The Poorest Place in America: Texas Colonias

A ragged American flag flutters outside Rosa Castro’s trailer near the U.S.-Mexico border. She has no electricity, no running water, and little hope that she ever will.

Castro is one of about 500,000 people residing in hundreds of unincorporated towns in south Texas, places with quirky names such as Little Mexico, Radar Base, Betty Acres and Mike’s that were created when developers carved up ranchland that was unprepared for human habitation and sold the parcels at bargain prices, mostly to low-income immigrants and Mexican Americans.

Buyers plunked down double-wide trailers or wood-and-cinder-block houses and waited for the paved roads, electricity, and water and sewer systems to arrive.

For thousands of people, they never did.

The Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas says the enclaves, known in Spanish as colonias, represent one of the largest concentrations of poverty in the United States. Texas outlawed their creation and expansion in 1989. The state and federal government have spent hundreds of millions of dollars to improve some of the outposts, but have done little in others, for reasons that include the high costs and questions about who owns which land.

Critics of colonias say people frustrated by the lack of services should move to established cities and towns, but residents refuse to abandon their land after years of trying to make it work. They are irked that the state government recently cut funding for health care, water and other services for colonias, and that President Trump is pushing a $25 billion border wall and security upgrades at a time when illegal border crossings are low and colonias could use a federal boost.

“We can’t move away from here. We want Washington to do something,” said Castro, a 70-year-old grandmother. “We’re in the United States after all.”

Jesse Gonzalez, an elected commissioner in Webb County, says he has made it his priority to bring a park and a water pump to La Presa. The county has applied for state grants to finance both projects.

“We don’t live in a Third World country,” Gonzalez said.

 

About 330 colonias — and nearly 38,000 people — are stuck in the most extreme conditions, without clean running water, sewers, or even clear boundaries needed to develop the land, according to the state. Another 115,000 people live in enclaves without paved roads, drainageor solid-waste disposal.

Residents of La Presa, a community of 300 surrounding a bluish lake at the center of town that is hidden by mesquite and sweet acacia trees, buy bottled water for drinking. Two or three times a week, they hitch empty water tanks to pickup trucks and drive about a dozen miles to Laredo to pump water for their washing machines, sinks, toilets and tubs.

 

The cost is nominal, about $1.25 each filling, but the supply dwindles fast.

Sylvia Zuazua, a flea market cashier, has lived without running water for decades. She and her husband paid $5,200 for an acre of land in the 1970s, dreaming of raising their family on a small farm. They bought chickens, cows and a pony, but they eventually sold them all because they had no water.

“Supposedly the United States is the richest country,” she said with a shake of her head. “I tell my husband, he’s going to be buried and we won’t see water.”

The improvements that have trickled into La Presa over the years have made a big difference, residents say. Electrical hookups arrived over a decade ago for residents who could prove they owned the land. Around the same time, the government built an adobe-tinted community center where elderly residents play loteria, the Mexican version of bingo, pick up bags of donated sweet bread and ham sandwiches, and gather for meetings.

But for those, like Castro, who cannot prove they own their land, electricity was not an option. And for county officials, some improvements are simply too expensive — extending water and sewer service to La Presa, for example, would cost more than $120,000 per family, which is more expensive than housing in Laredo.

The rightful homeowners in colonias are often unclear because many paid for their land in cash and did not have the land formally mapped out and deeded with the county government. Others illegally carved up existing plots and sold them. And in other cases, the owners died without having a will that would indicate who owns the property.

“Those property owners who have chosen to live in the subdivision without basic services are also free to choose to relocate to an area where those services are available,” Webb County spokesman Larry Sanchez said in an email. “Until there is a significant reduction in the cost per connection or other funding resources are generated, this subdivision will remain without water and sewer service or other utility services.”

Carlos Cascos, a Republican and another former secretary of state, under Abbott, said the state and federal governments should invest $100 million a year for the next 15 years to modernize colonias.

“These are basic necessities,” said Cascos, who lives in the border city of Brownsville and is running for a judgeship in Cameron County. “They’re not asking for curbs and gutters and sidewalks. They’re asking for water.”

Castro said she moved to La Presa more than a dozen years ago, after she lost her house in Laredo to foreclosure. County officials say they can do little to provide Castro access to utilities for her trailer, because it’s unclear who owns the property where she lives, and only a court can resolve the issue.

Officials tried to help her apply for public housing in Laredo, but Castro says she wants to pay her own way.

She says she also did not want to burden her relatives. But as temperatures sank this winter, she sought refuge with a brother who has heat and hot water.

“They’re going to build a park,” Castro said. “We don’t need a park. We need water.”

The Washington Post  30 January 2018

BLACK HISTORY: A HISTORY OF RESISTENCE

CYRIL BRIGGS, FOUNDER OF THE  FORGOTTEN NATIONAL SELF DEFENSE  ORGANIZATION, THE AFRICAN BLOOD BROTHERHOOD

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CLICK HERE  FOR FULL  STORY

Founder Of The Forgotten ProBlack Movement The African Blood Brotherhood

 

Beloved of Allah: the Most Beautiful Man

aliBoy

When Ali refused the draft, I felt something greater than pride: I felt as though my honor as a black boy had been defended, my honor as a human being… The day he refused, I cried in my room. I cried for him and for myself, for my future and for his, for all our black possibilities.

