ChickenBones: A Journal
for Literary & Artistic African-American Themes
It is not an overstatement to describe the arrests in Tulia as an atrocity. The entire
operation was the work of a single police officer who claimed to have conducted
an 18-month undercover operation. The arrests were made solely on the word
of this officer, Tom Coleman, a white man with a wretched work history,
Criminal Justice in Texas
Kafka in Tulia
By Bob Herbert
Tulia is a hot, dusty town of 5,000 on the Texas Panhandle, about 50 miles south of Amarillo. For some, it’s a frightening place, slow and bigoted and bizarre. Kafka could have had a field day with Tulia. On the morning of July 23, 1999, law enforcement officers fanned out and arrested more than 10 percent of Tulia’s tiny African-American population. Also arrested were a handful of whites who had relationships with blacks.
The humiliating roundup was intensely covered by the local media, which had been tipped off in advance. Men and women, bewildered and unkempt, were paraded before TV cameras and featured prominently on the evening news. They were drug traffickers, one and all, said the sheriff, a not particularly bright Tulia bulb named Larry Stewart. Among the 46 so-called traffickers were a pig farmer, a forklift operator and a number of ordinary young women with children.
If these were major cocaine dealers, as alleged, they were among the oddest in the U.S. None of them had any money to speak of. And when they were arrested, they didn’t have any cocaine. No drugs, money or weapons were recovered during the surprise roundup.
Most of Tulia’s white residents applauded the arrests, and the local newspapers were all but giddy with their editorial approval. The first convictions came quickly, and the sentences left the town’s black residents aghast. One of the few white defendants, a man who happened to have a mixed-race child, was sentenced to more than 300 years in prison. The hog farmer, a black man in his late 50’s named Joe Moore, was sentenced to 90 years. Kareem White, a 24-year-old black man, was sentenced to 60 years. And so on.
When the defendants awaiting trial saw this extreme sentencing trend, they began scrambling to plead guilty in exchange for lighter sentences. These ranged from 18 years in prison to, in some case, just probation.
It is not an overstatement to describe the arrests in Tulia as an atrocity. The entire operation was the work of a single police officer who claimed to have conducted an 18-month undercover operation. The arrests were made solely on the word of this officer, Tom Coleman, a white man with a wretched work history, who routinely referred to black people as “niggers” and who frequently found himself in trouble with the law.
Mr. Coleman’s alleged undercover operation was ridiculous. There were no other police officers to corroborate his activities. He did not wear a wire or conduct any video surveillance. And he did not keep detailed records of his alleged drug buys. He said he sometimes wrote such important information as the names of suspects and the dates of transactions on his leg.
In trial after trial, prosecutors put Mr. Coleman on the witness stand and his uncorroborated, unsubstantiated testimony was enough to send people to prison for decades.
In some instances, lawyers have been able to show that there was no basis in fact none at all for Mr. Coleman’s allegations, that they came from some realm other than reality.
He said, for example, that he had purchased drugs from a woman named Tonya White, and she was duly charged. But last April the charges had to be dropped when Ms. White’s lawyers proved that she had cashed a check in Oklahoma City at the time that she was supposed to have been selling drugs to Mr. Coleman in Tulia.
Another defendant, Billy Don Wafer, was able to prove through employee time sheets and his boss’s testimony that he was working at the time he was alleged by Mr. Coleman to have been selling cocaine. And the local district attorney, Terry McEachern, had to dismiss the case against a man named Yul Bryant after it was learned that Mr. Coleman had described him as a tall black man with bushy hair. Mr. Bryant was 5-foot-6 and bald.
In a just world, this case would be no more than a spoof on “Saturday Night Live.” Instead it’s a tragedy with no remedy in sight.
The NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, the William Moses Kunstler Fund for Racial Justice, the Tulia Legal Defense Project and a number of private law firms are trying to mount an effort to free the men and women imprisoned in this fiasco.
The idea that people could be rounded up and sent away for what are effectively lifetime terms solely on the word of a police officer like Tom Coleman is insane.
