nightmare. A series of revelations ignite Buena Vista’s surreal conclusion, unfolding in a frozen wooden box at 12,000 feet above sea level.

Edith Freni’s work has been developed and produced at Ensemble Studio Theatre, New York Theatre Workshop, LAByrinth Theatre Company and The Public Theatre, among others. Her plays include Total Power Exchange, The Prince, KidStuff, Baby Girl and Help Yourself. She is a former competitive amateur boxer and a competitive triathlete. She teaches playwriting at the University of Miami, where she is currently at work on a trilogy of classical Greek adaptations commissioned by the University MFA: NYU.

The Gospel of Franklin                                                      

A new play by Aaron Carter

Directed by Robert O’Hara

Featuring Rob Fenton, Tim Frank, Keith D. Gallagher, Gavin Lawrence and Julian Parker

Franklin is a man of God with a talent for recognizing people who suffer in secret. A working-class black man, he mentors young white men at the factory with a preacher’s zeal. But when Franklin himself needs help, it is his son William who comes to the rescue. The Gospel of Franklin is a warm, fiercely intelligent play that asks the question: can you save someone who doesn’t want to be saved?

Aaron Carter is the director of new play development at Steppenwolf Theater Company where he is completing his second season. As a playwright, Aaron’s work focuses on race, faith and obscure performance skills. Chicago credits include Panther Burn and First Words, both produced by MPAACT. His play Start Fair was originally developed at Next Theater and has had subsequent readings with Route 66 Theatre Company and the Lorraine Hansberry Theater in San Francisco.

READINGS

BARBECUE
A new play written and directed by Robert O’Hara

Featuring ensemble members Alana Arenas, Mariann Mayberry and James Vincent Meredith with Cheryl Lynn Bruce, Kate Buddeke, Jennifer Engstrom, TaRon Patton, Tamberla Perry, Jason Wells and Nicole Wiesner

A pot head, an alcoholic, a pill popper and a control freak. The last four people who should EVER perform an intervention decide it’s time for their crack-head sister, Zippity Boom, to get HER life together. This hilarious over-the-top family portrait offers all the pleasures of watching people in a knock-down drag-out fight, but also asks: who’s zooming who?

Robert O’Hara has directed at Steppenwolf Theatre Company, New York Shakespeare Festival, Alley Theater, Arena Stage, Center Theatre Group/Kirk Douglas Theater, Alliance Theater, City Theater, American Conservatory Theater, Primary Stages and Goodman Theater, among many others. He received a NAACP Best Director Award, Helen Hayes Award for Outstanding New Play, an Oppenheimer for Best American Debut and an Obie Award. He is currently an Adjunct Professor at NYU/Tisch and Mellon Resident at Woolly Mammoth Theater Company.

Tempo
A new play by Mike Batistick

Directed by ensemble member Ian Barford

Featuring Daniel Cantor, Carrie Coon, Marissa Lichwick, Kelly O’Sullivan, Andy Pang and Dan Waller

Jim is a pharmaceutical salesman who is flailing at his job. He’s taking his own medicine. He drives a Ford Tempo. And his wife is about to leave him. But he’s about to come up with a plan that he hopes will right the ship: too bad it’s not legal.

Michael Batistick is the author of three critically-acclaimed Off-Broadway plays: Chicken, Port Authority Throw Down and Ponies. In television, he has written for FX’s The Americans and Dick Wolf’s Chicago PD on NBC. His original pilot We Counted Your Knives is currently in development with USA Network. Other plays include Bodega Lung Fat (Public Theater New Work Now) and Flag (Hangar Theater in Ithaca, NY). A graduate of Julliard’s writing program, he grew up in New Jersey and went to undergrad at Fordham University in the Bronx.

Your Name Will Follow You Home
A new play by Carlos Murillo

Directed by Dexter Bullard

Featuring ensemble member Yasen Peyankov with Cliff Chamberlain, Sandra Delgado, Derek Gaspar, Adam Poss, Amanda Powell, Sarah Price and Juan Villa

Javier and Alvaro’s quest to tell the story of reclusive Chicano writer Danny Santiago leads them down the rabbit hole of American identity. Can they tell a story where Charlie Chaplin, aristocratic ex-Stalinists, the black list, 50s B-Monster Movies, East LA gangbangers, serial plagiarists and forgers, fake Latinos, and Jesse James intermingle? And will their friendship survive?

Carlos Murillo is a resident playwright at New Dramatists and is the head of the DePaul University playwriting program. His plays include Augusta & Noble, Dark Play or stories for boys, A Human Interest Story (or The Gory Details and All), Offspring of the Cold War and Schadenfreude. His work has been produced at the Humana Festival at Actors Theatre of Louisville, Adventure Stage, Walkabout Theatre, Circle X, Soho Rep and others.

