Tag Archives: segregation

Bucks president softens criticism of Milwaukee as ‘racist’

Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett said he’s eager to work with Bucks president Peter Feigin to improve the city’s race relations after the NBA executive last week called the city the “most segregated, racist place” he has seen.

However, Feigin said this week in a statement that he didn’t intend to characterize the city as “overtly racist,” that it’s “a terrific community with wonderful people” and he is “proud to be a part of it.” according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

Barrett and Feigin, who is from New York City, had a “good conversation” on Monday, the mayor said.

“I hope we can change his feelings, but to do that, we’ve got a lot of work to do,” Barrett said.

Last week, the Wisconsin State Journal reported that Feigin called Milwaukee the “most segregated, racist place I’ve ever experienced in my life” during a speech in Madison.

“It just is a place that is antiquated. It is in desperate need of repair and has happened for a long, long time. One of our messages and one of our goals is to lead by example,” Feigin was quoted as saying.

In his statement on Tuesday, Feigin said the comment came as he was “addressing a question about the social, economic and geographic divides that exist and how we can help address them.”

Barrett said that Feigin and the Bucks’ ownership team “seem to be a willing partner” to address the racial disparities in the city of 600,000 along Lake Michigan, which a 2012 Manhattan Institute analysis of census data found is the country’s most segregated metropolitan area, surpassing Chicago, Cleveland and Detroit.

Feigin has said the team is committed to helping Milwaukee. In May, the Bucks’ owners agreed to pay workers at the new $500 million downtown arena at least $12 per hour by next year, and at least $15 per hour by 2023. The agreement also includes provisions to protect workers’ ability to unionize and ensure that the team hires workers from Milwaukee’s poorest neighborhoods.

The deal is expected to apply to about 1,000 employees, including full- and part-time workers at the arena and the team’s practice facility and parking garage.

Wisconsin Republican Gov. Scott Walker signed bipartisan legislation in August 2015 that committed taxpayers to paying half the cost of the arena over the next 20 years in exchange for the team remaining in Milwaukee. The new arena is expected to open in 2018.

Bar rises for Milwaukee police review after latest shooting

Milwaukee, shaken by violence after a shooting by police, is one of a few U.S. cities to have volunteered for federal government review of its police force and may now be held to higher standards for how it responds.

Beginning in December, the review included a public “listening session” that, according to Milwaukee media, drew 700 people to a library auditorium to air their frustrations to U.S. Department of Justice officials.

Some community leaders said the weekend violence should result in a tougher review and real change.

“I would hope that the cries of the unheard … are now being heard around the country out of Milwaukee,” said Rev. Steve Jerbi, the lead pastor at All Peoples Church in the Wisconsin city of about 595,000 people.

The Obama administration has promoted a $10 million nationwide voluntary review program as a way to improve policing amid nationwide complaints of racial profiling and targeting. Milwaukee has become the latest U.S. city to experience discord after high-profile police killings of black men over the past two years.

The review in Milwaukee will look at issues such as use of force, the disciplinary system and diversity in hiring. The city was 45 percent white in the 2010 Census, while the police department is 68 percent white.

“Expectations of the report itself and of departmental compliance with the report are going to be raised,” said David Harris, a University of Pittsburgh law professor who studies police behavior.

There is skepticism of how Milwaukee authorities will respond to federal recommendations, after past responses fell short of demands.

Fred Royal, president of the NAACP’s Milwaukee branch, noted that the recommendations would not be legally binding, unlike those for cities such as Cleveland, Ohio, where police use of deadly force and other practices were being scrutinized under so-called consent decrees — settlements without a final ruling by a judge.

“They don’t have the teeth that a consent decree has,” Royal said.

Businesses were torched and gunfire erupted in Milwaukee after the shooting on Saturday of a black man, Sylville K. Smith, 23. Police said he refused to drop a handgun when he was killed, and on Monday, the city imposed a curfew.

“My experience with the Milwaukee Police Department has been that it is a department in desperate need of fundamental change,” said Flint Taylor, a Chicago civil rights lawyer who has sued Milwaukee over police tactics.

A spokesman for the Milwaukee Police Department said officials were not available for an interview.

Police Chief Edward Flynn has said previously that his department has made progress and can withstand scrutiny.

A Justice Department spokeswoman said officials there declined an interview request.

The Justice Department is expected to release its findings within about two months. Milwaukee could then receive outside assistance and monitoring for up to two years.

Making the challenge tougher are deep problems of poverty and segregation in Milwaukee, the 31st largest city in the United States.

