Lawyers for the five remaining defendants facing trial in the racially divisive Jena 6 incident in Louisiana presented evidence Friday of what they said was bias on the part of the judge presiding over the cases and sought his removal.
After four hours of testimony, a visiting judge appointed by the Louisiana Supreme Court to hear the recusal motion against LaSalle Parish District Judge J.P. Mauffray asked for more evidence and postponed a ruling until at least July...
Thursday, May 29, 2008 In Korea :: B-Boys & Beef
In the Ibis Hotel in Suwon, a suburb just south of Seoul, the lobby is alive with movement til the early hours of the morning. Hundreds of b-boys are here. They are sleepless from hours of travel from Cape Town, South Africa, or Hamburg, Germany, and dozens of other destinations around the world, but they're afire with ideas and moves to share, classic battles to recount and re-enact. They've come to compete in one of the world's biggest breaking competitions, R16, and the energy is luminescent.
Earlier this evening, at an orientation, the hotel ballroom filled nearly to capacity. One of the organizers, Queens native Charlie Shin, ran down a roll call of the countries represented--"Brazil, Netherlands, Israel, China, U.S., France, Korea..." Legendary hip-hop photographers Joe Conzo and Jamel Shabazz exhorted the b-boys and b-girls in the room to get up on stage, and the pictures they snapped were stunning: a beautiful multiculti crowd lifted straight out of an Obama speech, with t-shirts emblazoned with crew names, hot-colored sneakers, and super-mugsy attitude added on for effect.
Shin and representatives from the Korean Tourism Organization had asked the b-boys to respect each others' space on the stage in the upcoming battles, but perhaps they needn't have bothered. There was a lot of respect in that room already.
That afternoon, in the streets of Seoul, there had been a lot of talk about beef.
In a stunning reversal, the Korean government announced it was lifting its ban on U.S. beef. By rush hour, tens of thousands of ordinary Koreans had poured into the streets in protest--farmers, office-workers, mothers rolling their children in strollers. They brought candles and signs that signalled their fears about Mad Cow Disease.
Department stores gave out thousands of bowls of beef soup to protestors. Business-suited demonstrators appeared at Korea's McDonald's headquarters. Labor unions promised to put up blockades at dozens of beef distribution warehouses to peacefully stop the U.S. beef from being sent into the country. News reports made much of the fact that government officials appeared apologetic and ashamed about the decision.
Nine thousand riot police--many of them young men serving mandatory military service--were deployed in Seoul to contain the protests. The American contingent here for R16 watched as police arrested hundreds of demonstrators, and then later in amazement as tens of thousands of people raised their candles in a quiet, powerful show of solidarity.
Why all the fuss over beef? To many ordinary Koreans, the government's reversal is a demonstration of the way the U.S. version of "free trade" has hurt their country.
Fears of Mad Cow Disease focus on the health of American imports, but they point to a greater Korean anguish over the pressures to accept expensive American imports, the destruction of local livestock farming, and displacement of Korean jobs at a moment when the national economy has been in a downward spiral.
Just yesterday the Korean government was forced to back up its currency to prevent further investment flight. President Lee Myung-bak, a conservative in the George W. Bush mold, has seen plunging approval ratings over his management of trade and the economy.
Rallies are expected to spread across the country today, and should continue to pose serious problems for President Lee and his right-wing party, the Grand National Party.
Here at R16, Americans are a decided minority, but there's no angst about that. There's none of the we-invented-it-so-bow-down attitude about hip-hop that Bush and his supporters in both the Democratic and Republican parties seem to take about democracy and capitalism.
Quite the opposite. Heads are here to compete intensely on the floor and leave with respect, returning to their homes with the task of continuing to build a culture that creates possibility rather than displacement.
Tuesday, May 27, 2008 Still Awaiting Justice In Jena
Eight months after 40,000 people converged on Jena, Louisiana, justice still awaits the six young men whose cases inspired one of the biggest civil rights marches in recent history.
This Friday, special judge Thomas Yeager will consider a motion made on behalf of the Jena 6 to remove Judge J.P. Mauffray from their cases. Mauffray had previously denied motions by 5 of the defendants to recuse him from their cases. But last week, the Louisiana Third Circuit Court of Appeals appointed Yeager to preside over this unusual hearing in Mauffray's own courtroom.
