Monday, May 25, 2020

Akashic Books: "New-Generation African Poets," 11 New African Poets, Box Set Available July 28, 2020

New=Generation African Poets
A Chapbook Box Set
Edited by Kwame Dawes & Chris Abani
Akashic Books

FORTHCOMING JULY 28, 2020:


This twelve-piece, limited-edition box set—an African Poetry Book Fund (APBF) project—features the work of eleven new African poets.


The limited-edition box set is a project started in 2014 to ensure the publication of up to a dozen chapbooks every year by African poets through Akashic Books. The series seeks to identify the best poetry written by African poets working today, and it is especially interested in featuring poets who have not yet published their first full-length book of poetry.
The eleven poets included in this box set are: Michelle Angwenyi, Afua Ansong, Adedayo Agarau, Fatima Camara, Sadia Hassan, Safia Jama, Henneh Kyereh Kwaku, Nadra Mabrouk, Nkateko Masinga, Jamila Osman, and Tryphena Yeboah.
>> Praise for the chapbook box set series:
“Dawes and Abani have taken on the vital project of publishing short collections by contemporary poets from Africa, packaged together in beautiful boxed sets.” —New York Times Magazine
“An ambitious, vital project that delivers exactly what it promises . . . As a group, the chapbooks dispel stereotypes about African writing. They also illustrate what editors Dawes and Abani note about the many ways poets can understand or redefine their ties to Africa. These insights are poignant and valuable, especially at a time when millions around the globe find themselves somewhere between new countries and ancestral lands they’ve left behind.” —Washington Post
“A collection pulsing with fresh talent in a series that poetry lovers worldwide should be grateful for.” —Shelf Awareness

The Sphinx Organization - Year in Review 2019-2020

Afa Dworkin

A LETTER FROM OUR PRESIDENT

Dear Sphinx La Familia,

As I reflect on our year together, I am filled with a sense of gratitude and admiration toward our artists and the greater community.

We are humbled to witness a moment in history when our vision for a more just, equitable field is being realized through collaboration with more than 70 orchestras, more than 20 music schools, and 100 partner organizations across the country.


Record-high participation in Sphinx’s programs reflects that our collective voices are continuing to gain momentum: our global convening, SphinxConnect, welcomed more than 800 delegates, our premiere ensembles have expanded their touring to a year-round season, while our educational programs continue to experience profound growth in demand.


We have witnessed the ripple effect that comes from providing the tools and resources to empower students, musicians, and arts leaders around the world. Generations of our alumni are building their own ventures and networks, propelling the dream of artistic excellence through inclusion, breaking down barriers and stereotypes, while actively leading the way toward a more equitable, reflective future landscape.


Together with our diverse and far-reaching community, we are proud to lead the movement that is changing the face of our field and society as a whole. We hope that you will join us in the charge to champion the next generation of artists and leaders, who will define the future of our artform.

Afa Dworkin
President and Artistic Director

Decade of Building to Continue at Chicago Sinfonietta: Board Announces Unanimous Three-Year Extension to Music Director Mei-Ann Chen's Contract

Mei-Ann Chen

Chicago, IL - The Board of the Chicago Sinfonietta has unanimously elected to extend Music Director Mei-Ann Chen's contract through the 2023-24 season, another three years. Since 2011, Mei-Ann Chen has served the Chicago area as Music Director of the award-winning 33-year old orchestra. During her tenure, she has redefined orchestra programming and strongly positioned the organization at the forefront of bold, innovative initiatives.
 
Only the second Music Director in the history of the nation's most diverse orchestra, following in the footsteps of its founder, the late Maestro Paul Freeman, under Chen's tenure the Sinfonietta has received an ASCAP Award for Adventurous Programming, was named "The city's hippest orchestra" by the Chicago Tribune, expanded the successful and groundbreaking Project Inclusion Fellowship Program, and received the prestigious MacArthur Award for Creative and Effective Institutions and the Spirit of Innovation Award by the Chicago Innovation Awards. 
 
