“Ma, the baby’s drunk again!”
Over and over, children show us that their voices can ring out with more authority and power than any adult discourse. This is the second collection published by 16-year-old Syrian-American poet Ludella Awad, who lives with her family in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Ludella has said that she began to write about Syria when she was fourteen because she couldn’t talk about it.
She’s talking about it now.
In addition to two books of poetry, Ludella has done several public readings, been featured on a radio show, and attracted the attention of the University of New Mexico.
Most importantly, she hasn’t allowed the people of Syria to disappear between the cracks of fickle Western memory.
I think that’s what she set out to do.
Syria’s Bloody Nightmare
I am in a dream about Syria’s war.
I am in a dreary place where
Everyone is dressed in black;
The chairs are white, lined up in rows.
The people’s faces are wrinkled with grief.
They are picking up dirt with home-made shovels,
Throwing it on the bodies in the open graves.
The people are standing in a graveyard, smelling blood.
I hear the screams of mothers crying for their children.
I see dead roses on the ground;
I hear the wind blowing.
I look at the ground,
And see the photos and memories of Syria blowing away.
My head is spinning and spinning
With photos and memories,
Remembering my grandma,
Seeing my grandma waving to me.
By Udella Awad
I interrupt this program to announce that I’ve added text to my previous post, One Boy’s Pablo Neruda. I knew you’d all want to stop whatever you are doing and rush to read it,
As always, I aim only to please, and remain your humble and deeply modest servant.
Heh heh heh… or, as they say in Central America !JaJa Ja!
GANADORA: “Bendecidos por la lluvia” / Eduardo Garcia, Cuba
Un momento emocionante e íntimo de una abuela y nieta. / Felix Lupa
Esposos con 100 años / Felix Lupa
Mención Especial / Alfonso Aguilar, México
Mención Especial – A un paso de la gloria. Rafael Velázquez Mora, México
Mención Especial: Dame platanos. Ghyslaine Peigné, Francia
GOLDIE TAYLOR, The Daily Beast
What Happened to Gynnya McMillen in Jail?
Gynnya McMillen had never been arrested before when she was taken to a Kentucky juvenile detention center. Hours later, the 16-year-old was dead, and no one will say why.
Mothers are not meant to bury their daughters.
It has been just over two weeks since the family of Gynnya McMillen gathered in the pews of Fifth Street Baptist Church in Louisville, Kentucky, to pray and weep over her casket, and nearly three weeks since the 16-year-old was found dead in a county juvenile detention center on Jan. 11. Officials in north central Kentucky said Gynnya simply died in her sleep and that there was no evidence of foul play.
A state investigation is underway, but the notion that she may have been killed by the very people sworn to serve and protect her is almost too horrendous to swallow. There is nothing simple about the way Gynnya died, nor should anyone readily accept that the death of an otherwise healthy teenager is anything but foul.
Gynnya wasn’t hit by a speeding car. She did not commit suicide. There was no suddenly rupturing brain aneurysm, and she did not have a heart attack.
Clearly, lethal harm came to Gynnya, and we should be able to identify and name it. Her mother deserves to know what happened to her child. She deserves to know what became of her daughter—from the moment on Jan. 10 that the teenager stepped into the squad car that took her to a detention center until her lifeless body was wheeled into a coroner’s wagon the next day.
We should not rest until someone answers for that.
Gynnya was locked up for roughly 14 hours in the Lincoln Village Juvenile Detention Center in Elizabethtown, Kentucky, where she was sequestered alone in a holding cell, despite departmental policy. And as she lay alone and dying, videotapes reveal that facility staffers never performed the required physical checks overnight.
By 10 a.m. on Jan. 11, Gynnya was reportedly unresponsive when a guard attempted to physically wake her up. The detention center’s staff waited a full 11 minutes—and only after a delayed call to 911—before finally attempting resuscitation. There were reportedly no signs of bruising or trauma and no known medical issues, such as a heart condition, that might have hastened her death.
Reginald Windham, a 10-year employee with the center, has been placed on paid administrative leave for failing to check on Gynnya every 15 minutes as required for juveniles held in isolation. A state Justice Cabinet Secretary asked for an expedited investigation, including a full autopsy.
