March 31, 2010

Will Obama's Urban School Grants Create Opportunities for African American Entrepreneurs?

According to the U.S. Department of Education, President Obama has recently announced $900 million in grants as a part of his 2011 budget to help improve student achievement at 5,000 of the nation's lowest-performing schools. Most, if not all, of the schools are in urban areas.

The budget includes a $100-million program aimed at increasing college-level, dual-credit and other accelerated courses in schools, allowing students to earn a high-school diploma and an associates degree simultaneously.

What does this mean for entrepreneurs of African descent?

This means that local businesses that sell educational services and products can benefit too. The grant money will be allocated in many ways, such as to hire tutors, to buy educational software and materials, to upgrade old technology (computers, etc), to hire local motivational speakers, to hire scholarship experts and college consultants, and more.

The grant money may even be used to hire interior decorators and architects to make the schools look more modern. Do your research, and find out if there are schools in your area that will receive assistance from the grants. If so, find out what the schools' needs are and position yourself to offer relevant services. There will, no doubt, be many contracting and purchasing opportunities in the near future.

Here is a listing of other 2010 business grant opportunities that you might find useful.

March 30, 2010

Teaser Tuesday: 'Blue Light' by Walter Mosley

Soulclap to Reads4Pleasure for introducing me to Teaser Tuesdays, a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading.  Anyone can play along!  Just do the following:
  1. Grab your current read
  2. Open to a random page
  3. Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page either in the comments below or on your own blog (give a link to your blog so we can check it out!)
  4. BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
  5. Share the title & author so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!
I'm currently reading Blue Light, by Walter Mosley.

"As I said it, I realized that this was the first death of a Blue other than those that died on the first night that light fell ... All the Blues that had lived were healthy, never sick, and somehow had the appearance of agelessness." - Page 62

PLEASE LEAVE A COMMENT (a.k.a. VILLAGE VOICES) with either the link to your own Teaser Tuesdays post, or share your 2 ‘teasers’ in a comment here (if you don’t have a blog). Asante sana!

Tune In Tuesday: Zapp featuring Roger Troutman

Roger Troutman and his brothers made up the heart of a remarkable band known as Zapp. The band is still touring today. The Troutman family is from just down the road in Hamilton, Ohio.

I first heard Zapp while I was in college when they came out with a song called More Bounce to the Ounce. As a radio disc jockey we played the heck outta More Bounce. Folks could not get enough of the bass, the beat or Roger's talk box sound.

It will come as know surprise to those who know me that my favorite song by Zapp was a ditty called 'Computer Love'

But the Zapp saga is about more than music. During the height of their popularity, the Troutmans put scores of low-income families into houses they built from the ground up in their hometown of Dayton, Ohio. They maintained a drug-free, hard-working ethic that separated them from many of their peers.

All of that came crashing down on April 25, 1999 when, to everyone's shock, Larry Troutman shot his brother Roger to death, then turned the gun on himself. Suicide rearing its ugly head in the Black community.

The entire story of Zapp is shared in a recent episode of TV One's "Unsung". I encourage all villagers with TV One access to watch this episode. I didn't realize that so many Roger beats were sampled by hip-hop stars like Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg, 2Pac and others.

His top individual hit was 'I Want to Be Your Man'

I hope that you enjoyed this week's Tune In Tuesday meme. Please take a moment to share your enduring memory of Roger Troutman and Zapp.

Good News Tuesday: Monica Okon, Space Shuttle Engineer

Soulclap to Ohio State University for publishing the following article on Monica Oken.

At Ohio State, Monica Okon is a senior majoring in biological engineering.

But this summer at NASA's John Glenn Research Center in Cleveland, Okon wore a different hat: project manager. She oversaw the design and creation of a toilet that will work in a space shuttle's zero gravity atmosphere.

"One of the neat things about NASA is we have to look at all aspects of interaction of the astronauts up in space," says Nancy Hall, a NASA research scientist who supervised Okon.

"For example, how do you handle an astronaut going into the bathroom in a reduced gravity environment? If you think of everything floating, you cannot just go in a traditional toilet, so this flexible membrane commode Monica was working on was testing one of these systems to validate some of modeling we have done."

Okon's background made her a good fit to manage the project, Hall says. So Okon oversaw it "from design to creation" -- a task that showed her to apply what she has learned at Ohio State.

"It's my responsibility to make sure that the stuff is done, because if it doesn't get done, then I delay the project," Okon says.

More than 6,000 Ohio State undergrads get college credit for internships or co-ops each year. Students benefit from real-world experience and get a resume boost--and many, like Okon, leave their jobs with a connection to a career mentor.

"I really cherish my relationship with Nancy. I think of her as a true role model. She is a great mentor. She's taught me so much, how to carry yourself in the workplace," Okon says.

"NASA's been great. It's really helped reaffirm my sense of why I wanted to remain an engineer, why I wanted to contribute something to a greater good."

This blog is committed to sharing good news about people of African descent each and every Tuesday ... we call it Good News Tuesday and I wish that other bloggers would join this weekly meme!

Anyhow, what is your impression of Monica Okon? Do you understand why we included in her our Good News Tuesday meme?

March 29, 2010

Can We Stop GOP-Inspired Tea Party Violence Before April 19th Second Amendment March?

I see that Republican National Committee chair Michael Steele turned down request from his Democratic Party counterpart, Tim Kaine, to issue a joint statement against the recent violent acts against lawmakers who voted in favor of health care reform. It is another indication that the GOP is intentionally stoking the base emotions of the Tea Party folks.

