November 28, 2013
By Princess Manasseh
LAWT Contributing Writer
Reverend Jesse Jackson celebrated his 72nd birthday Friday, November 22 with the help of his longtime friends and political allies Andrew Young, Maxine Waters, and Karen Bass.
More than a month after Jackson’s actual birthday – which falls on October 8 – the celebration for the past fifteen years has doubled as a Rainbow Push and Citizen Education fundraising event and awards dinner for Jackson’s non-profit organization.
Jackson arrived to the celebration directly from shooting the Arsenio Hall show.
Held at the Beverly Hilton Hotel, the celebration brought out hundreds of people; many personal friends, notables and supporters of his non-profit’s work.
Jackson’s eldest daughter, Santita served as mistress of ceremonies.
A variety of news clippings were played over the course of the program displaying highlights of Jackson’s work as a political activist, primarily highlighting his expertise in negotiating hostage situations. Jackson has freed political prisoners abroad on six different occasions, in each instance, acting without the support of the American government.
Taking no breaks from the fight against injustice, Jackson told the Sentinel on November 22 that currently his biggest concern is developing a comprehensive plan for reconstruction.
“The voting rights act is under threat again with streams of suppression,” he said, referring to the recent government shutdown.
“Those who close the doors of congress also want to close the door on access to voting.
“Secondly,” the Reverend continued, “poverty is a threat to us. We not only need affordable healthcare we also need affordable food, and drinkable water, and a job, a place to stay, and secure education.”
Jackson shared his birthday spotlight with eight community servants honored with awards during the gala.
Grammy Award-winning singer, Chaka Kahn was another celebrity attendee. Kahn took to the stage and sang happy birthday to her good friend Jackson followed by a crowd prompted performance of “My Funny Valentine.”
Tony Cornelius, son of the late Don Cornelius, was also a guest.
“Reverend Jackson has always been a family friend of ours. He’s also supported the Cornelius Family Foundation and I’ve always supported him as well. He and my father were very, very close.”
November 28, 2013
By D. Kevin McNeir
Special to the NNPA from The Miami Times
Attorneys for Marissa Alexander, 33, the Florida mother of three who has spent over 1,000 days in jail and was sentenced to 20 years in prison for firing a warning shot over the head of her allegedly abusive husband, have won a new trial for their client. Now they and Alexander are hopeful that a Jacksonville judge will grant her bond. Last September, the 1st District Court of Appeal ordered a new trial for Alexander, stating that the jury had received incorrect directions. A new trial has been set for March 31, 2014.
Alexander’s case garnered national attention after she was denied immunity under Florida’s Stand Your Ground law and was sentenced to a mandatory 20 years under the 10-20-Life statutes for discharging a firearm during certain felonies. She was charged with three counts of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon. The prosecution says that despite her claim that she was only firing a warning shot and that the bullet hit a wall and not the ceiling, that it could have killed her husband, Rico Gray or his children. Gray has two children, both of whom are now in his custody. The couple also has an infant child together. Her attorney was unable to provide information about the whereabouts of the youngest child and who is currently caring for the child.
In court last week, Bruce Zimmet, one of the lead attorneys for Alexander, argued that she poses no threat to society or to her husband with whom she is now finalizing a divorce.
“We were pleased that the appellate court reversed her conviction and allowed for a retrial,” Zimmet said. “We have already had part of the bond hearing and the judge has reserved ruling on bond until we file additional papers that reply to the state’s reply. The judge will then decide if bond should be granted. Of course Marissa wants to get home to her children and we believe that as she has no criminal record except this matter involving her husband, that she should be granted her freedom until the trial.”
Zimmet, a Fort Lauderdale attorney, has been a member of The Florida Bar since 1976 and is a former assistant U.S. attorney for the Southern District of Florida. He is joined by Mike Dowd, a New York-based pioneering attorney in the battered women’s movement. Both have taken on the case pro bono.
“After she was convicted and sentenced in 2012, I was asked to review the case and after looking at the transcript I believed our team could help this woman — a first offender who got a 20-year sentence.”
