June 20, 2013
By Shonassee Shaver
New Orleans civil rights advocate, Rev. Samson “Skip” Alexander is a legend among the many leaders who have helped affect social change. Samson was a close friend of the late Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and he is responsible for the treasured photo capturing Coretta Scott King, sitting front row with her children mourning her husband’s death. Samson had taken and retains many historical images. It is no surprise that he is the owner of this momentous photograph.
Rev. Samson aka “Skip” recalls that day where the FBI was on patrol, lurking for misconduct and suspicious behavior.
“They were hurt about their father’s passing. As we marched to Morehouse College for his memorial, I remember them looking somber as if they were sleep walking” said Rev. Samson. Legendary boxing champ Muhammad Ali, President Richard Nixon were among many of the influential people to flow from the balcony of the Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, Georgia, where Dr. King’s funeral was held.
“There were dignitaries at his funeral,” Samson recalled.
“Kings and queens from all around the world (Africa and India) came to show their respects for Dr. King.”
Samson had a hand in the funeral’s seating process, he said. He was also among the news press, accompanying Ebony Magazine, Pittsburg Courier, The Chicago Defender and Life and Times. “I was in charge of placing thousands people from around the world in the backyard of the church” he said.
“The FBI had told me I could not take any pictures because of the flash. The flash would spark concerns of gun firing at Dr. Kings memorial.”
Not likely to abide by law officials, he went ahead and took the picture.
“I was able to use light that was available to me. I learned this technique in the air force,” said Rev. Samson. Not wanting to get caught taking a picture. He gave the photo to someone unknown at the time, later to be someone from JET magazine.
Samson seems modest about his accomplishments, remaining humble and down to earth through all his triumphs.
“I was nobody special,” he stated when asked about his triumphs.
“I did not think I was making history at the time. We were doing what was needed during that time. We knew that in order to be free, we had to fight for desegregation.”
He candidly recalls the day when Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was shot.
“I was stunned and dumb founded. The FBI told me not to leave. I remember blood coming down the 2nd floor. I was a young guy” said Rev. Samson.
King had been the president of the Southern Christian Leadership (SCLC). Rev. Samson worked for the International Representatives of the American Federation of the Sate County and Municipal employees AFI-CIO.
“SCLC had no money and we would help them raise money for the organization, while he spoke to unions” he said.
In Memphis, Rev. Samson conducted a strike with the sanitation workers. Coincidently this was done while staying at the Lorraine Hotel where King was staying when he was assassinated. His goal, to get sanitation cards signed, was short lived by the incident.
Many were uncertain if the Civil Rights Movement could go on. Rev. Samson had his doubts that the movement would not be as effective with King gone. “I thought so. No other man in the world was spontaneous as he was. He could rally up a crowd. He could bring together good men and bad men”. Dr. King was a phenomenal man.
Sampson fondly remembers the police shouting at him to get out of the way.
“I had no identification or anything,” he said.
“I ‘boguarded’ my way through. I had to take the picture, even if I was going to jail.”
June 13, 2013
Special to the NNPA from the New York Amsterdam News
Eritrean or Sudanese people, who have sought asylum in Israel.
Israel is reportedly in talks with two other countries to secure a similar agreement.
Few other details of the transfer were available. Israeli Army Radio reported that the unnamed country was in east Africa and did not suffer from any unrest that would harm the migrants. The Haaretz newspaper said that Israel had agreed to provide agricultural expertise as part of the deal.
The Supreme Court has ordered the government to provide details of the arrangement, including the name of the African country, within seven days.
Or Kashti, an analyst writing for Haaretz, condemned the deal. “As if it were an export company, the State of Israel is trying to ship tens of thousands of people from Eritrea and Sudan to other countries, out of sight and out of mind. The main thing is that they will fly away from here. Price isn’t particularly important, nor is their fate in their new countries.
“Israeli imperviousness, the turning away from the distress of others, marks a new stage that is far from surprising. This is a natural progression from the systematic disregard for claims of asylum that were filed to the embarrassing legal amendment that enabled the detainment in prison facilities and incitement bordering on dehumanization. What is being discussed aren’t humans, but objects.
