Here’s a look at African American people and issues making headlines throughout the country.
The Crenshaw/LAX Transit Corridor Team will conduct a series of community workshops to provide project updates, discuss input received from previous workshops and present new information on station alternatives, station area planning, streetscape, and landscape design concepts. The project is expected to have a significant impact on business, employment, and tax revenue in the region.
District of Columbia
A man who believed he was assisting members of Al-Qaeda in a plan to launch bombs at several Metrorail stations was arrested this week, according to the U.S. Justice Department. After Farooque Ahmed, 34, of Ashburn, Va., was taken into custody, officials alerted the public and metro system workers that they were never in danger, because they–which included the FBI–had been well aware of Ahmed’s activities prior to the time he began his attempt. They also said that Ahmed had been closely monitored up until the time of his arrest. If convicted, Ahmed faces a maximum penalty of 50 years in prison.
The 10th annual Silent No More! Candlelight Vigil was held at the Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historic Site, and was sponsored by Partners Against Domestic Violence (PADV). Many supporters against intimate partner violence attended, taking the opportunity to remember victims who were killed in 2009 and 2010. As each name was read, a candle was lit to represent a life lost. Mayor Kasim Reed honored PADV with the Phoenix Award for its work to end intimate partner violence and to empower its survivors. Atlanta City Council President Ceaser Mitchell presented the award.
An African American family of four has filed a federal lawsuit against Steak ‘n Shake restaurant in Anderson, after claiming they were refused service because of their race.
The family claims that for more than an hour, they were ignored and left standing, while White patrons who came in after them were seated. The suit accuses the restaurant manager and the company of violating the Civil Rights Act and intentional emotional distress and seeks damages of more than $75,000.
It was recently announced that the Black Engineer of the Year Award and STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) conference, will be held in Philadelphia in 2012. “Philadelphia was extremely interested in the opportunity to host BEYA,” said Al Rutherford, managing partner of Rutherford & Associates, the meeting and conference management firm that handles BEYA’s arrangements. “They came to the table with very competitive rates, including a minimal rate for the use of their convention center.” While the City of Brotherly Love seemed willing to roll out the red carpet for the annual celebration of Black students and professionals in the STEM fields, Rutherford said, Baltimore didn’t show them the same love. That’s the same reason why BEYA organizers decided to relocate its 2011 conference to Washington, D.C., after 23 years in Charm City. The conference is expected to attract more than 3,000 participants and generate between $8-9 million in revenue for the city.
The Detroit Public Schools district is launching $49.3 million in construction projects at three pre-K to eighth grade campuses, and will build two new schools. Extensive remodeling includes a new dance studio, instrumental, and choral rooms. Since voters approved the Proposal S Bond Referendum–which granted DPS $500 million–11 months ago, contracts to Detroit-based firms have been awarded for 16 of the 18 school projects. Groundbreakings took place for the three latest projects-Detroit School of Arts East Duke Ellington at Beckham, Munger and Mackenzie Pre-K to 8 schools–which will be built by teams including Detroit-headquartered companies. When completed, the schools will provide an educational home for more than 2,500 students and will be a source of community pride and renewal for three city neighborhoods.
A Jackson County man is being held on a $200,000 bond after police said he allegedly broke into his neighbor’s home and sexually assaulted her. Ray Artis Harrison was arrested and charged with one count of sexual battery and one count of residential burglary. An investigation was launched and Harrison was named as a suspect. Harrison was taken into custody and his bond was set at $150,000 for the sexual assault and $50,000 for the burglary.
Disgruntled New York City resident Jimmy McMillan stole the show at a debate for the state’s gubernatorial candidates as he introduced himself and his self-created political “Rent is Too Damn High” party to the public. “The people I’m here to represent can’t even afford to pay their rent.” The debate was expected to be a showcase of the top two candidates in the race, favored Democrat Andrew Cuomo and Tea Party candidate Carl Paladino. However, McMillan garnered more attention with his boisterous message, which came off as comical at times. However, it turns out that McMillan is actually not a victim of the same misfortune because doesn’t pay rent, and hasn’t paid any since the 1980’s. McMillan lives rent-free in exchange for providing maintenance for his building. When approached about this, McMillan dismissed the reports as “skirting the real issue.”
