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Fri May 01, 2015 at 01:00 PM PDT

Black Kos, Week In Review

by Black Kos

Commentary: African American Scientists and Inventors
by Black Kos Editor, Sephius1

John P. Parker (1827 – February 4, 1900) was an African-American abolitionist, inventor, iron moulder and industrialist who helped hundreds of slaves to freedom in the Underground Railroad resistance movement based in Ripley, Ohio. He rescued fugitive slaves for nearly fifteen years. He was one of the few blacks to patent his inventions before 1900. His house in Ripley has been designated a National Historic Landmark and restored.

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Tue Apr 28, 2015 at 01:10 PM PDT

Black Kos, Tuesday's Chile

by Black Kos

 photo e70b2039-27fb-4c73-9701-e38b6880cfc8_zpsv95na4v9.jpg

How much longer?

Commentary by Black Kos Editor Denise Oliver-Velez

I'm not even sure why I am asking this question, except right now I'm tired. Saw this graphic on twitter yesterday and it made me think. Not about B'More, though the news and coverage and outrages, and finger-pointing triggered my thoughts.

The debate will rage-on...the pundits will weigh-in, the politicians will take stances, the police will continue to abuse our communities, community leaders of all stripes will attempt to find band-aids, there will be hundreds of people quoting sanitized Martin Luther King at us, (never Malcolm or Gandhi) and the next city will be...take your pick.

Anyone who tries to talk about root causes will be accused of promoting, or condoning "violence" and "thuggery". One must carefully parse how you talk about this. We will hear about good police and wounded police, and criminal youths till our ears bleed.

I'm tired.  

Being tired doesn't mean I give up. It just means I didn't get more than two hours sleep, and I haven't got the energy to rant right now. I'll wait to see if there is a follow-up to the Washington Post news item that got buried in the flames. Somehow I doubt it.  

I don't even listen much to rap music but somehow the soundtrack in my head to all of this is more vintage N.W.A than Marvin Gaye.

I could write a long detailed piece on the neighborhoods I've lived in, the street protests aka "riots" I've been in, the sane solutions that get proffered (and ignored) but that wouldn't make much of a difference right now.  

I could ask...what will...and how long will it take?

Too tired to attempt answering my own question.

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Fri Apr 24, 2015 at 01:00 PM PDT

Black Kos, Week In Review

by Black Kos

It is such a shame

Commentary by Black Kos Editor JoanMar

Ben Affleck was mortified to find out that he had at least one slave-owning ancestor. So humiliated, in fact, that he asked Professor Henry Louis Gates to omit that little, teeny, tiny datum from his episode of the PBS show, Finding Your Roots. The shame was too great; the burden too onerous.

This from the original script of Professor Louis Gates's interview with Affleck:

THIS MAN WAS BEN’S THIRD GREAT GRANDFATHER, BENJAMIN COLE, AND HE WAS LIVING IN SAVANNAH, GEORGIA AT THE TIME.
COLE WAS ONE OF SAVANNAH’S MOST PROMINENT CITIZENS—A WEATLHY LAND OWNER AND THE SHERIFF OF THE ENTIRE COUNTY.
(I am not screaming; this was taken directly from Professor Gate's script.)

 

Yes, the fact that Ben Affleck's 3G grandfather owned at least 25 people is just too much for him to bear; he'd rather sweep it under the rug and have it forgotten.

This story touches on many of the hot button issues of day - racism, slavery, journalistic integrity, celebrity, public shame.
I want to focus (briefly) on public shame. I saw the episode. I believed that what I was seeing was the complete story as Professor Gates knew it to be. Why wouldn't I? I have seen some things from Professor Gates that were just too much for me, but despite his sometimes idiotic behavior (such as running/stumbling behind Louis Farrakhan to ask him his views on Jews while they were both in Ethiopia), I respect his academic work. It was just a little disappointing to have to acknowledge the fact that he could be pressured into presenting something less than he knew to be the whole truth. O well.

My surprise was that Ben Affleck didn't have slave-owning ancestors. Shoot, I have slave-owning ancestors, and I am most assuredly not white. I am not alone. A whole lot of black folks do have white ancestors who owned slaves!
I can understand Ben's mortification at coming face to face with the monster in the closet. Truly I can, but I was struck by how Ben's decision was truly symbolic of how the nation as a whole has chosen to deal with its collective shame. Sweep it under the rug. Pretend it didn't happen. Pretend that today's slaughter of young black men did not have its genesis in slavery, for example.

Said Ben after the cat was let out of the proverbial bag:

“We deserve neither credit nor blame for our ancestors and the degree of interest in this story suggests that we are, as a nation, still grappling with the terrible legacy of slavery. It is an examination well worth continuing. I am glad that my story, however indirectly, will contribute to that discussion. While I don’t like that the guy is an ancestor, I am happy that aspect of our country’s history is being talked about.”
It is worth noting that Ben had no qualms about having the world know that his mom, Chris Anne, was a Freedom Rider:
"Your mom went back fighting for the rights of black people in Mississippi, 100 years later. That's amazing," Gates tells the actor, according to Gawker's script
Can't have your cake and eat it, too, Ben.

