- Category: Original
06 Dec 2013
- Written by Tri-State Defender Newsroom
(Stories that have been featured at TSDMemphis.com)
Dec 10, 2012 ... (CNN) – Nelson Mandela, the global icon and former South African ... "good night's rest," according to a statement on the government's website.
Who'd ever think that a black kid from South-Central Los Angeles could grow up to become the personal photographer of a Republican President of the United States? But that's precisely the unlikely career path enjoyed by Eric Draper, who served as head White House shutterbug from 2001-09.
How did he get the job? Well, after covering the 2000 campaign for the Associated Press, he was invited by George Bush to a Christmas party at the Texas governor's mansion. Taking a page out of the President-elect's own playbook, Eric summoned up the gumption while shaking his hand and looking him straight in the eye to paraphrase one of his popular stump-speech refrains: "I want to be your personal photographer."
Bush took the inquiry seriously, and hired Eric a week later, after closely examining his portfolio. And over the next eight years, Draper would be a constant companion and an eyewitness to history, accompanying the Chief Executive on trips to 70 countries and 49 states.
It's that time of the year again when we look forward to spending time with family and friends, reflecting on the past year and looking forward to the new one. Some may feel that the year has been a total failure and hope and pray that the new year holds more for them. Others will simply feel blessed and fortunate that they have been allowed to see another year.
Everyone should realize that there is always something or someone to be thankful for, no matter how bad life gets them down at times. At Thanksgiving in particular, we should not complain about what we don't have or should have; just be thankful for what we do have, no matter how much or how little.
Don't be concerned about what you didn't accomplish in the past year; be thankful for what you did accomplish and look forward to what you will accomplish in the coming year.
While working with cancer clients from all over the United States, I continually hear women ask why this dreaded disease happens to them. One such person is 26-year-old Joan, who is originally from Nairobi and now lives in Texas.
Joan has brain cancer that is spreading throughout her body. Especially prevalent in young African-American women, the disease has derailed Joan's once-promising career in engineering.
Over and over again, Joan has questioned God about why the frightening cancer has entered her body and boxed up her dreams and goals.
- Category: Original
19 Oct 2013
- Written by by Aubrey Lynch
I am no longer surprised that Professor West is at it again, attacking the president. An article titled, “Cornel West and the Fight to Save the Black Prophetic Tradition,” lays out a blistering list of charges against the president. My intent is to examine the charges, then challenge Dr. West on both his assumptions and his conclusions.
- The main charge is that there is an unseen effort by the White House to silence those who would continue the fight to save the black prophetic tradition. Chief among those to be silenced are Cornel West and the Rev. Jeremiah Wright.
- Supporting the main charge is another that the White House uses surrogates such as Al Sharpton and Steve Harvey to attack Dr. West, who describes himself as the most prominent of those under attack.
- The silencing effort is intended to hide the fact that the president is the ideological heir of Booker T. Washington, an accomodationist who counseled blacks to adjust and submit to white tyranny.
- He accuses the president of being the face of an empire that is responsible for heinous crimes, even crimes against humanity. He describes how Obama has overseen the eradication of civil liberties, the expansion of imperial wars and the mass incarceration of people of color.
- Although he does not accuse the president of being directly responsible for it, Dr. West implies that the “emaciation” of the black press, the consolidation of the media, the exclusion of Dr. West from the broadcast media and the absence of the subject of the black prophetic tradition in public schools all occurred on the president's watch and thus, by implication, is a charge against the president.
Dr. West describes the black prophetic tradition as the major roadblock to American fascism. Again, by implication, the president supports both imperialism and white supremacy by his unseen efforts to suppress those who would carry on the tradition.
Now, that is a heavy load to lay on the president. One of the problems we have is that the main charge is “unseen.” Consequently, we have to take Dr. West's word for the fact that the White House is, in fact, orchestrating the effort to silence Dr. West and others.
