Kenyen Brown took the oath of office at the John Archibald Campbell U.S. Courthouse on Feb. 15 and became Alabama’s first Black United States attorney. He now has 56 employees and is the lead federal prosecutor in the region. Judges and family members of victims who were helped by the U.S Attorney’s Office were all there to witness to the remarkable moment in Alabama Black history.
State Senator Leah Landrum-Taylor, and State Rep. Cloves Campbell hosted the annual African American Legislative and Leadership Conference last week. The theme was “Passing the Torch to the Next Generation” and the event focused on preparing today’s youth to be tomorrow’s leaders. It also focused on the current state of the economy and strategies to improve it in ways that benefit the African American community. Important aspects of the conference included information on how to become community advocates and become knowledgeable of the legislative process in addition to a plethora of workshops for the youth and adults to participate in. The conference was held at the Arizona State Capital in Phoenix.
Democrats in Arkansas are seeing the benefits of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act thanks to the $3.17 billion issued to Arkansas through the bill. Among improvements were the Arkansas School for the Deaf and the University of Arkansas Medical Science program, which does cancer research. The money has also been distributed to small businesses, helping them stay afloat and hire more employees which further aids the state’s economy by decreasing levels of unemployment.
California Assembly Speaker Karen Bass announced this week that she will run for Congresswoman Diane E. Watson’s 33rd District congressional seat. Bass held a press conference on her decision and Congresswoman Watson, who recently announced that she will retire at the end of the year, attended lending support of the decision. Bass, who is the first African American woman to be speaker of the assembly, will officially give up the position on March 1, 2010.
Minority leaders in Colorado are fighting for something to be done about the disproportionately high level of unemployment in Colorado for Blacks in relation to Whites. Black unemployment is more than twice that of Whites, and the Latino community is experiencing the same pattern. The Congressional Black Caucus is pushing for programs that will provide individuals with at least temporary jobs, rather than forcing them to depend on unemployment and general relief checks.
District of Columbia
In celebration of Black History Month, the Washington Wizards dedicated the half-time show on Feb. 19 to three leaders in the D.C. community. Rick Lee, Owner of Lee’s Flower and Card Shop, Peggy Cooper Cafritz, founder of Duke Ellington School of the Arts, and Terri Freeman, president of the Community Foundation for the National Capital Region, all contribute to the betterment of the community through their work and dedication. The Wizards and Amtrak gave the three with Pioneer Awards to recognize their work and for the rest of the month the Wizards will also use a time-out in each game to highlight the achievements of other noteworthy local pioneers.
The Black Panthers have changed their somewhat intimidating image but the New Black Panther Party (NBP) still has the same goal of improving the Black community. The number one priority of the NBP is ending police brutality. They have partnered with family members of victims and members of the community to hold community empowerment forums all over Jacksonville, encouraging people to stand up and fight. They are holding the Jacksonville Sheriffs Department accountable for their actions and are making it explicitly known that police brutality will not be tolerated.
The Georgia Right To Life anti-abortion group has increased its efforts to reduce the dangerously high abortion rates in the state by implementing a billboard campaign. The billboards show a young Black child and the words “Black Children are an ENDANGERED SPECIES.” African American women have the majority of abortions in Georgia, even though they make up only a third of the state’s population, and the campaign is getting the attention of anti-abortion groups all over the country. Many groups believe that Planned Parenthood facilities are strategically put in low income neighborhoods to aid in the eradication of minorities. Issues4Life is one of many groups trying to influence Congress to stop aiding Planned Parenthood altogether.
The Nation of Islam is celebrating 80 years of existence in North America this year. The last week in February is dedicated to celebrating the birth of Master W. Fard Muhammad, the founder of the Nation of Islam. Members travel from all over the country to Chicago to fellowship and to be informed. The Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan will deliver a speech discussing current events and issues involving the Black community. The theme is “The Time and What Must Be Done” and will give important information on the state of Black America in 2010 and how to be prepared. The events will be held at the United Center in downtown Chicago on Feb. 28.
Governor Mitch Daniels has ordered that each school district in Indiana must make a 4.5% decrease in their budgets this year. The districts are accustomed to cuts almost every year but are now out of things to cut. The Indiana State Teachers Association predicts that 4,500 jobs will be lost. The districts are closing schools, ending extra-curricular activities, dropping classes like art and band, charging students to ride buses and play sports, not hiring substitute teachers, and the list goes on.
The U.S Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Federal Emergency Management Agency have announced they will extend the Disaster Housing Assistance Program-Ike until May 27, 2010. The program has assisted approximately 11,000 families with temporary housing solutions after being displaced by the 2008 hurricanes Ike and Gustav. The program was implemented in Nov. 2008 and was supposed to last 17 months, but because a need still remains, Louisiana and Texas have requested that the other participating states continue to provide aide.
The Minority Business Summit held its 11th annual “Men of Influence” conference recently at the Baltimore Hilton Hotel. The event was hosted by Black Entertainment Television’s Jeff Johnson, and many prominent entrepreneurs such as Michael Dyson and Earl G. Graves Jr. were in attendance and shared their secrets of the business. The discussions ranged from tips to improving Black owned businesses to the state of the economy. This is the summit’s last year in Baltimore. It will be relocating to Washington, D.C next year.
