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

Mount St. Mary’s College will have Los Angeles Times columnist Sandy Banks as its 2012 commencement speaker at the Gibson Amphitheatre in Universal City on May 7. Banks’ 32-year career at the Los Angeles Times has included stints as a reporter, writer, editor, columnist, editorial writer and director of the newspaper’s internship program. She was on the team awarded a Pulitzer Prize for coverage of the Los Angeles riots in 1992. She is best known for her twice-weekly columns, which offer her personal perspective on events and issues in the news. Her work has won national recognition from journalism groups and organizations as varied as the National Council of Jewish Women and the Muslim Women’s League, the Watts Community Health Foundation, the Beverly Hills Rotary Club, the California Teachers’ Association and the Union of Medical Marijuana Patients.

TDJ Enterprises/TDJ Independents has signed on as executive producer to two new films–the highly anticipated feature “Winnie,” the untold love story of Winnie and Nelson Mandela, starring Academy Award winner Jennifer Hudson and Academy Award nominee Terrence Howard, and “A Million Colours,” the opening film at the 2012 Hollywood Black Film Festival. Following the success of “Woman Thou Art Loosed: On the 7th Day”–a feature that topped its opening weekend’s box office for indies and outpaced all releases that same period on per-screen average–TDJ Enterprises is now leveraging the growing power of the company’s brand to create a global platform for projects that might not otherwise reach a broad audience.

District of Columbia
On an episode of her “Both Sides Now with Huffington and Matalin” radio program, writer, political commentator Arianna Huffington offered some advice to first lady Michelle Obama that some people may have found offensive. Huffington was quoted as saying, “I’d love [Michelle] to be more [like] Eleanor Roosevelt right now, because the country needs an Eleanor Roosevelt who’s going to go around and at the same time that she’s doing fundraisers in Beverly Hills and Bel-Air … she should go to South Central [Los Angeles], I mean, if I were Michelle Obama right now, I would not go anywhere for a fundraiser without going and seeing the places where there is pain, where there is struggle, where there is homelessness, where there is unemployment.”

President Barack Obama stood inside Tyler Perry’s magnificent French chateau-style mansion Friday night and told donors who paid $35,800 to attend the high-profile fundraiser that he is now in full campaign mode and, with their steadfast support intends to win re-election to the White House in November. The visit to Perry’s estate was Obama’s last fundraiser of the night; he had already attended two campaign events in Chicago earlier in the day. On Friday evening, Obama also headlined a fundraiser at Tyler Perry’s television studios before visiting Perry’s home and speaking to 40 guests, including Oprah Winfrey.

Black Enterprise will kick off its 2012 Entrepreneurs Conference and Expo on Wednesday, May 23, at the Chicago Hilton with a lineup of some of the nation’s most accomplished and celebrated entrepreneurs, including ABC’s “Shark Tank” co-star Daymond John. The three-day power conference, which brings together more than 1,200 of the country’s leading entrepreneurs and corporate executives, is designed to provide attendees with the newest and most innovative strategies from today’s top business minds and provide high-powered networking opportunities critical to their efforts to take their businesses to the next level of profitability. John, founder and CEO of the urban clothing line FUBU and CEO of Shark Branding, will help kick off the opening event, “Equity Date With an Angel,” during which attendees will gain insights into how to position their business and craft their pitch to secure capital from angel investors. Select participants of the session will have the opportunity to meet one on one with a private investor during business coaching sessions held throughout the conference.

New York
A tenor from Harlem, who used to be a receptionist at the city’s famous Carnegie Hall, has become the first Black singer to top the UK classical album chart in its 25-year history, said Universal, his record company. Noah Stewart, 31, who completed his debut run at London’s Royal Opera House in Judith Weir’s “Miss Fortune” last week, went straight to the No. 1 slot with his debut album “Noah.” Stewart, who was supported financially as a young singer by the actor producer Bill Cosby, said: “I’m very proud to be the first Black musician to top the classical charts. It’s both an honor and privilege.” At the age of 12, Stewart’s choir teacher encouraged him to pursue a music career. He began doing voiceovers for “Sesame Street” and TV school specials and won first place in the New England music competition in Boston, before gaining a full scholarship to the Juilliard School in New York.

The Supreme Court will once again confront the issue of race in university admissions in a case brought by a White student denied a spot at the flagship campus of the University of Texas. The court said Tuesday it will return to the issue of affirmative action in higher education for the first time since its 2003 decision endorsing the use of race as a factor in admissions. This time around, a more conservative court is being asked to outlaw the use of Texas’ affirmative action plan and possibly to jettison the earlier ruling entirely. A broad ruling in favor of the student, Abigail Fisher, could threaten affirmative action programs at many of the nation’s public and private universities, said Vanderbilt University law professor Brian Fitzpatrick.

In an industry dominated by majority-owned companies and influences, Images of Culture (IOC), a new stationery marketing company, was launched to deliver quality school supply products with uplifting, positive graphics and messages for African American school-aged youth. The company was created by 10-year marketing veteran and entrepreneur Pamela A. Richardson out of a desire and passion to fill the void and provide youth with in-school materials that positively reflect them in an inspirational, hip and fun way. The first product on the market is a line of one-subject notebooks available in six vibrant designs with cover art depicting African American cultural experiences such as family, sports and social activities.
A pathologist is now saying that 34-year-old Atasha Graham, a British woman who died after a night of partying last year, may have lost her life because of latex glue in her hair weave. “I’ve seen cases where using solvent to apply extensions has actually caused anaphylactic shock,” Dr. Michael Heath told the Daily Mail. “There are about 10 to 20 deaths a year [in the UK], many more in America. I have seen four in the last three months.” While Heath did not tell the official cause of death, he said an unknown allergic reaction was confirmed. There were no signs of allergic reactions to food or alcohol in her system. Additionally, the autopsy found no abnormalities in her organs.