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A New Mentoring Text That Strengthens the Narrative of Injustices for our Youth

June 6, 2018

Ghost BoysIn my opinion, this book will have a lasting impact on our contemporary canon due to the readability and historical update of the narrative on the subject matter of Emmett Till’s murder conviction, which was changed due to new information first by his cousin, Simeon Wright, through the publishing of Simeon’s Story: An Eyewitness Account of the Kidnapping of Emmett Till , as documented in a news coverage. The second impact on Emmett’s death was the surfacing of Carolyn Bryant, who after 60 years breaks her silence by standing up against the intense fear she felt due to threats that forced her to lie under oath.

With all of this, author Jewell Parker Rhodes was led to document the change in the story for children, using the voice of Emmett, himself as one of the characters in what became Ghost Boys . The strength, wisdom, and leadership that Emmett’s character emotes is reflective of the change the emergent information caused in the narrative and in the lessons Emmett learned in his place as leader of other youth who ended up in his afterlife world, due to similar conditions that resulted in their deaths.

Image result for roll of thunder hear my cryI truly believe this is one of the new historical fictions we will turn to in curriculum as mentoring text, just as we have done so with Julius Lester’s Day of Tears , Mildred Taylor’s Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry and Laurie Halse Anderson’s Fever of 1793 and Chains.

In a conversation on Facebook, I responded to a request for suggestions on what to do when your administrator says no to the reading of Ghost Boys at the end of the school year. Having grown up in the South knowing adults who feared for their children’s lives due to the conditions of segregation they lived under and having grown up in a small town that refused to be silent against such heinous acts that forced other places to be silent, I knew silence was not the answer. Voice and trust were needed to stop all wrongs AND seeing today, how the silence is still in tack, my heart broke. My heart broke over knowing the anguish that school librarian felt over being rejected, rejected with no explanation.

We’ve all been there, and I couldn’t help but feel for this librarian and admire the brevity of title-choice, which is what caused my heart to respond in such a manner.

Image result for emmett tills correction correctionsIt ached as I wrote my response to the post over the loss of the experience the youth in this librarian’s lit group will not get to be guided through navigating the complicated issues that author Jewell Parker Rhodes spent time to research and present in a manner that youth could understand. It ached over the lost opportunity they will miss in experiencing this important book in a group and with adults who would have made themselves open to provide facilitation support for better understandings, for Ghost Boys is a hard hard emotional book!

There are so many layers: Emmett Tills’ corrected story:  the harsh unbridled details of murder due to hatred; bystanders in both cases in the book (protagonist and the Emmett flashback); current-day police aggression on young males of color; utilization of body-cams video; testimonial statements from authority sworn to protect; silence from unscrupulous cover-ups; AND if you think the racism discussion is the hard part, the discussion of ancestral belief which is an undercurrent of spirituality in the book will challenge views of religion and origin stories. 

 

I think, before even reading this book, a lot of up-front prep is needed. The students, as well as everyone else, is aware of police aggression but the other subtleties IMHO cannot be overlooked. Due to the fragilities of so many folks with buy-in to the library, I would approach it from a healing perspective, for the book’s protagonist truly wanted the officer’s daughter to heal the rife his death caused. The father showed remorse but never said so. That is the part I would use as a promotional. I would even critique the reviews and explain to my administrator how there is something way more powerful than what the media frenzy shows daily from the murder of young black males…for the silence of the Emmett Till witness is the example of the same silence we are experiencing today with our social and political needs. Silence is a sign of fear and fear does not solve the problems. It takes on hostages and smothers your actions. So, the impact of this book is in the historic silence that our youth today should be armed against doing. The silence in both stories is reflective of society’s silence, which is why so many things keep repeating without correction…the silence and the fear of the loudness…In Ghost Boys, the noise, the silence, the fear, the anger, the history of it in the past, and the action of it in today’s world is all layed on the table for deconstruction…a blueprint for fixing the leaky pipe.

Artist of Color Show Us the Mirror They See Themselves in This World

June 1, 2018

 

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The artists in this slideshow are Julio Valdez, Edmonia “Wildfire” Lewis,  Ebony Iman Dallas, Nick Galanin,  Aaron Paquatte, Amy Sherald, Kehinde Wiley, and Tim Nyugen.  They represent Southeast Asian, First Nation, Latino, and black American visual artists who reflect a consciousness message needed for our YOC in today’s society.

