I hate racial segregation. It’s in my DNA.

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Back in 1896 the United States Supreme Court ruled that when it came to race in America, separate but equal was the law of the land.

Apartheid was legal in this country until the Court overturned Plessy v. Ferguson in 1954.

The named plaintiff in Brown v. Board of Education was Oliver Brown.

Brown’s daughter Linda was in third grade at the time. She had to walk six blocks to her school bus stop to ride to her segregated black school one mile away. Linda Brown’s nearest school was a white school. It was seven blocks from her home.

Linda Brown:

… well. like I say, we lived in an integrated neighborhood and I had all of these playmates of different nationalities. And so when I found out that day that I might be able to go to their school, I was just thrilled, you know. And I remember walking over to Sumner school with my dad that day and going up the steps of the school and the school looked so big to a smaller child. And I remember going inside and my dad spoke with someone and then he went into the inner office with the principal and they left me out … to sit outside with the secretary. And while he was in the inner office, I could hear voices and hear his voice raised, you know, as the conversation went on. And then he immediately came out of the office, took me by the hand and we walked home from the school. I just couldn’t understand what was happening because I was so sure that I was going to go to school with Mona and Guinevere, Wanda, and all of my playmates.

Former Arne Duncan advisor and now Eli Broad funded ed reformer Peter Cunningham complain that the fight against desegregation is too hard and too costly. Better to return to accept the notion of separate but equal. More than accept it, they suggest it as a policy.

My brother took this on yesterday.

Peter Cunningham’s latest apologia for school segregation, in U.S. News & World Report, is basically a defense of current reform policies that have been shown to re-segregate schools. It represents more than just the opinion of a lone education gadfly. Cunningham is paid millions to speak for some of the most powerful and wealthiest among those who influence national ed policy.

It’s run up the flag pole at a time when corporate-style “reform” has come under attack from civil rights groups and teacher unions, and appear to be losing their cachet, even within the Democratic Party establishment.

Cunningham tries to come off as a tormented soul, torn between his personal and “pragmatic” side, the latter arguing that ending poverty and integration are just too “politically difficult and financially expensive” and therefore, instead of spending hundreds of billions more to reduce poverty and reduce segregation, we should just “double down on our efforts to improve schools.”

At a recent DFER-sponsored forum at the DNC, Cunningham laid out his anti-deseg line in an obvious attempt to influence Clinton’s education agenda. He answered a question about school integration this way: “Maybe the fight’s not worth it. It’s a good thing; we all think integration is good. But it’s been a long fight, we’ve had middling success. At the same time, we have lots and lots of schools filled with kids of one race, one background, that are doing great. 

There nothing original in Cunningham’s comments. If they strike you as a throwback to Plessy v. Ferguson and the separate-but-equal doctrine, you’re definitely on to something. As we learned back then, when it comes to schooling, separate is never equal. Following the Brown v. Board decision in 1954, the difficulty and protracted nature of the struggle against de factosegregation and poverty has caused some to throw in the towel.

Cunningham is basically echoing the call of his boss at the D.O.E., former Sec. of Education Arne Duncan. It was he who tried to put the kibosh on a Justice Dept. civil right suit against the state of Louisiana, which would have blocked expansion of the state’s school voucher system.

Peter Cunningham does not just speak for himself. He represents the corporate school reform movement and those in Obama’s Department of education – and perhaps Hillary’s too.

Last week Cunningham lashed out claiming our lack of appreciation for the work Arne Duncan had done to improve teacher salaries and pensions had something to do with my brother’s DNA and mine.

Talking about our DNA.

Promoting separate but equal schools.

I don’t think I’m missing anything here.

Do you?

 

I was fifteen years old when they killed four Black girls in that Birmingham church.

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Outside the funeral services for 14-year-old Carol Robertson, Sept. 17, 1963, Birmingham, Alabama.

On Sept. 15, 1963 a bomb went off in the 16th Avenue Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama and killed 11-year-old Denise McNair, 14-year-olds Addie Mae Collins, Carole Robertson and Cynthia Morris, also known as Cynthia Wesley.

