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Fri May 22, 2015 at 01:00 PM PDT

Black Kos, Week In Review

by Black Kos

Marijuana - The Playing Field is not Level

Commentary by Black Kos Editor JoanMar

I don't smoke. I have never lit up a joint in my life. But I know a lot about the good ol'  Mary Jane. I can smell it a mile away. My mother smoked like every day; my father, I have been told, smoked; my older brother smokes, my younger sister smokes (or smoked - she claims she no longer does - I have heard that before), I have had boyfriends who smoked, and I had smelled it on my son's breath a couple times.
I was not going to be my mom, so that meant no smoking and no heavy drinking.

Given all of the above, you may wonder why I am so bothered by seeing that documentary by CNN, Cashing in on the 'green rush.'  The series celebrate (the best word to describe what I saw) the "trailblazers" who are making use of the opportunity provided to them in the wake of the legalization of marijuana in Colorado.

I am not merely bothered by what I saw, I found it to be downright obscene. To be fair, those people did not invent the problem. They are merely doing what any true entrepreneur would do. I ain't really mad at them as much as I'm mad at yet another piece of evidence of just how our two-tiered justice system works.

See for yourself:

The idea that these people could be so joyously celebrating their new found wealth, even as hundreds of thousands of people have suffered and continue to suffer for trying to do what they are doing, leaves a nasty taste in my mouth

In talking about their "pioneering" business, the young (white) couple featured in the series, spoke about a conversation they had with their grandmother. Apparently they mischaracterized the nature of their business and then were forced to come clean to grandma. The wife explains that conversation this way:

"She thought we were just your stereotypical drug dealers."  
Stereotypical drug dealers. Who are those, pray tell?
Maybe someone like Vincent Winslow? Let's take a look at his case:
On September 5, 2008, Fate Vincent Winslow watched a plainclothes stranger approach him. Homeless and hungry, on a dark street rife with crime, the 41-year-old African American was anxious to make contact, motivated by one singular need: food.
More:
Police arrested Winslow, drove him to prison, and locked him up. Six months later, a jury found him guilty of distribution of a schedule I substance (marijuana). Three months after that, a judge sentenced him to life imprisonment with hard labor, without the benefit of parole.

For a transaction that involved a whopping $25.00, Mr. Winslow got a life sentence, and with hard labor to boot.
He is just one example of thousands...if not millions. Whether selling or using, African Americans are more likely to be targeted, arrested, and convicted.
Whites and blacks  use marijuana at roughly the same rates; on average, however, blacks are 3.7 times more likely than whites to be arrested for possession, according to a comprehensive 2013 report by the A.C.L.U.
In Iowa, blacks are 8.3 times more likely to be arrested, and in the worst-offending counties in the country, they are up to 30 times more likely to be arrested. The war on drugs aims its firepower overwhelmingly at African-Americans on the street, while white users smoke safely behind closed
Another ACLU report details the long lasting, life-changing effect of being arrested for keeping company with mary jane:
When people are arrested for possessing even tiny amounts of marijuana, it can have dire collateral consequences that affect their eligibility for public housing and student financial aid, employment opportunities, child custody determinations, and immigration status.
It seems to me that there is something sad and downright immoral about how the ganja god has chosen to distribute his/her blessings. In the same state, in the same country, in the same world, some people experiencing great fortune while others are  behind bars for doing the exact same thing. If we can't have a level playing field, at least show a little awareness about what's happening around you.

One law for everyone; those in Buk-in-hamm palace, and those standing in the shadows furtively scratching at the edge of the sumptuous pie.


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Tue May 19, 2015 at 01:00 PM PDT

Black Kos, Tuesday's Chile

by Black Kos


I still tear up every time I watch this video. But even then, we knew that it was not enough. Far from it.

Is "Black Leadership" Enough? Not For These Young Adults
by Chitown Kev

Like many other people, I cried when it was announced that my United States Senator, Barack Hussein Obama, was projected to become the 44th President of the United States of America.  

Still, I did not fully "get" the symbolic power of that moment, of that event until early in 2009.

At the time, I was working for an educator who is also a longtime acquaintance of the 44th President of the United States of America, Barack Hussein Obama. I was in a school auditorium with mostly black and Latino high school students. One of the students had done a short film life about...teenage life, in general, I suppose. For a moment, the Shepherd Fairey "Hope" illustration of President Obama appeared on the screen.

