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Showing posts from 2012

Ashley Williams Trial Postponed

Ashley Williams will NOT be going to trial tomorrow, Wednesday, Nov. 28. At the request of the prosecution, the trial is being postponed. No new date has been set.

According to Paul G., an attorney in the Henrico law firm of Morrissey and Goldman, which now is representing Ms. Williams, the lead prosecutor in the case told the court she had a family emergency involving her mother. It may be months before a new trial is held. The next milestone in the now three-year-old case will likely be a bail hearing, probably within weeks. Mobilizing for that hearing will be critical to Ms. Williams being released from Richmond City Jail, where she has been held for more than a year.

Ms. Williams is charged with second-degree homicide and felony child neglect in the death of her two-year-old son D'Sean, who was severely underweight when he died. Supporters have pointed out that three close relatives also have young sons who are dangerously underweight, raising the possibility that D'Sean w…

Cuban Film Premier Tonight!

Film and Discussion Program TONIGHT, 11/19: at William Byrd Community House 7-9pm. Cuban Filmmaker Gloria Rolando and Cuban National Archivist Dr. Tomas Fernandez Robaina to discuss the premier screening of  Rolando's 1912 - Voces Para Un Silencio(Breaking the Silence) about the Cuban government's massacre of 6,000 AfroCubans and members of the Independent Party of Color. Presented by Lee C. Robinson (African Awareness Association) and Roberto Zurbano is the editor/publisher of "Casa de las Americas," a Havana-based cultural institution that publishes the works of writers, artists, musicians, and playwrights as well as scholars of literature, the arts, and social sciences in Latin America and the Caribbean. Historic Note: This program will also welcome Special Guest Speaker: Patricia L. Pego Guerra, First Secretary, Cuban Interests Section to Washington, DC - permitted for the first time to travel out of the DC area. Tickets $10 at Eventbrite or at the door.


What's Happening Soon:

11/5: Forum: Working Peoples Movements - VCU Commons at 907 Floyd Ave., 7pm. Sponsored by VCU Students for a Democrtic Society
11/6: Election Day - 7M -7PM
11/8: Housing in Segregation - UR Downtown at 6:30pm - panel discussion with Shawn Utsey, John Moeser, Rev. Ben Campbell, moderated by Ana Edwards, HOME & Virginia Poverty Law Center sponsored.
11/9: A Community Course in African American Studies - 6:30 pm at East District Family Resource Center, Church Hill
11/22: Thanksgiving Feast -

11/28:Ashley Williams' Trial - at John Marshall Courts Building. Details and Facebook event coming soon.

Upcoming Events

Sat., Sun., Oct. 6-7 – Second Street Festival – From the organizers: “... one of the Mid-Atlantic's largest street festivals. Nearly 50,000 people visit historic Jackson Ward to reminisce about the days when 2nd Street was the heart and soul of Richmond's African American community. Attendees enjoy jazz, R&B, fashion shows, gospel music, the children’s area and performances by community groups on four stages. They also enjoy the marketplace, delicious food and reuniting with family, friends, classmates and acquaintances.” Sponsored (unfortunately) by Altria (cancer-causing cigarettes) and Dominion (high electric bills and dangerous nuclear power plants). Information at:
Sun., Oct. 7 – Public Forum: “U.S. HANDS OFF SYRIA, IRAN & MALI! We need JOBS not WAR!" – Is the U.S. preparing to attack Syria & Iran? Is it preparing to intervene in the West African country of Mali? Can we stand by as the lives of millions more people are put at …

Sept.13 Sentencing on Ashley Williams 2nd case

Thu., Sept. 13 – Sentencing hearing for Ashley Williams – 10 am, Courtroom 311, John Marshall Court Building, 400 N. 9th St., downtown Richmond. Ashley Williams will go to trial on Nov. 30 on charges connected with the tragic death of her 2-year-old son D'Sean. Richmond's Commonwealth's Attorney's office is trying to put her away for many years for supposedly allowing D'Sean to starve to death. There is no evidence for this, but there is evidence that D'Sean suffered from an undiagnosed genetic disease that can prevent the body from processing food. Three of D'Sean's close relatives exhibit signs of the same disease. Mass community support has so far kept the courts from railroading Ms. Williams, but we can't let up in this struggle.
The sentencing hearing on Sept. 13 deals with a separate case. On July 17, Ms. Williams pleaded guilty to an unrelated charge, possession of cocaine with intent to distribute. At the time of her arrest on that charge, s…