As I read the various accounts of Mr. Affleck's reaction to his forebear, I was struck by the contrast between how he chose to deal with it (publicly), as opposed to how one of DailyKos's own dealt with his discovery.

Look, I had very few illusions going into this, or so I thought. If some of my family's really been in Louisiana since the early 18th century, there was little doubt that at least some of them - if not most, or all - would be implicated in the trade that made Louisiana such an economic powerhouse in the first half of the 19th century. By the time Louisiana became a state, I had some six or seven different family lines already established there, and they didn't settle there for the weather. They were there to be farmers, which meant they probably owned slaves.
For his part, Professor Gates, facing intense criticism issued an apology ...to PBS stations:
We regret not sharing Mr. Affleck’s request that we avoid mention of one of his ancestors with our co-production partner, WNET, and our broadcast partner, PBS. We apologize for putting PBS and its member stations in the position of having to defend the integrity of their programming.
What about your loyal fan club, professor? Don't you think that we deserve an apology, too?
If I may, I'll remind the good professor that there is another thing that comes not back, and it is trust once lost.

As for my feelings about Ben, this pretty much captures it:

This is called being human. I’ve done the same and doubtless so have you. The problem comes when insecurity about what others think of us causes us to airbrush unfortunate facts. The stain isn’t that Affleck had ancestors who owned slaves. It’s that he thought we’d think less of him — or his celebrity brand — if we knew.
The bigger story is about our past, and how the unresolved issues will continue to haunt us, and impact the present and the foreseeable future.
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Tue Apr 21, 2015 at 01:14 PM PDT

Black Kos, Tuesday's Chile

by Black Kos

That's a fact. And a problem
Brief Notes on Black Mental Health
by Chitown Kev

Last night, I was all set to do a column on a very different subject when an Al Jazeera story on the death of 17-year old Lennon Lacy in Bladenboro, North Carolina popped up on the Overnight News Digest that literally made me cringe.

When a black teenager was found hanging from a swing set by a belt that was not his own one morning late last summer, the first thought by his friends, family, and community was that it wasn’t a suicide. Lennon Lacy, they believe, was lynched.

Now, the Federal Bureau of Investigation has launched a probe into the death, which the coroner in Bladen County, North Carolina, initially ruled a suicide based on evidence his family says is circumstantial: that he was distraught over the recent death of his uncle.

“It’s nonsense. Yes he was depressed, but he was grieving just like his other siblings,” said Rev. Gregory Taylor, a family friend who gave the uncle’s eulogy the day before Lacy’s body was discovered in his hometown of Bladenboro. “In the African-American community where we deal with grief openly and emotionally, doesn’t mean we are clinically depressed.”

As a Gen-X'er, I have to confess that it simply seems...surreal that stories of the possible lynchings of black folks are increasingly in the news in the 21-century and in age where a black man sits and works behind the desk in the Oval Office. To be sure, spectacular lynchings are a part of black American history that I need to know but  black American lynchings as current events? It's still hard to wrap my mind around that one.

But the possibility of 21-century black lynchings is only peripheral (though not unrelated) to the other cringe factor in this story.

(Let me emphasize and state here and now that I trust that with the Rev. William Barber and the North Carolina NAACP and now, the FBI, investigating the Lacy case, that there may be a ten-alarm fire behind the smoke outlined in the Al Jazeera article.)

Another statement by "family friend" Rev. Gregory Taylor also induced a cringe.

“In the African-American community where we deal with grief openly and emotionally, doesn’t mean we are clinically depressed.”
While Reverend Taylor may be correct about this specific case, his statement also contains an element of the stigmatizing of mental health issues among many black folks that sounds all too familiar to me.

The Suicide Prevention Resource Center has issued a number of fact sheets on suicide among varied racial and ethnic backgrounds in the United States including African Americans. Some of their findings include:

*Suicide was the 16th leading cause of death for Blacks of all ages and the 3rd leading cause of death for young Black males ages 15–24.

*Black rates can differ by ethnicity. One study found that among adult males, Caribbean Blacks had a higher rate of suicide attempts than African American Blacks.
On the other hand, another study found that among adolescent males, African American Blacks were approximately five times more likely than Caribbean
Blacks to attempt suicide.

*Orthodox religious beliefs and personal devotion have been identified as protective against suicide among Blacks.

*Increased acculturation into White society, which can include loss of family cohesion and support, leads to increased risk for suicidal ideation and suicide attempts.

Those are simply some of the highlights in the SPRC report that stuck out to me; the entire report is well worth the read. I did not like the fact that the SPRC report did not include any bullet points about LGBT status, although that information is readily available.

In terms of overall mental health, this fact sheet from The National Alliance on Mental Illness contains additional data including:

*Culture biases against mental health professionals and health care professionals in general prevent many African Americans from accessing care due to prior experiences with historical misdiagnoses, inadequate treatment and a lack of cultural under
standing; only 2 percent of psychiatrists, 2 percent of psychologists and 4 percent of social workers in the United States are African American.

*Across a recent 15-year span, suicide rates increased 233 percent among African Americans aged 10-14 compared to 120 percent among Caucasian Americans in the
same age group across the same span of time.

*Somatization—the manifestation of physical illnesses related to mental health—occurs at a rate of 15 percent among African Americans and only 9 percent among Caucasian Americans.

