Speak Out Against Stop and Frisk

August 1, 2013 Leave a comment

friskTonight, Jumaane Wiliams and other vocal opponents of stop and frisk, will hold a town meeting in Brooklyn to speak out against Mayor Bloomberg’s veto of two bills that would limit racial profiling by the NYPD. He and others including the NAACP and the Malcolm X Grassroot movement will also brainstorm ways to undo what the mayor has done.

Here are the facts:  Each year, hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers, primarily men of color, are wrongfully stopped, frisked, or searched. Many receive a summons, or are even arrested. Some are even sexually or physically assaulted by NYPD officers. They are being targeted by an increasingly confrontational and arrogant police force, often humiliated in their own homes, schools and neighborhoods.

In 2011, the New York Police Department made over 684,000 street stops – a 14% increase over 2010 (and a 603% increase since 2002, Bloomberg’s first year in office)! Close to 90% of the stops resulted in no arrest or summons whatsoever.

The mayor’s veto of the recent legislation to end discriminatory policing and bring accountability to the police means stop and frisk will continue. The many opponents of the tactic want to see the end of business as usual.  “New Yorkers want to live in a safe city where police officers treat all residents equally and respectfully, and are not above the law,” note the organizers of tonight’s event.


Here are the details of the community discussion:

Community Safety Act, TOWN HALL MEETING

Thursday, August 1, 2013, 6:30-8:30pm

Calvary AME Church, 790 Herkimer St., btwn Rochester & Suydam Place (A/C to Utica)

For more information on this event, click here or contact Djibril Toure at 917.865.9639.

The Miss America Scandal–29 Years Ago Today

July 23, 2013 Leave a comment

vanessa-williams-miss-america1On July 23, 1984, the first black Miss America relinquished her tiara, replaced by the runner-up, also a black woman.

The multi-talented Vanessa Williams was crowned in 1983, the first African-American winner in the pageant’s over 60-year history.  (Click here to watch her crowning.) But eight months later, nude photos of her cropped up. Penthouse editor Bob Guccione snapped them up and put her on the magazine’s cover with octogenarian comedian George Burnspenthouse_williams

As the scandal grew, Williams tearfully stepped aside, replaced by Suzette Charles, Miss New Jersey and also African American. Click here to watch her performance in the pageant’s talent competition.

Suzette Charles

Suzette Charles

Williams bounced back, launching a career as an actress and singer and earning multiple Grammy, Emmy and Tony nominations. Her 1988 debut album “The Right Stuff” spawned the hits “The Right Stuff” and “Dreamin.” Her second album 1991’s “The Comfort Zone” was a chart-topper and sparked the number-one hit “Save the Best for Last.” In 1995 her song “Colors of the Wind” from the animated film Pocahontas won a best original song Oscar.

On T.V. Williams played the role of the scheming diva Wilhelmina Slater on ABC’s Ugly Betty from 2006 to 2010. She received three Emmy Awards nominations before she moved to the network series Desperate Housewives and 666 Park Avenue.

Williams on Ugly Betty

Williams on Ugly Betty

Charles didn’t fare as well. She reigned as Miss America for only seven weeks, and continued with a modest singing and television career.

Not So Sunny in Florida

July 22, 2013 Leave a comment

Screen Shot 2013-07-22 at 9.07.43 AMAt rallies this weekend, protestors around the country called for a boycott of Florida following the wave of anger over George Zimmerman’s acquittal.

Rev. Jesse Jackson labeled Florida an “apartheid state” and Stevie Wonder says he’s won’t perform in the state until Stand Your Ground gun laws are repealed. Martin Luther King III has encouraged consumers to stop buying Florida orange juice and Dick Gregory demanded vacationers to skip Disney World in Orlando, Florida.

A moveon.org boycott Florida petition has collected 12,000 signatures. It reads: “Your state is not a safe place to vacation if your citizens are able to kill anyone they deem suspicious.” Click here to see and sign.

An effective boycott would cripple the state. MSN notes that tourism is Florida’s number 1 industry, bringing in nearly $72 billion and providing jobs for more than 1 million state residents or, more than 5 percent of the total population. The $1.1 billion citrus business supports about 76,000 jobs. 540705_280672645403909_246766155_n

But not everyone is falling in line behind a boycott. The National Association of Black Journalists decided not to cancel its annual convention in Orlando, July 31 – August 4. The group’s president challenged members to come to Florida and join in the discussion of the Zimmerman verdict and its ramifications. And at this writing, not all members of the Congressional Black Caucus agree on a boycott.

Like all economic boycotts, avoiding Florida and its products would hurt people who can least afford it. Blacks and Latinos make up 40 percent of the population and many own struggling small businesses. Still, making it hurt may be what it takes to repeal the state’s Stand Your Ground law.

To learn more, join the discussion:

Boycott Florida Tourism on Facebook

Boycott Florida on Facebook 

Boycott Florida’s economy on Facebook

Why We Must Boycott for Trayvon

Must-See Movie–Fruitvale Station

July 17, 2013 Leave a comment

fruitvale-station-posterHave you seen Fruitvale Station? If not, stop reading this post and run and out see it right now. It’s the best film of the year–this year’s Beasts of the Southern Wild: a well-made, deeply affecting independent movie that touches upon an issue painfully close to the headlines.

