Freedom Note from OUR COMMON GROUND φ Chronicling OUR History φ “Witness On the Bridge”, Dr. Joyce A. Ladner

Freedom Note from OUR COMMON GROUND

Elder voices

I am within the year to become an Elder. While it surprises and mystifies me, it does not the rest of the world. This is what becomes of so many privileged experiences and soul shattering moments. To become from all that I have seen, done and been. To recall the wisdom and embrace of men and women, big and tall. I might be very surprised, but I am very prepared. I thank the many people who have mentored me, nurtured and nourished me on this journey. They have been diligent in guiding me on the path of this story, inspiring me to measure the successes and use the failures. My legacy is not about the fancy education or powerful jobs, but recalling the lines etched into the hands of those who guided me and bringing their spirits into a new form that is worthy. Capturing the spirit of our people’s hopes and aspirations. This is why it has been so important to me to capture their voices, and in doing so I retain our wisdom, our truths and our history born of both our suffering and our victory for all times.

We hope you will join us tonight as we honor another “Witness From the Bridge”, Dr, Joyce A. Ladner as we enter our life and courage onto OUR COMMON GROUND.

LIVE   10 pm ET      April 5, 2015

 

03-29 Ladner4

 

 

OUR COMMON GROUND
Witness From the Bridge
Dr. Joyce A. Ladner
Sociologist – Academic and Education Leader
Civil Rights Pioneer Activist

April 5, 2014 LIVE 10 pm ET
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Sociologist Joyce Ladner was born in Battles, Mississippi, on October 12, 1943. She attended Tougaloo College in Tougaloo, Mississippi, where she earned her B.A. in sociology in 1964 and went on to Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri, to earn a Ph.D. in 1968.

At school, she also became involved in the civil rights movement. After earning her Ph.D., Ladner went on to teach at colleges in Illinois; Washington, D.C.; Connecticut; and Tanzania.

03-29 Ladner3In 1970 she conducted postdoctoral work as a research associate at the University of Dar es Salaam in Tanzania. In Tanzania she completed research on “The Roles of Tanzanian Women in Community Development.” Active within the SNCC organization as field secretary, Ladner was a witness to the racial conflict, violence, and the institutionalization of segregation. She has written numerous reports on children’s issues and has often been consulted for her expertise. Her work spans the roles of sociology professor, university president, presidential appointee, and a national public policy analyst. A prolific scholar, she has committed her life to improving the areas of diversity, multicultural education, higher education, urban issues, public policy, family and gender challenges, and child welfare.

Ladner published her first book in 1971, Tomorrow’s Tomorrow: The Black Woman, a study of poor black adolescent girls from St. Louis. In 1973, Ladner joined the faculty of Hunter College at the City University of New York.

Leaving Hunter College for Howard University in Washington, D.C., Ladner served as vice president for academic affairs from 1990 to 1994 and as interim president of Howard University from 1994 to 1995. When she became interim president of Howard in 1994, she was the first woman to hold the position at the university. She retired to Florida in 2003.

In 1995, President Bill Clinton appointed her to the District of Columbia Financial Control Board, where she oversees the finances and budgetary restructuring of the public school system.

She is also a former senior fellow in the Governmental Studies Program at the Brookings Institution, a Washington, D.C. think tank and research organization. She has spoken nationwide about the importance of improving education for public school students. She has appeared on nationally syndicated radio and television programs as well.

She has received many honors and awards, including distinguished alumna and Hall of Famer of Tougaloo College, distinguished alumna of Washington University, Most Inspiring Teacher Award in 1986 and the Outstanding Achievement Award in 1991 from the Howard University School of Social Work. In 1996. Dr. Ladner was named Washingtonian of the Year by Washingtonian magazine

Ladner is active in a number of civic and professional organizations. She is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, The American Sociological Association, the Washington Urban League, the Washington Women’s Forum and the Coalition of 100 Black Women. In 1997, she was named Washingtonian of the Year by Washingtonian for her work in education.

Dr. Joyce A. Ladner, author of The Death of White Sociology: Essays on Race and Culture, published by Black Classic Press, has written numerous books on education, urban issues, public policy and transracial adoption.

She has been an activist, author and civil servant. She is a Mississippi native who earned her bachelor.s in sociology in 1964 from Tougaloo College. She earned a doctorate in sociology in 1968 from Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri.

She and her sister, Dorie, organized and went to jail for their roles in demonstrations on behalf of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee for which Joyce Ladner served as field secretary.