Milwaukee was ranked as the most segregated city in America by the Brookings Institution last year and in the neighborhood where the rioting took place more than 30 percent of people live in poverty.

Residents have protested past police shootings, such as the 2014 killing in which an unarmed, mentally ill black man, Dontre Hamilton, was shot 14 times. An officer was dismissed but no one was charged.

In 2011, another black man, Derek Williams, died in the back of a Milwaukee police car after he told officers he could not breathe and needed help, according to a lawsuit his family filed. The city has not responded to the lawsuit.

And in January this year, Milwaukee officials approved a $5 million settlement with 74 black men who said they had been subjected to illegal strip and cavity searches.

Las Vegas, which volunteered for the same federal program after a series of shootings there in 2011, was handed a list of 75 findings and recommendations by the Justice Department, and 18 months later it had completed 90 percent of the recommendations, the department said.

Philadelphia and San Francisco are among other cities under review.

Reporting by David Ingram in New York; Additional reporting by Brendan O’Brien in Milwaukee and Julia Harte in Washington; Editing by Dina Kyriakidou Contini and Grant McCool.

National Guard on standby in Milwaukee following riots in Sherman Park

The National Guard  has been put on standby to assist the Milwaukee Police Department — if needed — after protests last night turned violent in the city’s Sherman Park neighborhood, said Mayor Tom Barrett during a news conference this afternoon.

Barrett said Gov. Scott Walker decided to call for federal assistance after consulting with him by telephone; but the decision on whether to deploy the National Guard would be made by MPD Chief Edward Flynn, who is monitoring the situation.

Barrett said he’d never seen anything in Milwaukee like the melee that broke out yesterday near North 35th Street and West Burleigh, where several businesses — including a BMO Harris Bank branch, a beauty supply company and O’Reilly Auto Parts stores — were set on fire.

“Last night was unlike anything I have ever seen in my adult life in this city. I hope I never see it again,” said the mayor, who was visibly shaken.

The riotous situation was sparked by the fatal police shooting of a man yesterday. He was running from police after his car was stopped due to what MPD called “suspicious” behavior.

As many as 800 protesters clashed with police officers for several hours last night before police were able to bring the situation under control. Four officers were injured during the standoff with the crowd, and some media outlets reported that shots were fired by protesters at the police. Barrett and other officials said the riot was fueled by calls for action on social media.

Milwaukee has avoided eruptions of violence following police shootings of unarmed black men in the city and elsewhere over the past two years. City officials expressed disappointment about yesterday’s tragic events.

According to some officials, recent years have seen progress in the predominantly black Sherman Park area. Several dozen volunteers associated with the Coalition for Justice assisted the city this morning with cleaning up the rubble left from last night’s riots, according to The Associated Press

At this afternoon’s news conference, Flynn identified the man killed as 23-year-old Sylville K. Smith, who has a “lengthy arrest record,” according to police. Barrett said that a still image pulled from a video of the shooting recorded by body camera shows “without question” that Smith had a gun in his hand when he was shot. Barrett said the video is part of a vigorous state investigation of the shooting.

Wisconsin Attorney General Brad Schimel promised today that the state’s Department of Justice would quickly to come to a conclusion about whether there’s any criminal culpability in Smith’s death. Unlike similar high-profile shootings, in this case both Smith and the officer who shot him are African American.

Police said the semi-automatic gun that Smith was carrying was stolen in Waukesha.

It remains unclear whether Smith was threatening police or just seeking to elude them at the time he was shot. Barrett said a thorough examination of the footage taken from the officer’s body camera is underway to assess exactly how the killing unfolded.

Both the victim and the officer who shot him are black.

U.S. Rep. Gwen Moore was among the leaders who’ve called for peace tonight on Milwaukee’s streets.

“As details continue to emerge about this shooting, I ask our community to remain calm and recommit to doing everything in our collective power to live up to our nation’s promise of ‘justice for all.’ Together, Milwaukee will weather this storm,” Moore said in a press statement.

“I share the frustration of my constituents who feel they live in a city where justice is only afforded to some and not all. I also share the frustration of our local police officers who are desperately trying to uphold public safety in what they perceive as a caustic climate. We must find a way to strike a balance where we can peacefully point out the racial inequities in our society while recognizing the valuable role police play in our community.

Moore and others called on leaders to address the social issues beneath incidents such as Saturday’s.

“We simply cannot close our eyes to the hostile environment cultivated by the flagrant racial inequality and segregation that has plagued Milwaukee for generations,” Moore said.