Addie Mae Collins, Carole Robertson and Cynthia Wesley were only a year younger than I was.

At fifteen I thought I was almost a man. But I wasn’t. I was just a kid. They were just kids.

I was obsessed by the bombing and its victims. They were girls. They were Black. They lived in the South. I was a boy. White. I lived in Los Angeles. While there were plenty of other horror stories that came out of the Southern Civil Rights Movement, few hit me as hard as this one.

Three Klansmen were eventually convicted of the act of terrorism.

Robert Chambliss wasn’t convicted until 1977. Bobby Frank Cherry wasn’t convicted until 2002. They both died in prison.

Thomas Edwin Blanton was indicted in 2000 and is still in prison. It took 38 years to get him there. He is still alive. He is 78.

Blanton has been in prison for 15 years and today he comes up for parole.

Blanton deserves a special place in hell when he dies.

He should die in prison.

Keeping retirement weird. Leonard Deadwyler.

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Following the killings of Alton Sterling and Philandro Castile this week, I heard somebody say that there was nothing new.

Only now there are videos.

Growing up in Los Angeles we had a police department that was headed by a guy named William Parker. His department was notorious for its racist treatment of African Americans, Mexicans and Mexican Americans.

In 1966 Leonard Deadwyler was driving his pregnant wife to a hospital. There were no hospitals in the Deadwylers’  South Central neighborhood. With his wife in labor, Leonard Deadwyler raced through the streets of L.A., speeding through some red lights. He was pulled over. With a gun already drawn, LAPD officer Jerold Bova reached into the car and shot and killed Leonard Deadwyler.

Bova claimed the car jerked forward, accidentally causing his gun to go off. Although there were no phone video cameras in 1966, there were plenty of witnesses that Bova had lied and that the car never jerked forward. Nor could anyone explain why Bova drew his gun and had it inside the car for a routine traffic stop.

Yet African American witnesses were not to be believed.

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The community filled the Los Angeles court room for the Los Angeles Coroner’s inquest of the killing of Leonard Deadwyler.

A coroner’s inquest ruled in favor officer Bova and ignored the eye witness testimony. They ruled the killing was an accident.

Protests were held, organized by Students for a Democratic Society, which I was a member of, and civil rights organizations in Los Angeles’ Black community.

Following the ruling by the Coroner, the Deadwyler family sued. You may have heard of their lawyer:

Johnny Cochran.

One result of the suit and protests was that a hospital was finally built in South Central.

It is said that Cochran dates his true understanding of the role of the police in the African American community from his work on the Leonard Deadwyler case.

All that has changed is now there are videos.

Paul Ryan: “Sit-ins are bad for democracy.”

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Last week I was at a gathering of old high school friends in Los Angeles. We graduated together 50 years ago.

We shared stories and Margaritas.

One of the shared stories concerned the sit-in that many of us who were members of the student branch of the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) participated in in the hallways of the Los Angeles school district’s headquarters.

L.A. schools have a long history of legal and de facto segregation. In 1963 CORE was challenging district attendance lines that reinforced the city’s school segregation.

I was 15 in 1963. It was my first sit-in – though not my last – in pursuit of greater democracy.

So I had to laugh when Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan complained about the Democrats’ sit-in last night. Nobody expected the NRA-controlled Republicans who control the House to pass any restrictions on guns or on who owns them.

There is plenty that is wrong with the current proposals. They don’t go far enough. The focus on no-fly lists cause concerns about civil liberties and racial profiling.

Yet, I believe  that most folks watching things unfold over the past few days see it as a fight between those concerned with gun violence and those who do the bidding of the NRA.

Ryan attacked the House members sitting-in in the House chambers. He said they were bad for democracy. Nothing ever got accomplished by sit-ins, he said.

One thing for sure. Ryan is no historian.

Gary Tyler, free at last. Give a hand.

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Gary Tyler today.

