I’d like to send out a clenched fist salute to Amani Sawari of Jailhouse Lawyers Speak. I have studied the transcript of Amani’s appearance on Democracy Now! with Amy Goodman. Amani did an excellent job articulating the reasons for our actions. Amani also had the presence of mind to highlight and accentuate the fact that we, the prisoners across Amerika, seek to be treated as human beings and given meaningful opportunities toward our rehabilitation.
Aug. 19 at 11:00 a.m., courageous and loving folks in San Jose, Calif., joined with sister marches and rallies throughout the country in support of prisoners’ human rights and amending the 13th. Their courage is found in the rejection of an institution so prevalent and insidious that any criticism can bring a mountain of ridicule and judgment. It is an institution shielded by a centuries old narrative that tells people, “They are not like us,” and consequently, “they” are undeserving of our humanity.
I’ve been following the U.S. presidential debates very closely. As a Black man who also happens to be a Muslim with a mother who was originally from the Middle East, I am intrigued by this term “extreme vetting,” which is frequently used by presidential candidate Donald Trump. Maybe extreme vetting needs to be applied to the internal threat posed from rogue police.
A group of civil rights era activists have passed the torch to a younger generation, so to speak. One week after the Movement for Black Lives released a wide-ranging, and long-awaited, policy platform, the activists’ vision for change has also earned an endorsement from delegates of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, a famed student organizing group that formed in the 1960s.
Two more teams have come together to make a political statement. The Minnesota Lynx and the New York Liberty of the WNBA have chosen to advocate an idea that really should not be radical but somehow is, in the United States of 2016: the idea that Black lives matter. These are public and visible displays of real solidarity: white players joining with their Black teammates, wearing the same shirts and standing alongside them in a show of multiracial unity against anti-Black bigotry.
Erika Rocha was 35 years old and one day away from her Youth Parole Hearing on April 15, 2016, when she committed suicide at the California Institution for Women (CIW) in Corona. Since her death, the suicide crisis at CIW has only worsened. On June 1, yet another young woman of color died at CIW. Her name is Shaylene Graves and she was 27 years old and six weeks away from returning home to her loving son, family and friends.
I am writing this from the Bay Area, where tent cities are now slowly re-forming under bridges, and where there is still a palpable buzz about Beyoncé’s performance in the Super Bowl halftime show (sorry, Coldplay). In fact, it’s a topic with far more currency here than the actual dud of a game, and for good reason. This is the 50th anniversary of the founding of the Black Panther Party for Self Defense in the Bay Area.
More than 100 million people tuned in to watch Super Bowl 50 Sunday night. In addition to seeing the Denver Broncos beat the Carolina Panthers, viewers also witnessed one of the most political halftime shows in the Super Bowl’s history as the legendary singer Beyoncé paid tribute to the Black Panthers and the Black Lives Matter movement. Her dancers posted a photo on Instagram holding a sign reading “Justice for Mario Woods.”
Dr. Frances Cress Welsing (“Isis Papers”) made her transition Jan. 2, 2016. She was 80. The psychiatrist who challenged white supremacists on what she called “The Cress Theory of Color Confrontation and Racism (White Supremacy)” to look at their own melanin deficiency for what it is, “envy,” stirred and continues to stir the waters. She always stated theoretically that “Black lives matter,” way before the #blm movement.
As the community prepares for a showdown at the Police Commission meeting this evening, the following list of demands has been released by Etecia Brown on behalf of #BlackLivesMatter, #BlacknSF and #Last3Percent and these videos have been posted by CRC Media Corps and by Jameel Rasheed Patterson on behalf of Lets Talk Communities.
On Nov. 11, an imprisoned person at Central California Women’s Facility (CCWF) faced extreme violence at the hands of prison guards. Stacy Rojas and three others were detained, physically abused, sexually harassed, strip searched in the presence of male guards, and kept without water, food or restrooms for 11 hours. Requests to speak with members of the prison’s Investigative Services Unit have so far been ignored.
July 13 marks two years since #BlackLivesMatter was created. The #BlackLivesMatter movement has pushed to ensure that all Black lives are seen as an important part of an overall movement for social transformation. We have much to lose if we negate that all Black lives are central to the most well being for all of us. We must not rest until all of us are free.
Serena Williams just won her 21st Grand Slam. That’s the same number every other active women’s player has collected combined. In her last 28 matches, she is 28-0, and at the US Open this August, Ms. Williams will be favored to win the sport’s first calendar Grand Slam since Steffi Graf did it 27 years ago. At 33, Williams actually seems to be gaining strength. As a political symbol and an athletic powerhouse, Serena Williams is ‘the greatest’ in her sport.
The national protests catalyzed by the killing of Mike Brown in Ferguson last August continue even as many have moved on. In Chicago, many have used the energy and opening created by these ongoing protests to re-animate existing long-term anti-police violence campaigns. On Saturday afternoon, hundreds of people gathered at the Chicago Temple to show our love for police torture survivors on the day after Jon Burge was released from house arrest.
The same mindset that allows a police officer to summarily execute an innocent, unarmed Black person in the street is the same mindset that allows an officer to plant evidence and lie on the witness stand. It allows a judge to appoint a knowingly incompetent defense attorney, and it allows a prosecutor to withhold evidence, use false evidence, to overcharge and to discriminate with impunity.
Devaughn Frierson Jr., better known as Bo, endeavors every day to protect his community and, like the Black Panthers, he doesn’t turn his back to abuse by police. As a community journalist who is a Black disabled man like Bo, I wanted to get to know what drives this activist, who is a hero to his neighbors but was treated abominably by San Francisco police.
At approximately 7:30 Monday morning, the Oakland Police Department Headquarters was blockaded by protesters demanding an end to racist violence against the Black community. One person climbed the flagpole directly in front of the OPD Headquarters to fly a banner in honor of Black people murdered by police. Minutes later, a group of about 30 Black protesters occupied the space in front of the police department and called for an immediate end to the war on Black people.
A Berkeley-Oakland march protesting police violence following the murders of Mike Brown and Eric Garner ended abruptly late Wednesday night, Dec. 10, after an undercover police officer pulled a gun on protesters and arrested and assaulted the Black man who blew their cover. From the Frantz Fanon quote on several banners to the faces in the protest crowd, the march Wednesday night was largely Black and other people of color and was Black-led.
The marches in the streets are not done. The die-ins disrupting traffic are not done. Any kind of closure for the families of Michael Brown, Eric Garner, Tamir Rice, Akai Gurley and so many others is far from done. Athletic protest actions have the effect of amplifying the impact of a new struggle for human dignity in the face of racism. It has found expression in all 50 states and in solidarity actions in cities around the world, all with the message that Black lives matter.