Posts Tagged ‘America’

“Learning from the Past & Present to Build the Future”

Sunday, November 1st, 2009
March 10, 2006
9:00 am

THE UNIVERSITY OF WISCONSIN-STEVENS POINT

presents

“Learning from the Past & Present to Build the Future”

March 10-12

A 3-day conference on diversity set for an intellectually stimulating weekend.

Keynote speaker: Bobby Gonzalez & “Faces of America” will open your minds & hearts to the diversity surrounding us.

Over 40 workshops on diversity!

Contact: Multicultural & Diversity Issues Director at SGA
Email: aasri520@uwsp.edu

Latinos in US Media

Sunday, November 1st, 2009
October 20, 2007
2:00 pm

The Boston Latino International Film Festival (www.bliff.org) the Boston
Area Spanish Exchange – BASE present:

Latinos in US Media
(panel *mostly* in Spanish)
Saturday October 20, 2pm, Howard Thurman Center at Boston University (FREE)
775 Commonwealth Ave.
Boston, MA 02215
www.bu.edu/thurman

“Boston area Spanish-speaking media, film and arts experts meet to discuss in Spanish the present state of Spanish language (and bilingualism) in these U.S. media. The media have played an active role in the creation of many of the stereotypes related to the Latino community in the United States. By addressing the role of language in the inscription, and subversion, of these stereotypes, this panel seeks to provide a space for reflection about how these issues affect the very communities represented in the screen and other media, as well as their relationship with other
communities in the US.”

Moderator:
Carmen Oquendo-Villar

Panelists:

-Ernesto Livon-Grosman, Associate Professor of Hispanic Studies and Director of Graduate Studies of the Dept. of Romance Languages & Literatures at Boston College; he has also made the documentary “Cartoneros”, about the paper recycling process in Argentina, and how many people become trash pickers to be able to make a living.

-Cristina Kotz Cornejo, Associate Professor, Director of the BFA Program, Department of Visual and Media Arts, Emerson College; who has made several films. The last one, titled “3 Americas”, about the relation between an Argentinean-American girl, her anti-American grand-mother in Argentina, and America.

-Doris Sommer, Ira Jewell Williams Professor of Romance Languages and Literatures, Department of Romance Languages and Literatures, Harvard
University; her work focuses mainly on issues of bilingualism and cultural agency.

-Marisol Negron, Florence Levy Kay Fellow in Latino Studies, Department of Romance Studies and the Program in Latin American & Latino Studies, Brandeis University; her dissertation is “Salsa as commodity and cultural signifier: an analysis of nuyorican musical form.” Her research interests are migration and diaspora, popular culture and comodification, and Cuban-American, Dominican-American, Chicano and Puerto Rican cultural production.

-Jose Barriga, He is a social psychologist by training and specializes in Latino media in the U.S. He has worked in Los Angeles with Telemundo, Fox Latin America, La Opinion newspaper, and Enigma Entertainment in different executive positions. He attended: la Universidad Catolica de Lima, la Universidad Ricardo Palma de Lima, the University of California, Los Angeles, and the Armando Robles Godoy Filmmaking School.

-Carmen Oquendo-Villar, (Harvard Ph.D) is a Boston-based interdisciplinary artist and writer-scholar of Puerto Rican and Spanish descent, educated in Latin America, West Africa and the United States. She has been lecturing, exhibiting, and curating internationally since 2004.

THE SIXTH ANNUAL HANDBALL COURT SUMMER FILMS SERIES IN WHITE PARK

Sunday, November 1st, 2009
July 12, 2008
8:00 pm

THE SIXTH ANNUAL
HANDBALL COURT SUMMER FILMS SERIES
in WHITE PARK
(106th Street between Lexington and Third Avenues)
SATURDAY NIGHTS – AT SUNSET (approx 8PM)

For information: 212.828.0401 or info@medianoche.us

“Political Animals”, this year’s curatorial theme….

MediaNoche presents the free Handball Court Summer Film Series at White Park beginning Saturday, July 12. “Political Animals” is this year’s theme. Curator Judith Escalona brings together a set of fictional films, dramas and comedies, examining the U.S. electoral process. The Candidate (1972), which looks at how a young politician slowly gives up his ideals to be elected, is as relevant today as when it premiered 36 years ago! In the more recent Head of State (2003), a young politician who knows the ropes finds his voice and a way to embrace his ideals. The last film in this set is actually a documentary entitled An Unreasonable Man, a moving portrait of America’s greatest public advocate Ralph Nader that includes a critical view of the entrenched two-party political system.

“Hazardous to your health” groups films dealing with health and the environment. Not to be missed are: Sick Around the World, comparing health coverage in five capitalist democracies, and The Medicated Child, how troubled children are over-prescribed medicines that have unknown long term effects. Lastly, An Inconvenient Truth, screened last year but presented here again, to stress the urgency of global warming.

MediaNoche is a project of PRdream.com. Some program notes were provided by rottentomatoes.com and pbs.org.

“Political Animals”

July 12
THE CANDIDATE (Drama, 1972)
Director: Michael Ritchie
Runtime: 1 hr 54 mins
An idealistic young lawyer and son of a famous governor is pushed into running for the U.S. Senate against the popular incumbent with the assurance that he will lose and not have to give up his integrity or ideals. As the campaign deepens, he finds himself giving in, allowing himself to be manipulated as the polls slowly change and swing in his favor. Soon his backers decide they want him to win after all. By the time Election Day arrives, the young lawyer has become the person he used to speak so vehemently against.

July 19
VOTE FOR ME! (Comedy, 1998)
Director: Nelson Denis, former New York State Assemblyman
Runtime: 1 hr 15 mins
Mad as hell and can’t take it anymore? Become a candidate of the people, fighting for better schools, litter-free streets, more jobs, and less crime! A tenement superntendent Leo Rodriguez decides to make a clean sweep of things in Spanish Harlem by throwing his hat in the ring to help his community. A satirical look at New York City politics – funny and unfortunately based on real events. The names have been changed to protect the guilty!

July 26
HEAD OF STATE (Comedy, 2003)
Director: Chris Rock
Runtime: 1 hr 35 mins
Just weeks before the nation is about to elect a new president, one of the top candidates is killed in a plane crash. Plotting a future run in 2008, U.S. Senator Bill Arnot convinces his staff to pick a replacement who has no chance of winning. But he gets more than he bargained for when he selects Mays Gilliam. At first thankful to be in the spotlight, Mays plays the puppet, but eventually he uses his power to actually say something meaningful. Everyone is shocked to discover that Mays is giving the people exactly what they want.

August 2
BOB ROBERTS (Drama, 1992)
Director: Time Robbins
Runtime: 1 hr 43 mins
Right-wing folksinger Bob Roberts is the anti-Bob Dylan, wowing his supporters with tunes such as “Times Are Changin’ Back” and “Wall Street Rap”. With his clean-cut good looks and squeaky-clean image, Roberts appears as American as apple pie. Yet, he harbors some nasty secrets such as illegal drug trafficking and bank scandals. Roberts’s political trickery fails him when an innocent man is accused of attempting to assassinate the candidate.

August 9
THE DISTINGUISHED GENTLEMAN (Comedy, 1992)
Director: Jonathan Lynn
Runtime: 1 hr 52 mins
A small-time con artist goes big time when he hustles his way to the U.S. Congress. Once elected he reaps the usual benefits, and enjoys the perks of power. However, he decides to clean up the Capitol and ends up doing to Congress what Congress has been doing to its constituency all along.

August 16
AN UNREASONABLE MAN (Documentary, 2007)
Directors: Steve Skrovan and Henriette Mantel
Runtime: 2 hrs 3 mins
A close look at how one of the 20th century’s most admired and indefatigable social activists, Ralph Nader, became a pariah among the same progressive circles he helped champion. The film takes the form of an impassioned public debate when it tackles the contentious 2000 and 2004 presidential runs that elicited accusations of splitting the Democratic vote and enabling the election of George W. Bush, making enemies of Nader’s most ardent supporters. Once again, Nader exposes the undemocratic structure imposed by an entrenched two-party system.
Hazardous to your health

August 23
SICK AROUND THE WORLD (Documentary, 2008)
Producer/Director: Jon Palfreman, Correspondent: T.R. Reid
Runtime: 60 minutes
Can the U.S. learn anything from the rest of the world about how to run a healthcare system? Five Capitalist democracies are profiled: England, Japan, Germany, Switzerland, Taiwan. See how they do it!
Viewer comment from healthnet blog: “I watched Frontline’s Sick Around the World documentary last night and really recommend it to all as a sober examination of the healthcare issues that are such a high priority in America today. What I found most insightful about T.R. Reid’s reporting was the clear and practical way he looked at the pros and cons of the national health systems in the U.K., Japan, Germany and Switzerland. Even more impressive was learning how Taiwan went about reinventing their healthcare system by drawing on the best elements of programs around the world.”

