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Black Fashion Designers Get Some Long Overdue Love in New Exhibit

Theroot.com - Thu, 01/05/2017 - 06:10

Black style is so prominent that the first word of the couplet is practically unnecessary; very little that’s stylish doesn’t have some black antecedent. On the other hand, black fashion designers? They are some of the other hidden figures on the cultural landscape.

That’s what makes “Black Fashion Designers,” the exhibit that runs until May 16 at the Museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York City, so vital and important.

For decades, black designers have been at the forefront of fashion despite facing all of the challenges that daunt any new business as well as resisting the pigeonholing that comes from not being a member of the dominant demographic.

Yet, as the exhibit shows, there’s an extraordinary range of aesthetic splendor and unique accomplishment. For instance, the wedding gown of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis was designed by Ann Lowe, an African-American designer. The iconic Playboy Bunny uniform was designed by Zelda Wynn, also a black designer. Laura Smalls, one of many Afro-Diasporic designers championed by Michelle Obama, designed the red-and-white-print dress the first lady wore in July for her appearance in “Carpool Karaoke.”

In all, the exhibit features 75 outfits from 60 designers, plus videos of discussions headed by Washington Post fashion editor Robin Givhan and Vogue contributing editor André Leon Talley.

Black designers rose to prominence in the ’40s and have fought for recognition and respect from the industry for more than 70 years. The exhibit details their struggles and those of black models, but the best part is the wide range of style.

Some designers draw on their African heritage, abstracting kente cloth or scarification. Others offer a bold, futuristic outlook. All of the clothing displayed show that the same extraordinary power found on the streets where we live is also on display on the runway and in the ateliers where high fashion is home.

Here are several designers who stand out in the exhibit.

Ann Lowe Ann Lowe, wedding dress, 1968, USA. Gift of Judith A. Tabler.
 Eileen Costa/Museum at FIT

Lowe (1898-1981), who designed the ivory silk taffeta wedding dress for Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis’ marriage to John F. Kennedy, grew up in Alabama, the daughter and granddaughter of women who worked as seamstresses, but also designed clothing.

When Lowe was 16, her mother died while working on a series of ball gowns for Alabama’s first lady, Elizabeth Kirkman. Lowe stepped in and completed the project, then attended a segregated design school. She settled in Tampa, Fla., and opened a boutique called Annie Cohen.

She later moved to New York City, where she did commissions for leading retailers and designed the Oscar gown that Olivia de Havilland wore to accept the award for To Each His Own in 1946. Lowe later opened a boutique in New York’s Manhattan designing for wealthy clientele. The Saturday Evening Post called her “society’s best-kept secret.”

Patrick Kelly Patrick Kelly, dress, Fall/Winter 1986-1987, France. Museum purchase.
Eileen Costa/Museum at FIT

In a brief amount of time, Kelly (1954-1990) took the fashion world by storm. He grew up in Vicksburg Miss., and fell in love with fashion both via the creativity of his relatives and from the magazines that his grandmother, a domestic, brought home from work.

He moved to Atlanta where he designed the windows for the Yves Saint Laurent boutique. He then moved to Paris and quickly went from selling dresses on the street to presenting his own line of clothing. His clients included Cicely Tyson, Bette Davis and Grace Jones.

Duro Olowu Duro Olowu, ensemble, Fall 2012, England. Gift of Duro Olowu.
Eileen Costa/Museum at FIT

Nigerian-born, London-based designer Duro Olowu came to fashion after starting a career as a lawyer. His work is renowned for mixing African and American iconography. Olowu, the husband of Studio Museum Director Thelma Golden, regularly presents during Fashion Week and has done collections for J.C. Penney.

He was one of four designers chosen by Michelle Obama to decorate the White House for Christmas in 2015, and he curates the prestigious London exhibit “Making and Unmaking.” He told the New York Times that he collects fabric the way some people collect Rolexes.

Eric Gaskins Eric Gaskins, dress, 2014, USA. Gift of Eric Gaskins.
Eileen Costa/Museum at FIT

Gaskins was born in Germany and grew up in New York City, where he now lives. He has said that his aim is to make clothing that is essential and without artifice and contrivance. He launched his own line in 1987, and his clothes have appeared on the covers of Harper’s Bazaar, Vanity Fair and Glamour.

His clients include Jennifer Lopez, Salma Hayek, Mariah Carey and Jada Pinkett Smith. In the ’00s, he scandalized the fashion world as one of the anonymous writers behind the tell-all blog The Emperor’s Old Clothes.

Andre Walker Andre Walker, ensemble, spring 2016, USA. Museum purchase.

Brooklyn, N.Y.-based designer Andre Walker got his start at an early age. He staged his first runway show at the New York City nightclub Oasis when he was only 15 years old.

He worked in Paris in the ’90s, and his idea of the pant skirt was the inspiration for Jean-Paul Gaultier’s works in a similar vein. Patricia Field described him as “the future of the new designers.” After a few years out of the spotlight when he was consulting for Marc Jacobs, he has returned with a Dover Street Market line of clothes that aim for what W magazine called “retail-friendly yet lofty.”

Aisha Obuobi Christie Brown, ensemble, Spring 2016, Ghana, Gift of Christie Brown.
Museum at FIT

Obuobi, the designer behind the company Christie Brown, is widely considered one of the leading fashion designers in Africa. Her company is based in Accra, Ghana, and her work is an integral part of Italian fashion week. Her clothes were worn frequently by Beyoncé during the On the Run tour. Obuobi recently told Elle magazine’s South Africa edition: “I’d like for our clothes to be part of the African woman’s journey to self-discovery. Because I believe that it is from knowing and appreciating where she’s from, that she’ll truly be able to come into her own.”


#BlackGirlMagic: Children’s Book Little Professor Skye Shows Girls Endless Possibilities Through Learning

Theroot.com - Thu, 01/05/2017 - 06:10

It’s not a book about princesses, castles or your regular fantastical adventures.

Instead, in the first book of an anticipated series, Munson Steed, CEO of Steed Media Group and the publisher of Rolling Out, depicts young black girls as doing and being anything they want—including doctors, scientists, artists and more.

Little Professor Skye: Favorite Things details the extremely full day of a little black girl who goes about doing her favorite things, including science, math, music and athletics. The book even includes President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama, to whom Skye writes a letter prompting them to later visit Skye’s classroom and read to Skye and her classmates.

The character in the book accomplishes a whole lot in one day, but for Steed, it was all about young girls being able to see the infinite possibilities.

“She is a girl on the adventure to showcase the best of all of our little Professor Skyes,” Steed tells The Root. “I do not want anybody’s baby girl to not know that they’re a little professor. And I chose [the title] professor because that encompasses every industry [and] scholarly pursuit, and many of those pursuits are in the book. We want them to see themselves as learning and teaching and sharing in a community in a collective way, in a collective spirit.”

Steed’s goddaughter, Skye, who is also the namesake of the main character, inspired the book. Skye is a rather busy girl herself, and Steed was prompted to start the book, and thus the series, when the real Skye visited him one day before going off to her piano practice.

