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

Alabama
Jerelle Hendon, a teacher at Wenonah High School, is transforming the lives of students at the school by teaching them the importance of service and giving back to the community. Wenonah High School students and radio personality, Nu York, teamed up to host the second annual, Live United Concert series, where proceeds from the charity concert will benefit both the United Way of Central Alabama and the United Negro College Fund.

Georgia
Georgia House Democrats elected state Rep. Stacey Abrams as their minority leader last Wednesday, making her the first woman and the first African-American to lead a caucus in the state Legislature. Abrams defeated Rep. Virgil Flood of Tyrone in a vote by secret ballot. She now replaces DuBose Porter of Dublin, who is leaving the House after an unsuccessful bid for the Democratic nomination for governor. Abrams insists that she will work diligently to hold the ruling GOP accountable. “My job as minority leader is going to be to put sunshine on the legislation that’s coming from this body, on the decisions that are being made and ensuring that every Georgian, everyday, knows what’s being done on their behalf,” the 36-year-old Atlanta lawyer said. “And I think if they see what’s happening, if they understand the consequences, they will vote Democratic.”

Indiana
The Indiana Department of Child Services (DCS), the Indianapolis Colts and Cargo Services Inc. are nearing their goal of collecting half a million books to give away to foster children across Indiana by the Colts’ Nov. 28 game against the San Diego Chargers in Indianapolis. DCS offices are accepting new and gently used books now, and volunteers will collect books and cash donations at the game. The program organizers have high hopes of being able to distribute backpacks filled with 25 age-appropriate books to more than 10,000 youth ages 18 and younger in foster care.

Maryland
After seven consecutive terms in the Baltimore City Council, Agnes Welch announced that she will retire within the next two weeks ending her term on Dec. 6. The 85-year-old councilwoman has been an advocate for the elderly, the fight against childhood obesity. She was also a member of various boards and committees including the Bon Secours Foundation, Downtown Partnership, and the Urban Affairs and Aging committee. For more than 25 years, Welch was constantly reelected to represent Southwest Baltimore, which is largely poor, specifically neighborhoods such as Rosemont, Poppleton, Harlem Park and Sandtown. “I think there comes a time when you have to evaluate where you are,” she said during an interview with the AFRO newspaper, “and it is time for me to retire.”

Massachusetts

A Boston club shut down a party for Black Harvard and Yale graduate students and alumni Saturday night after management said the event attracted the wrong crowd including local gang bangers. Harvard student and event organizer Michael Beal expressed frustration with Cure Lounge management’s decision in an e-mail sent to attendees apologizing and promising reimbursement. The club was shut down at 10:45 after conflict over allowing people to enter who did not have school I.D. (even though the people in question were on the guest list.) “Regardless of our crowd representing the pinnacle of academic achievement as Harvard and Yale College alumni, law, medical, business and Ph.D. students, we were perceived as a threat because of our skin color,” Beal wrote.

Minnesota
Hennepin County Sheriff Rich Stanek presented honorary awards to 12 community-service men and women recently. Among the African-American recipients was V.J. Smith, who was given the award of merit for his outreach to local inmates. Smith also heads the Minneapolis chapter of MAD DADs (Men Against Destruction-Defending Against Drugs and Social-Disorder), an organization designed to thwart the impact of drugs in the Black community. “Inmates can relate to V.J. because he has walked in their shoes,” said Stanek. “V.J. has a big heart and he’s determined to reach out to people and help them return to the community as productive citizens.”

Mississippi
An 82-year old woman was held at gunpoint during a trip to Wal-Mart recently. She was also forced into her own vehicle, and ordered to withdraw cash from a nearby bank. The assailants, who were caught and photographed by the bank’s surveillance camera, were African-American females. “The [suspect] escorted her into the bank and stood with her while she withdrew a large sum of money,” Lt. Davy Davis continued, “the victim then fled the scene with her money. “Davis says the victim doesn’t know the two suspects, but police are conducting an investigation using the photographs from surveillance video.