THE MEDICATED CHILD (Documentary, 2008)
Producer: Marcela Gaviria
Runtime: 60 minutes
The availability of medication for children who are suffering from psychiatric problems is widespread, but how much research has really been done on the long-reaching effects of these drugs? This program in PBS’s FRONTLINE series speaks to a number of experts in the field, revealing some alarming facts and figures about the lack of research into the effects of commonplace drugs such as Ritalin. In particular, the show focuses on the growing numbers of kids who are believed to be suffering from bipolar disorder, questioning whether these diagnoses are correct and looking at the potential long term damage the medications they are taking could cause.

August 30
AN INCONVENIENT TRUTH (Documentary, 2006)
Director: Davis Guggenheim
Runtime: 1 hr 40 mins
According to most of the world’s scientists, we have just ten years to avert a major catastrophe that could send our entire planet into a tailspin of epic destruction involving extreme weather, floods, droughts, epidemics and killer heat waves beyond anything we have ever experienced. Since losing the 2000 presidential election, former Vice President Al Gore has been an outspoken figure against this potential environmental disaster. For Gore we can no longer afford to view global warming as a political issue – it is simply one of the biggest moral challenges facing every person in our times.

LATINAS IN CINEMA: FILMWORKS BEYOND THE GLASS CEILING

Sunday, November 1st, 2009
July 30, 2008
6:00 pm

Pagan Images, Inc., in association with Anthology Film Archives, cordially invites you to the NewLatino Filmmakers Screening Series – The best and only independent Latino “cinematheque” showcase in New York City — now in its 6th year! — is still ONLY $5! Docs, shorts & features. “Come early, stay late, pay one price.”

When: Wednesday, July 30, 2008 – 6~9:30PM
Where: Anthology Film Archives, 32 Second Avenue at Second Street
Price: $5 admission ~ at the box office

6:00PM – Documentary Shorts Program
7:15PM – Narrative Shorts Program
8:150PM – Narrative Feature

“LATINAS IN CINEMA: FILMWORKS BEYOND THE GLASS CEILING”

Curated by Edwin Pagan

NewLatino Filmmakers puts the spotlight on creative Latinas working behind the cameras in both the independent film and Hollywood systems as image-makers. This emerging crop of dynamic filmmakers and producers are putting their unique mark on the industry with their own unique spin on the Latin Film New Wave, and blazing the trail as today’s emerging auteurs. Featuring short-form documentary, narrative shorts and feature presentations. Live panel discussion and Q&A with the filmmakers.

6:00PM NEWLATINO FILMMAKERS – DOCUMENTARY SERIES

* AL OTRO LADO Natalia Almada, Altamura Films, (2006, 66 Minutes, Video)

Al Otro Lado (To the Other Side)” tells the human story behind illegal immigration and drug trafficking between the U.S. and Mexico through the eyes of Magdiel, a 23-year-old fisherman and aspiring composer who dreams of a better life. For people south of the border, the “other side” is the dream of an impossibly rich United States, where even menial jobs can support families and whole communities that have been left behind. For people north of the border, “Al Otro Lado” sheds light on harsh choices that their neighbors to the south often face because of economic crisis.

As movingly chronicled in “Al Otro Lado,” Natalia Almada’s debut feature, the border is a place where one people’s dreams collide with another people’s politics, and the 200-year-old tradition of corrido music vibrantly chronicles it all. In fact, if you really want to understand what is happening on the U.S./Mexico border, listen to the corridos, troubadour-like ballads that have become the voice of people whose views are rarely heard in mainstream media.

7:15PM NEWLATINO FILMMAKERS – SHORT FILM PROGRAM

* JOLOPEO, Glenys Javier, Director / Michael Diaz, Producer (2007, 5 Minutes, Video)

Living that life leads to death, I choose to LIVE!

* SOLEDAD IS GONE FOREVER, Mabel Valdiviezo, Writer/Director (2007, 14 Minutes, 16MM)

SOLEDAD IS GONE FOREVER is a spellbinding, visually stunning, psychological drama that explores the long-term psychological impact of political persecution. Based on real accounts, this film presents an intimate portrait of a young immigrant photographer living in San Francisco, Soledad Gonzales, who learns her father’s remains have been found in a mass grave in Chile. Soledad’s recurring visions of chilling childhood images shatter her life, making her discover that these are real memories that have been repressed for twenty years.

Torn by her aunt Delia’s advice to forget the past but faced by the implications of her father’s death, Soledad must make a crucial decision. Does she have the courage to pursue the truth and will this realization finally bring peace to her tortured soul?

* LOSS OF INNOCENCE IN LOISAIDA, Veronica Caicedo, Writer/Director (2007, 30 Minutes, Video)

Joana is a curious teen ready to explore and have sex and willing to go all the way with her boyfriend, Tommy. Not prepared for the situation, Tommy must score some condoms — FAST — but he must first get past the gatekeeper to his bliss: the local pharmacist, who also just happens to be Joana’s father!

8:15PM NEWLATINO FILMMAKERS – FEATURE PRESENTATION



MUNECA, Christina Soto, Writer/Director (2007, 70 Minutes, Video)


You find love in the most unexpected places. All Esteban wants to do, is to be happy and recapture his creative inspiration. With the death of his muse, and best friend, Pepe — a miniature fox terrier — it seems as if everyone in his life is trying to push their idea of a replacement on him with that of a perfect woman. What’s a man to do?

ABOUT THE SERIES

NewLatino Filmmakers showcases emerging Latino filmmakers/producers whose work is contributing toward the face of the Latino Film New Wave and who have not yet had a major commercial theatrical release. It also features non-Latino filmmakers/producers whose films are Latino-themed and/or whose primary subject matter touches upon the Latino/Latin American experience in a respectful manner, and who have not yet had a major commercial theatrical release. The series is now in its six year and is organized in collaboration with New Filmmakers at Anthology Film Archives.

Anthology Film Archives is America’s only year-round film cinematheque and is one of the few festivals in the world today that is entirely curated and administered by filmmakers. Currently celebrating its 35th year of serving the independent film community. (www.anthologyfilmarchives.org)

PRdream mourns the passing of Joe Cuba, 1931 – 2009

Sunday, November 1st, 2009
February 19, 2009
1:41 am

Viewing on Wednesday & Thursday, February 18 & 19, 2PM – 10PM

R&G Ortiz Funeral Home
204 E. 116th Street, between 3rd & 2nd Avenues
212.722.3512

From: Aurora Communications, Inc.

Joe Cuba: Father of New York Boogaloo has passed away

The “Father of Boogaloo” Joe Cuba passed away on Sunday, February 15, 2009 at 4 p.m. at Mt. Sinai Hospital in New York. He was the most popular exponent of the boogaloo, a fused Latino and R&B rhythm that exploded onto the American top 40s charts during the turbulent 1960s & ‘70s. Hits such as “*Bang Bang,” “Push Push,” “El Pito,” “Ariñañara,” and “Sock It To Me Baby,” rocked the hit parades establishing Joe Cuba and his Sextet as the definitive sound of Latin New York during the ‘60s & ‘70s. The Joe Cuba Sextet’s unusual instrumentation featured vibraphones replacing the traditional brass sound. His music was at the forefront of the Nuyroican movement of New York where the children of Puerto Rican emigrants, America’s last citizens, took music, culture, arts and politics into their own hands.

Joe Cuba’s Sextet became popular in the New York Latino community precisely because it fused a bilingual mix of Afro-Caribbean genres blended with the popular urban rhythm & blues of its time creating a musical marriage between the Fania and Motown sound. His was the first musical introduction to Latin rhythms for many American aficionados. The lyrics to Cuba’s repertoire mixed Spanish and English, becoming an important part of the emerging Nuyorican identity.

Joe Cuba’s music validated the developing Nuyorican population whose language and music Cuba captured with his sound, underlines Giora Breil, CEO of Emusica, the company that now owns the Fania label and who has remastered many of the classics to a new generation of music lovers. “He led the urban tribe,” pointed Breil, “into a united front of cultural warriors that were defining the social and political times they lived in.”

Longtime manager and promoter Hector Maisonave recalls Cuba as ”an innovator who crossed over into mainstream music at an early time. He was the soul of El Barrio. After Joe Cuba, El Barrio is just a street that crosses an avenue.”

In 1962, Cuba recorded “*To Be With You” *with the vocals of Cheo Feliciano and Jimmy Sabater whose careers he spotlighted after the bands introductory appearance at the Stardust Ballroom prior to its summer stint in the Catskills.

Born in 1931 in the heart of Spanish Harlem, his Puerto Rican parents arrived in New York City in the 20s. Christened “Gilberto Miguel Calderón,” Cuba was a “doo wopper” who played for J. Panama in 1950 when he was a young 19 year old before going on to play for La Alfarona X, where the young “congüerro” percussionist replaced Sabu Martinez tapped to play with Xavier Cugat.

