photo by Michael Cantor
(WARNING: You may find the images of death and violence contained below disturbing. Please do not scroll down if you do not wish to see them.)
Michael Steele is making numerous headlines today for his apology to Rush Limbaugh. Locally, he is also making headlines after being called out by Baltimore School's CEO Andres Alonso at a public forum which also featured Governor Martin O'Malley last night at Frederick Douglass High School in Baltimore. Alonso demanded an apology from Steele for promises he made to that school in the past, which he never kept.
Our reporter Melody Simmons was there. Click the podcast player to hear her recording of Alonso's remarks on Steele, and also on Governor O'Malley.
I hate watching this happen. It is no small matter for a sitting Mayor to be indicted.
I have known Sheila Dixon for over thirty years. We are not close friends. We have not been in a private social setting together in 32 years. We met when we were both counselors and teachers at Baltimore Prep, a program at Westside Shopping Center for street kids who had just come out of prison or had been kicked out of school, whose lives were on the corner instead of the classroom. Sheila was committed to those kids. She didn’t take any stuff from them and she knew every game they could play, because she came from the same streets that they did. Baltimore Prep is also where she met Mark Smith, who later became her husband, with whom she raised her nephew Juan Dixon and his brother. The boys’ parents had died from heroin addiction. Sheila and Mark saw those boys to manhood. This is the Sheila Dixon I know.
I knew her a little in the intervening years. I remember when she was first elected to the city council. I remember when she banged her shoe on the table exclaiming it was our turn now. She was committed to working class black folks. She lived and knew their pain, joys and struggles. A lot of white journalists, politicians and others thought she hated white people. I don’t know what her innermost thoughts about race were, but I can say that anyone who came up in a certain way who was from a certain place had historical reasons to have a mistrust of white people. Whatever she thought then, however, she has grown from that place, as did William Donald Schaeffer from his place of not caring about Black folks before he became Mayor. She bleeds working class blue in her veins. That is the Sheila Dixon I know.
So, these indictments are just tragic. If they are true, they show stupidity and sheer greed.
As I wrote last week, the only difference between the actions of our city officials and indicted power developers, and goings on in Congress between politicians and corrupt corporate leaders, is the thin but sturdy line of legality.
Politicians are always doing favors for the powerful and their friends. It is part of human existence. Nevertheless, it was not the fur coats that bought Ron Lipscomb city contracts, but rather all of his city and corporate contacts.
I am not excusing anything here. If Sheila and others broke their sacred trust with us, they have to leave elected office at the very least. It cannot be tolerated.
The worst offence would be if she actually took gift certificates that were intended for poor families and children to enjoy Christmas. I hope that even if the bribery and malfeasance indictments are true, that stealing from street kids and poor families is not true. That could break a city’s heart.
That would not be the Sheila Dixon I know. Soon we will know whether she broke the law. If she did, then the court will decide her fate. If she is exonerated, she could become one of our greatest Mayors. If not, she will become one of our greatest disappointments and tragedies.
Here's a letter that we received and wanted to share with everyone. If anyone else would like to publicize first-hand information about the police misconduct in Charles Village on Election Night, or has other Election Night experiences they'd like to share, please post your comments here or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
During the night following the election, my roommates and I walked
down to 33rd and St. Paul and started celebrating the election of
Barack Obama. We quickly gained support of local students, and our
group of seven quickly grew to over 400. What was a beautifully
patriotic evening, filled with unity and gentle celebration, quickly
turned into fear and chaos as the Baltimore Police Department randomly
(and illegally) assaulted, intimidated, and arrested many members of a
Last Spring, President Ungar invited you to speak at Goucher to a
group of Goucher students, faculty, and staff. President Ungar
personally invited me at the last moment, claiming it was essential
that I hear you speak. Your discussion inspired me to want to get more
involved with our city, and this semester several of my friends and I
moved down to Charles Village from Towson, in order to become true
On November 4, the six of us - all sophomores at Goucher, voted
for the first time. Sending in my absentee ballot to my native
California was one of the most exciting things I have ever done, and
we were all excited to partake in making history. Just a month before
hearing you speak at Goucher, I had the opportunity to shake now
President-elect Obama's hand at an election rally in Wilmington. I
took the train up to Wilmington by myself, and I instantly befriended
a group of students from the University of Delaware. The feeling of
unity was overwhelming, and I instantly knew this campaign was unlike
anything else in history.
