Here’s a look at African American people and issues making headlines throughout the country.
To celebrate Black History Month, the “Newseum” opens “Jailed in Birmingham,” a new exhibit featuring a casting of the original jail cell door behind which the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. was confined after his April 1963 arrest for leading nonviolent protests in Birmingham, Ala. It was in this cell that the civil rights leader penned his historic letter defending civil disobedience. The “Letter From Birmingham Jail,” written in response to a statement by a group of eight White Alabama clergymen, includes the now-famous quote, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” The door on display is a bronze casting made from the original door to King’s cell in the Birmingham jail. The exhibit also features one of the first publications of the letter, a 1963 pamphlet published by the American Friends Service Committee, a Quaker group. The exhibit is on display in the Newseum’s News Corp. News History Gallery.
BET and AEG have teamed up to create the BET Experience at L.A. LIVE, June 28-30. The BET Experience takes over L.A. LIVE with three days and nights of music and comedy concerts, film screenings, “106 & Park” tapings, BET Fan Fest, seminars, BET Grammy Museum exhibit, various social events and celebrity appearances. Beyoncé is set to headline the first of the three-night Staples Concert series on Friday, June 28. Each night will feature comedy showcases, mega concerts from Staples Center and late-night soul performances at Club Nokia. Other major celebrities included are comedian Mike Epps, Erykah Badu, Kendrick Lamar, Snoop Dogg, Miguel, Schoolboy Q, R. Kelly, New Edition, Kirk Franklin, The Jacksons, and The Roots.
The diverse city of Fort Lauderdale will be the site of the National Urban League’s 2015 Conference, National Urban League President and CEO Marc H. Morial and Urban League of Broward County President and CEO Germaine Smith-Baugh announced. “Dr. Smith-Baugh has been instrumental in establishing the Urban League of Broward County as the community’s leading civic and social services organizations, and one of the most dynamic community outreach networks in the nation,” Morial said. “I can think of no better setting for a conference that is focused on effecting community change.” The conference will take place the last week in July 2015. Morial said Smith-Baugh’s outstanding leadership was instrumental in attracting the conference to the city.
Kicking off the second year of its signature program, Coca-Cola has enlisted the help of some of today’s leading African American history makers to offer exciting apprenticeship experiences to aspiring youth. Magic Johnson, Common and Black Entertainment Television (BET) chairwoman and CEO Debra Lee will serve as mentors, giving four lucky young people the opportunity to shadow them and their teams for a week during the summer. The program is open to young people between the ages of 16-21. Family, friends, members of the community and young people themselves can go to My Coke Rewards (http://www.mycokerewards.com/payitforward) to nominate aspiring youth.
The Xavier University Board of Trustees approved the appointment of Loren Blanchard, Ph.D., to serve as the university’s first provost, effective July 1, 2013. Blanchard, who will continue to serve as senior vice president for academic affairs, will now also act as University President Norman C. Francis’ chief adviser, providing leadership in establishing priorities and in collaborating with all organizational units to advance the mission and the continuing success of the institution. In the provost role, Blanchard will become the ranking vice president who coordinates the work of the other university vice presidents. As provost and senior vice president for academic affairs, Blanchard will not only hold primary responsibility for implementing academic policy and coordinating academic programs and activities, but will now assume a more active role in expanding the economic, social and cultural impacts of Xavier by strengthening partnerships within the local, state, national and global arenas.
OneUnited Bank announces its third annual I Got Bank! Essay Contest to promote financial literacy for youth. Middle-school students from across the country between the ages of 8 and 12 are encouraged to read “I Got Bank!,” or a similar financial book of their choosing, and write a 250-word essay about how they would apply what they learned from the book to their lives. Submissions must be emailed or postmarked by June 15, 2013. The bank will choose three winners and award them a $1,000 OneUnited Bank savings account by Aug. 31, 2013. Teri Williams, OneUnited Bank president and author of I Got Bank!, wrote the book when she found that there weren’t any books geared toward educating urban youth about finances. The I Got Bank! essay contest is part of a larger OneUnited Bank effort to educate urban youth about smart money management.
Mumia Abu-Jamal is considered by some the U.S.’ most well-known prisoner. After living on death row for 30 years, Abu-Jamal’s sentence was commuted to life imprisonment in early 2012 after decades of advocacy by anti-death penalty and anti-racist activists. “Long Distance Revolutionary: A Journey with Mumia Abu-Jamal,” a new film by Stephen Vittoria, documents the man’s life. The film’s interviewees include such luminaries as Alice Walker and Cornel West alongside noted independent journalists Amy Goodman, Juan Gonzalez, and Dave Zirin and a host of other cultural and political icons. Through research and heavy use of archival footage, Vittoria constructs a powerful narrative of Abu-Jamal’s life and career as a journalist and social critic.
The national office of the NAACP was informed by the North Carolina NAACP State Conference that Anita McNeil, the wife of John McNeil and the biggest advocate for his freedom from what some consider an unjust murder sentence, passed away on Feb. 2. Anita McNeil had been fighting her second bout with cancer. She had continued traveling and speaking out for her husband’s freedom even as she underwent chemotherapy. She last saw her husband in September 2012, when she was able to spend three hours with him, eighteen months after their previous visit.
In celebration of the heroes of the Underground Railroad, the Ohio Historical Society will provide free access to the internationally acclaimed Wilbur H. Siebert collection throughout Black History Month. The digital collection, available through Ohio Memory, the statewide digital collection in partnership with the State Library of Ohio, includes historical correspondence of Underground Railroad participants; photographs of agents and former slaves; and maps of Underground Railroad routes. This online collection normally requires a standard OHS subscription fee; however, the Ohio Historical Society is excited to make this collection available for free throughout the month of February, in celebration of Black History Month.
U.S. Postal Service officials unveiled a new historic Forever Stamp honoring civil rights leader Rosa Parks at the site of her famous arrest during a 100th birthday celebration for Parks hosted by Troy University’s Rosa Parks Museum in historic downtown Montgomery, Ala. In addition, President Barack Obama issued a proclamation saying, “by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States, I do hereby proclaim February 4, 2013, as the 100th anniversary of the Birth of Rosa Parks. I call upon all Americans to observe this day with appropriate service, community, and education programs to honor Rosa Parks’s enduring legacy.”
COMPILED BY JULIANA NORWOOD