Bad Brains: Sacred Love

Even though books have been written and films have been made about Washington, D.C. punk band Bad Brains, their influence on white American culture is obscured in a way that will be familiar to anyone who’s even an armchair student of the parasitic process of white supremacy. And though they were a primary—if not the primary—inspiration to Minor Threat, Fugazi, Black Flag, Cro-Mags, Nirvana, and other bands, the four original members of Bad Brains won’t ever accumulate the cash or social capital those bands have. To make a long story short: America’s most fiery, technically skilled, and innovative hardcore punk band was Black, which meant that its contributions to American culture weren’t going to be recognized until they’d been appropriated and reconstituted by white practitioners. This is why Ian MacKaye has got some millions in the bank, while Bad Brains vocalist H.R. lives modestly in Philly, and guitarist Dr. Know was employed for many years at a grocery store in Woodstock, New York.

There are plenty of other ways whiteness dogged Bad Brains its entire career. The following anecdote is just one.

In 1986 the band was at a recording studio in rural Massachusetts, at work on the rasta-metal album I Against I with producer Ron Saint Germain. After all but one of the vocal tracks had been recorded, H.R. informed Saint Germain he had to immediately jump in a car to return to D.C. in order to turn himself in to serve time for a marijuana charge.

The two of them eventually devised a way for H.R. to record the vocals for “Sacred Love”: over the phone from Lorton Reformatory in Laurel Hill, Virginia. “H.R. unscrewed the mouthpiece of the telephone so that there could be no background noise, and sang into it.”

No matter how much Bad Brains has been emulated, appropriated, and even incarcerated, H.R., Dr. Know, Darryl Jenifer, and Earl Hudson are still out there, and their listeners multiply at an exponential rate. Check out how Ypsilanti media artist Ashanti Africana has brought “Sacred Love” to the screen:
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Michigan Prisoner Art Exhibition

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March 22–April 5, 2017
Duderstadt Center Gallery
2281 Bonisteel Blvd., Ann Arbor

Gallery hours: Sunday and Monday, 12–6 p.m.;
Tuesday–Saturday, 10 a.m.–7 p.m.
Sales begin March 22, 6 p.m.
Exhibition closes April 5, 5 p.m.

Opening Reception

Wednesday, March 22, 7 p.m.
 Duderstadt Center Gallery

Keynote by Dr. Heather Thompson
The Attica Prison Uprising and Why It Matters Today

Tuesday, March 28, 7 p.m.
 Duderstadt Center Gallery

In 1971 nearly 1,300 prisoners began one of the 20th century’s most important protests for better conditions and basic human rights. Their struggle was ended brutally by the state of New York with vast consequences for criminal justice policy in this country. Dr. Thompson spent more than a decade recovering this history for her book Blood in the Water, a National Book Award Finalist. It is a story of hope, horror, heroism, and even a most shocking cover up. In this talk, Dr. Thompson will share Attica’s history, as well as explain why this history matters today.

EcoJustice & Activism 2017

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All events are located in Porter Hall on EMU’s campus.

Thursday March 16

7:00 pm
Opening Keynote Address: Robert Jensen
Porter 202

Friday March 17

9:00 am–10:00 am Concurrent Session One

Porter 203        Our Voices Will Be Heard: Murals as Youth Activism in Ypsilanti

Lynne Settles, Nick Azzaro (Ypsilanti Community High School), Jermaine Dickerson (artist), Rhea Mcaughley, Mark Tucker (Lloyd Hall Scholars University of Michigan) and YCHS students: Doriyanna Hudson, Maximilian Harper, Teilo Wessells, Christy Witkowski, Tori Williams, Gabriela Herrera, Grace Villarreal-Silva, Ashley Gimmey, Sam Read

Facilitator: Lisa Voelker

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Michigan Abolition and Prisoner Solidarity Website

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Exciting news from the folks at MAPS:

Today we launch the Michigan Abolition and Prisoner Solidarity (MAPS) website. MAPS came together in the wake of the nationwide September 9, 2016 prisoner strike to organize in solidarity with prisoners against the violence of incarceration. To further their fight, we urge you:

Visit the site and share it with your comrades and contacts.

The MAPS website provides a timeline of events leading to the actions in Michigan’s Kinross prison on September 9 and the subsequent and ongoing retaliation against Kinross rebels. It also features recent letters from those imprisoned inside Kinross, plus annotated media coverage of the uprising and analysis of the spark that led to the largest and most widespread prisoner strike in US history. Lastly: it highlights support actions you can take.

