Issue #18

Dinner Party, Congressional Black Caucus, Bill Cosby, Abolish police unions

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Monday, June 29 is Stokely Carmichael’s birthday. In 1967, writing in The Atlantic, he argued that the conditions of Black people in 1919 Chicago and 1920 Harlem had remained virtually unchanged a half century later. In 2020, a half century thence, Stokely Carmichael’s damning indictment of the United States and American politics yet rings true:

This country, with its pervasive institutional racism, has itself created socially undesirable conditions; it merely perpetuates those conditions when it lays the blame on people who, through whatever means at their disposal, seek to strike out at the conditions… Herein lies the match that will continue to ignite the dynamite in the ghettos: the ineptness of decision-makers, the anachronistic institutions, the inability to think boldly, and above all the unwillingness to innovate.

“Dynamite,” Stokely Carmichael and Charles Hamilton (adapted from Black Power: The Politics of Liberation in America)


📰 Toplines

Reuters: U.S. labor market, economy struggle despite reopening of businesses

Bloomberg: U.S. Home-Mortgage Delinquencies Reach Highest Level Since 2011

ABC: Louisville police officer involved in Breonna Taylor's death fired 3 months later

CNN: Three men indicted in the death of Ahmaud Arbery

The Cut: What We Know About the Killing of Elijah McClain

The Root: Chrystul Kizer, Held in Jail for 2 Years After Killing Her Alleged Abuser, Finally Set Free Thanks to Community Bond Fund

NBC: Mississippi governor says he will sign bill, if it passes, to change 'divisive' state flag

NYT: NASA Names Headquarters After Its First Black Female Engineer, Mary Jackson

NPR: Judge Orders ICE To Free Detained Immigrant Children Because Of COVID-19


🎧 Dinner Party

Musician Terrace Martin, pianist Robert Glasper, producer 9th Wonder and saxophonist Kamasi Washington dropped a single from their upcoming album, Dinner Party.

“Freeze Tag,” featuring Chicago vocalist Phoelix, delivers a smooth soundscape with searing lyrics—a protest song with a vibe:

They told me put my hands up behind my head
I think they got the wrong one
I'm sick and tired of runnin'
I been searchin' where the love went
I been lookin' for a dove
Then they told me if I move, they gon' shoot me dead
But I think I'm 'bout to cut a rug
I been waitin' on the summer
Soul lookin' back and wonders
"How we 'posed to get from under?"

9th Wonder sees “Freeze Tag” in a tradition of songs that sound sweet but deliver a striking message, particularly ‘70s soul songs like “People Make The World Go Round,” made famous by The Stylistics. “It feels good, but it's sad,” he says, “these feel-good-type of songs with these solemn type of messages. We call it pills in the applesauce.”

“I like to call it the aspirin crushed up in the orange juice,” Glasper says. “That's how my mom used to give me medicine.”

The FADER

Dinner Party drops on July 10. 


🦠 COVID-19

According to the World Health Organization, there have been almost 10 million cases of COVID19 globally; in the U.S. the number of coronavirus cases approaching 2.5 million, with southern and western states being hit the hardest. 

Specifically, Texas and Arizona are seeing infections soar to unprecedented levels with a record number of infections that require hospitalization. Despite this, the federal government plans to stop funding coronavirus testing in five states, including Texas.

This weekend, The State reported hospitals in South Carolina are at approximately 74% capacity and health officials say the surge in cases is a result of people not wearing face masks or practicing social distancing—especially at the state’s beaches and lakes.

Meanwhile, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced this weekend that the Empire State has had the sharpest decline in deaths and hospitalizations due to COVID-19 since the pandemic escalated there in March. 


👀 CBC: Behind the times

In the late 1960s, Michigan Congressman Charles Diggs created the Democracy Select Committee (DSC) as a response to African-American members of Congress who often reported feelings of isolation; there were so few of them in Congress, and no forum existed for Black electeds to discuss common political challenges and interests. During the opening of the 92nd Congress 13 DSC members (the most to serve simultaneously in Congress at the time) met on February 2, 1971 and created a nonpartisan, formal network for African-American Congressmen and women. Charles Rangel of New York renamed the group the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC). 

