Saturday, January 30, 2010

A Tale Of Two Cities; and How they deal with Violence

New Yorkers smack down Gov. Paterson's plan to legalize ultimate fighting.

BY Glenn Blain

Friday, January 29th 2010, 1:39 PM

Albany-Male voters opposed Paterson's proposal 55% to 43%, while females punched out the plan by a margin of 82% to 15%, according to Marist.

Even among younger voters aged 18 to 29, the plan could only generate a 50% approval rating, Miringoff said.

"I think people find it too much on the violent side and not enough on the revenue side to matter," Miringoff said.

New York banned the sport in 1997 at the urging of then-Gov. George Pataki, who called it barbaric. Pataki has since changed his stance and come out in favor of Paterson's proposal.

Paterson argued that new regulations have made the sport safer. His budget projects raising $2.1 million from taxes on ultimate fighting matches.

Julie Wood, a spokeswoman for the Ultimate Fighting Championship league, said she wasn't shocked by the poll.

"We understand that not everyone is going to be a fan of mixed martial arts, but UFC sells out arenas coast to coast and would do the same in New York and the tax revenue and economic impact of those events would benefit all New Yorkers," Wood said.

With Kenneth Lovett

New tour takes visitors into LA's ganglands

by Katie Hammel on Jan 29th 2010

Tourists looking for a thrill in Los Angeles can now take a bus tour of the city's most dangerous ganglands. For $65, LA Gang Tours takes visitors around the city, pointing out gang graffiti and stopping at sights like the Los Angeles Riverbed, Florence Avenue, and the Pico Union Graffiti Lab.

It seems tourists are always drawn to places with a dangerous auras and violent pasts, places that are the complete opposite of our comfortable lives at home. The question is, do we go to these places, places like the slums of Mumbai, the townships of Johannesburg or the streets of South Central LA, because we want to understand what life is like for the people there, or do we go to gawk or just so we can say "I've been there"? And do these tours actually help the communities that are put on display, or do they make them a spectacle?

LA Gang Tours was created by Alfred Lomas, a former gang member, who says the tour will create 10 part-time jobs for ex-gang members who will lead tours and share their own stories. He says his goal is to help residents of South Central,"to give profits from the tours back to these areas for economic growth and development, provide job/entrepreneur training, micro-financing opportunities and to specialize in educating people from around the world about the Los Angeles inner city lifestyle, gang involvement and solutions."
I'd actually be curious to take the tour, which is scheduled to run once per month. It sounds like, in this case, the tour may be run in a way that takes a more anthropological, rather than exploitative, look at the community. The tour bus is unmarked, and out of respect for area residents, riders on the tour are not permitted to take photos or video.

While in
Cape Town
, I had the opportunity to tour Robben Island, the prison where political "criminals" were held during apartheid. When the tour guide, himself a former prisoner, was asked why he would do this - lead tours and relive the pain of his imprisonment every day - for a living, he responded with two reasons. One, he said, was because he wanted people to know what happened. The second was that every boatload of tourists that came to the island meant one more person who would have a job.

Perhaps it's naive to think that welcoming a bus-full of tourists once a month could help solve the many problems of the area. But if offering the tours keeps one more ex-gang member employed running tours and out of gang life, well, at least it's a start.

Chicago Tribune]

Sunday, January 10, 2010

This Sister Leads By Example and Sets The Bar For Others

WNBA Player Reaches Out to Murdered Woman's Daughter

Minnesota Lynx player Charde Houston has only been in the WNBA for a couple of seasons but she's adamant about making a difference when she can. She recently reached out to Aiyanna Bardwell, an 11-year-old girl whose mother was allegedly murdered by her father back in November. Aiyanna and her little brother, 8-year-old Tabari Strong, were left homeless because of the incident.

"I've been through some tough things in my life, but this exceeds anything I've been through," Houston told the San Antonio Express-News. "When you face hardship, I know how important it is to have supporters around you."

Houston immediately went to work e-mailing Aiyanna's basketball coach, Theresa Nunn, telling her help was on the way. Using Twitter, Houston organized a fund-raising drive for Aiyanna and her brother, raising almost $3,000 in a little more than a month.

Houston had planned to meet with Aiyanna and her basketball team at a San Antonio restaurant, but her flight was grounded at the last minute. Instead, she called Aiyanna, Tabari and the team and was put on speaker phone as everyone cheered.

"I was in tears this morning at the airport," Houston said. "I told them that their Christmas presents are in the mail, and I can't wait to see them."

She promised Aiyanna and her team tickets to the next Minnesota Lynx-San Antonio Silver Stars game in June. In the meantime, Aiyanna and her brother are living with their grandmother (pictured above, on the left) and have received support from the local community and parents of her teammates.

By Quibian Salazar-Moreno on