My TV Segment & Open Letter to Washington Redskins Owner Dan Snyder

Screenshot.
Dear Dan Snyder, owner of the Washington Redskins…

In case you missed my segment on Alicia Menendez Tonight (which airs weeknights @7pm ET on the new Fusion network) you can watch it here…or tune in tonight @7:30pm ET. If you don’t have Fusion, you can watch the video HERE.

We’re more than half-way through November and for Native Americans like me, that means we’ve made it through Halloween–a holiday that makes Indigenous people groan at Pocahotties and Indian braves costumes. Once we get past the construction paper headdresses that Thanksgiving brings, there’s still just one more issue to tackle on the calendar: Washington’s NFL team, the Redskins.

Are you listening, Dan Snyder? Your Washington NFL team needs a name change.

Countless organizations and news outlets have come out in support of that change and have agreed to stop using your team’s name at all:

  • President Obama
  • Mayor of Washington DC, Vincent Gray
  • The Oneida Indian Nation
  • Sports Illustrated’s site Monday Morning Quarter Back
  • Slate
  • Washington City Paper
  • The Kansas City Star
  • MotherJones
  • New Republic
  • Native American Journalists Association
  • American Indian Movement
  • Washington, D.C. City Council
  • Rep. Dan Maffei, D-N.Y.
  • Kat Williams

…just to name a few!

But if TMZ’s got it right, Dan – never going to change the name – Snyder, you may be renaming your team the Washington Bravehearts, you’ve missed the point.

[…more at Fusion.net]

Love it? Hate it? Share it either way: http://fus.in/1h3gEsy  and then hit me up on Twitter @amystretten!

Happy Native American Heritage Month!

-NativeJournalist

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Columbia University Paves the Way for West Harlem Expansion

A sign on the side of the Tuck-It-Away self storage facility in West Harlem reads in both English and Spanish, "Stop Columbia! We won't be pushed out!"

The U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear an appeal by West Harlem business owners of Columbia University’s use of eminent domain on Monday. This paves the way for Columbia to expand their campus into the manufacturing zone of Manhattanville and means local business owners and residents must move.

In June, the New York State Court of Appeals ruled that Columbia could begin condemning private properties in the area using eminent domain—the process by which the government seizes private property for the “public good,” in exchange for payment of fair market value—as justification. The Supreme Court’s refusal to hear the appeal this week means there is nothing standing in Columbia University’s way.

After a four-year battle, building owners and tenants will have to vacate the properties in the area to allow for the university to proceed with their $6.3 billion development project of the 17-acre site that sits just north of Columbia’s Morningside Heights campus. According to the Columbia University Campus Planning Task Force, the area “consists primarily of the four large blocks from 129th to 133rd Streets between Broadway and Twelfth Avenue, including the north side of 125th Street, as well as three properties on the east side of Broadway from 131st to 134th Streets.”

The university will build mixed-use spaces as well as research facilities and classrooms for their business, arts, science and math and engineering schools. Those in support of the project maintain that this will improve the blighted neighborhood and create thousands of jobs.

“An institution like Columbia, committed to research and teaching, in addition to public service, has enormous value to the surrounding city,” University President Lee Bollinger told the Columbia Spectator earlier this year.

However, Nick Sprayregen, owner of Manhattanville storage company Tuck-It-Away, which will be forced to vacate does not agree. Though calls to Sprayregen were not immediately returned, in a series of YouTube videos about his uphill battle with Columbia University, he says, this condemnation is being used “in an abusive way and in a way that I think is unconstitutional in that the beneficiary is a private school.”

In addition to Tuck-It-Away, a handful of low-rise commercial buildings as well as two gas stations and a McDonald’s will be forced to move.

Tachira Tavarez, a neighborhood resident, agrees with Sprayregen. “I don’t think it’s fair. Where does the school expect us to go? They keep pushing us out,” she said.

This newest development project is not the first time Columbia has come after land in the West Harlem area.

Background:

According to the Coalition to Preserve Community (CPC), Columbia University has “actively pursued a policy of privatizing community facilities and displacing low-income residents in the surrounding communities.” On their website, stopcolumbia.org, they outline what they consider “decades of assaults which lave laid the groundwork for [Columbia University’s] current efforts.”

