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

Arizona
Tony Rose, publisher/CEO of Phoenix-based Amber Communications Group Inc., the nation’s largest African-American publisher of self-help books, has been asked to be a member of the 2011 NAACP Image Awards literary subcommittee in the category of Instructional Literature. The committee is responsible for the review, evaluation and vote on submitted literary projects for consideration in their assigned category. The top five nominees will be announced at the 42nd NAACP Image Awards press conference in January. The entire membership of the NAACP will then get a chance to vote for the winners, who will be announced at the ceremony in March.

California
Joseph Jackson, father of pop icon Michael Jackson, has refiled a wrongful death lawsuit in state court against the Conrad Murray, the doctor charged in his son’s death, and added Applied Pharmacy Services, Las Vegas company, as a defendant. Joseph Jackson originally filed the suit in federal court, but a judge declined to hear the case and said it should be handled in Los Angeles Superior Court.
The case accuses Murray of negligence in administering the anesthetic propofol to Jackson. Court records show the pharmacy sold the drug to Murray nearly a month before the singer’s death in June 2009.

District of Columbia
Nearly 40 percent of the 17,000 households in Washington, D.C., that receive welfare have been in the system for much longer than five years, and Ward 8 Councilman Marion Barry recently teamed up with Ward 7 Councilwoman Yvette Alexander to change that. The two hope to introduce a bill that would remove recipients from the welfare roll after the five-year period. If passe, the legislation would quickly eliminate 8,000 recipients. Barry said that although the bill is “imperfect and incomplete,” the intent is to launch “serious dialogue on how to break the cycle of generational poverty, government dependency and economic disparity in the city.”

Florida
Luther “Uncle Luke” Campbell, former leader of Miami Rap group 2 Live Crew, is now an assistant football coach at Miami Central High School. He also coaches in his home neighborhood of Liberty City, where he founded the “Optimist League” for inner-city youth. Once criticized for his sexually explicit lyrics, Campbell, 49, looks to move forward on a clean slate. “I’m happy and proud of what we accomplished, but that part of my life is over,” he told Miami Herald’s Linda Robertson. “The entertainer – I left him on stage.”

Illinois
Tom Ricketts, chairman of the Chicago Cubs, addressed the Black business community and elected officials Tuesday about plans to allocate a portion of the construction contracts and other workforce needs to Black contractors. This comes as a result of the club’s refurbishing efforts to Wrigley Field, its northside ballpark. An overall plan or legislative proposal hasn’t been finalized, but Ricketts said a “fair” number of business contracts, mainly infrastructure, will go to Black contractors. He added that no specifics could be given presently, but assured the officials of the immediate release of future developments.

Louisiana
Since the devastation of Hurricane Katrina, residents of the Lower 9th Ward, New Orleans’ hardest hit community, have struggled to provide healthy food choices for their families without a grocery store in their immediate community. This week, however, the neighborhood got a reprieve, as Rashida Ferdinand, head of the Sankofa Community Development Corp., MarketUmbrella.org, and the United States Department of Agriculture introduced a weekly farmers market that will operate every Saturday, rain or shine, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. The project was arranged so that residents receivingpublic assistance through Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) will be able to use them at the market. While parents shopped, children were entertained with quizzes, music lessons, and coloring contests, for which the rewards were fresh fruits and vegetables.

Maryland
In a 14-to-1 vote the Baltimore City Council approved an 11-acre development project that will bring Wal-Mart, Lowe’s, multiple specialty shops, restaurants, and 70 to 90 apartments to North Baltimore. Zoning bill sponsor, Councilwoman Belinda Conaway, claimed the project will boost Baltimore’s economy and create more than 1,000 temporary and permanent jobs. But that didn’t stop opposition from residents who demanded that city officials should first force Wal-Mart Stores Inc. to pay its workers the “living wage” of $10.59 per hour instead of a $7.25 minimum wage. Wal-Mart officials have agreed to pay a higher wage, but not the living wage amount.

Mississippi
Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood will soon determine the fate of two officers responsible for the death of 30-year-old Jermaine Williams, who was tasered repeatedly by police last July. The officers in question, Stanley Perry and Bryan Gozan, contend that Williams was still “combative,” even after being tasered, trying to take the stun gun away from one officer while fighting off the other. Additional officers stormed the scene to restrain Williams, when they observed lapses in his breathing. Williams was later transported to Bolivar County Medical Center, where he suffered a life-ending cardiac arrhythmia. An ensuing investigation was launched by the Mississippi Bureau of Investigations, and the case is now with the attorney general’s office. Williams’ family has filed a $25 million wrongful death lawsuit against both officers and the City of Cleveland.

