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US 1st Lady Gets Taste of Japan’s Ancient Culture in Kyoto

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US first lady Michelle Obama poses for a photo with the Akutagawa High School Taiko Club during her visit to Fushimi Inari Shinto Shrine in Kyoto, in western Japan, Friday, March 20, 2015. Taiko are a a broad range of Japanese percussion instruments, and have a mythological origin in Japanese folklore. (AP Photo/Koji Sasahara)

US first lady Michelle Obama poses for a photo with the Akutagawa High School Taiko Club during her visit to Fushimi Inari Shinto Shrine in Kyoto, in western Japan, Friday, March 20, 2015. Taiko are a a broad range of Japanese percussion instruments, and have a mythological origin in Japanese folklore. (AP Photo/Koji Sasahara)

ELAINE KURTENBACH, Associated Press

KYOTO, Japan (AP) — U.S. first lady Michelle Obama was treated to a serene classical Noh performance and then tried taiko drums as she ended her visit to Japan on Friday with a taste of traditional culture in Kyoto, one of the country’s ancient capitals.

Mrs. Obama viewed the Noh performance at Kiyomizu-dera, a Buddhist temple founded in 780 that is one of the most famous sights in Japan, sitting on a forested hill overlooking the city.

Local college students in kimono performed a brief piece of Noh, a classical Japanese musical drama that usually employs elaborate costumes and stylized masks to symbolize roles of women, ghosts and other characters.

While at Kiyomizu-dera, a UNESCO World Heritage site, whose name means “clear water,” Mrs. Obama also observed a traditional tea ceremony. She then traveled across town to the 1,300-year-old Fushimi Inari Shrine, a place of worship for Japan’s other major religion, Shinto. There are 30,000 such shrines in Japan that venerate the guardian god of abundant harvests, prosperity and family safety. The Fushimi Inari is renowned for the many crimson torii gates lining paths through its leafy grounds.

There she watched a rousing performance by the award-winning Akutagawa High School Taiko Club, who drummed, jumped and gesticulated with all their might.

“You guys are good!” she said. “That’s good exercise. Wonderful.”

The students then invited Mrs. Obama to join them, and performed a number as she and a student drummed on a big, round taiko drum.

Soon after, Mrs. Obama left Japan, one of Asia’s richest nations, for Cambodia, one of Asia’s poorest.

The U.S. first lady arrived in Japan on Wednesday for a visit that has focused mainly on cooperation in the “Let Girls Learn” initiative to support girls’ education in the developing world. President Barack Obama and his wife recently announced the program, which will devote millions of dollars in aid to girls’ empowerment projects.

“Does this kind of work sound exciting to you? If so, you should consider joining the Peace Corps,” Mrs. Obama said in a travel blog posted late Thursday. “You can also make a difference by tutoring a classmate, or reading to a younger sibling, or volunteering through your school or place of worship.”

Cambodia is one of the 11 countries to be included in the “Let Girls Learn” program, which is being run by the Peace Corps, with support from counterpart organizations including the Japan Overseas Cooperation Volunteers.

This is Mrs. Obama’s first visit to Japan, as she did not accompany the president on his state visit last year. The visit is seen partly as a way of making up for her absence then, and as a sign of closeness between the allies.

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Follow Elaine Kurtenbach on Twitter at twitter.com/ekurtenbach

Copyright 2015 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Books

Marcus Books at 60, the Oldest Black Bookstore in the U.S.

You can check out the titles they have in stock by visiting https://www.marcusbooks.com/ The store is open Monday-Saturday from 10:00 a.m.- 6:00 p.m. and Sundays from 12:00-4:00 p.m.

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Image provided from Marcus Book Store Facebook page

Marcus Books is a Black-owned bookstore located at 3900 Martin Luther King Jr Way, Oakland, CA 94609. Named for United Negro Improvement leader and author Marcus Garvey, the store was founded by Tuskegee College graduates Julian and Rae Richardson in 1960. In the ensuing decades they have sold books produced by Black, independent publishers, authors, poets, and artists and hosted talks by a who’s who of Black writers ranging from the late Toni Morrison, to Michael Eric Dyson and Sistah Soldier. There is a substantial collection of books for children as well. Online shopping is also available. You can check out the titles they have in stock by visiting https://www.marcusbooks.com/ The store is open Monday-Saturday from 10:00 a.m.- 6:00 p.m. and Sundays from 12:00-4:00 p.m.