One way to go at judging the validity and ultimate value of his message is by examining the underlying premises of his position; that the black prophetic tradition does act as a block to fascism, that president Obama knows this to be true, does attempt to suppress its practitioners, does act as the face of imperialism with all of the abhorrent outcomes that this entails and does, in fact, act as heir to Booker T. Washington in admonishing black people to adjust and submit.
I can agree that the leaders and martyrs of the black prophetic tradition named were certainly effective at drawing attention to the tyranny of the white majority. At a propitious time in history and with the proven strategy of non-violence, Dr. King was astoundingly successful at awakening the sleeping conscience of the nation and the world. The fascism practiced daily by the most ordinary white citizen against the completely helpless black people was too much for the nation to see without reacting in horror. But, notice that the practices were open, violent and wanton. At the same time, there was no effort to make the practices visible until the television cameras saw Dr. King. This revealed to the whole world the stark difference between what the US wanted to present to the world and the reality that the world could see. By contrast, I have seen no such impact from Dr. West's efforts.
I would think that President Obama is quite well aware of the black prophetic tradition and most certainly with Dr. West's loudly proclaimed assertion that Dr. West is the most prominent of the current practitioners. But, the president does not have to waste his time or concern on "suppressing" them. The networks have no problem choosing those to whom they give air time. The people who are on network shows are overwhelmingly, even nauseatingly Republican, imperialist, white supremacy sympathizers.
Is the president an imperialist? If he were not, he would not be president. The US has been on an imperialist path since WWII. No candidate for the office would have the necessary support to make the run if that person did not show by enthusiastic word and deed that the imperialist path was acceptable and necessary. By the way, one does not have to agree to understand the nature of political reality. Lastly, to accuse the president of being an heir to Booker T. Washington, accomodationist, is an ad hominem attack, the lazy way of attacking and most unworthy of a renowned scholar.
Now, we are left with the question, "Why does Dr. West spend so much energy and personal capital attacking the president?" Even though he says it is not personal, there is evidence that it is. An article, again written by Chris Hedges, that makes the personal hurt painfully clear is available at the following link, http://www.truthdig.com/report/item/the_obama_deception_why_cornel_west_went_ballistic_20110516. The article tells us that Dr. West, at the time a true believer, worked 65 campaign events for the candidate. In the words of the author, Dr. West, "now nurses, like many others who placed their faith in Obama, the anguish of the deceived, the manipulated and the betrayed." The only surprise is that the scholar allowed himself to be devastated by a politician. After all, if the president were not a politician, he would not have been elected...twice.
Dr. West's "anguish" likely intensified to the point of fury when the president did not invite him to the inauguration. The fury has been too evident ever since.
- Category: Original
13 Oct 2013
- Written by Roz Edward, National Content Director
Racism as the old folks knew it, from Jim Crow through the desegregation of schools in 1954 to the present has been buried under mounds of Affirmative Action, political correctness, a burgeoning economy fueling corporate need and demographic pressure stemming from minority birth rates and immigration. For black people, we must give Dr. King immense credit for breaking the back of southern racism, a most vicious form of day to day terrorism. The overt racism of the time prior to 1954 that included physical brutality against blacks, confinement to heavily guarded ghettoes, societally enforced rules against participation in the economy and other practices which blacks knew well, have been ameliorated to a great extent, although not eliminated.
Affirmative Action was a very effective tool in ensuring that at least a few highly qualified black people had a chance to make an impact on the closed, stultified atmosphere of corporate America that existed prior to Dr. King. The black pioneers hired in major corporations as a part of Affirmative Action had a very difficult time, as pioneers usually do. Part of the difficulty stemmed from the fact that, no matter how qualified an individual happened to be, their white counterparts could discount the quality and assure themselves that, after all, the person was black and got in through the unfair-to-white-people Affirmative Action initiative. Such black pioneers experienced first-hand what it meant to be "The Spook Who Sat By the Door," (Sam Greenlee, 1969). Clearly, Dr. King, the Black Panthers, Rap Brown and Malcolm X had a profound effect on the US corporations. Otherwise, black people would not have been hired for even token positions.