Supporters of the Jena 6 say that the motion to recuse Mauffray is part of an effort to give them a fair trial. “Judge Mauffray is the man at the center of Jena’s broken justice system and now he is forced to justify his bias in a court of law with the entire nation watching,” said James Rucker, Executive Director of Color of Change, the 400,000 member group that served as the key organizing body of last September's protests.
Flashpoint For Racial Justice
Last summer, the Jena 6 cases became a flashpoint in the national discussion over racial justice, and more disturbingly, a catalyst for further hate incidents.
On August 31, 2006, two nooses were found on an oak tree at Jena High School, an event that polarized the student body along racial lines. The school principal recommended that the three white noose-hangers be expelled. But the LaSalle Parish School Board—advised by attorney J. Reed Walters, who as District Attorney would later prosecute the Jena 6—voted 7-1 instead to suspend the students. The only African American board member offered the dissenting vote.
After months of racial tensions, including incidents in which white Jena High student Justin Barker and others made racial insults at African American students, Barker was beaten by the boys who would become known as the "Jena 6". (CORRECTION 5/27 : Of the Jena 6 defendants, only Mychal Bell has admitted to being involved in the beating of Justin Barker.) Barker went home hours after the fight and participated in an evening public ceremony.
But DA Walters charged the 6 African Americans with attempted second-degree murder and conspiracy to commit attempted second-degree murder. The disparity in the sentencing spurred calls for a massive September march in Jena.
In the two months following the demonstrations, at least 50 noose incidents were reported nationally, including one found on the door of a Black professor's office at the Teacher's College of Columbia University. New York Governor David Patterson recently signed a law making displaying a noose a felony crime.
In the first Jena 6 case to come to trial, an all-white jury convicted one of the Jena 6 defendants, Mychal Bell, in adult court. After Bell spent 10 months behind bars, an appeals court threw out the conviction saying Bell could not be tried as an adult and remanded the case to juvenile court. Bell was freed on $45,000 bail.
But just two weeks later, Judge Mauffray agreed with DA Walters' motion to send Bell back to jail, on the grounds that Bell's involvement in the beating of Justin Barker had violated his probation for prior convictions. Mauffray then sentenced Bell to 18 months in a juvenile facility.
Supporters of the Jena 6 say this was only one of the ways Mauffray demonstrated bias against the young Black men.
Before Utter took Beard's case, he writes in his motion, Mauffray told him that white beating victim Justin Barker was lucky that he did not "bleed to death". Mauffray also called the Jena 6 "real troublemakers", and discussed alleged incidents involving the defendants. Utter and others later investigated the rumored incidents and found them to be false.
In March, Mauffray told Beard's lawyers, "Does anyone know when [Jesse Ray Beard] started his career? His first participation in a crime of violence? It was December 25, 2005." Utter writes that, in response to a discussion about potential alternatives to incarceration, Mauffray scoffed and said, "Jesse Ray needs severe consequences, short term."
A similar motion to recuse District Attorney Reed Walters, on the grounds of racial bias and conflict of interest, is pending.
posted by Zentronix @ 12:43 AM0 commentslinks to this post
Monday, May 26, 2008 R16 Week!
After the event with Adam Mansbach this week--check it out below!--I'll be heading out to the second R16 contest. For the three or four of you who have no idea, it's one of the biggest global b-boy/b-girl competitions in the world.
Sixteen crews from around the world--including Russia, Israel and Brazil--will compete on May 31st and June 1st for over $50,000 in prize money. The Korean crews are the runaway favorites, but the competition will feature many of the top crews you might know from Battle Of The Year.
It's also a cool excuse to hang with the homies. Thanks to organizers Charlie Shin and Johnjay Chon (plus a big shout to James Kim and my girl Joy Yoon), this event will be ridiculously off the hook. Joe Conzo, Jamel Shabazz, B+, and Brent Rollins are just a handful of my non-b-boy hip-hop heroes who'll be featured and in attendance.