Tavis Smiley and a number of financial experts traveled to Greensboro recently to hold a free financial literacy event. The project included seminars and workshops on saving, investing, spending wisely, and getting your children into college and preparing to pay for it. Nationwide Insurance also sponsored a job fair as part of the event. “I routinely get out of the studio and try to talk to everyday people and give them information that can help them to live better lives,” said Smiley, “When we know better, we can live better.”
Promises by House Republicans to overturn health care reform measures passed earlier this year would disproportionately affect the Black community, according to prominent Ohio health care expert Dr. Lesley Russell. One central proposal of the current Republican agenda, called the “Pledge to America,” would repeal the Obama administration’s Affordable Care Act, the comprehensive health care reform bill passed by Congress and signed into law earlier this year. A successful attempt to overturn health care reform would end the African-American community’s chances of addressing long-running health care disparities. Russell believes that, if implemented, the pledge would stymie efforts to improve access to health insurance coverage for African-Americans and would ensure that Blacks continue to receive poorer care and live in poorer health than the rest of the nation.
The International Association of Black Professional Fire Fighters launched the “No Child Left Alone Fire Safety Campaign” during Fire Prevention Week, in order to educate Black people everywhere about the risk of fire in their communities. Of all children killed in home fires, 38 percent were Black. According to the Black Firefighters Association: Black Americans face a risk of fire death almost twice that of individuals of another race; Spanish-speaking children under the age of five years old comprised an average of 23 percent of all Spanish-speaking people killed in home fires in the United States. The reasons that more African-American children die in residential fires is rooted in historic inequities. Low-income families are more likely to be victims of fire due to substandard housing, lack of smoke alarms, economic constraints to provide adult supervision and use of alternative heating sources.
The Columbia Police Department’s interim Police Chief Carl Burke recently announced his retirement after holding the position a little over a year. Burke has worked in the Columbia Police Department since 1979 and has risen through the ranks of the City of Columbia during his career. He began in Columbia as a beat officer, was promoted to corporal in 1981, sergeant in 1984, lieutenant in 1986, captain in 1991 and acting major in 2005, and from there up to the highest rank on the force. Burke said he was retiring to fulfill a promise to his family. Burke’s children are in medical school and he had agreed to help provide childcare for his granddaughter, he said.
Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee recently reached out to Attorney General Eric Holder informing him of reports of voter intimidation across the city of Houston and requested that the Department of Justice investigate these incidents. She also urged Attorney General Holder to send DOJ poll monitors to Harris County to ensure a safe and neutral voting environment during the November 2 election. Poll watchers were reportedly over-stepping the boundaries between observing and interacting in the democratic process by hovering directly behind voters as they entered their votes. The group thought to be behind these acts is known as the King Street Patriots, reportedly tied to some Tea Party activists. The King Street Patriots have deployed poll watchers around the city as they implement their “True the Vote” campaign. Congresswoman Jackson Lee stated, “Many of these incidents of voter intimidation have been occurring in predominately minority neighborhoods and have been directed at African-Americans and Latinos. It is unconscionable to think that anyone would deliberately employ the use of such forceful and intimidating tactics in 2010 to undermine the fundamental, Constitutional right to vote.” However, such conduct had regrettably occurred in Houston, and Rep. Jackson Lee took action to ensure that it did not recur.
Lionsgate Entertainment Corp. marketing chief Tim Palen, who is also a photographer, has shot eight portraits of Tyler Perry’s “For Colored Girls” ensemble cast, including Janet Jackson, Thandie Newton, Kerry Washington, Loretta Divine, Whoopi Goldberg, Anika Noni Rose, Phylicia Rashad and Loretta Devine, on 35mm film. Lionsgate has teamed up with Augme Technologies for a mobile marketing campaign that enables Smartphone users to view the “For Colored Girls” movie trailer, the “Living Portraits” gallery cast members, a film synopsis, cast and crew information and a text reminder for the Nov. 5 release date, according to the Hollywood Reporter.