An American Tragedy

Donald Trump at a campaign rally on Oct. 5, 2016, in Reno, Nev. (Photo: Evan Vucci / AP); Background image credit: Rick Wilking / Reuters

The election of Donald Trump to the Presidency is nothing less than a tragedy for the American republic, a tragedy for the Constitution, and a triumph for the forces, at home and abroad, of nativism, authoritarianism, misogyny, and racism. Trump’s shocking victory, his ascension to the Presidency, is a sickening event in the history of the United States and liberal democracy. On January 20, 2017, we will bid farewell to the first African-American President—a man of integrity, dignity, and generous spirit—and witness the inauguration of a con who did little to spurn endorsement by forces of xenophobia and white supremacy. It is impossible to react to this moment with anything less than revulsion and profound anxiety.

There are, inevitably, miseries to come: an increasingly reactionary Supreme Court; an emboldened right-wing Congress; a President whose disdain for women and minorities, civil liberties and scientific fact, to say nothing of simple decency, has been repeatedly demonstrated. Trump is vulgarity unbounded, a knowledge-free national leader who will not only set markets tumbling but will strike fear into the hearts of the vulnerable, the weak, and, above all, the many varieties of Other whom he has so deeply insulted. The African-American Other. The Hispanic Other. The female Other. The Jewish and Muslim Other. The most hopeful way to look at this grievous event—and it’s a stretch—is that this election and the years to follow will be a test of the strength, or the fragility, of American institutions. It will be a test of our seriousness and resolve.

Early on Election Day, the polls held out cause for concern, but they provided sufficiently promising news for Democrats in states like Pennsylvania, Michigan, North Carolina, and even Florida that there was every reason to think about celebrating the fulfillment of Seneca Falls, the election of the first woman to the White House. Potential victories in states like Georgia disappeared, little more than a week ago, with the F.B.I. director’s heedless and damaging letter to Congress about reopening his investigation and the reappearance of damaging buzzwords like “e-mails,” “Anthony Weiner,” and “fifteen-year-old girl.” But the odds were still with Hillary Clinton.

All along, Trump seemed like a twisted caricature of every rotten reflex of the radical right. That he has prevailed, that he has won this election, is a crushing blow to the spirit; it is an event that will likely cast the country into a period of economic, political, and social uncertainty that we cannot yet imagine. That the electorate has, in its plurality, decided to live in Trump’s world of vanity, hate, arrogance, untruth, and recklessness, his disdain for democratic norms, is a fact that will lead, inevitably, to all manner of national decline and suffering.

In the coming days, commentators will attempt to normalize this event. They will try to soothe their readers and viewers with thoughts about the “innate wisdom” and “essential decency” of the American people. They will downplay the virulence of the nationalism displayed, the cruel decision to elevate a man who rides in a gold-plated airliner but who has staked his claim with the populist rhetoric of blood and soil. George Orwell, the most fearless of commentators, was right to point out that public opinion is no more innately wise than humans are innately kind. People can behave foolishly, recklessly, self-destructively in the aggregate just as they can individually. Sometimes all they require is a leader of cunning, a demagogue who reads the waves of resentment and rides them to a popular victory. “The point is that the relative freedom which we enjoy depends of public opinion,” Orwell wrote in his essay “Freedom of the Park.” “The law is no protection. Governments make laws, but whether they are carried out, and how the police behave, depends on the general temper in the country. If large numbers of people are interested in freedom of speech, there will be freedom of speech, even if the law forbids it; if public opinion is sluggish, inconvenient minorities will be persecuted, even if laws exist to protect them.”

Trump ran his campaign sensing the feeling of dispossession and anxiety among millions of voters—white voters, in the main. And many of those voters—not all, but many—followed Trump because they saw that this slick performer, once a relative cipher when it came to politics, a marginal self-promoting buffoon in the jokescape of eighties and nineties New York, was more than willing to assume their resentments, their fury, their sense of a new world that conspired against their interests. That he was a billionaire of low repute did not dissuade them any more than pro-Brexit voters in Britain were dissuaded by the cynicism of Boris Johnson and so many others. The Democratic electorate might have taken comfort in the fact that the nation had recovered substantially, if unevenly, from the Great Recession in many ways—unemployment is down to 4.9 per cent—but it led them, it led us, to grossly underestimate reality. The Democratic electorate also believed that, with the election of an African-American President and the rise of marriage equality and other such markers, the culture wars were coming to a close. Trump began his campaign declaring Mexican immigrants to be “rapists”; he closed it with an anti-Semitic ad evoking “The Protocols of the Elders of Zion”; his own behavior made a mockery of the dignity of women and women’s bodies. And, when criticized for any of it, he batted it all away as “political correctness.” Surely such a cruel and retrograde figure could succeed among some voters, but how could he win? Surely, Breitbart News, a site of vile conspiracies, could not become for millions a source of news and mainstream opinion. And yet Trump, who may have set out on his campaign merely as a branding exercise, sooner or later recognized that he could embody and manipulate these dark forces. The fact that “traditional” Republicans, from George H. W. Bush to Mitt Romney, announced their distaste for Trump only seemed to deepen his emotional support.

The commentators, in their attempt to normalize this tragedy, will also find ways to discount the bumbling and destructive behavior of the F.B.I., the malign interference of Russian intelligence, the free pass—the hours of uninterrupted, unmediated coverage of his rallies—provided to Trump by cable television, particularly in the early months of his campaign. We will be asked to count on the stability of American institutions, the tendency of even the most radical politicians to rein themselves in when admitted to office. Liberals will be admonished as smug, disconnected from suffering, as if so many Democratic voters were unacquainted with poverty, struggle, and misfortune. There is no reason to believe this palaver. There is no reason to believe that Trump and his band of associates—Chris Christie, Rudolph Giuliani, Mike Pence, and, yes, Paul Ryan—are in any mood to govern as Republicans within the traditional boundaries of decency. Trump was not elected on a platform of decency, fairness, moderation, compromise, and the rule of law; he was elected, in the main, on a platform of resentment. Fascism is not our future—it cannot be; we cannot allow it to be so—but this is surely the way fascism can begin.

Hillary Clinton was a flawed candidate but a resilient, intelligent, and competent leader, who never overcame her image among millions of voters as untrustworthy and entitled. Some of this was the result of her ingrown instinct for suspicion, developed over the years after one bogus “scandal” after another. And yet, somehow, no matter how long and committed her earnest public service, she was less trusted than Trump, a flim-flam man who cheated his customers, investors, and contractors; a hollow man whose countless statements and behavior reflect a human being of dismal qualities—greedy, mendacious, and bigoted. His level of egotism is rarely exhibited outside of a clinical environment.

For eight years, the country has lived with Barack Obama as its President. Too often, we tried to diminish the racism and resentment that bubbled under the cyber-surface. But the information loop had been shattered. On Facebook, articles in the traditional, fact-based press look the same as articles from the conspiratorial alt-right media. Spokesmen for the unspeakable now have access to huge audiences. This was the cauldron, with so much misogynistic language, that helped to demean and destroy Clinton. The alt-right press was the purveyor of constant lies, propaganda, and conspiracy theories that Trump used as the oxygen of his campaign. Steve Bannon, a pivotal figure at Breitbart, was his propagandist and campaign manager.

It is all a dismal picture. Late last night, as the results were coming in from the last states, a friend called me full of sadness, full of anxiety about conflict, about war. Why not leave the country? But despair is no answer. To combat authoritarianism, to call out lies, to struggle honorably and fiercely in the name of American ideals—that is what is left to do. That is all there is to do.

Source: An American Tragedy – By David Remnick | The New Yorker (11/9/2016)

David Remnick has been editor of The New Yorker since 1998 and a staff writer since 1992. He is the author of “The Bridge: The Life and Rise of Barack Obama.”


From Democracy to Autocracy: Turkish President Erdoğan Granted Broad Powers In Questionable Referendum Election

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan at the Presidential Palace (Photo by ​Asin Bulbul/​ Reuters). Background image: A woman places a bandage other mouth as she protests Saturday’s explosions in Ankara, Turkey, Tuesday, Oct. 13, 2015. Authorities in Istanbul banned a protest rally and march by the same trade union and civic society groups who lost 97 friends and colleagues in Turkey’s bloodiest terror attack. Some demonstrators were detained. (AP Photo/ Emrah Gurel)

A slim majority of Turkish voters agreed on Sunday to grant sweeping powers to their President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, in a watershed moment that the country’s opposition fears may cement a system of authoritarian rule within one of the critical power brokers of the Middle East.

With nearly 99 percent of votes in a referendum counted on Sunday night, supporters of the proposal had 51.3 percent of votes cast, and opponents had 48.7 percent, the country’s electoral commission announced. The result will take days to confirm, and the main opposition party said it would demand a recount of about 37 percent of ballot boxes, containing around 2.5 million votes. But on Sunday night the result was already a political reality, as President Erdoğan hailed his victory in front of a crowd of supporters in Istanbul. “We are enacting the most important governmental reform of our history,” he said.

The constitutional change will allow the winner of the 2019 presidential election to assume full control of the government, ending the current parliamentary political system. The ramifications, however, are immediate. The “yes” vote in the referendum is a validation of the current leadership style of Mr. Erdoğan, who has been acting as a de facto head of government since his election in 2014 despite having no constitutional right to wield such power. The office of Turkey’s president was meant to be an impartial role without full executive authority.

The result tightens Mr. Erdoğan’s grip on the country, which is one of the leading external actors in the Syrian civil war, a major way station along the migration routes to Europe and a crucial Middle Eastern partner of the United States and Russia.

Since a failed coup last summer, Turkey has been under a state of emergency, a situation that allowed the government to fire or suspend about 130,000 people suspected of being connected to the failed putsch, and to arrest about 45,000.

The campaign itself was characterized by prolonged intimidation of opposition members, several of whom were shot at or beaten while on the stump by persons unknown. The opposition questioned the legitimacy of the referendum after the election board made a last-minute decision to increase the burden needed to prove accusations of ballot-box stuffing. At least three instances of alleged voter fraud appeared to be captured on camera. 

The main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) says that there were more than 2.5 million of these irregular ballots; other estimates range between 1 million and 4 million. Even the low end of this range would be enough to change the results of the referendum. The CHP has called on the Supreme Election Board to nullify the referendum results. After all, its official guidelines mandate the stamping of both ballot and sealed envelope.

Beyond simply arresting tens of thousands of opponents, it seems that President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan gamed the system in order to guarantee himself victory. An observer from inside Turkey explains (edited slightly for clarity and grammar):

Apparently, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) arranged illegally with the Supreme Election Board and with several voting districts around the country to give ballots out to AKP people the day before the voting. These were given to poor people and others wishing to earn money for a vote.

The ballots were marked “yes” in front, but they lacked the official stamp issued at the polling location on the back. This was done deliberately because those people were to use the pre-prepared ballot in the ballot box and then return the ballot with the official seal which they received at the polling station. They then received between 350-400 Turkish liras, about 100 dollars.

If it seemed that the “no” vote was ahead in initial tallying, then the Supreme Election Board would rule the referendum invalid due to a large number of unstamped ballots. But if it looked like “yes” could win, then those votes would be declared valid.

The new system will, among other changes:

■ Abolish the post of prime minister and transfer executive power to the president.

■ Allow the newly empowered president to issue decrees and appoint many judges and officials responsible for scrutinizing his decisions.

■ Limit the president to two five-year terms, but give the option of running for a third term if Parliament truncates the second one by calling for early elections.

■ Allow the president to order disciplinary inquiries into any of Turkey’s 3.5 million civil servants, according to an analysis by the head of the Turkish Bar Association.

Academics and members of the opposition are concerned that the new system will threaten the separation of powers on which liberal democracies have traditionally depended.

“It represents a remarkable aggrandizement of Erdoğan’s personal power and quite possibly a death blow to vital checks and balances in the country,” said Professor Howard Eissenstat, a Turkey expert at Project on Middle East Democracy and lecturer at St. Lawrence University: “Judicial independence was already shockingly weak before the referendum; the new system makes that worse.”

Mr. Erdoğan’s supporters deny that the new system will limit political and judicial oversight. If opposition parties win control of Parliament, they could override the president’s decrees with their own legislation, while also asserting greater control over judicial appointments, supporters of the new Constitution contend.

The victorious “yes” camp also argues that a strong, centralized government will make Turkey better able to tackle its many challenges, including a troubled economy, the world’s largest population of Syrian refugees, two terrorism campaigns, a civil war against Kurdish insurgents and the Syrian war across Turkey’s southern border.

The fearful environment in which the referendum campaign was held has led watchdogs to question its fairness. In addition to the vast purges of perceived opposition members, the authorities also often prevented “no” campaigners from holding rallies and events. And Mr. Erdoğan and his supporters often implied that their opponents were allied with terrorist groups or those suspected of plotting last year’s failed coup.

