Archive for the ‘racial violence’ Category

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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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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Deconstructing the Myths of “The First Thanksgiving”

What is it about the story of “The First Thanksgiving” that makes it essential to be taught in virtually every grade from preschool through high school? What is it about the story that is so seductive? Why has it become an annual elementary school tradition to hold Thanksgiving pageants, with young children dressing up in paper-bag costumes and feather-duster headdresses and marching around the schoolyard? Why is it seen as necessary for fake “pilgrims” and fake “Indians” (portrayed by real children, many of whom are Indian) to sit down every year to a fake feast, acting out fake scenarios and reciting fake dialogue about friendship? And why do teachers all over the country continue (for the most part, unknowingly) to perpetuate this myth year after year after year?

Is it because as Americans we have a deep need to believe that the soil we live on and the country on which it is based was founded on integrity and cooperation? This belief would help contradict any feelings of guilt that could haunt us when we look at our role in more recent history in dealing with other indigenous peoples in other countries. If we dare to give up the “myth” we may have to take responsibility for our actions both concerning indigenous peoples of this land as well as those brought to this land in violation of everything that makes us human. The realization of these truths untold might crumble the foundation of what many believe is a true democracy. As good people, can we be strong enough to learn the truths of our collective past? Can we learn from our mistakes? This would be our hope.

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I read this story in my local newspaper today.

It is a frightening and sad story. After witnessing the last few months of the presidential campaign and the boldness of blatant racism people were willing to express in public – at campaign rallies, on college campuses… everywhere.

What is equally frightening is the way in which some voices continue to insist we are living in a post-racial society… that there is no racism any longer now that a man of color has ascended to the highest office in the land. One of the ways this messages gets perpetuated is to brush off incidents like the murder of this woman as an act that was committed by a bunch of ignorant kooks – no reason to worry. Check out this quote from the article, attributed to the parish sheriff, Jack Strain:

“The IQ level of this group is not impressive, to be kind,” Strain said, adding, “I can’t imagine anyone feeling endangered or at risk by any one of these kooks.”

He can’t imagine anyone feeling “endangered or at risk.” But – ok, a woman was murdered because she was trying to get away from them. We don’t know the whole story because she is not here to tell us. Her identity has not been released, but she was a living, breathing human being whose life was taken away. She probably would not have been my friend. She went from her home in Oklahoma, presumably to take part in the initiation ritual. But at some point she changed her mind and asked to be taken back to town. Instead, she was killed. That seems pretty endangering and at risk to me. I really don’t care about the level of their IQ’s.

And I do care about how this society continues to talk out of both sides of its mouth where racism is concerned. I recognize that for my daily walking around life, the fact of institutional racism is a more present danger to me. Yet, to ignore or dismiss blatant violent racist acts as the work of a few ignorant goons who are not really dangerous continues to teach the false lesson that racism doesn’t really exist.

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45 years ago yesterday…..

Between 1947 and 1965, over fifty bombings occurred in Birmingham, resulting in the city becoming known as “Bombingham”; Perhaps the most famous of these blasts was the one that took the lives of four innocent black youth as they prepared their Sunday School lessons on a Sunday Morning at the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church.

The bombing came as a result of heightened tensions in the city after a federal court ordered its schools to be integrated. Governor George Wallace chose to defy this order and urged his followers to do the same. Such defiance only encouraged Birmingham’s bombers to swing into action. Indeed, a local black attorney’s house was bombed for the second time in two weeks. In the end, federal authorities won this minor skirmish and the schools were desegregated. Segregationists in Birmingham were not happy.

On a quiet Sunday morning, September 15, 1963, four little black girls prepared their Sunday School lessons in the basement of the church. In the same basement sat a bomb placed by segregationists, designed to kill and maim in protest of the forced integration of Birmingham’s public schools. Denise McNair, Carole Robertson, Cynthia Wesley, and Addie Mae Collins were killed in the explosion. Angry blacks rioted and the civil authorities responded with great violence. During the rest of the day, other black youths were murdered by police and civilians alike, compounding the desperation.