Interview: Mayor of Segou, Richmond's Sister City in Republic of Mali

Defender Interview with Ousmane Simaga, Mayor of Segou, Republic of Mali
By Phil Wilayto
Translation by Ana Edwards

RICHMOND, VA; Aug. 1, 2012 – Ousmane Simaga is the mayor of Segou, the second largest city in the Republic of Mali, West Africa. The city of 135,000 is located in southern Mali near a bend of the Niger River, just as Richmond, with its 204,000 people, sits on a bend of the James. Segou and Richmond have an official Sister City relationship. It's not the only connection. As pointed out by local Richmond columnist Michael Paul Williams, the majority of Africans brought to Virginia to be sold into slavery came from the nine West African countries that once were part of the great Malian Empire.

Mayor Simaga was in Richmond from July 24 to Aug. 1 to try and raise funds to help deal with a humanitarian crisis now facing his city. Since March, 7,238 people, nearly 4,000 of them children, have arrived in Segou, displaced by the civil war raging hundreds of miles to the north. 

Cooling Shelter Information

City cooling shelters are opened when the temperature and/or heat index reaches or exceeds 95 degrees.  For more information regarding cooling services, residents can contact the Department of Social Services Fuel Assistance Office at (804) 646-7046. Elderly residents with heat related issues can contact the Adult Protective Service Unit at (804) 646-0501. In the event of a heat related emergency, please call 9-1-1. All residents should take measures to stay hydrated and avoid prolonged exposure to the heat during the day.

Public announcements (tv, radio and newspaper) are published when cooling shelters are to be opened. Always double-check!

City cooling shelters are opened when the temperature and/or heat index reaches or exceeds 95 degrees.
Typically city cooling shelters will open from Noon to 5 p.m.during the week and are located at:
Southside Community Services Center, 4100 Hull Street Road Department of Social Services, 900 East Marshall Street East District Center, 701…
Back in the seat of the Live Room Studio B, your host will chat about the week's issues. On her mind today: the myriad of terms born every 20 years or so to justify displacement of poor people from their homes, even a reach back to when that meant displacement of our primal homes (our lives). If we don't assert the collective right to self-determination of our oppressed bodies (aka human rights) what have we?
Today on DefendersLIVE

Part 2 of 2-part interview with Lois Leveen, author of "The Secrets of Mary Bowser"- Continuing the conversation about Mary Bowser's work with Elizabeth Van Lew as a Civil War Union spy in the White House of the Confederacy. Why would an educated, free Black woman in Philadelphia risk all to return to the city of her birth, and her enslavement, to do this work? How is a culture of secret-keeping a key to survival while enslaved as well as in espionage... Why symbolic truth is as important for the oppressed as it is for the oppressor...

Tune in at 12 noon - live streamed at or on your radio at 97.3 FM (LP).

You can hear past shows at (2011-2012) and (2011 and earlier)
Comments or questions? Email
Emergency Court Watch: All Out for Ashley Williams, Tues. June 19 at 3pm

Attention Defenders & Friends!!

The Coalition for Justice has just learned that Judge Richard Taylor has scheduled the sentencing hearing for Ashley Williams. for tomorrow, June 19, 2012, at 3pm, at the John Marshall Courts Building, 400 N. 9th Street. We do not know the room number, but it will be posted in the lobby.

It is critical that everyone who can attend this hearing.
We must speak out against this miscarriage of justice!

Supporters include the Coalition for Justice, VA NAACP, Defenders, and Alliance for Progressive Values.
For background on the case, visit
Today on DefendersLIVE: part 1 of 2 part interview with Lois Leveen, author of "The Secrets of Mary Bowser"- A conversation about this historical novel based on the limited historical record available about her work with Elizabeth Van Lew as a Civil War Union spy in the White House of the Confederacy providing information to the Union Army from the desk of Jefferson Davis... Why would an educated free Black woman in Philadelphia risk all to return to the city of her birth, and her enslavement, to do this work?

Tune in at 12 noon - live streamed at or on your radio at 97.3 FM (LP). More on DefendersLIVE at
UPDATE ON THE ASHLEY WILLIAMS CASE – The court hearing to decide on Ms. Williams' request to be represented by attorney Pauline Ewald will NOT take place this Monday, June 4. What will happen Monday – by email – will be deciding the DATE for the court hearing. We should know that date by Monday afternoon, and will post and send out the information.

