Jay-Z, Roc Nation File Federal Lawsuit Against Mississippi Prison Officials for Violent Conditions, ‘Failure to Meet Basic Human Rights’

According to the lawsuit, which was filed by Jay-Z’s lawyer Alex Spiro, “these deaths are a direct result of Mississippi’s utter disregard for the people it has incarcerated and their constitutional rights.”

…“This unthinkable spate of deaths is the culmination of years of severe understaffing and neglect at Mississippi’s prisons,” Spiro said in a statement. “As Mississippi has incarcerated increasing numbers of people, it has dramatically reduced its funding of prisons. As a result, prison conditions fail to meet even the most basic human rights.”

Jay-Z, Roc Nation File Federal Lawsuit Against Mississippi Prison Officials for Violent Conditions, ‘Failure to Meet Basic Human Rights’

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Jimmy “Duck” Holmes talks back

Mississippi’s Jimmy “Duck” Holmes is the keeper of the Bentonia blues tradition flame. He follows such earlier practitioners of the country-blues style as Skip James, Jack Owens and brothers Henry and Dodd Stuckey.

Jimmy “Duck” Holmes talks back

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Mississippi Blues Trail

North of Bentonia, the road enters the vast alluvial plain known as the Mississippi Delta. Two hundred miles long and 70 miles across at its widest point, reaching from Memphis to Vicksburg, the Delta was the original epicenter of the blues. The music emerged at the turn of the 20th century and was characterized by raw emotional intensity, the use of repetition, and bent or sliding notes on the guitar or the diddley bow, a one-stringed instrument played with a slide. Most scholars trace the blues back to the field hollers and spirituals sung by slaves, and perhaps further back to West Africa, where similar musical scales and techniques can still be heard.

The Delta was a feudal, apartheid cotton society. White landowners ruled over huge plantations, and black sharecroppers toiled in the fields. For early bluesmen like Charley Patton and Robert Johnson, playing music for money and whiskey was a way to escape hard labor, entertain a crowd, attract women and achieve a measure of freedom. 

…Holmes County, an hour north of Bentonia, is the poorest county in Mississippi, with a median household income of $22,325 and 62 percent of children living in poverty. “Mechanized farming hurt this place more than anything,” says Sam Calahan, 67, a retired music promoter standing by a blues marker in the small, rough town of Tchula.

“One good-sized plantation used to employ hundreds of men,” he says. “Now it don’t take but five or six tractor drivers, and there’s nothing else. A lot of people here have been on welfare for two or three generations. The stores have closed.

…Hoover takes visitors to the grave and some civil rights locations and the dusty old preserved shack that serves as his museum. “I’m making more with my tours than my store now.”

He’d like to see more support for blues tourism from local business leaders and politicians. “I’m trying to get grants and raise money to do more. We should have a couple of blues clubs with live music, a bigger museum, a soul food restaurant. These tourists got money. They just need somewhere to spend it.”

…Clarksdale, a town of 17,000 in the northwest Delta, is the undisputed capital of Mississippi blues tourism. It has live music seven nights a week and more than a dozen festivals through the year. 

…The old downtown is undergoing a major revitalization, with entrepreneurs, most of them white, opening restaurants, cafés, clubs, hotels, music stores and souvenir shops in previously run-down buildings. Many of the buildings have been left partially decrepit for a hard-bitten look. 

Buster Moton, a firebrand city commissioner representing a low-income, predominantly black ward, welcomes the tourists, but says there are too many white people profiting from an African-American art form. “Blues tourism is not providing jobs for the people who really need jobs or solving any problems in my part of town,” he says. “And we’re seeing more and more white musicians playing in white-owned clubs.”

…“A lot of money has gone into buildings and tourism,” says Abel. “But these old guys like John and Duck Holmes and a few others are still playing for peanuts, when they can even get a gig. I’d like to see them honored more, because they’re the last guys playing the real thing.”

…“If we’re basing economic development on the blues, then we must be concerned about the individuals who gave us this music,” he says, speaking from his home in Jackson. “We owe them that.”

Mississippi Blues Trail | Al Jazeera America

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90-year-old Florida man arrested for second time in a week after feeding the homeless again

When 90-year-old Florida resident Arnold Abbott said following his arrest on Sunday that police couldn’t stop him from feeding the homeless, he apparently meant it.

Abbott was charged again on Wednesday night for violating a new city law in Ft. Lauderdale that essentially prevents people from feeding the homeless. 

…The laws regarding food sharing where ironically enacted on Halloween when millions of people were out sharing candy.

…Four police cruisers and approximately a half dozen officers with the Ft. Lauderdale Police Department descended upon an area in the city where Abbott, charity representatives and church members were handing out hot meals to local homeless people.

One officer demanded that he “drop that plate right now” as others picked up the trays off food and inserted them directly into the garbage with lines of homeless people looking on.

90-year-old Florida man arrested for second time in a week after feeding the homeless again – New York Daily News

The officers involved in the first arrest should be the ones facing charges.