Archive for January, 2009

Happy Birthday

You know it doesn’t
make much sense
There ought to be a law against
Anyone who takes offense
At a day in your celebration
‘Cause we all know in our minds
That there ought to be a time
That we can set aside
To show just how much we love you
And I’m sure you will agree
It couldn’t fit more perfectly
Than to have a world
party on the day you
came to be

Happy birthday to ya
Happy birthday to ya
Happy birthday to ya

I just never understood
How a man who died for good
Could not have a day that would
Be set aside for his recognition
Because it should never be
Just because some cannot see
The dream as clear as he
That they should make it
become an illusion
And we all know everything
That he stood for time will bring
For in peace our hearts will sing
Thanks to Martin Luther King Jr.

Happy birthday to ya
Happy birthday to ya
[ Find more Lyrics at http://www.mp3lyrics.org/fs ]
Happy birthday to ya

Why has there never been a holiday
Where peace is celebrated
all throughout the world

The time is overdue
For people like me and you
You know the way to truth
Is love and unity to
all God’s children
It should be a great event
And the whole day should be spent
In full remembrance
Of those who lived and
died for the oneness
all people
So let us all beging
We know that love can win
Let it out don’t hold it in
Sing it loud as you can

[Chorus x4:]
Happy birthday to ya
Happy birthday to ya
Happy birthday to ya

[Background Stevie]
Happy birthday Ooh yeah
Happy birthday,
To you yea

We know the key to unity of all
Is in the dream that you had so
Long ago
That lives in all of the hearts
Of people
That believe in unity
We’ll make the dream become
A reality
I know we will
Because our hearts tell us so….

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“There is something immoral and sick about using all of that power to not end brutality and poverty, but to break into people’s bedrooms and claim that God sent you,” Sharpton told a full house on Sunday.

“It amazes me,” he said, “when I looked at California and saw churches that had nothing to say about police brutality, nothing to say when a young black boy was shot while he was wearing police handcuffs, nothing to say when they overturned affirmative action, nothing to say when people were being [relegated] into poverty, yet they were organizing and mobilizing to stop consenting adults from choosing their life partners.”

h/t Pam’s House Blend

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On New Year’s Eve, Oscar Grant was shot execution-style by a transit police officer in Oakland, California. He was shot in the back while face-down on a subway platform, unarmed and posing no threat. 1,2

Twelve days later–despite several videos showing what happened–the officer who killed Grant hasn’t been arrested, charged, or even questioned. He quit the force and has refused to speak. The District Attorney has done nothing.

It’s time to demand that California Attorney General Jerry Brown take over the case and arrest Grant’s killer, and to ask that the US Department of Justice launch an independent investigation into the conduct of the local authorities. Please join us and ask your friends and family to do the same:


Oscar Grant is the third man murdered by BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) police in the past 17 years. All three victims were Black and none posed a serious threat. In each case, BART and county authorities have failed to hold the officers accountable.3

In the previous cases, BART’s internal investigations concluded that the officers felt threatened by the victims and were justified in pulling the trigger. It’s unbelievable given the circumstances of the killings:

In 1992, 19-year-old Jerrold Hall was shot in the back by a BART officer as he tried to leave the parking lot of a station. The officer was responding to reports of an armed robbery and said he suspected that Hall and a friend were involved. The officer tried to detain the two, Hall ran and then the officer shot him in the back and killed him. Hall was unarmed, but the officer said he thought Hall was on his way to get a gun and return for a showdown.4

In 2001, a mentally ill man named Bruce Seward was the next victim of the rogue force. Seward, 42, was naked and had been sleeping on a bench outside the BART station when an officer approached him. Seward did grab the officer’s nightstick at one point, but there were several options for subduing him. Instead, the officer shot and killed him.5

In addition to BART’s internal investigation, Alameda County’s District Attorney is also investigating Oscar Grant’s murder–but the office’s record on investigating police killings is horrible too. In both cases just described, the District Attorney bought BART’s argument that the officers felt threatened. As a result, the cops were cleared of any wrongdoing.

In the case of Grant’s murder, the DA has already let 12 days pass while doing essentially nothing–the officer who killed Grant is able to travel and leave the state, and he’s free to talk with other officers and attempt to construct a story to justify his killing of Oscar Grant.