Her career has included work at various universities and institutions: Southern Illinois University, assistant professor and curriculum specialist, 1968-69; affiliated with Wesleyan University, 1969-70; University of Dar es Salaam, Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, research associate, 1970-71; Hunter College of the City University of New York, sociology faculty, 1976-81; Howard University, professor of sociology, 1981-98, vice president of academic affairs, 1990-94, interim president, 1994-95; Brookings Institution, senior fellow, government studies, 1977.

When she became interim president of Howard in 1994, she was the first woman to hold the position at the university. She retired to Florida in 2003.

She has received many honors and awards, including distinguished alumna and Hall of Famer of Tougaloo College, distinguished alumna of Washington University, Most Inspiring Teacher Award in 1986 and the Outstanding Achievement Award in 1991 from the Howard University School of Social Work. In 1996. Dr. Ladner was named Washingtonian of the Year by Washingtonian magazine.

Dr. Joyce A. Ladner, is the author of The Death of White Sociology: Essays on Race and Culture, published by Black Classic Press and Launching Our Black Children for Success: A Guide for Parents of Kids from Three to Eighteen by Joyce A. Ladner and Theresa Foy DiGeronimo. She has written numerous books on education, urban issues, public policy and transracial adoption. Her other books include, authored or edited, Tomorrow’s Tomorrow: The Black Woman, The Ties That Bind: Timeless Values For African American Families, Mixed Families: Adopting Across Racial Boundaries and The New Urban Leaders. And,these must reads:


Ladner, Joyce. Tomorrow’s Tomorrow: The Black Woman. Garden City, New York: Doubleday, 1971.
—. Mixed Families: Adopting Across Racial Boundaries. Garden City, New York: Doubleday, 1977.
—. The New Urban Leaders. Washington, D.C.: Brookings Institution Press, 2001.

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OCG This Week: The Gullah Geechee Nation with Queen Quet Marquetta L. Goodwine Head-of-State for the Gullah/Geechee Nation

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                    2014 Black History Month 

                        02-1-14 Quet2

The Gullah Geechee Nation
OUR GUEST: Queen Quet Marquetta L. Goodwine 
Head-of-State for the Gullah/Geechee Nation

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Saturday, February 1, 2014
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ABOUT the GULLAH/GEECHEE NATION
queenquet10queenquet12queenquet5The Gullah/Geechee Nation exist from Jacksonville, NC to Jacksonville, FL. It encompasses all of the Sea Islands and thirty to thirty-five miles inland to the St. John’s River. On these islands, people from numerous African ethnic groups linked with indigenous Americans and created the unique Gullah language and traditions from which later came “Geechee.” The Gullah/Geechee people have been considered “a nation within a nation” from the time of chattel enslavement in the United States until they officially became an internationally recognized nation on July 2, 2000. At the time of their declaration as a nation, they confirmed the election of their first “head pun de boddee”-head of state and official spokesperson and queen mother. They elected Queen Quet, Chieftess and Head-of-State for the Gullah/Geechee Gullah Nation.

ABOUT QUEEN QUET MARQUETTA L. GOODWINE

queenquet9Queen Quet Marquetta L. Goodwine is a published author, computer scientist, lecturer, mathematician, historian, columnist, preservationist, environmental justice advocate, environmentalist, film consultant, and “The Art-ivist.” She is the founder of the premiere advocacy organization for the continuation of Gullah/Geechee culture, the Gullah/Geechee Sea Island Coalition. Queen Quet has not only provided “histo-musical presentations” throughout the world, but was also the first Gullah/Geechee person to speak on behalf of her people before the United Nations in Genevé, Switzerland.

Queen Quet was one of the first of seven inductees to the Gullah/Geechee Nation Hall of Fame. She received the “Anointed Spirit Award” for her leadership and for being a visionary. In 2008, she was recorded at UNESCO Headquarters in Paris, France at a United Nations Conference in order to have the human rights story of the Gullah/Geechee people archived for the United Nations. In 2009, she was invited by the Office of the High Commissioner of the United Nations to come and present before the newly founded “Minority Forum” as a representative of the Gullah/Geechee Nation and the International Human Rights Association for American Minorities (IHRAAM) which is an NGO in consultative status with the United Nations. Queen Quet is a directorate member for IHRAAM and for the International Commission on Human Rights. She represented these bodies and the Gullah/Geechee Nation at the “United Nations Forum on Minority Rights.”