The night of Nov. 4th was no exception. My roommates and I had to get
outside to celebrate. People joined quickly and we were suddenly
flanked by members of the community, students from several
institutions, schoolteachers, and professors - all united and chanting
"USA! USA!". The Hopkins Campus Security respected the crowd and kept
it under control, and it became a truly beautiful event. I was
surrounded by people I had never met before, of all colors: black and
white, Muslim and Jewish, old and young, from near and far all
celebrating under American flags.
You have already heard about what the police did last night. They
arrested two of my roommates and another one of my friends, for
reasons that were never disclosed. I stood and watched while my
roommate, a 19-year-old girl from New Jersey, was grabbed by the
throat by two policemen twice her size and had her arms bound so
tightly behind her back, she was screaming in agony.
I have talked with Goucher President Sanford Ungar, and he has already tried to help us get our
voice heard. The fact is that this happens every night in this city,
without a single mention in the Sun or on the local TV news. These
students and the professor that were arrested were never told their
rights and were fingerprinted, photographed, intimidated, and forced
to spend hours in cells with people charged with violent crimes.
Fortunately, my friends and the rest of these aforementioned sixteen
that were arrested are lucky enough to be backed up by institutions
like Goucher College and Johns Hopkins University.
I know this letter is far from brief, and I appreciate that you have
taken the time to read this. I was inspired by your discussion at
Goucher, and wanted to know what I could do to change something in
this city. I think Baltimore is a beautiful place buried in an
inconceivable amount of filth. Before election day I couldn't fathom
how I could help, or what I could even help with. I now know the
intricacies of how the Baltimore Police Department detains citizens
without Mirandizing them, charging them, or respecting their basic
freedoms. I feel I can speak on behalf of everyone who witnessed
Tuesday night's atrocities when I say that we want to help.
The sixteen people arrested last night were picked randomly. It could
have been anyone. I have spoken with and know personally several of
those arrested and can tell you that they were all respectable and
respectful citizens that have done so much already to make this city a
better place. Will these volunteers, public school teachers, artists,
and professors voices be drowned out?
I hope not.
Thank you again for speaking to us at Goucher. Baltimore needs you,
and is lucky to have you.
Goucher College class of 2011
Last night, I went to my daughter Chelsea’s home to watch the returns. She was having a watch party. It was the perfect venue for that night for many reasons. Chelsea’s mom, Sayida Stone, my first wife and a dear friend, is African American. Chelsea is a Black woman, a mixed race child of America. She has three children, my grand children. Their father, Ebon, a schoolteacher, martial artist and musician, is Afro-Italian-Puerto Rican. From the beginning, Chelsea was deeply moved by Obama’s candidacy. It was their time, it was their day, and it is their time now.
Chelsea’s sister, Alana, her mom’s daughter with her husband who is Jamaican, is 21 years old, a brilliant artist and a junior at MICA. I call her my daughter once removed, she calls me Saba, which is Hebrew for grandfather. Alana was there with a dozen of her classmates. Young, African American, Latino, Asian, mixed race and white who worked for this campaign, who believed in this message of hope.
Chelsea’s friends who were there ranged from 28 to their early forties, every color of the American rainbow. Her mom, her husband Jenel, and others of our generation were there, as well.
The feeling in her home was electric and explosive, but explosive with peace and hope. When Obama was announced the next President of the Untied States of America, there was a pandemonium of joy, screaming, shouting, hugging, singing and champagne corks popping.
I looked around realizing this was their day. These young people believed so deeply and were so full of what the future might bring to us all.
While watching television it was hard not to notice the contrast between the Obama supporters in Grant Park in Chicago and the McCain supporters. Obama’s in a public park with thousands of people of every generation and race in America and McCain’s in a private club for the wealthy and all, well not all, but almost all, white.