Gerald Early

 

AliNationofIslam

With the Nation of Islam, listening to the Prophet Elijah Muhammed

 

malcom_x_-muhammad-ali

With his friend, Minister Malcolm X

“Why should they ask me to put on a uniform and go 10,000 miles from home and drop bombs and bullets on Brown people in Vietnam while so-called Negro people in Louisville are treated like dogs and denied simple human rights? No I’m not going 10,000 miles from home to help murder and burn another poor nation simply to continue the domination of white slave masters of the darker people the world over. This is the day when such evils must come to an end. I have been warned that to take such a stand would cost me millions of dollars. But I have said it once and I will say it again. The real enemy of my people is here. I will not disgrace my religion, my people or myself by becoming a tool to enslave those who are fighting for their own justice, freedom and equality.… If I thought the war was going to bring freedom and equality to 22 million of my people they wouldn’t have to draft me, I’d join tomorrow. I have nothing to lose by standing up for my beliefs. So I’ll go to jail, so what? We’ve been in jail for 400 years.”   April, 1967

 

AliHeadlines

“My conscience won’t let me go shoot my brother, or some darker people, or some poor hungry people in the mud for big powerful America. And shoot them for what? They never called me nigger, they never lynched me, they didn’t put no dogs on me, they didn’t rob me of my nationality, rape and kill my mother and father. … Shoot them for what? How can I shoot them poor people? Just take me to jail.”   March 30 1967

muhammad aliWithKids 

“In your struggle for freedom, justice and equality I am with you. I came back to Louisville because I could not remain silent while my own people, many I grew up with, many I went to school with, many my blood relatives, were being beaten, stomped and kicked in the streets simply because they want freedom, and justice and equality in housing.”

wMalX

“Here was the heavyweight champion, a magic man, taking his fight out of the ring into the arena of politics and standing firm. The message was sent.”

Sonia Sanchez

 

muhammad_ali_Flys

“I’m king of the world! I’m pretty! I’m a bad man! I shook up the world! I shook up the world! I shook up the world!”

 

aliRunning

He shook up the world.

Why is Rahm Emanuel still the mayor of Chicago?

 Ashlee Rezin / Chicago Sun-Times, via Associated Press

CHICAGO — Racism has contributed to a long pattern of institutional failures by the Chicago Police Department in which officers have mistreated people, operated without sufficient oversight, and lost the trust of residents, a task force appointed by Mayor Rahm Emanuel has found.

The report, issued on Wednesday, was blistering, blunt and backed up by devastating statistics. Coincidentally, it was released as city leaders were installing a new, permanent superintendent for the Chicago Police Department.

“C.P.D.’s own data gives validity to the widely held belief the police have no regard for the sanctity of life when it comes to people of color,” the task force wrote. “Stopped without justification, verbally and physically abused, and in some instances arrested, and then detained without counsel — that is what we heard about over and over again.”

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The report reinforces complaints made for decades by African-American residents who have said they were unfairly singled out by officers without justification on a regular basis, then ignored when they raised complaints.

It comes at a pivotal moment for the nation’s second-largest municipal police force, which is being criticized by residents and is under scrutiny from the Justice Department. And, coming from Mr. Emanuel’s own appointees, the findings intensify pressure on him and other Chicago leaders to make substantive, swift changes.

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The report makes more than 100 specific recommendations for change, and task force members called on the mayor and the City Council to take action. After formally receiving the report, Mr. Emanuel had no immediate public reaction.

The task force amassed data that shows the extent to which African-Americans appear to have been disproportionately focused on by the police. In a city where whites, blacks and Hispanics each make up about one-third of the population, 74 percent of the 404 people shot by the Chicago police between 2008 and 2015 were black, the report said. Black people were the subjects in 72 percent of the thousands of investigative street stops that did not lead to arrests during the summer of 2014.

TripleHomicideChicagoSouth

Continue reading the main story

 

The Murder of Black Children Continues

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

The Assassination of Berta Cáceres

"Most murders go unpunished [in Honduras]," observed School of the Americas Watch. (Orlando Sierra/AFP/Getty Images)

By Nika Knight, staff writer, Common Dreams

 

More than 50 humanitarian and environmental groups from around the world called on Friday for an independent international investigation into the assassination of Honduran Indigenous rights activist Berta Cáceres, who was murdered in her sleep at 1am on Thursday by two unknown assailants.

“Mrs. Cáceres’ case is the most high-profile killing within a growing trend in the murder, violence, and intimidation of people defending their indigenous land rights in Honduras,” wrote the groups in their letter to the Honduran president.

“We know that in Honduras it is very easy to pay people to commit murders,” Zuñiga Caceres said of her mother’s death to teleSUR. “But we know that those behind this are other powerful people with money and a whole apparatus that allows them to commit these crimes.”

