Gender-related turmoil in Iran – where will it lead?

Not sure how much you’re following what’s happening in Iran right now, but what’s happening is pretty major – and it’s directly connected to whether people (specifically women) have autonomy over their own bodies. The recent protests were sparked in late September by the death of a woman while in custody of the morality police after she was arrested for not wearing her hijab properly.

But the protests have continued, and so have the crack downs. Most recently there was an Iranian woman who competed in an international rock climbing competition and “forgot” to wear her hijab during competition. She was cheered as hero by the crowds when she returned to Iran, but was in serious trouble with the authorities. Now there are reports that her family home was just demolished by the police – apparently as retribution for what she did.

Meanwhile, the Iranian team at the World Cup initially refused to sing their national anthem, then they were threatened, and so they started half-heartedly singing the anthem.

If you don’t even have the support of your country’s major athletes and they’re looked up to by the masses – then you’re in trouble!

It seems like the Iranian authorities want things to be more like Afghanistan where women can’t even go to public parks while men are able to live an almost Western life centered around gyms and bodybuilding (fascinating article – highly recommended!)

But the Iranian population is pushing back and it’s unclear whether the authorities can control what’s happening. It feels like the more ruthless the authorities become the more people are throwing themselves into the fight. 

There’s even an article recently about gay life in Tehran – curiously it’s centered around one of the most religiously conservative neighborhoods – so conservative that no one thinks to look for gay men there.

The point here is that it’s easy to take the typical American view that Iran is backwards and hopeless, but that doesn’t seem to be the case at all. It will be fascinating to watch over the next few months and years. I suspect there will be a revolution on the scale of the 1979 revolution. But then what?

When the hardline conservatives are removed from power – who will take up leadership of the country? Something tells me it won’t be as conservative as the other gulf states. This revolution will be based on personal freedom – especially bodily autonomy and huge strides in gender equality – which could lead to surprising results. Will there be a widespread rejection of religion since the current oppression is religiously based? Will the new authorities go as far as being OK with things like porn and LGBT folks (or at least not caring about stuff like that)?

Under the Shah the upper classes tried to westernize the country (instead of modernize it). It was their fatal flaw. But now it seems the masses want some form of modernization/westernization…

Anyway, if anyone tells you that the bodily autonomy, which women, gay folks and others depend on, isn’t a basic tenant of “freedom” – just point to Iran. It seems a lot of Iranians have figured out its importance. I wish them well in their struggle. 

Violent Crime In Harlem

The Mount Morris Park Community Improvement Association’s meeting last week with the NYPD, the District Attorney’s Office, and representatives from local methadone clinics was enlightening… The main speaker was Deputy Inspector Rodney Harrison – who is in charge of the 28th Precinct.

As I mentioned in another blog post, there was a murder on our block the week before. Apparently there has also been a couple gun incidents at 120th and 7th Avenue (ACP) where there seems to be an on-going dispute between two drug dealers centered – though no one was actually shot. In addition, in East Harlem there have been 4 shootings in the past 4 weeks, one involving the death of a 15 year old. While that seems like a lot, apparently violent crime is actually down in the 28th Precinct year-to-date, but the 28th Precinct doesn’t cover East Harlem. This is the area covered by the 28th Precinct…

28th Precinct - Harlem

I learned a lot about the neighborhood at the meeting. One of the first items of discussion were the methadone clinics on 124th between Lenox and 7th Avenue (yes, clinics – plural). Two of the clinics were represented at the meeting, and apparently there is a third clinic (Harlem United) on that same block, but they declined to attend the meeting. That’s just that one block. There are other clinics throughout the neighborhood and an even greater concentration of clinics in East Harlem. The methadone clinics are a problem – not so much in terms of violent crime, but in terms of trash and loitering. However, the clinics that were at the meeting talked about how they do patrols from 123rd to 126th several times a day and any of their patients who are seen repeatedly loitering are thrown out of the treatment programs.

Still, where there are drug addicts there’s going to be drug dealing, and where there’s drug dealing there’s usually violent crime. Compounding the problem – once the addicts are thrown out of the program the clinics can’t do anything about them. At that point it becomes a police issue. Deputy Inspector Harrison was incredible in that respect – he gave out his personal cell phone number and e-mail address and told people to call/text/email him when they saw things. While 911 and 311 are great – going directly to the precinct is more effective. The police have zero tolerance for loitering – the exception being people hanging out in front of their own buildings.

One important point was made – do not get confrontational with loiterers (or anyone for that matter) – let the police take care of it. You never know who has a knife or a gun on them – it’s just not worth it.