- Category: Original
28 Aug 2013
- Written by George Tillman Jr./Special to The New Tri-State Defender
I boarded a flight early Friday morning (Aug. 23) headed to Washington, D.C. for the 50th Anniversary March on Washington. On the plane was Congressman Steve Cohen, the Rev. Samuel "Billy" Kyles, who knew Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. well, and Tonja Sesley Baymon, the programs director of the Memphis Urban League.
Realizing that the March on Washington anniversary included the journey there, I went to work capturing images.
We landed at Reagan National Airport about 11 a.m. (ET) and headed to baggage claim. I turned around and there was John Conyers, the Congressman from Michigan. I introduced myself and asked if I could get a photograph of him, along with an interview.
He said, "Yes." Now I was two for two.
- Category: Original
14 Jul 2013
- Written by Atlanta Daily World
President Barack Obama on Sunday released a statement Sunday morning on the death of Trayvon Martin and the jury's finding George Zimmerman not guilty of second-degree murder and manslaughter. The full statement via WhiteHouse.gov is below.
The death of Trayvon Martin was a tragedy. Not just for his family, or for any one community, but for America. I know this case has elicited strong passions. And in the wake of the verdict, I know those passions may be running even higher. But we are a nation of laws, and a jury has spoken. I now ask every American to respect the call for calm reflection from two parents who lost their young son. And as we do, we should ask ourselves if we’re doing all we can to widen the circle of compassion and understanding in our own communities. We should ask ourselves if we’re doing all we can to stem the tide of gun violence that claims too many lives across this country on a daily basis. We should ask ourselves, as individuals and as a society, how we can prevent future tragedies like this. As citizens, that’s a job for all of us. That’s the way to honor Trayvon Martin.
- Category: Original
19 Jun 2013
- Written by Tri-State Defender Newsroom
Memphian, Natasha Stewart aka Pebblez da Model made an appearance late last week in a Hinds County court room after six months in State custody. She is facing a possible life sentence for referring an Atlanta woman to a non-licensed butt enhancement doctor who was allegedly injecting women with concrete or commercial grade silicon.
Stewart has admitted referring a young Atlanta woman by the name of Karima Gordon to Tracey Lynn Garner, formerly known as Morris Garner for the butt injection procedure. Garner, a transsexual, apparently had built a reputation for providing these kinds of illegal medical procedures and administered injections to Gordon at a cost of $1,500.
- Category: Original
10 May 2013
- Written by by Dion Rabouin
As the class-action lawsuit known as Floyd v. New York begins to wind down after more than 30 days of testimony, citizens throughout New York City are waiting with baited breath for the outcome. It has attracted far fewer headlines in Memphis, but the final outcome of the case could affect the way police do business in every city in the country, particularly in communities of color where departments could assert the right to search Black and Latino youth simply for being Black and Latino youth.
The plaintiffs in Floyd, known by most as simply the "Stop and Frisk trial," argue that the NYPD's policy of stopping people on the street and searching them is nothing more than racial profiling and the raw data behind the case is almost impossible to argue.
Of the 530,000 people stopped and searched in New York in 2012, only 10 percent were white, and 89 percent of the stops did not lead to an arrest or even a citation, according to the police department's own data. The New York Civil Liberties Union (NYCLU) studied the data and found that Black and Latino men between the ages of 14 and 24 make up just 4.7 percent of the city's population but accounted for 41 percent of stop and frisks in 2011.
The city's stop and frisk program has been in place for years, but under recently retired Police Chief Joseph Esposito, who took over the department's top post in 2000, the NYPD's stops have increased by 600 percent.
In spite of massive and ever mounting evidence, the NYPD has insisted that stop and frisk does not constitute racial profiling because it targets communities based on where crimes are happening, not race.
"Who's doing those shootings?" said Esposito during his testimony in the Floyd trial. "It's young men of color in their late teens, early 20s."
NYPD Commissioner Raymond Kelly took it a step further during a recent interview with ABC's "Nightline," saying that, in fact, African Americans aren't being stopped enough.
"About 70 percent to 75 percent of the people described as committing violent crimes – assault, robbery, shootings, grand larceny – are described as being African-American," he said. "The percentage of people who are stopped is 53 percent African-American, so really, African Americans are being 'understopped.'"
