Tag Archives: sonic watermelons

From Sonic Watermelons to the State House: Fighting to End Racial Profiling in RI

7 Mar

Click above to hear an excerpt from an interview about Racial Profiling in RI with youth leaders, ‎Sangress Xiong and Yonara Alvarado, and community organizer, Franny Choi, from Providence Youth Student Movement (PrYSM).  An extended interview can be heard here.

PROVIDENCE, RI – Have you ever been stopped and thought it was because of your race/ethnicity or age, or been searched and thought, I’m sure this is illegal?  If you answered yes to one of these questions, you may have experienced a practice once known as “Driving While Black” but better known these days as Racial Profiling.

Did you know that you can speak out against this practice?  Today, Wednesday, March 7, community members and advocates are expected to show up en masse to share their views on racial profiling in RI at a hearing at the State House before the House Committee on Judiciary.  Starting at 4:30 PM, the legislative committee will hear testimony about several bills related to motorists; the Comprehensive Racial Profiling Prevention Act is one of the bills.

But folks have been speaking out on the topic for years, including youth and adult advocates from Providence Youth Student Movement (PrYSM), an organization founded to support Southeast Asian Youth in Providence.  Hear more about their work in the video above or here in this extended podcast of excerpts from my February 15 interview with PrYSM youth leaders, ‎Sangress Xiong and Yonara Alvarado, and PrYSM staffer Franny Choi.  It aired lived on my weekly program, Sonic Watermelons on Brown Student and Community Radio.

During the interview, Xiong, Alvarado and Choi talk about recent campaign actions, like the February press conference introducing House Bill 7256, the making of the local documentary called Fitting the Description, and other recent activities that they have participated in with PrYSM and the Coalition Against Racial Profiling.  Alvarado (who is Latina) says she became passionate about the topic after being in the car and witnessing racial profiling when her uncle was stopped by an officer, and subsequently feeling less faith in whether officers are best serving the community; Xiong, who is Hmong (Southeast Asian), helps explain how a practice once known as “Driving while Black” has expanded to include not only the Latino/Hispanic community, but the Southeast Asian community in Providence as well – including friends and neighbors of his.

I also spoke with the three guests about the benefits and limitations of using digital media tools to collect stories from people who’ve been subjected to racial profiling, and for doing outreach about legislative efforts like the Comprehensive Racial Profiling Prevention Act that will be reviewed and discussed at next Wednesday’s House Judiciary hearing.  The ten-page bill deals primarily with conduct during motor vehicle stops and searches, and among the provisions are:

  • Requirements for officers to document (in writing) the “reasonable suspicion” or “probable cause” grounds for conducting a search of any motor vehicle,
  • A determination that identification requested during traffic stops be limited to driver’s license, motor vehicle registration, and/or proof of insurance, and (unless there is probable cause of criminal activity) only asked of drivers
  • A mandate to create standard policies and protocols for police vehicles using recording equipment, such as documenting every stop that is made and prohibiting the tampering or disengagement of equipment.

In addition to collecting the probable cause information, the bill would require officers to collect data on race during stops – and departments to maintain and report this data at intervals over a 4 year period.  Choi says collecting data is key to ending racially divisive practices, and – along with the ACLU in their work on the topic – points to a local, southern RI city for proof of its inclusion in the bill as being “effective legislation.”

In Narragansett, says Choi in the excerpts, the department began collecting information without the legislation, and found a drop in “racial disparities in stops” after instituting the policy.  The ACLU also found recent actions and improvements in Johnston.  At the end of the day, says Choi, “when you’re pulling someone over, have a reason to pull them over.”


To connect with PrYSM about their work on Racial Profiling, visit www.prysm.us or emailfranny@prysm.us.  For more information about the Coalition Against Racial Profiling or next Wednesday’s hearing, contact Nick Figueroa of the Univocal Legislative Minority Advisory Coalition (ULMAC) by email at policy@ulmac.org.  Anyone can attend the hearing and sign up to testify, but Figueroa highly encourages anyone who would be testifying for the first time to contact him in advance for information and tips on the process of giving testimonies and what to expect in the hearing.  For example, four other bills are scheduled to be discussed on the same night and in the same hearing (meeting), so 4:30 may be the start-time for the hearing, but not necessarily when the Racial Profiling Bill is addressed.

Pieces of this article also appeared in a March 2 article on RIFuture.org, while Sonic Watermelons airs live every Wednesday, from 6-8 PM (EST) at www.bsrlive.com.  Additional clips from the interview can be heard here in an extended podcast of the interview.

Payday Reform and Policy Change: A Sonic Watermelons Podcast About Legislation in RI

21 Feb

Click here to listen a segment of my February 8, 2012 conversation with advocates Margaux Morriseau and Nick Figueroa of the RI Coalition for Payday Reform.

