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North Carolina governor pardons 'Wilmington 10'
Benjamin Chavis speaks at a news conference in 1978 the day after Gov. Jim Hunt reduced the sentences of the Wilmington 10.
December 31st, 2012
08:03 PM ET

North Carolina governor pardons 'Wilmington 10'

By Steve Almasy, CNN

(CNN) - Forty years after they were convicted by a jury of firebombing a grocery store in Wilmington, North Carolina, civil rights activists who became known as the "Wilmington 10" were pardoned Monday by the state's outgoing governor.

"These convictions were tainted by naked racism and represent an ugly stain on North Carolina's criminal justice system that cannot be allowed to stand any longer," said Gov. Beverly Purdue. "Justice demands that this stain finally be removed."

In 1972, nine black men and one white woman were convicted in the store firebombing in the coastal city despite their claims of innocence and their supporters' vehement argument that the defendants were victims of racially biased prosecutors.

Their sentences were reduced in 1978 by the state's governor then, Jim Hunt, and two years later their convictions were overturned in federal court for reasons of misconduct by the prosecutors.

But until Monday there were no pardons, and the sting of the guilty verdicts still followed the six surviving members of the group that was known nationwide as the Wilmington 10.

Perdue said that among the key evidence that led her to grant pardons of innocence were recently discovered notes from the prosecutor who picked the jury. The notes showed the prosecutor preferred white jurors who might be members of the Ku Klux Klan and one black juror was described as an "Uncle Tom type."

Perdue also pointed to the federal court's ruling that the prosecutor knew his star witness lied on the witness stand. That witness and other witnesses recanted a few years after the trial.

Timothy Taylor, a North Carolina historian and a visiting professor at Duke University, said he was given the notes two years ago and started to go through them recently when the NAACP called again for pardons for the Wilmington 10.

"It was pretty shocking stuff," he told CNN on Monday.

FULL STORY
December 4th, 2012
12:23 PM ET

Opinion: Shoes a start, but homeless need far more

Editor's note:: Frida Ghitis is a world affairs columnist for The Miami Herald and World Politics Review. A former CNN producer and correspondent, she is the author of "The End of Revolution: A Changing World in the Age of Live Television." Follow her on Twitter: @FridaGColumns.

By Frida Ghitis, Special to CNN

(CNN) - Americans love a hero. Everybody does. So who could resist the touching story of the New York policeman who, seeing a homeless man sitting barefoot in the cold, walked into a shoe store and bought him a new pair of all-weather boots?

The picture of clean-cut Officer Larry DePrimo kneeling before bearded, straggly Jeffrey Hillman became an Internet sensation. More than 1.6 million people saw it in the first 24 hours after the New York Police Department posted the image, which was snapped by a tourist.

Chapter 1 of this story moved millions to shed a tear, and one hopes it inspired countless acts of kindness.

Now, we have Chapter 2. And it should move us even more.

Hillman, who became much less famous than his benefactor, is barefoot once again.

Indeed, while DePrimo deservedly received accolades and media attention, we heard almost nothing about the homeless man; there was never any reason to believe his fortunes had improved. After providing protection for his blistered feet, society simply moved on, happy to pat itself on the back for a job well done - and just in time for Christmas.

Read Frida Ghitis' full column
November 28th, 2012
09:26 AM ET

Shooting of Florida teen is no Trayvon Martin case, attorney says

By Tristan Smith, CNN

(CNN) - The attorney for a Florida man who shot at a car of teens over the weekend, killing one, says the incident bears no resemblance to the Trayvon Martin case.

Her client, Michael Dunn, is no "vigilante" but did feel threatened and shot out of "self defense," the attorney said.

"There are no comparisons to the Trayvon Martin situation," said Robin Lemonidis, Dunn's attorney. "He is devastated and horrified by the death of the teen."

Dunn, 45, was denied bond Monday on a murder charge stemming from the weekend shooting in Jacksonville. The violence was sparked by a confrontation about loud music at a gas station, the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office said.

Dunn told authorities that he had asked the teens to turn down the blaring music from their vehicle adjacent to his, as he waited for his girlfriend to return to the car.

He heard threats from the teens, Dunn told police, he felt threatened and thought he saw a gun in the teens' car. He grabbed his gun and fired at least eight shots, authorities said.

Seventeen-year-old Jordan Davis, among the teens, was killed. There were no guns found inside the teens' car, the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office said.

Ron Davis, the victim's father, said he is devastated and doesn't believe the shooting was self defense.

FULL STORY
U.S. finalizes $3.4 billion settlement with American Indians
The late Elouise Cobell, right, watches as Interior Secretary Ken Salazar testifies during a Senate Indian Affairs Committee hearing in 2009.
November 27th, 2012
08:37 AM ET

U.S. finalizes $3.4 billion settlement with American Indians

By the CNN Wire Staff

(CNN) - Thousands of American Indians are now in line to receive part of a $3.4 billion settlement with the federal government, ending a long-running dispute over government mismanagement of tribal lands and accounts.