When it comes to serious/violent crime the vast majority of it happens in the lower part of the precinct – around Lenox Ave – between the park and roughly 116. I know someone who lives on 113th between Lenox and St. Nick (a Russian guy who’s a friend of my nephew) and his experience with the neighborhood is completely different from mine – he talks about how rough and dangerous it is. Deputy Inspector Harrison mentioned that 114th Street was one of the most dangerous streets in the precinct. In fact he suggested that when people walk around the neighborhood they avoid problem spots like 114th Street, and the corner of 120th & 7th Ave.

When asked what the community could do there were a number of things…

First, be the eyes and ears of the police – when you see something, call the precinct.

Second, install cameras – they make a big difference – crimes are solved much faster when there’s a video available. It costs homeowners about $1,000 per camera. Given that most of us are investing over $1M in our places, it’s a very small price to pay to have a camera or two (or in our case 5 or 6). The cameras the police use are targeted to areas with lots of tourists and lots of violent crime. Inspector Harrison called the cameras “million dollar cameras” – I’m not sure that they actually cost $1M, but they aren’t cheap – so there aren’t many of them around. There are cameras on 125th Street and a few other areas, but getting more of them is difficult. However, the precinct actually has a crime prevention officer who will help you choose and position cameras you buy. His name is Vic Peña – call the precinct and ask for him.

Third, petition politicians for more police and more money for the precinct. Because crime has been going down the City has felt justified in cutting the number of police in Harlem, but when there are fewer police the crime rate goes back up (as is happening in East Harlem). The City does give support when a precinct is having a spike in crime. The 28th is getting help from the narcotics unit for 120th & 7th Ave, and the precinct in East Harlem is getting reinforcements. We live in Washington Heights at the moment and there’s increased police presence here as well because of all the rapes. But the precinct needs more than that. More funding means they can do more outreach programs to teens in an effort to prevent the crime from happening in the first place.

One other thing Inspector Harrison talked about was that iPhone and iPads are particularly popular with criminals right now. He’s finding that criminals aren’t mugging people for money – they just grab your iPhone and run. The simple way to avoid this problem is to try to not use your iPhone/Android much when you’re on the street. If you need to use it, be aware of your surroundings.

In the end there’s violent crime everywhere and violent crime is generally down in Harlem. It’s really not that unsafe. With a few basic precautions (like avoiding problem areas, not being confrontational, reducing the use of your iPhone on the street, and not being involved in drugs) you can feel pretty safe in Harlem.

IMHO, what Harlem needs most to prevent crime are residents who simply don’t put up with crime. If criminals know people will cooperate with the police and if they know there are cameras that will see what they do – they’ll move to another area.

“Body Block” Claims Another Victim

While our block is leaps and bounds better than it used to be, serious things still happen on the block and unfortunately it’s continuing to earn it’s nickname – “Body Block”…

Wednesday was Dan’s birthday, but we put off celebrating it until Thursday. We met a friend (who was celebrating his 50th – the same friend who was in the photo op last year) at the house at 6, showed him the progress, and at 7pm we walked over to Red Rooster for a drink. Apparently about two hours later there was a shooting – one guy was killed and another received a non-fatal wound. Here’s the police announcement about the investigation…

On Thursday 6/16/2011 in front of 135 West 123 Street, a young black male was shot multiple times.  Responding officers of the 28 Precinct found victim in front of location where he was rushed to Harlem Hospital and was pronounced dead at 9:24pm. 30 minutes later a second victim walked into Harlem Hospital with a non life threatening gun shot wound.  It was discovered by 28 Detective Squad that incident was linked to 123 Street shooting.  This case is still currently under investigation by the 28 Detective Squad, any information please call 28 PDU at 212-678-1608.  You will remain anonymous!!

I’ll post a picture of the building when I get a chance. It’s the 1930ish apartment building next to the old lodge (that’s now under construction). It’s roughly across the street from the place where lots of people hang out on the stoop (136 West 123). The guys were hanging out on the stoop when we went past. They never concern me – they all seem to be pretty nice. They’re older guys who are pretty mellow. But younger “thugs” are the ones who worry me. (If you don’t want to be called a ‘thug’ – don’t dress the part – or at a minimum look people in the eye, say hello and smile). Just statistically most hate crimes are committed by guys in their teens and early 20s who are trying to prove themselves. It would be interesting to find out more about the two victims and the shooter – to see if they fit the profile and to learn what triggered the shooting.