The kids cheered and jumped up and down and whooped it up as if it were the old Chicago Stadium and Michael Jeffrey Jordan had just hit a buzzer-beater.

Mind you, I doubt that any of the kids were even eligible to vote. Nevertheless, I think fondly of that day in a school auditorium and that moment it remains one of the most moving and powerful moments.

It is now 2015, over six and a half years into the administration of the first black president.

And while I can't pin down an exact and definitive number of black elected officials in this country (I'm working on that), I do know that as I write this, there are over 10,000 black elected officials in the United States.

Recently, I had the pleasure of hearing "the kids" sound off again.

If, as Dr. King maintained, "a riot is the language if the unheard" (and I believe that it is), then I do believe that when those who "rioted" (or their social peers, in this case)  do speak, we should listen to them.

This "town hall" of the African-American young adults and teenagers of Baltimore comes in at about an hour and a half; I've already watched in its' entirety twice.

While I have a number of thoughts, opinions, and even criticisms of this program, I'm going to shelve them for the time being and let the participants speak for themselves.

Well...I will note this...Clearly, these audience participants did not take kindly to their elected mayor, Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, and the President of the United States calling them and their peers "thugs" before national television audiences.

In fact, "the kids" are not particularly happy with "black leadership."

But I'll allow them to speak in their own words.

Thank you for reading.

h/t Truthdig

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Fri May 15, 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

Benjamin T. Montgomery (1819–1877) was an influential African-American inventor, landowner, and freedman.

Ben Montgomery was born in captivity in Loudoun County, Virginia. In 1837, he was sold south, and purchased in Natchez, Mississippi by Joseph Emory Davis—whose brother, Jefferson Davis, later became the President of the Confederate States of America. Montgomery escaped but was recaptured. Davis reportedly "inquired closely into the cause of his dissatisfaction", whereby the two men reached a "mutual understanding" about the Montgomery's situation.

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Tue May 12, 2015 at 01:01 PM PDT

Black Kos, Tuesday's Chile

by Black Kos

Restavek - "One who stays with" is the word for a child slave in Haiti.

Commentary by Black Kos Editor Denise Oliver-Velez

Ignoring Haiti and its problems is par for the course in the United States, even when the U.S. has played a role in creating them. There was a flurry of concern around the time of the January 2010 earthquake, with monies raised by a variety of charities...some legit and some suspect, but Haiti news fell out of the headlines, and for the most part is ignored. Before the earthquake there were a host of problems and some have worsened  since then. Such is the case of the "restaveks,"  nearly 300,000 children who work in a state of indentured servitude which has been deemed modern day slavery by international rights organizations.

Restavek is a form of modern-day slavery that persists in Haiti, affecting one in every 15 children. Typically born into poor rural families, restavek children are often given to relatives or strangers. In their new homes, they become domestic slaves, performing menial tasks for no pay.

In the Creole language, "restavek" means "to stay with." Yet for the children who are called restavek, that definition is incomplete. For them, it means:

To stay with... humiliation and abuse.

To stay with... alone, in a family that offers no love.

To stay with... an incessant and knawing hunger.

To stay with... the feeling that no matter what, their voices, their lives, will never count.

The reasons that the restavek practice persists in Haiti are complex  - ranging from harsh economic conditions to the cultural attitudes toward children. But every morning another child wakes up to begin his or her life of hardship, it becomes all the more urgent that this practice be stopped.

Ask the children what they need, and many of them will offer a simple reply:

"All I want," they say, "is to be human."

As more and more human rights organizations world wide, investigate and try to stop slavery and human trafficking, more attention is being paid to the practice of child slavery in Haiti.  

On the Global Slavery Index, Haiti is currently ranked Number 3.

Jean-Robert Cadet, is a former Restavek and author of the book "Restavec: From Haitian Slave to Middle Class American."

When Cadet was 15 his owners immigrated to the United States and he joined them, again as their domestic servant. He was turned out of the house when his owners realized that domestic servitude was stigmatized in American society and that he would be required to attend school alongside their own children.