Analyses of television coverage showed that the “yes” campaign received disproportionately more airtime than its opponents: “It’s been a completely unfair campaign,” said Andrej Hunko, a German lawmaker assigned by the Council of Europe to observe the election. Hundreds of election observers were also barred from monitoring the vote, and thousands of Kurds displaced by fighting in southeastern Turkey may not have been able to vote because they have no address, according to the Independent Election Monitoring Network, a Turkish watchdog.

Despite this, Mr. Erdoğan’s victory fell far short of the 20-point majority that he and his supporters had expected. The result revealed a deeply divided country, nearly half of which now feels highly embittered.

Few could agree about how Mr. Erdoğan would respond, and he offered no conclusive clues in his victory speech. In one breath, he appeared to reach out to his opponents, calling the results the “victory of everyone who said yes and no.” But in the next, he promised to reinstate the death penalty — which would end any hopes that Turkey will join the European Union — and mocked his opponents’ intent to appeal the result.

Some believe Mr. Erdoğan may initially try to rebuild relations with the West, which were severely damaged during the referendum campaign as he sought to manufacture diplomatic crises to energize his base at home.  But Professor Eissenstat said it was unlikely Mr. Erdoğan would spend any time repairing relationships with the opposition.

“Some people have imagined that Erdoğan might reboot after a ‘yes’ victory and reach out to the opposition,” he said. “I don’t think that is likely. The purges will continue; Erdoğan’s instinct is to crush opposition, not co-opt it.  The question is whether further centralization of power and increased repression can bring stability and allow Erdoğan to reboot a troubled economy. The record of the past 10 years is that the opposite is true” added Professor Eissenstat.”

Erdogan may want to claim victory and put the referendum behind him. He has declared that the result ends all debate. It may not be so easy, however. Especially when the real results suggest the Turkish people did not support the system of government over which Erdogan now presides.

Sources: Erdoğan Claims Vast Powers in Turkey After Narrow Victory in Referendum -By Patrick Kingsley | The New York Times

How Erdoğan Rigged the Election That Makes Him a Dictator -By Michael Rubin | Newsweek

Turkey’s Referendum: How Democracies Decline -By Uri Friedman | The Atlantic
Turkey Votes to Make Erdoğan Effectively A Dictator -By Dexter Filkins | The New Yorker
Inside Turkey’s Purge -By Suzy Henson | The New York Times
Turkey’s Election Was Soaked in Suppression and Blood -By Fréderike Geerdink | Huffington Post


Hollywood FAME Award-winning Director and Producer A.J. Ali, and Oscar and Sundance winner Errol Webber have teamed up to create Walking While Black: L.O.V.E. Is the Answer, a documentary film that examines racial profiling in law enforcement. The film recounts painful stories of the past while offering solutions to curb future profiling incidents. It seeks to build a movement that will make a distinct difference in the areas of social justice and racial reconciliation.

“I think police departments need an intervention,” retired LAPD Sgt. Cheryl Dorsey said. “If you don’t admit that there’s a problem, then there’s nothing to fix and so there’s no harm in saying that we don’t always get it right as police officers.”

“It is a reminder of some of the things in law enforcement that we’re not proud of,” Santa Monica College Chief of Police Johnnie Adams said.

“The next step is we need churches and schools and non-profits and even law enforcement agencies to license this film and bring us to their town so we can go there and do the screening, do a ‘Q and A,’ hold workshops and just spend time with people and teach people how to love each other again,” Ali explained.

The word “love” in the title is also an acronym as explained by those involved with the film. “Lstands for learning about your community and its people, “O” means to open your heart, “V” stands for volunteering yourself and “E” stands for empowering.

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The Death Penalty, America, and the Rest of the World


Had it not been for slavery, the death penalty would have likely been abolished in America. Slavery became a haven for the death penalty. -Angela Davis

On December 19, the General Assembly of the United Nations adopted a resolution calling for a worldwide “moratorium on the use of the death penalty”—the sixth that the U.N. has approved in the past decade. Each one has gained the support of more of the organization’s members. The latest vote was a hundred and seventeen countries in favor to forty against. (Thirty-one abstained, and five did not vote.) In addition to a call for a halt to executions worldwide, the resolution urges countries that maintain the death penalty to increasingly restrict its imposition and to apply international laws that protect the rights of those facing the penalty. The rights include that a death sentence may be imposed only for the “most serious crimes,” defined as intentional crimes that have “lethal or other extremely grave consequences,” and that execution be carried out only after “a final judgment rendered by a competent court,” following a legal process that insures a fair trial and that provides access to appeal to a higher court and the opportunity to seek a pardon or a commutation of the sentence.

At the General Assembly, the United States cast one of the nay votes. Stefanie Amadeo, the deputy representative to the U.N. Economic and Social Council, explained the country’s position, which is basically unchanged since the U.S. opposed the first resolution against the death penalty, in 2007: “The ultimate decision regarding these issues must be addressed through the domestic democratic processes of individual Member States and be consistent with their obligations under international law,” which does not prohibit capital punishment. The position reflects the American reality of supporting the death penalty in principle, but increasingly outlawing it in practice. As Jeffrey Toobin reported recently, the U.S. maintains the death penalty under federal and military law and under the laws of thirty-one states—even though only five states conducted executions in 2016 and executed only twenty people in total, the lowest number in twenty-five years.

The U.S. stresses the importance of observing global norms. “Just as the United States is committed to complying with its international obligations,” Amadeo said, “we strongly urge other countries that employ the death penalty to do so only in full compliance with their international obligations.” Meanwhile, in the past forty years, the U.S. Supreme Court has increasingly sought to restrict the application of the death penalty to the worst of the worst offenders—first, to people who commit the most heinous murders and, then, only to adults who commit them, excluding youth under the age of eighteen. In addition, it generally takes a decade or more for a state to carry out an execution because of challenges to a death sentence allowed under due process of law.

Among the states with the death penalty, twelve have not carried out an execution for a decade or more, and another five have not executed anyone for at least five years. In California, where the last execution was in 2006, there were seven hundred and fifty people on death row as of December 2nd. Rather than being executed (the state has executed only thirteen people since 1978) it is much more likely that a death-row inmate will die as a result of natural causes or suicide.

Roger Hood, an emeritus professor at Oxford, and Carolyn Hoyle, who directs Oxford’s Centre for Criminology, last year published the fifth edition of “The Death Penalty: A Worldwide Perspective.” Their book documents the many ways that people are sentenced to death in violation of international law—for drug-trafficking, for example, rather than for “the most serious crimes,” in unfair proceedings and with no opportunity to ask for clemency, and while imprisoned in terrible conditions. These and other realities, they write, are moving “the debate about capital punishment beyond the view that each nation has, if it wishes, the sovereign right to retain the death penalty” to persuading “countries that retain the death penalty that it inevitably, and however administered, violates universally accepted human rights.” Countries that employ the death penalty and insist that they are abiding by international law, including the U.S., decline to join in making the most important international commitment about the penalty, which is to reject it as a violation of human rights.

There has long been a gap between the idealism that the U.S. expresses when boasting of its dedication to the rule of law, especially the protection of individual rights, and the reality of its persistent refusal to abide by major international human-rights commitments. The U.S. was a leader in the development of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which the U.N. adopted in 1948, but stopped supporting the international system to carry it out because, among other reasons, Jim Crow laws directly violated the declaration. There is a sizable list of human-rights treaties—on the Rights of the Child, for example, and on the International Criminal Court—that the U.S. has signed but not ratified. Even when the U.S. ratifies treaties, the government often adds a caveat that excludes protection of some basic rights.

As a result, the U.S. has ended up in some rough company, particularly when it comes to the death penalty. In the past generation, the number of countries that have stopping using the death penalty has doubled, from about fifty to about a hundred. Of the fifty-seven member states of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, and of the thirty-five member states of the Organization of American States, only the U.S. carried out executions last year. The countries that executed the most offenders were, in order, China, Iran, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, and the United States. China executed thousands of people, though its secrecy about its use of capital punishment makes it impossible to know exactly how many. Excluding China, Iran (with close to a thousand or more), Pakistan (three hundred and twenty-six), and Saudi Arabia (a hundred and fifty-eight) executed almost nine out of ten people put to death worldwide—“often after grossly unfair trials,” according to Amnesty International, and “for crimes—including drug trafficking, corruption, ‘adultery,’ and ‘blasphemy’—that do not meet the international legal standards for the use of the death penalty.” In 2015, according to Amnesty International, at least a thousand six hundred and thirty-four people were executed, an increase of more than fifty per cent from the year before and the highest number in a quarter of a century. (The organization expects to release figures for 2016 in the spring.)

The United States, in other words, ranks with countries that conspicuously are not in full compliance with their international obligations. And its responsibility is sometimes worse than guilt by association. As Maya Foa, the director of the death-penalty team at Reprieve, an international human-rights organization, told me, “The U.S. clearly leads and influences global death-penalty practice. Our partners, who are lawyers and human-rights defenders in jurisdictions that retain the penalty, tell us that the use of the death penalty by the U.S., a ‘developed’ nation, is used to justify the death-penalty practice in the jurisdictions they work in.” Reprieve is providing legal and investigative assistance to people facing execution in eleven countries, in Africa, the Middle East, and South and Southeast Asia, and in the U.S.

In August at a rally in Istanbul, after the failed coup attempt in Turkey, the BBC reported, the country’s President, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, said, “They say there is no death penalty in the E.U. … Well, the U.S. has it; Japan has it; China has it; most of the world has it. So they are allowed to have it. We used to have it until 1984. Sovereignty belongs to the people, so if the people make this decision I am sure the political parties will comply.” He said that the Turkish people might want to restore the death penalty to punish those responsible for killing hundreds of citizens during the attempted coup. That has not happened yet, but, if it does, its purpose, Erdogan suggested, will be a display of cold-blooded power.

The influence of the U.S. on the death penalty worldwide has sometimes been constructive. In 1976, for example, when the Supreme Court ruled that it was unconstitutional for a state to make the death penalty mandatory for any crime, it marked the beginning of the decline of mandatory death sentences around the world. “The fundamental respect for humanity underlying the Eighth Amendment,” the Court said, “requires consideration of the character and record of the individual offender and the circumstances of the particular offense.”

The Indian Supreme Court employed this logic when it struck down the mandatory death sentence in the country’s penal code, in 1983. The legislature, it held, could not compel judges “to shut their eyes to mitigating circumstances and inflict upon them the dubious and unconscionable duty of imposing a preordained sentence of death.” More recently, the Cornell Center on the Death Penalty Worldwide reports, eighteen other countries have followed suit and struck down the mandatory death penalty, including almost every Caribbean nation and Uganda, Malawi, and Kenya.

In their latest edition of “The Death Penalty,” Hood and Hoyle write optimistically about the U.S. example: “Those who campaign for abolition worldwide can hope that it will not be many years before the U.S. Supreme Court will be able to find that the majority of states, in line with a majority of countries worldwide, does not support the death penalty for anyone.” Donald Trump has said that he will replace the late Justice Antonin Scalia—the Court’s most vehement defender of the death penalty for almost thirty years—with someone in his mold. But, even when that happens, there will be a possibility that Justice Anthony Kennedy will join the Court’s moderate liberals in striking down the death penalty, for reasons Justice Stephen Breyer articulated in 2015: “The Court in effect delegated significant responsibility to the States to develop procedures that would” insure the fairness of the capital-punishment system, he wrote. “Almost 40 years of studies, surveys, and experience strongly indicate, however, that this effort has failed.” If the Court continues to uphold the death penalty, on the other hand, the gap between the U.S. and a large and growing majority of the rest of the world will continue to increase.

Source: The Growing Gap Between the U.S. and the International Anti-Death Penalty Consensus -By Lincoln Caplan | The New Yorker

General Assembly Adopts 50 Third Committee Resolutions, as Diverging Views on Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity Animate Voting | UN General Assembly (Dec 16, 2016)

General Assembly Adopts Landmark Text Calling for Moratorium on Death Penalty | UN General Assembly (Dec 18, 2007)

Death Penalty | Equal Justice Institute (EJI)

U.S. Death Penalty Facts | Amnesty International

✿ The Guilty Plea Problem Campaign | The Innocence Project

The Death Penalty, Nearing Its End -By Editorial Board | New York Times

The Strange Case of the American Death Penalty -By Jeffrey Toobin | The New Yorker

Why Are So Many Veterans on Death Row? -By Jeffrey Toobin | The New Yorker

A Strong Case Against the Death Penalty -By Jeffrey Toobin | The New Yorker

Inmates Beheaded & Burned, 60 Dead in Brazil Prison Riot

brazil-prison-riot-2017A relative of a prisoner holds a local newspaper, which shows a headline about a deadly prison riot, in front of Anisio Jobim prison in Manaus, Brazil, on January 3, 2017 (Photo: Reuters)

Brazil’s first days of 2017 were baptized by 17 hours of violence. Members of a drug ring called Familia do Norte (Family of the North) massacred members of the rival Primeiro Comando da Capital (First Command of the Capital), or P.C.C., one of the country’s largest gangs. The bloodletting occurred inside a privately administered prison in the northern city of Manaus. At least 60 people were slaughtered, many of them beheaded, dismembered and incinerated. Some 180 gang members escaped, 140 of whom are still at large. The state police were reluctant to intervene in the fight, fearing they might make the situation even worse.