An explanation: A June 4 hearing is listed on the Virginia Courts Case Information website (, the standard site reporters use to find out the progress of cases. But Ms. Ewald has told us that an actual hearing will not take place on that day. There has been confusion about hearings in the past, so, just to double-check, I stopped by the court clerk's office yesterday, and was told the same thing.

Hopefully, everyone who had planned to attend a June 4 hearing will be able to make the new date. If Ms. Williams is granted her request, Ms. Ewald will then ask the court to allow Ms. Williams to withdraw her guilty ple…
DefendersLIVE May 28:
On Tuesday, May 22, a group of prisoners held in Virginia's notorious Red Onion Super-Max prison began a hunger strike to demand that the Virginia Department of Corrections (DOC) follow its own regulations in regard to meals, sanitation, isolation, safety and procedures for processing prisoner grievances. To support these courageous prisoners, a press conference was held Wed., May 23 at 11 a.m. outside DOC headquarters in Richmond, sponsored by the Richmond chapter of SPARC (Supporting Prisoners and Advocating for Radical Change). (See: SPARC members Isis Hodari, Adam Ryan and Joshua DePaolis provided an update and background on this struggle and SPARC's goals for radical change in our nation's prison industrial system.


Solidarity with Red Onion State Prison Hunger Strikers - Letter-Writing Party -
Vigil in Solidarity with Hunger Strikers - htt…

May 21 on DefendersLIVE

(and certainly not multiple wars):
Ashley Williams: 9 am, Monday, June 4, in Courtroom 302 of the John Marshall Courts Building, 400 N. 9th St. in downtown Richmond. Young mother unjustly convicted of starving her child to death seeks the right to the legal counsel of her choice - see Va Defender report on Court Watch tab above.May 25 - Court date for 33 women’s rights protesters arrested at CapitolMayor's Anti-Poverty Commission hearings TONIGHT: 6-8pm at Calhoun Center in Gilpin CourtWED, 6-8pm at Southside Community CenterRichmond Public Schools Rezoning Hearings - 6:30 pm on May 29 at George Wythe High School (4314 Crutchfield St., 23225, 804-780-5037) and May 31 at John Marshall High School (4225 Old Brook Rd, 23227). RPS School Board Meeting scheduled for June 18 at 7pm at City Hall, 900 E. Marshall St.June 15: Targeted Regulations of Abortion Providers (TRAP) Hearing in Glen Allen Dept. of Health. Link to Virginia Coal…
DefendersLIVE today: Part 2 of the Interview with Naseem Rakha, journalist and author of The Crying Tree, a novel about the death penalty and its impact on the victim, the workers, the guilty, and its essential impotence as a crime prevention tool in our society. Noon on 97.3 LP FM and live streamed on
Former U.S. Army Col. and now Peace Activist
ANN WRIGHT to speak May 5 in Richmond

The Defenders for Freedom, Justice & Equality will host a talk by noted peace activist Ann Wright on Saturday, May 5, 7 pm, at the William Byrd Community House, 224 So. Cherry St., Richmond, Va.
Ann Wright is a former U.S. Army colonel who publicly resigned from the military over her opposition to the 2003 invasion of Iraq. She has since become an internationally known anti-war activist and speaker. She is the co-author of “Dissent: Voices of Conscience; Government Insiders Speak Out Against the War in Iraq,” which includes a forward by Daniel Ellsberg of Pentagon Papers fame.
Ms. Wright will speak on U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East and the human and economic cost of U.S. wars and occupations on our communities here at home. Her presentation will be preceded by reports on community efforts to support Ashley Williams, a young Richmonder wrongfully convicted in connection with the tragic death of h…
DefendersLIVE: Today's topic: the upcoming May Day commemorations with guest was Nathan Stickel of the Flying Brick Library, a 9-year old community library of radical literature. Info about the library and May Day activities can be found at and Today's show will be rebroadcast ONLINE at Tuesday at 11am and 2pm.
Today on DefendersLIVE: Remembering Slavery, Resistance & Freedom is a project to gain community input and assistance for discovery and reclamation of sites of cultural and historical of meaning to African descended peoples of Virginia. Dr. Michael L. Blakey, director of the Institute for Historical Biology, College of William & Mary, will elaborate on this project, cemeteries, community engagement and decision-making. WRIR 97.3 LP FM at 12noon.

Defenders Public Meeting: The Case of Trayvon Martin

Dear friends,

The fatal February shooting of Florida teenager Trayvon Martin has produced a firestorm of protest across the country, including here in Richmond.