After an initial agreement was outlined in 2009, Congress approved it in November 2010 and it spent the last two years going through an appeals process. It was finalized Saturday, with government officials announcing and touting it on Monday.

"I welcome the final approval of the Cobell settlement agreement, clearing the way for reconciliation between the trust beneficiaries and the federal government," President Barack Obama said in a statement. The settlement is named after the late Elouise Cobell, a member of Montana's Blackfeet Indian tribe.

The deal follows a class-action lawsuit, filed in 1996, which accused the U.S. Department of the Interior of failing to account for and provide revenue from a trust fund representing the value of Indian assets managed by the government.

The missing funds at the center of the class-action case involve what are called Individual Indian Money accounts, which are supposed to represent the property of individual Indians. The accounts are held by the United States as trustee.

The lawsuit had accused the government of failing to account for the money, failing to make proper payments, and converting tribal money for the government's own use.

FULL STORY
Social justice crusader takes on election
November 3rd, 2012
06:40 AM ET

Civil rights icon fighting for change one registered voter at a time

This is the last in an occasional series on issues of race, identity and politics ahead of Election Day, including a look at the optics of politics, a white Southern Democrat fighting for survival and how parallels to the past haunt the age of Obama.

By Jen Christensen, CNN

San Francisco (CNN) - To call the Rev. Amos C. Brown a veteran of the civil rights movement is an understatement.

He was just 15 when he met the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. in San Francisco after being driven cross-country by Mississippi activist Medgar Evers.

He was one of eight students handpicked to take the only college class King ever taught. He and King were arrested during a lunch-counter sit-in at a nearby downtown Atlanta department store. He also was one of the famed Freedom Riders who blazed a trail through the Deep South.

At 71 and slowed by a stroke, Brown could be satisfied as senior pastor to his 3,000-strong flock at Third Baptist Church of San Francisco, the Bay Area's version of King's Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta.

Instead, he has been working behind the scenes - praying with President Barack Obama before his second debate - as well as working on the front lines, trying to register as many African-Americans as possible ahead of Tuesday's election.

His goal: to strengthen his community's political voice, fight against what he perceives as efforts to diminish that voice and keep the country's first black president in office. FULL POST

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Filed under: 2012 Election • Black in America • Discrimination • History • Politics • Race • Social justice • Where we live
 Culture not a costume posters
October 29th, 2012
09:31 AM ET

In debate over offensive Halloween costumes, where's the line?

By Emanuella Grinberg, CNN

(CNN) - They're familiar characters in the debate over controversial Halloween costumes: suicide bombers, geishas, gangsta rappers, rednecks and sexy nurses.

Such costumes regularly draw allegations of racism, sexism or insensitivity. But where do fully-clothed folk legends fit in?

American Apparel featured characters on both ends of the spectrum this month in its annual do-it-yourself Halloween costume guide. Below a collection of pin-up girl costumes - including a model donning a breast-baring serape - was "La Llorona," the ghostly weeping woman who kidnaps wandering children, according to folklore in parts of Latin America.

True, she was wearing a lace bustier under a shawl, but the layers upon layers make her appear more like the haunted bag lady than a sexy spirit.

Read: Sexy Little Geisha?' Not so much, say many Asian-Americans

It's the folk legend's cultural significance - and the lack of skin, save an inch of midriff - that, for some, make this costume more acceptable than sexy señoritas or Mexican tequila guy.

"One is mythology, and the other is a stereotype that comes with a lot of baggage," said feminist blogger Veronica Arreola, assistant director of the Center for Research on Women and Gender at University of Illinois at Chicago.

Read the full story

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Filed under: Discrimination • Ethnicity • How we live • Pop culture • Race • Social justice
Faces of discrimination
October 15th, 2012
08:58 AM ET

Shining light on Emory's 'reign of terror' prompts healing - and, for one man, questions

By Jessica Ravitz, CNN

Atlanta (CNN) – Sixteen years after Susan Shulman Tessel lost her father, she sat on a Southern college campus Wednesday night and couldn't stop thinking about him. Surrounded by hundreds in a packed ballroom, she cried because he was missing. He should have been there with her and her mother. He deserved to be.

The late Irving Shulman was the only Jewish man to enter Emory University’s School of Dentistry in 1948. That was the same year someone else came to the school: the newly appointed dean, John E. Buhler.

After one academic year, Shulman flunked out. Buhler stayed on for 13 years, leading what some Jewish students would refer to as a “reign of terror.” Between 1948 and 1961, when Buhler left, 65% of Jewish students either failed out or were forced to repeat up to two years of coursework in the four-year program.

Those who lasted often paid. There were insults from professors such as “dirty Jew,” accusations by faculty of cheating and questions from the dean like, “Why do you Jews want to be dentists? You don't have it in your hands.”

Tessel's dad earned the distinction of being the first who failed.