Kelly, Esposito and New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who are all named as defendants in the Floyd case, have argued that stop and frisk is getting guns off the streets and saving lives in the city, and they've got the numbers to back up their position.
From 2000 to 2009 New York's homicide rate went from 8.9 murders per 100,000 people to 5.8 per 100,000, and in 2012 New York recorded 414 homicides, the city's lowest murder total since 1963.
In 2011, 770 guns were recovered across the city during frisks. That amounts to a 30 percent increase over 2003, when 594 guns were recovered. Esposito has asserted during the trial that crime in New York is down 40 percent in the last 12 years and 80 percent in the last 20.
Bloomberg has also touted a murder rate that he says has been cut in half since he took over as mayor.
"I think the effectiveness of the program is shown in the fact that under the Bloomberg decade, we've had a 51 percent decrease in murders in the city," he told CBS News in March.
Those results have garnered the begrudging support of people like Rev. Vernon Williams, a 54-year-old Harlem preacher affectionately known as O.G. or Pastor On Deck (P.O.D. for short).
Williams has served as president of the Harlem Clergy Community Leaders Coalition and Perfect Peace Ministries and says he has personally turned in 12 guns to law enforcement and been responsible for a total of 26 firearms being taken off the street as well as two bulletproof vests and an assault rifle.
He admits the policy is not perfect, but in his opinion it's working.
"There are problems with [stop and frisk]," he says. "I, as a Black man, have definite problems with that, but what you got? You got something better? Because if it gets 1 percent of those guns off the street, OK that's one gun that's not gonna kill nobody."
The revered knows about the streets from his past life. He admits to being a former drug dealer and member of the Black Spades street gang in his youth, which led to 10 years in prison for various crimes. Today he's known for visiting neighborhood youth at the Ella McQueen Juvenile Detention Center and Rikers Island Correctional Facility to mentor them and try to offer a different path
"Our young people, in the black and the Latino community, are at war," he says. "That's the reality. So, uncertain times call for stringent measures."
Though the Atlanta Police Department is not required to submit records on stops or the people it detains, the arrest record of Blacks in the city speaks to much the same racial divide as New York's.
A grand total of five white children under age 16 were arrested by the Atlanta Police Department from January to March of this year. During that same period there were 209 arrests of Black children in the same age group. For those over the age of 17, the pattern of arrests follows the same archetype. In the first three months of 2013, APD reported arresting 6,242 Black men and women 17 or older. There were a reported 1,000 Whites arrested during that time – 84 percent less.
The same trend existed throughout 2012. More than six times as many Blacks (28,238) than Whites (4,622) were arrested by APD, according to the department's publicly accessible arrest files. The statistic is particularly conspicuous considering African Americans make up only 54 percent of the City of Atlanta's population.
Even though the APD's manual states, "Officers must have a particularized and objective basis for suspecting [a] particular person detained of criminal activity," young Black men being stopped for something like "fitting the description" isn't uncommon, according to some of the city's activists.
"It is something that police have been doing all the time," said Mawuli Mel Davis, a criminal defense lawyer who works with young people of color in Atlanta. "They've been profiling young African-American and Hispanic males and they have found a way to pull people over and to stop them and to pat them down and try to arrest them and whatnot."
APD spokesman Carlos A. Campos would not comment on the department's stance on stop and frisk, but he says that it's the department's policy to adhere to the code of the police handbook, which state that officers may stop or detain an individual only when "they have articulable facts that lead them to believe criminal activity is occurring."
While individuals in New York City are assumed to have the same protections, under stop and frisk that has not been the case. Walking down the street has become reasonable suspicion for anyone with black or brown skin in the city. Whistleblowers from within the NYPD have even come forward to detail the racism inherent in the policy.
"I was extremely bothered with what I was seeing out there," testified Officer Adhyl Polanco. "The racial profiling, the arresting people for no reason, being called to scenes that I did not observe a violation and being forced to write a summons that I didn't observe."