The artist of color in this slideshow are combined with historical and contemporary names. It is important to include visual own-voice artists from the major groups of color that our YOC exists in.  We sometimes forget Southeast Asians and First Nations.  It is more critical now than ever that our youth not only see themselves in the literature we provide them, but become aware of other groups of color and see how the artists who are members of the groups of color see themselves in the spectrum.  I included in this post an example of the artists I am personally drawn to from the manner in which they interpret the reflections of themselves and their own which is in sepia textures.  It is important to provide our youth with artists who live and breathe in the world today.  When we only feed them historical examples, our narrative is saying “it used to be” instead of “it is.”

Award-winning Author Yuyi Morales’ Pulls Us Through the Sliding Doors so that we Might Know the Pain of the Racial Hatred our Country’s Politics are Causing for Mexican Youth in Closing Remarks at SLJ 2018 Day of Dialogue

June 1, 2018

You simply MUST listen to what Mexican American Yuyi Morales has to say about the damage the political climate is causing her, a Mexican immigrant who crossed the border with her infant son two decades ago, as she realizes today her son would be removed from her arms and she might not have ever seen him again…had it been today.

Yuyi MoralesNow her friend’s children are scared to go to school, frightened out of their minds that someone will come and take them away from their parents, frighten from the bullying, frighten that they might come home to an empty home because someone is coming to take their parents away

Had she not come to this country, we would have never been blessed with the stories she bestowed upon us, in the books she’s written.

 

Los Gatos Black on HalloweenNiño Wrestles the World (Golden Kite Honors)Rudas: Ni?o's Horrendous Hermanitas by Yuyi Morales (2016-10-18)Harvesting Hope: The Story of Cesar ChavezLittle Night/Nochecita by [Morales, Yuyi]Just In Case: A Trickster Tale and Spanish Alphabet BookFloating on Mama's SongLadder to the MoonViva Frida (Morales, Yuyi)Sand Sister

 

[Review] White Flight-A Representation of our American Diaspora of Diversity.

May 25, 2018

What makes this title so fantabulous is that it’s not only a book-in-verse but one that both males and females will find engagement. How often do you get to read an urban bookWhite Flight: A Novel in Verse where the protagonist is a white 16-year-old youth whose just as hip and down as his black friend? But hey, I hate to say it, but just like the horror movie, the black boy dies early. This, however, is not going to be one of those rag reviews on the author for delivering us a stereotypical trope, for the author truly delivered a narrative of his lived world. Just like the story’s setting Chris Paslay grew up in a neighborhood similar to the one featured in the book. When Chris was a teen his neighborhood was filled with white and black working class and professional families, as well as few single-parent -households whose parents worked extra hard to assure they didn’t return to a world of the hood. Mind you, in major cities, the hood is not monolithically black and Latino.  It can be ethnic, however, such as Albanian, Italian, Dominican, etc.

 

Alex, our protagonist and best friend to Darryl,  was a teen that knew how to walk in the streets of a major city in America because that was the mod of transportation for getting from one place to the other.  It was also one of the environments for social interaction with his fellow peers. We catch the rhythm of the city in the metrics when reading this book’s verse, where the two friends are closer than close.  Hip to the same songs, the same clothing, and taking the same routes in the streets, these two were inseparable. Alex and Darryl. When you saw one, you saw the other close behind. Two friends that had known each other over half their young lives…since elementary. But there was one difference, one instance when Alex forgot…forgot there was a difference between him and Darryl. Forgot that he was white and Darryl was black. That was the night they that Darryl shared the information on his witnessing of a murder by the local thug that seemed to be moving his drug business deeper and deeper into their neighborhood day by day. More cars driving by with music blasting out the windows daily. More drug transactions in the parks and tennis courts at night.

It was one of those transactions that Darryl chanced upon when he witnessed a murder one night and was warned not to snitch. When he shared this news with Alex, Alex tried to be straight and upright. Thinking only of honesty and truthfulness, he urged his friend to do the right thing and tell the police. Darryl, simply looking at Alex as his friend, followed his advice.

