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Letter to the Editor: Prop 47

Renea Wickman

Renea Wickman

By Renea Wickman

In November 2014 citizens of California overwhelmingly voted to pass Proposition 47 also called the Neighborhood and Schools Act. Proposition 47 is a law that provides that certain low level non violent felonies can now be reduced to misdemeanors. Thousands of people volunteered to walk and call to ensure thousands more citizens to ensure that Proposition 47 was passed – and it was. Since that time hundreds of inmates, in particular, African Americans have been released from prison, jail, parole and probation because of Prop 47 related. Here in the IE alone, the Inland Empire Concerned African American Churches, Time for Change, Starting Over Inc. and many other organizations have held Proposition 47 clinics helping African Americans and other people reduce their felonies to misdemeanors.

The millions of dollars in savings would breakdown to 25% going to the Department of Education , 10% going to Victim Compensation and 65% going to the Board of State and Community Corrections to be distributed to programs directly related to those released and affected by proposition 47. In February 2015, the California State Legislative Analyst’s Office, LAO, estimated the states savings from 100 million to 200 million for 2016 – 2017. However, at the same time it was reported that 1,900 inmates would be released as a result of Proposition 47 in 2015 – 2016 with a savings of roughly 73 million dollars.

Community members demanded that funds for newly released inmates be put back into the community for support with mental health, drug and alcohol treatment, life skills training, job training and education and not given to law enforcement. The community was on a roll and it was expected that the funds would in fact go to Community Based Organization and not back in the pockets of law enforcement. However, the Governor just released the 2016 – 2017 proposed budget where he is now saying that the savings only amounts to 29 million dollars.

It is my belief that the pressure is on the Governor and other elected officials to redirect that money back to jails paying correction officers, parole and probation, law enforcement as a whole. Here’s why, with proposition 47 working so well, eventually the decrease in inmates, and people on parole and probation means the state will have to eliminate those jobs. Well, law enforcement is not having that. Law enforcement have the most powerful unions in the country, who give billions of dollars to our elected officials campaigns. They own them.

The African American community has been exploited by the prison industrial complex for centuries and white people have made fortunes off our incarceration. We have always been the most populated in the prisons and jails across the country. Here in California we are only 6.6% of the population but make up as much as 40% of the incarcerated population. This institution has destroyed our families and our communities apart –  is time for us to really back and hard comprehensive criminal justice reform. We will be writing letters to the Governor and state legislators requesting more information on how Proposition 47 savings went from up to 200 million dollars to now only 29 million dollars.

If you would like more information on how you can help, please contact Renea Wickman at myjibril@msn.com or 909 567 0222.

 

Let’s ‘Fly’ into Black History Month by Paying Tribute to the Tuskegee Airmen

Original Tuskegee Airmen

Original Tuskegee Airmen

By Naomi K. Bonman

PASADENA, CA- On Sunday evening, despite the rainy and cold weather, I enjoyed a nice evening out in Pasadena as I covered the production of “Fly” at the Pasadena Playhouse. The evening started with red carpet arrivals where special celebrity guests, such as Angela Basset and Vanessa Williams, came to support a historic production about the Tuskegee Airmen. Of course, a few of the remaining Tuskegee Airmen were all present and made their red carpet debut prior to enjoying the stage production that depicted their lives.

The cast did a phenomenal job of displaying the emotions set during the time period. It featured Brooks Brantly as W.W. (Off-Broadway: Significant Other, U.S. Tour of War Horse), Ross Cowan as Shaw (Portland Stage: Red, Berkshire Theatre Festival: Homestead Crossing), Omar Edwards as Tap Griot (Fly at Florida Studio Theatre, The Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park, The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis, Loretto-Hilton Center Browning Mainstage, Ford’s Theatre Society), Anthony J. Goes as O’Hurley (Connecticut Repertory Theater: Olives and Blood, Chautauqua Theatre Company: Cat On A Hot Tin Roof, The Sandra Feinstein-Gamm Theatre: Paul), Brandon Nagle as Reynolds (Guthrie Theater: Mocondo, City Theater Austin: Death of a Salesman), Desmond Newson as Chet (Broadway: Motown: The Musical, 3D Theatricals: Hairspray, San Diego Musical Theatre: Rent), Damian Thompson as J. Allen (Off-Broadway: The Anthem, Around the World in 80 Days, By The Dawn’s Early Light), and Terrell Wheeler as Oscar (Florida Studio Theatre: Fly, Castillo Theatre: Children of Killers, New Ohio Theatre: That Poor Dream).

