Monday, July 27, 2009

News - Listen up: The Police Dispatch on the Gates Case

Just out.  Listen to the audio from the 911 call on Henry Louis Gates’ Arrest by clicking here.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Huh? Parents blame 8-year old Child for her Rape

Crime SceneJust when you think you've heard all there is to hear about the horrors of child abuse and neglect in this country, there's this horrifying report: An eight-year-old girl is allegedly gang-raped by four boys -- one of them her cousin -- and then rejected by her parents for shaming them.
You heard me.

The victim hails from a Liberian enclave in Arizona, and all of the children involved are refugees. Her 23-year-old sister, who was supposedly babysitting when four boys attacked the youngster in a storage shed (pictured), told KTVK in Arizona, "She always bring trouble...I came to her and said it's not good for you to be following guys because you are still little." If the girl, who is now in foster care, were to come home, her sister says she would be scolded. "She's just bringing confusions among us," she said.

Click to read.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Black News: Dr Boyce Watkins, Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton on the radio tomorrow



Tomorrow morning, July 26, 2009 at 8:30 am EST, Dr Boyce Watkins of Syracuse University will appear on the Jesse Jackson Show with Rev. Al Sharpton and Harvard Law Professor Charles Ogletree.  The conversation will center around the recent arrest of  Harvard Professor Henry Louis Gates.  For affiliate information, please visit

Time: The Gates Case: When Disorderly Conduct is a Cop's Judgment Call

"I read over this article and I think it gives an excellent explanation of what the misdemeanor charge of disorderly conduct is all about" Syreeta L. McNeal, CPA, JD
Saturday, Jul. 25, 2009

In law enforcement, there are few situations that are clear cut, and disorderly conduct is one of the fuzziest. As Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates Jr. now knows all too well, the misdemeanor charge can be used to corral people who are simply uncooperative or rude. State statutes are designed to help police officers maintain authority, and they are so broadly worded that divining what constitutes disorderly conduct is left up to the discretion of individual officers. "It's probably the most abused statute in America," says Eugene O'Donnell, a professor of law and police studies at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York City.

Perhaps not surprisingly, a good chunk of disorderly conduct charges end up being dropped, as happened in the case against Gates, who was arrested on his porch July 16 after yelling at the officer who responded to a report of a possible break-in at the Harvard scholar's home in Cambridge, Mass. Gates, who is black, accused Sgt. James Crowley, who is white, of being a racist and also cast aspersions about the cop's "mama". "Mr. Gates was given plenty of opportunities to stop what he was doing. He didn't. He acted very irrational. He controlled the outcome of that event," Crowley told WBZ Radio in Boston on Thursday.

Talking trash by itself isn't a punishable offense — unless, it seems, you draw a crowd while doing it, which is part of the allegation against Gates. That's why in the wake of the Gates incident, cops are holding firm on the need for lots of latitude in issuing disorderly conduct charges. President Barack Obama, who said earlier this week that Cambridge police had "acted stupidly," called Crowley Friday to make nice, though he stopped short of issuing the apology that Massachusetts police unions sought and maintained that he still thought "there was an overreaction."

"Disorderly conduct is a fluid concept," says Tom Nolan, a criminal justice professor at Boston University who spent 27 years in uniform at the Boston Police Department. "Unlike a lot of other crimes, this really calls for the use of discretion in a way that armed robbery or more serious felony crime doesn't. The less serious a crime, the more officer discretion you use," he says, adding "discretion is judgment that we hope is based on wisdom, experience and training."

Disorderly conduct has its roots in the mid-19th century, when police officers needed a way to quell street brawls that erupted frequently between recent immigrants and already established residents, often regarding labor issues. Crowds would gather and cops needed to restore order in public places. According to the Cambridge police report, Gates exhibited "loud and tumultuous behavior, in a public place" that "caused citizens passing by this location to stop and take notice while appearing surprised and alarmed."

The issue of whether or not Gates — first in his home and later on his front porch — was in a public place has sparked plenty of debate, including in the blogosphere. Crowley's account of the incident included the detail that "at least seven" passers-by had stopped to rubberneck. Sam Goldberg, author of Boston Criminal Lawyer Blog, thinks the report includes that detail in order to bolster the case that this altercation was playing out publicly. "It's as if he was saying, 'Look, he was really causing a disturbance,'" says Goldberg, a criminal defense attorney at the Cambridge-based firm of Altman & Altman.

Jon Shane, who spent 17 years as a police officer in hardscrabble Newark, N.J., said that had he been the cop called to Gates' house, he would have left Gates and his huffy comments alone once he was sure Gates was the homeowner. He admits he may well have been offended by the professor's alleged bluster, but that's just part of the job, so much so that there's a term in police vernacular devoted to situations like this: contempt of cop.

"In contempt of court, you get loud and abusive in a courtroom, and it's against the law," says Shane, now a professor of criminal justice at John Jay who specializes in police policy and practice. "With contempt of cop, you get loud and nasty and show scorn for a law enforcement officer, but a police officer can't go out and lock you up for disorderly conduct because you were disrespectful toward them." The First Amendment allows you to say pretty much anything to the police. "You could tell them to go f--k themselves," says Shane, "and that's fine."

