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March 2007


Initially, I didn’t believe what I’d read. Surely sleep deprivation had kicked in and I’d misread the e-mail in my InBox. ‘Shaquanda Cotton to be Released’. I wiped my eyes and read it two more times. Then I googled Shaquanda’s name. It was true.

Howard Witt of the Chicago Tribune and other international media confirmed it also. Click here to read Howard Witt’s article. So much has happened to this child within the last year but bloggers have proven the power of the internet when used positively.

There have been several comments to my posts that have been refuted in Witt’s article. The federal investigation of Paris, Texas public schools by the Department off Education may expose many more similar atrocities.

Only the weather kept Shaquanda’s mother from reaching her yesterday. I can only imagine how the two of them felt hearing the news and knowing they would be reunited again. I am as full as I write this. All I can do is shed tears of joy.

I’d love to hug Shaquanda and her mother. Shaquanda’s plight has touched so many people. There were so many lessons taught and learned through this situation. The most powerful lesson for me was the demonstration of the power of love and prayer. Thank you to every blogger who played a part in this. I even thank the individuals who felt that Shauanda’s sentence was justified. It’s beneficial to all to hear different perspectives. My position did not change but I respect your right to your views.

Throughout Shaquanda’s ordeal, I was reminded of a poem I had to memorize. It was on of those pledging requirements I experienced while in college but in modern times has most unfortunately been associated with American terrorist Timothy McVeigh.


William Ernest Henley

Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the Pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.

In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.

Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years Finds,
and shall find, me unafraid.

It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.

Again, thanks to everyone but a special shout out to YBP, Rev. Jim, Mother, Paula and Russ. To Howard Witt, I bow to your journalistic skills. Peace and Progress.


Vanessa: Unplugged!

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Diversity Inc covers Shaquanda Cotton's plight

Here is coverage of Shaquanda Cotton’s plight by Diversity Inc magazine. The more her story is told, the better chance for her release and an unbiased investigation of the Paris public schools.

Shaquanda Cotton's Sentencing Exemplifies Rehabilitation Gone Bad
By Yoji Cole

Sentencing a 14-year-old to seven years in prison for shoving a school hall monitor doesn't sound fair. That the girl in question was sentenced by a judge who three months earlier sentenced a 14-year-old white girl convicted of arson to probation seems criminal.

But that's the horrific predicament Shaquanda Cotton faces—seven years in the Texas Youth Commission (TYC). Cotton was convicted of assaulting a public servant because she shoved a 58-year-old hall monitor at Paris High School.

"Race played a major factor in this case because if Shaquanda was a young, white female there is no way they would allow such a heightened charge to go forward," says Gary Bledsoe, an Austin, Texas, attorney and president of the NAACP Texas branch. "Even if you take what the teacher's aide said to be true ... all she said was that Shaquanda lightly pushed her ... you're telling me that's a felony?"

Paris has a bloodied history when it comes to race. The city, with a population of 26,000 (Census 2000 counted 73 percent white, 22 percent black, 4 pecent Latino, 0.95 percent Native American and 0.66 percent Asian American), was the site of several public lynchings of black Americans in the late 1800s and early 1900s.

Paris public schools are also being investigated by the U.S. Education Department following repeated complaints that administrators discipline black students more frequently and harshly than they do white students. U.S. Education Department representatives confirmed an investigation is under way but were unavailable for comment.

Currently, Cotton is being held at TYC, which is also under investigation for sexual and physical abuse of inmates. Moreover, the facility makes clear in its "Family Guide" for relatives of juveniles that "You may have heard about adult prisons, where once you 'do the time,' you go home. It does not work this way at TYC." That's because of TYC's "resocialization" program that the prison says "enhance[s] personal accountability of delinquent youth." Parents of incarcerated youth, however, report that the rule effectively keeps kids in prison indefinitely.

One of the rule's steps is to admit guilt in order to be considered for parole. But Cotton says she was defending herself from being hit by the hall monitor when she shoved her, so she doesn't believe she is guilty.