Despite this abuse within his own culture and the racism he faced from American society, Cadet went on to finish high school, join the United States army, finish university, get married and start a family and earn a master’s degree in French literature.

Published in English in 1998, Cadet's memoir, Restavec: From Haitian Slave Child to Middle Class American, contributed significantly to the slim body of literature written by survivors of contemporary slavery. Especially striking is Cadet’s bravery in so frankly describing his experience since, “In Haitian society, [being a restavek is] the lowest possible status. It’s like being a dog. And no one wants to reveal that he was once a dog.”

The book depicts the lasting psychological and social damage inflicted on those held in slavery and the suffering that persists from constant physical and emotional abuse. Cadet's overwhelming sense of not belonging—in society, in family, in relationships—is the most acutely painful reminder that he, in his own words, “never had a childhood.”



Organizations like Restavek Freedom are working to address the situation of Haiti's children.

These children wrote a letter to current President Martelli 2 years ago.

Appeals to the Martelli regime, and organized grassroots pressure, finally began to have an effect last August with a new law:

Haiti Enacts World’s Newest Anti-Trafficking Law

”After about a decade of effort, we finally have an anti-trafficking law in Haiti,” says FTS Haiti Coordinator Smith Maxime. “It is an important milestone,” he adds, “but we have a long road ahead to get this law implemented. A national committee against human trafficking has to be formed. Law enforcement officers have to be trained and the public has to be informed about the new infraction.”

How does this law confront restavek slavery?

By defining the existence of “trafficking in persons” for minors as exploitation of any variety against those who are under 18 years of age, the law recognizes a person’s inherent vulnerability because of their minor status without the burden of proof on the use of force, fraud or coercion. This confronts restavek slavery in that minors are shown as naturally vulnerable, unable to give their voluntary consent to labor and easily put into a position of exploitation. For those who have reached the age of 18 within restavek slavery, this law also add protections through the definition of “servitude” as the submission status or a condition of dependency of a person unlawfully forced or coerced by a person providing a service to an individual or others, and who has no other alternative than to provide such service, with the law directly including domestic services

Are there still gaps in Haitian law that need to be addressed to end restavek child domestic slavery?

While the new Haitian law sets out a clear understanding of the crime of trafficking in persons and the potential punishments for perpetrators of this crime, it is still unclear how the National Committee will implement prevention and awareness campaigns, as well as how victim services will be executed. It is also, unclear on how to deal with children who are currently in servitude.

Comprehensive victim services require a strong infrastructure to ensure the physical safety of victims through law enforcement, the psychological safety and recovery of victims through health services, and employable skills, education and basic housing and needs of victims through social services. If a victim is not properly reintegrated into society then there is the possibility that the individual will be placed in a situation of exploitation and trafficking in persons again due to their continued situation of vulnerability.

There are efforts in Haiti to organize and educate rural families about the practice, and to supply agronomists to help with increasing food production, which will alleviate pressure on rural parents who think sending some of their children to the city will reduce the number of mouths to feed.


Haiti's Model Communities Fight Restavek Child Slavery from Free the Slaves on Vimeo.


The Model Communities program has prompted parents to retrieve their children from restavek slavery, and it has prevented other children from becoming restaveks. This video features deeply moving interviews with families who are taking a stand against child slavery.
Other problems entwined with the restavek situation are deforestation, and erosion, the undermining of the Haitian rice economy...and one of the greatest social problems is violence against women.

Please do not forget Haiti. Lend a hand by sharing this information.

"Men anpil, chay pa lou."

    Many hands [make] the load lighter.

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Fri May 08, 2015 at 01:00 PM PDT

Black Kos, Week In Review

by Black Kos

Remembering Mya

Commentary by Black Kos Editor JoanMar

Mya Hall. Have you heard the name before? If you haven't, you are not alone.
While Freddie Gray is now a household name, two weeks before his cruel death, Mya Hall was also killed by Baltimore's law enforcement officers.

Mya Hall was a member of a despised community within a hated minority.
She was black, she was a woman, she was poor, she may have had mental issues, she was a sex worker, and egads! she was a trans woman. As such, her life mattered less than that of a wild coyote.

What really happened to Mya and her friend on the evening of March 30?