The warning signs were written on the prison’s graffiti-lined walls. The penitentiary in Manaus has experienced bloody riots before. In the days leading up to the weekend massacre, prison guards suspected that firearms were being smuggled into cellblocks housing drug trafficking groups. A collection of revolvers was turned over to the police when the riot came to end.

Investigators unearthed a network of tunnels under the prison’s bloodstained floors, suggesting the attack was premeditated. Familia do Norte was sending a message: The P.C.C. is not welcome in the northern Brazilian state of Amazonas. A local judge was called in to negotiate the release of hostages, and he’s now facing death threats.

As shocking as the prison riot is, it is not unprecedented. The most lethal episode of prison violence in Brazil occurred in 1992 when 111 inmates were killed during a riot in the Carandiru prison in São Paulo. Other outbreaks occurred in Rondônia in 2002, Maranhão in 2010, Pernambuco in 2011, Rio de Janeiro in 2014 and Roraima last year. Prison violence has been registered in at least 24 of Brazil’s 26 states over the past decade.

Historically, violence followed demands for improved prison conditions. But the latest massacre in Manaus stems from a different cause. It signals the rupture of a longstanding truce between the São Paulo-based P.C.C. and Rio de Janeiro’s Comando Vermelho (Red Command), which is aligned with the Northern Family. These two gangs are fighting for control over the prison system and the cocaine trade.

Part of the reason prison violence is so common in Brazil is that conditions in most of the country’s penitentiaries are barbarous. There are an estimated 656,000 incarcerated people in state prisons, where there is officially space for less than 400,000. Yet roughly 3,000 new inmates are added to overcrowded penitentiaries each month. The prison population has increased by more than 160 percent since 2000. It’s for good reason that a former justice minister reportedly said he’d rather die than spend time in a Brazilian prison.

Brazil’s state prisons are overseen by drug gangs that act as judges, jurors and executioners. Most prisons are divvied up among competing gangs. The government is only nominally in control. Experts describe drug factions as a “parallel state.” Gangs have long recruited their rank and file from prisons and organize trafficking and racketeering businesses from within their walls. Research has found that 70 percent of inmates who leave prison find their way back.

Successive governments, the United Nations and human rights groups have described crumbling buildings where torture and sexual violence are rampant. Studies have found that incarcerated Brazilians are around 28-30 times more likely to contract tuberculosis and almost 20 times more likely to be infected with H.I.V. than the general population.

Most Brazilians tolerate this state of affairs, but this forbearance is shortsighted. Brazil’s prison wars routinely spill on to the street. In 2006, the P.C.C. unleashed a wave of attacks against law enforcement and penal personnel as a protest over prison conditions. Some 40 security agents were killed in riots in prisons and public spaces across São Paulo. The latest attacks in Manaus will surely inspire retribution inside and outside the prison gates.

Brazil’s penal system reflects wider inequalities. For one, it is fundamentally elitist. Felons who happen to have a university degree — business executives charged with corruption, for example — frequently enjoy better conditions and don’t have to share cells. Elsewhere, nonviolent first-time offenders are jammed together with extremely violent inmates. Most defendants cannot afford to hire a lawyer, and there is a chronic shortage of public defenders. Not surprisingly, those most likely to be killed while in custody are poor black males.

The leading cause of imprisonment is minor drug offenses, despite laws recommending that nonviolent crimes and possession not result in jail time. Judges and prosecutors favor heavy-handed prison sentences over rehabilitation or alternative sentencing arrangements. Brazilian politicians lack the political and moral resolve to do the right thing. Nor are they feeling any pressure from Brazilian citizens. A 2015 poll found that 87 percent of Brazilians favor lowering the criminal age of responsibility to 16 from 18. Public complacency ensures that prison violence continues unabated.

What is needed now is courageous leadership. Alexandre de Moraes, the minister of justice, has already announced some remedial measures in the wake of the Manaus massacre. He is planning to transfer gang leaders from state to federal prisons, which are better managed. But this is only an interim solution.

For Brazil to reform its prisons, it needs to reduce both the stock and flow of inmates. The first priority is to diminish the bloated caseload of pretrial detainees. Federal and state-level judges, prosecutors and public defenders should set up task forces to immediately resolve outstanding cases. Next, Brazil’s juvenile justice system is as rotten as the one for adults and needs to be fixed. Mayors must assume a much greater responsibility in rehabilitating first-time offenders. Support for at-risk adolescents can reduce their likelihood of becoming gang members in adulthood.

The government urgently needs to regain control of public security, and the prison system in particular. Rather than imposing more draconian laws and building new prisons, Brazil needs to enforce existing legislation — including ensuring that suspects are provided hearings within 24 hours of their arrest and expanding the network of public defenders.

This is not just about ensuring the humane treatment of inmates. Strategies to decriminalize drugs, ensure proportional sentencing and provide rehabilitation for offenders are vastly more cost-effective than putting nonviolent offenders in jail and throwing away the key.

President Michel Temer announced that the federal government would furnish states with 1.2 billion reais ($366 million), mostly to improve infrastructure and security in existing prisons and to build new ones.

Reprint: Brazil’s Deadly Prison System -By Robert Muggah and Ilona Szabó de Carvalho | New York Times

The Red Ink Behind Brazil’s Bloody Prison Massacre -By Mac Margolis | Bloomberg

Brazil Prison Riot, a ‘Butchery Foretold,’ Sparks Fear of More Killings | VOA

10 Human Rights Causes to Support in 2017


Happy New Year!

🎉🎈 🎤 🍰 🍸🍷🍾⌛️🌹

“We will open the book. Its pages are blank. We are going to put words on them ourselves. The book is called Opportunity and its first chapter is New Year’s Day.” ― Edith Lovejoy Pierce.

Today’s post continues a tradition I started three years ago, whereby I dedicate the first post of the new year to noteworthy organizations and individuals committed to the advancement of human rights or the protection of Mother Earth. While the criteria for my list hasn’t changed, you may notice that I selected more causes that focus on refugees . The reason is simple: We are currently witnessing highest level of displacement on record. According to the UNHCR, an unprecedented 65.3 million people around the world have been forced from home. Among them are nearly 21.3 million refugees, over half of whom are under the age of 18. There are also 10 million stateless people who have been denied a nationality and access to basic rights such as education, healthcare, employment and freedom of movement. In a world where nearly 34,000 people are forcibly displaced every day as a result of conflict or persecution, the least I can do is acknowledge some of the many social entrepreneurs committed to assisting the stateless and traumatized.

There are three other things worth mentioning. (1) After toying with the idea for over three years, I have finally decided to limit the number of causes to 10 going forward. (2) There is a tie for one of the spots below. Because I don’t rank the entries, the word “tie” should be construed to mean two interconnected organizations, equally deserving of recognition, featured under the same number. (3) Feel free to leave me a comment or complete the contact form if you would like me to consider an organization, cause or person for my 2018 post! The deadline for submissions is November 20, 2017.

Now, and without further ado…

10 Human Rights Causes to Support 2017

o-u-r1. Operation Underground Railroad (O.U.R.) is a non-profit founded by Tim Ballard which assists governments around the world in the rescue of human trafficking and sex trafficking victims with a special focus on children. O.U.R. also aids with planning, prevention, capture and prosecution of offenders, and works with partner organizations for prevention, victim recovery, and strengthened awareness or fundraising efforts. The organization has been documented for their covert operations with jump teams consisting of former CIA agents, U.S. Special Operations Forces Members, and other support volunteers. Operation Underground Railroad’s ultimate goal is to eliminate Sex Trafficking world-wide. Operation Underground Railroad has rescued 200 victims and helped law enforcement capture 130 perpetrators this year. This brings the total number of rescued victims to 529, and 182 traffickers arrested.


tanzanian-childrens-fund2. The Tanzanian Children’s Fund works to ensure that all children and families in the Karatu region of northern Tanzania lead healthy and productive lives and have the opportunity to become positive agents of change for their country. In order to achieve our goals, TCF provides a loving and permanent home for 97 marginalized children at the Rift Valley Children’s Village (RVCV). The RVCV staff works with local village leaders to identify orphaned children in the surrounding community in need of the safe haven RVCV can provide. From the moment they step through the gates, these children become permanent members of the RVCV family.  TCF also recognizes that the best way to promote the well-being of all children is to provide access to high-quality education, free healthcare, and microfinance trainings and loans to the entire community. Our innovative, multi-pronged approach to addressing systemic poverty is what has enabled TCF/RVCV to have a deep impact and catalyze real and lasting change.


place3. place  (Property, Land, Access, Connections, and Empowerment) explores the complex social, economic and political effects of inadequate land rights – from environmental sustainability and food insecurity to the potential for conflict and war. However, place will not just show you what is going wrong in the world. It also want to tell you about the exciting and courageous projects unfolding worldwide to help solve this pressing issue. Its name explains its stories and its mission.Property features urban reportage – from shantytowns and slums to the pressures of development, forced eviction and mass displacement. Land focuses on rural areas, the countryside, on agriculture and the extraction of resources, from mining to logging. Access explores the battle to retain land, from squatting rights and individual tenure to freeholds and the larger community battles to secure or return to ancestral lands. Connections shed light on tenure rights, on public and private documentation and how communities – and individuals – campaign for or harness their rights. Empowerment brings you the good news, the success stories, the projects that are contributing to resolving this complex global issue. In sum, place believes property rights are human rights and wants to spark a global conversation to show that when land and property rights are denied, social stability, economic prosperity – and even peace – are at risk. 


4. Reshma Qureshi, Founder of Make Love Not Scars. Reshma Qureshi is an Indian model, vlogger, and anti-acid activist. In India, she is the face of Make Love Not Scars. Her foray into modeling in the United States came when she walked the catwalk for Archana Kochhar at the 2016 New York Fashion Week.

Qureshi was born the youngest daughter of a taxi driver from Eastern Mumbai, India. They lived in a two bedroom apartment that housed all ten members of the family. She studied commerce at school. On May 19, 2014, at the age of seventeen, Qureshi was attacked with sulfuric acid by her estranged brother-in-law and two other assailants when she was traveling to the city of Allahabad for an Alim exam. The attack was actually aimed at her sister Gulshan, but Qureshi was mistaken for her. While the two other assailants were never captured after the attack, her brother-in-law was arrested. After the attack, she felt suicidal for a short period of time as she was left scarred on her face and arms and lost one of her eyes completely. After healing, Qureshi became the face of the Make Love Not Scars campaign, which aims to give “a voice to those who have been assaulted” by acid attacks and campaigns for the end of the sale of acid in India. She also began making beauty tutorials online as a way to campaign against the sale of acid. Cosmopolitan has praised Quereshi’s videos as “ridiculously empowering“. Photo credit: Reshma Qureshi walks at New York Fashion Week (Mary Altaffer/AP).


standing-rock5. Standing Rock Indian Reservation & #NoDAPL Campaign – The Dakota Access Pipeline is a part of  a 1,172-mile-long (1,825 km), 30-inch diameter pipeline underground oil pipeline project in the United States. The pipeline is being planned by Dakota Access, LLC, a subsidiary of the Dallas, Texas corporation Energy Transfer Partners, L.P. It begins in the Bakken oil fields in Northwest North Dakota and is set to travel in a more or less straight line southeast, through South Dakota and Iowa, and end at the oil tank farm near Patoka, Illinois. The pipeline is designed transport as many as 570,000 barrels of crude oil daily. The nearly $4 billion project was first proposed in 2014 and anticipated for delivery on January 1, 2017.

Construction of the DAPL would engender a renewed fracking-frenzy in the Bakken shale region, as well as endanger a source of fresh water for the Standing Rock Sioux and 8 million people living downstream. DAPL would also impact many sites that are sacred to the Standing Rock Sioux and other indigenous nations. The DAPL is a massive project being organized by the world’s largest fossil-fuel companies and banks. They have offices in cities around the world. Supporting the Standing Rock #NoDAPL camps and putting direct, nonviolent pressure on the corporations building and funding this project is critical for supporting frontline resistance to DAPL and preserving the land for future generations.


coc36. Color Of Change is a 501(c)(4) progressive nonprofit civil rights advocacy organization that utilizes the Internet, specifically e-mail and social media, as its main conduit for communicating with its members, organizing campaigns, pushing out policies, and combating racial and social injustices. The organization has successfully inspired and motivated millions of Americans from all backgrounds to fight for (or against) a gambit of issues, including criminal justice reform, racists media bias, ALEC and its support of voter ID laws, gun violence, and net neutrality. Color Of Change was co-founded in 2005 by James Rucker and Van Jones to replicate the email list model among African American in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Rucker had previously worked for the Political Action and Civic Action while Jones was the founder of the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights. Rashad Robinson is the organization’s Executive Director, having joined the organization in May 2011. In 2015, Color of Change was ranked 6th on Fast Company’s list of the 50 Most Innovative Companies in the World.


white-helmets-27. White Helmets/Syrian Civil Defense rush in when bombs rain down in Syria. These volunteer rescue workers operate in the most dangerous place on earth. White Helmet volunteers are bakers, tailors, engineers, pharmacists, painters, carpenters, students, and many other who come from all walks of life. They work tirelessly to save people on all sides of the conflict – pledging commitment to the principles of “Humanity, Solidarity, Impartiality” as outlined by the International Civil Defence Organisation. This pledge guides every response, every action, every life saved – so that in a time of destruction, all Syrians have the hope of a lifeline. The White Helmets mostly deal with the aftermath of government air attacks, but they have risked sniper fire to rescue bodies of government soldiers to give them a proper burial.

