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

The Ouachita Correctional Facility has teamed up with numerous religious groups in the area to hopefully reduce the recidivism rate in Ouachita Parish, by getting inmates to change their lives through the teachings of Christ. So far, more than 400 inmates have been baptized and have vowed to change their lives for the better.

The State of Black Arizona project is organizing a series of statewide meetings, with the support of the Arizona Community Foundation and ASU to gather information about African Americans in the state. This data will be used for a statewide, strategic-planning conference and to inform the Black Philanthropy Initiative directed by the Arizona Community Foundation. The state of Black Arizona project, created in 2006 by ASU, provides an in-depth look at the community from a variety of perspectives including education, economics, politics and health.

Business advisor and former economics professor at UCLA Darrell Williams has published a new website which is geared towards keeping the African American community in the know with what is going on in the 21st Century. He has recently included a Black Economic Survey which he is encouraging all African Americans to take. The goal of Williams’ survey is to spread knowledge about the financial and economic status of the Black community and to get the conversations brewing amongst the people that it affects the most, rather than only having the leaders of the community speak for everyone.

Several children in Hartford were injured recently when their school bus was in a collision with a Honda Accord. There were 13 students on the bus and most of them were taken to nearby hospitals because they were complaining of pains in their back and neck. The driver of the Accord sustained injury and was also taken to the hospital. Although it has not been verified the fault seems to lie with the bus driver.

District of Columbia
Many district residents complained this week about the poor planning of the local and federal agencies in regards to President Barack Obama’s two-day Nuclear Security Summit. The agencies did not give any warning to the many residents that would be affected by the security perimeters that go along with a presidential event. Public transportation in the area was closed, schools, and certain roads were unattainable during the two days and most of the residents affected had no idea that they would be until it was too late.

Black leaders in Miami have received much criticism for their lack in effort to encourage response to the 2010 Census. T. Willard Fair, president and CEO of the Urban League of Greater Miami said, “Black Miami, I am so tired of our leadership dropping the ball on opportunities to empower our people… Where are our Black preachers, our Black leaders, our Black organizations.” Much of the criticism sprouted from the comparison to the Hispanic community, whose leader, former mayor Manny Diaz, who started organizing and campaigning with other local community leaders to maximize the amount of Hispanics counted. No Black leaders were included, nor did they attempt to create a campaign of their own.

More than 400 business leaders were in attendance to enjoy the Atlanta Drumline’s performance as they celebrated the opening of the new Loews Hotel. Mayor Kasim Reed and Loews CEO Jonathan Tisch held a huge ribbon cutting ceremony followed by a luncheon to let the guests sample the cuisine. Loews Atlanta is the first one to open in more than five years.

Minority groups and community leaders are outraged after the Aryan Nation came into the Idaho Falls community and left plastic Easter eggs filled with candy and recruitment flyers on everyone’s lawns. The Mayor’s Race Relations Ambassador Committee issued a statement saying, “[we] are taking a strong stance of zero tolerance for the practice of hatred, harassment, and discrimination. Our citizens will be treated with respect (and) dignity in a safe and intimidation-free environment.”

Community and church leaders have joined forces to push for stricter gun laws in Chicago, especially after fatal shooting sprees that have occurred in the city recently. Because so many victims of these shooting have been youth, they have played a major part in rallying for the change. More than four dozen Howard University students traveled to Chicago to dedicate their spring breaks to advocate for the bill. The trek was led by Rev. Michael Pfleger of St. Sabina Catholic Church, who lost a son to gun violence years ago. The Reverend Pfleger said, “The surge in violence ought to rattle and wake us up because the children suffer the most.”

Katie Washington, a biological science major from Gary, will make history next month as the first Black valedictorian at the University of Notre Dame. Washington will present the valedictory address during commencement exercises May 16 in Notre Dame Stadium. Rochelle Valsaint, Chairwoman of the Black Alumni at Notre Dame, said that as far as she has been able to determine, Washington is the first Black student to be named valedictorian at the South Bend campus. While Notre Dame officials said they do not keep records of valedictorians’ race, university spokeswoman Julie Flory said, “I personally don’t recall us having a Black valedictorian before.”

Oscar-winning director Roger Ross Williams made a recent visit to the Wichita Central Library to give a lecture on the screening of his documentary, “Music by Prudence.” The short documentary film explores the life of Prudence Mabhena, a young woman in Zimbabwe whose physical disability led her parents to abandon her but did not crush her spirit. The film focuses on how Prudence turned to music as a way to express herself.

