Across Black America
Here’s a look at African American people and issues making headlines throughout the country.
Kendall Dunson was recently named president of the Montgomery County Bar Association (MCBA). He is the first African American selected to lead this organization, which was officially established in 1915. Dunson will be installed at the MCBA annual meeting to be held at the Alabama Activity Center. “Montgomery is the birthplace of the Civil Rights Movement, and this is another milestone in our history,” said Suzanne Duffey, executive director of the MCBA. “As public servants and leaders of our community, MCBA members promote equality and help people get justice. This is a reflection of that leadership,” she said.
More than 60,000 fans will pack Atlanta’s Georgia Dome on Jan 29. to be part of the ninth annual Honda Battle of the Bands Invitational Showcase, which highlights the talents of the nation’s best Black marching bands. Renowned Hip-Hop performer and actor “Bow Wow” will join more than 1,800 student musicians to celebrate the music and creativity found at America’s Historically Black Colleges and Universities. Georgia’s own Albany State University will open the show and lead this year’s “great eight” performances.
Fred Rice, the man selected by Mayor Harold Washington in 1983 to be Chicago’s first African American police superintendent, died Monday at the age of 83. Rice succumbed to a 10-year battle with lung cancer, according to his daughter Judith Rice, who stepped down from her post as city treasurer in 2006 to care for her father. During his illustrious career, Rice quickly elevated through the ranks of the Chicago Police Department, and was serving as the chief of patrol when Washington, the city’s first elected Black mayor, made history by selecting a Black police superintendent for a permanent role. Rice is credited with breaking up what many felt was a segregated police department in a city with a long history of segregated law enforcement. Under his leadership, race relations among rank and file members improved, as well as the communication between local authorities and the communities they served. Rice served as superintendent from 1983 until 1987, when he retired after 32 years of service.
The national board of Mocha Moms Inc. recently announced that Kuae Kelch Mattox is its new national president. Kuae Mattox became a Mocha Mom in 2001 and joined the national board as director of media and publicity in 2003. During her tenure, she has increased the visibility of the organization and highlighted the stories of numerous mothers of color who have made the choice to modify or eliminate their employment to spend more time raising their children.
A month after surgery in Detroit for an undisclosed ailment, Aretha Franklin says her health is “superb.” Franklin called in to the Jan. 5 installment of “The Wendy Williams Show,” telling the host she was relaxing at a casino hotel in her hometown and hopes to begin traveling soon “looking for a fabulous beach.” Franklin said she had two more weeks of down-time as she continued her recovery. The legendary singer also vowed to reschedule the concert dates she missed. Franklin’s voice was strong and steady during the interview. With the exception of written statements and print interviews with Jet magazine, this was one of the first times the 68-year-old Franklin had been heard since the Dec. 2 surgery.
Authorities have recently charged a 43-year-old man with the assault and battery of a woman more than 20 years his senior. Marcus Wess, who is scheduled to appear in court next week, now faces substantial jail time, and is expected to plead guilty to those charges, as well as sexual battery, kidnapping and grand larceny. Wess was arrested after his victim and former neighbor was allegedly found tied up and dehydrated in her home. According to reports, a nameless source called police to search the house, after seeing its front door open. The victim was later found beaten and sexually assaulted. Police believe she had been held captive for at least a day, before they arrived.
The Harlem Fine Arts Show (HFAS), one of the nation’s largest and most prestigious collections of works (paintings, photographs and sculpture) by African American artists from around the world, will be a major Harlem destination during Black History Month. The dazzling exhibition of creative expression will be held from Feb. 25-27 at the historic Riverside Church of New York City. The HFAS is built upon the tradition of the well-loved and well-established Black fine arts show, held for 14 years at New York’s Puck Building, which drew audiences from all over the country. As an added component, this year the HFAS is partnering with New York-area public and charter schools to provide a forum for cultural exposure for young people. This will be the first time that some children will have had to view authentic fine art. HFAS will also hold a gala benefiting The Ralph Lauren Cancer Center.
