Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Martin Luther King Demanded Strong Stand for Gay and Lesbian Rights

On this date, speaking four days before the 30th anniversary of her husband’s assassination, Coretta Scott King said that the civil rights leader’s memory demanded a strong stand for gay and lesbian rights. “I still hear people say that I should not be talking about the rights of lesbian and gay people and I should stick to the issue of racial justice,” she said. “But I hasten to remind them that Martin Luther King Jr. said, ‘Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.’”

“I appeal to everyone who believes in Martin Luther King Jr.’s dream to make room at the table of brother- and sisterhood for lesbian and gay people,” she said. “Gays and lesbians stood up for civil rights in Montgomery (and) Selma (Alabama), in Albany, Georgia, and St. Augustine, Florida, and many other campaigns of the civil rights movement,” Mrs. King said. She said she saluted the contributions “of these courageous men and women” who fought “for my freedom at a time when they could find few voices for their own.”

(Coretta Scott King speaking at a 25th anniversary celebration for the Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund, a group that has pursued gay rights issues in the courts and won several key victories.)

Continued: Prof. Olsen @ large

Monday, March 29, 2010

Reaction to Health Care Reform is Looking a Lot Like the Reaction to Civil Rights Reform 45 Years Ago

For OpEdNews: John Basel - Writer

For those who are old enough to remember the 60's the violent reaction of those opposed to health care reform to the passage of such legislation is like deja vu all over again. While we haven't seen riots in the streets, the reaction coming from the new radical right has gone beyond threatening violence with incendiary rhetoric and open displays of guns to actually carrying out acts of violence.

Basel's column continued at OpEdNews

Friday, March 26, 2010

News Feature | On Becoming a Citizen Journalist; Overcoming Fear to Get Out the Story

Susan Klopfer is the author of Who Killed Emmett Till?, the story of a Chicago youngster whose horrific murder in 1955 was the spark that ignited the modern civil rights movement. Klopfer has written two others books based in the Mississippi Delta, researching and uncovering civil rights murders taking place from the 1950s to the late 1990s. She has won journalism awards for her investigative reporting in Missouri.

By Susan Klopfer, with Fred Klopfer, Ph.D.

Citizen journalists are needed now more than ever. Who else is going to shake up this world and take the right photographs? Ask the right questions? Not always the mainstream media. Too often traditional "paid" journalist seek the comfort of the herd and the real story -- or the story behind the news -- is often lost.

So, who are Citizen journalists and what prompts them to seek and report news? Are they easily scared? Should they be?

The people who are Citizen Journalists, for the most part, are every-day people without professional journalism training. They use today's new technological tools and the global distribution of the Internet to create, add to or fact-check media on their own or in collaboration with others.

They might write or blog about a county council meeting on add to the conversation in an online forum. Or they might fact-check a newspaper article and point out factual errors or bias on their website.

Today's citizen journalist might take a digital photo to record a newsworthy event happening in their town or suburb -- police officers beating protestors -- and post it online before the event ever hits traditional news. Or they might record a similar action and post it on YouTube or upload it to CNN. Or podcast their findings.

* * * * * * * * * * * *

Video footage of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy in the '60s taken by Abraham Zapruder and footage of police beating Rodney King in Los Angeles in the'80s recorded by George Holliday. Both were citizens on the scene.
* * * * * * * * * * * *

This two-part news feature helps to understand the possibilities and basic requirements of being a first-rate Citizen Journalist, but then moves on to look at a common emotion faced by the first-time reporter -- overcoming fear to get out the story.

Part I The Basics

So if you are ready to warm up your notebook computer (Does anyone sharpen a pencil anymore?) and unpack your digital camera with something more in mind than capturing the best parts of your family vacation, this guide is for you.

First piece of advice: learn basic reporting techniques and you will be taken way more seriously. Here is a classic reporting book that provides a solid starting point with excellent introduction to the various elements of good journalism ... quite perfect for a beginner with advanced emphasis on reporting and writing, as well.

News Reporting and Writing by the Misssouri Group offers a step-by-step approach to journalismm that comes from years in the field and in the classroom. Through extensive contemporary examples and dependable, no-frills advice, future journalist learn reporting and writing skills they need to become effective journalists in every medium and for every beat.

There's a workbook to accompany this 9th edition.

You might get by with skipping a basic reporting book (used by college students in major journalism programs) but you won't want to skip the Reporter/Editor's Bible ... The Associated Press Stylebook and Briefing on Media Law.

The world is divided into people who become physically ill when they see punctuation, grammer mistakes or "wrong words" in print, and those who don't. If you mind such things as the proper use of "there, their or they're" and if you want to be taken seriously by most of your readers, this Bible is The Best Journalism Tool ever invented.

Countless newspapers and other publications base their style guides on this manual with its easy to find entries that include issues of spelling, punctuation, grammar ("The couple were wed Monday afternoon"), abbreviation, capitalization ("Popsicle and Dumpster are, tollhouse cookies aren't"), hyphenation and frequently misused words (using "utilize" when "use" will do just fine, thank you). Longer discussions of things such as weather terms and sports terms are given as well.

