Here’s a look at African American issues and people making headlines throughout the country.
U.S. District Judge C. Lynwood Smith Jr., granted a motion that allowed former Jefferson County Commissioner Chris McNair to remain free on bond instead of having to report to federal prison as a result of a bribery case. Five other individuals involved will report to prison next week, but Doug Jones, McNair’s attorney, was able to convince the judge that because of his clients age, 86, and recent stroke, that his sentencing deadline should be reconsidered at a new hearing in October.
According to research recently released by the Center for Responsible Lending, California leads the United States in the worst foreclosure crisis since the Great Depression. Across the country, foreclosures have hit an all-time high, with nearly one in 10 homes with a mortgage currently in some stage of foreclosure. In California, nearly one in eight–or approximately 702,000–homes are currently in foreclosure, the economy is in ruins and unemployment stands at 12 percent with higher rates in Latino and Black communities. These groups represent more than half of all foreclosures, with 48 percent of foreclosures hitting Latinos and eight percent hitting Blacks. These borrowers were more likely to receive higher-cost sub-prime mortgages with loan terms that typically increased the risk of default, compared to safer loans made to similarly situated non-Hispanic White borrowers.
District of Columbia
Incumbent Washington, D.C., Mayor Adrian Fenty and challenger Vincent Gray have pulled out all the stops in the closing hours of their race, and employed a host of 11th-hour strategies to earn a four-year term in the executive suite at the John A. Wilson Building. Fenty had schools chancellor Michelle Rhee at his side recently, as the pair kicked off the first day of early voting in the district, while Gray is looking to his council colleague former Mayor Marion Barry, to attract the support of some of the city’s poorest residents. Fenty cast aside his reputed arrogance during a recent debate, making what appeared to be an earnest plea for forgiveness. He has admitted he’s been aloof, arrogant, less than inclusive of other leaders in his administration, but promised to improve, if voters give him a second chance.
Florida’s first all-boys public charter school opened recently with 83 boys in kindergarten through the fifth grade, housed in classrooms provided by Rev. Henry E. Green of the African Methodist Episcopal Church in Tampa, who said that it was always his dream to have a place to provide quality education and educational support programs in economically disadvantaged communities.
A judge ruled last week against board members of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) who formed a breakaway faction with the group’s embattled treasurer Spiver Gordon and chairman Raleigh Trammell. The ruling from Fulton County Superior Court Judge Alford Dempsey effectively places control of the group with the faction siding with the Rev. Bernice King, who was elected last October to lead the group. Last fall, federal and local authorities launched an investigation of allegations that the SCLC chairman and treasurer mismanaged at least $569,000 of the group’s money. The two denied the allegations and have continued to challenge their dismissal by some board members. Tramell and Gordon have not been criminally charged, but the SCLC has spent nearly a year in court, wrangling over control of the organization. Separate factions that both claimed to be the SCLC’s board of directors met hundreds of miles apart earlier this year, and each claimed to make moves on the group’s behalf to save it from its legal woes.
Authorities in Chicago say 16-year-old Deantonio Goss has been gunned down just two days into the new school year. The Cook County medical examiner’s office says Goss was pronounced dead Wednesday afternoon after being shot in the city’s South Chicago neighborhood. An 18-year-old student was also wounded in the shooting. Chicago Public Schools spokeswoman Monique Bond says both victims attended Bowen High School, which is a few blocks away from the scene of the shooting.
The Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals and the Jefferson Parish Water Department recently issued a “Boil Water Advisory” for Lafitte and Crown Point, La., as a precautionary measure after the water systems dropped below 20 pounds-force per square inch (psi). Water samples will be collected and it will take a minimum of 24 hours for results. If test results come back positive for contaminants, the advisory will remain in effect until the samples pass.
Two students were shot and injured outside of Mumford High School on the first day of classes and a 15-year-old allegedly involved in the incident was charged with assault and had to post a $5,000 bond while the main suspect Steven Hare has been charged with two counts of assault with the intent to murder and may receive up to life in prison. Hare must post a $500,000 cash bond.
A recent rash of violent armed robberies at Jackson businesses has left one person dead and three others hospitalized. In all three cases, gunmen opened fire on the workers before robbing them. Police have not determined whether any of the robberies are connected. No arrests have been made. “These people out here are trying to get some quick cash so they can buy themselves some drugs. They need to get a job like everybody else,” said Jackson City Councilman Kenneth Stokes, in whose ward a delivery man was fatally shot. In the same weekend, a 12-year-old boy and his stepfather, Naveen Avva, both were shot in the stomach during a robbery at the E Com Lodge in South Jackson. Both were taken to the University of Mississippi Medical Center, where they were listed in stable condition.