By 1965, the Sextet got their first crossover hit with the Latino and soul fusion of “El Pito” (I Never Go Back To Georgia), a tune Cuba recorded against the advice of the producer later to be “broken” by a DJ over WBLS FM in N.Y.. The Dizzy Gillespie “/Never Go Back To Georgia” chant was taken from the intro to the seminal Afro-Cuban tune, “Manteca.” Vocalist Jimmy Sabater later revealed that “none of us had ever been to Georgia.” In fact, Cuba later comically described a conversation he had with the Governor of Georgia who called him demanding why he would record a song whose chorus negatively derided the still segregated Southern town. The quick thinking Joe Cuba replied, “Georgia is the name of my girl.”

“Joe Cuba exemplified the power that comes from collaboration.” highlighted East Harlem’s councilwoman Melissa Mark Viverito. “Through his music, Joe brought together Latinos and African Americans and his art form reflected the influences of both cultures, Furthermore, his music united Harlem and East Harlem by reflecting the growth both communities experienced during the 1960s and ’70s. Joe Cuba made Spanish Harlem proud as he bravely brought his particular New York Latino identity to stages all over the world.”

In 1967, Joe Cuba’s band ––with no horns– scored a “hit” in the United States National Hit Parade List with the song “Bang Bang” – a tune that ushered in the Latin Boogaloo era. He also had a #1 hit, that year on the Billboard charts with the song “Sock It To Me Baby.” The band’s instrumentation included congas, timbales, an occasional bongo, bass, piano and vibraphone. “A bastard sound,” is what Cuba called it pointing to the fans, the people, as the true creators of this music. “You don’t go into a rehearsal and say ‘Hey, let’s invent a new sound or dance.’ They happen. The boogaloo came out of left field.“ Joe Cuba recounts in Mary Kent’s book:” Salsa Talks: A Musical History Uncovered. “It’s the public that creates new dances and different things. The audience invents, the audience relates to what you are doing and then puts their thing into what you are playing/,” pointing to
other artists such as Ricardo Ray or Hector Rivera as pioneers of the urban fused rhythm.

“I met Joe up in the Catskills in 1955,” /recalls nine time Grammy Award winner *Eddie Palmieri*. “When I later started La Perfecta,” Palmieri muses, “we alternated on stages with Joe. He was full of life and had a great sense of humor, always laughing at his own jokes,” chuckles the pianist. Palmieri pointed to Cuba’s many musical contributions underlining the power and popularity of his small band and bilingual lyrics while providing a springboard for the harmonies and careers of Cheo Feliciano, Willie Torres and Jimmy Sabater. “He was Spanish Harlem personified,” describes Palmieri recalling the “take no prisoners” attitude Cuba had when it came to dealing with those who reluctantly paid the musicians. Recalling their early recording days with the infamous Morris Levy, Palmieri cites the antics of Joe Cuba, Ismael Rivera and himself as the reason for Levy selling them as a Tico package to Fania label owner, Jerry Masucci.

Funny, irreverent and with a great humor for practical jokes, Joe Cuba, or Sonny as he was called by his closest friends, was raised in East Harlem. Stickball being the main sport for young boys of the neighborhood, Cuba’s father organized a stickball club called the Devils. After Cuba broke a leg, he took up playing the conga and continued to practice between school and his free time. Eventually, he graduated from high school and joined a band.

“He was not afraid to experiment/,” said *David Fernandez*, arranger & musical director of Zon del Barrio who played with the legendary Cuba when he arrived in New York in 2002.

By 1954, at the suggestion of his agent to change the band’s name from the Jose Calderon Sextet to the Joe Cuba Sextet, the newly named Joe Cuba Sextet made their debut at the Stardust Ballroom. Charlie Palmieri was musical director of the sextet before his untimely 1988 death from a heart attack.

Since then, the Joe Cuba Sextet and band has been a staple of concerts and festivals that unite both Latinos, African-Americans and just plain music lovers in venues all over the world.

In 2003, the following CDs were released:

* “Joe Cuba Sextet Vol I: Mardi Gras Music for Dancing”
* “Merengue Loco” and
* “Out of This World Cha Cha”.

In 2004, Joe Cuba was named Grand Marshall of the Puerto Rican Day Parade celebrated in Yonkers, New York. Musician *Willie Villegas* who traveled with Joe for the past 15 years said, “It didn’t matter where we played around the world Joe would always turn to me and say, To My
Barrio…. With Love!”

Joe Cuba is survived by his wife Maria Calderon, sons Mitchell and Cesar, daughter Lisa, and grandchildren Nicole and Alexis.

Condolences can be sent directly to Joe Cuba’s widow: Maria Calderon at mariacuba1@verizon.net.

SEIU engages in union raiding and busting in Puerto Rico

Sunday, November 1st, 2009

“In Puerto Rico, the SEIU is embroiled with the Teachers Federation, a 42,000-member independent union of public school teachers. After a 10-day inconclusive strike in February, the Federation was punished by losing its right to represent the teachers. The SEIU reached an agreement with a rival teachers group and supported its request for a collective bargaining election, which in effect would eliminate, if not destroy, the Teachers Federation. At the SEIU convention hall in Puerto Rico, a mass delegation of Teachers Federation members demonstrated with picket signs “Stop Union Raid.” Many of Stern’s critics support the Federation’s battle for survival. They ask: Will the new clause on “aiding” a “rival” make them vulnerable to disciplinary charges for openly expressing that support?”

uniondemocracy.org

Below: entire article
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From the July-August 2008 issue of Union Democracy Review #174

Reflections on the SEIU Convention in Puerto Rico

At the June convention of the Service Employees International Union, climaxing President Andy Stern’s twelve years in office, a big majority of the 1,900 convention delegates endorsed his program and endowed him with increased power amounting to presidential authoritarianism couched in democratic verbiage.

But he has paid a price for that victory. When he first took office 12 years ago, his plans were greeted with near-unanimity by labor activists and pro-labor academics, and he was hailed in the press as the promising new labor leader. He came out of this convention stronger organizationally and constitutionally but with a diminished image. On the eve of the convention, a hundred writers, labor educators, and academics had expressed concern over the fate of SEIU democracy under his tutelage. Sal Rosselli, a major SEIU leader, broke with the administration and emerged at this convention as an outspoken oppositionist. Unexpectedly, more than a dozen rank and file delegates ran for international positions as insurgents. None were successful, but protest votes on their behalf were recorded from 15% of the delegates.

The union administration summed up its proposed program of action for the next four years until the next convention in an ambitious, emotion-stimulating 31-page declaration, “Justice for All.” It began on a high note of great promise and expectation. “We stand for not only ‘Just Us’ but for ‘Justice for All’ workers in our industries and in our country.” It called for “a more just and humane society”, for us and “for future generations.” That lofty theme was sustained and repeated in a multitude of variations. No one could fault such lofty goals. Can anyone object to justice for all? In a post-convention letter to educators, a Rosselli spokesman wrote, “Delegates from our local union … supported core parts of a platform proposed by our union’s national leadership, including expanding our organizing efforts and improving regional and national coordination among SEIU locals.”

But how to go about revitalizing the labor movement and changing the world? There’s the rub. And so there was criticism, and it was just as sharp and emotional as Stern’s support was enthusiastic. It emanated from two main sources: 140 delegates from Sal Rosselli’s 140,000-member United Healthcare Workers-West and about 100 delegates from other locals, many of whom joined together in a loose rank and file caucus called SMART (for SEIU Member Activists for Reform Today.)

In the spirit of “one national strategy” and “one voice” (phrases repeated over and again) the administration proposed a bewildering creation of boards, committees, and subcommittees — wheels within wheels — all dominated by the international president. Critics charged that the new structure of Division Leadership Boards and National Bargaining Teams overloads the system with international officers and appointive staff and reduces representation from local leaders and rank and filers.

But the critics’ main objection is to Stern’s basic plan, the stratagem that he hopes will open the road to a massive rise in membership. Stern is convinced that traditional unionism is not working; he would not rely on the old-fashioned method of inspiring workers in a battle for union recognition. He proposes to organize hundreds of thousands of new members, perhaps even millions, not in conflict with multi-million dollar global capitalists and corporate buyout firms, but in cooperation with them. That central aim was only imperfectly touched upon, and only by implication, in convention documents.