This was an election of the two Americas from which we were born and in which we still live. Our great nation has no state religion. Our state religion is our democracy, our belief in freedom and liberty. The USA was founded on liberty and slavery in the same breath. Imagine that and think about that for a moment. Liberty and slavery are the foundations of our nation. The roots of the contradiction and the hope that dwell uneasily together in our nation’s soul were alive and palpable last night in this election.
Maybe the tenor is about to change. Race and racism hurt America. It is a deep wound in the Black American spirit. It is a burden of pain in white America, as well.
The man who was voted in to become the 44th President of the United States of America may be changing the tenor and tone of our nation. In the spirit of the civil rights warriors, he was unbowed and non-violent in his stand against his tormentors in this campaign. When Barack Obama was faced with lies and low blows dealt by his opponents, the Republican Party and their independent advocates, he responded with dignity, strength and love. So many of his supporters screamed that he should fight back, blow for blow and spit in their eye. Barack Obama chose to hold his head and his sense of morality and ethics high, so he kept walking straight ahead amidst the verbal blows and lies. He set a standard for his supporters and the America he believes in. The roots of that way of responding politically come from Martin Luther King, the Student Non Violent Coordinating Committee, Fannie Lou Hamer and the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party and the civil rights movement of the 1950’s and 60’s that they gave birth to and that gave birth to them. It bodes well for what we may be able to do in America together.
I am not naïve about the difficulty that lies ahead of us. Barack Obama is not the savior; he is the embodiment of hope for many Americans. The struggle is now on to define our future. We can now fight for something rather than against it. We will have a seat at the table for the debate on our nation’s future. We have serious work ahead of us.
Good gumbo, too, last night... A gumbo of America in the room, a gumbo of America who voted Obama, and a great gumbo in the pot.
Here are some thoughts written late last night by CEM intern and UMBC student Stavros Halkias. We'd like to encourage everyone to send in their post-election thoughts. Post comments here, email us at email@example.com, or call us on the air today between 5-6pm at 410-319-8888.
Voting for the first time in my life was legitimately exciting. From the moment I entered my polling place, which happened to be my elementary school, I was overcome with emotion. In the building where I first learned what the office of the president was, I would have a hand in choosing the next person to occupy that office. Even better, I was supporting a candidate I actually believed in and held incredible hopes for. My nerves and elation were held together by an overarching sense of purpose. I was part of a societal change, with my ballot serving as tangible proof. Why can’t I feel like this everyday? Why can’t every day be Election Day?
Despite these feelings, as I walked out of that polling station I couldn’t help but wonder “What’s next?” Barack Obama had the kind of campaign and following that was unprecedented in this nation’s history. His campaign deposed Democratic royalty in the primaries, broke all kinds of fundraising records, and truly inspired vast numbers of people for the first time in decades. The sobering realization I came to was that campaigns and administrations are two very different things. Historically, the energy campaigns create largely dies after the immediate goal of election is met. We can’t allow that to happen this time. All the people who voted for Barack Obama on Tuesday, all the people that were part of the historic movement for change in our country, must challenge themselves further. To borrow a few words from the President elect’s victory speech, “This victory alone is not the change we seek. It is only the chance for us to make that change. And that cannot happen if we go back to the way things were. It can't happen without you, without a new spirit of service, a new spirit of sacrifice.”
So, don’t let things go back to the way they were before Barack came along. Don't rely solely on his administration to make change. Let Barack Obama's election be the beginning--not the end--of your efforts. Become more civically involved. Start helping your community in any way you can. Identify problems and work towards them yourself. Volunteer. Tutor at-risk youth. Protest injustice. Support more change-minded politicians. Study social change movements. Do something! Take the energy you put into the campaign and move it to your community, don’t let it go to waste. Don’t just get excited and wait for change-- make change and make everyday Election Day.