Little is known about what prompted her confinement, except that an alleged “domestic dispute” at her mother’s house on Jan. 10 resulted in a misdemeanor assault charge. Gynnya had been previously removed from her mother’s custody and placed at Home For Innocents, a residential group foster care facility for abused, abandoned, or neglected children in nearby Louisville.
The officers responding to the McMillen’s Shelbyville home that Sunday called a court-designee, who had the power to make legal decisions in cases involving juveniles. A local judge honored a request for detention.
Once in custody, Gynnya was not violent but purportedly refused to take off a hooded sweatshirt during a pat-down search. According to Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting, officers “took her down” using an “Aikido restraint” move.
“The youth’s repeated refusal to cooperate with staff and remove her outer garment prompted the restraint,” a Department of Juvenile Justice said, by “multiple staff… to ensure the safety of youth and staff.”
The sweatshirt was ultimately removed. Gynnya was then searched and photographed.
However, the force used in this case defies every known public policy—for non-violent juveniles like Gynnya, it is recommended simply that they be segregated from others and talked through to a resolution. According to available reports, Gynnya never assaulted or attempt to assault any of the staffers.
It was her first and last arrest. Gynna never woke up that Monday morning. She never saw the sun rise.
Save for a smattering of blog posts and a few local news stories, her name—Gynnya Hope McMillen—has escaped our national consciousness. Maybe it is because we cannot imagine ourselves in her shoes.
We cannot imagine dying over a sweatshirt. We cannot imagine what it might mean to be a black girl in Shelby County, Kentucky or in a largely white town with a population of less than 15,000. Maybe we cannot imagine ourselves neglected or abused and living in a group home. Or that someone might think so little of our lives that they would break department policy and not think to check on our welfare. Maybe it’s because we cannot imagine why somebody waited so long to call 911 or render medical aid.
Maybe it’s because we cannot imagine what it’s like to be left to die.
Contributed by Paul Seimering
By Nika Knight, staff writer, Common Dreams
Americans “overwhelmingly support” shuttering all of the country’s juvenile prisons and replacing them with community-based rehabilitation and prevention programs, according to a poll announced Thursday by Youth First, a new campaign to close youth prisons nationwide.
“We believe that youth prison model should be abandoned and replaced with more humane and less costly alternatives to incarceration,” Liz Ryan, president of Youth First, said during a Thursday press conference.
Among other proposals to reform the system, 83 percent of poll respondents agreed with Youth First’s argument that states should invest in alternatives to incarceration. A whopping 89 percent agreed with the group’s proposal to design new forms of treatment that include family members. The support held across party lines: 79 percent of Democrats, 71 percent of Republicans, and 81 percent of independents agreed with all of the group’s suggestions for reform.
Youth First argues that the current system “isn’t safe, isn’t fair, and doesn’t work” and advocates for a new model of treatment for youth convicted of crimes, including involving family in a treatment plan that emphasizes rehabilitation and prevention. The group also argues for closing incarceration facilities and using the resultant savings to fund new community-based programs.
Support for Youth First’s reform proposals was robust even among those who have been victims of crime and those who have family members who have been victims, the poll found. Crime victims do not support the “tough on crime” rhetoric and punishment-based programs that were touted by U.S. politicians in recent decades, which were responsible for the corresponding dramatic rise in juvenile incarceration rates, the group said.
Da’Quon Beaver, an advocate with youth prison reform groups Just Children and RISE for Youth in Richmond, Virginia, described his own experience as an incarcerated child during Thursday’s press conference. He was tried as an adult at age 14 and sentenced to 48 years—which meant he spent his most formative years in multiple maximum security juvenile prisons, he said.
“My experience at these prisons—they are prisons, it doesn’t matter what softer names they give them,” Beaver said, “anything you can imagine happening at adult prisons are happening at these juvenile prisons.”