Many months before the convention, Stern disclosed his intentions to Kris Maher, a Wall Street Journal reporter, who wrote “Mr. Stern says he wants to remake the labor movement by shedding the old adversarial image and creating more labor management partnerships.” Stern told him, “We want to find a 21st century new model that is less focused on individual grievances, more focused on industry needs.” Alan Murray, of the WSJ, wrote that Stern told him, “he much prefers working with the buyout kings than with their public-company counterparts, ‘I’ve been incredibly impressed,’ he said, ‘…these men have much more understanding of what we are trying to accomplish.’ ” What all this means in practice has been revealed in actual agreements Stern worked out with cooperating employers:

In 2003, Stern negotiated an agreement with the employers’ California Alliance, an association representing 284 nursing homes. The Alliance turned over 42 of its homes with some 2,000 members to the union; but the union agreed that it would be barred from trying to organize its 185 non-union facilities. According to the UHW-W, the agreement covering the newly organized sites undercut union standards in the industry. It provided no vacation, holiday, or sick pay; no seniority rights, strict limits on stewards, and management’s right to change the economic terms of the agreement. The SEIU units were, according to UHW “close to becoming …company unions.” Rosselli’s public repudiation of the deal marked his break with Stern. Under pressure of mass protests from the UHW-W membership, Stern backed off and ended the controversial arrangement. But he had not abandoned his basic policy:

On May 10, Kris Maher reported that the SEIU and UNITE/HERE (Change to Win allies) had entered into secret agreements with two global employers of service workers, Sodexho and the Compass Group. “The old ways aren’t working,” Stern told Maher, “and we’re trying to find different relationships with employers that guarantee workers a voice.” And so, unions are formed behind the backs of workers and with the permission and cooperation of the employers. Not just the terms of the agreements, but their very existence is not to be disclosed, not even to the lucky new union members. Of the several hundred thousand workers employed in North America, the union will be permitted to organize a limited number at designated sites; the companies will cooperate by providing lists of the employees and permitting union access to their work sites. The unions agree to be barred from attempting to organize the others; and they will not post derogatory remarks about the companies anywhere in the world.

Stern aims to increase union membership and minimize individual grievances. In that spirit, the convention endorsed the administration’s proposals for “Membership Resource Centers.” From now on, instead of presenting their “job problems” on the work site to a flesh and blood steward-representative, members will log in to a central office where they will get “expert” advice from a voice at the other end of the line — perhaps human, perhaps electronic. This novel system will transform the whole dynamic between the union and its members. Shop stewards under pressure of their constituents day to day on the job, especially those elected, are motivated to take grievances seriously and work hard to satisfy the grievant. But the owners of those voices on the telephone will know that they are appointed by an administration that views grievances as a distraction. To please the boss who appointed them, they will be motivated to slough off those distracting “job problems.”

Its rhetorical call for justice for all — for the poor, the immigrants, the minorities, the oppressed — has enabled Stern to rally round him a troop of social idealists in whose eyes the SEIU has become an extension of civil rights campaigning and community organizing. On the other hand, its trend toward bureaucratic central control, and its justification of a kind of defanged hybrid unionism to be built in cooperation with big domestic and global corporations, has alienated a whole other cadre of social idealists who want the labor movement to be a democratic movement of workers, a movement that, they feel, can only be built in confrontation with big capital.

Two conceptions of the labor movement are counterposed. Because the SEIU has been built and has acquired power by action of militant union loyalists, not by corporate partners, at some point even Stern’s own followers are bound to ask, “What kind of labor movement are we building?” This is no crude battle for power. It is no conflict between so-called “business” and “social” unionism. Nor between a conservative “right” and a militant “left.” Nor between crooks and honest unionists. It is a dispute over the meaning and nature of democracy in the labor movement. Those “alternative visions of trade unionism” could be counterposed only inadequately and tentatively at this convention. What are the chances for a serous discussion during the four years before the next convention?

There are disquieting signs: The administration’s repeated call for “one voice” and “one national strategy” doesn’t encourage independent views. Stern appears to have backed off from a threat to trustee Rosselli’s UHW-W healthcare local; but the international now pursues Rosselli and other local officers by a complex suit in federal court. The convention adopted a resolution that will strip the dissident local of 65,000 of its 140,000 members.

The convention voted to expand the reach of its constitutional ban on supporting “dual unionism.” A member or local union can now be charged for “aiding a rival labor organization.” This provision is obviously prompted by a rivalry between the SEIU and at least two other unions. The California Nurses Association, an AFL-CIO affiliate, is extending its reach beyond California to the whole nation, thereby offering an alternative to any registered nurses who might be dissatisfied with existing SEIU representation. The bar on “aiding” rival unions can create a dangerous problem for SEIU locals which have overlapping, but friendly, representation in areas where the CNA represents nurses and the SEIU all other employees at a given site. Despite the hostility between the two national unions, practical necessity impels locals to cooperate. Stern’s critics, wary of how he will interpret “aiding” a “rival,” fear that he will use the new provision against them.

In Puerto Rico, the SEIU is embroiled with the Teachers Federation, a 42,000-member independent union of public school teachers. After a 10-day inconclusive strike in February, the Federation was punished by losing its right to represent the teachers. The SEIU reached an agreement with a rival teachers group and supported its request for a collective bargaining election, which in effect would eliminate, if not destroy, the Teachers Federation. At the SEIU convention hall in Puerto Rico, a mass delegation of Teachers Federation members demonstrated with picket signs “Stop Union Raid.” Many of Stern’s critics support the Federation’s battle for survival. They ask: Will the new clause on “aiding” a “rival” make them vulnerable to disciplinary charges for openly expressing that support?

How will it all work out? Will Stern’s program fulfill its promise as a devious route toward social justice for all in America, or will the centralized bureaucracy and the special deals with employers choke out the very spirit of idealism that inspires Stern’s dedicated followers? That question can be answered only after extended experience. Will the Stern regime use the endorsement by the convention of its “one voice” and “one national strategy” to justify turning the collectivity of hired staff, appointive and elected local leaders, and international officers into a disciplined goose-step apparatus to glorify the official line and exalt its results; or will it tolerate, if it will not encourage, the kind of free discussion that can truly assess what is achieved? The answer to that question can come promptly in how the regime responds to critics like Sal Rosselli in United Healthcare-West and other critics in SEIU locals around the country.

SOTOMAYOR’s OFTEN QUOTED SPEECH

Tuesday, June 9th, 2009

The following is the text of the Judge Mario G. Olmos Memorial Lecture in 2001, delivered at the University of California, Berkeley, School of Law, by appeals court judge Sonia Sotomayor. It was published in the Spring 2002 issue of Berkeley La Raza Law Journal, a symposium issue entitled “Raising the Bar: Latino and Latina Presence in the Judiciary and the Struggle for Representation,” and it is reproduced here with permission from the journal.

“A Latina Judge’s Voice”

By Sonia Sotomayor

Judge Reynoso, thank you for that lovely introduction. I am humbled to be speaking behind a man who has contributed so much to the Hispanic community. I am also grateful to have such kind words said about me.

I am delighted to be here. It is nice to escape my hometown for just a little bit. It is also nice to say hello to old friends who are in the audience, to rekindle contact with old acquaintances and to make new friends among those of you in the audience. It is particularly heart warming to me to be attending a conference to which I was invited by a Latina law school friend, Rachel Moran, who is now an accomplished and widely respected legal scholar. I warn Latinos in this room: Latinas are making a lot of progress in the old-boy network.

I am also deeply honored to have been asked to deliver the annual Judge Mario G. Olmos lecture. I am joining a remarkable group of prior speakers who have given this lecture. I hope what I speak about today continues to promote the legacy of that man whose commitment to public service and abiding dedication to promoting equality and justice for all people inspired this memorial lecture and the conference that will follow. I thank Judge Olmos’ widow Mary Louise’s family, her son and the judge’s many friends for hosting me. And for the privilege you have bestowed on me in honoring the memory of a very special person. If I and the many people of this conference can accomplish a fraction of what Judge Olmos did in his short but extraordinary life we and our respective communities will be infinitely better.

I intend tonight to touch upon the themes that this conference will be discussing this weekend and to talk to you about my Latina identity, where it came from, and the influence I perceive it has on my presence on the bench.

Who am I? I am a “Newyorkrican.” For those of you on the West Coast who do not know what that term means: I am a born and bred New Yorker of Puerto Rican-born parents who came to the states during World War II.

Like many other immigrants to this great land, my parents came because of poverty and to attempt to find and secure a better life for themselves and the family that they hoped to have. They largely succeeded. For that, my brother and I are very grateful. The story of that success is what made me and what makes me the Latina that I am. The Latina side of my identity was forged and closely nurtured by my family through our shared experiences and traditions.

For me, a very special part of my being Latina is the mucho platos de arroz, gandules y pernil – rice, beans and pork – that I have eaten at countless family holidays and special events. My Latina identity also includes, because of my particularly adventurous taste buds, morcilla, — pig intestines, patitas de cerdo con garbanzo — pigs’ feet with beans, and la lengua y orejas de cuchifrito, pigs’ tongue and ears. I bet the Mexican-Americans in this room are thinking that Puerto Ricans have unusual food tastes. Some of us, like me, do. Part of my Latina identity is the sound of merengue at all our family parties and the heart wrenching Spanish love songs that we enjoy. It is the memory of Saturday afternoon at the movies with my aunt and cousins watching Cantinflas, who is not Puerto Rican, but who was an icon Spanish comedian on par with Abbot and Costello of my generation. My Latina soul was nourished as I visited and played at my grandmother’s house with my cousins and extended family. They were my friends as I grew up. Being a Latina child was watching the adults playing dominos on Saturday night and us kids playing loteria, bingo, with my grandmother calling out the numbers which we marked on our cards with chick peas.