Check out the MAPS website right now! Then spread the word (and the link).

Join our political commitment to amplify the voices of the imprisoned, as they struggle against the violence of mass incarceration.

In struggle,
—MAPS

Islamophobia in Washtenaw County

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[Editor’s note: The Islamic Center of Ypsilanti, located at 5909 W. Michigan Ave., was burned this weekend. Half a year ago we reprinted the following Ann Arbor News story by Tom Perkins, and we’re rerunning it today to call attention to the fact that Washtenaw County was made a fertile ground for Islamophobic crimes even before the election of Trump. In fact, as you’ll read, it was Pittsfield Township officials who set an early precedent for exclusion.]

A Washtenaw County township that denied plans for an Islamic school has reached settlements in separate lawsuits filed by the U.S. Justice Department and Council on American-Islamic Relations.

The Michigan Islamic Academy and its attorneys at CAIR-MI say the settlement is a victory, while the township continues to deny wrongdoing.

The Justice Department filed a Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Person Act (RLUIPA) lawsuit in U.S. District Court in October. It alleges Pittsfield Township placed undue burden on the Michigan Islamic Academy by denying its request to rezone a 26-acre parcel at the Golfside and Ellsworth roads intersection in October 2011.

The township will pay MIA $1.7 million to settle the CAIR-MI suit, which was filed in 2012. The group’s attorneys say the sum is “one of the largest-ever RLUIPA settlements.” The settlement also allows MIA to proceed with plans to build a 70,000-square-foot Islamic school along with a small residential development that serves as a buffer between it and an existing subdivision.

The Justice Department settlement further requires township officials to “provide training within 90 days of entry of the consent decree to its officials, employees and contractors on the requirements of RLUIPA.”

The township will also be required to post signage at entrances to the Pittsfield Township Hall and post on its website that the township doesn’t “… apply its zoning or land use laws in a manner that imposes a substantial burden on the religious exercise of persons, including a religious assembly or institution …” and does not discriminate on basis of religion.

At its Wednesday, Sept. 28 meeting, the Pittsfield Township Board of Trustees approved resolutions to settle both lawsuits. The court still must approve the settlements.

Pittsfield Supervisor Mandy Grewal said the settlement will be paid by the township’s insurer. She also noted that it requires a residential development with “significant landscape buffering” to be built between the proposed school and adjacent residential lots.

The township and board “emphatically deny any wrongdoing, discrimination or violation of law,” Grewal said in a written statement.

Lena Masri, a CAIR-MI attorney, characterized the outcome as a “landmark settlement.”

“We welcome the settlement with Pittsfield Township and hope the outcome of this case will serve as a deterrent to other municipalities throughout the country seeking to deny Muslim institutions the right to build or expand their facilities on the basis of religion,” she said.

After a long and emotional planning process throughout 2010 and 2011, the township concluded that the academy had not addressed its concerns over zoning, the visual impact on a neighboring subdivision, noise and increased traffic.

“The original proposal that was rejected by the township called for high-volume, multi-use facilities with little to no buffering,” Grewal said in her statement. “The Township’s position from the beginning was and continues to be about protecting existing residents in this region from land uses that were not originally envisioned when they purchased their homes.”

The academy disputed the township’s claims and said the school met all the township’s requirements. It charged that the Pittsfield Township Planning Commission repeatedly “moved the goalposts” on those issues. The school and CAIR-MI argued that the planning commission and board of trustees blocked the plans because it called for an Islamic school. That constituted discrimination, CAIR-MI contended.

It forwarded the case to the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, which filed the lawsuit.

The Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Person Act enacted in 2000 by Congress, prohibits religious discrimination and protects against unjustified burdens on religious exercise.

Masri said those in the Muslim community seeking to build institutions in recent years have faced strong and often successful opposition, and she hopes the case will change that trend.

“Hopefully the outcome of this case will send a strong message to the Muslim community that if we stand for our rights together, then our rights will be vindicated,” she said. “Hopefully it will also send a strong message to municipalities not to discriminate on the basis of religion.”

The Dispute

The school, now operating in Ann Arbor, sought to build on the property because its current building is overcrowded and lacking the room “for a cafeteria, computer or science labs, private space for guidance counseling, a gymnasium, locker rooms, auditorium, library, kitchen or adequate administrative office space,” the Justice Department wrote in its complaint.