"She can't go from step one to step two until she admits guilt, so you have to swallow your beliefs or stand up for your principals," says Bledsoe, who added that Cotton's time in TYC has already been extended because she violated a resocialization rule. She had one more pair of socks than is allowed. "We're trying to get them to invalidate the rule," says Bledsoe.

Cotton's mother, Creola, reported that her daughter is in jail because she has protested and filed complaints against the school and police department. Prosecutors argued during the punishment phase of the trial that Creola Cotton is an unfit mother, according to reported a story on the district attorney's web site.

"Shaquanda came from a very structured home. She didn't run around; she didn't get out in the street; she didn't do drugs; she didn't drink alcohol; she didn't do any of those things because I didn't let her," Cotton was quoted as saying in the story. "The only reason that they could give that Shaquanda should be removed from my home is that I filed complaints against the school and the police department. So how does that make me an unfit parent?"

A spokesperson for the district attorney's office, Allan Hubbard, was not available to speak to, but in the story that appeared on the district attorney's web site, Hubbard was quoted as saying Cotton's case "is not a racial issue."

"There are people who commit crimes and there are people who do not agree with the way those crimes are handled and the process. This is not a racial issue with this office," Hubbard said in the story. "There will always be people who object to the level that we pursue something for prosecution."

Now Cotton's future rests in the hands of Bledsoe and others who have taken up her cause.


Vanessa: Unplugged!

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Sanjaya makes the cut --- again!

I have not watched American Idol in a few weeks. I watched a few minutes tonight just to see if Sanjaya got the boot. Surprise, surprise, he was safe; he wasn’t even in the bottom three.

The Sanjaya Malakar phenomenon is amazing. He is obviously not the best performer but has enough of a fan base to escape to yet another week. I understand that there is a campaign to “Vote for the Worst.” I heard that radio jock Howard Stern has gotten in on the act.

In my opinion, AI producers are using Sanjaya for ratings. There are posts circulating the internet that Simon Cowell says he’ll quit AI if Sanjaya wins. That's sure to earn votes from Simon-haters.

Who’s kidding who? Simon and the other judges could have eliminated Sanjaya during the auditions. There were many more talented individuals that were sent packing during the local auditions. Sanjaya was planned.

I may just vote for Sanjaya next week because AI itself is such a joke.


Vanessa: Unplugged!

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FREE SHAQUANDA COTTON - Update # 2: Worldwide Prayer, Sat. March 31st!

BlackAmericaWeb published Shaquanda’s story yesterday. A march and rally calling for her immediate release are scheduled for Tuesday. The event is organized by Citizens Concerned for Racial Equality and radio talk show host Rickey Smiley. Read more on the BlackAmericaWeb site.

On Saturday, March 31st from noon – 1 p.m. CST, pray for Shaquanda’s immediate release.


Vanessa: Unplugged!

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Anna Nicole Smith's cause of death revealed

Okay, now we know that Anna Nicole Smith died from an accidental overdose of a sedative. The medical examiner’s report included details of scarring from cosmetic surgery and an infection due to injections in her buttocks.

How sad this woman’s life must have been. She died in much the same manner as her idol, Marilyn Monroe. Now that her cause of death has been revealed, we’ll be subjected to more details on her lifestyle as the inquisition into her son’s death begins followed by the paternity of her daughter and legal battles over her daughter’s inherited wealth by way of Smith’s late husband Howard Marshall.


Vanessa: Unplugged!

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Remembering Calvert DeForest

Actor Calvert DeForest passed away on March 19 in Long Island, NY. He was 85.

Don’t recognize the name? DeForest was best known as Larry “Bud” Melman from Late Night with David Letterman. This bespectacled elderly gentleman often garnered a laugh without telling a joke. He will be missed.



Vanessa: Unplugged!

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Jeb Bush denied honorary degree from UF

University of Florida (UF) faculty and alumni are at odds over a recent Faculty Senate vote denying an honorary degree to former Florida Governor Jeb Bush.

In an unprecedented move, faculty senate members indicated that Bush was not a friend to higher education, citing Bush’s initiatives that did more harm than good. The addition of three medical schools and his ‘One Florida’ initiative ending race-based admissions were just three criticisms cited. Bush was denied by a 38-28 vote.