Many people — public officials, religious leaders and ordinary citizens — weighed in about yesterday’s shooting on social media.

Milwaukee Ald. Khalif Rainey posted a statement last night that was shared by many on Facebook today.

“The city has watched this particular neighborhood (Sherman Park), throughout the entire summer, be a powder keg. From incidents in the park, to shootings, this entire community has witnessed how Milwaukee, Wisconsin, has become the worst place to live for African Americans in the entire country. Now this is the warning cry,” Rainey wrote.

“Where do we go as a community from here? Do we continue with the inequity, the injustice, the unemployment, the under-education that creates these byproducts that we see this evening? Do we continue that?

“Something has to be done here in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, to address these issues. The black people of Milwaukee are tired of living under oppression. This is their existence. This is their life, and the lives of their children.

What happened tonight was not right, I am not justifying that. But no one can deny the fact that there are racial problems here that have to be rectified.”

Study: foreclosures fueled racial segregation in U.S.

The housing crisis in which some 9 million American families lost their homes fueled racial segregation in many of the nation’s communities, according to a new analysis from Cornell University.

“Neighborhood Foreclosures, Racial/Ethnic Transitions and Residential Segregation,” published in the American Sociological Review, noted the housing crisis spurred one of the largest migrations in U.S. history, leading to changes that could alter the complexion of American cities for a generation or more.

“Among its many impacts, the foreclosure crisis has partly derailed progress in achieving racial integration in American cities,” said demographer Matthew Hall, an assistant professor of policy analysis and management in Cornell’s College of Human Ecology and the lead researcher on the team.

Examining urban residential foreclosures from 2005 to 2009, Hall and the co-authors found that people in mostly black and mostly Latino neighborhoods lost homes at rates about three times higher than those in white areas, with ethnically mixed communities also deeply affected.

They estimated the typical neighborhood experienced 4.5 foreclosures per 100 homes during the crisis, but the figure rises to 8.1 and 6.2 homes in predominantly black and Latino areas, respectively, while white neighborhoods lost 2.3 homes on average.

As an avalanche of foreclosures buried minority and racially mixed communities, their white populations shrank and black and Latino populations swelled. Researchers found that white households were significantly more likely to leave areas with high foreclosure rates, while black and Latino families entered these neighborhoods out of necessity or to seek newly affordable housing options.

“Not only were white households less likely to be foreclosed on, but they also were among the first to leave neighborhoods where foreclosures were high, particularly those with racially diverse residents,” said Hall.

Co-authored by Kyle Crowder, professor at the University of Washington, and Amy Spring, assistant professor at Georgia State University, the paper notes racial integration slowed most sharply in Western and Southern cities, locations such as Atlanta, Las Vegas and Sacramento, California, where minority populations suffered a rash of foreclosures.

By contrast, segregation in northeastern and Rust Belt cities was less affected by the crisis.

“We did not look specifically at any cities, but our results did suggest that the foreclosure crisis probably had a much smaller effect on Rustbelt cities like Milwaukee due to the timing of the crisis in those areas and because of the deeply entrenched nature of residential segregation in places like Milwaukee,” Hall said.

Milwaukee, even before the housing bubble’s burst, was one of the country’s most racially segregated metro areas.

Earlier this month, the Obama administration announced an effort aimed at reducing the racial segregation of residential neighborhoods in cities such as Milwaukee. The administration said localities will be required to account for how they will use federal housing funds to reduce racial disparities or face penalties.

Housing Secretary Julian Castro, in a news conference in Chicago, said communities will be required to set goals based on the data for smarter investments in housing, schools and transportation that will be closely monitored.

The Confederate flag comes down in South Carolina today

South Carolina officials were preparing on July 10 to quietly and quickly remove the Confederate flag from the Statehouse where it has flown for more than a half-century.

The state planned a simple, short ceremony at 10 a.m. EST to remove the rebel banner, which was surrounded in its final hours by ropes and barricades.

“We will bring it down with dignity and we will make sure it is stored in its rightful place,” South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley said.

Authorities will escort a special van used to transport historical artifacts that will take the flag to the Confederate Relic Room and Military Museum. There, it eventually will be housed in a multimillion-dollar shrine lawmakers promised to build as part of a compromise to get the bill ordering the flag’s removal through the House.

“No one should ever drive by the Statehouse and feel pain,” Haley said early on July 10 on NBC’s “Today” show. “No one should ever drive by the Statehouse and feel like they don’t belong.”