Due to Queen Quet advancing the idea of keeping the Gullah/Geechee culture alive, the Gullah/Geechee Sea Island Coalition under the leadership of Queen Quet, worked with Congressman James Clyburn to insure that the United States Congress would work to assist the Gullah/Geechees. Queen Quet then acted as the community leader to work with the United States National Park Service to conduct several meetings throughout the Gullah/Geechee Nation for the “Special Resource Study of Lowcountry Gullah Culture.” Due to the fact that Gullah/Geechees worked to become recognized as one people, Queen Quet wanted to insure that the future congressional act would reflect this in its name and form. As a result in 2006 the “Gullah/Geechee Cultural Heritage Act” was passed by the United States Congress and signed into law by the president.

Queen Quet is vetted with the United States White House as an Expert Commissioner in the Department of the Interior. She is also the Chair of the Gullah/Geechee Cultural Heritage Corridor General Management Plan which is being completed by a commission created by the act for there to be a “Gullah/Geechee National Heritage Corridor.” Queen Quet is also a member of the “National Park Relevancy Committee” and proudly continues to work to protect the environment and to insure that diverse groups of people engage in the outdoors and the policies governing them. Queen Quet has engaged in several White House conferences on this issue.

queenquet7The Mission of the Gullah Geechee Nation 

To preserve, protect, and promote our history, culture, language, and homeland and to institute and demand official recognition of the governance (minority) rights necessary to accomplish our mission to take care of our community through collective efforts which will provide a healthy environment, care for the well beings of each person, and economic empowerment.

 

 

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“The Case of IRP6” – OUR COMMON GROUND – Saturday, January 25, 2014

 “The Case of IRP6” 

IRP Solutions Corporation

How a business dream became a nightmare


Saturday, January 25, 2014

01-25 IRP6-3

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OUR GUESTS:   Cliff Stewart,  Sam Thurman, IRP Solutions Partners

Rose Banks and Ethel Lopez, A Just Cause for the IRP6

 According to a report prepared by Dr. Alan Bean, Executive Director of Friends of Justice, “the IRP6”, owners of a company in Colorado that developed software for law enforcement, known as the “IPR6”,  Kendrick Barnes, Gary L. Walker, Demetrius K. Harper, Clinton A. Stewart, David A. Zirpolo and David A. Banks, “. . . are six devout and dedicated executives serving hard time in a Colorado prison and their loved ones don’t understand why.  From the perspective of those who worked and worshiped with these men, the fingerprints of racial bias are clearly visible to the naked eye.” Bean further observes, “FBI agents and DOJ prosecutors never saw this (their prosecution) as a civil matter, a case of well-intentioned businessmen incurring business debt.  Instead, scores of federal officials concluded, in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary, that this Colorado software development company had no prospects of success, no interest in success, and existed for the sole purpose of defrauding its business partners.

​This is a story about how prosecutorial tunnel vision created a tragic communication failure. ​The criminal justice system exists to give everyone a chance to tell their story. ​Juries decide who brings the best story to the table. ​Bad things happen when the system amplifies one story while silencing the other. (Dr. Alan Bean, Executive Director, Friends of Justice).

irp6

The IRP6 case concerns this African-American company (IRP Solutions Corporation) in Colorado that developed criminal investigations software for federal, state and local law enforcement. The case of the IRP6 is currently under appeal in the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals. The men were convicted in 2011 after fighting the U.S. Government pro se at trial and have been incarcerated at the Federal Prison Camp in Florence, Colorado since the summer of 2012. The IRP6 sentences range from 7 to 11 years in federal prison for non-violent, non-drug-related charges. The IRP6 continue to maintain their innocence. (D. Ct. No. 1:09-CR-00266-CMA)

According to IRP proprietary documentation, the company was actively engaged with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and was working toward a $12 million pilot project. IRP also provided pricing to DHS for their Confidential Informant module of nearly $100 million. Company documents and email communication show that Amy Kurland, Philadelphia Office of the Inspector General was in detailed talks with IRP. “Just one of these contracts would have resolved IRP’s debt issues, but due to interference the deals didn’t close, and they (IRP) were not allowed to go into detail in trial to show all of the facts,” says Thurman.

“When the case went to trial in the fall of 2011, the jury never learned that the federal government had repeatedly frustrated IRP’s attempts to conduct legal business,” writes Dr. Bean in his soon to be released narrative, “Money for nothing: how racial bias destroyed six lives, stymied a black owned business and outraged an entire congregation.”