June 13, 2013
By JASON STRAZIUSO
JOHANNESBURG (AP) — Former President Nelson Mandela began responding better to treatment Wednesday morning for a recurring lung infection following “a difficult last few days,” South Africa’s president said.
President Jacob Zuma told parliament that he is happy with the progress that the 94-year-old is making following his hospitalization on Saturday.
Mandela spent a fifth straight day Wednesday in a Pretoria hospital, where he was visited by one of his daughters and two granddaughters.
Zuma noted that Wednesday marked the 49th anniversary of the sentencing of Mandela to life in prison in 1964. He said “our thoughts” are with Mandela and his family “on this crucial historical anniversary.”
“We are very happy with the progress that he is now making following a difficult last few days,” Zuma said. “We appreciate the messages of support from all over the world.”
Zuma on Wednesday applauded the legacy of Mandela and other anti-apartheid activists. South Africa's government disbanded its official policy of apartheid — racial segregation and discrimination — in 1994.
“Our country is a much better place to live in now than it was before 1994, even though we still have so much work to do,” Zuma said.
Mandela, the leader of South Africa's anti-apartheid movement, spent 27 years in prison during white racist rule. He was freed in 1990, and then embarked on peacemaking efforts during the tense transition that saw the demise of the apartheid system and his own election as South Africa’s first black president in 1994.
His admission to a hospital in Pretoria, the capital, is Mandela's fourth time being admitted to a hospital for treatment since December. President Barack Obama and Michelle Obama wished Mandela a “speedy recovery” on Tuesday.
Mandela’s grandson, Mandla Mandela, visited his grandfather on Wednesday and said the family has been deeply touched by the outpouring prayers and messages of goodwill from around the world. He said the family is satisfied with the care Mandela is receiving.
Zuma used Wednesday’s budget address to parliament as an occasion to highlight the work carried out by the African National Congress, the party that Mandela led to South Africa’s presidency, over the last 19 years.
South Africa’s economy has expanded 83 percent since 1994 and per capita income increased by 40 percent, Zuma said. But the recession in Europe, South Africa’s biggest trading partner, has hit Africa's biggest economy hard, and he said South Africa — which has experienced deadly labor strife in recent years — must move past labor violence.
The vestiges of apartheid, Zuma said, remain in South Africa: Black South Africans have less education and fewer skills than whites because of the apartheid era. As part of promoting national reconciliation, the implementation of black economic empowerment policies will continue, he said. Direct black ownership in Johannesburg's stock market is less than 5 percent.
“In addition, annual Employment Equity reports indicate that white males still own, control and manage the economy,” Zuma said.
The government is amending the black economic empowerment law to address some of these challenges, he added.
Outside Mandela’s Johannesburg home, well-wishers continued to leave tributes to the former president. A neighbor, Zaheerah Bham’Ismail, said it’s an emotional time for South Africans because Mandela “portrays the entire legacy of what everybody has fought for and our ideals.”
“But at the same time we know we have to say goodbye at some point because he needs ... his peace, as well. But I think in order to hold onto him, we’ve got to go back to fight for the ideals that he fought for,” Bham’Ismail said.
June 13, 2013
By EMILY WAGSTER PETTUS
JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — Civil rights leader Medgar Evers helped create a more inclusive and open Mississippi by increasing black voter registration, Gov. Phil Bryant said Wednesday during a service marking the 50th anniversary of Evers’ assassination.
A racially diverse crowd of more than 150 people gathered outside the Mississippi Museum of Art in downtown Jackson for speeches, gospel singing and the ringing of bells to remember the NAACP leader who was killed outside his home just after midnight on June 12, 1963. Evers was 37.
The Republican governor stood by Evers’ widow, Myrlie Evers-Williams, just before going on stage to speak. Bryant said Evers “paid the ultimate sacrifice” in challenging segregation.
