From the January-February 2017 issue of News & Letters
Latonja S. Richardson, a 13-year-old African-American girl from Jacksonville, Fla., is raising money through social media to send 100 girls to see the movie “Hidden Figures” in January and give each a copy of the book by Margot Lee Shetterly. The book and movie are about Dorothy Vaughn, Mary Jackson, and Katherine Johnson, three of several Black women mathematicians who worked for NASA to send John Glenn into orbit and who were so brilliant they were praised as “human computers.” Richardson was inspired by attending the White House Hidden Figures in Space Exploration’s advance screening of the movie and wants to show girls that, through hard work and persistence, they can succeed in STEM fields and “not only look at the stars but take the steps to reach for them.”
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In January, the Coalition of Concerned Mothers, along with Every Case Matters, a similar grassroots organization dedicated to “fighting incarceration of the mentally ill and the killing of Black, Brown, and Red People while in police custody,” will visit the Department of Justice. They are demanding information and records regarding the deaths of their children while in police custody and that the killers be tried for murder. They are also demanding enforcement of the Death in Custody Reporting Act and the Arrest Related Deaths program in effect since 2000. If these are enforced, law enforcement agencies could lose funding for equipment and tactical resources if deaths are not reported. They have created an online petition signed by 21 organizations including NOW, Amnesty International, and the AFL-CIO.
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In January, 26 mothers detained with their children at Berks County Residential Center in Leesport, Penn., for 17 months (see Women WorldWide Sept.–Oct. 2016) wrote a letter to President Obama asking for an opportunity to present their asylum cases. The letter, signed “Madres Berks,” points out that President Obama has recently pardoned criminals and that the mothers’ only supposed “crime” is that they had fled violence in their countries of origin to enter the U.S. They state that, if this is wrong, they have already paid for it, and that, due to the stressful conditions in which they are being held, the mental health of their children is deteriorating.