Silver Rights

News, thoughts and comments on civil rights and related issues.

Friday, January 09, 2004  

King statue brings battery of complaints

Prince C. at American Black, a new weblog that is coming along very well, has an entry about one of those situations that push all kinds of hot buttons. Some of my fellow Tarheels are in a tizzy over a work of art. The New York Times been down there.

It was supposed to bring them together. A bronze statue of Martin Luther King in the North Carolina town of Rocky Mount to honour a little-known but much cherished connection between a big moment in history and a small southern US town.

For on November 27 1962, a full seven months before he stood in Lincoln's shadow during the "March on Washington" and addressed the country, King delivered, in Rocky Mount's high school gym, one of the first renditions of his "I have a dream" speech.

Some people here remember it. And they want to make sure their children do not forget it. So a sculptor was found to build a statue to celebrate the man and his call for racial harmony.

But then everything started to go wrong. Residents in the black area where the statue was placed complained that it didn't look like him. The face wasn't quite right, the stance was haughty, the expression aloof. One even thought the pen he was carrying looked like an extra finger.

"I couldn't believe it," said 71-year-old Samuel Gray. "That's not Dr King. There's no likeness, none."

The statue does resemble Dr. King, in my opinion.

But, I never saw him in person. Someone who did disagrees.

Elbert Lee, a 71-year-old Baptist preacher, walked with Dr. King and talked with Dr. King. "And that ain't Dr. King," he said. "The lips, the eyes, the head, the mustache, the cheeks. It don't favor him."

Well, maybe. But, I am still skeptical about there being something wrong with the appearance of the statue. Works by different artists tend to be styled according to their way of doing things, but that does not mean the works don't represent their subjects.

Another complaint about the statue, which the Guardian reported, bothers me more.

Then they found out the sculptor was white. To the statue's detractors race explained the artistic mistakes. "We need an artist who can relate," one resident, Kimberle Evans, told the New York Times.

To supporters of the statue, the racial point explained why others would disparage it so readily. But, either way, the work of art meant something to almost everyone. For the town council that meant trouble. Views on how to rectify the situation diverged, from the drastic (getting the sculptor to cut the head off and replace it with a better likeness or do the whole thing again) to the problematic (finding a black sculptor to do another).

I don't believe it is true that an artist from one ethnic background can't understand or represent another. That strikes me as particularly true when it comes to visual art. Eric Blome, the sculptor whose statue is being assailed, says he had an image of a statue of King in his mind based on a photograph he owned in mind for years.

Blome admits the sculpture is challenging. The Illinois sculptor has fashioned several historical black figures, including Rosa Parks (arrested in 1955 for refusing to give up her bus seat to a white passenger), and Thurgood Marshall, the first black supreme court judge in the US.

He also previously completed a statue of King in Milwaukee, for which he won an award. "Most statues of King have him marching or holding his hand up and orating. I wanted to make something that shows his quiet strength and intellectual side. So he's not standing in a way most people remember. But he didn't spend most of his time marching and speaking. It's a sculpture - not a death mask."

Another aspect of the controversy is explicitly political. Some black citizens of Rocky Mount believe the white mayor intended the statue as a bribe for their support for his reelection. His opponent will be African-American.

Quite a crazy quilt, isn't it?

I believe the statue should remain the way it is. If someone else, including a later municipal administration, chooses to erect another statue of King, later, fine. Works of the same subject by different artists can actually complement each other.

I would be remiss if I didn't say ths controversy is progress of a kind. In some Southern cities, Richmond comes to mind, some whites would be protesting the very existence of the statue. They would loudly lament spending city money to honor 'Martin Luther Coon, a communist.' We have come a long way -- sort of.

Note: Is there something wrong with having ethnic features? The issue is examined at Mac-a-ro-nies.

posted by J. | 4:03 PM

Thursday, January 08, 2004  

'God' tried for molesting children

Today, I've been thinking about pedophilia. I wish I could ignore the topic, but, I can't do so in good faith. It is among the elephants in our collective livingroom.

WSBTV reports from the trial of cult leader who may have exploited children whose parents were members of his sect.

BRUNSWICK, Ga. -- The girls on cult leader Malachi York's middle Georgia compound dreaded cleaning day, according to testimony from one of the alleged victims Tuesday.

"It meant we were going to stay there the whole day and eventually have intercourse," said the witness, now 18, who told jurors she had sexual contact with York since she was 8 years old.

But giving in to York's desires came with benefits: diamond rings, going out to eat or a trip to Disney World.