Fun Fact: The CBC was not necessarily poised to take the most progressive stance when it came to political ambition. Shirley Chisholm—the only woman in the CBC’s founding circle—ran for president in 1972. Her candidacy divided the caucus and only two CBC members publicly endorsed Chisholm’s candidacy. 

The CBC was the “Conscience of the Congress” because members were known for standing up and speaking out about issues concerning Black folk domestically and abroad. Notably, CBC members were instrumental in getting the Comprehensive Anti-Apartheid Act of 1986 (CAAA) passed, which supported the elimination of apartheid in South Africa. 

While the CBC still has the opportunity to be the moral compass of Congress, they have developed a troubling track record of endorsing white career politicians over Black, more progressive candidatesor staying radio silent when their endorsement is needed. 

MA-7 (2018)

Back In 2018, the CBC endorsed Rep. Michael Capuano (white man) over then-challenger, now Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley (Black woman). Massachusetts’ 7th Congressional District is the only one in the state where the majority of residents are non-white. Capuano served for ten years and had never faced significant opposition.

NY-16

Jamaal Bowman won his primary challenge against Eliot Engel. Bowman, who is Black, is a middle school principal. Engel, who is white, was a 16 term incumbent. Engel was endorsed by the CBC and other establishment Democrats including Hillary Clinton and Congressman Jim Clyburn.

NY-17

Instead of emphatically endorsing Mondaire Jones from the start, the CBC gave a halfhearted endorsement three days before the primary but only after their silence was questioned by reporters from the Huffington Post. Jones ultimately won the primary to succeed Nita Lowey, who is retiring.

NY- 15

Right over the bridge in NY, New York Assemblyman and vice chair of the Democratic National Committee Michael Blake was lucky enough to receive an endorsement from the CBC. But the winner of the South Bronx primary was Ritchie Torres, Afro-Latino progressive who many considered to be the most viable candidate. 

Kentucky Senate Primary

State Representative Charles Booker currently leads establishment candidate Amy McGrath in Kentucky’s Democratic primary for U.S. Senate. Booker racked up several endorsements from progressive Democrats including Ayanna Pressley, Elizabeth Warren, and Julian Castro. The CBC made no endorsement in the primary. As votes continue to be counted, Booker currently leads McGrath. The winner will face long-time Senate obstructionist Mitch McConnell in the general election.


✊🏿 LeBron’s ‘house of brands’

Earlier this year, LeBron James partnered with his childhood friend and longtime collaborator Maverick Carter to launch SpringHill, an multifaceted entertainment company.

In an industry that is lilly white, SpringHill’s 100+ employees are incredibly diverse: 65% are people of color and 40% are women. Serena Williams is on the company’s board.

On March 11, the same day the NBA suspended its season and a little more than a week before their adopted hometown ordered residents to shelter in place, James and Carter formed the SpringHill Co. after raising $100 million. They describe it as a media company with an unapologetic agenda: a maker and distributor of all kinds of content that will give a voice to creators and consumers who’ve been pandered to, ignored, or underserved...

Carter calls the company a “house of brands.” It’s part Disney storytelling power, part Nike coolness, and part Patagonia social impact. In 2020 stories can be told in many different ways—on social media, in films, as well as with sneakers and sweatshirts.

Bloomberg


🏛 Cosby heads to PA Supreme Court

A quick look back at how it all started:

In 2005 Andrea Constand reported to the police that Bill Cosby assaulted her in early 2004.  

In a press release in February 2005, District Attorney Bruce Castor declined to file charges citing "insufficient credible and admissible evidence.”

Constand sues Cosby.  During depositions Cosby admitted that he procured Quaaludes for women he wanted to have sex with. The deposition and several documents from the civil suit are temporarily sealed. In November of 2006 the case was settled for over 3 million dollars. In 2015 the documents were unsealed and the DA’s office reopened the investigation.  

On December 30, 2015, two weeks before the 12-year statute of limitations expired Cosby was arrested and criminally charged with drugging and sexually assaulting Constand. 

Trial began in 2017 and ended with a hung jury.

The case was retried in 2018 at the height of the #MeToo Movement. Cosby was the only celebrity facing criminal charges at the time.  The Prosecution moved to allow the testimonies of women who alleged that Cosby also incapacitated and assaulted them.  Prosecutors argued that these women’s testimony would show that Cosby had a pattern in his assaults. Cosby’s attorney argued that the women’s testimony were too remote in time (some dating back to the 1970s), “strikingly dissimilar” from the criminal accusations, highly prejudicial, and should not be allowed in court. The judge allowed the testimony of 5 women. 

