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The recent general election in Philadelphia saw a former civil rights attorney running on an anti-incarceration platform elected district attorney to the country’s fifth largest city. Larry Krasner, who defended Black Lives Matter activists and indicted police officers while in private practice, promised sweeping reforms and Philadelphia voters responded. Prisoners supported Krasner’s candidacy with a robust political action campaign of voter education, voter registration, political forums and get-out-the-vote drives directed towards their families, loved ones, friends and returned citizens.
I went into law school thinking that I wanted to be a civil rights attorney. I wanted to use my law degree to fight the many systems of oppression that plagued and terrorized the communities that mattered to me. It wasn’t until my third year of law school, that I recognized current cannabis policies as a legitimate social justice issue – particularly due to the way marijuana prohibition is enforced.
As a member of the Equity Advisory Committee of the San Francisco Human Rights Commission (SFHRC), I learned a lot. It was all bad for The City’s Black community. The SFHRC was formed in 1964 to fight discrimination against Blacks in The City. Today, it is clear to me that this charter commission discriminates against the Black community – with no end in sight.
Another Black History Month with pomp, circumstance and countless hollow speeches has been taking place all over San Francisco. Does anyone notice it is only a matter of time until Black people living in San Francisco will become history? The 1970 Black population of “everyone’s favorite city” was a hundred thousand, according to city records. The latest census says Blacks account for just under 47,000 of the city’s 825,000 people.
“This morning, the government, meaning the United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York, on behalf of the Bureau of Prisons, filed a motion before federal Judge John Koeltl, requesting that Lynne Stewart be re-sentenced to time served,” said Bob Boyle, one of Stewart’s lawyers. Boyle says he fully expects Stewart to be released in the next few days and return to New York City, where she will live with her son.
Sept. 9, 2013, marks the 42th anniversary of the prison uprising at the Attica Correctional Facility in upstate New York. Forty-two men, mostly inmates, were killed in the armed retaking of the prison under the orders of Gov. Nelson Rockefeller. I was there, as one of the “observers” specifically requested by the inmates. We tried to negotiate a peaceful, non-violent settlement of the dispute.
The Texas prison system, which incarcerates far more Black men than nearly every state in the country, is under scrutiny for spending $750,000 for facilities designed to keep pigs cool in its farming program, while simultaneously forcing inmates to live in such extreme heat that several people have died as a result.
It’s a damn shame to see this sort of abuse of power, especially when you consider Mayor Lee, who was largely applauded for being the City’s first Asian-American mayor, was a long-time civil rights attorney. I guess we shouldn’t be surprised, as many traditional civil rights organizations and leaders have turned the concept upside down.
First, be more forceful about appointing federal judges. As a former constitutional law professor, you know better than most the importance of the federal bench. Second, please listen to Paul Krugman on economic policy. He was right early on in the economic crisis when he was adamant about the need to create jobs. Finally, do not abandon the needs of Black people because you will be seen as playing favorites. Black folks are out here on our own. We need you to stand up for us and to advance policies that will help us move upward, “lifting as we climb.”