*Programs in African American communities sponsored by respected institutions, such as churches and local community groups can increase awareness of mental health issues and resources and decrease the related stigma.

Clearly, there are multiple factors to deal with here including access to affordable health care, racism and white privilege within the general society and within the medical community, and the stigmatization of mental illness within black communities.

There are probably some here at Black Kos who are far more qualified to write about this issue than myself.

However, as a black gay agnostic who has contemplated (and, yes, attempted) suicide in the past and who has had issues with drug and alcohol addiction and as someone who has not and cannot (by and large) turn to the religious black community for help, this is an issue that is simply personal and one which I cannot write about in any objective way.

Frankly, one of the reasons that I applaud The Black Church is because of the essential role that the Church has played and continues to play in addressing the psychic needs of black people within this racist society.

The racist outpourings, racist police killings, and, yes, possible racist lynchings and many other things that have occurred since the election of the 44th President of the United States, Barack Hussein Obama, affects so much more the black body; it also affects the black spirit, the black psyche, and the black soul.

Attacks on the spirit, psyche, and soul can, for long periods of time, remain hidden until it is too late.

Simply put, black folks need the churches in our communities more than ever. Our communities also need quality mental health facilities and practioners. And, most importantly, the churches and the mental health facilities/practioners need to be on the same page.

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Fri Apr 17, 2015 at 01:00 PM PDT

Black Kos, Week In Review

by Black Kos

Commentary: African American Scientists and Inventors
by Black Kos Editor, Sephius1

Guion S. Bluford was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on November 22, 1942. Bluford became the first African American to travel in space in 1983, as a mission specialist aboard the space shuttle Challenger. He later participated in three other missions. His career began as a pilot in the U.S. Air Force, flying 144 missions during the Vietnam War, before becoming a NASA astronaut in 1979.

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Tue Apr 14, 2015 at 12:59 PM PDT

Black Kos, Tuesday's Chile

by Black Kos

"When You Strike a Woman you strike a rock"

Commentary by Black Kos Editor Denise Oliver-Velez

Yes, I'm writing about Loretta Lynch—again.

And I'm gonna keep on writing about her, and signing petitions, and making phone calls to the Senate (The Capitol switchboard number is (202) 224-3121). Every day that passes we learn of new atrocities taking place against members of our community, and the god-damned vicious petty demagogues who sit on their larded behinds in seats paid for by our tax dollars refuse to fill one of the most important cabinet positions in this nation. They got no shame.  

    ‘Wathint' Abafazi, Wathint' Imbokodo'
    (you strike the women, you strike the rock)

Those are the words used by the Federation of South African women when they marched 20,000 strong in 1956 protesting pass laws. These words were echoed in the outcry of women in North Carolina recently...angry about the continued delay in confirming their sister North Carolinian to become Attorney General of the United States.  

Reverend Barber has spoken out in an op-ed:
Fear, not racism, at root of delay on Lynch nomination, in which he concluded

While the Senate fiddles its chorus of hate and division, many segments of our nation are burning. Relations between people of color and the broken “justice” systems in our cities are strained. Thoughtful Justice Department guidance about fixing these dysfunctional systems needs strong, sensible and sober leadership now.

I don’t believe it’s Lynch’s color that has led Burr and Tillis to oppose her for the position, but rather their fear of her character, courage and commitment to enforce the law and Constitution that have been shaped by her upbringing in the crucible civil rights struggle. They have both acknowledged that she is highly qualified and that she would enforce the law. Yet they have also both passed and supported voter suppression laws and positions on civil rights as it relates to immigrants, LGBT people and women that are regressive and currently facing serious legal scrutiny.

I believe they are afraid of an attorney general who will enforce the Constitution to its fullest and not turn a blind eye to the law or blatant discrimination. And in this sense, their opposition to her is about race. It is the attorney general who has the ability to address systemic inequality, which includes racism, sexism, classicism, homophobia, immigration fearmongering or any other “ism” that violates the right of all citizens to equal protection under the law guaranteed by our constitution.

Which is why the delay in the Senate is a shame – for Lynch, for the Department of Justice, for North Carolina and for our nation. Her story personifies the success those in our communities can see when we create opportunity instead of division. When Burr and Tillis return to the Senate after recess, they should lead with a higher moral conviction and confirm their fellow North Carolinian to be the next attorney general.

The news media, and major blogs haven't been ignoring this. The bullshit Republican promises made that this would be settled as soon as their eminences got back from Easter break have been broken.  

Here's a sampling:

Loretta Lynch AG nomination drags on, leaving her supporters to question why

'I knew we had a fight on our hands'

Hundreds of miles from Washington, longtime residents of Durham, North Carolina, were beaming with pride. Lynch's family moved to the city when she was a child. Her parents, married for 60 years, still live there. They watched the announcement on television.
"That was encouraging but I knew then that we had a fight on our hands," said Lynch's father, the Rev. Lorenzo Lynch. "I've been in politics most of my life. I know that nothing is certain, and I know that nothing is easy."

Lorenzo Lynch, 82, is a retired Baptist preacher and was active in the civil rights movement of the 1960s. He ran, unsuccessfully, for mayor of Durham in 1973. For the next round of his daughter's "fight," he traveled to Washington in late January to attend his daughter's confirmation hearing before the Judiciary Committee.