PROVIDENCE, RI – Are Rhode Islanders paying fees for loans that are higher than what residents in other states are paying? The answer in some cases is yes – 260% versus 36%. Learn more about the type of loans that charge these rates, the impact of these loans on RI families, and what you can do to stop the practice in this excerpt from my interview with Margaux Morriseau and Nick Figueroa of the RI Coalition for Payday Reform. It’s from the February 8, 2012 edition of Sonic Watermelons on BSR (Brown Student and Community Radio) – a show I produce as part of my work on VenusSings.com and with Isis Storm, a collective of artists, writers, and educators who empower women and underserved communities through performances, workshops, and media projects.

For more information on the topic, click here to listen to the full interview or click on the handouts provided below by the RI Coalition for Payday Reform.

FYI:  Hear Sonic Watermelons live every Wednesday, from 6:00-8:00 PM…

Presented by Venus Sings and Isis Storm
Because the World is a Big Place
With Big Ideas and Lots and Lots of Music

Live or archived: bsrlive.com
Studio phonelines: 401-863-9277
Contact: IsisStorm.com, VenusSings.com

Philadelphia-based Women and Media Activist Group, FAAN Mail, Launch Campaign Supporting Ethnic Studies in Arizona

3 Feb

By Reza Clifton / Reza Rites

Click here to check out my recent interview with Nuala Cabral and Denice Frohman of FAAN Mail, a Philadelphia-based media activist group that has launched a social media campaign (on Twitter, primarily, #WishiLearnedinHS), “Wished I Learned in High School,” in response to policies in Arizona restricting ethnic studies programs.  Click on the video above to learn about on-the-ground protests in Arizona.

(PROVIDENCE, RI; PHILADELPHIA, PA; TUCSON, AZ) – When does learning about non-Europeans/non-Whites in the US constitute promoting resentment toward a race or class?

When does learning about the development of the US and manifest destiny and those who opposed such policies cross the line to become promoting the overthrow of the US government?

When did a class providing awareness about the societal and civic contributions of one of this country’s minority/ethnic groups become illegal?

These are some of the questions being asked by activists, students, and journalists all over the country, though the answer to number three might be more clear: it’s been over a year since the governor of Arizona signed into law House Bill 2281, “which prohibits a school district or charter school (in Arizona) from including in its program of instruction any courses or classes that promote the overthrow of the United States government, promote resentment toward a race or class of people, are designed primarily for pupils of a particular ethnic group, or advocate ethnic solidarity instead of the treatment of pupils as individuals.”

Yet it is recent events that have re-stirred up the questions, concerns, and heated debates on the topic: the final termination of the Mexican American Studies program in Tucson, Arizona – and the removal of corresponding books from Tucson schools that are now part of a list of banned literature.

Critics of the legislation say that the policies curtail teacher creativity, and call the law an attempt to further silence and marginalize people of color in a state becoming infamous for what many view as one anti-immigrant or anti-Brown policy after another.  Supporters of the state law – and the recent move by Tucson officials – cite the Mexican American Studies program as an example of a program that promotes one racial/ethnic group over all others, and say that programs like these promote a victimization mentality.

But critics aren’t buying it, and they’re not standing by quietly.  Two such activists are Nuala Cabral and Denice Frohman of FAAN Mail (Fostering Activism and Alternatives Now!), www.faanmail.wordpress.com. FAAN Mail is a media literacy/media activism project formed by women of color to promote pro-active audiences and creative alternatives.

Cabral and Frohman are based in Philadelphia, MA, but they’re not letting geography stop their actions.  On the contrary, Cabral, Frohman and the FAAN Mail community have launched a social media campaign (on Twitter, primarily, #WishiLearnedinHS), “Wished I Learned in High School,” to collect and share stories from people who can speak to the benefits they’ve gained from Ethnic Studies programs and to the regrets they feel about not getting enough exposure to the stories of people of color, women, LGBT writers, and other voices in their K-12 years.

Cabral and Frohoman say they are outraged that racist/conservative ideology has prevailed over data on programs that have been proven to be effective for students of color (who are at more risk for dropping out), and bothered that what hasn’t been acknowledged is the idea that there are already preferential treatments built into the educational system – those that favor the stories, ideas, history and perspectives of wealthy, western, white men.

Click here to check out my audio podcast/interview with Cabral and Frohman, which was recorded and originally aired on Sonic Watermelons on bsrlive.com on Wednesday, February 1.  Click here to see a short video about some of the on-the-ground student and community organizing.

Or check out the links below to learn more about the FAAN Mail campaign and the Arizona saga.

%d bloggers like this: