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United States Army Private First Class William K. Nakamura, Medal of Honor recipient
United States Army Private First Class William K. Nakamura, U.S. Medal of Honor recipient, awarded posthumously.
In "The Memorial Day history forgot: The Martyrs of the Race Course," I wrote last year about the not very well known African-American roots of Memorial Day. In recent years, some media attention has been paid to the long history of Black military service—from the Revolutionary War, including Haitians who fought for us, through the civil war, in films like Glory, and the Tuskegee Airmen in World War II—no matter the racism we faced, and still face in this country.  

We hear less about other soldiers of color—Asian, Native American and Latino who died for us, who also faced, and still face discrimination within our shores.

Pictured above is William Kenzo Nakamura (January 21, 1922-July 4, 1944).

He was a United States Army soldier and a recipient of the United States military's highest decoration—the Medal of Honor—for his actions in World War II.

Nakamura was born in Seattle to Japanese immigrant parents. He is a Nisei, which means that he is a second generation Japanese-American. His family was interned in Minidoka in Idaho during World War II. Nakamura volunteered to be part of the all-Nisei 442nd Regimental Combat Team. This army unit was mostly made up of Japanese Americans from Hawaii and the mainland.

On July 4, 1944, Nakamura was serving as a private first class in the 442nd Regimental Combat Team. On that day, near Castellina, Italy, he single-handedly destroyed an enemy machine gun emplacement and later volunteered to cover his unit's withdrawal. He was then killed while attacking another machine gun nest which was firing on his platoon

Follow me below the fold for more of this memorial history.
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Overpass Light Brigade with lights that read
Overpass Light Brigade, "Unlearn Racism"
When the Overpass Light Brigade brought the message of "Unlearn Racism" to Milwaukee, they held up lights on a subject that we are confronted with daily, but are not always sure how to address as individuals. We know that anthropologists and other scientists have made it clear for years that biological "race" exists as only a social construct, but that "racism" is alive and well and none of us are unaffected by the miasma from the racial swamp we breathe in daily.

So many of our efforts are focusing on protesting the more obvious deleterious effects of systemic racism—via protests and legislation—that we don't always have time to have a conversation about what to do about it, person by person. This is what Ricky Sherover-Marcuse called "attitudinal racism."

Because racism is both institutional and attitudinal, effective strategies against it must recognize this dual character. The undoing of institutionalized racism must be accompanied by the unlearning of racists attitudes and beliefs. The unlearning of racists patterns of thought and action must guide the practice of political and social change.

As a black person, I'm always interested in trying to figure out in conversations with my close friends who are not black—what makes them tick? How did they shake off the shackles of ostensible racial superiority and change? What was it in their upbringing, surrounds, faith, ethical teachings, incidents that took place along the road of life that allowed them to scour out racism or at least start the cleansing? Perhaps if more people would talk about how they unlearned racism, it would help direct others onto that path.

Follow me below the fold to begin that conversation.

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Young African-American male driving, smiling
Most people have heard or read the acronym "DWB," which stands for "Driving While Black," or in many cases "Brown," derived from DWI—Driving While Intoxicated. In certain parts of the country, "DWI" can also mean "Driving While Indian," which this story, Driving While Indian: A Refresher Course by Mary Annette Pember, illustrates:
On a dark country road in Indian Country, the lessons of childhood come back quickly when the police pull you over. As a nation debates police violence, we should know that Native people are the ethnicity most likely to be killed by law enforcement.

When the officer rapped loudly with a flashlight on the passenger-side window of my car, my 16-year-old, special-needs daughter flung her arms around me like a frightened kitten climbing up my pants leg.

I tried to calm her as I rolled the window down. I could make out no details of the officer because he shined the flashlight in our eyes. The squad car's flashing lights were blinding.

This story did not end in tragedy—meaning death—but the scars that are left by the experience of racial profiling of drivers who are not-white are indelible.  

Follow me below the fold for more on the perils for people of color behind the wheel.

