The Law According to Rachael Rollins

Posted in Articles, Law, Media Archive, Social Justice, United States on 2019-08-12 01:50Z by Steven

The Law According to Rachael Rollins

Boston Magazine
2019-08-06

Catherine Elton


Portrait by Diana Levine

The charismatic new district attorney is Boston’s greatest hope to bring the criminal justice system into the wide, woke 21st century. What’s at stake? Only the future of law and order in our city.

The first thing I notice when I walk into Rachael Rollins’s downtown corner office is the impressive wraparound windowsill jam-packed with plaques, diplomas, statuettes, and a little engraved glass prism that catches the afternoon light shining through the window. Everyone from Mayor Marty Walsh and Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly to the Cambridge branch of the NAACP and a Dorchester football team has contributed an object to her collection.

“Wow, you have a lot of awards,” I say.

“See,” Rollins says, looking up from her desk. “There are people who like me.”

The second thing I notice is that the city’s top prosecutor is already on the defensive.

At first blush, it seems a little odd that the woman who recently won a landslide election with 185,133 votes (a number she mentions with striking regularity) would feel the need to remind me that there are people who actually like her. Then again, ever since winning the job of Suffolk County district attorney on a promise to reform criminal justice, reduce racial biases in the system, and essentially reinvent the role of DA, Rollins has become a lightening rod for Boston’s law enforcement and political establishments. She has received more attention and public ridicule than any other DA in the state—probably more than all of the rest combined—for policies her critics warn are a threat to public safety. She has taken heat from the cops, feuded publicly with Governor Charlie Baker, and been hammered by a fellow DA. She’s also been thumped by her fellow progressives for not yet making good on some campaign promises and has been featured in more unflattering photos in the Herald than she has spent months on the job. And she’s losing experienced prosecutors by the droves…

…One of the foremost reasons that early supporters thought she should run is the rare mix of personal experiences she could bring to the campaign trail. The eldest of five children of a mixed-race couple, Rollins identifies as black but, thanks to her father, says she is “fluent in white Irish male.” She grew up with tight finances in a working-class family, but a scholarship allowed her to attend school at the tony Buckingham Browne & Nichols. “I am everything that people don’t think I am,” she tells me, “and that’s my superpower.”

Race and class aren’t the only divides Rollins has straddled in her personal life. On one hand, she is an accomplished lawyer who worked at the U.S. attorney’s office and served as general counsel at Massport and the MBTA. On the other hand, one of her siblings has served time in federal prison on drug and weapons charges. And Rollins is candid when talking about how another has had his own run-ins with the law, and a third has battled an opioid addiction. As the result of some of these entanglements with the criminal justice system, Rollins is the guardian and has custody of two of her siblings’ children, in addition to having her own teenage girl. It was these contradictions that made her the most distinctive candidate vying for the job of the county’s top law enforcement officer. “There is no one out there with such a wide range of experiences,” Boston City Council President Andrea Campbell told me, explaining why she was one of those dozens of people who flooded Rollins’s phone with messages urging her to run. “She gets the story from both sides.”…

Read the entire article here.

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The Celestials

Posted in Articles, Asian Diaspora, Books, History, Media Archive, Novels, United States on 2019-05-04 01:05Z by Steven

The Celestials

Tin House Books
2013-06-06
320 pages
Paperback ISBN: 978-1-935639-55-8

Karen Shepard

In June of 1870, seventy-five Chinese laborers arrived in North Adams, Massachusetts, to work for Calvin Sampson, one of the biggest industrialists in that busy factory town. Except for the foreman, the Chinese didn’t speak English. They didn’t know they were strikebreakers. The eldest of them was twenty-two.

Combining historical and fictional elements, The Celestials beautifully reimagines the story of Sampson’s “Chinese experiment” and the effect of the newcomers’ threatening and exotic presence on the New England locals. When Sampson’s wife, Julia, gives birth to a mixed-race baby, the infant becomes a lightning rod for the novel’s conflicts concerning identity, alienation, and exile.

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The DNA Industry and the Disappearing Indian

Posted in Articles, Health/Medicine/Genetics, Law, Media Archive, Native Americans/First Nation, Politics/Public Policy, United States on 2018-12-03 01:40Z by Steven

The DNA Industry and the Disappearing Indian

TomDispatch.com: A regular antidote to the mainstream media
2018-11-29

Aviva Chomsky, Professor of History; Coordinator of Latin American, Latino and Caribbean Studies
Salem State University, Salem, Massachusetts

DNA, Race, and Native Rights

Amid the barrage of racist, anti-immigrant, and other attacks launched by President Trump and his administration in recent months, a series of little noted steps have threatened Native American land rights and sovereignty. Such attacks have focused on tribal sovereignty, the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA), and the voting rights of Native Americans, and they have come from Washington, the courts, and a state legislature. What they share is a single conceptual framework: the idea that the long history that has shaped U.S.-Native American relations has no relevance to today’s realities.

