Voices in Focus: Anger at Assistant District Attorney’s Blackface Photo

To finish up the week, we have a fresh batch of stories from New York’s community and ethnic press, including a reaction to the photos of an assistant district attorney in blackface makeup; an activist’s arrest in Sunset Park; a new community center offering free classes; and a poetry reading this Saturday.

Justin Marrus, a Brooklyn Assistant District Attorney, has faced a storm of criticism after Facebook photos of him in blackface ans simulating a prison rape emerged on Facebook. (Photo via Black and Brown News)

* Justin Marrus, a Brooklyn assistant district attorney and son of a Brooklyn supreme court judge, has made a name for himself lately. And not in a good way.

After Gothamist discovered college photos of him in black face and simulating a prison rape that Marrus had publicly displayed on Facebook, the story caught the attention of the mainstream media. In a Black and Brown News op-ed, Sharon Toomer argues against giving Marrus a free pass.

In these images, Justin Marrus demonstrated contempt for black people, our history in America and the crime of rape.  That he and his defenders found his “stupid college prank” fun and humorous does not diminish the impact of the offense.  As an agent of the criminal justice system, his mindset and his objectification of black people are dangerous.

Toomer quotes from an email exchange with Charles Hynes, the Brooklyn district attorney and Marrus’s boss. Hynes’s office has accepted Marrus’s apology, but Toomer contends that Marrus’s integrity as a prosecutor has been compromised.

If not for doing what is right and in the best interest of public trust and confidence, then for pragmatic reasons, the District Attorney should consider this: Going forward and looking back, any criminal defense attorney worth his or her salt, and with a case handled by ADA Marrus, involving a defendant of color, would be wise to question the ADA’s judgment, integrity and credibility as a prosecutor in charge.

* Yesterday we linked to a profile in El Diario La Prensa of the documentarian and activist Dennis Flores, who angered police officers by filming their interactions on the street. Today we saw the news, again in El Diario, that Flores was arrested yesterday during a tenant protest, in which he reportedly intervened in a scuffle between a tenant and a maintenance worker.

Flores was also quoted in El Diario La Prensa‘s article on a new community center in Sunset Park. Located at 414 45th St., La Casita Comunal was formed by a collective of artists and Samuel Cruz, a reverend at the Lutheran church La Trinidad, and will offer free or low-cost classes that include yoga, zumba and traditional Afro-Caribbean music.

Via Facebook

“We had the idea for this place two years ago when 15 local artists got together to do communal work, especially with the youth,” said Dennis Flores, 36, a filmmaker who specializes in [tracing Puerto Rican cultural heritage] and will lead film and documentary workshops at La Casita.

* Since 1996, ‘Poetas con Cafe’ have been reciting poetry in the community gardens of El Barrio. Founded by Roger Cabán, a 78-year old poet and photographer, ‘Poetas con Cafe’ will celebrate their 16-year anniversary tomorrow. El Diario‘s article on the group’s contribution is translated and excerpted below.

Cabán is the creator of a unique style called “disparates,” [nonsense, foolishness], which blends humor and philosophy.

The native of Isabella, Puerto Rico  remembers writing his first “disparate” when he was 24, during a trip to Portobelo, Panama. He was inspired by a bay full of joyful children diving into the water.

Humor, boldness and simplicity, Cabán said, are what makes for great verse.

“I realized that the simple things in life are those that make us happy,” Cabán said. “Humor makes for great poetry. To write a bold jump beneath a rainy sky is divine.”

A reading is scheduled for Saturday, July 21 at the Urban Garden Center at 1640 Park Ave. at 116 Street. It will run from 2 to 6 p.m.

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