The Harold and Mimi Steinberg Charitable Trust is the Production Sponsor of First Look Repertory of New Work.

Steppenwolf Theatre Company is America’s longest standing, most distinguished ensemble theater, producing nearly 700 performances and events annually in its three Chicago theater spaces—the 515-seat Downstairs Theatre, the 299-seat Upstairs Theatre and the 80-seat Garage Theatre. Formed in 1976 by a collective of actors, Steppenwolf has grown into an ensemble of 43 actors, writers and directors. Artistic programming at Steppenwolf includes a five-play Subscription Season, a two-play Steppenwolf for Young Adults season and three repertory series: First Look Repertory of New Work, Garage Rep and Next Up. While firmly grounded in the Chicago community, nearly 40 original Steppenwolf productions have enjoyed success both nationally and internationally, including Off-Broadway, Broadway, London, Sydney and Dublin. Steppenwolf has the distinction of being the only theater to receive the National Medal of Arts, in addition to numerous other prestigious honors including an Illinois Arts Legend Award and 12 Tony Awards. Martha Lavey is the Artistic Director and David Hawkanson is the Executive Director. Nora Daley is Chair of Steppenwolf’s Board of Trustees. For additional information, visit steppenwolf.org, facebook.com/steppenwolftheatre and twitter.com/steppenwolfthtr.

SIDES to Fight Fraud, Protect Taxpayers, Save Money

Posted by Admin On July - 16 - 2013 ADD COMMENTS

CHICAGO, IL – A new internet exchange will make it easier and more efficient to protest unemployment insurance claims, identify potential fraud and protect the money used to pay unemployment benefits, the Illinois Department of Employment Security (IDES) said today.

The State Information Data Exchange System (SIDES) allows employers to protest unemployment claims using a secured website and a nationally standardized format. This enhancement saves money, improves eligibility decisions and protects workers’ benefits.

“SIDES allows a company to use the internet to protest unemployment insurance claims. If you can surf the web, you can use SIDES,” IDES Director Jay Rowell said. “SIDES also protects employers and employees because it keeps more money in the Trust Fund. A healthy Trust Fund balance means less pressure to raise business taxes or lower unemployment insurance benefits.”

SIDES can save employers and employees money because it will produce timelier, more accurate decisions. Doing so means more money staying in the Trust Fund, the bank account from which unemployment benefits are paid. The account’s balance affects taxation rates and benefit payment amounts.  

Employers choose to participate in SIDES through the TaxNet, website. Employers who do not have a TaxNet account can create one at no cost. TaxNet offers many conveniences to business leaders, including the ability to file required monthly reporting, pay taxes and correct quarterly reports. Once a partner with TaxNet, employers can choose the SIDES button on the left side of the computer screen.

A tax net account can be established at taxnet.ides.state.il.us. To establish a TaxNet account, the user will need an e-mail address to receive SIDES notifications, a Federal Employment Identification Number (FEIN) and an unemployment insurance account number. For verification purposes, the process can take up to four business days. Once established, a business can authorize multiple individuals to access the TaxNet and SIDES accounts.

Father Michael Pfleger likens Zimmerman acquittal to murder of Emmett Till

Posted by Admin On July - 16 - 2013 ADD COMMENTS
Says ‘Racism is in the DNA of American Society’
 
 
By Chinta Strausberg
 
 
In a very emotionally charged worship service, Father Michael L. Pfleger Sunday called on the U.S. Justice Department to open a Civil Rights case against recently acquitted George Zimmerman and likened the results of the Trayvon Martin case to the murder of Emmett Till 58-years ago—both murderers got off Scott-free.
 
Saying racism has once again raised its ugly head, Father Pfleger said the acquittal of Zimmerman, accused of murdering the 17-year-old teen, is an indictment against all black men in America.
 
Pfleger called on President Barack Obama and U.S. Attorney Eric Holder to not only open a civil rights case against  Zimmerman but to design a new Civil Rights bill and to restore the voting rights the U.S. Supreme Court recently watered down by striking down a key section of the 1965 Voting Rights Act. The ruling allows some states to challenge and change the laws or voting rules activists say will make it more difficult for minorities to vote.
 
Father Pfleger also called on Obama and congress to declare violence a public health issue so that the funding resources for stemming violence will follow.
 
Flanked by the men in his church including children holding signs that read, “I AM TRAYVON MARTIN” AND “TRAYVON MARTIN Murdered Again By Injustice System,” Pfleger said he is angry, disappointed and disgusted over the not guilty verdict of Zimmerman and said this case is far from over.
 