Last week I heard the news that Gary Tyler had been freed from a Louisiana prison after serving 41 years.

I nearly cried. Somewhere in a box of photos is a picture of a very young man knocking on doors on Chicago’s south side collecting signatures on a petition to free a sixteen year-old African American kid from death row.

I couldn’t find the picture. The young man was me.

I’m not a young man anymore.

And Gary Tyler is a long time from sixteen years-old.

Yesterday I received this email:

We’re sending this letter mostly to a group of long-time friends — people who will recognize the name “Gary Tyler”,  and recall the “Free Gary Tyler” campaign in which we were all involved in the late 70’s and early 80’s. Freedom and  justice for Gary was a cause we embraced for several years, long ago.  We were activists on his behalf.   For many of us, it was a shock to learn recently that Gary Tyler has remained in prison for 41+ years! — notwithstanding his innocence — notwithstanding that the 5th Circuit deemed his trial “fundamentally unfair” — notwithstanding that the Pardon Board three times recommended he be pardoned.   We moved on, yet Gary was seemingly unable to move on with his own life. (And yet, of course, he did — against all odds!  More on that later.)

Until now!  A recent Supreme Court decision declared Gary’s life sentence unconstitutional.  The Parish district attorney agreed to vacate his conviction if Gary would plead guilty to manslaughter,  which carries a maximum sentence of 21 years.  Gary agreed.  After 41 years in prison, Gary walked out a free man on Friday, April 29! Gary, who entered prison at age 16 under threat of the death penalty, is finally a free man at the age of 57!  Can you imagine what that will be like for him?!  Free at last, yes, but building a life from scratch as you approach 60 years old?     

There are far too many painful stories of innocent prisoners — mostly African-American — freed after decades in prison.  For Gary, there are allies who have been planning for this day for many years — lawyers and other supporters working on his behalf to ensure his smooth re-integration into the outside world — lining up jobs and other services.   The plan is for Gary to leave Louisiana and settle in Los Angeles, where he has some family and a dedicated support network.    

This is where we all come in!  A range of job possibilities have been lined up in LA,  plus some initial housing and other services.  But we need to think of the longer-term as well.  A Fund has been established under the auspices of the Liberty Hill Foundation to channel financial support to Gary for housing,  health care, clothing, insurance, transportation,  and the myriad other financial needs he will face initially and over the next few years as he builds a life having spent his entire adult life —  41 years —  behind bars. 

The Fund opened with $7,000; our goal is to raise $60,000. Money can’t right the enormous injustice done to Gary Tyler, but perhaps we can ease his road back to freedom. 

Contributions to this Fund are tax-deductible.  We hope you will give generously!   (See box, below.)

A little more on Gary: Gary is a pretty amazing man — a really lovely man.  A couple of years ago, a few of us had an opportunity to meet Gary and talk to him at length.  Yes, of course he wanted out of prison, but in the meantime he consciously eschewed bitterness and made more of his life than many people on the outside.  Angola Prison has some very unique programs, and Gary worked hard to positively impact the lives of others.  

He was a founder and long-time volunteer in  the hospice program (featured in the Oprah Winfrey/Forest Whitaker documentary Serving Life, and the subject of a book Grace Before Dying), served as mentor to younger prisoners,  was long-time president of the Drama Club (written up in the N.Y. Times, and the subject of a film documentary), etc.  He’s a good man, doing good work, and touching many lives.  He’s warm and funny and smart.  It was an honor to  meet him and begin to know him — as a person, not a cause. (We were all on the right side of this “cause”! — we can be proud of that.)  Now we need to help him in his transition.

Please help to support Gary Tyler now!   Give as generously as you can!  And please share this letter with a wide network to garner broad support!

