Here’s a look at African American issues and people making headlines throughout the country.
The nearly 6,000 students at Alabama A&M University now have some assurance that their campus bus system will remain a reliable mode of transportation thanks to a recent $620,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Transit Administration. Now the university’s bus system will be able to install and/or replace bus shelters and build a secure bus maintenance facility. The funds, awarded from the ‘State of Good Repair’ program, will also allow the school to construct better parking facilities for the school’s fleet of buses.
District of Columbia
A group of roughly 40 current and former Washington, D.C. Black firefighters filed a class action lawsuit in the U. S. District Court against the D.C. Fire Department alleging racial discrimination in promotions and disciplinary actions. According to the firefighter’s attorney, Donna Rucker, the workers-who insist their action aims to achieve fairness rather than focusing on monetary damages-have discovered a pattern of discrimination that has existed for years, and targets African-American firefighters and emergency medical technicians for punitive treatment and limited promotion. “There appears to be disparity in treatment in terms of how the fire department deals with individuals,” Rucker said. “There seems to be a divided line. You can have one offense and have treatment for an African American handled one way, and treatment for someone who’s not African American handled another way.” The suit alleges that in addition to facing harsher disciplinary penalties, Blacks encounter what they term a hostile environment on the job, while their White counterparts receive lighter penalties and easier advancement.
Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority will embark upon a national multi-year campaign to educate and enlighten the community about how to manage asthma through its Asthma Prevention and Management Initiative. The program was launched in Tampa on October 20 as part of National Head Start Awareness Month. The sorority utilized thousands of members who spread out to the nearly 1,000 communities worldwide where Alpha Kappa Alpha has chapters. The initiative’s goal is to reach millions of people afflicted with the disease, with a particular emphasis on reaching minority children.
Atlanta’s Bishop Eddie Long continues to find himself in hot water, as a bank has filed suit against him for defaulting on a property loan. The suit claims that Long and two business partners, Frederick Folson and Marrion Heflin, owe $1.9 million on a loan issued by the State Bank and Trust and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation. The money was invested in a Hoops N’ Fitness, a gym in Jonesboro, Ga. This marks the fifth lawsuit filed against the leader of the New Birth Missionary Baptist Church in less than a month. The loan has so far accrued $32,000 in interest which increases at a rate of about $300 per day.
Purdue University is renovating a library that will become the first building on campus to be named in honor of an African American alumnus. Roland Parrish, who attended Purdue on a athletic scholarship but ended up leaving the school with a master’s in management, gave $2 million toward the renovation of the Management and Economics Library in the Krannert School of Management. Parrish owns Parrish McDonald’s Restaurants Ltd.,–a chain of 25 restaurants in north Texas.
Less than an hour after voting for it, Monroe City Councilman Eddie Clark said he would ask the council to reconsider its approval of a contract that could possibly be illegal. The two-year $180,000 professional services contract with X-Perience, LLC, a video company that operates in several cities, may represent a large conflict of interest problem. Clark said immediately after he learned that X-Perience does political ad campaign work for the mayor and some councilmen. City attorney Nancy Summersgill informed him that giving a $180,000 contract to a company without bids was legal, but Clark is having serious reservations.
Gregg Bernstein’s election sweep over Pat Jessamy for states attorney in the Maryland primaries is a warning for Gov. Martin O’Malley not to take the Black vote for granted, say many Baltimore politicians and political strategists. They argue that Black voters will determine the outcome of the gubernatorial race. Candidate Bob Ehrlich is not counting on the Black vote but O’Malley is completely dependent on it. In the last 20 years, Maryland’s African Americans have always played a factor in the outcome of who will be governor, as a result there will be massive efforts from Black politicians and Black media to drive Black voters. O’Malley’s campaign ads are running consistently on minority-owned radio stations. He recently hosted a visit by President Barack Obama at Bowie State University, and he even released a radio spot mimicking auto-tune, a sound effect common in many of today’s hip-hop songs. Many community leaders are urging Black voters to ignore the gimmicks, and make O’Malley earn their vote.