From Bombing Of The Sixteenth Street Baptist Church

h/t ABB for reminding us.

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I bought John Mellencamp’s new CD today. I was listening to it in my office and Jena, the song Mellencamp released last fall came up… I had forgotten about it.

Hearing the song made me want to see the video again. When I went to YouTube, I found out it was restricted (kinda – you just have to click through) – there’s a message reading:

This video or group may contain content that is inappropriate for some users, as flagged by YouTube’s user community. By clicking “Confirm”, you are agreeing that all videos or groups flagged by the YouTube community will be viewable by this account.

The video does contain images of lynching, and of klan members in their lovely, courageous hoods and robes. I do remember the brouhaha when the song came out last fall. And of course other people wrote about it back in October when it was released.

It’s still quite a powerful song and video.

Oh… I guess there’s pro-lynching music (and movies!) out there too. (Full disclosure – I used to like Toby Keith… till he got all let’s bomb all the foreigners/vigilante justice on me.)

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Today, Wednesday July 30th 2008, black bloggers and other interested bloggers from across America are holding “A Day of Blogging for Justice – Blogging Against Extra-Judicial Electrocution (Tasers).”

The blog Tasered While Black has been tracking the issue of black folks being tased for some time now. Amy Goodman of Democracy Now is tracking the death by taser of a black man in Louisiana. We are blogging today against police and other security entities across America, Canada and around the world involved in Extra-Judicial Electrocution by Tasers. African American Political Pundit has called it a campaign against “on the spot pre-trial electrocution” of members of the public (many who are of African descent).

Also see here for more information.

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Please go over to Womanist Musings to read about the Saartjie Project, a collective of artists and activists using community theater to explore politics around the black female body.

In the 19th century, Saartjie Baartman, a Khosian woman who became known as the “Hottentot Venus” was put on exhibit in Europe as a freak of nature because of her greatly enlarged buttocks (due to a medical condition) and elongated labia, but also as a representative of black women’s supposedly freakish bodies. While alive, profits were made off of her exhibition, although she had to fight to receive a mere portion of the money being made off of her very flesh. Baartman died in 1815, yet her skeleton, brain and genitals remained on display in a Paris museum until 1974. Her remains were finally returned to South Africa in 2002.

Re: above illustration….Several prints dating from the early nineteenth century illustrate the sensation generated by the spectacle of “The Hottentot Venus.” A French print entitled “La Belle Hottentot,” for example, depicts the Khosian woman standing with her buttocks exposed on a box-like pedestal. Several figures bend straining for a better look, while a male figure at the far right of the image even holds his seeing-eye glass up to better behold the woman’s body. The European observers remark on the woman’s body: “Oh! God Damn what roast beef!” and “Ah! how comical is nature.”

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This is the transwoman whose beating by a Memphis cop was caught on tape. It is not surprising that this is not the only incident:

After the video leaves off, she was taken to a trauma center in Memphis (incidentally, the officer who beat her up was supposed to be the one to accompany her down there, but she objected to that). They didn’t want to treat her head wounds because they didn’t want to touch her weave, and she says she felt like they just didn’t want to touch her at all.

In all, she suffered from lacerations and contusions on her head, scarring and bruising on her side, and permanent nerve damage on the left wrist from the handcuffs.

After that, she was held in jail for several days until she could post bond.

All this, for what? Because she was presenting the wrong gender, had the wrong skin color, and walking down the wrong street?

Since the release of the video last week, Wells said that he received a “tremendous number” of phone calls from people who had gone through similar incidents, with McRae and other officers. Looking at the case history, he said that the department’s constant defense in the few cases that make it to trial is that this is just one bad cop.

Read more here.

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On June 12, 1963, 37 year old Medgar Evers was assassinated by Byron de la Beckworth in front of his (Evers’) home.

In this clip, Myrlie Evers recounts the night her husband was murdered.

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