Journalist Shaun King Reveals 1st Part of 5-Part Investigative Series on Corrupt Policing and Arrest Quotas in NYC

Investigative Journalist Shaun King

A snippet and the link to this brave man’s work is below. Please read and follow this groundbreaking series via medium.com as well as Shaun King (Facebook, Twitter). He is doing so much what needs to be done to root out injustice not only in NYC, but all across the country:

What I’m about to tell you is the most painful, traumatic, outrageous, outlandish, over-the-top story of government sanctioned police brutality, wrongful imprisonment, wrongful convictions, forced testimony, widespread corruption, money, lots of money, and deep, deep, deep soul-snatching psychological abuse in modern American history. I would not have believed it had I not seen it all for myself. The rabbit hole I am about to take you down is deep and twisted. It should lead to the termination of a whole host of officials. Many should be arrested and a comprehensive independent investigation should begin immediately.

I receive hundreds of personal emails about injustice in America every single day. In mid-July, dozens of those emails were about a Bronx teenager named Pedro Hernandez. People all over the country had seen reports from Sarah Wallace of NBC New York or James Ford of Pix 11 on how Hernandez, who was jailed at Rikers Island, was running out of time to be released in time to start college. Hernandez had won awards at Rikers for his leadership and academic performance, and had also been granted a scholarship from the Posse Foundation to enter college this fall. Offered a plea deal from the Bronx DA’s Office to be released for time served, Hernandez did what few people in his position would do — he turned down the deal. Accused of shooting Shaun Nardoni, a neighborhood teenager, in the leg on September 1st, 2015, Hernandez was offered a ticket out of Rikers in exchange for admitting he shot Nardoni. The District Attorney even sweetened the pot and pledged to expunge his record in five years if he met all of the terms of his probation. Hernandez still refused to take the deal — continuing to pledge that he was completely innocent and would rather take his chances with a jury before admitting to something he didn’t do.

Pedro Hernandez (photo via medium.com)

For nearly a week, people emailed me about Pedro’s case before I finally clicked on the link to see what it was all about. Tory Russell, an activist and organizer from St. Louis, who I’d come to know fr

om Ferguson, sent me a direct message on Twitter asking me if I could read the story and support Pedro somehow.  I was on vacation with my family and it still took me another three days to finally read the story. I was hooked, but I had questions. As I Googled Pedro’s name and case, I saw several local reports that stated he had been wrongfully arrested and harassed by the NYPD for years. A guard at another facility was actually arrested and charged with criminal assault, endangering the welfare of a child, criminal obstruction of breathing and blood circulation, and harassment after being caught on film brutally beating and choking Pedro. Eight different eyewitnesses had all come forward to state that Pedro was not the shooter. Many even went so far as to identify the actual shooter. Why then, did Pedro remain behind bars? Why did it seem like the NYPD had it out for him? And how could the Bronx DA simultaneously believe that Pedro was safe enough to set free if he took the plea, but so dangerous, that if he didn’t, his bail would be set at an outrageous $250,000 with a stipulation that he not pay the typical 10%, but pay all $250,000 — effectively ensuring that he’d never get out on bail. That Pedro Hernandez, with the entire deck stacked against him, still refused to take a plea, hooked me.

As I reached out to Pedro’s family, I was immediately struck by something peculiar. I’ve written nearly 1,000 stories about police brutality and misconduct and have interviewed hundreds of families suffering through the consequences of those things. Almost every single one of those families, particularly when they are still in a stage of grief or conflict, without fail, want to speak exclusively about their very specific case. Pedro’s family was different. They immediately wanted me to know that Pedro was not alone, but that he was just one of hundreds of victims whose lives had been turned upside down by officers from the 42nd precinct in the Bronx who were working in close concert with the Bronx District Attorney’s Office. The accusations were so sweeping and broad that I wasn’t sure how to process them.

To read full article, go to: Soul Snatchers: How the NYPD’s 42nd Precinct, the Bronx DA’s Office, and the City of New York…

Malcolm X Suggests Cure To Racism in Newly-Discovered Handwritten Letter

Recently discovered letter from Malcolm X (Photo via GARY ZIMET. MOMENTS IN TIME)

A recently-discovered letter reportedly handwritten by El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz (aka Malcolm X) in 1964 describes racism at that time as an “incurable cancer” that was “plaguing” America.