Cosby was convicted and is currently serving a three to ten years prison sentence.

After the Superior Court of Pennsylvania dismissed Cosby’s appeal to overturn his conviction, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court agreed to hear two issues in Cosby’s appeal.  

Issue 1: Prior Bad Acts 

A prosecutor cannot use prior bad acts to prove a person’s character.  However, prior bad acts can be used to show motive, opportunity, intent, absence of mistake, knowledge, lack of accident, preparation, and plan. A judge must also consider if the prejudicial effect of that testimony would outweigh its probative value. 

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court will review whether the court erred in allowing the testimonies of the 5 women and Cosby’s deposition testimony.

Cosby argues that he only testified in the civil lawsuit (and didn’t assert his 5th Amendment right against self-incrimination) because the DA agreed not to prosecute.  This ties into the second issue the Supreme Court will consider. 

Issue 2: DA’s agreement to not criminally prosecute Cosby

Lastly, the Supreme Court will review whether the court was wrong to allow not only the prosecution of Cosby but the admission of Cosby’s civil deposition testimony. 

This decision will test the legal framework of sexual assault cases in Pennsylvania and maybe even the country. 


🚨 Abolish police unions

While police violence against Black people is nothing new, it has reached a fever pitch over the last weeks and months with the killings of Breonna Taylor, George Floyd and Rayshard Brooks. It is important to understand that police unions are a major stumbling block on the road to sweeping reform in law enforcement. 

Policemen started to unionize in the early 1900s during the Industrial Revolution around wages and working conditions. They have since provided an almost impenetrable barrier between police officers and their accountability to the public. (Derek Chauvin, the police officer who murdered George Floyd, had at least 18 complaints of misconduct made against him over the years; he was never disciplined.)

Police unions employ a range of strategies and tactics to help officers shirk the law, evade accountability and otherwise obstruct justice, including:  

  • supplying or coordinating legal representation and coaching officers accused of excessive use-of-force

  • providing officers with time and support to coordinate their recollection of events with other officers in order to corroborate their stories in a way that blames the victim

  • delaying the release of footage from dashboard and body cameras, and enforcing long waiting periods before officers are questioned regarding a complaint 

  • expunging personnel records, which allows officers with a history of misconduct to continue employment

  • making financial contributions to political candidates and lobbying elected officials to increase police funding

It is no wonder that there is a growing chorus calling for, at the very least, the abolition of police unions:

Ultimately, police unions protect their own, and the contracts they bargain keep killers, domestic abusers, and white supremacists in positions of deadly power—or provide them with generous pensions should they leave. The only solidarity they show is for their fellow police officers; other workers are mere targets. 

MUST LISTEN PODCAST: Police Unions and Police Violence (Planet Money)


💰 When that $1m direct deposit hits

Major League Baseball has announced Opening Day to be July 23d and 24th. Players are to report to their teams for “Spring training” part 2 on July 1st.

Meanwhile, one person with ties to professional baseball is guaranteed to be paid this week on Wednesday, Bobby Bonilla. On July 1st, the New York Mets will pay Bonilla $1,193,248.20 as they have done each year since 2011.

The arrangement is the result of the Mets owing Bonilla $5.9 million in 2000.Instead of taking the money upfront, Bonilla opted to take a deferred payment starting a decade later with money being paid out over 25 years at 8% interest, for a total of $29.8 million. Deferred payments are not totally unusual in professional baseball. What made this arrangement of particular note was that Mets owner Fred Wilpon intended to finance the deal through investments managed by Bernie Madoff to only later become one of the victims of Madoff’s now infamous Ponzi schemes.

Quick facts:

  • Major League debut: April 9, 1986 (for the Chicago White Sox)

  • Last played a game for the Mets: October 19, 1999

  • Last appeared in an MLB game: October 7, 2001 (for the St. Louis Cardinals)

  • Age when deferred payments began: 48   

Bonilla will finally be off the Mets’ payroll, at age 73, when they cut the final check on July 1, 2035.

Happy Bobby Bonilla Day!


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