Reclaiming Our Way promoting the well-being of African American children & families


“Between the World and Me”: Ta-Nehisi Coates Extended Interview on Being Black in America

Ta-Nehisi Coates speaks about his book, Between the World and Me, as well the broader experience of racism in America.

From Democracy Now -- Wednesday, July 22, 2015

We spend the hour with Ta-Nehisi Coates, author of "Between the World and Me," an explosive new book about white supremacy and being black in America. The book begins, "Here is what I would like for you to know: In America, it is traditional to destroy the black body—it is heritage." It is written as a letter to his 15-year-old son, Samori, and is a combination of memoir, history and analysis. Its publication comes amidst the shooting of nine African-American churchgoers by an avowed white supremacist in Charleston; the horrifying death of Sandra Bland, a 28-year-old African-American woman in Texas who was pulled over for not signaling a lane change; and the first anniversary of the police killings of Eric Garner in Staten Island and Michael Brown in Ferguson. Coates talks about how he was influenced by freed political prisoner Marshall "Eddie" Conway and writer James Baldwin, and responds to critics of his book, including Cornel West and New York Times columnist David Brooks. Coates is a national correspondent at The Atlantic, where he writes about culture, politics, and social issues.

approx. 39 mins.


Bree Newsome: As SC Lawmakers Debate Removing Confederate Flag, Meet the Activist Who Took It Down

Our struggle will continue, and we shall win. There are courageous people among every generation who are willing to speak truth to power, and take an active stand against the historical and present-day racial injustices in this nation and throughout the world. Bree Newsome is one in that long tradition. This is what courage looks and sounds like.

As South Carolina state lawmakers begin debate on whether to remove the Confederate flag from the grounds of the state Capitol in Columbia, we are joined by Bree Newsome, the 30-year-old African-American woman who took down the flag herself. On June 27, 10 days after the Charleston massacre and one day after the funeral for the Rev. Clementa Pinckney, Newsome scaled the 30-foot flagpole at the state Capitol and took the flag in her hand. "I come against you in the name of God!" Newsome said. "This flag comes down today!" As soon as she reached the ground, she and fellow activist James Tyson were arrested. The protest went viral and was seen around the world. Newsome and Tyson join us to discuss their action in an extended interview.

From Monday, July 6, on Democracy Now


Michelle Alexander Discussing Implications of Recent Ferguson Report by the DOJ

From Democracy Now, Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Part 1:  Michelle Alexander: Ferguson Shows Why Criminal Justice System of "Racial Control" Should Be Undone

The U.S. Justice Department has concluded that the police and city courts in Ferguson, Missouri, routinely engaged in a pattern and practice of discrimination against African Americans. Despite comprising about 66 percent of the local population, African Americans accounted for 93 percent of arrests, 88 percent of incidents where force was used, 90 percent of citations and 85 percent of traffic stops. The Justice Department, which launched its report after the police killing of Michael Brown, also uncovered at least three municipal Ferguson emails containing racist language or images. "The report does not give me hope. What gives me hope is that people across America are finally waking up," says Michelle Alexander, author of the best-selling book,The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness. "There is a system of racial and social control in communities of color across America. … What we see now is that we do have the power to make things change. The question is are we going to transition from protest politics to long-term, strategic movement building?”

Part 2:  Michelle Alexander: Roots of Today’s Mass Incarceration Crisis Date to Slavery, Jim Crow

As the Justice Department sheds new light on the racist criminal justice system in Ferguson, legal scholar Michelle Alexander looks at the historical roots of what she describes as "the new Jim Crow." From mass incarceration to police killings to the drug war, Alexander explores how the crisis is a nationwide issue facing communities of color. "Today we see millions of poor people and folks of color who are trapped, yet again, in a criminal justice system which are treating them like commodities, like people who are easily disposable," Alexander says. "We are not on the right path. … It’s not about making minor reforms and plodding along in the same direction. No, its about mustering the courage to have a major reassessment of where we are as America, reckon with our racial history as well as our present, and build a broad-based movement rooted in the awareness of the dignity and humanity of us all."