Meanwhile, in an apparently unrelated event, Senator Elizabeth Warren, egged on by Donald Trump’s “Pocahontas” taunts and his mocking of her claims to native ancestry, triumphantly touted her DNA results to “prove” her Native American heritage. In turning to the burgeoning, for-profit DNA industry, however, she implicitly lent her progressive weight to claims about race and identity that go hand in hand with moves to undermine Native sovereignty.

The DNA industry has, in fact, found a way to profit from reviving and modernizing antiquated ideas about the biological origins of race and repackaging them in a cheerful, Disneyfied wrapping. While it’s true that the it’s-a-small-world-after-all multiculturalism of the new racial science rejects nineteenth-century scientific racism and Social Darwinism, it is offering a twenty-first-century version of pseudoscience that once again reduces race to a matter of genetics and origins. In the process, the corporate-promoted ancestry fad conveniently manages to erase the histories of conquest, colonization, and exploitation that created not just racial inequality but race itself as a crucial category in the modern world.

Today’s policy attacks on Native rights reproduce the same misunderstandings of race that the DNA industry is now so assiduously promoting. If Native Americans are reduced to little more than another genetic variation, there is no need for laws that acknowledge their land rights, treaty rights, and sovereignty. Nor must any thought be given to how to compensate for past harms, not to speak of the present ones that still structure their realities. A genetic understanding of race distorts such policies into unfair “privileges” offered to a racially defined group and so “discrimination” against non-Natives. This is precisely the logic behind recent rulings that have denied Mashpee tribal land rights in Massachusetts, dismantled the Indian Child Welfare Act (a law aimed at preventing the removal of Native American children from their families or communities), and attempted to suppress Native voting rights in North Dakota

Read the entire article here.

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Chyrstyn Fentroy — First Black Woman To Join Boston Ballet In A Decade — Debuts As Snow Queen In ‘The Nutcracker’

Posted in Articles, Arts, Media Archive, United States, Women on 2018-12-02 22:07Z by Steven

Chyrstyn Fentroy — First Black Woman To Join Boston Ballet In A Decade — Debuts As Snow Queen In ‘The Nutcracker’

WBUR 90.9 FM
Boston, Massachusetts
2018-11-30

Arielle Gray, Arts Fellow

Lasha Khozashvili and Chyrstyn Fentroy in Mikko Nissinen's The Nutcracker (Photo by Angela Sterling, courtesy of Boston Ballet)
Lasha Khozashvili and Chyrstyn Fentroy in Mikko Nissinen’s The Nutcracker (Photo by Angela Sterling, courtesy of Boston Ballet)

Artificial snow falls gently from the top of the stage of the Boston Opera House, encasing the space in an ethereal glittering glow. Beneath it dances Chyrstyn Fentroy as the Snow Queen, entwined in an elegant flow of limbs and carefully choreographed steps with the Snow King. The Boston Ballet is rehearsing for its opening night of “The Nutcracker,” the other worldly production based off of E.T.A Hoffman’s novella. Fentroy debuted as the Snow Queen on Thursday evening and will star in the role again on Sunday, Dec. 2.

Fentroy makes a stunning Snow Queen, traversing the stage in a series of light, precise steps. The role is a notable milestone for Fentroy, who has been deeply involved in the world of dance since she was old enough to walk. She tells me she’s the first black female dancer to join the Boston Ballet in the last decade.

Growing up as the daughter of two dancers in Los Angeles, Fentroy spent a lot of time in the dance studio. “’The Nutcracker’ specifically is something that’s kind of been a part of my life forever,” Fentroy told WBUR. “I grew up watching my mom do the Sugarplum Fairy variation and spent so many years in the wings watching performances.”…

Read the entire article here.

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Danzy Senna’s Life Isn’t Black and White

Posted in Autobiography, Interviews, United States, Videos on 2018-08-24 20:40Z by Steven

Danzy Senna’s Life Isn’t Black and White

Articulate
2018-04-24

Jim Cotter, Host & Managing Editor

Author Danzy Senna’s heritage gives her a unique perspective on race in America.

Watch the interview (00:06:40-00:16:40) and read the transcript here.

