Here’s a look at African American issues and people making headlines throughout the country.
Following last month’s revelation that African Americans are more than four times as likely to be arrested for marijuana-related offenses than Whites in Los Angeles County, the National Black Police Officers’ Association announced that it is endorsing Proposition 19 which would legalize marijuana possession in California for those 21 and over. “When I was a cop in Baltimore, and even before that when I was growing up there, I saw with my own eyes the devastating impact these misguided marijuana laws have on our communities and neighborhoods,” said Neill Franklin, executive director of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition. “It’s not just in Baltimore, or in Los Angeles, prohibition takes a toll on people of color across the country.”
District of Columbia
Natalie Randolph is making history as one of the nation’s only female football coaches. The team at Coolidge High School has seen a change since she has become the coach and immediately instituted college-level practices, and required the boys to attend study hall four days a week to do their homework and SAT preparation. She made these requirements because she believes in order to play football, you need mental fitness before size and strength. The principal recalls that is the main reason Randolph was hired. In her interview she spoke about what she would do for the students, on and off the field.
Parents preparing their children to attend school in Pinellas County are doing so under a wave of controversy about student achievement and behavior. Recent reports from the Pinellas County School District indicate that eight of their elementary schools that have a heavy population of African American students have received D and F grades from Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test (FCAT) testing results released by the Florida Department of Education. This rating influences how students, teachers and faculty will be assigned to schools. In addition to the dismal test results, discipline problems are extremely high. The Pinellas County School Board has a scheduled workshop to discuss the possibility of establishing more “fundamental high schools” which operate under stricter guidelines regarding students dress code, behavior, and curriculum.
A predominantly Black Atlanta church is facing foreclosure and says banks aren’t doing enough to help keep it, and other churches like it, open. Higher Ground Empowerment Center Pastor Dexter Johnson says the bank has given the church until Aug. 31 to pay up or move out. Johnson says they’re trying to work with the lender to modify the loan, but suffered membership loss and damage during the 2008 Atlanta tornado and don’t have a lot of resources. Johnson and a coalition of clergy leaders of other Black churches believe banks are putting unfair pressure on them. Recently, a bank evicted another Southeast Atlanta church, dumping the church’s belongings in the parking lot.
The Chicago Public School District faces such a gaping deficit that Ron Huberman, CEO of the district, plans to use reserves to help resolve the problem. Chicago School Board President Mary Richardson-Lowry is unsure if depleting the school district’s reserve fund to balance the budget is sensible. “I have not seen the proposed budget in its entirety, but whether or not depleting reserve funds is the right way to go is something I and the board will examine carefully,” she says. “These are tough economic times and without sufficient funding, everything must be considered.” She added that the board will take up the proposed $6.4 billion budget in its upcoming meeting.
Two New Orleans police officers, Melvin Williams and Dean Moore, were indicted in federal court in July for their role in the beating death of Treme resident Raymond Robair, who was dropped off by the two officers near an entrance to Charity Hospital. The officers appeared in court for the first time recently to respond to charges filed by the Justice Department three weeks ago; they both entered pleas of not guilty. Although federal prosecutors attempted to have Williams jailed without bond, after hearing arguments from federal prosecutors and the two officers’ attorneys, U.S. Magistrate Louis Moore ruled that both officers be released in lieu of bonds. Federal prosecutors accuse Williams, a longtime NOPD veteran, of using unnecessary force in kicking and beating Robair with a baton, causing injuries that led to his death. Williams along with Moore, who had only been a member of the NOPD for several weeks when the incident took place, are accused of attempting to cover up the part they played in the victim’s death by filing a false report and describing their interaction with Robair as a ‘medical incident,’ the federal indictment says.
Acting on an anonymous tip, Detroit police officers captured an escaped Mississippi inmate who was hiding in a home located on the northeast side of the city. William C. Jackson, 34, escaped from Clarke County Jail on July 8 by slipping through a vent in the roof of his cell block and climbing over a 12-foot fence lined with razor wire at the top. He was convicted of possession of methamphetamines and sentenced to 15 years in the Clarke County Jail.
Five young African American students were selected to join a group of 230 high school juniors and seniors as 2010 Bank of America Student Leaders. The youngsters were selected for their leadership and community service, and participated in the eight-week nonprofit internships, paid for by Bank of America, at organizations in their local communities. Students gained hands-on experience and learned the inner workings of nonprofit management and leadership. Bank of America invested $1 million in the summer internships for students at community nonprofits in 44 neighborhoods.?