"I heard a lot at that hearing that I've heard since childhood. That is the presupposition of the mindset," Lorenzo Lynch said. "The dual system or the dual treatment."

When asked to provide specific examples, Lorenzo Lynch deferred to the state branch of the NAACP and E. Lavonia Allison, a Durham activist who has known Loretta Lynch since the family moved to Durham. "I don't want to think about the epidermis, but some people are thinking that way," Allison said, suggesting that Lynch's confirmation vote has been delayed because Lynch is African-American.

"When it has taken so long, when it has been so different from any other person who has been nominated ... how else can we interpret that it is so different?" Allison said.

Loretta Lynch Now Has All the GOP Votes She Needs—but She’s Still No Closer to Being Confirmed
Lawmakers return to Washington this week following a two-week spring break. Loretta Lynch, meanwhile, remains stuck in procedural purgatory with little to suggest that the partisan fighting that has trapped her there will end anytime soon.

It has now been more than five months since President Obama formally tapped Lynch to replace U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder atop the Department of Justice, and more than one month since the Judiciary Committee finally got around to officially signing off on her nomination. Despite that extended delay—which has now lasted longer than the combined time the previous eight nominees for the job had to wait for confirmation—Senate Republicans have made it clear that they won’t give Lynch a vote until the chamber settles an unrelated, and potentially unending, fight over abortion funding in a human trafficking bill currently stalled in the upper chamber.

Disappearing Excellence: 'Massive Resistance' Is Preventing Loretta Lynch's Attorney General Confirmation
Kentucky was not an accidental choice by Toni Morrison for the horrific origin of her Nobel-prize winning classic, Beloved. Sweet Home, the Kentucky plantation in Morrison's story, represents America and how the depravity of American slavery required destroying any sign of excellence among Africans who lived there.

Fast forward more than 100 years from Morrison's novel: the United States Senate, still in the first days of Kentucky Sen. Mitch McConnell's leadership, has chosen to advance this shameful legacy of ignoring black excellence by delaying the confirmation of Loretta Lynch to the position of attorney general. The Senate leadership's deafening silence over the past four months extends a disgrace that predates this nation's Constitution.

Lynch has earned the respect and admiration of her colleagues, supervisors and even the Senate Judiciary Committee over her spectacular career. Her recent prosecutions of Citibank and HSBC demonstrate a commitment to the law that will inspire a new generation of legal minds in the 21st century. Her record of sustained excellence does not deserve the smug derision that partisan senators have offered this year. Yet, their recalcitrance should have been anticipated, as this continues the historic demagoguery we have witnessed over the last six years.

Michelle Bernard, a black independent conservative stated in "How Senate Republicans’ Stalling Loretta Lynch Paves the Way for Hillary Clinton":
In their blind devotion to saying no to all-things-Obama, members of the right wing have proven yet again that they are willing to sacrifice the health and well-being of our democratic system to draw blood from their commander in chief as he prepares to leave the White House in just two very short years. But in bludgeoning Obama, they also bloody the republic, dismantling the rights and protections of women and minority groups in their bumbling effort to get the man who could not be gotten. Are these extremists racists? Are they sexist? These become moot points when they are willing to directly assault those most different from them to get to a man they were unable to defeat in 2008 or 2012.

Republicans have been unsuccessful in all of their attempts to beat the president at the ballot box, break him or get him to genuflect as they see fit. He’s taken them head-on and refused to bow or accept their disrespect. So great is the hatred of some against the president, that they are willing to keep the much-maligned Eric Holder in place rather than give the president a vote on his nominee.

This strategy would make sense if it were a winning one, but in light of changing demographics, it trades logic for the instant gratification of trolling Lynch’s nomination with abortion fights and amnesty digs, believing they will only be riling the opposition, forgetting all the women, African Americans, Latinos, LGBT people and others caught in their wake of hate.

These fools think they are simply dissin' the President. Well they are dissin' us all.  

Give 'em a call.  

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Fri Apr 10, 2015 at 01:00 PM PDT

Black Kos, Week In Review

by Black Kos

Move over Zimmerman! You have company

Commentary by Black Kos Editor JoanMar

For 18 long months, one family in North Carolina has been fighting for justice for their murdered son, and with little success. For some reason, young Christian Griggs's death has not made it into the national conversation. CNN has not deemed the circumstances surrounding Christian's death worthy of the much abused-breaking news banner. Right wing media has spent no time on this injustice because frankly, for them, it is as it ought to be. And so Tony and Dolly Griggs have been fighting against the twin evils of entrenched racism coupled with police corruption all by themselves. Maybe, just maybe we can make a difference.
Christian Griggs's life mattered.

The personalities:

A young black man (deceased); a white ex-wife and a beautiful child; a white father-in-law with very influential connections; the grieving parents; Vernon Stewart, the District Attorney.