Community members marched outside of the Detroit Edison Energy Building holding signs expressing their anger after the sixth death this winter. As a result of DTE shutting off heat, many residents use space heaters which have led to a number of home fires. DTE has shut off the utilities in 363,000 households in the last two years for non-payment and an expected 150,000 more households are in danger of being cut off this year. The Michigan Welfare Rights Organization has met with DTE officials to discuss better solutions, and they are demanding that heat in all households be restored. So far no changes to Detroit Edison’s policies have been made.
The Minnesota Second Chance Coalition, an organization that raises awareness about the struggles of people with criminal records, recently held a rally at the state capital Rotunda to try to urge lawmakers to establish policy that gives people a second chance. About 152,000 people in Minnesota are incarcerated or on parole. The Second Chance Coalition feels these people should be given the opportunity to redeem themselves and the ability to provide for their families.
The United States Postal Service is honoring four Navy men this month for their dedication to the country during World War II. Doris “Dorie” Miller was the first African American to receive a Navy Cross for courage in war. The story of his accomplishments was told through Cuba Gooding, Jr. who portrayed him in the movie “Pearl Harbor.” Doris Miller, William S. Sims, Arleigh A Burke, and John McCloy now have first class stamps printed in their honor.
The Bridge to Inclusion: St Louis Employment and Business Opportunity Conference recently held a panel to discuss the concerns of minority contractors who are struggling to find employment. Bills introduced by City Alderman Terry Kennedy last year required public contractors to include at least 25% minorities on their contracts. The conference encouraged all of the attendees to include themselves in the minority contractor database so contracting companies, who don’t fill the required 25%, can’t claim they couldn’t find any minorities to fill the positions.
The Gethsemane Missionary Baptist Church in Omaha has launched a new program targeting children of incarcerated parents. These children (ages 4-18) are particularly at risk of repeating the same patterns as their parents. The Amachi Mentoring Coalition Project will place mentors with kids four times a month to do activities, help with homework and to provide a positive influence and a role model in the lives of the children.
Many Black political leaders decided after the Black, Puerto Rican, and Hispanic Legislative Caucus, that they will support Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand in her continued run for Senate. Gillibrand priorities are helping New York families in the midst of a struggling economy, and she works closely with President Barack Obama on health care reform that will provide $2.7 million to New Yorkers without coverage.
The North Carolina Health Care for America Now organization is pushing Rep. Bob Etheridge to ensure that health care reform is a priority in legislature. HCAN has held press conferences outside of his office, made calls, and sent letters informing him of the importance of their requests. Rep. Etheridge believes that healthcare reform “must control costs, improve access, and create health security for all Americans.” HCAN hopes Etheridge that will influence his staff to take the issue just as seriously.
An approximate 185 employees of the Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority (RTA) are expected to be out of work within the next two months. Due to a low number of riders and low tax rates the RTA is constantly loosing money. The agency has tried to handle the problem by lowering salaries and raising fares but the additional income hasn’t been substantial. If no new strategy is implemented, the RTA will run out of money by November 2010. The Work Access Program, which works in conjunction with the RTA by providing transportation by van to job sites that are more than a mile away from any transit stop, will attempt to pick up the slack and calm the worries of those with no other means of getting to work by increasing the routes and stops.
The Census Bureau is helping decrease the Black unemployment rate by hiring 3,000 employees for its offices in Pittsburg, Greensburg, and Beaver. The majority of the openings are for door to door census takers and the pay is $15.75 per hour; Crew Leader positions are paid $17.35 hourly. The jobs are short-term, lasting no more than a few months, but are still beneficial to the community not only in terms of employment but in gaining representation. To be considered for employment individuals must be 18 or older, be able to pass a basic skills test, and undergo a background check. Having transportation is not required.
The Martin Luther King Celebration Committees are preparing for a bus trip planned for March 30 -April 2, 2010. The trip will travel through Tennessee and Alabama to visit historical spots that highlight the life of Dr. King and other courageous African Americans throughout history. Riders are still being accepted for a $330 fee which will cover transportation, entrance into sites and hotel stays.
The Funzzies, a youth group in Memphis, have been touring the country as part of the Watoto De Afrika Performing Arts Program. The group promotes tolerance, health and knowledge of culture through music and acting. The children ages 7 -11 have accomplished a great deal, and have been included as a show at the National Civil Rights Museum. They perform at churches, colleges, museums and wherever else they are welcomed, and will continue to tour through July 2010. Their message is that Black history should be celebrated longer than just the month of February.
Students and staff at the University of Texas in Austin (UTA) are excited about the announcement that this fall UTA will be the first university in Texas to have an African American Studies Department. Joe Jamail, an alumnus of UTA, donated $1 million to create the department, which will also be the only program in the South to have a doctorate program in African American studies. The Texas Legislative Black Caucus helped create the Institute for Critical Urban Policy, which will work in conjunction with the new department.
Richmond is developing plans to create 16 markers along the Slave Trail to document the history of the slave trade in Virginia. The trail is two and a half miles long, and the new markers will have pictures and information giving the history and significance of each marker. The goal is to get the markers completed in time for next year’s celebration of the 150th anniversary of the Civil War. The cost of events and exhibits planned for the celebration are expected to total $3 million dollars.
State prosecutors are using a new tactic to handle gang violence. Thirty-two alleged members of the Hilltop Crips gang in Tacoma, Washington, are facing charges of conspiracy. The law defines conspiracy as “someone agrees with at least one other person to commit a crime and then takes steps towards committing it”. With this law in place, even if one member of a gang commits a crime all of the members can be arrested and charged with conspiracy. More states struggling with gang violence have begun to see positive results after putting this law into effect.