Sonia Silbert, Co-coordinator of the Washington Peace Center, wrote last week with updates on the mass arrests and detentions by police of activists during the Republican National Convention in the Twin Cities. Here are some more reports from her from later in the week. You can also listen to her interview with us during the RNC on The Marc Steiner Show - click here.
Here's a piece contributed to our site by the author Djelloul Marbrook. Check out his site to see more of his writing and to learn more about him.
The way to take government back from corrupters is at hand. Don't wait for the press to do it for you. It's a do-it-yourself job. It's the perfect job for retirees, because their years and diversity of experience are invaluable tools.
Here's a guest post by Nick Morgan, the Mid-Atlantic Regional Coordinator for Iraq Vets Against the War (IVAW.) He was a guest on The Marc Steiner Show while in Minneapolis for the Republican National Convention. Click here to listen to that show.
As a member of Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW), my experience in the Twin Cities was a unique one. With our organization on the list of over 200 groups on a list studied by Minnesota National Guard and various police units, it was still no secret that our message was completely non-violent and direct. Our mission was to march in formation and in uniform to deliver a message to Senator McCain informing him of the issues veterans are facing today. As a fellow veteran, we were presumptuous to assume that the presidential candidate would listen to our simple message.
With a permit for our action on the opening day of the scaled-back RNC, no member of IVAW was arrested during our action (or the rest of the convention). We shared a certain level of lateral respect with the law enforcement at the RNC because we have all been placed in similar predicaments in the name of serving our country and democracy. Not to mention the fact that many of them were veterans as well and could relate to our logical viewpoints. The clear difference here is that these men and women are dealing with American citizens on American soil, hired as mercenaries for the RNC to the tune of a 50 million dollar liability insurance policy for their protection.
I have to say that I haven't been in an environment so unsafe for average citizens since I left Baghdad in 2005. One notable difference is that the police in Minneapolis have better body armor and protection than American soldiers and Marines do in Iraq. It is a sad day for the United States when a kid on a bicycle is pepper sprayed in the face by a cop just for riding too close when there where no violent protests taking place. What does it say about this country when the police are arresting people with press credentials hanging from their necks just for recording and reporting the interactions between police and American civilians.
I hung out for a period of time with some independent media personnel who understandably added an additional level of anxiety to the air. Pardon my vagueness as I don't want to divulge too much information about individuals. Many of them were just coming back from jail and were on high alert for near by police activity. At one point, myself and a few of my fellow IVAW members were beginning to loose the battle to subdue our PTSD. We decided it was best that we went on a drive outside of the city to get some fresh air and escape all the violence multiplied by paranoia.
Please take some time to consider the implications of the absolute police state that was enforced in the Twin Cities. When the people making the decisions in this country don't want to hear the voices of the people they are making the decisions for, I am saddened. When the people's voices are silenced with clubs, tear gas, rubber bullets, and zip ties, I am appalled. This concludes my humble testimony of how I experience the RNC.
Mid-Atlantic Regional Coordinator
Iraq Veterans Against the War
OIF II, 458th En. Bn., Ist Cavalry Division
"Wal-Mart Stores Inc. is mobilizing its store managers and department supervisors around the country to warn that if Democrats win power in November, they'll likely change federal law to make it easier for workers to unionize companies -- including Wal-Mart.
In recent weeks, thousands of Wal-Mart store managers and department heads have been summoned to mandatory meetings at which the retailer stresses the downside for workers if stores were to be unionized."
Wow, I just read it and sat there stunned for a minute. Then I woke up,
and wondered what I was so shocked about.
Here we have Wal-Mart, a store, that despite its new green image and it’s pronouncements about the Green economy with SEIU boss, Andy Stern, has a history of abusing its employees, paying low wages and few benefits.
Wal-Mart says they are not telling any employees how to vote or who to campaign for. Right, I am working the cash register at Wal-Mart wearing a big Obama button. Oops, is that a pink slip floating after me?! Who’s to know, who’s to protect my rights. Oh yes, that would be Papa Walton.
Let me be clear about my past. I have been a member of union. I have
been a union organizer. I am one of those who believe that if had not been for unions we would have had no middle class in the numbers that we have in America. They fought to ensure that their working class members had a decent life.