Prosecutors began building a case Tuesday that York abused his power to feed his sexual appetite for boys and girls at his neo-Egyptian compound in rural central Georgia.

The leader of the mostly black United Nuwaubian Nation of Moors faces 13 federal counts of child molestation and racketeering.

The girl, the first alleged victim to testify at the trial, told of being forced to perform oral sex when she lived in a commune with York in upstate New York, and then being moved on to Georgia and more invasive sexual contact in 1993.

York has evaded prosecution for at least a decade, moving from one jurisdiction to another when things got hot. He is not the first cult leader to allegedly engage in sexual misconduct with children. Young people who grew up in Davish Koresh's Waco compound and other properties say he introduced girls as young as ten to sex. Jim Jones, the leader of the group that committed mass suicide in Guyana decades ago, also is said of have had a rapacious sexual appetite that included men, women and children.

Federal prosecutor Stephanie Thacker said the children -- who were between ages 5 and 17 -- were under York's complete control. She claimed York set himself up as a messiah figure who demanded the loyalty of his followers.

"They were taught that he was the supreme authority ... he was a god," she said. "The man who they thought was a father, a god, violated them sexually when they were very young."

York began his ministerial career as a Muslim cleric. He later founded the Nuwaibians, blending Egyptian symbology, Native American spirituality and the beliefs of the old version of the Nation of Islam.

The Associated Press has more information about the trial, which received a change of venue to rural Georgia to limit the effects of pretrial publicity.

[Another] . . .woman who testified Wednesday, now 28 years old, said York methodically broke down girls' inhibitions as he prepared them for sex with him.


York would first give the girls special privileges, such as soda, pizza and TV, she said. Then the girls would be moved on to pornographic movies and sex toys in preparation for sex with York.


The girls were told it was traditional for members of the group to have sex with the leader of the group so they could learn about intercourse and later please their husbands, the witness said.


''A male member of the family would teach a girl about sex,'' she said. ''At first, I felt kind of funny about it, but after a while I said 'OK.'''

Experts say that a grooming process, in which a child is made to feel special prior to being exploited, is typical of child molesters. Though I was not a victim of such abuse as a child, I recall behavior of that type from a man in the neighborhood. Several of us girls went through a period of skipping school in junior high. He would invite us to his home and feed us pizza, chips and sweets. He also tried to ply us with beer. Next came pornographic movies. That is where I drew the line. Besides, I didn't like the toothless old goat anyway. I never discussed what happened beyond the obvious with the other girls. Now, I would not be surprised to learn that one or more of them was molested. As an adult, the friends I've had who were sexually abused have struggled continually with low self-esteem, depression and post traumatic stress disorder. Though physical abuse may seem worse, I suspect sexual abuse has the longest lasting effects.

Much attention has been focused on the allegations against super star Michael Jackson. However, I will not be surprised if we never get a definitive answer to whether he is a pedophile. The trial of Malachi York is an opporunity for us to really understand what occurs when an apparent pedophile is elevated to a role in which he can have his way with children. I believe we can gain insights that will help us identify possible pedophiles in our own lives by following this case. I wish I had known what I know now 20 years ago.

posted by J. | 8:40 PM

Tuesday, January 06, 2004  

In the news: To your health

  • Homicides increase in NYC

  • In news that will gladden the heart (yes, I'm assuming) of conservative blogger Al Barger, New York City is about to see a rise in the number of homicides this year.

    An exceptionally violent Monday night and Tuesday in the city added seven names to the list of those killed in 2003, now at 594 and uncomfortably close to the 600 mark hailed for the last year as a sign of a safer New York.

    . . .The homicides on Monday and yesterday occurred in three boroughs over 13 hours, and included the killing of two people in Sunset Park, Brooklyn.

    Last year, the number of homicides, at 587, dropped below 600 for the first time since 1963. On bar graphs, 1963 and 2002 are short bookends to the spikes of the 1970's and 80's. The city's crime index, a figure adjusted for population, is similar to those of smaller cities like Ann Arbor, Mich.

    . . .Earlier this month, killings seemed to be continuing apace, with 551 as of Dec. 7. Then the sun set on Monday.

    At 6:15 p.m., Michael Kendrick, 25, of Staten Island, was shot once in the head during an argument in front of a building down the street from his home. He died at a hospital. A 16-year-old boy, Tushaun Cato, also of Staten Island, was arrested and charged with murder, and detectives found the .22-caliber pistol believed to have been used in the shooting, the police said.