From there, Steed just went forth, with a full-fledged idea for a day filled with amazing things, all while imparting that participating in activities like the science club or going to a museum is fun and that such activities also serve a purpose.

Munson Steed and his goddaughter, Skyecourtesy of Munson Steed

Everything Skye does in the book is fun but also has a distinct affirmation in the background. Going to the library and reading books is fun because whether you want to travel to other places, or define words, or find a recipe, it is all just a page turn away.

Playing the piano is fun, but each day, Skye practices so that she can play beautiful music, and through practice, you can create one of your favorite songs.

The examples are endless.

“She highlights leadership and the value of exchange, and the principle of all of it is that it’s fun to learn and play. The learning comes with things I actually can enjoy. So it’s not a hardship to be a part of the science club,” Steed explains, using one particular scene from the beautifully illustrated book as an example. “I don’t want the kids in my community to think about the science club in junior high, I want them to see it as a kindergartner, before they can read.”

And that’s the crux of Steed’s mission, to help young children, girls especially, to see themselves in any number of scenarios from a young age so the possibilities can remain endless.

“I just wanted it to be in a fun, learning environment with someone who can see themselves young and think of themselves in a futuristic way. For her to hold a beaker in her hand, for her to be an archaeologist, I want children to know [those possibilities] before they are headed to college, high school, junior high,” he adds.

Steed also references the Black Girl Magic movement and experiences such as the young female doctor who was denied access to an ailing passenger aboard a Delta flight as other examples as to why Little Professor Skye is important.

“Our girls should never be denied of their greatness,” he says.

First lady Michelle Obama as well as Taraji P. Henson, who plays physicist and mathematician Katherine G. Johnson in the movie Hidden Figures, are examples of the people our girls can grow up to be and the greatness that Sneed sees illustrated by women across the world every day.

“They’re example of these women who are part of our core, part of the spirit of our community that are dynamic; they are clearly professors, doctors, they are the caretakers, they’re visionaries, inventors, and that’s the very thing that I want young girls to see in advance,” he says.

“I just want to put in this brand and inspire all the children to get what you didn’t get. I didn’t get this book growing up, but I want my kids to have this book. I want young people to have this brand,” Steed adds. “I want young people to see themselves [in this book]. It’s a whole community in this one book. It’s an infinite possibility.”


‘F–k Trump!’: Alleged Kidnapping and Torture Livestreamed on Facebook

Theroot.com - Thu, 01/05/2017 - 01:56

Four people in Chicago are in custody after an alleged kidnapping and torture incident was broadcast on Facebook Live Tuesday.

CBS Chicago reports that the 18-year-old victim is a northwest suburban resident with special needs who had been reported missing.

In the video, which has since been removed from Facebook, the victim’s clothes are cut, he is peppered with cigarette ashes, and then his hair is cut with a knife until his scalp bleeds. CBS reports that several people people can be seen in the video laughing, eating, using racially charged language, and making disparaging remarks about President-elect Donald Trump.

At a Wednesday evening press conference, Chicago Police Supt. Eddie Johnson told reporters that the incident was “sickening.”

“It makes you wonder what would make individuals treat somebody like that,” Johnson said. “I’ve been a cop for 28 years, and I’ve seen things that you shouldn’t see in a lifetime, but it still amazes me how you still see things that you just shouldn’t.”

“I’m not going to say it shocked me, but it was sickening,” Johnson added.

Police said the incident took place Tuesday at an apartment on the 3400 block of West Lexington on Chicago’s West Side. CBS reports that officers found the victim wandering the neighborhood in an obvious state of trauma, and authorities drew the connection with the disturbing Facebook video.

Four people including two adult males and two adult females are in custody in connection with the incident, and while criminal charges are expected, authorities said it is too soon to say whether they will be charged with kidnapping or a hate crime.

According to CBS Chicago, hree of the suspects are from Chicago, and a fourth is from the northwest suburb of Carpentersville.

Chicago Police Cmdr. Kevin Duffin said the victim is an acquaintance of one of the suspects.

“Apparently they met out in the suburbs,” Duffin said. “These subjects then stole a van out in the suburbs and then brought him into Chicago.”

An investigation into the incident is continuing.

Right-wing pundits have been attempting to tie the incident to the Black Lives Matter movement even though there is no mention of BLM in the video. On Wednesday night, a hashtag implicating BLM in the kidnapping was trending on Twitter and being openly used by Right-wing and Neo-Nazi pundits. There is no evidence that BLM is involved in the incident, but that hasn’t stopped the likes of Tomi Lahren from tying them to the incident.

Editor’s Note: The following video contains graphic imagery and strong language. Viewer discretion is advised

Read more at CBS Chicago.


California Democrats Enlist the Help of Former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder

Theroot.com - Wed, 01/04/2017 - 23:08

As it braces for an adversarial relationship with the incoming presidential administration, on Wednesday the California Legislature selected former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder to serve as outside counsel and advise on the state’s legal strategy against President-elect Trump.

The arrangement was announced on Wednesday as the Legislature returned to session, and as the LA Times reports, it underscores the extent to which action in Sacramento will be shaped by Trump’s presidency in the coming months.

Under the agreement, Holder will lead a team of attorneys from the firm Covington & Burling and will be given a portfolio that will cover potential conflicts between California and the federal government. Former Los Angeles Rep. Howard Berman (D), who is an advisor to the firm, will also be a part of the team.

Senate leader Kevin de León (D-Los Angeles) said in an interview that “Holder will be our lead litigator, and he will have a legal team of expert lawyers on the issues of climate change, women and civil rights, the environment, immigration, voting rights — to name just a few.”

As the Times notes, the task would normally fall to the state attorney general. Kamala Harris, who was formerly in the position, is now serving as a U.S. Senator, and on Tuesday Gov. Jerry Brown formally nominated Democratic Rep. Xavier Becerra to replace her.

De León and Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon began considering hiring outside legal counsel for the legislature almost immediately after Trump’s election. They hope to protect existing state policies that are at odds with the president-elect’s stated agenda.

“While we don’t yet know the harmful proposals the next administration will put forward, thanks to Donald Trump’s campaign, cabinet appointments and Twitter feed, we do have an idea of what we will be dealing with,” Rendon said in a statement.
Read more at the LA Times.


Wake County, N.C., Reviewing School Policing Rules After Viral Video 

Theroot.com - Wed, 01/04/2017 - 22:27

The cellphone video of a Rolesville, N.C., police officer body slamming a female high school student to the floor may lead to changes in the way law enforcement operates in the Wake County school system.

School administrators are reviewing the district’s agreement with local law enforcement agencies on school resource officers, and the News & Observer reports that the agreement, which is set to expire in June, says that use of force by officers must be reasonable and not excessive, arbitrary or malicious.

Lisa Luten, Wake County schools spokeswoman, told the News & Observer on Wednesday, “We’re looking at the memorandum of understanding in terms of the context of the incident and seeing if any actions need to be taken.”