Much more when I'm back, but in the meantime, I'll continue to post through the rest of the week and, who knows, may even attempt to blog from Suwon. Tho don't hold me to that. In the meantime, here's all the info and def be checking Youtube for the uploads if you can't be in Suwon and Seoul this weekend...
In a 2007 interview with Cox News, McKinnon said he would vote for McCain, but "I just don't want to work against an Obama candidacy." He added that if Obama were to reach the White House, it "would send a great message to the country and the world."
Monday, May 19, 2008 The Candidates Have An Asian American Problem
One of the main reasons this presidential election has been historic is that every imaginable demographic has been in play. Long ignored constituencies seem to have suddenly appeared on the screens of political operatives.
Speculation abounds. Will African American vote break the Republican stranglehold on the south? Can Republican nominee McCain split the Latino vote? Will young voters make the Dem candidate invulnerable? None of these questions seemed remotely imaginable before January.
But Asian Americans still get no love.
A presidential forum this past weekend in Irvine, California, organized by APIA Vote confirmed this. Before a reported crowd of 1,000, none of the candidates even bothered to show.
Clinton did a canned speech and took no questions, despite her heavy reliance on Asian Americans for the plum Super Tuesday primary victory in California. McCain's supporters claimed he couldn't access the satellite tech to make the appearance, even though he was in New York City to tape Saturday Night Live, a show that happens to be broadcast, uh, live via satellite.
(Hmmm, what genius thought that excuse would get over with Asians?)
Obama literally phoned it in from Oregon. But he spoke about his family--which is as Asian as it is African and white--and took questions--including a thorny one about Native Hawaiian sovereignty in his state of birth. If Clinton took the Asian American vote in key states earlier this spring, credit Obama for not taking it for granted looking toward the fall.
Obama has been accused of having an "Asian American" problem. He did. Last year, Obama's campaign staff issued a memo criticizing Clinton's support for outsourcing by mocking her as the Democratic Senator from Punjab. Obama quickly distanced himself from the comments but no heads rolled over the foulup.
Truth be told, the other campaigns look like they have it worse.
Last month, Hillary Clinton's campaign rallied white voters in Pennsylvania with what Emil Guillermo calls "yellow peril" ads. No one on her lengthy list of Asian American endorsers jeopardized their delegate seats by making any noise about it.
Wednesday, May 14, 2008 Hillary And The Racist Gap
Hillary's argument that Obama can't reach white working-class voters makes perfect sense. It represents her true politics--based in buzzkill pragmatism of the most cynical kind. Will we cater to the worst in our voters all the time? Yes we will!
Or...to paraphrase Amy Poehler-in-her-Hillary-banana-suit on SNL: "My voters will never vote for Senator Obama because they're racist." It was hilarious because it called out the Clinton campaign on its not-so-subtle identity politics. Last night, Clinton all but made West Virginia '08 into Alabama '64.
Last night, more than half of West Virginia's 95% white voters said that they wouldn't be happy if Obama got the nomination. A shockingly large number say they would vote for McCain if he got the nomination.
Democrats for both Obama and Hillary insist that this is a temporary condition, that once the rancor of the primaries is over, all hatchets will be buried. Obama, for his part, has ignored the white-baiting and did almost no campaigning in West Virginia.
But Earl Ofari Hutchinson notes that where Obama picked up white voters, the states aren't even in play. He calls an Obama candidacy "the Democrat's gamble".
Monday, May 12, 2008 Roberto Lovato on the ICE Raids Nationwide + Sean Bell II In Inglewood
Roberto Lovato's new piece on ICE's crackdowns speaks specifically to Georgia, but also contextualizes what's been happening around the country, including here in the Bay Area (see below)::
Mancha and the younger children of the mostly immigrant Latinos in Georgia are learning and internalizing that they are different from white--and black--children not just because they have the wrong skin color but also because many of their parents lack the right papers. They are growing up in a racial and political climate in which Latinos' subordinate status in Georgia and in the Deep South bears more than a passing resemblance to that of African-Americans who were living under Jim Crow. Call it Juan Crow: the matrix of laws, social customs, economic institutions and symbolic systems enabling the physical and psychic isolation needed to control and exploit undocumented immigrants.