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Why Elizabeth Warren’s refusal to take a DNA test to prove Native American ancestry was probably a smart move

Posted in Articles, Health/Medicine/Genetics, Media Archive, Native Americans/First Nation, Politics/Public Policy, United States on 2018-03-16 01:05Z by Steven

Why Elizabeth Warren’s refusal to take a DNA test to prove Native American ancestry was probably a smart move

The Washington Post
2018-03-14

Tara Bahrampour

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) rejected a call this week by a Massachusetts newspaper to take a DNA test to prove her Native American heritage, saying it is a cherished piece of family lore and noting that she has never used it to get ahead.

She might also add that such a test may not prove anything — or at least it couldn’t establish the absence of Native American ancestry her critics might be hoping to find.

If Warren were to take one of the widely available commercial “spit tests” and DNA related to a Native American tribe showed up, she would have positive proof that her family stories are true.

But if no such DNA were evident, that would not mean she didn’t have Native American ancestry…

Read the entire article here.

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Elizabeth Warren’s Native American problem goes beyond politics

Posted in Articles, Interviews, Media Archive, Native Americans/First Nation, Passing, United States on 2018-01-22 01:21Z by Steven

Elizabeth Warren’s Native American problem goes beyond politics

The Boston Globe
2018-01-19

Annie Linskey, Chief national correspondent


Keith Bedford/Globe Staff
Senator Elizabeth Warren says now, as she has from the first days of her public life, that she based her assertions about her heritage on her reasonable trust in what she was told about her ancestry as a child.

WASHINGTON — There’s a ghost haunting Elizabeth Warren as she ramps up for a possible 2020 presidential bid and a reelection campaign in Massachusetts this year: her enduring and undocumented claims of Native American ancestry.

Warren says now, as she has from the first days of her public life, that she based her assertions on family lore, on her reasonable trust in what she was told about her ancestry as a child.

“I know who I am,” she said in a recent interview with the Globe.

But that self-awareness may not be enough, as her political ambitions blossom. She’s taken flak from the right for years as a “fake Indian,” including taunts from President Trump, who derisively calls her “Pocahontas.’’ That clamor from the right will only grow with her increasing prominence…

…Warren’s family has ties to Oklahoma dating from the end of the 19th century — before it was a state. Oklahoma is now home to more than 35 federally recognized tribes, and it’s common for people there to claim Native American ancestry, often based on little more than family mythology. That’s partially because there is, for some, a certain mystique in popular culture associated with American Indian ties and many families liked to include those ties in their lore.

But claiming Native blood without evidence cuts to the very core of Native American identity because it usurps the rights American Indians have to define their own people and nations, according to native advocates.

“The problem with Elizabeth Warren is she is not the average wannabe,” said David Cornsilk, a Cherokee historian and genealogist. “She is an academic. She has a higher level of aptitude to examine these issues. And a higher responsibility to examine them, and accept the research that is done, or to counter it with alternative research.”…

Read the entire article here.

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South Boston: Growing Up Southie

Posted in Anthropology, Audio, Media Archive, United States on 2017-07-30 23:06Z by Steven

South Boston: Growing Up Southie

Detour
Boston, Massachusetts
2017-07-29

Narrators:

Jennifer J. Roberts

Pat Nee

Jennifer J. Roberts and ex-gangster Pat Nee take you to their ‘hood’ for a surprising story of growing up Black in Southie.

Southie – it’s got a bit of a reputation. Gangsters, busing desegregation; but most of all, the type of close knit Irish community that gave rise to it all. Although her family came here from Ireland in the 1800’s, Jennifer J. Roberts looked different from almost everyone in this neighborhood. Though she never knew him, her grandfather was black. In this Detour, Jennifer will show you Southie as only someone who knows it as both an insider and outsider can. She’ll take you to a diner that’s as quintessential Southie as it gets, and introduce you to the surrogate father who took her under his wing – the notorious criminal Irishman, Pat Nee. As she shows you the most poignant places of her youth, where navigating identity in the racially charged era of the Boston Busing Crisis was a constant, you’ll see how friends, enemies, and unlikely allies can be as much of a home as any house with a roof… Because people in Southie may seem a little rough around the edges, but they’re always willing to lend a hand if you get into any trouble. And by the end of your journey, you’ll come to see that like Jennifer herself, South Boston isn’t just one thing.

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The Fight for Interracial Marriage Rights in Antebellum Massachusetts by Amber D. Moulton (review)

Posted in Articles, Book/Video Reviews, History, Law, Media Archive, United States on 2017-03-25 22:36Z by Steven

The Fight for Interracial Marriage Rights in Antebellum Massachusetts by Amber D. Moulton (review)

Journal of the Early Republic
Volume 37, Number 1, Spring 2017
pages 183-185
DOI: 10.1353/jer.2017.0015

Terri L. Snyder, Professor of American Studies
California State University, Fullerton

The Fight for Interracial Marriage Rights in Antebellum Massachusetts. By Amber D. Moulton. (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2015. Pp. 288. Cloth, $45.00.)