As previously reported on The Root, an eight-second video uploaded to Twitter by a Rolesville High School student shows a group of fellow students at the high school crowded together after fight, when a police officer grabs a girl and slams her to the ground. After throwing her to the ground, the officer picks her up and leads her off with her hands behind her back.

The officer, now identified as Ruben De Los Santos, has been placed on administrative leave by the Rolesville Police Department until the investigation into the incident is complete.

The student he assaulted has been identified as Jasmine Darwin. Darwin has a concussion and was in and out of consciousness after the incident, Freddy Rabner, her family attorney, told the News & Observer. Rabner said that Darwin had been attempting break up a fight between two other girls when she was “slammed on the ground like a rag doll.”

Rabner told the News & Observer that Darwin has been to the hospital twice and has follow up appointments with her primary care physician as well as both a neurological specialist and a concussion specialist.

“She is in a great deal of pain,” Rabner said Wednesday. “The pain is worse today. She is a mess today.”

This latest controversy comes three years after local activists filed a federal civil rights complaint alleging that school resource officers in Wake County use excessive force and treat minority students unfairly.

The current agreement between the school system and law enforcement agencies says that school administrators have the primary responsibility of maintaining order in schools and responding to disciplinary matters, but school resource officers may intervene to ensure the immediate safety of people in the school “in light of an actual or imminent threat to health or safety.”

According to the News & Observer, under an agreement approved in 2014, officers are supposed to receive training in areas such as working with students with disabilities and special needs, cultural competency, nondiscriminatory administration of school discipline.

Rolesville Police Chief Bobby Langston has asked the State Bureau of Investigation to look into the incident. De Los Santos was wearing a body camera, but police have cited the ongoing investigation as a reason for not releasing the footage taken by the camera.

Wake County Sheriff Donnie Harrison has asked that people not make snap judgments based on the short video clip.

“Please don’t make judgments until people see what really happened,” Harrison said. “They turned it over to the SBI to investigate. I’ve got all the confidence in the world that the SBI will make the right decision.”

Pam Akpuda, whose daughter shot and uploaded the original video, said she wants to talk to Rolesville High School principal Dhedra Lassiter about the incident.

“At the end of the day, we send these kids to school to learn,” Akpuda said. “When stuff like this is going on, that detracts from the learning process.”
Read more at the News & Observer.


State of Mich. Tries to Pull a Fast One With Invite-Only Meeting on Flint Water

Theroot.com - Wed, 01/04/2017 - 21:17

The state of Michigan continues to insult the residents of the city of Flint, who are already enduring what seems to be a never-ending water crisis and the inability to get clean bottled water delivered to their homes without a fight.

In its latest faux pas, the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality tried to have an invitation-only town hall meeting on the condition of Flint’s water.  

You read that correctly. The same state that, according to MLive, went to court to fight against having to deliver clean bottled water to residents who are unable to drink out of the tap figured it would be a good idea to hold a public session with a handpicked group of people.

It was only after MLive questioned city and state officials on how attendees were going to be picked for attendance that the organizers of the town hall agreed on Jan. 3 to make the event open to the public.

According to MLive, the event in its present state still raises questions. Flint has a population of 99,000 people, and public attendance at the Jan. 11 event at the University of Michigan-Flint Northbank Center is capped at 300 people.

This means that in a town of 99,000 people who cannot drink or use water from the tap without a filter, less than 1 percent will be able to attend a town hall meeting and hear about the condition of the water in their city.

The state is offering a live stream of the event, but as MLive points out, how many people will be able to find the live stream? And given that 40 percent of the city’s population is living below the poverty level, how many will have internet access to even view the live stream?

State DEQ spokeswoman Tiffany Brown told MLive that “it was important that we had a reasonable size location that was also conducive to a productive exchange of information.”

In other words, the state wants to control any type of possible public outburst or outrage in response to the slow-moving progress being made on the city’s water system. It likely doesn’t want to hear people complaining about both the state and the city trying to back out of delivering clean water to people who need it.

A promotional flier for the meeting says it will “provide an update on the status of the Flint water system, explain the latest testing data and discuss steps moving forward.”

The meeting comes as experts from the state and Virginia Tech claim that lead levels have decreased in the city’s water system.

Read more at MLive here and here.


Obama Tells Democrats to ‘Stay Strong’ While Fighting to Protect Obamacare

Theroot.com - Wed, 01/04/2017 - 20:36

Congressional Republicans Wednesday began to make good on their promise to dismantle Obamacare, even though they have said they have no full plan to replace the much needed health care program.

Vice President-elect Mike Pence met behind closed doors with House and Senate Republicans, and while he offered no details about what a new health care law might look like, the Washington Post reports that he vowed to unwind the existing one through a mixture of executive actions and legislation.

President Barack Obama also had a closed-door meeting on Capitol Hill with Democrats from both legislative chambers, during which he urged them not to help the GOP devise a new health care law.

Both visits to Congress come on the same day the Senate began debating a budget resolution that would begin rolling back the Affordable Care Act.

Obama was accompanied by Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Rep. Frederica S. Wilson (D-Fla.) as he visited the Capitol. Although he did not take questions from reporters before or after his nearly two-hour meeting, the Post reports that participants said he told members of his party that they did not have to “rescue” Republicans and that they should “stay strong” as the GOP strives to replace the law.

According to the Post, Pence told reporters that he and Trump would chip away at the ACA with a “two-track approach” of executive powers and legislation.

Pence said that Trump is “working on a series of executive orders that will enable that orderly transition to take place” and eyeing other policies that can be reversed.

Republicans from Western states urged Pence on Wednesday to undo some of the public-land protections Obama created through the 1906 Antiquities Act. The Post reports that other executive actions, including those providing new safeguards for LGBT Americans and curbing greenhouse gas emissions linked to climate change, could also come under attack.

The ACA was passed in 2010 entirely with Democratic votes, and as the Post notes, it has spurred the most significant changes to U.S. health policy since the creation of Medicare and Medicaid in the 1960s. It has also faced sustained opposition from Republicans, launching two Supreme Court cases and a lawsuit over cost-sharing subsidies that is now before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.

As the Post notes, it will take some time to undo the health care law. Democrats will have to be allowed the opportunity to introduce a nearly unlimited number of amendments before a final budget vote.

Democratic leadership aides told the Post that Democrats plan to use the process known as “vote-a-rama” to make it difficult for Republicans to vote for the final legislation.

Read more at the Washington Post.


Pro-Marijuana Group Will Hand Out Free Joints at Donald Trump’s Inauguration in D.C.

Theroot.com - Wed, 01/04/2017 - 19:26

People attending Donald Trump’s inauguration in Washington, D.C., will have the opportunity to experience it on a higher level; a pro-marijuana group plans to hand out free joints the day the President-elect is sworn in.

DCMJ is an organization that worked to pass Initiative 71, which made it legal to carry up to two ounces of marijuana in the nation’s capitol. Marijuana may only be gifted in the District of Columbia, not sold, and the organization plans to do just that on Jan. 20 by handing out 4,200 free joints to anyone willing to take them.

