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One Cut: One Found Guilty: All Charged with Felony Murder

April 21, 2018
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Felony Murder:  The rule of felony murder is a legal doctrine in some common law jurisdictions that broadens the crime of murder: when an offender kills (regardless of intent to kill) in the commission of a dangerous or enumerated crime (called a felony in some jurisdictions), he/she is guilty of murder.  Some 46 states in the union have some form of felony murder rule on their statute books. Of those, 11 states unambiguously allow for individuals who commit a felony that ends in a death to be charged with murder even when they were not the agents, of the killing.

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 Is Felony Murder a fair charge to use on underaged youth who witnesses didn’t have anything to do with the crime?  
When I first passed out Eve Porinchak’s One Cut for feedback, I had no idea how much engagement this true crime story would bring to the young adult readers our committee sought feedback from who were either in juvenile detention facilities or in secondarypublic schools and who often identified themselves as nonreaders. This title however caught and held their interests, due to the authenticity of the storyline. Authentic usually means conversational dialogue and environment, but not this time. The characters and environment is just the opposite of most of the youth who participated in feedback. They are mostly browns and blacks while the characters in the story are white middle-class teens in Southern California. What pulls them is that these youth got entangled with the justice system and arrested, some under critical pretense, which is much the conditions of environment they live in that find them being racially profiled and arrested at unprecedented rates. The fact that this injustice happened to white teens too, is what brought about engagement and the fact that the story is a real-life well-written truth is what produced a reason for much dialogue amongst those reading the story. A cohesiveness not often experienced by these reluctant readers.

The events took place when the characters were around the same age group of the readers the book is intended for, highlighting a tragedy of enormous proportions in the teen characters’ world… one in which the ordinary routine of comping reefer, went haywire in an instant. The fact that this occurrence is accounted for some twenty-three years in the past is of no importance, for within the framing of the events, the reader can easily see themselves within the story’s boundaries, for this scenario is still occurring today.

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Due to the court action focus of this story, there is a need to bring about a clear understanding of the legal jargon. An in-depth amount of effort was put forth by the author to bring about a better understanding of the legalese. Ms. Porinchak also devoted extensive time to reviewing individual recounts of the fight that occurred between the six male teen adolescents ending up with one dead and the rest ended with their lives changed forever.

In today’s world of media profiling on youth of color, there’s an added interest in this story for it involves the arrest of young middle class white youth, a so-called drug pickup, and gang affiliation accusations, ending with life without parole for all members in the group. To read a story that involves circumstances similar to what they have mostly known to be associated with a youth of color, but that is instead associated with white upper-middle-class youth is a real event that is next to impossible for them to imagine in their lived world. Most of the youth showing interest are of color and used to being racially profiled by the police. They’re used to being forced, in some instances, to even confess to events they have had nothing to do with…or know of someone who plea-bargained for a lesser conviction of something they didn’t commit, but the people they know are usually of color.

In this 1995 situation which was closely after the OJ trial, there was no apparent plea-bargaining, only two possible sides to the same ending: the perspective of Mike McLoren, a neighborhood drug dealer and his friend and neighbor Jimmy Ferris, who died from the incident; and the perspective of the four young men (Brandon Hein who wielded the knife (life + 8 years), brothers Jason (life + 4 years) and Micah Holland (29 years to life), and Tony who did not get involved but witnessed the event [life w/o [parole]).


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These four boys went onto the property of Mike McLoren’s family to the backyard hangout to either buy weed.  Their driver Chris Valardo who was waiting in the car unaware of what was going on received 11 years and was released in 2000. The conflict revolved around Mike’s constant change-up of what happened, of the jury taking Mike’s inconsistent testimonial accounts, and of Chris, the driver receiving as harsh a sentence as the rest of the group which was accused of gang-style activity.  Jimmy, by the way, was the son of a policeman. Now we also have the silent blue line and payback for the slaying of one of theirs’.

