ustin Hansford often remembers the first time he travelled to Geneva. He was there to present his organization’s shadow report for the review by the UN Committee against Torture of his country, the United States. - See more at: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/DoingMoretimeforLessCrime.aspx#sthash.JOfvg0AF.dpuf
Many people are reassessing and searching for the best way forward.
Students at the Saint Louis University School of Law this fall will have the opportunity to take personal injury law from a new professor, Justin Hansford. But this 29-year-old scholar will hit his stride next spring, when he first teaches legal ethics at SLU.
“I plan to specialize in ethics,” Hansford told The American. “I am interested in teaching students how to be lawyers who fight for the little guy.”
A third-generation legacy graduate of Howard University, Hansford advocates in particular for “the little guy” of African descent. So much so that when his law school, Georgetown Law, did not publish a law review with the proper focus to accept the article he had written on the Marcus Garvey case, he forced the university to start one.
“Up until then, no journal at Georgetown focused on racial injustice,” Hansford said. “They had journals on poverty, international law – everything except racial inequality. We had protests and submitted proposals, and the administration eventually decided to publish this journal.”
Hansford’s colleagues in the struggle to form The Journal of Modern Critical Race Perspectives at Georgetown Law – such as Breana Smith, who is now a criminal defense attorney practicing in Chicago – are precisely the sorts of students he intends to nurture at Saint Louis University.
“It wasn’t just black students, either,” Hansford said. “Elizabeth Mathos’ family is Portuguese, but she grew up in Africa. She is a white person very much interested in human rights and law, now working in legal aid in Boston. Mathew Cregor is a white American who went on to work at the Southern Poverty Law Center; he uses his law degree to help people.”
In a line one expects students will be hearing more often on campus at SLU, Hansford emphasized, “It’s helpful to tell people not all lawyers fit the derogatory stereotypes.”
‘Jailing a Rainbow’
When he is not teaching, Hansford plans to rewrite his essay on Garvey, “Jailing a Rainbow: the Marcus Garvey Case,” into a book. This is work that both corrects the historical record, in Hansford’s opinion, while setting the stage for progress in the crucial arena of economic justice.
“My thesis is that Marcus Garvey was wrongly convicted of mail fraud, and after this conviction he was later deported and never returned to the U.S.,” Hansford said. “His conviction played a large role leading to the end of his movement. Marcus Garvey’s vision for economic justice suffered from his incarceration and the ultimate marginalization of his movement.”
At its height there were almost 5 million members of Garvey’s Universal Negro Improvement Association. The Black Star Line, its flagship, allegedly was a fraudulent Ponzi scheme, according to prosecutors.
“My article goes through the facts to prove it wasn’t a Ponzi scheme, it was a legitimate business endeavor – what today would be called social entrepreneurship or a non-profit organization,” Hansford said. “But they critiqued it under the rubric of a for-profit, money-generating endeavor, and they were wrong to do that.”
Other factors outside of Garvey’s control were responsible for the decline of the Black Star Line, Hansford argues: the shipping industry experienced a downturn, and a junior FBI agent named J. Edgar Hoover targeted Garvey, using tactics of harassment that would become known as COINTELPRO.
“Hoover worked on the Garvey case before he became head of the FBI; this was his first big case,” Hansford said. “On the Marcus Garvey case, Hoover conceived of the dastardly tactics he later used – he really created those for Marcus Garvey.”
Hansford does not paint a simple portrait of white-dominated government targeting the leader of a black economic self-empowerment movement. He also looks at infighting within the African-American leadership that, he said, led to a critical split that hampers progress of African Americans to this day.
“I also talk about the ongoing feud between Marcus Garvey and the NAACP. The African-American activists involved fought against each other to their mutual detriment,” Hansford said.
“I admire all of them – Garvey, W.E.B. Du Bois, A. Phillip Randolph. But their feuding did more to harm the movement than to help it, and I would hope history doesn’t repeat itself.”
He does more than hope for a more productive future. In his scholarship and teaching, he intends to help forge it.