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screenshot clip from John Oliver video  showing flags of US territories
Flags of U.S. colonial territories
The right to vote in the United States does not include every U.S. citizen of voting age. I'm not talking about racist felon disenfranchisement that keeps over 6 million voters off the rolls, or the latest efforts by state legislatures to restrict voting rights—like the one in Texas that was labelled as racist by Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, or recent breaking news about voter suppression in North Carolina.

I'm talking about laws that have been on the books in this country for over 100 years that keep citizens of U.S colonies (which we have dubbed "territories") from the full-rights of citizenship. This includes our internal colony of the District of Columbia, where citizens have only a non-voting representative, which was instituted in 1801. The results of this travesty can be seen in the Republican overlords' decision to override a reproductive rights law passed in the District of Columbia. This time the excuse is "religious liberty."

Jump below the fold for more.

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Sun May 03, 2015 at 06:00 AM PDT

On 'riots' and roots

by Denise Oliver Velez

Langston Hughes' poem, "Harlem" has been floating around in my head, as I watch footage from Baltimore.
What happens to a dream deferred?
Does it dry up
like a raisin in the sun?
Or fester like a sore--
And then run?
Does it stink like rotten meat?
Or crust and sugar over--
like a syrupy sweet?

Maybe it just sags
like a heavy load.

Or does it explode?

We are watching one of those periodic explosions, which will continue until America gives itself a root canal, lances the boil or abscess, and addresses the cause of our national dis-ease of racism and xenophobia, while trying to put a compress on the symptoms.

Let us not forget that segregated housing was one of the main issues addressed in Lorraine Hansberry's  "A Raisin in the Sun," title taken from the Hughes poem, which I discussed in "The Hansberrys, and Housing Dreams Deferred."

For almost every "riot" sparked by either white vigilante destruction of stable black and brown towns and communities, or by police murder of civilians or leaders, there is the story of economic frustration, racism, and planned racial segregation.  

Follow me below the fold into "The Ghetto."

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Geert Wilders - Leader of  Dutch right wing Party for Freedom
Geert Wilders, heads the far-right Party for Freedom (PVV) in The Netherlands
At the invitation of Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Texas), and Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa), one of the most divisive bigots in Europe has been in Washington DC, where he addressed the Conservative Opportunity Society, on April 29, a group founded by Newt Gingrich.

Intensifying Islamophobia in Texas

Following his activities in Washington, D.C., Wilders will travel to Garland, Texas to participate in an anti-Muslim cartoon exhibit on May 3 sponsored by the American Freedom Defense Initiative, a group that is co-run by Pamela Geller and Robert Spencer. Wilders will be the keynote speaker at AFDI’s “Muhammad Art Exhibit and Contest,” or “Draw the Prophet” event. As its name suggests, the event is a contest to which artists may submit cartoon renderings of Muhammad in the hopes of winning a grand prize of $10,000. Of course, “Draw the Prophet” is also meant to further politicize the attack on the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo.

“Draw the Prophet’s” scheduled location sends another message, though. The event is a response to a previous gathering held at the same venue back in January called “Stand with the Prophet,” which at once challenged both anti-Muslim bigotry and fear-mongering and the extremism of groups like ISIS. As AFDI’s leaders turned up at “Stand with the Prophet” to spread their bigotry, their contest is a reiterating on their own hate.

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Cartoon decrying the Hamburg massacre of July 1876
Cartoon decrying the Hamburg massacre of July 1876
As people raise a hue and cry, for a media minute, about yet another police murder of an unarmed black man—this time Walter Scott in North Charleston, South Carolina, who was riddled with bullets by a white cop who must have seen too many reruns of The Deer Hunter—and as news and endless video loops of his death leave the headlines, just remember this: #Blacklives (still) matter to black people and our allies but nothing has changed in the systemic racism of America.

Who's it gonna be next week? Oh, wait ... next week has already happened. Spell it "Freddie Gray." Will it be my (or your) son-father-cousin-nephew-godson-husband-neighbor-student ... or me next? Sistas get murdered too.