Now, does any one of these things make me a Latina? Obviously not because each of our Carribean and Latin American communities has their own unique food and different traditions at the holidays. I only learned about tacos in college from my Mexican-American roommate. Being a Latina in America also does not mean speaking Spanish. I happen to speak it fairly well. But my brother, only three years younger, like too many of us educated here, barely speaks it. Most of us born and bred here, speak it very poorly.

If I had pursued my career in my undergraduate history major, I would likely provide you with a very academic description of what being a Latino or Latina means. For example, I could define Latinos as those peoples and cultures populated or colonized by Spain who maintained or adopted Spanish or Spanish Creole as their language of communication. You can tell that I have been very well educated. That antiseptic description however, does not really explain the appeal of morcilla – pig’s intestine – to an American born child. It does not provide an adequate explanation of why individuals like us, many of whom are born in this completely different American culture, still identify so strongly with those communities in which our parents were born and raised.

America has a deeply confused image of itself that is in perpetual tension. We are a nation that takes pride in our ethnic diversity, recognizing its importance in shaping our society and in adding richness to its existence. Yet, we simultaneously insist that we can and must function and live in a race and color-blind way that ignore these very differences that in other contexts we laud. That tension between “the melting pot and the salad bowl” — a recently popular metaphor used to described New York’s diversity – is being hotly debated today in national discussions about affirmative action. Many of us struggle with this tension and attempt to maintain and promote our cultural and ethnic identities in a society that is often ambivalent about how to deal with its differences. In this time of great debate we must remember that it is not political struggles that create a Latino or Latina identity. I became a Latina by the way I love and the way I live my life. My family showed me by their example how wonderful and vibrant life is and how wonderful and magical it is to have a Latina soul. They taught me to love being a Puertorriqueña and to love America and value its lesson that great things could be achieved if one works hard for it. But achieving success here is no easy accomplishment for Latinos or Latinas, and although that struggle did not and does not create a Latina identity, it does inspire how I live my life.

I was born in the year 1954. That year was the fateful year in which Brown v. Board of Education was decided. When I was eight, in 1961, the first Latino, the wonderful Judge Reynaldo Garza, was appointed to the federal bench, an event we are celebrating at this conference. When I finished law school in 1979, there were no women judges on the Supreme Court or on the highest court of my home state, New York. There was then only one Afro-American Supreme Court Justice and then and now no Latino or Latina justices on our highest court. Now in the last twenty plus years of my professional life, I have seen a quantum leap in the representation of women and Latinos in the legal profession and particularly in the judiciary. In addition to the appointment of the first female United States Attorney General, Janet Reno, we have seen the appointment of two female justices to the Supreme Court and two female justices to the New York Court of Appeals, the highest court of my home state. One of those judges is the Chief Judge and the other is a Puerto Riqueña, like I am. As of today, women sit on the highest courts of almost all of the states and of the territories, including Puerto Rico. One Supreme Court, that of Minnesota, had a majority of women justices for a period of time.

As of September 1, 2001, the federal judiciary consisting of Supreme, Circuit and District Court Judges was about 22% women. In 1992, nearly ten years ago, when I was first appointed a District Court Judge, the percentage of women in the total federal judiciary was only 13%. Now, the growth of Latino representation is somewhat less favorable. As of today we have, as I noted earlier, no Supreme Court justices, and we have only 10 out of 147 active Circuit Court judges and 30 out of 587 active district court judges. Those numbers are grossly below our proportion of the population. As recently as 1965, however, the federal bench had only three women serving and only one Latino judge. So changes are happening, although in some areas, very slowly. These figures and appointments are heartwarming. Nevertheless, much still remains to happen.

Let us not forget that between the appointments of Justice Sandra Day O’Connor in 1981 and Justice Ginsburg in 1992, eleven years passed. Similarly, between Justice Kaye’s initial appointment as an Associate Judge to the New York Court of Appeals in 1983, and Justice Ciparick’s appointment in 1993, ten years elapsed. Almost nine years later, we are waiting for a third appointment of a woman to both the Supreme Court and the New York Court of Appeals and of a second minority, male or female, preferably Hispanic, to the Supreme Court. In 1992 when I joined the bench, there were still two out of 13 circuit courts and about 53 out of 92 district courts in which no women sat. At the beginning of September of 2001, there are women sitting in all 13 circuit courts. The First, Fifth, Eighth and Federal Circuits each have only one female judge, however, out of a combined total number of 48 judges. There are still nearly 37 district courts with no women judges at all. For women of color the statistics are more sobering. As of September 20, 1998, of the then 195 circuit court judges only two were African-American women and two Hispanic women. Of the 641 district court judges only twelve were African-American women and eleven Hispanic women. African-American women comprise only 1.56% of the federal judiciary and Hispanic-American women comprise only 1%. No African-American, male or female, sits today on the Fourth or Federal circuits. And no Hispanics, male or female, sit on the Fourth, Sixth, Seventh, Eighth, District of Columbia or Federal Circuits.

Sort of shocking, isn’t it? This is the year 2002. We have a long way to go. Unfortunately, there are some very deep storm warnings we must keep in mind. In at least the last five years the majority of nominated judges the Senate delayed more than one year before confirming or never confirming were women or minorities. I need not remind this audience that Judge Paez of your home Circuit, the Ninth Circuit, has had the dubious distinction of having had his confirmation delayed the longest in Senate history. These figures demonstrate that there is a real and continuing need for Latino and Latina organizations and community groups throughout the country to exist and to continue their efforts of promoting women and men of all colors in their pursuit for equality in the judicial system.

This weekend’s conference, illustrated by its name, is bound to examine issues that I hope will identify the efforts and solutions that will assist our communities. The focus of my speech tonight, however, is not about the struggle to get us where we are and where we need to go but instead to discuss with you what it all will mean to have more women and people of color on the bench. The statistics I have been talking about provide a base from which to discuss a question which one of my former colleagues on the Southern District bench, Judge Miriam Cederbaum, raised when speaking about women on the federal bench. Her question was: What do the history and statistics mean? In her speech, Judge Cederbaum expressed her belief that the number of women and by direct inference people of color on the bench, was still statistically insignificant and that therefore we could not draw valid scientific conclusions from the acts of so few people over such a short period of time. Yet, we do have women and people of color in more significant numbers on the bench and no one can or should ignore pondering what that will mean or not mean in the development of the law. Now, I cannot and do not claim this issue as personally my own. In recent years there has been an explosion of research and writing in this area. On one of the panels tomorrow, you will hear the Latino perspective in this debate.

For those of you interested in the gender perspective on this issue, I commend to you a wonderful compilation of articles published on the subject in Vol. 77 of the Judicature, the Journal of the American Judicature Society of November-December 1993. It is on Westlaw/Lexis and I assume the students and academics in this room can find it.

Now Judge Cedarbaum expresses concern with any analysis of women and presumably again people of color on the bench, which begins and presumably ends with the conclusion that women or minorities are different from men generally. She sees danger in presuming that judging should be gender or anything else based. She rightly points out that the perception of the differences between men and women is what led to many paternalistic laws and to the denial to women of the right to vote because we were described then “as not capable of reasoning or thinking logically” but instead of “acting intuitively.” I am quoting adjectives that were bandied around famously during the suffragettes’ movement.

While recognizing the potential effect of individual experiences on perception, Judge Cedarbaum nevertheless believes that judges must transcend their personal sympathies and prejudices and aspire to achieve a greater degree of fairness and integrity based on the reason of law. Although I agree with and attempt to work toward Judge Cedarbaum’s aspiration, I wonder whether achieving that goal is possible in all or even in most cases. And I wonder whether by ignoring our differences as women or men of color we do a disservice both to the law and society. Whatever the reasons why we may have different perspectives, either as some theorists suggest because of our cultural experiences or as others postulate because we have basic differences in logic and reasoning, are in many respects a small part of a larger practical question we as women and minority judges in society in general must address. I accept the thesis of a law school classmate, Professor Steven Carter of Yale Law School, in his affirmative action book that in any group of human beings there is a diversity of opinion because there is both a diversity of experiences and of thought. Thus, as noted by another Yale Law School Professor — I did graduate from there and I am not really biased except that they seem to be doing a lot of writing in that area – Professor Judith Resnik says that there is not a single voice of feminism, not a feminist approach but many who are exploring the possible ways of being that are distinct from those structured in a world dominated by the power and words of men. Thus, feminist theories of judging are in the midst of creation and are not and perhaps will never aspire to be as solidified as the established legal doctrines of judging can sometimes appear to be.