Plus the AP manual features separate sections on business writing, libel, and copyright. No Citizen Journalist can leave home without it!

If you want to get a little fancier, take a look at The New York Times Manual of Style and Usage, written for the New York Times editors and writers, but an excellent, up-to-date resource for anyone's use.

"Should you use Native Americans or American Indians? Debark or disembark? Did you know that thermos is no longer a trademark, but that Popsicle and Dumpster are?"

Do you have and understand how to use the newest tools and resources to become a citizen journalist? For this, you are on your own. No print book is going to be so current as to help you make decisions on equipment. You are simply going to have to keep up with technology.

One more suggestion: Don't forget biographies of news greats!

Younger readers might not recognize the name Edward R. Murrow, yet Edward R. Murrow and the Birth of Broadcast Journalism by Bob Edwards introduces him as one of broadcasting's pioneers and is a must-read.

A pioneering woman, Ida B. Wells, must be remembered for her early reporting on lynching statistics. Enslaved from birth, Wells was orphaned at an early age but went on to become a schoolteacher, journalist and activist who fought for the right of black women to vote, helped to create the NAACP and almost single-handedly halted the horrific practice of lynching through her investigative reporting skills. Paula J. Giddings captures this story in Ida: A Sword Among Lions; Ida B. Wells and the Campaign Against Lynching.

Of course there is controversy over the term citizen journalism, because many professional journalists believe that only a trained journalist can understand the rigors and ethics involved in reporting the news. (Yet, there are many trained journalists who practice what might be considered citizen journalism by writing their own blogs or commentary online outside of the traditional journalism hierarchy.)

You can come into your own as a citizen journalist if you are aware of and follow top journalistic practices. Of course, you must have passion and drive.

Ready to report to work? You'll find your job as Citizen Journalist aided by these and other important works. Now start reading and best of luck in your journalistic endeavors.

Part II Overcoming Fear

...and you think fear isn't being using to drive off truth??

Sometimes, as a citizen journalist, I'm asked if it scares me to confront some people who I normally would not want to spend much time with, say members of a racist group like the Concerned Citizens Councils? Or people who have committed crimes and have gotten away with what they have done.

My answer is 'no.' I am not afraid of asking any question or of snooping around. If I were afraid, someone would smell my fear and then give me something to be afraid about.

Yet, when working a story, the need to confront and conquer fear can be part of the task. I am lucky to be married to a psychologist, and in preparing the second part of this article, we talked about considering some frequent causes of fear, and suggestions for how to get the story out anyway.

Susan: Sometimes you may be afraid that there is some really important part of your story that you must be missing. After all, if it is that obvious, why hasn’t anyone else talked about it before now?

Fred: Let me tell you the deep, dark secret. Sometimes, what is obvious to you isn’t obvious to others. You may have more background, know the right person, or simply have been the first one to piece it together. You may have done more homework on it. Somebody has to be first, and the story is better sometimes just by being first.

Sometimes others may know the story, but do not have the courage or interest that you do in telling it. Or they may have bosses (like editors or publishers) who definitely don’t want to be first – they don’t want to scare off the advertisers. If that is the case, you will actually be doing them a favor to get out the story first. Then others can follow, perhaps with more detail or resources.

If you are the first, or the first in a long time, or the first with wide circulation to get out a story, you may be afraid that you’ll be attacked. Guess what? Worry if you are not attacked. In that case maybe you haven’t made the story relevant enough to stir up the passions of others.

Write more. Write harder. Write meaner. Use humor.

Susan: If you don’t have enemies, you haven’t made a difference. If you are in some way attacking the established old guard, they are, by definition, established. And are, by definition, a guard. Of course they will attack. Keep your lawyer's number handy. Remember, prosecutors and police are allowed to lie to you if they question you – that is why you need your lawyer around.

Fred: Of course, another deep fear we have is that we may not know enough about the subject, and that if we knew more, we would know the story is ridiculous. We will only be making our ignorance obvious to the rest of world. If that is the basis for your reluctance, I can remind you of three things.

First, no one knows it all. Secondly, those who do know more are not talking. Knowledge not shared does not matter. Third, there are many people who make a great deal of money saying things they know to be short-sighted or downright untruthful.

Susan: For anyone with doubt, I'd say they should consider the recent health care debate. I've been amazed at the bullying tactics that went on -- was New Gingrich even listening to himself when he said the vote represented a coup d'etat?

Fred: While I am not suggesting you to do so on purpose – you do need to live with yourself and worrying yourself to death that you may not know everything there is to know about your topic is silly. You need to know enough to make your point. If others know more, and want to argue with you, so much the better. You then have to raise the quality of your argument, and both you and the other party get more publicity.

Susan: Persons who are citizen journalists should love the unknown -- not fear it. The unknown is the land of opportunity for story tellers.

