Playing for Change


This year’s sixth annual Playing For Change Day is September 24, 2016.

Here’s some of what happened in 2012, as musicians around the world Played to make the world a better place.

Sing along, dance along, hum along, work for change!

Namaste,

Barbara

 

 

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Justice in the Juvenile Detention System


Give Cyntoia Brown A New Trial

Cyntoia Brown is serving a life sentence in Tennessee Prison for Women for the murder of Johnny Allen. However, there is evidence to support that she did this is self-defense, she was also 16 at the time the incident AND was tried as an adult.There is also evidence to suggest that Cyntoia has some mental and emotional disorders as a result of being abused s a child. Please help her get a re-trial so that the mistake of giving her a life sentence can be corrected.

In 2004, Cyntoia Brown was arrested for murder. There was no question that a 43-year-old man is dead and that she killed him. What mystified filmmaker Daniel Birman was just how common violence among youth is, and just how rarely we stop to question our assumptions about it. He wondered in this case what led a girl — who grew up in a reasonable home environment — to this tragic end?

Me Facing Life: Cyntoia’s Story explores Cyntoia’s history and her future. Without attempting to excuse her crime as youthful indiscretion nor to vilify her as an example of a generation gone off the rails, Birman simply follows Cyntoia through six years of her life after the crime, and searches for answers to persistent questions.

In a world where children are finding themselves caught in the chaos and fear of abusive parents leading abusive lifestyles, is it any wonder so many children are finding themselves facing lengthy prison sentences.

Cyntoia Brown is one of these children, born into a life of parental drug and alcohol abuse, prostitution and eventually being placed in foster care.

She was influenced early on in life that the way to treat others was the way she herself was treated, that to survive prostitution was not a quick way to earn money but a survival tactic.

Society continually condemns and screams for change where children are physically and sexually abused, emotionally abused, Unless it seems this very child commits a crime viewed as so heinous no one should reach out and try to save her.

Placing children in Adult Prisons has become a very matter of fact procedure in the court rooms of the US, placing them in situations of fear and abuse very much identical to the life they rebelled against on the street.

If a child commits a serious crime of cause they must be punished, but the focus should be on rehabilitative not retributive.

Meaningful Prison Reform


Originally posted at http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/criminal-justice/locked-up-in-america/senators-seek-to-curb-federal-prison-sentences-for-drug-crimes/

Corrections officer Travis Conklin, right, looks on as prisoners move through the state prison Thursday, March 3, 2011 in Jackson, Ga. Conservative legislators who once heralded strict three-strikes laws and other tough measures that led to bloated prisons are now considering what was once deemed unthinkable: Reducing sentences for some drug and non-violent offenders. (AP Photo/David Goldman)

Corrections officer Travis Conklin, right, looks on as prisoners move through the state prison Thursday, March 3, 2011 in Jackson, Ga. Conservative legislators who once heralded strict three-strikes laws and other tough measures that led to bloated prisons are now considering what was once deemed unthinkable: Reducing sentences for some drug and non-violent offenders. (AP Photo/David Goldman)

Senators Seek to Curb Federal Prison Sentences for Drug Crimes

October 1, 2015, 4:09 pm ET by Sarah Childress

A bipartisan group of senators unveiled a comprehensive proposal on Thursday that would reduce federal prison sentences for nonviolent drug offenders and seek to cut down on recidivism.

The bill would be among the most significant criminal justice reform legislation in decades. It comes as support for reform has been growing on both sides of the aisle, both because of the overwhelming financial burden of mass incarceration and a push among legislators towards rehabilitation rather than punishment for drug offenses.

The bill’s major provisions would:

  • Reduce enhanced mandatory-minimum sentences for repeat drug offenders, including removing mandatory life sentence for three-strike offenders.
  • Limit offenses that trigger mandatory minimums to serious drug felonies.
  • Offer more discretion for judges to sentence low-level offenders below the 10-year mandatory minimum.
  • Limit — though not prohibit — solitary confinementfor juveniles in federal custody.
  • Allow some nonviolentjuveniles to seal or expunge their convictions.
  • Apply several sentencing reforms retroactively.
  • Require the Bureau of Prisons to come up with research-based programsto reduce recidivism.