Here are examples of what the GOP leadership is saying:
Rep. Michele Bachmann: "I want people in Minnesota armed and dangerous ... having a revolution every now and then is a good thing."

Rep. John Boehner: "Take [Democratic Congressman] Steve Driehaus, for example. He may be a dead man. He can't go home to the west side of Cincinnati."

Rep. Steve King: "Let's beat that other side to a pulp! Let's take them out. Let's chase them down."
It is time for us to end the right-wing violence brought to us by the GOP.

I think that we need to squash this nonsense right away. It could be dangerous if it goes on through April 19th.

Villagers will recall that April 19, 1993 was the end of the 51-day siege of the Branch Davidian building outside of Waco TX. 81 people died.

April 19, 1995 was the day that Timothy McVeigh killed 168 people with his bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.

Tea Party folks are making plans for a gun-toting gathering on April 19, 2010.

Villagers, we need to bring this nonsense to an end. Do you agree?

March 28, 2010

Sunday Inspirations: Phyllis Hyman

I've been watching a number of the 'Unsung' episodes put together by TV-One over the past 3-4 years. This morning I watched their documentary of Phyllis Hyman. She had a remarkable career, however, she was subject of an 'Unsung' episode because her career never reached the heights that her talent could (should?) have taken her.

Isn't that what many of us think ... don't many of us think that we could (should?) be doing so much more than we've done. Of course, at some level we know that our current station is life is based on the choices and behaviors and actions that we've taken to this point. Perhaps it is best for all of us to take a moment to 'Remember Who We Are':

Phyllis Hyman committed suicide in 1995. I continue to be troubled by the large numbers of African Americans that are committing suicide in this country ... and the issue is rarely, if ever, discussed. I suspect that many villagers know someone personally who has committed suicide. I hope you realize that you're not alone.

Phyllis Hyman (1951-1995) -- May she rest in peace.

March 27, 2010

Lakeesha Alert * Mitrice Richardson

I still don't understand how the national mainstream media can get worked up over some missing women (or children), usually blondes with blue eyes, while ignoring others -- usually African American. We've seen it with Chioma Gray and Hasanni Campbell.

Now we're seeing it in southern California with Mitrice Richardson.
That is why this blog is calling on all bloggers to re-issue their Lakeesha Alert for missing Mitrice.

It's been more than six months since Mitrice Richardson disappeared after being arrested in Malibu. Her family and friends refuse to give up hope and are asking for help as they launch a new search for the missing woman on Sunday. [SOURCE]

"How could a person just vanish," said Richardson's mother Latice Sutton. "There is no way to move on or in any direction for that matter."
The 24-year-old disappeared September 17. The Cal State Fullerton graduate was arrested at Geoffrey's, a high end restaurant in Malibu, because she did not have the money to pay for her bill. Other diners and restaurant staff said Richardson was acting in bizarre manner.

Richardson was booked at the Lost Hills/Malibu Sheriff's Station. Deputies said Richardson acted normally and passed a sobriety test and had no reason to hold her overnight. She was released at 12:30 a.m. -- Villagers, what right-thinking police officer releases a woman after midnight in a strange area? -- Mitrice didn't have a car, cell phone, identification or money. The police in Malibu didn't contact her family to let them know about the release ... nor did they take her to a bus station or taxi stand. They just let this young lady out in the woods with the wolves. Her family has not heard from her since.

On Sunday, family members and friends will hold an all volunteer search. The volunteer search is from noon to 4 p.m. in six different locations around the Los Angeles area.

If our women and children are going to continue to be ignored ... we're going to need to get more active with our Lakeesha Alerts throughout the afrosphere. Do you agree?

Taser Ruling: Coroner's Jury Has No Idea How Patrick Burns Died

After hearing testimony that Patrick Burns, who died after being Tased 21 times by Sangamon County sheriff’s deputies, died of excited delirium, a coroner’s jury has ruled his cause of death as “undetermined.” [SOURCE]

Villagers may recall that 50-year old Patrick Burns was found by Sangamon County police officers sitting in front of his house wearing his underwear on January 23. They arrested him ... but, not before shooting him up over 20 times with 50,000 volts of electricity.

Sheriff Neil Williamson, who sat through the inquest, said he was surprised that, despite Bowman’s conclusion, the coroner’s jury returned an “undetermined” verdict.

I was convinced it was cocaine-induced excited delirium,” Williamson said. “I support the deputies 100 percent. We still believe in the use of the Taser.”
Boone praised deputies, saying there could have been more deaths “but for the police officers.”

More deaths? The unarmed guy was sitting on the front lawn in his underwear ... who was he going to kill? The only one who died in this exchange was Burns.

State’s Attorney John Schmidt said his office is reviewing the case. He said he didn’t know whether any charges will be filed or when the review will be complete.

What do you think? Will he file any charges against the unidentified police officers involved in this taser-killing?

March 26, 2010

Open Letter to Republican Tea Party Members

We had eight years of Bush and Cheney, but now you get mad?

  • You didn't get mad when the Supreme Court stopped a legal recount and appointed a President.

  • You didn't get mad when Cheney allowed Energy company officials to dictate energy policy.

  • You didn't get mad when a covert CIA operative got outed.

  • You didn't get mad when the Patriot Act got passed.

  • You didn't get mad when we illegally invaded a country that posed no threat to us.