The White Helmets have also trained 62 women in medical care and light search and rescue work. These heroic women respond to barrel bomb and missile strikes and dig for survivors using tools and their bare hands. In some cases, they are the only hope for other women or girls who are trapped under rubble. In Syria’s most conservative communities, people have refused to let male volunteers rescue women and girls – but the women have intervened to help those who wouldn’t have been helped otherwise. The White Helmet volunteers have saved 78,529 lives – and this number is growing daily. Many have paid the ultimate price for their compassion – 154 have been killed while saving others.

In addition to their life-saving missions, White Helmets deliver public services to nearly 7 million people, including reconnecting electrical cables, providing safety information to children and securing buildings. They are the largest civil society organization operating in areas outside of government control, and their actions provide hope for millions.


safari-doctors8. Safari Doctors is a nonprofit that provides free basic medical services to residents of remote parts of Kenya threatened by the terror group Al-Shabaab. The idea was conceived from several health initiatives around Lamu that have slowly come to a halt given the insecurities in the area and the loss of a substantial businesses that supported these projects. Safari Doctors was established in 2014 to continue with the much needed services. In collaboration with the Ministry of Health and other partners, the Safari Doctors crew sets sail once a month during high tide and embarks on to the rough roads to visit remote communities. On board is the crew, a full-time nurse, a clinical officer and a visiting specialist who provide basic curatives services. Depending on the availability of volunteering specialists, Safari Doctors plans to host trips that meet gaps of, dental, optometry, gynecology and other services. Current services include: immunizations, maternal healthcare, respiratory infections treatment, communicable diseases treatment, access to clean water, and hospital referral logistics. On August 26, Safari Doctors’ founder Umra Omar was selected as a CNN Hero in 2016. Support the programs by becoming a friend ~ Rafiki in Swahili ~ of Safari Doctors, which will ensure that Safari Doctors continue to deliver the required services and information to the neglected areas they serve.


redi-school9. ReDI School of Digital Integration and Refugees on RailsTie. The unprecedented influx of migrants to Europe, driven by the war in Syria, has created a massive backlog for authorities tasked with sorting out the new arrivals. As they figure out who’s who, where each person came from, whether they should be permitted to stay and where there is space to accommodate them, migrants have little else to do, but wait. This limbo can drag on for months, dampening the euphoria of finally making it to Europe, after so much hardship. Many Germans have been eager to help. As hundreds of thousands of people poured into the country over the last year— by rail, by foot, sometimes jammed into the back of trucks— volunteers have lined up to hand out food, and even invite them to rest at their homes. Others volunteers banded together to create separate, but interconnected, coding centers to train refugees.

The ReDI School of Digital Integration is a non-profit organization co-founded by Anne Kjær Riechert and Ferdi Van Heerden in December 2015 for tech-interested newcomers applying for asylum in Germany. The school, which has been featured on TEDx Innovations, aims to teach refugees tech skills and give them access to a future professional and social network, whilst waiting for their asylum application to be processed. The students in this course attend coding and mentoring sessions over a three to six months, with the Sunday sessions being hosted at German Tech Entrepreneurship Center in Berlin. The ReDI School of Digital Integration also host several local events where students, teachers, mentors, partners, sponsors and members of the community get together to share best practice. The school is currently accepting applications for students and volunteer as well as accepts donations for both specific and general projects.

refugee-on-railsRefugees on Rails is a nonprofit program co-founded by friends and tech entrepreneurs  Weston Hankins, Anne Riechert, and Ahmet Acar in 2015. It is designed to teach coding to refugees in Berlin and has now expanded to four other German cities. In many ways, the coding is almost incidental to Refugees on Rails’ real purpose: building community and friendships. Indeed, one of the founding ideas behind the start-up is the desire to counter the negative image of refugees in Europe as an economic burden to be dealt with, rather than a resource to be cultivated. Germany has welcomed over 600,000 refugees this year, many of whom are highly educated millennials with valuable work experience who simply lack the appropriate paperwork to begin contributing to their adopted society. The volunteer-run program provides refugees with a laptop and three months of coding instruction, two nights per week, for three hours each session. The classes are held in space donated by local tech companies, including the Berlin offices of The course is open to refugees with rudimentary computing experience. Refugees on Rails is still in it’s early stages. Via their website, and in partnership with the Stanford Peace Innovation Lab, individuals can donate money or their old computers to help get the school and its students.


10. Fugees Family, Inc. is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization devoted to working with child survivors of war. The organization empowers refugees integrate successfully into their new country by providing them the support and structure they need to realize their vast potential. In 2004, Coach Luma Mufleh started a Fugees team to provide refugee boys with free access to organized soccer. Since then, the organization’s programming has grown to include year-round soccer for 86 boys and girls aged 10-18, after-school tutoring, soccer for 50 elementary-aged students, an academic enrichment summer camp, and the Fugees Academy – the nation’s only school dedicated to refugee education. The school has received SAIS and SACS accreditation, blending creative teaching with academic fundamentals, interwoven with leadership and character building. The Fugees Family also offers consultation support to organizations looking to provide effective, culturally-appropriate, and impactful services to refugee and immigrant students and families. They offer expert guidance and support for planning, operating, and evaluating cultural, educational, social, and athletic programming. On August 26, Coach Muflesh was selected as a CNN Hero in 2016.

Previous Years:

America’s Original Sin: “Slavery Never Ended, It Just Evolved.”

fabrice-monteiro-maroons-03-1050x600Maroons (Photo: Fabrice Monteiro); Background Image: Slave Whip c.1863, Courtesy of Smithsonian Institute, The National Museum of American History

In America’s Original Sin: Racism, White Privilege and the Bridge to a New America, Rev. Jim Wallis — a public theologian, political activist, and founding editor of Sojourners magazine, addresses  the numerous reports of white police officers shooting  black Americans, such as in the cases of Michael Brown in Ferguson and Laquan McDonald in Chicago. He argues that the events are part of a legacy stretching back to slavery.

Wallis points out that the majority of white Americans see the shootings and violence as isolated incidents, while most African Americans see them as part of their daily day-to-day lives. To make his point, the author includes his personal experience as a young man meeting Butch—a fellow custodian in Detroit. He recalls eating dinner with Butch’s family and hearing about “the Talk” in which African American parents told their children to avoid police officers if they were ever lost. For Wallis, the advice from his parents was the exact opposite. “That difference of perspective told me I had indeed grown up in a different world,” Wallis says. Wallis also contends that this type of white privilege has not gone away, and furthermore, it is a legacy of white supremacy.

Another example in the book comes from the esteemed African American lawyer, author and Executive Director of the Equal Justice Initiative Bryan Stevenson. In his book Just Mercy, Stevenson recalls pulling up in front of his own home in Atlanta after a long day and taking a pause to listen to music before heading inside. He was violently confronted by a police officer who did not believe it was his home. Stevenson avoided arrest, but only after being patted down. As the officer walked away, he said, “You’re lucky this time.” Of course, Wallis has never been violently accosted by the police or asked to prove his residence. His whiteness affords him a level of security unknown to blacks Americans.

In an interview earlier this year with NewsOne Now host Roland Martin, Wallis told Martin that original sin is not just slavery, but the “deliberate dehumanizing and debasing” of African-Americans and the attitude that “Black lives and bodies don’t matter.” He added, “That was one of our founding principles as a nation, that Black lives and Black bodies don’t matter; you see that in all our headlines today. This original sin lingers on, that’s why we got to call it sin and talk about repentance from sin.” Wallis also explained that, “slavery never ended, it just evolved,” saying that “mass incarceration is the current evolution of slavery.” He also noted that the “deliberate disenfranchisement” of prisoners, gerrymandering, and other forms of voter suppression are tactics used to keep certain “demographics from changing America.”

In America’s Original Sin, Wallis offers a prophetic and deeply personal call to action in overcoming the racism so ingrained in American society. He speaks candidly to Christians–particularly white Christians–urging them to cross a new bridge toward racial justice and healing.

Whenever divided cultures and gridlocked power structures fail to end systemic sin, faith communities can help lead the way to grassroots change. Probing yet positive, biblically rooted yet highly practical, this book shows people of faith how they can work together to overcome the embedded racism in America, galvanizing a movement to cross the bridge to a multiracial church and a new America.

✿ Book: America’s Original Sin: Racism, White Privilege and the Bridge to a New America | Jim Wallis

America’s Original Sin: Slavery Never Ended, It Just Evolved | NewsOne

Parables for Understanding A Nation’s Racial ‘Sin’ | All Things Considered | NPR

Jim Wallis on Slavery, Racism, and ‘America’s Original Sin’ -By Ken Chitwood | Publishers Weekly

Also Recommended…
✿ Book: Just Mercy | Bryan Stevenson

✿ Book: The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness | Michelle Alexander

Do Black Lives Matter to White Christians | Sojourners

How Can We Trust That Black Lives Matter To Our Police? | Sojourners

The Real “Looting”: From Slavery to Policing and Beyond -By Adam Hudson | Truthout

jim-wallisJim Wallis is an author, activist, preacher, teacher, and pastor. He is a best-selling writer, convener of faith-inspired movements for justice and peace both outside and inside politics, public theologian in a secular culture, renowned speaker in the United States and abroad, and international media commentator on ethics and public life. He is the founder and leader of Sojourners, a publishing platform, organization, and global network whose mission is to put faith into action for social justice. Wallis has written more than ten books, including The (Un)Common Good and the New York Times bestsellers God’s Politics and The Great Awakening. He has written for major newspapers, does regular columns for top digital news networks, and appears frequently on a wide variety of television and radio networks. Wallis also teaches at Georgetown University and has taught at Harvard University. He is husband to Joy Carroll, one of the first women to be ordained a priest in the Church of England, father to two teenage boys, Luke and Jack, and a decades-long Little League baseball coach.

Morgan Parker: How to Stay Sane While Black

I wish I could point to the moment when I first understood I was a thing to be hated. The first “I’m just not attracted to black girls.” The first “Do you work here?”

When I was 15, I was told I have major anxiety disorder and moderate-to-severe depressive disorder.

“Black people don’t go to therapy,” my dad said.

I had been told to pray, but it wasn’t working. I was told to be strong. How strong do you need to be to want to die, and to be certain the world wants you dead, and yet to keep on living? As a little black girl in a little white suburb, trying to smooth down my hair and lick the ash from my elbows, I wondered, do white people have these thoughts? Is something wrong with me?

Thirteen years later, still plagued by the exact same garbage — and worse, used to it — I tell my therapist I never stood a chance of loving myself.

“Look at the ads in the subway,” I plead. “Look at my Tinder inbox. Look at the news!”

Across from me in a wingback chair, a few feet above the panic attack of Union Square, she nods. We both know there is no solution, but even her agreement is more than I’m used to. I’m lucky to able to articulate what hurts.

At the end of our session, I pay my therapist $1,800, a sliver of which will be reimbursed by my insurance. The bill covers several months of biweekly cognitive-behavioral talk therapy and medication management. I then pay Walgreens $77.54 for two of the three psychopharmaceuticals I take regularly. I’m privileged to almost be able to afford this. It is an expense I will always have.

On the internet this year, I saw a poorly photoshopped graphic that read: “I didn’t own any slaves, you didn’t pick any cotton, case closed.” I caught myself cackling — while factually true, it assumes a dangerously limited definition of “slavery” that black Americans know is completely beside the point. American slavery, the event, begot American white supremacy, the psychology. That psychology provides white Americans with privilege, power and the benefit of the doubt. Meanwhile, black Americans don’t and will never know our real names; commercials for feel like a personal attack; we are expected to prove to our government that we “matter”; and we fear that, in the event of our death, our life will be scrutinized and we will be presumed guilty.

Sometimes I think my depression is the most normal thing about me. We should all get free therapy. We could call it reparations.

It isn’t just that I’m tired; it’s that my mom is tired, my nana was tired, her mom was tired (whoever she was). It isn’t that I’m single; it’s that society believes that black women are not beautiful, and so maybe I believe that, too.

