Pardon power and compassionate release

Cohen-Steve-400President Obama and his administration have, at times, made bold use of executive authorities and powers to help the powerless, from granting deferred action to DREAM Act beneficiaries to providing some relief from crushing student loan burdens. Atty Gen. Eric Holder's announcement this week of a smarter, fairer, and more just approach to the prosecution of non-violent offenses, including the possession of small amounts of drugs, is another example of President Obama's willingness to align our nation's policies with our ideals, the goals of our justice system, and our laws.

But the President remains surprisingly reluctant to use his pardon and commutation power. Thankfully, he still has the opportunity to help those who need it most and leave an even larger legacy of justice.

Criminal sentences reflect a society's values but as our values change, many of those sentences unfortunately remain on the books and people still serving them suffer needlessly – and those unjustly long sentences unfairly and unequally harm people of color and minority communities.


Take the gluten-free challenge and give me a shout

Chef Timothy Moore-160CHEF TIMOTHY We have made the decision to begin and maintain a healthier lifestyle choice. We go to the gym, eat a proper diet and do all the right things to help us get and stay in great physical shape. Still, we face a dilemma – gaining more weight instead of losing it.

We just don't get it. What is going on?

What if the food manufacturers that we have grown to trust have set us up? What if they use an ingredient that's known to create hunger and turn off that part of the brain that regulates if we're satisfied or our stomachs are feeling full?


Jackie Jackson: A mother’s love

George Curry-160On Wednesday, Aug. 14, former Congressman Jesse Jackson Jr. is to be sentenced in connection with using campaign funds for personal use. Dozens of letters were sent to the judge on his behalf, but none more touching than the one written by his mother, dated May 28.

She began by noting, "I am Jacqueline Jackson, the mother of five children, one of whom I am writing about, my son Jesse Jackson, Jr."

Her letter shed light not only on her son's problems growing up in his famous father's shadow, but provided a peek into the family's early struggles.


Politics gets its own Cheerios ad

cheerios-400Earlier this year, Cheerios generated extensive media attention – and countless racist comments online – for becoming the first major American brand to feature a mixed-race family in a television advertisement. Now, an ad for a political campaign is poised to be just as groundbreaking, and potentially controversial.

This (past) weekend, television advertisements began airing starring the teenage son of New York City mayoral candidate Bill de Blasio. De Blasio is white, his wife, Chirlane McCray, is black, and their son, Dante, sports a sizable Afro in the ad, in which he makes the case for why he believes his father is the best candidate for mayor.


Mo’ Kelly Did Not Expose Crystal Wright Or the GOP Because we Already Knew


There are some days when I just love #BLACKTWITTER. Only via this creative hodgepodge of bloggers, reporters and internet Benita Butrells can you find out who Whiz Kalifah is dating, what the Obama’s had for dinner and which political celebrities just got called out. In this case it’s the third category that caught my attention, as Mo’Kelly, autho



Let children cook and learn to see life as never before

Chef Timothy Moore-160CHEF TIMOTHY It's that time again – the beginning of another school year. So many emotions are brewing for parents right now. Some are full of joy and relief, while others feel fear of the unknown as to what each day will bring.

It seems like yesterday that we were off to our own first day of school. We were so excited to be embarking on our first day of a new experience; yet we were also very nervous seeing so many strangers and wondering if they were feeling the same way. Then we hear a voice telling us that everything will be fine, because all those strangers were no different than us. They were all going to the same place, and even though they were nervous too, they were also excited and ready to begin their journey of surprises that awaited them.

Go back in time for a moment and reflect on how you felt your first day of school. Remember how you smiled into the mirror at your reflection of what you were wearing, who you met that day and how you got to school. Some children walked a "country mile," some rode an old school bus, and others were dropped off by their parents. They all had the same feeling though, and that was they did not want to leave the comfort of their parents.


Making history... again

ben jealousRemember the March on Washington? August 28, 1963. Tens of thousands of activists on the National Mall. A preacher's son from Atlanta talking about his dream for the country.