  • You didn't get mad when we spent $1 trillion on said illegal war.

  • You didn't get mad when over $10 billion dollars (in hard cash) just “disappeared" in Iraq.

  • You didn't get mad when you found out we were torturing people.

  • You didn't get mad when the government was illegally wiretapping Americans.

  • You didn't get mad when they didn't catch Bin Laden.

  • You didn't get mad when you saw the horrible conditions at Walter Reed hospital.

  • You didn't get mad when they let a major US city drown.

  • You didn't get mad when they gave a $1.6 trillion in tax breaks to the rich.

  • You didn’t get mad when, using reconciliation; a trillion dollars of our tax dollars were redirected to insurance companies for Medicare Advantage -- which cost more than 20% more for the same services that Medicare provides.

  • You didn't get mad when the deficit hit the trillion dollar mark, and our debt hit the thirteen trillion dollar mark.
No, but you did get mad when the government decided that people in America deserved the right to see a doctor if they are sick. Yes, illegal wars, lies, corruption, torture, stealing your tax dollars to make the rich richer, are all okay with you, but helping other Americans... oh hell no!

March 25, 2010

Black GOP Congressional Candidate Refers to President Obama as 'Buckwheat'

I've always wondered what could possibly drive an African American man or woman to join the Republican Party. As I watch the extremists in the Republican Party fan the flames of racism it makes me wonder what goes through the minds of Black GOPers?

Rep. John Lewis is called the 'n-word' ... Rep. Emmanuel Cleaver is spat on ... President Obama is depicted with Hitler-like mustache and worse in Tea Party signage ... George Lambus and Alan Keyes have demonstrated that they are racially confused ...

... and now we have some self-hating fool, Corey Poitier, jumping on the racist bandwagon in a recent speech to a mostly-white audience:

"Listen up, Buckwheat — this is not how it is done!" Poitier blurted out, obviously in an attempt to win points with the mostly white audience.
Poitier knew what he was doing when he made the comparison of our nation's first African American president with the character in the 1920 'Little Rascal' ... just as others in the GOP know what they are doing as they seek to recreate the environment that existed in our country when Reconstruction was brought down over a century ago.

It is one thing when closet-supremacists like John Boehner, Glen Beck, Rush Limbaugh and others start ranting and rallying the racist fringe elements of the Republican Party ... but for a Blackman to be an agent for this racism is sad and dangerous.

"The press has run amok with this, and turned me into a racist," Poitier told reporters complaining of receiving no media attention prior to his irresponsible comments. He added, "I've never seen Buckwheat as a disparaging character. People love Buckwheat."
Villagers ... do you know anyone that loves Buckwheat?

In another interview, the confused candidate stared down at his own hands to further demonstrate he meant no racial slight.

"This isn't a spray tan," Poitier said of his skin tone. "This is real."
Poitier insists he meant no disrespect to Obama and has publicly apologized to both the president and residents of the congressional district for any misunderstanding.

I imagine that Jesse Lee Peterson is heading down to support Poitier's campaign as you're reading this. I 'spose that Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice are shakin' their head as they see what this Black GOP candidate is doing.

Do you know any Black Republicans? What do you think they are saying about the 'Buckwheat' comment?

Can We Stop GOP Hate? Yes We Can! Even if John Boehner Says 'Hell, No You Can't' [Video]

Last weekend, Tea Party Patriots gathered in the Capitol and showered racist and homophobic abuse on Democratic Congress Members supporting healthcare reform. As I watched the images on my television I was reminded of another time in our history ... Reconstruction. That was a time when Black leaders were taking on leadership roles in Congress. White folks got upset and begin to yell racist insults at the Black leaders. Today, we have a Black man making historic changes in the White House ... and racist insults and threats are being hurled at him and other Black congressional leaders.

One Tea Party protester called the former civil rights leader and current Atlanta Congressman John Lewis the "n-word". John Lewis was spat on and called the n-word when he marched on that bridge in Selma, AL over 50 years ago. Now as a respected member of Congress he has to endure it again.

Another spat on Congressman Emanuel Cleaver, also an African American.

The more things change ... the more they stay the same.

Republican leaders publicly denounced Sunday's ugly scene, but they failed to acknowledge that this is only the latest incident in a pattern of violent rhetoric, racially charged imagery, and paranoid conspiracy theories at Tea Party rallies. Many Tea Partiers aren't simply about dissent -- they use fear and hatred to assault the very legitimacy of our elected leaders. It's the worst America has to offer.

All things rise and fall with leadership. Watch the following video and tell me which leader you want to follow?

John Boehner and his GOP cronies know that this past weekend wasn't an isolated incident.

Villagers remember the rallies held to protest tax day last year, Tea Partiers carried signs that announced "Obama's Plan: White Slavery," "The American Taxpayers are the Jews for Obama's Oven," and "Guns Tomorrow!"

The Republican National Committee had endorsed the rallies, and RNC Chairman Michael Steele encouraged Tea Partiers to send a "virtual tea bag" to President Obama and Democratic Congressional leadership. After reports of the fear-mongering signs surfaced, Steele did nothing to distance his party from the lunatic fringe. He has even gone so far as to say that if he didn't have his current position, he'd be "out there with the tea partiers." Some Republican governors even planned a "Tea Party 2.0" for the following month in an effort to build on the rallies' momentum.

