Here’s a look at African American issues and people making headlines throughout the country.
Birmingham City Councilman Jay Roberson announced that next week he will temporarily trade in his suit and tie and work alongside the city workers such as gardeners, police officers, and firemen. “If I’m going to learn the process,” Roberson said, “I need to be a part of the process.” In order to make beneficial policy changes, Roberson believes he needs to be aware of what these workers go through on an everyday basis.
Harlem Globetrotter guard Erving “Rocket” Rivers visited Woodriver Elementary School recently to make a little girl’s dream come true. The fifth grade class at Woodriver was given an assignment to write a letter to their heroes. Jewelynn Henry’s letter showed so much admiration for the team that teacher, McKenzie Staiger, actually sent the letter, and the Globetrotters were happy to oblige.
Parole is becoming a lot easier for convicts, in the midst of the states budget crisis. The program has eliminated random drug tests, travel restrictions, and “check-ins.” The reality is, there isn’t enough funding and man power to manage it. The prisons are also expecting to release 6,500 convicts.
The Vail Symposium, a non-profit organization that provides educational programs for the Vail Valley community, recently held a conference called “Rethinking Race” where participants discussed whether or not–in the light of having the first Black president and our first Hispanic Supreme Court Justice, Sonia Sotomayor–race in this country is still an issue. Benjamin Jealous, president of the NAACP and Hispanic leaders expressed how these milestones, while great, are only the first steps.
The Saint Francis Hospital has named its new men’s health institute after Black businessman Curtis D. Robinson, after he donated $1 million dollars to the hospital after surviving his battle with prostate cancer.
Residents on the west side of Odessa are angry because they feel they aren’t treated as well as those on the east side. During slavery, the west side housed the free African American communities and has since remained the “poor side.” While many westside residents and even business owners agree there is a divide, residents from the east don’t acknowledge it. “On this side of town we get nothing; nothing at all, and its bull,” said westside resident David Fox.
District of Columbia
Prince George’s County Police Chief Roberto Hylton has put together a task force to handle gang violence, in the wake of a recent shooting, that resulted in four deaths. Officials are implementing new policy that would cause convicted offenders to serve extra time for committing crimes that were done so to strengthen a gang.
Florida has reduced the business it conducts with Black entrepreneurs more than 80 percent in the last 10 years, and much of the blame is being pointed at Black Republican, Ward Connerly. Many civil rights advocates view him as an “Uncle Tom” for his tireless efforts to end affirmative action by calling it “reversed-racism” and campaigning against it across the country. Since he began campaigning in Florida, it has been increasingly hard for Black businesses owners. “When you talk about eliminating [affirmative action], you talk about eliminating the opportunities that those programs create,” said Leon Russell, president of the Florida NAACP.
The Links Inc., a non-profit organization of African American women leaders, marched to the Capitol building recently to show their support for new legislation that would help to prevent childhood obesity. The organization presented their plan to the House and the Senate and they are hoping to make it part of the Presidential Memorandum – Establishing a Task Force on Childhood Obesity.
The Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan visited the Chicago radio station WVON 1690 AM and spoke with the “Governor of Black talk radio”– Cliff Kelly. Farrakhan recognized the station saying that it is one of the few stations left that actually informs and educates the Black community and the two spent three hours discussing education and other headlines affecting Black America.
More Blacks are moving to Iowa, beginning to start their own businesses. Those living in the state are also earning high school and college degrees at a higher rate. The population of Blacks in Iowa has doubled in the last 20 years, and now they make up almost 3 percent of the state’s population. Records show that 79 percent of African Americans in Iowa have a high school diploma and 16 percent have earned at least a bachelor’s degree according to the census.
Former police officer Danny Holmes was awarded $6.5 million, after being fired unjustly and ultimately because he was African American. The department claimed he incorrectly handled evidence and fired Holmes, even though he was following direct orders from his Caucasian superior.
In an effort to show that they are for the equal treatment and enhancement of all races, the African American Chamber of Commerce helped Rayan Coutinho to form the Indian American Chamber of Commerce. The new chamber hopes to help members get financing, marketing and other services to start up or expand business as soon as possible.
Lexington High School is under scrutiny, after constantly continuing to need more space, and more buildings to house its students. The reason, according to a recent investigation, is that their population continues to grow because they are breaking the zoning rules and excepting White children who do not live in the area. Lexington is the only school in Louisiana (of any grade level) that has managed not to be predominately Black. Lexington has secretly become a haven for White parents who do not want to send their students to predominately Black schools and is now 58 percent White, thanks in large part to Black board members.
With the increasing frequency of death by TASER (Thomas A. Swift’s Electrical Rifle), due to excessive force by police officers, the NAACP has successfully influenced the department to create a task force to examine the use of electronic control weapons. Maryland Attorney General Douglas Gansler attended a recent NAACP meeting to thank them and the family of Jarell Gray, a TASER victim, who were also present. “Your case was why we we’re able to do this. I hope this will help save lives in the future,” Gansler said.
Rev. Randolph Staten and Rev. Jerry McAfee are openly rallying for the new headquarters for The Minneapolis School Board to be built. Part of the criteria for the building proposal is it should have a social and economic impact of the African American community and will hopefully be built by Thor Construction, one of the largest African American owned construction firms in the United States.
