8 posts tagged civil rights
Obit of the Day: “Thirteen Cokes, Please.”
Clara Luper, an Oklahoma history teacher, ordered those Cokes at Katz Drugstore in Oklahoma City on August 19, 1958 for herself and twelve children, ages 6 to 17. Lunch counters in Oklahoma, like much of the South, were segregated. This wasn’t just a request for drinks, but a request for civil rights.
Waitresses ignored them. Other patrons did not: leaving the restaurant, pouring drinks on them, cursing at them. (Did I mention there were children as young as six?) The group left after a few hours without a drink. They returned the next day and were served their Cokes, and burgers, too.
“Within that hamburger was the whole essence of democracy.” - Clara Luper
Note: This took place a year and a half before the much more famous sit-in at the Greensboro (NC) Woolworth’s on February 1, 1960.
Luper would continue her fight to desegregate public spaces in Oklahoma City. She was arrested 26 times between 1958 and the passage of Oklahoma law to desegregate. (Passed two days after the Civil Rights Act.)
(Fantastic image is courtesy of Black Past.)
By Glen Ford, Black Agenda Report
The fetishization of voting is part of the larger African American imperative to “get in the game” even when you know its rigged. It is as if history has bequeathed Blacks a racial and personal responsibility to redress centuries of social, political and economic exclusion. We must participate, because the ancestors could not.
On August 18, the Black Is Back Coalition for Social Justice, Peace and Reparations holds a national conference in Newark, New Jersey, to explore the efficacy of engaging in electoral politics in the United States and throughout the global African Diaspora. The coalition’s stance on Obama is well known. Black Is Back was formed, in large measure, as a public statement that not all African Americans were drunk on ObamaL’aid.
The imperative to participate in the vote game, no matter how putrid the personalities listed on the electoral menu, will surely be part of the Black Is Back discussion, in Newark. Possibly the greatest obstacle, however, to organizing African Americans for their own empowerment is the belief that electoral activity is the only kind of politics.
This notion of elections=politics is pervasive across the American racial landscape, and is one of the most frightening aspects of the hegemony of capitalist market ideology, whose message is: if you’re not playing our (rigged) game, you don’t exist. For African Americans, the marginalization of non-electoral political activity – the rejection of mass, grassroots action – is a negation of, literally, the vast bulk of the Black historical political experience.
Two West Harlem residents, Christina Gonzalez, 25, and Matthew Swaye, 35, ran into a surprise when they showed up for a community meeting at their local NYPD precinct last week. There, on the wall of the 30th Precinct, were their mug shots—only they weren’t wanted for any crime.
Christina Gonzalez and Matthew Swaye are police reform activists who regularly film police interactions in their neighborhood, especially to record the NYPD’s controversial Stop and Frisk policy. Although filming police is completely legal, the poster (which was full of misspellings, I might add), advised officers to “be aware” that these ”professional agitators” not only film police “performing routine stops,” but also” post the videos on YouTube.
“Subjects purpose is to portray officers in a negative way and to [sic] deter officers from conducting their [sic] responsibilities.” the warning from Sergeant Nicholson reads. “Do not feed into above subjects’ propaganda.”
Gonzalez says it is the NYPD spreading propaganda and that the poster is an obvious tactic to criminalize, intimidate and target her. Since Gonzalez became involved with Occupy and the Stop-and-Frisk movement this fall, police have given her plenty of reasons to look over her shoulder, including calling her out by name and address, erecting a watchtower on her corner and aggressively arresting her sister in front of Gonzalez.
Of course, this is not the first time the NYPD or other police departments have targeted activists. The New York police have a history of infiltrating and intimidating activists, particularly during the Black Panther movement of the 1960s and 1970s.
For activists like Gonzalez, Stop-and-Frisk, a racial profiling tactic, is not only a violation of one’s constitutional rights, it is also part of the NYPD’s larger apparatus of racial oppression. Police stop more than 700,00 people per year, almost 90 percent of whom are young Black and Latino men. The best defense against the illegal searches, which occur during about 50% of stops, has proven to be video, and the ACLU recently launched an app to combat and document unconstitutional stops. But while the movement relies on cameras to expose Stop-and-Frisk, the NYPD targets filmers like Gonzalez with the same type of surveillance and repression police have used against activists in the past.