Polanco and officers Adrian Schoolcraft and Pedro Serrano are all witnesses for the plaintiffs in the Floyd lawsuit.
Residents of New York City interviewed by the Daily World almost unanimously told the same story.
"Pretty much about 100 percent of my kids have been stopped and frisked, both boys and girls" says Sarah Moore, a teacher at New York's Bronx Guild High School. "The vast majority have just [said], I was walking in the subway or I was visiting my grandmother in her building."
Moore teaches in the same Bronx neighborhood where Amadou Diallo, a 23-year-old unarmed Black man, was shot at 41 times by police officers in front of his apartment building and killed. It's an area that is home to towering housing projects like Carol Gardens and the James Monroe Houses.
"I feel like when the cops are around, something's gonna happen," says Angel Cora, a 17 year old student in Moore's class. "When I walk by myself, it's happened once, but when I'm in a group cops always slow down their car or they'll actually come out the car and question us."
Over and over and over, residents of communities like Soundview – from East Flatbush, Brownsville and Cypress Hills in Brooklyn to Hunts Point in The Bronx to the Drew Hamilton and Harlem River Houses and Polo Grounds Towers in Harlem – echoed that story, saying that they have been stopped and frisked for doing nothing more than standing or sitting outside their homes. It happens, most say, on a regular basis.
"The public, the media, the NYPD itself makes it feel like it's plausible, like you have to take it, you have to accept it," says Michael Boone, who lives near the Drew Hamilton Housing projects in Harlem. "A lot of people in this community don't like to speak out for their rights because they're so scared, because police make you do that, they make you feel scared. It's not even about protecting the innocent anymore. They're making everybody feel like they're a target or a suspect. I can say people are kind of used to it but they're not happy with it."
While it's hardly an apples to apples comparison, reductions in crime surpassing those seen in New York were recorded in Atlanta during the same period without the stop and frisk policy.
Between 2001 and 2009 the crime rate in Atlanta dropped by 40 percent, homicide fell 57 percent, and violent rapes were down 72 percent. Violence overall decreased 55 percent, according to the FBI. Atlanta's improvement even surpassed the national trend.
There's also an unquantifiable byproduct of enhanced policing techniques like stop and frisk.
"When it first started happening, I used to get mad," says Cora. "Like, why? Cause I'm dressing a certain way or something? But then I just learned to get used to it. It don't bother me no more."
The ubiquity of police and the frequency of the stops have seemed to create a dispirited acquiescence among teenagers like Cora. But is that what New York City wants or exactly what it should be afraid of?
"A whole generation of young people are growing up believing that society believes they're criminals," says Moore, "and that's sort of a self-fulfilling prophecy."
by Tarrin McGhee
Each year, The Urban Child Institute’s annual Brain Awareness Night event brings renowned experts, researchers, and thought leaders to Memphis to discuss best practices to promote optimal brain development in young children.
This year, the healthy eating focus provided attendees an opportunity to gain a better understanding of how brain functions associated with food selection and consumption intersect, and a glimpse into how subsequent mental and physical responses to certain foods are triggered.
The message was timely as a 2012 CNN news report revealed that Memphis has the highest obesity rate in the United States.
Making national headlines for topping various “worst of” lists has unfortunately become a common occurrence as our city continues to grapple with public health concerns such as poverty, crime, infant mortality and obesity.
So common in fact, that when news breaks, the reaction from local residents can sometimes be nil or underwhelming.
But the staggering obesity rate that led to Memphis being labeled the “fattest city in America” is nothing to yawn at. Any statistic that poorly portrays the collective wellbeing of a community begs the need for devoted attention.
According to the Gallup Well-Being Index – an assessment that generates statistics on overall wellbeing, diabetes, obesity, frequent exercise, frequent produce consumption, city optimism, and the uninsured in cities across America – 30.4 percent of Memphis metropolitan area residents are obese.
And childhood obesity rates are steadily rising around the country.
