Here’s a look at African American people and issues making headlines throughout the country.
Terri Sewell, a Birmingham lawyer who was college friends with First Lady Michelle Obama, made history Tuesday becoming the first Black woman elected to Congress from Alabama. Sewell will represent the 7th District, a seat formerly held by Democrat Artur Davis. She defeated Republican Don Chamberlain.
Protesters rioted in Oakland in the wake of the two-year prison sentence given to an ex-transit officer Johannes Mehserle who shot and killed Oscar Grant while trying to arrest him on an Oakland train platform. Hours after Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Robert Perry handed down the sentence, people took to the streets over what they saw as a too-lenient sentence. A rally turned into a march through downtown before turning violent. Angry demonstrators broke car and bus windows as they began “tearing up the city” according to Oakland Police Chief Anthony Batts. People were throwing rocks, bottles and trash, and ripped up fences, added Batts. Many local business owners in the area sympathized with the protesters, but didn’t think they were doing themselves a service by rioting. More than 150 people were arrested in connection with the riot, compounding the grief of the shooting victim’s family.
District of Columbia
Radio stations WHUR 96.3 FM and WHUR-WORLD HD2 of Howard University in partnership with the Capital Area Food Bank, will sponsor “Food2Feed,” a 12-hour radiothon and fundraiser to feed needy families during the Thanksgiving holiday. The event will take place at the Old Post Office Pavilion on Nov. 18 from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. Volunteers will fan out along 12th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue in Northwest Washington to encourage people to donate. In the Washington area, approximately 633,000 residents are at risk of hunger or experiencing hunger. “Food2Feed” and the Capital Area Food Bank distribute 20 million pounds of food, including six million pounds of fresh produce, to more than 700 partner agencies each year.
The City of Atlanta and the Committee on the Appeals for Human Rights of the Atlanta Student Movement held a dedication ceremony recently to dedicate Fair Street in honor of the Atlanta Student Movement. Presiding over the occasion was Atlanta City Councilman Michael Julian Bond. A long time coming, those in attendance were elated over the unveiling and dedication of the street.
After much uproar from Baltimore City residents and community leaders, a $104 million juvenile detention facility is still scheduled to be built in East Baltimore. But not without a fight. Hundreds gathered at Dunbar High School’s football field to protest the jail’s construction at an event the Rev. Heber Brown III and youth organizers from Leaders of a Beautiful Struggle, Baltimore Algebra Project and others deemed Youth Justice. They demanded that funding for the youth jail be redirected to schools, parks and recreation, mentorship programs and other outlets to nurture youth before they commit crimes. The two-hour rally was culminated by a fervent march to the proposed jail site. Yelling “liberation not incarceration,” the predominately adolescent protestors used bolt cutters to peel away the chain fence to the property and planted signs that read “Money for jobs and education, not jails.”
The non-profit Neighborhood Assistance Corporation of America (NACA) held a “Save the Dream” event, drawing thousands of struggling homeowners hungry for a chance to sit down with lenders and possibly walk away with a restructured mortgage they can afford. When the three-day event opened, the Seaport World Trade Center was jammed and the line stretched out the door and around the corner. NACA promises to cut through infuriating runarounds, a common complaint by people trying to secure loan modifications through the federal Home Affordable Modification Program (HAMP). At Save the Dream events, borrowers meet lenders in person, with up-to-date income records and budget in hand, which can go a long way to achieving a fast, straightforward deal.
A woman, who received a handwritten letter from President Obama regarding her financial woes, has reportedly sold the correspondence to pay for her home and medical bills. Jennifer Cline, a wife and mother of two, wrote a three-page letter to Obama. “I lost my job, my health benefits and my self-worth in a matter of five days,” she wrote. She later expounded on her situation, including her diagnoses with two types of skin cancer, her lack of insurance and her husband’s failed business. A highlight of of the letter was her ability to return to Monroe Community College after unemployment benefits were extended, and she thanked the president for that opportunity. He wrote back saying “I know times are tough, but knowing there are folks out there like you and your husband give me confidence that things will keep getting better.” Cline sold Obama’s response for $7,000 to autograph collector Gary Zimet.