Meet Christian Griggs:

The 23-year-old son of two military veterans earned an ROTC scholarship to attend North Carolina State University after graduating Harnett Central High School. But his daughter Jayden was born during his freshman year. Christian decided to drop out of college, marry his high school sweetheart, Katie Chisenhall, and enlist in the U.S. Army to provide for his new family. Murderer and “pastor” Pat Chisenhall, Katie’s dad, performed the ceremony.
The basics of the case:

On October 12, 2013, Christian went to pick up his daughter at his then separated-wife's family home. Soon after, he called his father, Tony Griggs, asking him to come over.
On October 12, 2013, white local Pastor Pat Chisenhall brutally killed his black son-in law 23-year-old Christian Griggs, fatally shooting Christian 6 times, 4 in the back as he lay wounded. The state medical examiner ruled Christian’s death a homicide.
Shot four times in the back, manner of death ruled a homicide, and the shooter is known; but yet there has been no arrest, no charge, no trial.
Sounds familiar?

According to Christian's parents:

*  Months ago we were told by officials that no gunshot residue tests were performed, but when picking up Christian’s personal belongings this week we were presented with documentation revealing gunshot residue tests (GSR) performed on both Katie and Pat Chisenhall. GSR would determine who discharged the firearm and confirm or contradict their narrative of the shooting

* Christian's father, Tony Griggs, was the first to arrive at the scene (his son called him just before he was killed) and his description of what he saw differs from pictures shown to the legal counsel and it’s clear the crime scene had been doctored.

* The police report also indicates that the case was closed the day of the shooting with no investigation and prior to the autopsy release.

*  Pat Chisenhall’s attorney is DA Stewart’s former partner, who is also a financial contributor to Stewart’s election committee.

* Pat Chisenhall claims not to remember the events of that day

I spoke to Christian's mom Dolly Griggs and invited her to become a member of the site. She is now a member (I'll not link to her profile as I am unsure of the protocol. We'll wait until she comments.). I told her that I planned on writing a diary about what happened to her son and that we want to do everything we can to put the spotlight on this injustice.

Here's how you can help:

Justice for Christian!

The family has a petition page up at iamcolorofchange.org seeking to get 8,000 signatures. They aim to get North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper and U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of North Carolina, Thomas Walker, to take a second look at the case. When last I checked, they needed 850 more signatures.
Can we make that happen?

Tweet:
"Join me in securing justice for my son, #ChristianGriggs, shot 4x in back while picking up daughter" #ThisStopsToday http://d.shpg.org/...

Welcome to Daily Kos, Dolly Griggs. Please accept our heartfelt condolences on the loss of your precious son.
Rest in peace, Christian.

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Tue Apr 07, 2015 at 01:00 PM PDT

Black Kos, Tuesday's Chile

by Black Kos

I hadn't planned on voting today. But I did.
GOTV
by Chitown Kev

I voted this morning.

Since I live considerably north of Howard Street, I did not vote where "the real action" is. My (very small) election slate consisted of school board and community college board -stuff.

Since I knew nothing of the positions of anyone on the election slate, I did about 5-10 minutes of online research and checked out the positions of the slated candidates and went to vote.  

I am slightly acquainted with one of the persons on today’s election slate (and yes, I voted for her).

I was in and out of the polling place in roughly five minutes.

I have been of voting age for roughly 30 years and I cannot recall a time when it took me longer than 15 minutes to vote (measured from the time I walk in the voting venue to when I walk back outside).

I’ve rarely even been asked to show any ID other than a voter registration card, which is double-checked and reconciled with the voting books.

I can't imagine what it's like to stand in a line for hours on end simply to exercise my right to cast a vote.

I have never experienced anything like this. And I'm not planning on it.
Usually, I cast a side-eye at any number of ballot items.

However, after having temped at a textbook publisher some years ago and having seen, up close, some of the insane demands of the various Texas schoolboards, I remembered that one of the reasons for the textbook controversies is because right wingers ran for and won seats on these schoolboards over a period of time.

And now the entire country and generations of schoolkids in and beyond Texas are living with the results.

So even though I live in one of the most liberal cities in the country (so much so, that it's been said that I live within a liberal bubble), I've seen more than enough evidence the the right wing politicians never, ever stop or surrender at any level.

I have, at times, been cavalier about my right to vote.

I did not vote in the 1996 presidential election.

I've stated several times that I voted for Ralph Nader in 2000 (in Illinois, mind you, the Shrub had no chance of winning Illinois...at least according to the polls).

However the right wing has been in overdrive since November 4, 2008 when my then-United States Senator, Barack Hussein Obama, was elected as the 44th President of the United States of America.

So even though I live in a "liberal bubble," I can't afford to take anything for granted be it a presidential election or an election for dog catcher.

So in spite of my more than occasional cynicism about the the world and especially about politics, I got out and voted today.

And if there is any election where you are living, then so should you.

Because "the real action" is wherever you are.

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Fri Apr 03, 2015 at 01:00 PM PDT

Black Kos, Week In Review

by Black Kos

Commentary: African American Scientists and Inventors
by Black Kos Editor, Sephius1

James Edward Maceo West (born February 10, 1931 in Farmville, Prince Edward County, Virginia) is an American inventor and acoustician. Along with Gerhard Sessler, West developed the foil electret microphone in 1962 while developing instruments for human hearing research. Nearly 90 percent of more than two billion microphones produced annually are based on the principles of the foil-electret and are used in everyday items such as telephones, camcorders, and audio recording devices among others. West received a BS in Physics from Temple University in 1957. He holds over 250 foreign and U.S. patents for the production and design of microphones and techniques for creating polymer foil electrets.