Gonzalez, who grew up in Far Rockaway, Queens, and graduated magnum cum laude from John Jay College of Criminal Justice last year, has long been familiar with the NYPD—though rarely appreciative of their services. A few years ago, she was a victim of intimate partner violence, and the NYPD routinely refused to help her.
“They blamed me for my own abuse,” Gonzalez said. “The police were supposed to protect me.” Her former partner is currently incarcerated for assaulting his latest girlfriend.
Gonzalez says police are familiar with her and her activism, and that as the movement to reform Stop-and-Frisk grows, so, too, does the police reaction. Gonzalez said that, the more she filmed, demonstrated, and was arrested, the more police noticed her, often calling her by name and making comments like, “we remember you,” or, “be careful walking home; it’s a long walk to 153rd Street.”
“That’s when I said, ‘Okay, they know where we live.’ That was kind of scary, especially to say in front of my little sister.”
In February, Gonzalez learned the NYPD were watching her YouTube page, where she posted videos of police harassment, such as the time officers taunted Gonzalez by telling her that her dreadlocked hair smells. Shortly after she posted the video, two officers called her by name over to their police car.
Indigenous Style Icon of the Week: Rigoberta Menchú (K’iche’ Maya)
Rigoberta Menchú Tum is an indigenous Guatemalan, of the K’iche’ ethnic group. Menchú received a primary-school education as a student at several Catholic boarding schools. After leaving school, she worked as an activist campaigning against human rights violations committed by the Guatemalan armed forces during the country’s civil war, which lasted from 1960 to 1996.
Her father, Vicente Menchú was a member of the guerrilla movement Guerrilla Army of the Poor and died in 1980 during the Burning of the Spanish Embassy. In 1981, Rigoberta Menchú escaped to Mexico. In 1982, she narrated a book about her life to Venezuelan author and anthropologist Elizabeth Burgos, “Me llamo Rigoberta Menchú y así me nació la conciencia” (My Name is Rigoberta Menchu and this is how my Conscience was Born), which was translated into five other languages. The book made her an international icon at the time of the ongoing conflict in Guatemala. She received the Nobel Peace Prize (1992), served as the presidential goodwill ambassador for the 1996 peace accords, and received the Prince of Asturias Award (1998).
Since the Guatemalan Civil War ended, Menchú has campaigned to have members of the Guatemalan political and military establishment tried in Spanish courts. In 1999 she filed a complaint before a court in Spain because prosecutions of crimes committed during the civil war are practically impossible in Guatemala. On December 23, 2006, Spain called for the extradition from Guatemala of seven former members of Guatemala’s government on charges of genocide and torture, including former military rulers Efraín Ríos Montt and Óscar Mejía. The most serious charges include genocide against the Mayan people of Guatemala.
In February 2007, Menchú announced that she would form an indigenous political party called Encuentro por Guatemala and that she would stand in the 2007 presidential election. In the election, Menchú was defeated in the first round, receiving three percent of the vote. Several candidates of her party were threatened and two of them were killed.
Menchú has become involved in the Indian pharmaceutical industry as president of the company Salud para Todos (Health for All) and the company Farmacias Similares, with the goal of offering low-cost generic medicines. She is also one of the founding members of the Nobel Women’s Initiative, which works to help strengthen work being done in support of women’s rights around the world.
Menchú has dedicated her life to publicizing the struggles of Guatemala’s indigenous peoples during and after the Guatemalan Civil War (1960–1996), and to promoting indigenous rights in the country. She is the subject of the testimonial biography I, Rigoberta Menchú (1983) and the author of the autobiographical work, Crossing Borders.
The killer of Trayvon Martin may be behind bars, but the struggle to end the killing of African Americans by police and racists must continue to grow.
… If an entire section of the population is criminalized under accepted and perfectly legal law enforcement policies, should it come as any surprise that police are prepared to shoot first and ask questions later?
The NYPD racks up more killings of unarmed Blacks and Latinos than other police forces because of its quasi-military character, its size and its quantity of armaments. But police across the U.S. follow the same pattern.