What happened next was heart-shattering for street justice took hold and the drug dealer that committed the murder Darryl witnessed, rolled up on Darryl and shot his brains out at point blank range on the sidewalk, and for the rest of the book Alex is left with the guilt of his friend’s death wondering whether or not he told his friend the right thing. Wondering whether or not he was a wimp for staying silent for knowing who the person was that killed the person he felt as close to as one would a brother.

The snitch factor is a major reason for the continuation and escalation of crime in major cities. Retribution is bold and the police don’t seem to have control over the threats. In the Philadelphia area, it’s such an issue that the Philly newspapers run regular series and investigative articles. The Philly Inquirer ran a news series on the issue. in 2013 for one such incident where an Instagram account was shuttered down that threatened snitches. It had 7900 followers and lasted for six months.  Stories such as the ones below were found in the news for four months running:

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1. Website With Pay for Snitch Information (2007)

2. Instagram Account Threatens Snitches (2013)   

3. Philly Jock STAR Says Philly Rappers are Known for Snitching (2018)  

 

White flight is also a reality. Historically, it occurred when an all-white neighborhood experiences an influx of people of color, namely new black or Latino residents. When this happens, the whites flee the neighborhood and move to other areas, thus making the new neighborhoods more elite.

This book allows us to see an inside perspective on reasons for flight, except the flight was not from just white residents, it was experienced by black residents too.  Readers are also provided a layer to view the broad and diverse topography of what we view today as urban youth, for they are not just black and Latino youth. They are of First Nations. They are Southeast Asians. They are white, black, AND Latino. They are a representation of our American Diaspora of diversity.

Here’s Chris reading an excerpt from his title:                                                   

White Flight is only available on Amazon.

 

DAY 1: Author Chris Paslay Reads from His Book-in-Verse Urban Title: WHITE FLIGHT

May 8, 2018

514kFzfbxEL-1.jpgOur Blog Tour!  Is Rolling!

WHITE FLIGHT is a YA urban title that features 16 year-olds Daryl and Alex, two teens from diverse backgrounds, that have  been friends for almost half their life, until one fateful day shattered it forever, due to the retribution of a street thug who saw justice in a much different way then either of the two young friends were raised to ever know.  Now only one of the pair still

remains, filled with remorse and guilt from the unknowingly fatal advice he gave that ended his friend’s life, wondering if can he step up to the plate and be as brave as his friend was.  For both were eye-witnesses to a targeted execution.

Please welcome the talented and much-acclaimed author, Christopher Paslay, as he reads verses from this newly engaging title that can cause readers to experience a powerful impact from the experience it brings when youth read its text.

 

 

 

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ON WEDNESDAY follow us over to  In The Margins Book Awards Site to and let us share with you the author interview, and see what Chris has to say about the experiences he’s had with writing  WHITE FLIGHT while holding down a full-time job as a Philadelphia high school English teacher.

 

[Review of Dread Nation] A Wise Placement of Dialogue for Issues of Colorism Amoung Those of Color: Bravo Justina!

April 28, 2018

I didn’t get to download the ARC because I was so busy with other titles (not that it shows on my Goodreads, but I was…really. That didn’tImage result for dread nation stop me from trolling everything that was being said about this book by everyone else, especially when I knew it was entrenched in the fight against zombies by People of Color. Zombies are deeply ingrained as a practiced belief found in the Vodun religion of the Ewe and Foh from Northwest Africa, from the practice of Quimbanda (Kimbanda) in Central Congo and Angolan regions of Africa .  In the Western Hemisphere, chattel slavery brought these African cultural groups together and they used the similarities of their indigenous religions to synchronize them into practices of Santeria, Palo Mayambe, Voudon, Voodoo, CandombléHooDoo, etc.“This is a country for white men, and by God, as long as I am President, it shall be a government for white men,” he wrote in 1866.

It is also set in an altered post-Civil War Era. All my life, I have had to debate the “Lincoln Freed the Slaves” term by those that took it literally as Lincoln showing empathy towards chattel enslavement and those who were proud of their Confederate heritage and loved to harp on a more degraded view of Lincoln’s move as economical and had nothing to do with slaves.  The Confederate harping was a more true view, but because most Americans with involuntary immigration in their heritage have little opportunities to speak with and study their history contextually and critically,, they are not aware of what was actually put in place by Lincoln that was cut off by Vice President Johnson who had a white supremacist nature and favored a weak version of the Civil Rights Bill of the 19th Century Reconstruction. His short stint as president brought about the state’s right move to determine who could and could not vote based on race. He was an open opponent of the 14th Amendment, his mannerism so disgusted some that they compared his time in the Presidential Office to that of  Caligula’s horse, in other words…disgusting. Sounds a little bit like the attitude towards the Trump White House.

