Jan 31 2013

Tomorrow: Flowers for the Fallen – Response to Police Attack at U Chicago Trauma Center Protest

Vigil against U of C violence draws parallels between violence of denying health care, attacking protesters

WHAT: “Flowers for the fallen” vigil in response to last Sunday’s U of C attack on protesters demanding south side trauma center
WHEN: Friday February 1st, 2013 – 12:30pm
WHERE: Start at Harper Library 1116 E 59th St (North doors inside quad), march to administration building at 58th and Ellis

WHO: Fearless Leading by the Youth and Students for Health Equity + supporters from community and campus

The Facebook event is here


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Jan 31 2013

Before the Central Park Five, There Were the Groveland Four…

With the recent release of the documentary about the Central Park Five, more people are talking about the case. I’ve previously written about my personal reflections on the case as a native New Yorker and as a young woman at the time.

Decades before the Central Park Five, four young black men were falsely accused of raping a 17 year old white woman in Florida. The story is powerfully recounted in a book that I have referenced a couple of times on this blog titled “Devil in the Grove” by Gilbert King.

Norma Lee Padgett got on the witness stand and pointed her finger at the three young black men seated across from her:

“…the nigger Shepherd, the nigger Irvin…the nigger Greenlee.”

Padgett was accusing these young men of raping her. With her words, she set in motion a massive injustice that would bring Thurgood Marshall to a small Florida town called Groveland in 1949.

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Jan 30 2013

I Don’t Want to Write Another Word About Chris Brown…

But my teenage goddaughter has questions… and Brown is unfortunately in the news again.

In an e-mail a few weeks ago, she asked for my thoughts about a protest of Chris Brown in Sweden. The Huffington Post described it as follows:

Chris Brown is scheduled to perform in Stockholm, Sweden on Nov. 19, but he shouldn’t expect a warm welcome.

Posters that feature the singer’s ex-girlfriend Rihanna’s battered face have been plastered around Stockholm, protesting the singer’s concert, according to the Swedish website Ajour.se.

Below is an image of the poster:

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Jan 29 2013

The Drug War: Still Racist and Failed #6

John Legend talks about his new music video that dramatizes the drug war:

Jan 27 2013

Peaceful Protesters Are Violently Arrested For Demanding Access to Healthcare

UPDATES: You can hear Toussaint & Alex speaking for themselves this morning in this WGN-TV report The University of Chicago has issued a statement on the arrests.

Several friends and allies were arrested this afternoon/evening as they protested at the new University of Chicago Hospital. Below is a photo of my friend Toussaint being roughly handled by police:

Toussaint being roughly treated by the police (1/27/13, Chicago)

Toussaint being roughly treated by the police (1/27/13, Chicago)

The Chicago Tribune reports:

Protesters marched into the University of Chicago’s new $700-million hospital unannounced on Sunday, shouting and holding handmade signs demanding an adult trauma care center for the city’s South Side.

Ultimately, four people were arrested at the scene, including a 17-year-old student at King College Prep High School.

The protesters staged the sit-in to call attention to the fact that the South Side has no trauma care centers that can treat adults for injuries sustained in shootings, stabbings, car accidents and other traumatic incidents. The U of C’s medical center only admits trauma victims up to age 16.

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Jan 27 2013

Image of the Day: Police in Schools

I really liked this comic…

by Matt Bors

by Matt Bors

Jan 26 2013

Black & Blue: Policing – Violence – Resistance: A Series of Events

Regular readers of this blog know that I have spent about two years of my life working on various projects related to the history and current manifestations of police violence. Most of the results of that work can now be found here.

Because I don’t already have enough to do, I have decided to bring everything that I have learned together into a week-long series that will include discussions, a film screening, and an art exhibition. The events will take place during the week of March 18th and I am excited to announce that I will be partnering with the Social Justice Initiative at the University of Illinois at Chicago for this project. Specifically, we will host the exhibition and the events at its Pop Up JUST Art (PUJA) Space on Maxwell Street.