During her time, the orchestra has also released two acclaimed recordings on the Cedille Records label: "Project W - Works by Diverse Women Composers" (March 2019), featuring the world premiere recordings of newly commissioned American works by Jennifer Higdon, Clarice Assad, Reena Esmail, Jessie Montgomery, and William Grant Still's orchestral arrangement of Florence Price's Dances in the Canebrakes; and "Delights and Dances" (June 2013) featuring the Harlem Quartet. During Maestra Chen's tenure, such eclectic guest artists as the Marcus Roberts Trio, Chicago-based performance art marching band Mucca Pazza, NIU Steelband directed by Liam Teague, astronomer/visual artist José Francisco Salgado, tap master Cartier Williams, Cerqua Rivera Dance Theatre, the Mandala Arts Dance Ensemble, Maxwell Street Klezmer Band, renowned painters the Zhou Brothers, NewMoon Chicago, Cuerdas Clasicas, hip-hop dancers FootworKINGz & Kuuba Lynx, to name a few, have graced the Sinfonietta concert stage in enthusiastically received electric collaborations.

Chicago Sinfonietta Board of Directors Chair Scott Hoesman stated, "Maestra Chen has been innovating and bringing dynamic new ways to engage audiences since her Sinfonietta arrival in 2011. While today's Covid-19 related challenges are numerous, Mei-Ann's continued leadership as our Music Director will help ensure we harness the power of our richly diverse organization to carve a fresh and meaningful path forward. Our mission of championing diversity, equity and inclusion by creating bold symphonic experiences is needed by Chicago and world now more than ever - music can and does heal - that is why the board of directors is beyond thrilled to continue the partnership with the incomparable Chen."
 
"I'm thrilled Chicago Sinfonietta will continue to build on the momentum of Maestra Mei-Ann Chen's bold artistic leadership," said newly elected Chief Executive Officer Blake-Anthony Johnson. "Her tenure highlights her creative and thoughtful spirit, which continually pushes the organization to be innovative and relevant to the communities in which we serve. She is a true partner in both music and mission, and I'm pleased to begin Chicago Sinfonietta's next exciting chapter together." 
  
"I am deeply honored to have the support of the Board, our staff, and musicians and to continue our musical journey together," stated Ms. Chen. "The Chicago Sinfonietta musicians are an incredibly talented and passionate group, and each year that we have worked together we have strengthened our musical identity. It is a pleasure to stand on the podium and lead the nation's most diverse ensemble, and to continue to not only champion for diversity, equity, and inclusion, but to help mentor the musicians of tomorrow through Project Inclusion Fellowships, and to share exciting, innovative and powerful performances with our audiences while continuing to expand our reach in the community.
 
"Today, as we face unprecedented challenges not only in our society but throughout the world from COVID-19, I treasure this special musical family and the community to which we belong even more. I am confident that together, we will emerge from this period more creative, closer and stronger than ever."  

About Mei-Ann Chen
Praised for her dynamic, passionate conducting style, Taiwanese-American conductor Mei-Ann Chen is acclaimed for infusing orchestras with energy, enthusiasm and high-level music-making, galvanizing audiences and communities alike. Music Director of the MacArthur Award-winning Chicago Sinfonietta since 2011, Ms. Chen is Austria's Recreation Grosses Orchester Graz first-ever Principal Guest Conductor, and the first-ever Artistic Partner of Houston's River Oaks Chamber Orchestra (ROCO). She also has served as Artistic Director & Conductor for the National Taiwan Symphony Orchestra Summer Festival since 2016. Highly regarded as a compelling communicator and an innovative leader both on and off the podium, and a sought-after guest conductor, she continues to expand her relationships with orchestras worldwide.
 
