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

Alabama
The BBVA Compass banking franchise announced its sponsorship of a benefit concert for human rights in support of 50 Years Forward, a yearlong celebration in Birmingham commemorating the 50th anniversary of what many see as the turning point in the Civil Rights Movement. The BBVA Compass Concert for Human Rights, co-produced by Live Nation, will take place at the end of a weeklong remembrance of the events of 1963 involving the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing. The incident helped galvanize the Civil Rights Movement and change the course of history. The benefit will be held at The Birmingham Jefferson Convention Center on Sept. 14 with an all-star lineup that will be announced later this spring. “The concert will be a joyful celebration of how far this country has come,” said Alan Register, BBVA Compass Birmingham city president. “We expect people to come from across the nation to commemorate an important chapter in our history–and to also honor Birmingham for the pivotal role the city played. The hope is that the concert’s message will inspire the next generation of innovators, risk-takers and leaders to make a difference in our communities.”

District of Columbia
Speaking at the White House Forum on Military Credentialing and Licensing, first lady Michelle Obama announced the IT Training and Certification Partnership, a new public-private partnership that will enable thousands of service members to earn industry-recognized information technology (IT) certifications before they transition from military service. The administration also announced a new grant program through the Department of Health and Human Services that will help veterans with healthcare experience pursue professional nursing careers and earn a nursing license. Additionally, the event featured four roundtables that lay plans for the launch of additional public-private initiatives that will streamline the ability of service members and veterans to earn the civilian certifications and licenses required for high-demand jobs in emergency medical services, healthcare, and transportation sectors, as well as streamline the ability of service members and veterans to translate military experience into academic credit.

Illinois
At its annual meeting in Chicago, the Coalition of Schools Educating Boys of Color announced five new recipients of the COSEBOC School Award, which recognizes and rewards schools that have a proven track record of effective pre K-12 education of male students of color. COSEBOC is a national network of schools and highly-respected educators, researchers, policymakers and advocates focused on sharing and promoting promising approaches and initiatives that improve education at schools with significant populations of young men of color. This years’ awarded schools are Best Academy in Minneapolis; Devonshire Elementary School in Charlotte, N.C.; Thurgood Marshall Academy in Washington, D.C.; and Merrillville High School and Salk Elementary, both in Merrillville, Ind. (Full summaries of each school can be found at http://www.coseboc.org/sites/coseboc.org/files/assets/COSEBOC-5AwardScho…). “Identifying schools that have developed effective, creative and sustainable approaches and sharing those successes with other educators is the cornerstone of the work we do at COSEBOC,” said Ron Walker, executive director of COSEBOC. “The COSEBOC School Awards are proof and evidence of the fact that there are educational environments that work extremely well for boys and young men of color.”

Michigan
Jackets for Jobs, the nonprofit organization led by superstar businesswoman Alison Vaughn recently held its 13th annual gala at the Doubletree Suites by Hilton-Downtown Detroit. Jerome Smalls, vp and director of community relations for the TJX Corp., announced a surprise $10,000 cash gift to Jackets for Jobs. “We value tremendously our relationship with Jackets for Jobs and we love the work they do,” said Smalls. “We just wanted to give Alison and her organization a small token of appreciation for impacting so many lives in a positive way.” Vaughn was shaking with excitement after receiving the check. “I’m literally shaking right now,” she exclaimed. “This is just so wonderful, and I want everyone to go shop at TJ Maxx today!” Keynote speaker Lucille O’Neal (Shaq’s mom) shared candid details about her journey out of poverty, overcoming alcoholism and low self-esteem. O’Neal also confessed that she truly knows how important Jackets for Jobs is to the community. “I remember a time when I only had one suit. It was black,” said O’Neal. “But I tell you what, I kept that one suit clean and I kept it pressed. And every time I put it on I felt good about myself.”

Mississippi
Benjamin Crump, attorney representing the family of shooting victim Trayvon Martin, received several standing ovations from a crowd of about 300 people attending the Moss Point-Jackson County NAACP annual Freedom Fund Banquet 2013 at the Pelican Landing Conference Center. Crump spoke about content of character and the call to action in the fight for civil rights during the fundraiser and award ceremony. He said that African Americans now have the content fought for by their ancestors–education, jobs, houses, cars, etc.–but asked if they have the character to fight for the least among us. “We know you have the content but do you have the character,” he said. “Watch your thoughts because your thoughts become words. Your words become your action and action becomes your habits. Your habits define your character.”

North Carolina
Charlotte Mayor Anthony Foxx has been nominated by President Barack Obama to become the new Secretary of Transportation. Foxx, 41, will replace former congressman Ray Lahood (R-Ill.), who was one of a handful of Republicans President Obama picked for his first-term cabinet. Foxx will be the first African American to be selected for a cabinet post in Obama’s second term, although Susan Rice (U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations) and Eric Holder (Attorney General) are remaining in their current roles. Administration officials for months have been looking for a potential role for Foxx, who as a top ally of the president in a key swing state in 2012, helped organize the Democratic National Convention, which was held in Charlotte last summer and would add diversity to Obama’s second-term team, which has been criticized for being too dominated by White males.

New York
The most awarded a capella vocal group in history, Take 6, are celebrating their 25th anniversary. The multi-platinum recording group, made up of Claude McKnight, Mark Kibble, Joel Kibble, Dave Thomas, Alvin Chea and Khristian Dentley, have thus far earned 10 Grammy Awards with 24 nominations, 10 Dove Awards, a Soul Train Award, two NAACP Image Awards, and more. They are kicking off their 25th year of recording and performing on May 6 in New York, where they will appear at the Blue Note from May 7-12. This is the beginning of the American leg of a yearlong world tour that takes them to Germany, England, Sweden, Switzerland, France, Japan, Australia, Norway, eastern Europe and South America.


Pennsylvania
From spring until fall, Philadelphia hosts a variety of festivals. For music fans, there’s the second-annual Budweiser Made In America concert on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway, headlined by Beyonce. Literature lovers will swoon over the Celebration of Black Writing, one of the oldest African American literary events in the nation. And for movie buffs, there is the sophomore BlackStar Film Festival, a unique gathering of filmmakers and storytellers of the African Diaspora. There will also be the sixth annual The Roots Picnic daylong concert at Penn’s Landing, the Wawa welcome America, July 4th festival, and the first Philadelphia United Jazz Festival and Celebration.

Compiled by Juliana Norwood.