Beaver described mentally ill children being placed in isolation units in lieu of treatment, legally-mandated school hours being called off for days at a time because of “lack of security staff,” and kids doing nothing for 12 hours a day but sitting in a tiny windowless room watching “a box TV with about four channels.” This is not to mention the violence, the ever-present threats of sexual assault, and the prevalent use of chemical and physical restraints by correctional officers in youth detention centers also cited by Youth First in its reform initiative.
Youth First also announced the release of an online mapping tool that allows visitors to explore the racial disparities of youth incarceration—children of color are incarcerated at far higher rates than white children charged with the same crime, the data showed. Its mapping tool also brings to light the surprising number of enormous detention centers built for children in the 19th century that are still in use today.
A bipartisan coalition of governors from three states—Connecticut, Illinois, and Virginia—have also recently committed to closing some of the old, outdated facilities in their states, the group said.
Beaver attested that the “things we’re doing aren’t just wrong because we’re doing them to kids, they’re wrong because we’re doing them to humans.”
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It took ( and takes) a pernicious and, well, sociopathic eye to view
In many ways, they are like child soldiers
American law and policy makers would hasten to claim that the New Zealand and US systems are just different approaches to shared social goals. Ha! Ha! The approaches themselves ARE the respective goals . When New Zealand makes the mutual claims of citizenship on children who are lost, the goal is clear to everyone.
Twelve-year-old Americans are sentenced as adults for one reason: in order to insure that they will get life sentences – that is the goal.
I wonder how much of the world realizes the barbarity to which all African-American children- and other American children, but particularly Black – may be legally subjected.
At the drop of a hat.
BY Paul Siemering, Cambridge, Massachusetts
Harriet Tubman launched her spectacular career when she was only thirteen years old. A fellow slave was tied to a post and getting whipped. As was the custom in those days, the other enslaved people were forced to watch this torture. But Harriet, young as she was, could not tolerate such cruelty. She ran to the victim and quickly untied him. The overseer who had been doing the whipping was furious. He picked up the first projectile he could find and threw it at the slave. But he hit Harriet on the head. She dropped to the ground, and her mother took her back to the cabin.
Harriet was in a coma for 3 days. Her recovery was slow but she did regain her strength. However she was left with a brain trauma that caused her at any time, without warning, to fall unconscious. This problem lasted the rest of her life. When these episodes happened, there was nothing anyone could do but wait until she came to.
A few years later, Harriet decided to make a run for freedom on the Underground Railway with two brothers. The boys became frightened and turned back, but Harriet continued on until she reached the North.
It wasn’t long, though, before Harriet returned to the South to free other enslaved people. Freedom was considered an unforgivable crime by the slave owners. Bounty hunters with blood hounds made a profitable living catching freedom fighters, so any escape attempt was fraught with great danger. Because Harriet was a superhero though, she had to keep going back to free more slaves. You may see pictures of her carrying a gun. She always told every group she took that if they wanted their freedom, she would guide them North. But once they joined her, she explained, they must remain or she would shoot them: anyone who tried to run back endangered the whole group.
Harriet Tubman made many trips as a conductor on the Underground Railway and never lost a passenger. After awhile She developed quite a reputation among the slave “owners”. They raised $40,000 of reward money for anyone who could catch her.
Making all those trips, risking her own life over and over again – all this knowing that at any given moment of these journeys she could pass out- is more than enough to qualify as a superhero by any standards.
You can look through anybody’s history, anytime, anywhere.
But you’ll never find anyone as brave and tenacious as Harriet Tubman.
Paul Siemering taught in the Boston public schools for 30 years, then volunteered for 20 years longer. Now in his 80s and living in what may well be the last commune left in Cambridge, Paul’s posts are written for people of all ages. I met him when I was 12, going on 13, and he has been my friend ever since.
Follow him on Facebook if you want a good online friend.
You don’t have to be a Texas resident to change the curriculum of the nation’s powerhouse textbook consumer. Contribute to the Perez campaign and contribute to equity in American education.
#Perez4SBOE1 #Democrat #TXSBOE
Dear Governor Snyder:
Thanks to you, sir, and the premeditated actions of your administrators, you have effectively poisoned, not just some, but apparently ALL of the children in my hometown of Flint, Michigan.
And for that, you have to go to jail.
