Across Black America for October 14, 2010

10/13/2010, 5 p.m.

Indiana's first African-American federal judge, Tanya Walton Pratt, 51, was sworn-in Friday to the U.S. District Court. She has taken the seat once occupied by equal opportunity advocate Hugh Dillin, who is best known for ordering the desegregation of Indianapolis public schools. Pratt earned her bachelor's degree from Spelman College in Atlanta in 1981 and her law degree from Howard University in Washington in 1984.

Laurie Burkett came in second to Jeff Joyce in the campaign to win a seat on the Monroe City Court. The race resulted in ruthless campaign tactics to get the Black vote. Although neither candidate is Black both campaigns appealed to Black voters, but Burkett had to overcome negative publicity generated by her husband, Shane Smiley, who reportedly routinely votes against Black community issues as president of the Parish Police Jury. Joyce carried all precincts in which the registered voters were more than 95 percent Black. Joyce was unable to fully campaign in any areas because he was at the bedside of his two-year-old daughter who had surgery for cancer during the weeks preceding the campaign. Burkett's campaign shifted into high gear pulling out the stops to get Black support, despite her husband's negatives.

Councilwoman Helen Holton, who represents Baltimore's eighth district, has been removed as chair of the City Council's Taxation and Finance Committee. Holton pleaded no contest to charges that she violated state campaign finance and election regulations in 2007. For the misdemeanor offense, Holton received one year of unsupervised probation and was ordered to pay a $2,500 fine.

Two sisters locked up now for more than 15 years for stealing $11 have been interviewed by representatives of that state's parole board, a step their attorney and supporters hope moves them closer to release. Chokwe Lumumba, lawyer for Jamie and Gladys Scott, said the sisters were questioned last month following a rally and a petition to Gov. Haley Barbour calling for their release and clemency. Parole Board Chairman Shannon Warnock said the board is reading trial testimony and reviewing the sentencing guidelines given the jury at the time of the Scott sisters' trial. Under the current guidelines, Jamie and Gladys Scott would not be eligible for parole until 2014. In 1993, the Scott sisters were two of three teenagers who struck two men in the head with a shotgun and took their wallets. The Scott sisters were convicted of robbery and use of a deadly weapon.

North Carolina
The North Carolina Caucus of Black School Board Members held a public forum to discuss leadership and African American male achievement on the campus of North Carolina Agriculture and Technology State University. Officials from school boards all across the state were at the forum, and shared their opinions on leadership and education. A major concern is the achievement gap for Black male students. The caucus was looking at ways to close that gap, and community leadership emerged as a major theme. In terms of Black male achievement, or the lack thereof, Ralph Mitchell said that Black males become angry very early, starting in kindergarten and circumstances in their lives factor into generating that anger, and whether it's been diffused, affect students' academic success.

The Urban League of Greater Pittsburgh recently held an open house to remind the public of the services they offer. The event also commemorated the 100th anniversary of the National Urban League. President Esther Bush also explained that her branch earned a perfect five out of five on a recent performance review conducted by the National Urban League. Still, after listing her branch's many accomplishments Bush highlighted the still dire conditions in Pittsburgh's African-American community, with unemployment at the top of the list. She also touched on a recent U.S. Census Bureau report that showed the Pittsburgh region has the highest rate of poverty among working-age African-Americans of any of the 40 largest metropolitan regions in the country. So, in effort to change that, the new league facility comes complete with a slew of conference rooms and private counseling rooms for programs in education and youth development; employment, training and economic empowerment; family growth and child development; housing; and research, public policy and community development.

A book was thrown toward President Barack Obama's head, during a rally Wednesday in Philadelphia. The book missed the president, and it has not yet been determined what the book was, who threw it, or for what reason. Interestingly enough, Obama seemed not to even notice the incident. As if that wasn't eventful enough, a man was also arrested for streaking at the rally, admitting that he was hoping to receive a million dollars as part of a publicity stunt.

On Oct. 23, the Freedom Sisters traveling exhibit will reach its ninth and final stop at the Reginald Lewis Museum. The exhibit is a collaboration between the Cincinnati Museum Center and the Smithsonian Institution made possible by a grant from the Ford Motor Company Fund, and highlights the lives of 20 African American women. The life stories of these women, from historical figures to contemporary role models, demonstrate their strength and courage as each fought for equality for all people.