Signed, 

Bob Zaugh, Los Angeles                                          

Pam & Steve White, Los Angeles

Barry & Paula Litt, Los Angeles                              

Elizabeth Stanley, Los Angeles

Jim & Janet Fennerty, Chicago                               

Amy Gladstein & Jim Reif, Brooklyn, NY

Holly & Will Hazleton, Atlanta                               

Bob & Joan Anyon, San Francisco

Karen Jo Koonan, San Francisco                            

Robert Perrone, Sacramento, CA

George H. Kendall, New York                                  

Mary Joyce Carlson, Washington, DC

P.S.  For those of you needing a brief recap of the facts of  Gary’s case, we’ve provided this addendum.  (The “Free Gary Tyler” site freegarytyler.com contains several articles. op-eds from the N.Y. Times, and a “Democracy Now” show about Gary.):

TO MAKE A DONATION:

1. CHECK:

Checks should be made payable to “Liberty Hill Foundation.”  Please write “Back to Life Re-Entry Fund” on the memo line, and mail to:

Liberty Hill Foundation

6420 Wilshire Blvd., Suite 700

Los Angeles, CA  90048

 2. DEBIT OR CREDIT CARD**

 Use this link https://www.libertyhill.org/backtolifefund or call Rodrigo Guardado at Liberty Hill Foundation at (323) 556-7212.  You can make a one-time donation or set up a monthly debit. 

 **These options will incur a fee of 3.3% for Visa/Mastercard (4% for AmEx).  The fee will be deducted from the donation, so please include the amount of the fee in the total to be processed. 

 3. AUTO BILL-PAY

 Set up a no-fee automatic bill-pay to Liberty Hill Foundation through your checking account, for a one-time or monthly donation.  You can set the payment date and there is no fee. If set as a monthly donation, the bank will automatically send Liberty Hill Foundation a check every month (not an electronic wire). 

 The payee is “Liberty Hill Foundation” (address is 6420 Wilshire Blvd., Suite 700, Los Angeles, CA  90048).  If there is room for notation, please indicate “Back to Life Re-Entry Fund.”  Liberty Hill Foundation’s Tax ID is 51-0181191.

More about Gary’s Case

At age 16, in 1974, Gary Tyler was on a school bus with other African-American kids in rural Louisiana, involved in the integration of an all-white school.   The bus was surrounded by 100-200 angry whites shouting, throwing rocks and bottles. A shot was fired from somewhere and a young white boy was mortally wounded.  All black kids from the bus were searched and taken to the police station.  No one in the white crowd was searched.  (The bus driver and the kids on the bus maintain that the shot was fired from the crowd, toward the bus.)

The bus was searched for three hours and no gun was found.  Gary (who had lived briefly in Los Angeles before returning home to Louisiana) mouthed-off a bit to the cops,

telling them that the bullet-on-a-chain around his cousin’s neck meant nothing and had nothing to do with this situation.

This “sass” apparently caused the cops to zero in on him.  Attempting to extract a confession , the police beat Gary mercilessly for several hours, but he never confessed.  (He continued to maintain his innocence for 41years.  The recent plea deal which gained his freedom required a guilty plea to manslaughter.)  He was charged with murder, tried, convicted and sentenced to death within a year. 

Though no gun was found in the 3-hour search of the bus, the police later produced a gun they said was the murder weapon.  It had no fingerprints.  It was a gov’t-issue weapon that had disappeared from a shooting range used by the local sheriffs, and it subsequently disappeared from evidence.   A few kids from the bus testified against Gary.  They all  later recanted their testimony and described how they had been terrorized by the police, told exactly what to say, and threatened with prison themselves if they failed to implicate Gary.  

The judge instructed the jury that they could presume Gary had intended to inflict deadly harm — guilty until proven innocent, essentially.  Gary was sentenced to death — the youngest person on death row in the country.  He was spared the electric chair when Louisiana’s death penalty was declared unconstitutional; his sentence was commuted to life in prison.  No evidence, no witnesses, but 41 years later, he was still imprisoned, until now. 

