ISU Indy News: Black Lives Matter BloNo Continues Resistance

Read full article here.

“In December, Black Lives Matter Bloomington-Normal held a mass meeting to voice complaints about policing with Bloomington Police Chief Brendan Heffner. An upcoming vote over a police substation on Jefferson St. in West Bloomington spurred their actions. After the substation was re-named a community house, and the lease modified to address some of the concerns, the Bloomington City Council voted unanimously to accept the lease from Mid Central Community Action. During the vote, members of Black Lives Matter stood with signs, pleading with their elected officials to reject the lease.

Despite their ultimate defeat in the Jefferson Street Community House, the group continues to fight. Chief Heffner and the Bloomington Police are the recipients of the group’s criticism. In a statement published on February 16, Black Lives Matter said, “Despite clear evidence of disproportionate police practices, Chief Brendan Heffner denies any connection between race and enforcement outcomes…”

Read full article here.


ISU Indy News: Mayor Renner Runs for Re-Election

I am happy to announce that I am now writing for the Illinois State University Indy News. 

I posted my first article this evening: 

Mayor Renner Runs for Re-Election

For Bloomington-Normal residents, the election season continues into the spring. Local elections will be contested on February 28 and April 4. On …

“Black America Again” – Common

I have been posting mostly news articles recently, so this will be a deviation.

On Friday (11/4), Common released his latest album “Black America Again”, with another socially conscious album. He went on RapGenius and annotated some of the album. Similarly to “Faithful” from the album “Be”, Common explores how a patriarchal society could be different in his track “The Day Women Took Over”, which he performed at the Tiny Desk Concert at the White House. Another notable track is the title track, “Black America Again” which includes the quotable below. The album is well worth the listen.

Who stole the soul from black folk?
Same man that stole the land from Chief Black Smoke
And made the whip crackle on our back slow
And made us go through the back door
And raffle black bodies on the slave blocks
Now we slave to the blocks, on ’em we spray shots
Leaving our own to lay in a box
Black mothers’ stomachs stay in a knot
We kill each other, it’s part of the plot
I wish the hating will stop (war!) and the battle with us
I know that Black Lives Matter, and they matter to us
These are the things we gotta discuss

Links I Liked – 10/31-11/5

Africa wasn’t “rising” before and it’s not “reeling” now

Yes, Donald Trump can win. Here are 4 maps to prove it.

Here’s what citizens who vote for authoritarians have in common. Citizens with authoritarian dispositions usually favor the right wing — whether the candidates are authoritarians or not. Left-wing authoritarian candidates appeal to citizens who are both high and low in authoritarian dispositions. And wealth decreases the likelihood of voting for authoritarian leaders — but only the left-wing kind.

Unsurprising Study of the Week  When Americans can suddenly consume alcohol at age 21, they suddenly commit more crimes.

Slowly but surely ending the embargo on Cuba The UN has overwhelming voted to condemn the embargo at every meeting. The U.S. abstained from the most recent vote, instead of voting against the condemnation.

The conservative case for Trump and Clinton.

WaPo: The most important education issue we’re not talking about this election

“The rewards of this information economy increasingly go to young adults who can navigate the ambiguity of today’s jobs with a mix of hard skills and so-called soft skills, such as communications, problem-solving, and working in teams. Those sets of skills are often not learned within today’s traditional classrooms at most schools and college campuses. How we arm students with the skills necessary to succeed in this economy — and not the economy of a half-century ago — is the education and economic issue we need to be discussing in this election.”


Rwanda Pres. Kagame: #MindYourOwnBusiness

This week, Rwanda’s president, Paul Kagame, visited Yale and gave a 30-minute talk followed by a Q&A. Kagame is an autocrat. He has been in power for 22 years. There is not a freedom of the press. Kagame has amended the constitution to allow for a third term in office. Opposition has been repressed, jailed, or killed. Kagame has seen great successes that can’t be ignored either. Rwanda is “economically vibrant, gender and environmentally conscious, technocratically proficient model of what an African state can be.”

Kagame’s presence at Yale was met with protest, unsurprisingly. There is every right for concern about Kagame’s human right’s record. Dan Magaziner, a Yale historian of twentieth-century Africa, was there, listened to the talk, shook Kagame’s hand, and thanked him for his time and perspective. He reports that Kagame’s message to the U.S. was best summarized in a hashtag, “#MindYourOwnBusiness”.

In Kagame’s narrative, the only history that matters is the history that began 22 years ago this past April. The suffering of the genocide and the RPF’s role in ending it is where Kagame’s government draws its legitimacy to condemn foreign hypocrisy (which exists in spades, to be sure) and to shut down its critics. We suffered and you did nothing – so how dare you say something now….

And, apologies Mr. Kagame, but you know that – because you correctly condemn my country for minding its own business in April, May and June 1994. People like you are our business precisely because people who tell others to mind their own business tend to be the sorts of people who leave bodies in their wake.

Kagame, whether intentional or not, brings forward an essential tension of foreign policy. When does a state have a duty to act? It’s not a question to which there is a definitive answer. In retrospect, we can point to cases of United States interference with world affairs that were undoubtedly the wrong choice. That list runs long, and provides legitimacy to Kagame’s stance.

