Here’s a look at African American issues and people making headlines throughout the country.

Many Alabama residents lined up early to get their tickets for the newest play from Tyler Perry, “Madea’s Big Happy Family.” The production was on its Alabama leg of the nation-wide tour last week at the Birmingham Civic Center. The play showcases many familiar faces from previous “Madea” plays and a few new faces; two of which were discovered on Youtube.

The Arizona Young Artists’ Competition held its 11th annual competition recently and showcased the talents such as acting, dancing and singing, of youth age 16 to 20. The winner of the competition was awarded a $1,000 cash prize.

EBONI (Elimination of Bias, Oppression, Negativity and Ignorance) is hosting the Crackdown Youth Summit at California State University San Bernardino on April 3. The keynote speaker of the event will be Chuck D of the rap group Public Enemy. Isaiah Washington from Grey’s Anatomy will also speak. The summit will highlight issues such as education, abstinence, drug abuse and violence. The event is free but donations are encouraged.

The city of Denver is one of few that has made it a point to officially recognize Harriet Tubman Day, March 10, 2010. There were many festivities around the city and many schools took it as an opportunity to further discuss civil rights and Women’s History Month. State Representative Rosemary Marshall and Governor Bill Owens declared the official holiday.

Delaware and Tennessee have been named the winners in the “Race to the Top” competition which encourages states to implement innovative education reform. Delaware’s new plan has been estimated to cost $107 million and the decision on whether or not they will get as much as they ask for will be determined this week. Their plan is one of the less expensive, especially in comparison to Tennessee, whose plan for reform asked for $502 million.

District of Columbia
For the last eight years, Black Marriage Day celebrations have occurred all over the country. The purpose of the day, which was established by Nisa Muhammad, executive director of Wedded Bliss Foundation, Inc., is to educate and promote the importance of marriage in the Black community. Chicago, Philadelphia, Dallas, Atlanta and Washington, D.C., will be the host cities for the event and many pastors are preparing for marriage vow renewals. One couple from each of the participating cities will win a trip to the Bahamas.

Four South Florida residents will be honored at the 2010 African American Achievers awards ceremony on April 14th. The ceremony is meant to highlight the contributions of Blacks in the areas of education, community service, business and entrepreneurialism, and arts and culture. The event is being sponsored by JM Family Enterprises, JM Lexus, and Southeast Toyota which have agreed to donate $20,000 to community organizations in honor of the winners.

The Atlanta Student Movement began in the ’60s when student were fighting for civil rights and against segregation in school. This year marks the anniversary of that fight and in honor of the movement; the Kenan Research Center at the Atlanta History Center will put an exhibit on display from now until September 25. Admission is free and open to the public.

Paul Carr and Ron Newell are bringing a lawsuit against the state of Chicago arguing that the property taxes in low-income neighborhoods are disproportionately higher than they are in wealthier neighborhoods, which also affects the ability of schools to provide the necessary tools to help their students. “The property tax places an undue burden on those who cannot afford much for themselves or their students. We really need to take a look at how we can equalize the distribution of funds so that all students can have equal access to what they need to be successful educationally for their future and the future of this state,” said Carr.

In the midst of a recession, William “Bill” Mays’ Chemical Company is growing and celebrating its 30th anniversary this month. He has established a successful minority-owned enterprise in Indianapolis, which is now one of the largest chemical distributors in the nation. “As an entrepreneur, you take the bitter with the sweet and keep going,” Mays said. “I started Mays Chemical in 1980 with $10,000, and it is now a leader in the chemical distribution industry.”

On April 22 and 23, the Votaw Colony Museum will hold Reconnection IV which is a history event that highlights the contribution of Blacks in Topeka and the history of Kansas African American settlers. There will also be a luncheon and a bus tour that cost $25 each.

Kentucky was named one of the 16 finalists in “Race to the Top,” a federal government competition between states to create new education reforms to improve the performance of students. “Kentucky’s application included more training and support for teachers; overhauling standards in many subjects; creating new efforts to turn around failing schools; giving parents more online student information and more equitably spreading out the most effective teachers,” said Antoinette Konz.

Many residents of New Orleans East are worried that once again the construction plan for their new levees and flood walls has been delayed. The construction is already eight months behind schedule and this new delay pushes it back at least another two months. The reason for the new delay is failure to get permission to access properties on which the levee system is built.

Sisters Together and Reaching (STAR) and Why Women Cry have come together for their fifth annual Why Women Cry conference which will be held at the Baltimore Renaissance Harborplace Hotel on April 5. The conference will focus on health and wellness issues affecting Black women such as HIV/AIDS, domestic violence, and drug abuse. The event will also do free testing for HIV and other health concerns.

To push efforts to close the educational achievement gap for Black children, many Boston residents held a meeting at the Freedom House to discuss a solution. Susan Eaton, director of the Charles Hamilton Houston Institute for Race and Justice at Harvard University noted, “When you look at disparities and the achievement gap, you’ll see the children not achieving correlates directly to neighborhood disparities.” The goal of education activism is to improve Boston neighborhoods; a move they feel will indirectly improve children’s education.

The Detroit Fathers and Families Coalition will hold a “Strong Fathers/Strong Families” conference to discuss the importance of responsible fatherhood and father-daughter relationships. The conference, from April 22-23, will include a father-daughter banquet. Fathers will also receive awards and recognition for their efforts to be good dads even in unconventional circumstances.