“Moving forward in the 21st century, there is a great deal of economic inequality affecting African Americans in particular, and I feel that is one of the negative consequences of this feud – as if the goal of civil and political rights were mutually exclusive of economic justice,” Hansford said.
“Garvey’s program was seen as antithetical to the NAACP program. With that conflict, it was as if you had to choose one or the other, and I feel that is the wrong perspective.”
Today marks the loss not only of one of the greatest figures of the 20th century, but also one of the greatest lawyers. Most would readily agree that Nelson Mandela was a great leader and a great statesman. Indeed, I still remember when as a child I watched on TV with tears of joy asMandela danced at his inauguration, victorious. Not only was Mandela able to add dignity to the struggle for racial justice and save countless lives by averting civil war and helping to create a democratic South Africa, but additionally he has been able to inspire people all over the world with the example of his life.
I did not begin the holiday season in a very festive mood. When Robert McCullough announced the Grand Jury’s decision not to indict Darren Wilson, it felt like a sharp blow to the stomach. I never expected an indictment. Still, I was deeply hurt and deeply angry. As a young Black man, the low value placed on Mike Brown’s life by local authorities was also a judgment about the value of my own life in their eyes. I am a St. Louis resident, a professor, and a lawyer. Most of all I am a human being. This assault on my human dignity compelled my response. Between legal observing, protesting, and worrying about the safety of my friends and neighbors, I did not sleep for three days straight.
President Obama announced this week a proposal to spend $75 million on body cameras for 50,000 police officers nationwide. He framed this as a solution to widespread distrust of law enforcement in minority communities. But the failure to indict the New York City police officer whose chokehold killed Eric Garner — an incident vividly captured on video — proves just how ineffective Obama’s plan would be in curbing epidemic police violence and racial profiling. The officers who forcibly pushed Garner’s body into the ground knew a witness was recording the incident, and at least one of them spoke to the videographer. And yet, the police were undeterred. They continued using the banned chokehold on Garner as he repeatedly said, “I can’t breathe!”
Black university students are recognizing that they share a common struggle: they cannot merely navigate universities that are white-created, led and dominated, be it culturally, economically, politically, demographically or epistemologically. Instead, they face additional pressure to be excellent in, and to change, spaces that were not created for their benefit.
So when Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz condemned the growing wave of campus protests – including at his alma mater, Princeton – in a Guardian interview Tuesday as a product of “pampered teenagers who are scared of an idea that challenges their world view”, he completely missed the point. Renaming buildings at Georgetown or Princeton, or altering the Harvard crest, isn’t some overzealous request for a safe space, but rather the equivalent of cutting the heart out of the body of white supremacy.
In November of 2008, when President Obama won the White House, he also won the undying, uncritical, unflinching adoration of Black America. But Father Time is undefeated. Now, as his time in office ends, we must measure his legacy based on the tangible progress of our community under his stewardship. Here's where we are.
No honest assessment of the President's legacy can ignore the material devastation that happened in the Black community under his watch. The foreclosure crisis hit Black Americans harder than the country in general. The wealth gap widened—wealth increased in white communities and decreased in non-white communities. The median wealth for white families in 2013 was around $141,900, compared to $11,000 for Blacks. This continued value gap in financial terms easily translated to other areas, from education to health equity.
FERGUSON, Mo. — As the city of Ferguson, Mo., awaits the grand jury decision in the Michael Brown case, Ferguson is about to get more international attention.
Michael Brown Sr. and Lesley McSpadden, Brown's parents, are going to Switzerland on Monday to voice their concerns before a United Nations Committee against Torture.
Brown's parents will be part of the delegation of human rights advocates organized by the New York and Atlanta based U.S. Human Rights Network to meet in Geneva. Several protesters from Ferguson also will be going on the trip.
Hundreds of civil rights lawyers from across America are descending on Ferguson, Missouri as police and protesters prepare for a grand jury decision on whether to charge the officer who killed an unarmed black teenager in August.