The film, a top-prize winner at Sundance, tells the true story of Oscar Grant, a 22-year-old Bay Area resident who, while unarmed, is shot to death by law enforcement officers. It couldn’t be more timely in the face of the Trayvon Martin tragedy and George Zimmerman travesty. But more importantly Fruitvale is the most complex, textured and realistic portrayal of a black man in American in years. It goes without saying that the first-time director, Ryan Coogler, is one talented brother.

Keep an eye on the starring actor, Michael B. Jordan. He played QB Vince Howard on Friday Night Lights as well as the heart-breaking role of  young drug dealer Wallace on The Wire. The movie also stars the Academy Award winning Octavia Spencer (Minnie, in The Help) who shines, as Oscar’s mother, Wanda. But all the actors shine. 061913-celebs-life-in-film-octavia-spencer-fruitvale.jpg

Though the movie is in limited release (at the Angelika and Loews Lincoln Center in New York; why not Magic Johnson Theater?), it’s gaining momentum. On Friday, watch the BET documentary Fruitvale Station: The Story of Oscar Grant at 10 PM EST on Centric for a behind-the-scenes look at how the movie was made.

If we don’t support films like Fruitvale, there’s no point in complaining every season when the only black films star Madea. See Fruitvale to support it. But also see it because it’s damn good. Click here for the trailer.

Harlem in the Headlines

July 16, 2013 Leave a comment

Harlem was in the news! Here’s a rundown on local coverage.

Mayoral front runner Anthony Weiner campaigned in Harlem over the weekend, with his wife, Huma Abedin. Huffington Post focused on her dress–one Michelle Obama also wore while campaigning for her husband. Who wore it best? [Photos from Twitter via Huffpo.]

BPJvN2PCcAAJdl8BPJwZT3CYAAyjSq.jpg-largePresident Barack Obama bus tour in Iowa


Rys Powell

An article in the Daily News spotlights local entrepreneur Rhys Powell. His Harlem-based company Red Rabbit, provides healthy food for kids and employs 130 local residents. The start-up was recently named the Manhattan Small Business of the Year.

Assistant pastor Nicholas Richard preached on Sunday

Assistant pastor Nicholas Richard preached on Sunday

On Sunday, Abyssinian Baptist church parishioners wore hoodies in reaction to the George Zimmerman acquittal. The Griot covers the historic church’s reaction to the verdict.

New York 1 covered Harlem Hospital’s air conditioning problem. (Everyone’s okay.) Click here to watch the video.

A Slap in Our Face: #No Justice

July 15, 2013 Leave a comment

We live in a country where Black people can still hunted down and killed and no one has to pay. George Zimmerman’s acquittal  is a slap in the face to people everywhere.

Where do we go from here? Martin Luther King asked that question in a 1967 speech. Read what he said.

“…And I must confess, my friends (Yes sir), that the road ahead will not always be smooth. (Yes) There will still be rocky places of frustration (Yes) and meandering points of bewilderment. There will be inevitable setbacks here and there. (Yes) And there will be those moments when the buoyancy of hope will be transformed into the fatigue of despair. (Well) Our dreams will sometimes be shattered and our ethereal hopes blasted. (Yes) We may again, with tear-drenched eyes, have to stand before the bier of some courageous civil rights worker whose life will be snuffed out by the dastardly acts of bloodthirsty mobs. (Well) But difficult and painful as it is (Well), we must walk on in the days ahead with an audacious faith in the future…” MLK Jr., August 1967

Read Dr. King’s entire speech here.1000998_10151313979972168_352039431_n

Harlem History–A Scandalous Madame from Back in the Day

July 12, 2013 Leave a comment

jumel2Eliza Jumel is one of Harlem’s most infamous residents—in life and death. The former prostitute turned socialite lived at the Morris Jumel Mansion stretching from 160th to 162nd Streets near St. Nicholas and is buried at nearby Trinity Cemetery. During her long, storied life she befriended the French leader Napoleon Bonaparte and married a U.S. Vice President.

On Sunday, in honor of Bastille Day—France’s 4th of July—learn more about her.

Madame Jumel was born Betsy Bowen in Providence, Rhode Island in 1775. Her mother was a “working girl, but Betsy’s career in the “life” was short-lived. She became pregnant at 19, and headed to New York City with her newborn—and a plan for a new life.

She kept her past a secret when she met and married the wealthy French wine merchant Stephen Jumel in 1804. They moved to the Morris Jumel Mansion shortly after.

In 1815, the couple traveled to Paris. When the French economy soured in the 1820’s, Stephen Jumel’s fortunes did, too. He sent his wife back to the U.S. to sell some of his property. Instead of bailing him out, she used the money to buy her way into New York society.

Now a rich woman, she allowed her husband to live in their New York City mansion until he died in 1832.

At 57, Madame Jumel married Aaron Burr. The controversial former U.S. vice president was 79. The marriage didn’t last, and shortly after their divorce, Burr died in 1836.

Over the years, Madame Jumel tried to hold on to whatever past glory she once had. She even made visits to Europe proclaiming herself as the “Ex-Vice Queen Of America,” but by 1839 she began to withdraw to her mansion. She died in her sleep in 1865. She was buried in Trinity Cemetery and rests there still.

To learn more about Madame Jumel, read her 1865 New York Times obituary. And celebrate Bastille Day this Sunday with a walking tour of Trinity Cemetery honoring Madame Jumel with noted historian Eric K. Washington. Click here to reserve a spot. ($20 or $15 for members of the Municipal Art Society.)