“The young people that I met, who were here reading today, live in a vastly different Mississippi than existed 50 years ago because of the hard work of men like Medgar Evers and women like Myrlie Evers,” said Bryant, 58. “So, as we ring the bell today, we pay homage to them.”
Evers, a World War II veteran from Newton, Miss., was hired in 1954 as the state’s first field secretary for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. In addition to working for black voter registration, he led a boycott of downtown Jackson’s white-owned businesses, where black customers received shoddy service and few black clerks were hired.
Evers also investigated violence against African-Americans, including the 1955 killing of Emmett Till, a 14-year-old from Chicago who was said to have whistled at a white woman working in a grocery store in rural Money, Miss. Till was kidnapped from his uncle’s home near Money and was beaten beyond recognition and shot in the head. His body was weighted down with a fan from a cotton gin and dumped into the Tallahatchie River.
Till's mother allowed photos of his brutalized body to be published in Jet magazine, and the images galvanized the civil rights movement.
Simeon Wright is one of Till’s cousins and was in the home the night Till was taken. Wright said during the memorial service Wednesday that Evers was “a light in a dark place” during the investigation of the slaying — a crime for which two white men, J.W. Milam and Roy Bryant, were tried and acquitted by an all-white jury.
Wright said Evers taught him how to give a sworn statement to law enforcement.
“He said, ‘Whatever you do, tell the truth. Tell the truth,’” Wright said.
During the service Wednesday, four young adults read several quotes from religious leaders and civil-rights activists, including this 1961 statement from Evers, which was printed on a banner with a black-and-white photo of him: “Let men of good will and understanding change the old order, for this is a new day.”
In 1967, Democrat Robert Clark of Ebenezer became the first black Mississippian since Reconstruction to win a seat in the state House of Representatives. Clark, who knew Evers, served 36 years. By the time he retired, black representation in the state House and Senate was almost equal to Mississippi’s 38 percent black population — a change that was largely made possible by two federal laws, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
“I did not take a single vote during those 36 years that Medgar would not have taken himself,” Clark said.
Hollis Watkins, 71, of Jackson, was a teenager when he became involved in civil rights work and met Evers, who was 15 years older. He said Evers was not afraid to speak truth to power.
“Medgar did his job,” Watkins said. “The question becomes: How about us today? Are we doing our work?”
A white supremacist, Byron De La Beckwith, was tried twice for Evers’ slaying in the 1960s, but all-white juries deadlocked without convicting or acquitting him. After a reopened investigation, Beckwith was convicted of murder in 1994 and sentenced to life in prison. He was 80 when he died in custody in 2001.
June 13, 2013
By MARK SHERMAN
WASHINGTON (AP) — The government’s massive collection of Americans’ phone records is drawing protests and lawsuits from civil liberties groups, but major legal obstacles stand in the way. Among them are government claims that national security secrets will be revealed if the cases are allowed to proceed, and Supreme Court rulings that telephone records, as opposed to conversations, are not private to begin with.
Justices have written recently about the complex issues of privacy in the digital age, and the high court could have the last word on challenges filed by the American Civil Liberties Union and others.
The Obama administration has said the collection of phone records — telephone numbers and the time and length of calls — is necessary to protect Americans from terrorism and that it does not trample on their privacy. The National Security Agency collects millions of phone records from the United States each day, but says it only accesses them if there is a known connection to terrorism.
The ACLU this week filed the most significant lawsuit against the phone record collection program so far. The suit demands that the courts put an end to the program and order the administration to purge the records it has collected. Conservative lawyer Larry Klayman also has filed suit over the program.
Before either suit gets a full-blown court hearing, the administration could try to employ two powerful legal tools it has used in the past to block challenges to closely held surveillance programs.
In February, the Supreme Court shot down an effort by U.S. citizens to challenge the expansion of a surveillance law used to monitor conversations of foreign spies and terrorist suspects by finding that the Americans could not show that the government would eavesdrop on their conversations. In legal terms, they did not have standing to sue, the justices said in a 5-4 decision.
The ACLU and Klayman both say they are or were customers of Verizon, which was identified last week as a phone company the government had ordered to turn over daily records of calls made by all its customers. In so doing, they said it is a simple matter of fact that records of their calls have been seized by the government.