Thoughtful sister Ana DuVernay talks ‘Selma’ and civil rights on Democracy Now

Democracy Now featured an interesting discussion with Ana DuVernay yesterday, talking about her most recent film, Selma, and the broader significance of the film given this nation's current undoing of key civil rights-related legal protections that were the hallmark of the civil rights movement.

DuVernay offers a number of interesting insights about the current state of civil rights and race relations in this country, as well as the key influences that made this film project possible. She covers the process of making the film, the non-controversy about her depiction of LBJ and the continuing struggle for justice for the millions of Black women, men and children throughout this country. Watch the four key segments of the discussion just below.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015 -- Today we spend the hour with Ava DuVernay, the director of the acclaimed new civil rights film "Selma," which tells the story of the campaign led by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. to draw the nation’s attention to the struggle for equal voting rights by marching from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama, in March of 1965.

Selma Director Ava DuVernay on Hollywood’s Lack of Diversity,
Oscar Snub and #OscarsSoWhite Hashtag


"The Power of the People": Selma Director Ava DuVernay on
Fight for Civil Rights, Voting Equality


"Selma" Director Defends Film’s Portrayal of
LBJ-MLK Dispute on Voting Rights Legislation


"One Person Can Make a Difference": Ava DuVernay
Remembers Film Critic Roger Ebert’s Early Support


Water is a Human Right: Detroit Residents Seek U.N. Intervention as City Shuts Off Taps to Thousands

Many people have likely heard, by now, about the recent trend in Detroit of turning off water access to thousands of Detroit residents.  My understanding is that Detroit tends to turn off water service to anywhere between 10,000-12,000 homes each year, and are on pace to nearly double that number this year... estimating approximately 20,000 turn-offs by the end of 2014.

This tragic series of events has gained increased attention within the last couple of weeks, with protests by community based advocacy organizations in the city, as well as a campaign to have the United Nations get involved.

The situation has been described as follows in a report prepared by a coalition of advocacy and community groups:

In March 2014, the water and sewer department announced it would begin shutting off water service for 1,500 to 3,000 customers per week.

According to a DWSD document obtained by the Sierra Club, there are more than 179,000 residential water accounts in Detroit. By April 30, 2014, more than 83,000 of them were past due. The average amount owed per household was just over $540.

In a report by the DWSD’s Director, dated May 28, 2014, it is noted there were “44,273 notices sent to customers in April 2014, resulting in 3,025 shut-offs for non-payment.” The water department has said it will turn the water off to all residences that owe money by the end of the summer.

In a phone conversation, city spokesperson Greg Eno confirmed that the city would be ramping up cut-offs to 3,000 residents per week starting June 2. The city would not confirm exact figures over the phone of how many people in Detroit are without water, and did not respond to a follow-up email request.

The Detroit People’s Water Board is hearing directly from people impacted by the water cut-offs who say they were given no warning and had no time to fill buckets, sinks and tubs before losing access to water. In some cases, the cut-offs occurred before the deadline given in notices sent by the city. Sick people have been left without running water and working toilets. People recovering from surgery cannot wash and change bandages. Children cannot bathe and parents cannot cook.

The MWRO is working with people who have been affected by the crisis. According to the MWRO, mass water shut-offs began in April. The organization estimates that as many as 30,000 households will have had water shut off over the next few months.

Indeed, the United Nations has weighed in, stating that these recent and increasingly frequent actions in Detroit are inhumane, and violate international human rights guidelines.

“Disconnection of water services because of failure to pay due to lack of means constitutes a violation of the human right to water and other international human rights,” the U.N. officials said in a news release. “Because of a high poverty rate and a high unemployment rate, relatively expensive water bills in Detroit are unaffordable for a significant portion of the population.”

This is an absolute travesty!  What worries me more, however, than the reality of what's happening in Detroit, is that most people appear to be unaffected by it.  What does it say about our collective humanity when we take these kinds of actions in stride, and process these stories like any other news story?  It says that we are collectively so numb to human suffering that anything goes, as long as it doesn't affect us directly.

This is what scares me about the world we live in today... the fact that so little of the tragic and inhumane things we see and hear about on a regular basis actually bothers us enough to speak out.

People, this is not OK!