Now, unions have become increasingly irrelevant to life in America. Partially of their own making by becoming lethargic corporate giants themselves. Union leaders got too far away from their own members forgetting what it means to work hard to pay your bills and take care of your families. They stopped organizing. Yes, unions were victims of this economy and of the erosion of the industrial base of America. But they have done little to fight it, to change with the times, to organize new workers, to speak up for the unorganized and to enter the 21st century. They became lethargic dinosaurs.
They became easy targets for onerous laws to destroy or curtail or cripple their power to organize. Unions became the media demon and the business
the clean good guys in white shirts that knew how to run a nation.
Unions are only here because so many employees get screwed. It is
interesting I can think of five friends who own companies that don’t have unions. Their workers don’t want or need them. These owners run the gamut from libertarian to progressive to conservative to liberal. They don’t have unions because they treat their employees right. They offer health care, take care of people, worry about their families and take human beings into consideration. They are small companies, too, from 50 to 200 employees. They do it right.
If business leaders don’t want unions, then treat people right. Meanwhile,
America’s laws should be union friendly. Unions need to be protected while organizing and have the freedom to do so. The Employee Free Choice Act that Wal-Mart and others are so worried about is the least our government can do to protect an employee's right to organize and better their lives.
Senators McCain and Obama, what say ye? We are waiting here.
We're pleased to bring you a special guest blog today by CEM contributor Lea Gilmore.
Today I received a flurry of e-mails about the controversy that surrounded last week’s cover of The New Yorker depicting Barack Obama as a muslim in the White House with a picture of Osama bin Laden over the mantle with the American flag burning in the hearth. He is shown fist bumping with Michelle Obama who is sporting an Afro, ala 1960’s revolutionary Angela Davis, with an AK-47 slung over her back, camoflauge pants, and combat boots.
My initial response was to laugh at the satirical absurdity of the cartoon. Ah yes, all of us sophisticated readers of The New Yorker. I am one, I love the magazine. I always find one or two or three articles I can’t wait to read. We are all so erudite, that is why we know how to laugh at the cartoon on the cover, when others do not. (You're detecting my facetious tone I hope.)
But then I stopped a minute. I began thinking about how that cover plays into the hands of racists and those who deeply believe that this cover represents reality. I heard this morning of one blogger who has used this cover in an animated gif. First you see the cover, then a message that reads “Why take the risk? McCain 2008.” The alleged and purported sophistication of many New Yorker readers not withstanding,(and I run the risk of angering some people here) some liberals often lack judgment that may be inspired by a racism that they would deny, or perhaps are not aware even exists within their consciousness. It runs deep in America. Or maybe it is just real satire that New Yorkers and other cosmopolitans get but others don’t. Maybe it is all the above.
I oppose censoring any kind of speech no matter how hateful, racist, sexist, anti Semitic or insulting to any group it might be. I have a deep American rooted libertarian strain in me that chafes at any rules governing an individuals rights to say what he or she believes whether spoken in truth or satire.
Many people coming from minority cultures in America are often accused of being overly sensitive to what can be perceived as hatred, blatant or latent. I am one of those. I feel the anti-semitic and racial stings deeply. When I read Tim Wise’s critique of that cover cartoon, I found his comments to be at the very least latently or subtly anti-Semitic, though there was truth in his argument that the media is loathe to satirize Jews but are willing to do it to Blacks. And of course, we are all willing to satirize images of poor whites.
The New Yorker’s article became just another distraction in what needs to be a real conversation about this race. It even distracted from the interesting article in that issue about Obama’s Chicago political roots by Ryan Lizza. The story gave us new insight into how Obama got his political roots, lending to speculation about what kind of President he would make.
If I was editor of the New Yorker, I would have said no to the cover but maybe yes to it on the inside of the magazine as an illustration to create a discussion. Satire should attract intense debate not distract us from debate.
What did you think?
P.S. Some cartoonists have made their own versions of this cover, swapping John and Cindy out for Michelle and Obama. What do you think?
