SpeakOut is Truthout's treasure chest for bloggy, quirky, personally reflective, or especially activism-focused pieces. SpeakOut articles represent the perspectives of their authors, and not those of Truthout.

Fifty years ago, the white citizens of Birmingham, Alabama denied the city's black citizens the right to work in their stores, pray in their churches, sit at lunch counters next to them, borrow books from the public library, learn at public schools and ride on public buses alongside them. Although those days may seem long gone, Wilcox County, Georgia continues to live under the enduring shadow of racism.

On April 20, 2013, the white seniors of Wilcox Country High and their guests gathered for a private whites-only prom. But for the first time in the school's history, the black students are not settling for a separate (but equal?) prom. Instead, a group of both black and white students has organized an integrated prom to which all seniors are invited.

Apr 29

Awful Managers

By Aaron Leonard, SpeakOut | Op-Ed

The day after Hugo Chavez died the New York Times ran a remarkably ungenerous OpEd, titled, "In the End, an Awful Manager." That the column appeared amid coverage of the sequester, threats of U.S. government shutdown, and other indicators of the systemic disfunction in play within the U.S., was either testament to the Times developed sense of irony or its bedrock cluelessness. Regardless, the story -- with its railing against Chavez's rule of disfunction, corruption and crumbling infrastructure -- called up something else.

Today, the Brennan Center for Justice sent a letter to President Obama, co-signed by 30 additional organizations, urging him to establish a steering committee to help rein in the government's systemic overclassification of information.

Classification activity has risen dramatically in recent years, with more than 92 million decisionsto classify information in fiscal year 2011 alone. Experts agree that much of this information could safely be released. This overclassification creates unnecessary barriers to public debate over counterterrorism policy, intelligence policy, and foreign affairs.

Apr 26

How About A Real Peace Prize?

By William Fisher, SpeakOut | Op-Ed

So carried away with anticipation that they could no longer contain their enthusiasm, back in 2009 the Nobel Committee opted to award the Peace Prize to newly-elected President Barack Obama.

For many who took in this news, it sullied the reputation of the Nobel awards almost beyond reclamation. But most of us forgave the Committee for being carried away by the stark contrast between Obama and the war-making George W. Bush.

The critically acclaimed new film Beyond the Pines, written and Directed by auteur filmmaker Derek Cianfrance, missed the mark in many ways. Cianfrance succeeds in bringing together visually stunning sequences with deeply nuanced character development in the film. From Ryan Gosling's ninety mile and hour race scenes along the turbulent backwoods of New York State to Bradley Cooper's gut-wrenching portrayal of a good man among a world of greed and corruption, the first hour of the film has all the elements of an amazing feature. The only thing missing is a coherent story. While the trailer leads you to believe that the film is an intense look into the conflict between cop and criminal, Cianfrance delivers a seventeen year epic focusing on the relationship between two men who both make decisions that cause their lives to intersect for only one moment - but be revisited in the lives of their sons.

Today, the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR), Yemeni human rights organization HOOD and the Swiss-based Alkarama submitted new testimony to a Senate Judiciary Sub-Committee that is holding a hearing this afternoon on the Obama administration's targeted killing program. The submission provides accounts of a sample of five strikes carried out in Yemen in 2012 and 2013 based on unpublished field research conducted by the HOOD and Alkarama, which included visits to the sites of the strikes and interviews with victims. Some of the strikes examined resulted in the highest civilian casualty tolls in recent years.

Apr 25

Glorious Martial Law?

By Joe Giambrone, SpeakOut | Op-Ed

Are we allowed to talk about martial law, the militarization of police, and the complete shutdown of cities on command? Or will that get the glorious law enforcers to storm and kick in our own doors now? Just what are the rules in effect today? Just what sort of precedent is being set here right before our eyes?

It was your commoner citizens who located the Boston bombing suspect after finding him hiding in a boat. This was after the martial law decree had arbitrarily been lifted, and it was now ordered permissible to go out in one's backyard again.

Is martial law the answer to sticky incidents with fleeing suspects? Can this now apply to any suspects or any manhunt in the United States, anywhere, for any reason?

Recently a student told me how he had been discouraged from freely taking out federal student loans by his professor. When the student said he wasn't particularly concerned about repayment, the teacher replied, "Well you should!" This mentality, while partially understandable, is promoting a fear of borrowing for education in precisely those who should be encouraged and emboldened to take out loans.

In the US, economic disadvantage breeds poverty that carries on through generations. One of the central purposes of federal student loans is to aid those who are financially less fortunate in obtaining a quality education. But again and again I have either personally listened to others warn against the dangers of student loans or heard countless stories from students who are discouraged from borrowing. As I see it, the discussion around student debt is significantly influenced and directed by the fallacy of magnifying risks.

Apr 25

Schooling Santorum

By Damian Manire, SpeakOut | Op-Ed

Over the past few weeks a debate has been unfolding at my alma mater, Grosse Pointe South High School in Grosse Pointe, Mich. Rick Santorum has been hired to speak by Young Americans for Freedom, a student group at the school.

After the event was initially cancelled due to teacher opposition, the Grosse Pointe Public School Board reversed its decision following pushback from parts of the Grosse Pointe community and from Rick Santorum himself, The Detroit News reported. The compromise reached allows students to attend Santorum's talk on the condition that they present a permission slip signed by parents.

The death of Kaufman County District Attorney Mike McLelland and his wife, Cynthia, assistant prosecutor Mark Hasse, Colorado Department of Corrections executive director Tom Clements and Mingo County Virginia sheriff Eugene Crum stem from the NRA's two favorite myths: that the thing that stops "bad guys" with guns is "good guys with guns" and that criminals go out of their way to chose gun free zones.

Mike McLelland carried a gun even when he walked his dog and his wife Cynthia also had a license to carry a concealed handgun. "There were guns hidden all over the house,: his son, J. R. McLelland, told the New York Times. "Behind doors, everywhere. He could have been standing next to a .40-caliber Glock and you would not have known it. When they said that he got shot, it was unbelievable because he was so well-armed and so well-versed in guns." Still the couple was murdered in their home over Easter weekend.