The Tea Party's venomous rhetoric picked up steam over the summer, when angry mobs flooded town hall meetings legislators had organized as sites for rational, civil debate on health care reform. After one meeting in Atlanta, a swastika was painted on the office of Congressman David Scott (D-GA), who had also received a flier addressed to "nigga David Scott." Some protesters showed up at town hall meetings carrying guns, including at least one man who was armed at an event where the President was speaking. Again, Republicans responded to these tactics with silence, doing nothing to denounce them.

Similarly, there was no public outcry from Republican leadership when Mark Williams, a leader of the Tea Party movement, was exposed for having described the President as "an Indonesian Muslim turned welfare thug and a racist in chief" on his blog.

Instead, we see members of the GOP continued to show up to and endorse Tea Party rallies. And as recently as Sunday -- the day that the historic health care bill passed the House -- Republican members of the House riled up the same Tea Party crowd that had earlier harassed their fellow members with hate and bigotry.

It is time to put a stop to the hate. I encourage all villagers to sign the petition recently created by Do it now!

Taser Death: Mark Morse (Phoenix, AZ)

It happened again. This time an unidentified Arizona Department of Public Safety officer used his taser on an unarmed man who was simply walking down the street. From all accounts, 36-year old Mark Morse was simply a pedestrian in his former home town when he was killed by taser-wielding police officer on February 4. [SOURCE]

The Ninth Circuit Federal Court of Appeals ruling for police to stop using their taser guns without good cause doesn't seem to be resonating with law enforcement officials.

The police tried to justify this killing with a claim that Mr. Morse "became combative" and "took a fighting stance" against the cop while walking down Interstate 17, which prompted the officer to use his Taser for this extra-judicial electrocution.

It all sounds pretty funky to me. What say u?

March 23, 2010

Tune In Tuesday: Donny Hathaway

TV-One is airing a series called Unsung. It provides a 1-hour biography into the life and times of unsung African Americans in the music industry. I encourage any villager with TV-One access to find a way to watch or tape these shows.

The first one that I saw was about Donny Hathaway (1945-1979). Donny Hathaway was a soul singer in the early 70s with much promise: unfortunately he suffered from depression, which limited his own creative output and led to his suicide at the age of just 33. I'm becoming convinced that suicide is a bigger problem in the Black community than we let on.

Anyhow, Donny was considered a musical genius by those who knew him well. He started out as a songwriter, pianist, arranger and producer for the likes of Aretha Franklin, Curtis Mayfield, the Staple Singers and Jerry Butler, among others.

He soon signed to Atco and released a debut solo single, "The Ghetto Pt. 1", which wasn't a success but is now highly regarded by soul historians.

In 1970 he released his classic debut album, Everything Is Everything, which showcased his wonderful voice on the gospel "Thank You Master (For My Soul)", and the emerging social consciousness of soul music in "Tryin' Times".

His second, self-titled album was a disappointing covers record, but he followed it with an epic Live album that stands as one of the best live soul records ever. He followed this with a duets album with close friend Roberta Flack and a third studio album Extension of a Man in 1973.

He suffered from bouts of severe depression and was diagnosed as a paranoid schizophrenic which led to a deterioration of his relationships including Flack, and they did not record together again until "The Closer I Get To You".

I became a college radio disc jockey in 1979 ... and one of the first songs that I grew to love to play during my set were "The Closer I Get to You and "Back Together Again".

Do you have any memories or thoughts about Donny Hathaway that you care to share?

Good News Tuesday: Every Child is a Genius

Soulclap to The Black Star Project for bringing us this remarkable story of Paula and Peter Imafidon. The information about these two remarkable nubian young people was published in article written by Ruth Manuel-Logan.

Paula and Peter Imafidon are just like any other 9-year-olds. They love laughing, playing on the computer and fighting with each other. What sets these twins apart from their peers, though, is that they are, hands down, prodigies who are about to enter high school and make British history as the youngest to do so.

The precocious London-based tykes, known as the "Wonder Twins," floored academics a year ago when they aced University of Cambridge's advanced mathematics exam. They are the youngest students to ever pass the test.

The future little scholars' father, Chris, and mother, Ann, immigrated to Britain from Nigeria more than 30 years ago and have actually been down this prodigy route before with their three older children, who are also overachievers.

The couple's oldest daughter, Anne-Marie , is now 20, but at age 13, she won a British government scholarship to take undergraduate courses at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore. Christiana, 17, their other daughter, is the youngest student ever to study at the undergraduate level in any British University at the age of 11. Youngest daughter, Samantha, now 12, passed two rigorous high school level mathematics and statistics exams at the age of 6. She mentored the twins to pass their own math secondary school test when they were also 6.

Even with all of this, the proud dad denies that there is any particular genius in his family. He does credit his children's success to the Excellence in Education program for disadvantaged inner-city youth.

"Every child is a genius," he said. "Once you identify the talent of a child and put them in the environment that will nurture that talent, then the sky is the limit. Look at Tiger Woods or the Williams sisters -- they were nurtured. You can never rule anything out with them. The competition between the two of them makes them excel in anything they do."
The darling duo are competitive to say the least, and this is what fuels them to out-achieve each other. Paula said, "I am excited to pass, but I should have got higher than Peter."

As far as career paths Paula says she wants to be a math teacher, while Peter aspires to be prime minister one day.

All it takes is a dream...

This blog plans to share some good news about people of African descent each and every Tuesday. You can help ... let me know if you see a good news story that you think would inspire our Villagers!