The bill doesn’t do away with mandatory minimum sentencing entirely, something that a full 77 percent of Americans say they support. The federal prison population has boomed over the past 30 years, from 24,600 in 1980 to more than 200,000 last year, in part because of mandatory minimum sentencing for drug offenses.

The bill also introduces new mandatory minimum sentences for other crimes, such as violent felonies, some violent firearm offenders, those who commit interstate domestic violence or provide weapons or other materials to terrorists.

That’s one critique of the bill from some reform advocates, who say that minimum sentences are costly and mostly end up targeting low-level, nonviolent offenders.

“We believe that punishments must fit the crime and that a cookie-cutter approach too often gets in the way of justice,” said Anthony Romero, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union, in a statement.

The senators said the bill would impact at least 6,500 people in the federal prison system. The bulk of the roughly 2.2 million people who are incarcerated today are in state prisons and jails.

Molly Gill, government affairs counsel for Families Against Mandatory Minimums, said the bill could go further, but added: “There’s going to be a lot of families who will benefit from this law and a lot of people who are going to get a lot of years back.”

The bill still must pass the Senate before moving to the House of Representatives for consideration. The White House hasn’t yet weighed in on the bill, but President Barack Obama has repeatedly called for comprehensive criminal justice reform.

 

Prisons should not be money making ventures by business. Minor crimes should allow a person to have a real second chance.

Cleveland to Overhaul Police Department


I saw this at TheRoot.com, and felt that I should share, as this is my town at least for now. This problem is everywhere and must be fixed. Protests have been peaceful so far and I hope that continues but the investigation into Tamir Rice’s death is ongoing. He was twelve and playing with a toy gun and the police shot and killed him.

Cleveland to Overhaul Police Department in Agreement With Justice Department

An 18-month investigation by the Justice Department concluded that the Cleveland Police Department exhibited a pattern of “unconstitutional policing and excessive use of force.”

Posted: May 26 2015 7:18 AM
474532988-people-march-in-protest-to-the-cuddell-recreation

People march in protest May 23, 2015, to the Cuddell Recreation Center in Cleveland, where 12-year-old Tamir Rice was killed by police. The march was in reaction to Cleveland Police Officer Michael Brelo’s acquittal on manslaughter charges in a separate case in which he shot two people in a fatal 2012 incident during which police officers fired some 137 shots at the pair.RICKY RHODES/GETTY IMAGES

Updated Tuesday, May 26, 5:45 p.m. EDT: Specifics of the agreement between the Department of Justice and the city of Cleveland over abusive and excessive use of force by police have been released, according to Yahoo News, and they include a substantial overhaul of police procedures and policies.

An independent monitor will oversee changes in the Cleveland Police Department, which include community policing and getting officers more involved in their neighborhoods; modernizing technology; training to avoid racial stereotyping; and implementing new procedures to investigate misconduct allegations.

According to the website, Mayor Frank Johnson says that he hopes the agreement will be a model for other cities. Groups, including the NAACP and the police union, are still reviewing its details.

Earlier:

The Justice Department has reached a settlement with the city of Cleveland after an 18-month investigation into the city’s Police Department found “a pattern of unconstitutional policing and excessive use of force,” the New York Times reports.

According to the Times, specifics of the settlement have not been disclosed, but the investigation, which ended in December 2013, was prompted after a 2012 shooting involving several officers who fired more than 130 shots at two unarmed people—Timothy Russell and Malissa Williams—inside a vehicle.

News of the settlement comes just days after Cleveland Police Officer Michael Brelo was acquitted for his role in the 2012 shooting. The Times notes that while several officers fired some 137 shots into the vehicle after a high-speed car chase, Brelo was charged with manslaughter for reportedly waiting until the car came to a stop and then jumping onto the hood and firing another 15 shots into the car’s windshield. Both Russell and Williams died from gunshot wounds.

Some 71 demonstrators were arrested after hundreds of people gathered Saturday to protest the officer’s acquittal.

According to the Times, the most damning portion of the Justice Department’s investigation cited several incidents during which officers used excessive or deadly force.