CBS News correspondent Harold Dow who helped create the documentary segment “48 Hours” died at his New Jersey home Saturday morning, after more than 40 years with the network. His work earned him five Emmy’s and a George Foster Peabody Award. Dow did the first network interview with O.J. Simpson following the murder trial of his ex-wife, and was in the New York Twin Towers immediately before they collapsed in the Sept. 11 attacks giving him an exclusive coverage opportunity. Earlier in his career Dow was also a co-anchor and talk show host for KETV in Omaha; he was the first African American television reporter in the city. Dow was 62 and is survived by his wife, Kathy, and their three children.
During the National Urban League (NUL) 100th anniversary celebration, the Columbia Urban League grabbed its own moment in the spotlight as they received the Whitney M. Young Jr. Leadership Award for Advancing Racial Equality. Named after the man who served 10 years as president of the NUL, catalyzed its early growth, and served as an advisor on race relations to Presidents Kennedy and Johnson, the Whitney M. Young Jr. award recognizes outstanding work in the area of advancing racial equity. It also serves as a reminder that Urban League affiliates and their leaders have a responsibility to follow Young’s lead.
Air Force General Benjamin Oliver Davis Jr., who was named one of the 100 Greatest African Americans by one of the nation’s most distinguished scholars, Molefi Kete Asante PhD., founder of the first doctoral program in African American studies, has now been honored again as two schools in the Aldine Independent School District will be named after him. “Aldine has a tradition of naming our high schools after generals; Eisenhower, Nimitz and MacArthur. We wanted our new school to reflect our changing population and although a number of names were considered, Davis’ (leader of the Tuskegee Airmen during World War II) service stood out as a wonderful example for our students to follow. It wasn’t a very hard decision,” said Viola Garcia chairperson of the School Names Committee.
The U.S. Department of Education’s School Leadership Program awarded Hampton University a $322,489 grant for each of the next five years, in support of the HU Leadership Academy (HULA). The grant will enable the university to partner with area schools to implement a multifaceted approach to improve student achievement. The effort focuses on improving the effectiveness of educational leadership. The grant will help implement research-based practices that successfully turn around low-achieving schools. These five-year grants were awarded to six school districts, three non-profit organizations, and five universities in 12 states. HU was the only organization in Virginia to receive funding.
Wyclef Jean, the Hip Hop artist who has been shaking things up since he announced his bid to run for president of his poverty stricken home country, Haiti, recently got the news that he will not be able to run because he did not meet the residency requirements of living in the country five consecutive years before running. Jean was initially optimistic about his chances, feeling that being named a roving ambassador by current president Rene Preval would make him eligible to run. The Haiti electoral council felt differently.
* * *
Faith Evans, Grammy-winning R&B artist and widow of Christopher Wallace, better known as the Notorious B.I.G, was arrested late Saturday evening on suspicion of misdemeanor drunken driving. Evans’ car was impounded, and she was held for a few hours before being released on bail. Some skepticism has arisen because some believe the incident was to generate buzz around the artist, who will soon have a reality series in production and has a new album scheduled to release in October.
* * *
Biracial movie director Carolyn Battle Cochran, has just released a groundbreaking documentary, “Biracial, Not Black, Damn It!” which chronicles the lives and opinions of men, women, and children who struggle with their identity, and are constantly pushed into one group (Black), where they don’t necessarily feel they best fit. The documentary strives to change “one-drop” thinking and even calls out President Barack Obama to outwardly accept his “biracialness.”
* * *
Young leaders from across the country recently joined Tavis Smiley, Antwone Fisher and Grammy-winning gospel artist Erica Campbell from Mary Mary for five days of leadership training, community service, and an opportunity to spread awareness about prevention of youth obesity. The theme of the conference was “Never Too Young to Change the World,” and was held at UCLA. The program chose 150 students from 16 states based on their academic achievement, leadership ability, essay entry, and a letter of recommendation.
* * *
The Association of Christ-based Clergy, Counselors, Educators, and Education Systems (A3CEES) recently held the nation’s first Christian Women Seminary to recognize the contributions of women to the church and to provide support to those preparing for church leadership “A lot has changed in the 40 years that I have been in-tuned to ministry. The clergy-circles who were staunchly against a women speaking publicly have softened. Now, some believe women can speak, but not lead men. However, I have found biblically that women must lead, when men are incapacitated, irresponsible, insistent, or by God’s incredibility,” said A3CEES Senior Ministry Leader and Christian educator Steven DavidSon who said he truly believes in the principles that call women to lead.
* * *
Don Abram Harris owner of Don Abram Harris Cigars LLC recently landed a huge contract with the Navy Exchange, which is a United States Military retail store to sell cigars. The Don Abram Harris Cigar line was first introduced at the 76th annual International Premium Cigar and Pipe Retailers Association (IPCPR) Trade Show in Las Vegas in 2008. Since then, the line has rapidly gained popularity and the brand is growing nationally. Don Abram Harris Cigars is owned by the first African American cigar manufacturer in the United States.