The feedback from the student reviews I received was filled with statements referencing corruption of ethics, with most expressing how the judge literally didn’t show empathy towards the youth involved, especially to Chris who was not at the scene of the crime. Many responses were concerned with Chris saying had DNA been available then, it would have cleared him of involvement. Some even speculated that the case would have been thrown out of court, due to Mike’s inconsistent accounts and that the judge was probably associated with Mike’s father through some sort of private affluent leisure club or investment affiliation…incredible insight for youth of today who are now witnesses to repetitive injustice by a public law enforcement and court system so often found to be corrupt, due to a fraternal code of silence.



Ebb & Flow by Heather Smith

April 7, 2018


I have a tendency to give everything I read high marks simply because I love to read, however, I rarely assign 4 of 4. I must admit the artistry of poetic form in this book has allowed Heather Smith to handle the ugliest of marginalized situations for the young child is just simply unquestionably wonderful and gentle. This book slowly addresses one summer in the life of a child whose life has been shattered by the incarceration of his father, revealing his father’s drunk driving that caused the death of a mother and child and severed the parental relationships with his biological mother too, for she hasn’t recovered from the experience to nurture her son back to he

The author is very careful to address the core issue that is at the heart of the problems facing the main character Jett, which is the loss of the father-son bond. So hurt is he by his father’s incarceration that he hasn’t yet cried over the loss of his father from the family nor can Jett be moved to go see his dad who is in jail in the town of his birth. When Jett is sent to his grandmother for the summer in New Foundland, his acting out signaled the internal conflicts churning within. Choosing to attach himself to everything that he can which he counts as broken, he makes friends with the socially rejected Junior Dawson, town bully, town thief, town lier…you name it this child acted out on it, due to a revealed daily abuse by his father. Junior is also living in a home of which he shares with his uncle/brother Alf who is an adult who suffers mental illness.

Having to live off food samples because no one supplies meals for him at home, Junior bitterly resents Alf because they share the same mother due and he feels their mother left Alf a fortune of money before abandoned him to the abusive behavior of his aunt and father. When Junior breaks into the safe box, it is discovered that the money is Monopoly money. His anger leads to him beating up Alf and running away, as Jeff, who was pulled into his plan, stands back in horror witnessing the attack and in turn gets initially accused of the assault.

An eloquent clean read that covers issues of elder abuse, extreme physical abuse by a biological parent, dysfunctional settings threatening child-safety, living w/adult mental illness, death, parental incarceration, and feelings of abandonment/disengagement is masterfully handled for the younger reader from grades 4 through 6. The one irritating moment was when Junior confessed his mistreatment by the adults responsible for him and the callous response of the classroom teacher who responded threatening him with removal from the home he wanted removal from.  He was so not in putting the needs of the student’s well-being first, an attitude I was never exposed to in my pre-service or in-service positions as a licensed classroom elementary or middle school teachers.  I am hoping this was added for fictional purposes and would hate to think this was based on a consistant truth in educators from one N. A. country to the other.

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[Review] The Perspective of Today’s Youth is Found in the Text of “The Day Tajon Got Shot”

April 4, 2018


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Beacon House Writers, K. Crutcher (Ed.), Z. Gatti (Dsgn.). The Day Tajon Got Shot. 230p. Shout Mouse Press. March 2017. PB $14.80. 9780996927451. Ages 13 to 15.  I think this has been one of my favorite books in the past seven months because when I picked it up to read, back in September, it was right before grad class and so good, I couldn’t stop the sneaky reading throughout class. When class was over, I literally set in the parking garage and finished the story otherwise I probably would have pulled over enroute home to finish the book, I was so stoked. The hooks to this story hypnotized me, a feat which has not happened for a long while. When I shared this book with an 8th grader just to preview it, he went home and had his mother go online and purchase the title.  This was a student that rarely if ever finds engagement in the text that’s offered in school for him to read.  This book, contained the majical formula: own-voice authors, culturally relevant to the reader’s lived experience, short chapters that serve to heighten the reader’s anticipation, and photo-illustrations that help create an illusion of debth that has readers wondering if the story is not based on events that actually happened in real life. 