DCMJ founder Adam Eldinger told CNN on Wednesday that the group is defending Initiative 71 against the federal government because they are afraid Jeff Sessions will try to overturn local marijuana laws.

“We’re being proactive to share marijuana, which is our right, before it’s too late,” Eldinger said. “We also want to educate Trump supporters that we can do this legally.”

Eldinger and other marijuana advocates will meet in Dupont Circle at 8 a.m. the morning of the inauguration and pass out joints there before marching to the National Mall in time for Mr. Trump’s inauguration.

Some protesters plan to light their joint on the National Mall 4 minutes and 20 seconds into Trump’s inauguration speech. 420, of course, is code for marijuana. Eldinger wants protesters to be aware that smoking marijuana on the National Mall is illegal, and those who do so will be risking arrest.

“If they do that on the National Mall, that’s up to them,” Eldinger said. “The National Mall is a place for protest. If it smells like marijuana, it’s only one person’s fault — and that person is Donald Trump.”

As CNN notes, Donald Trump has not voiced a stance on marijuana legalization. Eldinger told CNN he would be willing to call the event off if Trump reached out to him to talk about his organization.

“If he isn’t going to listen to us, then we have no choice than to stink up the inauguration with marijuana,” Eldinger said.

Eldinger told CNN he’s passionate about the legalization of marijuana because of the beneficial properties of the plant.

“I’ve seen the healing power of the plant,” Eldinger said. “I’ve seen so many people get better with marijuana use, whether it’s multiple sclerosis, or cancer or AIDS. I think it’s a great injustice to put people in jail for something so benign and beneficial.”

Read more at CNN.


‘You’re Like Orange Savages’: Man Captures Neighbor on Camera Hurling Anti-Filipino Slurs

Theroot.com - Wed, 01/04/2017 - 15:23

Another day, another person being caught on a racist tirade.

This time, a Las Vegas man posted a Facebook video of his neighbor going off on a rant in an argument he said stemmed from cleaning up leaves.

Dexter Manawat told KTNV that his neighbor got out her broom, and while she went about sweeping, she started yelling at him.

“Go back to where I come from?” Manawat is heard asking the woman calmly on the video.

“You heard what I said,” the woman responds.

“And where did I come from?” says Manawat, continuing to play along.

“From some piece of [s–t], Manila-ass, [f–king] ghetto living under a tarp piece of [s–t] land,” the neighbor is heard ranting. “You’re like one generation out of the jungle. Like [f–king] loincloth wearers.”

In another segment of the video, the neighbor declares, “You’re [f–king] stupid, you’re like orange savages.”

Manawat said that after he shared the video, many of his friends from the Filipino community expressed outrage.

“I’ve never been called orange,” he told KTNV. “That was a first.”

The woman, who has not been identified, also spoke to the news station, saying that she is afraid of retaliation since the video’s gone viral. (Oh, how the tables have turned.)

Manawat acknowledges that he’s not the perfect neighbor, but said, “That doesn’t mean you have to go off on my culture and nationality.”

Like most racists after being caught, the woman insisted to the news staton that her anger wasn’t directed at the Filipino community or any race (right), and that issues that she and Manawat have had as neighbors for years just prompted her frustration.

“I stooped to the lowest possible denominator to hurt someone because I was angry,” she said. “I’m not just saying that because I was ‘caught,’ what I said wasn’t right and I wasn’t raised that way.”

Both Manawat and the neighbor said they are both willing to sit with a mediator to try to put aside their differences.

Read more at KTNV


Jeff Sessions Is Dangerous and Should Not Be Confirmed as Trump’s Attorney General

Theroot.com - Wed, 01/04/2017 - 14:04

Senator Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III (R-Ala), President-elect Donald Trump’s attorney general pick, conjures up as much anger and disgust as his Confederate name, but it’s the increased power he now holds that makes him even more dangerous.

There is a reason why 1,140 lawyers from around the country are protesting Trump’s nomination of Sessions; there is a reason why members of the NAACP were arrested for engaging in civil disobedience in Sessions’ Alabama office on Tuesday.

The former attorney general for Alabama is an unambiguously racist good ole boy with a long history of judicial violence against women and people of color—black and Latinx people, specifically. Sessions is so racist, in fact, that although he was nominated in 1986 by President Ronald Reagan to be a judge for the U.S. District Court of the Southern District of Alabama, his colleagues—including Vice-President Joe Biden, then Delaware senator and soon-to-be author of the destructive 1994 crime bill—decided that he was unfit to serve on a federal bench.

Sarah Widman wrote in a 2002 piece for the New Republic:

Senate Democrats tracked down a career justice department employee named J Gerald Hebert, who testified, albeit reluctantly, that in a conversation between the two men Sessions had labelled the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) “un-American” and “communist-inspired”. Hebert said Sessions had claimed these groups “forced civil rights down the throats of people.”

In his confirmation hearings, Sessions sealed his own fate by saying such groups could be construed as “un-American” when “they involve themselves in promoting un-American positions” in foreign policy. Hebert testified that the young lawyer tended to “pop off” on such topics regularly, noting that Sessions had called a white civil rights lawyer a “disgrace to his race” for litigating voting rights cases.

This is almost verbatim the language used in 1960 by the Mississippi Sovereignty Commission—a violent white supremacist government organization that colluded with the Ku Klux Klan—when director Albert Jones placed my grandfather, an NAACP member and voting rights organizer, under surveillance for being a “subversive” danger to fine white citizens who were “molders of their heritage.”

Sessions is a white supremacist, xenophobic bigot who once said that he believed the KKK to be an acceptable organization until he learned they smoked marijuana. In 1985, Sessions, the then 39-year-old U.S. attorney for Alabama’s southern district, led a judicial lynching party against the “Marion Three,” claiming that Albert Turner, Spencer Hogue, and Evelyn Turner were guilty of felony voter fraud for trying to help elderly black people vote. The “Marion Three” were eventually exonerated. Deval Patrick, former Massachusetts governor and former assistant U.S. attorney general, served as legal council for Hogue and recently wrote a letter (pdf) outlining why Sessions is unfit to be attorney general of the United States.

In 1995, Sessions supported the return of chain-gangs to Alabama, men shackled together and working hard labor on the side of the road to purposely humiliate and dehumanize them. “I think it’s perfectly proper,” Sessions said at the time. Of course, he would.

And that’s really just the tip of the Klan hood.

MOBILE, AL- AUGUST 21: U.S. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump introduces Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions (R) Mobile during his rally at Ladd-Peebles Stadium on August 21, 2015 in Mobile, Alabama. The Donald Trump campaign moved tonight’s rally to a larger stadium to accommodate demand. (Photo by Mark Wallheiser/Getty Images)

According to the Prison Policy Initiative, white people in Sessions’ home state of Alabama are under-represented in incarcerated populations (62 percent: total population; 42 percent: incarcerated population); and black people in the state are over-represented (26 percent: total population; 54 percent: incarcerated population). According to the Drug Policy Alliance, Alabama’s total population is 68.5 percent white and 26.2 percent black; still, drug arrests are 63.4 percent white and 36.4 percent black.