They don't kill us in bunches anymore. Now they just murder us one by one.

Slaughtering black folks en masse was part of an agenda of open terrorism to end any possibility of black political and economic power, or successful black and white "fusion" during Reconstruction. History books dub them "riots" because riot evokes images of scary black people runnin' wild, but they were massacres. South Carolina is no stranger to murdering black folks. I've written here about a more recent one, in "Orangeburg, SC, 1968: The massacre of students you may not have heard of." But we need to dig deeper into the past to understand the rot at the roots of what we face today.

Follow me below the fold for the history of the Hamburg Massacre and others that took place during the same time period, perpetrated by white terrorist "Red Shirts" and backed by elected officials whose names are engraved on shrines and monuments to white supremacy.

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A leading Pakistani human rights activist has been killed in a drive-by shooting in Karachi after hosting a talk on allegations of torture in the province of Balochistan. Sabeen Mehmud was shot dead as she walked home with her mother, who was also attacked.

Ms Mehmud had been the subject of death threats before.

Tributes were paid to her on social media as soon as news of her death emerged.
Ms Mehmud was a director of the charity The Second Floor, also known as T2F.
T2F regularly holds seminars on human rights issues. It houses a cafe and book shop where Karachi's liberal activists and students can meet.

The seminar on torture in Balochistan was held at T2F, having been cancelled by university authorities in Lahore, where it had been due to take place in the last few weeks. Taliban militants, Baloch separatists and other groups fight in Balochistan, which borders Iran. Shortly after leaving the event, Ms Mehmud and her mother were shot. Pakistan's Dawn newspaper reported that Ms Mehmud died on her way to hospital, and that she had been shot five times.

Al Jazeera English has more:
Pakistani rights activist Sabeen Mahmud shot dead
Mahmud, 40, was the director of T2F [The Second Floor], a café and arts space that has been a mainstay of Karachi’s activists since it opened its doors in 2007. She was one of the country’s most outspoken human rights advocates.

Mahmud was shot four times at close range, with bullets going through her shoulder, chest and abdomen, police told Al Jazeera. She was pronounced dead on arrival at the National Medical Centre hospital at 9.40pm.

Mahmud had been on her way from the event, along with her mother, when her car came under fire from unidentified gunmen, according to police.

Her mother was also shot twice, but was undergoing treatment in hospital and was out of immediate danger, hospital officials said.

Mahmud had been present at the opening of a discussion called "Unsilencing Balochistan," hosted at T2F, where prominent Baloch rights activists Mama Qadeer, Farzana Majeed and Muhammad Ali Talpur had been speaking.

See this twitter stream:

Condolences to her family and prayers for her mom.

This terror will not stop the women of Pakistan from speaking out against injustices.

photo of Dr. Wm. F Reid
Dr. William Ferguson "Fergie" Reid, the first African American elected to the Virginia General Assembly since Reconstruction
While much of the media is focusing on presidential hopefuls for 2016, the state of Virginia has key elections coming up this year—elections for the Virginia House of Delegates. A primary election will be held on June 9 and the general election will be on November 3.

A unique effort is underway in Virginia to get voters registered and out to vote, not just this year, but in the election years to come. The impetus and inspiration behind this drive is a civil rights icon in Virginia, Dr. William Ferguson Reid, known to many as "Fergie," who was the first black man to win a seat in the Virginia General Assembly since Reconstruction.

In March of this year, Reid celebrated his 90th birthday and he is still going strong. In honor of that 90th birthday and his long history of expanding voters' rights, people are committing to registering new voters for the election. This commitment is being called "90 for 90." Each person in the campaign will register 90 new voters in each of Virginia's precincts.

"If all volunteers and candidates worked together to register 90 new voters in each of the Commonwealth's precincts, our efforts would result in a quarter million new voters for the Old Dominion."

What a birthday gift that will be for Dr. Reid and for the people of Virginia!  