Bean’s examination raises a critical question, “Why did the U.S. Attorney’s office criminalize a debt collection case?” He concludes that “the only justification is the bogus business theory: The IRP case departs from the typical failed-scam scenario for the simplest of reasons: the government’s case can’t stand up to scrutiny. The fraud alleged in the federal indictments is a mirage.” “The bogus business theory is bogus,” adds Bean.

“This case is troubling. We are seeking a congressional inquiry,” says Sam Thurman of Just Cause, a a volunteer organization that was established in 2005 by a group of concerned citizens who were witness to a federal criminal case that was grossly over-criminalized. “When justice can be blocked and people are not allowed to defend themselves by presenting solid evidence, the fairness that should exist in our legal system becomes like vapor; it vanishes.” Though court records show that an analysis was requested, in the end the analyst’s report showing the legitimacy of the business was ultimately denied.

Court records show that prior to commencement of trial, David Banks, Chief Operating Officer for IRP Solutions filed a pro se motion requesting that Judge Christine M. Arguello recuse herself due to her personal relationship with Holland and Hart attorney Greg Goldberg. On March 8, 2004, Greg Goldberg hand-delivered a letter to Assistant U.S. Attorney Matthew Kirsch requesting that IRP executives be criminally charged and articulated what statutes they should be prosecuted under. (D. Ct. No. 1:09-CR-00266-CMA)

For more information about the story of the IRP6 or for copies of the legal filings go tohttp://www.freetheirp6.org/ . For more information on the ongoing appeal or A Just Cause, contact Sam Thurman at (877) 573-5554 or visit http://www.a-justcause.com/.

The case of IRP Solutions (IRP6) is currently under appeal (US District Court for the District of Colorado, Honorable Christine M. Arguello, D. Ct. No. 1:09-CR-00266-CMA; Case Nos: NO. 11-1487, Case Nos. 11-1488, 11-1489, 11-1490, 11-1491 and 11-1492). For more information about the story of the IRP6 or for copies of the legal filings go to http://www.freetheirp6.org/ . Appellant Court panel includes the Honorable Senior Judge Bobby R. Baldock, Honorable Judge Harris L. Hartz, and Honorable Judge Jerome A. Holmes

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Update: Marissa Alexander Is Given No Bail Today – New Evidence Comes To Court

WED NOV 13, 2013

Updated: Marissa Alexander Is Given No Bail Today – New Evidence Comes To Court

by Leslie SalzilloFollow

in SOLIDARITY mARISSAMarissa Alexander, the Florida woman who was sentenced to 20 years for firing a warning shot to ward off her abusive husband, was granted no bail Wednesday afternoon in a Jacksonville courtroom. The mother of three will most likely not get to spend Thanksgiving or Christmas with her children, as the ‘deciding judge’ opted to make no decision and set another hearing for January 15, 2012 – pending of course, that he does, or does not, change his mind.In 2010, just days after giving birth, Marissa Alexander fired a warning shot in self-defense to keep her abusive husband, Rico Gray, from attacking her. In his deposition, Gray who has a history of abusing Alexander, admitted it, stated he intended to hurt her had she not fired the warning shot, and said she did the right thing. He also said Alexander did not aim he gun at him. Gray then changed his story once the case went to trial. He walked out a free man – Marissa Alexander, the battered wife, received 20 years. The Florida Stand Your Ground Law did not work for Alexander because she fired a warning shot. Had she shot and killed Rico Gray that day, she would have most likely served no time at all.

My source who was in the courtroom today, reported new evidence has been brought forth – a text message of Rico Gray asking Marissa to come over for sex while there was an order of protection. Rico Gray claims Marissa should not be let out on bond because he is afraid of Marissa; he fears/feared for his life. Does asking her for sex sound like someone who feared for his life?

“I was in a rage. I called her a whore and bitch and . . . I told her, you know, I used to always tell her that, if I can’t have you, nobody going to have you. It was not the first time of ever saying it to her.”~ Rico Gray in his deposition on November 22, 2010.

Again, does this sound like a man fearing for his life?Marissa Alexander’s case has been highly publicized from the start, and the Free Marissa Now campaign has grown throughout social media. The case was catapulted into even more national spotlight, following the George Zimmerman case. In July 2013, Zimmerman was set free after killing teenager, Trayvon Martin, even though Zimmerman was the aggressor. Ironically, the same state attorney that failed to successfully prosecute George Zimmerman, is the same attorney that sent Marissa Alexander to prison. State Attorney Angela Corey ‘twisted the knife’ by refusing to drop Alexander’s case,even after it was overturned in September.