Ms. Chen's recent and upcoming highlights include debuts with the New York Philharmonic, Austria's Tonkünstler in Vienna's Musikverein, the season opening concerts of the Netherlands Philharmonic Orchestra at Amsterdam's Concertgebouw and Residentie Orkest at The Hague, Germany's NDR Radiophilharmonie and Darmstedt Staatsorchester, Norway's Oslo Philharmonic, Spain's Basque National Orchestra, Switzerland's Luzerner Sinfonieorchester, the BBC Symphony Orchestra in London, Kaohsiung Symphony Orchestra at Taiwan's Weiwuying (the world's largest performing arts center since 2018), and serving on the jury for the prestigious Malko Competition in 2021. Return engagements include the symphony orchestras of Detroit, Pacific, San Francisco and Tucson in the U.S., as well as with Sweden's Helsingborg, Malmö and Norrland's Opera, and Finland's Tampere Filharmonia.   
 
North American guesting credits include appearances with the Symphony Orchestras of Atlanta, Baltimore, Cincinnati, Chicago, Houston, Indianapolis, National, Nashville, Oregon, San Diego, San Francisco, Seattle, Toronto, and Vancouver, to name a few. Among her overseas guesting credits are the symphonies of BBC Scottish, Brazil's São Paulo (OSESP), Denmark's National, Aalborg, Aarhus, Odense and Copenhagen Philharmonic, Germany's Badische Staatskapelle Karlsruhe, Mexico's National, Norway's Radio and Trondheim, Sweden's Gothenburg and Norrköping, Switzerland's Basel, Turkey's Bilkent, and Taiwan's Philharmonic. Ms. Chen's U.S. summer music festival credits include Aspen, Grant Park, Grand Teton, Ravinia, Texas, and Wintergreen. 
 
Maestra Chen records for Cedille and Innova record labels. 
 
Her honors and awards include being named one of Musical America's 2015 Top 30 Influencers, the 2012 Helen M. Thompson Award from the League of American Orchestras, and 2005 First Prize Winner of the prestigious Malko Competition. Ms. Chen is also Conductor Laureate of the Memphis Symphony Orchestra.

Born in Taiwan, Mei-Ann Chen came to the United States to study violin in 1989 and became the first student in New England Conservatory's history to receive master's degrees simultaneously in both violin and conducting. She later studied with Kenneth Kiesler at the University of Michigan, where she earned a Doctor of Musical Arts degree in conducting. Ms. Chen participated in the National Conductor Preview, National Conducting Institute, Aspen American Academy of Conducting, and Pierre Monteux School.
 
About Chicago Sinfonietta
The Chicago Sinfonietta is dedicated to providing an alternative way of hearing, seeing and thinking about a symphony orchestra and promoting diversity, inclusion, racial and cultural equity in the arts.

Annamarie Ewing, BlackClassics: Black Classical Musicians - TV and Radio

Eleanor Alberga

Dear Friends

I hope you are all keeping well, and finding new ways to make music despite these difficult times.

Both TV and radio have been surprisingly busy recently, broadcasting a number of programmes which I thought might interest you.

3-part series presented by musician Eleanor Alberga:

Episode 1 of 3


The first programme of a three-part series in which composer Eleanor Alberga foregrounds the contribution that black composers have made to the story of western classical music through the ages, with examples of their music. Eleanor confesses that "in researching this series, much of the story has proved surprising to me as well.”

Eleanor begins her journey with story of John Blanke, a celebrated court trumpeter to Henry VII, who appears as “the blacke trumpeter” on the Westminster Tournament Roll, commissioned by the king to mark the birth of his son Henry in 1511. The programme considers the presence and position of black people within the European population since that time. She features the music of black composers in England and France from the 18th century, including Ignatius Sancho, JJO de Meude-Monpas and Joseph Boulogne, before crossing the Atlantic to the Southern States of America, to New Orleans, and the music of the “Creole Romantics”; musicians like Lucien-Léon Guillaume Lambert and Edmond Dédé. This first programme ends with Eleanor considering the impact that Dvorak’s historic visit to America made to black composers in the 1890s.



Sean Rafferty is joined by double bassist and Chineke! orchestra founder Chi-chi Nwanoku to hear about the orchestra's current projects. Today's Home Session features guitarist Sean Shibe.



