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Fight for Justice: Remarley Graham’s Mother Vows "We Will Not Stop"

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A fight for Justice in the Bronx, two years after Remarley Graham was killed in his home by a police officer

By Tony Best
Special to the NNPA from the New York Carib News

If Remarley Graham had lived and not cut down in his own home by a police officer’s bullet, the Caribbean immigrant would have celebrated his 21st birthday less than two weeks ago.

So on April 12, his birthday, the youth’s mother journeyed to her son’s final resting place to think about what should have been and the importance of justice in a case that has troubled New York and the rest of the country as well as Jamaica, Remarley’s birthplace.

“My day was spent at the cemetery,” said Constance Malcolm, the 40 year old Jamaican woman. “I have three kids and one is missing. He’s not here and he should have been here.”

Many community leaders, elected officials, civil rights advocates and others interested in the pursuit of justice think the same way.

“We want justice,” insisted Malcolm after participating in a demonstration outside the federal court house building in Manhattan. “We will not stop until they look at what happened to my son.”

New York State Senator Ruth Hassell Thompson agreed with Malcolm and is supporting the family’s belief that a conspiracy was afoot by the NYPD and members of the criminal justice system to deny them the justice to which they are entitled.

“The whole (New York) Police Department conspired against this family,” was the way the lawmaker put it. What occurred on February 2nd in 2012 was as heart-breaking as it was as deadly.

A police anti-drug squad in the Bronx spotted Graham walking along the street. Believing he was carrying a gun or drugs or both chased him from White Plains Road and East 228th Street to his home at 749 East 229th Street in the Wakefield section of the borough. A cop, Richard Haste, rushed into the youth’s home, according to police reports, confronted Remarley in a bathroom and shot him to death. No firearm was found and only a small bag of marijuana was confiscated by police.

Street demonstrations erupted in the City protesting what most people believed was a travesty and when the Bronx District Attorney’s office investigated the shooting Haste, who said he heard over the police radio that the youth had a gun, was indicted on manslaughter charges but a court threw out them because of an errort by a prosecutor. A second grand jury declined to indict the cop but the U.S. Attorney’s office stated last August that it would review the case to see if Remarley’s civil rights were violated.

The office promised to seek to “determine whether there were any violations of the federal criminal civil rights laws.”

But as Malcolm explained it the other day, there has been “nothing but silence since then.”

And when Bharrat’s office was contacted by news organizations about the status of the case, officials declined to give a status report, saying it wasn’t their policy to comment on an ongoing probe.

That’s why several lawmakers have fired off a letter to Eric Holder, the U.S. Attorney-General, whose office has brought more criminal civil rights cases against wrongdoers across the country than any other AG in recent memory.

“In the interest of seeking truth and justice we are asking for an extensive and exhaustive investigation into the killing of Remarley Graham,” wrote members of the New York State Black, Puerto Rican, Hispanic and Asian Legislative Caucus to Holder.

“We believe the investigation will uncover that the action of Officer Haste violated the civil rights of Remarley, his family and the other residents in the home,” the letter added.

Assemblyman Karim Camara, chairman of the Caucus was quite clear on the matter: “It appears this was a gross injustice.”

In the meantime, Malcolm and her family are left to grieve.

“He was just becoming a man and figuring out what he wanted to do in life,” said the dead youth’s mother. “While no federal charges…. will ever bring Remarley back justice can help provide some level of confidence in our system and the concept of right and wrong.”

Affirmative Action Struck Down by Nation's Top Court

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By Gloria J. Browne-Marshall
Special to the NNPA from the New York Amsterdam News

Affirmative action lost a major battle this week. In a 6-2 decision, the U.S. Supreme Court allowed a majority of voters in Michigan to end affirmative action in the state. The Schuette v. Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action case has given opponents of affirmative action a powerful weapon. This case says majority rules in a land of minorities.

Opponents of affirmative action argued Michigan voters had a right to end it by statewide ballot. The court agreed. Proposal 2 bans the use of any preferences based on race, sex, color, ethnicity and national origin in any employment, contracting and education decisions involving state and local government.

Back in 2006, Proposal 2 was placed on the voting ballot in Michigan. Prop 2 asked voters to decide if race and sex preferences should be prohibited in governmental decisions. Then, 57 percent of voters agreed to end any race and sex preference. They voted by statewide referendum to amend their constitution and eliminate affirmative action.

Justice Sonia Sotomayor, in her 58-page dissent, reminded her colleagues on the court of America’s history of discrimination that gave rise to affirmative action. She tried to persuade the court that allowing the majority to decide the fate of minorities, who rely on affirmative action for education and employment opportunities, would turn back the clock on racial justice.