We don't need a history lesson. Even if we weren't at the March itself – even for those like me, who were not yet born – Dr. King's words are etched into our minds as deeply as they are inscribed in stone at the base of his memorial. The preacher's son has taken his rightful place in the pantheon of national heroes.

We don't need to watch a rerun of that fateful day. We need a sequel.


‘What Cooper said was stupid, but…’

R Jackson-160I typically don't write about professional athletes doing stupid things because I have absolutely no interest and it serves no purpose. But Riley Cooper's actions from last month can be very instructive and deserves my attention.

Riley Cooper is about to begin his fourth season as a wide receiver with Philadelphia Eagles of the N.F.L. The 25-year-old was born in Oklahoma City and raised in Clearwater, Fla. He played football for the University of Florida. By all accounts, he is a very good receiver and has been a model teammate during his years in the league.

Last month, he attended a Kenny Chesney concert in Philadelphia. He was denied backstage access before the concert and became visibly angry based on the video that has gone viral. In the video, Riley can be seen and heard telling security (who cannot be seen in the video and is said to be black), "I will jump that fence and fight every nigger here, bro."


Data Book sheds light on conditions affecting children, community

UCI-Data-Book-225In "Data Book 2013: The State of Children in Memphis & Shelby County," The Urban Child Institute explores social and economic conditions affecting optimal brain development for babies ages zero to three, and subsequently outlines critical areas that need improvement.

Research findings show that the environment and community in which a child is born and raised contributes greatly to her future well being, while the health and well-being of its children determines a community's future.

Now in its eighth year of publication, the "Data Book" includes improved community health statistics for Memphis and Shelby County that offer cause for pause and abbreviated celebration.


Black and white views converge on intermarriage

lee-a-daniels-160I've long believed a succinct modern definition of marriage can be found in America's Declaration of Independence: as "the pursuit of Happiness."

In that sense, then, it's no coincidence that the phrase comes at the end of the document's famous assertion: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness." – connecting a time-honored human rite to the conventionally-accepted human right of freedom.

Nowhere, in the American context, has that link between the rite and the right been more apparent than in society's stance toward marriage between blacks and whites. And no more so than today, when intermarriage between Americans of different racial and ethnic backgrounds is more common than ever; and same-sex marriage has made historic breakthroughs in acceptance; and the nation's first black president is the child of an interracial marriage.


Iyanla Vanzant says black women are ‘out of order’

iyanla-vanzant-400Iyanla Vanzant is making yet another splash with a video that has gone viral due to her special brand of wisdom. Calling black women "out of order," the self-help guru spoke to web site Madame Noire on her concerns with the mental and emotional wounds black women accept from others – and mutually inflict.

Fresh off discussing her OWN special "Daddyless Daughters" on the Melissa Harris-Perry show, in which she examines the psychological issues of women growing up without fathers, Vanzant made these statements to specifically address the persistent difficulties of African-American women.


T.I.: If Trayvon Was My Son, Zimmerman Would Be Dead


According to the Southern rapper T.I. (pictured), if he was Trayvon Martin’s father, George Zimmerman wouldn’t have made it to trial.

Seaking to radio station Power 98, T.I. was upset over George Zimmerman’s not-guilty verdict, “Man, it was some bulls**t.


Stephen A. Smith: The new Don Lemon

stephen-smith-400Apparently, former sports journalist and current TV pundit Stephen A. Smith saw all the fun Don Lemon was having blaming black people for white people's behavior and wanted a piece, too.

Thursday morning on ESPN's Sports Center, Smith commented on the recent Riley Cooper controversy, essentially blaming black people for Cooper's hurling of the n-word.

"What level of responsibility do we harbor considering the fact that it's something we use ad nauseam in the presence of people outside of our community?" he asked. "At the end of the day ... we have to ... ask ourselves do we play a role in the ease that it comes out of other people's mouths."