Monthly Archives: April 2008

on being human in the news

dear readers,

a quote from today’s new york times, metro section:

“In 1998, Officer Joseph Locurto joined two firefighters on a float in a Labor Day parade held in Broad Channel, Queens. They forgot to bring along their brains. The three men, all white, put on Afro wigs and blackface. They tossed fried chicken and watermelon to onlookers. One dangled from the back of the float, mocking the way a black man in Texas had been dragged to his death three months earlier.”

with this, reporter clyde haberman takes an important step towards creating a historical context for the actions of detectives isonora, oliver, and cooper, all found innocent in the 50 round assassination of sean bell in south queens. the verdict was handed down last friday. today’s coverage of the case, five days later, has receded to the metro section. the angle is, “After Acquittal, Officers’ Careers Still in Limbo.”

“One pushes paper at a base for Staten Island detectives. Another makes phone calls to investigators whenever there’s a homicide in the Bronx. Four others perform administrative tasks at desks at various spots in Manhattan and Brooklyn. These are the lives of the six police officers involved in the shooting death of Sean Bell.”

humanization of both sides of an issue is crucial. nobody wins in a situation of state sanctioned brutality. that is, police brutality is brutal to the controlled and brutal to the controllers. but why is it that in the news, the new york times to be exact, some people are more humanized than others? take the case of a new york times reporter, barry bearak, recently imprisoned for four days in zimbabwe. his self authored article, sprawls across the sunday paper like a bikini in sunny central park.

why does it matter that bearak gets all this space to talk about his experience as a political prisoner? it matters because other people don’t.


in journalism, there are subtle ways to humanize or dehumanize a population. check out yesterday’s article on “Battle in Brooklyn, A Principal’s Rise and Fall: Critics Cost Muslim Educator Her Dream School.” the article on the khalil gibran international academy (kgia), an arabic immersion school, is ostensibly about former principal debbie almontaser’s struggle to keep this unique educational opportunity alive and well. but subtle media bias draws the reader to other matters, like:

is it safe to “let” muslims be full citizens and thus civicly engaged in this here ‘nited states of america?

subtle bias. as in, the first two full quotes in the article on almontaser are pulled from interviews with non-muslim leaders of the opposition to kgia.   two men who were instrumental in her “fall.”  two men who also lead the opposition to full citizenship for muslim-americans. one who is quoted as saying that domestic muslim civic engagement is at best a, “soft jihad.” these two are quoted liberally in the first ten paragraphs of the article. they are each awarded multiple sentences compared to one, four-word, partial quote from former principal almontaser. and, each time these two are quoted, they are given mad credetentials, links even, to their places of work.

subtle bias. as in looking through the eyes of person, walking in the shoes of their story versus reading a story about another, an unknown other.


[april 25, 2008, friday night, south queens, sean bell rally and verdict protest]

the altar marking where sean bell was shot, on liverpool between 94th and 95th street, is aglow with candles, homemade signs, and masking tape murals adorned on the wall/frames/this stalled/moment of justice.

(photo, joshua lott, reuters)

south queens. where motorcycle crews death defy into the hood night, ghetto caballeros, reared up on the hind legs of their metallic horses. south queens. where the nearest train station is an air train stop. south queens. where the malcolm x grassroots movement led a core contingent through project playgrounds, snake alive church talking corners, closed for the day glass libraries, helicopter incessantly searching above marchers pounding feet.

“don’t tell our children to fuck the police,” said a tenants council president, emerging from the lively crowd in her tenement plaza, “you don’t have to live here, you get to go home, our children have to live here.” and deference to the police is one way to stay alive longer.

stay tuned for more,


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april 25: on sean bell

::::reading materials on the sean bell case below::::

Plans for the Day of the Verdict

Dear Readers,

today is a weird day in NY
looking black and brown people in the ye
aint no joke today
on the day when sean bell’s assassins
become officially state sanctioned
so many words that need to be spoken
how many feelings to be felt

Its Friday, April 25, 2008.

My mentor Cynthia Perez, founding mother of the Indigenous Women’s Network, woke me up with a command to get to the United Nations immediately. My heart starts beating, a session on Indigenous Women, geez, I think I’ll wear my Kota sari, the red and cream one. Cynthia calls me back, orders me to contact Mililani, Hawaiin sovereignty expert, about coming to the conference tomorrow. Cynthia barks at me to do something with my Boalt law degree already. We get off the phone. I’m still contemplating the sari, hanging like a Rajasthani candy cane, majestic in the corner.

Phone beeps. It’s a text from the homie Diana, “Not guilty 4 sean bell’s muderers 😦

Warm air through golden drape, I rise from my pallet like anger, like waves, like warriors.

Food and water for my cat, cereal and milk for me, John Meyer on the radio, fathers be good to your daughters, and there are teeth to brush, a laptop to pack up, writing to be done, there is writing to be done.

Sandals on, jeans snug, brown arms sun reveling, soca in the Prospect Park breeze, l’m walking to the Brooklyn Public Library. Cutting around the way girl back strokes through runners and joggers in their outdoor performance clothes, I’m walking out my feelings, wondering what poem do I write? Thumb on text. Breeze whispering in the sweat around my brow. I type in and “send to many” this short:

sean bell”s assassins not guilty
rewind us to a time
when life was more like sense
less pretense
fuk a white picket fence

