- Created on 23 May 2013
A group of city of Atlanta police, firefighters, dispatchers and civilian employees are campaigning for a pay raise. They've decided to go public with their message, and in a big way.
Their campaign efforts can be seen on a billboard in northwest Atlanta, which reads “First to respond, last to get paid.”
The sign also notes the city council received a 52 percent pay increase.
Although Mayor Kasim Reed presented the city of Atlanta police and firefighters with a 1 percent payincrease last week, the group responded saying it wants at least a 5 percent pay increase.
Reed announced Friday a proposal to increase the salaries of all city classified employees by 3 percent in the fiscal year 2014 budget. Reed's recommendation calls for a 1 percent salary increase for all city employees making less than $60,000 a year.
- Created on 22 May 2013
Despite their hopes and aspirations for the future, too many African American young men are still being rendered mute and invisible by society says Emory University's Gregory Ellison. His new book, "Cut Dead But Still Alive: Caring for African American Young Men," (Abingdon Press, 2013) is a call for action and a blueprint for response.
Ellison, assistant professor of pastoral care and counseling at Emory's Candler School of Theology, invites readers to enter the lives of five young men, chronicling their journeys from a sense of invisibility to a sense of understanding of both themselves and the world around them.
He encountered these young men in his work with high school and college-aged students in church and school settings, and from programs for youths transitioning from prison. While the individuals are real, they also represent many more youth who have limited access to education, have been in prison, or have been pushed to the margins in society.
Origins of 'cut dead'
In describing the plight of African American young men, Ellison uses a 19th century phrase, "cut dead," an expression he first encountered in the writings of William James in which the famous psychologist talks about humans as social beings.
"James asserted that it would be a cruel and fiendish punishment for any person to go unnoticed or unseen, to be made invisible," says Ellison. "James recognized that people would rather be tortured than to be 'cut dead'—deliberately ignored or snubbed completely."
Because the young men Ellison encounters are "cut dead," they are emotionally, psychologically and even spiritually cut off from the world. "At some point, because they are unacknowledged, unseen and cast aside, their hopes, dreams and even their very humanity, begin to crumble and die," says Ellison. Their stories are powerful.
"One of the young men that I chronicle in the book was a very notable drug dealer in his community," Ellison says. "And some of the counselors at the program I worked at were badgering him to change and he said, 'You don't know me.' And he proceeded to tell his story."
"He said, 'I sell drugs because my mother is a crack-head and she prostitutes out of our home. So I sell drugs to keep the men from coming into my home, and protecting my younger sisters who are there.'"
"At that moment the air went out of the room," Ellison recalls. "And when it returned, we realized that we had to mobilize around this young man, not only to offer support to him, but to the family that he was seeking to sacrifice the life of his mother for."
Caregivers must see
"Once you begin to see a person as one who is made in the image of God, once you begin to see a homeless person as someone's uncle, or brother or aunt or sister or mother, you can't just step over them as a piece of trash because you have seen them fully," says Ellison. "Hence my mantra, 'once you see, you cannot not see.'"
Ellison not only provides compelling reasons for caregivers to begin "seeing" with new eyes, but also shows how caregivers can begin nurturing young men with guidance, admonition and support to help create a community of reliable others to serve as an extended family.
"Cut Dead" is Ellison's first step in what he plans as a comprehensive and ongoing effort to help people see those around them, "to see the beauty, to see the divinity, to see the humanity fully and not just to objectify them or to dismiss them by saying 'Oh, this person is just a future statistic.'"
While the book is targeted to African American men, Ellison says that four fundamental needs—having a sense of belonging, control, self-esteem and meaningful existence—are phenomena that affect all humanity, regardless of race, nationality or faith background.
"It is my hope that this book will help us to see all people in a more human and even a more divine way: That we are all worthy of respect. That we are all worthy of an opportunity to succeed."
Next step: Community organizing
Ellison is a young scholar/activist, a product of Atlanta Public Schools and an Emory alumnus who is now a father himself. This year he plans to take his findings to the public with a tour in several U.S. cities and on academic trips to the Bahamas, London and Sao Paulo, Brazil.