Unless something changes, it doesn’t look as though Marissa Alexander and her three children will be having happy holidays, as she awaits a new bail hearing, and then a whole new trial in March 2014. Supposedly the next trial will be different. This time, Florida courts say the burden of proof will be placed upon them rather than Marissa Alexander. Isn’t that how it’s supposed to work, Florida?

If you’re in an abusive relationship, or know someone who may be, there is help: Call: 800-799-SAFE/National Domestic Violence Hotline or Call: 800-656-HOPE/RAINN (Rape,Abuse, & Incest National Network) 

OUR COMMON GROUND “In Conversation with George Curry”

OUR COMMON GROUND with Janice Graham

“Transforming Truth to Power, One Broadcast At a Time”

“In Conversation with George Curry”

October 26, 2013 
10 pm ET                                     LIVE and Call -IN

10-26-13 Curry

About our Guest George Curry

George E. Curry is the editor-in-chief of the National Newspaper Publishers Association News Service. The former editor-in-chief of Emerge magazine, Curry also writes a weekly syndicated column for NNPA, a federation of more than 200 African American newspapers.

Curry, who served as editor-in-chief of the NNPA News Service from 2001 until 2007, returned to lead the news service for a second time on April 2, 2012. His work at the NNPA has ranged from being inside the Supreme Court to hear oral arguments in the University of Michigan affirmative action cases to traveling to Doha, Qatar, to report on America’s war with Iraq.
As editor-in-chief of Emerge, Curry led the magazine to win more than 40 national journalism awards. He is most proud of his four-year campaign to win the release of Kemba Smith, a 22-year-old woman who was given a mandatory sentence of 24 1/2 years in prison for her minor role in a drug ring. In May 1996, Emerge published a cover story titled “Kemba’s Nightmare.” President Clinton pardoned Smith in December 2000, marking the end of her nightmare.

Curry is the author of Jake Gaither: America’s Most Famous Black Coach and editor of The Affirmative Action Debate and The Best of Emerge Magazine. He was editor of the National Urban League’s 2006 State of Black America report.

His work in journalism has taken him to Egypt, England, France, Italy, China, Germany, Malaysia, Thailand, Cuba, Brazil, Ghana, Senegal, Nigeria, the Ivory Coast, Mexico, Canada, and Austria. In August 2012, he was part of the official US delegation and a presenter at the US-Brazil seminar on educational equity in Brasilia, Brazil.
George Curry is a member of the National Speakers Association and the International Federation for Professional Speakers. His speeches have been televised on C-SPAN and reprinted in Vital Speeches of the Day magazine. In his presentations, he addresses such topics as diversity, current events, education, and the media.

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Women’s lives don’t matter: The lesson of Marissa Alexander

TUESDAY, OCT 1, 2013

Women’s lives don’t matter: The lesson of Marissa Alexander

Laws fail to effectively stop violent men or protect us — that’s why we have to stand up for ourselves

BY 

Women's lives don't matter: The lesson of Marissa AlexanderMarissa Alexander (Credit: AP/Lincoln B. Alexander)

I am passionate about domestic violence, because I am a childhood survivor of domestic violence. I know all too well the ways in which men like my father, many of whom are themselves subjugated on the basis of race and class, use home spaces to assert dominance and control that they are not able to wield in the larger world.

I know intimately the terror of being under surveillance in one’s own home, of the prerogative that many men assert to control the comings and goings of their partners and children, often through the threat of violence and force. I have seen how difficult it is to stand your ground, when society is structured to give men economic and political control over private, domestic space. I know what the journey to survivor status looked like for my mother, and the way that my father’s violence demoralized him and ruined our relationship.

I think of the women survivors of gun violence that I personally know (and of the gun violence that snuffed out my father’s life at the age of 33, as he ironically tried to prevent another woman and her children from becoming the victims of domestic violence at the hands of another man).

I think of two high school classmates, a white girl named Mary Dee and a black girl named Jackie, both killed by fatal gunshots in murder-suicide scenarios involving their partners. I think of a class of first-year, college-age African-American women (18 and 19 year olds) that I taught several years ago, in which fully one-quarter of them admitted to having been in violent relationships in high school.