In a study they did with mice, researchers concluded what we already knew: that trauma lives in our blood. Every time I tell myself that I am worthless, how do I know whether it’s me thinking it, or the white voices I’ve internalized? Or it — my broken cells.

It would be inhumane to quarantine assault victims in a room with their abusers for hundreds of years and demand they act natural. Comparisons, of course, are cheap and unfair. I have come to understand my body as an argument, a site of proof and contention.

I try to use therapy to unload my specific personal demons, but anytime I dare to self-indulge, to be the center of my own story, I am reminded of my skin. My symptoms flare. I’m inundated with my insignificance. This is not the work of my disorder. It’s my Twitter feed clogged with hate speech. It’s nigger jokes. It’s that scene in “Malcolm X,” in the library, when he discovers that even our dictionary, our language, insists on our inherent evil.

And then there’s the way it all compounds: average number of times a day a white person walks right into me on the street. Number of mornings a week a white girl flips her wet hair into my face on the subway. Number of black women with speaking roles on “Girls.” Number of police convictions. Number of times I have been mistaken for another black woman. Number of days between the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation and Juneteenth, when slaves in Texas were finally informed of it. Number of ways in which this is a metaphor for contemporary black American life.

Some nights I turn over and over in bed groaning to myself, “Why do I feel this way? What can I do to feel better? How can I think my way out of this?” I realize I am in mourning. For the people I never got to be and never will be. I mourn my own possibility.

I had one therapist who told me that every neurosis and blockage could be traced to a locus of fear. She would ask me, again and again, “What is the fear?” and though I never liked my answers — alternately “death” and “abandonment” — I became obsessed with asking the question. For white police officers who commit murder, for white politicians and heads of television networks or publishing houses or universities who — though they admit their inefficacy in protecting, promoting and celebrating minorities, do not step down from their own posts to make way — the answer, always, is the fear of relinquishing control.

What is the fear? Is it that you worry we will treat you how you have treated us? There are two neuroses that I consider particularly American: the habit of forgetting, and the inability to imagine what has not been. We are even afraid to imagine our own rehabilitation. We have never been free, in that we have never been given the chance to define freedom for ourselves. When we love ourselves, it’s a revolution.

In regard to restitution, I submit to the American government an invoice totaling fees incurred for medical treatment. I believe you will find the bill reasonable and fair, all things considered.

Source: How to Stay Sane While Black -By Morgan Parker | New York Times

Morgan Parker is the author of the forthcoming poetry collection “There Are More Beautiful Things Than Beyoncé.”

A Wild World Upside Down

jeffrey-dunnPhoto: Jeffrey Dunn

Hello World! It’s been a few months since my last post. Can you believe how much has happened in such a short period of time? It was the best of times, it was the worse of times.

I don’t care how you slice it, 2016 has been a crazy year – the onslaught continues in Syria, a failed coup in Turkey leads to mass arrest, violence and deaths; an economic collapse in Venezuela leads to a sharp increase in violent crimes and civil unrest; death squads in the Philippines rage on, migrants perishing in the Mediterranean; a 50+ year war ends with a peace agreement between Colombia and FARC; U.S. leads in gold medals at Olympics in Rio while children peer from favelas at the festivities; the United Kingdom votes to leave the European Union (“Brexit”); terrorists come up with more ingenious way to murder innocent people; the Cubs end a 108-year losing streak to win the World Series; America elects Donald Trump as its 45th president; and a litany of notable people – both good and bad- passed away, including Elie Wiesel, Prince, David Bowie, Gene Wilder, Muhammad Ali, Pat Summitt, and Fidel Castro . . .to name a few.

In fact, so much has happened that I feel the need to acknowledge and highlight some of the major events I missed while away.  So that’s the goal of this post and the events below begin in June 2016 – the last month I posted – and go through November 2016. The list below is by no means exhaustive, nor is it intended to be. And I deliberately excluded a few stories, they will appear as individual posts directly above this one in the coming days. Lastly, I included mini slideshow and names of a few notable people who have passed away since June.

Some of my readers may be curious about the title, A Wild World Upside. Don’t overthink it. Instead think about how you would describe the ebb and flow of 2016. For me, it  describes the tumultuous and tenuous nature of our quickly changing world – one in which basic human rights, respect for the rule of law, and civility are being muted by crippling fear, hatred, intolerance and demagoguery. The world is changing – for better or worse and whether we like it or not. Fissures of instability are exploding all around us. The only certainty seems to be uncertainty. Tension. Lies are being traded as capital, mistrust sown deep. It feels we’re all on high alert. So the title connotes my gut reaction to all that has come to pass, all that seems to be falling apart, and all that remains to be seen. Now, let’s get to it!


A woman cries during a vigil in a park following a mass shooting at the Pulse gay nightclub in Orlando Florida
A woman cries during a vigil in a park following a mass shooting at the Pulse gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida, on June 12, 2016. (Photo: Carlo Allegri / Reuters)

June 12: Gunman Kills 49 at Pulse Nightclub (Orlando, Florida)
On 12 June 2016, Omar Mateen, a 29-year-old security guard, killed 49 people and wounded 53 others in a terrorist attack/hate crime inside Pulse, a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida, United States. He was shot and killed by Orlando Police Department (OPD) officers after a three-hour standoff. Pulse was hosting Latin Night and most of the victims were Latino. It was both the deadliest mass shooting by a single shooter and the deadliest incident of violence against LGBT people in United States history. It was also the deadliest terrorist attack in the United States since the September 11 attacks in 2001.

In a 9-1-1 call shortly after the shooting began, Mateen swore allegiance to the leader of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, and said the shooting was “triggered” by the U.S. killing of Abu Waheeb in Iraq the previous month. He later told a negotiator he was “out here right now” because of the American-led interventions in Iraq and in Syria, and that the negotiator should tell the United States to stop bombing ISIL.

Initial reports said Mateen may have been a patron of the nightclub and used gay dating websites and apps, but Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) officials said they have not found any credible evidence to substantiate these claims. The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) also conducted an investigation and said it found no links between ISIL and Mateen.


Photographs of the nine victims killed at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, S.C. are held up by congregants during a prayer vigil at the the Metropolitan AME Church June 19, 2015 in Washington, DC. (Photo: Win McNamee / Getty Images)

June 17: The Charleston Church Massacre (Charleston, South Carolina)
The Charleston church shooting (also known as the Charleston church massacre) was a mass shooting that took place at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in downtown Charleston, South Carolina, United States, on the evening of June 17, 2015. During a prayer service, nine people were killed by a gunman, including the senior pastor, state senator Clementa C. Pinckney; a tenth victim survived. The morning after the attack, police arrested a suspect, later identified as 21-year-old Dylann Roof, in Shelby, North Carolina. Roof later confessed that he committed the shooting in hopes of igniting a race war.

The United States Department of Justice investigated whether the shooting was a hate crime or an act of domestic terrorism, eventually indicting Roof on 33 federal hate crime charges. Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church is one of the United States’ oldest black churches and has long been a site for community organization around civil rights. Roof is to be indicted on federal hate crime charges, and has been charged with nine counts of murder by the State of South Carolina. If convicted, he could face a sentence of death or thirty years to life in prison. A website apparently published by Roof included a manifesto detailing his beliefs on race, as well as several photographs showing him posing with emblems associated with white supremacy. Roof’s photos of the Confederate battle flag triggered debate on its modern display. In November 2016, Roof was declared competent to stand trial for the crimes.



June 23: Brexit – The United Kingdom Votes to Leave European Union (United Kingdom)
The United Kingdom European Union Membership Referendum, also known as the EU referendum and the Brexit referendum (a portmanteau of “British exit”), took place on 23 June 2016 in the United Kingdom (UK) and Gibraltar to gauge support for the country’s continued membership in the European Union (EU). The result was an overall vote to leave the EU, of 51.9% on a national turnout of 72%, the highest ever for a UK-wide referendum and the highest for any national vote since the 1992 General Election. In the constituent countries of the United Kingdom, a majority in England and Wales voted to leave, and a majority in Scotland and Northern Ireland voted to remain. The British Overseas Territory of Gibraltar also voted to remain. To start the process to leave the EU, which is expected to take several years, the British government will have to invoke Article 50 of the Treaty on European Union. The UK government has announced that it will start the formal process of leaving the EU (triggering article 50) by March 2017.

Membership of the EU and its predecessors had long been a topic of debate in the United Kingdom. The country joined the European Economic Community (EEC, or “Common Market”) in 1973. A referendum on continued EEC membership was held in 1975, and it was approved by 67% of voters. Historical opinion polls 1973-2015 tended to reveal majorities in favor of remaining in the EEC, EC or EU. In accordance with a Conservative Party manifesto commitment, the legal basis for a referendum was established by the UK Parliament through the European Union Referendum Act 2015.

“Britain Stronger” in Europe was the official group campaigning for the UK to remain in the EU and was endorsed by the Prime Minister David Cameron and Chancellor George Osborne. “Vote Leave” was the official group campaigning for the UK to leave the EU and was fronted by the Conservative MP Boris Johnson and Secretary of State for Justice Michael Gove.

Immediately following the result, Cameron announced he would resign, having campaigned unsuccessfully for a “Remain” vote. He was succeeded by Theresa May on July 13. The opposition Labour Party also faced a leadership challenge as a result of the EU referendum. In response to the result, the Scottish Government announced that it would plan for a possible second referendum on independence from the United Kingdom, and that it would like to “explore all the possible options to protect Scotland’s place in the EU.”

Financial markets reacted negatively in the immediate aftermath of the result. Investors in worldwide stock markets lost more than the equivalent of 2 trillion US dollars on 24 June 2016, making it the worst single-day loss in history, in absolute terms. The market losses amounted to 3 trillion US dollars by June 27.


A man celebrates the signing of a historic ceasefire deal between the Colombian government and FARC rebels at Botero Square in Medellin, Colombia, on June 23, 2016. The sign reads, “RIP the War in Colombia 1964 – 2016.” (Photo: Fredy Builes / Reuters)

June 23: Colombia and FARC Agree to End 52 Year Civil War (Havana, Cuba)
The Colombian Peace Agreement refers to the peace process between the Colombian government of President Juan Manuel Santos and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia – People’s Army (FARC–EP) to bring an end to the Colombian conflict. Negotiations began in September 2012, and mainly took place in Havana, Cuba. On June 23, the government and the FARC reached an agreement on three of the main points – bilateral and definite ceasefire, decommissioning of weapons and security guarantees – of the third item on the agenda, ‘end of the conflict’.


A woman and her children in a camp for internally displaced persons, in Yola, the capital of Adamawa, Nigeria, after members of the Boko Haram rebel group attacked their home. (Photo: UNICEF/ Abdrew)

June 26: Nigerian Army Rescues 5,000 from Boko Haram (Borno, Nigeria)
The Nigerian army says it has rescued more than 5,000 people who were being held hostage by Boko Haram following a clearing operation in four remote villages in the northeastern Borno state. The fighting led to the killing of one civilian and six Boko Haram fighters. The 5,000 rescued, mostly women and children, had been living under Boko Haram for more than six years, since the armed group launched its violent campaign in 2009. The army also reported that two other Boko Haram fighters were killed in a separate mission to 11 villages in Borno. Boko Haram pledged support for the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, also known as ISIS) last year. See The Brutal Toll of Boko Haram Attacks on Civilians for additional information.


APphoto_Turkey Airport Blasts
Family members, colleagues and friends of the victims of Tuesday blasts gather for a memorial ceremony at the Ataturk Airport in Istanbul, Thursday, June 30, 2016. Turkish authorities have banned distribution of images relating to the Ataturk airport attack within Turkey. (Photo: AP Photo/ Emrah Gurel)

June 28: Atatürk Airport Attack (Istanbul, Turkey)
A terrorist attack, consisting of shootings and suicide bombings, occurred on 28 June 2016 at Atatürk Airport in Istanbul, Turkey. Gunmen armed with automatic weapons and explosive belts staged a simultaneous attack at the international terminal of Terminal 2. Forty-five people were killed, in addition to the three attackers, and more than 230 people were injured.

Media reports indicated that the three attackers were believed by Turkish officials to have come from Russia and Central Asia. Turkish officials said the attackers were acting on behalf of the Islamic State of Iraq and Levant and had come to Turkey from ISIL-controlled Syria. Commentators suggested that the attacks may have been related to stepped-up pressure against the group by Turkish authorities. No one claimed responsibility for the attack.


A victim of summary execution, with packing tape wrapped around his head and a sign on his chest that reads, “I am a Chinese drug lord,” found along Road 10 in Manila. (Photo: Linus G. Escandor II/PRI)

June 30: Philippine President Declares ‘Bloody War on Drugs’ in Inaugural Address (Manila, Philippines)
Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte was elected in May promising a “bloody war” on drugs. Since he took office in June, he has made good on that pledge. Roughly 5,000 people have been killed since the war on drugs began in July, according to the Philippines National Police. Two thousand were killed in encounters with police and 3,000 in extrajudicial or vigilante-style killings. The international community, human rights groups, Roman Catholic activists and the families of many of those killed during the crackdown say that the vast majority of victims were poor Filipinos, many of whom had nothing to do with the drug trade. Those presumed guilty are not accorded an accusation and a trial, but are simply shot down in the streets, the critics say.