With the choir, led by Cinque Cullar, singing,“What About the Children,” Father Pfleger said, “Like many of you, I’m angry. I’m disappointed. I’m disgusted and yet like many of you, I’m not shocked. Unfortunately, this is the America that we know all too well.“
 
Referring to the acquittal of Zimmerman, Pflegersaid, “Yesterday, we watched the justice system fail miserably again. TrayvonMartin was murdered again by an injustice system.
 
“The most basic and the most fundamental of civilrights is the right to life. That was violated late night again and unfortunately it happens across America every day. America is full of Trayvon Martin’s,” Pfleger said.
 
Saying the facts of this case are clear, Pfleger said, “George Zimmerman, armed with a gun, stalked and then took the life of Trayvon Martin” a teenager going to his father’s home.
 
“The murder of Trayvon Martin reminds us of America’s travesty that race, whether we want to acknowledge it or not, is still a defining and crippling reality in America. It reminds us that though we are 150 years past the Emancipation Proclamation Black men are still not free in America,” Pfleger stated.

“It reminds us that the dream of Dr. King articulated 50-years ago next monthin Washington, D.C. is still an unrealized nightmare.
 
“Dr. King said 50-years ago  ‘I pray that one day my children and all children will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character,’ but 50 years later, skin is still a reality of judgment in the United States of America.
 
“Trayvon Martin, a 17-year-old African American male was profiled. He was walking from a 7-11 store to his home…not at midnight, not at 1, 2 or 3 a.m. but at 7 p.m. He was armed with Skittles and an ice tea. He had a right to go to the store, and he had a right to walk back home not wondering whether he would be murdered on the way home from his dad’shouse,” Pfleger stated.
 
“George Zimmerman chose not only to profile Trayvon but armed with a gun chose to stalk him and follow him even after he was told go back to your car. Do not follow him.
 
“The acquittal of George Zimmerman tells us we haven’t come too far from the 1955 murder of another young man, Emmett Till.  His murderers went free. It tells us that we have not moved very far from the murder of Medgar Evers. His murderers went free. It tells us that the justice system is yet flawed and broken,”charged Pfleger.
 
Saying someone from the media called him and askedif he had asked his Facebook friends to pray that Zimmerman gets convicted andquestioned how he could do that being a minister, Pfleger answered, “Because Ihave lost faith in the justice system in America,” having seen similar cases over the years.
 
“So I prayed for an intervention into an unjust system to call justice where justice I was afraid would not happen.
 
“The murder of Trayvon Martin tells us that race and racism is still alive that racism is in the very DNA of the American society. The acquittal of George Zimmerman sends a message….”
 
Pfleger called up a mother who had called him henight before. She told him, “America just sent my 15-year-old son a message that his life does not matter…. I’m afraid for my son’s life,” the mother told Pfleger.
 
“We can’t keep as a church calling our brothers on the street and telling our young brothers on the street value your life, value your brother’s life. How do we keep doing that while society says their life has no value while very day society tells our young men we don’t care about you?
 
“Some of the angry calls I received last night after I spoke to the media said I was an agitator and that I throw race into this issue. I am not throwing race into this issue. America has thrown race into this issue for 200 years and we’re tired of race being the foundation of injustice in America. I refuse to ignore the race in this issue. We are not ina post racial era. In fact racism has a second breath in America today and last night it got new oxygen,” he bellowed.
 
Scoffing at his critics who accuse him of injecting racism into the Zimmerman case, Pfleger said, “Look at the facts. Who are the most incarcerated? Who are the most unemployed? Who is the majority living inpoverty? Who are majority of the 2.5 million in prisons across America? Who are the majority of the 2,863 sitting in Cook County Jail waiting to be charged? Where are the poorest performing schools in America? Where is the lack of access and opportunity most in America and where are our sons most at risk in America”?
 
Pfleger turned to Exodus 1:15 and talked about the King of Egypt who told the Hebrew midwife when they help deliver the child, if it is a boy kill it but allow girls to live. “The king sent a message that the  life of young men was of no value, no significance and no worth and was to be destroyed and killed.
 
“The midwives raised up and said ‘no.’ They refused to take the lives of their sons. They refused to be co-conspirators of the murder of the males and that’s what we’re going to have to do in today’s society. We must rise up and say no. You will not kill our sons….
 
“We must not be co-conspirators to a system that is trying to wipe out our sons. We must rise up to the structure of an unjust system that puts our sons at risk,” Pfleger said.
 