This staggering racist discrimination is a microcosm of the rest of the United States—and if Trump has his way, and this acquiescence to and complicity in placating white fragility holds, Sessions will bring the Confederacy to the U.S. attorney general’s office.

As I’ve written previously, the so-called war on drugs has always been a storefront operation created for the sole purpose of laundering the institutional, systemic and coordinated assaults on black and brown communities in the United States of America. And according to Sessions, he’s been on the “front lines” on the efforts to occupy these communities and divide and destroy families by pushing for harsher sentencing, coercing testimony and convicting accused drug dealers on that testimony alone.

In 2002, he made a statement on the Senate floor explaining that the war was successful:

…national and local leadership sent an unambiguous message that drug use was morally, legally, medically and physiologically bad. There was no ambiguity.

Second, Congress passed drug sentencing statutes that provided tough mandatory minimum sentences for drug traffickers.

Third, the Department of Justice worked with local law enforcement to prosecute substantially more drug traffickers and send them away for long mandatory minimum sentences. This combination of a clear message, aggressive prosecution, and tough sentences for drug dealers helped drive drug use down. Our country benefitted from this. The War on Drugs was not lost.

DPA has turned with razor-sharp focus on Sessions to prevent him from causing even more damage. The organization has collaborated once again with dream hampton, the activist and award-winning film-maker who produced From Prohibition to Gold RushHistory of the War on Drugs, and released the following video urging everyone to petition their senators to stop Sessions.

Let there be no doubt: Sessions’ moralizing about marijuana and disingenuous stance on reducing crack and cocaine disparities; his anti-immigration and anti-police oversight positions; his misogynistic stance on reproductive justice issues and homoantagonistic stance on LGBTQIA issues; and his clear neo-Confederate politics make him a malignant cancer on anything resembling progress and equity in this country.

The policies he espouses are the reason why former Oklahoma City police officer Daniel Holtzclaw felt comfortable targeting and raping black women on the streets he swore to serve and protect—black women who were terrified of what the violent mass criminalization system would do to them. They are the reason why police officers feel comfortable carrying out street executions of black and brown men, women, and children—because they know they will face negligible consequences, if any at all.

Pan-Africanist and Black Panther leader Kwame Ture, formerly Stokely Carmichael once said, “If a white man wants to lynch me, that’s his problem. If he’s got the power to lynch me, that’s my problem.”

Jeff Sessions is our problem. And we need to do all we can to stop him.


Will Megyn Kelly Be Less Racist Now That She’s on NBC?

Theroot.com - Wed, 01/04/2017 - 14:03

If one were in need of confirmation that you, too, can get away with Bill O’Reilly’s type of racism so long as you’re a pretty, blond white woman, look no further than the news that Megyn Kelly is leaving Fox News for NBC.

According to reports, Kelly will host her own daytime talk show and anchor a Sunday-night news show in addition to taking part in the network’s political programming and other major-event coverage. For Kelly, this move—which will solidify her status as a mainstream journalist, as opposed to the paid propagandist she’s long served as—is a dream finally coming to fruition.

Last year Kelly made her intentions for the future of her career abundantly clear.

In an interview with the New York Times, the Fox News anchor was asked about a void being left in the wake of Barbara Walters’ retirement and Oprah Winfrey’s departure from daytime television to run a network, and how she could fill it.

“It’s there for the taking right now,” she noted. “Those were the biggest spots to go for an interview if you had something you wanted to get off your chest, if you were in the middle of a scandal or a major news story, and you wanted to do a long-form sit-down to get past it or to go on the record. And I’m here!”

Yes, Kelly is here, though there are two key differences between her and the likes of Winfrey and Walters.

If you watched Kelly’s first prime-time special, Megyn Kelly Presents, you know that as an interviewer, she remains in possession of glaring limitations. As Vanity Fair’s Emily Jane Fox said in her review of the special, Kelly “is not, innately, a warm, embracing interviewer. But, more fundamentally, Kelly appears to be filling a role that only she wants to see filled.”

Some would refute her statement with the sentiment that with time, Kelly could rise to the occasion. Perhaps she could, but the question is, does she deserve the opportunity to do so based on the antics that have made her successful thus far? Unlike Walters and Winfrey, Kelly has made millions off the vilification of black people.

In 2010 Kelly spent an ample amount of air time during her 1-3 p.m. ET block (the purported “real news” portion of Fox News) covering the New Black Panther Party—namely, positioning it as a larger threat to white folks than it ever actually was. In the article “Megyn Kelly’s Minstrel Show,” Dave Weigel said of that period, “Watch her broadcasts and you become convinced that the New Black Panthers are a powerful group that hate white people and operate under the protection of Eric Holder’s DOJ.”

At the time, her own Fox colleague, Kirsten Powers, described Kelly as “doing the scary black man thing.”

Just last summer, Kelly was reunited with Malik Shabazz, a now former member of the New Black Panther Party. During their exchange, Shabazz complained about her attitude and mentioned white privilege. Kelly responded by telling Shabazz that when making such “insensitive statements … it’s hard to take you seriously.”

Playing the role of victim while aggressively stoking racial fears is a constant of her career at that network. When Kelly decided to take up the mantle of defending the race of Santa Claus in 2013, she said on Fox News, “Just because it makes you feel uncomfortable doesn’t mean it has to change. Jesus was a white man, too. He was a historical figure. That’s a verifiable fact—as is Santa.” Jesus looking more like a man our president-elect would want to put on a watch list aside, Kelly went on to lament those who possess “the knee-jerk instinct to race-bait.”

Speaking of baiting, Kelly said in 2015 that the Obama administration intended to force “too white [and] too privileged” communities to embrace diversity “whether the communities want it or not.” That same year, Kelly dismissed a DOJ report that found racial bias and stereotyping within the Ferguson, Mo., Police Department based on the notion that “there are very few companies in America, whether they are public or private,” where “you won’t find any racist emails [or] any inappropriate comments.”

Missing the point is a hallmark of Megyn Kelly’s career as a television personality.

And let us never forget that Kelly—who, in the wake of falling victim to sexist attacks from Habanero Hitler Donald J. Trump, was championed as a “feminist icon”—described a black girl needlessly tackled by police at a pool party as “no saint.” Then again, this is the same woman who once declared that a speech by first lady Michelle Obama played into a “culture of victimization.” A woman who invoked racial stereotypes to portray Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor as temperamental.

Evidence of Kelly’s on-air racism is far and wide. Couple that with the reality that outside of such shtick, she’s not particularly remarkable as an actual journalist, and it’s yet another sign to victims of her racism of how little regard this country has for us. About her move, Kelly wrote on Facebook, “While I will greatly miss my colleagues at Fox, I am delighted to be joining the NBC News family and taking on a new challenge.”