The South Carolina African American Heritage Commission (SCAAHC) and its partners will present Opera Noire of New York as part of its annual meeting tomorrow. The performance will also serve as a kick-off to African American History Month. “This will be the first time in years, if ever, that an African American opera company has performed in Columbia,” said Joy Young, the SCAAHC board member who is coordinating the performance. The event will take place at the S.C. Archives and History Center, and is based on the theme, “African Americans and the American Civil War: Perspectives on Class and Culture.” It will include an award ceremony for individuals and organizations that have made significant contributions to historic preservation in South Carolina over the past year.
President and CEO of Meharry Medical College, Dr. Wayne J. Riley, has been named chair of the National Advisory Council on Minority Health and Health Disparities of the National Institutes of Health. As the chair, Dr. Riley will serve as a liaison and national spokesperson on issues of minority health and health disparities among other responsibilities. The advisory council, a body appointed by the United States Secretary of Health and Human Services which advises the director of the NIMHD, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Director and the secretary on the nation’s minority health and health disparity research funding, priorities and programs. Dr. Riley served as an adviser to President Obama’s health care transition team and has spent most of his career treating the poor and underserved, and teaching medical students and residents to do the same. He is also a recognized expert in healthcare management and health policy, and currently serves as the chair of the Association of Minority Health Professions Schools.
Wyclef Jean will be among several Haitian musicians who performed at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., yesterday, at an event to raise funds for journalists in Haiti. Prime Minister Jean-Max Bellerive will be among the speakers at the “Night of Solidarity for Haitian Journalists,” which is also meant to raise awareness of the need for a strong, vibrant and free press as Haiti rebuilds from last year’s earthquake. At least 30 journalists were among nearly 300,000 people who were killed in the earthquake that struck on Jan. 12. Proceeds from a Night of Solidarity will be used to provide social and professional assistance to Haitian journalists and financial assistance to families of journalists killed in the disaster.
According to Allhiphop.com, Will Smith and Shawn Carter, better known as “Jay-Z,” are in talks to bring a new version of the classic 1982 movie/musical “Annie” to the big screen, with Smith’s daughter, Willow, in the lead role. The moguls are developing the film through Smith’s successful company Overbrook Productions, which has produced movies like “Hancock,” “ATL,” “Takers,” “I Am Legend” and “The Karate Kid.” Smith is hoping to recreate the success of his most recent remake, “The Karate Kid,” which starred his son Jaden Smith, and has grossed more than $350 million worldwide. Willow Smith is currently an artist on Jay-Z’s Roc Nation imprint, which is a partnership between the chart-topping rapper and Live Nation, the largest live entertainment company in the world.
Thousands of fans cheered on as America’s top Black cowboy and cowgirls headlined the National Western complex’s Martin Luther King Jr. African American Heritage Rodeo on Monday. Champion Black rodeo athletes including Lawrence Greer, Lee Vann, Justin Richard and Aliza Fulbright competed in the Pony Express relay, ladies’ steer undercoating, bull-dogging and more traditional rodeo events.
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President Barack Obama recently signed H.R. 6118 into law. It names the United States Postal Service office located on Massachusetts Avenue in northeast D.C. after civil rights pioneer Dorothy Height. “This bill, (marks) the first time a federal building in the nation’s capital has been named for an African American woman, and is cause for celebration,” Eleanor Holmes Norton said in a statement.
Many of Philadelphia’s Black leaders voiced support for School Superintendent Arlene Ackerman after she controversially awarded a no-bid contract to a minority-owned company, saying she was making sure African Americans were included in district contracts that are usually monopolized by White-owned firms. "When an administration attempts to right such a grotesque imbalance in spending public dollars they should be applauded and not maligned,” said J.
A community prayer vigil was recently held in Detroit for Aretha Franklin. The legendary queen of soul is reported to have undergone surgery last Thursday, which caused her to cancel all concert dates and personal appearances through May. City Councilwoman JoAnn Watson was one of the hundreds in attendance to offer support. Franklin wasn’t at the vigil, but in a statement she thanked the City Council, saying, “all prayers are good.”