The Baltimore Sun came out with a story this morning about the Mayor’s former boyfriend, Ronald Lipscomb, being part of a deal that won a lucrative contract even though another firm was given a higher rating, from the city’s housing commissioner, to receive the contract (read that article by clicking here).
I wish I had a dollar for every time we have reported or had discussions on a government contract going to "favored sons" instead of a seemingly more qualified group. I don’t think Mayor Dixon’s relationship with Lipscomb had anything to do with who was awarded this contract. The Sun raises a non-issue here, connecting dots that do not meet.
The real story is the cozy relationship between developers and local politicians. The real story is the inside track conversations that take place between the financially powerful and politically powerful over a drink, on the phone, during dinner or at some high priced ticket event.
It is almost impossible to keep money out of politics. All we can do is pass laws and have rules of ethics that elected and appointed officials of government must follow. We must have watchdog agencies that do not allow the wheels of power to be greased so they speed passed us unseen.
It appears that Mayor Dixon did not follow the rules. Successful politicians and their powerful friends get over on us all because they follow the disclosure rules. Then they go about making their millions perfectly legally (or at least getting away with it because they follow the modicum of procedural rule) though unethically.
Mayor Dixon and Senator Ulysses S. Currie (get up to speed on that story here) appear to not have made full legal disclosure of their contracts and contacts. They did not recuse themselves or make their relationships known before voting on contracts involving friends, clients or families.
Speaking of power and money...
Many of Senator Barack Obama's supporters and others who want to and may very well vote for him were very disappointed when he did not accept public financing of his campaign. I must admit that I was shocked at how he went about this decision.
I was surprised that he, and his advisers, did not enter into serious discussion and negotiations with the McCain campaign to come to an agreement on public financing. If he had entered into those talks they may have come out with a plan that would have worked. Of course negotiations might have fallen apart. If the latter happened then they could have announced no public financing. Instead, they did not even try. He made great statements about public financing before he became the front runner and then presumptive nominee.
Given the legal lay of the land he could have accepted public financing as a show of integrity and still counted on hundreds of millions of dollars not covered by the public finance laws. Congressional and Senatorial campaign committees, independent 509 committees and other groups could have raised all the money they need to support anyone’s candidacy.
We should not be surprised. In politics, money seems to be the most powerful medium for alleged free speech.
Many are upset at what appear to be Obama’s moving to the center and changing positions, but we will save that commentary for another time.
What do you think?
Today is the 45th anniversary of the assassination of Medgar Evers. Medgar Evers was a Mississippi civil rights leader, and the head of the NAACP On this day 45 years ago, June 12, 1963, Medgar Evers was gunned down in the drive of his home, the same day that Alabama’s segregationist Governor (and later Presidential candidate) stood on the steps of Alabama’s all white university to personally block the entrance of two black students.
President Kennedy gave one of his most impassioned speeches about the moral crisis that America was facing. He sent federal marshals to ensure the safety of those children.
The man who killed Medgar Evers was a man tied to the White Citizens Council, Byron De La Beckwith. He was never convicted in two trials, by two all white juries. They were both declared mistrials. It took thirty years but De La Beckwith was finally convicted of those murders before he died.
I will never forget the photos of Medger Evers, the great civil rights warrior lying in his own blood just feet from his home.
I was thinking about how so many died to end segregation in
They are doing stories on their news about how the Republicans are going to go after Michelle Obama. The title on the screen under the story which ran on TV, that I was shown on the web, said “ Outraged Liberals: Stop picking on Obama’s Baby Mama.”
How outrageous, how disgusting, how blatantly racist. How is it that we have come this far and someone could still think this is ok?!? This is a major TV news operation, owned by Rupert Murdoch, known for its conservative slant and blatant untruths...but this reaches new heights, or should I write, new lows of despicable behavior.
This is the state of our media. This is the mindset that must be defeated. This is why we need to take back our media from corporate, uncaring bottom feeders who only think about the bottom line.
FOX News, Rupert Murdoch, you owe the Obamas, you owe your viewers, and you owe the nation an apology. Local outlets should stand up.