According to police (eyeroll):

Police opened fire on the pair after Hall failed to heed instructions to turn back from the NSA gates and rammed into a police vehicle, according to the NSA. The other person in the SUV was injured, as was an officer working the security checkpoint.
After the killing, the local media was a abuzz with news of a terrorist attack by men dressed as women. There followed days of breathless Wolf Blitzer-type reporting about terrorism and the two "men" who were responsible. Pretty soon, however, the truth began to trickle out. These were no terrorists intent on attacking the well guarded premises; rather, these were two people who got lost and took a wrong turn. They didn't crash the gates of the NSA compound in preparation to attack; rather, after they were shot, they lost control of the vehicle that then crashed into the gate of the compound.
Authorities believe the pair might have ended up on the base by mistake.

"There is no information being released at this time regarding motive," an FBI spokeswoman, Amy Thoreson, said in a statement. "However, FBI Baltimore does not believe this is related to terrorism."

Why did the guards have to shoot up the vehicle? Why did they have to shoot to kill? Keep in mind that the only thing they knew about Mya and her friend at that point was that they were two black women. They didn't know that the vehicle was stolen; they didn't know of Mya's troubled history, and they certainly didn't know of any drug use by the occupants of the truck.

Yes, yes, we know, Mya and her friend were no angels. We all know that only angels deserve to live, right? In fact, Mya had a history of run-ins with the law, and at the time of her death, a warrant may have been out for her arrest. Her long list of criminal activity (petty theft, punching a woman, not turning up for court days) was made available to the news media by the very helpful police department.

Mya's death didn't happen in a vacuum. Once again, police resorting to the only tool they seem to have available when interacting with black folks: overwhelming deadly force. In fact, Mya is just one in a long list of black women killed by police for one cockamamie reason or the other.

Mya's other community have had to deal with one devastating blow after another. Death comes a-calling quite frequently in the trans people of color community. They are used to seeing their sisters killed for no other reason than that they dared to live their lives as their true selves without regard for what gender they were assigned at birth. They are not only killed at will; they also face  discrimination in every imaginable area you can think of.

In an article titled "Injustice at Every Turn," the National Center for Transgender Equality (NCTE) and the National Gay and Lesbian Task
Force revealed that trans women in general, and black trans women in particular are among the most persecuted and discriminated groups in these United States.

Black and African-American transgender women have a 50 percent greater homicide rate than their white, Latina, and Native American counterparts and were more than three times as likely to experience police violence more than any other group, according to a 2012 report by the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs on LGBTQ and HIV Affected Hate Violence. Results from the National Transgender Discrimination Survey show that black transgender women are disproportionately discriminated against and overrepresented across multiple disparities, including poverty (34 percent earn less than $10,000 annually — twice the rate of transgender people of other races), housing (41 percent experience homelessness in their lives, and 38 percent have been refused housing because of bias), employment (26 percent unemployment rate, and 32 percent job loss due to bias), medical care (21 percent have been refused medical care due to bias), and HIV-positive status (20 percent). And half of respondents said they have had to resort to sex work and the distribution of illegal substances in order to survive.
“Mya had a hard life,” Jenkins said. “She just wanted to have a job, a life, a home. Just the simple things.”
Mya Hall, we tell your story. We speak your name.
Your life mattered, sweet one.
Rest in Peace.
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Tue May 05, 2015 at 01:00 PM PDT

Black Kos, Tuesday Chile

by Black Kos

(Some) white folks haven't changed in over 40 years.* (Image courtesy of The Center of the Study of Political Graphics. Cartoonist is possibly Emory Douglas, former Minister of Culture for the Black Panther Party)
A Decent Proposal
by Chitown Kev

Few things have disturbed me more about the Baltimore Uprising of 2015 than the reaction to it.

For one, I am sick and tired of people droning on and on and on about that burnt-out CVS. Yes, it will make it more difficult for those in the Penn North neighborhood to get life-saving medications (the Penn North CVS drugstore is being rebuilt). But I also wondered, offhand, whether "pharmacy deserts" are a thing like "food deserts."

And, indeed,"pharmacy deserts" do exist.

Heck, even "hospital deserts" are a growing issue for poor urban and rural communities.