I couldn’t believe, at the end of the story that 10 separate individuals wrote this one single narrative. I couldn’t believe that young adolescent girls were the voices of their elders, were voices of their adversaries and were voices of males old and young. When the story opened up with Tajon Williams selling weed because he was driven to help his struggling mother, the same old repetitive story rung loud of the male son trying to step up to the man’s role in the best way he knew how against the advice of everyone that had a vested interest in his well being. With that said, Tajon had no business selling weed. It was illegal and as Rakia warned, a bad decision.

When Pete the policeman pulled up on the last sell of Tajon’s life, it really wasn’t a sell, but a thief, for Tajon’s supply had just got stolen by the thug he thought he was making a sale to. When Tajon saw the policeman, his mistake was to turn and run while reaching for his phone and because of course, the policeman seeing the cell phone shot him at point-blank range saying he feared for his life in the ever-repetitive cell-phone-that-looks-like-a-gun-in-the-hand-of-a-perp-not-turned-in-the-direction-of-the-cop scenario. Rakia, Tajon’s best bud who just happened by to see if he was still out, got it all on her phone.

PICK-UP FROM GOODREADS: This scenario can’t help but bring to mind a dystopian-like rite-of-cultural passage existing in this society today which is to teach young black males to tie their shoes, memorize their addresses and phone numbers, never call the police in an emergency, never go in your pockets in the presence of a policeman, when walking down the street and you see a policeman…change your pattern of direction by casually crossing to the opposite side of the street (practice them) / turn the corner / go into the nearest building until they pass.

Albert Einstein, Einstein, and It has become  appallingly obvious  that our technology  has exceeded our  humanity  --Albert Einstein

As an adult, if pulled over in your car as passenger or driver NEVER go in your dashboard after you have told them you are licensed to carry and never think for one minute that your life is viewed as precious in a society that is locked into a systemic pattern of genocide against your race and gender. Unfortunately, I hate to go there with this subject matter, but that is basically what the climate is for the teen authors of this novel who are seeing their peers, families, neighbors, and friends profiled in D.C. and that was the catalyst that stimulated their writing of this story. In fact, the authors kept track of every police murder of unarmed persons in the country from their project’s start in 2015 to finish in 2017, but as they stated in the back info pages of the book, there wasn’t enough space to add the entire list of ALL the white, black, Latino, Asian, and Indigenous male deaths that occurred over the 2 years of their project, so they listed the unarmed black deaths.

What made this book so special was the perspective of the youth through the voice of the characters. The policeman had children that attended school with Tajon, Ashley and Zach. In fact Zach was a good friend with Tajon, while Ashley played on the school basketball team. The policeman (Pete) that shot Tajon was white and he couldn’t even tell his son and daughter what happened. Pete’s loyalty to the neighborhood and to Tajon was gallant. The retribution on these children, however, was brutal. Both were beat up. Ashley was left battered by her own basketball team on the bathroom floor, not even knowing why. When the family moved to another part of the country, Zach remained behind and stood up against the storm forsaking his father and his family for he like the youth that was mostly of color and hostile against him due to his association as the son of the policeman that shot Tajon, was more torn from Tajon’s death and just as hurt if not feeling deeply guilty that his own father was the cause.Related image

The duality of this existence was a nuance that is seldom given light and is also reflective of the diversity our youth living in today’s world experience, one in which the socioeconomic racial lines are blurred, for the youth of today might hate and be angry.  In the situation concerning Tajon’s death, the clashes were racial because the youth were black and white but not necessarily from the traditional intersections of black and white aggressive behavior. In this book, it would have happened to whoever the son and daughter of the policeman was. It didn’t matter what the race was.  The characters just happened to have been white. For the police aggression against black males in this society has no color. It’s those in blue against the males whose skin are brown and black, and according to academics, researchers, and writers at the Roots <>, nothing’s going to change because the police are going to consistently get away with the shooting deaths, due to their close collaborative work with the prosecuting attorneys’ offices across the country in a one hand washes the other arrangement.  As Michille Alexander has so eloquently stated in The New Jim Crow, “The United States imprisons a larger percentage of its black population than South Africa did at the height of apartheid” (2013, p.6).