Like Shane, there are plenty of cops and ex-cops who think Gates' behavior didn't warrant the disorderly conduct charge, and there are those, like Nolan, who feel it did.

"Police pride themselves on resolving issues, and 99% of the time it occurs without arrests happening," says Nolan. "You are not going to win any accolades bringing in anyone for a street disturbance. It's a waste of time because in order to bring this situation to a conclusion, you've got hours of paperwork ahead of you."

"You do it because you have no other tool at your disposal," he says of disorderly conduct.

"There really isn't any other choice."

Friday, July 24, 2009

Female minority lawyers don't stay at U.S. firms

Chicago Sun-Times

A study has found that more than 75 percent of female minority attorneys at U.S. law firms will leave their jobs within five years due to continuing barriers to advancement. The finding is by the women's research group Catalyst, which notes the barriers bring with them big costs.

"Those who leave often report experiencing institutional discrimination and unwanted and or unfair critical attention, which combine to create an exclusionary and challenging workplace," the report said.

When a lawyer leaves a firm, the cost to the employer is equal to or greater than that person's annual salary and benefits, Catalyst said, citing a previous study it did.

The report looked at the workplace experiences of minority women, compared with those of men of color and white women and men. Challenges unique to women of color include limited growth opportunities and a greater sense of "outsider status," racial and gender stereotyping and more feelings of sexism in the workplace compared with white women; lack of access to high-profile client assignments and important client engagements, and missed opportunities for candid feedback, the report said.

The findings come as firms focus on associate satisfaction and retention and address diversity issues while facing a client base and talent pool composed of more women and minorities, Catalyst said.

The report found stark differences between groups of minority women in their perceptions of workplace culture and diversity.

Black women were more likely to believe diversity programs don't address workplace biases and feel that partners and other supervising attorneys get insufficient training on how to work effectively with diverse cultures. They also cited a lack of access to challenging work assignments.

The report, whose sponsors included Sidley & Austin, said that to attract and retain women of color firms need to:

• Include senior leaders as active players in building and establishing inclusive workplaces.

• Raise awareness on the varying needs of different minority groups.

• Create opportunities for dialogue between firm leadership and female minority attorneys.

• Educate all attorneys, especially partners and other supervising attorneys on how to recognize bias and stereotyping of women of color.

• Monitor and track the career development of minority women and hold leaders accountable for their advancement.


Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Dr Boyce Watkins: Don’t Feel Sorry for Henry Louis Gates: Be Intelligent


by Dr. Boyce Watkins, Syracuse University

I am not Al Sharpton. In fact, I never could be and I don't want to try. I am also not Henry Louis Gates, a man with an undeniable contribution to the legacy of Black Scholarship in America. I am simply Boyce Watkins, the son of a 17-year-old mother and a father who happened to be a high-ranking police official for the past 28 years. I've argued with my father for decades, as his Bill Cosby-like views of the world have often made my face twist with confusion. But I listen to my father, because there is value in seeing other points of view.

When I hear about a Black man being mistreated by police, I take a moment of pause. I think about the horrific statistics on Black males in the criminal justice system, in which we are more likely to be arrested for the same crimes, more likely to be convicted, more likely to be incarcerated and expected to get more prison time than our White counterparts.


Click to read.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Harvard Prof Henry Louis Gates Arrested

Harvard University’s Henry Louis Gates Jr., director of the W.E.B. DuBois Institute for African & African American Studies, was arrested July 16 on a charge of disorderly conduct.

Gates, 58, a resident of Cambridge, Massachusetts, where Harvard’s main campus is located, was arrested after “exhibiting loud and tumultuous behavior,” according to a report on the Cambridge Police Department’s Web site. Cambridge police officials declined to comment and said the case was under investigation by Office of the Middlesex District Attorney. A call to the DA’s office wasn’t immediately returned.


Click to read.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Your Black News: Kids Invited Back To Swim

A suburban Philadelphia swim club has invited children from a largely minority day-care center to come back after a June reversal that fueled allegations of racism against the club, a spokeswoman said Sunday.

Some kids from the Creative Steps Day Care center say club members made racial remarks.

Some kids from the Creative Steps Day Care center say club members made racial remarks.

The development came during a hastily called Sunday afternoon meeting of the Valley Club in Huntingdon Valley, Pennsylvania. Club members voted overwhelmingly to try to work things out with the day-care center, which accused some swim club members of making racist comments to black and Hispanic children contracted to use the pool, said Bernice Duesler, the club director's wife.

Duesler said the club canceled its contract with the Creative Steps day-care because of safety, crowding and noise concerns, not racism.

"As long as we can work out safety issues, we'd like to have them back," she told CNN.

She said the club has been subpoenaed by the state Human Rights Commission, which has begun a fact-finding investigation, "and the legal advice was to try to get together with these camps, " Duesler added.

Alethea Wright, Creative Steps' director, said, "They should have done that before."

Click to read.

