Tonight: Panel on Social Justice Activism @ Harvard Black Law Student Association

by Latoya Peterson

Here is the panel description for tonight:

Social Justice Activism: A Roundtable Discussion on New Strategies to Empower
Our Communities
(6:30 PM – 8:00 PM)

Generations of Black law students have had to grapple with issues of race and justice, and each generation has had their own perspective on the responsibilities and capabilities of the student community to affect broader issues of racial and social inequities. The Friday kickoff event will explore the opportunities that students have as leaders to empower themselves and others in addressing social and institutional disparities. Our panelists–including bloggers, professors, and community leaders–will lead a discussion on how the shape of social and political activism has changed over time, whether the new form of social engagement is effective, and ways that social movements can be inclusive of a variety of generations in their approaches to dealing with injustice.

Ms. Danielle Purifoy
A native of Durham, North Carolina, Danielle is a 2006 graduate of Vassar College. She is in her second year at Harvard Law School where she serves as co-chair of BLSA’s Social Justice Committee.

Dr. Michael P. Jeffries
Michael Jeffries is an Assistant Professor of American Studies at Wellesley College. His
research is devoted to the cultural sociology of race and ethnicity, hip-hop studies, and American popular culture. At Wellesley, Jeffries teaches classes in Race, Ethnicity, and Politics, Hip-Hop Studies, Sport and Society, and the campaign and cultural significance of President Barack Obama. Forthcoming publications include a book on how everyday listeners define hip-hop and interpret rap music, to be published by University of Chicago Press, and an article on representations of love in hip-hop performances, to appear in a special issue of Women and Language journal.

Professor Jeffries earned his Ph.D. at Harvard University, and his B.A. at Swarthmore College.

In addition to his work in the academy he has worked with two non-profit organizations; The Fund for an OPEN Society, and The Opportunity Agenda.

Prof. Randall Kennedy
Randall Kennedy is Michael R. Klein Professor at Harvard Law School where he teaches courses on contracts, criminal law, and the regulation of race relations. He was born in Columbia, South Carolina. For his education he attended St. Albans School, Princeton University, Oxford University, and Yale Law School. He served as a law clerk for Judge J. Skelly Wright of the United States Court of Appeals and for Justice Thurgood Marshall of the United States Supreme Court.

He is a member of the bar of the District of Columbia and the Supreme Court of the United States. Awarded the 1998 Robert F. Kennedy Book Award for Race, Crime, and the
Law, Mr. Kennedy writes for a wide range of scholarly and general interest publications. His most recent books are Nigger: The Strange Career of a Troublesome Word (2002), Interracial
Intimacies: Sex, Marriage, Identity, and Adoption (2003), and Sellout (2007). A member of the American Law Institute, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and the American
Philosophical Association, Mr. Kennedy is also a Charter Trustee of Princeton University.

Ms. Latoya Peterson

A certified media junkie, Latoya Peterson provides a hip-hop feminist and anti-racist view on pop culture with a special focus on video games, anime, American comics, manga, magazines,
film, television, and music. Skilled in interviewing, creative non-fiction, and editorial content, she spends her time editing the blog – the intersection of race and pop culture.

She was contributor to and has written for Vibe, The American Prospect, The Atlantic Blog, Bitch Magazine, Clutch Magazine, the Women’s Review of Books, Slate’s Double
X, The Poynter Institute, The Root and the Guardian. Her essay, “The Not Rape Epidemic” was published in the anthology Yes Means Yes: Visions of Female Sexual Power and a World Without Rape (Seal Press, 2008).

As a digital media consultant, Latoya Peterson has worked with brands like NPR and Wikipedia to improve the user experience and provide key qualities like blogging voice and reader connection to help humanize larger brands on the web.

She is currently working on projects related to race, pop culture, and video games, and will speak for the third time at SXSW Interactive 2011 on issues of technology and social justice. She is a
Poynter Institute Sensemaking Fellow, and one of the inaugural Public Media Corps fellows.

State Rep. John W. Walker

John Winfred Walker was born in Hope, Arkansas where he attended Yerger High School until 1952. He graduated from Jack Yates High School in Houston, Texas in 1954. He was the first
African American undergraduate student admitted to the University of Texas after the Brown decision in 1954 but was not allowed to attend for racial reasons. In 1958, he graduated from Arkansas A M & N College in Pine Bluff, Arkansas with a degree in Sociology; in 1961 he received a Masters degree from New York University; and in 1964 he received a law degree from Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut. Walker’s first work was as an attorney with the NAACP Legal Defense Fund in New York. He has remained associated as a cooperating attorney and later as a member of the Board of LDF.

In 1965, Walker began the general practice of law in Little Rock, Arkansas with the emphasis on civil rights. In 1968, he opened one of the first three racially integrated law firms in the south,
first known as Walker and Chachkin. Between 1965 and now, Walker has personally been involved in most of the reported cases which involve racial discrimination in the state of Arkansas. Many of them are landmark having created new law and opened doors to school houses and work places throughout the state of Arkansas and surrounding states. One case has continued to take his time since 1965, the Little Rock school case started by the late Wiley Branton and LDF general counsel/later Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall. Many of Walker’s early cases involved classes of people discriminated against due to their race in mega corporate environments. A recent case of Walker’s was the only nationwide racial discrimination case ever successfully prosecuted against Wal-Mart. It involved a class of African American truck drivers.

Walker’s work has created many changes causing him to be honored and hated at the same time by public officials, corporate leaders and members of the legal profession. He has received national awards from the National Bar Association, the American Trial Lawyers Association, the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, and the American Civil Liberties Union. In 2004, he was awarded the designation as Southern Trial Lawyer of the Year with its War Horse award. Walker continues an active practice of law and is involved in the social, civic, religious and political activities of the state of Arkansas. This year he was elected to the Arkansas State Legislature on a pledge to “open doors and widen opportunities” for people left out and left behind in the struggle for racial, economic and social justice.