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24 March 2018 –  MarchforOurLives rally in DC

The literary use of alternating voices and short chapters in this title will keep even the most reluctant readers vested and engaged with anticipation. The use of multimedia graphics, such as newspaper headlines, black and white journalistic photos, social media text, and protest signs and posters aligns this books’ storyline directly with the headline human rights protests and injustices that have occurred since the book’s publication. Of particular interest that comes to mind are the women’s’ rights protest marches in January 2017 and the Parkland, FL. school shooting, which led to the March for Our Lives rally in Washington on  24 March 2018.  There’s also the continued police killings of black males with cell phones in their hands, such as 22-year-old Stephon Clark in Sacramento, CA. who was shot 6 times in the back and 2 times in the side 18 March 2018, in his grandmother’s backyard, by multiple police personnel who saw him as an endangerment to their lives (see 30 March 2018 Washington Post Article on Autopsy Results for Stephon Clark).

Youth who enjoyed books on this subject such as THUG by Angie Thomas, Dear Martin by Nic Stone, Ghost Boys by Jewel Parker Rhodes, All American Boys by Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely, and How It Went Down by Kekla Magoon, will enjoy adding this title to the list and rejoice in knowing there is not a single story being told to this tragic phenomenon.




IT’S HERE! Beacon House Writers’ Blog Tour Final Scheduled Appearance

March 31, 2018
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Writing From the Heart!

January 17, 2018

A historical fiction that reads contemporary.

Hardy, Chanel.  My Colorblind Rainbow.  132pp. Self Published. $8.99. ISBN978-0692973875.  Ages 13 and Up.  The feedback given by young girls who have read copies of this title have been spell-bounding positive and the feedback by adults more in the negative, of which based on the conservative state I live in, comes as no surprise, yet I am angry at our still slow catharsis move to open-mindedness (sic: don’t know if it’s a word or not) and acceptance.

Touching on the taboo subjects of colorism, race separatism, religious didacticism of the black church (simply from a personal) and acceptable societal appearances this book provides much food for thought and dialogue by its readers. Although I have mentioned the black church, this is prevalent at extreme measures throughout a plethora of religious practices. It’s just my experience in the black church amongst a people that are suffering…to be taught that God’s love is for all people and to go against what is natural to them and ostracize that child from the family circle as was done in this book, due to pride and societal backlash, is insanity to me. I as a mom that carried a child in my womb for nine months and pushed it out to this mean old world would never send that child into the world unprotected from my love, shelter, and support. But these things have always been done and still are, which is why the book reads so contemporary-like.

There is a serious need to address colorism within cultures of color. As long as there is melanin production and skintone hues, this will exist and as long as we try to act as if this is an insult to our sensitivities, there will be no healing. Colorblind Rainbow, in its compactness, has managed to addressed this issue from the historical pretense of Durham, NC in the 1940s. This was not the primary purpose, however. That purpose was recognition of the issues faced by one black and one white American adolescent female who identified as lesbian and yet stood up against the pressures of their world to embrace their love and attraction and suffer the consequences.