“We meet even the standard the government has been foisting upon the courts for the past decade,” said the ACLU’s Jameel Jaffer.
But American University law professor Steven Vladeck said the challengers might face a different problem. “They’re not suing Verizon. They’re suing the government for something a third party did. And so the issue is not their ability to prove that their communications were involved. It’s how they can object to a third party’s cooperation with the government in a suit against the government, rather than the third party,” Vladeck said.
Another issue the administration could try to use to derail the suits is the jeopardy to national security that would result from allowing them to proceed, the so-called state secrets doctrine.
Seven years ago, allegations that phone companies were allowing the government to siphon huge quantities of customer data without warrants led to dozens of lawsuits against the companies and the government. In the lone surviving case against the government, James Clapper, director of national intelligence, said that the government risks “exceptionally grave damage to the national security of the United States” if forced to fight the lawsuit.
U.S. District Judge Jeffrey White in San Francisco has yet to say whether the case can continue, and the Justice Department has asked for a delay of a month now that the secret court order to Verizon has been revealed.
Whether the government will maintain its “state secrets” defense in the California case or attempt to use it in the new suits is unknown. But courts almost always side with the government when it makes the claim, and the Supreme Court has shown little appetite for revisiting its 60-year-old ruling upholding the state secrets doctrine.
Neither suit addresses the government's recently revealed surveillance of Internet activity, known as PRISM.
The Internet program allows the NSA to reach into the data streams of U.S. companies — Facebook, Yahoo, Microsoft, Google and others — and grab emails, video chats, pictures and more. Just how much the government seizes is unclear, but Clapper says it is narrowly focused on foreign targets.
If the phone record lawsuits clear whatever legal hurdles the government seeks to put in their path, there remains a line of high court cases that casts doubt on the privacy claims raised by the ACLU and by Klayman.
The Constitution’s ban on unreasonable searches and seizures clearly applies to telephone conversations. In 1967, the court said authorities ordinarily need to persuade a judge to issue a warrant before they can listen in, based on significant evidence that a crime has been committed or is underway.
But phone records are different, the court said in Smith v. Maryland in 1979. “All telephone users realize that they must ‘convey’ phone numbers to the telephone company, since it is through telephone company switching equipment that their calls are completed. All subscribers realize, moreover, that the phone company has facilities for making permanent records of the numbers they dial, for they see a list of their long-distance (toll) calls on their monthly bills,” Justice Harry Blackmun wrote in rejecting the claim police need a warrant to obtain phone records.
Fast forward to 2012, and some members of the court appeared to recognize that technology may have altered privacy concerns.
In separate opinions in last year’s case involving a GPS device used to track a criminal suspect for four weeks, two justices described how advances in technology can shake up Americans’ expectations of privacy.
“Dramatic technological change may lead to periods in which popular expectations are in flux and may ultimately produce significant changes in popular attitudes. New technology may provide increased convenience or security at the expense of privacy, and many people may find the tradeoff worthwhile. And even if the public does not welcome the diminution of privacy that new technology entails, they may eventually reconcile themselves to this development as inevitable,” Justice Samuel Alito wrote in an opinion that was joined by three other justices. “On the other hand, concern about new intrusions on privacy may spur the enactment of legislation to protect against these intrusions.”
Writing only for herself, Justice Sonia Sotomayor expressed more anxiety about the wealth of information that people disclose about themselves in the performance of daily tasks, including using their cell phones, surfing the Internet and making online purchases. “Perhaps, as Justice Alito notes, some people may find the ‘tradeoff’ of privacy for convenience ‘worthwhile,’ or come to accept this ‘diminution of privacy’ as ‘inevitable,’ and perhaps not. I for one doubt that people would accept without complaint the warrantless disclosure to the Government of a list of every Web site they had visited in the last week, or month, or year.”
Sotomayor suggested that the court may need to revise its 1970s-era views about the privacy of information that people voluntarily hand over in what otherwise seem to be closely held transactions.