“Investigators said officers unnecessarily used deadly force; used excessive force against mentally ill people; and inappropriately resorted to stun guns, chemical sprays and punches,” the Times reports.

The investigation was concluded before the death of 12-year-old Tamir Rice, who was fatally shot by police while he played with a toy gun in a Cleveland park near his home.

The Times notes, “The Justice Department has opened nearly two dozen investigations into police departments under the Obama administration. Federal investigators found patterns of unconstitutional policing in cities including Seattle, Newark, Albuquerque and Ferguson.” An investigation has been launched in Baltimore in the wake of the death of 25-year-old Freddie Gray, who died from injuries suffered while in police custody.

The list of the Unarmed killed by Police keeps growing


What I’ve found out in the days since the murder of Freddie Gray is that people are being killed every day by police in America.  A friend has told me that there is a least one such death a day.

Looking for more information about this, I found this video, which documents the deaths of unarmed people killed by Police in 2014.  Most of these deaths were not reported on the news, and yet they were killed at the hand of police.

It’s important for all people in America to be aware of two things:

  1. People from EVERY race are being killed by police
  2. This is being largely being kept a secret

If it weren’t a secret, more people would be marching and protesting and maybe we could make a change to this horrific trend.

My condolences go out to the families and friends of all these victims.  May they rest in peace.

May our country give them justice, however long it takes.

 

What leading feminists hope to accomplish in 2015


By Ruth Tam January 2

In 2014, modern feminism faced more scrutiny than ever before. But women writers and activists could not be silenced. In discussions about campus sexual assault, street and online harassment and race, women dominated the streets and the Twittersphere. From the creators of #BlackLivesMatter to a MacArthur genius fighting for women’s labor rights, we asked 16 of the year’s most influential voices for what they hope to accomplish in 2015.


‘So Popular’
host | @JanetMock

My hope is that feminist, racial justice, reproductive rights and LGBT movements build a coalition that centers on the lives of women who lead intersectional lives and too often fall in between the cracks of these narrow mission statements.

 

 

 

 

Lux Alptraum, 32 | BinderCon co-founder | @luxalptraum

I’d love to see publications make a greater effort to include the voices of women, gender non-conforming people, and people of color – and put programs and policies in place that will help to level the playing field.

 

 

 

Leigh Stein, 30 | BinderCon co-founder | @rhymeswithbee

I would like to see less digital dualism, which perpetuates the fallacy that online harassment isn’t “real” harassment when in fact so many women writers face threats just for doing their job -writing- on the Internet.

 

 

Ai-jen Poo, 40 | National Domestic Workers Alliance director, Caring Across Generations co-director, created #dwdignity, #caringamerica, #womentogether | @aijenpoo

I would like to see the creation of 2 million new, living wage ($15 or more) caregiving jobs, and more affordable options for quality care for working families, particularly in light of the numbers of women in the workforce and the rapidly growing older population in America.

 


Elizabeth Nyamayaro, 40 | Senior Advisor to Executive Director of UN Women, heads HeForShe campaign | @e_nyamayaro

We have an amazing opportunity with @heforshe for one half of humanity (men) to join in solidarity with the other half of humanity (women) in creating a shared vision of gender equality that benefits all of humanity.


Jessica Pierce, 29 |  Black Youth Project 100 National Co-Chair | @JFierce

I hope that 2015 brings a focus on turning the anger and frustration around the issues of police brutality and violence against black people in this country into concrete policy changes being led by the diversity of leaders I’ve seen and continue to see in the 2014 actions. We want to convene the table of change, not have a seat at it.


Charlene Carruthers, 29 |  Black Youth Project 100 National Coordinator | @CharleneCac

I hope to see a continued resurgence of young Black people owning their power to end police and domestic violence. 2015 will be a year of fresh ideas mixing with tried and true organizing tactics in the tradition of leaders like Ella Baker.

 


Lindy West, 32 | Writer, performer, I Believe You | It’s Not Your Faultfounder and editor  | @thelindywest

I want to see Twitter, Facebook and YouTube set up coherent standards and effective block/report tools to protect users from abuse, and hate speech–particularly rape victims being harassed and doxxed for speaking out about their rapes.