Los Angeles historic manuscript and letter dealer, Moments in Time, retrieved the six-page letter, reportedly written by the civil rights activist. It went on sale Sunday for $1.25 million.

Gary Zimet, president and owner of Moments in Time, received the letter from a contact who discovered it in a storage locker in the Bronx, New York. Zimet has decided to keep the person’s name anonymous.

“It’s extraordinary,” he told The Huffington Post. “I haven’t sold it yet but I’m sure it’s only a matter of time before I do.”

The letter details a monumental period in the late activist’s life — his 1964 pilgrimage to Mecca, the year prior to his assassination in 1965 in New York City.  In the beginning of the letter, Malcolm X describes his pilgrimage as “the most important event in the life of all Muslims,” and goes on to explain why his experience was so enlightening.

Also in the letter, Malcolm X suggests a solution to solving race relations. The passage is particularly striking to read now, at a time when America is still grappling with racism. He writes:

 If white Americans could accept the religion of Islam, if they could accept the Oneness of God (Allah) they too could then sincerely accept the Oneness of Men, and cease to measure others always in terms of their ‘difference in color’. And with racism now plaguing in America like an incurable cancer all thinking Americans should be more respective to Islam as an already proven solution to the race problem.

The American Negro could never be blamed for his racial “animosities” because his are only reaction or defense mechanism which is subconscious intelligence has forced him to react against the conscious racism practiced (initiated against Negroes in America) by American Whites. But as America’s insane obsession with racism leads her up the suicidal path, nearer to the precipice that leads to the bottomless pits below, I do believe that Whites of the younger generation, in the colleges and universities, through their own young, less hampered intellects will see the “Handwriting on the Wall” and turn for spiritual salvation to the religion of Islam, and force the older generation to turn with them.

In regards to the legitimacy of this letter, Zaheer Ali, an oral historian who served as the project manager and senior researcher of the Malcolm X Project at Columbia University, says it’s likely this letter was actually written by Malcolm X.

“Based on everything I’ve seen, handwriting and context, I can confidently say that yes, this letter is his letter,” he told the Huffington Post. ‘The content is consistent, this isn’t uncommon. He was very prolific.”

Ali explained that the pilgrimage to Mecca had a profound effect on Malcolm X and that he often sent letters about it as a way to “broadcast” his message.  However, Ali doesn’t believe this letter should be for sale. “I don’t think you can put a price tag on this,” he explained. “Even though this is his personal correspondence, his intention was that this was to be made available to the public.”

Regardless, Ali believes the letter’s message, addressing race and religion, is particularly timely today.   “However this letter surfaced, it surfaced at the right time.”

Read the full letter here.

article by Kimberley Richards via huffingtonpost.com

THEATER: “Fall of The Kings” by Mai Sennaar Opens Tonight at Historic Andrew Freedman Home in the Bronx

Screen Shot 2015-09-04 at 6.46.51 PM

Bronx, NY – Designated as a New York City Historic Landmark, the Andrew Freedman Home, a vibrant location for arts and culture, is revitalizing the artistic landscape of the Bronx, New York.  On September 5, New York University alumni and producer Walter E. Puryear will mount “The Fall of the Kings,” a new American drama set in the 1940s.

The play tells the story of an African-American heiress and her Caribbean (Cuban) husband fighting to sustain their family in the midst of an economic disaster.

Described by the New York Times as “exactly the sort of place…that contemporary arts dreams are made of” the venue carries an undeniable palatial air and encompasses over 100,000 square feet. Freedman, a millionaire, former owner of the New York Giants and financier of the city’s first subway lines, bequeathed funding to construct the Home in the 1920s as a luxurious residence for once-wealthy senior citizens.

Playwright Mai Sennaar (photo via baltimoresun.com)

Playwright Mai Sennaar (photo via baltimoresun.com)

The playwright, Mai Sennaar, is an alumna of the Tisch School of the Arts. She is a mentee of noted playwright and screenwriter Richard Wesley (The Mighty Gents, Broadway) and Broadway and film actress Novella Nelson. At the age of 19, Sennaar’s first play, “The Broken Window Theory,” was produced at the famed Nuyorican Poets’ Cafe starring Tony Award-winner Tonya Pinkins and directed by Tony Award-nominee Michele Shay.