The Tuskegee Airmen flew over the skies of Europe and North Africa during World War II. Fly dramatizes the historic contributions made by the Tuskegee Airmen to the desegregation of the American military and the furthering of civil rights. After The Pasadena Playhouse engagement, Fly will then have its Off-Broadway premiere at The New Victory Theater on March 11, 2016. An earlier, 55-minute version of Fly was presented by Lincoln Center Institute, the educational arm of Lincoln Center, in 2005.

If you missed the opening night, there is still time to catch the production until February 21. The Pasadena Playhouse is located at 39 South El Molino Avenue in Pasadena. The performance schedule is Tuesday through Friday at 8 p.m.; Saturday at 4 p.m. and 8:00 p.m.; and Sunday at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. (NOTE: There will be no performance on Sunday, February 7 at 7:00 p.m.).  Tickets range from $25.00 to $77.00 and are available online at PasadenaPlayhouse.org or by calling The Pasadena Playhouse at (626) 356-7529; or visiting The Pasadena Playhouse Box Office, Tuesday to Sunday from 1 p.m. until 6 p.m. during non-performance dates.  On performance dates the Box Office is open Tuesday – Saturday from 1:00 p.m. – 8:00 p.m. and 1:00 p.m. – 7:00 p.m. on Sunday.

The Pasadena Playhouse will also offer a special military discount for all performances of Fly excluding matinees. The military discount (buy one ticket, get one free) is available over the phone or at The Pasadena Playhouse Box Office. Military I.D. must be presented to receive the discount.

How Many Februarys Will It Take for America to Believe Black Children Are the Future, Too?

Ikhlas Saleem

Ikhlas Saleem

By Ikhlas Saleem

In 1986 Whitney Houston covered the George Benson hit, “The Greatest Love of All,” which he originally recorded for a film biography of Muhammad Ali. Stephen Holden of The New York Times wrote that Houston’s cover gave the “message of self-worth an astounding resonance and conviction…a compelling assertion of black pride, family loyalty and spiritual devotion, all at once.”

Now that I work in education, this is a song I often reflect upon when feeling emotionally tasked, particularly the opening lines: “I believe the children are our future, Teach them well and let them lead the way, Show them all the beauty they possess inside, Give them a sense of pride to make it easier, Let the children’s laughter remind us how we used to be…”

My grade-school friend, Yasmine Muhammad, who was blessed with the talent—and in this case burden—of a great singing voice, was requested to sing this song at every awards ceremony, academic gathering and sometimes basketball games because, why not.

I didn’t know it then but what an incredible message to continuously impart upon children—particularly children that were and are descendants of slaves, carrying almost 400 years of baggage of a dignity lost and a future almost impossible to dream.

So now in 2016, I can reflect and celebrate my ancestors that carried the burden of a back breakin’, cotton-pickin’ South, while spending their nights in hope of freedom trying to make sense of a language that was not their own, while being reminded that their futures lie in nothing but death or labor of the American South.

Nate Bowling has said it before and I’ll say it again, while the fate of black children lies outside of plantation fields, America isn’t quite ready to believe or concede that black children are the future. Instead there’s the exception. There’s the, “Jahmal, despite his circumstances, who has managed to exceed expectations.” There’s also, “Keisha who displays incredible potential.” And of course there a couple of kids from 90220 and 10027 that “made it.”

You see, it’s much easier to find exceptions rather than tending to the whole lot. The fact is we’re not teaching children well and black children are among the groups that suffer most. We’re not making it easy when we lower standards for students and teachers. We’re not making it easier when we lessen measures of accountability for our lowest-performing schools. And we’re not making it easier when we restrict school enrollment to a block-radius. What we are doing is limiting students’ ability to show us all the beauty they possess inside.

Pride is lost when a high school student can be thrown from her desk and arrested in front of her classmates. Pride is lost when disciplinary action is met with a school-to-prison pipeline. Pride is lost when you graduate high school only to take remedial courses at your local community college because your diploma is worthless.

I believe children are the future, but America has to believe that black children are part of that future, too.