The other thing that has wrecked my nerves is the tendency for non-blacks to call for blacks to be "nonviolent" as (most) of the protestors were during the Southern-based black civil rights movements of the 1950's and early 1960's. I wrote a late morning rant to which I have little more to add.

Everyone should read HamdenRice's classic post Most of You Have No Idea what Martin Luther King Actually Did. In that diary, I took particular note of this statement:

My father told me with a sort of cold fury, "Dr. King ended the terror of living in the south."
In HR's diary, I commented on that very quote
yep. It needs to reemphasized, mallyroyal (7+ / 0-)
My father told me with a sort of cold fury, "Dr. King ended the terror of living in the south."
I'm actually more inclined to agree with Hamden's father.

I say that because most of the civil rights battles that took place in the 1950's and 1960's in the South were actually preceded by the civil rights battles and victories that took place in the North in the 1930's and the 1940's (there's actually a book that extensively documents the civil rights battles in the North, can't remember the name of it offhand, but it was very well documented).

And those battles had nothing to do with King.

And much of King's opposition within the national black community did come from the north. And people do forget King's recption in the North after Selma (esp. in Chicago) was quite cold at times, even among the black community.

by Chitown Kev on Mon Aug 29, 2011 at 12:27:51 PM PDT

The book I was referring to in that comment is Thomas J. Sugrue's Sweet Land of Liberty: The Forgotten Struggle for Civil Rights in the North. I ran across a copy of the book in a used book store last weekend (for less than $3.00!). This second, far more intensive reading of Sweet Land of Liberty reaffirms my opinion that far too many critical elements of any discussion of black civil rights movements of the 20th century are not discussed, have been forgotten, and are rarely taught.
Sugrue notes the ambivalent and occasionally "scathing" reactions of some black people to the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. For example, syndicated columnist (and former Tuskegee Airman) Chuck Stone wrote, "If there's anything the Senate-passed civil rights bill does for Negroes in the North, it's cocooned in one simple word: nothing." New York Congressman Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. stated that as far as the North was concerned "the anti-poverty bill is more important than the Civil Rights Act" (an opinion also held by Dr. King himself). (Sugrue p.361)

It now seems impossible to have any sort of coherent conversation about food/pharmacy/hospital deserts in urban America without reference to Sugrue's discussion of black activists century-long efforts to overturn housing discrimination.

And don't think that discussions of housing discrimination merely refer to the redlining practices and restrictive covenants in big cities like Detroit, Chicago and Philadelphia. Miss Denise already broached the subject of Levittown in her FP story on Sunday. Sugrue extensively documents and discusses similar struggles that occurred in northeastern and midwestern white wealthy and upper middle-class cities like Deerfield, IL, Dearborn, MI, New Rochelle, NY, and Englewood, NJ.

And I haven't even scratched the surface of the material covered in this book. For example, black churches do play a significant role in Sweet Land of Liberty as a vehicle for organizing but there are some differences and variations as regards to liberation ideology and strategies. Yes, there's Dr. King and  the Rev. C.L. Franklin (Aretha's father) but there's also black nationalist firebrands like the Rev. Albert Cleage (father of noted black playwright Pearl Cleage).

A flier for a proposed WWII era March on Washington. The March on Washington was a movement and not a singular event. Also note the call to "ponder the question of Non-Violent Civil Disobedience." We've been doing this non-violence thing for a looooooong time.
My "decent proposal" is simple.

I am proposing a Black Kos study group modeled along the lines of the excellent series by DoReMi and the Motor City Kossacks study group on Sugrue's The Origins of the Urban Crisis.

It's not that I think Sugrue's book is perfect; for example, I think he wildly overstates the case for Richard Nixon's "embrace of black enterprise." (pp. 442-45)  I understand Sugrue's need to focus on "whites and African Americans" but it comes with the cost of eliminating entire regions (there's very little coverage of The West Coast) and intersectional civil rights alliances.

But the sheer magnitude and detail of Sweet Land of Liberty (with over 110 pages of footnotes) plus the enormous gap in my education (and possibly yours) on black civil rights history makes this a book well worth studying here at Daily Kos.

I would go so far to say that it's a necessity.

*The gist of the "joke" are the somewhat illegible captions of the white man depicted. He says “Beautiful, beautiful! (sniff)” on the left and “My God! Anarchy!” on the right.

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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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