In this sharply focused study, Amber D. Moulton examines the battle to overturn the Massachusetts statute banning interracial marriage, originally enacted in 1705 and repealed in 1843, and offers a penetrating analysis of early arguments over the right to marry. Each chapter critically foregrounds existing studies of miscegenation law, and the epilogue usefully links the legal histories of interracial and same-sex marriage. Long before Loving v. Virginia (1967) or Obergefell v. Hodges (2015), some antebellum activists in Massachusetts argued that marriage was a constitutional right and an essential element of social and political equality. The claim of equal rights alone did not carry the day, however. As Moulton demonstrates, the most persuasive arguments against the law were rooted in appeals to moral reform rather than in demands for racial civil rights.

The Fight for Interracial Marriage Rights is a skillful blend of legal history and lived experience. In her first chapter, Moulton offers a history of the ban and analyzes its consequences for interracial families. Colonial Massachusetts, following the lead of the slave societies of the Caribbean and the Chesapeake, banned interracial marriage in 1705. The statute was expanded in scope and severity in 1786 and remained in place until 1843, when it was overturned. Despite the legal prohibition against interracial unions, women and men of different races continued to marry in Massachusetts. The legal ban was clear-cut in theory, but interracial couples pursued varying strategies in their marriage practices. Some couples gained the protection of legal marriage when they wed outside of Massachusetts and returned to the colony or state as husband and wife. If partners could not be legally married, they established informal unions and protected children through carefully delineated inheritance strategies. Others shunned the law altogether. However, once an informally married interracial couple came to the attention of the courts—particularly when they or their children petitioned for support—their union could be voided and their children declared illegitimate. Class was a clear factor: The poorest couples were more at risk for having their claims to wedlock invalidated. Moreover, the official ban on interracial marriages sometimes existed in opposition to local culture. At least some interracial couples who attained middling status appear to have been accepted in their neighborhoods.

Subsequent chapters investigate the range of advocates who fought against the ban on interracial marriage. In some of the more fascinating examples in her study, Moulton investigates and highlights the transmission of activist aims in African American families. In 1837, for instance, African American activists made the right to interracial marriage a plank on their antislavery platform; some of these activists were either spouses in or children born to interracial unions. The study is also strong in its analysis of gender. Regardless of race, women activists who opposed the ban were charged with indecency. Some opponents claimed that political petitioning in support of interracial marriage—and the racial mixing it implied—was anathema to white femininity. However, some women activists countered that interracial marriage protected women. Marriage, they argued, was a bulwark against licentiousness (which could lead to promiscuity and prostitution), provided the security of patriarchal family structure, and offered official legitimacy for children of these unions as well.

Rather than claims of equal rights, then, the most persuasive arguments in overturning interracial marriage prohibitions in Massachusetts were rooted in the values of traditional marriage and gender roles, patriarchal ideologies and feminine duty, and the importance of Christian morality. At the same time, unforeseen events, such as the Latimer case, which aroused indignation over southern demands that Boston’s officials hunt fugitive slaves, galvanized public opinion in favor of overturning the law. Ultimately, prohibiting interracial marriage was viewed as immoral, unconstitutional, and unjust, as well as a uniquely southern encroachment on individual freedom from which northerners wanted to distance themselves. Despite its innovation, however, Massachusetts did not become a model for the nation: Twenty years after that state legalized interracial marriage, over…

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Public Radio Reporter Seeking Couples In New England For Story On Interracial/Mixed Marriage.

Posted in Autobiography, Media Archive, United States, Wanted/Research Requests/Call for Papers on 2017-02-20 02:17Z by Steven

Public Radio Reporter Seeking Couples In New England For Story On Interracial/Mixed Marriage.

WGBH Radio
Boston, Massachusetts
2017-01-30

Sally Jacobs

My name is Sally Jacobs and I am a reporter doing a project for WGBH radio in Boston on interracial marriage in connection with the anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court decision legalizing the practice. I am looking for couples in New England (Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Vermont) who have a compelling story of challenge, triumph, passion, hardship or adventure.

I am also looking for some particular experiences:

  • Interracial couples who divorced in the mid 1980s.
  • Couples who married before interracial marriage became legal in 1967.
  • Young/millennial couples who met on an interracial dating website.
  • Those with a compelling story from any time period.

If you live in any of the six New England states, please e-mail me a description of your story, long or short, at sallyhjacobs@gmail.com.

Many thanks.

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