Following the book tour, Ellison plans to launch a grassroots community movement, titled Fearless Dialogues, led by a team of experts he has recruited from healthcare, politics, education, community organizing and the arts. Plans include intensive work in five cities where team members will conduct a longitudinal study in each city with the aims of:
- informing community strategic planning,
- charting progress,
- fueling future research,
- organizing community leaders to institute change, and
- presenting policy recommendations.
- Created on 20 May 2013
(CNN) -- AEG Live filed an insurance claim to recover losses from Michael Jackson's death the same day he died, according to a lawyer for Jackson's family.
That revelation may not relate to the heart of the wrongful death lawsuit against Michael Jackson's last concert promoter, but Jackson lawyers hope it could sway jurors to see AEG Live executives as motivated by money over the pop icon's needs.
It is one of many points Jackson lawyers will try to make Monday when they call AEG Live's top lawyer to the witness stand as the trial's fourth week begins in a Los Angeles courtroom.
Jackson's mother and three children contend AEG Live is liable in the singer's death because its executives negligently hired, retained or supervised Dr. Conrad Murray, who was convicted of involuntary manslaughter.
The promoters ignored a series of red flags that should have warned them Jackson was in danger as he was pressured to get ready for his comeback concerts, the Jackson lawsuit claims.
AEG Live lawyers counter that it was Jackson who chose, hired and supervised Dr. Murray, and that he was responsible for his own bad decisions. Its executives could not be expected to know Murray was using the surgical anesthetic propofol -- the drug the coroner ruled killed him -- to treat his insomnia, they argue.
Jackson lead lawyer Brian Panish will question AEG Live general counsel Shawn Trell about his company's negotiations with Murray to be Jackson's personal physician for his "This Is It" shows in London.
The doctor signed the contract prepared by AEG lawyers and sent it back to the company a day before Jackson's death. The company argues it was not an executed contract because their executives and Michael Jackson never signed it.
The Jackson lawyers argue that e-mails, budget documents and the fact that the doctor was already working for two months showed a binding agreement between AEG and Murray.
Panish, speaking outside of the courtroom Friday, said he would also ask Trell about AEG's insurance claim, which he said his team recently discovered was filed with Lloyds of London on June 25, 2009 -- hours after Jackson was pronounced dead at UCLA Medical Center.
A Lloyds of London underwriter later sued AEG, claiming he company failed to disclose information about the pop star's health and drug use. AEG dropped its claim for a $17.5 million insurance policy last year.
Monday's court will start with AEG Live controller Julie Hollander completing her testimony about the company's budgeting, which she acknowledged included $1.5 million approved to pay Dr. Murray. The doctor's costs were listed as production costs -- expenses that AEG is responsible for paying -- and not as an advance, which Jackson would ultimately be responsible for giving back to the company, she testified.
The controller's testimony appears to contradict the argument AEG lead lawyer Marvin Putnam made in a CNN interview days before the trial began.
AEG Live's role with Murray was only to "forward" money owed to him by Jackson, just as a patient would use their "MasterCard," Putnam said. "If you go to your doctor and you pay with a credit card, obviously MasterCard in that instance, depending on your credit card, is providing the money to that doctor for services until you pay it back. Now, are you telling them MasterCard in some measure in that instance, did MasterCard hire the doctor or did you? Well, clearly you did. I think the analogy works in this instance."
Jackson lawyers played video testimony of one of AEG's own expert witnesses Friday -- 25-year veteran tour manager Marty Hom.
The opinion Hom submitted for AEG concluded he saw no red flags that should have alerted the promoter that something was wrong with Dr. Murray.
He was asked if AEG Live should have realized something was wrong when Dr. Murray initially asked for $5 million a year to work as Jackson's personal physician. "That raised a red flag because of the enormous sum of money," Hom testified.
Hom acknowledged he had not seen many of the documents and depositions in the case -- and AEG was considering him for a job as the Rollings Stones tour manager at the same time he was asked to testify.
- Created on 21 May 2013
Korey Wise sits smirking through a one-man play, saying “hmph!” and “ummm” now and then. Youth groups, activists, and college students have packed the auditorium at the National Black Theatre in Harlem. Wise will join a panel after the play on wrongful imprisonment, a subject he knows too well.