The problem with Alameda County’s DA goes beyond BART police murders. In the past two years alone, there have been 11 fatal police shootings in Oakland (not including that of Oscar Grant).6 When asked, the officials at the District Attorney’s office could not remember a single case in the last 20 years where an on-duty cop had been charged in a fatal shooting in Alameda County.7 It gives the clear appearance that the District Attorney’s office just doesn’t have the will to prosecute police crimes.

California’s Attorney General needs to step in now and arrest Oscar Grant’s murderer. And the US Department of Justice should investigate the failure of the authorities in Alameda County to act. It’s the first step towards justice. After that, we will push for systemic changes to create public accountability for BART and other police departments. Creating those structural changes will be a much longer fight, but Oscar Grant’s tragic death is a wake-up call that should give us a real chance to help prevent this from happening again.

Please join us in demanding justice, and then ask your family and friends to do the same:


Thanks and Peace,

— James, Gabriel, Clarissa, William, Dani, and the rest of the ColorOfChange.org team
January 13th, 2008


1. “BART shooting captured on video,” San Francisco Chronicle, 1-06-09

2. “$25 Million Lawsuit Announced In BART Shooting,” KPIX, 1-04-09

3. “BART cop shooting: we’ve been here before,” Daily Kos, 1-08-09

4. “Lethal force,” San Francisco Bay Guardian, 12-12-92

5. “BART police condemned by slain man’s family,” San Francisco Chronicle, 7-18-01

6. “Forum on officer-involved shootings held,” KGO-TV, 12-11-08

7. “Death threats against BART officer,” San Francisco Chronicle, 1-07-09

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Go here… read this.

Queering Black Politics: Reconsidering the Black Single Mother Argument

I don’t wish to argue about whether or not black women are having children without being married, or whether or not it is occurring at a rate that is disproportionate to white women. I’m also not concerned about the supposed increased happiness and longer life spans of married people, or whatever.

I’d like to dialogue about what I perceive to be the problem of discussing black politics and “black issues” as though black people are one homogenous group with identical desires, family structures, and ideals. Black politics are not white politics in blackface. The old habit of acting as though black life is a poorer colored version of middle class white life has never been appropriate and it certainly is not now.


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In his own driveway

This morning, while the sky was still dark and I had not yet completed my first cup of coffee, I drove my youngest son to school. My youngest son is taller than me… he reached this goal early last summer. Daily he would measure himself against me, declaring himself taller until the day it was actually true, the day I could no longer deny that by now they all have passed me. His voice has deepened and his voice is not as often mistaken for mine on the phone. He is still a boy, though, his cheeks still smooth, his eyes still bright. Heck, he still has braces and the gangly gait of an adolescent.

This morning I drove him to school in the predawn darkness, the quiet of a day yet lived. Still full of possibility. Still full of the unknown. Still full of promise.

We were listening to the radio. To my station, not his. I still get to be the boss, no matter that I am now the shortest person in the house. Old school r & b I can handle at 7 a.m. Hip hop, less so.

On the radio there is an interview with the attorney for the family of Robbie Tolan. I had heard the story about Tolan and what happened to him in the early hours of New Year’s Eve several days before. As a fellow human being, I was horrified. As the mother of black sons, I was frightened. This morning, driving the car with my sleepy son next to me, I was grieving.

Robbie Tolan is a 23 year old star baseball player, playing in the minor leagues in 2007. He is African American. At 2:30 in the morning of December 31, he was sitting in front of his home in suburban Houston, Texas with his cousin. They had driven in a few moments earlier. A police car followed them, but did not park behind them. As Robbie and his cousin walked up to there home, bright lights blinded them… the police officer had a flashlight and a gun on them, and accused them of driving a stolen car, and told them to get down on the ground. As the young men explained this was their car, eventually the commotion caused Tolan’s parents to come to the door. Imagine seeing your son and nephew with a gun trained on them in your own driveway. Wait – excuse me – imagine seeing your black son and nephew in your own driveway ….

This mother’s son called out. According to the family, she was shoved away. Imagine seeing your mother shoved out of the way by someone holding a gun. Tolan called out … because he was witnessing this. He wanted it to stop. He was shot in the chest. The bullet is lodged in his liver.

He and his cousin were unarmed. They were driving their own car. They were walking up their own driveway.

I was driving my son to school this morning. I should be able to tell my child if you mind your own business, if you do the right thing, things will work out well for you. If you keep your nose clean. I should be able to tell my child that. I should be able to keep him safe. I should be able to send him out into the world every day, believing that no intentional harm will come to him.

I know better.

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