As a follow-up to organizing the 300-strong March 22 vigil at Richmond's African Burial Ground and supporting the 700-strong March 26 vigil at VCU, the Defenders are honored to host longtime human rights activist Ajamu Baraka, founder of the U.S. Human Rights Network, who will be speaking on the case of Trayvon Martin in the context of the deepening political and social crisis in the United States. (Please see the attached bio.)

The presentation will take place at the Defenders' regular monthly meeting: 7-9 pm, Monday, April 2, at the William Byrd Community House, 224 S. Cherry St. (just south of VCU). If you have questions please call 804-644-5834. DO NOT CALL William Byrd, they are the host site, not the organizers of this meeting)

We are inviting our friends and allies to join us at this event, especially those Occ…

Sacred Ground Project at Lumpkin's Jail

Civil War & Emancipation Day is April 14, 2012
Visit for schedule.

Sacred Ground will have a table at the Lumpkin's Jail site and make a presentation at 1:30.
Information about the Remembering Slavery Resistance & Freedom and educational materials will be available, including surveys to gather community input on the Burial Ground memorialization and commemorating Emancipation.

Civil War & Emancipation Day is a signature event of The Future of Richmond's Past, a collaborative effort among leaders of Richmond’s historical societies, museums, commissions, cultural and tourism organizations, and educational institutions to frame the upcoming sesquicentennial years in which our city and the nation will commemorate the anniversaries of the Civil War and Emancipation.

The Future of Richmond's Past sponsors public programs, special events, and inclusive conversations to advance a better understanding of our City’s shared history.

Add …
NOTICE!! Slave Trail Commission Resolution Postponed to April 17 Land Use Committee meeting for discussion and April 30 City Council meeting for vote.
11 am PRESS CONFERENCE to be held at VA NAACP Office on Graham Road behind VUU (off Brook Rd) - called by Va State Conference NAACP, King Salim Khalfani. Speakers to include Mr. Khalfani, Sa'ad El-Amin who has drafted a detailed description of the procedural problems of the Slave Trail Commission, members of the Sacred Ground Project, African Burial Ground Community Organizing Committee, Defenders and Virginia Defender Newspaper.
12 noon today: DefendersLIVE topic: Trayvon Martin and His Murder - LIVE on or 97.3 Lp FM
UNAC anti-war conference underway. Anti-war Strategies from Black Community Organizations workshop begins at 10:45am.
March Roots to Roots at WBCH: Unknown No Longer is the Virginia Slave Name Database - a breakthrough resource with 4,000 names now online for family history research. This exciting development in archival materials access is being led by Dr. Lauranett Lee, first African American intern at the Virginia Historical Society and its inaugural curator of Virginia's African American History. Meet Dr. Lee and learn about this wonderful resource. RSVP by Friday, Mar. 16: 643-2717 ext. 306 or

Bust at Va Capitol is Attack on Women and Rehearsal for Urban Control

The first of the more than 30 people arrested yesterday at the Virginia State Capitol were arraigned on Monday, March 5 at 9 am, at the Manchester Courthouse, 900 Hull St. on South Side. Another group will be arraigned at 9 am on Friday, March 16. The Defenders are urging everyone who can to please attend these hearings as they are scheduled and support these courageous champions of women's rights.
These folks, most of them women, were part of a rally and march of around 1,000 people protesting the arch-reactionary bills now being promoted in the General Assembly, including but not limited to the bill that would force women to have - and pay for - an ultrasound exam before being able to get an abortion.
The 30-plus people were arrested while peacefully sitting on the steps of the Virginia State Capitol. Though they were nonviolent and made no threat of violence, the police showed up ready for war. There were Capitol police, state troopers in full riot gear and cops in green fatig…
Thanks for being patient and staying with us. Thanks to Alex and Harvey for sorting out the problem and getting DefendersLIVE back on the air in 5 minutes!
and meanwhile right now:

CALL FOR ACTION: On Feb 20th at 11 am, we call for 500 women (but men are very welcome and wanted!) to line either side of the walkway between the General Assembly building and the Capitol in SILENCE as our Senators and Representatives pass between the two buildings several times day to work on passing bills oppressive to women and reproductive rights. **Please note that the legislators WILL be in session on Feb 20!**

We are there to tell our elected representatives: Support women's rights to control their bodies! Don't enact oppressive Anti-choice (what pro-life really means) laws!