Over 60 percent of the school’s families lived in Pittsfield Township, which borders Ann Arbor, at the time.

On August 5, 2011, a split Pittsfield Township Planning Commission voted to recommend the Pittsfield Township Board of Trustees reject the rezoning request. At its Oct. 26, 2011, meeting, the Board unanimously voted to do so without any discussion.

Planning commissioners voting against plans stated concerns regarding internal traffic circulation and the potential for new traffic issues on Golfside and Ellsworth. They also feared site lighting and noise would disturb residents in the neighboring Silverleaf subdivision, and several stated that plans didn’t include adequate landscape screening.

Many Silverleaf residents were vocal in their opposition to the project throughout the planning approval process. They repeatedly stated during public comment at planning commission meetings that their opposition was based in safety and traffic concerns, and had nothing to do with religion. School officials said at the time those statements were “obviously not true.”

The township also argued that the proposed building is not a “small-scale school” as is permitted by the township’s master plan. The land is zoned residential planned-use development and would have needed to be rezoned for the school to be built.

Commissioners Amy Longcore, Deborah Williams and Michael Yi voted against the rezoning. Commissioners Matthew Payne and Ann Harris voted in favor of it. Commissioners Chris Wall and George Ralph weren’t present.

Wall no longer serves on the planning commission.

The Justice Department’s Case

The Justice Department disagreed with the township’s points, stating in the complaint that the academy met all rezoning requirements. It also noted that the township approved plans for similar schools, including the Washtenaw Christian Academy and the Ypsilanti Free Methodist Church.

MIA attorneys previously said that the school spent “tens of thousands of dollars” more than other applicants in its effort to address the Planning Commission’s concerns.

The Justice Department contends the academy addressed all issues regarding noise, lighting and landscaping, and added MIA officials were willing to build a wall between their property and Silverleaf. Additionally, school officials planned to point lights away from the subdivision.

In 2011, academy officials commissioned two traffic-impact studies requested by the township, and both determined the school wouldn’t cause congestion or other issues. The preliminary plans were approved by the Washtenaw County Road Commission, and, according to the Justice Department, township planning consultant Richard Carlisle said at the time that internal traffic circulation could be “addressed at the next stage” of the planning process.

In regards to township claims that the school’s proposed size wasn’t consistent with the township’s master plan, the Justice Department wrote that the commission again contradicted Carlisle.

During the planning process, school officials scrapped plans for a prayer room and community center after the township and neighbors voiced concern over the increased activity each would bring. The school also reduced its proposed capacity to 360 students, and wouldn’t have permitted kids to drive or bike to school.

Prior to the township voting to reject the zoning request, a CAIR attorney provided a point by point report that demonstrated that the school met all the township’s requests.

The Justice Department also charged that Planning Commissioner Deborah Williams lived in Silverleaf and “actively organized residents to oppose MIA’s petition, including by instructing them regarding what objections to raise.”

In May, Ypsilanti Township officials said a group associated with the MIA are proposing a 28,000-square-foot mosque for land on Ellsworth just east of Golfside.

For more information, as well as a link to donate to the rebuilding of the Center, check out this Keep Ypsi Black post.

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Mission: Save the Soul

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This Friday night, local emcee Andre Upton, aka FLWR CHLD, is assisting a mission to “expand the essence of music created within …” The Mission, more specifically, is to “Save THE Soul,” presented by Friends w/ Benefits and featuring FLWR CHLD, Qween Louie, and Soultry, with Amber Fellows spinning music between sets, at Bona Sera Underground. Funds raised will benefit the local music festival No More Parties in Ann Arbor, a summer street party curated by T.R.I.B.E. and interactive multimedia project Keep Ypsi Black.

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Brennon Nastacio Fundraiser

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From the organizers:

Brennon Nastacio is a water protector who faced serious criminal charges after disarming a DAPL employee who showed up with an AR-15 at Pueblo Camp. Instead of being honored for keeping people safe in a tense and dangerous situation, he found himself in a protracted legal battle that restricted his ability to return home, work, and care for his two children. Today he is setting up a new life in Bismarck, North Dakota where he has been court ordered to remain for the foreseeable future. To learn more about his story, watch the coverage from The Young Turks and Democracy Now.

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