Fred: And let me relieve one more fear you may have. Even if you have complete mastery of the topic and perfect recall, you still only have one perspective. No one sees it all.

The worst case for police investigations is to have more than one eyewitness. After all, how can two or more people see the same thing, but see it differently. It happens all the time. Memory is constructive – not a videotape. When remembering events, we add and subtract things for meaning. Not on purpose. Not even with awareness. It is just the way our brains work. Your story is always true for you if you want it to be. Someone else’s truth may be different. That is why there is no one account of history. Different histories happen to different people at the same time. Make yours fascinating, passionate, and glorious to tell.

Susan: This does not mean to qualify everything you write in terms of ‘it seems to me,’ ‘in my opinion,’ ‘from my perspective,’ and so on. If you want to write like that, join a university faculty. Outside of academia, no one wants to read timid stories.

Fred: Another trick to limit fear is to verify your more controversial statements, unless they are painfully obvious. Quoting somebody else makes it truer in the minds of most people. And if you can’t find a quote, get someone to give it to you in an interview. If you can’t get someone to repeat the point you are trying to make, then the subject isn’t exciting enough. Make it more interesting. Make your story the subject of dinner conversation. Then your fear won’t give you a stomach ache.

So go out there and make your enemies afraid of you -- not the other way around.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Jamie Scott Rushed Back To Prison So Mother Could Not Visit Hospital 3/25 Mississippi Scott Sisters Update

Jamie and Gladys Scott

Nancy LockhartMarch 25, 2010 at 5:24am
Subject: Jamie Scott Rushed Back To Prison So Mother Could Not Visit Hospital

NOTE: If reading this before 10:00 a.m. EST or 9am CST on 3/25, please tune into; for a Scott Sisters update from Mrs. Rasco on the Rip Daniels "It's a New Day" (; show. Rip Daniels is a very dedicated supporter who starts each show off at 10 a.m. daily counting down how long Jamie and Gladys have been wrongfully locked down and tormented in that prison and will even discuss the case during some mornings on his program, so please check in as regularly as you can.
* * *

Mrs. Rasco and her entire family are in Mississippi to visit Jamie
and Gladys as well as to participate in the 3/26 MWM/BWDL Press
Conference scheduled for 12 noon in front of the Jackson, MS
Capitol Bldg. at 400 High St. The organization is asking for letters
of support for their campaign by 12 midnight 3/25 to be sent to or
For more info call: 267-636-3802.

Jamie has been in the hospital since 3/15 with a very serious infection,
severe weakness, extreme pain and swelling. Jamie stated that
she was "kicked out" of the hospital on Tuesday to prevent Mrs. Rasco
from coming in and asking questions, in fact an extra
guard was placed there to make certain that Mrs. Rasco didn't
come in there to see her. Jamie told Mrs. Rasco that she couldn't
believe how her 4' tall momma caused so much worry among those
prison officials!

She was abruptly moved to her old cell in the prison to await the visit with her mother and family to take place Wednesday for an hour, after which her family was to visit with Gladys for an hour. However, the Assistant Warden met them at the entrance and stated that some of the children weren't on the list to come in. After much wrangling and his personally searching the young men he permitted everyone to visit both women together BUT for one hour total, which actually ended up being less than an hour due to all of the wasted time spent being searched and with the Asst Warden on the phone rechecking names in the waiting area. The family watched in tears as Jamie climbed off of a bus and limped slowly and weakly to the visiting area and questioned staff as to why she wasn't given a wheelchair,to which they had no answer.

Jamie and Gladys grabbed onto each other and their family members
for a very emotional reunion, especially for the children. Both women
had lost quite a bit of weight, Gladys from extreme stress and depression
and Jamie due to her serious illness. Jamie stated that she was told by
the doctor that 6 catheter infections was much too much and that
she never should have had so many temporary catheters, which blew out
all of her veins where they were placed. She currently has a shunt in her
groin which is extremely painful and must be surgically removed next
week. She is scheduled to stay in her old cell until Friday, at which
time she is told that she will be returned to the hospital.

Both Jamie and Gladys want all of their supporters to know that
our activities are very greatly appreciated and that they want us to
keep on! Mrs. Rasco and family are also very thankful and hopeful
that together we can get those women released from this horrific
situation soon! If we keep pushing and use our creativity to call
attention to this case, it will happen! If you write, then write about
it; if you sing, sing about it; poet about it; creatively perform about
it; print out flyers and distribute them at programs and events, however
you can do it, please help get the word out about the plight of these
women, there's something that every one can do!

The Days of Blogging for the Scott Sisters that happened on 3/18 and
is so wonderfully happening again today will really help get the word out
on the case in wider and broader areas of the internet and hopefully lead
to much more support and national attention! Thanks so much to all
of the participants and we will be posting links to all of the blogs that
participated at the Scott Sisters site, so please send them in so that
you can be acknowledged! Of course everyone is encouraged to
continue blogging beyond today and please do!