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Activism

New Racial Justice Bureau at California Dept. of Justice Will Support State’s Reparations Task Force

“Throughout California’s history, too many of us have felt the sting of hate and discrimination,” said Bonta. “The fact is: No part of California is immune to hate. Too many Asian, Latino, Black, Native American, people with disabilities, LGBTQ, Jewish, Muslim, and Sikh Californians all across the state are hurting.”

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California Attorney General Rob Bonta announced on May 11 that he has created a new bureau within the Department of Justice (DOJ) dedicated to fighting discrimination and investigating hate crimes.

   Bonta said the new Bureau of Racial Justice, which will be housed under the Civil Rights Enforcement Section, will also support the California task force that the state has charged with studying the impact of slavery and Jim Crow and coming up with reparations recommendations for Blacks in California and around the country.

    In September last year, Gov. Gavin Newsom signed Assembly Bill (AB) 3121 into law. The legislation, introduced by current California Secretary of State Shirley Weber when she served in the Assembly, requires the state to set up the task force.

    Bonta has not yet spelled out how the bureau will contribute to the state’s reparations efforts, but he stressed the urgency of creating it.

   “Throughout California’s history, too many of us have felt the sting of hate and discrimination,” said Bonta. “The fact is: No part of California is immune to hate. Too many Asian, Latino, Black, Native American, people with disabilities, LGBTQ, Jewish, Muslim, and Sikh Californians all across the state are hurting.”

    According to the DOJ, the bureau will focus on six areas: hate crimes and organizations; implicit and explicit bias in policing; law enforcement best practices; campus climate issues; and the Task Force to Study and Develop Reparation Proposals for African Americans.

   Bonta says the DOJ will work with the Big City Mayors, a group of officials from the state’s 13 largest cities, on its anti-discrimination and anti-hate crime initiatives. The cities are Los Angeles, San Diego, San José, San Francisco, Fresno, Sacramento, Long Beach, Oakland, Bakersfield, Anaheim, Riverside, Santa Ana, and Stockton. 

   At the end of this month, the DOJ says Bonta will host a virtual meeting with the Big City Mayors.

   Drawing on the expertise of local elected leaders, the virtual convening will seek to raise awareness around regional concerns involving hate crimes, support those who have been impacted by hate, and secure commitments for direct action across California,” the DOJ said in a statement.

   The California Legislative Black Caucus welcomed the news. The group, comprised of African American members of the State Legislature, saidCalifornia, after its acceptance into the union in 1850 until the end of slavery in 1865, actively supported the enslavement of Blacks.

    The CLBC says the California Task Force to Study and Develop Reparations will increase understanding among Californians at a time when racial and political divisions divide Americans.

    “As chair of the Legislative Black Caucus, I am humbled to be a part of this groundbreaking task force and look forward to having the difficult but necessary conversations on the age of enslavement here in California and across the nation,” said Sen. Steve Bradford (D-Gardena), who is also chair of the CBLC and a member of the reparations task force.

   The remnants of slavery and Jim Crow are still alive and well today and need to be addressed. We have found ways to not only apologize but also provide reparations to every group wronged in America and around the world except for African American descendents of slavery,” Bradford pointed out.

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Activism

California Elected Officials, Civic Leaders React to George Floyd Verdict  

“The hard truth,” Gov. Newsom said in an April 20 statement, “is that if George Floyd looked like me, he’d still be alive today.” Newsom made the remark after a Hennepin County jury found Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, 45, guilty in the murder of George Floyd.

Photo by: Antonio Ray Harvey.
Assemblymember Mike Gipson (D-LA), Tecoy Porter, President of National Action Network Sacramento, Western Region, Sydney Kamlager (D-Los Angeles), vice-chair of the CLBC, Senator Steven Bradford (D-LA ), chair CLBC, Assemblymember Chris Holden ( D-Pasadena) Assemblymember Kevin McCarty ( D-Sacramento) and Secretary of State Shirley Weber. Photo by Antonio Ray Harvey.