Your Black News: Marion Barry’s Complicated Life

Marion Barry, Washington's embattled city council member and former mayor, dodged another bullet last week when a District prosecutor declined to prosecute him on charges of stalking his ex-girlfriend. Barry was arrested and briefly detained by U.S. Park Service police July 4th after the woman, 40-year-old Donna Watts-Brighthaupt, complained that he was "bothering" her.

But Mr. Barry may not be completely out of the woods yet. The controversy kicked up by his arrest led reporters to dig out the fact that Mr. Barry had put Ms. Watts-Brighthaupt on his payroll by awarding her a $60,000 contract to study "poverty reduction," to be paid out of taxpayer dollars. That proved too much for current D.C. Mayor Adrian Fenty and others, who demanded the city council open an ethics probe of Mr. Barry. On Friday, D.C. Council Chairman Vincent C. Gray announced the council would hire an independent law firm to look into the matter.


Click to read.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

A Boarding School for Black Boys – Can They Get the Money?


Kentucky State University could open a boarding school aimed at preparing African American males for college as soon as 2010, according to President Mary Sias.

High school students would live in campus dorms, with their own teachers and an on-site principal. They would have access to KSU facilities and dual credit courses, bridging them into college life.

The plan is part of an effort to increase the number of black men who earn postsecondary degrees, Sias told The State Journal.

“We believe it’s a good way to save those students, and actually stop many black males from dropping out,” she said.


Click to read

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Black People, The Supreme Court, and Our Rights

The United States Supreme Court recently made a number of decisions that continued this conservative-leaning courts pattern of taking a jackhammer to the barriers put in place in order to protect the rights of people historically susceptible to discriminatory and oppressive conduct, which definitely includes Black people.

The most recent decision resulted from a case involving a group of white firefighters in New Haven, CT, who alleged that the city of New Haven was guilty of "reverse discrimination" for refusing to continue using a promotion exam that showed a clear disparate impact on Black and Hispanic firefighters(If the exam had been used, 17 whites, 2 Hispanics, and 0 Blacks would have been promoted). The court, in a 5-4 decision, sided with the white firefighters, stating that the city of New Haven's "fear of litigation" was not enough of a reason to not use the exam, nor was the disparate impact alone sufficient reason. The court gave a new standard requiring a "strong basis of evidence" to show that the city may be liable for disparate impact on a protected group, instead of the previous "good faith basis" that had been applied in previous cases. Although the court did not give a rule as to what constitutes a strong-basis of evidence, it can be easily concluded that the result of this decision will be to make it more difficult to prove claims of disparate impact regarding the use of promotional exams, both in public and private employment.

Combine this decision with the courts decision in a recent age-discrimination case, and a decision by the court blocking the right of potentially innocent people to obtain post-conviction DNA testing in order to prove their innocence(a decision the Obama administration supported-another disturbing pattern), and what we have are clear warning flags that the rights of many people (Black people in particular) are in serious jeopardy.

It is an observed trend that when the economy is not doing well, employment discrimination claims rise. As Black people, many of us are also aware that we are often the first to suffer during times of economic hardship, and that we also generally feel the effects more than others. The saying "last hired, first fired" is not a myth, but a sad reality for many of us. When times get hard, employers are more likely to attempt to find reasons to get rid of employees. Most employers will do this in a legal and ethical manner(or so we hope). However, the reality is that many will not, and when they don't, they are far more likely to use those unjust methods of firing(or not promoting, or not hiring) against Black people.

The courts decisions are a continuation of its willful ignorance, and an example of how far from being a "post-race" society we really are. The court is simply a microcosm of the rest of white supremacist/white privileged society, which is using the election of a Black president as a sort of "get out of worrying about rights" card. Although most people who don't have their heads buried in the sand realize that racism(specifically institutional) and discrimination are still issues, and that most of this conduct is not done in a blatant manner, the Supreme Court continues to make it so that a person almost has to witness or hear the act of discrimination in order to be successful. It is highly doubtful that many people will be caught saying "I designed this test so that no Blacks would be promoted", or "I am not hiring that person because they are too old".

The court, and many others in America with self-serving motives, are strongly pushing the "post-race mythology". This includes numbers of Black people as well. It is easy for those who still occupy the majority of positions of power(and yes, white people do, regardless of who our president is) to argue that things are equal now, and that there need not be any more focus on the rights of those who have been historically oppressed. It is also easier for those Black people who have achieved some level of financial success to ignore the realities still faced by far too many of us. Those who have and are prospering from the status quo, have the least motivation to want to change it. This approach of promoting the myth of racial harmony and equality over the reality of continued racism and discrimination will only result in more harm for Black people in the long term. The impetus for challenging this drive to promote the illusion of racial equality must come from us.

We must be vocal and active in the face of this machine that is working to take us backwards in time. Allowing ourselves to be blinded by a Black face in the presidential office is the worst mistake we could make. That is not an attack on President Obama, it is a message to those "fans" who think they are doing him or us a favor by not challenging him(or other elected officials, or the courts) on issues that may have a great lasting impact on us.