Missouri
A 19-year-old college athlete died early Monday morning from injuries suffered in a house fire. Firefighters were able to rescue 6-year-old Deven Williams, who was admitted to a local Children’s Hospital before being transferred to an ER in Cincinnati. He is reported to be in critical condition, currently being treated for severe burns that cover 60 percent of his body. Tihra Devres, the victim, was found lying unconscious in her upstairs bedroom. The Jennings Fire Department suspects that a space heater caused the fire, but no evidence of this has been released. Officials say there was a smoke detector in the basement, but not on the first floor where the fire broke. Devres was a sophomore at Harris-Stowe State University, and a setter on the volleyball team.

North Carolina
City officials gathered with the community recently for the ribbon cutting ceremony of the newly built Southeast Greensboro Medical Center on Martin Luther King Drive. At the ceremony two Black doctors- George Evans and Alvin Blount Jr.- were honored by having their names placed on the building and receiving plaques. Evans was the first African American doctor to practice medicine in an all-White Greensboro hospital. Blount was the first African American doctor to become chief of surgery of a Mobile Army Surgical Hospital (MASH) during the Korean War.

Oregon
A Portland police officer was fired and three other officers were suspended in connection with the fatal shooting of 25-year-old Aaron Campbell, officials said recently.
The ruling follows 10 months of protests and tension between police and various Black leaders over the incident, which saw Campbell, a Black male, shot from behind as he fled from police on a domestic-dispute call. Officer Ron Frashour, the sniper who opened fire, was terminated for not complying with department policies on the use of deadly force. His defense is that Campbell prompted the attack by reaching for a weapon, but police investigators have confirmed this to be inaccurate, and even question the legitimacy of the operation.

Rhode Island
The Providence Branch of the NAACP recently held it’s 97th Freedom Fund dinner at the Providence Marriott with the theme, “One Nation, One Dream, Working Together.” The dinner was highlighted by remarks from the 18th President of Brown University and recipient of this years’ Thurgood Marshall Award Ruth J. Simmons.

Wisconsin
A group of seniors who help the elderly remain in their own homes was honored at a luncheon recently for their efforts. The Senior Companion Program, coordinated by the Social Development Commission (SDC), trains seniors to make regular visits to home-bound clients and assist them with services, including just being a friend. The goal is to help people to remain in their homes instead of depending on nursing homes. At the recognition luncheon, the senior companions were told they are improving the quality of life for these residents through completing more than 14,000 client visits, assisting with almost 6,000 meals, accompanying clients on nearly 3,200 outings and providing an escort on more than 1,000 doctor’s appointments.

National
The U.S.. Senate cleared a $1.15 billion appropriations measure Nov. 19 to settle a decades-old discrimination suit by Black farmers, and paving the way for one of the largest civil rights settlements in history, if the bill clears the House. The nation’s Black farmers were awarded the money as apart of a larger $4.6 billion dollar settlement awarded to them and Native American farmers. “The passage of this bill is long overdue,” said John Boyd, head of the National Black Farmers Association, in a statement. “Black farmers have already died at the plow waiting for justice. I hope the ones who are living will see justice. The amount of money will not put farmers back into business.”

According to a report released by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) 25 percent of African-American households suffered from food insecurity in 2000, compared to 11 percent of White households. Food insecure households are those that struggle to put food on the table, at some point in the year. More than 14 percent of U.S. households experienced food insecurity in 2009. This year, participation in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program or SNAP (formerly called food stamps) hit record levels. African-Americans account for more than 22 percent of people who receive monthly benefits and nearly 35 percent of African-American children currently live in households that struggle to put food on the table, compared to 16.7 percent of White children.

Popular gossip website mediatakeout.com recently caused a frenzy, when they accused BET of paying Brittany Daniel, the only White actress on “The Game” more than her Black co-stars. BET Networks quickly shot down the claims in a statement saying, “The recent report regarding certain members of the cast of ‘The Game’ being disproportionately paid by BET is completely false,” the statement read. “As a matter of policy, BET does not engage in public discussions about salaries or similar private matters with its artists. We continue to look forward to bringing new episodes to the loyal fans of the series on Jan. 11, 2011”