The most interesting thing about her feud with Peachy Pol Pot is that they both have the habit of stoking racial prejudices for professional gain. And like our next prez, this despicable trait has taken her to places where she doesn’t deserve to be. When they share space again, viewers will be treated to the sight of racism in its classic American form: the loud, cantankerous, vile white man and the white woman guilty of the same sin, smiling, with the same ugly sentiments on her breath.


When Dabbing Goes Wrong, Lawmaker’s Son Gets Punished for Dabbing in Photo

Theroot.com - Wed, 01/04/2017 - 12:25

Some how all of this, this great big dabbing debacle is all Cam Newton’s fault.

That’s because the reigning NFL MVP made dabbing a thing for white kids all across the country by making this his end zone dance. Truthfully, I just don’t like the fact that Cam Newton has declared “All Lives Matter” and I will find a reason to make everything his fault. So thanks again Newton for president-elect Trump.

Anyway, I digress. In the vein of “what are those?!” viral-ness the new thing amongst the kids is to dab at an inappropriate time or encouraging someone to reach for your hand only to dab on them.

Rep. Roger Marshall, R-Kan., one of the newest members of Congress’, son Cal tried it Tuesday when posing for a photo with House Speaker Paul Ryan and while holding the bible nonetheless. The teen raised his elbow to get his proper dab on but because he isn’t genetically predisposed to smooth dance moves, he looked mad awkward causing Ryan to ask if he was OK.

“You all right?” Ryan asked the goofy teen, Fox News reports. “You want to put your hand down?”

“Ok, ok, I’m sorry,” the teen giggled.

“Were you going to sneeze, is that it?” Ryan asked.

“He’s sneezing,” Rep. Marshall said.

Ryan still confused by what had taken place slapped the prankster on the back and told him not to worry about it.

After someone on his staff probably Googled “sneeze-like dance move,” Ryan tweeted:

Just finished swearing-in photos. Nearly 300 members. Countless cute kids. Still don't get what dabbing is, though. pic.twitter.com/E2hFgyPYZT

— Paul Ryan (@SpeakerRyan) January 3, 2017

But Cal’s dad had the final laugh

Just so you know @SpeakerRyan: He's grounded. https://t.co/PGGhYXEfQv

— Dr. Roger Marshall (@RogerMarshallMD) January 3, 2017

Read more at Fox News.


Dylann Roof Gives Brief Statement During Sentencing Phase of Trial 

Theroot.com - Wed, 01/04/2017 - 12:06

Dylann Roof, the white supremacist who was convicted of killing nine parishioners in a shooting at a historically black Charleston, S.C., church, did not ask jurors to spare his life or to give him the death penalty while giving a brief opening statement during his sentencing trial, the Associated Press reports.

Instead, Roof told jurors Wednesday that there was nothing wrong with him psychologically, adding that his lawyers forced him to go through two competency hearings. Roof ditched his defense team, insisting on representing himself.

“The point is that I’m not going to lie to you, not by myself or through somebody else,” Roof said, speaking before the courtroom.

The 22-year-old had already stated prior to the hearing that he would give an opening statement, although he declined to present evidence or witnesses in his defense.

Prosecutors, who are seeking the death penalty in the case, had earlier brought forth their own evidence, with prosecutor Nathan S. Williams reading from a journal that Roof had wrote sometime in the weeks after his arrest, the New York Times notes.

“I couldn’t go another day without doing something,” he wrote in a journal that was seized from his jail cell in August 2015. “I couldn’t live with myself.”

“I would like to make it crystal clear I do not regret what I did. I am not sorry. I have not shed a tear for the innocent people I killed,” he added.

In fact, the only regret Roof expressed in his writings was to the pain that he would cause his family.

“I’m sorry for what I did, but I had to do it,” Roof wrote in a letter to his mother, which were among the documents investigators seized following the massacre at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal church.

He had also written an online manifesto that declared that black people were “the biggest problem for Americans.”

“We have no skinheads, no real K.K.K., no one doing anything but talking on the internet,” he wrote. “Well someone has to have the bravery to take it to the real world, and I guess that has to be me.”

As the Times notes, even if Roof is sentenced to death, his case could trigger years of appeals, for which he will not be guaranteed the right of self-representation as he has opted to do thus far.

Read more at Talking Points Memo and the New York Times.


6 NAACP Members Arrested After Protest to End Jeff Sessions Bid to Become US Attorney General

Theroot.com - Wed, 01/04/2017 - 10:16

Six NAACP members were arrested late Tuesday at Sen. Jeff Sessions’ Mobile, Alabama office ending a sit-in to protest the nomination of Sessions as US attorney general.

According to CNN, five men and one woman including NAACP President Cornell W. Brooks were arrested and charged with criminal trespass in the second degree. The protestors arrived early Tuesday and planned to stay in Sessions office until his name was withdrawn for US attorney general or they were arrested.

“We are asking the senator to withdraw his name for consideration as attorney general or for the President-elect, Donald Trump, to withdraw the nomination,” Brooks said Tuesday afternoon from Sessions’ office, CNN reports.

“In the midst of rampant voter suppression, this nominee has failed to acknowledge the reality of voter suppression while pretending to believe in the myth of voter fraud.”

The NAACP members posted live video to Facebook during the sit-in and Brooks posted a photo to Twitter showing himself and other members inside Sessions office.

The @NAACP & @AlabamaNAACP are occupying the Mobile office of @jeffsessions–untill he withdraws as a AG nominee or we're arrested.@tvonetv pic.twitter.com/7uceDDpz1Y

— Cornell Wm. Brooks (@CornellWBrooks) January 3, 2017

Sessions, a former Alabama attorney general who once noted that he had no issue with the Klu Klux Klan until he learned that they smoked weed, failed to become a federal district court judge in 1986 because of his racist remarks.

“Many African-American leaders who’ve known him for decades attest to this and have welcomed his nomination to be the next attorney general,” Sessions spokeswoman Sarah Isgur Flores, in a statement to CNN.

“These false portrayals of Sen. Sessions will fail as tired, recycled, hyperbolic charges that have been thoroughly rebuked and discredited.”

Read more at CNN.


How JaVale McGee’s Terrible Haircut Got Shaq Compared to a Minstrel Act

Theroot.com - Wed, 01/04/2017 - 09:39

At this point, Golden State Warriors reserve center JaVale McGee doesn’t find it funny. In fact, McGee believes that the jokes on him stopped being funny long ago. Sure McGee seems spaced out a lot of the times. You can see a montage of McVale’s greatest moments below:

But he’s tired of being the butt of Shaquille O’Neal’s jokes. Although he plays limited minutes McGee seems to be a staple on Shaq’s blooper bit “Shaqtin’ a Fool” which pokes fun at all the mistakes NBA players make throughout the week. As Yahoo Sports notes, MCGee is the only two-time MVP of the show.

He’s noted that the highlighting his mistakes is ruining his career and told the Mercury News in October, that “it’s just really disappointing that grown men, 50, 40 year olds are having ‘America’s Funniest Home Videos’ of a player, and then making it a hashtag and really just trying to ruin someone’s career over basketball mistakes.”