What makes this book an easy stand-out is that it is historical but reads contemporary due to the gender identity issues. I have personally not read anything addressed to the teen reader that is so direct in the issues of segregation, racism, and gender bias all rolled into 132 pages. It’s short and punching and controversial. In dialogue with some of my white peers, it has been received as text filled with stereotypes. In dialogue with black peers, its an attack on the inside issues of colorism that CONSTANTLY gets pushed to the side and the lacking of social justness from church and society on LGBT issues and the extensive acts of rejection that is dumped on these youth, which is yet another play on the “blind” in colorblind. When you don’t mention it, it doesn’t get addressed. In this book the blindness was with race, religion, and gender binary, and it certainly is mentioned in what I might say as an eloquent and clean write. There are stereotypes, but I found that more in the black character’s move to Asheville and the white character’s move to the Village (NYC). There’s also the biasness that all white people are racist, of which we know is not and never has been true. As Dr. King said in his B-ham letter addressing the issues of whites and racism: the problems will continue to fester due to “the appalling silence of the good people”. So the issue is not the racism of all white people but the silence of those in the majority in reference to the injustice.

We are still not a kumbaya society, as some people think and I personally don’t believe in placing a silencer on issues, but at some point in our development, we need to start teaching truth in our educational system.  Why did it take Trump referencing a Caribbean nation as a pig sty for the news to bring to our attention that nation’s contribution to our own nations fight for freedom to the point of memorial statues placed in public squares in commemoration of members of this nation’s valor? At this point in our country’s development, I am also tired of explaining to someone in the majority why something done to a member of a minority is not fair. Obviously, if it needs explaining…something is wrong.

Many blacks do not like to talk about their intra-group prejudices and are more comfortable speaking on how society treats them on the whole, when in fact, society has also caused them to develop mannerisms against their own kind, due to historical preferential treatment modeled in slavery. This colorism is not just a black American thing. Just look at the pushback experienced by Amara la Negra, the Dominican singer who prefers to wear an afro than a more accepted long and straight hair weave.  This stuff is a metastasized wart. Many whites are uncomfortable in having these discussions.  Many people of color try to not bring this issue up in fear of hurting someone’s feeling, and some black and whites even accuse those that approach the conversation as over-reacting, preferring to overlook the bumps.  This leaves the typography of race, social, and gender biases with a lot of festering sores.

In terms of this independently published title, I say “Bravo, Chanel Hardy! Keep writing from the heart!”

Own-voices for Black American Children’s Book Authors 6 Percent: Still Below 10.

October 28, 2017


This video done to Tee-Grizzley’s  “First Day Out!” is so empowering, with it’s “in spite of it all, I can succeed message” Girls in STEM!  It was shared to me on twitter and moved me to shot out their empowerment to the Big 5 Publishing Houses who don’t work to provide them voice and representation.  So since that is not their priortity, I thought I’d send the voices to them.  Not that I am anybody special. It’s just that every group of color was published at double digit percentages by the major publishers in 2016 except for black American authors writing for black American youth, which was at 6%. It’s been that way for 50 years. Latin American authors 61% Indigenous Nation authors 40%, Asian / S. Pacific Island authors 89% (huge increase with historical references to WWII issues, especially)… but 6% of books published for black American youth between birth and 18 years…That means 94% of the books published for black children is NOT being published by people that share their culture.
This is an issue with all our own-voice authors, but obviously there’s a critical wrong going on with black American authors, AND this is seriously NOT the time for the fragilities to emerge.  I’m sick of the race card debate.  I don’t know how to play cards anyhow.  I was not allowed at the table.   It’s not because there are no writers out there, either.
Why is this marginalization allowed? I am still sitting here waiting for these mega millionaire-music-moguls to underwrite a publishing house that specifically pushes authors of color who write for youth of color. When will they learn to use the ill-gotten or well-gotten means, whatever it is,  to establish something with a vested interest in the community…not as a money laundering interest aka Stringer Bell’s attempt on HBO’s The Wire, but at least Stringer was thinking of the needs of the many instead of the needs of the few.  Nothing in this world has worked with that philosophy.  It’s always the needs of whole that brings a stop to it.  Sometimes one entity has it with clarity aka David and Goliath.  David understood…somebody’s got to take this bully down. The consistency of marginalization from the major 5 publishing houses in this country, however does not exist in the manner they have maintained themselves, unless there is some type of under the table payoff to who ever the doorkeeper is.  So at this point I ask:
So, whose getting paid off?  I just have to go there? 52 years ago Nancy Larrick discovered 6.7% black American presence during the Era of the Civil Rights! Now here we are 52 years later still at 6%?!  Somebody’s just got to come clean.
As Chris Myers said, in a 2014 NYTimes commentary that ran simultaneously with an article by his dad…the cartography in the GPS is not working, and our youth of color, particularly our black youth, who use the books by own-voice authors, as a roadmap to a life structured guideposts, who use them as a source of strategy to help them survive navigating through their marginalized worlds….the cartography is not working because it can’t get updated…it’s not being embraced.
So many authors of color are going the route of independent and self publishing, posting their titles on amazon, but there is no platform to get a review out and many of these titles get little to zero coverage nor are they listed in the literature used by public and school librarians.