A RALLY will follow at 2pm at the Bell Tower with supportive Senators, Delegates, and women's rights leaders.
Please try to attend this important meeting, which will have major consequences for the future of Richmond's African Burial Ground and the rest of Shockoe Bottom:

Land Use Committee Meeting
3 pm, Tuesday, Feb. 21
Council Chambers (2nd floor)
Richmond City Hall
900 E. Broad St.
Richmond, Va.

New resolution seeks to eliminate term limits, reduce commission from 17 to 13 members, and make 8 of those 13 ex-officio. This will formally remove this commission's decision-making processes from public awareness or accountability.
Technical difficulties on today's DefendersLIVE. Please bear with us as our engineers work on it.
host, Ana Edwards


Monday, 20 Feb. at the Virginia GENERAL Assembly 11am SILENT VIGIL followed by 2pm RALLY at the BELL TOWER Details at Temperature at 11am: 40 F / Temperature at 2pm: 45 F
"Black-Red Relations Today: Racism, Genocide, Vital Statistics and Recovery" with Anita & Hugh Harrell of the Weyanoke Association.
This is a call in show between 12:20 and 12:40: 804.649-9737. From Nottoway to Cherokee, from Plecker to RACE: Are we really so different
From Genocide and Marginalization to Self-Determination? A conversation on the state of African American and American Indian history and relations.
with host Ana Edwards

Resources/Links - Are Blacks Being Victimized Twice by the Cherokee?

Legislation To Follow!

RIHD - Prison and Ex-Offender Legislation Alert
About the Bills  Download Copy Click Here:  CRC 2012 Focus.doc Earned Second Chance – The focus on education and rehabilitative programs that include the Earned Second Chance legislation and the Volunteerism Tax Deduction as well as a Focus on arts in the prison educational environment in order to provide tactile learning for those approximately fifty percent of inmates with specific learning disabilities. While we may Not support the use of discretionary and often arbitrary parole; we do support a person’s ability to reduce their sentence through hard work and positive contributions to their community.
Ban the Box – Starting with legislation focused on removing barriers to ex‐offender employment, including the ‘Ban the Box’ approach, the campaign will promote equal opportunity in employment as well as developing healthy relationships with employers. All persons should have the right to support themselves and their families without …

NNDA Protest: Friday
, Jan. 20, 3-6 pm
NNDA Protest
The Federal Courthouse - 701 E Broad St., downtown Richmond (directly across the street from the National). This is on Broad St between 7th and 8th Streets. Friday
, Jan. 20, 3-6 pm
“We will be peacefully protesting the federal government concerning the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2012. We are calling on the courts to declare this law - which affirms the power to detain Americans indefinitely without trial - a violation of the Bill of Rights guaranteed by the Constitution and for it to be repealed. This will be a vital opportunity to educate and provide outreach to the many many people largely unaware of the law.”
Speakers from Occupy Richmond and various social justice organizations from the Richmond community. Performance with rap artist Isaac Ramsey from Double Rainbow. Candle light vigil at 5:30 mourning the death of our civil liberties, with a march to City Hall for the Free Speech Forum immed…

MEDIA RELEASE: Jan. 7, 2012

Media contact:Phil Wilayto – Phone: 804-247-3731; e-mail:
Jan. 14 march on State Capitol to demand: 'Don't balance the budget on the backs of Virginia's working people!'
Responding to the threat of more job losses and state budget cuts, Virginia activists representing a broad range of issues will converge in Richmond Jan. 14 for a networking conference, march and rally under the general theme of “Jobs, Peace, Justice!”

The day's events will include a 5 p.m. march on the State Capitol to tell Gov. Robert McDonnell and the General Assembly: “Don't balance the budget on the backs of Virginia's working people!”

The conference, march and rally are sponsored by the Virginia People's Assembly, an annual gathering of progressive activists held to coincide with the opening of the Virginia General Assembly.

“Jan. 14 is the day before the 83rd anniversary of the birth of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., so it's a fitting time for us to march…
This week on DefLIVE: Jason Brown and Mark Carter of Occupy The Hood RVA join me to discuss last Saturday's Occupy The Hood RVA General Assembly and what the rising up of the Occupy The Hood movement means to the Occupy Wall Street movement and other campaigns for economic and social justice in the US. DefendersLIVE airs Monday at noon on 97.3 LP FM in Richmond VA and online at and is rebroadcast Tuesdays online only at 11 am and 1pm.