New York
VIP Smiles, owned by celebrity dentist Dr. Catrise Austin, recently announced that in recognition of World AIDS Day, it will make available free rapid HIV testing with OraQuick ADVANCEÂ Rapid HIV-1/2 Antibody Test in their Manhattan office. VIP Smiles is the first private practice in the nation certified and trained to offer the test, which can be administered orally during regular dental exams, and delivers results in just 20 minutes. “Early signs and symptoms of HIV oftentimes appears in the mouth first, so dentists have a unique opportunity to play a significant role in detecting HIV and championing rapid HIV testing,” said Dr. Austin. “We’re proud to be the first private practice to offer the OraQuick ADVANCEÂ test, and we’ve partnered with the New York State Department of Health to generate awareness and promote its benefits.”

Oregon
Members from the Unemployed/Underemployed Marginalized Workers Campaign recently gathered in Portland’s Director’s Park, to campaign for the extension of unemployment benefits. Eleyna Fugmen, the self-help group’s organizer, and a number of unemployed locals joined in the cries to Congress. The unemployment benefits extension bill – H.R. 6867 – may be up for a vote in the coming months. “Until then,” says Rev. Lynn Smouse, president of Ecumenical Ministries of Oregon, “the lineup of people needing help will continue to grow and grow and grow.”

South Carolina
In honor of Martin Luther King Jr., the City of Columbia Parks and Recreation and Richland One Schools will collect food for the Harvest Hope Food Bank during the month of December. The official food drive kickoff was held Monday at the Columbia Food Fresh Market. Schools participating in the Dream Food Drive will be recognized at the city’s annual Martin Luther King Day celebration. The 2011 Dream Keeper Scholarship winners will also be announced during the program, at which radio station 100.1 The Beat will broadcast live to encourage citizens to drop off canned food and nonperishable donations.

Texas
There have reportedly been increasing cases of discrimination and racism in Paris and Lamar counties, which now have activists demanding a complete overhaul of the criminal justice system. “There is a pattern of racism and injustices against African-Americans in Paris that has gone unchecked for years,” said Jim Blackwell, leader of Tarrant County Local Organizing Committee (L.O.C.). “We are campaigning and marching to represent all African-Americans in Paris who have no outlet, no voice and nowhere to express their opinions.” The Concerned Citizens for Racial Equality, the L.O.C. and the Nation of Islam held a rally at the state capitol in Paris to get their point across. The groups will stop in Austin, then Houston, and will finalize the journey at the United States Attorney’s offices in Washington, D.C.

National
Unless Congress approves another extension, nearly 2 million Americans will begin to lose their unemployment benefit, crippling people already struggling with bills they cannot pay. Congress’ last extension was for 99 weeks and ended Wednesday. The average weekly unemployment benefit in the U.S. is $302.90, though it varies widely depending on how states calculate the payment. It isn’t definitive exactly who will lose their benefits and when, but the Labor Department estimates that, without an extension, about 2 million people will be cut off by Christmas.

The Senate recently approved the dispersal of as much as $50,000 to Black farmers, but a group of Republicans, led by U.S. Reps. Steve King of Iowa and Michele Bachmann of Minnesota, claim the settlement, which has the support of the Obama administration, is rife with fraud. Republicans, who will soon take charge in the House after this month’s midterm elections, are now promising to conduct a thorough investigation on disparities surrounding people who applied for the money and who is actually eligible to receive it. According to estimates by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the FBI, 50 to 95 percent of the claims submitted may be fraudulent.

Strategic Solutions Group Inc. and Dante G. Dixon Ministries have plans to launch an initiative on Dec. 4, 2010, to assist the families impacted by the recent catastrophes in Haiti, through a collaborative effort with churches, corporations and community groups. Thousands of shoes will be distributed to families living in Haiti during the Christmas holiday season as part of Operation Shoe Drive. Dixon will help to distribute the shoes and will be joined by local gospel singers and artists who will donate their talents for the cause.

A new survey says more than 37 percent of South African men said they had raped a woman (which is up from 28 percent in 2008) and nearly seven percent of the 487 men surveyed that said they had participated in a gang rape. Of the men who had committed rape, one third did not feel guilty, said Rachel Jewkes, a lead researcher on both studies. The majority of men said they raped because of a sense of sexual entitlement, and many others said their reasons included a desire to punish women who rejected or angered them, and raping out of boredom, Jewkes said.