CPC says they can trace the “assaults” as far back as 1947 when Morningside Heights Inc. (of which Columbia University is a member), initially led and funded by David Rockefeller, sought out to stop “white-flight” and the growth of the Hispanic and Black communities in Harlem.

From 1954-1957, the university demolished 10-acres of land closest to the campus. The residents who were forced to vacate, according to CPC, were almost all low-income families.

The university purchased more than one hundred buildings in the area during the 1960s, in an effort to save the university. Then, according to CPC, as the new landlords, the university raised the rent again, displacing hundreds more minority and low-income residents from the area.

In 1968, Columbia attempted to take part of Morningside Park, in order to construct a private gymnasium for its students and faculty, according to CPC.
The local community as well as Columbia University students, who supported them, started one of the most effective uprisings on any U.S. college campus, taking over campus buildings, forcing the university to shut down for the rest of the term. The protesters sought to stop the project because it would have “privatized parkland that was once open to the public” and had “overtly racist overtones.”

According to CPC, in only eight years, Columbia University displaced over 3,000 Manhattanville residents by purchasing, and in most cases demolishing, the apartment buildings in which they lived.

As a mostly white university at its inception, to this day many see Columbia as a colonist and Harlem residents (the minority and low-income tenants in particular), as the Native Americans it keeps displacing to make room for their expansion.

“Columbia’s presence seems really oppressive,” Tavarez said. “I know it’s a prestigious university, but most people in this community won’t ever even have a chance of going there. It just doesn’t seem fair.”

The present issue:

According to Community Board 9 District Manager, Eutha Prince, who oversees Manhattanville, the issue of gentrification has been a problem for years.

“I have seen countless businesses close and many people leave the area,” she said. “They either can no longer afford to rent or they are forced to move by [Columbia University] expansion efforts. Gentrification is a big problem here in West Harlem.”

Despite the objections, according to the university’s Planning Task Force, the university is committed to creating “a new kind of urban academic environment that will be woven into the fabric of the surrounding community.”

The plan features “new facilities for civic, cultural, recreational, and commercial activity,” according to a statement on their website. “And its improved, pedestrian-friendly streets and new publicly accessible open spaces will reconnect West Harlem to the new Hudson River waterfront park,” the statement said.

While some feel that these improvements are at a great cost, others are looking forward to the changes.

“I actually think [the project] is a great idea,” Anne, an undergrad at Columbia, said. Anne declined to provide her last name, saying her opinion conflicts greatly with the majority of her classmates.

According to the task force, this kind of growth will generate thousands of new local jobs and ensure “Upper Manhattan remains a world center for knowledge, creativity, and solutions for society’s challenges.”

Despite some objections from the community, Columbia University’s 25-year expansion plan is expected to improve the appearance and overall property value of Manhattanville. The plans include major infrastructure improvements, including a renovated 125th Street subway station. In addition, the university plans to build a school for the community (which might be a charter).

These expensive changes are expected to improve the overall “curbside” appeal of the area. Many, however, wonder at whose expense.

Happy Halloween: A Superhero (Not an Ethnic Minority) is a Halloween Costume

I love Halloween…but I don’t love racist Halloween costumes. And, sadly, it seems like the “go to” Halloween costume is often an “Indian Chief” or a scantily clad “Indian Princess.” When in doubt, wear something brown, cut some fringe, put a headband around your head and attach a feather. Now, you’re an Indian!…??!!

image credit: jenmust.blogspot.com
Click the photo to read a great article at Colorlines.com

What kind of statement are we making when we dress up as a marginalized people? What makes us think we own their culture in this way?

I thought I was the only one who felt sick to my stomach seeing someone dressed up in costume as an “Indian Chief” or “Muslim,” but to my surprise, I’m not! There is quite a bit of buzz online about racist Halloween costumes and how to avoid being racially/ethnically offensive, while still having fun.

As ClayCane.net explained,

I saw people dressed as Mexicans, Asians and sporting the ever popular Afro wig. Putting on an Afro wig or a sombrero is not a costume. Batman or Superman is a costume, being ethnic for a night isn’t—it’s offensive.

"Native American boy" costume

Check out Gawker’s list of offensive Halloween costumes including the “Geisha girl,” “Samurai Warrior” and “Alaskan ‘Eskimo.'” TheRoot.com also has a great slideshow of wigs and masks (and glasses like the pair below) that made my jaw drop.

