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Jamaica Gets Liberal with Weed

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By Bert Wilkinson
Special to the NNPA from the New York Amsterdam News

As Caribbean governments prepare to review region-wide legislation allowing for medical marijuana use and a relaxation of laws for possession of infinitesimal amounts, the Obama administration wants the island to know that it is not comfortable with the island’s move towards decriminalization.

This much was communicated to Jamaican government officials in the past week as legislators prepare to debate a bill that would legalize small amounts in a person’s possession or private home. The cabinet of Prime Minister Portia Simpson-Miller has already approved its debate even as Caribbean leaders are preparing to have a full debate on the issue, possibly at two scheduled summits to be held before July.

As proposed, possession of two ounces or less would be considered a misdemeanor that would not be pinned to a person’s record. The bill will also allow a person to cultivate no more than five marijuana plants for personal use.

But these moves are not sitting that well with American administration officials like William Brownfield, assistant secretary of the Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs, as the U.S. is worried about increased inflows of marijuana into American cities. He argued that Jamaica already accounts for 80 percent of the weed that is illegally shipped into the country and wants Jamaican officials to pay attention to a string of international drug treaties it has already signed onto.

“With or without the legalization of ganja, the decriminalization of ganja, the importation of ganja into the U.S. remains against the law, and the issue then is how much impact will legalization or decriminalization will have on that. And, I can assure you that, from the U.S. side, we will continue to pursue maximum efforts to prevent any import in the United States and we will request and expect complete co-operation from law enforcement authorities of the government of Jamaica in eliminating this sort of trafficking,” Brownfield told reporters.

The Jamaican Senate is debating amendments to the Dangerous Drugs Amendment Act that seek to decriminalize marijuana use and possession of small amounts and to reform fines associated with arrests and convictions. The bill has so far received critical acclaim from a wide cross section of society, and Justice Minister Mark Golding has said that the island has to be prepared to take advantage of an emerging market for medical marijuana.

“We need to position ourselves to take advantage of the significant economic opportunities offered by this emerging industry,” he said.

Brownfield, on the other hand, says that while other trade bloc states do produce marijuana in varying amounts, Jamaica is stuck with the greatest name recognition and association with the drug.

“I suppose, for the quality of its product as well as the quantity of its product … [Jamaica] in a sense has a more unique set of problems and challenges than do most other Caribbean states, in that most of the other states of the region are dealing with the impact of trafficking, external forces who move their products through their nation or their maritime or airspace en route to market in a third country,” said Brownfield.

Feds Issue Guide on Human-Trafficking Prevention to Schools

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Special to the NNPA from The Washington Informer

The U.S. Department of Education has released a guide on identifying and preventing human trafficking to help teachers and administrators handle such issues with their students.

The free “Human Trafficking in America’s Schools” guide includes information on risk factors, handling suspected trafficking and samplings of school protocols and policies.

The education department has also partnered with the Department of Health and Human Services and President Lincoln’s Cottage, a site of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, to launch a youth campaign focused on raising awareness of human trafficking.

An estimated 1.2 million children worldwide are victimized each year as the result of human trafficking, the education department reports.

“It’s hard to imagine that such heinous crimes continue to exist today, right here in America,” said Deborah Delisle, assistant secretary for the Office of Elementary and Secondary Education. “Human trafficking robs young people of a life that is filled with hope. The department stands with its other federal and nonprofit partners, such as President Lincoln’s Cottage, in helping these young people return to safe, supportive homes and schools.”

Mark Greenberg, acting assistant secretary for the Administration on Children, Youth and Families, added that it’s critical to raise awareness of trafficking among adolescents, considering that traffickers intentionally target youth.

“We’re pleased to work with the Department of Education and President Lincoln’s Cottage on this campaign to empower and engage youth to be part of the solution,” Greenberg said.