We still don't trust that Jamie will receive adequate medical care once
these hospitalizations are completed, which was proven by the fact that
as soon as she was returned from the hospital yesterday she was
put right back in that moldy building where she was originally housed!
Someone as seriously ill as Jamie needs to be somewhere that she can
get assistance in better living conditions, and that's not in the infirmary
and definitely not in her original cell. The Medical Bldg. would give her
access to her sister, Gladys, who would help her with her activities of
daily living and monitor her condition, just as other family members
incarcerated together there are permitted to do with less life-threatening
illnesses than Jamie suffers.

We must keep pushing for media attention to what's going on and are
continually pressing for nationwide press. A complete and in-depth
examination of this travesty of justice must be exposed!! Please
forward all of the info at the site to anyone, anywhere that can help
to make that happen, the Scott Sisters need to go prime-time to
apply enough pressure to make this Gov. do the right thing.

Jane Velez-Mitchell should do an entire segment on the Scott Sisters
now that she is aware of the case, please contact her and urge her to
follow-up her brief mention of the Scott Sisters on her 3/6 "Issues with
Jane Velez-Mitchell" with a more significant segment that will focus on
Jamie's serious medical condition and the Scott Sisters case
period. The contact form is at;


Tuesday, March 23, 2010

National Women's Organization Sets Kick Off; National Campaign to Free Scott Sisters

Contact: Nancy LockhartMarch 23, 2010 at 12:11pm

Subject: Press Conference Sponsored By Million Women's March - March 26th 12noon Jackson, Mississippi


Official "Kick Off" for The DIRECT ACTION National Campaign To

FRIDAY MARCH 26, 2010 12 noon

For more information e-mail:
Call The Black Women's Defense League at 267-636-3802

Official and National Million Woman March & Universal Movements
Black Women's Defense League Unit
P.O. Box 53668
Philadelphia, PA 19105

Monday, March 22, 2010

New Blogging Day Set For Scott Sisters of Mississippi

Nancy LockhartMarch 22, 2010 at 5:50am
Subject: 3/25 DAY OF BLOGGING FOR THE SCOTT SISTERS ~ By Sister Marpessa
* * *

Thanks to the many excellent bloggers who participated in our
initial Day of Blogging for the Scott Sisters on 3/18!! The notices
didn't reach everyone in a timely manner and so we are happy to
announce a new date for bloggers to unite around this case
of Mississippi injustice and particularly to intervene in the
prison's medical malpractice being suffered by Jamie Scott!

In early January both of Jamie Scott's kidneys shut down and
she has been swiftly declining due to unprofessional medical
care that is inadequate, cut-rate and frighteningly inept. Jamie
was rushed to the hospital last week due to severe infection
and the need for prolonged medical attention. However,
Jamie continues to require ongoing close monitoring as when
she is returned to the prison it is well documented that the
medical staff there has provided abysmal health care in filthy
conditions that have put Jamie's life at risk far too many times
to be acceptable. Jamie needs to be released from prison,

We ask that bloggers put out calls for students, clubs,
churches/temples/mosques, organizations, creative artists,
media, politicians, community leaders, journalists, etc. to
become aware of the case of the Scott Sisters and to make
certain that all of their contacts are informed, as well. There is
something that each person can do and we need to get Jamie
home while she still has time to be with her family!

Thanks to all who will participate in this and help to raise the call to
FREE THE SCOTT SISTERS throughout the blogosphere 3/25
and beyond! In the spirit of International Women's Month,
please support our women! Please send notification of any
blog postings to!

In conjunction with:;

For Immediate Release
Afrosphere Action Coalition – March 22, 2010
Contact: Marpessa Kupendua of the Committee to Free the Scott Sisters at

Wrongly Convicted In Dire Health Situation

On 12/24/93, the Scott County Sheriff’s Department arrested Jamie and Gladys Scott for armed robbery even though three young males, ranging from ages 14 to 18, confessed to committing the crime and the women have unwaveringly maintained their complete innocence. Despite this, the corrupt Mississippi sheriff used coercion, threats, and harassment to compel the young men to turn state’s evidence against the Scott Sisters due to a long-standing vendetta against a family member. In 10/94 the Scott Sisters were sentenced to extraordinary double-life terms each, despite the facts that no one was harmed, neither sister had prior convictions, no weapon was ever recovered, and the amount alleged to have been taken was approximately $11.00. Even if they were guilty as charged, this sentence is completely outrageous and cruel.

Jamie Scott, who entered the prison system as a healthy young woman, is now suffering from complete kidney failure and other life-threatening medical conditions. Since January, 2010 Jamie has endured almost weekly severe health setbacks that the state has either outright refused to address or handled in a slipshod manner. Jamie has had weeks of serious infections that could have taken her life, has gone into shock, been given sporadic dialysis treatments, and suffered the state's refusal to provide her with adequate nutrition as required for her serious medical condition.