In 1989, Wise and four other young black and Latino teenagers were convicted of raping and beating a white investment banker in Central Park, leaving her for dead. The media called her the Central Park Jogger and the accused the Central Park Five. No evidence linked them to the crime except for their confessions, which came after relentless hours of police interrogation. They recanted shortly afterwards, but those statements were still enough to send them all to jail. Wise was 16 and was sentenced to 5 to 15 years as an adult.
Last year, a decade after an inmate named Reyes Matias confessed to the crime, resulting in all five of the boys’ exoneration, Sarah Burns, Ken Burns, and David McMahon released a documentary about their story, “The Central Park Five”. Wise, who went free after 13 years, is now suing the city for wrongful imprisonment.
During the panel, a young man in the audience talks about being imprisoned at Rikers Island at 16. Wise can relate. He sits straightforward, hands clasped, no emotion on his face, almost dazed.
“Wow,” is Wise’s unspoken reaction.
Later, in his Bronx apartment, he compared Rikers Island to another local landmark.
“The Bronx Zoo is dealing with all types of elements,” he says.
Yet he sees Rikers Island as a place rebirth happens, because inmates’ natural instinct and appetite for survival kick in. “There’s no mommy, no daddy,” he says. “Just you.”
Wise’s instincts did kick in one day on Riker’s Island after an altercation with a fellow inmate, Reyes Matias. “Destiny made it his business to come see me,” Wise tells the audience, explaining how the true rapist of the Central Park Jogger confronted him over control of a television.
Thirteen years later, almost five hours away at Auburn Correctional Facility, Wise and Matias met again on the yard where about 10,000 inmates congregated. Matias approached Wise and established that he too had transferred from Rikers Island. When inmates travel from prison to prison, it’s hard to meet new people, so they tend to stick with familiar faces. Matias broke the ice by apologizing for the fight; Wise accepted.
“I see you’re still maintaining your innocence,” Matias said.
“I guess so, yeah,” Wise said.
“Are you religious?”
“Nah, I’m not religious. Why, what’s up?”
“Well, you know, I just became religious.”
“Well, all praises be to the most high for you then.”
The next day in the chapel, Wise got a call from his mom. Inmates summoned to the chapel usually expect to hear about a death in the family, but not Wise.
“I don’t know who you talked to, but whoever you talked to, he freed you,” his mother said.
The white walls and concrete floors in Wise’s Bronx apartment living room are as bare as a prison cell’s. The wind from the open window competes with an accordion heater right beneath the sill. Wise often repeats phrases three to four times before completing a poignant thought. He stands up from the wood framed chair.
Wise takes off his green long-sleeved shirt, points to the scar on his wrist.
“I’m not a 5.”
He lifts his undershirt to show a cut on his abdomen.
“I’m not a 5.”
He pulls his pants down halfway exposing a permanent purple bruise on his upper thigh.
“I’m not a 5,” Wise says, meaning, the Central Park 5.
Wise insists that he’s an individual, more than a part of the group. Out of the five convicted, he was the only one tried and sentenced as an adult because he was 16.
“He spent twice as much time in prison and was in an adult maximum-security facility,” says his lawyer, Jane Byrialsen, with whom he has a developed familial relationship.
“The damage that he sustained from that experience is incomparable,” says Byrialsen, who adds that Wise can be a loner sometimes.
Documentarian Sarah Burns echoes Byrialsen’s sentiments. “The juvenile facilities were no walk in the park but they were not the same thing as where Korey served all of that time,” she says.
Wise has been struggling with maintaining his individuality since this nightmare began years ago. Burns says the media contributed.
“I think part of the problem with that initial coverage in 1989 was that it lumped them all together like they were this wolf pack as the newspaper said,” Burns says.
By the time Matias confessed to the crime in 2002, Wise was 30 and the other four young men had returned home; they only served seven years. “If I had went to Spofford with them it would be none of this. Reyes would still be playing stickball,” he says, meaning Matias would’ve never confessed had they not run into each other.
He still sees his social worker almost once a week but he doesn’t feel the need for a therapist, Byrialsen says. Wise doesn’t work now; he receives a disability check for being partially deaf in his right ear and having post-traumatic stress. He also gets Supplemental Security Income, a program that pays disabled adults who have limited income and resources.
He spends most of his time hanging around his old neighborhood and speaking on behalf of the Innocence Project at events.
