Keeping Up

Keeping up: Books by Michelle Obama and activist DeRay McKesson; straight talk about “take a knee” and good news out of Ferguson, MO

Apologies for the lapse in posting.

My schedule these days means a lot of juggling tasks and projects. In August, I returned to teaching at the College of Southern Nevada; I am preparing for a move at the end of October, and I am writing my book proposal.

That said, going forward, I will post twice weekly (Wednesdays and Saturdays).

“Michelle, ma belle”

Come November, most Americans eagerly await Thanksgiving, I, on the other hand, look forward to the publication of Michelle Obama’s memoir, Becoming: In Her Own Words. 

Our former First Lady is a dynamic speaker and truth-teller, so I expect she will pull no punches about her years under the nation’s microscope.

While President Obama is an excellent speaker, he is more measured in his public speaking. He’s first and foremost a politician; she is a fiercely opinionated black woman who is not looking for public approval or worrying about how history will view her.

In 2017, I re-posted “Behind Closed Doors: Michelle and Obama,“a humorous account of what I imagine they said in private about being the First Couple.

Can’t wait to get a real peek behind the White House doors.

Supernova” DeRay McKesson

Despite having read Wesley Lowery’s 2016 book, They Can’t Kill Us All: Ferguson, Baltimore, and a New Era in America’s Racial Justice Movement, about his coverage of protests in those cities, I had not heard of  activist and community organizer, DeRay McKesson.

In an August 31 article, The Baltimore Sun reporter Mary Carole McCauley wrote: “… DeRay Mckesson is just 33 years old, but he has shot into the public sphere like a supernova.”

McKesson moved into my orbit last week when he appeared on Noah Trevor’s The Daily Show to discuss his new book, On the Other Side of Freedom: The Case for Hope, a memoir and collection of essays on “resistance, justice, and freedom” and an insider’s look at the Baltimore protests, ignited by the death of 25-year old Freddie Gray, who suffered a fatal injury after riding unrestrained by a seat belt in a police transport van.

His death was deemed a homicide by the Maryland State Medical Examiners; however, the cases against six officers ended in mistrials, dropped charges, or “nolle prosequi” (do not charge).

Although, McKesson was “tear-gassed, shot at with rubber bullets and hid under his steering wheel” during 400 days of protest, he told Noah, “I think about hope as a belief that our tomorrows will be better than our todays. I think about hope as (doing) real work, not magic.”

In 2015, was McKesson was No. 11 on Fortune magazine’s list of 50 greatest world leaders.

He is host of Crooked Media’s prize-winning podcast, Pod Save the People.

Couldn’t have said it better...

Caught Beto O’Rourke, Democratic nominee for the Texas Senate, on Real Time with Bill Maher (HBO) recently.  Maher showed a video clip of O’Rourke giving a candid response to a politically-charged issue–the actions of Colin Kaepernick and other NFL players who “take a knee” during the national anthem to protest police shootings of black men and “systemic oppression.” It’s refreshing to hear a political candidate who doesn’t waffle for fear of losing votes.

Straight Outta Ferguson

Finally, some good news o of Ferguson, MO.

Last month, Wesley Bell, 43, a city councilman, won the Democratic primary for St. Louis County district attorney, ousting Robert McCullough (who has held office since 1991).

Bell faces no Republican opponent, so he is likely to take office in November.

McCullough faced criticism for his failure to charge the officer who shot 18-year old Michael Brown in August 2014.

According to the Huffington Post, Bell…”pledges to never seek the death penalty, eliminate cash bail for nonviolent offenses, publicly oppose legislation that would create new mandatory minimum sentences for some crimes and adopt other policies that advocates for criminal justice reform favor.”



Privacy Lost

Most of my life I have protested against or advocated for one cause or another, from ending apartheid in South Africa to reforming America’s criminal justice system, hardly radical stuff.

In the late sixties, my children attended a Harlem (New York) public elementary school; then one of the lowest ranked in the city.

To address the issue, I joined with several like-minded parents to urge removal of its principal. We argued our position at local school board meetings, raised awareness at PTA meetings, and distributed position papers.

Despite our good intentions, we met strong resistance from some teachers and parents who labeled us “troublemakers.”

Ultimately, we succeeded, and I learned the power of community action, protest, and citizen activism.

Over the years, I have jokingly remarked that I am probably on some government watch list.

I no longer consider this a joke.

Criticism of government, corporations, or institutions is likely to get you “tagged,”  sued, maybe even arrested, for views and opinions expressed in texts, e-mails, v-logs, blogs, chats, or on Facebook and Twitter.