That same point can be made with respect to people of color. No one person, judge or nominee will speak in a female or people of color voice. I need not remind you that Justice Clarence Thomas represents a part but not the whole of African-American thought on many subjects. Yet, because I accept the proposition that, as Judge Resnik describes it, “to judge is an exercise of power” and because as, another former law school classmate, Professor Martha Minnow of Harvard Law School, states “there is no objective stance but only a series of perspectives – no neutrality, no escape from choice in judging,” I further accept that our experiences as women and people of color affect our decisions. The aspiration to impartiality is just that–it’s an aspiration because it denies the fact that we are by our experiences making different choices than others. Not all women or people of color, in all or some circumstances or indeed in any particular case or circumstance but enough people of color in enough cases, will make a difference in the process of judging. The Minnesota Supreme Court has given an example of this. As reported by Judge Patricia Wald formerly of the D.C. Circuit Court, three women on the Minnesota Court with two men dissenting agreed to grant a protective order against a father’s visitation rights when the father abused his child. The Judicature Journal has at least two excellent studies on how women on the courts of appeal and state supreme courts have tended to vote more often than their male counterpart to uphold women’s claims in sex discrimination cases and criminal defendants’ claims in search and seizure cases. As recognized by legal scholars, whatever the reason, not one woman or person of color in any one position but as a group we will have an effect on the development of the law and on judging.

In our private conversations, Judge Cedarbaum has pointed out to me that seminal decisions in race and sex discrimination cases have come from Supreme Courts composed exclusively of white males. I agree that this is significant but I also choose to emphasize that the people who argued those cases before the Supreme Court which changed the legal landscape ultimately were largely people of color and women. I recall that Justice Thurgood Marshall, Judge Connie Baker Motley, the first black woman appointed to the federal bench, and others of the NAACP argued Brown v. Board of Education. Similarly, Justice Ginsburg, with other women attorneys, was instrumental in advocating and convincing the Court that equality of work required equality in terms and conditions of employment.

Whether born from experience or inherent physiological or cultural differences, a possibility I abhor less or discount less than my colleague Judge Cedarbaum, our gender and national origins may and will make a difference in our judging. Justice O’Connor has often been cited as saying that a wise old man and wise old woman will reach the same conclusion in deciding cases. I am not so sure Justice O’Connor is the author of that line since Professor Resnik attributes that line to Supreme Court Justice Coyle. I am also not so sure that I agree with the statement. First, as Professor Martha Minnow has noted, there can never be a universal definition of wise. Second, I would hope that a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experiences would more often than not reach a better conclusion than a white male who hasn’t lived that life.

Let us not forget that wise men like Oliver Wendell Holmes and Justice Cardozo voted on cases which upheld both sex and race discrimination in our society. Until 1972, no Supreme Court case ever upheld the claim of a woman in a gender discrimination case. I, like Professor Carter, believe that we should not be so myopic as to believe that others of different experiences or backgrounds are incapable of understanding the values and needs of people from a different group. Many are so capable. As Judge Cedarbaum pointed out to me, nine white men on the Supreme Court in the past have done so on many occasions and on many issues including Brown.

However, to understand takes time and effort, something that not all people are willing to give. For others, their experiences limit their ability to understand the experiences of others. Other simply do not care. Hence, one must accept the proposition that a difference there will be by the presence of women and people of color on the bench. Personal experiences affect the facts that judges choose to see. My hope is that I will take the good from my experiences and extrapolate them further into areas with which I am unfamiliar. I simply do not know exactly what that difference will be in my judging. But I accept there will be some based on my gender and my Latina heritage.

I also hope that by raising the question today of what difference having more Latinos and Latinas on the bench will make will start your own evaluation. For people of color and women lawyers, what does and should being an ethnic minority mean in your lawyering? For men lawyers, what areas in your experiences and attitudes do you need to work on to make you capable of reaching those great moments of enlightenment which other men in different circumstances have been able to reach. For all of us, how do change the facts that in every task force study of gender and race bias in the courts, women and people of color, lawyers and judges alike, report in significantly higher percentages than white men that their gender and race has shaped their careers, from hiring, retention to promotion and that a statistically significant number of women and minority lawyers and judges, both alike, have experienced bias in the courtroom?

Each day on the bench I learn something new about the judicial process and about being a professional Latina woman in a world that sometimes looks at me with suspicion. I am reminded each day that I render decisions that affect people concretely and that I owe them constant and complete vigilance in checking my assumptions, presumptions and perspectives and ensuring that to the extent that my limited abilities and capabilities permit me, that I reevaluate them and change as circumstances and cases before me requires. I can and do aspire to be greater than the sum total of my experiences but I accept my limitations. I willingly accept that we who judge must not deny the differences resulting from experience and heritage but attempt, as the Supreme Court suggests, continuously to judge when those opinions, sympathies and prejudices are appropriate.

There is always a danger embedded in relative morality, but since judging is a series of choices that we must make, that I am forced to make, I hope that I can make them by informing myself on the questions I must not avoid asking and continuously pondering. We, I mean all of us in this room, must continue individually and in voices united in organizations that have supported this conference, to think about these questions and to figure out how we go about creating the opportunity for there to be more women and people of color on the bench so we can finally have statistically significant numbers to measure the differences we will and are making.

I am delighted to have been here tonight and extend once again my deepest gratitude to all of you for listening and letting me share my reflections on being a Latina voice on the bench. Thank you.

The Black Agenda Report article opposing Sotomayor

Sunday, June 7th, 2009

Sonia Maria Sotomayor — She’s No Clarence Thomas, But No Thurgood Marshall Either

By Bruce A. Dixon
Created 06/03/2009 – 10:36
by BAR managing editor Bruce A. Dixon

sotomayor_biden_obama.jpg

What is and what should be the story around the nomination of Judge Sonia Sotomayor to the high court? Is the main story a celebration of how humble origins and hard work won out? Should we spend all our time and energy refuting the racism of Republican talking heads, and none examining her record, and how she arrived at the door of the Supreme Court? Is this a good time to explore what a just and democratic society must demand from its courts — more nonwhite faces in high places? More rights for corporations? Or more justice for people? And if this isn’t a good time, is that time ever coming?