March 22, 2010

32,000,000 Uninsured People Will Get Health Insurance

32,000,000 -- that’s the number of Americans who will get health insurance under the President’s plan. It appears that the President's health care reform plan takes care of quite alot of ground -- from eliminating discrimination based on pre-existing conditions to controlling costs and lowering the national deficit to providing tax credits for middle class families and small businesses, health insurance reform will finally put America's families and small businesses in control over their own health care.

I'm in favor of the legislation being pushed by the president and Democrats in the congress. The Republicans don't appear to have a clue on how powerful the need is for health insurance reform. What are your thoughts about the national debate on health insurance reform?

Health Care Reform: 'This is What Change Looks Like'

Did you watch any of the coverage of the health care reform bill in the House of Representatives yesterday? It was a remarkable moment in political history when Congress passed a sweeping overhaul of our health care system -- a major progressive victory that will rein in the worst insurance abuses and expand health care to 32 million Americans.

The Republicans are pissed off ... yelling things like 'Baby-Killer', spitting on John Lewis (D-GA) and Emanuel Cleaver (D-MO) and bringing up the images of the rogue Confederate states from our nation's civil war. The minority leader was yelling, 'Hell No' as he realized that he was losing the legislative battle.

The Democrats were 'giddy' as they realized that they had the votes to pass historic health care reform. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) solidified her reputation as one of the most powerful leaders in congressional history. She gets the votes when it counts. Pelosi is credited with keeping the flame burning for comprehensive reform in February, after Sen. Brown (R-MA) was elected, when many others had abandoned the idea.

President Obama proved to the world once again that he was a political opponent to be feared as he cancelled a high-profile international trip to stay home for yesterday's vote. He used the power of his office to make a deal with Bart Stupak (D-MI) and five other pro-life Democrats.

Obama has to feel good today. No longer can people call him a weak president. After decades of attempts, this is a historic achievement.

Once again I find myself proud of my president!

March 21, 2010

Taser Lawsuit: Darryl Turner (Charlotte, NC)

One of the first taser-killings that this blog tracked took place in Charlotte, NC. 17-year old Darryl Turner was killed by Officer Jerry Dawson, who zapped him twice for a total 37 seconds.

The city of Charlotte never admitted wrongdoing in the incident but paid the Turner family $625,000 to settle the case.

Now the Turner family is taking the fight to the maker of the stun gun.
"We've alleged that Taser (International) became aware of information relating to the inherent dangers concerning the deployment of the Taser into the chest area," attorney Ken Harris said. "This lawsuit is not about whether or not the Taser should be taken away from police departments; it's about how the Taser should be used properly."
The Turner lawsuit against Taser International is expected to go to trial late next year. What are your thoughts on this lawsuit?

March 20, 2010

Obama Revives 'Yes We Can' Spirit With His Health Reform Speech

We had a sighting of the inspirational man that we elected to be our president yesterday. He was at George Mason University, speaking before thousands at the Patriot Center in Virginia about finishing the job on health reform.

There were chants of 'Yes We Can!' and he made a strong case for passing health care reform. Check out the transcript or watch the speech on video:

It truly will be a historic moment when President Obama signs this health reform legislation into law. I've been amazed by the persistence that Obama has shown in this process over the past year ... especially when I remember the dark thoughts that were running thru my mind after the election of Sen. Brown in Massachusetts.

How are you feeling about the health care reform debate now? How are you feeling about your president now? Somebody pass me that Obama Kool-Aid ... I'm drinking again!

March 19, 2010

7th Anniversary of Iraq War: Thousands Dead, $747.3 Billion Spent And Not Any Safer

Soulclap to the BraveNew Foundation for continuing to champion social justice issues by using media to inspire, empower, motivate and teach civic participation that makes a difference.

It is worth remembering that today is the 7th anniversary of the U.S.-led invasion of the Iraq War. The invasion and occupation of Iraq has been a massive waste of human life and treasure.

The folks at BraveNew Foundation want to ensure that President Obama doesn't make the same mistakes in Afghanistan that Bush made in Iraq. I don't support their policy preference of leaving the Afghanistan War immediately. I prefer to put my confidence in our Commander-in-Chief on the timing for ending our war with Afghanistan.

What are your thoughts on this 7th anniversary of the Iraq War?

Taser Coverup: Jaesun Ingles (Midlothian, IL)

The police in Midlothian, IL are trying to avoid the repercussions from their taser-killing of 31-year old Jaesun Ingles. The official Midlothian police report detailing a traffic stop that culminated in Ingles' death last week does not mention police used a Taser stun gun on him during the encounter. [SOURCE]

Now that the police have been called out on their deception they are trying to backtrack.

"We have nothing to hide," Midlothian spokesman Lt. Harold Kaufman said. "The police officers didn't do anything wrong as far as I'm concerned."
Ingles died early March 10 after fighting and fleeing police when they pulled him over during a traffic stop. The police report said it took three officers to get Ingles under control when one of the officers noticed he was having trouble breathing and called for an ambulance.

Although a news release issued by Midlothian police March 10 mentioned the use of a Taser to subdue Ingles, the official report does not.

How stupid do the police feel we are? Is there any legitimate reason for the police report to omit the use of tasers in the death of Jaesun Ingles?