Contemporary black music has always pushed at the boundaries of black church traditions. Jesse Bernard traces this history, from colonialism to austerity, from gospel to grime.




And finally, PBS America are currently repeating their fascinating 14-part series on the rich history of jazz.

Stay safe.
Annamarie

Annamarie Ewing
(BlackClassics)

Sunday, May 24, 2020

Chineke Orchestra and Sphinx Organization perform the fifth movement of Samuel Coleridge-Taylor's Othello Suite: Military March


Coleridge-Taylor's Othello Suite, V. Military March. (3:31)


Part of the Music Across the Ocean project, a transatlantic lockdown collaboration concert.

Samuel Coleridge-Taylor (1875-1912)

John Malveaux: Time.com: The Overlooked Black History of Memorial Day




John Malveaux of MusicUNTOLD.com writes:

Memorial Day has a little known African American root. Please see 
https://time.com/5836444/black-memorial-day/ .  Many are unaware that  over 200,000 African American  Union soldiers helped save our NATION. Please see photo of 3,000 school children who carried bouquets of flowers and sang "John Brown's Body" to honor captured Union soldiers in Charleston, South Carolina.  Members of the famed Union 54th Massachusetts Infantry Regiment and other African American Union Regiments were in attendance and performed double-time marches.

Saturday, May 23, 2020

NewYorker.com: Anthony Davis’s Revolutionary Opera: “X”

Anthony Davis
(Marty Reicchenthal/AP)


Chineke Orchestra and Sphinx Organization perform the fourth movement of Samuel Coleridge-Taylor's Othello Suite: The Willow Song


Chineke! Orchestra and Sphinx Organization perform Coleridge-Taylor's Othello Suite, IV. The Willow Song. (4:06)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=104&v=D3TNGLvbuUw&feature=emb_title

Part of the Music Across the Ocean project, a transatlantic lockdown collaboration concert.

Samuel Coleridge-Taylor (1875-1912)

Chineke! Orchestra and Sphinx Organization perform the third movement of Samuel Coleridge-Taylor's Othello Suite: Funeral March (5:13)


Music Across the Ocean: Coleridge-Taylor's Othello Suite, III



Part of the Music Across the Ocean project, a transatlantic lockdown concert collaboration.

Samuel Coleridge-Taylor (1875-1912) was an Afro-British Composer, Conductor & Professor who is profiled in detail at

Friday, May 22, 2020

John Malveaux: Dr. Kay's composition MARKINGS (Symphony Essay-A Tribute to Dag Hammarskjold (1905-1961) may be found on CBS Black Composers' Series


John Malveaux of MusicUNTOLD.com writes:


Whatever the gatekeepers standard of evaluation or determination to program classical music and operas by American composers on radio, symphony and opera stages, the voluminous contributions of Ulysses Simpson Kay offer only two reasons for his omission. One reason is the lack of education or awareness and the other reason is less flattering. Please see detailed bio of Ulysses Kay https://chevalierdesaintgeorges.homestead.com/Kay.html

Dr. Kay's composition MARKINGS (Symphony Essay-A Tribute to Dag Hammarskjold (1905-1961) may be found on CBS Black Composers' Series. In 1953 Dag Hammarskjold was elected Attorney General of the United Nations. In 1961, he was killed when his plane crashed in Northern Rhodesia (now Zambia) on a peace mission to the Congo. The United States and the Soviet Union were involved in an intense nuclear race. The Soviet Union opposed Dag Hammarskjold leadership. Hammarskjold posthumously received the Nobel Peace Price in 1961. Dag Hammarskjold kept a diary, which came into print in the 1960's with the title "Markings".  See https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4YVTG_4jIe4. Additional music composed by Dr. Kay will be presented in future MusicUNTOLD Library blogs. 

Chineke! Orchestra and Sphinx Organization perform the second movement of Samuel Coleridge-Taylor's Othello Suite: Children's Intermezzo

Music Across the Ocean: Coleridge-Taylor's Othello Suite, II. Children's Intermezzo (5:11)


Part of the Music Across the Ocean project, a transatlantic lockdown concert collaboration.

Samuel Coleridge-Taylor (1875-1912)

Thursday, May 21, 2020

Chineke! Foundation and Sphinx Organization join forces to perform the first movement of Samuel Coleridge-Taylor's Othello Suite: Dance (3:49)


Music Across the Ocean: Coleridge-Taylor's Othello Suite, I. Dance

Samuel Coleridge-Taylor (1875-1912)

Congressional Black Caucus Foundation: Policy for the People, Virtual Brain Trust Series Thursday, May 28, 2020 Time: 12-1:30 PM EST

https://cbcf.zoom.us/webinar/register/6515900140043/WN_DGVXi21KSVGX3yMmXAjb6Q

Addressing Digital Equity in the Era of COVID-19

Webinar Registration

Presented by the Walton Family Foundation, join Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson, the co-founder of BlackTech Week, and others for the fourth installment of the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation’s Virtual Brain Trust Series.

Thursday, May 28, 2020 
Time: 12-1:30 PM EST 

Featuring: 

Remarks from Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson, Chair, House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology – U.S. House of Representatives 

Rep. Barbara Lee* and Rep. G.K. Butterfield*, Co-Chairs, CBC Tech 2020 – U.S. House of Representatives
*invited

Dr. Charles Cole, Founder – Energy Convertors 

Felecia Hatcher, Executive Director – Code Fever; Co-Founder – BlackTech Week 

Dr. Fallon Wilson, Founder – National Black Tech Ecosystem Builder Association 


Dr. Menna Demessie, Vice President, Center for Policy Analysis and Research – CBCF (moderator)

The COVID-19 crisis has equally emphasized the digital divide and its impact on education, employment, and resources. While people across the United States wrestle with staying “connected” and informed about critical information including how to protect themselves and where to seek resources to benefit from the CARES Act stimulus package, it is important to understand the root causes of the digital divide for vulnerable communities.

This Virtual Brain Trust will discuss critical policy and community-based solutions to mitigating the digital divide and understanding the historical context of equitable opportunity whether discussing STEM education and employment in the tech sector, workforce diversity, public private partnerships, and which practical steps can be taken during the current crisis.

 

PublicRadioTulsa.org: "In Memoriam: The Colored Soldiers Who Died for Democracy" Friday at Noon, May 22, 2020, on Classical 88.7, Tulsa



William Grant Still (1895-1978)


A Unique Wartime Elegy from an American Original


May 20, 2020 

With Memorial Day this weekend, and the 75th anniversary of the end of World War II in Europe earlier this month, I wanted to spotlight some American music from the war years on this week’s Classical Tulsa.

We’ll hear works by Aaron Copland, William Schuman, and David Diamond, but the piece I’m most excited to feature is In Memoriam: The Colored Soldiers Who Died for Democracy, an orchestral elegy by William Grant Still.

After its 1944 premiere with the New York Philharmonic, In Memoriam was performed throughout the country, with critics hailing Still as “the American Tchaikovsky.” But after the war, the piece languished in obscurity, along with most of the composer’s works.

Tune in to hear the first recording of this remarkable piece in over sixty years, this Friday at noon, May 22, 2020, on Classical 88.7 KWTU HD-1.


Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Leadership Conference & ACLU: DOJ Must Open a Federal Investigation of Officers Involved in Reed Shooting


Hi there—wanted to make sure you saw the letter by The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights and the American Civil Liberties Union calling on the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) to open a federal civil rights investigation of the police officers involved in the shooting of Dreasjon “Sean” Reed.

The groups also call on the DOJ to conduct a pattern or practice investigation of the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department and to reconsider its approach to addressing systemic constitutional violations by police departments nationally.

The full letter is available below. Thanks,

Rafael Medina

The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights

May 20, 2020


The Honorable William P. Barr
Attorney General
U.S. Department of Justice
950 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20530


Dear Attorney General Barr:
On behalf of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights (The Leadership Conference), a coalition of more than 220 national organizations committed to promoting and protecting the civil and human rights of all persons in the United States, and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), an organization with more than 4 million members, activists, and supporters, advancing the promise of the Bill of Rights for all, we urge the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) to investigate the recent fatal police shooting of Dreasjon “Sean” Reed in Indianapolis, as well as the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department’s (IMPD) history of police violence against the Black and Brown communities it serves
.
Specifically, we ask that DOJ:  (1) open a federal civil rights investigation of the officers involved in the death of Dreasjon Reed; (2) pursue a pattern or practice investigation of IMPD for civil rights violations; and (3) reconsider its approach to addressing systemic police misconduct by law enforcement agencies nationally.

DOJ Must Open a Federal Civil Rights Investigation of Officers Involved in Reed Shooting
  
On May 6, 2020, 21-year old Dreasjon “Sean” Reed, a Black man, was shot and killed while running from police after a vehicle pursuit. The incident began when IMPD police, including Chief Randal Taylor, pursued Mr. Reed for allegedly speeding and almost striking other cars.[1] Mr. Reed broadcasted the chase on his Facebook Live page, which then shows him parking his car and giving his location to those watching as he pleads for help, saying “please come get me.”[2] Police then pursued Mr. Reed on foot before shooting him at least a dozen times within minutes of him leaving his car. Mr. Reed’s  video continued to stream after the shooting and captures a detective callously saying, “Think it’s going to be a closed casket, homie”[3] Sadly, the social media broadcast of Mr. Reed’s unnecessary fatal police shooting is reminiscent of Philandro Castile’s 2016 fatal police shooting in Minnesota. [4] As Congressman André Carson (D-IN-7) said following news of Mr. Reed’s shooting, “Simply being Black in America should not be a death sentence, but for countless people, it is.”[5]

Although Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett has called for, and federal officials have agreed to, DOJ monitoring the local investigation of Mr. Reed’s fatal police shooting,[6] DOJ should conduct a separate, independent federal civil rights investigation. Under § 242 of Title 18, it is unlawful for any person acting under color of law to willfully deprive a person of a right or privilege protected by the Constitution or laws of the United States.[7] Persons acting under color of law includes police officers and other law enforcement officials who are functioning or appear to be functioning in their official capacity.[8] A federal civil rights investigation is warranted because this case potentially involves excessive force and other police misconduct.

DOJ Must Pursue Pattern or Practice Investigation of the Indianapolis Police Department

Unfortunately, Mr. Reed’s fatal police shooting is not an isolated incident, which suggests possible systemic constitutional violations by IMPD. In fact, the very same day that police killed Mr. Reed, IMPD officers killed two other people in Indianapolis. In one police fatally shot a man[9], and in the other, an officer struck and killed a pregnant pedestrian—all mere hours apart.[10] In addition to this police-involved violence, IMPD has previously generated national attention for inflicting fatal force on Black residents. In particular, on June 29, 2017, Aaron Bailey, Black and unarmed, was shot and killed by two IMPD officers following a late-night traffic stop, vehicle pursuit, and crash.[11] On September 26, 2015, an 18 year-old Black youth, Terrell Day, died in police custody after telling IMPD officers that he could not breathe.[12] Last year, IMPD officers were involved in other documented incidents of excessive force. In one incident, an officer was captured on video punching a 17-year-old Black student in the face and stomach, after an incident at school where an officer threatened to arrest another student.[13]

Under 34 U.S.C. § 2601 (previously codified at 42 U.S.C. § 14141), DOJ is authorized to investigate police departments for patterns or practices of systemic, unconstitutional policing. Upon a finding of a pattern or practice of constitutional violations, DOJ can obtain a court order requiring law enforcement agencies to address the systemic institutional failures that produce police abuses and misconduct.[14] As detailed above, IMPD has had a series of disturbing police incidents that call for immediate DOJ intervention. Indeed, in the last five years, IMPD officers have been involved in more than a dozen controversial fatal police shootings.[15] Since 2011, six IMPD officers have been charged with misconduct.[16] These fatal police shootings, racial profiling, and other misconduct are not the result of “a few bad apples” or one-off incidents, but rather indicate systemic problems within the department. A DOJ pattern or practice investigation is critical for vindicating the constitutional rights of Indianapolis’ residents.

DOJ Must Reconsider its Approach to Systemic Policing Practices Nationally

As we request federal investigations into the fatal police shooting of Mr. Reed and IMPD’s policing practices, we are concerned that this request will be subject to a decision-making process that ignores the authority given to DOJ. Under the current administration, the DOJ has abdicated its responsibility of local police oversight and accountability. On November 7, 2018, then Attorney General Jeff Sessions issued a policy that sets unprecedented barriers for DOJ attorneys to pursue pattern or practice investigations and to negotiate settlement agreements and consent decrees.[17] Attorney General Sessions was clear that he wanted to “avoid harmful federal intrusion in the daily work of local police,”[18] despite the racially-biased and unconstitutional practices that the DOJ’s past pattern or practice investigations, including under the Bush administration, have repeatedly uncovered. The DOJ has maintained the Sessions policy, and signaled support for law enforcement to the detriment of communities impacted by police violence with statements like communities “have to start showing, more than they do, the respect and support that law enforcement deserves. And if communities don’t give that support and respect, they may find themselves without the police protection they need.”[19] This DOJ is also advancing a Presidential Commission on Law Enforcement and the Administration of Justice, comprised exclusively of law enforcement, with no representation from civil rights and civil liberties organizations, academia, or the defense bar.[20] The Commission has also failed to acknowledge the racially discriminatory practices that have infected police departments across the country for centuries.[21]

DOJ must change its approach to oversight and accountability of state and local policing. DOJ provides millions of congressionally appropriated dollars to state and local law enforcement each year, which should be conditioned on the adoption of policies and practices that promote 21st Century policing and increase community trust. Congress has also provided DOJ with statutory authority to conduct federal civil rights and pattern or practice investigations. DOJ’s current policies and practices around local policing are an “attack on the core mission of the Department of Justice” and “a slap in the face to the dedicated career staff of the Department who work tirelessly to enforce our nation’s civil rights laws.”[22] In the wake of the spate of fatal policing shootings, including Mr. Reed’s, the need for DOJ oversight of local departments is clear. Federal intervention promotes public safety and the rule of law by ensuring law enforcement agencies correct unconstitutional patterns or practices that harm police legitimacy in the eyes of the public. DOJ can and should use its authority to investigate and sue law enforcement agencies and enter into federal agreements. DOJ should not only use these tools to intervene with IMPD, but with other departments throughout the country that are engaged in unconstitutional police practices.

Conclusion

DOJ must take the necessary actions to ensure full and real accountability of local law enforcement agencies engaged in conduct that continues the dehumanization of Black people across America. With respect to the IMPD involvement in Mr. Reed’s death, we again ask that DOJ open a federal civil rights investigation into the involved officers and pursue a pattern or practice investigation of IMPD. Finally, we ask that DOJ reconsider its approach to addressing systemic constitutional violations by police departments nationally. To follow up, please contact Kanya Bennett of the American Civil Liberties Union at kbennett@aclu.org and Sakira Cook at the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights at cook@civilrights.org.

Sincerely,

American Civil Liberties Union
The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights


[1] Josiah Bates, Indianapolis Police Officer Shoots Man in Livestreamed Killing. Here’s What to Know, TIME, May 7, 2020. https://time.com/5833625/indianapolis-police-shooting-sean-reed/.

[2] Id.

[3]Nicholas Bogel-Burroughs, Indianapolis Police Face Growing Questions After Killing 3 People in 8 Hours, N.Y. Times, May 7, 2020, https://www.nytimes.com/2020/05/07/us/sean-reed-indianapolis-shooting.html.

[4] Charise Frazier, The Killings of Ahmaud Arbery & Sean Reed Feel Frighteningly Similar to July 2016, Madamenoire, May 7, 2020, https://madamenoire.com/1163284/the-killings-of-ahmaud-arbery-sean-reed-feels-frighteningly-similar-to-july-2016/.