This, however, is not discussed much in K-12 curriculum but is definite food for thought with the reading of Dread Nation.  In fact, the entire procedures for ending chattel slavery should be looked at from within a critical historical context, for Lincoln played this as one would when applying the strategy of an ingenious investment move on Wall Street…one that could end up bringing down the Confederacy’s whole House of Cards.  This was possible because the entire basis of America’s economy was vested in the success of the forced unpaid labor of the enslaved that were not viewed as human beings, and that were insured as collateral on the stock market as one would a herd of cattle or real estate.

That Justina goes into the heritage of her protagonist who at the beginning of the story was well aware of her birth mother was perhaps a possible construction for the war was over and she was spared the fate of death at birth, due to the midwife who raised her. It was astonishing, however, that there was no mention of the father. Slave owners felt it critical to not even document the names and origin of their slaves. Better documentation was made of horseflesh. Granted there are a few exceptions, but very very few. For instance, the Tucker family of Hampton Roads Virginia (Jamestown) has origins that trace their heritage back to the White Lion, a Dutch ship that brought the first Africans  to the shores of the British New World in 1619. Those Africans were from what we know today as Angola and were classified as indentured, a term that many whites with this ancestry group love to refer to as enslavement. NO. Please stop aligning the limited servitude of indentured work with the that of chattel slavery. It’s demeaning to those whose ancestry ended in a bill of sales. All on the White Lion were eventually free, for they came before chattel slave laws existed. Two were legally married with signed documentation. Anthony and Isabella were their names. They are two of the few from that period when the country was being formed who possessed a legally acknowledged marriage certificate by the Virginia Colony. When they had their son William and baptized him, this made William recognized by the Crown and able to own land. Their small family, which was granted a plot of land after indentured service was up, were the first legally recognized black family in the New World. All whosoever that can claim blood lineage to members of that ship should be viewed as blue blood elites due to their ancestral heritage. But not many black Americans know much past I875, due to the insignificance of their humanity, an insignificance that was not lost in this altered historical state, I might add. It is also some of the things the reading of this story should be able to stir up in the minds of the readers. I call these the what ifs. What if this was included in our history books? It’s not. What if this was included in the state of Virginia’s history books? It’s not. What if black Americans knew they had a blue blood heritage of free blacks living and owning land in America before Colonial times? They don’t. What about all the black Americans whose surnames are Tucker. Are they aware of what their heritage might be? Even the Tuckers in Virginia are bickering over this. Take a DNA test. In this country, it should be mandatory that those of the enslaved past take mandatory DNA tests. The purposeful separation from cultural connections in Africa was so severe with black Americans in the USA that little children even today in the 21st Century say “I don’t have a history due to the effort to erase it.” Now I hear that the state of Texas is challenging students to think critically by listing and discussing both the positive and the negative impacts of slavery. I want to be a Texas student today. I want to exclaim how the striping of my cultural heritage and the degradation of my race has served to positively let me know that there are those in this country that saw my ancestors as less than animals and based on the hunting mentality of police in this country, they still see black males as a threat. It is also a positive fact that the efforts from unpaid labor made millions if not billions for individuals, and the economy of the nation. I could go on and on and on with this list of positive impacts. The most successful achievement is the hierarchy of race slavery allowed for those in this country who needed to feel empowered. That sense of elitism is still in existence today and going strong, without challenge due to textbooks, the children’s book publishing world, and the media that whites out what is depicted of our society. There’s some movies, even today that don’t show the existence of on person of color, hue, tent, shade, whatever. Still.

With all of this baggage of misrepresentation that has built up in our society, in struts Justina Ireland! Oh my God! …and what does she strut in with? Zombies rising up out of the sacred battlefields of the Civil War and POCs made to be the natural deterrents who are now required to undergo an educational experience that only the white elite was once privileged to, must also berained in the art of defense using futuristic steampunk weaponry which led to the Civil War and slavery coming to an immediate end…I couldn’t wait for this mamma bamma to come out. I also couldn’t help but think of this new forced education as yet and still another means of the dominant society to control those they feel are inferior to them. I couldn’t also help but the thing about the forced deprogramming that missionary schools performed forcefully on the Indigenous People in the Northwest. I have to say, my antennas were tweaking.