“The Fall of the Kings” production crew includes choreographer, Dyane Harvey-Salaam, whose Broadway, film and television credits include: The Wiz (original stage and film versions) and the Spike Lee film “School Daze.”  Set designer, Christopher Cumberbatch’s work has appeared both in theatre and in the Spike Lee films, “Crooklyn” and “Malcolm X.” Composer Dianaruthe Wharton Sennaar is a founding member of Sweet Honey in the Rock and composer for Ntozake Shange’s Broadway hit “For Colored Girls…”  The award-winning, Grammy-nominated composer and trumpeter Christian Scott is a featured guest soloist on the play’s main theme.

“The Fall of the Kings” is an immersive theatre experience where the fourth wall crumbles and the story moves the audience through intimate rooms and enthralling portrayals, welcoming the audience right into the home and lives of the Kings.

“Kings” opens today, September 5 at 8pm, with performances running through November 1st.  Tickets range from $30-$45. Discounts are available for groups, Bronx residents, seniors, and students. Exclusive Bed & Breakfast and Bus trip packages are also available.

For tickets and information: www.thefallofthekings.com

article by Lori Lakin Hutcherson (follow @lakinhutcherson)

Jadakiss & Styles P Invest in “Juices For Life” Juice Bars to Boost Health in Hometown of NY (VIDEO)

Jadakiss and Styles P (photo via myfabolouslife.com

Jadakiss and Styles P (photo via myfabolouslife.com

Two legends in the hip-hop community are making it their goal to raise awareness about health and wellness with the launch of several juice bars in New York’s most impoverished neighborhoods.

In an interview with Elite DailyStyles P and Jadakiss, known for their group The Lox, explain the inspiration behind opening Juices For Life, a juice bar that promotes healthy living. The rappers opened up about their childhoods, reminiscing about the unhealthy snacks, like honey buns and chips, they would eat daily.

Consuming junk food in their hometown of Yonkers, NY not only put a strain on their wallets, but their health. In recent years, both artists were inspired to change the lifestyle in their neighborhoods and beyond.

Huffington Post reports:

“You’re going to get out what you put into your body,” Jadakiss said. “We didn’t know. All we knew was run to the fast food spots or run to get big bags of candy. It’s a bunch of garbage.”

Juices For Life can be found in the Bronx borough of New York City, with two other locations in the borough of Queens and in Yonkers. The juice bars also offer drinks intended to help alleviate allergies, arthritis, acne, and bronchitis. The musicians declare there’s simply nothing “soft” about promoting fruits and vegetables in the Black community.

“Our juice bars are open in the hoods on purpose to educate our people on health awareness.” Styles P said. “Build it and they will come.”

“Most of the hood don’t have access to good food, most of the hood don’t have health insurance…”Jadakiss added.

If you’re in the New York area, check out Juices For Life and great recipes you can make at home here.

article by Desire Thompson via newsone.com

CUNY’s Preparatory High School Renamed to Honor Derrick Smith, its Founding Principal

(photo via mec.cuny.edu)

(photo via mec.cuny.edu)

The City University of New York has renamed its preparatory high school in The Bronx in honor of Derrick Griffith, its founding principal. Dr. Griffith was killed in the Amtrak train wreck in Philadelphia this past May.

In a resolution renaming the school, the board of trustees of the City University of New York said that “Dr. Griffith transformed thousands of lives of young New Yorkers who were uplifted by his encouragement as they found the resolve to pursue education and build personal beliefs in their own ability to persevere. He was a true visionary whose compassion and intelligence were paralleled only by his sense of humor and love for his students, colleagues, friends and family.”

At the time of his death, Dr. Griffith was dean of student affairs at Medgar Evers College in Brooklyn, New York. He joined the staff at Medgar Evers College in 2011 as an assistant provost. He served as the founding principal at the Preparatory Transitional High School of the City University of New York from 2003 to 2010.