South Carolina’s leaders first flew the battle flag over the Statehouse dome in 1961 to mark the 100th anniversary of the Civil War. It remained there to represent official opposition to the civil rights movement.

Decades later, mass protests against the flag by those who said it was a symbol of racism and white supremacy led to a compromise in 2000 with lawmakers who insisted that it symbolized Southern heritage and states’ rights. The two sides came to an agreement to move the flag from the dome to a 30-foot pole next to a Confederate monument in front of the Statehouse.

Thousands of people showed up for the transfer. Flag supporters shouted, “Off the dome and in your face!” at protesters who wanted the flag gone, a line of police in special gear separating the two sides. A pair of Citadel cadets, one white and one black, lowered the flag from the dome as a dozen Confederate re-enactors marched to the brand new flagpole and raised the rebel banner.

Organizers didn’t give out details of what will happen Friday, but said the removal will be short, simple and dignified. The flagpole will also be taken down, but no time frame has been announced for that.

The flag is coming down 23 days after the massacre of state Sen. Clementa Pinckney and eight others inside Charleston’s Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church. Haley signed the bill with 13 pens. Nine of them went to the families of the victims.

Authorities say they believe the killings were racially motivated. By posing with the Confederate flag before the shootings, suspect Dylann Storm Roof, who has not yet entered a plea to nine counts of murder, convinced some that the flag’s reputation for white supremacy and racial oppression had trumped its symbolism of Southern heritage and ancestral pride.

“People say he was wrapped in hate, that he was a hateful person,” said Democratic Rep. Justin Bamberg. “Well, his hate was wrapped in the cloak of that Confederate flag. That is why that flag is coming down.”

Supporters of the flag were disappointed, but resigned.

“It’s just like the conclusion of the war itself,” said Rep. Mike Pitts, who submitted several amendments to fly a different flag on the pole that all failed. “The issue was settled, and the nation came back together to move on.”

States across the nation are moving on without their Confederate symbols. The rebel flag is gone from the Alabama Capitol, and the U.S. House voted that it can no longer fly at historic federal cemeteries in the Deep South. A city council committee in Memphis wants to move a statue and the remains of Civil War hero and slave trader Nathan Bedford Forrest out of a prominent park, and officials in Alaska want a new moniker for a U.S. Census district named for Confederate Gen. Wade Hampton.

Haley said the removal of symbols that have become divisive is the right thing to do for the family members of those killed at Charleston’s Emanuel AME.

“We saw the families show the world what true grace and forgiveness look like,” Haley said. “That set off an action of compassion by people in South Carolina and all over this country. They stopped looking at their differences and started looking at their similarities.”

Baltimore rises up for justice, against inequality

The day of the funeral, the night of the riots in Baltimore, people thought of 1968. That year Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated and the unrest unsettled Baltimore.

The day after the riots, when the Maryland National Guard arrived, people thought of 1972. That year another National Guard was called out in another state and four people were killed.

“This is not just about excessive force or police brutality. Ferguson wasn’t about that either. This is about problems — poverty, racism, inequality — tangled deep in America’s roots. These are old issues we’ve fought before and maybe will fight forever,” said protester Mike Bartlett, who joined in the Baltimore Uprising that followed the death of Freddie Gray, who suffered a fatal spinal injury in police custody.

Gray, a black man, died a week after he was chased, pinned, handcuffed and placed in a police van. In the van, police maintain officers placed Gray in leg cuffs after he became irate. But it is still unclear when and how Gray suffered the spinal injury.

A prosecutor announced on May 1 charges against the six police officers involved in Gray’s arrest. The Justice Department, meanwhile, is investigating possible civil rights violations.

Gray’s death on April 19 sparked a series of protests that became explosive after his funeral on April 27. Demonstrators looted stores, damaged property and injured as many as 20 officers in unrest that resulted in 201 arrests.

On April 28, Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake called Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan and the National Guard was dispatched to Baltimore for the first time since rioting following King’s death in 1968.

A state of emergency went into effect, with the city under a 10 p.m.-5 a.m. curfew and public schools closed.

Still, protesters returned to the streets.

They made formal demands, calling for a thorough investigation and indictments of the officers responsible for Gray’s death and state and local reform of law enforcement.

And they made broader appeals for change in a city with high unemployment, high crime, poor housing and lack of opportunity in many neighborhoods.

“What is needed is for all of us to take a step toward each other and come to terms with the crisis of inequality that has brought our city to this moment,” said Michael Coleman of United Workers, a human rights group in Baltimore.