Referring to Exodus 1:15, Pfleger told the story about helping the Hebrew women in childbirth. If it’s a boy, kill it. If it is a girl, keep her. It was to be destroyed or killed, but the midwives raised up and the midwife said, ‘no.’ They refused to take the lives of their sons. They refused to be co-conspirators of the male, and that is what we’re going to have to do. We must rise up and say, ‘no, you will not kill our sons.’”

“We must not be co-conspirators to a system that is trying to wipe out our sons. We must rise up to the structure of an unjust system that puts our son sat risk.
 
“Michael Vick went to prison for dog-fighting, but a man went free for killing a black youth and all of America rose up against Michael Vick. Well, where is America rising up about the killing of our children?
 
“We must rise up and join with the NAACP. I call today on President Obama and Eric Holder to open a civil rights case against George Zimmerman…racial profiling. I call President Obama and the congress to design a new civil rights and restore voting rights in the country. I call on President Obama and the congress to rise up and declare violence as a public health issuein America because…resources will come to stop it,” he bellowed.
 
“Rise up, America. Face the sin of racism and levelthe unequal playing field. Let’s cleanse hatred, bigotry and prejudice in thebloodline of America where it is…affirmed every day in America.”
 
But, Father Pfleger talked about the other side ofthat coin. “ We must rise up and stop this senseless violence in our owncommunities because when we allow violence to continue in our ownneighborhoods, it gives acceptance for others to not value our children.”
 
As an example, Pfleger last night Robert Zimmerman,the brother of George Zimmerman was interviewed on CNN. He was asked about theblack youth killing each other and no one is being held responsible. Pflegersaid Robert Zimmerman responded, “It goes on in Chicago every day and no one’sheld responsible.
 
“We must not allow violence to continue in our neighborhood and justify our children’s worthlessness. Just like Paula Deen justified herself when we use the ‘n’ word. When we shoot each other, we justify George Zimmerman because we say we don’t value.
 
“We must rise up. Stop the violence. We must stopthe violence. We must not kill each other and not let anybody else kill us either,” Pfleger said. “We must rise up and fight the proliferation of guns.”
 
Referring to state and federal lawmakers, Pfleger said they “have now given permission and now there is no commonsense gun laws. Now America arms herself and arms countless of George Zimmerman’s all over America. It creates an atmosphere where guns become the first lines of offense.
 
“I fear as guns are now going to be allowed al lover the state of Illinois and all around this country that it’s going to be an open season on black people being shot in America.
 
“We must stop the gun proliferation, and we must rise up strong, bold, courageous and unwavering, but we must rise up in peace. We must raise up in non-violence. Violence must never be an option. We must never allow evil to pull us down to the lowest common denominator,” he said. 
 
“At the center of our Christian faith is the conviction that there is a God, a God who is able to exceedingly and abundantly more than we can imagine. The God we serve is not weak, and he is not incompetent.
 
“Each day the sun, the moon and the earth are held in place by this God. If this God can hold the universe, he can hold us. He’s greater than evil. He is more palpable than every demon and every devil. God is able to take us to every attack, to every injustice, every trial, every difficulty of life and give us victory in the midst of it all,” said Pfleger.
 
“Each of us…face circumstances individually and corporately as a human family…circumstances that seek to shatter our dreams, paralyze our hopes and our future.” Quoting Dr. King, Pfleger said, “Each of us faces experiences of life that seek to turn our days of joy into sorrow and brings periods of stormy floods and severe droughts. That is what happened last night in America, but the core of our faith is knowing without a question or a doubt that God is able.
 
“God is able to give us an inner equilibrium that enables us to stand when we’ve done all that we can do. The winds will blow,the storms will rise, but my God…that allows me to stand because I’m built on a solid rock. We have peace that allows us to stand, and we believe that we shall have victory over every trial, over every circumstance and over every situation.”
 
He said Dr. King reminded us “that we can’t do this without faith” he says will help deal with temporary trials “and move to a lasting victory.”
 
In honor of Emmett Till, Medgar Evers, Malcolm X, Oscar Romero, Dr. Martin Luther King and Trayvon Martin, Pfleger said, “in honor of all of the unknown’s that have been shot in the night, hung from the trees, murdered in the back woods…let us commit today to non-violently but courageously rising up. We must no longer allow America’s lip service to the guarantees of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, but justice will not be achieved without radical changes of the structure of this unequal society. Justice and equality are neither automatic nor are they inevitable. Rather,every step towards the goal of justice will require sacrifice, will require suffering, will require struggle, and will require passion tenacity of committed individuals.
 