One month before his death at the age of 42, Griffith completed work on a doctorate in urban education at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York. He was a graduate of the University of North Carolina at Charlotte.

article via jbhe.com

Grandmaster Flash Joins Upcoming Netflix 1970s Rap Series “The Get Down” as Associate Producer/Adviser

Grandmaster Flash and Mamoudou Athie

Grandmaster Flash and actor Mamoudou Athie (Photo: Netflix)

 Hip-hop icon Grandmaster Flash is set as an associate producer and adviser on The Get DownBaz Luhrmann’s upcoming Netflix series about the 1970 NYC music scene and the birth of rap. “I can’t tell you just how much joy and great spirit we are getting from working with some of the founding fathers of the form,” Luhrmann said in a statement. “Not only in music, dance and graffiti but the culture of the time in general. The whole team is absolutely thrilled to have Grandmaster Flash on board.” Netflix also said today that newcomer Mamoudou Athie will play the DJ legend on the show (see photo above). Best known to mainstream audiences for the 1982’s “The Message,” Grandmaster Flash emerged from the ’70s Bronx scene along with fellow DJs Kool Herc and Afrika Bambaataa as a pioneer of the fledgling genre. “Flash developed a host of specific techniques that allowed DJs to move seamlessly from one break beat to another,” said author-journalist Nelson George, part of The Get Down writing team. “Flash’s innovations, developed in his Bronx apartment bedroom, are the bedrock of club spinning, even in the age of (vinyl emulation program) Serato.”

Flash’s involvement with Get Down follows VH1’s announcement last month of The Breaks, an original movie and potential backdoor pilot about the 1990s NYC hip-hop scene. Gang Starr’s DJ Premier will serve as music producer for that project, becoming the latest music great to oversee soundtracks for TV series including Timbaland on Fox’s Empire and T Bone Burnett on ABC’s Nashville.

article via Erik Pedersen via Deadline.com

Bronx Native Lt. Col Merryl Tengesdal Becomes 1st Black Female U-2 Pilot in History

Lt. Col. Merryl Tengesdal stands in front of a U-2 Feb. 9, 2015, at Beale Air Force Base, Calif. Tengesdal is the only black female U-2 pilot in history. Tengesdal is the 9th Reconnaissance Wing inspector general and a U-2 pilot. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Bobby Cummings)

Lt. Col Merryl Tengesdal, a Bronx native, has become the first African-American female to ever pilot the U-2 — an ultra-high altitude reconnaissance aircraft used for intelligence gathering and can fly up to altitudes of 70,000 feet.

According to an article by the United States Air Force, “As a child she imagined flying amongst the stars, thousands of miles above the earth’s surface, and today Lt. Col. Merryl Tengesdal is one of eight female pilots to ever fly the U-2 and the only black female pilot during the aircraft’s history.”

The article also goes on to say that she has been recommended for promotion to colonel as well.

“I have seen the curvature of the earth,” Tengesdal said. “I have seen sights most people will never see. Flying at more than 70,000 feet is really beautiful and peaceful. I enjoy the quiet, hearing myself breathing, and the hum of the engine. I never take it for granted.”

Aug. 1, 2015, will mark the 60th anniversary of the U-2; making it one of the few aircraft to operate in the U.S. Air Force for more than 50 years.  The U-2 first flew in 1955, in the same year the Montgomery, Alabama, bus boycott and the Civil Rights Movement began, setting the stage for desegregation.

“The Air Force has always been on the forefront of breaking aviation and racial barriers,” Tengesdal said. “I am extremely proud of being the first black female U-2 pilot in history.”

The U-2 provides high-altitude intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance in direct support of national objectives. The aircraft enables the capture of imagery and delivers intelligence to decision makers worldwide.

These missions are often at altitudes equivalent to approximately 13 miles.  Pilots are required to wear full pressure suits during flight, similar to those astronauts wear. According to many aviation experts, limited visibility caused by the required helmets, along with the U-2’s bicycle landing gear, makes it arguably the most difficult aircraft to land.

“Every aircraft I’ve flown has something unique,” Tengesdal said. “The U-2 is no exception. I enjoy the challenge of landing on two wheels.”

Tengesdal is no stranger to challenges. The colonel acknowledged that during her childhood, there were many opportunities for her to stray down the wrong path.

“Drugs and alcohol were prevalent in my hometown, but I was influenced to pursue other aspirations,” she said.

With guidance from her mother and teachers, she excelled in high school, particularly in math and science. After high school, she attended the University of New Haven in Connecticut and graduated in 1994 with a Bachelor of Science in electrical engineering. Afterward, she attended Officer Candidate School in the Navy, commissioned as an ensign in September 1994, and attended flight training shortly after.

Continue reading