There is no answer to that essential question that a world community would agree on. With every situation brings ambiguity, but it is a conversation worth having. As the two potential United States presidents face off in a debate on Monday, there is a high likelihood that one or both with advocate for regime change as a part of their foreign policy. I caution to slow down whenever that line of thinking is brought into the discussion. The consequences of action are long-term and can extend the suffering of a people. The consequences of inaction, as Kagame points out, can be terrible, as well.


I want to thank Chris Blattman for sharing Magaziner’s article. If someone finds my blog and has not seen his, it is well worth your time.

Covering Gabon: Two Perspectives

Gabon is in uproar over the recent elections. The incumbent president claims to have won with 49.8% of the vote, and the opposition candidate is contesting the results. Protesters have set the parliament building on fire.

Afrobarometer wrote for Washington Post’s “Monkey Cage” Blog this week on what public opinion says about Gabon and why it matters.

The gain the perspective from the ground, AFP’s Marco Longari wrote a piece called “The importance of being there“, which is more than worth your time.

“Stories like the Gabon election give us a glimpse into which direction the continent is taking. Yes, it’s more unrest in another African country. But there are nuances. The response of the people to the situation — this immediate explosion of rage — that tells you a lot about where the country is at. The evolution of the security forces that allow a photographer to cover unrest freely — that tells you a lot about where the country is and where it might be heading.”

Constitutional Coups in Africa, One of Many Democratic Issues

Kamissa Camara penned an overview on one method of sustained legal power by African presidents. They change the country’s Constitution so that there aren’t presidential term limits. Her list from the last 10 years doesn’t include the extended reigns of Robert Mugabe in Zimbabwe, and José Eduardo dos Santos in Angola.

Between 2005 and 2015, presidents in Senegal, Burkina Faso, Congo Republic, Congo, Uganda and Rwanda attempted to extend their terms in office through constitutional or other legal amendments.

To expand on one example, the depth of the issues these countries face can not and should not be left to only Constitutional changes.

In the case of Uganda, president Yoweri Museveni came to power in 1985 in a coup d’etat of Milton Obote. He was a non-Constitutional president from 1986-96, then started his first constitutional term. In the original Constitution, there was a two term limit. In 2005, when it was passed, many claimed that Museveni was pulling the parliamentary strings to make it happen, as he was head of the National Resistance Movement (NRM) party.He had decent popular support, but as his tenure has extended, he has resorted to force upon the populace more often.  Human Rights Watch wrote a piece surrounding the 2016 election campaign. Uganda, and the NRM deployed volunteer ‘Crime Preventers’ in preparation for the election. They were deemed to be partisan bullies as opposed to a real force for stability. Presidential candidate Kizza Besigye has been arrested multiple times for his protests to the election results.

The ability to express opinion in Uganda is suppressed, and has been for some time. The ability to change to the Constitution by a president, technically through legal means, is simply one problem of an overarching problem. The autocratic, paternalistic, and hegemonic regime of Yoweri Museveni is one example of a group of young countries in Africa struggling to secure stable democracies. Pointing to Constitutional changes in term limits is an easy example to point out.

Democracy is hard. Before Western observers get too critical of African nations, let us remember that it took the United States 163 years before there was a presidential term limit, 131 years before women could vote, and 82 years before non-whites could constitutionally vote.

An Assault By All of Us

Hillary Clinton said this week that the attack on police officers in Baton Rouge was “an assault on all of us”.

I don’t disagree with Clinton’s statement. In a civilized society, it is unacceptable for citizens to target those who have taken an oath to serve and protect the community. Police officers come from the communities in which they serve, so we should feel a kinship with them that they do represent all of us. They are officers commissioned by the people, and their authority to do their work of serving and protect comes from a social contract with the citizenry.

Clinton’s statement was perfect in describing the role of police, but it was incomplete. If we are to accept that an assault on the police is an assault on all of us, then we must also accept that the unjust killing of an unarmed black man by the police is not done only by the police but all of us. When that killing goes untried and without persecution, we are implicitly giving it a stamp of approval. By not reprimanding officers who step out of line, we too become guilty. This is even more pertinent today as the highest ranking officer in the Freddie Gray Case has been found not guilty of manslaughter. The problems that have led to these shootings are on the shoulders on the officers in question, but they are also societal problems, that if gone unaddressed with fester.

Let’s take a minute to remember a few police officers who shot and killed that have not been convicted:

Trayvon Martin (Sanford, FL) – Neighborhood Watchman George Zimmerman (acquitted)

Michael Brown (Ferguson, MO) – Officer Darren Wilson (cleared by grand jury)

Eric Gardner (New York, NY) – Officer Daniel Pantaleo (not indicted)

Tamir Rice (Baltimore, MD) – Officer Timothy Loehmann (no charges, settlement with city)

Walter Scott (North Charleston, SC) – Officer Michael Slager (facing trial Oct. 2016)

Jonathan Ferrell (Charlotte, NC) – Officer Randall Kerrick (not indicted, settlement with city)

Samuel DuBose (Cincinnati, OH) – Officer Raymond Tensing (charged, settlement with University of Cincinnati)

Laquan McDonald (Chicago, Il.) – Officer Jason Van Dyke (facing trial)


These are just a few of the shootings. It doesn’t include those in St. Paul, MN and Baton Rouge, LA from the last weeks. Every day there is the fear of this happening in our towns, with our family and friends. If we don’t accept these deaths on our behalf, them as a whole society, we better start acting like it.