For an independently published and small press and self-published titles, unless you are the likes of Lee & Low.  Thank you Jason Lee for hearing that clarion call and crashing though with a blitz on the diversity gaps.
But I seriously think we should play a blitz the way it’s meant to be played…with one objective, and that is with the mindset of  organized chaos…all hands on deck, take the quarterback DOWN mindset , in other words, while the blitz is taking place WE HAVE TO GET BUSY and make create open up opportunities for the small voices to be heard.

…and the Big 5 is still in  Smashmouth formation.  My son calls it 3 Yards and a Cloud of Dust mode.  Come on people!  This in no way is a plea to take the majors down.  It’s a plea to get us  to start recognizing how utterly ridiculous this charade is! Teenagers lie better than this! 52% of public school children are of color and the majority of books these conglomerates publish for the largest  population of children of color that public schools have seen is 435 out of 3,400 titles?   (see 2016 count)

In organized chaos, the blitz is not distracted.  We cannot get distracted as educators…as school librarians…as children and young adult librarians…as researchers….as educators who teach the educators…persistence through the madness…Ella Baker understood it…Representative Lewis knows about it…Message to those who care:  Don’t give in and don’t give up.

Buyea’s Timeless Voice for Middle Grades Scores a Perfect Mark

August 21, 2017

This is what it looks like in one corner of the house because I don’t have shelf space and am no longer working as a school librarian!  I will be dropping  titles off to the nearest “Little Free Library” for youth in the community, for there’s loads of children’s chapter books and YA from major and independent publishers.  Most prominent on the stack is one that I think is the best up and coming book in the promotion of literacy in a long time.  It fullout establishes the impact read alouds have on older middle grade readers whether they have poor comp skills due to learning gaps and other disabilities or not.  There’s also a cryout to support school and public libraries as well as innovative thought applied through community service and collaborative group work.  Which book am I sprouting about?   It’s the bright yellow ARC in the front left hand corner of the IMG_2121pile…Rob Buyea’s “The Perfect Score” which addresses the pressures children feel when faced with excelling, not only on standardized tests but in elite competitive sports.  The book is written in alternating POV short chapters w/a few scattered ones of medium length, and due out this October. Rob is also author of the Mr. Terupt series. Loads of life lessons presented with both humor and poignancy that is attractive to both male and female readers. Loads of conversation for readers on immigration, competitive sportsmanship, bullying, marginalization as seen among adults and youth, multi-generational interaction, and community and family bonding.  What I personally like about Buyea’s work is that it is so similar to the work of Beverly Cleary in that he catches the voice and psyche of the 9 to 12 year old youth, as well as the issues of the time period the young protagonists deal with.  Unlike Cleary, his characters are way more diverse and the issues he addresses are grittier, due to the times and life exposure our children have in today’s world.  Similar for both is the timelessness in the stories of self worth and empowerment, which provides a platform for the promotion of the voice for all children.

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