The number of African-Americans and Latinos entering colleges and law schools has steadily decreased with each affirmative action loss before the high court. The Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action and a group called By Any Means Necessary, along with the ACLU and NAACP, brought a lawsuit against Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette to halt the start of Prop 2’s ban on affirmative action in university admissions.

The court ruled that it is proper to use statewide elections when local politicians do not listen to the will of the people. However, statewide elections shift power outside of the people in urban areas to rural and suburban voters. Blacks and other racial groups have larger numbers in Michigan cities like Detroit, Lansing, and Flint. Opponents of Prop 2 argue the law removes input from local admissions committees and intentionally eliminates political access by minorities.

The battle over Michigan’s affirmative action programs is decades old. In an earlier Michigan case, the Supreme Court ruled that race could be one factor in college admissions. That Grutter v. Bollinger case involved Michigan’s law school. The court decided affirmative action was legal if it was one of many factors taken into consideration for admission into the University of Michigan Law School.

However, Prop 2 was initiated to ban affirmative action altogether. This Schuette case follows a June decision by the Supreme Court brought by a white applicant named Abigail Fisher. Fisher claimed she was not admitted to the University of Texas because of affirmative action. The Supreme Court held off ending affirmative action. Instead, the court sent the case back down to the lower court with instructions to find a way to achieve racial diversity without using the word race.

Some Haitian Earthquake Displaced Camps Increasing Despite Significant Drop

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By Khorri Atkinson
Special to the NNPA from the New York Amsterdam News

Four years after a 7.0 magnitude earthquake struck Haiti’s capital, Port-au-Prince, killing more than 200,000 people and leaving tens of thousands homeless, numbers of displaced camps are still growing, even though the homeless population continues to decrease, according to a recent report.

The International Organization for Migration (IOM), a Geneva-based humanitarian group and the leading international organization for migration, released a report last week Monday that relied heavily on field assessments conducted between January and March 2014, which stated that the displaced population had dropped by 91 percent however, hundreds of families are returning to camps because they are unable to pay rent.

The IOM said the drop in numbers was the result of the Haitian government and aid groups’ efforts to relocate earthquake victims from camps into permanent housing, with the help of rental assistance and subsidies. It was financed by the international aid groups. However, families were forced to return because the yearlong subsidies ran out. Some said they came back to rejoin relatives, while others said they moved from another camp.

The report said that 78 of the 243 remaining camps saw an increase in numbers. That is 137,543 people—less than the 9,000 that were reported last January. The three communes that were said to have the highest homeless populations of displaced families are Delmas with 39 percent, Port-au-Prince with 20 percent and Carrefour, the third largest, with 9 percent. The IOM said they don’t have a record of how many displaced people live outside the camps.

To reverse the trend and to provide families with permanent homes, the report recommended “a strong commitment” from the Haitian government and its partners. Clement Belizaire, director at the Haitian government’s office for the construction of accommodations and public buildings, told the Associated Press that a lot of camps that are registered are being emptied out. Belizaire called on the international community to keep supporting the rental subsidy program so people may not need to return to camps.

The Associated Press said camps have covered parks, soccer fields and parking lots, but it’s becoming “less visible because of the rental subsidies, combined with landowners kicking people off their property.”

The Passing of Basil Paterson, the Loss of a Patriarch for Harlem

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By Tony Best
Special to the NNPA from the New York Carib News

“A selfless leader” and a man of action” who “dedicated his life to making sure other lives were better.” A tribute from a son about his distinguished father, Basil Paterson, who died a few days ago at Mt. Sinai Hospital in Manhattan at the age of 87.

The words of praise came from the man who became the first Black Governor of the State of New York, David Paterson who was counseled in the latter period of his two years as Governor by his father, the advisor to mayors, governors, labor leaders and even a U.S. President or two.

Now, many of the people who sought and received his advice during his more than 60 years as a New York State Senator, Deputy Mayor of New York City, Secretary of State of New York, labor attorney, negotiator and federal mediator are showering him and his memory with tributes that speak to his sophistication, wisdom, grit, ability to get on with people and achieve goals that have made the City and state the great places they are today, even in the toughest of times.

“Basil Paterson, exemplified a model of public leadership, serving the people of New York with integrity and dedication to make the state a better place,” said Governor Andrew Cuomo, who succeeded Paterson’s son David in 2010. “From his service in the U.S. Army during World War 11 to breaking barriers to become New York’s first African-American Secretary of State, Basil Paterson put his commitment to this state and our nation first. His legacy inspired a new generation of talented public leadership, a legacy his son, David Paterson, carried on as Governor. “

A close friend, supporter and ally in many of the battles they fought to boost life in Harlem was former Mayor David Dinkins, who like Paterson and his son broke the racial barrier that had previously placed high office out of the reach of Blacks. Dinkins and Paterson had linked arms with Percy Sutton, a dedicated civil rights activist, former Manhattan Borough President and successful media owner and executive who led the way in Black owned radio stations in New York and across the country; and U.S. Congressman Charles Rangel, a former Chairman of the powerful House Ways and Means Committee. They became known as the “Gang of Four,” powerful movers and shakers in Harlem and beyond.