Sonia Sotomayor: She’s No Clarence Thomas, But No Thurgood Marshall Either
by BAR managing editor Bruce A. Dixon
The bubble of false reality corporate media blow around the nomination of Sonia Maria Sotomayor begins with the racist rants of Limbaugh, O’Reilly, and a host of Republican senators and talking heads. It encompasses a torrent of righteous air and ink denouncing the racists, along with an inspiring story of humble origins, hard work and determination to succeed. It feeds the ongoing narrative of America’s ultimate triumph over old fashioned racism by allowing highly qualified and carefully vetted minorities to join its ruling elite. And it includes the view of places like Business Week, which designate the nominee “centrist” and a “moderate, [1]” a view that corporate media revealingly agree is nonpolitical,” which means that the prerogatives of America’s business elite are not now and never will be up for discussion.
Absent from the conversation around the Sotomayor nomination are all but the most cursory review of her legal career before being appointed a federal judge by George Bush — a mere twelve years of legal experience, five as a prosecutor for the D.A.’s office in Manhattan, and another seven as partner at the international law firm of Pavia & Harcourt. Summaries [2] of her decisions are hard to find. Although much is made of the fact that she will be only the fifth judge not a white man to sit on the high court, few detailed comparisons are made between her legal career and those of Thurgood Marshall and Clarence Thomas. Finally there are no attempts to discuss the unique, and not always positive role that the US Supreme Court plays or ought to play in the life of the country.
All these concerns are outside the bubble, not only for corporate media, but for the blogs and commentators who allow corporate media to draw the limits of their universe.
Sotomayor’s first job out of law school was as a prosecutor in the Manhattan D.A.’s office. Her time as a prosecutor roughly coincides with the end of the first decade of New York’s infamous Rockerfeller drug laws [3], a time when our nation’s historically discriminatory law enforcement apparatus began locking up larger percentages of black and Latinos than anywhere else on the planet. From there she moved on to a spot as associate, then partner at the international law firm of Pavia & Harcourt [4], and international law firm offering “…a full range of legal services to companies, individuals, and Italian and French governmental organizations and agencies… who do business in the United States as well as American clients who do business in the U.S. and abroad.”
Among Pavia & Harcourt’s areas of special focus are the enforcement of intellectual property laws, and obtaining writs of confiscation and seizure of goods believed to be in violation of such laws. In this selection from Ed Shanahan’s IP Law & Business he assembles quotes from the Wall Street Journal, the National Journal and the New York Times that paint a picture of Sotomayor’s passionate involvement on behalf of her corporate clients:
“…as the Wall Street Journal Washington Wire blog further explains in this colorful post [5]
, the “peak” of her career at the firm “came in representing Fendi in trademark actions against makers and sellers of counterfeit handbags and other items, according to George Pavia, the firm’s managing partner.”
“Sotomayor, the WSJ reports, didn’t just fight for her clients in court.
“Firm founder George Pavia told the paper that when the firm would get a tip about suspect cargo, investigators “would trace where the shipment had gone—for example, to a warehouse or a store. Then, working with police, the firm would seek a warrant to view and attach the items. Often, the lawyers learned through experience, such visits would prompt angry responses from the merchants involved. But Sotomayor, who became a high-profile defender of the brand, seemed to enjoy going along. ‘On several occasions,’ Pavia said, ‘she went in wearing a Kevlar vest and seized the goods.’
“(In this profile [6]
of Sotomayor, The New York Times adds to the judge’s legend: “One incident that figures largely in firm lore was a seizure in Chinatown, where the counterfeiters ran away, and Ms. Sotomayor got on a motorcycle and gave chase.”)
“The Journal also reports that Sotomayor played an integral role in what might be termed an IP publicity stunt aimed at calling attention to the then-growing problem of high-fashion knockoffs:
“With Sotomayor in charge, the firm decided in 1986 to stage a bonfire —to be known as the ‘Fendi Burn’—in the parking lot of the Tavern on the Green restaurant. There was a catch, however: the New York Fire Department refused to permit it.
“So the firm decided on the next best thing, crushing the items in garbage trucks, in an event that came to be known as the ‘Fendi Crush.’
“‘In the presence of the press…we threw masses and masses of handbags, shoes, and other items into these garbage trucks,’ Pavia said. ‘It was the pinnacle of our achievement, and Sonia was the principal doer.’”
No place on earth has more lawyers than the U.S., and in the late 80s, early 90s, New York City had more lawyers than anywhere in the country. This is how a young former prosecutor gets noticed and considered for the federal bench. Maybe Democratic senators and the White House of George H.W. Bush took note of her on their own. Maybe lobbyists and campaign contributors affiliated with her clients recommended her as someone who would look out for their interests. Take your pick. Either way, Bush put her on the federal bench in 1992.
For the twelve years she was a prosecutor and in private practice, right up until her appointment to the U.S. District Court, Sotomayor spent evenings, weekends and personal time, as an active board member of the Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Education Committee. During those years PRLDEF publicly opposed police brutality, the death penalty, felony disenfranchisement, and discrimination in housing and employment. It filed lawsuits to protect the voting rights of minorities in New York and the human rights of migrant workers. PRLDEF even sued an official of the Reagan administration for defamation over his public statement that most Puerto Ricans were on food stamps. No reports we have seen say that she personally filed those suits or that she ever appeared in court on behalf of litigants in discrimination and other lawsuits. As a board member she was reportedly involved in the planning and overall supervision of these activities.
After his graduation from Yale Law School in 1974, Clarence Thomas attached himself directly to the Republican party as a black man squarely against equal rights under the law. He became assistant attorney general in Missouri in 1974, chief counsel for Senator Sam Brownback in 1978, and in 1982, chairman of the Office of Economic Opportunity under Ronald Reagan, where he publicly defied the Congress by sitting on thousands of age and race discrimination complaints till the statute of limitations ran out on them. After only fourteen years as an attorney, Thomas had earned his appointment to the federal bench in 1989, and shortly after that to the Supreme Court.
The only other nonwhite person to serve on the US Supreme Court in two centuries has been Thurgood Marshall. Marshall’ graduated Howard University law school in 1933, where he was mentored by Charles Hamilton Houston [7]. Houston was the architect of a decades-long crusade to use the courts to overthrow America’s Jim Crow segregation laws. After less than a year of private practice, Marshall joined Houston at the NAACP, where he spent the next quarter century crisscrossing the country, sometimes at the risk of his own life [8], defending African Americans in court who were falsely accused of murder and rape. Marshall took their cases, along with those of black people who directly challenged Jim Crow laws all the way to the Supreme Court where he won a phenomenal 29 out of 32 cases, including the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education, which ruled that separate school systems for blacks and whites were unconstitutional.
After 28 years of legal practice, far longer than either Thomas or Sotomayor, Marshall was named to the US Court of Appeals in 1961, US Solicitor General in 1965, and in 1967 was nominated to the Supreme Court by Lyndon Baines Johnson. Before donning the black robe Marshall had already fundamentally changed the American legal landscape. He had directly represented the poor and disenfranchised in the courts of dozens of states, raised money and public support for their legal defense. By the 1950s, Marshall was known around the country as “Mr. Civil Rights.” He is said to have taken a dim view of civil disobedience and many of the tactics of the Freedom Movement in the 1950s and 60s, but generally refrained from publicly voicing those sentiments, and defended some of them in court.
The comparative pre-judicial careers of these three seem to indicate that the speedy road to the federal bench is to be a useful right wing political operative like Thomas or a zealous advocate of multinational business, like Sotomayor. Defending the poor and changing history seems to be a longer and much less certain way to get a federal judgeship.
Sonia Sotomayor is no Clarence Thomas, to be sure. The PRLDEF did great work during the years she served on its board, but she can hardly claim sole credit for it. In any case, PRLDEF wasn’t her full time job, and certainly not what got her on the federal bench. She is no Thurgood Marshall either, not by a long shot. There are still lawyers who devote most of their practice to defending the poor and disenfranchised, and an even larger number who file suits against giant corporations on behalf of ordinary people. No matter their legal brilliance, those attorneys rarely get judicial appointments. Why? No Supreme Court Justice since Marshall has represented a defendant in a criminal case, let alone a death penalty case. Why? No Supreme Court Justices sued wealthy and powerful corporations on behalf of ordinary working and poor people either. Why?
Why should representing poor people as defendants in a court of law, or suing wealthy corporations on behalf of the ordinary people whose rights these powerful and immortal institutions trample upon every day rule a judgeship out of any lawyer’s future? Was that the founding fathers’ intent? More importantly, should it be ours?
A frank discussion of what a democratic society should expect from its court system is also long overdue. For the last generation, the courts have squatted squarely on the necks of working class Americans, relentlessly affirming the unearned privileges of a wealthy corporate elite over the rest of us, often in ways no governor, president or legislature would dare attempt. To name just a few instances, the courts have ruled that equal funding of public schools between wealthy and poor neighborhoods cannot be accomplished, even when state constitutions require it. Judges have affirmed that the First Amendment gives corporations the right to lie to and deceive the public for commercial gain, that patent laws allow US corporations to claim exclusive rights to crops grown by farmers for dozens of centuries in various parts of the world. The Supreme Court recently ruled that money, in the form of campaign contributions, is free speech, setting major roadblocks in the path of campaign finance reform.
We need to take note of the historic significance of the first Latina to be nominated to the Supreme Court. Like the embrace of a black president by most of the nation’s ruling elite, it does signify a departure from a kind of old fashioned nineteenth and twentieth century racism, at least insofar as the admittance of carefully vetted and well-qualified minorities to that elite goes. But the advancement of a few is not necessarily the advancement of democracy, or of the many.
The easy out for progressives around the Sotomayor nomination is to waste all their time and oxygen debating Republicans, ridiculing and refuting their racism. While this is important, it mustn’t be allowed to take all the air from the room. If we really want more than a change in the color of the faces at the top of American society, we’ll have to spend a lot more energy evaluating their corporate connections of our judges on every level, and determining who they and our courts really serve.

Howard Jordan’s Response to Black Agenda Report (BAR) article about Sotomayor

Sunday, June 7th, 2009

Below please find a reply I wrote to the recent article by “Black Agenda Report (BAR) the journal of African American political thought and action” on an article entitled “Sonia Sotomayor: She’s No Clarence Thomas, But No Thurgood Marshall Either” by managing editor Bruce A. Dixon. I invite all readers to write BAR and express your opinion on this important nomination. The article is on the following website: http://www.blackagendareport.com/