In fact, the surge in Latino migration (the Southeast is home to the fastest-growing Latino population in the United States) is moving many of the institutions and actors responsible for enforcing Jim Crow to resurrect and reconfigure themselves in line with new demographics. Along with the almost daily arrests, raids and home invasions by federal, state and other authorities, newly resurgent civilian groups like the Ku Klux Klan, in addition to more than 144 new "nativist extremist" groups and 300 anti-immigrant organizations born in the past three years, mostly based in the South, are harassing immigrants as a way to grow their ranks.
OAKLAND, CA - May 6, 2008 - Oakland Mayor Ron Dellums joined unions and community groups at Stonehurst Elementary School after agents from the Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement showed up earlier in the morning. Dellums and others protested the ICE activity in Oakland, which is a sanctuary city, just days after marches took place across the country for immigrants' rights. Dellums talked with concerned parents, as worried children left school at the end of the day. Photos and Caption By David Bacon.
The political campaigns may have become a cartoon, but real issues are still exploding in the streets.
This past week, ICE sent agents to elementary schools in Oakland, shocking and scaring students, parents, teachers, and city officials. Parents reported that the agents intimidated students by patrolling outside the school after being denied entry at Stonehurst Elementary. ICE followed up with arrests of parents at their homes in Oakland and Berkeley.
Oakland Mayor Ron Dellums and Berkeley schools superintendent Bill Huyet quickly promised to protect students from such raids. Berkeley schools also offered escorts for worried parents and students.
Both cities--and San Francisco--are sanctuary cities for immigrants.
Parents, students, and immigrant advocates launched protests last week against the raids. In the past, ICE raids have often targeted workplaces. For many documented and undocumented immigrants, these ICE school raids introduce another level of fear and provocation.
ICE raids have often ripped young children from their parents and last week's were no exception. One lawyer advocate reported being denied access to counsel a couple who had been arrested and detained. She ended up caring for that couple's young child.
With the immigration debate sidelined for the duration of this presidential term, how will the presidential candidates address the issue in January? Are these kinds of raids throughout the summer the ICE bureaucrats' way of forcing the issue sooner?
posted by Zentronix @ 8:11 AM0 commentslinks to this post
Friday, May 09, 2008 When The Campaign Becomes A Cartoon...
...the cartoons are becoming of the campaign. Certainly beats 99% of the coverage...
Thursday, May 08, 2008 Zirin on Bissinger v. Leitch, Blogs & The Future of Sportswriting
Costas's HBO show on sportswriting the other week continues to generate waves of discussion, particularly the segment on new media in which old-school journalista Buzz Bissinger went after sports-blogger Will Leitch like it was a Tapout match and not a, you know, civil discussion.
Yo, great frickin TV, especially for reporter geeks of color like me. (Video is here. Watch the replays on HBO to catch the closing segment on race and sportswriting.)
Bissinger's vampire weekend attack on Leitch reminded me a lot of the issues Oliver Wang raises in Total Chaos around the future of hip-hop journalism, especially the role of bloggers.
It should be noted that Bissinger is a highly accomplished reporter and journalist--he wrote Friday Night Lights and has scooped mad awards. Leitch is, in fact, an acclaimed author as well, but...well, let's just say Deadspin--while fun, sometimes, willing to go where it needs going in others, but normally pretty trashy--is not necessarily Exhibit A of his own talents as a writer and editor.
I had a discussion with my editor at Vibe.com about it all. Blogging ain't going away--Bissinger admitted as much at the end that that was the source of his vitriol. But how is it useful for bloggers to trumpet, as Deadspin's Leitch does, a lack of "access, favor or discretion"? I was on the fence.
Along comes the brilliant Dave Zirin in this fantastic column that has me thinking, if not yet fully convinced.
I think it's worth a conversation: Is this the future of hip-hop journalism too? (Or maybe asked another way, can hip-hop journalism really actually get worse?!) Are skilled journalists--and by extension, journalistic skills--an endangered species? Have they become media's undead? Are outbursts like Bissinger's a sign of a developing cold war between journalists and bloggers, a just a passing thing on the way to a new opinionscape, or just a sad example of what happens when you forget to take your meds?