Source: NYTimes Op/Ed, July 29, 2002
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#1 – Justify My Thug by Wahida Clark #2 – Flyy Girl by Omar Tyree #3 – Head Bangers: An APF Sexcapade by Zane #4 – Life Is Short But Wide by J. California Cooper #5 – Stackin’ Paper 2 Genesis’ Payback by Joy King #6 – Thug Lovin’ (Thug 4) by Wahida Clark #7 – When I Get Where I’m Going by Cheryl Robinson #8 – Casting the First Stone by Kimberla Lawson Roby #9 – The Sex Chronicles: Shattering the Myth by Zane
#10 – Covenant: A Thriller by Brandon Massey
#11 – Diary Of A Street Diva by Ashley and JaQuavis
#12 – Don’t Ever Tell by Brandon Massey
#13 – For colored girls who have considered suicide by Ntozake Shange
#14 – For the Love of Money : A Novel by Omar Tyree
#15 – Homemade Loves by J. California Cooper
#16 – The Future Has a Past: Stories by J. California Cooper
#17 – Player Haters by Carl Weber
#18 – Purple Panties: An Eroticanoir.com Anthology by Sidney Molare
#19 – Stackin’ Paper by Joy King
#20 – Children of the Street: An Inspector Darko Dawson Mystery by Kwei Quartey
#21 – The Upper Room by Mary Monroe
#22 Thug Matrimony by Wahida Clark
#23 – Thugs And The Women Who Love Them by Wahida Clark
#24 – Married Men by Carl Weber
#25 – I Dreamt I Was in Heaven – The Rampage of the Rufus Buck Gang by Leonce Gaiter
#1 – Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention by Manning Marable #2 – Confessions of a Video Vixen by Karrine Steffans #3 – Dear G-Spot: Straight Talk About Sex and Love by Zane #4 – Letters to a Young Brother: MANifest Your Destiny by Hill Harper #5 – Peace from Broken Pieces: How to Get Through What You’re Going Through by Iyanla Vanzant #6 – Selected Writings and Speeches of Marcus Garvey by Marcus Garvey #7 – The Ebony Cookbook: A Date with a Dish by Freda DeKnight #8 – The Isis Papers: The Keys to the Colors by Frances Cress Welsing #9 – The Mis-Education of the Negro by Carter Godwin Woodson
#10 – John Henrik Clarke and the Power of Africana History by Ahati N. N. Toure
#11 – Fail Up: 20 Lessons on Building Success from Failure by Tavis Smiley
#12 –The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander
#13 – The Black Male Handbook: A Blueprint for Life by Kevin Powell
#14 – The Other Wes Moore: One Name, Two Fates by Wes Moore
#15 – Why Men Fear Marriage: The Surprising Truth Behind Why So Many Men Can’t Commit by RM Johnson
#16 – Black Titan: A.G. Gaston and the Making of a Black American Millionaire by Carol Jenkins
#17 – Brainwashed: Challenging the Myth of Black Inferiority by Tom Burrell
#18 – A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose by Eckhart Tolle
#19 – John Oliver Killens: A Life of Black Literary Activism by Keith Gilyard
#20 – Alain L. Locke: The Biography of a Philosopher by Leonard Harris
#21 – Age Ain’t Nothing but a Number: Black Women Explore Midlife by Carleen Brice
#22 – 2012 Guide to Literary Agents by Chuck Sambuchino #23 – Chicken Soup for the Prisoner’s Soul by Tom Lagana #24 – 101 Things Every Boy/Young Man of Color Should Know by LaMarr Darnell Shields
#25 – Beyond the Black Lady: Sexuality and the New African American Middle Class by Lisa B. Thompson
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Dorothy Sterlings biography of Robert Smalls is Captain of the Planter: The Story of Robert Smalls (Garden City, N. Y.: Doubleday & Co., Inc., 1958). In most history books, the contributions of Negroes during the Civil War and Reconstructions are ignored. Robert Smalls was one of the heroes who is rarely mentioned. He was a Negro slave who stole a ship from the Confederates, served on it with the Union Army with distinction, and finally served several terms in Congress.