In solidarity

Solidary marches and demonstrations — many under the banners “Black Spring protests” and “Black Lives Matter” — occurred in cities across the country, including Boston, Chicago, St. Louis, New York City, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Milwaukee.

“The uprising in Baltimore … has delivered an unmistakable and powerful message that the time is over when people will just take the unending and outrageous murder and brutality carried out by police,” said Carl Dix, co-founder of the Stop Mass Incarceration Network based in St. Louis. “From North Charleston, South Carolina, to Ferguson, Missouri, from Pasco, Washington, to New York City and beyond — this must stop.”

The Black Youth Project in 100 helped organize an action in Chicago, warning, “What is happening in Baltimore is not an isolated event. This did not start today, or yesterday or last month or with Ferguson or with Rodney King.”

In Milwaukee, activists remembered Gray and others, as they demonstrated on May 1 for justice, jobs and immigration reform in an annual May Day rally and march.

“Freddie Gray’s death is a tragedy of national scale,” said SEIU Local 1 president Tom Balanoff in Milwaukee. “Not only did his death affect his closest family, it shook our entire country. The American family finds itself yet again brought to its knees, but also outraged as another black life is lost while under police custody. America will never truly thrive as a nation until every human being is respected and every community and neighborhood has equal opportunity to succeed.”

Maria Hamilton, the mother of Dontre Hamilton, an unarmed black man killed by a Milwaukee police officer on April 30, 2014, addressed the ralliers, as did immigration rights activists and human rights advocates.

A march also took place in Red Arrow Park in Milwaukee on the anniversary of Hamilton’s death. Organizers said the march and rally — there was a balloon launch — celebrated Hamilton’s life.

“We’be been trying to be as positive as possible,” said Nate Hamilton, Dontre’s brother. “We haven’t been trying to let our anger dictate what we do and how we act.”

Dontre Hamilton was shot 14 times by Christopher Manney, who was not prosecuted in Hamilton’s death but was fired for not following police department procedure when he initiated a pat down of Hamilton.

Manney is expected to continue to fight his dismissal and the family is considering legal action.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Justice Department continues to investigate Hamilton’s death and the Milwaukee Police Department has field tested body cameras and is in the process to purchase equipment for 100 officers.

‘Children of Giant’: New documentary eyes story of Latino extras in 1956 ‘Giant’

A new documentary seeks to tell the story of Mexican-American child actors who appeared in the 1956 blockbuster movie “Giant” but later could only view it in segregated theaters.

“Children of Giant” goes to the West Texas town where director George Stevens and his Hollywood crew set up shop to shoot one of the first, major films to openly tackle racism.

For the 60 years since the movie’s release, most of the Mexican-American cast has been largely forgotten, though the movie introduced the nation to the discrimination Latinos faced, documentary director Hector Galan said.

“Many people don’t realize how important the film ‘Giant’ was to Mexican-Americans at the time,” Galan said. “For the first time on a national level the stories of Mexican-Americans were being told.”

Based on the novel by Edna Ferber with the same name, “Giant” follows wealthy Texas cattle rancher Jordan Benedict Jr., played by Rock Hudson, who marries Maryland socialite Leslie Lynnton, portrayed by Elizabeth Taylor. Their sprawling ranch is located on land once owned by impoverished Mexican-Americans, who still work the land but are denied basic medical care and decent jobs.

Benedict’s son, played by Dennis Hopper, marries a Mexican-American nurse, played by Mexican actress Elsa Cardenas, creating racial tension. James Dean also starred in the movie.

At the time of its release, the movie was popular among Mexican-Americans, especially since Ferber had interviewed civil rights leaders Hector P. Garcia and lawyer John J. Herrera for her novel and the movie adopted real-life episodes from the new civil rights movement in Texas.

Yet, many of the main actors were unaware of the discrimination the Mexican-American extras faced away from the movie set.

In the documentary, Galan interviews Cardenas, who recalls how staff at a hotel looked at her suspiciously and how she didn’t know the Mexican-Americans children on the set had to attend segregated schools. He also interviews child actor Tony Cano who remembers incidents of racism.

The documentary also covers Stevens’ experience in World War II as part of the U.S. Army Signal Corps. Stevens would become one of the first directors to capture images of the Holocaust and his footage would be used in the Nuremberg Trials.

“That experience changed him forever,” Galan said. “I don’t think he would have made ‘Giant’ had it not been for that experience.”

In addition, the documentary shows how Dean playfully interacted with Mexican-American teens off screen and shocked the town when he was killed in a car wreck in California weeks later.