This is not the first time, Duterte has been accused of gross human rights violations. While he was the mayor of Davao City in the southern Philippines, hundreds of people were killed by what human rights groups say were government-linked death squads. Mr. Duterte denies involvement with the killings but made little secret of his support for a violent approach to curbing crime.


People gather at site of suicide car bombing in Karrada shopping area in Baghdad on July 3, 2016. (Photo: Reuters)

July 3: Karrada Bombing (Baghdad, Iraq)
On 3 July 2016, a coordinated bomb attack in Baghdad resulting in the deaths of over 300 and injured hundreds more. A few minutes after midnight local time (2 July, 21:00 UTC), a suicide truck targeted the mainly Shia district of Karrada, busy with late night shoppers for Ramadan. A second roadside bomb was detonated in the suburb of Sha’ab, killing at least five.

The Islamic State issued a statement claiming responsibility for the attack, naming the Karrada bomber as Abu Maha al-Iraqi. There were reports that the source of the blast was a refrigerator van packed with explosives. The explosion caused a huge fire on the main street. Several buildings, including the popular Hadi Center, were badly damaged. The bombing is the second-worst suicide attack in Iraq by death toll after the 2007 Yazidi communities bombings and the deadliest terrorist attack in Iraq carried by a single bomber.


A body lies next to a baby doll on July 15, 2016 after a truck ran into a crowd celebrating the Bastille Day national holiday July 14. (Photo: Eric Gaillard/ Reuters)

July 14: Bastille Day Attack (Nice, France)
On the evening of 14 July 2016, a 19 tonne cargo truck was deliberately driven into crowds celebrating Bastille Day on the Promenade des Anglais in Nice, France, resulting in the deaths of 86 people and injuring 434. The driver was Mohamed Lahouaiej-Bouhlel, a Tunisian resident of France. The attack ended following an exchange of gunfire, during which Lahouaiej-Bouhlel was shot and killed by police.

Five hours after the attack, French President François Hollande announced an extension of the state of emergency (which had been declared following the November 2015 Paris attacks) for a further three months, announced an intensification of the French military attacks on ISIL in Syria and Iraq, and suggested the attack might have been Islamic terrorism. France later extended the state of emergency until 26 January 2017.

Later on 15 July, the French government declared three days of national mourning starting 16 July. On 16 July, two agencies linked to the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) claimed that the attack was inspired by the organization. On 21 July, Paris prosecutor François Molins said that Lahouaiej-Bouhlel planned the attack for months and had help from accomplices. By 1 August, six suspects had been taken into custody on charges of “criminal terrorist conspiracy”, three of whom were also charged for complicity in murder connected to a terrorist organization.


Turkey Military Coup
Turkish soldiers secure the area, as supporters of Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan protest in Istanbul’s Taksim square, early Saturday, July 16, 2016. (Photo: Emrah Gurel/ AP)

July 15: Turkish Coup d’Etat Attempt (Turkey)
On 15 July 2016, a coup d’état was attempted in Turkey against state institutions, including, but not limited to the government and President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. The attempt was carried out by a faction within the Turkish Armed Forces that organized themselves as the Peace at Home Council. They attempted to seize control of several key places in Ankara, Istanbul, and elsewhere, but failed to do so after forces loyal to the state defeated them. The Council cited an alleged erosion of secularism, the elimination of democratic rule, a disregard for human rights, and Turkey’s loss of credibility in the international arena as reasons for the coup. The government accused the coup leaders of being linked to the Gülen movement, which is designated as a terrorist organization by the Republic of Turkey and led by Fethullah Gülen, a Turkish businessman and cleric who lives in Pennsylvania, United States. Erdoğan accuses Gülen of being behind the coup—a claim that Gülen denies—and accused the United States of harboring him. Events surrounding the coup attempt and the purges in its aftermath reflect a complex power struggle between Islamist and ultranationalist elites in Turkey.

During the coup, over 300 people were killed and more than 2,100 were injured. Many government buildings, including the Turkish Parliament and the Presidential Palace, were damaged. Mass arrests followed, with at least 40,000 detained, including at least 10,000 soldiers and, for reasons that remain unclear, 2,745 judges.15,000 education staff were also suspended and the licenses of 21,000 teachers working at private institutions were revoked as well after the government alleged they were loyal to Gülen. More than 100,000 people have been purged.


Portraits of five Dallas and DART police officers shot to death by a sniper on July 12, 2016, are displayed during the memorial service at the Morton H. Meyerson Symphony Center in Dallas. (Photo: Paul Moseley / Ft. Worth Star Telegram)

July 17: Five Dallas Police Officers Ambushed and Killed (Dallas, Texas)
On July 7, 2016, Micah Xavier Johnson ambushed and fired upon a group of police officers in Dallas, Texas, killing five officers and injuring nine others. Two civilians were also wounded. Johnson was an Army Reserve Afghan War veteran who was reportedly angry over police shootings of black men and stated that he wanted to kill white people, especially white police officers. The shooting happened at the end of a peaceful protest against police killings of Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and Philando Castile in Falcon Heights, Minnesota, which had occurred in the preceding days.

Following the shooting, Johnson fled inside a building on the campus of El Centro College. Police followed him there, and a standoff ensued. In the early hours of July 8, police killed Johnson with a bomb attached to a remote control bomb disposal robot. It was the first time U.S. law enforcement used a robot to kill a suspect.

The shooting was the deadliest incident for U.S. law enforcement since the September 11 attacks, surpassing two related March 2009 shootings in Oakland, California and a November 2009 ambush shooting in Lakewood, Washington; both of these incidents each killed four officers.


A Venezuelan woman, who lives in Malaga, protests against Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro’s government and the repression in Venezuela, in Malaga, southern Spain on March 29, 2014 (Photo: Jon Nazca/ Reuters)

July 22: Venezuelan President Declares State of Economic Emergency (Venezuela)
In 22 July 2016 decree, President Nicolás Maduro used his executive power to declare a state of economic emergency. The decree could force citizens to work in agricultural fields and farms for 60-day (or longer) periods to supply food to the country. Colombian border crossings have been temporarily opened to allow Venezuelans to purchase food and basic household and health items in Colombia in mid-2016. In September 2016, a study published in the Spanish-language Diario Las Américas indicated that 15% of Venezuelans are eating “food waste discarded by commercial establishments”.

In October 2016, Fox News Latino reported that during a month-long riot at the Táchira Detention Center in Caracas, 40 inmates dismembered and consumed three fellow inmates. There have been close to 200 prison riots in Venezuela in 2016, with the cause being attributed to a worsening social situation, increasing poverty, and food shortages leading to overcrowded prisons.


Standing Rock Protesters (Photo: Getty Images + Pacific Press)

July 27: Standing Rock Sioux Tribe Sues U.S. Army Corp of Engineers (Standing Rock Reservation, North Dakota)
The Dakota Access Pipeline is a part of the, a 1,172-mile-long (1,825 km), 30-inch diameter pipeline underground oil pipeline project in the United States. The pipeline is being planned by Dakota Access, LLC, a subsidiary of the Dallas, Texas corporation Energy Transfer Partners, L.P. It begins in the Bakken oil fields in Northwest North Dakota and is set to travel in a more or less straight line southeast, through South Dakota and Iowa, and end at the oil tank farm near Patoka, Illinois. The pipeline is designed transport as many as 570,000 barrels of crude oil daily. Using the Nationwide Permit 12 process that treats the pipeline as a series of small construction sites, the pipeline was granted an exemption from the environmental review required by the Clean Water Act and the National Environmental Policy Act. The nearly $4 billion project was first proposed in 2014 and is anticipated for delivery on January 1, 2017.

Routing the pipeline across the Missouri River near Bismarck was rejected because of the route’s proximity to municipal water sources, residential areas and roads, wetland, and waterway crossings. The Bismarck route would also have been 11 miles longer. The alternative selected by the Corps of Engineers crosses underneath Missouri River, the primary drinking water source for the Standing Rock Sioux, a tribe of around 10,000 with a reservation in the central part of North and South Dakota. A spill could have major adverse effects on the waters that the Tribe and individuals in the area rely upon. The Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) has reported more than 3,300 incidents of leaks and ruptures at oil and gas pipelines since 2010. And even the smallest spill could damage the tribe’s water supply. The Standing Rock Sioux also argue that the pipeline traverses a sacred burial ground. And while the land being used for the pipeline is not technically on its reservation, tribal leaders argue that the federal government did not adequately engage the Standing Rock Sioux during the permitting process—a requirement under federal law.

Citing potential effects on the environment and lack of consultation with the Native tribes, most notably the Standing Rock Sioux, in March and April 2016, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Department of Interior (DOI), and the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation asked the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to conduct a formal Environmental Impact Assessment and issue an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). Construction continued.

On July 27, the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe sued the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia, alleging that the agency violated the National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA) and the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). NHPA requires the agency to consider the cultural significance of federally-permitted sites and NEPA to consider the implications for the waterways. The tribe is seeking declaratory and injunctive relief to stop the pipeline. It also sought a preliminary injunction. The litigation is ongoing, but on September 9, U.S. District Judge James Boasberg denied the tribe’s motion to halt construction while the case winds through the courts.

After the hearing, a joint statement was issued by the US Departments of Justice, Army, and Interior temporarily halting the project on federal land bordering or under the Lake Oahe reservoir. The US federal government asked the company for a “voluntary pause” on construction near that area until further study was done on the region extending 20 miles around Lake Oahe. As of September, the U.S Department of Justice had received more than 33,000 petitions to review all permits and order a full review of the project’s environmental effects.


Flint Water
Virginia Tech professor Marc Edwards shows the difference in water between Detroit and Flint. Flint has faced a water contamination crisis since it switched water sources but did not treat the water to prevent lead, a potent neurotoxin, from leaching out of pipes. (Photo: Jake May, The Flint Journal,

July 29: Michigan Attorney Charges Government Officials for Flint Water Crisis (Flint, Michigan)
The Flint water crisis is a drinking water contamination issue in Flint, Michigan, United States that started in April 2014. After Flint changed its water source from treated Detroit Water and Sewerage Department water (which was sourced from Lake Huron as well as the Detroit River) to the Flint River (to which officials had failed to apply corrosion inhibitors), its drinking water had a series of problems that culminated with lead contamination, creating a serious public health danger. The Flint River water that was treated improperly caused lead from aging pipes to leach into the water supply, causing extremely elevated levels of the heavy metal neurotoxin. In Flint, between 6,000 and 12,000 children have been exposed to drinking water with high levels of lead and they may experience a range of serious health problems. Due to the change in water source, the percentage of Flint children with elevated blood-lead levels may have risen from about 2.5% in 2013 to as much as 5% in 2015. The water change is also a possible cause of an outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease in the county that has killed 10 people and affected another 77.

Several lawsuits have been filed against government officials on the issue, and several investigations have been opened. On January 5, 2016, the city was declared to be in a state of emergency by the Governor of Michigan, Rick Snyder, before President Barack Obama declared it as a federal state of emergency, authorizing additional help from the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Department of Homeland Security less than two weeks later.

Governor Snyder issued an apology to citizens and promised to fix the problem, and then sent $28 million to Flint for supplies, medical care and infrastructure upgrades, and later budgeted an additional $30 million to Flint that will give water bill credits of 65% for residents and 20% for businesses. Another $165 million for lead pipe replacements and water bill reimbursements was approved by Governor Snyder on June 29, 2016.

Four government officials—one from the City of Flint, two from the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ), and one from the Environmental Protection Agency—resigned over the mishandling of the crisis, and one additional MDEQ staff member was fired. On July 29, 2016, Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette charged six additional people with crimes in the crisis, three from the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality and three from the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services.


The opening ceremony of the Olympics featured a nod to the country’s favelas, the informally built neighborhoods where some fifteen million Brazilians live. (Photo: Ian Walton/ Getty)

August 5-21: Olympics in Brazil Exposes Gentrification and Inequality of Favelas (Rio de Janeiro, Brazil)
In 2008, as the city of Rio de Janeiro prepared its bid for the 2016 Olympics, special law-enforcement divisions, known as Police Pacification Units, started operating in the city’s favelas, sweeping out drug gangs and establishing permanent police presences in three dozen such neighborhoods for the first time ever. The hope was for law enforcement to forge peaceful ties with these communities and make the city as a whole safer. At first, it seemed to work. Rio’s homicide rate plunged.But, like so much else in Brazil lately, the program failed to live up to its promise.