AFRO Holds First 'Black Lives Matter' Town Hall, Community Discussion

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Special to the NNPA from the Afro-American Newspaper

Race conditions have transformed throughout the years from the exuberance of great leaders, protests and marches, but have they changed enough? Does society hold African American lives as equal to other ethnicities and races?

In its first Black History Month event, the Afro-American Newspapers will host a “Black Lives Matter” Town Hall meeting and community discussion on Feb. 10 to explore the facets of life for Black people in the District, Maryland and Northern Virginia. The event will take place at The Howard Theatre, 620 T Street, NW from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. It is free and open to the public. Community partners for the event include Radio One, The Howard Theatre and the Association for the Study of African American Life and History.

“The AFRO has always highlighted important issues in the Black community,” Jake Oliver, the newspaper’s publisher, said. “With this event, we’re taking a huge, proactive step forward, by facilitating a discussion that addresses how the Black community can be safe and trust the police.”

Panelists, including Allyson Carpenter, advisory neighborhood commissioner, Ward 1; Jeff Johnson, award-winning journalist; Dr. E. Faye Williams, president and CEO for the National Congress of Black Women; and Dante Barry, executive director for the Million Hoodies Movement for Justice, will discuss topics ranging from police brutality to gentrification. Award-winning social entrepreneur and civil rights advocate April Yvonne Garrett will moderate the event.

The town hall discussion comes after the contested deaths of unarmed Black men and children, including Michael Brown, Eric Garner and Tamir Rice among others, by White police officers. The district attorney’s failure to secure an indictment for the officers sparked national outrage and an analysis of race relations in the country.

“When compared with the adjudication of events involving the recent homicides of Michael Brown, Eric Garner and Tamir Rice, the outcomes suggest that, in the operational minds of Law Enforcement, the Judicial System and the Media, Black Lives Don’t Matter,” Williams said, in a white paper published on Jan. 16.

The discussion also comes at a time when the area’s economy and race demographics are changing. The discussion will include additional issues that seem to remove Black people from the American dream.

For more information on the event, contact 202-332-0080.

Angela Davis Still an Activist

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At 71, the Freedom Fighter Battles On

By Stacy M. Brown
Special to the NNPA from the Washington Informer

Say the name Angela Davis and, depending upon with whom you speak, a range of opinions, emotions and thoughts automatically ensue.

But, to hear the famed political activist speak, it’s easy to understand why she has become one of the most prominently known fighters against oppression in America and around the globe.

“A lot of civil and human rights activists of the ’60s and ’70s are no longer with the movement but that’s not the case with Angela Davis. She’s still on the front lines,” said David Leonard, chair of the Washington State University’s Department of Critical Culture, Gender, and Race Studies, where Davis recently spoke to a sold-out audience.

Davis, who turned 71 on Monday, Jan. 26, holds the title of professor emerita in the Humanities Division at the University of California Santa Cruz. However, 45 years ago, she held the dubious distinction of being on the FBI’s notorious “Most Wanted” list.

It turned out the charges didn’t hold and Davis, now a noted scholar, continued her work as the face of the 1970s black power movement.

In her mid-20s when she gained the national spotlight, Davis in 1969, lost her job as an assistant philosophy professor at the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) because the state Board of Regents cited her membership in the Communist Party.

“The dismissal sparked large-scale student protests in support of Davis’s right to teach and academic freedom. Then, roughly a year later, she became a nationally hunted fugitive after the FBI linked her to the shooting deaths of four people in a Marin County courthouse,” said Linda Weiford, a writer for the Washington State University Press.

Captured and tried, an all-white jury eventually acquitted Davis of all charges.

“I wasn’t seeking fame. I wasn’t seeking notoriety. I just wanted to be a teacher and activist,” said Davis in a recent interview with UCLA News.

Even in her personal biography, Davis focused on activism as perhaps her sole motivation in life. Over the years she has been active as a student, teacher, writer, scholar, activist and organizer. She’s also a living witness to the historical struggles of the contemporary era.