Gary lived at Angola State Penitentiary — the largest maximum security prison in the country.  Of the more than 5000 inmates, something like 75% are black, the average sentence is 93 years, and most men will die there —  there is little hope for release.  As we mentioned, Gary was three times recommended for pardon by the Pardon Board, but each time the sitting governor failed to sign.  The 5th Circuit also ordered a new trial based on “fundamental unfairness” — but the state of Louisiana declined a new trial on a technicality. 

 Until 4/29, Gary had for many years lived a medium-security life within a maximum security prison.  He lived in an honor dorm, could walk around freely, and was able to leave the prison from time to time on “honor” jobs.  The Drama Club, under his leadership,  left the prison grounds for widely-praised performances in schools and churches around the state.  Gary’s pardon applications over the years were supported by the Warden and other prison personnel;  in the final hearing resulting in his release, his Petition was supported by strong affidavits from a former Warden and Assistant Warden, among others.

 Gary didn’t belong in prison — ever!.  Let’s support his transition back to life on the outside!

Teaching Martin Luther King and the myth of the outside agitator.

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Melinda Anderson has a really good article in The Atlantic on teaching Martin Luther King and the perils, difficulties and benefits of teaching a social social justice curriculum.

Now 50 years later, seventh- and eighth-graders at Seward Academy on Chicago’s South Side study King and the very issue that brought him to their city. The Chicago teacher Gregory Michie says his lessons on the social-justice icon are designed to upend what he views as a simplistic and clichéd image often presented in schools. Since many of his students know King’s famous excerpt hoping for a day when no one is judged by the color of their skin, Michie’s social-studies class zeroes in on lesser-known sections of the “I Have a Dream” speech, like the “fierce urgency of now” and “tranquilizing drug of [white] gradualism.” The youngsters quickly realize that they’ve never really heard the full message of the speech, he said, and “it’s a lot more nuanced, and more fiery, than they’d thought.”

What has been lost in the King-as-dreamer mythology is that every place he went, including here in Chicago, he was branded an outside agitator by the white segregationist politicians in power, including the elder Mayor Richard Daley.

As we honored Dr. King this past weekend, that myth of social justice freedom fighters as outside agitators continues.

Mick Dumke reports in the Sun-Times today that following the release of the Laquan McDonald video, Mayor Rahm’s staff was spreading the word that outside agitators from Ferguson and Baltimore were invading the city to create violence.

As Emanuel went on to a holiday tree-lighting ceremony at Millennium Park, protesters took to downtown streets.

“I just got word from some of our friends, protest groups (outsiders from Baltimore, Ferguson etc) have arrived to city and will begin to mass at City Hall,” Henry wrote to other aides the next morning. “I was also told we should prepare for more aggressive, direct‐action, confrontations with CPD.”

This was, of course, a lie.

Who is “Henry.”

(Vance) Henry is a City Hall veteran who served as Mayor Richard M. Daley‘s director of the Chicago Alternative Policing Strategy (CAPS), the Police Department’s community-policing effort.

In December 2004, the Tribune reported that questions from federal drug investigators about a relationship between Henry and an indicted gang kingpin prompted a months-long Chicago police internal-affairs investigation.

At the time, Henry said U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration agents had questioned him about his relationship with the alleged founder of the Mafia Insane Vice Lords, who had been arrested in May in a massive federal drug-conspiracy case.

The drug kingpin, Troy Martin, was a convicted murderer who later was found guilty in the federal case. Martin was a member of a church where Henry was an associate pastor. Henry said that he knew Martin through the church for several years and that other church officials suggested he offer advice to Martin through the church’s ex-offender program.

“I was assigned by my church to help an ex-offender,” Henry said. Their discussions took place mostly at church, but Henry did not recall when they began or how many times they spoke.

An October 2013 Tribune series, “Poverty and Profit,” cited public records in which Henry is listed as going to bat at Daley’s City Hall for a West Side developer who wanted to rehab and manage troubled apartment buildings despite a pattern of racking up unpaid taxes, fines and building code violations, including citations for tenants going without heat.

City payroll records now list Henry as a $145,000-a-year assistant to Emanuel.

