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Katrina Pain Index 2013: New Orleans Eight Years Later | Dissident Voice

It is no coincidence that today, on the 8th anniversary of Katrina, that there is a nation-wide strike called by fast-food workers in several major cities, and that New Orleans is not one of them. Instead, workers in New Orleans resist their exploitation in more subtle ways, hoping to hold on to their jobs in a city where:  

In my experience, if you don’t have anyone to vouch for you, take you under their wing, or promote and advocate for you professionally, you can forget about finding meaningful, productive, and well-paid work in New Orleans.  As a freelancer who enjoys a positive relationship with many in my immediate and extended networks, I have found it difficult to break the glass ceiling as a woman, as a Black person, and as a young professional.  There is still a pervasive mindset that resists any change to the present status quo of entrenched hierarchies; it has been my institutional affiliation with Duke University, my northern accent and my academic credentials which have worked most favorably for me.  I shudder to think about the limited opportunities available to men and women who do not already have access to such forms of cultural capital.  The restaurant and hospitality industries offer the most promising prospects with their constant need for chamber maids, fry cooks, dishwashers, and clerks.  The casinos and hotel chains which comprise the majority of the hospitality industry are not friendly to union organizing, or even informal collective bargaining; needless to say, neither are the fast-food franchises and restauranteurs.

— fari nzinga

50 Years After the March on Washington, Still Fighting for Jobs and Freedom

"There have been some grumblings that the anniversary events will not duly encompass contemporary racial justice issues, and need to do more than re-live the famous images of the past. I am often frustrated with the way racial justice issues for Black people can only be characterized as racist if they somehow reference past symbols of racial violence: legal “lynchings,” the ‘new Jim Crow,’ and Paula Deen’s antebellum-themed summer soiree." My piece on tomorrow’s March on Washington Anniversary. 

— Kenyon Farrow

White Is the New White | The Nation

Disclaimer: I watch Orange is the New Black.

At first I didn’t want anything to do with it. “Orange will make you Black? That’s racist!” I said to myself. It hadn’t occurred to me that the show’s title was a riff on a popular saying in fashion. Given that the criminal injustice system has become an institution which targets Black men, women and children, and reinforces through violence the whole race-making project, I simply could not see the forest for the trees. But then a (Black) friend of mine visited and recommended that I watch the show. We sat together and watched the first 2 or 3 episodes and I was not impressed. At all. Well at least not with the white lead. But it was the supporting cast of women of color, older women, and poor women whose stories fascinated me. 

While I certainly agree that “it’s time white women drop the practice of authenticating—and profiting from—the experiences of women of color,” I guess I’ll take what I can get. For now. Perhaps one good thing that will come of this show is that it will demonstrate to the people in power that audiences will watch movies and tv about queer women of color, and they will like it! In the mean time, let’s support talented women of color writers and producers so that we can tell our own stories without having to use anybody as a so-called “trojan horse.” Check out the pilot presentation of TWENTIES, and circulate it widely. Perhaps we can create another success story akin to Awkward Black Girl.

— Fari Nzinga

Race Didn't Really Come Up in Zimmerman Trial -- That Was Probably For the Best


So the silver lining of the state’s colorblindness in the Zimmerman case is that it allows a better weaponized and capitalized institution—the Justice Department—to bring perhaps a stronger case against all who did Martin wrong in Sanford, Fla. Had race been allowed in the state trial, the…

— Brentin Mock

What, to the American slave, is your 4th of July?

As we relish in this day off from work, and search in earnest for a barbecue or cookout to enjoy, let us remember the words of the mighty Frederick Douglass. We, as “free” men and women would do well to keep in mind that although there are certain injustices and cruelties to which we are no longer subject, there are surely injustices and cruelties from which we continue to suffer and which are visited upon others in our name, as American citizens. I’ll share with you my favorite passage:

What, to the American slave, is your 4th of July? I answer; a day that reveals to him, more than all other days in the year, the gross injustice and cruelty to which he is the constant victim. To him, your celebration is a sham; your boasted liberty, an unholy license; your national greatness, swelling vanity; your sounds of rejoicing are empty and heartless; your denunciation of tyrants, brass fronted impudence; your shouts of liberty and equality, hollow mockery; your prayers and hymns, your sermons and thanksgivings, with all your religious parade and solemnity, are, to Him, mere bombast, fraud, deception, impiety, and hypocrisy — a thin veil to cover up crimes which would disgrace a nation of savages.There is not a nation on the earth guilty of practices more shocking and bloody than are the people of the United States, at this very hour. 

— Fari Nzinga

Beyond the N Word: Paula Deen & Racist Intimidation in the Workplace

Please read the rest of this short article that explains exactly what the legal case against Paula Deen and her brother is about. It’s well beyond using the N word. But then the question becomes, why is exploitation and intimidation of Black people in the workplace such an unimportant subject in this discussion. Why is it that the N word is the only thing we can latch on to as the “violation?”

—Kenyon Farrow

Orange Moons Over the James River: A Father’s Day Tribute


I’ve always had a fondness for airports. As a child, they represented the time of year that my parents implemented the terms of their custody agreement. We had summers and alternating winter holidays with dad and the rest of the time with mom.

My father lived in Richmond, Virginia, deep in the woods of Henrico County and the James River.  His house was a major contrast to the dense Texas suburb where my mom lived.  In Richmond, the neighboring houses were a healthy distance away from one another.  At night, the sounds of chirping insect symphonies filled the silence.  Each day, my dad would snake through those dark backroads in his car with skill and confidence.  During our winter visits, the house smelled of fresh pinewood chopped and stacked by the side of the fireplace. On Saturday mornings, my sister and I would awaken to the smells of bacon, eggs, grits, and pancakes.

