It’s Time for Pennsylvania to Stop Discriminating Against Black Kids

Philly classrooms aren't quite this empty this fall, but they're shedding students more quickly than expected.

Last week’s news was filled with important stories about the gubernatorial election and a couple of major, sordid crimes, so if you missed out on the somewhat quieter news generated by David Mosenkis, it’s no wonder. But it’s important enough that the news needs to be repeated — indeed, to be shouted from the mountaintops.

The news is this: The school funding system in Pennsylvania is — there’s no nice word for it — racist.

“An analysis of enrollment, demographics, and basic education funding of Pennsylvania’s 501 public school districts reveals dramatically higher per-student funding in districts with predominantly white populations compared to economically similar districts with more racial diversity,” said the study by Mosenkis, a Mount Airy data analyst. (See the summary below.)

In other words: In Pennsylvania, white kids get more. Black kids get less.

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10 Reasons Cheyney Alumni Are Suing Pennsylvania and the Federal Government

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A coalition known as “Heeding Cheyney’s Call” (HCC), which consists of Cheyney University alumni, students, professors, staffers, and retirees, as well as community activists, religious leaders, and elected officials, today is suing the Commonwealth (full suit below) for continuing what we believe are decades-long civil rights violations against this great school.

HCC is also suing the federal government, claiming that it’s stood idly by and enabling those violations by doing nothing to stop them. You want proof? Here’s the good, i.e., Cheyney’s greatness, the bad, i.e., racial discrimination, and the ugly, i.e., well, that’s the previously mentioned racial discrimination stuff.

Let me count the ways: All 10 of’ ’em:

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Philly Man Angers New Yorkers With No-Hoodies Signs

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Ah, the hoodie.What was once just a sweatshirt with a hood is now a lightning rod of racial unpleasantries thanks to the 2012 shooting of a hoodied Trayvon Martin in Florida. Who can forget Geraldo Rivera going on Fox News to implore the “black and Latino youths” of the world to STOP WEARING HOODIES? Hoodies were just as responsible for Martin’s death as was the shooter, George Zimmerman, Rivera argued. He was forced to apologize soon thereafter.

But you’ll get no apologies from Philadelphia’s Joe Stark, who is on a mission to put one of his no-hoodies signs in every store in every major city on the East Coast. Read more »

Wrong-Sperm Suit Is Really About the Burden of Being Black

Jennifer Cramblett is interviewed at her attorney's home in Waite Hill, Ohio, Wednesday, Oct. 1, 2014. Cramblett has sued a Chicago-area sperm bank after she became pregnant with sperm donated by a black man instead of a white man as she'd intended.

Jennifer Cramblett is interviewed at her attorney’s home in Waite Hill, Ohio, Wednesday, Oct. 1, 2014. Cramblett has sued a Chicago-area sperm bank after she became pregnant with sperm donated by a black man instead of a white man as she’d intended.

A same-sex couple in Ohio is suing a Chicago-area sperm bank for wrongful birth and breach of warranty after receiving the wrong sperm, resulting in the birth of a mixed-race baby girl, Payton.

Payton’s mother, Jennifer Cramblett, has said that she and her partner will now have to relocate from their Uniontown, Ohio, farm town to a more diverse area in order to ensure that Payton is comfortable. Cramblett cites that their current community is mostly white and conservative, and notes racial intolerance in her own family.

Baby Payton is two years old. While it is admirable that her parents have noted their own shortcomings in their ability to care for a child of color (cultural understandings, or even more basic needs like hair care) the lawsuit is about a little more than negligence. And let us be clear, Midwest Sperm Bank certainly seems grossly negligent.

Payton’s parents want compensation for the inconvenience of living a black life. Read more »

Remembering the Great Charles Bowser on His 84th Birthday

A version of this story ran in 2010.

Many prominent, as well as not-so-prominent, Philadelphians have important stories to tell about the preeminent Charles W. Bowser, Esquire, a giant who passed away in 2010. Here are some that I decided to share in honor of the man born October 9, 1930.