I am outraged.
Since we live here in Maryland, let’s call up Fox 45 to ask them if they will repudiate what their parent company has done.
Medgar Evers and Barak Obama are the bookends of our history of building an
I am not surprised that Steve Larsen resigned as the head of the Public Service Commission. When community activists railed against him and O’Malley as sellouts to Constellation Energy, I always defended Larsen as a man of integrity and honesty. He believed in using the tools of the government to make the public sector more responsive to the citizens. He was a quiet, diligent and intelligent crusader on the inside, whether it was health insurance or regulating energy.
I think he resigned not to go back to the public sector to make more money but out of frustration. When the state reached the deal with Constellation Energy that ensured that the PSC would have no subpoena power, it took the teeth out of the PSC. Larsen would not be able to get to the bottom of any sweetheart deals between the Constellation and its subsidiary BGE to unearth whatever potentially unscrupulous deals were made to purchase energy at the consumers’ expense.
I wondered aloud how long Steve Larsen would stay after this. He was crusader for the people who had his cape destroyed. He chose to walk away rather than plummet to the ground.
Given the price of oil, the cost and real crisis we are facing with electricity generation and looming public wars over our energy future we need more caped crusaders or this secure world of ours could be in trouble. -Marc
Related blog posts:
What would it really accomplish to ban the sale of small cigars in the city of Baltimore? What I am writing about is the Mayor and Health Commissioner wanting to ban the sale of individual little cigars that many young inner city folks use to make into blunts. Blunts are cigars stuffed with marijuana. Many young people and young adults buy the individual cigars because they can’t afford to buy a whole pack. They come in flavors that are very enticing to some such as watermelon, sour apple, and grape. Some people just like to kick back and have a smoke to relax. Much like more well off patrons who go to cigar shops and throw big bucks for a wannabe Havana cigar. I never did like them even when I smoked though I do like a Havana a few times a year.
Let me admit, I always have an initial visceral response to the banning of most anything. Outlawing substances that people choose on their own to ingest does nothing but increase criminalization of what is otherwise activities of individual choice. Tax products, go after unscrupulous manufacturers and distributors, and find creative ways to combat it. Don't ban it.
If you ban the sale of cheap cigars by corner stores in the inner city then some enterprising young hustlers will buy them up and sell them on the street. I understand what the city is trying to accomplish, it is just the wrong way to go about it.
As some City Council representatives said to me “What do we do about the young people on the corner who terrify the older neighbors … it really is a generational thing . .lack of respect for the elders….” The response has to be much more profound than banning little cigars.
Take this to the state legislature, ban the sale of individual cigarettes state wide, tax the cigars, put warning labels on them, take on big tobacco, their Annapolis lobbyists and friends in the legislature, start an education campaign about health and smoking theses little flavored cigars. Open recreation centers, work programs for youth and hit the streets with street workers to challenge the street culture.
Banning cigars sales… a waste of time, money, energy and it is just the wrong thing to do.
We spent our first full day in West Virginia visiting people in their homes, taping interviews. People shared incredible stories with us that we'll be bringing back. I recorded about 6 hours of audio today alone. We saw a 90 year-old woman's fingers turn black with coal dust from running them across her tv screen. Again and again, people expressed their respect for the old ways of underground mining. At the same time, they spoke with outrage about mountaintop removal and the unprecedented level of destruction coal companies have caused in this area over the past 25 years or so.
Antrim took this picture of Patty Sebok and her husband Harry "Butch" Sebok in their kitchen. Patty is a community activist who works for Coal River Mountain Watch. Butch is a union miner who worked underground for almost 30 years. He was forced to retire when a doctor told him he risked paralysis if he continued working after an injury on the job that resulted in a herniated disk.
We'll be up bright and early in the morning to tape some more interviews before heading up Kayford Mountain to see an active mountaintop removal site and meet the last man holding onto his home as the mountain is destroyed all around it. I encourage everyone to do their own research to learn more about mountaintop removal and the history of coal mining in West Virginia and beyond. Please let us know if you have any questions or thoughts to share.