Saturday, May 31st, 2008

Jena 6 :: Judge Recusal Delayed

From the Chicago Tribune:

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…

Click here for the rest.

posted by @ 3:44 pm | 0 Comments

Thursday, May 29th, 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.

Would that leaders were wise enough to follow their people.

posted by @ 4:02 pm | 1 Comment

Monday, May 26th, 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.

Judicial Bias

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.

In his motion to recuse Mauffray, David Utter of the Juvenile Justice Project of Louisiana and attorney for Jena defendant Jesse Ray Beard, outlined a pattern of judicial bias.

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 @ 11:43 pm | 0 Comments

Monday, May 26th, 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…

posted by @ 3:31 pm | 0 Comments

Sunday, May 25th, 2008

Adam Mansbach At Intersection For The Arts Tuesday Night!

Please join us Tuesday evening for an incredible event featuring Adam Mansbach at SF’s Intersection For The Arts. It’ll be an amazing event!

Here are the details:

A Reading Featuring Adam Mansbach with Jeff Chang and Dan Wolf

Tuesday May 27, 2008 at 7:30pm
$5-$15/sliding scale, general admission

Intersection for the Arts
446 Valencia Street (btwn 15/16)
Mission District SF CA 94103
(415) 626-2787

This evening features dynamic author Adam Mansbach (The End of the Jews: A Novel, Angry Black White Boy: A Novel) in conversation about hip-hop, literature and race with journalist & author Jeff Chang. Mansbach reads from his latest novel The End of the Jews: A Novel, and also features an Open Process presentation of Dan Wolf’s theatrical adaptation of Mansbach’s critically acclaimed bestseller Angry Black White Boy featuring Tommy Shepherd & Keith Pinto from the hip-hop band Felonious.

posted by @ 6:41 pm | 0 Comments

Wednesday, May 21st, 2008

McCain’s Moral Compass :: America Is A Bastion Against Islam

Rev. Jeremiah Wright has nothing on Rod Parsley…for real.

BTW, unlike John Hagee, McCain’s other problematic pastor, this “spiritual guide” hasn’t apologized, and most of the media has slept on all of this.

In other news, McCain’s media advisor Mark McKinnon made good on his promise to quit the campaign if Obama were the Democratic nominee. He stepped down from the campaign yesterday.

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.”

posted by @ 6:30 am | 1 Comment

Monday, May 19th, 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.

Worse, McCain has never apologized for his “I hate the gooks” comment. (Add that to his ongoing denial of his own pastor problem–even the pastor apologized, kinda–and you’ve got a pattern.)

So leave it to Def Slammer Beau Sia to rock the event with this rant. Too bad that by the time he got onstage most of the political operatives had left.

posted by @ 2:06 pm | 2 Comments

Monday, May 19th, 2008

Byron Hurt On Sean Bell

A day after Sean Bell’s birthday, on Malcolm X’s birthday…

posted by @ 7:47 am | 0 Comments

Wednesday, May 14th, 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.

But what if Hillary’s line is right?

Last month after the Pennsylvania caucus, I mentioned a Republican calculation that 15% of white voters would never vote for a Black man. Exit polls gave circumstantial confirmation.

Then came reports earlier this week of Obama canvassers confronting racists in the streets and on the phone.

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”.

Is there a racist gap? And if so, can Obama overcome it?

posted by @ 6:22 am | 7 Comments

Monday, May 12th, 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.

The whole piece is here.

Davey D pointed out this incident on Sunday in Los Angeles with eerie parallels to the Sean Bell’s murder. (Update here.)

The long hot summer hasn’t even begun…

posted by @ 2:35 pm | 2 Comments

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