“If we’re going to change society, we can no longer give a damn of what people think of us. We can no longer care about who likes us and who doesn’t like us…but we care only about justice, and truth and freedom for generations yet unborn. Freedom.
 
“We look back over the annals of history and it’s always been expense. Freedom has always demanded suffering and self-denial. Just ask Nelson Mandela who lies now in a bed clinging for life and spent 27-years in prison because he would not compromise and come out early.
 
“This is no time for apathy. This is no time for complacency. This is the time for vigorous, positive action. This is the time when we must rise up and fight injustice wherever it raises its ugly head.
 
“In government, in the marketplace, in brokenstructures or in our own blocks, we must refuse to be silent because as Dr.King, my mentor taught us, when we re silent about matters that are important,we begin the end of our life….
 
“Understand, too much is at stake. Our children…ourfuture…the credibility of the church…our very faith is at stake. We have a responsibility to rise up, speak up, stand up and fight peacefully and non-violently but courageously and boldly.
 
“Do not get weary of fighting, pushing and demanding because God is able….” Once again quoting his mentor, Dr. King, Pfleger said, “The arc of the Moral Universe is long but it bends toward justice.”
 
“Guns can’t kill what we’ve got. Violence can’t stop what we got. Dogs and fire hoses can’t end what we got. Hate can’t destroy what we got. There is nothing stronger than a moral stand in truth; so we will fight and I know that one day justice will flow like a river and righteousness like a mighty stream because we are Trayvon Martin and we will break down every Jericho Wall and cross every Red Sea until righteousness reins in every corner for every man, woman and child in this universe.”
 
Pfleger said Dr. King taught him “when there isinjustice, business as usual must be interrupted that things just can’t go as normal when injustice raises its head.”
 
He asked his congregation to join him at 79thand Racine “and symbolically stand in the street and stop traffic…that says forat least for this moment business as usual cannot continue while injustice raises its head,” Pfleger said. “Let’s interrupt hatred, violence and injustices.”
 
To demonstrate his outrage over the acquittal ofZimmerman and the “unfair” judicial system, Father Pfleger led his congregationout of the church and onto 79th andRacine where he blocked traffic singing and praying for justice not just forthe Trayvon family but for the healing of America.
 
They filed out of church each armed with black andwhite signs that read: “I AM TRAYVON MARTIN” on one side and on the flip side “TRAYVON MARTIN MURDERED AGAIN BY INJUSTICE  SYSTEM”!
 
Slowly walking down Racine to 79th Streets, the congregation followed Father Pfleger singing “Praised God,” and “Amazing Grace.” Her head lifted to the heavens, one woman prayed aloud saying, “Lord, we need our children.” Pfleger led a prayer that was echoed by his parishioners, “We stand here symbolically and interrupt business as usual.
 
“We ask you God stretch down your hand and use each of us from this day on to” fight against violence, hatred or injustice that “raises its ugly head. We will not be still. We will not be silent. We will interrupt evil. We are all Trayvon Martin. We will not rest, and we will not be silent.  We commit to you, God. We can’t do it without you, God, but weknow that in you all things are possible… Reign down justice, now.”
 
Earlier, in a very dramatic performance, Rickey Harris, who heads the Saint Sabina “Spirit of David” praise dancers, paid a special tribute to Trayvon Martin and his family. In front of the altar, sat a hooded statue representing Martin that included the items Martin carried when Zimmerman fatally shot him…a can of ice tea and a box of Skittles.

Chinta Strausberg is a Journalist of more than 33-years, a former political reporter and a current PCC Network talk show host. You can e-mail Strausberg at: Chintabernie@aol.com.

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Welcome to CopyLine Magazine! The first issue of CopyLine Magazine was published in November, 1990, by Editor & Publisher Juanita Bratcher. CopyLine’s main focus is on the political arena – to inform our readers and analyze many of the pressing issues of the day - controversial or otherwise. Our objectives are clear – to keep you abreast of political happenings and maneuvering in the political arena, by reporting and providing provocative commentaries on various issues. For more about CopyLine Magazine, CopyLine Blog, and CopyLine Television/Video, please visit juanitabratcher.com, copylinemagazine.com, and oneononetelevision.com. Bratcher has been a News/Reporter, Author, Publisher, and Journalist for 33 years. She is the author of six books, including “Harold: The Making of a Big City Mayor” (Harold Washington), Chicago’s first African-American mayor; and “Beyond the Boardroom: Empowering a New Generation of Leaders,” about John Herman Stroger, Jr., the first African-American elected President of the Cook County Board. Bratcher is also a Poet/Songwriter, with 17 records – produced by HillTop Records of Hollywood, California. Juanita Bratcher Publisher

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