Mikki Kendall, 38 | HoodFeminism.com co-editor, created#solidarityisforwhitewomen#fasttailedgirls#NotJustHello @karnythia

I want to see a mass realization that police brutality is a feminist issue and for mainstream feminist organizations to help change those policies.


Feminista Jones, 35 | Social Worker, writer, activist, created #YouOKSisand #NMOS14 | @FeministaJones

In 2015, I’d love to see more representation of women of color in sociopolitical actions, and I’m doing my part by organizing a Women’s Freedom March centering on women of color and our stories.

 

Mia McKenzie, 38 | Award-Winning Writer, Black Girl Dangerous founder | @blackgirldanger

I want to see queer and trans people of color with radical social and political analyses dominate independent media by creating and growing our own platforms, so we can centralize and control our own narratives.

 

Alexandra Brodsky, 24  | Know Your IX founding co-director;Feministing.com editor; The Feminist Utopia Project co-editor, Yale Law School student | @azbrodsky

I hope we can channel the energy around campus gender-based violence toward creating more options outside the criminal justice system for all survivors, not only students.

 

Patrisse Cullors, 31 | Dignity and Power Now executive director, co-created #BlackLivesMatter | @osope

In 2015 I hope for a movement that is fighting for ALL black lives, and that allows for the stories of ALL black women to be in the forefront of our fight.

 


Alicia Garza, 33 |  National Domestic Workers Alliance Special Projects Director, co-created #BlackLivesMatter @aliciagarza@blklivesmatter

My 2015 resolution is to make sure that black women, especially black queer and trans women, are playing a strong leadership role in the growing movement for black lives and black liberation–because black women are the portals to the future, we can do a lot to shape a new economy and a new democracy for all of us.

 

Opal Tometi, 30 | Black Alliance for Just Immigration Executive Director, Co-Founder http://www.blacklivesmatter.com, co-created #BlackLivesMatter,#reunitehaitianfamsblackimmigration.netreunitehaitianfamilies.com |@opalayo

In 2015 I want to see our communities continue to rise up to challenge the criminalization of our people. At the national and local level my organization BAJI and the national network we coordinate, the Black Immigration Network, will be campaigning to end mass incarceration, detention and deportation.


Brianna Spacekat Wu, 35 | Giant Spacekat head of development |@spacekatgal

In 2015, I want fewer speeches about supporting women in games and more concrete action – it’s time to open up gamedev to the rest of us.

 

The is the time for all of the feminists in the world to accept the challenge to demand ensure equality for all human beings and the end of women and children having to live in fear and violence. Let’s make 2015 the year for justice for minorities and children.

In Darren Wilson’s Testimony, Familiar Themes About Black Men


In Darren Wilson’s Testimony, Familiar Themes About Black Men
November 26, 2014 3:11 PM ET
FREDERICA BOSWELL
FergusonProtest1

Sid Hastings/AP
After Michael Brown was shot dead in August, his mother, Leslie McSpadden, said, “My son was sweet. He didn’t mean any harm to anybody.” He was, she said, “a gentle giant.”

But when police officer Darren Wilson fired the shot that ended Brown’s life, he saw things differently. “I felt like a five-year-old holding onto Hulk Hogan,” he said in his testimony to the grand jury. “That’s just how big he felt and how small I felt.” Wilson said “the only way” he could describe Brown’s “intense aggressive face” was that it looked like “a demon.” He feared for his life.

Many observers, such as Slate’s Jamelle Bouie and Vox’s Lauren Williams, pointed out that Wilson’s testimony has historical echoes of the “black brute” caricatures that portrayed black men as savage, destructive criminals.

After the Civil War, many white writers argued that the institution of slavery was what kept the supposed savagery of black men in check and also justified the punishments that they met. In the Reconstruction-era novel Red Rock, for example, Thomas Nelson Page wrote of a black politician — a “repulsive creature,” Moses — who tried to rape a white woman: “He gave a snarl of rage and sprang at her like a wild beast.”

But these depictions haven’t just been banished to old books. On Twitter, the hashtag #Chimpout started trending this week as tweeps used it to describe those protesting the grand jury’s decision. Again, drawing upon animal imagery, Urban Dictionary defines the term as “used to describe the bad behavior of black people, especially when they behave like animals.”