Many people in Minnesota are celebrating the fact that KMOJ, a radio station that is known for its mission to infuse a positive image into the Black community has returned to North Minneapolis. Their motto is “More Old Skool, more R&B, more Love for your community,” and Miss Georgia, the radio host, stated her excitement about moving back to Minneapolis. “That’s where it all began for our diverse and hardworking family of DJs, and that’s where our heart is.”

The music group James Fortune and Fiya along With Ernest Pugh, and Dathan Thigpen held a Praise Party at Jackson State University (JSU) recently. Many students and other members of the community attended the show. All proceeds from the concert went to the Faith Fund at JSU which raises money to cover the gap of what students can afford to what tuition costs.

St. Louis residents are being urged to vote in favor of Proposition A which is expected to expand the Metro Link and improve public transportation in general. Many people in the city use public transportation to get to and from work and the nationwide cutbacks hit transportation hard causing many people to be out of jobs. Officials hope voters will approve Prop A to help create jobs and provide commuters a secure ride to work.

New Jersey
In a recession, many people are deciding to open their own businesses to survive. East Orange has so many people doing just that Audrey Bell-Kearney was prompted to open the first women’s business center to accommodate the interest. She created Ms. Boss International, a program that helps women start and grow their own businesses by giving them the skills, training and information needed to do so. The program is also open to men who are interested.

New York
Essence magazine’s 30-year beauty and cover director Mikki Taylor announced this week that she will step down and take the position of editor-at-large. “Without a doubt, this is the most exciting period in the history of Black women ever, and I look forward to this new threshold in my career that will allow me to inspire and be inspired by women around the world,” said Taylor about her new position.

North Carolina
Fathers With Voices is a program in Greensboro that helps fathers, when they are having trouble with family court cases. The program provides dads with the information that they need about the legal system as well as informing them about their rights as a parent. Eric Legette says he started the program after seeing numerous men spend thousands of dollars in court cases and still make no progress. When it happened to a personal friend, Legette decided to do something to help.

Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson held a State of the City address recently to discuss jobs and education. Many cutbacks and lay-offs have been happening around the city and more than 750 city residents packed into the conference room at the Crown Plaza Hotel to hear what are the proposals for the city. Mayor Jackson’s biggest plan is the creation of two new “green” development projects to bring more jobs into the city.

Gang Resistance Education and Training (GREAT) tries to combat youth violence before it begins. Because of cuts in the budget for 2011, the program is expected to lose most of its funding. However, Senator Ron Wyden, who is believes the program provides an invaluable service to the community, is lobbying the Senate Appropriations Committee to restore the money needed to continue.

Four predominately Black Catholic schools in Pittsburg will close and merge into two new schools for Fall 2010. Many of the schools are having fewer students than in previous years and therefore they are now spending more to keep the schools in operation than they are generating from tuition. With the merging of the new schools, tuition for all students is expected to decrease.

Rhode Island
The Renaissance Providence Hotel has raised $13,500 for the Boys and Girls Clubs of Providence through its Dollars for Dreams program. The hotel raised the money by payroll deductions and holding fundraising events. “These children are our future; by continuing to support this organization we can help make a bright future for this community,” said Angelo De Peri, general manager of the hotel.

South Carolina
A ceremony was held in South Carolina recently to honor the Walterboro Composite Squadron of the Civil Air Patrol. Family members of the cadets were invited to attend at the Lowcountry Regional Airport to witness them accepting various certificates and awards for their accomplishments. The Squadron also signed people up for their upcoming blood drive on April 10, and to encourage donation, those who participate receive a free airplane ride.

Bernal Smith, former managing director and CEO of B.E. Smith and Associates, has been named the new president and publisher of the Memphis Tri-State Defender, one of the longest, continuously published African-American papers in the United States. Smith said, “I look forward to using my skills, experience and passion for Memphis to help the historic Defender reach new heights of success.”

McDonald’s recently sponsored the Female Success Factor business seminar which honored women who have defied the odds and become leaders in their business industries. The event was held at the University of Houston and was free and open to the public. Author Wendy Johnson and Mayor Anise Parker were the speakers.

Governor Jim Douglas announced that because of $630,000 in grants that the state has received from the federal stimulus a project will start building affordable housing complexes and will also bring hundreds of needed jobs to the state. The project is called Housing Vermont and will operate in five communities. A portion of the grants will also be used to make the city’s municipal buildings more handicap accessible.

La Amistad, the replica of the original slave ship that brought Africans from their home land to America, is making its journey to the five cities that were docks for the slave trade: Norfolk, Savannah, Charlestown, Washington, D.C., and Baltimore. The purpose of the journey is to honor and remember the end of slavery, and visiting the ship is free.

HIV Vaccine Trials Network (HVTN) is using Facebook, and other social media outlets to reach participants for an HIV vaccine study. The ads are targeting “gay, HIV-negative men actively engaged in risky sexual behaviors.” While the headquarters are in Seattle, the trials are happening in 13 cities, and many men are flocking to be part of the study.

West Virginia
The West Virginia district of the U.S. Small Business Association will soon announce the two small businesses that they will be honoring for President Barack Obama’s National Small Business Week beginning May 23. The winners of the award will be the top small businesses in the state, region and on a national level.

In an effort to help Blacks who are at risk for, or who are already experiencing symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease, Brentwood Church of Christ will hold an African American Alzheimer’s and Related Dementia Support Group meeting tomorrow. The event is free and open to the public and will showcase a presentation from members of the Wisconsin Alzheimer’s Institute.