Below is an amazing piece of art that was created by my friend Billy Dee about the Danzinger Bridge shooting in New Orleans. This piece will be on display at the PUJA Space.

The Danzinger Bridge Shootings by Billy Dee (2012)

The Danzinger Bridge Shootings by Billy Dee (2012)

I am excited to share that we will also display three posters by Leigh Klonsky & a series of comics by Eric Garcia.

I am inviting other artists (friends and strangers) to contribute art (posters or prints) relating to policing, violence, and resistance for the exhibition. If you know anyone who wants to contribute an original poster or something else to the exhibition, please share this information with them.

I look forward to providing periodic updates about the project’s progress on the blog. Stay tuned!

Jan 25 2013

Prison Nation: Posters on the Prison Industrial Complex

I found a terrific online exhibition of prison related posters curated by the Center for the Study of Political Graphics. From their site:

The United States has the largest prison population in the world-over 2.3 million inmates. Since the 1970s, the rate of most serious crimes has dropped or remained stagnant, yet prisons have been filled at double capacity. People of color, the poor, the illiterate, the mentally ill, youth, and women are the primary occupants. This phenomenal growth is due to mandatory drug sentencing laws, conspiracy provisions, a dysfunctional parole system, inadequate legal representation, and huge profits made by the multinational corporations servicing the prisons. The posters in Prison Nation cover many of the critical issues surrounding the system of mass incarceration including: the racial disparity in sentencing, the death penalty, the Three Strikes law, women’s right to self defense, access to education and health care, the growing rate of incarceration, slave labor, divestment, privatization, torture, and re-entry into the community. They show the power of art to educate and inspire.

The following are a couple of the posters in the traveling exhibit:

by Dignidad Rebelde

by Dignidad Rebelde

by Andalushia Knoll

by Andalushia Knoll

Jan 24 2013

Historical Moments of Police Violence: William Milton – A “Good Man” Killed by the NYPD…

Leading up to a series of events that I am organizing during the week of March 18th, I plan to highlight more historical moments of policing, violence, and resistance on this blog…

I saw Daddy drop as the first bullet hit him…”

Before there was Amadou or Sean or Oscar, there was William Milton…

At 31 years old, William Milton, an ordinary family man, was shot several times by two New York City police officers. Milton had the misfortune of being born black and living in America in 1948.

William Milton and his brother Jack went out on an errand one evening. They decided to stop by a bar on the way back home. They encountered two of their neighbors at the bar and so the four drank together. The bartender Charles Kennefick decided that he didn’t want any black folks around that night.

“We each had a beer,” said one of the surviving men to Daily Worker reporter Art Shields. “Then the bartender growled” ‘Drink up and get the hell out,’ when two of us got another drink.”

The men apparently took exception to the bartender’s tone. Words were exchanged. The bartender grabbed an ice churner and a fight broke out. Two police officers arrived on the scene. The 4 black men took off running because they knew that their word was likely to mean nothing next to the testimony of a white man. William Milton and his brother were chased down the street with two police officers shooting at them. 11 year old Leroy Goodwin told reporter Art Shields what he witnessed:

“I saw the tall policeman – that’s Peter Kilcommons – chasing Mr. Milton and his brother. He was shooting as he ran. John O’Neil, the other cop, was running and shooting too. But the bullets didn’t hit Mr. Willie at first. They didn’t get him until he turned into S. First Street and reached his front stoop. The first bullet hit him in the back, just under his right arm pit, as he was turning the knob of his door. Mr. Milton fell to his right knee. Then he got up and fell into the house. The cops kept on shooting through the door.”

Officer Kilcommons murdered William Milton as he crawled up the steps of his home. He was unarmed when he was first in the back and then twice in the chest. Among the many witnesses to this murder were Milton’s wife and his 13 year old son Eugene.

The police later claimed that they were only shooting in the air as they ran after the brothers Milton. If this was true witnesses asked, why then shoot him at close range in the doorway of his home when he was already down?