He hardly goes anywhere without his Ipod and headphones. Sometimes when Wise is riding on the train he’ll see a poster for the documentary. “I just feel a pain, it hits me,” he says. “That’s why I try to keep my hip hop in my ears.”
But if you ever saw Wise on the streets of Harlem, he would meet you with a big grin and say something like, “I’m good, you know why?” then add, “Cause I’m hip-hop! Hip-hop is me!”
Over the years his lawyer noticed that music helps Wise escapes his pain. “He still listens to 80′s music from when he went in,” says Byrialsen. “It’s like he’s still stuck. It’s like he’s still sort of that 16-year-old kid in a way.”
She hopes that he will soon be able to move on with his life and not be continuously reminded of the past, but her hopes and reality seem farther away than she and Wise would both like.
Wise is suing the city for $50 million in damages for being wrongfully convicted, a case he filed 10 years ago; it could be a year before he sees any closure. Being unemployed has given him time to sit in the courtroom for about 40 depositions. His lawyers and the defense will have to go through 50 more before this summer. During these depositions Wise witnesses the city’s law department present evidence against his case as if they doubt Reyes’ confession should’ve exonerated him. Watching all of these legal arguments doesn’t do much for Wise’s healing, Byrialsen says.
“I think that it’s very hurtful. I think he suffers every day,” she says.
The city’s law department responded with an emailed statement.
“As we’ve said before, the City stands by the decisions made by the detectives and prosecutors,” said Celeste Koeleveld, the executive assistant corporation counsel for public safety.
The confessions, hearings, and trials all presented “abundant probable cause” for the plaintiff’s, conviction, she said.
“Nothing unearthed since the trials, including Matias Reyes’s connection to the attack on the jogger — changes that fact. . . .Under the circumstances, the City is proceeding with a vigorous defense of the detectives and prosecutors,” said Koeleveld.
Byrialsen says the longer this case remains un-settled, the more Wise’s closure is delayed. “The thought that you’ve been exonerated, and you’ve been out all these years and people still think you did it. I don’t think you can ever escape that,” she says.
Since the documentary has aired on national television on PBS, Wise is hoping it would create some type of change in the case. “The city is getting quite fed up with it so I’m hoping for a positive out of it.”
Wise says sharing his story is very therapeutic. Just recently, on the anniversary of the crime, he went to Charlotte, North Carolina for an Innocence Project conference.
In 2002, after being released, Wise changed his first name from Kharey to Korey. Byrialsen says he no longer wants to be associated with all the negative documents that carry his old name. Someone who doesn’t know Korey personally wouldn’t know the hurt he internalizes because over the years, since he’s been released, he has acquired a peaceful persona. But once he starts to unravel, the pain from this experience is exposed like an open wound.
Wise thinks highly of Burns for creating the documentary and giving him the opportunity to share his story. “The doc is beautiful. It hurts to the core,” he says.
Now that the documentary has gained national attention, Wise is happy that the truth is finally out. After it aired on television he got a lot of feedback on Facebook about his strength for taking the punishment for a crime he didn’t commit. He’s also glad that people now recognize the connection between his incarceration and the group’s freedom; a fact he says many people leave out when telling the story. “They give a perspective as if we were together when Reyes woke up at 4 o’clock in the morning in a cold sweat and said ‘let me get this out the way,” he said in a phone conversation.
Even though he feels that others don’t always tell his story correctly, he still is glad that he can continue to speak out against injustice. Almost weekly, he appears through The Innocence Project on panel discussions, rallies, and screenings of the documentary.
Just as he left his old name behind, he speaks about his past self as if he is two different people.
“I love to see little Korey do his thing, cause he done died,” he says meaning prison almost killed his youthful spirit, “and came alive, like, 13 times in 13 years,” he says.
“Little Korey was just looking to have his life. Not have his life torn away from him,” Wise says.
“So when I look at him — as his new representative, his lawyer — I have to give the audience his life, because he’s no longer here to tell it.”
- Created on 19 May 2013
As he evolved away from his past as Detroit Red, he transformed himself first, into a loyal protégé of the Honorable Elijah Muhammad, then, into a world renowned human rights activist. He never hid behind his legend to avoid speaking of his time as a...