“The Gang of four is no more,” said Dinkins on learning of Paterson’s death. “Basil Paterson was not only the smartest among us, he was one of the most decent human beings and sharpest political minds around. As Deputy Mayor, Secretary of State or labor lawyer, he counseled generations –from presidents to shop stewards in his dignified and brilliantly incisive manner. He was one of the greatest friends anyone could hope for.”

Congressman Rangel was equally effusive in his praise. “He was a man of great integrity, justice and courage to do what is right,” said the federal lawmakers who has spent more than 40 years on Capitol Hill.

“In everything he did in and out of office, Basil was a pioneer who blazed the trail for a generation of leaders in Harlem, in our City and across the state,” Rangel said. “Basil broke so many barriers, giving voice to our community in his own special and unfortgettable way.”

Mayor Bill de Blasio put it differently. “New York City has lost a progressive giant who committed his life to lifting up others,” the new City chief executive declared. “Like so many in this City, I often sought Basil’s advice and gained from his wisdom throughout the most than 20 years I had the honor of working with him. He helped to shape the thinking of so many of today’s leaders in our city and state. And while Basil was known as a trailblazer, he was also a family man who cared deeply for his wife and children, and my thoughts are with my good friend David today.”

U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer, described Paterson as “one of the ‘lions of Harlem’” and “a groundbreaking public servant. No matter your political views or what neighborhood you came from, everyone respected Basil Paterson, and that was why he successfully mediated so many seemingly intractable disputes.”

Paterson was the son of Caribbean immigrant parents – a father from Grenada and a Jamaica born mother who at one stage was the Secretary of Marcus Garvey when he led the Universal Negro Improvement Association, perhaps the greatest Black mass movement of the 20th century in the U.S.

Like Paterson and his Caribbean immigrant roots, Congresswoman Yvette Clarke, a Brooklyn Democrat, was born in New York but traced her background to Jamaica and in a statement said his “contributions to the civil society we share today were considerable – as a civil rights activist, an attorney supporting the rights of workers, as a member of the New York State Senate and a Deputy Mayor for labor relations, in which he provided critical assistance in negotiating contract that allowed New York City to avoid bankruptcy.”

Letitia James, the City’s Public Advocate, who sat as a member of the City Council when Clarke represented a Brooklyn district at City Hall, saw Paterson’s death as the “lost of a patriarch” for Harlem and the lost of a “champion” for New York City.

“Basil Paterson dedicated his life life to helping New Yorkers and inspired countless people into public service, paving the way for other leaders, particularly in the Black community,” said James.

‘Lion of Zimbabwe’ Recalls 'Chimurenga' on Independence Day

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Special to the NNPA from the New York Amsterdam News

Apr. 21 (GIN) – As Zimbabwe marks its 34th year of independence from colonialism, singing star Thomas Mapfumo sent a salute “to the brave heroes and heroines who joined the war of liberation.”

In a radio interview, Mapfumo – the “Lion of Zimbabwe” – recalled the time of the independence war. “When we were singing — it was about freedom, justice hence I coined my music “Chimurenga”.

“Even though I was not holding a gun, it was a difficult terrain and I was constantly harassed, arrested and detained because I denounced oppression and colonialism,” he told Nehanda radio. “My dream was to see a free Zimbabwe where our citizens are able to access education, health, access to decent accommodation, and above all a better life for everyone.”

He continued: “Today, we need all hands on deck to do more to make real the dream of equality, justice and a better life for all. The brutalities of the past – detentions without trial, disappearances of our people, deaths in detentions, hangings of those opposed to colonialism, imprisonment, exile, massacres, assassinations, forced evictions, banishments and laws that made the lives of black Zimbabweans unbearable — are testimonies that our freedom was never free.”

“Although today we walk tall because our collective efforts culminated in the 18th of April being our Independence Day, we all still carry scars that remind us that our freedom, which is at times taken for granted was never free.”

“We cannot allow tribalism to prevail in our society, communities and in any of our various and diverse institutions.”

Finally, Mapfumo closed with the theme of one of his popular songs. “Our nation must develop, but instead of working to develop our country there are those selfish individuals who because of their positions of influence are busy stealing from the poor. That must stop; it’s a betrayal of the values of the liberation struggle and our national independence.”

The 69 year old Mapfumo was imprisoned without charges under the white-dominated regime of Rhodesia. He now lives in exile in Oregon and although he has occasionally returned to Zimbabwe he has not returned since 2005.

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