The Scott Sisters are now in their 16th year of incarceration and their five children and grandchildren are being raised by their now ailing mother. The defendants and their family are wholly dependent on support from the press, organizations, and all those dedicated to justice in making this debacle as public as possible. The lengthy incarceration of these women to date and their draconian sentences are completely shocking and must be challenged, enough is enough!

Mrs. Rasco and Afrosphere Bloggers are calling on the public to press the governor's office to pardon the Scott Sisters and release them, particularly Jamie who needs to be at home with her family during her very serious illness. Please ask that the media and politicians do an investigative inquiry about this tragic situation and the outrageous case of the wrongfully convicted Scott Sisters!

P.O. Box 139
Jackson, Mississippi 39205
1-877-405-0733 or 601-359-3150
Fax: 601-359-3741
(If you reach VM leave msgs, faxes, and please send letters)

Congressman Bennie Thompson
3607 Medgar Evers Blvd.
Jackson, MS 39213
601-982-5337 (fx)

Congressman John Conyers
2426 Rayburn H.O.B.
Washington, DC 20515
Ph: 202-225-5126
Fax: 202-225-0072
For Complete Information - Free the Scott Sisters:;
Compassionate Release Petition:;
Free the Scott Sisters Petition:;
Legal Transcripts:;

Friday, March 19, 2010

Bruce Davidson Stunned World With Scenes From 1960s Civil Rights Movement

Photojournalist Bruce Davidson’s stunning black-and-white images documented scenes from the 1960s civil rights movement led by Martin Luther King Jr.—from freedom marches and sit-ins to dilapidated schoolhouses and segregated movie theaters. In the video above, listen to Davidson recall the movement, his work and its impact as you view pictures from his 2002 photography book, Time of Change. Davidson’s work recalls a period of turmoil, anger, uncertainty and inequality as racial issues took center stage in America.

Source: AARP Bulletin Today | January 8, 2010

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Days of Blogging Brings Out Supporters of 'Free Scott Sisters' From Mississippi Prisosn

For Immediate Release
Afrosphere Action Coalition – March 18, 2010
Contact: Marpessa Kupendua of The Committee to Free the Scott Sisters at

Wrongly Convicted In Dire Health Situation

Jamie Scott, who was convicted with her sister Gladys Scott and given double-life sentences each for an $11.00 robbery of which there was no credible evidence presented at trial, is suffering from complete kidney failure and other life-threatening medical conditions. The prison is aware of Jamie’s current condition yet Jamie remains in the prison infirmary.*

Mrs. Rasco and Afrosphere Bloggers are calling on the public to request that elected and prison officials in Mississippi immediately move Jamie to qualified medical facilities where she can receive proper medical care forthwith. We also ask that the media do investigative inquiry about this tragic situation and the outrageous case of the wrongfully convicted Scott Sisters!

P.O. Box 139
Jackson, Mississippi 39205
1-877-405-0733 or 601-359-3150
Fax: 601-359-3741
(If you reach VM leave msgs, faxes, and please send letters)

Christopher Epps, Commissioner of Prisons for the State of Mississippi
723 North President Street
Jackson, MS 39202

Congressman Bennie Thompson
3607 Medgar Evers Blvd.
Jackson, MS 39213
601-982-5337 (fx)

Congressman John Conyers
2426 Rayburn H.O.B.
Washington, DC 20515
Ph: 202-225-5126
Fax: 202-225-0072

On 12/24/93, the Scott County Sheriff’s Department arrested Jamie and Gladys Scott for armed robbery even though three young males, ranging from ages 14 to 18, confessed to committing the crime and the women have unwaveringly maintained their complete innocence. Despite this, the corrupt Mississippi sheriff used coercion, threats, and harassment to compel the young men to turn state’s evidence against the Scott Sisters due to a long-standing vendetta against a family member. In 10/94 the Scott Sisters were sentenced to extraordinary double-life terms each, despite the facts that no one was harmed, neither sister had prior convictions, no weapon was ever recovered, and the amount alleged to have been taken was approximately $11.00. Even if they were guilty as charged, this sentence is completely outrageous and cruel.

The Scott Sisters are now in their 15th year of incarceration and their five children and grandchildren are being raised by their now ailing mother. The defendants and their family are wholly dependent on support from the press, organizations, and all those dedicated to justice in making this debacle as public as possible.

Their Story has had some success in getting media of late, the most notable being a very brief mention on HLN’s “Issues with Jane Velez-Mitchell”, a clip of which is available to view here:

*Although Jamie was recently hospitalized due to a life-threatening infection, she continues to require ongoing close monitoring as once returned to the prison it has been proven on many occasions that are well documented at the website that the medical staff there has provided abysmal health care that has put Jamie's life at risk far too many times to be acceptable.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Black Perspective Announces Upcoming Day of Blogging For Scott Sisters

Black Perspective
Yobachi Boswell

Sis. Marpessa, who works with Mrs. Rasco’s the Scott sister’s mother; has asked Afrosphere bloggers to conduct a day of blogging to help the wrongly convicted sisters specifically at this time of medical need.