Black Agenda Report(BAR) Joins the Anti-Latino Sotomayor Agenda
By Howard Jordan

I was saddened to witness Black Agenda Report (BAR) join the chorus of attacks on Latina justice Sonia Sotomayor. The article “Sonia Sotomayor: She’s No Clarence Thomas, But No Thurgood Marshall Either” by managing editor Bruce A. Dixon trivializes the historic importance of the nomination of the first Latina to the court. It also does a disservice to the Puerto Rican/Latino legal and political experience in the United States. Let me address some the points you raise:
First you argue that corporate media is exaggerating the importance of the nomination and it just feeds the notion that anybody can overcome racism in America. As a New York born Puerto Rican/Latino the importance of the nomination to our community is unprecedented. Though racism is structural and will not be eliminated by one appointment Mr. Dixon the narrative is important. A diabetic Latina, who lost her father when she was nine, raised in a housing project speaking a foreign language, attended Princeton, was editor a Yale Law Review, and served on the bench for seventeen years is a tribute and recognition of the important contributions Latin@s have made to this nation. The elevation of Thurgood Marshal to the Supreme Court during that historical period received the same sense of elation in the African-American community. It is as one Dominican legislator noted a “Jackie Robinson moment” for the 40 million Latinos in the U.S.
I am troubled that in your article you make only a passing reference to the racist comments characterizing Sotomayor as a “reverse racist,” an “affirmative action pick, a Hispanic chick, making fun of her unpronounceable last name, or cartoon depictions of her strung up like a piñata with a sombrero as an “easy out for progressives…to waste all their time and oxygen debating Republicans, ridiculing and refuting their racism.” The Latino community, as do all communities of color, have a responsibility and yes even an obligation to refute unfounded attacks that stereotype Justice Sotomayor and by extension promote racist stereotypes against Latinos.
Second, you rightly note Justice Sotomayor’s participation on the Board of the Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Education Fund, the main civil rights law firm for Latinos in the Northeast, but demean that participation by referring to the fact that she was “reportedly involved.” You state “No reports we have seen say that she personally filed those suits or that she ever appeared in court on behalf of litigants in discrimination and other lawsuits… she can hardly claim sole credit for it. The best barometer of her participation in PRLDEF is the statement of Puerto Ricans themselves. As Cesar Perales, the PRLDEF President stated “Sonia displayed an increasing amount of leadership on the board.” Unless of course you are going to parrot the white right and argue that Perales is only saying that because he’s Puerto Rican. She served nobly. By the way as I am sure you know board members don’t bring the cases in civil rights organizations.
Mr. Dixon, Ms. Sotomayor was one of 20 Hispanics in her class at Princeton and co-chairwoman of the Puerto Rican organization Accion Puertorriqueno where she wrote a complaint accusing Princeton of discrimination and convinced the leaders of the Chicano Caucus to co-sign it and filed it with the federal Department of Health, Education and Welfare. As a result of her efforts, Princeton employed its first Hispanic administrator and invited a Puerto Rican professor to teach. (New York Times) Perhaps you also missed her Yale Law Review article where she urged the granting of special rights for off-shore mineral rights for Puerto Rico not enjoyed by U.S. states, a historical corollary to the Vieques struggle of the Puerto Rican nation. (New York Times-David Gonzalez)
The one point you raise that I wholeheartedly agree with is your recognition of the contributions of Justice Thurgood Marshal and his transformation of the legal and racial landscape. As an attorney Justice Marshal remains one of my heroes and is the most important Supreme Court justice in U.S. history. But I consider the Sotomayor nomination as part of the historical continuum of the Latino contribution to the broader struggle for civil rights. It is the cross fertilization of our communities struggle for legal equality.

For example, in the case of Mendez v. Westminster, nine years before Brown vs. the Board of Education, on March 2, 1945, five Latino fathers (Gonzalo Mendez, Thomas Estrada, William Guzman, Frank Palomino, and Lorenzo Ramirez) challenged the practice of school segregation in the Ninth Federal District Court in Los Angeles. They claimed that their children, along with 5,000 other children of “Mexican and Latin descent”, were victims of unconstitutional discrimination by being forced to attend separate “Mexican” schools in the Westminster, Garden Grove, Santa Ana, and El Modeno school districts of Orange County. Judge Paul J. McCormick ruled in favor of Mendez and his co-plaintiffs on February 18, 1946. As a result “separate but equal” ended in California schools and legally enforced separation of racial and national groups in the public education system. The governor of the state at this time was Earl Warren who later decided Brown.
I will not go on to cite all the contributions of Sotomayor this gifted jurist who is a legatee of our contributions to our struggle for social justice. Anybody with roots in our community understands this reality and can readily access her contributions through the internet or the written and oral histories of our community if they so desired.
Third, you maintain that her legal experience a “mere 12 years of legal experience” five as a prosecutor and 7 for and corporate firm is not significant. Perhaps in your analysis you failed to mention that Justice Sotomayor has more legal experience that any of the nominees on the present court had at the time. Even more troubling is your transparent attempts to cherry pick those cases that would present Justice Sotomayor in a negative pro-corporate light. As the New York Times indicated Justice Sotomayor would bring more federal judicial experience to the Supreme Court than any justice in 100 years and more overall judicial experience than anyone confirmed in the court in the past 70 years. She participated in over 3000 panel decisions and authored roughly 400 opinions.
Fourthly, you establish a false causal connection between the Rockefeller Drug laws and the development of the prison-industrial complex and Sotomayor. The article argues that during this period Sotomayor as a prosecutor did not inject herself in this scandalous imprisonment of people of color. I frankly don’t see the connection, did Sotomayor cause this situation? During this same historical period Puerto Ricans were held as Puerto Rican political prisoners in American prisons and many progressive lawyers did not speak out. Many jurist, liberals, and yes progressive of color have not played a leading role in denouncing the colonization of the Puerto Rican people (America’s last colony), despite the efforts of our people to bring our situation to the courts, yet I would not blame them for assisting the colonizers in their silence.
Five, you use a corporate news media source like the Wall Street Journal to argue that Justice Sotomayor not only represented corporate clients but rejoiced in that representation. You note that absent from the conversation is a cursory review of her (Sotomayor’s) legal career then proceed to offer your readers a less than cursory review of your own. I am particularly disturbed on how your article cherry picked the cases that pigeon hole the judge as pro-business- but conveniently ignored other decisions such as the 2006 case Merrill Lynch v. Dabit where she allowed class action lawsuits against Merrill Lynch or her ruling in favor of the players (workers) in the major league baseball strike. As many scholars have noted that her opinions do not necessarily put her in a pro- or anti-business camp. (New York Times-May 28)
It might also have been more intellectually honest to note the civil liberties decision by the Justice in the Ricci case allowing the city of New Haven to reject an exam that discriminated against African American and Latinos or her support against insensitive strip search of a 13 year old girl as intrusive. Or the case of United States v. Reimer where Judge Sotomayor wrote an opinion revoking the US citizenship for a man charged with working for the Nazis in World War II Poland, guarding concentration camps and helping empty the Jewish ghettos. And in Lin v. Gonzales where she ordered renewed consideration of the asylum claims of Chinese women who experienced or were threatened with forced birth control
I would add that while I would not reject the argument that many of the Justice’s experience have also been corporate friendly as is most of the court, I don’t believe we have any “revolutionaries” on the bench. Will the nomination of Sotomayor destroy the corporate state/capitalism or free people of color from the racial oppression in the United States- no but is it a significant step forward- yes.
I am particularly troubled with the overall tenor of your article characterizing Justice Sotomayor as a “zealot advocate for multinational business” and an “easy out for progressives around the Sotomayor nomination is to waste all their time and oxygen debating Republicans, ridiculing and refuting their racism.” I am a progressive and I wholeheartedly reject your advice. Justice Sotomayor is reflective of the Puerto Rican/Latino experience in the United States. I would submit to you Mr. Dixon that recognizing a community’s leadership is about “respect” and I view your article as disrespectful and a cavalier dismissal of our historical experience.
As a New York born Puerto Rican I have spent a large part of my life organizing in the Latino community and struggling to build bridges between Latinos and African Americans. From the struggles against police brutality, to the Jackson campaign in 1984 and 1988, to support for the election of Mayor Dinkins, to the endorsement of candidate Obama for the Presidency who received 67 percent of the Latino vote. It is in the interest of both African Americans and Latinos to continue to cement the historical alliance between our communities and against the white supremacy that has relegated both our communities to the bottom of the economic ladder. “Sticking it” to our leaders and refusing to recognize the different levels of our “racialization” of our respective communities does not lend itself to that goal. It instead diminishes solidarity, weakens alliances, and deprives our communities of the benefits of sharing experiences.
As a regular reader of BAR I have enormous appreciation for the insight your publication has on issues of importance to all communities of color. I have read with interest your critiques of President Obama and embrace of Rosa Clemente’s candidacy as the first Afro-Puerto Rican Vice-Presidential candidate for the Green Party. That is why I was bitterly disappointed at your blind spot on the importance of the nomination of Sotomayor as “historical milestone.” The first African American President nominating the first Latina to the U.S. Supreme Court is reflective of a new Black-Brown paradigm in America where all contributions are fully recognized. We must bring together the legacies of those “those who picked cotton and those that cut sugar cane.” However, with all due respect, this will not be accomplished by promoting anti-Latino sentiments in the mainstream press.
Howard Jordan, host
The Jordan Journal
WBAI-Pacifica

Albizu Campos Staged Reading

Friday, May 16th, 2008

The Last Revolutionary: Don Pedro Albizu Campos by Alberto Vazquez

I’d like to invite you to a stage reading June 2nd @ 7PM.  It is at The Producer’s Club: 358 W. 44 St. / Crown Theater.  Check attachment.

I have written an political drama epic with music and dance that is based on a true event. I think you will find it both a remarkably conceived and extremely timely theater project.

Don Pedro Albizu Campos was the brilliant Harvard graduate from Puerto Rico.  In the 1920’s he began his quest to free Puerto Rico from colonialism.  He dedicated his life struggling against America’s hold on the island.  After years of incarceration and radiation torture, he succumbed in 1965, but his iconic personality lives as an inspiration for Latinos alike.

THE ACTORS
Alberto VAZQUEZ
Francisco Rivela
Denia Brache
Edouardo DeSoto
JORGE RIOS
Arlen Dean Snyder
Bob Lavelle
Rosie Berrido
Oriana Navarro
Gary Cruz
Carlos Jimenez
Beatriz Quinones

RSVP: 917.286.0466