Anyway, here's a teaser from Zirin. Weigh in if you like...
Bissinger's beef appears to be less with Leitch than with the changing media landscape. Sports blogs have brought younger, more diverse and more creative voices into the discussion of sports. While much mainstream sportswriting obsesses about personalities, scandal and statistics, the blogosphere offers other options. Pining for the past makes Bissinger sound like some 1950s preacher railing against rock 'n' roll. In some ways, Internet sports coverage is like rock--there's bad and there's good--but overall, it has expanded the confines of the form and content of sports journalism.
Costas fueled the controversy, likening blog commentary to what "a cabdriver" thinks about sports. In the past, he has called bloggers "pathetic, get-a-life losers." It's an attitude that's shared by many A-list columnists and sports personalities, some of whom seethe over the fact that "some guy in his basement" gets to have equal voice--or, in Leitch's case, even exceed the popularity of those whose once dominated the coverage.
There are sports blogs in every style, for every team, and they have entirely changed the game. Of course, some are repellent, but to swear off all blogs would be like refusing to read the New York Times because you don't like the National Enquirer.
If anything, legacy sportswriters deserve far more scrutiny than the upstarts on the web. Washington Post and ESPN scribe Tony Kornheiser has said that this not a golden age of sportswriting, but it is a golden age for sportswriters. There is more money and fame for those willing to "play ball."
Consider what Big Daddy Drew wrote on Deadspin about ESPN's Rick Reilly. "Reilly is what I like to call a privileged sportswriter. I'm not saying he's rich, or snooty, or anything like that. What I mean is that, in his position, Reilly has access to privileges that you or I, as normal sports fans, don't have. He gets to go to the Masters, VIP-style. He gets to go golfing with Bill Clinton. He gets to ride in an Indy 500 race car. He gets to walk up to Sammy Sosa's locker and dare him to pee in a cup for him. He gets to do all that. And that's why he sucks.... If you're a privileged sportswriter, you're experiencing sports in a completely different way from normal, everyday fans. It's no coincidence the bulk of ESPN's programming now involves sportswriters talking to one another. They're the only people they can identify with. You certainly aren't part of the conversation."
What infuriates old-school sportswriters is that people on the web are calling them on their privilege, isolation and celebrity. In sharp contrast, bloggers, with their messy passion and sharp interaction with readers, sometimes sound far more authentic.
Wednesday, May 07, 2008 It's Not Over... + Darrin Bell on America-Hating Black Preachers
It's not over.
We're all still puzzling over Hillary's spin that Indiana was somehow a tie-breaker. She barely escaped out of there with a virtual tie. The wrath of the math is upon the Clintons. But let no election results put asunder...
In any case less than half of voters in Indiana and North Carolina were distracted by the Reverend Wright scandals. Maybe we're smarter than the media gives us credit for?
The last word should belong to Darrin Bell, whose Candorville has been straight killing it this week. These 6 panels--asking the question "If 2008 were 1968..."--are worth more than the hundreds of thousands of words that have poured out this past month.
Click through to see the strips full-size.
UPDATE :: Here's the links to the rest of Candorville's week...
Tuesday, May 06, 2008 Breakin The Law :: B-Girls + B-Boys In Madison Photo By Robin Davies (under Creative Commons license)
Big shout out to Jarius King, Rock Lee of Rhythm Attack, and all of the b-boys and b-girls--from as far away as Hong Kong, Japan, South Africa, and Wausau--who represented a couple weekends back at the Breakin' The Law competition. (Video is here and here.) T-dot's Supernaturalz took it in a close final against Milwaukee's Motion Disorderz.
How About Some Music? :: Dubwise Santogold + Invincible The Sound Of Young Detroit
Out of the shed for a minute--where I've got things cooking at a good boil--to share some tasters.
Invincible :: Shape Shifters
After keeping it hot for Dilla, Sa-Ra, Platinum Pied Pipers, Slum Village, Black Milk and the cream of Detroit for years, Invincible finally gets her own shine. Quiet as it's kept, she's also one of the city's most important young hip-hop activists--and you'll hear that in her music--but her skills seal the deal.