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Tue Mar 31, 2015 at 12:49 PM PDT

Black Kos, Tuesday's Chile

by Black Kos

 photo 162e9b04-6e2f-4e0e-a06c-5de81eb2a57c_zpssfq0tjhz.jpg

Street Life, race and prostitution

Commentary by Black Kos Editor Denise Oliver-Velez

I grew up with what was known as "street life." My immediate family was not involved, but that didn't mean there were not times when the middle class black existence of my  childhood didn't intersect with a subculture that often overlapped with the world of actors, artists and musicians. A world of grifters, hustlers, numbers bankers, pimps and players, their "ladies" and drug dealers. When I was in my twenties I worked in various bars and after-hours joints and got to know many of the inhabitants of the "illegitimate" or "underground" economy pretty well, and in later years I worked out in the field doing HIV/AIDS interventions with the women and young gay men who walked the streets, trading sex for money or for drugs. They were all black and latino. Many were under 18, some as young as 13 and 14.

The lyrics of a tune popular in the late 70's, early 80's is the refrain I hear in my head when I think about those times.

I play the streetlife, because there's no place I can go
Streetlife – it's the only life I know
Streetlife – and there's a thousand parts to play
Streetlife – until you play your life away
You let the people see, just who you wanna be
And every night you shine, just like a super star
That's how the life is played a temptin masquerade
You dress, you walk, you talk
You're who you think you are
Streetlife – you can run away from time
Streetlife – for a nickel or a dime
Streetlife – but you better not get old
Streetlife – or you're gonna feel the cold

There's always love for sale a grown-up fairytale
Prince charming always smiles behind a silver spoon
And if you keep it young your song is always sung
Your love will pay your way beneath the silver moon

1979 The Crusaders "Street Life"

The 70's was a time of blaxploitation films, like Super Fly, and the glamorizing of pimps and players became a text that was to influence later cultural developments like hip-hop and rap.

It never once occurred to me during those earlier days that much of what I knew and saw, up close and personal, was human trafficking - or sex trafficking, even as I witnessed violence and abuse. The faux glamor of the pimp balls and the macho bravado of the men served to mask the acute harm being done to those caught up in the coils of "the life".

Donna M. Hughes, Professor & Carlson Endowed Chair from the Women’s Studies Program
at the University of Rhode Island, speaks to this in "Race and Prostitution in the United States."

Women and girls from racial minorities in the U.S. are disproportionately targeted and used by sex traffickers operating inside the U.S. Service providers that assist women and girls to escape prostitution in cities throughout the U.S. report that their client population has proportionately more racial minorities than their city’s population.

A demographic survey of sex trafficking and commercial sex acts has never been done in the U.S. so exact figures and statistics are not known. This short report will present a few known statistics that indicate a serious level of victimization of women and girls from racial minorities. They also indicate that victims of commercial sex acts are more likely to be arrested than the perpetrators – the pimps and traffickers. In addition, statistics collected from cities in the U.S. indicate that women and girls are more often arrested for soliciting sex acts than the men involved.

Ebony, did a series on this, ending with Dirty Secret: Online Sex Trafficking of Black Girls [EBONY Special Report]
Four years ago, Shayna* skipped school with a classmate who promised that if they headed to a local barbershop, she would show her how easy it was to make fast money. “I had no idea what that would be until we got there, and I didn’t realize that she was recruiting me for a pimp,” says Shayna, who accepted a drink from the man upon meeting him. “He began telling me, not asking me, everything I was going to do from that day on. I was scared but interested, because he made it seem like it was the perfect situation. But I didn’t really understand the depth of what he was saying—or what it really meant I would be doing—until he brought in the first guy who bought and violated me. I was only 14 years old.”

Shayna, now 18, was trapped in that life for three years, part of the time in metro Atlanta, before she escaped. “I feared for my life through all the sexual assaults, gang rapes, beatings and weapons used by the pimp to keep me in line and generate money,” she recounts through an interview facilitated by Lisa Williams, founder of Living Water for Girls, a treatment facility that helps to restore the lives of girls who have been trafficked. Shayna didn’t even know that her pimp had sold her on the Internet, a common practice in the sex-trafficking world.

According to a recent federally funded study on the sex trade, in Atlanta, some pimps make nearly $33,000 a week. Much of this income comes from selling young girls by promoting their business online.

The Ebony report included some of the ugly, and very real statistics.
According to the Urban Institute, which conducts economic and social policy research, Atlanta is the sex-trafficking capital of the United States, with more than $290 million spent in the metro area in 2007 alone.“We have the world’s busiest airport, so travel in and out is very easy for those who want to purchase our children,” notes DeKalb County Assistant District Attorney Dalia Racine. In a state that also ranks tenth in the nation for interstate superhighways, Atlanta draws tens of millions annually to conventions and major events. Local pimps staff up, out-of-town exploiters bring their sex slaves and “johns”—the term used to describe the men who pay for sex—flock to the city for high-profile occasions.