Taser Lawsuit: Richard Lua (San Jose CA)

Richard Lua was a 28-year old man with a future on February 11, 2009. His future was tasered away by Officers Eric Bachmann and Patrick Lynch. Bachmann and Lynch chased Lua into his own backyard on that day, after trying to detain him a short distance away. They electrocuted him with their taser guns after a violent struggle in which they also hit him with batons.

Lua's family has filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against the city.

Police did not say why the officers had wanted to detain Lua. The suit said police had no probable cause to stop him.

The cause of Lua's death was "profound methamphetamine intoxication," according to the Santa Clara County medical examiner's office, which listed the manner of death as accidental.

But in a lawsuit filed earlier this month in U.S District Court in San Jose, Lua's parents, Emily Contreras and Jose Lua Sr., said their son had posed no threat to the officers and that he "did nothing to provoke the unjustified use of excessive and unreasonable force."

The alleged excessive force included "multiple baton strikes, Taser shots and other acts of violence while decedent lay helplessly," said the suit filed by attorney Vicki Sarmiento.

The suit, which seeks unspecified damages, names the city of San Jose, Chief Rob Davis, Bachmann and Lynch. Both officers had been on the force for seven years at the time of the incident.

I imagine that a few successful lawsuits might be what it takes to change police behavior as it relates to extra-judicial electrocution of American citizens.

Do you think that the Lua family is doing the right thing with their lawsuit?

March 18, 2010

Joe Biden Keeps 'Em Laughing [Video]

Vice President Joe Biden takes alot of heat for the mistakes he makes whenever he has a microphone in front of his face. However, he truly did a nice job at the 2010 Radio and Television Correspondents' Dinner last night.

Be honest ... did you laugh out loud at any of Biden's one-liners?

March 16, 2010

Good News Tuesday: Urban Prep Academy for Young Men

Soulclap to Dr. Boyce Watkins for pointing us to a public, all-male, all–African American high school in the city of Chicago called Urban Prep Academy for Young Men. Research shows that only 1 in 40 African American males graduate college. These statistics are being turned on their head by Urban Prep Academy as they were able to get all of their 107 seniors accepted in to 72 different colleges across the country.

Evan Lewis, the school's Vice President for Institutional Advancement, argues that getting the students in to college is not the only goal, but that getting them through college is what matters.

"We are not just committed to getting our students through high school, we are committed to getting them through college. We are going to be a constant presence in their lives and give them the support that a lot of folks don't have when they go to college."
The school has a very strict dress code, consisting of black blazers, khaki pants and a red tie. The red tie is swapped out for a gold one once the student is accepted in to college. When one student, Rayvaughn Hines, was asked which college he was accepted to, he said, "Do you want me to name them all?"

Hines, a student who once thought college wasn't made for him, has chosen to become a Morehouse man. He cherished the moment when he switched out his red tie for a gold one.

"I wanted to take my time, because I was just so proud of myself," he said. "I wanted everyone to see me put it on."

Urban Prep has a unique set of hurdles. It is in a troubled part of the city, and only 4 percent of the incoming freshmen could read at grade level. With hard work and persistence, the students who could not read at grade level four years ago are now on their way to college.

"I never had a doubt that we would achieve this goal," said Tim King, the school's founder and CEO. "Every single person we hired knew from the day one that this is what we do: We get our kids in to college."
From the day the students enter high school, they are prepared for the next step. They have a college counselor from day one, and their first field trip is a visit to Northwestern University. Their school day is longer than that of students who attend other schools. The school's voice mail has a student saying, "I am college bound," before the caller is able to dial an extension.

Urban Prep is a charter school that should be emulated in all school districts with large Black male populations. Urban Prep Academy reminds us that when adults create an environment conducive for success, the children in that environment will always rise to the occasion.

I encourage all villagers to share this story with their children, nephews, neices and young 'uns in the neighborhood. Urban Prep Academy is breaking mental barriers and prescribed capabilities with each graduate they usher in to this big, bold world.

Tune In Tuesday: India Arie

Soulclap to Lady D for pointing me in the direction of India Arie. The best feeling in the world is when you and your soulmate are both ready for love at the same time. Too often we go through life where one partner is ready and the other partner is looking someplace else.

India Arie lays it down and I hope that villagers enjoy her flow:

What is your experience with India Arie? Which of her joints do you enjoy the most?

March 14, 2010

Will Congress Maintain Racist Approach to Cocaine Laws?

Soulclap to for pointing out the opportunity that we have to apply political pressure to ensure that Congress does the right thing when it comes to sentencing guidelines for people caught with cocaine.

Thousands of the people currently in jail are victims of arcane and racist sentencing laws. People caught with crack cocaine -- often Black and poor -- are sentenced 100 times more harshly than those caught with powder cocaine. This is part of the reason that 1 in 15 Black adults is behind bars.

The U.S. Senate had a chance to advance a bill to eliminate the disparity. Instead, they chose to reduce it -- with no good reason other than to please “moderate” Democrats and Republicans. And President Obama, who for years has championed ending the disparity, is supporting the bill — apparently because it’s bipartisan. Can you think of any legitimate reason that the sentencing guidelines should be different between crack and powder cocaine?

This blog is joining with and other progressive bloggers in calling for our blog readers to take a moment to sign a letter to President Obama and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi demanding they show leadership and push for the House version of the bill, which would eliminate the sentencing disparity?

Today’s unfair sentencing laws treat five grams of crack cocaine the same as 500 grams of powder cocaine — a disparity of 100-to-1. Under the Senate’s plan, the laws would change to make 28 grams of crack trigger the same sentence as 500 grams of powder. As one journalist put it, the proposal would “make the law one-fifth as racist as it used to be.”