Since 2009, when Rio won the bidding to hold the Games, more than twenty thousand families have been evicted from their homes in favelas to make way for arenas and infrastructural projects. Intent on projecting a modern image for the Olympics, Rio’s mayor Eduardo Paes has insisted that those people forced to relocate received indemnities, rent assistance, or new apartments in affordable-housing projects. He underplayed the fact that, according to the researcher Lucas Faulhaber, of the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, many of these twenty thousand families ended up having to move as far as thirty miles from the communities where they had previously made their lives.

Other disappointments include the notorious case from 2013, when pacification officers in the massive favela of Rocinha tortured and disappeared a construction worker named Amarildo de Souza. An epileptic, Souza is believed to have died after being subjected to electric shocks during an interrogation. While twelve officers were convicted in connection with the case, the damage done to the community’s trust has been immense. Pacification officers have since largely reverted to a more traditional, quasi-military role in Rio’s favelas. Police in the city still kill someone almost every day.


The faces of some of the more than 60 lawyers killed in Baluchistan’s capital of Quetta, Pakistan on August 8, 2016 (Photo: BBC Twitter via @Shaimaakhalil)

August 8: Terrorist Attack on Government Hospital Kills Entire Generation of Lawyers (Quetta, Pakistan)
Baluchistan is a place that desperately needs lawyers. It is Pakistan’s largest province by area and the home of a decades-old separatist insurgency, fueled by real grievances over neglect and lack of political representation. It is also increasingly the target of Sunni extremists, who bomb and kill its Shiite minorities. What leaders the province has are widely considered corrupt. Dozens of local journalists have been kidnapped in the past few years. It is nearly impossible for foreign reporters to enter Baluchistan. Lawyers are almost all that give the province a semblance of justice.

But on 8 August 2016, terrorists attacked the Government Hospital of Quetta in Pakistan with a suicide bombing and shooting. They killed 74 and injured more than 130 others. Most of the fatalities were lawyers who had assembled at the hospital where the body of Advocate Bilal Anwar Kasi, the president of Balochistan Bar Association, was brought after he was shot dead by an unknown gunman. Responsibility for the attack has been claimed by various Islamist groups like Jamaat-ul-Ahrar and the Islamic State. Between 70 and 94 people were killed and over 120 injured. 54 of those killed were lawyers.

A week earlier, another lawyer was fatally shot. In June, the principal of the province’s law college was, too. A generation of lawyers has been wiped out in Quetta, and it will leave Baluchistan, in more ways than one, lawless.

Quetta suffered  another another attack on 24 October 2016, when three heavily armed terrorists carried out an attack on the Balochistan police training college. At least 61 cadets and were killed and more than 165 others were injured. The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant – Khorasan Province claimed responsibility for the attack, and Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Jhangvi claimed to have collaborated with them. According to Pakistani authorities, the assailants came from Afghanistan and were in contact with their handlers there while perpetrating the attack.


Footage shared online by the Aleppo Media Center is said to show a boy who was pulled from an airstrike on Aug. 17 in the Syrian city of Aleppo. (Photo: Aleppo Media Center)

August 17: The Boy in the Ambulance (Aleppo, Syria)
Sometimes you read something so eloquently written you just have to share it. The following excerpt comes from a TIME magazine article published on August 17. 

Hitting the play button begins a scene that has played out in Syria thousands of times over the past five years. It’s dark and men are frantically yelling. A young child, later identified by media citing medical workers as five-year-old Omran Daqneesh, is passed between the arms of his rescuers from a building in Aleppo. He’s caked in dust. The left side of his face is smeared with blood.

He doesn’t make a sound.

In a moment of pure horror, the boy lifts his left hand to his face, runs his fingers through his hair and then back down the side of his face before dropping it down. He looks at the palm of his hand and, unsure what to do, turns it over and wipes it on the seat. In that moment, he was like every other kid, trying to get something off his hand.

He doesn’t make a sound.

That was [some] of the first 37 seconds of footage shared on Aug. 17 by the Aleppo Media Center, reportedly showing the immediate aftermath of an apparent Syrian government or Russian airstrike in a rebel-held neighborhood of the northern city, which for years has been a battleground between government and opposition forces. The footage and a picture of the boy were shared widely online in the hours that followed.

The photographer was identified by the Associated Press as Mahmoud Raslan, who said Omran was rescued from the building with three siblings and their parents. He told the AP that none had sustained life-threatening injuries.

The picture instantly recalls that of Alan Kurdi, the Syrian-Kurdish toddler who was found dead on the Turkish shoreline almost a year ago. Kurdi, in a red t-shirt and blue shorts, was face down. The world soon learned that he had died with his older brother and mother after their boat capsized overnight on the way to Greece. That picture went viral online during the historic influx of migrants and refugees into Europe, highlighting the thousands who perished trying to flee something bad for something better.

The images of Alan and Omran do have similarities: a young boy in a vulnerable position, alone. They each instantly became the face of their own tragedy, a response of sorts to the major global players who could push to end the madness: Kurdi, as a dead refugee, and Omran, as one of the thousands of Syrian children caught in an endless war.

But Omran is unique. It’s that he is alive. It’s that he is, to a point, aware. It’s his face. It cannot be unseen.

Read the entire article here.


Colombian president Juan Manuel Santos (left) seals the deal in a handshake with the head of the Farc, Rodrigo Londono, in the presence of Cuban president Raul Castro. (Photo: AFP Photo/ Getty Images)

August 24: Colombia and FARC Final Agreement to End Conflict (Havana, Cuba & Cartagena, Colombia)
President Juan Manuel Santos and FARC announced a final agreement to end the conflict and build a lasting peace on August 24, 2016. But the peace agreement was rejected on 2 October 2016, after 50.21% of voters voted against the referendum and 49.79% voted in favor. On November 24, the Colombian government and FARC signed a revised peace deal. The revised agreement will be submitted to Congress for approval, bypassing the referendum process.


Protesters block highway 1806 in Mandan during a protest against plans to pass the Dakota Access pipeline near the Standing Rock Indian Reservation, North Dakota, Nov. 23, 2016. (Photo: Stephanie Keith / Reuters)

September 3: Dakota Access Pipeline Security Firm Uses Dogs and Pepper Spray On Peaceful Protesters (Standing Rock Reservation, North Dakota)
During the Labor Day weekend, on September 3, the Dakota Access Pipeline hired a private security firm and used bulldozers to dig up part of the pipeline route that contained possible Native graves and burial artifacts; it was subject to a pending injunction motion. The bulldozers arrived within a day after the tribe filed legal action. Energy Transfer bulldozers cut a two-mile (3200 m) long, 150-foot (45 m) wide path through the contested area.

When unarmed protesters crossed the perimeter fence to stop the bulldozers, the guards used pepper spray and guard dogs to attack the protesters. At least six protesters were treated for dog bites, and an estimated 30 were pepper-sprayed before the guards and their dogs left the scene in trucks. A woman that had taken part in the incident stated, “The cops watched the whole thing from up on the hills. It felt like they were trying to provoke us into being violent when we’re peaceful.” The incident was filmed by Amy Goodman and a crew from Democracy Now! Footage shows several people with dog bites and a dog with blood on its muzzle.

As of mid-October there had been over 140 arrests, including Standing Rock Tribal Chairman David Archambault II who was charged with disorderly conduct. Arrest warrants were also issued in Morton County for Democracy Now! journalist Amy Goodman as well as Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein and her running mate Ajamu Baraka on misdemeanor counts of criminal trespass and criminal mischief. Some protesters arrested for misdemeanors and taken to the Morton County jail have reported what they considered harsh and unusual treatment.

While the protests have drawn international attention and have been said to be “reshaping the national conversation for any environmental project that would cross the Native American land”, there was limited mainstream media coverage of the events in the United States until early September. The struggle continues. Learn more about the Dakota Access Pipeline, including how you can help.



October 14: President Obama Further Normalizes Relations with Cuba (Washington, D.C. & Havana, Cuba)
On October 14, President Obama moved to cement his administration’s historic opening with Cuba by issuing a sweeping directive that will last beyond his presidency, setting forth a new United States policy to lift the Cold War trade embargo and end a half-century of clandestine plotting against Cuba’s government. The action formalizes the shift toward normalization that the president unveiled nearly two years ago with the announcement that he and President Raúl Castro of Cuba had secretly agreed to repair their countries’ relationship. President Obama also made what aides said were likely his final major modifications to loosen United States sanctions on Cuba before leaving office, including lifting the $100 limit on bringing Cuban rum and cigars into the United States.



October 18: Hate Rising – Univision Journalists Jorge Ramos’ Documentary Explores the State of Hate in America (United States)
A new film, “Hate Rising,” reported by Fusion and Univision anchor Jorge Ramos, shows the astonishing and very concerning rise of hate in America. From the Ku Klux Klan to the so-called alt-right movement, white supremacist groups. They are a small, but growing radical segment of the white non-hispanic population that feels threatened by the demographic changes in the country and is resisting the possibility of becoming a minority. The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) estimates that the number of radical groups operating in the U.S. has grown from 784 in 2014 to 892 in 2015; and organizations affiliated with the Ku Klux Klan from 72 to 190. The SPLC has dubbed the mainstreaming of such hate groups “the Trump Effect“, due in part rhetoric Trump used during the election cycle.

Throughout the documentary, Ramos explores the mainstreaming of these ideas on TV and social media, and in our communities and classrooms. Over four months, he traveled to small towns across the nation speaking with neo-Nazis, members of the KKK, and the alt-right. He also heard stories of Muslims and Latinos who have been the victims of hate crimes. Last year, Ramos himself, a Mexican immigrant who is also an American citizen, experienced the anger and intolerance simmering at the surface of our society when a Trump supporter told him to “get out of my country.”

“Hate Rising” is directed by Catherine Tambini and produced in conjunction with Fusion and Univision Story House.



October 24: The New York Times Names All the People and Things Trump Has Insulted on Twitter During His Campaign (New York, NY)
Throughout the 2016 election, Donald Trump weaponized his Twitter account to malign his opponents and give oxygen to conspiracy theories and hate groups around the country. The Republican nominee has done so with such frequency that on many occasions his social media outbursts went well beyond his 5.9 million followers to dominate entire news cycles for days on end.

The New York Times cataloged every insult to appear on Trump’s Twitter account since he launched his campaign in June 2015. On October 24, the paper devoted two full pages of its print edition to showcasing its impressive work. The shortlist includes: President Obama, all of the 2016 presidential nominees, a disabled journalists, FOX News’ Megyn Kelly, the mainstream media, women, blacks, Mexicans, a Gold Star Family, military generals and veterans. Ironically, the presidential nominee has showered praise on foreign dictators and authoritarians such as Vladimir Putin (Russia), Kim Jung-un (North Korea), and Bashar al-Assad (Syria), Muammar Gaddafi (deceased; Libya), and Saddam Hussein (deceased; Iraq).

The majority of migrant border-related deaths since January have occurred in the Mediterranean sea. According to estimates by the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) and UNHCR, 3,800 people have died since the beginning of the year trying to reach European territory by crossing the Mediterranean. This figure represents 75% of the total migration-related deaths in the world this year. (Photo: Massimo Sestini/ eyevine).

October 26: Mediterranean Migrant Deaths Reach Record Level in 2016
“We can confirm that at least 3,800 people have been reported dead or missing in the Mediterranean Sea so far this year, making the death toll in 2016 the highest ever recorded,” UN refugee agency spokesman William Spindler tweeted, as the figures passed last year’s mark of 3,771. The sombre milestone was reached despite a significant decline in migrant crossing this year compared to 2015.

Last year, more than a million people reached Europe via the Mediterranean, but crossings so far this year remain below 330,000. Numbers began dropping dramatically following a March deal between Turkey and the European Union to stem the migrant tide on the Greek islands. The most dangerous route has been the Central Mediterranean route between Libya and Italy, where the United Nations has recorded one death for every 47 arrivals this year. For the much shorter Turkey to Greece route, the likelihood of perishing was one in 88, UNHCR said. Last year the rate was roughly one in 289 arrivals.

The agency explained that death rates have spiked despite nearly a two-thirds drop in total migration because smugglers are “often using lower quality vessels — flimsy inflatable rafts that do not last the journey.” Smugglers also appear to be packing increasing numbers of people on boats, possibly to drive up profits, UNHCR further said. Shipwrecks involving more people have reduced rescue rates, the agency added, also noting that several disasters this year have been linked to bad weather.


Juan Manuel Santos’ photo in Nobel’s Garden, Nobel Peace Center. The Norwegian Nobel Committee decided to award the Nobel Peace Prize for 2016 to Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos “for his resolute efforts to bring the country’s more than 50-year-long civil war to an end, a war that has cost the lives of at least 220,000 Colombians and displaced close to six million people”. (Photo: The Norwegian Nobel Committee)

November 7: Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos Awarded Nobel Peace Prize (Oslo, Norway)
The president of Colombia was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize on November 7 for pursuing a deal to end 52 years of conflict with FARC, a leftist rebel group, the longest-running war in the Americas, just five days after Colombians rejected the agreement in a shocking referendum result. Mr. Santos dedicated the prize to his fellow Colombians, especially the victims of the long conflict, and called on the opponents of the peace deal to join him in securing an end to hostilities.