Famed R&B singer Charlie Wilson, lead singer of the Gap Band, will headline this year’s 100 Black Men of Louisville Gala on April 29 in the Cascade Ballroom at the Kentucky International Convention Center. The 100 Black Men of Louisville awards scholarships to seventh grade African American boys. To be eligible for the scholarships, the young men must excel in school, stay drug-free, and act as a big brother.

Pope Benedict XVI advanced the sainthood cause of Mother Henriette Delille, a free-born woman of African descent in 19th-century New Orleans, declaring that she had lived a life of “heroic virtues.” By signing the decree March 27, the pope confirmed the recommendations of Vatican authorities who have studied the case for several years. Mother Delille can be beautified once a miracle is attributed to her intercession. If her cause advances, Delille could become the first African American saint.

Local teen Najee Banks was named Maryland’s Boys and Girls Clubs of America (BGCA) Youth of the Year and has received a $1,500 scholarship from Reader’s Digest. Banks dedicated his free time to volunteering to help other students with their homework, does community service, and has taught himself to play seven instruments. He is also a playwright and the author of two books. In spite of all of his accomplishments, Banks is only 16 years old. He is being called the new Black renaissance man and compared to Paul Roberson, Frederick Douglass, and Lewis Latimer.

Jackson Square in Jamaica Plain has sat as an empty lot for years and there has been much talk about how to best utilize the space and now it is finally in the making. The Jamaica Plain Community Development Corporation is turning the 11 acres of open space into 14 separate projects including apartments, food stores, and retail outlets. The new development is expected to bring more residents and hundreds of jobs to the area.

The former mayor of Birmingham, Larry Langford, is headed to prison for 15 years for fraud. He was accused of accepting money, clothes, jewelry ,and shady business deals from investment bankers when he was president of the Jefferson County Commission. In addition to his arrest, Langford will have to pay almost $120,000 to the IRS for filing false tax returns and more than $240,000 to the government representing the assets he acquired illegally.

Seven thousand African American Minnesota Vietnam veterans, along with thousands of others across the nation, may be eligible for medical and financial support for those who were exposed to Agent Orange. Over the years, research has revealed the chemical toxin is linked to several cancers, type 2 diabetes, Parkinson’s disease, and other fatal health problems.
A highlight is being placed on rural communities in Mississippi for their lack of broadband internet access. Clara Taylor Reed is the CEO of Mid-Delta Health Systems, Inc., one of the leading companies offering hospice and home health services in the state. Reed stated, “It can mean a life or death situation to a patient. When a home health nurse in a rural area needs to communicate with a doctor in Jackson about a patient it is important for that connection not to be interrupted by a dropped call.” More than $7 billion in funds was allocated by the Obama Administration to increase the availability of internet across the country.

New Hampshire
The Republican National Committee (RNC) in New Hampshire is under scrutiny after complaints about its lavish spending practices. One activist actually resigned from the group complaining about its “out-of-touch, free-spending culture of Washington.” Much of the blame is surrounding RNC Chairman Michael Steele, whose top aide, top outside adviser, and his committeeman Sean Mahoney have also resigned this week after tabs surfaced for over $2000 spent at a sex-themed nightclub and another $1000 at a winery, that the group attempted to write off as “office supplies.”

New Jersey
The 2010 Geraldine R. Dodge Poetry festival will take place in Newark in October. The biennial celebration of the arts is a four-day event of nothing but the best of poetry from artists around the country. Some headlining poets include Amiri Baraka, Kwame Dawes, and Rita Dove. Attendance has steadily increased over the years with more than 20,000 expected this year. Tickets go on sale April 23.

New York
Some African Americans are finding themselves cast out and having to prove themselves to other Blacks because of their involvement in the Tea Party Movement, but there are many conservative Blacks who support it. “I’ve been told I hate myself. I’ve been called an Uncle Tom. I’ve been told I’m a spook at the door,” said Timothy F. Johnson, chairman of the Frederick Douglass Foundation, a group of Black conservatives who support free market principles and limited government. “Black Republicans find themselves always having to prove who they are. Because the assumption is the Republican Party is for Whites and the Democratic Party is for Blacks,” he said.