The attorneys are arriving in Ferguson as talks between protest groups and police have stalled over a refusal by officials to rule out the use of riot gear, tear gas and militarized equipment if demonstrations turn violent should a grand jury decide not to indict police officer Darren Wilson, protest leaders say.
When Justin Hansford heard about the death of Michael Brown – actually, when he saw the images of the dead teen’s body – he immediately embarked on the 15-hour drive home to Missouri from Washington, where he was attending a conference.
Brittany Packnett was sitting anxiously in the Oval Office last month when she decided to disregard friends' advice and tell Barack Obama about her first taste of tear gas. It came on a street in Ferguson, Mo., as she stood next to a petrified eighth-grader.
"I was afraid of sounding like an angry black woman at the White House,'' says Packnett, one of several young civil rights activists in the meeting. "But I needed the president to know what middle-schoolers faced in their neighborhood.''
So she spoke up — sustained, she says, on this and other recent occasions by words of Martin Luther King Jr.: "Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.''
“It’s not the camera; it’s the culture,” the Rev. Jesse Jackson Sr. said April 11 during his weekly Rainbow PUSH forum aired nationwide from Chicago. Emphasizing this distinction, Jackson uttered the phrase twice when discussing the murder of Walter Scott by North Charleston, South Carolina, police officer Michael Slager.
Politicians and police departments have turned toward the body camerato improve relations between police officers and the communities they serve and to lessen violence perpetrated by—and we hope against—police officers. But it will take more than body cameras, police dashboard cameras, and cameras installed in public places to make people feel safer. Increasing surveillance is not enough.
On the evening of April 25 at the corner of Pratt and Light Streets, in Baltimore’s revitalized downtown district, more than 100 police officers in riot gear stood shoulder to shoulder, shields up. Six officers on horseback fidgeted behind them, staring down at a crowd of about 40, an odd mixture of protesters, journalists and protester-journalists. Earlier in the afternoon, well over a thousand people marched from the Western District police station to City Hall to protest the death of Freddie Gray, a 25-year-old black man whose spinal cord was severely injured while he was in the custody of the Baltimore Police Department. Only a handful of live-streamers, an older man in a kente-cloth kufi, five or six teenagers with bandannas drawn across their faces and two young women in cocktail attire who had just been kicked out of a wedding were left. Each person was filming the police.
Justin Hansford lives 10 minutes from Ferguson, Mo., where last summer a white policeman shot and killed Michael Brown, an unarmed black teenager. The incident set off months of protests, as people from all walks of life took a stand against police...
Sometimes the toughest tests for a public uprising take place in private. The Black Lives Matter movement faced one such moment in October, inside a turreted building of pale stone planted on the site of the old Pennsylvania Avenue slave market, just blocks from the White House. Eleven young activists filed into a conference room, snapping selfies as they waited for one of the most powerful women in America. It takes clout to finagle a meeting with Hillary Clinton—and courage to do what came next.
Last September, at the 75th anniversary alumni reunion for the late Thurgood Marshall’s NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund (LDF), former Director-Counsel Elaine Jones asked the gathering of civil rights attorneys if they were up to the task of building a new racial justice movement. Her call moved me—a lawyer turned writer and NGO consultant who had once turned down an internship at LDF to focus on repaying school debt.
Social activists have called on President Obama to posthumously pardon Marcus Garvey, the 20th-century black nationalist who was convicted of mail fraud in 1923 based on what some have called a racially motivated investigation orchestrated by FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover.
Dr. Julius Garvey, the youngest son of the late civil rights leader, was joined by activists, academics and attorneys Wednesday to demand his father’s exoneration in a press conference at the National Press Club.
When you find yourself in a suddenly darkened room, what do you do? Some rush blindly to where they think the door might be. Others stand still, let their eyes adjust to the different environment, reorient themselves, then cautiously move forward. Some search out people who might be able to show the way. Post-election, many people are reassessing and searching for the best way forward. Here are some ideas on where we should be going and what we should be doing from experienced, thoughtful people who are organizing on the front lines.