New Trial for Marissa Alexander and Call to Action

Marissa Alexander

Marissa Alexander

From the Free Marissa Now Mobilization Campaign:

Dear advocates and activists for justice,

Yesterday’s thrilling overturn of the guilty verdict against Marissa Alexander put the onus on Florida State Prosecutor Angela Corey to either try Marissa again or drop the case. We say drop the case!  Stop this cruel and unforgivable vendetta against a mother of three who did no wrong, but defended her life by taking the only action she felt possible. Stop using taxpayer money to hound and harass a domestic violence survivor.

 

The state of Florida has until October 16 to refile charges against Marissa. We need to put the pressure on now to convince Prosecutor Corey not to do it. Marissa has already spent three years apart from her children and family. Her life has been changed forever by the state’s vicious Mandatory Minimum sentencing and its cold insensitivity to the realities of the sufferings of abused women.

Join the Free Marissa Now conference call tomorrow, Saturday, Sept. 28 to brainstorm our strategy for a massive international campaign to get this case dismissed now. What about a national call-in day, a new petition, letter writing campaigns, and media outreach? What other ideas do you have? How would you like to take part? How can the Drop the Case demand be worked into other organizing you are doing? Let’s talk — and then let’s act!

Date: Saturday, September 28

Time:   3:30pm Pacific Time
6:30pm Eastern Time

Call-in: 1-646-307-1300

 

Code: 633883#

 

National Action to Persuade the State to Drop the Case!

 

The Trouble with Those Atheists

WLP STEM & Humanities Scholars 2012-2014

WLP STEM & Humanities Scholars 2012-2014

By Sikivu Hutchinson

Until it was revived by the activist-minded Benjamin Jealous, the NAACP was widely viewed as a staid throwback coasting on the glory of the civil rights movement.  Under Jealous’ leadership, the organization set out to demonstrate its political relevance, ramping up campaigns around mass incarceration, the death penalty, voter suppression and marriage equality.  Predictably, these initiatives often drew on its strong ties to the African American faith community.  A few months ago, I attended a local NAACP community service awards lunch where these ties were on vivid display.  My mother, activist educator Yvonne Divans Hutchinson, was among the recipients.  The honorees read like a roll call of educated, accomplished black America—a pioneering judge who is the granddaughter of slaves, an esteemed choreographer who’d been turned down for admission to UCLA, an activist teacher whose groundbreaking pedagogy challenged institutional racism and discrimination in Los Angeles public schools.  Most of the women who spoke at the event offered moving counter-narratives to the marginalization of the “everyday/ordinary” activism of women of color.  Each told tales of low expectations fiercely debunked.  Coming on the heels of a Women’s History seminar I’d conducted with my students, the lunch was a welcome antidote to mainstream fixation on Rosa Parks as the only example of black feminist activism.  Nonetheless, my mother appeared to be the only humanist being honored, as many recipients gushed about god and “his” guidance.  Some elicited rapturous call and response “amens” and “that’s rights” with every reference to the Lord’s supposedly divine inspiration.  Several of the women’s biographies cited deep involvement in their churches.  A recurring theme was the paramount importance of education.  Through their church leadership these primarily Baby Boomer generation women supported youth groups, spotlighted juvenile justice issues, provided scholarship assistance, spearheaded tutoring programs, developed college financial aid resources, mentored foster care youth and gave legal aid counseling.  The performance of religious fervor reconfirmed what I’d already known about black women’s organizing—namely, that social justice through faith-based communities was still the foundation for not just activism, but identity, self-affirmation and self-determination.

In an article on black non-believers in Orlando, Florida, the white head of an atheist organization expressed surprise that black atheists didn’t embrace his organization with open arms.  For white folk, centuries of racial apartheid, de facto segregation, and white supremacy in education, housing, employment and the criminal justice system are a source of “invisible” power, privilege, advantage and identity.  Nonetheless, many white atheists believe non-believers of color should just be able to roll in any environment, regardless of whether the local research university employs more black service workers than it enrolls black students or whether white families have fled public schools for elite charters and private academies. [Read more...]

Why I’m not a fan of “Jesus shaming” the Republicans

by Frederick Sparks

In the wake of Republicans in the House of Representatives voting to cut the food stamp program by $39 billion, I’ve seen a lot of memes attempting to point out the hypocrisy of Republicans, who so explicitly embrace Christian religiosity on the campaign trial, yet seem at odds with the liberal socialist progressive Jesus of the gospels when it comes to their position on government spending for social safety net programs.  I have a negative reaction to this meme (especially coming from fellow skeptics), not just because I think it may misrepresent the character of Jesus that emerges from the biblical text but also because I ultimately find it to be an ineffective argument.