At the beginning of the summer, my dad would bring out a large wall calendar and sit with my sister and I to pencil in activities.  Movies or bowling on Saturdays?  A trip to the planetarium? We would decide together.  During the weekdays, he would take my sister and I to work with him. He was a principal and his school became our playground.  My sister and I would take over the empty library and school office as the librarian and secretary.  We’d type up “pretend” assignments and play endless rounds of Oregon Trail on the computers.

My dad influenced my love for traveling — and good music.  One summer, he piled my sister and I into his van and took us on a cross country road trip to visit our grandmother in California.   Every time we’d pass a body of water or mountains— my dad would encourage us to look out the window.  Sometimes we’d pull over to the side of the road to snap photos. Along the way, we grooved to a soundtrack of Frankie Beverly and Maze.

Look at California…

At every step, my father created moments for my sister and I to make decisions that empowered us.  He consulted with us about grocery lists, Kool Aid flavors, and movie rentals.   Each of these decisions, while small, reinforced his belief in us and helped to strengthen our self confidence.   He always told us that we could be anything we wanted and never foreclosed on our dreams. My sister and I — two little black girls making mud pies in the woods of Virginia — were encouraged to shoot for the moon.  

The summers always began with great excitement and anticipation — but the departures were difficult. Saying goodbye to daddy was never easy. At the airport, my sister and I would waive to him from the jetway until he was no longer in sight, boarding the plane with wet eyes.  

My dad’s emotions were never visible to us. I never knew what it felt like for him to return home to a quiet, empty house.  I wouldn’t understand this until years later when I watched my husband prepare for the departure of his son at the end of their summer together.   As he folded and packed tiny summer t-shirts and shorts into his son’s suitcase, he quietly broke down in tears.

For years, my dad’s perspective on living apart from his children was something that I never considered.  It didn’t occur to me that he suffered just as much heartbreak as we did.   My husband’s long distance relationship with his son provided a window into my father’s reality. I’d spent years building compassion for my mother and her challenges as a single mom — I came to realize that the same grace should be extended to my dad.

There are fathers all across the world who live separate and apart from their children.  This doesn’t make their love any less valuable or significant.  Regardless of geography, there was never a doubt in my mind that my father loved me.  My dad made the most of the time that we had together.  Some of my peers who lived with their fathers could not say the same.

There are far too many lessons and gifts to count that I’ve taken away from my dad throughout the years.  But I’d highly rank the gift of curiosity.  I can’t imagine how exhausting it must have been to answer endless questions all day long from two inquisitive girls. But my dad? He answered every one.

“Daddy, why is the moon orange?”

“Because it drank too much orange juice.”

Happy Father’s Day.

-Thena Robinson-Mock


‘You Eyeballin’ Me, Boy?!’

Growing up near the end of the civil rights movement, I am old enough to remember the phrase, you eyeballin’ boy? It was a hold over from the Jim Crow era, when African American males were consistently reminded of their second class citizenship and that, as Chief Justice Roger Taney stated in 1857, “…they had no rights which the white man was bound to respect…” Older Black Men would use the phrase as a way of asserting dominance over younger Black Men, and the police were quick to throw the line on the table when they felt annoyed at a Black Man’s presence. Its not so subtle subtext being one of violence, backed by years of precedent (and that includes lynching) going back to the start of our fair country.

On June 5, 2013 the New York Senate voted and passed Bill 2402  Establishing the Crime of Aggravated Harassment of a Police Officer or Peace Officer. While the title is well meaning enough, as usual, the devil is in the details; and by devil, I mean the racial prejudices that lead to racial profiling; and by details I mean the peculiarities of legal interpretation that allowed George Zimmerman to murder Trayvon Martin and the police not even consider that perhaps he should be arrested for murder because the Stand Your Ground law would presumably find him innocent anyway, while Marissa Alexander gets 20 years for firing a warning shot under that very same law. It should be noted that George Zimmerman passes for white (he may be Hispanic, who knows?) and Marissa Alexander is African American (who also could be Hispanic, but who cares?)  

The detail in this particular Bill “A person is guilty of aggravated harassment of a police officer or peace officer when, with the intent to harass, annoy, threaten or alarm a person whom he or she knows to be a police officer or peace officer engaged in the course of performing his or her official duties, he or she strikes, shoves, kicks, or otherwise subjects such person to physical contact.” is the idea that “intent” can be determined and that physical contact is just a wee bit too nebulous for one to assume aggravated harassment, especially since very few of the people who will be targeted seek contact, physical or otherwise, with police officers. Not to mention the insane level of subjectivity the word “annoy” carries with it. Seriously, I frequently annoy my wife with activities carried out by someone else go unnoticed. (you know what I’m sayin’)

In The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander, with oodles of documentation, lays out how the United States, following the abolishment of Jim Crow via the Civil Rights Act, shifted its legal system, primarily through the War on Drugs, to maintain the spirit of Jim Crow without seeming to do so. This law does the exact same thing in response to the attacks on New York City’s Stop and Frisk program. 

In New York, it is no longer enough for Black and Latino Men to avoid seeming guilty (whatever that means) and have your freedom pass state issued identification whenever out-of-doors. Now you best keep your hands in your pocket and keep looking meekly at the ground. Or, you can get organized and overturn this and all other laws that seek to keep us from our ability to enjoy share in the promise that “We hold these rights to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” Peace.

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