“The hard truth,” Gov. Newsom said in an April 20 statement, “is that if George Floyd looked like me, he’d still be alive today.” Newsom made the remark after a Hennepin County jury found Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, 45, guilty in the murder of George Floyd.
The jury convicted Chauvin on two counts of murder, homicide and one of manslaughter for pinning his knee on the neck of Floyd for nine minutes and 29 seconds on May 25, 2020.

The California governor joined other Golden State officials to speak out about the verdict and the enduring problems of police violence against unarmed citizens, particularly African American suspects.

“No conviction can repair the harm done to George Floyd and his family, but today’s verdict provides some accountability as we work to root out the racial injustice that haunts our society,” the governor continued. “We must continue the work of fighting systemic racism and excessive use of force. It’s why I signed some of the nation’s most progressive police reform legislation into law. I will continue working with community leaders across the state to hear concerns and support peaceful expression.”

Sen. Steve Bradford (D-Gardena), chair of the California Legislative Black Caucus, took to Twitter to comment on the verdict.
“I’m overwhelmed to tears over this verdict: Guilty. #GeorgeFloyd did not have to die that day. His family is still healing from this trauma. We must continue to fight for justice in this country, for all of us,” he tweeted.

Earlier in the day, the California Legislative Black Caucus held a press conference to address police brutality and lethal force by peace officers in California and across the country.

“There may be calls about a crisis. There may be calls about an emergency, but they are not calls intended to initiate death. They are not calls for lethal force. They are calls for issuing de-escalation and resolution.” said Sen. Sydney Kamlager (D-Los Angeles).

Kamlager, along with her colleagues – including Assemblymember Mike Gipson, who Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon (D-Lakewood) appointed Chair of the Select Committee on Police Reform – spoke at the briefing. They called on their peers to pass the C.R.I.S.I.S. Act, or Assembly Bill (AB) 2054, legislation that proposes for communities to rely on social workers to intervene in some public safety incidents instead of police officers.

The bill was first introduced last year but died in committee.

California Secretary of State Dr. Shirley Weber also attended the Black Caucus press conference.

“You know it’s really hard after 410 years in this country to continue to raise the same issues over and over again,” Dr. Weber said. “When I look and begin to analyze it I realize that all we’re asking is to have what everybody else has…to be treated fairly – to be treated as a human being, to be treated just.”

President of the NAACP California-Hawaii Conference Rick L. Callender said justice was served in the Chauvin case.

“It was very clear that our very right to breath was on trial,” Callender told California Black Media. “For too long, African Americans have been subjected to the knee of injustice choking us out – in so many different ways. This verdict demonstrates that a badge is never a shield for accountability.”

Speaking from San Diego, Shane Harris, founder and president of the People’s Association of Justice, a national civil rights alliance that started in California, said the Floyd verdict represents a starting point for re-imagining policing in America through federal legislation.
“The reality is that there is a Derek Chauvin in a police department near you, and the question is whether our local, state and federal governments will step up to protect the next George Floyd from being killed in our country,” he said. 

“Chauvin had multiple complaints against him during his career on the Minneapolis Police force, but the city and the department failed to act,” he said “We will not have an Attorney General like Keith Ellison in every state going forward to press for justice like he did, which is why I call on the U.S. Senate to urgently bring the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act of 2021 to the Senate floor now, pass the legislation and send it to the President’s desk to sign immediately.”

After 12 hours of deliberations – as people across the country and around the globe waited in anticipation – the jury returned with the verdict that held Chauvin responsible for second-degree unintentional murder, third-degree murder, and second-degree manslaughter.
The jury consisted of six Black or multiracial people along with six White individuals. Chauvin’s attorney requested bail, but the presiding judge denied it, and Chauvin was taken into custody.

Under Minnesota laws, Chauvin could receive a sentence of up to 40 years in prison.

California Congresswoman and Speaker of the United States House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi (D-CA-12) drew some criticism on social media for a statement she made regarding the verdict. Her critics chided the Speaker for thanking Floyd for his “sacrifice,” a man who they point out was unwittingly murdered by a police officer.

Standing with members of the Congressional Black Caucus in front of the U.S. Capitol, Pelosi said, “Thank you George Floyd for sacrificing your life for justice. For being there to call out to your mom, how heartbreaking was that, call out for you mom, ‘I can’t breathe.”

“But because of you and because of thousands, millions of people around the world who came out for justice, your name will always be synonymous with justice,” the Speaker said.

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