In 2000, which was five years before he retired, Charles W. Bowser, Esquire called my small solo practitioner law office and left a voice mail message. At the time, I didn’t know him personally but I certainly knew his great reputation. And that was because, in the mid-1970s when I was a young elementary school kid at Masterman, my mom and grandmom used to always brag about him as some kind of local Thurgood Marshall, Martin Luther King Jr., and even Malcolm X all rolled up into one. Ever since then, I read everything I could about this thoroughly impressive man and his thoroughly impressive work.

In his phone message, Mr. Bowser simply said, “Hey, Michael. This is Charlie Bowser. I haven’t met you before, but I’ve heard some good stuff about your legal and social activism on behalf of Black folks. And I’d like to meet with you to discuss the possibility of you working with me at the Bowser Law Center.” I couldn’t believe it. This couldn’t be happening. That couldn’t have been “the” Charles Bowser calling me. I wasn’t worthy. He was a legend. He was a giant. He was larger than life. He was calling me? No way!

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Confession: I’m Black, and I Used to Be Afraid to Walk Around Fishtown

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This September marked the start of my 32nd year of residence in this city. And for all of those previous 31 years, I’ve treated this place as my oyster. It’s part of my nature: No matter what city I’m in, I want to take it all in, or as much of it as time will allow. Thirty-one years is a lot of time, and in that time, I’d set foot in every neighborhood in this city.

With — until pretty recently — one big exception.

Like most black Philadelphians, I had heard stories about Fishtown. It seemed that we weren’t welcome there. I’d read stories about blacks getting harrassed, and worse, when they moved into the neighborhood.

And I wasn’t alone.

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Ban the “Redskins”

Can you start making these helmets after the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office canceled Washington's trademark?

Time for a new mascot?

“Redskin” is a slur.

Got it?

This is not up for debate. It is a slur, despite any arguments made about intent. Curiously, it is one that can be put in respectable print publications without censorship. It doesn’t get abbreviated like “the f-word” or “the n-word” and despite its vulgarity it doesn’t make people wince like the word “cunt.”

But it is a slur. A racist one.
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Nat Turner: Maniacal Murderer or Virtuous Visionary?

Source | Wikimedia Commons

This 1831 woodcut purports to illustrate stages of the rebellion. Source | Wikimedia Commons

A version of this column ran in 2011.

October 2, 2014 — or thereabout — will be the 214th birthday of Nat Turner. I say “thereabout” because blacks, like him, who were born enslaved in this country, including Philadelphia, were considered inanimate objects and therefore were not bestowed the dignity of an official birth certificate. Despite that, most historians agree that he was born on that date in 1800.

It was in Southampton County, Virginia, that his rebellion took place on August 21, 1831, when he and others killed 55 persons to bring about an end to slavery. Did those killings mean that he was a maniacal murderer like Ted Bundy or a virtuous visionary like the colonial patriots such as the Sons of Liberty and the Boston, New York City, and Providence activists who beat, shot, and killed Brits?

Well, let’s talk first about who he was and what he did before we determine what he was.

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Faculty Member Suspended Over “Redskins” Ban

This isn’t heavy-handed at all: Neshaminy school officials have suspended a faculty member because the students who run the high school paper refused to permit the school’s mascot — the “Redskins” — be used in an op-ed.

The paper’s student editor was also removed from her job for a month.
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What Stu Bykofsky Almost Gets Right About White Privilege

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Let’s give Stu Bykofsky some credit: Sometimes he almost stumbles his way to the truth.

Backhanded compliment? Sure. But you take what you can get with Stu. And on Tuesday, what Stu gave us was this: A deconstruction of the idea of “white privilege” — part of Stu’s Ongoing Series of Columns That Try to Tear Down the Foundations of Political Correctness, That Most Venal of Sins — that instead pretty much affirmed the concept.

Stu would almost certainly deny that’s what happened. But judge for yourself.

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