So recently Shaq offered McGee an out, he told the human highlight reel (and not in a good way) that if he could play three blooper free game he’d stop poking fun at him for the next five episodes.

But, McGee had to know that people, and by people I mean Shaq, was going to come for him after he posted this:

Yep, McGee thought he was going to post a photo of him with a highway lane in the back of his head and not get clowned.

Shortly after McGee posted a photo of his “rattail,” Shaq posted this:

Um excuse me MR MCGEE what is this @shaqtin #gaveyou3chances #tryingtogiveyouapass pic.twitter.com/jvL4DwhFOl

— SHAQ (@SHAQ) January 3, 2017

McGee’s response was below the belt as he posted a photo of Shaq and acting legend Bert Williams, dressed in a chicken outfit:

It all makes sense @SHAQ pic.twitter.com/Fsbqx80R5J

— Javale McGee (@JaValeMcGee34) January 4, 2017

McGee has called Shaq’s show “Shaqtin’ a Fool,” “Shaqtin’ a Coon” before during a 2013 awkward interview while playing for Denver Nuggets. In the segment McGee also associated the relationship between him and Shaq akin to a victim and a bully.


McGee has walked this line before, and while I know Shaq’s jabs can be annoying I think it was uncalled for McGee to equate Shaq to a minstrel show act and more insulting to Bert Williams legacy. As Phillip Barnett eloquently wrote for Dime Magazine:

Williams was a pioneer who died at a young age because of the stress and depression that came with paving the way for those who would come later.

In some ways, O’Neal paved the way for McGee. Not just as a basketball player, but as a fun loving, free spirited human in what can sometimes be a dour NBA. While O’Neal isn’t blameless here (it’s frustrating watching those outside of the culture take shots at black hair, and O’Neal certainly aided this in a public space), but the idea that you can take someone like Williams, and turn his career into a negative mark in the history of black men and women working to make things better for the next generation is the wrong way to get back at O’Neal.

Shaq responded telling McGee not to get his pants all twisted because of a few jokes or even better:

I'm just playing @JaValeMcGee34 keep your pants on dude https://t.co/W4l6mLTzBv

— SHAQ (@SHAQ) January 4, 2017



Fla. Family Finds Racial Slur and ‘Trump 17’ Painted on Burned Home 

Theroot.com - Wed, 01/04/2017 - 08:45

A Lake City, Fla., family say they’re shocked after finding racist graffiti painted on what was left of their home, which was lost in an unrelated fire on New Year’s Eve, Action News Jax reports.

The family have a 6-year-old child who is battling leukemia and now cannot come home after having a bone marrow transplant.

“How do I explain that to a 6-year-old whose only wish is he wants to come home? How do I explain that to him?” Army veteran Joanne Perkins said of her stepson, Ivory.

Perkins said the fire started when her eldest son left the oven on when no one was home. However, insult was added to injury when she went to the ruined residence Monday to attempt to salvage some of their belongings and she discovered a racist slur spray-painted on the back of the home and the words “Trump 17” painted on the side.

“I won’t let the girls come back here because I don’t want them to see,” Perkins said. “This is 2017. It doesn’t make any sense. I don’t understand it.”

Perkins told the news station that the Red Cross is putting up the family of six in a hotel for a week but that after that, they have nowhere to go.

“Yeah, I’m tired. I am. But nothing in me is going to allow me to give up,” she said.

The family have set up a YouCaring page to help with expenses.

Read more at Action News Jax.


Chicago Cop Stripped of Police Powers After Fatally Shooting Unarmed Man

Theroot.com - Wed, 01/04/2017 - 08:26

The Chicago Police Department has stripped an officer who fatally shot an unarmed man of his powers, the department revealed Tuesday, the Chicago Tribune reports.

The shooting occurred Monday on the city’s northwest side. Police spokesperson Anthony Guglielmi said the action against the officer is the “strongest step a department can take” during an open investigation. However, the officer will still be paid in accordance with department policy.

On Monday, after the shooting, Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson said the officer knew the man, identified as 39-year-old Jose Nieves, adding that the two had recently had an argument.

Johnson said the two men had started arguing at about 9:30 a.m. on Monday and that the off-duty officer, identified only as a 57-year-old with the transit detail, shot Nieves “several times.”

“I have a lot more questions than I have answers at this time,” Johnson told reporters during the Monday press conference.

“The Chicago Police Department continues our fact-based investigation of the incident, in parallel with the Independent Police Review Authority,” Guglielmi added in a statement.

Read more at the Chicago Tribune. 



Woman: ‘Discrimination’ Made Me Scream ‘I Voted for Trump’ in Michaels Meltdown

Theroot.com - Wed, 01/04/2017 - 08:16

The Chicago woman seen on viral video going on a racially charged tirade at a Michaels arts and craft store spoke out Tuesday, defending her actions in the face of what she says was the “discrimination” she faced, leading her to call black employees “animals” and to scream, “I voted for Trump!”

“This wasn’t about race, this was not about political views, this was about very poor customer service and being told to leave without warning,” Jennifer Boyle told NBC 5 in an exclusive interview that aired Tuesday.

Boyle made national headlines in November after she was seen lashing out at a cashier who had charged her $1 for a reusable bag she wanted to get for free. Boyle then went on a tirade against several black employees, accusing them of discriminating against her because she voted for President-elect Donald Trump.

As NBC notes, Boyle accused an employee of mumbling that she must have voted for Trump, although the employee is heard in the video denying that claim.

“And I voted for Trump, so there,” Boyle can be heard saying in the footage. “What? You want to kick me out because of that? And look who won. Look who won.”

In her interview Tuesday, Boyle explained: “My perception of what was happening after being told to leave was that I was being discriminated against not only based on not wanting to buy reusable bags … but also the fact that she brought up my political affiliation and who I voted for, who she assumed I voted for, without knowing anything about me.”

Boyle said she was frustrated over being treated differently, and insisted that she didn’t actually call the employee an animal, but that she had instead said that the employee was “screaming at her like an animal.”

Since the footage has aired, Boyle said that she has been attacked on social media and called “racist” and “unhinged” for her tirade. Looking back, Boyle said, she regrets not leaving the store before launching into her verbal assault.

“Looking at it now, I think that would have been the right thing to do,” she said. “I really believe that it was fight or flight kicked in and I felt that I needed to defend myself.”

She refuses to apologize and insists she was not racist.

“I believe that I stood up for myself,” she said. “Again, everybody is a work in progress. We’re all human, and I really believe that being above reproach is the way to be from now on.”

“There’s not one bone in my body that’s racist or homophobic,” she added. “And that’s the bottom line.”

She called the backlash from the video “very scary” and “very difficult.” Her address, cellphone number and email address were published online, and she said she has since been on the receiving end of lewd calls, vulgar emails and death threats.

The Michaels video was not the first time Boyle was caught ranting. A similar video showed another verbal altercation at a Peet’s Coffee just months earlier.

“Oh my God, you’re a floor manager and you call people a [b–ch], you’re a [b–ch],” Boyle is seen in that footage shouting. “I was treated like crap, Bobby.”