    Twenty minutes later, at 6:35 p.m., Jose Peralta, 25, was shot once in the chest at 1257 St. Nicholas Avenue in Washington Heights. He died later Monday night.

    At 7:03, someone shot a man and woman in their apartment building's hallway in Sunset Park, Brooklyn, the police said. The two, Angel Caraballo, 27, and Erika Martinez, 26, were described as a hard-working couple, he at a warehouse and she as a cleaner in an office building. Their jobs were within a few blocks of their home, an arrangement allowing for quick trips back to be with their children. They had planned to move in a few days.

    At 10:40 p.m., police officers responded to a call on Pelham Bridge Road in Pelham Bay Park in the Bronx and found a man in his mid-20's, dead with two gunshot wounds to the head. The investigation is continuing.

    At 7:24 a.m. in Ditmas Park, Brooklyn, two men entered Chez Clotilde, a 24-hour Haitian-American and West Indian restaurant, the police said. Ikel Luxama, 35, who moved to New York from Haiti five years ago and lived upstairs from the restaurant, was working, and members of his family said they thought the intruders had tried to rob him. He was shot in the back and died in the kitchen, the police said. His girlfriend, Ilande Gean, 19, is seven months pregnant.

    Barger advocates use of massive force whenever a person feels threatened. In regard to the overabundance of gun violence in the United States, he says, "I'm not interested in an "equalizer." Somebody's attacking me, I want them to go down, period. I want a superiorizer."

    Perhaps Barger, who dwells in Kentucky will relocate to NYC.

  • Coffee may curb diabetes

  • Now there is a great reason to loll around Starbucks, in addition to WiFi.

    PHILADELPHIA (AP) - Drinking more coffee may reduce the risk of developing the most common form of diabetes, a study found.

    Compared to non-coffee drinkers, men who drank more than six eight-ounce cups of caffeinated coffee per day lowered their risk of type 2 diabetes by about half, and women reduced their risk by nearly 30 percent, according to the study in Tuesday's issue of Annals of Internal Medicine.

    Nevertheless, experts said more research is needed to establish whether it really is the coffee - or something else about coffee drinkers - that protects them.

    ``The evidence is quite strong that regular coffee is protective against diabetes,'' said one of the researchers, Dr. Frank Hu of the Harvard School of Public Health. ``The question is whether we should recommend coffee consumption as a strategy. I don't think we're there yet.''

    Type 2 diabetes, formerly called adult-onset diabetes, typically shows up in middle-aged people. The disease is on the rise and is striking more and more young people as Americans become fatter and less active.

    People with type 2 diabetes either do not make enough insulin or their bodies don't use it properly. It leads to higher blood sugar levels, which over time can cause blindness, heart disease, kidney failure and nerve damage and can lead to amputations.

    That's a lot of coffee. I wonder if the diuretic aspect might explain why quaffing java would have that effect, if it does. If coffee turns out to be the kind of cheap health prophylactic aspirin has, that will be a boon to us all.

    Note: You can learn more about diabetes as a minority health issue here.

  • Fake doc injected hundreds

  • There is something appealing about being a good Samaritan, so much so that sometimes people who appear to be doing favors for strangers aren't.

    He wore a doctor's smock, displayed medical equipment in his office and allegedly boasted about having access to a large supply of flu shots even as the vaccine was becoming scarce.

    But police say Shahid Sheikh, who is believed to have given flu shots to roughly 700 people at their jobs or his Bellevue office during the past few months, is not a physician and has no license to give injections.

    Yesterday, the 45-year-old man was charged with 10 counts of practicing medicine without a license as state heath officials continued trying to figure out who got shots from Sheikh -- and exactly what was in them.

    In a search of his office, police found 144 syringes filled with flu vaccine that expired in June, along with some vaccine that was geared for a strain of the virus that was prevalent last year, according to court documents.

    Police investigators found sign-up sheets and canceled checks indicating that his company, MedSources Inc., had vaccinated workers at more than three dozen businesses.

    Sheikh also is accused of asking at least one of his employees to split single doses of the vaccine into three smaller, diluted doses to "help" more people.

    seems to have sought both money and publcity. He contacted the media about his 'clinic' and flu shots and is said to have told a reporter he would provide the vaccine to willing to pay the high price of $45.

    Since authorities don't know what was actually in the injections given to hundreds of people, they are unable to say whether they are vaccinated against the flu or not.

    posted by J. | 5:02 AM