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February 2008 Newsletter         Subscribe to this newsletter


February 2008

In this issue:

Hate Crimes Ordinance Expanded to Protect Homeless from Attacks

Enforcement Update

New City Council Committees Announced

Staff Profiles

Kudos Corner

Photos from the Dec 6, 2007 Human Rights Day Event

Announcement:
Mayor's Scholars Awards Applications Now Available . Click here here for more info.

Origins of Black History Month
By Greg Bell, Policy and Outreach

Events

"The 'N' Word: A Historical Message of Madness, an Important Method of Polarization across American Society."

Presentation by J.W. Wiley and Eddie Moore Jr. Thursday, February 14, 9am-11am Bertha Knight Landes Room, City Hall Click here for more info.

"You Mean, There's Race in My Movie?"

Presentation by Frederick Gooding and Khalid Patterson Thursday, February 28 9am-11am Bertha Knight Landes Room, City Hall Click here for more info.

Special Preview Screening: Iron Ladies of Liberia, Saturday, February 23, 2008 at 4:00 PM Free with RSVP to ironladies@communitycinema.org or call 1-800-930-6060 and press 3. Click here for more info.

Black History Month was established in 1976 as an expansion of the Negro History Week, which was established in 1926 by Carter G. Woodson, director of what was then known as the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History (ASNLH). Woodson selected the week in February that embraced the birthdays of both Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln. The event was originally conceived as a national celebration, and to appeal to both whites and blacks and to improve race relations.

Negro History Week was viewed as an extension of the effort to demonstrate to the world that Africans and peoples of African descent had contributed to the advance of history. Each year a national theme was selected and Woodson's group would provide scholarly and popular materials to focus the nation's "study" of Negro history. As such, Negro History Week was conceived as a means of undermining the foundation of the idea of black inferiority through popular information grounded in scholarship.

The Negro History Week Movement took hold immediately. At first it was celebrated almost exclusively by African Americans, taking place outside of the view of the wider society. Increasingly, however, mayors and governors, especially in the North, began endorsing Negro History Week and promoting interracial harmony. By the time of Woodson's death in 1950, Negro History Week had become a well-established cultural institution.

However, with the rise of the Black Power Movement in the 1960s, many in the African American community began to complain about the insufficiency of a week-long celebration. In 1976, citing the 50th annual celebration of the ASNLH (which had changed its name to The Association for the Study of Afro-American Life and History) and America's bicentennial, the group responded to the popular call to increase the celebration to a full month.

The theme for 2008, chosen by the founders of Black History Month, is "The Mis-Education of the Negro (75th Anniversary)."

 


Hate Crimes Ordinance Expanded to Protect Homeless from Attacks
By Brenda Anibarro, Policy and Outreach

In December of 2007 Seattle became the first city in the country to provide legal protections for victims of hate crimes who are attacked because they are homeless. In a unanimous vote the Seattle City Council passed an amendment expanding the city's hate crime law to include homeless people.

Lubna Mahadeen, a member of the Seattle Human Rights Commission testified on behalf of the amendment stating, "Everyone has the right to feel safe in their community regardless of whether they have a home or not."

The Homelessness Task Force of the Seattle Human Rights Commission developed the proposal based on feedback received at a conference on homelessness the Commission held in 2004. Working with the Seattle Office for Civil Rights, the Commission found significant data that homeless people are at great risk of having violent crimes perpetrated against them solely because they are homeless. Between 1999 and 2002, Seattle was ranked the 7th most dangerous city and Washington the 3rd most dangerous state for people who are homeless.

Seattle's hate crime or malicious harassment law defines malicious harassment as intentionally committing physical injury to another person, threatening or placing someone in reasonable fear of harm, or causing physical damage or property destruction against someone because of the perpetrator's perception of the person's gender identity, marital status, political ideology, age or parental status.

The amendment extends protections to those who are perceived to be homeless. If a hate crime occurs, the perpetrator faces the penalty of a gross misdemeanor in addition to any other penalties incurred based on the incident.

Washington State's hate crime law protects race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, gender, sexual orientation or mental, physical and sensory handicaps. These crimes carry a stiffer penalty and are classified as a felony.

Community support for adding homelessness as a protected group was strong. Residents testified about being physically attacked and of friends and family members violently assaulted simply for living on the streets. Leo Rhodes gave testimony of his friend who had been living under a bridge and had been murdered by teenagers who told him he was worthless.

Anitra Freeman, who was formerly homeless and now works with SHARE/WHEEL and Women in Black (a group that holds vigils for homeless people who have been murdered in the community) stated, "I can still feel what it feels like to feel invisible, isolated and scared all the time."

The council listened as community members testified on behalf of the ordinance. Beatrice Marius summed up what many expressed to Council that day stating, "We are human beings just like you we have a right to be treated with dignity."

For questions regarding the ordinance or the educational campaign being launched by the Seattle Human Rights Commission, please contact Brenda Anibarro at (206) 684-4514.


Enforcement Update
By Karina Bull, Enforcement

In 2007, 29% of SOCR's discrimination charges were based on disability. This is a significant percentage given that the other frequently occurring bases for charges last year included race (29%), sex (9%), national origin (8%) and retaliation (7%). The following case summaries provide examples of issues in disability charges. Names and certain facts have been changed to maintain confidentiality.

Public Accommodations
Ralph wanted to take his date to a play at a local theatre. After informing the theatre manager that he had a hearing impairment and needed an Assistive Listening Device (ALD), he learned that no such device was available. Ralph decided to bring his own ALD, but it did not work and he sat through the performance unable to hear the dialogue or music. Ralph filed a charge of discrimination for failure to reasonably accommodate a disability. In a settlement, the theatre agreed to install an ALD within two months. Our Policy and Outreach Division followed up with a mail campaign encouraging other theatres to do the same.

