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Attorney-activist pleads case against mass incarceration in new book

“Our criminal justice system is in need of reform. [It] costs the taxpayers too much, fails at rehabilitation, exacts a life-long toll on offenders, and does not yield corresponding social benefits. 

“The purpose of this book is three-fold: (1) to provide information about the causes and extent of the problems overwhelming the process of criminal justice… (2) to explain why reform is long overdue and in our collective best interest… (3) to suggest reforms that are supported by empirical evidence…

“As a society, we have become hardened toward felons… [But] it is in the public interest to have released offenders rehabilitated… By recognizing the human dignity of all offenders and enabling them to realize redemption and restore their relationships within the community, all of society is ennobled.”

—Excerpted from the Foreword by William J. Fox (pages i-iii)

The U.S. prison population exploded between 1980 and 2000, thanks primarily to the so-called “War on Drugs.” During that interim, the number of people jailed went from about 300,000 to over 2,000,000. Today, about two percent of our working-age men are behind bars, most for nonviolent offenses, giving the country the highest incarceration rate of any nation in the world. Unfortunately, taking this tough stance on crime has come at quite a societal cost. Not only is it expensive to house inmates, at over $50,000/year in Connecticut, but also there is plenty of evidence that it is failing miserably in its efforts to rehabilitate offenders. Continue Reading →

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Usher’s #URXTOUR elicits fun at Xcel Energy Center

A concert review

By Caleb Baumgartner

Contributing Writer

When I sit down to try to gather my thoughts to describe Usher’s November 18 show at St. Paul’s Xcel Energy Center, only the most idiotic exclamations come to mind. “Wow,” “holy crap,” and “awesome” leap forth ahead of more poignant prose, and I find myself drowning in an excitement that seems to induce only the most monosyllabic of descriptors to juice out of my mind grapes. So let’s just try to get this out of the way immediately and see where we can go from here: Usher is a fantastic live act. Just great. Continue Reading →

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Sci-fi author places Black people, history at the center of the universe

Back in the late 1970s, in one of Richard Pryor’s routines, riffing on the science fiction flick Logan’s Run, he noted there weren’t any Black characters in that movie and blithely opined to the audience, “Y’all ain’t plannin’ for us to be here.” Strictly speaking, Roscoe Lee Browne did make a blink-and-you-miss-him appearance, but for all intents and purposes the movie was white as snow. In the same spirit of exclusion, the Star Wars franchise, which started around then, went to the bank featuring the voice of James Earl Jones as iconic villain Darth Vader but, when the helmet mask came off, it was a White actor underneath. The movies may have caught up — sort of — with Denzel Washington and Will Smith starring in The Book of Eli and I Am Legend respectively, but the publishing industry seemingly still doesn’t plan for us to be here, either. Writers like J. Darnell Johnson, whose novella The Opening came out last year, have other ideas. The synopsis to The Opening reads, “[It] is about a khem (Black) hue-man being named Ja, from the planet Kebb who has a yearning for paradise in the stars and believes that the grass is greener on the other side … Continue Reading →

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Sci-fi author places Black people, history at the center of the universe

Back in the late 1970s, in one of Richard Pryor’s routines, riffing on the science fiction flick Logan’s Run, he noted there weren’t any Black characters in that movie and blithely opined to the audience, “Y’all ain’t plannin’ for us to be here.” Strictly speaking, Roscoe Lee Browne did make a blink-and-you-miss-him appearance, but for all intents and purposes the movie was white as snow. In the same spirit of exclusion, the Star Wars franchise, which started around then, went to the bank featuring the voice of James Earl Jones as iconic villain Darth Vader but, when the helmet mask came off, it was a White actor underneath. The movies may have caught up — sort of — with Denzel Washington and Will Smith starring in The Book of Eli and I Am Legend respectively, but the publishing industry seemingly still doesn’t plan for us to be here, either. Writers like J. Darnell Johnson, whose novella The Opening came out last year, have other ideas. The synopsis to The Opening reads, “[It] is about a khem (Black) hue-man being named Ja, from the planet Kebb who has a yearning for

paradise in the stars and believes that the grass is greener on the other side … Continue Reading →

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Rainbow in the Cloud: The Wisdom and Spirit of Maya Angelou

New book provides a sampling of icon’s wonderful words
 
“‘Words mean more than what is set down on paper,’ Maya Angelou wrote in her groundbreaking memoir I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. Indeed, Angelou’s words have traveled the world and transformed lives — inspiring, strengthening, healing…

Now, in this collection of sage advice, humorous quips, and pointed observations culled from the author’s great works… Maya Angelou’s spirit endures… A treasured keepsake as well as a beautiful tribute to a woman who touched so many, Rainbow in the Cloud reminds us that ‘If one has courage, nothing can dim the light which shines from within.’”

— Excerpted from the book jacket

Dr. Maya Angelou was born Marguerite Annie Johnson in St. Louis, Missouri on April 4, 1928. She overcame a traumatic childhood to blossom into a world-renowned poet, author, educator, actress, historian, filmmaker and civil rights activist. Continue Reading →

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A Madea Christmas mixes mirth and message in modern holiday parable

 

Mabel “Madea” Simmons is the moralizing, motor-mouthed senior citizen created and first introduced on stage by the incomparable Tyler Perry. The compulsive granny is a self-righteous vigilante who can’t help but intervene on the spot whenever she sees an innocent victim being bullied by a sadistic villain. At the point of departure in A Madea Christmas, the eighth screen adventure in the popular film series, we find her working as Mrs. Santa Claus in a downtown Atlanta department store. The seasonal job affords the politically incorrect impersonator an opportunity to shock kids and their ears-covering parents with a profusion of her trademark off-color asides and English-mangling malapropisms.

Soon after she’s unceremoniously relieved of her duties, Madea decides to drive with her niece, Eileen (Anna Maria Horsford), to tiny Bucktussle, Alabama to spend the holidays with the latter’s daughter, Lacey (Tika Sumpter), the local schoolmarm. What neither of them knows is that Lacey recently eloped with a likable local yokel but failed to inform her mom about the marriage because Conner (Eric Lively) is White. Continue Reading →

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Beyond the Lights

Movie Review

By Raymond Jackson

Contributing Writer

It has been a while since I’ve seen and heard a Hollywood production with excellent and spectacular appeal. Beyond the Lights is bound to appeal to the young and the old, Black and White. It’s very versatile in its delivery. It is written and directed by Gina Prince-Bythewood, the same writer and director of Love & Basketball. She landed a winner in the starring role, Noni, played by Gugu Mbatha-Raw. Continue Reading →

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Kiana Marie: Hometown songstress has big-time talent

 

Brilliantly gifted vocalist Kiana Marie (www.kianamarie.biz) is fast-tracked for success and comes by it honestly. You could say she was born and bred to the craft, as her family has been part of Twin Cities music for generations. Sitting at a South Minneapolis coffee shop, she acknowledges, “The support and teachings that have come from my family are my foundation. Music and performance [have] always been … part of my household. Continue Reading →

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