This is not okay.

Please think critically when you pick your Halloween costume. Just because your friend who is Native American/Black/Asian/Latino/whatever is not offended, does not mean the costume is not offensive to others! Halloween is about fun…not disrespect.

-NativeJournalist

Artist Profile: Traditional Native American and R&B Singer, Mother and Activist – Kyra Climbingbear

Click the photo to see the video

This is just a short glimpse into the life of Kyra Climbingbear, an urban Indian living in New Jersey.

She is Eastern Band Cherokee and Lumbee and Black, is a singer and an activist. Climbingbear is the mother of two small girls and is an R&B and traditional Cherokee music singer.

To learn more about Kyra visit her website.

For more about the producer and editor of the video visit AmyStretten.com

Note: I apologize for the rough introduction. I will be refining this video shortly. Please check back for a new and improved version soon!

-NativeJournalist

Your thoughts on “Abolish Columbus Day”

Many Indian rights activists who oppose the celebration of "Columbus Day" have posted this Abolish Columbus Day sign on their Facebook pages in support of Native peoples

We have the day off from school tomorrow in recognition of Columbus Day. I don’t recall ever having Columbus Day off before, but apparently New York takes the holiday pretty seriously. There are even parades and other events in different parts of the five boroughs to celebrate the “discovery of America.”

But, who was Christopher Columbus? And, does he deserve the honor of having his own holiday? Well, it depends on who you ask.

In school we are taught to respect Columbus because without him “we” might not be here today. (Obviously, in public school, we are not educated from the perspective of the native inhabitants.) But, according to sources like UnderstandingPrejudice.org,

Many people are surprised to learn that Christopher Columbus and his men enslaved native inhabitants of the West Indies, forced them to convert to Christianity, and subdued them with violence in an effort to seek riches.

So, what are your thoughts on this holiday?

-NativeJournalist

NAJA’s open letter to New York City Mayor Bloomberg

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg (Source: NYMag.com)

NEW YORK, NEW YORK –

The Native American Journalists Association sent out an open letter to New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg via e-mail today asking for an apology for statements he made in a radio interview on August 13th. The Mayor offended the Seneca Indian Nation with his remarks suggesting Governor Paterson collect disputed cigarette taxes while wearing a cowboy hat and holding a shotgun. According to the NYDailyNews, “the Senecas are asking a federal judge to block Paterson’s push to collect state cigarette taxes sold on reservations next month. Bloomberg spokesman Stu Loeser indicated there is no reason to apologize. “The Supreme Court has ruled several times that tribes have no right to sell cigarettes in violation of state tax laws,” he said.”

Read more here.

Here is what Bloomberg said in the interview:

“I’ve said this to David Paterson, I said, you know, ‘Get yourself a cowboy hat and a shotgun. If there’s ever a great video, it’s you standing in the middle of the New York State Thurway saying, you know, ‘Read my lips — the law of the land is this, and we’re going to enforce the law.'”

To hear the entire interview, click here.

Here is the letter NAJA sent out today:

August 20, 2010

Dear Mayor Bloomberg,

The use of the Cowboy and Indian theme when describing how to deal with the tribes in the state of New York demeans all Native American tribes as a people. By enforcing this stereotype you also perpetuate an image of the past that certainly does not pertain to the tribes that reside in your area.

It is apparent you need to open up lines of communication with the tribes to regain some sort of diplomacy. It would also be important to understand what tribal sovereignty is.

Tribes in the area of New York were there before the state was what is known now as New York. It is astonishing that you would take the cavalier attitude of showing them a shotgun to make tribes do what you or your state wants them to do.

Inflicting violence on any ethnic group is not prudent. Even your own faith of being Jewish, would know this course of action is wrong and certainly not humane.

I ask you issue an apology not only to your area tribes but to all tribal nations for suggesting violence against Native Americans.

Sincerely,

Rhonda LeValdo
President, Native American Journalists Association

Jeff Harjo, Executive Director
Native American Journalists Association
OU Gaylord College
395 W Lindsey
Norman, Oklahoma 73019-4201
405 325-9008
http://www.naja.com

And, for more on the history of this battle (because this is not the only time the Senecas have had to fight to protect their sovereignty)…visit here.

-NativeJournalist