Alabama marriage equality battle echoes epic fights

Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore’s office overlooks Montgomery’s Dexter Avenue, a history-soaked thoroughfare topped by the Alabama Capitol, where Jefferson Davis was inaugurated president of the Confederacy and where the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. ended the 1965 march for voting rights.

As gay and lesbian couples left a nearby courthouse clutching marriage licenses earlier in February, Moore, an outspoken opponent of marriage equality, was fighting to stop the weddings using a states’ rights argument that conjured up those historical ghosts of slavery, the Civil War and the battle against desegregation.

There has been resistance in other states to the tide of rulings allowing same-sex couples to wed. Some Florida clerks’ offices scrapped all marriage ceremonies rather than perform same-sex unions. In North Carolina and Georgia, legislation is being developed to let employees, based on religious beliefs, opt out of issuing marriage licenses to gay couples.

No state, however, has gone as far as Alabama, where the 68-year-old Moore instructed the state’s probate judges not to issue marriage licenses to gay couples.

Moore, who in 2000 gained notoriety for his refusal to follow an order to remove a Ten Commandments monument from the courthouse, told Fox News Sunday that legalizing marriage for gays alters God’s “organic law.”

The justice objected to a Jan. 23 ruling by U.S. District Judge Callie Granade that Alabama’s gay marriage ban violates the 14th Amendment’s guarantee of equal protection and due process. After the Supreme Court on Feb. 9 refused to stay the decision, Alabama became the 37th state — plus the District of Columbia — where gays and lesbians can legally wed.

But same-sex couples, as of press time, still could not obtain marriage licenses in every county in Alabama. At least 19 probate judges, under Moore’s direction, refused to issue licenses to lesbians and gays.

Moore, who is head of the Alabama court system, threw that system into disarray when he urged the probate judges in a letter to stand against “judicial tyranny.” He claimed Granade had no authority to “redefine marriage” for the Southern state.

Moore said probate judges were not defendants in the case, so they were not subject to Granade’s order.

“She has no control over the state of Alabama to force all probate judges to do anything,” Moore said. “This is a case of dual sovereignty of federal and state authorities. The U.S. Supreme Court is very clear in recognizing that federal courts do not bind state courts.”

Granade later issued an order in favor of same-sex couples denied licenses by probate judges.

“The law is clear — all Chief Justice Moore has done is create chaos and his order is clearly out of bounds,” said Greg Nevins of Lambda Legal, an LGBT legal defense group. “The Supreme Court has entertained the state’s request for a stay and rejected it. Same-sex couples and different-sex couples all enjoy the fundamental right to marry, and probate judges should not be interfering with that right.”

Parallels to 1960s

Moore’s actions drew inevitable parallels with former Gov. George Wallace’s 1963 “stand in the schoolhouse door” aimed at preventing federal court-mandated desegregation at the University of Alabama.

Wallace was attempting to fight integration nine years after education segregation was ruled illegal by the U.S. Supreme Court.

“The rhetoric and demagoguery of states’ rights and federal judges, you can’t help but make that comparison,” said Doug Jones, a former U.S. attorney who prosecuted two Ku Klux Klansmen who bombed Birmingham’s 16th Street Baptist Church in 1963, killing four black girls in a crime that helped galvanize the civil rights movement.

Moore has said he believes he would not be bound to obey a wrongful ruling.

“We’ve got to understand that what a judge says is not law,” Moore told Fox News.

Many legal experts think Moore and other states’ rights advocates are on shaky ground. Ruthann Robson, a law professor at the City University of New York, said Granade’s decision should be considered the law of the state unless overruled by a higher court or contradicted by a state court.

“If what Moore says is true, then no federal court could ever hold a state law, regulation or policy unconstitutional. And the 14th Amendment, then, would be essentially meaningless,” Robson said in an email.

It’s unclear what Moore’s reaction would be if the U.S. Supreme Court determines that gay marriage bans nationwide are unconstitutional when the justices issue their ruling later this year. But Robson pointed to a 1958 decision involving a school desegregation fight in Little Rock, Arkansas, that made it clear states must adhere to the high federal court’s interpretation of the Constitution — a cornerstone of the inherent authority the U.S. government has on constitutional issues over the states.

“If parties defy a direct order, the remedy is contempt,” she said. An official found in contempt can be fined or even jailed.

Moore already faces an ethics complaint filed by the Southern Poverty Law Center, which is based on Montgomery.

“In 2003, responsible public officials in Alabama had no choice but to remove Chief Justice Moore from office because he refused to comply with a binding federal court order,” said SPLC president Richard Cohen. “By now raising the possibility that he may not comply with a U.S. Supreme Court decision, Moore has proven that he has not learned his lesson.

“Justice Moore is intoxicated by his own sense of self-righteousness. He doesn’t seem to understand that we are a nation of laws, not of men.”

Meanwhile, Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley, a Republican and Southern Baptist who reads his Bible every morning in his office, appears impotent. He has said he believes marriage should be between a man and a woman, but that he doesn’t want Alabama to go against history’s tide this time. So, the governor has taken no action involving the court order for marriage equality.

To do so, he said in a news statement, “would only serve to further complicate this issue.”

Designers seek to catalyze city against racism

The twin problems of segregation and racial inequality have plagued Milwaukee for so long that even people who care about them seem to have given up hope that the situation will ever improve. Worse, most people in the city — particularly white people — have become so accustomed to the city’s racist landscape that it’s grown invisible to them, says Ken Hanson, CEO of Hanson Dodge Creative.

But Hanson has not given up hope, and he believes that raising awareness will spur positive change. At Milwaukee City Hall on July 15, he joined with others, including Mayor Tom Barrett, to launch the Greater Together Challenge. An innovative competition, the challenge’s goal is to generate ideas that will bring visibility to the city’s racial divide, as well as ideas to bridge it.

The concept originated as a way to mark the 100th anniversary of AIGA Wisconsin. The state’s largest association of design professionals, AIGA Wisconsin has a membership of more than 250,000. Designers, artists, musicians and filmmakers will play a major role in gearing up for the challenge and helping to present the winning ideas.

“We are leveraging the power of design to elevate the work of organizations such as the NAACP, the ACLU, Centro Hispano and our teachers’ union, which have spent generations raising their voices around issues of race and fairness,” said Chris Klein, AIGA Wisconsin’s president, in a press statement. “Many of us are new to these battles, but we want to offer our skills and be helpful in any way we can.” 

“A visible, united effort like the Greater Together Challenge could be the catalyst for change our city needs,” said James Hall, president of the Milwaukee branch of the NAACP, also in a press release.

Partners in the challenge include scores of civic and public advocacy nonprofits, schools, unions, media outlets, churches and other groups. NEWaukee — a “social architecture firm that inspires a collision of all Milwaukee has to offer” — will be integral during the four-month awareness campaign preceding the contest. So will filmmakers, such as MIAD graduate Xavier Ruffin, and musicians.

Hanson said the challenge is not designed to stir debate, but rather “to take the debate out of it and work on solutions.”

“I’m trying to build a campaign that’s attractive and hopeful and seductive. A lot of us feel good when we can just talk to each other about these things,” he added.

Performers will write songs about segregation that will be played on local radio stations, including project partner 88Nine Radio Milwaukee. Mike Benign, who leads the popular Wisconsin band The Mike Benign Compulsion, is writing a song about Father Groppi, a Milwaukee Roman Catholic priest who became a leader in the civil rights movement of the 1960s.

“A lot of people are good people in their daily lives, but they compartmentalize,” Hanson said. “They don’t want to deal with black people. But they don’t even think that they don’t want to deal with black people. Are people sitting down to dinner and talking about segregation? I want to make it so that happens.”

Throughout the summer, the Zeidler Center for Public Discussion will organize small-group dialogues across Milwaukee to brainstorm ideas and help shape proposals for the challenge. A professionally trained facilitator will guide each group in discussions about segregation and economic inequality.

The ideas submitted for the challenge can take virtually any form, from a school curriculum to a work of public art. Hanson said at least 100 proposals must be submitted in order for the challenge to be viable. The deadline for submissions to be filed online at www.greatertogether.me is Sept. 7.

A panel of advocates, scholars, civic leaders and other representatives from the Greater Together Coalition will select 10 ideas as finalists on Sept. 14. The creators of those ideas will be paired with a design team to help make their presentation as compelling and effective as possible.

On Oct. 7, each finalist will have 6 minutes to present his or her idea to the panel. The winner, who will be announced the next day, will receive a grant of $5,000 to aid in the implementation of the idea.

Following the challenge, the Greater Together Foundation will be created to continue focusing on key social justice issues and to raise funds for other submitted ideas that organizers feel merit support.

On the web…

To enter or to learn more about the Greater Together Challenge and Milwaukee’s segregation crisis, visit http://www.greatertogether.me.

