“Stranger Fruit”


Unchanging, perpetual, the American Pietá

There is a demand put upon you with “Stranger Fruit.” That much is clear. The photographs of mothers and sons, of Black bodies—whole and unpierced, yet still Christ-like in death—do not gently plead with viewers any more than street protesters merely invite police to change. These are Black mothers, sitting, standing, kneeling with their lifeless sons, staring straight at the camera, straight at the viewer, straight at the nation, commanding your attention, and it costs you dearly to see them. But it costs more to look away.

“What we’re experiencing now is just this series of reliving these traumas as far as the African-American community,” says Brooklyn-based visual artist Jon Henry. His “Stranger Fruit” exhibition is based on police killings of Black people. It draws on the song “Strange Fruit,” Nina Simone’s interpretation of the Billie Holiday requiem for lynched bodies “swinging in the Southern breeze, strange fruit hanging from the poplar trees.” It compels you to consider the grief of families and communities left on their own and trying to move on. “It’s difficult to keep living these over and over again, sort of like a perverse Groundhog Day where these murders just keep on happening,” Henry says.

So say we all!

[Click on the photograph up top for Lady Day’s original]

Indian Coppers Arrest Pakistani Pigeon On Charges Of Espionage

The pigeon was wearing an anklet inscribed with a series of numbers when it was captured on the Indian side of the India-Pakistan border…Because of the anklet and the sensitive area in which the bird was recovered, authorities are taking the incident very seriously. However, they have yet to decipher the message.

A Pakistani villager has since come forward as the bird’s owner. He claimed to have simply flown his pigeons to celebrate this year’s Eid-al-Fitr festival, a Muslim holiday that marks the end of Ramadan. He also explained that the numbers inscribed on the pigeon’s metal ring were not a code but rather his phone number.

Pakistani newspaper Dawn has since identified the man as Habibullah and confirmed that he does, indeed, own a dozen pigeons. The man told the publication that the bird was a “symbol of peace,” and that India should “refrain from victimizing innocent birds.”

Cops behaving like cops aren’t unusual anywhere. The greater the paranoia in whichever nation, the more likely is stupid or silly behavior by defenders of faith and Fatherland.

Coppers using Tasers for Torture


Police Sergeant using taser on handcuffed prisoner

❝ Corporal Matthew Stice pointed his Taser at Martini Smith’s bare chest.

Smith was 20 years old, pregnant and stripped nearly naked, standing in a cell in the Franklin County jail in Columbus, Ohio. She had been detained on charges of stabbing a boyfriend she’d accused of beating her. Stice and a deputy had ordered her to disrobe, take off all jewelry and don a prison gown. But she hadn’t been able to obey one command – remove the silver stud from her tongue.

❝ “Take the tongue ring out,” Deputy Shawnda Arnold said. Smith continued struggling to unscrew the ring, inserting fingers from both hands into her mouth. No luck. Her fingers were numb, she protested: She had been cuffed for six hours with her hands behind her back.

“I will Tase you,” Stice said. The ring was slippery, Smith said, asking for a paper towel. The deputies refused. “I just want to go to sleep,” Smith cried.

Stice warned her again, then fired. The Taser’s electrified darts struck Smith’s chest; she collapsed against the concrete wall and slid to the floor, gasping, arms over her breasts.

❝ “Why did you Tase me?” she moaned. “I wasn’t harming nobody. I can’t just take it out.”

Five days later, Smith had a miscarriage…

Reuters identified 104 deaths involving Tasers behind bars, nearly all since 2000 – 10 percent of a larger universe of more than 1,000 fatal law enforcement encounters in which the weapons were used. Some of the in-custody deaths were deemed “multi-factorial,” with no distinct cause, and some were attributed to pre-existing health problems. But the Taser was listed as a cause or contributing factor in more than a quarter of the 84 inmate deaths in which the news agency obtained autopsy findings.

RTFA and begin to understand why most poor or non-white or just ordinary workingclass folks consider our police departments to be something other than institutions chartered to “serve and protect”.

100,000 dead, 30,000 missing — Mexico’s war on drugs turns 10 years old

Ten years after Mexico declared a war on drugs, the offensive has left some major drug cartels splintered and many old-line kingpins like Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman in jail, but done little to reduce crime or violence in the nation’s roughest regions.

❝ Some say the war has been a crucial, but flawed, effort. Others argue the offensive begun by then-President Felipe Calderon on Dec. 11, 2006, unleashed an unnecessary tragedy with more than 100,000 people dead and about 30,000 missing – a toll comparable to the Central American civil wars of the 1980s.