To poison all the children in an historic American city is no small feat. Even international terrorist organizations haven’t figured out yet how to do something on a magnitude like this.
But you did. Your staff and others knew that the water in the Flint River was poison — but you decided that taking over the city and “cutting costs” to “balance the budget” was more important than the people’s health (not to mention their democratic rights to elect their own leaders.) So you cut off the clean, fresh glacial lake water of Lake Huron that the citizens of Flint (including myself) had been drinking for decades and, instead, made them drink water from the industrial cesspool we call the Flint River — a body of “water” where toxins from a dozen General Motors and DuPont factories have been dumped for over a hundred years. And then you decided to put a chemical in this water to “clean” it — which only ended up stripping the lead off of Flint’s aging water pipes, placing that lead in the water and sending it straight into people’s taps. Your callous — and reckless (btw, “reckless” doesn’t get you a pass; a reckless driver who kills a child, still goes to jail) — decision to do this has now, as revealed by the city’s top medical facility, caused “irreversible brain damage” in Flint’s children, not to mention other bodily damage to all of Flint’s adults. Here’s how bad it is: Even GM won’t let the auto parts they use in building cars touch the Flint water because that water “corrodes” them. This is a company that won’t even fix an ignition switch after they’ve discovered it’s already killed dozens of people. THAT’s how bad the situation is. Even GM thinks you’re the devil.
Maybe you don’t understand the science behind this. Lead, in water — now, bear with me, this involves a science lesson and you belong to the anti-science party, the one that believes there’s not a climate problem and that Adam and Eve rode on dinosaurs 6,000 years ago. Lead is toxic to the human body. There’s no way to fully eliminate it once it’s in your system, and children are the most damaged by it.
By taking away the city’s clean drinking water in order to “cut costs,” and then switching the city’s water supply to Flint River water, you have allowed massively unsafe levels of pollutants and lead into the water that travels in to everyone’s home. Every Flint resident is trapped by this environmental nightmare which you, Governor, have created.
Like any real criminal, when you were confronted with the truth (by the EPA and other leading water experts across America), you denied what you did. Even worse, you decided to mock your accusers and their findings. As I said, I know you don’t like to believe in a lot of science (after all, you used to run Gateway Computers, and that, really, is all anyone needs to know about you), but this time the science has caught up with you — and this time, I hope, it’s going to convict you.
The facts are all there, Mr. Snyder. Every agency involved in this scheme reported directly to you. The children of Flint didn’t have a choice as to whether or not they were going to get to drink clean water. But soon it will be your turn to not have that choice about which water you’ll be drinking. Because by this time next year, if there is an ounce of justice left in this land, the water you’ll be drinking will be served to you from a tap inside Jackson Prison.
I am calling upon my fellow Michiganders — and seekers of justice everywhere — to petition U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch, asking her to arrest you for corruption and assault (i.e., the physical assault you committed against the children of Flint when you knowingly poisoned them).
Yesterday, the federal prosecutor in Flint, after many of us had called for months for this action, finally opened up an investigation into the matter. Now we need your arrest, prosecution and conviction.
And who will be cheering on that day when you are fitted with a bright orange jumpsuit? The poor and minority communities of Michigan who’ve endured your dictatorial firing of their mayors and school boards so you could place your business friends in charge of their mostly-black cities. They know you never would have done this to a wealthy white suburb.
I welcome all to look at the appalling facts of this case, which have been reported brilliantlyhere, here, and especially here by the great Rachel Maddow. Thank you, Rachel, for caring so deeply when the rest of the national television media didn’t.
I’m asking everyone who agrees with me to sign on to this petition and call for your arrest, Governor Snyder. You are not allowed to run amok in my hometown like you have done. The children whom you have poisoned have to endure a life of pain and lower IQs from your actions. You have destroyed a generation of children — and for that, you must pay.
It is time for you to go to prison. Out of mercy, I’ll ask that you have in your cell your own personal Gateway computer.
Michigan resident and voter
For everyone wanting to sign on to this petition calling for the IMMEDIATE resignation of Governor Snyder AND for the FBI to arrest him, please sign the petition here.
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