Here’s what New York defense attorney Gary G. Becker told the Sentencing Law and Policy blog, after the Senate Judiciary Committee moved to reduce, instead of eliminate, the disparity:

The Senate Judiciary Committee’s vote to “reduce” the crack cocaine/powder cocaine punishment disparity from 100:1 to 20:1 is a scandalous, racist, and politically motivated act. In view of the near-unanimous consensus that there is no justifiable basis for punishing crack cocaine more harshly than powder cocaine, and that the 100:1 ratio was both arbitrary and irrational — even [the] DOJ called for elimination of the disparity — the Senate Judiciary Committee settles on an equally unsupportable, irrational, and arbitrary punishment scheme, one that will disproportionately affect minorities, destroy families, and promote disrespect for the law.

Attorney General Eric Holder said last week, “There is no law enforcement or sentencing rationale for the current disparity between crack and cocaine powder offenses, and I have strongly supported eliminating it to ensure our sentencing laws are tough, predictable and fair.” Yet he went on to give his stamp of approval to the Senate’s 20:1 bill and urged Congress to approve it so it can be signed into law.

There is no disagreement that the current sentencing approach pulls non-violent drug offenders out of their communities for unreasonable lengths of time. And most of the committee members, who unanimously supported this plan, acknowledge that the disparity disproportionately affects Black communities.

This is politics at its worst. It’s legislation that harms communities instead of helping them — a direct result of political horse-trading that throws the most vulnerable among us under the bus.

Villagers have a chance to make it right. There’s a bill in the House that would completely eliminate the sentencing disparity. But if some Senators have their way and are able to quickly send their bill to the House, this diluted compromise could override the House’s bill — our only remaining chance at real reform.

Allowing that to happen would be disastrous. It will mean more broken families and more unequal justice. It will mean that instead of seizing an opportunity to help our communities, Congress and President Obama have decided to write a scaled-back form of discrimination into our laws.

Can you take a moment to tell President Obama and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to fight for passage of the House version of the bill? And when you do, please ask your family and friends to do the same.

March 11, 2010

Taser Autopsy: Roberto Olivo (Tulare CA)

The Tulare County Coroner's Office says that Roberto Olivo, a 33-year old man who died in police custody earlier this month, suffered a fatal drug overdose. [SOURCE]

"According to the medical examiner, the levels of methamphetamine in the decedent's blood were phenomenal," Tulare police Capt. Wes Hensley said.
Unidentified Tulare police officers responded to a local motel after receiving calls about a man, later identified as Olivo, knocking on doors, calling for help and causing chaos, police said. After arriving at the motel, officers spotted the man, who seemed disoriented and appeared to be under the influence of an intoxicant, police said.

Instead of helping the man ... or calling for medical assistance ... the police decided to get in a fight with the Olivo. A struggle ensued and the unidentified officers used pepper spray and then a Taser to gain control and take the man into custody.

Olivo lost consciousness and had difficulty breathing. 50,000 volts of electricity into your body tends to do that. Anyhow, he was transported to Tulare Regional Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead.

Olivo was calling for help. Instead of help ... he received 50,000 volts of electricity and death from the Tulare police officers.

The penalty for being a meth-head is not death ... yet, we are forced to watch another taser-related death being swept under the rug under the guise of 'drugs'.

Something smells ... don't you think?

March 10, 2010

Taser Death: James Healy Jr. (Rhinebeck, NY)

It happened again. Another person killed in a taser-related interaction with police. An unidentified sheriff's deputy used a taser gun to subdue 44-year old James Healy Jr. on Wednesday, March 10, 2010 ... he died a short time later. Cause-and-effect!

Police responded to a domestic dispute and possible drug overdose in Rhinebeck, 50 miles south of Albany. Authorities say they found James Healy Jr. behaving irrationally inside his girlfriend's house. Police say Healy became combative and resisted being removed from the home.

A sheriff's deputy used a stun gun on Healy during the struggle. Police say he continued to struggle before officers were able to subdue him. State police troopers say Healy then had trouble breathing and was taken to a hospital, where he was pronounced dead. The cause of death was pending an autopsy.

A domestic dispute between a boyfriend and girlfriend should not warrant the death penalty. Yet, that is what happened in this case. James Healy Jr. is dead as a result of pre-judicial electrocution.

March 9, 2010

Taser Death: Jaesun Ingles (Midlothian, IL)

It happened again. Another man killed in a taser-related death. This time the killing occurred in the Greater Chicago area when 31-year old Jaesun Ingles died early this morning following a simple traffic stop.

Ingles was pronounced dead at MetroSouth Hospital in Blue Island. An autopsy today was inconclusive, pending further investigation.

Officers used a Taser on Ingles in an attempt to subdue him, Midlothian police. He was taken to the hospital after he experienced trouble breathing.

Midlothian police stopped Ingles' car driven about 11 p.m. Tuesday in the 14600 block of Pulaski Road in Midlothian for several traffic violations, police said in a release. An officer smelled marijuana and found a small amount of the drug following a search of Ingles.

While police tried to arrest Ingles, he ran behind a local business, where he tried to swallow a small plastic bag believed to have contained drugs, police said.

When police finally caught up to Ingles behind the business after a foot chase, Ingles continued to resist and he was hit with a Taser. Ingles began to have trouble breathing and emergency personnel were called, police said.