Cáceres was a prominent leader in the Indigenous movement in Honduras against one of Central America’s largest hydropower projects, four enormous dams known as “Agua Zarca” in the Gualcarque river basin, the Guardian reported. The Indigenous group Cáceres founded, Civil Council for Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras (COPINH), has so far been successful in preventing the project from moving forward.

Cáceres was awarded the prestigious Goldman Environmental Prize for her activism just last year.

“Berta Cáceres devoted her life to protecting natural resources, public spaces, land rights, rivers from the privatization process that’s underway and that gained speed after the 2009 military coup,” said Karen Spring, the Honduras-based coordinator of the social justice network Honduras Solidarity Group, in an interview with Free Speech Radio News on Thursday. “She spent her life defending land and and basically supporting communities, mostly indigenous communities all over the country.”

As a result of her activism, Cáceres had received death threats and feared for her life, theLos Angeles Times reported, and the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), a prominent human rights organization, had last year formally called on the Honduran government to put protections in place for Cáceres, according to the Guardian. The UN has condemned the Honduras government for failing to protect her, and activists have accused the government of having a hand in her death.

In its most recent report (pdf) released in December, IACHR warned of the violence and threats to their lives that activists such as Cáceres suffer under in Honduras. The group blamed “the increased presence of organized crime and drug traffickers, the recruitment of children and adolescents, and an inadequate judicial response that fuels impunity, corruption, and high levels of poverty and inequality. In addition, according to the information received, part of that insecurity comes from the National Police, the Military Police, and the Army, through their illegitimate use of force, in some cases in complicity with organized crime.”

Student protesters took to the streets in Tegucigalpa on Thursday to mourn the widely beloved environmentalist’s death, the Guardian reported, and the Honduran government, in power since a U.S.-backed coup in 2009, responded with riot police.

One suspect has been arrested, the Honduras government confirmed in a statement toteleSUR on Friday. There were reportedly two assassins involved in Cáceres’ death. But the Cáceres family is demanding “an independent, international investigation [into her death] not led by the Honduran government,” teleSUR reported.

“Honduras has the world’s highest murder rate,” noted School of the Americas Watch, a group that seeks to close the infamous U.S. Army School of the Americas, in a statement on Thursday. “Honduran human rights organizations report there have been over 10,000 human rights violations by state security forces and impunity is the norm—most murders go unpunished. The Associated Press has repeatedly exposed ties between the Honduran police and death squads, while U.S. military training and aid for the Honduran security forces continues.”

The environmental group International Rivers demanded Thursday that “the U.S, government, in particular, end its support for the Honduran military through loans and through training at the School of the Americas,” drawing attention to the United States’ significant responsibility for the oppressive regime in Honduras today, in order “to honor Berta Cáceres’ lifelong struggle and her ultimate sacrifice for rivers and rights.”

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LOCKING UP CHILDREN

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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traumatized.

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.

Changing the World Through Latino Literature

PRESS RELEASE
Feb/5/2016
For Immediate Release
Contact:
Tony Diaz
AztecMuse@aol.com
(713) 867-8943Nuestra Palabra:Latino Writers Having Their Say
Nuestra Palabra Turns 18
Celebrates Changing the World Through Latino Lit

HOUSTON, TX – February 5, 2016 – When Nuestra Palabra began, we were told that Latinos did care about literature. We were told that Latinos were not interested in writing. We were told that there was not much interest in Latino Literature. We are proud to have proven the naysayers wrong for 18 years. Join us to celebrate the landmark of our 18th anniversary as we aknowledge all the milestones we have achieved as a community.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016, 6pm – 8pm, at Talento Bilingue de Houston 333. S. Jensen. Tickets will go on sale Tuesday, February 23, 2016, during the NP Radio Show on 90.1 FM 6p-7p. They will be available at www.NuestraPalabra.org. $25 at the door. $20 in advance. This showcase will feature the poetry, fiction, and teatro of our award-winning authors who started their careers on our stage.

Antonio reading a book by the brook.

Here are just a few milestones.

* Largest Book Fairs in Houston: We organized the Houston Latin Book and Family Festival, which at its peak drew 30,000 folks to the GRB, making it the largest lit event in Houston for any demographic.

* When Arizona banned Mexican American Studies, Nuestra Palabra veteransunited to become the Librotraficantes to smuggle the banned books back into Arizona by using the resources and contacts of Nuestra Palabra.

* We just had our 12 members receive a Master’s Degree in Writing, with 10 MFA’s stemming from our group. Nuestra Palabra has created more Latino MFA’s than the University of Houston Creative Writing Program. As a side note, I’m the first Chicano to recieve in MFA from the UH CWP back in 1995.

* The NP Radio Show: Nuestra Palabra: Latino Writers Having Their Say ON THE AIR began broadcasting on 90.1 FM KPFT in March of 2001.

* The Houston Public Library is archiving the Nuestra Palabra papers.

* The UH Library will be archiving our radio broadcasts.

* We are also launching the Nuestra Palabra Anthology.

 More info to come, always MAS.

www.NuestraPalabra.org