Shared personal data can be accessed by marketers or law enforcement, hopefully for benign purposes.

The American Civil Liberties Union, however, has serious concerns over government collection of personal data:

“Government surveillance of social media can have serious consequences, whether you’re a U.S. citizen, a lawful resident, or are seeking to immigrate to or visit the United States. The FBI appears to be using social media as a basis for deciding who to interview, investigate, or target with informants or undercover agents. A single Facebook post or tweet may be all it takes to place someone on a watch list, with effects that can range from repeated, invasive screening at airports to detention and questioning in the United States or abroad. And non-citizens subject to the Trump administration’s “extreme vetting” policies could be denied entry to the United States or face difficulty becoming lawful residents or naturalized citizens.”

Food for Thought

  • Facebook Gave Device Makers Deep Access to Data on Users and Friends(New York Times, 6/3/18“Facebook has reached data-sharing partnerships with at least 60 device makers — including Apple, Amazon, BlackBerry, Microsoft and Samsung — over the last decade, starting before Facebook apps were widely available on smartphones, company officials said…You might think that Facebook or the device manufacturer is trustworthy,” said Serge Egelman, a privacy researcher at the University of California, Berkeley, who studies the security of mobile apps. “But the problem is that as more and more data is collected on the device — and if it can be accessed by apps on the device — it creates serious privacy and security risks.”
  • The NSA Managed to Collect 500 Million U.S. Call Records in 2017” (, 5/4/18)  “In the first full year of the Trump administration, the National Security Agency really went all out in efforts to surveil Americans. According to a new report released Friday, the agency sucked up more than 534 million US phone records in 2017, three times the amount it collected in 2016…While it might not seem like much, metadata can be quite revealing. The information itself is supposedly anonymous, but it can easily be used to identify an individual. The information can also be paired with other publicly available information from social media and other sources to paint a surprisingly detailed picture of a person’s life.
  • “You Don’t Have To Be a Star To Be Sued Like One (, 5/3/17) As is the case with a popular things, with the increased reach of professional blogging comes a greater incidence of lawsuits and claims. The Media Law Resource Center estimated that there were $17.4 million in court judgments made against bloggers by the end of 2014…The biggest risks that bloggers with large followings face are, according to Bankrate, claims of libel, defamation of character, copyright infringement, and invasion of privacy. Depending on the blog in question, harassment and trademark infringement could also pose a risk, as well as charges of bodily injury resulting from products recommended in professional blogs. However, the biggest danger to bloggers comes from the fact that blogging cases don’t have the same legal precedent that more traditional media might have; in fact, courts have been very inconsistent about cases and the application of the First Amendment to blogging cases.”

Now, I don’t believe that my blog, Facebook, or Twitter posts are so cogent, provocative, or widespread that I pose a security threat.

Nonetheless, I do recognize that my political views, personal data, or postings could someday land me in trouble, or worse, in handcuffs.









Don’t miss: “stand your ground” rally and Trayvon Martin documentary

“Stand your ground” rally and protest on Sunday

Once again Rev. Al Sharpton is the most outspoken national black leader in a  high-profile case.

This Sunday, his organization, the National Action Network, will lead a protest and rally in Clearwater, Florida, where last month 47-year old Michael Drejka shot and killed 29-year old Markeis McGlockton claiming self-defense under the state’s “stand your ground” law.

Furious that McGlockton’s girlfriend had parked in a handicapped spot, Drejka approached the car.

In a video of the incident, McGlockton angrily pushes Drejka to the ground. Drejka immediately pulls out a handgun and shoots McGlockton, who later dies of his wounds. His three young children witnessed the shooting.

Pinnelis County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri refused to arrest Drejka. In a Tampa Bay Times article, he says, “The law gives immunity to those in fear of their lives who use force to defend themselves.” He’s been widely criticized for his decision.

Yesterday, the case was turned over to the Florida’s State Attorney’s Office.

Don’t miss Part 2 of Trayvon Martin documentary 

I read Rest in Power: The Enduring Life of Trayvon Martin by his parents, Sybrina Fulton and Tracy Martin, so I knew much of what is shown in Part 1 of Jay-Z’s six-part documentary, Rest in Power, the Trayvon Martin Story. 

Nevertheless, the documentary captures Fulton’s and Martin’s raw emotions, anger, and frustration in a way that words on paper do not. These parents had to endure not only the death of their 17-year old son, but the fact that shooter George Zimmerman seemed remorseless and was not charged with shooting the unarmed teenager.

Zimmerman pled self-defense and was acquitted.

In upcoming segments, the series will examine the media coverage of the killing and the implications of “stand your ground” laws.