I think about all the stories that are almost too terrifying to remember and much too personal to confess.

Last week, a judge ordered a new trial for Marissa Alexander, a 33-year-old African-American woman from Florida currently serving a mandatory 20-year sentence for firing a warning shot into the wall to scare off her violent and abusive husband.

The new trial order comes just in time for our annual October commemoration of Domestic Violence Awareness Month, and it calls attention to startling new statistics released from the Violence Policy Center. In 2011, 1,707 women were murdered by men in single victim, single offender incidents. In 94 percent of these cases, these women were murdered by men they knew, and in 51 percent of the cases, they were murdered by guns. Sixty-one percent of these victims were wives or intimate acquaintances of their killers. This means that intimate partner relationships constitute one of the most significant contexts through which women experience violence within our culture.

The disproportionate amounts of violence toward black women, who are 2.5 times more likely to be killed by an intimate partner than their white female counterparts, were significant enough to warrant their own section of the report. In 2011, 470 black women were killed in single victim/single offender homicides. In cases where the relationship could be determined, 94 percent of black women knew their killers.

That number is entirely consistent across racial categories, because most violent crime is intraracial. On the one hand, that fact would seem to highlight the erroneous nature of designations like “black-on-black” crime, an incendiary term use to pathologize black people, while failing to acknowledge that among white people most crime is “white-on-white” crime.

Beyond the racially problematic dimensions of these kinds of demographic designations, there is the problem of gender. Black women are never the subject of either community or national discussions about “black-on-black” crime, which is largely focused on stopping the epidemic of homicidal violence among young black men. The invisibilization of black women from discourses about victims of violence makes it hard to actually see black women as victims.

In Marissa Alexander’s case, she inadvertently encountered her husband, a man against whom she had a restraining order, when she went to their home to retrieve her clothes unaware that he would be there. When he showed up, she felt threatened, went to her car to retrieve her gun, and then fired a shot into the wall in order to scare him away. Perhaps, this is why the judge also ruled that Alexander cannot use a “stand your ground” defense in her own trial.

The failure of the law to protect Marissa Alexander from her husband, who has admitted under oath to treating her violently, placed her in a difficult set of circumstances. There is no reason that she should be serving 20 years in prison for defending herself against a violent attacker. Yet, she was sentenced through a combination of overzealous prosecuting, by the same Florida district attorney, Angela Corey, who had to be convinced through national protests and marches to prosecute Trayvon Martin’s killer, and extremely punitive mandatory minimum sentencing laws that require some crimes in which a gun is used to carry a 20-year sentence.

Yet again, Angela Corey, and the Florida justice system in general, seem to have a hard time distinguishing victims from perpetrators.

In an ironic twist, Shellie Zimmerman, wife of acquitted killer George Zimmerman, has also had trouble finding any protection on the basis of Florida’s domestic violence laws.  In early September, Shellie Zimmerman called 911 to report that George Zimmerman was brandishing a gun at her and her father, as she attempted to remove her belongings from their home after filing for divorce. Mrs. Zimmerman never saw the actual weapon, but instead observed her husband using threatening body language, while gesturing toward his waistband. She concluded that he had a gun, and since he is legally entitled to carry his gun after being acquitted of Trayvon Martin’s murder, that seems like a credible conclusion on her part. To date, no charges have been filed against George Zimmerman, even though this is not his first run-in with the law on charges of domestic violence.

Fifty-one percent of female homicide victims are killed with guns. In a world where women’s lives matter, robust gun control would be non-negotiable. But in a world where women’s lives don’t matter, Marissa Alexander doesn’t have any ground on which to stand, nor a fighting chance at freedom.

Lest folks convince themselves that these kinds of occurrences are anomalous, I would encourage you to spend some time this month talking to the women you know about the violence they have experienced at the hands of men in their own lives.

Marissa Alexander stood up for herself. She did not retreat. She refused any longer to take her husband’s shit. Unaided by laws that can effectively stop violent men in their tracks, all women survivors reach a point where they refuse to take it anymore. Even as we work to transform our culture of misogynistic violence into a world safe for women to inhabit, we must stand with and for those women who are standing up for themselves.

Brittney CooperBrittney Cooper is a contributing writer at Salon. Follow her on Twitter at@professorcrunk.

LISTEN LIVE TO OUR LIVE INTERVIEW WITH Ms. Alexander hours following her sentencing.