Interviewed after his death, his wife Irene said of her husband: “William was always talking about keeping Georgia from coming to New York.” Willie Milton was already known to the NYPD before they killed him. He was a community activist who had been vocal about police violence. In February 1946, two years before Milton was murdered, an officer named Romeika lined two brothers up against a wall and shot them when they protested against being kicked out of a restaurant. One of the men who was assassinated was a military veteran. Irene Milton said: “William got into the fight to get the killer punished. He was very angry about the murder and gave a lot of time to help the Committee for Justice in the Freeport Case.” Willie Milton joined the Communist party during the course of his work in the Freeport case. He also led a rent strike in his community protesting the dilapidated condition of a local building.

Milton’s family was left destitute after he was killed. His wife described their situation: “I took the last $121 out of his bank, and got six dollars more in his bloody wallet from the city property clerk.” She had to borrow more money for his funeral expenses.

Irene became a leader in the Committee for Justice in the Milton Case. The Committee was founded by representatives of the Community Party and the Civil Rights Congress. It had four goals:

1. The dismissal and indictment and trial of Patrolmen Peter Kilcommons and John O’Neil who fired the shots that night;
2. Dismissal of Police Commissioner Wallander, whose policy of mussing-up Negroes, led to the murder;
3. Financial indemnities for the widow and orphaned son from the Board of Estimate of the City of New York.
4. Defending Joseph Milton and William Hughes, the other witness, who was arrested nine days after the murder.

Even after a lot of local activism about this case, the two officers faced no charges and were not convicted of murdering Mr. Milton. They kept their jobs. In describing what happened to William Milton, Simon Gerson wrote:

He was lynched, my friends, lynched. What matter is it if a man is lynched by a hempen rope from a Georgia cottonwood tree or lynched by a police revolver in the trigger-happy hands of a Brooklyn cop?

Who would disagree with this characterization of events?

Jan 23 2013

Poem of the Day: D.U.M.M.I.E. (Daring Use of My Mental Intelligence Enlightens)

D.U.M.M.I.E. (Daring Use of My Mental Intelligence Enlightens)
by Anthony

I find it funny how one person can be judged by another
without them ever speaking
I’m pretty sure most people see me, the clothes, the hair, and
the first thought in their mind is thug, hoodlum
How do I know this?
I know this because every time I open my mouth and say
something intelligent, I’m looked at like I just grew a
new head
Does it matter if I represent blue or red or how my life
was led?
So what if my waist and the size of my pants ain’t the same?
What’s that gotta do wit the use of my brain?
I know a lot of young people who feel my pain
So what if I was bad and acted up in school?
Did it ever occur to you that at the time I had nothing else
to do?
Growin’ up, boredom was my worst enemy
So I took mischief and made it a friend to me
Take a look at my transcripts
Through all my suspensions, my grades never suffered
And everything I learned sits in the back of my mind
and hovers
Waitin’ to be put to a use
I laugh when people call the use of my intellect an abuse
The legal system bugs
Like they’re outraged at the misuse
Yet they never take the time to come into our world
And see that we are more than thugs with some serious issues
How can you watch everyone you grew up with get put away
for life?
Or members of your family go through heartache and strife?
Knowin’ a majority of your sisters will never be a wife
Growin’ up surrounded by danger and pain
Is it any wonder that some of us are considered criminally insane?
Half the people I know were never offered any assistance
If they was, pride spoke before common sense and said forget this
Of all the social workers I spoke to at a young age
I can count on a hand the ones that came close to
understanding my rage
I was young, smart and the work was no trouble
Every time there was extra credit I quickly scored double
The majority of my school life I sat and did nothin’
I’m thinkin’, if this is education they must be frontin’
When I found ways to occupy myself, I ended up in the principal’s office
With them telling me I need help
I don’t know about you, but the principal wasn’t my pal
And the only help he offered me was suspension with a smile
I laugh now cuz’ I find it funny
All that time they thought I was a dummy.

Source: Hidden TREWTH, no.1 (May 2001)