Following their victory in Tuesday’s elections, three of Mississippi’s four congressmen have declared themselves as favoring a return to the George Bush Administration’s tax cuts for the rich and are against the new health care reforms. The Bush tax cuts are scheduled to end this December. Democratic leaders wanted to retain the cuts for people earning less than $250,000 a year. Republicans want to reinstate the cuts for the rich also, adding more than $4 trillion to the national debt over the next 10 years. Second District Representative Bennie Thompson, the sole Democrat to survive Tuesday’s political turnaround, takes the opposite stance and wants to end the budget-busting tax cuts and retain the legislative achievements made under President Barack Obama. “We have been fortunate in that we have at least stopped the hemorrhaging of the economy,” Thompson said. “We saved the automobile industry and we’ve saved our financial services industry. Now we have to build on that.”
The St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department recently honored 14 officers with the Crusade Against Crime’s Medal of Valor, which recognizes police officers and citizens in the St. Louis metropolitan area for acts of bravery. Police officers are honored for acts that exceed the normal demands of police service. The St. Louis department’s officers represent two-thirds of the 21 area officers receiving the honor.
Bridges to Success is a dropout prevention program that offers an alternative to traditional education by providing shorter school days and smaller class sizes. The program provides students with a high school diploma from their home school upon completion of the district’s requirements. Bridges to Success, is facilitated through the national Your Diploma Your Way company that provides youth between the ages of 16 and 21 with the tools to complete their high school requirements online. In its inaugural year, nearly 100 students attended a morning or afternoon session for four hours Monday through Friday. In order to complete classes, students take online tests and must receive a letter grade of a C or above. This also helps to raise their grade point average. In addition to the students’ normal courses they also have special sessions on reading, finance and career preparation.
The Southern Christian Leadership Conference has launched an independent investigation into the deadly shooting of Tobias Arthur Mackey by a Dallas police officer. “We trust that our investigation will bring out the facts in the matter as our hearts go out to our family, as we sort through all of the evidence,” says the Rev. Kyev Tatum. “Our extended family is in a state of shock and is hurting pretty bad.” Dallas Police have confirmed that no weapon was found on Mackey. Some reports state that Mackey was shot more than seven times.” Without having all the facts, one would have to ask the question, ‘If seven shots are considered excessive deadly force,” said Tatum.
Norfolk State University (NSU) officials trying to find the next president of the school say they are on schedule to unveil NSU’s new President by January. According to Ed Hamm, Rector of the Board of Visitors (BOV), the presidential search committee has received more than 41 applicants. By the end of the process, he said he expects at least 80 applicants will have submitted their resumes for consideration. Hamm said the final four candidates will be interviewed by the end of December for the job to replace former NSU President Carolyn Meyers, who resigned in July. Not only has the school named a 22-member presidential search committee to receive resumes and screen potential applicants, Hamm said a highly regarded consultant has been hired to do the job of “sourcing.” This person will directly contact and recruit qualified candidates for the job to lead the state’s largest Historically Black College and University. The school has already held two town hall meetings to allow NSU staff, faculty, students and the general public to voice their opinions on the characteristics and skills the school’s next leader should possess.
The effectiveness of officer training in Spokane County is under question after four officer-involved shootings in the past two months. Spokane lawyer Breean Beggs says “in training officers to protect themselves from the rare occasion, when someone is out looking for them, they are (overlooking) training that is preventing officers from overreacting and killing citizens.” Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich dismissed that argument saying that any community concerns are unwarranted and based on what he considers inflammatory media coverage that focuses only on negative aspects of law enforcement.
Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton is partnering with the Commission on Black Men and Boys to hold a roundtable hearing entitled “Youth Violence: Helping Young Boys Become Young Men,” which will explore why young African-American males are lured into crime. Ali Moore, a former felon, who at age 16 was sentenced to 15 years in prison for second degree murder, will speak as well as Ivan Cloyd, a one-time gang member who now attends college. The commission, which was founded in 2001 by Norton has continuously worked to unveil and help resolve the pressing issues that Black men face, such as high school dropout rates, criminal justice issues, HIV and AIDS, marriage and family issues, and discrimination.