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

The City Attorney of Compton, Craig J. Cornwell, won approximately $3 million against a former employee, and a local marriage and family therapist in a contentious jury trial in Compton Superior Court. The city attorney convinced 12 jurors that former city employee Steve Okonta and business owner Aline Smith Uzoka, of Westchester Medical Services, submitted millions of dollars of false medical bills to the city from 2001 to 2008. The city is awaiting a judgment of approximately $650,000 from another defendant, Emmanul Ogbodo, who withdrew his answer to the city’s complaint for damages on the eve of the trial. With that judgment and expected post-trial orders, the city’s win will top $10 million.

A Black general dentist is the 2010-2011 president of the American Dental Association (ADA). Dr. Raymond Gist’s induction took place recently and made him the first African-American president of the 157,000-member dental organization. ADA is the nation’s oldest and largest dental association. During his one-year term, Gist plans to focus on membership outreach and advocacy efforts that will have special appeal to young dentists. “Programs oriented to students and new graduates are a priority for me,” he said.

A complaint of misconduct against Richwood’s former mayor Ed Harris resulted in his conviction. Now, a second complaint has been filed by all five of the town’s aldermen accusing current Mayor Steve Hunter of misconduct, because he reportedly changed documents sent to the state and caused the voters of the town to double their maximum tax liability instead of renewing them as approved by the board of aldermen. The aldermen accused Hunter of submitting bogus documents to the state that resulted in a $20 million tax being placed on an election ballot rather than the $10 millions the board approved.

Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake is being sued for $5 million by former African American employee Jennifer Coates, who claims she was forced from her job because she refused to fire a White colleague Richard Krummerich, the oldest and only White worker in the council services office at the time. Coates’ attorney Thomas J. Maronick Jr. said she “gave up a $90,000-a-year job because she wanted to do the right thing.” Maronick says his client was pressured “directly and indirectly” by Rawlings-Blake and her then chief of staff Kimberly Washington to fire Krummerich and replace him with a younger Black man named Sean DuBurns.

Prosecutor Kym Worthy wants to propose jail time for neglectful parents, who have shown no interest in their children’s education. Worthy’s proposal would require a parent to attend at least one parent-teacher conference a year or face up to three days in jail, according to Maria Miller, Worthy’s press secretary. The proposal, which Worthy presented this week at a Detroit City Council meeting, would exempt parents whose children are performing exceptionally well or who are otherwise actively engaged with their children’s teachers. Parents who are unable to travel for health reasons also would be exempt. She explained that jail time would not be mandated for simply missing one parent-teacher meeting. A parent would have three chances to make it to the conference and missing a conference could even be replaced with a phone call. The prosecutor’s point is largely that the majority of crime committed by juveniles generally has two things in common: The child has a history of truancy and the parents or parent is not involved in the child’s education.

Rhode Island
On May 22, 2010, Deborah Saint-Vil, a 22-year-old graduate of Brown University became the first Black woman to win the crown as Miss Rhode Island, and she will go on to compete in the Miss America pageant in January 2011. During her year of service, Saint-Vil aims to promote mental well-being and prevent youth violence and will be available to speak to parents, teachers and students on the importance of bullying prevention.
Saint-Vil is selling raffle tickets to raise funds for her 2011 competition wardrobe, and is also hosting a Halloween party for children Oct. 31, 5-8 p.m. at the Talent Factory Dance Studio.

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP) announced that Tyson Refrigerated Processed Meats Inc. has agreed to settle findings of hiring discrimination against 157 African-American and 375 Caucasian applicants for laborer positions at the company’s bacon processing plant in Vernon. OFCCP investigators found that African-American and Caucasian applicants were less likely to be hired than similarly situated Hispanic applicants over a two-year period. Under the terms of the conciliation agreement, Tyson Refrigerated Processed Meats will pay a total of $560,000 in back pay and interest to the 532 applicants.

The percentage of African American male students who graduate on-time from public schools is still creeping upward, according to recent data released by state education officials. According to the Virginia Department of Education (VDOE), which released “on-time” graduation rates for 2010 for all students, the rate was 85.5 percent; up 1.7 percent from the year before and up 2.5 percent from 2008. A look at the graduation rates of African American males from 2008 until 2010 show a steady rise in their ability to graduate on-time. In 2008, according to the VDOE, the graduation rate for all students was 81.0 percent. For African American students, the rate was 67.2 percent. In 2009, the overall on time graduation rate in Virginia was 84.7 percent; for African American males it was 69.5 percent. For African American males, the rate was 73.8 for 2010. The 2010 numbers reflect the percentage of those Virginia high school students who entered the ninth grade and graduated three years later.

Black Girls Rock! Inc. is a nonprofit, youth empowerment mentoring organization established as a reaction to the often seen negative images consistently imprinted upon Black women in mass media. Black Girls Rock! Inc.’s mission is to encourage positive life-changing activity and critical thinking through the arts for “at-risk” teenage women of color to help foster their dreams of a better tomorrow without comprising their integrity and self-worth today. BET network will take over the historic Paradise Theatre in New York City for the star-studded affair honoring some of the most exceptional women of color in the country. The network premiere will be televised exclusively on BET, Nov. 7, at 8 p.m.

Juan Williams, a longtime NPR news analyst, was fired two days after claiming that Muslims make him “nervous” and “worried” on planes, when asked if the country was facing a “Muslim dilemma” on Fox News’ “The O’Reilly Factor.” NPR announced that same evening that they were ending Williams’ contract with the company. “Juan has been a valuable contributor to NPR and public radio for many years and we did not make this decision lightly or without regret,” the statement posted on the NPR website read. In her memo to staff, CEO Vivian Schiller explained her decision, saying Williams’ comments compounded a pattern of his non-adherence to NPR’s journalistic standards. Williams stated that he was fired for telling the truth, and that his statements were a revelation of his fears rather than an expression of bigotry.