Lucinda went shopping with her service animal, a medium-sized dog that she kept off-leash. Upon entering a small gift store, the owner asked her to hold her dog. Lucinda stated that her dog was a service animal and that she was unable to pick him up. The owner did not believe that the dog was a service animal because it was off-leash. She explained that another customer's dog had peed on a box of clothes and ruined $700 of merchandise. The owner informed Lucinda that she needed to hold her dog or leave the store. Lucinda left and filed a discrimination charge. In a settlement, the store agreed to post a sign welcoming service animals, participate in training about discrimination laws, and provide compensation of $300.

Housing
Patrick rented a condominium unit with an assigned parking space. Patrick informed the unit's owner that he had a mobility impairment and asked for a bigger parking space with an access aisle. The owner contacted the Condo Association and learned that all the parking spaces were deeded to the units and not eligible for reassignment. Patrick personally contacted the Condo Association to make another request, but never received a response. Frustrated, he filed a charge of discrimination against the Condo Association. In a settlement, the Condo Association agreed to contact the Seattle Department of Transportation to obtain a curbside, accessible parking space and to send a notice to all owners requesting a volunteer to change parking spaces.

Theresa kept her service animal, a medium-sized dog, off-leash at her apartment complex. She did not heed repeated requests from the property manager to leash her dog because she thought that the leash rule did not apply to service animals. After receiving a 10-Day Notice to Vacate the Premises for failure to comply with the leash rule, she filed a discrimination charge against the property manager because she believed that she was being treated differently than other tenants with dogs as pets. SOCR issued a "No Cause" determination after finding that Theresa's dog was not providing disability-related assistance when it was off-leash; ample opportunity was provided for compliance; and all other tenants complied with the leash rule.

Employment
Terry worked in a sales position and had only met his sales quota once in the past eight months. After suffering a severe assault, he asked for an extended period of paid-time-off to recover. As Terry's position did not qualify for sick leave or vacation days, Management offered him a few days of paid-time-off, an extended period of unpaid time off, a flexible schedule, and special assistance with sales calls and paperwork. Despite these measures, Terry did not meet his quota for another two months and was terminated for lack of performance. Terry filed a discrimination charge because he believed that the employer did not try hard enough to accommodate his injuries and that he was terminated on the basis of disability. SOCR issued a "No Cause" determination after finding that the employer had fulfilled its duty to reasonably accommodate Terry's injuries; Terry was not able to perform the essential functions of his job with or without the accommodations; and the employer consistently terminated other employees who failed to meet their sales quota.

 


New City Council Committees Announced

 

At the start of the New Year the City Council formed new committees and named new committee chairs. Councilmember Richard Conlin was selected Council President.

The Seattle Office for Civil Rights will work primarily with the Culture, Civil Rights, Health, and Personnel Committee chaired by Councilmember Nick Licata. The other members of the committee include Tom Rasmussen, Jean Godden and as an alternate, Bruce Harrell.

This committee meets primarily the 2nd and 4th Wednesday of each month at 2 p.m. at City Council Chambers, City Hall, 600 4th Avenue. Meeting times and dates are subject to change so please visit the Council's website at www.seattle.gov/council/ for up-to-date information.


Staff Profiles

Ron Ramp

As Paralegal at SOCR my responsibilities involve legal research, public disclosure, statistical reports, case summaries, settlement compliance, and working with HUD and EEOC contracts. I'm also a member of the change team working on undoing institutional racism.

One of the best parts about working at SOCR is the opportunity to help those that have experienced discrimination. SOCR Enforcement provides a key resource for those that have experienced discrimination in Seattle. The work around the race and social justice initiative has been transformative on an institutional and personal level. It sound trite, but the people at SOCR are truly exceptional. The SOCR staff is very diverse, supportive, hardworking, committed to justice, and a lot of fun to be around.

Outside of work I enjoy gardening, skiing, camping, travel, film, and books.


 

Darlene Flynn (left) with co-trainer Robin D'Angelo Darlene Flynn

What is your position at SOCR and what does it entail?

I am the Race for Social Justice Initiative Policy Analyst, member of the RSJI Coordinating Team and City lead staff for RSJI capacity building.

What do you love most about working at SOCR?

The opportunity to have a job focused on racial justice and the team I get to work with to do it.

What are your hobbies outside of work?

Partner dancing, singing and playing my guitar, hanging out with friends and loved ones.

What or who inspires you in your life?

Too many to name - all those who blazed trails for people of color and women, I am honored to stand on their shoulders.

What are you passionate about?

My children, justice, music/dancing.


Kudos Corner

In November Intake Investigator Monica Beach received feedback from a City of Seattle employee who reported that two different attorneys commended SOCR for good work and for investigators who are enthusiastic and highly qualified. Great work Enforcement Team!


In December, SOCR investigator Karina Bull received the following email after providing a presentation to a local rental association on criminal records as it relates to housing, occupancy standards and service animals:


Karina,
Thank you for your fast response to the questions. Thank you for sticking to your time slot. It is nice to have speakers that are as informed and professional as your group. Later, John


In January, SOCR staff Brenda Anibarro, Greg Bell and Karina Bull provided training for the Seattle-King County Asset-Building Collaborative on discrimination issues that serve as barriers to moving people out of poverty and on a path towards economic well-being. We received great feedback on the training including the following email:

Brenda,
Kudos to your team! You put on a terrific workshop this morning. The information was timely and useful. I hope you agree that the audience seemed really engaged and finding the information to be relevant to their work. Thanks for your persistence in making this happen. Diana


 

Seattle Office for Civil Rights
Julie Nelson, Director

For newsletter questions contact Brenda Anibarro, (206) 684-4514 Brenda.Anibarro@Seattle.Gov