City Councilor Chuck Turner’s decision to testify in his federal corruption trial adds yet another twist to a case that was already extraordinary. In interviews, Turner said the government’s case against him has racist undertones and was politically motivated. He is charged with accepting a $1,000 bribe and lying to FBI agents. Adding to the pre-trial drama, the U.S. Attorney’s key witness, Ronald Wilburn, has vowed not to testify in the case, complaining that federal authorities unfairly singled out for prosecution two Black elected officials–Turner and former State Sen. Dianne Wilkerson–after investigating alleged corruption in the Liquor Licensing Board. While other city councilors and state lawmakers were subpoenaed in connection with the FBI investigation, only Wilkerson and Turner were charged.
Shock is still being felt across the city as the saga of a heinous anti-gay crime in the Bronx continues to unfold. A man was arrested in connection with the alleged attack against four men in the Bronx. The suspect, Jose Dominguez, turned himself in. Dominguez is just one of several men arrested and accused of being involved in an attack on the gay men in the Morrisania section of the Bronx. Police say the attackers were members of the Latin King Goonies gang and discovered that a gang initiate was gay. The alleged incident took place in an abandoned house where the suspects allegedly sodomized and beat the 17-year-old recruit,in addition to beating another 17-year-old gay African American boy and beating and robbing 30-year-old gay man.
This fall, in an effort to increase the number of minority males who succeed in college, California University of Pennsylvania has created a mentoring program called Cal U Men United, for students attending their school. The goal is to “provide a campus community that will support the growth, development and achievement of young men of color as they strive to become men of character prepared to take an active role in the global community,” said school President Angelo Armenti Jr. Although the program is aimed at minority groups as a whole, this year it will benefit 30 freshmen and sophomore students with Black males making up a large portion of the total.
Annie Chambers Caddell, whose ancestors fought in the Civil War, insists the Confederate flag flying over her home is an important reminder of her heritage. But for her neighbors in this historically Black neighborhood, it’s an unpleasant reminder of an era they’d rather not see every time they pass by her house. Caddell, who is White, moved into the Brownsville neighborhood and began flying the flag about a month later. Since then, more than 200 residents signed a protest petition, and now neighbors plan to march along the street in front of Caddell’s house.
Four-time Grammy-winners Boyz II Men recently performed at the Germantown Performing Arts Center as part of the “Benefit for Love of Women.” in honor of Janice Kleiner-Hooper who lost her battle with ovarian cancer in 1987. In addition to their performance there was a silent auction and proceeds went to the Memphis Ovarian Cancer Awareness Foundation. At the close of the event, Boyz II Men were given a key to the city for their invaluable contribution.
Community leaders from numerous civil rights, labor, political and faith-based organizations are outraged at billboards that have recently surfaced warning against engaging in voter fraud. They believe that the billboards are an effort to discourage qualified voters from voting by threatening them with three years imprisonment and a $10,000 fine. The billboard shows a Black man, a Latino woman, and a White woman behind bars with the words “we voted illegally” plastered across the sign. The group responsible for the signs remained anonymous causing the community organization to demand that Clear Channel, the company that owns the billboards, take the signs down, and reveal who is funding them.
The National Association of Black Scuba Divers (NABS) and the National Oceanic Atmospheric Association’s Office of National Marine Sanctuaries are working to bring the wonders of coral reefs and life below the sea to African-American students during a science and education mission at the world’s only undersea research station. The mission, “Aquarius 2010: If Reefs Could Talk,” is structured to help students and the public better understand their connection to the ocean and their role in helping sustain it. During daily live web broadcasts from the Aquarius Reef Base in Tampa, scientists and educators living and working underwater highlight the importance of conserving the nation’s marine resources. Science program themes during this mission include biodiversity, climate change and technology for field science.