I literally trolled Justina on Twitter AND WHEN SHE CAME OUT WITH A PLAYLIST on Spotify on the release day, I flipped because she. had. my. girl.  on. the.  list!  Yes! Valarie June and her bluesy country-twinged folk stylings.

Oh, did I mention that I bought 3 signed copies, in advance for gifts? It is my dream that the kids will start reading the title and get so hooked that they will not only get into the culture of the world of Dread Nation they will read up on the real facts of the era and look at it in a more critical way, in the manner that Justina did when she so adeptly redefined the post-Civil War world where slaves and First Nation people were elevated to a higher social level yet still commodisized by white society to fend off their communities from the Zombies through a systematic forced educational policy which required all POCs to successfully complete finishing school so they can be shaped and molded into killing machines….

Continue From Goodreads

… in service to the white elite women who lease them out from conglomerates such as the school Jane, the protagonist attends (Ms. Preston’s School of Combat).  Told in such as way as to mirror today’s world, the story succeeds with being both thought-provoking and heartbreaking, for the protagonist yearns for some form of communication from her mother.  The trick for implementing this is done by using unanswered letters as dividing lines of transition between sections.  The letter are ones written by Jane to her mother in Kentucky.  It’s of interest that Jane is from a border state and not the Deep South, too.  Although I’m not sure if that really matters, for the racism in this country permeates all areas, regions, and societal levels.

So with all that said the action didn’t get going as much as the setup for the action to come in future installments, which was the most disappointing part. That in no way stopped me from finishing up the story, for I was curious to see how this post-slavery world-dynamics was to be situated. Growing up in an America where,  as a POC with involuntary immigrant ancestry, I was interested in seeing how the author handled a world that had to overcome the idea that blacks were not able to contain any levels of intelligence, a world where blacks  had

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  Colorism is not a thing of the past.

to purposely misspeak to keep from being severely punished while enslaved, for this showed insubordination, yet in the altered state, they were expected to learn the skills of high society.  While stations in life were raised to meet the level of service required of the dominant members of society, there still existed the belief of inferiority.  I was finding it a little confusing that the protagonist could easily adapt to her new station in the society, one that approved the black and First Nation youths’ advanced educational training, yet still disapproved of equality…one that used the Bible once to prove how dumb POCs were, and now allowed them the grandest training of social graces.   Granted, Jane being born with the first rise of zombies did not have prior memories of what once was socially.  She certainly would not have been free to express herself in the manner in which she does had she been raised as chattel.

Another question that came into my head as I read the story concerned the survival of off-spring by white women who were impregnated by blacks (as mentioned before). They would have been more than likely killed along with the black man that impregnated them in many cases. Even if the child was taken away and raised by another woman of color, that child, to save her, would normally not have been told that her mother was the white owner of the estate. On the other hand, nothing usually happened to the planter who did the same thing with half the female slaves in his ownership.

I did, however,  like how Justina jumped into the issue of colorism within the race. That is a huge unspoken issue among POC, and it is important because it’s often not brought out in the public, for all the world to see. My background is of Afro-Cuban and American black and the colorism is rampant on both sides rather people like to admit it or not. It’s an issue that will never end, in my honest opinion and it takes on so many forms with its origins in the preferential treatment of lighter skin slaves by their owners.  Until the 60s, the colorism dealt with the brown paper bag test, whereas those that were darker needed to step back.  In the hip-hop world, the problem is so prevalent that females in the music industry are never seen wearing their natural hair if it is not naturally long. Almost all black American females in the music industry wear hair weaves, color contact lenses, and body enhanced injections.