Walker has five children, thirteen grandchildren and three great grandchildren. He continues to practice law throughout Arkansas and surrounding states.

Ms. Yolanda Young

Yolanda Young is the founder of the website On Being a Black Lawyer ( The attorney is a graduate of the Georgetown University Law Center and Howard University.

 A frequent contributor to USA Today, she has also written for The Washington Post and Essence Magazine.

In 2003 Random House published her memoir, On Our Way to Beautiful, which received widespread critical praise. The author has been featured on The Oprah Winfrey Show, NPR and Black Entertainment Television (BET). She has testified before the United States Congress regarding domestic violence and Head Start and addressed college audiences at Vassar College, Dillard University, and The National Association of Black Journalists. Currently, her award-winning television commentaries are seen on DCTV.

More details here.

links for 2011-03-04

You choose — triggering, tokenism or erasure

By Guest Contributor Tami Winfrey Harris, cross-posted from What Tami Said

I asked my blogging friends to weigh in on a question that is only a little facetious: In your consumption of media, which is better–to be triggered, to be a token or to be erased?

Let me explain.

During the hiatus of HBO’s True Blood, Renee, Paul and I have been exploring other representations of the urban fantasy genre–from book series to the teen angsty CW show Vampire Diaries. In doing so, we have confirmed what we already suspected: That is that the genre is notoriously bad at characterizations that are not of the white, straight, male variety. (Making it much like, y’know, every other genre.)

One sentiment that has come up again and again–mostly after suffering some appalling portrayal of people of color or the GLBT community in some book–is “Y’know, I’d rather [insert author’s name here] would just quit writing about [insert marginalized group here].”

For me, this frustration is usually borne of being othered and disrespected, when I simply aimed to be entertained by a trashy novel or TV show. I dipped into Charlaine Harris’ Aurora Teagarden series, hoping to enjoy the books as I enjoy the TV series based on Harris’ Sookie Stackhouse series. Instead, I got a bunch of thinly-written, triggering stories where all women (but the protagonist) are routinely judged harshly and women like me (black women) are alternately sassy or angry or dead or running from the law, and blackness or Jewishness or gayness or any other “ness” that is not small-town and conservative and Southern and Anglo and Christian is to be frowned at or remarked upon or, best, hidden. And so, instead of enjoying a cozy mystery in my downtime, I wound up feeling uncomfortable and marginalized.

It is times like these when I find myself thinking that it would have been better if black women were absent from the narrative altogether. Sometimes there is comfort in erasure. I mean, even a blandly-drawn token black character, like Bonnie on Vampire Diaries, can be intrusive to my experience. Because I look at her presence in a show that genuflects to the antebellum South and plantation-owning families, while at the same time not mentioning the black community that must still exist in the town, and suspect she is a black-culture-free cypher added simply to be inclusive.

When I, a black woman, am consuming media created by mostly non-black writers, dealing with erasure is sometimes easier that dealing with how a book or film or TV show reflects the dominant culture’s biased views about me.

Media, at its best, is a powerful tool that can change the way groups are perceived by the masses. But media is too rarely at its best. So…

Are bad, biased or token portrayals better than no portrayal at all?

Continue reading

A Trailblazer Twice Over: Remembering Wally Yonamine

By Arturo R. García

Ever hear the theory that life depends on a few breaks here and there? In Wally Yonamine’s case, this is literally true. As in, physiologically so.

It’s not hard to imagine that Yonamine was at a personal crossroads around 1948. Yonamine, coming off his rookie season with the San Francisco 49ers, injured his wrist, to the point that it forced him out of the game.  This in itself threatened to be a tragic loss: Yonamine was not only a prodigy, drafted out of high school by the Niners, he was the first Japanese-American to play in the National Football League.

So what’s a guy to do after his history-making accomplishments are cut short? Why, do it another way, of course. Yonamine, who became a pioneer in a way perhaps no one could have imagined, passed away this week at the age of his 85.

Within three years after the wrist injury, Yonamine had transitioned to playing baseball, completing a season apiece with minor league teams in Salt Lake City and his native Hawaii, when Lefty O’Doul, manager of the San Francisco Seals (his SLC team’s parent club), made a fateful suggestion.

“O’Doul told me to play my style,” Yonamine once said. “He told me ‘ you’re going to change Japanese baseball because of your aggressiveness. The Japanese will love the way you play'”

And so Yonamine set out on a journey that was the mirror-image of the one he started with the Niners: instead of being the first Japanese-American NFL star, he became the first American to play professional baseball in Japan.

Continue reading

Quoted: Hussein Rashid on ‘Hate Comes To Orange County’

Warning: Audio may be NSFW; contains harassment

There is no excuse for this behavior. It is pure, unbridled bigotry. There is no way to explain it away, and muddying the waters by saying there was anti-Semitic speaker there does not make it OK to call charity “terrorism,” or to terrorize young children.

The video also shows elected representatives speaking about a Muslim event—although it’s unclear if it is the same event. However, the point of these politicians is made succinctly by Villa Park Councilwoman Deborah Pauly, who said, “I know quite a few Marines who would be happy to help these terrorists to a, uh, early meeting in paradise.”

This is an elected representative presumably telling some of her constituents that US Marines should kill some of her other constituents—US citizens. For her, the people at the meeting were not human, were not citizens, were not constituents, but were “terrorists,” tried and convicted by her; and that is enough for her to call on the Marine Corps to exterminate them.

– Read the full post at Religion Dispatches