Archive for June, 2008

Update: Police continue to harrass and terrorize members of Rebel Diaz

G1 of Rebel Diaz, one of the two people beaten and arrested last week for observing the police, reports that his apartment was raided by the NYPD in the wee hours yesterday morning. From by way of illvox:

The uniformed police officers did not knock, nor announce themselves, nor verbally identify themselves before or during their entry into my apartment.

They pointed their guns at us the whole time as they verbally barraged MM and I with questions as to who we were and what we were doing there.

As I lay on the ground with my hands up, I replied loudly and clearly that I lived there, and that everyone in the house was supposed to be there.

They replied incredulously, repeatedly yelling their questions as to who we were, with threats as to what would happen to us if I was found to be lying.

Requests for explanations from the NYPD have, not surprisingly, yielded nothing.

The questions as to why several armed police officers mysteriously and violently invaded my home without any clear legal justification remain unanswered.

One is left only to think that the occurrences of this morning are not a coincidence of mistaken identity, but a direct response by the NYPD to an incident of police brutality I was involved in last week in the South Bronx.

Until we have a clear understanding of the causes and the people behind this morning’s home invasion, Rebel Diaz will engage in limited communication outside of our legal representation.

We are not looking for the next NYPD scare tactic to turn into a tragedy.

Let’s all hope that the NYPD chills the fuck out and stops trying to intimidate people into silence and submission. It’ll take just one trigger-happy or nervous cop to make these sorts of scare tactics deadly once again.

Trans Day of Action – Friday, June 27, NYC

Trans Day of Action

When: Friday, June 27, 2008 – 3:00pm
Where: Starting rally at City Hall Park, Manhattan, NY

Tomorrow is the fourth annual Trans Day of Action for Social and Economic Justice, organized by the TransJustice working group of the Audre Lorde Project. It’s the fourth year that I’ll be going and every year has been exciting, inspirational, and powerful. (You can read about the 2006 march here.) The Trans Day of Action is my favorite NYC Pride rally/march type event, because it’s both a powerful political demonstration and a strong celebration of our communities. It’s way more inclusive than the Dyke March in both the people it gathers together and the issues it addresses, and it’s obviously way more political than the very commercial and more mainstream big Pride march on Sunday. From the ALP website:

We call on our Trans and Gender Non-Conforming (TGNC) community and on all of our allies from many movements to join us for the 4th Annual Trans Day of Action for Social and Economic Justice. We as TGNC People of Color (POC) recognize the importance of working together alongside other movements to change the world we want to see. We live in a time when people of color, immigrants and poor people are disproportionately underserved, face higher levels of discrimination, heightened surveillance and experience increased violence at the hands of the state. It is critical that we unite and work together towards dismantling the transphobia, racism, classism, sexism, ageism, ableism, homophobia and xenophobia that permeates throughout our movements for social justice. Let’s come together to let the world know that TGNC rights will not be undermined and together we will not be silenced!

I strongly encourage folks in the NYC area to come out and march with us. It’s open to all allies, so anyone can (and should) come.

cross-posted at Feministe

Hip hop activists attacked and arrested for daring to hold the NYPD accountable

Members of Rebel Diaz being arrested

Sometimes there’s too much to blog and far too little time. I’ve been wanting to blog about this since I heard about it last week, but Vivir Latino and illvox and Racewire and a bunch of other folks have gotten to it already so I’ll refer to them. From VivirLatino:

Last Thursday, independent, radical, revolutionary, activist Hip Hoppers Rodstarz and G1, two brothers known musically and in the movement as Rebel Diaz [along with MC/vocalist La Tere], were walking in the Bronx, NYC when they witnessed an all too common occurrence. Police officers from the 41st Precinct were in the middle of a sting against street vendors, aggressively confiscating the fruit and vegetables of a street vendor. What happened next was a mix of the sadly uncommon and the everyday threat that is faced in many of our communities. Rodstarz and G1 didn’t walk by quickly or quietly, watching their extended community being attacked. They approached the officers to ask why the vendor was being treated in that manner and asked for their badge numbers. The police, who aren’t exactly keen on the idea of being monitored by the very same community they allegedly serve, turned their aggressions on the duo. After beating them and arresting them in front of over a dozen witnesses, they were taken to the 41st Precinct.

Within hours, over 75 friends, community members and activists gathered outside the precinct (1035 Longwood Avenue at Southern Blvd.) to sing, chant, drum and march for over 4 hours, demanding that all charges be dropped and that Rodstarz and G1 be immediately released.