In some places, homicide rates have lessened. In others, the killings continue unabated. The drawn-out conflict has also had a profound effect on those close to the cross-hairs of suffering: youths inured to extreme violence; adults so fed-up with poor and corrupt policing that they took up arms as vigilantes; and families who banded together in the face of authorities’ inability to find their vanished loved ones…

❝ Mexico’s armed forces have increasingly been pulled into the conflict because police forces are often corrupt or unreliable. That has had its own toll on the troops, who are frequently ambushed and accused of illegally executing detained cartel suspects in some cases.

Defense Secretary Gen. Salvador Cienfuegos noted that the army’s involvement was only supposed to be temporary while policing was reformed.

“Ten years ago it was decided that the police should be rebuilt, and we still haven’t seen that reconstruction,” Cienfuegos said. “This isn’t something that can be solved with bullets. It requires other measures, and there has not been decisive action on budgets to make that happen.”…

❝ “Things are the same as far as crime,” said Hipolito Mora, the founder of one of the first “self-defense” militias. “The government has to do more to combat the corruption in itself. If they don’t do that, nothing is going to work. It is the corruption within the government that creates tolerance for organized crime.”…

Corruption, large and small, flourishes because it continues as part of the culture of the political rulers of Mexico. Public efforts to clean up even local government generally are little more than window dressing. There are exceptions. They are in spite of the national government – not because of aid from the government.

Black therapist shot by Florida police while helping autistic patient in the street


Charles Kinsey hands in the air, autistic patient has toy truckHilton Napoleon

Click photo to run the cellphone video

A black therapist in the US state of Florida trying to calm a man with autism in the middle of the street says he was shot by police, even though he had his hands in the air and repeatedly told them that both were unarmed.

The moments before the shooting on Monday were recorded on cellphone video, showing Charles Kinsey lying on the ground with his arms raised, talking to his patient and police throughout the standoff with officers, who appeared to have them surrounded.

As long as I’ve got my hands up, they’re not going to shoot me. This is what I’m thinking. They’re not going to shoot me,” he told WSVN-TV later from his hospital bed, where he was recovering from a gunshot wound to his leg.

“Wow, was I wrong.”

The shooting comes at a time of growing tensions and increased protests against the disproportionate number of African Americans killed by the police.

North Miami Police Chief Gary Eugene said on Thursday he had asked Florida state officials to lead the investigation into the shooting.

Eugene said officers responded to a 911 emergency call about an armed man threatening suicide, but the chief told reporters no gun was recovered at the scene.

Kinsey said he was trying to calm his 23-year-old patient who had run away from the group home where he works.

“All he has is a toy truck in his hand,” Kinsey can be heard saying in the video, speaking of his patient, who was holding a toy. “That’s all it is. There is no need for guns.”

Al Jazeera’s Andy Gallacher, reporting from North Miami, said: “The video at that point goes black, but we are told that a police officer fired three rounds towards Kinsey, one of them striking him in his leg.”

Racism in America may have diminished very slightly over the decades since I was young. Excuses haven’t changed. Copouts – literally copouts – from police departments haven’t changed. It’s still OK for a cop to shoot an unarmed Black man in America. The odds continue to be overwhelming that he will get away with it.

So-called journalists, TV talking heads, politicians of every stripe will jostle each other in line to be certain the copper who did the shooting is treated “fairly”. And screw the victim. It will take that minority of Americans who resent our nation’s failure to provide an equal opportunity at staying alive – to gather a movement more concerned with justice than intellectual and ethical cowardice – to protest against our murderous bigotry.

She defied neo-Nazis at Swedish march until the police removed her

Tess Asplund
Click to enlargeDavid Lagerlöf/Expo/TT News Agency

The lone protest of a woman defying a march of 300 uniformed neo-Nazis is set to become an iconic image of resistance to the rise of the far-right in Scandinavia…A photograph of Tess Asplund, 42, with fist raised against the leadership of the Nordic Resistance Movement (NRM) in Borlänge, central Sweden, on Sunday, May Day, has gone viral in the country.

“It was an impulse. I was so angry, I just went out into the street,” Asplund told the Guardian. “I was thinking: hell no, they can’t march here! I had this adrenaline. No Nazi is going to march here, it’s not okay.”

It’s not always clear or easy; but, the core existential value I have always tried to live by is that responsibility automatically, indelibly, irrevocably accrues to someone who recognizes a need. Sometimes, you need to stand up and risk everything for justice.

Tess Asplund is my kind of hero.