When the Womb is a Crime Scene

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“A woman can be charged with chemical endangerment from the earliest weeks of pregnancy, even if her baby is born perfectly healthy, even if her goal was to protect her baby from greater harm. The penalties are exceptionally stiff: one to 10 years in prison if her baby suffers no ill effects, 10 to 20 years if her baby shows signs of exposure or harm and 10 to 99 years if her baby dies.”

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The Tide that Rolls

“When Hernando de Soto embarked on his civilizing mission through what would later become the American South, he left behind a trail of misery that extended from Florida to the eastern edge of the Rocky Mountains. Accompanied by priests, de Soto and his men burned their way through native villages, enslaving local citizens in iron neck collars and chains to work as beasts of burdens. The expedition was hungry for wealth, and when one slave fell from exhaustion, de Soto would behead him so as not to impede the progress of the journey. However, de Soto’s expedition was slowed down in 1540 by Tuscaloosa, the Black Warrior, king of the Mobiles. Historical accounts describe the Black Warrior as a man of gigantic stature, a commanding eminence who died, along with 11,000 of his subjects, in an intense battle with de Soto’s forces.

The Black Warrior River that winds along the western edge of Hale County, Alabama, takes its name from this decimate king. It flows from Bankhead Lake as a thin line and then opens into a thick-waisted body of water. Rivers like the Black Warrior are always somehow larger than life. They move like time, carrying along everything in their drift; they dry up and overflow and, like the history whose relentless current they suggest, constantly change shape. The land through which the Black Warrior curls is rich with defeat. One has only to kick at its red surface to detect the layers of hurt beneath it. Yet, there is a loveliness to the place that may come in part from the conflicting myths of freedom that shadow its soil. In the paintings, collages, drawings, and architecture of Samuel Mockbee, these shadows complicate everything living under them.

In these shadows, Mockbee has created a rural mythology. A place akin to William Faulkner’s Yoknapatawpha County, it is a living fiction in which Mockbee’s architecture, his wealthy clients, the projects of the Rural Studio, and its poor clients are interwoven with one another. This mythology is a work in progress. It is a process that continues to unfold as personal memories intersect with public histories and the poor and the black become Black Warriors, mother goddess, master of knots of fate, ciphers endowed with an agency that allows them to throw their sex hundreds of yards across a lake.”

-Samuel Mockbee and An Architecture of Decency

AL Teen Chokes to Death, Suffers Cardiac Arrest at Hands of Police

HUNTSVILLE, Alabama — A Huntsville teen who died after being arrested by Huntsville police in a drug sting suffered broken ribs, had a flashlight shoved in his mouth and suffered cardiac arrest while officers sat on him, a federal lawsuit alleges.

The 17-year-old choked, began vomiting and lost consciousness while handcuffed but officers refused to render aid, according to the lawsuit filed by Nancy Smith, the teen’s mother. Police told paramedics they thought the teen had overdosed, but the lawsuit said no signs of an overdose have been found.

The officers, who had sent an informer to buy drugs from the teen, held the teen down and inserted two pens and the butt of a flashlight into his mouth searching for contraband. They didn’t find any. The boy could not breathe and had turned blue by the time paramedics arrived, according to the complaint.

He died on June 18, 2013, five days after being transported to Huntsville Hospital.

“Alabama’s Racial Gerrymandering Goes Before Supreme Court”

One year after Shelby v. Holder and the and the gutting of the Voting Rights Act, Al Jazeera America has some incredible reporting out of Alabama, where the state is once again taking on the United States Supreme Court like it was a S.E.C. championship game.

“It goes back to the 2010 election, when Republicans gained control of the state legislature for the first time since Reconstruction. The GOP now occupies the governor’s seat, every elected, statewide executive-branch office and supermajorities in both houses. The legislators in this majority are exclusively white. . .”

“. . . Alabama is still ‘one of the most polarized electorates in the nation,” said Richard Cohen, president of the Southern Poverty Law Center. By packing high concentrations of black voters into majority-minority districts, he said, the state has created “bleached white districts and super-majority black districts where candidates for public office have little incentive to reach across the racial divide to appeal to voters of a different race. The [Supreme Court] case is important because we need, as a state, to reverse the pattern of polarized voting, not to exacerbate it.”