The following morning more than 25 people gathered at the Bronx County Criminal Court for their arraignment. The men are charged with two misdemeanors: obstruction of justice and resisting arrest, and are scheduled for court on September 3rd, 2008.

Check out video of the arrests and the subsequent protests.

Obstruction of justice and resisting arrest should really be renamed the Activist Charges, since they seem to be what all of us are threatened with whenever we’re arrested for either protesting or observing the cops and holding them accountable for their actions. The latter seems to particularly piss the cops off. I know this from personal experience, having been pepper sprayed along with other community members and seeing two friends being violently arrested for doing just that – questioning police actions, asking for badge numbers, taking pictures of their activity. All the charges against the two people arrested were dropped. Three members of the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement’s Cop Watch were arrested while videotaping an arrest in Brooklyn in 2005. All charges against them were later dropped. When the cops went on a bike-confiscating frenzy in the East Village last summer, two people who dared to observe and question them were arrested. It happens over and over again.

Why? Because, as they’ve demonstrated on countless occasions, the NYPD has zero interest in being held accountable by the communities that they purportedly serve. In fact, even the threat of accountability seems to make them angry. So in response to peaceful observation and requests for badge numbers, they respond with rage, with violence, with threats, and ultimately with arrests on trumped up charges that are almost always dropped. It’s not about arresting people who are actually doing anything wrong – after all, observing the police is not officially a crime, though I’m sure they wish it were. No, they do it to scare us, make us too scared of arrest or other retaliation to hold them accountable.

And you know what? Sometimes their fear tactics work. Getting arrested is fucking scary, and even just getting messed with or threatened by the cops is daunting. Especially when I’m alone, I get nervous to stop and watch the cops. Not even question them, not even take pictures, and certainly not even anything close to intervening – I get scared of standing nearby and looking at them. And that fear pisses me off. When I’m with someone else, it’s easier; with a group, even easier. The fear makes sense – cops and the power they wield are scary – but we can’t let it stop us from practicing our civil rights and our civic duties in holding them accountable.

Another important issue raised by this incident: illvox posted a press release from VAMOS Unidos (Vendedoras Ambulantes Movilizando y Organizando en Solidaridad — Street Vendors Mobilizing and Organizing in Solidarity) expressing solidarity and thanks to Rodstarz and G1. The release gives some background on the NYPD’s frequently awful treatment of street vendors, often low-income folks, people of color, and immigrants – all vulnerable populations:

Street vendors experience state repression day to day as they deal with arrests, crippling fines, confiscations, beatings, and abusive treatment by the NYPD. Members of VAMOS Unidos are often incarcerated for 1-3 days, severely beaten, victims of theft by the NYPD, and endure humiliating treatment. Marcela, a flower vendor in the Bronx for seven years, was violently forced to the ground as the police yelled xenophobic comments. She was handcuffed and placed against her cart as police gave her merchandise away. She was then taken to jail where she was kept all day.

It’s important to remember that even while it might be scary for some of us to observe the police and hold them accountable, there are often people who are even more vulnerable than us; even if it’s scary, we have to do what we can to stand in solidarity with them. Big ups to Rodstarz and G1 for doing that.

Rinku Sen on Same-Sex Marriage and Communities of Color

Qualms about the marriage equality movement aside, I appreciated this perspective from Rinku Sen at Racewire.

Rather than fixating on communities of color as though we’re the last of the homophobic holdouts, we should be thinking of ways to bring people together, socially and culturally, across sexual lines.

Very true.

And yeah, qualms aside again, the images of these couples getting married were thoroughly heartwarming, especially the couple in Fresno!

Convictions overturned for 2 of the Newark 4

Free the New Jersey 4 Two of the four young Black lesbians who were convicted after defending themselves from a homophobic attack in 2007 have had their convictions overturned. From the New York Times article:

An appeals court on Thursday overturned the convictions of two women accused in the beating and stabbing of a man who they said made unwanted sexual advances to them in Greenwich Village two years ago.

One of the women, Terrain Dandridge, whom a jury found guilty of second-degree gang assault, had her conviction reversed and indictment dismissed; as a result she can no longer be tried on those charges. A four-judge panel of the Appellate Division in Manhattan ruled that there was not enough evidence to support a guilty verdict for Ms. Dandridge. She had been sentenced to three and a half years in prison.

The second woman, Renata Hill, who was found guilty of second-degree gang assault and third-degree assault, had her gang assault conviction vacated, but she can be retried on the charge. The court ruled that the judge’s instructions to the jury on the charge were erroneous and that therefore her conviction could not be upheld.

She was sentenced to eight years in prison, but if the Manhattan district attorney decides against further prosecution, she is likely to be released because the maximum penalty for the third-degree assault is a year and she has already been in prison longer than that.

Alexis Agathocleous, the lawyer who handled Ms. Hill’s appeal, said he was pleased and was hoping “that the district attorney’s office will also do the right thing and dismiss the remaining charge.”

The appeals for Patreese Johnson and Venice Brown are still pending, but let’s hope that they’re as or more successful than these. I also hope that, as Agathocleous says, the DA will do the right thing and drop these sham charges.

Kenyon Farrow and Jonathan Adams at Racewire both point out that in addition to the lawyers and families who have been working so hard to see justice done here, there are some awesome organizations that deserve hearty congratulations and continued support: FIERCE, Human Rights Watch, Liberation in Truth Unity Fellowship Church, and the Sylvia Rivera Law Project.

Also: while some elements of the NY media had a field day tearing these women apart when they were on trial, calling them things like “killer lesbians,” “a wolf pack of lesbians,” and a “seething sapphic septet,” they’ve been remarkably quiet about the overturned convictions so far. Funny, that. We should probably be thankful for that, though; one can only imagine what sort of fucked-up things they’d say if they did take up the story.

Edited to add: More info from the Free the NJ 4 blog. Their press release is definitely recommended reading.

cross-posted at Feministe

Latina teacher fired for not regurgitating the same old crap

Karen Salazar at a rally in response to her firing

cross-posted at Feministe

Yesterday while listening to Democracy Now! I heard about Karen Salazar for the first time. She is a high school teacher who was fired from her position at a school in LA because her curriculum was too “Afrocentric” – instead of, you know, the usual Eurocentric curriculum that’s delivered to American students on the daily. From a letter by Salazar posted on the Vivir Latino site:

I am being fired because I am trying to ensure that my curriculum is relevant to my students’ daily lived experiences, and in the process, create a space for them to be critical of Eurocentric society and curricula that only serve to reinforce their dehumanization, subjugation, and oppression …

I have been observed in the classroom and evaluated by administration over a dozen times (almost twice a month) this school year, whereas in comparison, most teachers are observed and evaluated 1-3 times per school year. The evaluations claim that I am creating “militancy” within students, promoting my personal political beliefs, and presenting a biased view of the curriculum. It has also been implied that I have been teaching students “how to protest.”

Three weeks ago, things began escalating when I was again observed, and in his evaluation, the administrator accused me of “brainwashing” my students and “forcing extremist views” on them. The class had been reading a 3-page excerpt of the Autobiography of Malcolm X (an LAUSD-approved text, of which we have several class sets in our school bookroom), in which Malcolm describes the first time he conked his hair…My contract is being terminated because according to the principal, I am “indoctrinating students with anti-Semitism and Afrocentrism.” The anti-Semitism accusation comes solely from the fact that I have an Intifada poster hanging in my classroom (a symbol of support for a free Palestine), and the Afrocentrism accusation comes from the fact my culturally-relevant curriculum reflects the demographics of my students, though I am surprised I am not being accused of Raza-centrism as well.

Needless to say, this shit is disgusting. And of course, as Democracy Now! reports, it’s not an isolated incident:

In 2006, Jay Bennish, a high school teacher from Aurora, Colorado, was briefly dismissed because one of his lectures was deemed “anti-American.” On the eve of the Iraq war in 2003, Deborah Mayer, an Indiana schoolteacher, was fired after telling her class, “I honk for peace.” A federal appeals court in Chicago upheld the school’s decision last year and ruled public school teachers do not have the constitutional right to express personal opinions in the classroom.

But this isn’t just about expressing personal opinions; it’s about the restrictions imposed upon teachers who may wish to counter the so-called history in most history books with information that actually reflects the many cultures and histories that make up this country – histories that often don’t make the United States look so swell.

Continue reading ‘Latina teacher fired for not regurgitating the same old crap’

Thanks, Tila!

Tila Tequila

A little levity for you: while the debate about whether marriage equality is something to unequivocally celebrate continues, at least one thing has been cleared up. We now know who to thank for the victory in California! And no, it’s not LGBT organizations and activists who have worked tirelessly towards this goal; that would make way too much sense. No, folks, we should actually be thanking Tila Tequila.

“It is because of me. I definitely think [my show] has helped the movement,” Tila told Us Weekly at the Hollywood premiere of “The Love Guru” on Wednesday.

“A Shot At Love” pits men and women vying for Tila’s affection against each other in a series of challenges designed to help Tila find the man or woman of her dreams.

“Before it came out, everyone was still a little apprehensive about [same sex relationships],” she said. “Then they realized, ‘Wow, everyone is really into this stuff, and it is fine.’ The next thing you know, [gay marriage] is legal.”

Or maybe the show just reassured everyone who was apprehensive about the gays getting hitched that even if queer people look like they’re gonna marry a hot, interesting individual of their own sex, in the end they’ll wind up going with a boring person of the “opposite” sex named Bobby?

(Yes. I will admit it. I watched that train wreck of a show. And DANI WUZ ROBBED!)

Also, I am amazed that the image in this post is the only one that showed up on the first page of my Google Image Search (SafeSearch turned off) for “Tila Tequila” that was not hyper-sexualized or featuring major nudity. Actually, why am I surprised?

(Thanks to Myles for the tip!)

I think it smells a whole lot, Willie.

Willie Randolph, courtesy USA Today

So maybe this is just me being a typical paranoid, irrational, bigoted person of color as per usual (hah), but does anyone else think that the firing of Mets manager Willie Randolph came enough on the heels of his comments (and subsequent, sad retraction) about race being a factor in media coverage of him? (SHOCKING!)

I can’t claim to be all up on news about the Mets or even baseball in general (I’m a terrible Yankees fan, really). And from what little I know, I understand that the Mets haven’t been doing all that well and that Randolph was at the helm during last season’s spectacular meltdown, so there are certainly other factors at play. But I can’t help but think that Randolph’s comments and all the media b.s. surrounding them might have something to do with his the shoddy handling of the situation by the Mets management. I mean, even papers like the Post and the Daily News are calling the Mets owners and GM for their shitty treatment of Randolph.

I just hope Randolph finds another, better job with a team that won’t treat him with such disrespect and disregard.

An Important Announcement from Your Neighborhood Angry Brown Butch

I think I came to an important realization today. I think it had something to do with some of the comments on this thread.

REVELATION: Believe it or not, I try to exercise restraint with white people on the internet. But I’m feeling pretty much over it. And I’m okay with that.

In that spirit,

let me tell you internet - is so hard being white

Sometimes a LOLcat says it best.

Why this queer isn’t celebrating

I’ll admit it: I couldn’t help but get a bit happy when I heard that California was legalizing same-sex marriage. And today, when I heard about the first couples in line to enjoy their new rights, couples like Phyllis Lyon and Del Martin who got married again after their 2004 marriage was declared invalid, my heart was kinda warmed. After all, politics aside, it’s beautiful to see people celebrate and commemorate their love, out in the open, and with a long-awaited sense of equality and societal recognition. It’s hard for me not to get a little bit sentimental and proud in the most rainbow-flag-waving sense of the word.

But it didn’t take long for that warmth to turn chill and that pride to shrivel up completely when I read this article from the LA Times:

The gay and lesbian couples who packed a Hollywood auditorium last week had come seeking information about California’s new marriage policies. But they also got some unsolicited advice.

Be aware.

Images from gay weddings, said Lorri L. Jean, chief executive of the Los Angeles Gay and Lesbian Center, could be used by opponents in a campaign designed to convince California voters that gays and lesbians should not have the right to marry. Those getting married, she cautioned, should never lose sight of what they might be supplying the other side.

Sitting close to his husband-to-be in the audience, hairstylist Kendall Hamilton nodded and said he knew just what she meant. No “guys showing up in gowns,” he said.

The article goes on to discuss how “proponents of same-sex marriage are now taking care to emphasize mainstream unions.”

Many of the … early weddings around the state were also of long-term couples who could have been selected by central casting to appear both nonthreatening and mainstream.

And as the SF Gate reports, even the gay-marriage-themed window displays are being engineered to be as normative as possible:

In window one: two men on a wedding cake, one in a $6,000 Brioni tuxedo, the other in a $4,000 Belvest tux.

In window two: two women, one in a black Roberto Cavalli skirt tuxedo ($3,655) and the other in a $1,900 Catherine Regehr white dress.

“Describe them as straightforward,” [San Francisco clothier Wilkes] Bashford said. “I definitely did not want them to be camp.”

That’s right, folks: no camp here. No gender non-conformity, either. And definitely no guys in gowns.

Why? Because the marriage equality movement is largely predicated on the notion that us queers are just like “everyone else,” meaning mostly white, mostly middle-class or up, gender conforming monogamists. You know, the non-threatening queers. The rest of us should apparently find a nice closet to go hide in for a while, lest we threaten the rights that are apparently meant for the more upstanding, respectable members of the LGsomeotherlessimportantletters community.

Continue reading ‘Why this queer isn’t celebrating’