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

The Maricopa County NAACP Youth Council is helping parents buy school supplies for their children by sponsoring its third annual “Back to School, Stay In School” backpack drive to help those families in need. With the assistance of local businesses, corporations, community organizations, and individuals, they were able to help prepare more than 250 children from low-income families to return to school with pride, confidence, and a backpack full of age-appropriate school supplies. Students and parents also received health and wellness information provided by the JW Robinson United Black Firefighters, Health Choice Arizona, Academy of Excellence Charter School, Shellie’s Early Start, The Center for African American Health Arizona, and the Worthy Institute.

The Los Angeles Chapter of the National Congress of Black Women Inc., will hold its first West Coast anniversary installation and awards luncheon August 15. The event will also feature a silent auction and exclusive unveiling of sculptures by Artis Lane, the artist responsible for the Sojourner Truth Memorial that now rests at the United States Capitol Visitors Center in Washington, DC. The luncheon, auction and unveiling will be held at the Hyatt Regency Long Beach, 200 S. Pine Ave., from 2 to 5 p.m.

Tainted ground water is being spread across thousands of acres of north Delaware and has reached the Potomac aquifer, which supplies drinking water to Maryland, New Jersey and Delaware. The tainted water contains benzene, vinyl chloride, and chlorinated benzenes and the amounts are so high that it poses an immediate health threat and also increases the risk of cancer. The tainted water is a result of north Delaware being the site of the worst chemical dumping grounds in the United States. The state has banned the use of ground water under or near the Delaware city petrochemical complex.

District of Columbia
A new study recently released by the Justice Policy Institute reported that residents of D.C., who are poor and Black, are highly likely to end up incarcerated. Additionally, the reports suggests that the problem may only get worse because funding for more social programs and services are being cut, while the funding for law enforcement is increasing.

Florida recently held a benefit motorcycle poker run that started at Michael’s Harley Davidson in Cotati. About 70 riders went on the entire run, touring Sonoma County and ending up at the non-profit Sebastopol Center for the Arts. This was the second year the Center for the Arts used the poker run to raise money for the center’s art program for children. Local bike builders from Cazadero and Novato were featured in the inside galleries and showed that motorcycles are art as well as transportation.

Atlanta recently hosted the National Black Arts Festival, which showcased the Afro-Brazilian percussion group Olodum. The ensemble highlights Black pride and African heritage through music, art and dance. The festival also honored Curtis Mayfield as this year’s legend.

The Free Press newspaper has commissioned the Harmony Institute to develop a strategy that will target poor, rural African Americans in the South to increase support for a Net Neutrality (NN) strategy, which is the principle that all Internet traffic should be treated equally so that everyone has access. Studies show that African Americans typically have less access and overall use of the Internet, which some believe contributes greatly to their disproportionately negative socioeconomic status.

Seniors at the Phoenix Manor, which is heavily populated by African American residents, have a number of complaints about the facility. Mary Owens, the spokesperson for Phoenix Manor, says that the out-of-town owner seems not to be interested in reinvesting in the maintenance and safety of the residence. Residents of the complex are faced with a non-functional security door and an overstuffed garbage chute due to a lack of full-time custodial help. A letter was sent out to the owner of the apartments listing 20 problems. When the letter was sent back, only three of the 20 issues were addressed. Residents also sent complaints to their local politicians, even the ones who attended the ribbon cutting ceremony at the apartments, and none of them have responded.

Kids Rethink New Orleans–a program consisting of a group of students who want to improve the conditions of their school in the wake of Hurricane Katrina–held a press conference to give an update on improvement programs. The event was also used to urge New Orleans local education leaders and officials to adopt the group’s recommendations for better schools. Many of the students based their suggestions for improvement on what they saw at the schools they attended, when they were relocated after Katrina. Amoung the ideas for improving things are working on relationships among the student body, fresher cafeteria food, and improving school bathrooms.

Four Morgan State University students were arrested recently in connection with the rape of an unidentified woman. The men–Renard James, 30, Dante Green, 24, Dale Lawton, 23, and Howard Cook Smith, 21, were charged with eight counts of sex offense, assault, perverted practice and conspiracy charges, and are being held without bail until their hearing on August 10.

Jada Pinkett Smith is trying to start a revolution by baring it all for the July cover of ESSENCE magazine. She made this bold statement to empower Black women and girls. She shares the motivation behind her shoot, and explains that posing nude is not about Hollywood vanity, but about the desire to teach her young daughter about positive body image. Smith is striving to express the power of femininity and the freedom of self-acceptance by celebrating our bodies and skin tone.

New York
John Adams, a janitor at One Niagara who has been missing for weeks, was found recently. Surveillance tapes showed that Adams was cleaning the building and fell into a trash compactor while trying to retrieve a fallen trash bin. The way the compactors are designed made it impossible for Adams to get back out or for anyone to know he had fallen in, and consequently he was crushed to death.

North Carolina
Protesters stopped the Wake County Public School System board meeting recently over their disagreement with the proposed segregation of schools in the county. About 20 of the approximate 1,000 opponents were arrested for non-violently protesting the resegregation. The school board claims that the reason for the segregation is that underachieving Black students aren’t being well served by the socioeconomic diversity policy.

Although the Shaker Square community in Cleveland is pretty faithful to their no-snitching attitude, residents recently worked with the police to catch two robbers- 22-year-old Lawrence Butler and 19-year-old Jazzalyn Primous robbed and struck five people over the head, during a movie at Shaker Square Cinema. Residents said that they were tired of criminals committing senseless crimes in their community and saw the criminals flee to a getaway car, throw away an object, and drive away. With the help of numerous eye witness accounts, the police were able to catch the criminals in 13 hours.

South Carolina
Columbia voters recently chose African American candidate Brain Newman as the new District 2 Columbia City Council representative even though only 1,443 of the 15,053 registered voters came out to the polls. Newman will finish out the term of Councilman E.W. Cromartie who resigned in March after he admitted to tax evasion.

A study by Northwestern University recently reported that the number of high school dropouts, who are serving time, is increasing. Texas topped the list of the states incuded in the study with a drop-out rate of a high 53.5 percent. African American males have only a 10 percent chance of completing college. Almost one in four young Black male high school dropouts are incarcerated or institutionalized on an average day.

United States District Judge Susan Bolton has received numerous threats after ruling to block some controversial sections of the Arizona immigration law that recently went into effect that would have allowed police to request proof of citizenship of anyone they suspected of being in the country illegally. Some of the threats are being taken very seriously, and extra security measures may be taken.

Michele D. Hotten is the first African American woman appointed to Maryland appellate court. Hotten got her law degree from Howard University and began her own practice after working at Farrington, Smallwood, Wells & Wyrough. She became special counsel to the Prince George’s County Human Relations Commission, hearing examiner for the Prince George’s County Board of Education, a deputy for the People’s Zoning Counsel, and Examiner in Chancery for Prince George’s County Circuit Court. Hotten is also only the second African American woman to become a judge with the district court for Prince George’s county.

Lee Saunders became one of the highest-ranking African Americans in the American labor movement, when he was recently sworn in as the International Secretary-Treasurer of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organization (AFL-CIO). Representing 1.6 million public service workers, AFSCME is one of the largest unions in the country. Saunders said he is determined to “stand up for the dignity of all work and all working people.”