… There’s no way to predict when and how a new anti-racist movement will take shape. But the elements are in place: a criminal justice system that continues to incarcerate African Americans on a mass scale; police who act as judge, jury and executioner in the streets; and now, thousands of activists across the U.S. who decided to take a stand for Trayvon Martin.
The struggle to win racial justice has a long history, and it has never been an easy one. But the murder of Trayvon Martin may well be the spark that ignites that movement once again.
Noam Chomsky, Institute professor (emeritus), MIT
Michael Ratner, President of the Center for Constitutional Rights*
Jesse Sharkey, Vice President, Chicago Teachers Union*
Dave Zirin, Sports Editor, The Nation
Ahmed Shawki, Editor, International Socialist Review
Anthony Arnove, Editor, Haymarket Books
Scott McLemee, Inside Higher Ed*
David McNally, Professor of Political Science, York University, Toronto
The Coalition Against Corporate Higher Education (CACHE)
Mike Davis, Professor, UC Riverside
William Keach, Professor, Brown University
Deepa Kumar, Associate Professor, Rutgers University
Hector R. Reyes, Associate Professor, Harold Washington College, Vice Chair, HWC Chapter, AFT Local 1600
Helen C. Scott, Associate Professor, University of Vermont
Marvin Surkin, Professor, Long Island University, Ramapo College
Pranav Jani, Associate Professor, English, Ohio State University
*Organizations listed for identification only
This is an urgent appeal for your support to defend Professor Loretta Capeheart in her struggle with her employer, Northeastern Illinois University (NEIU) in Chicago. After four years of legal action, we are now awaiting a key decision from the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals—a decision that could set a precedent for free speech rights on campus and possibly move the case on to the Supreme Court.
The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) wrote, “If upheld on review, the district court’s ruling would deal a major blow to professors’ academic freedom and free speech in the Seventh Circuit—and quite likely beyond, as it would send the unmistakable message that faculty members aiming to speak out and be active in campus dialogue risk having their careers damaged.”
WHAT IS THIS CASE ABOUT?
Capeheart is a ten-year tenured professor at NEIU and a respected union and community activist. Capeheart has been a leader in union struggles, anti-war work and attempts to promote the rights of students and faculty, especially Latino/a faculty. Unfortunately Capeheart and other campus activists face one of the most repressive and scandal-ridden campus administrations in the country, presided over by NEIU President Sharon K. Hahs, an arrogant opponent of student, worker, and minority rights on campus. NEIU administrators have engaged in a well-documented history of retaliation against Capeheart for her principled activism. The administration has denied Capeheart a department chair position and earned merit pay increases, and waged in a campaign of slander against her.
In Capeheart v. Hahs et al., a Federal judge concluded that Capeheart could be punished for speaking out against the war because she advised a student club. The court agreed with NEIU’s lawyers that academics have no right to free speech under the Supreme Court decision Garcetti v. Ceballos (2006).
In Garcetti, the Supreme Court stripped most government workers of their rights to speak in the workplace but made a footnoted exception for professors. In deciding against Capeheart, the lower court effectively ignored this footnote and left faculty—and all workers— with fewer rights. Other federal courts have similarly misapplied Garcetti. Now the pending decision from the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals will either reject the new limits on faculty rights set by the lower courts— or further establish them. Either way, this decision could then proceed to the Supreme Court.
Central Florida leftists insist something new is happening here since Trayvon Martin’s killing. In the era of Occupy and global resistance, small towns draped in Spanish moss are now home to budding activists raising their fists to demand justice for Trayvon.
Where this will go from here I have no idea, but one thing is certain: There are Floridians who say they’re forever changed by this case, and some of them — to the horror of bigots — will cite this as their entry into a life of organized left-wing politics.
On Monday at the University of Florida’s flagship campus in Gainesville, more than 250 Black and white students marched together to the FBI building to demand the Feds take action to arrest Trayvon’s killer, George Zimmerman. That is not a large protest to folks in New York or Chicago, but in a deeply segregated town where Blacks literally live on the other side of the tracks, where activists passed a Klan rally of dozens along the road home afterward, a multiracial march of this size is a triumph.