Police have not admitted how many times a Taser was used on Ingles. The public integrity unit of the state police is looking into the incident.

Several officers were injured trying to subdue Ingles, police said. One received treatment for a sprained wrist and injured shoulder, one for a knee injury and the other for an injury to his right hand.

When will police recognize that a taser should not be used for convenience. It should only be used in accordance with the 'use of force continuum policy. Having some pot in your car should not be a death sentence.

March 7, 2010

Taser Death: Roberto Olivo (Tulare CA)

It happened again. Tulare police department use of a taser gun on 33-year old Roberto Olivo resulted in his death back on March 4, 2010. [SOURCE]

Olivo's brother Ernist Wheeler said, "they maced him, tased him with two tasers at the same time — until he stopped moving and my brother left in a body bag."

The Tulare Police Department was called to the Virginia Motor Lodge on K Street on March 4th, after receiving complaints of a man banging on doors and screaming. Tulare Police Capt. Wes Hensley described Olivo's state of mind..."agitated, combative disoriented, typical signs of some kind of intoxication."

Captain Hensley said officers tried talking to Olivo, but when that didn't work, they wrestled him to the ground, used pepper spray and finally pulled out a Taser. The unidentified officer jolted Olivo three times in the back while trying to handcuff him, he said.

"While waiting for the ambulance the suspect started to lose consciousness and later started showing signs of difficulty breathing," Hensley said.
Olivo was pronounced dead at Tulare Regional Medical Center.

"No one wants this to happen," Hensley said. "Our officers are out there trying to do their job at the best of their ability in responding to a call for service — in no way did anyone want this to happen, unfortunately it did and now we are in the process of investigating the cause of that death."
The coroner's office is investigating. They don't expect toxicology results for another 6 weeks. Olivo's family is seeking a second opinion. They've hired an independent autopsy expert.

The officers involved in the incident were initially placed on administrative leave. Their actions have been deemed "within department policy". They are back on the force.

I don't doubt that the police have a difficult job. However, this cop used his taser three times -- 50,000 volts each -- in the back of Mr. Olivo. Was that level of force truly necessary? Or did this police officer simply feel entitled to use his taser gun to help him get the handcuffs on Mr. Olivo? It just seems that being intoxicated is not a good reason to kill a man.

What say u?

March 6, 2010

Obama's Weekly Address: What Health Reform Will Deliver – This Year

In this week’s address, President Obama describes how American families will have more control over their health care this year, after health reform passes.

Here are a few more points about how health insurance reform measures will benefit Americans this year:

Hold Insurance Companies Accountable:

  • Eliminate lifetime limits and restrictive annual limits on benefits in all new plans;
  • Prohibit rescissions of health insurance policies in all individual plans;
  • Prohibit pre-existing condition exclusions for children in all new plans;
  • Require premium rebates to enrollees from insurers with high administrative expenditures and require public disclosure of the percent of premiums applied to overhead costs;
  • Establish a process for the annual review of unreasonable increases in premiums, requiring State insurance commissioners to work with the HHS Secretary and States.

Protect Consumers:

  • Provide grants to States to support health insurance consumer assistance and ombudsman programs to help consumers;
  • Ensure consumers have access to an effective internal and external appeals process to appeal new insurance plan decisions;
  • Require all insurance plans to use uniform coverage documents so consumers can make easy comparisons when shopping for health insurance;
  • Establish an internet portal to assist Americans in identifying coverage options;
  • Prohibit insurers from discriminating in favor of highly compensated employees by charging them lower premiums.

Ensure Affordable Choices and Quality Care:

  • Provide immediate access to insurance for uninsured Americans who are uninsured because of a pre-existing condition through a temporary high-risk pool;
  • Create a temporary re-insurance program for early retirees;
  • Require new plans to cover an enrollee’s dependent children until age 26;
  • Require new plans to cover preventive services and immunizations without cost-sharing;
  • Offer tax credits to small businesses to purchase coverage;
  • Facilitate administrative simplification to lower health system costs.

I admire President Obama for continuing to fight for health insurance reform. If he is able to pull this rabbit out of his hat ... it would be quite remarkable.

What are your thoughts on his message this week?

March 5, 2010

Ea Shoushtari Leads LACES to Los Angeles City Basketball Championship

I had a chance to see my young cousin, Ea Shoushtari, in a LA City Schools playoff basketball game when I was on the west coast last month. Her team, Los Angeles Center for Enriched Studies (LACES), won the game by a wide margin ... something like 79-23.

I had to leave California before Ea and her LACES classmates could play the championship game. They were playing against the same team that beat them in the championship game last year. I was ecstatic to see the Los Angeles Times post on last night's game:

"Going into the fourth quarter of the City Section small schools girls' championship game, it was tied at 37-37. Then the Los Angeles Center for Enriched Studies scored the first 18 points of the quarter and never looked back in coming away with a 55-39 victory over View Park Prep at Roybal.

View Park (24-6) didn't score until there was 1:02 left. LACES (29-5) received three-pointers in the quarter from Ea Shoushtari, Rachel Totten and Jasmine Scott. Shoushtari finished with 16 points and 13 rebounds. Taylor Holeman added 11 points and 14 rebounds.

Danielle Pruitt had 11 points for View Park."
Congratulations young cousin! I (and ESPN) look forward to seeing how you and the rest of the Unicorns do next year when you are a high school senior!