Every month, approximately 7,200 men in Georgia purchase more than 200 girls averaging between ages 12 and 14 for sex, according to youthSpark, an organization that works to end sex trafficking. In Atlanta, 42 percent of those johns live north of the city’s perimeter, which means they’re likely White. But Jennifer Swain, youthSpark’s program director, believes that the true criminals responsible for luring these Black girls are usually much closer. “Most of the girls I deal with in my group are being sexually exploited in their own communities,” says Swain. “It’s the people in your ’hood—that older man who’s known you and your cousins, and now he’s wanting to have sex with you.”

In 2011, the U.S. Department of Justice reported that 40 percent of all sex trafficking victims were Black. Racine says the majority of cases she handles in DeKalb County, which has an African-American population of nearly 55 percent, involve Black children. But interestingly enough, being Black doesn’t make you any more valuable to a pimp.
“Even within the world of exploitation, you are considered more elevated in the game if you are able to recruit White girls,” explains Racine. “Black females are called ducks and White females are called swans; you will always be able to make more money with a White child.”

 

Marian Hatcher, recently wrote 'Pretty Woman' and the Ugly Truth About Prostitution, for HuffPo. She concludes:
Forty years ago people thought nothing could be done to prevent rape or domestic violence. Today, we think of these as terrible crimes. The same can happen with sex-trafficking. Men are starting to step up and tell other guys that buying someone's body for their pleasure isn't okay. Boys I'm around can grow up knowing that respecting girls means knowing they're not a commodity. They're not for sale.

This year, law enforcement agencies and other partners in 11 American cities established a network called CEASE (Cities Empowered Against Sexual Exploitation) to expand on what my colleagues and I in the Cook County Sheriff's Office are pushing for. There's a whole network of victims like me (we call ourselves "survivors") who are at the core of this network. We're all reaching across the country, and we're seeing a sea change.

This isn't for the faint of heart -- lots of the industry is fueled by organized crime. But stings are being set up to arrest and prosecute the buyers, not the victims, and the momentum is picking up. It's not all about punishment. Educational programs are being put in place so that johns can face the truth about the trauma they've been inflicting on the girls and women they buy online or on the streets.

Maybe someday Hollywood will produce that dark cautionary tale with the ugly story of prostitution, but with a different happy ending: a dramatic decrease in what's now a national scourge. No buyers means no business. Prostitution isn't the world's oldest profession. It's the world's oldest oppression.

I should know.

Hatcher is a Project manager for women’s justice programs and a human-trafficking coordinator for the Cook County Sheriff’s Office.  She is also a survivor, and can be seen in this video.

Efforts being made by the President and sane members of Congress to end human trafficking, and to provide better services to victims are being stymied by Senate Republicans, who attached an abortion amendment to the Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act.

Women of color are still living in a world created by genocidal practices and slavery, in which their bodies were used, to breed and for sexual gratification. The double whammy of abuse from both within and without our communities must be addressed.  

Ain't no glamor in any of this.
Time to end the ugly.

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Fri Mar 27, 2015 at 01:00 PM PDT

Black Kos, Week In Review

by Black Kos

The Ark of Return

Commentary by Black Kos Editor JoanMar

Something momentous happened at the United Nations headquarters in New York yesterday; something huge and I have seen nothing about it in the news.

United Nations officials  today welcomed the unveiling at the world body’s New York Headquarters of a permanent memorial to the victims of slavery and the transatlantic slave trade which they acknowledged was one of the most horrific tragedies of modern history.
Built on the Visitors Plaza at the United Nations Headquarters in New York City, as its theme suggests, The Ark of Return will help us to acknowledge the tragedy, consider the legacy of slavery, and never forget the millions of people affected by these events. It is designed in three parts for visitors to walk through and initiate a psychological, emotional, and spiritual transformation. It provides a solemn space within which one may reflect upon a tragic page in the history of mankind.
In 2007, Jamaica proposed and the General Assembly of the UN agreed to establish The Permanent Memorial on the grounds of the United Nations to honour the victims of the more than forty decades of slavery and the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade, in which more than 18 million people were forcefully removed from Africa and transported as slaves to the Americas, including the Caribbean, and to Europe.‎
The memorial was designed by architect Rodney Leon.
Mr. Leon’s work was selected from among 310 design proposals from 83 countries in a competition launched two years ago by the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), with support from the UN Department of Public Information’s Remember Slavery Programme, and Member States from the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) and the African Union.
Architect Rodney Leon explains his design:
And one of the most important elements of the memorial is that of a deliberately androgynous human sculpture, called ‘the trinity figure,’ representing the human spirit and the spirit of the men, women and children of African descent whose deaths resulted from the Transatlantic Slave Trade.
To serve as a reminder to future generations not to repeat this tragedy.
One additional point: Slavery in this generation - and future generations - may not look exactly as in did in the Eighteenth and Nineteenth centuries. It is possible to be enslaved without wearing legs shackles and having intricate designs decorating your back. If black men and women of whatever age are in fear for their lives every time they walk the streets or drive their cars, a fear that is not shared by the majority community, then that too is a form of slavery. If the black life can be snuffed out or brutalized at will, without consequences, and by people who have the weight of the government behind them, then that too is a form of slavery.
Before you accuse me of hyperbole, remember that slavery also has to do with the restriction of freedom. Has to do with being owned. Law enforcement officers own the black body. LEO kill and brutalize black bodies at will, and there is not a damn thing we can do about it. Worst yet, there is not a damn thing that is being done about it by our government. In the meantime, we can't run, and we dare not fight back. Do not even try to pry the arm from around your throat that is choking you to death.