2016 Election Trump
President-Elect Donald J. Trump with his family on November 8, 2016 after election results are announced by the media.(Photo: AP)

November 8: Donald J. Trump Wins Election to Become 45th President (United States)
Donald John Trump was elected the 45th president of the United States on Tuesday in a stunning culmination of an explosive, populist and polarizing campaign that took relentless aim at the institutions and long-held ideals of American democracy. The surprise outcome, defying late polls that showed Hillary Clinton with a modest but persistent edge, threatened convulsions throughout the country and the world, where skeptics had watched with alarm as Mr. Trump’s unvarnished overtures and racists demagoguery to disillusioned voters took hold.

The triumph for Mr. Trump, 70, a real estate developer-turned-reality television star with no government experience, was a powerful rejection of the establishment forces that had assembled against him, from the world of business to government, and the consensus they had forged on everything from trade to immigration.

Democrat Presidential Nominee Hillary Clinton received over 2 million more votes than Trump, earning the majority of the popular vote. Protests in the form of school walkouts, marches, and boycotts erupted across the country, with protesters chanting #NotMyPresident and tweeting #LoveTrumpHates.


Paris Attacks Anniversary
People enter the Bataclan concert hall in Paris, on Nov. 12, 2016. A concert by British pop legend Sting is marking the reopening of the Paris’ Bataclan. (Photo: Kamil Zihnioglu / AP)

November 12: Bataclan Night Reopens with Sting Taking Center Stage (Paris, France)
Sting reopened the Bataclan a year after 90 people were massacred by ISIS gunmen at a packed rock concert. The English singer-songwriter and former Police frontman is staging the first gig at the 150-year-old venue since the deadly terror attack that took place on 13 November last year.

Greeted on the stage to loud cheers, Sting, 65, paid tribute to those who were killed in the venue and called for the audience to stage a minute’s silence in their honor.

Speaking in French, the musician said: “We’ve got two important things to do tonight. First, to remember and honour those who lost their lives in the attacks a year ago, and to celebrate the life and the music of this historic venue: “So before we begin, I would like to ask that we observe one minute of silence … We shall not forget them.” After the minute of silence, the star launched into a string of hits, beginning with his song ‘Fragile’, singing: “Nothing comes from violence and nothing will”.


Neo Nazi Rally
Members of the neo-Nazi National Socialist Movement hold flags as they salute and shout “Sieg Heil” during a rally in front of the Statehouse in Trenton, N.J. (Photo: Mel Evans/ AP)

November 14: Hate Crimes On Rise Since Trump Elected President (United States)
Racist incidents have been on the rise across the United States since Donald Trump was elected president. Details of disturbing incidents have been popping up on social media since Tuesday and some experts say it’s the biggest rise in these types of events since right after the 2001 terrorist attacks.

“Since the election, we’ve seen a big uptick in incidents of vandalism, threats, intimidation spurred by the rhetoric surrounding Mr. Trump’s election,” Richard Cohen, president of the Southern Poverty Law Center. “The white supremacists out there are celebrating his victory and many are feeling their oats.” The SPLC has recorded more than 200 complaints since the election. Several news sources, including SLATE have compiled an incomplete list of racist incidents since Trump was elected on November 8, 2016.


Ieshia Evans, a nurse from Brooklyn, stands alone calmly while facing heavily-armed police officers who rush in to arrest her Saturday outside the Baton Rouge Police Department. Evans traveled to Louisiana to protest against the killing of Alton Sterling. (Photo: Jonathan Bachman/ Reuters)

November 16: New York Times Reports on Lack of Accountability in Police-Involved Deaths of Blacks (United States)
According to The New York Times, there have been 13 cases that have fueled outrage, heightened racial tensions and instigated protests around the nation. In some of the cases, the police offered an explanation for their actions, but raw videos led many to conclude that the police actions were unjustified.

So far, officers have been indicted or charged in seven cases. In four cases,
grand juries declined to bring charges. Officers in all 13 cases were placed on administrative leave or reassigned — a routine step that is not a form of discipline, said Christopher Dunn, the associate legal director at the New York Civil Liberties Union. Criminal charges have been brought against officers in fewer than half of the cases. Indictments are usually handed up by local grand juries, which make the decision in secret.

Courts have given leeway to the police on using deadly physical force if officers reasonably feel their lives are in danger, and juries are often reluctant to convict police officers, Mr. Dunn said. Prosecutors may feel pressure not to charge officers because they work with and rely on the police daily, and at times, facts can be distorted or withheld by the police, leaving prosecutors with incomplete or wrong information, he said. However, for victims’ families, “some action against the officer is very important to them, whether that’s criminal prosecution or dismissal from the department,” Mr. Dunn said.


Mideast Iraq
Civilians and security forces gather at the scene of a suicide bomb attack in Hillah, about 60 miles (95 kilometers) south of Baghdad, Iraq, Sunday, March 6, 2016. A suicide bomber on Sunday rammed his explosives-laden fuel truck into a security checkpoint south of Baghdad, killing and wounding dozens, officials said, the latest episode in an uptick in violence in the war-ravaged country. (AP Photo/ Anmar Khalil)

November 24: Hillah Suicide Truck Bombing (Hillah, Iraq)
A suicide truck bombing occurred on 24 November 2016 when a truck bomb exploded at a petrol station in Hillah, some 62 miles away from southern Baghdad killing at least 100 people and many other injured while Shia pilgrims were on route back to Iran after Arba’een Pilgrimage-2016. Besides, Iranians, there were people from Basra and Nasiriyah as well.


A man displays bolivar notes that he carries to pay for goods at a street market in Caracas
A man displays bolivar notes that he carries to pay for goods at a street market in Caracas on Oct. 1, 2015. (Marco Bello /Reuters)

November 25: Venezuela’s Economy Continues to Collapse (Venezuela)
On November 25, The New York Times reported that hungry Venezuelans are fleeing on boats to escape the economic collapse. Well over 150,000 Venezuelans have fled the country in the last year alone, the highest in more than a decade, according to scholars studying the exodus. But perhaps most startling are the Venezuelans now fleeing by sea, an image so symbolic of the perilous journeys to escape Cuba or Haiti — but not oil-rich Venezuela.

On November 28, the Washington Post reported inflation is expected to reach 720 percent this year and the biggest bill — 100 bolivars — is worth about 5 U.S. cents on the black market. The currency has dropped dramatically in value as Venezuela’s oil-based economy has cratered and the government has frantically printed more money. Prices, meanwhile, are soaring. So Venezuelans must handle huge volumes of cash — so much that the bills don’t always fit in a standard wallet — with many people packing wads of currency in handbags, money belts or backpacks.


Still images from video show Alton Sterling as he is shot dead by police during an incident captured on the mobile phone camera of shop owner Abdullah Muflahi in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, July 5, 2016. (Photo: Handout / Reuters)

November 30: Native American and Blacks Are Disproportionately Killed by Police (United States)
The year isn’t over yet, and police have already killed at least 977 people — many of whom were unarmed, mentally ill, and people of color. This number comes from The Counted, The Guardian database of police-involved shooting in the United States. Two other reliable databases have slightly different numbers. The Killed by Police database counts 1056 people who have died at the hands of police so far this year. The Washington Post’s database, Fatal Force, reports that 878 people have been shot and killed by cops. All three databases operate in virtual real-time and generally update the information pursuant to their methodologies as well as their verification and publication protocols. Ironically, the existence of these three databases stands as a constant reminder that police killings were not tracked with any consistency in the past.

Going by the The Counted’s numbers, Native Americans (7.6%) and Blacks (5.84%) are being killed at the highest rates in the United States. There have been 233 black people killed by police so far this year, at a rate of 5.84 deaths per million. February and March were the deadliest months this year, with 100 people killed by police in each month. Police have killed 80 people this month – 27 were of unknown ethnicities, 26 were white, 14 were black, and 12 were Hispanic/ Latino.

Notable Deaths Since June 2016 – An Incomplete List
The names are listed and the slideshow images appear in the order of each person’s passing. Click the (text) name to be redirected to the respective obituary.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Muhammad Ali, 74 (1/17/1942 – 6/3/2016)
Alvin Toffler, 87 (10/4/1928 – 6/27/2016)
Pat Summitt, 64 (6/14/1952 – 6/28/2016)
Elie Wiesel, 87 (9/30/1928 – 7/2/2016)
Gene Wilder, 83 (6/11/1933 – 8/29/2016)
José D. Fernández, 24 (7/31/1992 – 9/25/2016)
Shimon Peres, 93 (8/2/1923 – 9/28/2016)
E. Barrett Prettyman, Jr., 91 (6/1/1925 – 11/4/2016)
Ralph J. Cicerone, 73 (5/2/1943 – 11/5/2016)
Janet Reno, 78 (7/21/1938 – 11/7/2016)
Yaffa Eliach, 79 (5/31/1937 – 11/8/2016)
Greg Ballard, 61 (1/29/1955 – 11/9/2016)
Gwen Ifill, 61 (9/29/1955 – 11/14/2016)
Sharon Jones, 60 (5/4/1956 – 11/18/2016)
Theresa Manuel, 90 (1/7/1926 – 11/21/2016)
Fidel Castro, 91 (8/13/1926 – 11/25/2016)

Click here for a comprehensive list of of all 2016 deaths

Jesse Williams’ Powerful BET Award Speech Addresses Police Brutality, Racism in America

Jessie Williams BET
Jesse Williams accepts the Humanitarian Award on stage during the 2016 BET Awards. (Photo: Kevin Winter/BET/Getty Images for BET)

Actor Jesse Williams is best known for his role on the TV show Grey’s Anatomy. But on the night of June 26, he earned a standing ovation at the BET Awards for the powerful speech he gave when accepting the 2016 BET Humanitarian Award. Williams paid homage to police shooting victims, including Rekia Boyd, Sandra Bland and Tamir Rice, who would have turned 14 years old on Saturday (June 25th) had he not been gunned down by police in Cleveland. Below is a transcript of Williams’ speech in its entirety.


Before we get into it, I just want to say, you know, I brought my parents out tonight. I just want to thank them for being here, for teaching me to focus on comprehension over career, that they made sure I learned what the schools were afraid to teach us. And also I thank my amazing wife for changing my life.

Now, this award, this is not for me. This is for the real organizers all over the country—the activists, the civil rights attorneys, the struggling parents, the families, the teachers, the students—that are realizing that a system built to divide and impoverish and destroy us cannot stand if we do. All right? It’s kind of basic mathematics. The more we learn about who we are and how we got here, the more we will mobilize.

Now, this is also, in particular, for the black women, in particular, who have spent their lifetimes dedicated to nurturing everyone before themselves. We can and will do better for you.

Now, what we’ve been doing is looking at the data. And we know that police somehow manage to de-escalate, disarm and not kill white people every day. So what’s going to happen is we are going to have equal rights and justice in our own country, or we will restructure their function and ours.

Now, I got more, y’all. Yesterday would have been young Tamir Rice’s 14th birthday. So I don’t want to hear anymore about how far we’ve come, when paid public servants can pull a drive-by on a 12-year-old playing alone in a park in broad daylight, killing him on television and then going home to make a sandwich. Tell Rekia Boyd how it’s so much better to live in 2012 than it is to live in 1612 or 1712. Tell that to Eric Garner. Tell that to Sandra Bland. Tell that to Darrien Hunt.

Now the thing is, though, all of us in here getting money, that alone isn’t going to stop this. All right? Now, dedicating our lives—dedicating our lives to get money, just to give it right back for someone’s brand on our body, when we spent centuries praying with brands on our bodies, and now we pray to get paid for brands on our bodies?

There has been no war that we have not fought and died on the front lines of. There has been no job we haven’t done. There’s no tax they haven’t levied against us, and we’ve paid all of them. But freedom is somehow always conditional here. “You’re free,” they keep telling us, “but she would have been alive if she hadn’t acted so free.” Now, freedom is always coming in the hereafter. But you know what, though? The hereafter is a hustle. We want it now.

And let’s get—let’s get a couple things straight. Just a little side note. The burden of the brutalized is not to comfort the bystander. That’s not our job. All right? Stop with all that. If you have a critique for the resistance, for our resistance, then you better have an established record of critique of our oppression. If you have no interest—if you have no interest in equal rights for black people, then do not make suggestions to those who do. Sit down.

We’ve been floating this country on credit for centuries, yo, and we’re done watching and waiting while this invention called whiteness uses and abuses us, burying black people out of sight and out of mind, while extracting our culture, our dollars, our entertainment like oil—black gold—ghettoizing and demeaning our creations, then stealing them, gentrifying our genius and then trying us on like costumes before discarding our bodies like rinds of strange fruit. The thing is, though—the thing is that just because we’re magic doesn’t mean we’re not real.