For one, I do not take Jesus’ admonition to give everything you have to the poor as a call for socialist wealth redistribution, but as a call to a life of religious asceticism by an eschatological preacher who saw the end as nigh.  I mean, this is the same Jesus who told a parable in which a servant who refuses to enrich his unjust master is the bad guy. And yes, I understand that the point of a parable is the not the explicit story, but the implicit message. Still, I think the choice of the explicit story matters.

Jesus also blithely asserted that “the poor will always be with you” (a repeat of Deuteronomy 15:11 by the way). If there is anything that progressive political philosophies have in common, I would think it is the idea that poverty can be eradicated, even if it involves the overhaul or overthrow of a current economic system that seems to necessitate a poor class.

But of course the inconsistent gospel narratives complicate any definite assertions about Jesus’ character and philosophy.  The larger issue is that I’m not sure how this argument will effect changes behavior, if that is the point.  For one, it seems to assume that bible quoting politicians actually sincerely believe what they say, a dubious assumption to say the least. Also, if the attempt is the change the mind of voters who have supported these politicians, I doubt if this will cut it.  Those who vote against their own economic interest have demonstrated their obdurate voting nature, particularly given the fact that food stamp usage increased in counties carried by Romney in 2012.

But also, conservatives already have a counter to the argument that they are not being “Christlike” with respect to the poor.  Jesus didn’t say the GOVERNMENT needed to feed the poor.  Republicans are not (supposedly) against charity, they just think it should be performed by churches and private individuals.

We have far more recent and coherent sources and justifications to argue for a progressive compassionate approach towards the less fortunate.  More time should be spend on articulating those arguments, not arguments based on the inconsistent bronze age book of mythology.

 

The War Against Black Children

 kingdrew boys

By Sikivu Hutchinson

In a predominantly Black South L.A. continuation school class packed with eleventh and twelfth grade girls, only half want to go to college, few can name role models of color and virtually none have been exposed to literature by women of color.  Demonized as the most expendable of the expendable, Black continuation school students are routinely branded as too “at risk”, “challenged” and “deficit-laden” to be “college material”.  Coming from backgrounds of abuse, incarceration, foster care and homelessness, these youth are already written off as budding welfare queens and baby mamas.  They are at the epicenter of the war against Black children. 

State-sanctioned terrorism against Black children is commonly understood as murder, harassment, and racial profiling–overt acts of violence which elicit marches, pickets, mass resistance and moral outrage.  Last week, Republicans and Democrats alike fell all over themselves to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the tragic murder of four African American girls in the 16th Street Church bombing in Birmingham, Alabama.  Such overt acts of organized white supremacist terrorism against Black children have largely receded.  Instead, they have been replaced by the socially acceptable state violence of school-to-prison pipelining, racist low expectations and the illusion of equal educational opportunity in the “post Jim Crow” era of re-segregated schools.

 Last spring, in an offensive commencement speech to Morehouse College graduates, President Obama launched into his standard refrain about personal responsibility, sagging pants and absent fathers.  Checking shiftless Black youth has long been one of his favorite presidential past-times.  As progressive Black pundits have noted, this narrative not only plays well in Peoria, but on the global stage.  For a nation brainwashed into believing the U.S. is an exceptionalist beacon, the underachievement of black students has become both shorthand for and explanation of its low standing in academic rankings.  According to this view, the achievement gap between (lazy) Black and (enterprising) white and Asian students “drags” down the U.S.’ global academic standing.  Steeped in a culture of pathology, native-born African American youth “squander” the opportunities seized upon by newly arrived immigrant students of color.

 As a 2013 high school graduate and first generation college student of mixed heritage, Ashley Jones is well acquainted with toxic anti-black propaganda.  She says, “Being Black and Thai…if I do well on a test or in class, then some people will comment, ‘that’s your Asian side.’”  Jones comes from a South L.A. school where it is not uncommon for teachers to reflexively track students into college prep, honors and Advanced Placement (AP) classes according to race and ethnicity.  She comments, “If you were to ask these same people about race, they would tell you we are all equal and anyone can achieve anything they set their mind to, but when you listen to them talk at nutrition and lunch, you hear Blackness constantly associated with violence,  ‘being ghetto’, and a lack of intellectual abilities.” A recent L.A. Times article about Kashawn Campbell, a high-achieving African American graduate of South L.A.’s Jefferson High School who struggled to get C’s and D’s at UC Berkeley, exemplifies these sentiments.  The over 700 responses on the article’s comment thread were relentless: the young man’s plight was due to inflated expectations, laziness, outright sloth, and the natural intellectual inferiority of African Americans.  Even the National Review picked up the piece and dubbed it an example of a “Devastating Affirmative Action Failure.” Why, many commenters howled contemptuously, didn’t Campbell’s slot go to a “real” achiever, i.e., a hardworking Asian or white student who genuinely deserved it? Missing from the near universal condemnations of affirmative action was the fact that Campbell’s freshman performance at UC Berkeley reflects the deficits of a neo-liberal public education system in which even high achieving students of color may be grossly under-prepared [Read more...]