Democracy Now - Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Activists in Detroit have appealed to the United Nations over the city’s move to shut off the water of thousands of residents. The Detroit Water and Sewerage Department says half of its 323,000 accounts are delinquent and has begun turning off the taps of those who do not pay bills that total above $150 or that are 60 days late. Since March, up to 3,000 account holders have had their water cut off every week. The Detroit water authority carries an estimated $5 billion in debt and has been the subject of privatization talks. In a submission to the United Nations special rapporteur on the human right to safe drinking water and sanitation, activists say Detroit is trying to push through a private takeover of its water system at the expense of basic rights. We speak to Maureen Taylor of the Michigan Welfare Rights Organization and Meera Karunananthan, international water campaigner for the Blue Planet Project.


NYC’s $40M Central Park 5 Settlement Resolves Wrongful Jailing Fueled by Race-Baiting, Police Abuse

The City of New York has reportedly agreed to pay $40 million to five men wrongfully convicted of raping a female jogger in Central Park 25 years ago. The five black and Latino men were convicted as teenagers. They initially confessed, but soon they recanted, insisting they had admitted to the crime under the duress of exhaustion and coercion from police officers. Media coverage at the time portrayed them as guilty and used racially coded terms to describe them. But their convictions were vacated in 2002 when the real rapist came forward and confessed, after the five had already served jail terms of up to 13 years. We get reaction to the settlement from Natalie Byfield, a reporter for the New York Daily News at the time of Central Park Five case. Now an associate professor of sociology at St. John’s University in Queens, Byfield is the author of "Savage Portrayals: Race, Media and the Central Park Jogger Story."


50 Years Later, How a New Freedom Summer Could Mobilize the South’s Disenfranchised People of Color

Democracy Now
Tuesday, June 17, 2014

This month marks the 50th anniversary of Freedom Summer. In June 1964, more than 1,000 out-of-state volunteers traveled to Mississippi to help register African-American voters and set up "freedom schools." Activists risked their lives to help actualize the promise of America’s democracy: the right for everyone to vote. Out of Freedom Summer grew the formation of the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party that challenged the legitimacy of the white-only Mississippi Democratic Party at the 1964 Democratic National Convention. Half a century after Freedom Summer, a new report suggests much work remains to be done. According to the report, people of color continue to be locked out of statewide politics, and people of color candidates rarely get elected to statewide office. The report features state-by-state graphics that demonstrate how a targeted wave of voter registration among people of color voters could shift the balance of power in key Southern states. The report, "True South: Voters of Color in the Black Belt 50 Years After Freedom Summer," was just released by the Southern Elections Foundation and the Center for American Progress. We are joined by the report’s author, Benjamin Jealous, a partner at Kapor Capital and a senior fellow the Center for American Progress.


Higher Education and America’s Out-of-Control Student Loan Industry

Higher education is becoming more and more out of reach for everyday high school graduates, and even more so for students in families that are not wealthy.  New federal actions by the Obama administration begins to chip away at the levels of problems associated with this nation's student loan system, but there's far more work to be done to transform the way students access institutions of higher learning.  This dynamic was explored in greater detail on Tuesday's Democracy Now show, also featuring a brief reference to a new documentary film, Ivory Tower, that also explores this dynamic.

Part 1  (approx. 7 mins.)  -  As Obama Moves to Cap Student Debt Payments, Activists Push For Broader Write-Off of Crushing Loans

President Obama has unveiled new executive actions to address what some have called the nation’s next financial crisis: the over $1.2 trillion in student loans. Obama’s order will expand the "Pay as Your Earn" program capping loan payments at ten percent of monthly income. The program also forgives any outstanding debt after twenty years of payments. The massive cost of U.S. college tuition has saddled millions with crushing debt and priced many others out of the classroom. Student loans now exceed all other forms of consumer debt except for home mortgages. This year’s graduate class is the most indebted in U.S. history, with borrowers owing an average $33,000, most students are now looking for the best student loan refinance option. More than 70% of this year’s class has taken on a student loan, up from less than half of graduates twenty years ago. We are joined by two guests: Pamela Brown, a Ph.D. student in sociology at the New School and leading activist on the issue of student debt; and Andrew Rossi, director and producer of a new documentary on U.S. higher education, "Ivory Tower."