Attempting to minimize the controversy and embarrassment of the snub, the UF alumni board passed a resolution awarding Bush honorary alumnus status. That move may have been a good one but it was too late to avoid the negative publicity for UF and Bush.


Vanessa: Unplugged!

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Life is a Theater: Everyone Can't Be in Your Front Row

This was forwarded to me by my friend Natacha Payen last year. You may have seen it before also. I love its message so I'm sharing with you today...

Everyone Can't Be in Your Front Row

Life is a theater - invite your audience carefully. Not everyone is holy enough and healthy enough to have a front row seat in our lives. There are some people in your life that need to be loved from a distance. It's amazing what you can accomplish when you let go, or at least minimize your time with draining, negative, incompatible, not-going-anywhere relationships – friendships - fellowships!

Observe the relationships around you. Pay attention to:
Which ones lift and which ones lean?
Which ones encourage and which ones discourage?
Which ones are on a path of growth uphill and which ones are going downhill?
When you leave certain people, do you feel better or feel worse?
Which ones always have drama or don't really understand, know and appreciate you and the gift that lies within you?

The more you seek God and the things of God – the more you seek quality, the more you seek not just the hand of God but the face of God -- the more you seek things honorable -- the more you seek growth, peace of mind, love and truth around you, the easier it will become for you to decide who gets to sit in the FRONT ROW and who should be moved to the balcony of your life.

You cannot change the people around you...but you can change the people you are around!
Ask God for wisdom and discernment and choose wisely the people who sit in the front row of your life.


Vanessa: Unplugged

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Dave Brubeck - Take Five

Since I'm not at "Jazz in the Gardens" today with india.arie, here's a little from one of my favorites.


Vanessa: Unplugged

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My thoughts on Miss USA 2007

Miss Tennessee, Rachel Renee Smith, was crowned Miss USA 2007 last night in Hollywood, CA. There was a serious attempt to liven up the pageant with funky hip hop music from Kanye West and others. The pageant would have come across as upscale had Kanye performed live.

Nancy O’Dell did an excellent job commentating all while very pregnant. Miss Thang even rocked in high heels; I know her feet must be killing her this morning. Hey, she didn’t fall. She looked fabulous! So nothing else matters. Okay, so I forgot the name of the guy that hosted with Nancy, he was good also. I was pleased that the show ran very quickly; sometimes pageants can be quite boring when you’re viewing at home.

It would be interesting to see the competition during the week. I know most of the men enjoyed the swimsuit competition. I thought most of the semi-finalists looked a little too thin but perhaps it’s a cultural thing. My favorites: Miss Tennessee and Miss Nevada

The evening gowns were very interesting. I forget the name of the contestant that wore a hideous baby blue number with a Greco-roman flair. It was ill-fitting and too revealing. Miss California was definitely a fashion don’t. That black gown with those baby doll cap sleeves was awful. The design was awful too; it looked like a high school sewing project. That dress did nothing to accentuate her beauty --- absolutely nothing. She would have looked better had she worn her hair up also. She’s such a beautiful girl that she still made it to the finals and third runner-up. My favorite gown was definitely Miss Tennessee’s. The color was striking against her golden brown skin tone and it accentuated her figure.

The person I felt the most sympathy for was Miss USA 2006, Tara Conner. I still think it was unfair for Donald Trump to allow her to keep her crown after her ghastly behavior and drug use. I know that she must be relieved today to have another Miss USA in the spotlight. I think Trump used Tara Conner’s predicament to realize viewers for this year’s show.

She did not look her usual self. She looked very used. If she buys bigger boobs, she can be one of Hugh Hefner’s girlfriends. Whoever told her that hairstyle with the straight bangs and blue-green print gown she wore on the show looked nice needs to be shot. Her belly protruded and she didn’t appear to be wearing proper undergarments. Any viewer of Oprah or the Tyra Banks Show knows what I’m referring to. I do hope someone that really loves Tara Conner intervenes before she has a career meltdown.


Vanessa: Unplugged

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