these are the first 10 texts i got back, verbatim:
1. “As intense as jesus’ hands clinched-anger swirls like incense.” (from a jamaican-american sister poet in nyc)
2. “And 151 mil to put cops with machine guns on subways.” (from an arab-american sister organizer in the bk)
3. “I hear you princess. Aint no justice, just Us.” (from an african-american brother, business owner, king’s mall, brooklyn)
4. “please forward all cops in sean bell case found not guilty on all charges rally at queens da’s office 125-01 queens blvd 5:30pm today take f/4 to union.” (from a latina sister poet in nyc)
5. “I didnt even want to read the whole story! That shit has me heated! Nice ryhme Roo!” (from an african-american sister writer in the bay)
6. “ah.” (from an italian-american sister organizer in nyc helping to organize rally at the courthouse today)
7. “Wow that was def deep. I was already n the process of snding that txt 2 u whn u txt me. Either way, its not right how many times five 0 gets off 4 claiming the life of the innocent. I pray every day that my life is not taken by the hands of another n these times. God has my bck!” (from an african-american brother, banker, pittsburgh, pa)
8. “Yes.” (from an african and caribbean-american brother organizer and sister poet in the bay)
9. “Ridiculous!” (from a chinese-american brother, mc, houston, texas)
10. “its hard 2 make it thru the am with the acquittal.” (from an african-american sister educator and actress in the bay)
I’m writing to you from the 2nd floor of Brooklyn Public. Around me are vast windows letting air in from Prospect Park, it blows over us, mainly black and brown folks taking care of business, together and alone.
On my way past the stacks of knowledge, a book caught my eye.
An Amnesty International Report, entitled, “Political Killings By Governments.” The Table of Contents lists countries–Argentina, Guatemala, Uganda, Libya. No United States of America. Page 6 starts a new section, its entitled, “Responsibility.” Second paragraph reads, “There are two sides to investigation of reports of politically motivated killings: determining the immediate facts-‘what happened’; and assessing whether the government is implicated-‘who was responsible.”

What happened?
A racially motivated assassination, according to People’s Justice, an NYC based coalition working to end police violence.
A necessary, justifiable, and relatively routine response to belligerent and inebriated club goers, asserted the District Attorneys defending NYPD detectives Micheal Oliver, Marc Cooper, and Gescard Isnora.
Murder vs. Nothing Happened.

Who was responsible?
New York State vs. Sean Bell.
A Nation State vs. Its People.
On my right hand side is a big book called, “Insects: An illustrated survey of the most successful animals on earth.” Ima take a peek inside it before I head off to the rally. Learn me something useful. Oh damn, the Muslim sister stacking books just took it off the table, gotta bounce y’all, time to chase down my new knowledge for the day. 🙂
Stay tuned for more from me, politicalpoet, I got the news you need.
2. people’s justice press releases:

Plans for the Day of the Verdict



In Nov. 2006, Sean Bell was murdered by the NYPD in a hail of 50 bullets. His friends – Trent Benefield and Joseph Guzman – were seriously injured. 3 of the officers involved were acquitted of all charges in a bold affront to the human rights of Sean Bell and all of us.

PEOPLES JUSTICE for Community Control and Police Accountability is calling for a rally and community speak-out in front of the Queens DA’s office ON THIS DAY*.


@ the Queens DA’s Office

125-01 Queens Blvd. (between Hoover Ave & 82nd Ave.)

E or F train to Union Turnpike

The NYPD’s murder of Bell and attempted murders of Benefield and Guzman are NOT isolated or random events. They represent the continued targeting of communities of color by the police and the lack of accountability for police misconduct and abuse.

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free tibet, be tibet

Free Tibet, Be Tibet: Visit This Article Now at

Dear Readers,

Here’s my take on Tibet, surviving, and building bridges in an era of polarization.  Enjoy.


free Tibet
free you
be Tibet
be me
and then
tell me
whom to hate

July 2001, the International Olympic Committee votes to make Beijing ground zero for the 2008 Summer Games.

January 10, 2008, I’m cascading amidst the prayer flags in Upper Dharamsala, McLeod Ganj, home of the Dalai Lama’s India based government-in-exile.

March 14, 2008, I’m back in the addiction riddled States, Tibetan’s willing to take blows as the world’s eyes turn to Lhasa.

April 9, 2008, the Olympic torch builds and burns bridges all through San Francisco.

April 11, 2008, the Dalai Lama is on his way to Seattle, and squeezes in a press conference on a layover in Narita, Japan, where reminds the world how compassion works: “We are not anti-Chinese. Right from the beginning, we supported the Olympic Games.”

But he also says that when it comes to protestors, no one “has the right to tell them to shut up.”

Free Tibet? No doubt.

But its about more than supporting any one campaign. More than Free Tibet: Free Palestine, Free! Free! Free Palestine! More than Free Mumia: Free All Political Prisoners. It is more than a campaign, it’s about alignment. It’s about that moment on the dancefloor, when you are so in sync with the music that every dancer around you can’t help but to groove harder.

In what way are we all political prisoners?

I am most aligned with global struggles when I am actively aware of the ways I work to liberate my own person. In my case, liberation has everything to do with the daily fight for my life post-incest.

I’ve organized since I was 15, keynoted Take Back The Night’s, emceed Artists Against Rape, and take note, April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month. But even now, it’s still hard to justify dealing with what happened to me. How do I integrate my life’s personal campaign with organizing and educating communities?

It ain’t easy building bridges between the false dichotomy that is implicit in Peace Corps and corporate modeled 501(c)(3) structures. This dichotomy asks us to divide into a tide of service provider vs. service consumer, organizer vs. constituency, liberator vs. liberatee, occupier versus. occupied.

But when I understand that the persons who occupied my body were also invaded in shock and awe assault, I feel that I am closer to liberation for all. Alignment with my truth allows me to be pro-me without being anti-my family, even though. The Dalai Lama is pro-Tibetan without being anti-China, even though. Even though.

free Tibet
free you
be Tibet
be me
and then
tell me
whom to hate


Stay tuned for more, by your favorite politicalpoet, NaXaL.



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