Below is a preliminary press release for the Thursday March 18, Day of Blogging. It should provide the info you need if you’re not familiar with the situation or just need more details. You can also visit Mrs Rasco’s site:

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Entrepreneur Finds Book, The Business Follows

Contact: Susan Klopfer

Entrepreneurial Skills, Passion Define Author's Business

A book business built on a newly discovered passion for civil rights stories from the Mississippi Delta has taken an author by surprise.

Susan Klopfer, a Hanover College graduate and journalist, moved to the Mississippi Delta in 2003 as the Emmett Till cold case was unfolding with investigations by the F.B.I. and the U.S. Dept. of Justice.

Living on the grounds of Parchman Penitentiary where her husband was chief psychologist, a notorious compound with a difficult history, gave Klopfer a unique opportunity to take a fresh look at this civil rights ground-breaking event taking place in the Delta, and to meet people who still had the region's history fresh in their hearts and minds.

"Talking to people who were part of the modern civil rights movement, learning their stories and hearing of the injustices became a passion leading me to spend long hours researching and writing a book about Till's murder and the Delta," she said.

Emmett Till was only 14-years-old when he visited relatives in Money, Miss. from Chicago in 1955, a tiny cotton hamlett. Not understanding the unwritten Jim Crow laws of the region, Till made a deathly mistake when he wolf whistled at a store-owner's wife. He was kidnapped, brutally tortured and killed by the store owner's husband and a friend.

Klopfer became intrigued with the story and dozens of other stories she collected from Delta residents and other researchers. Recently she used her business skills to produce an e-book, audio book and print book entitled Who Killed Emmett Till? The book is also available on CD as a pdf file, and the audio version is downloadable for the iPod.

"This book began as a blog and was driven by my passion for learning and sharing stories revolving around the Delta's important history that could have been lost. I became particularly aware of how easy such history disappears when I found newspapers in libraries and newspaper offices that crumbled when I picked them up to read."

The Emmett Till book has turned the former Branson, Missouri reporter, who also holds an master's degree in business administration from Indiana Wesleyan University, into a small, entrepreneurial business owner.

"Not only do I sell the book in various formats at the back of the room when I speak, it is sold online and in independent books stores (and soon on Amazon and other online stores)," Klopfer said.

Klopfer said she has developed a strong social networking presence "...also allowing me to do book publishing seminars and professional book coaching.

"I love my business because I spend the day working at something that is meaningful to me and that helps others find the book in them, just waiting to get out."

Klopfer's website is located at

Sample audio book downloads

* * *
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Sunday, March 14, 2010

Appeals Court Affirms Conviction Of Reputed Klansman In Civil Rights Era Cold Case In Miss.

James Ford Seale (Daily Mail, UK)

A federal appeals court has upheld the 2007 conviction of a reputed Ku Klux Klan member in the kidnapping of two black men who were abducted and killed in rural Mississippi in 1964.

In a 2-1 ruling, the panel of judges said the evidence in the case against James Ford Seale was sufficient for the jury conviction in the trial that took place 43 years after the crimes. Friday's decision came from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit in New Orleans.

The judge who dissented said that too much time had elapsed to try Seale and that incriminating statements Seale made should have been barred from his trial.

Seale, now 74, is in federal prison in Indiana. A Mississippi jury convicted him of two counts of kidnapping and one count of conspiracy to commit kidnapping, and he was given three life sentences.

CBS News reports--
* * *
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For Jamie Scott, an $11 Robbery in Mississippi May Carry a Death Sentence

On February 25, a small crowd gathered outside the state capitol in Jackson, Mississippi, to push for the release of sisters Jamie and Gladys Scott, who are serving two consecutive life sentences apiece for a 1993 armed robbery in which no one was injured and the take, by most accounts, was about $11. Supporters of the Scott sisters have long tried to draw attention to their case, as an extreme example of the distorted justice and Draconian sentencing policies that have overloaded prisons, crippled state budgets, and torn families apart across the United States. But in recent months, their cause has taken on a new urgency, because for Jamie Scott, an unwarranted life sentence may soon become a death sentence.

James Ridgeway and Jean Casella continued this story--
* * *
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Friday, March 12, 2010

Mississippi Prom Cancelled; ACLU Files Suit; All Because of Gay Date Threat

JACKSON, Miss. — The American Civil Liberties Union of Mississippi today filed suit in federal court against the Itawamba County School System, which canceled the prom for one of its high schools when a student challenged a ban on bringing same-sex dates.
The federal suit asks the court to force the school board to reinstate the prom and alleges that district officials have violated the First Amendment rights of Constance McMillen, a senior at Itawamba Agricultural High School.

USA Today Update

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Thursday, March 11, 2010

A Trailblazer of Civil Rights Dies Forgotten

Juanita W. Goggins in 1974, when she became the first black woman elected to the South Carolina legislature. (Associated Press)

Published: March 11, 2010
The New York Times

COLUMBIA, S.C. — Neighbors were chagrined last week when the police here found the body of a 75-year-old woman who had frozen to death, alone in her house, during unexpectedly frigid weather.