Follow me below the fold for the details, more about Fergie, and how you can get involved (you don't have to be from Virginia).

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The Daily Dot has teamed up with the Surgeon General Vivek Murthy and Elmo:

Elmo and the surgeon general set the record straight on the vaccine debate

There’s been a lot of Internet “controversy” over vaccines in recent years, but the fact is, vaccinations protect children from life-threatening illnesses. Period.

Doctors have eradicated maladies like measles, only to see them crop up again in communities where vaccines are distrusted. Bad science, misguided celebrities, and uninformed social movements have contributed to a confusing and dangerous online discourse.

That’s why the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, Sesame Street, and the Daily Dot have teamed up to create this short video that you can share with friends, family, and new parents.

Elmo's a little nervous about getting a shot, but Surgeon General Vivek Murthy stops by to explain how vaccines work, and why they're so important for children's health.

The U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, Sesame Street, and the Daily Dot have teamed up to create this short video that you can share with friends, family, and new parents.

You can find more information and resources about childhood vaccinations here:

This video and partnership supports the Sesame Workshop's mission to help all kids grow up smarter, stronger and kinder.

Elmo does a great cover of "Shake it Off" as he gets his shot.
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Screenshot from video about Dunnes Stores workers, and marchers striking against apartheid
I am often asked by my students, "What power do ordinary people have to make change in the world?" In these times of hate and ethnic, religious, and racial tensions in this nation and around the world we often feel powerless against the powerful. Yet ordinary people do have power, and not just to influence change in their own neighborhoods or countries.  

This is the story of a group of 10 young Irish working-class women and one young man  who worked in a shop called Dunnes Stores on Henry Street in Dublin in 1984, who made a difference in the fight against apartheid in South Africa, many thousands of miles away from where they were in Ireland.

Who were they?

The eleven Dunnes Stores workers from Henry Street were: Mary Manning, Cathryn O'Reilly, Karen Gearon, Theresa Mooney, Vonnie Munroe, Sandra Griffin, Alma Russell, Michelle Gavin, Liz Deasy, Dorothy Dooley and Tommy Davis. They were later joined by Brendan Barron who worked in the Crumlin branch of Dunnes Stores.
Dunnes Stores Anti-Apartheid Strikers Tribute:

Follow the music and step below the fold for the lyrics and the rest of the story.

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Screenshot from Hookers at the Point, Directed by  Brent Owens (HBO)
As church-going citizens rise and don their Sunday best to celebrate Easter, women, girls, (and some men and boys) in brothels, flat-back houses, after-hours joints, and on street corners are ending the night shift on a day that is like all the rest in their lives—bleak, and perhaps battered, the hopelessness of it all alleviated briefly by communion with a needle, a pill bottle, or another drink. Stigma, victimization, incarceration, and often violent death by predator or procurer are all in the collection plate.

The candy-coated myths about prostitution spun by Broadway and Hollywood like "Never on Sunday," "Klute," "Pretty Woman," "Best Little Whore House in Texas," are tropes dished up for public consumption. Frankly, I'm tired of hearing about "Happy Hookers", as is the woman who wrote the linked piece.  

The reality is something quite different. I wrote about it briefly in Street Life, race and prostitution, but the subject of prostitution, and related sex-trafficking as an industry that garners billions of dollars worldwide each year is one that has multiple facets, and is currently a matter of acrimonious debate, between and among feminists, public health officials, criminal justice agencies, and governments. Globally, it falls into a wide range of judicial categories: prostitution legal and regulated, selling sexual services legal, but not regulated; brothels are illegal; and prostitution illegal. The United States falls into the latter category, with the exception of the state of Nevada.

In recent years, the term sex worker has been applied to cover those who work in the sex industry as a whole. Organizations, including UN Women, have adopted programs supporting sex workers, and have delineated a position that essentially states that sex trafficking isn't sex work. However, other voices, particularly those representing indigenous women and poor women of color around the world reject the term sex worker and use "prostituted women and girls" instead.  

Follow below the fold for more.

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