Viewpoint

At my school in Kolkata, far far away from the American civil rights movement and the red hills of Georgia, I Have a Dream was an elocution favorite. Tutored by Belgian priests, Bengali students from resolutely middle class families belted out their renditions of Martin Luther King, Jr.'s famous speech. Stripped of its historical context, delivered in the prone-to-breaking voices of teenagers, our tremulous interpretation of an African-American preacher's cadence often landed somewhere in between the thunder of Amitabh Bachchan and the jatra of folk theatre. While justice rolling down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream sounded like an excellent idea we had little sense of what any of it really meant. Unlike Mississippi, “a state sweltering with the heat of oppression” we were just plain sweltering in a stuffy auditorium in the humid Kolkata summer. We were all for letting freedom ring but we just hoped not to stumble over the “heightening Alleghenies of Pennsylvania.”
The 50th anniversary of the monumental 1963 March on Washington was accompanied by a wave of commemorative events that tried hard to recapture the energy and the spirit of the 1963 March. This was a tall order. The original march, punctuated by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s towering "I Have a Dream" speech, acted as a powerful wrecking ball that crumbled the walls of legal segregation and ushered in an era of unbridled opportunities for many blacks. The results are unmistakable today. Blacks are better educated, more prosperous, own more businesses, hold more positions in the professions, and have more elected officials than ever before. Yet the towering racial improvements since the 1963 March on Washington mask the harsh reality: The challenges 50 years later are, in some ways, more daunting than what King and other civil rights leaders faced.
Dear Mr. President, In the post George Zimmerman verdict the discussion has focused on racial profiling in America, but Representative Steve King, Republican-Iowa, does not seem to care – feeling the need to spew his hate against immigrants in the United States. King’s diatribe was published on conservative news website Newsmax reacting to high-achieving young immigrants by stating: “For everyone who’s a valedictorian, there’s another 100 out there that weigh 130 pounds and they’ve got calves the size of cantaloupes because they’re hauling 75 pounds of marijuana across the desert.”
The following is an edited version of a message from Jamaica’s Ambassador to the United States Stephen Vasciannie marking his country’s 51st anniversary of Independence. Jamaica now moves from the symbolic 50th anniversary of Independence into the second half of the pathway towards the century. In the last year, the nation took the opportunity to celebrate years of achievement: we noted the accomplishments of our sporting heroes, we recalled the efforts at nation-building undertaken by leaders in both the public and private sectors, we reveled in the music of our pioneers in mento, ska, rocksteady, reggae and the like, and we celebrated the other manifestations of Jamaica’s vibrant culture and cultural diversity.
The scuttlebutt is that Attorney General Eric Holder is poised to say what has long been obvious to anyone who has the faintest notion about how the wildly failed, flawed war on drugs has been waged for three decades. The obvious is that the war on drugs has been a ruthless, relentless and naked war on minorities, especially African-Americans. In the coming weeks, Holder may tell exactly how he’ll wind that war down. It shouldn’t surprise if he does. President Obama and Holder have been hinting for a while that it’s time to rethink how the war is being fought and who its prime casualties have been. Their successful push a few years back to get Congress to finally wipe out a good deal of the blatantly racially skewed harsh drug sentencing for crack versus powder cocaine possession was the first hint. Another is the mixed signals that both have sent about federal marijuana prosecutions, sometimes tough, sometimes lax.
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