Contemporary studies suggest that language like this, as well as the language in Wilson’s testimony, has deeper psychological roots.

Take, for example, research published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology earlier this year. The report, titled “The Essence of Innocence: Consequences of Dehumanizing Black Children,” found that African-American boys as young as 10 were significantly less likely to be viewed as children than were their white peers. Philip Atiba Goff, an assistant professor of social psychology at UCLA and one of the lead authors of the report, spoke to NPR’s Michel Martin when it came out. “In black boys’ lives, what we know from developmental psychology is there are more situations that demand that they be adults than there are in the average white boys’ lives,” he said. “And the problem is we rarely see our black children with the basic human privilege of getting to act like children.”

As an example, Goff mentioned the death of Trayvon Martin after he was shot by George Zimmerman. “All of a sudden a 17-year-old boy was portrayed as a manly thug. He was seen sometimes by people to be older than he actually was,” Goff said. ” ‘He was a boy in a man’s body’ was something I heard multiple times. And you don’t hear that when it’s white children in the same context.”

Adam Waytz, a psychologist and assistant professor at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management, has looked into why this happens. He points out psychological studies where “people demonstrate a racial bias whereby they believe black people experience less pain than white people.”

Waytz also points to literature and pop culture that depict African-Americans as stronger than whites. “Spike Lee’s famous terming of — and I quote — the mystical ‘magical Negro’ as a stock character comes up in a lot of films,” he says. “And even Melissa Harris Perry’s done some academic work on the myth of the strong black woman, which is … this popular trope in American culture of black women being superhumanly strong and being able to keep the family together and all of those things.”

Based on all this, Waytz recently co-authored a study, “A Superhumanization Bias in Whites’ Perceptions of Blacks.” It examined whether people were quicker to process words related to supernatural concepts like “wizard” and “magic” compared with words related to humanity like “person” or “citizen” when looking at black or white faces.

“Essentially what you see is that white participants in our studies were quicker to process superhuman words when these words were preceded by a black face,” he says. Participants were then asked which face — black or white — would be more capable of possessing superhuman strengths, superhuman speed, the ability to withstand heat or to suppress hunger and thirst in a more-than-human fashion. More than half the time, the black face was assumed to possess superhuman capacities.

Participants who made these assumptions were also more likely to think the black people shown were less sensitive to pain. And Waytz says this is not a good thing.

“We know dehumanization often emerges as people treating others as subhuman, like vermin in the case of the Holocaust, [or] as apelike in depictions of African-Americans in U.S. history, and that denies people humanity,” he says. “What we’re saying is that superhumanization is another way of denying humanity and ‘othering’ African-Americans by saying that they exist sort of outside the human realm.”

Waytz also says he recognized much of this language in Wilson’s testimony. “Superhuman strength, superhuman speed, this idea of him as a demon; this depiction of Brown as Hulk Hogan versus a child,” he points out. “All of this was exactly consistent with the types of capacities that we were asking about in our studies.” And Waytz says there are reasons why he might draw upon these depictions. “The other side of the superhumanization coin is you believe that black people are less sensitive to pain, and perhaps [Wilson] is suggesting that because of the superhuman nature of Brown in this moment, which he perceived, more excessive force was required.”

So could that be right? And do these perceptions usually affect police officers? “Of course,” says Tracie Keesee, a 25-year police veteran and co-founder of the Center for Policing Equity and the director of community outreach. “We’ve always talked about those social stereotypes that go along with aggressiveness,” she says. “How do you describe what aggressiveness looks like on a black male versus a white male?”

Stereotypes, implicit biases and media images, Keesee says, factor into the decisions officers make. “Your mind is trying to make sense of those things in a very rapid and quick fashion. And so what we always like to train, and fashion our training around: Are you reacting to the correct thing?”

That is on the mind of police chiefs across the country, she says. “How do we not only identify that we are engaging in this type of behavior, but how do we fix it?”

Amruta Trivedi contributed to this report.

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When will our society respect the humanity of ALL people?

Namaste,

Barbara