Juanita W. Goggins in 1974 became the first black woman elected to the South Carolina legislature. Horace W. Goggins Jr., 42, said his mother had refused help in recent years.

Ms. Goggins, 75, was found dead last week in her home in Columbia, S.C.

Anne McQuary for The New York Times reports --
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Jim Crow Redux; More African Americans Under Criminal Jurisdiction

There are more African Americans under criminal jurisdiction, either in prison or jail or on probation or parole, than were slaves a decade before the onset of the Civil War. In the Chicago area alone, nearly 80% of African American men have been labeled felons for life.

As of 2004, more African American men were disenfranchised due to felon disenfranchisement laws than in 1870, the year the 15th Amendment was ratified, explicitly prohibiting discrimination in the right to vote on the basis of race. What's driving these numbers?

The war on drugs.

And the consequences are devastating.

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Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Mississippi Delta Parents Group Wins School Battle in Cleveland

A Cleveland, Mississippi parent’s organization has won a significant battle with the city’s school board. But only after 1,000 students boycotted schools for one day in February and took to the streets with a march from their schools to district offices.

Because of their stance, D.M. Smith Middle School and Margaret Green Junior High School will house sixth, seventh and eighth-graders attending the Cleveland School District for the 20110-2011 school year.

What parents and students actually won was defeat of an earlier board decision to place mostly black junior high students into a school building that would bring them into close contact, daily, with high school students. White students would remain in a facility that maintains separate faculties from the older students.

Due to building deterioration, relocation of junior high school students has been inevitable. But placing black students into a building that has no separate lunch or gym facilities, meant the young black students would be at risk, parent’s group organizers said.

But the problems parents face are much larger, and stem from Cleveland’s dual educational system -- unofficially, the district maintains separate and unequal facilities for its black and white students through a practice that has been the target of the U.S. Dept. of Justice since 1969. The Parent group is waiting for Justice to come into the school district and force overall change.

Meanwhile, this victory is sweet.

For an outsider, attending Monday’s school board was a fascinating experience, almost like going back in time.

The Cleveland, Mississippi school board was in session Monday night, March 8, and the room was small and crowded -- about 60 parents and interested parties were cramped into a room with too few chairs.

No one attending could hear members of the school board as they spoke.

With all of their mumbling and whispering going on, it would be a surprise if board members could even hear themselves talk.

But the parents didn’t give up. Instead, they stayed and were heard.

The district has schools in several communities of Bolivar County -- most are in Cleveland, one in Boyle and the other in Merigold. The entire school district is about 68% black, 29% white, 2% Hispanic and 1% Asian.

Yet, someone forgot to tell school officials about Brown I and Brown II, the famous Supreme Court rulings in 1954 and 1955 that made “separate but equal” schools illegal, since the Cleveland schools have remained separate and unequal for over 40 years.

The small town of Cleveland, in the heart of the Delta, has a population of about 13,000 and a dual school system -- two high schools, two junior high or middle schools, and five elementary schools. Children can choose which schools to attend, but for the most part they want to go to schools in their own neighborhoods where they feel more comfortable. And where there are more black teachers.

But the dual system is in trouble, even white school board members admit. Black leaders say school board members (chaired by a black professor) refuse to commit to change because they are afraid of what the community will think of them.

“They’re just waiting for the Dept. of Justice to make changes, so they won’t have to,” said Leroy Byars, a retired administrator from Greenwood High School who also worked nine years as principal at East Side High School, predominantly black.

“Title Nine issues are evident for the district, for instance. Cleveland High School has great facilities for girls who play basketball and softball. Nothing of the same order exists for black female students in the Eastside High School,” Byars said.

Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, renamed in 2002 the Patsy T. Mink Equal Opportunity in Education Act in honor of its principal author, is a law enacted in 1972 that states: "No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance..."

Just reading the local newspapers, it’s apparent the major issues for board members is the possibility of “white flight” if they repair their schools through unification. For now, they would rather pay for twice the number of school administrators than necessary for such a small school district. There is no mention from the board members that unification could strengthen their schools.

Board members, led by Dr. Harvey Jackson, a professor from a small nearby college, mumbled and whispered throughout the meeting. Several times they were asked to speak up, but none complied.

At the end of the session, a board decision regarding placement of students for the following school year was read aloud, but no one could hear what was being read and there was no handout describing the decision made earlier on Saturday, during a special meeting.

No microphones? Not enough chairs? A small board room?

“Oh, it’s always like this,” said Bryars.

Kelvin Williams Sr. is PTSO president of D.M. Smith Elementary and James Stamps worked 36 years in the Cleveland schools as a band teacher.

Both say the Justice Department became involved in 1969 over integration of the public school system. “From there on, it has been one battle after another. In 1989 they paid another visit that ended up with a consent order mandating the district take specific steps to complete the dismantling of a dual system,” Stamps said.