Are you missing out on our ticket giveaways and free discount coupons? Simply like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

50 years ago, ‘Freedom Summer’ changed South, US

HOLLY SPRINGS, Mississippi — As a teenager growing up in a segregated society, Roy DeBerry wasn’t waiting for white folks to come down to Mississippi and “save” him. But in the summer of 1964, the factory worker’s son was very glad to see people like Aviva Futorian.

The young history teacher from the affluent Chicago suburbs was among hundreds of volunteers — mostly Northern white college students — who descended on Mississippi during what came to be known as “Freedom Summer.” They came to register blacks to vote, and to establish “Freedom Schools” and community centers to help prepare those long disenfranchised for participation in what they hoped would be a new political order.

Opposition was brutal. Churches were bombed, volunteers were arrested, beaten — even murdered.

“There was real terror in Mississippi,” DeBerry said during a recent visit to his hometown, Holly Springs.

Fifty years later, Freedom Summer stands out as a watershed moment in the long drive for civil rights. Mass resistance to integration started to crumble. Congress took a monumental step toward equal rights. And scores of young, idealistic volunteers embarked on careers of activism that continue to shape American politics and policy today.

And in this vortex of history, lifelong friendships formed between people from vastly different worlds, like a black 16-year-old from Mississippi and a 26-year-old daughter of a Jewish furniture mogul.

Sitting side by side recently in Futorian’s condominium in Chicago, the two friends reminisced about taboos that prevented a white woman and black man from sitting next to each other in a car.

“I probably didn’t have as much trepidation as I should have,” said Futorian, now a 76-year-old attorney. “Because it’s hard to imagine your own death.”

Years of demonstrations by determined local blacks, boycotts, legislative campaigns and bloody pitched battles had not dislodged segregation. On March 20, the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, which had been fighting for integration, announced the “Mississippi Summer Project.” The group concluded it needed a dramatic tactic to draw national attention to the injustices — and putting Northern whites in harm’s way seemed sure to accomplish that.

Volunteers converged for training at a college in Ohio. On June 21, even before orientation ended, chilling word spread: Three young volunteers — New Yorkers Andrew Goodman and Michael Schwerner, and Mississippi native James Chaney — had vanished while investigating the burning of a black church.

DeBerry had “an independent streak.” He sensed the injustice of having to climb to the gallery at the segregated Holly Theatre. He resented having to call the white kid behind the counter at Tyson’s Drug Store “sir.”

“No one needed to teach you that,” the 66-year-old DeBerry said. “It was just something that was in your DNA.”

So when a Freedom School opened, DeBerry found his way there.

When Futorian met with a group of black teenage boys, she asked them who were the richest blacks in town, how they earned their living, were they involved in the civil rights movement and if not, why not?

“Roy was the only one who knew the answers,” she recalls.

DeBerry says this was his first interaction with a white person “on a social level.”

Through donated books, Futorian introduced him to James Baldwin, Ralph Ellison, Richard Wright and other “subversive” black authors. They shared sandwiches at Modena’s Cafe in the “colored” section of town.  They worked on voter registration.

They were well aware of the risks they were taking even before Aug. 4, when searchers dug the bodies of the three missing civil rights workers from an earthen dam.

By fall, most of the Northern volunteers had returned home. Aviva Futorian remained. She worked as a field organizer for SNCC and held a college preparatory study group for a few particularly promising students, including DeBerry.

She returned to Chicago after a year and a half, and decided to pursue justice as a lawyer.

With her help, DeBerry was accepted at her alma mater, Brandeis University. He helped found a black student association there.

That summer brought the beginnings of change in Mississippi and beyond. Systematic resistance to integration began fading in the state. Congress passed the 1964 Civil Rights Act, which became law July 2.

The Freedom Summer effort helped create momentum for the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

Some believe this activism planted the seeds for history-making events generations later. “If it hadn’t been for the veterans of Freedom Summer, there would be no Barack Obama,” longtime congressman John Lewis, then a coordinator for SNCC, wrote in a memoir.

Rita Bender, Michael Schwerner’s widow, is less optimistic.

She says a refusal by some to recognize past inequities is partly to blame for today’s social ills. Now an attorney in Seattle, she’s dismayed at recent developments — a Supreme Court decision that nullified portions of the Voting Rights Act, voter identification laws. The country, she says, is “moving backward.”

Following a 1995 SNCC reunion in Holly Springs, DeBerry and Futorian began collecting oral histories of those who’d lived under Jim Crow in two Mississippi counties. In 2004, they formally launched the Hill Country Project, which has since grown to include education support and economic development.

Through all the change over the last five decades, there has been one constant for DeBerry and Futorian — their friendship.