Fortunately, local government and grassroots leaders are stepping forward to help reverse this negative trend. Healthy living is gaining popularity in the Mid-South With the emergence of efforts such as Move It Memphis, renewed energy on promoting outdoor physical activity through use of the city’s parks and green spaces, and the expanded presence of farmer’s markets and community gardens.
Additionally, various organizations such as The Urban Child Institute are issuing a wakeup call for residents who have concluded that certain societal ills like widespread obesity are merely the result of cultural trends or geographic locale.
The Brain Awareness Night presenters offered insight into how parents and caregivers can ensure children adopt healthy eating habits early on – a proactive approach to help reduce childhood and adult obesity rates over time.
“Humans are opportunistic eaters, and taste is the primary driver of eating behavior,” said Dr. John D. Boughter, Jr., associate professor in the Department of Anatomy and Neurobiology at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center.
In his presentation entitled “How Tricking the Brain’s Taste System During Development May Lead to Obesity,” Boughter described how the sense of taste engages parts of the brain involved in eating and reward, and how dysfunction in these vital systems may occur.
“Sweetness is a taste that causes dopamine release in brain reward circuits,” Boughter explained.
“It’s important to think about what young children are given (to eat), and how to mold and develop their food preference…taste preference can change as you grow older, but eating habits are formed very early in development.”
As learned behavior goes, children acquire different lifestyle habits (whether positive or negative) from adults and peers. The same rule applies to developing eating habits that promote or hinder good health.
Parents and caregivers must make conscious decisions about their child’s food intake, paying special attention to the types of foods offered regularly for daily consumption or as rewards for good behavior.
For example, processed foods such as cookies, potato chips, and even many juices and cereals are extremely high in sugar and salt contents that cause diabetes, high blood pressure and ultimately obesity.
In many households, these foods are frequently given to children for breakfast, as snacks or to deter bad behavior. By replacing unhealthy options with healthier selections, parents can help their child develop a taste preference for foods that nourish the body and the brain as they progress into adolescence and adulthood.
According to Boughter, research suggests that the brain can be trained to favor the good over the bad, and outcomes depend heavily on practice and perspective.
In her presentation on branding and the brain, Dr. Amanda S. Bruce, assistant professor in the Department of Psychology at the University of Missouri-Kansas City, further outlined this concept and the huge roles that food marketing and advertising play in dietary patterns.
“Ten billion dollars is spent per year in the United States by companies to market their products to children,” Bruce said.
“Why? Because building brand recognition and loyalty is key, and companies know the importance of starting early.”
Limiting screen media (TVs, computers, smart phones, tablets) access is another way to help children develop healthy eating habits.
According to Bruce, 98 percent of television food advertisements that kids see are for unhealthy foods. She also noted that half of three-month-old infants in the United States watch television regularly, and 90 percent of children tune in regularly by the age of two. On average, obese children eat more branded foods.
What these statistics reveal about the relationship between food marketing, early brain development and obesity is the power that mass media has to not only alter our outlook and perception, but also our reality.
Bruce’s latest pioneering research used magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) technology to map how children’s brains react to fast food logos and it yielded troubling findings.
“You can wrap carrot sticks in McDonald’s paper and kids will believe they taste better,” Bruce said jokingly.
“Some kids recognize the golden arches before the ABCs.”
Bruce, of course, realizes, as do a majority of adults, that childhood obesity and its consequences are no laughing matter.
Research shows that children who are obese are more likely to endure bullying, discrimination, low self-esteem, anxiety and depression. Individually or combined, these consequences can negatively affect academic performance and social adjustment, and also lead to serious behavioral and health challenges in adulthood.
In today’s microwave/instant-gratification society, it’s easy to understand how and why food preference and selection is largely determined by options that are readily available, top-of mind, and easy to prepare.
Although challenging yourself and your loved ones to shift focus from what’s good and fast to what’s good for you may prove to be more difficult, the effort will produce more favorable outcomes for both children and adults, and for our entire community.
(The New Tri-State Defender has partnered with The Urban Child Institute to make sure every child has the best chance for optimal brain development during the critical first three years of each child’s life. This is one in a series of stories and columns in our campaign.)