5-12 aCTION aLERT

Cabinet Passes, for Now, on Pardoning Marissa Alexander, Pending Stand Your Ground Appeal

Cabinet Passes, for Now, on Pardoning Marissa Alexander, Pending Stand Your Ground Appeal

 | AUGUST 7, 2013

Marissa Alexander was sentenced to 20 years in prison for firing what she termed a warning shot at her abusive husband, and not allowed to use the stand your ground defense.

Marissa Alexander was sentenced to 20 years in prison for firing what she termed a warning shot at her abusive husband, and not allowed to use the stand your ground defense.

Members of the Florida Cabinet said Tuesday it’s too soon to consider a pardon for Marissa Alexander, a Jacksonville woman who was sentenced to 20 years in prison after firing a shot into a wall during a domestic dispute.

But an appeals court will decide whether Alexander should have been able to use a “stand your ground” defense to fight the charge.

Alexander, a 32-year-old mother of three, was sentenced last year under Florida’s “10-20-Life” mandatory-minimum law. (She was prosecuted by State Attorney Angela Corey, whom Gov. Rick Scott picked to prosecute the Gorge Zimmerman case. Corey offered Alexander a three-year prison sentence in a plea bargain, which Alexander turned down. The prosecution’s version of events is posted here.)

Alexander argued that the “stand your ground” self-defense law should apply, but a judge ruled against her because she ran to the garage for her gun and returned with it instead of escaping. A jury later found her guilty — in 12 minutes — of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon.

According to filings at the 1st District of Appeal in Tallahassee, Alexander’s attorneys contend that the trial court erred in denying Alexander’s pretrial motion for immunity based on “stand your ground.” They wrote that due to the history of domestic violence in the relationship with her husband, Rico Gray, Alexander had reason to fear bodily harm and had no duty to retreat.

They also argued that the trial court’s instruction to the jury “erroneously shifted the burden of proof, requiring that Alexander prove beyond a reasonable doubt that she was in danger of imminent harm in order to invoke self-defense,” according to the motion filed last November.

Alexander’s case drew enormous attention when she was sentenced in May 2012. It returned to the spotlight last month, when a Sanford jury acquitted George Zimmerman of second-degree murder in the death of Trayvon Martin.

Zimmerman did not use a “stand your ground” defense, but the case has sparked widespread debate about the law. Approved in 2005, the law says a person who is not doing anything illegal and gets attacked “has no duty to retreat and has the right to stand his or her ground and meet force with force, including deadly force if he or she reasonably believes it is necessary to do so to prevent death or great bodily harm to himself or herself.”

Alexander’s case also has become part of a sit-in at the state Capitol, where a group called the Dream Defenders has occupied Gov. Rick Scott’s waiting area, demanding a special legislative session on the “stand your ground” law. Tuesday marked the third week of the sit-in.

Members of the Dream Defenders have followed Alexander’s case, and their political director, Ciara Taylor of Jacksonville, was in court when Alexander was sentenced.

One good thing to come out of the verdict, Taylor said Tuesday, is the need to explore cases like Alexander’s — “cases involving the black-and-white … disparity within using ‘stand your ground.’ ” She also said it’s important “to talk about domestic violence against women in this country.”

On Monday, state Sen. Dwight Bullard, D-Miami, wrote to Scott and the Cabinet, asking them to pardon Alexander when they next sit as the clemency board. Bullard noted that Alexander had reason to fear because her husband had battered her in the past.

Scott and Cabinet members could take up Bullard’s call for a pardon for Alexander on Sept. 25, when the clemency board meets. But on Tuesday, they were noncommittal. A spokeswoman for Attorney General Pam Bondi said that because Bondi’s office is representing the prosecution in Alexander’s criminal appeal, “it would not be appropriate to discuss clemency-related matters until the court has made a determination regarding the disposition of the criminal appeal.”

The appeal is also based on what Alexander’s attorneys argue are two additional errors by the trial court: denying her the right to consult her attorney during the single overnight recess of her two-day trial, and giving the standard jury instruction on the use of force.

“The instruction given effectively negated Alexander’s sole defense — that is, self-defense — by erroneously stating that an injury to the victim was a prerequisite to successfully invoking self-defense,” the motion said.

“She had every right to be afraid and every right to defend herself,” said Rita Smith, executive director of the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence. “It is often the case that when a battered woman fights back and protects herself, the full force of the law comes down on her.”

–Margie Menzel, News Service of Florida

 

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