St. Louis Community College’s Florissant Valley, Forest Park, and Meramec campuses each received more than $1 million in grants from the U.S. Department of Education for Student Support Services (SSS) programs which help young people from low-income households, and students who are disabled to have the opportunity to stay in school, succeed and graduate. The funds will support tutoring, academic advisory, career services and academic enrichment programs.
Greensboro has revised their Neighborhood Small Projects Program which was designed for neighborhood groups to be able to request capital improvements on publicly-owned property. The program was eliminated last year, but has been brought back in this fiscal year. The program receives $100,000 which is divided between five districts and applications will be made available idea submissions until Nov. 30.
Governor Ted Strickland and the Ohio Department of Education (ODE) are planning to distribute federal funds that will allow school districts to hire and retain resources for teachers and other education service jobs. The ODE is still in the application process but could potentially receive $7.9 million in funds for Columbus City Schools. Superintendent Gene Harris said he is extremely grateful for the opportunity to receive the funds and ensures they will be used carefully and effectively. Under Harris’ guidance the district completed the fiscal year in the black due to cautious planning and well-thought-out cutbacks.
The August Wilson Center for African American Culture (AWC) is asking for $102,500 more in Allegheny County Regional Asset District funding than the $247,500 it received last year, and it is not alone among African-American arts organizations trying to stay afloat in difficult economic times. Of the eight Black arts entities applying for annual grant funding, all requested increases, some as much as six times the amount they received for 2010. The AWC, which is working to pay down $8.5 million in construction overruns, requested the funding to help pay operating costs. President and CEO, Andre Kimo Stone Guess said the center hasn’t generated sufficient funds from its 480-seat theater. He said the focus will now be renting out its facilities, putting on jazz and dance festivals, and presentations of August Wilson’s plays, which may be filmed for distribution.
The Mighty O’Jays will headline the Benedict College scholarship fundraiser concert Sept. 18 at the Township Auditorium. The benefit concert is part of the South Carolina HBCU Classic weekend events. The proceeds will support scholarships for deserving students, and all contributions are tax deductible.
One wouldn’t typically expect good news to come from our prisons, but this came evidence that Tennessee is doing something right in rehabilitating inmates. The news has long-lasting implications not only for our prison population, but also for our schools, hospitals and businesses. According to a Tennessee Department of Corrections report, the recidivism rate among African American felons in Tennessee prisons dropped from 42 percent in 2001 to 38 percent in 2005. Violent offenders’ return rate was even lower, at 25 percent. The recidivism rate reflects the percentage of offenders who returned to prison in less than three years. The drop in returning prisoners saved the state about $4 million annually, the department said. Even better news came out this month, when the Department of Correction and the Board of Probation and Parole announced that a new joint effort to link at-risk offenders with a network of social workers has been a success. The rehabilitation plan has worked so well, in fact, that plans for a new state prison have been pushed back from 2016 to 2020. The delay will save taxpayers $200 million.
As president of Texas Southern University, Priscilla Slade was building a legacy that included nearly doubling enrollment, constructing new academic buildings and overhauling the financial aid system. Slade became a popular and high-profile president during more than six years at the helm of the historically Black university. But her accomplishments have taken a back seat to scandal. She was fired last week and faces a criminal investigation into her use of state money. She’s accused of improperly spending $87,000 to furnish her home, $138,000 on its landscaping and exterior improvements, and $56,000 on security related equipment and labor for the house. Slade has appealed her firing and said some expenses were necessary to entertain donors. Slade blamed a paperwork error for the landscaping bills and has since reimbursed the school $138,000.
The Seattle Public Schools (SPS) district recently held a ceremony at Brighton Elementary School as the district changed the school’s name to Martin Luther King Jr. Elementary School. The decision was due to SPS honoring its promise to the Black community to rename another structure in the district in Dr. King’s name, after the last building was torn down.
Milwaukee Public Schools’ Superintendent Gregory Thornton announced a partnership between the Boys and Girls Clubs of Greater Milwaukee and City Year Milwaukee, an organization that uses young people as tutors, mentors, and role models to encourage younger children to stay in school. The two groups will combine their after-school programs at three Milwaukee school to provide services to the students.
Last week, the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) continued its effort to curb the rise in foreclosures across the country with a $1 billion infusion of funding to state and local governments, its third contribution through the Neighborhood Stabilization Program which was created by Congress to deal with foreclosure.
Many economy-impacted college students are short of the funds needed to pay for their tuition, books, and dormitory rooms this year, and the United Negro College Fund (UNCF) is urging all Americans to contribute to its Campaign for Essential Student Aid in order to help the students at UNCF’s 39 member historically Black colleges and universities complete their senior year and receive their college degrees. UNCF most recently kicked off the Campaign for Essential Student Aid in North Texas, and they hope to raise $4 million nationally this year to help 2,500 students.