Monday, December 20, 2010

MLK 2011 - Not Another Day Off

Ever work on a holiday? I grew up working construction and remember several holidays that I worked - not because I did not believe or care for the holiday itself, but instead because there was an opportunity to make a difference in my life by earning money.

Now I find myself in a different position and you might be in a similar spot - you have a paid day off and need to decide what to do with it. I have worked through many of these days too.

As Martin Luther King Day approaches, let me suggest that we take some time now, from the 14th to the 17th of January, or soon thereafter and ask a simple question - what I can I do right now in the service of others that will have the biggest impact? Then go do it.

There are several events happening in Jefferson City and the surrounding area on the 14th and 17th and the days leading up to Martin Luther King Day. I am enclosing some information that will be updated about two of those locally. Attend. Learn. And then go DO.

Jefferson City Regional MLK Celebration

January 14, 2011 - Governor's Office Building
Theme: Remember, Celebrate, Act
Keynote Speaker: Mr. Bill Miller

St. Mary's Health Center 8th Annual MLK Celebration

January 17, 2011 - Assembly Hall
Theme: Continuing the Quest for Peace and Justice
Keynote Speaker: Reverend James Howard, One in Christ Church
(this event grows every year and I have it on good authority that this year is one not to miss)

Friday, December 17, 2010

United States Settles with Black Farmers for Discrimination

NAACP: Washington Bureau
On December 8, 2010, President Barack Obama signed historic legislation funding a settlement, known as "Pigford II" between the US Department of Agriculture and American Black farmers, many of whom had suffered decades of discrimination. The NAACP enthusiastically supported this legislation as this case had festered for years and too many black farmers lost their livelihoods, their farms, and too often their lives awaiting resolution.

For more information on the bill and the struggle, please see the attached Issue Update. Please also feel free to contact me if you have any questions or comments.

Thank you,


Hilary O. Shelton
Director, NAACP Washington Bureau &
Senior VP for Advocacy and Policy
(202) 463-2940

Two Double life Sentences for $11 - Tell Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour to Intervene

For sisters Jamie and Gladys Scott, $11 earned them eachdouble life sentences.

Jamie and Gladys were convicted of being accomplices to a 1993 robbery. The teenagers who carried out the robbery served only two years in prison. The judge never explained why the Scott sisters deserved such severe sentences.

Sixteen years later, the Scott sisters are still in prison. And if Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour doesn't intervene, they will die in prison -- all over just $11.

You can get the word out about this horrific injustice. Sign the NAACP petition to Governor Barbour asking him to free the Scott sisters:

When the Scott sisters were put on trial, neither Jamie nor Gladys had a criminal record. But the presiding judge in their trial, Judge Marcus Gordon, has a history of racially biased rulings.

In all my years working to reform the criminal justice system, I have never seen such an extreme sentence for this type of crime. I am not alone. Even the original prosecutor in the case has since become an advocate for the sisters' freedom.

And now, their freedom is becoming a matter of life and death. In prison, Jamie Scott has lost renal function of her kidneys and cannot survive without a transplant. The Department of Corrections has refused to allow tests for kidney compatibility even though numerous volunteers have come forward.

Please, sign our petition today and tell Governor Barbour that 16 years is enough. Nobody should die in prison for an $11 crime:

There is no dollar amount that can be placed on a life. I will not stop fighting for the Scott sisters until justice is restored, and I hope you'll join me.

Yours in the struggle,

Ben Jealous
President and CEO

Thank the DOJ for Prosecuting Hate Crime

Department of Justice Press Release

white spacer

For Immediate Release
November 1, 2010

U.S. Department of Justice
Office of Public Affairs
(202) 514-2007/TDD (202) 514-1888

Massachusetts Man Sentenced to Federal Prison for Burning African-American Church

WASHINGTON—Benjamin Haskell was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Michael A. Ponsor in Springfield, Massachusetts to nine years in prison and three years of supervised release for his role in the 2008 burning of the Macedonia Church of God in Christ, a predominately African-American Church, on the morning after President Barack Obama was elected as the first African-American president of the United States. In addition, Haskell will pay more than $1.7 million in restitution, including $123,570.25 to the Macedonia Church.

On June 16, 2010, Haskell, 24, of Springfield, pled guilty to conspiring to injure, oppress, threaten, and intimidate the mostly African-American parishioners of the Macedonia Church in the free exercise of the right to hold and use their new church building, which was under construction, and to damaging the parishioners’ new church building through arson and obstructing their free exercise of religion because of their race, color, and ethnic characteristics.

At the earlier plea hearing, a prosecutor told the court that had the case proceeded to trial, the government’s evidence would have proven that in the early morning hours of Nov. 5, 2008, within hours of President Barack Obama being elected, Haskell and his co-conspirators agreed to burn down, and did burn down, the Macedonia Church’s newly constructed building where religious services were to be held. The building was 75 percent completed at the time of the fire, which destroyed nearly the entire structure, leaving only the metal superstructure and a small portion of the front corner intact. Investigators determined that the fire was caused by arsonists who poured and ignited gasoline on the interior and exterior of the building.

Haskell confessed to the crime and admitted that prior to the presidential election, he and his co-conspirators used racial slurs against African-Americans and expressed anger at the possible election of Barack Obama as the first African-American president. Haskell admitted that after Obama was declared the winner of the election, he and his co-conspirators walked through the woods behind the Macedonia Church to scout out burning it down. Then, in the early morning hours of Nov. 5, 2008, Haskell and his co-conspirators went back to the church, poured gasoline inside and outside of the church, and ignited the gasoline.

“The freedom to practice the religion that we choose without discrimination or hateful acts is among our nation’s most cherished rights,” said Thomas E. Perez, Assistant Attorney General in charge of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. “As seen here today, the Department will prosecute anyone who violates that right to the fullest extent of the law.”

“The burning of the Macedonia Church because of racial hatred and intolerance was a vicious attack on one of our most cherished freedoms—to worship in the religion of our choice safely and without fear of discrimination,” said U.S. Attorney for the District of Massachusetts Carmen Ortiz. “The successful investigation, prosecution, and punishment of those who committed this hateful act is a clear statement that law enforcement will do all in its power to protect our citizens’ civil rights.”

“While the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) is charged with investigating some of the most violent crimes, I consider the arson to be one of the most serious and dangerous offenses. Not only was this case about the burning of a house of worship, it cut to the very heart of our most valued rights, that of religious freedom. I want to acknowledge all of our partners who assisted in bringing the individuals responsible for this fire to justice,” said ATF Special Agent in Charge Guy Thomas.

“Today’s sentencing represents just one more step toward closure and healing, not only for the victims of this hate crime, but for the Springfield community as a whole. The FBI, along with its federal, state, and local law enforcement partners, remains committed to protecting each and every citizen’s civil rights, and will aggressively investigate any violation of those rights, bringing the perpetrators to justice,” said Richard DesLauriers, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI.

The case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Paul H. Smyth and Kevin O’Regan of the U.S. Attorney's Springfield Office, and Nicole Lee Ndumele, Trial Attorney in the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division.