“She is someone whose name jumps out at you, whether you are black, white, Asian, or whatever,” said Kenyon Moore, a junior at Howard University in Northwest. “I think her story is worth telling and I think she’s definitely worth listening to,” Moore said.

Like many educators, Davis said she’s especially concerned with the general tendency to devote more resources and attention to the prison system than to educational institutions.

Having helped to popularize the notion of what she called a “prison industrial complex,” Davis now urges her audiences to think seriously about the future possibility of a world without prisons and to help forge a 21st century abolitionist movement.

She’s lectured in all of the fifty United States, as well as in Africa, Europe, the Caribbean, and the former Soviet Union. Davis also has written articles and essays for numerous journals and she’s authored nine books, including, “The Meaning of Freedom and other Difficult Dialogues.”

Following the shootings of Trayvon Martin in Florida, Michael Brown in Missouri and other incidents of alleged injustices against young blacks and police brutality, Davis said America had reached a time of transformation.

“There is such potential for change. All over this country from Ferguson to New York City to Washington and indeed, in other parts of the world, people are absolutely refusing to assent to racist state violence,” Davis said.

“Rather, we are saying that black bodies do matter. And our work must be to continue taking to the streets and standing together against the routine actions of police and the district attorneys who collude with them; and continue saying, ‘No Justice, No Peace, No Racist Police,’ until there is real change on the agenda for us.”

Family of Woman Killed on D.C. Metro Train Files $50 Million Lawsuit Against Transit Authority

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By Linda Poulson
Special to the NNPA from the Afro-American Newspaper

The sons of a woman who died of smoke inhalation in an accident on a Yellow Line Metro train filed a $50 million lawsuit on Jan. 30 against the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority.

Carol I. Glover, 61, died Jan. 12 when a train bearing her and hundreds of other passengers encountered heavy smoke near the L’Enfant Plaza station. Glover, who suffered from asthma, was overcome when smoke filled her train car and could not be revived despite the efforts of fellow passengers. 80 others were hospitalized.

Marcus W. Glover and Anthony R. Glover II were joined at press conference announcing the lawsuit by their attorney, Patrick Regan of Regan, Zambri & Long PLLC in Northwest D.C.

“This is a very important day, we want to make sure this will never happen again,” Marcus Glover said. “We want to seek justice for our family, but for everyone in this city – we are not bitter, we seek justice.”

“My family has been devastated by this tragedy,” Anthony Glover said. “We are completely and utterly devastated by the loss of my mother.”

Anthony Glover said he remained in close contact with his mother during his service in the Marine Corps and through three deployments in Iraq.

Hundreds attended a Jan. 19 memorial service for Glover at Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Northeast D.C. She was a Washington, D.C. native and resided in Alexandria, Va. at the time of her death.

The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating the incident; completion of a final report is expected to take several months. According to The Washington Post, a preliminary report found that an “electrical arcing incident” caused smoke to fill the tunnel.

The 10-page lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Washington D.C. cites negligence on the part of Metro responders in following safety measures and evacuating the stricken train in a timely manner.

“As a direct and proximate result of Defendant WMATA’s negligence, Ms. Glover was trapped, helpless, in Train 302 for nearly forty-five minutes as it filled with smoke,” the lawsuit states, “during this time she fought, ever more agonizingly, to breathe as the smoke gradually sapped the life from her body.”

“She was a fabulous type of woman, Carol was; as a mother, grandmother, daughter, sister, and citizen,” Regan told the AFRO following the press conference. “She was fantastic.”

“I had asked her sons to do the press conference on what was lost in this senseless tragedy on Jan. 12,” he added. “Carol had three grandchildren, one on the way and that was the purpose. The family is not greedy or vindictive but they want to make sure that this doesn’t happen to anyone else on this subway system.”

“Metro should have evacuated the passengers off that subway train long before anyone was injured or killed,” Regan said.

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BVN National News Wire