Mississippi State Senator Robert Jackson stated, “With far too little Internet access in communities of color, hundreds of thousands of pairs of capable hands are effectively prevented from playing a contributing role in the economy,” talking about the “digital segregation” that he believes is happening in Mississippi and Alabama. The two states rank near the bottom as far as the population of households with internet access across the country and their poverty rates are among the highest in the country at about 30 percent. Jackson believes the Federal Communications Commission should make broadband internet available and affordable for all households.
Reginald Clemons, has been on death row for half of his life for a murder that he claims he didn’t commit. He was scheduled to be executed last year but was granted a stay of execution after waves of supporters came from all over after reading his story in the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan’s Final Call Newspaper. His new hearing is set for May 10 and there will be a new judge from another jurisdiction presiding to ensure objectivity.
According to Trenton police, five men are under arrest for the gang rape of a seven-year-old girl. The child was sold to the males (ages 20, 19, 17, 14, 13) by her 15-year-old stepsister at a party. The men paid the 15-year-old to fondle her younger sister but instead forced themselves on her and gang raped her. All five men and the older sister are in custody and two more men are expected to be arrested as well.
New Mexico has incorporated new programs geared towards teaching Hispanics, African Americans, and Native Americans how to audition for roles in the film industry. The programs are being sponsored by the state, and will be held during the week of April 19.
“Time to spread the message that we are putting revolution back on the front-burner, as a tool to build a movement to fight the power, to let the system know we are tired of police brutality,” said Carl Dix of the October 22 Coalition Against Police Brutality. The New Black Panther Party and the Revolutionary Communist Party are also joining forces with the coalition to combat the increasing instances of police brutality across the country, and the groups held a forum to discuss the agenda and solutions to the problem.
The NAACP is ending its lawsuit against Wells Fargo bank. The lawsuit originally was put into place because of the subprime mortgages that were being given to Blacks, while Whites continued to get loans with lower interest rates. The lawsuit was ended because Wells Fargo has agreed to let the NAACP review its lending practices and has agreed to principles on fairness and lending, which “ensures all borrowers get the highest quality credit vehicle appropriate for their circumstances and that guard against racial discrimination in lending,” said NAACP President Benjamin Jealous.
The Cleveland Clinic Minority Men’s Health Center, 100 Black Men of Greater Cleveland, Huron Hospital Center for Minority Health and the Ohio Commission on Minority Health have come together to host a forum discussing the health disparities among African American men, especially in regards to diabetes, hypertension, and prostate cancer. The forum was an open discussion about the topic and provided much needed information to Black men in the community.
Oklahoma University has implemented a new event called the Mr. Black OU Pageant. The purpose is to give Oklahoma’s Black men a chance to compete and show off their accomplishments and celebrate their culture. The winner of the competition will be responsible for creating community service and awareness programs for the 2010-11 academic year.
Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Inc. has finally raised enough money to accomplish their goal of turning an old gas station into a green community center. The project has been a work in progress for the last 20 years and over that time the group raised $455,000 towards renovations. Just recently the Portland Development Commission provided them two grants of $20,000 and $280,000 and a loan of $135,000 to help them reach their goal of $755,000.
Controversy has risen after the Lower Merion School District’s new redistricting plan forced out a number of African American students, causing them to have to be bused to different districts. Many angry parents attended the district meeting and a lawsuit is now pending. Superintendent Christopher McGinley acknowledged that race did play a part in the redistricting plan.
Sandra Powell, director of the Rhode Island Department of Labor and Training, is being highlighted for her contribution to the department. She is the first African American woman to hold the important position. Powell is responsible for implementing new programs that improve the workforce and job readiness among residents in Rhode Island.
Robert Strang died eight years ago without realizing that he discovered a precious artifact that was made by the last enslaved Africans in South Carolina. The artifacts, which are being called face jugs, are a few of about only 30 known to still exist, and they are now being moved to the Pennsylvania Museum of Art.
Golfers and residents of Tennessee are rallying to keep T.O. Fuller State Park in Memphis open. The state is considering closing it due to the budget crisis, and many people are upset because it is one of only two parks in the state named after an African American.
The National Black Farmers Association is upset and pointing a finger at President Barack Obama because they still have not received anything as a result of the historic Pigford settlement involving Black farmers who had been discriminated against by banks. “The president made a strong commitment to show leadership to get this done. We haven’t seen him show that leadership over the last couple of weeks. We haven’t heard him voice his opinion on this issue. The president failed to step up and make the final step to get this done for our nation’s Black farmers,” said John Boyd, president of the National Black Farmers.
Virginia Governor Robert McDonnell is feeling the heat, after he declared April, Confederate History Month. If that wasn’t enough, he also excluded any mention of slavery in the declaration. After numerous complaints, McDonell apologized for the omission but stated that he only wanted to highlight the events that “are most significant to Virginia’s history.”
New studies show that the unemployment rate among Blacks continues to rise and the rates among Whites have actually begun to decrease. While the Black rate is now 16.5 percent, White unemployment is now 8.8 percent, significantly below the national average of 9.7 percent.
Melvin Lynch, a Black coal miner, survived a mine collapse recently by getting out in time once his ears popped. He could tell there was a change in air pressure and rushed out. His brother, Roosevelt Lynch, was working in too deep, with more than 20 other workers who were not able to escape, and died. Many fingers are being pointed at Massey Energy Co. for shady safety practices.
The Girl Scouts of Wisconsin River Valley have honored women of distinction in the area at a luncheon. The purpose was to show future women leaders of tomorrow what they can become through education, dedication and perseverance. Among the honorees was Mae Jemison, the first African American woman in space.