[5] Kaitlin Lange, Indianapolis community leaders react to two fatal officer-involved shootings, Indianapolis Star, May 7, 2020, https://www.indystar.com/story/news/crime/2020/05/07/indianapolis-police-shooting-reaction-officer-involved-shootings/3087324001/.

[6]Ryan Martin & Tim Evans, Hogsett, Mears ask for outside help on IMPD shooting investigations, Indianapolis Star, May 8, 2020, https://www.indystar.com/story/news/crime/2020/05/08/indianapolis-police-shootings-mayor-hogsett-asks-fbi-help-probes/3095329001/.

[7] 18 U.S.C. 242.

[8] U.S. Department of Justice, Deprivation of Rights Under Color of Law, available at https://www.justice.gov/crt/deprivation-rights-under-color-law.

[9] On May 6th, a second fatal police shooting occurred just after midnight when IMPD officers shot and killed a man while investigating a burglary. According to police, the man had a rifle and shot at the officers who were responding to the call.

Josiah Bates, Indianapolis Police Officer Shoots Man in Livestreamed Killing. Here’s What to Know, TIME, May 7, 2020. https://time.com/5833625/indianapolis-police-shooting-sean-reed/

[10] Associated Press, Protests rage in Indianapolis after police kill 3 in separate incidents

[11] Vic Ryckaert, Justin L. Mack, & Holly V. Hays, What we know: The police shooting of Aaron Bailey, Indianapolis Star, June 30, 2017, https://www.indystar.com/story/news/crime/2017/06/30/what-we-know-police-shooting-aaron-bailey/442049001/.

[12] Shamar Walters & Alexander Smith, Terrell Day, Indianapolis Teen Shoplifting Suspect, Dies in Police Custody, NBC News, September 28, 2015, https://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/indianapolis-teen-shoplifting-suspect-terrell-day-dies-police-custody-n434696.

[13] Video shows Indianapolis police officer punching student, Wane.com, September 5, 2019, https://www.wane.com/news/indiana/video-shows-indianapolis-police-officer-punching-student/.

[14] U.S. Department of Justice, Civil Rights Division, The Civil Rights Division’s Pattern and Practice Police Reform Work: 1994-Present, January 2017, available at https://www.justice.gov/crt/file/922421/download.

[15] Tim Evans, Officer-involved shootings: Here’s a list of fatal encounters with IMPD, Indianapolis Star, May 7, 2020, https://www.indystar.com/story/news/crime/2020/05/07/indianapolis-police-shootings-heres-list-recent-fatal-encounters/3090337001/.

[16] Vic Ryckaert & Ryan Martin, When officers are charged—and when they aren’t—with alleged crimes while on-duty, Indianapolis Star, September 21, 2019, https://www.indystar.com/story/news/crime/2019/09/18/when-officers-and-arent-charged-alleged-duty-crimes/2350710001/.

[17] Jefferson B. Sessions, Att’y Gen., Memorandum for Heads of Civil Litigating Components & United States Attorneys on the Principles and Procedures for Civil Consent Decrees and Settlement Agreements with State and Local Governmental Entities, November 7, 2018, https://www.justice.gov/opa/pressrelease/file/1109621/download.


[19] Jennifer Rubin, What to do with an attorney general who disdains justice, Washington Post, December 5, 2019, https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2019/12/05/bar-should-hold-barr-accountable/.

[20] Tom Jackman, NAACP Legal Defense Fund sues national policing commission, May 8, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/crime-law/2020/05/08/naacp-legal-defense-fund-sues-national-policing-commission/.

[21] Id.

[22] See, e.g., The Leadership Conference, “Sessions Gutted Key Tool for Department of Justice to Fix Unconstitutional Conduct,” 8 Nov. 2018, https://civilrights.org/2018/11/08/sessions-gutted-key-tool-for-department-of-justice-to-fix-unconstitutional-conduct/