All this was accomplished against the handicaps first of slavery, then of the prejudice of the Union Army, and finally of the Jim Crow laws, which eventually conquered him. Besides its value in contradicting the history book insinuation that the Negro was incapable of political enterprise and that the South was right in imposing Jim Crow laws, Captain of the Planter is an exciting adventure story. Captain Smalls escape from slavery and his battle exploits make interesting reading, and the style is fast moving.Barbara Dodds
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By Russell Simmons
Russell Simmons knows firsthand that wealth is rooted in much more than the stock market. True wealth has more to do with what’s in your heart than what’s in your wallet. Using this knowledge, Simmons became one of America’s shrewdest entrepreneurs, achieving a level of success that most investors only dream about. No matter how much material gain he accumulated, he never stopped lending a hand to those less fortunate. In Super Rich, Simmons uses his rare blend of spiritual savvy and street-smart wisdom to offer a new definition of wealth-and share timeless principles for developing an unshakable sense of self that can weather any financial storm. As Simmons says, “Happy can make you money, but money can’t make you happy.”
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By Michael Grunwald
Time senior correspondent Michael Grunwald tells the secret history of the stimulus bill, the purest distillation of Change We Can Believe In, a microcosm of Obamas policy successes and political failures. Though it is reviled by the right and rejected by the left, it really is a new New Deal, larger than FDRs and just as transformative. It prevented an imminent depression, while jump-starting Obamas long-term agenda. The stimulus is pouring $90 billion into clean energy, reinventing the way America is powered and fueled; it includes unprecedented investments in renewables, efficiency, electric cars, a smarter grid, cleaner coal, and more. Its carrying health care into the digital era. Its Race to the Top initiative may be the boldest education reform in U.S. history. It produced the biggest middle-class tax cuts in a generation, a broadband initiative reminiscent of rural electrification, and an overhaul of the New Deals unemployment insurance system. Its revamping the way government addresses homelessness, fixes infrastructure, and spends money.
Grunwald reveals how Republicans have obscured these achievements through obstruction and distortion. The stimulus launched a genuine national comeback. It also saved millions of jobs, while creating legacies that could rival the Hoover Dam: the worlds largest wind farm, a new U.S. battery industry, a new high-speed rail network, the worlds highest-speed Internet network. Its main legacy, like the New Deals, will be change.
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Edited by Maurice O. Wallace and Shawn Michelle Smith
Pictures and Progress explores how, during the nineteenth century and the early twentieth, prominent African American intellectuals and activists understood photography’s power to shape perceptions about race and employed the new medium in their quest for social and political justice. They sought both to counter widely circulating racist imagery and to use self-representation as a means of empowerment. In this collection of essays, scholars from various disciplines consider figures including Frederick Douglass, Sojourner Truth, Ida B. Wells, Paul Laurence Dunbar, and W. E. B. Du Bois as important and innovative theorists and practitioners of photography. In addition, brief interpretive essays, or “snapshots,” highlight and analyze the work of four early African American photographers. Featuring more than seventy images, Pictures and Progress brings to light the wide-ranging practices of early African American photography, as well as the effects of photography on racialized thinking.
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By James Carville and Stan Greenberg
Its the Middle Class, Stupid! confirms what we have all suspected: Washington and Wall Street have really screwed things up for the average American. Work has been devalued. Education costs are out of sight. Effort and ambition have never been so scantily rewarded. Political guru James Carville and pollster extraordinaire Stan Greenberg argue that our political parties must admit their failures and the electorate must reclaim its voice, because taking on the wealthy and the privileged is not class warfareit is a matter of survival. Told in the alternating voices of these two top political strategists, Its the Middle Class, Stupid! provides eye-opening and provocative arguments on where our governmentincluding the White Househas gone wrong, and what voters can do about it.
Controversial and outspoken, authoritative and shrewd, Its the Middle Class, Stupid! is destined to make waves during the 2012 presidential campaign, and will set the agenda for legislative battles and political dust-ups during the next administration.
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From The World and Africa, 1965
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update 16 July 2012
Related files: Texas Justice