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

Los Angeles recently held its Sparkle Singing Challenge, sponsored by Sony Pictures and Myspace. The national singing competition promised winners $500 in cash and a chance to compete for the national grand prize–a trip to New York, an appearance on BET’s 106 & Park, a recording session with the Punch Monkeys producer and writing team, and a Myspace homepage feature. The challenge also took place in New York City, Atlanta, San Francisco, Charlotte, St. Louis, Cleveland, Detroit, Baltimore, Washington, D.C., Miami, Chicago, Houston, Dallas, and Philadelphia. Amateur singers between the ages of 13 and 40 were asked to sing a 60-second a capella song in front of judges DJ Swivel, Brély Evans from the original “Sparkle” film and radio personality Mando Fresko. The remake of Sparkle, which stars Jordin Sparks, Whitney Houston, Derek Luke, Mike Epps, Carmen Ejogo, Tika Sumpter, Omari Hardwick and CeeLo Green, opens Aug. 17 in theaters everywhere.

Only 41 percent of Black boys graduate from high school in the United States and more than half of all Black men without a high-school diploma go to prison at some time in their lives. Elder Mathes Guice, director of the Men’s Ministry at South Florida’s Koinonia Worship Center and president of the Practitioners Technical Institute, considers these facts evidence of a “war on our boys.” Koinonia’s Men’s Ministry has developed programs targeted toward mentors who teach men that through self-actualization and purpose fulfillment, they positively impact young lives around them. The training program consists of skill-building, effective parenting techniques, developing positive peer associations and cultivating activities that support responsible social growth. The mentor training seems to have taken positive effect. During the 2010-2011 school year alone, 94 percent of youth participants showed improvement in productive behaviors, including school attendance, grades and participation in pro-social activities.
Legacy, South Florida’s premiere publication for Black Affluencers and Influencers, recently held its seventh annual 40 Under 40 Leaders of Today and Tomorrow designation. These honorees were nominated by their peers, then vetted and chosen by a selection committee, comprised of 40 Under 40 alumni. Legacy showcased the honorees in its Monday, July 23, issue in the Business Monday section of the Miami Herald. A formal luncheon hosted by CBS4 Anchor Jawan Strader took place on Friday, July 27, at Morton’s the Steakhouse in North Miami Beach. Mark Kent, CEO of CAC Florida Medical Centers, the only Black CEO of a billion-dollar company in South Florida, served as keynote speaker.
Georgia prison officials, who denied the existence of a hunger strike in its first four weeks, have acknowledged that some prisoners are on their 36th day without food and, according to some reports, they refused to meet with families and citizens who came to its Forsyth headquarters for answers. On Monday, July 16, about 70 people reportedly spent the afternoon in 97- degree heat outside the Forsyth headquarters of the state’s Department of Corrections demanding to meet with its chief Brian Owens about the treatment of hunger-striking prisoners at Jackson State Prison. Inmates have reportedly been beaten and denied visitation right and medical treatment. The inmates began the strike to improve wages for work, education, fair visitation and telephone, Spanish language interpreters for those up on disciplinary proceedings, and that the department’s disciplinary proceedings be fair and transparent to the public.
Donald A. Perry, the vice president of corporate public relations for Chick-fil-A, died of a heart attack last week after nearly three decades with the company. At the time of Perry’s death, Chick-fil-a had been dealing with a public relations firestorm following comments that the company’s president, Dan Cathy, made last week. Cathy said that his company supports “the biblical definition of the family unit” and that he prays “God’s mercy on our generation that has such a prideful, arrogant attitude to think that we have the audacity to try to redefine what marriage is about.” In response, Perry last week issued a statement, writing “going forward, our intent is to leave the policy debate over same-sex marriage to the government and political arena,” according to the Los Angeles Times.
According to CBS Chicago, Tonya Reaves, a 24-year-old woman has died, after having a second trimester abortion at a Planned Parenthood facility in Chicago. Now her family members want answers as to what happened. An autopsy revealed that she died from a hemorrhage after a dilation and evacuation (D&E) procedure, which is typically done for women in their second trimester of pregnancy.

The National Bar Association, the largest group of African American lawyers and judges, showed up in record numbers for their 87th Annual Convention and Exhibits at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas, July 14-19. More than 1,300 guests filled meeting rooms to listen to the best and brightest on various issues, including voter empowerment, gaming law, corporate leadership, education and more. The bar association recognized several leaders for their outstanding work in the legal field and within their communities. Sixteen awards were presented to deserving members at the annual awards gala by past president Daryl Parks.
Franklin Beauty School and the National Empowerment Group Inc. announced that its third annual Girls Glam Back to School Empowerment Weekend (Girls Glam 2012) will be held on Sunday, Aug. 26, from 8 a.m. to noon, just prior to the start of school for most districts. Girls Glam 2012 is free and open to girls ages 7 to 17. This year, the event also offers haircuts for boys ages 7 to 17. Additionally, free immunizations will be available on site to school-age children. More than 600 students are anticipated to participate. Registration is available online at or at Franklin Beauty School.

Seattle-based Ezell’s Famous Chicken is “The Most Life-Changing Fried Chicken” in America, according to the nationwide Internet poll conducted by Esquire magazine’s “Eat Like a Man” blog. Ezell’s walked away with nearly 50 percent of the vote among the eight competitors. Ezell’s currently has seven locations in greater Seattle and has been in business for more than 25 years. “From the beginning, we chose to use the best product, the best ingredients,” says Lewis Rudd, president and CEO of Ezell’s Famous Fried Chicken. “Even before trans fat-free was the law, we used trans fat-free oils and continue to use 100-percent vegetable oils for all our frying.” This is the second life-changing national recognition for Ezell’s since the company first opened in the mid-’80s. Oprah Winfrey mentioned Ezell’s on her show after she had its chicken flown from Seattle to Chicago for her birthday party at Harpo Studios.

Global leaders from across the globe, celebrities’, athletes and public will be gathering for the ninth Leon H. Sullivan Summit, in the city of Malabo, Equatorial Guinea, at the invitation of His Excellency Obiang Nguema-Mbasogo. Beginning Aug. 20, the summit will be a worldwide gathering of the African Diaspora under the theme of Africa Rising. “Africa is where you will find the greatest opportunities in the entire world,” said Hope Sullivan Masters, president of the Leon H. Sullivan Foundation. “The Sullivan Summit has always been the place where incalculable opportunities are introduced to the vast reserve of untapped innovative ideas and concepts of Africa. When the wealth of Africa is harnessed in a way where the African people will finally benefit from their own land you will have a game-changing situation which will fundamentally change the way the entire world regards Africa. This is the underlying mission of this summit and the theme this year, which is Africa Rising.”