Alexander’s husband, Rico Gray, recently spoke to members of the media at the State Attorney’s Office in Jacksonville and explained how the events transpired in the August 2010 shooting. He claims it was his wife who first began punching him after he confronted her about texts she had sent to her ex-husband. He says that he was trying to take his two sons away from their home and was getting their things together when he made the remark that their newborn baby must have been fathered by her ex. That’s when he said she uttered several expletives, went to the garage to her truck and returned with her gun. After firing the weapon, he says he grabbed the children and ran.
November 21, 2013
By Kenneth D. Miller
Assistant Managing Editor
Keeping the tradition of what his 72-year life has been about, civil rights icon Rev. Jesse L. Jackson Sr. pledges to keep building and sharing when he celebrates his birthday at the Rainbow PUSH Coalition and Citizenship Education Fund Annual Awards Gala on Friday Nov. 22 at the Beverly Hilton Hotel.
“I thank God for my life, but my life is about building, building and sharing,” Rev. Jackson told the Sentinel this week.
People United to Serve Humanity (Operation PUSH) began operations on December 25, 1971 and was started by The Rev. Jackson to hold elected officials and corporations accountable on behalf of Blacks and other minorities.
“Right now the [number of] impoverished is growing,” he explained. “J.P. Morgan Chase is fined $14 billion instead of there being imprisonment, and the state of America and all I fought for is under attack. What’s happening is devastating. The impact of cutting Medicaid, food stamps and the unemployment rate is still to high.”
Moreover, Jackson said he is disturbed by the impact of Parent Plus Loans being cut and the cutting of Pell Grants.
“Morehouse College has had to close dorms because of a lack of students.”
Asked who should be held accountable, The Rev. Jackson emphatically concluded;
“The (president) Administration has to prioritize and it must address these tremendous loss.”
Jackson who unsuccessfully ran for president in 1984 turned 72 on October 8, is using the platform of his national civil rights organization to not only celebrate his life, but to also continue his fight for equality and social justice.
Significantly, the reverend just returned from meaningful visits to Nigeria, South Africa, and Brazil, addressing the critical issues facing the African Diaspora, and drawing links to the plight of African- Americans at home.
This year also marks critical landmark struggles in the U.S., from the fight to protect the Voting Rights Act from the regressive Supreme Court decision, to commemorating the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington and the Church bombings in Birmingham, to critical movements to protect the Affordable Care Act from the current onslaught in Congress.
Honorees at this year’s gala include: Lysa Heslov, founder and executive director of Children Mending Hearts; Robin Bronk, CEO, The Creative Coalition; Steve McKeever, music producer and CEO of Hidden Beach Records; Lester McKeever, principal of Washington, Pittman and McKeever; Andrew Young, former US Ambassador to the UN; Rev. Joseph Bryant, senior pastor, Calvary Hill Community Church; Jeffrey David Cox, Sr., National President, American Federation of Government Employees/AFL-CIO; Thomas Saenz, president and General Counsel, MALDEF.
Musical performances include Jin Jin Reevs and Hitzville.
Proceeds from the gala celebration are being directed to a commitment to providing scholarships for students across the country, to expand their higher education opportunities.
Keep up with Rev. Jackson and the work of the Rainbow PUSH Coalition at www.rainbowpush.org.
November 28, 2013
By Herb Boyd
Special to the NNPA
Three of the last Scottsboro Boys, African American youths falsely accused of raping two White women in 1931, were granted posthumous pardons by the Alabama Board of Pardons and Paroles.
“The long overdue pardon of the African American young men unjustly charged with rape in Alabama decades ago comes too late to provide any comfort to them, but at least will officially clear their names,” said Dennis Parker, director of the ACLU’s Racial Justice Program. “We must recognize this as an opportunity to demonstrate the corrosive, unjust associations between criminality and race prevalent in the early 20th century and sadly, too much with us today.”