Part 2  (approx. 8 mins.)  -  Is College Worth It? New Doc "Ivory Tower" Tackles Higher Ed’s Unsustainable Spending, Student Debt

The cost of a college degree has grown by over 1,120 percent in the past three decades, far surpassing price hikes for food, medical care, housing, gasoline, and other basics. Coupled with $1.2 trillion in student debt, the U.S. is facing a crisis that threatens not just the economy but the nation’s education system itself. The issue is explored in the riveting new documentary "Ivory Tower," which argues the model for higher education in the U.S. has become unsustainable. The film contrasts the struggle for quality, affordable education with a growing corporate atmosphere on college campuses, where hundreds of millions of dollars go to football stadiums, lavish salaries, and high-end perks. We are joined by "Ivory Tower," director and producer Andrew Rossi. The film opens this Friday in New York City and Los Angeles.


Ta-Nehisi Coates Discussing Reparations and Racism on Democracy Now

From last week's Democracy Now...

Part 1 - Approximately 13 minutes
The Case for Reparations: Ta-Nehisi Coates on Reckoning With U.S. Slavery & Institutional Racism

An explosive new cover story in the June issue of The Atlantic magazine by the famed essayist Ta-Nehisi Coates has rekindled a national discussion on reparations for American slavery and institutional racism. Coates explores how slavery, Jim Crow segregation, and federally backed housing policy systematically robbed African Americans of their possessions and prevented them from accruing inter-generational wealth. Much of the essay focuses on predatory lending schemes that bilked potential African-American homeowners, concluding: "Until we reckon with our compounding moral debts, America will never be whole."


Part 2 - Approximately 18 minutes
Part 2: Ta-Nehisi Coates on Segregation, Housing Discrimination and “The Case for Reparations”

We air part two of our interview with famed essayist Ta-Nehisi Coates about his cover article in The Atlantic, “The Case for Reparations,” in which he exposes how slavery, Jim Crow segregation, and federally backed housing policy have systematically robbed African Americans of their possessions and prevented them from accruing inter-generational wealth. “It puts a lie to the myth that African Americans who act right, who are respectable, are somehow therefore immune to the plunder that is symptomatic of white supremacy in this country,” Coates says. “It does not matter. There’s no bettering yourself that will get you out of this.”


Danny Glover & Kathleen Cleaver on “Black Power Mixtape,” Rare Footage Capturing Movement’s Rise

Always interesting to hear elders reflect on the continuing evolution of our fight for real justice, and a healthier and more vibrant community. Every generation must find ways to respond to the evolving dynamics of racism in this society, but that process can never happen fully without understanding and building - to the extent possible, on the experiences of our elders and ancestors. Thus, the real value of the discussion below.

From yesterday's Democracy Now broadcast - Tuesday, May 6, 2014...

AMY GOODMAN: The relevance of the Black Panther movement, the black power movement in the United States to today, Kathleen Cleaver? You just had a session of hundreds of people last night at the New School. Why do you think it still reverberates?

KATHLEEN CLEAVER: It reverberates because it was about conditions. It’s not an ideological situation where you believe something, but about the social and political and economic conditions that black people were facing at the time and how to go about improving that. Civil rights were guaranteed under law, but that was not sufficient for our community that was so excluded and so oppressed. And so, it challenges directly racism on many different levels. If racism had been resolved, then maybe people wouldn’t be so interested in black power.

The full description of yesterday's discussion from Democracy Now...

Based on the film with the same name, the extraordinary new book "The Black Power Mixtape" chronicles the black freedom movement in the United States using found footage of top African-American leaders between 1967 and 1975. Shot by Swedish journalists and discovered in the basement of Swedish public television 30 years later, the film features some of the leading figures of the black power movement in the United States, including Stokely Carmichael, Bobby Seale, Huey P. Newton, Angela Davis and Eldridge Cleaver. We discuss the project with two guests: renowned American actor, film director and political activist, Danny Glover, and Kathleen Cleaver, professor at Emory Law School, who is featured in the film during her stint as communications secretary of the Black Panther Party.

Parts 1 and 2 of the video are below. The transcript is also available here (for part 1) and here (for part 2).

Part 1: Approximately 12 minutes...


Part 2: Approximately 28 minutes...