Whether it was Bull Connor in Birmingham in 1963 or Rahm Emanuel in 2016, the myth of the outside agitator is in the bag of tricks of opportunist and racist politicians.

Baltimore.

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– By Ta-Nehisi Coates. From The Atlantic.

Rioting broke out on Monday in Baltimore—an angry response to the death of Freddie Gray, a death my native city seems powerless to explain. Gray did not die mysteriously in some back alley but in the custody of the city’s publicly appointed guardians of order. And yet the mayor of that city and the commissioner of that city’s police still have no idea what happened. I suspect this is not because the mayor and police commissioner are bad people, but because the state of Maryland prioritizes the protection of police officers charged with abuse over the citizens who fall under its purview.

The citizens who live in West Baltimore, where the rioting began, intuitively understand this. I grew up across the street from Mondawmin Mall, where today’s riots began. My mother was raised in the same housing project, Gilmor Homes, where Freddie Gray was killed. Everyone I knew who lived in that world regarded the police not with admiration and respect but with fear and caution. People write these feelings off as wholly irrational at their own peril, or their own leisure. The case against the Baltimore police, and the society that superintends them, is easily made:

Over the past four years, more than 100 people have won court judgments or settlements related to allegations of brutality and civil rights violations. Victims include a 15-year-old boy riding a dirt bike, a 26-year-old pregnant accountant who had witnessed a beating, a 50-year-old woman selling church raffle tickets, a 65-year-old church deacon rolling a cigarette and an 87-year-old grandmother aiding her wounded grandson ….

And in almost every case, prosecutors or judges dismissed the charges against the victims—if charges were filed at all. In an incident that drew headlines recently, charges against a South Baltimore man were dropped after a video showed an officer repeatedly punching him—a beating that led the police commissioner to say he was “shocked.”

The money paid out by the city to cover for the brutal acts of its police department would be enough to build “a state-of-the-art rec center or renovations at more than 30 playgrounds.” Instead, the money was used to cover for the brutal acts of the city’s police department and ensure they remained well beyond any semblance of justice.

Now, tonight, I turn on the news and I see politicians calling for young people in Baltimore to remain peaceful and “nonviolent.” These well-intended pleas strike me as the right answer to the wrong question. To understand the question, it’s worth remembering what, specifically, happened to Freddie Gray. An officer made eye contact with Gray. Gray, for unknown reasons, ran. The officer and his colleagues then detained Gray. They found him in possession of a switchblade. They arrested him while he yelled in pain. And then, within an hour, his spine was mostly severed. A week later, he was dead. What specifically was the crime here? What particular threat did Freddie Gray pose? Why is mere eye contact and then running worthy of detention at the hands of the state? Why is Freddie Gray dead?

The people now calling for nonviolence are not prepared to answer these questions. Many of them are charged with enforcing the very policies that led to Gray’s death, and yet they can offer no rational justification for Gray’s death and so they appeal for calm. But there was no official appeal for calm when Gray was being arrested. There was no appeal for calm when Jerriel Lyles was assaulted. (“The blow was so heavy. My eyes swelled up. Blood was dripping down my nose and out my eye.”) There was no claim for nonviolence on behalf of Venus Green. (“Bitch, you ain’t no better than any of the other old black bitches I have locked up.”) There was no plea for peace on behalf of Starr Brown. (“They slammed me down on my face,” Brown added, her voice cracking. “The skin was gone on my face.”)

When nonviolence is preached as an attempt to evade the repercussions of political brutality, it betrays itself. When nonviolence begins halfway through the war with the aggressor calling time out, it exposes itself as a ruse. When nonviolence is preached by the representatives of the state, while the state doles out heaps of violence to its citizens, it reveals itself to be a con. And none of this can mean that rioting or violence is “correct” or “wise,” any more than a forest fire can be “correct” or “wise.” Wisdom isn’t the point tonight. Disrespect is. In this case, disrespect for the hollow law and failed order that so regularly disrespects the rioters themselves