North Carolina
Many residents in the neighborhoods surrounding the White Street Landfill are worried about its possible re-opening. Officials are looking at the benefits as far as cost but most residents do not feel the savings are an adequate exchange for the rats, foul odors, and trash falling off of the trucks that they had to endure when it was open. Many residents and the Concerned Citizens of Northeast Greensboro showed up at the Human Relations Commission meeting to voice their apprehension.

A building in Columbus has been demolished to make room for the new community garden for the Linden McKinley STEM Academy students and was funded by the Neighborhood Stabilization Program. Mayor Michael B. Coleman helped the community with the demolition of the building and stated, “This is a tremendous opportunity for this community. We’re going to replace this vacant and abandoned eyesore with a community garden that will produce fresh, nutritious food for this neighborhood as well as valuable learning experiences for young people.”

The Oklahoma City Community Foundation is seeing its efforts put to good use as the children of the victims of the Oklahoma City Bombing are readying for college, and thanks to donations from all over the country these people’s education will be paid for. More than 200 children lost parents in the attack and thanks to the foundation, two-thirds of those students have attended college or other educational programs.

The Oregon Black Political Convention, held recently, has endorsed for office Bill Bradbury for governor, Loretta Smith for Multnomah County Commission District #2, Jeff Cogen for county chair, and Nick Fish for City of Portland Commissioner #2.

The City of Brotherly Love says goodbye to 76ers head coach Eddie Jordan after an unsuccessful first year. Sixers general manager Ed Stefanski fired the coach last Thursday after being disappointed with Jordan’s terrible Princeton offense, which obviously did nothing for the team. The Sixers finished 27-55, 13th in the Eastern Conference, missing the playoffs for the first time in three years.

Rhode Island
More than 200,000 people showed up at the National Mall recently to advocate for immigration reform. People piled onto more than 100,000 buses and came from places as far as San Francisco to make their voice heard, completely overshadowing the Tea Partiers that showed up to try and continue to attack President Barack Obama and Congress for the health care reform decision. “Teddy (Kennedy)’s commitment to the cause never wavered. I have always pledged to be your partner as we work to fix our broken immigration system, and that’s a commitment I reaffirm today,” said Obama.

South Carolina
African American Methodist Ministers nationwide are committed to mentoring young Black males. Three Black Methodist churches in South Carolina launched a plan for Saturday workshops for Black youth. Ministers involved believe if they can reach Black men, they can change the whole community. Participants will be trained in jobs and study habits. Other Black denominations plan to partner with the Children’s Defense Fund and other civil rights organizations.

A new show that features the class and style of Black women singing opera and other music is slowly making its way around the country. “Three Mo’ Divas” is a musical review that features “Smooth and Sexy” featuring Jamet Pittman and will jostle for the spotlight with fellow sopranos “Super” Nova Payton and Laurice “Take No Prisoners” Lanier (the sobriquets are plays on the diva image).

Members of the Black media are reportedly upset that so much campaigning towards the African American community to fill out the Census is occurring, especially with the recent inclusion of Hip Hop star Ludacris, who will be knocking on doors in May. The problem is, the Census has spent more than $340 million in advertising but none of it is being done through urban media outlets.

Richmond has begun a year-long celebration of the upcoming 150th anniversary of the start of the Civil War and the end of American slavery. The observation started with the opening of the doors of 15 historical sites across the to residents, so they could get a glimpse of what the sesquicentennial of the Civil War could mean for the former capital of the Confederacy.

Community activist Rev. Carl Livingston is once again pushing community leaders and others to develop African American communities around the state. Livingston will first meet with the Christian Leaders Coalition in Seattle followed by a conversation with people in Tacoma. Livingston said, “Tacoma is actually farther along than Seattle in working on a plan to help lift its Black community,” said Livingston. “Last year, Tacoma’s Black Collective sponsored a summit entitled BEST: the Black Economic Summit of Tacoma.”

West Virginia
Damion Blaney, 14, was shot in the back of the head and killed by a stray bullet, after a fight broke out 15 feet away from where he was standing. Blaney wasn’t involved in the fight at all. All of his friends and family say he was a good kid who loved sports and animals and even worked at school. The shooter still has not been identified.

Senator Spencer Coggs’ bill to ban the usage of race-based nicknames, logos, and mascots has passed in the Senate with a 17-16 vote. The majority of the controversy comes from so many teams being named after Native Americans. “As an African American, I would be disgusted if a local school adopted a racial nickname such as the Custer High Colored Warriors. The use of racial stereotypes is wrong, and that’s why I’m pleased with the action of the Senate,” Sen. Coggs said.