Read the full story on CNN's Belief blog
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Filed under: Discrimination • Education • Social justice • Who we are
Justice Department OKs New Hampshire voter ID law
The Justice Department approved a law requiring New Hampshire voters to provide photo ID at the polls.
September 5th, 2012
08:00 PM ET

Justice Department OKs New Hampshire voter ID law

By Terry Frieden, CNN Justice Producer

Washington (CNN) - The Justice Department has approved a law that calls for New Hampshire voters to provide photo identification when they go to the polls.

Approval of the law, which requires the use of government-issued photos, was announced in a letter from T. Christian Herren Jr., head of the Voting Section in the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division, sent to attorneys for the state Tuesday.

Political observers consider New Hampshire important because it is a battleground state, where the race between President Obama and Republican nominee Mitt Romney is expected to be close.

Under the new law, which is being phased in over a year, voters who do not have photo identification at the polls will still be allowed to vote after executing what the state calls a challenged voter affidavit. Voters who fill out the affidavit will receive a letter requesting confirmation of voting. If there is no response within a month, the state may investigate to determine if voting fraud occurred. After September 1, 2013, voters must have photo identification.

Read the full post


Filed under: 2012 Election • Politics • Social justice • Where we live
September 3rd, 2012
01:58 PM ET

From detention cells to the stage

By Jamie Gumbrecht, CNN

(CNN) - It starts at the mall, with a girl in a pink dress, browsing alone.

"Why is she at the mall?" a teen behind her sputters. "She ain't got no money."

Mona Lisa hears it. It's not the first time she's been picked on. She argues a little, tries to ignore them, but they bump into her and call her names. She wants to run, wants to be strong, wants all this to just go away.

At home later, the phone rings: "I just wanted to tell you, you should kill yourself," a voice cackles. "You're ugly and nobody will ever love you."

After a day like this, Mona Lisa believes what she's hearing. She grabs a handful of pills and climbs out the window. With voices in her head yelling louder and louder, she jumps.

Actress Alexis Lee crumples to the floor. The jump isn't real, the dress is a costume, the play is fiction, at least at the moment. But Mona Lisa and Alexis aren't so different. At 17, Alexis has been bullied and teased, been made to feel ugly, like she's nothing. She moved to escape terrible situations, only to be delivered into worse circumstances. She's got scars from where she cut herself, memories from when she tried to kill herself.

"The only way to have some peace for me is to not be here," she remembers thinking.

Alexis didn't write the play, called "Deep Within." That work was done by Noemi, Sabrina and Velicia, girls who lived, at least for a little while, in a juvenile detention center in Georgia. They participated in Playmaking for Girls, a theater workshop created by Atlanta nonprofit Synchronicity Theatre to encourage incarcerated girls to tell their stories and find their own voices.

Alexis knows only their first names, but she knows kids in detention centers do not usually talk about bullying, or suicide, what they were feeling at their worst or how they're going to get better.

"The majority of them probably don't have that outlet to speak and express on how they feel based on what's been going on in their lives, who did them wrong, and this is their chance," Alexis says.

She knows because she's been there, too.

'Not a 30-second sound bite'

A few times a year, Rachel May and Susie Spear Purcell walk into a room of 20 girls who won't talk, won't make eye contact and can't be bothered with theater games or fairy tales. The directors have two days to cajole them to write short plays and act them out.

Their message is consistent: We care about you, and it's important for people to hear what you have to say. Your story matters.

Read the full story

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Filed under: Age • Girls • How we live • Social justice • Who we are
A look back: The March on Washington
The civil rights leader Martin Luther KIng (C) waves to supporters on the Mall during the 'March on Washington'.
August 28th, 2012
06:36 PM ET

A look back: The March on Washington

(TIME) - So many scenes from the August 28, 1963 March on Washington are today so familiar — and the cadence of Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech is so much a part of the national consciousness — it’s easy forget that for the hundreds of thousands of people who marched, the event was wholly, thrillingly new. There had been, of course, other civil rights protests, marches and demonstrations. But none had been so large (estimates range anywhere from 200,000 to 300,00 people) and none garnered so much attention before, during and, especially, after the event itself.

[See the Lightbox feature on photographs of MLK murals across the United States.]

The landmark 1957 Prayer Pilgrimage for Freedom, for example, which also took place in the nation’s capital, had shown everyone — segregationists and civil rights proponents, alike — that large, peaceable rallies in the heart of Washington were not only possible, but in fact were necessary if the movement was ever going to achieve its central, early goals of desegregation and voting rights reform.

But the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom was on a scale so much larger than anything that had come before that it is rightly recalled as a touchstone moment: a single event so significant that the history of the movement can, in a sense, be measured in terms of Before the March, and After the March. The day, meanwhile, is remembered almost exclusively for MLK’s “Dream” speech, famously delivered to the throngs from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. (“I Have a Dream” itself was, in a way, a work in progress; King had delivered a speech to 25,000 people in Detroit several months before, for example, that included several sections and phrases that he would include, verbatim, in his magisterial address in August 1963.)

See the pictures from the March

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