For years, the incident involving nine Black youths traveling on a train from Chattanooga, Tenn. to Scottsboro, Ala. and looking for work, encountered a gang of White youths on the train.
“The trouble began when three or four white boys crossed over the oil tanker that four of us colored fellows from Chattanooga were in,” wrote Haywood Patterson in his book “Scottsboro Boy,” co-authored with Earl Conrad. “One of the white boys, he stepped on my hand and liked to have knocked me off the train,” Patterson continued. “I didn’t say anything then, but the same guy, he brushed by me again and liked to have pushed me off the car. I caught hold of the side of the tanker to keep from falling off.”
After a series of epithets from the White boys, a melee ensued, and the Black boys got the best of the White boys, tossing them from the train. Angered by the defeat, they hurried to the next station, reported the altercation and alerted the sheriff at Scottsboro.
Unbeknownst to the Black boys, there were two White girls, dressed like boys, hoboing on the train. When the train pulled into the station, the White girls, afraid of being arrested from hopping the train, claimed they had been raped.
All of them – Patterson, Roy Wright and his brother, Andy, Eugene Williams, Olen Montgomery, Willie Roberson, Clarence Norris, Charlie Weems, and Ozie Powell – were arrested and taken to jail.
Thus began their long ordeal, making them a cause celebre for years and commanding the attention of the NAACP and the International Labor Defense.
“Starting with the arrest of nine black men and boys on fabricated and completely contradictory allegations of the rape of two white women, the case proceeded through a serious of rushed and unfair trials,” Parker wrote. “The defendants were represented by counsel wholly unfamiliar with criminal defense work and unable to conduct even the most basic investigations. The jury deciding the case completely excluded African Americans and their deliberations were conducted under the very real threat of the lynching of the defendants.
“Although the alleged victims [Ruby Bates and Victoria Price] ultimately recanted their stories and admitted that their allegations of rape were complete fabrications, all of the men were convicted and all but one [13-year-old Roy Wright] sentenced to death. During the case, seemingly every ugly stereotype appeared, from the depiction of the criminally rapacious black male intent on ravishing white women to the attacks on the counsel who ultimately took on the case on remand as meddling, communistic Jewish lawyers from New York.”
In the succeeding years, the case was tried three times and eventually charges were dropped for four of the defendants. All but two of them served prison sentences. One was shot in prison by a guard. Two escaped, were charged with crimes, and were returned to prison.
Patterson escaped from prison in 1948 and two years later wrote his book before being snared again by the law. The governor of Michigan, however, refused to have him extradited to Alabama. Later, during a bar fight, he stabbed a man and was convicted of manslaughter. He died of cancer while serving a second sentence in 1952.
In 1946, Clarence Norris, the oldest of the defendants and the only one sentenced to death, and upon being paroled, he went into hiding. Gov. George C. Wallace pardoned him in 1976 and he authored an autobiography in 1979. He died in 1989, the last survivor of the Scottsboro Boys.
November 21, 2013
By Freddie Allen
NNPA Washington Correspondent
WASHINGTON (NNPA) – When lawmakers ratified the 15th Amendment in 1870, protecting voting rights for Blacks, opponents of the law lashed out, violently at times, employing literacy tests, poll taxes, and fraud in an effort to disenfranchise the new voters. It would be nearly 100 years before the Voting Rights Act of 1965 outlawed many of those practices, ushering in a “new era in American democracy.”
A recent report by the Economic Policy Institute, a Washington, D.C.-based think tank focused on the economic conditions of low- and middle income families, chronicles past struggles and highlight current roadblocks that attempt to dilute the Black vote.
The report titled, “Voting Rights at a Crossroads” is the latest in the Unfinished March series that looks at the ambitious goals of the 1963 March on Washington and the work that is still needed to accomplish those goals.
According to the report, just one year before the historic march less than 30 percent of voting-aged Blacks were registered to vote in 11 states in the south, where most Blacks lived. A year later, Blacks still faced significant hardships exercising their right to vote.