However, in response Tuesday, Boyle said there is no pattern in her behavior and that she doesn’t suffer from anger issues.

“I do not believe that I have an issue dealing with my anger,” she said. “I believe that again, taking the high road and walking away from situations in that matter. What people don’t know is what was said to me at Peet’s.”

Boyle claimed that an employee called her a “basic white [b–ch].”

Boyle told the news station that she had not reached out, or thought about reaching out, to employees at either Michaels or Peet’s

Read more at NBC 5


Black Teen Slammed to Ground at Texas Pool Party Sues Ex-Cop, City for $5,000,000

Theroot.com - Wed, 01/04/2017 - 07:36

A Texas teen who was slammed to the ground and pinned down by a McKinney, Texas, police officer during a pool party in June 2015 has now filed a federal suit against the now former cop, the city and the police department, the Dallas Morning News reports.

According to the report, Dajerria Becton and her legal guardian, Shashona Becton, filed a complaint last month claiming that former Police Cpl. Eric Casebolt violated the teen’s constitutional rights through use of excessive force and holding her without probable cause. The family is also saying that the city and the police department are responsible for her injuries by not training officers properly.

Dajerria is seeking $5 million in damages, including mental anguish, loss of quality of life and attorney’s fees plus interest. The teen is also requesting punitive damages, not in the form of compensation, but a penalty for Casebolt.

Casebolt faced national criticism after video of the incident emerged showing the then-15-year-old Dajerria crying as she lay facedown, pinned beneath Casebolt’s hands and knees. Casebolt also pulled his gun on two other youths who came running to help the girl.

Last year, a Collin County grand jury ruled there was not enough evidence to press criminal charges against Casebolt.

According to the Morning News, in a statement, city officials spoke out against the girl’s charges against the city and its police force.

“The city of McKinney denies the claims alleged against it and the McKinney Police Department, and as such, will vigorously defend the recently filed lawsuit,” the statement reads. “McKinney prides itself in cultivating the highest standards of training and professionalism for our officers, and it strongly believes that its standards and training will withstand legal challenge.”

McKinney and Craig Ranch, the upscale neighborhood where the incident occurred, was thrust into the spotlight and the nationwide debate about police treatment of minorities, particularly black youth, after officers responded to a disturbance at a private pool. Neighbors called to complain about teens jumping a fence to get to the pool after a party apparently got out of control.

In the complaint, Dajerria said that she had been invited to the pool party by a resident and was leaving, as Casebolt had asked, when he attacked her.

The teen described how Casebolt approached her with his baton raised, grabbing her by the wrist and dragging her to the ground and pulling her by her hair as he slammed her face into the grass. She said that Casebolt pinned her down with one knee on her back and one on her neck and repeatedly grabbed the back of her head to force her face down, staying on top of her for several minutes. Casebolt, she said, handcuffed her even though she was obeying his orders.

“The entire time D.B. she could do nothing [but] cry out in pain and repeatedly beg for her ‘Mama’ as she endured the pain inflicted upon her by Defendant Casebolt’s physical assault,” the lawsuit reads.

The lawsuit claims that Casebolt’s use of excessive force caused physical injuries, as well as psychological distress that continues to this day, a year and a half later.

“There exists a practice of excessive-force incidents that result from the training or lack thereof, received by MPD officers,” the lawsuit reads. “Upon information and belief, MPD officers are trained by individuals with little or no experience working in the field.”

Last June, Dajerria’s lawyer offered to attempt to make a deal with the city, offering to cooperate in an investigation and avoid a lawsuit if McKinney paid Dajerria $2.5 million. As part of the deal, Dajerria’s family requested that all McKinney officers be trained in the use of excessive force, racial sensitivity and the handling of minors. However, the city didn’t take the deal.

Read more at the Dallas Morning News


From the Pulpit to the People: Kim Burrell, Homosexuality and the Black Church

Theroot.com - Wed, 01/04/2017 - 06:14

Well damn, tell us how you really feel, Kim Burrell.

On Friday night, social media was ablaze when one of preacher/singer Kim Burrell’s sermons went viral. In the video, Burrell shared a hate-filled message about what she believes 2017 will look like for LGBTQ people, if they fail to repent. Burrell had been slated to perform with Pharrell Williams on the Ellen show this week to promote the single, “I See Victory” for the film Hidden Figures. That performance of the song, from a film promoting equity and equality, has since been cancelled.

Following the backlash, Burrell went on social media to “attempt” to clear up the statements made in the video, only adding more fuel to the fire. In her message via Facebook Live, she stated that she never said that God was going to kill gay people in 2017, but that the Lord was only going to harm those who have “deception” attached to them.

What the what?

Burrell and her supporters have continued to use the timeless defense of “loving the sinner and hating the sin” to justify the comments she made. As someone who has spent countless years in counseling because of the hurtful things said to me in the black church, I must admit that I wasn’t surprised when I saw the video. What surprises me is that there are still people who are shocked that there are still folks in the black church who continue feel this way.

As Pastor Dewey Smith stated in one of his sermons, homophobia isn’t something new in the church. Smith even calls out many folks in the church for the way they treat LGBTQ patrons, stating that without the LGBTQ community, many of the services provided to those in the church would be null and void.  Further, Smith goes on to state that no one in the church is without fault of sin, so using the concept of “love the sinner, but hate the sin” in contradictory to the values of “love thy neighbor” often preached as a major tenant of the church.

This begs the question: why does it seem that the black church continues to use harmful and hateful rhetoric when talking about the LGBTQ community?

As a scholar, I recall reading several pieces where James Baldwin discusses his frustration with religion. Baldwin expressed on several occasions that identifying as Christian never allowed him to feel free, not only as a queer man, but specifically as a queer black Man. History shows that Christianity was a religion forced upon slaves and has always perpetuated elements of theological violence towards the “other.” Thus by othering the LGBTQ community, it helps those in the church dealing with their own vices to feel superior/better about what they might be going through. Further, by solely pointing focus on the LGBTQ community, it helps divert the other larger issues that the Black church has in relation to oppression and social injustices.

To be clear, this piece is not an attack on those who are affiliated or connected to the black church. It is simply meant to point out a larger issue, one of which affects several, if not half of those who regularly attend services. The reality is that there are numerous folks who get up on the pulpit weekly to condemn black queer people. This condemnation, and rejection, can be just some of the contributing factors as to why 49 percent of those in LGBTQ community may feel suicidal or have attempted suicide. What folks fail to miss is that there is certain privilege in being able to get up every week to condemn the LGBTQ community, a privilege that women like Burrell once did not have at a specific time in history.

Simply put, you can’t validate a message of hatred with love, and the black church must be held accountable for the pain they have caused LGBTQ people.  Like Audre Lorde once said, “For the master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house. They may allow us to temporarily beat him at his own game, but they will never enable us to bring about genuine change.” If the black church continues to operate in this way, it will have more blood on it’s hands.

Keep in mind what Miss Celie once told Mister in The Color Purple, “The same things you are doing to me, has already been done to you.”