I’m not all that put off by the shooting. It’s a bit concerning, but especially with Windows on 123 selling well, it’s just a matter of time before things change. What’s really important it to just not put up with stuff, but also distinguish between things that are just unsightly (like guys hanging out drinking) and things that are dangerous (like drug dealing). It’s the stuff that leads to violence that needs to be stamped out…

If you’re doing a renovation make sure you have a security camera on the front of your building that’s aimed at the street. It makes a difference. With security cameras the police can solve crimes much more quickly and guys with violent tendencies find other, less visible, places to conduct their business.


From the NY Post Police Blotter

A dispute in Harlem escalated into a deadly shooting, cops said.

Kwabena Poku, 23, allegedly argued with a foe at 8:50 p.m. Thursday before returning to his apartment building at 135 W. 123rd St. to talk to his girlfriend.

He stepped outside moments later and was gunned down in a hail of bullets, cops said.

Poku, who had been arrested this month on marijuana charges, was pronounced dead at Harlem Hospital.

Another victim, Tony Graham, 48, was shot in the leg, cops said, and was in stable condition at Harlem Hospital.

The marijuana charges are sorta expected – I was talking to someone who said he was hanging out with the victim a little before the incident and he said the guy was smoking up. I wasn’t exactly sure what drug he was referring to (and didn’t want to ask). I’m a little relieved it was just pot.

Apparently there are security cameras on the building, so hopefully they’ll catch the shooter quickly.

There’s an MMPCIA meeting tonight at 7pm at Rice High School where it will be discussed. We’ll be going. Hopefully we’ll learn more…


Last night the police said they have clear video identifying the shooter and they know who he is, BUT they can’t make an arrest because no one is willing to step forward to be a witness. When we passed by less than two hours before there were probably 15 or 20 people hanging out across the street around #136. I’m sure a fair number of them were still there when the shooting happened and if nothing else the other shooting victim saw the shooter. IMHO, it’s sorta absurd that a murderer is walking the streets because people don’t want to talk to the police.

That said, the “good” news is that it apparently was not random violence. The shooting stemmed from a dispute over a woman. Still, a bystander did get shot, so there is an element of random violence.


Dan was talking to someone on the block today and got a slightly different story. The person saw the shooting and said neither the shooter or the victim lives on the block or even in the neighborhood, though the victim was the “baby’s daddy” of a woman in the building where the shooting occurred. Apparently both were African guys (as opposed to African-Americans), and they both lived in the Bronx. He also said the dispute had something to do with rival bootleg DVD businesses in the Bronx. Given that the Police said the dirt bike guys who create problems are from the Bronx, it seems like crime from the Bronx is spilling over into Harlem.

Someone I Sorta Know, Sorta In The News

Back when I was in college I worked for Teresa Sullivan – a labor force demographer. She was a rising star back then going from Associate Professor to Full Professor of both Sociology and Law and then Associate Dean of Graduate Studies in the two years I worked for her. She went on to be one of the Chancellors of the University of Texas System and now she’s no less than Provost of the University Of Michigan – which is WAY up there in academia.

I owe Terry a lot – she provided guidance and a job at a really critical time in my life when my parents were cutting me off and rejecting me and I was conflicted about my sexuality (though I don’t think we ever discussed my being gay). In many ways she was a bit like a mother to me for 2 years and a stable, sane force in my life.

Anyway, her husband is Douglas Laycock – a law professor who’s argued in front of the Supreme Court. He made a comment about gay marriage and Jon Stewart found his name funny and said “…there’s still room to giggle inappropriately at an experts name…” He wondered what it would be like if ABC News had two experts on gay marriage – Dr. Laycock and “Sodomy J. Balltickle”… Start at time code 2:00 to see what I’m talking about…

As Jon Stewart said, the comments are inappropriate. Personally I think Doug Laycock should try to get on The Daily Show – it’s a bit of a status thing these days, even if you’re made fun of in the process…

One LGBT Person Being Killed Every Eight Days

Here’s a sobering video from… Just in the United States, one LGBT person is being killed every 8 days so far this year. Yes, they’re often people of color and often femmy, drag queens, or transsexuals, but things like this just shouldn’t happen.

Ellen DeGeneris did a wonderful segment on her show recently about the killing of Larry (Lawrence) King. He was a kid who wanted one of his male classmates to be his valentine and the kid shot and killed him two days later…

It seems like whenever its an election year and gay marriage is being discussed the attacks worsen. But that only goes to show how important these issues are…

Please talk to your friends and family about these issues, and consider whether the politicians you vote for would work hard to end these killings…