In the Latin American world, the media is whitewashed.  There are no Afro-Latino on TV, in the movies, nor in the music videos, and no one questions this on a grand scale. In the United States, I remember last year either reading or hearing someone say “there are black Hispanics” which I thought wow, how long did it take you to figure that one out? But that’s understandable since most Americans don’t realize the majority of Cubans who migrated to Florida due to Castro’s rule, are not white but identify as such.  This is because they, like many of Hispanic origins cling to an Anglican and mestizo identity as the supreme caste in society.  This is also a truth throughout the Caribbean and South America.  It has origin in to how POC were identified post-slavery, with those that were the closest to white European being of the most accepted socially, with the next in line being those mixed with only Anglican and Indigenous genes.  Those that were mixed with Anglican and African, African and Indigenous,  or all three were categorized as mulatto but were considered illigetimate, because during slavery, this group were the result of people partnering up outside their marriage.  Today Cubans embrace cubanidad or the African influence in their society, and few would say there still exists racist practices due to colorism.

 

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Gloves and Hat minus the Umbrella.  Protection from darkening is an obsession in Japan.

As with all races of color,  this does exist.  The history,  however,  is not the same as that of the United States which is filled with written laws and actions that brought about missing opportunities that could establish financial stability for members of these groups.  It seemed that those in the dominant position refused to witness this chance to happen and would carry out atrocities of degradation and even death, to ensure it as a non-possibility.  No opportunities to live separately in functioning all-black towns.  Burnt down.  No chances at educations in schools that provided the needed classes to qualify one for certificaiton in particular elite jobs. They were denied the opportunity to enroll and take these classes.  No chance to even check out the needed book with the information from the library.  The book was in the whites only library and not meant for blacks to read.   Although these things never occurred in Cuba, there is the existence of racism.  Just consider the manner in which Cubans are identified on the Census.  A way that is still entrenched in the systemic identities of slaves of free men.  This gives rise to the existence of the 44 degrees of colorism due the subgrouping of citizens in Cuban society. 44! In America there is something similar in New Orleans, although many say it is no more in existence.  I say this simply isn’t so.  There might me more people who don’t allow themselves to be ruled by the societal pressures of the different distinctions of identity, but it still is in existence.

Now, in America, which is obsessed with racial identity,  there is also the mixed-race youth population who are counted as the fastest growing group in America’s young adult population.  When I was in K-12, this group was so mixed up, because they were raised by and are still being raised by parents who are so intent on NOT using skin tone as an identity that there are mixed-race youth who are black, especially males who don’t identify themselves as black, because their parents are trying to build another way to exist.  This is not working in a country where the current president is the new poster child for the fair treatment of racist groups.  Our mixed race youth must be well equipped with how to handle societal situations that could find them endangered.

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No, this is not the zombies from “Dread Nation”  These are Chinese women at the beach in 2018.

Blacks and Latinos are not the only ones with colorism issues. Asians have colorism. In Japan, women in 100+ heat walk around covered with fingerless gloves above their elbow, sunglasses, and wide brim hats. Mixed race Japanese have told me of their negative experiences in Japan because the culture is such a purist with race. Mexico has colorism issues, too.  Mexico did not recognize or even count in their census the 1.4 million Afro-Mexicans until 2015.  Most Americans don’t even know there are Afro-Mexicans in existence.  Many Mexicans don’t know, either.  I’ve met many Dominicans from DR who literally deny they have African blood in them.  Mestizo (Euro-Indigenous heritage) carries the highest rank in the western hemisphere with Latin countries.

So, with that said, it is of great interest that Justina addresses these flawed and disregarded marginalized issues in her new series which includes not only issues of color, she also without hesitation is inclusive of gender binary definement within her characterizations, another untouchable subject.  The dialogue this title brings to the foreground for its readers can be controversial in some instances, but undoubtedly rich in social consciousness.  I think such topics of conversations generated by this title are timely and have been long needed.  They are ones in the heart and minds of our young adults who are living and breathing some of the same situations reflected in a historical setting but still apropos for today.  In many instances, the young adult readers will be able to handle the subject matter for such dialogues in far better ways than many members of the older generation, for older gens carry with them a trunkload of historical and social damage. So wise is Justina’s placement of these social seeds of thought in her new series, so calculatingly wise.

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.

Continue from Goodreads:

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.

60 MINUTES TV COVERAGE:  PART 1  & PART 2

NEXT STOP DAY 3: APRIL 22, 2018:  IN THE MARGIN’S WORDPRESS BLOG TOUR WILL FEATURE EVE PORINCHAK’S MUCH ANTICIPATED INTERVIEW on In the Margins Award Website!

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