At the very least, we still have some work to do.

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Tue Mar 24, 2015 at 01:00 PM PDT

Black Kos, Tuesday's Chile

by Black Kos

Points of Negritude
by Chitown Kev

1. From the DOJ Ferguson PD Police Report we have multiple incidents of some sort of extremely petty offense called "A Manner of Walking":

The man responded with profanities. When the officer told him to watch his language and reminded him that he was not being arrested, the man continued using profanity and was arrested for Manner of Walking in Roadway....

Officers charged the two teenagers with a variety of offenses, including: Disorderly Conduct forgiving the middle finger and using obscenities; Manner of Walking for being in the street...

The sergeant shouted at those filming that they would be arrested for Manner of Walking if they did not back away out of the
street, even though it appears from the video recordings that the protesters and those recording were on the sidewalk at most, if not all, times...

Excuse me, THIS is what you call "A Manner of Walking."

2. Speaking of Ferguson, MO, Washington Post columnist Jonathan Capehart seems to have raised a bit of a kerfluffle with last week's "Hands up, don’t shoot’ was built on a lie". Chaunceydevega's take on Capehart's post also brought out the usually condescending and noxious but largely (though not entirely) harmless brew of caffeinated bullshit masquerading as a legal/cultural dissertation in "truth, justice, and the American Way" for darkies.

What I don't like about the column, for one, is the undertone with which Mr. Capehart calls the deceased (and murdered) Michael Brown a "thug;" that's playing a little too many BRP games for my tastes. But Capehart also said this:

Yet this does not diminish the importance of the real issues unearthed in Ferguson by Brown’s death. Nor does it discredit what has become the larger “Black Lives Matter.” In fact, the false Ferguson narrative stuck because of concern over a distressing pattern of other police killings of unarmed African American men and boys around the time of Brown’s death. Eric Garner was killed on a Staten Island street on July 17. John Crawford III was killed in a Wal-Mart in Beavercreek, Ohio, on Aug. 5, four days before Brown. Levar Jones survived being shot by a South Carolina state trooper on Sept. 4. Tamir Rice, 12 years old, was killed in a Cleveland park on Nov. 23, the day before the Ferguson grand jury opted not to indict Wilson. Sadly, the list has grown longer.
And of course, we needn't go into what rests in the collective unconscious of the overwhelming majority of black folks, especially black men. Heck, we can even talk about what lays firmly in the consciousness of (for example) a black honors student at the University of Virginia or the black son of a New York Times columnist at Yale.

3. Here's another one for The Black Nerd Files: Not only is former NBA All-Star Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (a longtime known Black Nerd) a Baker Street Irregular; Abdul-Jabbar is also (with Anna Waterhouse) writing his first novel titled "Mycroft Holmes" (Sherlock's older brother).

Set in England and Trinidad, the story centers on Mycroft, a recent university graduate working for the British Secretary of State for War. Mycroft learns from his best friend of troubling events occurring in Trinidad — mysterious disappearances, dead children and strange, backward facing footprints in the sand. Mycroft goes to Trinidad to investigate and to follow his fiancée, Georgiana, who was raised on the island. Sherlock has a cameo as a King’s College student.
My own personal favorite post-Doyle Sherlock Holmes stories are Nicholas Meyer's The Seven-Percent Solution (which I read when I was 12) and Caleb Carr's The Italian Secretary (which also featured Mycroft Holmes). I've long admired Abdul-Jabbar as much for his nerdiness (i.e. when considering a conversion to Islam at UCLA, he made it a point of studying Arabic) as for his athleticism. Here's yet another one (sigh!) for my book stacks!

4. I surrender.

I will no longer cringe when the word "negritude" is used outside of the the very specific literary and cultural context I most familiar with. It seems that word is more often used to refer to something like "the quality and state of blackness" nowadays (and Webster's Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary indicates that it's been true for at least a decade).

Truthfully, I do think that negritude is a great word that occasionally comes up in awesome (albeit racist, at times) contexts. I mean, we all have a little negritude in us, right?

My own personal favorite usage of the word "negritude" is in Felice Picano's Art and Sex in Greenwich Village: A Memoir of Gay Literary Life After Stonewall when he was urging a book reviewer to review The Color Purple only to be told by the Village Voice reviewer that “we’re not particularly interested in lesbian negritude.”

Or the blackface Italian MP Gianluca Buonanno who accused Congelese-born minister Cecile Kyenge of endorsing immigration policies that "favored negritude."

Now those are simply the racist uses of the word; I've heard black people say, too, that they're simply "showing their negritude" at certain times, and there's certainly an appropriately sassy way to do that.

Sheooooit, I show my negritude all of the time.

I do wonder; would I accept a GOP politician accusing President Obama, for example, of "injecting negritude" into his policies and the office of the presidency? I will admit that I would probably giggle a bit if a GOP politician said that.

Then again, if spoken teabagger dialect is as nuanced as teabagger spelling, then that might not be such a good idea after all.

 

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