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

California
Major progress toward the creation of the new Martin Luther King Jr. Community Hospital occurred recently when the MLK hospital board named Dr. Elaine Batchlor as the institution’s new chief executive officer. Now as the hospital, still under construction, is built, Batchlor will begin to assemble its staff–physicians, personnel and also oversee the equipping of the new facility. Scheduled for completion in 2014, the hospital will have 130 beds, including a 21-bed emergency department and a critical-care unit. It also will provide a range of healthcare and social services. Batchlor, a doctor of internal medicine and rheumatology, previously served as chief medical officer for L.A. Care, the largest public health plan in the United States.

District of Columbia
A new class is opening up its doors to teach Hip Hop as an after-school activity. A Plus Kids, a nonprofit agency, has added the curriculum to a variety of other courses that include radio broadcasting, music, dance, acting, fashion and photography. The multi-faceted music and arts school, which also has a Spanish division, is designed to cultivate young talent for a future in the entertainment industry. The class, taught by renown Hip Hop historian and Rap artist Sean XLG, teaches kids, teens and young adults how to rap. The class begins with an overview of Hip Hop history to educate students on how the art form was created. “In learning the origins, students will develop an appreciation and respect for the craft and the pioneers who developed Hip Hop culture,” stated Sean XLG. The class will focus on the disciplines of songwriting, vocal performance and recording.

Georgia
The Georgia and North Carolina State Conferences of the NAACP, in conjunction with the NAACP recently held a press conference and rally to demand justice for John McNeil, an African American man who was sentenced to life in prison for defending his family and himself at his home. NAACP National President Benjamin Todd Jealous, along with NAACP State Conference presidents Edward Dubose (Ga.) and William Barber (N.C.) recently visited with McNeil in prison. In 2006, McNeil returned to his home to protect his son from Brian Epp, an armed trespasser on his property. After calling the police and firing a warning shot into the ground as Epp approached him near the backdoor of his home, McNeil shot and killed Epp, who was White. Despite the investigating officers’ conclusion that McNeil did not commit a crime, 274 days later the Cobb County district attorney charged McNeil with murder regardless of the “Castle Doctrine” that gives property owners the right to protect themselves with a weapon, without a duty to retreat, if they feel threatened on their own property. McNeil was convicted and sentenced to life in prison.

Illinois
Fifth Third Bank Chicago and the DuSable Museum of African American History will host an exclusive free showing of a one-hour documentary entitled “Whatever Happened to Idlewild?” on Sunday, Sept. 23, at the DuSable Museum in Chicago. From the 1930s through the 1960s, Idlewild was considered to be the Black mecca for African Americans. In this time of strict racial segregation, people wanted the opportunity for recreational pursuits in a setting far removed from racism and discrimination in the cities. Idlewild was one of only a few resorts in the country where African Americans were allowed to vacation and purchase property before this discrimination became illegal in 1964. This story is told by the people who actually lived it and experienced the delight of seeing up-close-and-personal some of the greatest African American entertainers of the time, including Count Basie, Duke Ellington, Sarah Vaughan, Cab Calloway, Louis Armstrong, Dinah Washington, B.B. King, Aretha Franklin, and others.

New Mexico
Six Baltimore teenagers recently worked to restore the wilderness character of Carson National Forest in New Mexico. All six are members of the Student Conservation Association, a national nonprofit organization that engages young adults in hands-on conservation to build connections with nature and provide career skills and training. In June and July, the crew members worked in urban parks at home in a pioneering program that employs underrepresented city youth in green summer jobs near their own neighborhoods. When given the option of performing similar work in a national forest, the teens jumped at the chance. During the day, they built hiking trails, restored campsites, and removed invasive plants before heading to base camp to prepare their own meals over an open fire, take in environmental lessons from their crew leaders and retreat to their tents for a restful sleep. The project is part of the Forest Service’s 10-year challenge to achieve specific stewardship objectives at more than 400 U.S. Forest Service sites by 2014, the 50th anniversary of the Wilderness Act.

New York
In September 2012, the basketball community will join civil rights organizations to “Defend the Vote.” In the months leading up to the November elections, the basketball communities in New York, Philadelphia and North Carolina will join branches and chapters of National Action Network, Urban league (New York Young Professionals) and the NAACP New YorkCity Housing Authority branch to host a number of basketball games to support the Get Out The Vote campaign. These games will feature some of the top amateur players on the East Coast. There will also be a game, featuring entertainers, promoters, former basketball professionals and coaches. The mission of these games is to ensure that eligible voters can participate in the democratic process via the vote. Their goals are to raise funds to support anti-voter suppression efforts, register voters, educate former felons about their voting rights, and raise awareness of the importance of this year’s election. The games will begin Sept. 22 at the Riverbank State Park at 679 Riverside Drive in Harlem, New York. Rev Al. Sharpton will be a guest speaker, and there will be a half-time show by T.E.V. & Creative Boys Culture. For tickets and/or for more information, call (347) 323-3844.

Pennsylvania
The Links Foundation Inc. recently announced that it has been selected for a $250,000 grant from Chevron in support of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics education. The funds, designated to help eliminate the STEM academic achievement gap for students of color, will be dispersed over a two-year period, beginning in the fall of 2012. The grant provides vital funding to enhance one of the key programs of the Links Inc.–“STEM – ULATING Left Brain and Right Brain.” With a focus on students from the 6th to 12th grades, the program aims to enhance the current curriculum, emphasizing STEM disciplines, engineering and energy industry career readiness. The organization expects to reach approximately 1,200 students across the country with this academic enrichment. A key enhancement of the program is the incorporation of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration STEM Application Content. The content includes educational and professional development, as well as teacher training tools.

National
Fitz Hill, president of Arkansas Baptist College, who served as assistant head football coach for the Arkansas Razorbacks before being selected as the first African American to lead the San Jose State football program, has been a passionate, longtime scholar when it comes to the challenges faced by African Americans in the college coaching profession. After years of research, he has now written a book on the subject, “Crackback! How College Football Blindsides the Hopes of Black Coaches.” Seeking a diverse perspective on race-related issues for African American football coaches, Hill chose to co-author his book with Mark Purdy, an award-winning sports columnist for the San Jose Mercury News. Hill has spent the last 24 years studying race-related barriers for African American football coaches employed at predominantly White colleges and universities.
Compiled by Juliana Norwood