All three say they are positive about recent conversation’s they’ve had with the Justice Department, however.

“We are working with a representative from Justice and they are telling us they will revisit this by the end of this semester that ends in May,” Bryars said.

“They asked us to comment and we have sent transcripts of calls and comments we’ve received to Jonathan Fischbach along with all the articles, petitions, comments, etc.”

All three men say the problem could be resolved by

• Sending ninth and tenth graders to one of the city’s two high schools and sending eleventh and twelfth graders to the other school -- in other words, setting up one high school with two campuses.

• Sending all junior high students either to Margaret Green, the East side junior high or DM Smith on the West.

• Rezoning the school district for elementary students, as mandated in the court order.

An old railroad track has been used as a dividing line for school districts. The Justice Department has already said this was illegal because any two schools in the district have been less than 3.5 miles apart. The correct thing to do would be to rezone or redistrict.
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Monday, March 8, 2010

Recent bias incidents at UC campuses; nooses, racism & more

By The Associated Press (AP) – 21 hours ago
Recent bias incidents at University of California campuses:
_Feb. 8, UC Irvine: 11 students arrested for aggressively heckling Israeli ambassador.
_Feb. 15, UC San Diego: "Compton Cookout" party held off campus.
_Feb. 18, UC San Diego: Students appearing on student-run television program use racial epithets.
_Feb. 19, UC San Diego: Cardboard reading "Compton Lynching" found at Koala Newspaper office.

PLUS more ... The AP has put together quite an impressive list.
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Thursday, March 4, 2010

Las Vegas Police Raid Latino Civil Rights Group's Office

LAS VEGAS - The Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department on Wednesday raided the office of a Latino civil rights organization.

Police served warrants for nine felony counts at the office of the League of United Latin American Citizens or LULAC. The warrants are for nine felony counts related to theft and burglary. Police also raided the home of the group's Nevada director Rene Orozco.

Police served the warrants over allegations Orozco took money from clients who hired him to aid them with citizenship and criminal issues. But, the victims say Orozco pocketed the money without providing any aid. Many of the victims are undocumented immigrants.

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Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Blood Done Sign My Name; Film Leads List of 2010 Wilbur Award Winners

NEW YORK, March 1 /PRNewswire/ -- Blood Done Sign My Name, Jeb Stuart's film about a little-known chapter in the American civil rights struggle, leads the list of 2010 Wilbur Awards winners.

The Religion Communicators Council is presenting 14 Wilbur Awards to secular media organizations April 9 at the Chicago Marriott Downtown Magnificent Mile. In addition, Bob Abernethy, longtime host of PBS' Religion & Ethics Newsweekly, is to receive a special Wilbur Award for contributions to public discussion of faith topics.

Stuart, best known for his work on Die Hard and The Fugitive, adapted Tim Tyson's best-selling book into a gripping story—told through the eyes of Oxford, N.C., residents, both black and white. Judges noted that the film's story of how residents risked their lives for civil rights resonated with the Wilbur Award's purpose: to recognize "excellence in the presentation of religious issues, themes and values" in secular print and online journalism, book publishing, broadcasting, and motion pictures.

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Monday, March 1, 2010

Curtis Flowers: The Unbelievable Still Takes Place in Mississippi Justice (or Lack Thereof)

On the morning of July 16, 1996, four people were brutally murdered at a furniture store in the small Mississippi town of Winona. By 11:00 am everybody had heard the news: Bertha Tardy, the proprietor of Tardy ’s Furniture, had been killed execution style. Carmen Rigby, Tardy’s longtime bookkeeper, had suffered the same fate, as had hired hands, Bobo Stewart and Robert Golden. Golden was black, the other three victims were white. Six months later, Curtis Flowers, a young black Winona resident who had worked three days for Bertha Tardy, was arrested and charged with the brutal murder of four innocent people.

Thirteen years, $300,000 and five trials later, Mr. Flowers remains behind bars and the state has been unable to obtain a final conviction.

Learn more about what is happening in this current Mississippi case. Visit Friends of Justice.
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New Chairperson of NAACP Youngest-Ever to Lead Nation's Oldest Civil Rights Organization

Rolsyn Brock, new NAACP chair

The NAACP's new chairwoman is different from her predecessors. She doesn't know where she was or what she was doing when the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. was shot. She has no memories of the civil-rights milestones of the mid-1960s.

She was 2 years old when King died, 2 months old when the Voting Rights Act was signed, not yet born when the Civil Rights Act became law.

"I didn't march with Martin or protest with Malcolm (X)," Roslyn Brock says.

But as Brock sees it, the fact she didn't live the civil-rights movement's history is no reason she can't shape its future.

The board of directors of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People agreed, voting unanimously on Feb. 20 to make the 44-year-old health care executive and activist the youngest-ever chairperson of America's oldest civil-rights organization.

Article Continued Los Angeles Daily News

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