“In 1964, in the five southern states of Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi, North Carolina, and South Carolina, only 22.5 percent of voting-age African Americans were registered to vote,” stated the report. “Particularly troubling, in Mississippi, only 5.1 percent of voting-age African Americans were registered, compared with 94.9 percent of whites.”
The abysmal voter registration record for Blacks was due largely in part to the discrimination that Blacks faced, often at the hands of state and local officials.
Despite a number of federal laws crafted to bolster voter protections under the 15th amendment, state and local officials continued a concerted effort to prevent Blacks from voting, including limiting or changing the registration period, requiring Blacks to get references from Whites to register, literacy tests and poll taxes.
When poor Whites complained about some of the laws that limited their voting rights, many states passed “grandfather” clauses that allowed White citizens, who were eligible to vote before the restrictive laws were passed, to continue to vote. The grandfather clauses extended to their descendants and excluded Blacks.
The report said that the success of the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom inspired civil rights leaders to push for better voting protections under the law.
“The idea appealed to the civil rights leaders of the day, and the resulting March for Jobs and Freedom refueled the civil rights movement’s resolve to pass a voting rights law that delivered on the promise of voting rights for all,” stated the report. “The over 200,000 marchers who converged on the mall in Washington, D.C., were fully aware that the right to vote was inextricably tied to overcoming the socioeconomic problems they endured.”
The report continued: “Their determined campaign resulted in the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965, seminal pieces of legislation that transformed American democracy.”
The Voting Rights Act of 1965 changed the political landscape and voting in the United States in ways that the 15th amendment couldn’t. It banned the use of “tests and devices” with Section 2 and installed federal voting officials and observers at polling places.
“The Voting Rights Act also contains temporary provisions, including the Section 4 coverage formula and the Section 5 “preclearance provision,” which required that jurisdictions with a history of discrimination (as determined by a “coverage formula”) obtain federal approval before implementing any voting change. At first the coverage formula applied to Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina, Virginia, and 40 counties in North Carolina,” stated the report.
For decades state and local jurisdictions with the most egregious voting rights violations were forced to pre-clear changes in voting laws. Black voter registration grew. Now nearly 70 percent of voting-aged Blacks are registered. In the 2012 presidential election, Black voter turnout topped White voter turnout for the first time in our nation’s history. More than 66 percent of eligible Black voters went to the polls compared to about 64 percent of registered White voters.
The Supreme Court decision in Shelby v. Holder cleared the path for Republican state legislators to pass new laws that threaten to disenfranchise minority voters. When the Supreme Court stripped section 4 of the Voting Right’s Act of 1965, effectively ending protections that voters had under section 5, voters were left virtually to fend for themselves, as politicians launched voting laws restrictive voting laws making it tougher for the young, the old, the poor and minorities to vote.
According to the report, “North Carolina’s legislature passed laws that restricted the types of photo identification used in order to vote, shortened early voting, ended same-day voter registration, and prohibited preregistration that allowed high school students to register to vote before their 18th birthday.”
Many southern states led by GOP lawmakers have launched voter ID laws to fight non-existent voter fraud.
“The most common example of the harm wrought by imprecise and inflated claims of ‘voter fraud’ is the call for in-person photo identification requirements. Such photo ID laws are effective only in preventing individuals from impersonating other voters at the poll – an occurrence more rare than getting struck by lightning,” stated the Brennan Center report.
In Florida, state lawmakers “reinstated a program to purge voters,” a faulty program that was blocked by earlier lawsuits.
The report called on citizens to contact members of Congress and to urge them to pass new legislation that would restore section 4 of the VRA and reinvigorate the voter protections under section 5.
“The civil rights community and the public must now apply a heightened level of vigilance to ensure that the gains of the past 50 years are not lost, and to continue the historic trajectory of ensuring access to the ballot for all eligible voters,” stated the report.
The report continued: “Citizens must become engaged in their communities and ensure that their elected officials are aware that they are being watched and that attempts to roll back hard-fought gains will not be tolerated.”