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

California
The California Supreme Court gave local governments power to zone medical marijuana dispensaries out of existence this week, a decision that upholds bans in about 200 cities but does little to solve Los Angeles’ years-long struggle to regulate hundreds of storefront pot outlets. The unanimous decision provided clarity for cities and counties that want to rid themselves of the dispensaries, which sprouted up statewide after a 1996 voter-approved measure that sought to authorize medical marijuana, but lacked specifics in how it would be regulated. Now, attorneys on both sides of the issue say, many cities will be inclined to ban the pot outlets rather than allow a limited number and regulate them–a practice that has spawned expensive litigation up and down California.

District of Columbia
The Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, a research and policy institution that focuses on the concerns of African Americans and other people of color, recently held its annual gala dinner where Vice President Joe Biden addressed the crowd. Under the banner–“Jobs. Partnerships. Progress.”–the event was an opportunity for elected officials, business, civic and community leaders from across the country to celebrate the rise of African Americans in the nation’s political and civic life. The vice president’s remarks took place as the Joint Center honored Ambassador Susan E. Rice, the U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations, with its 2013 Louis E. Martin Great American Award, which is given annually to an exemplar of change, progress and coalition-building across racial lines.
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Us Helping Us, People Into Living (UHU), will host a stage play, “Love in a Day,” to raise funds and awareness for the organization’s mission of providing HIV counseling and testing services in the Washington, D.C. area. UHU, along with Tenacious Productions and award-winning author Darryl James, will host the event on May 19. UHU, which envisions a world in which health and wellness are within everyone’s reach, is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year. The “Love in a Day” theater event is a fundraiser to also highlight UHU’s receipt of a grant from the district to develop and implement HIV counseling and testing services to couples, including heterosexual and same-sex couples.

Florida
Ginger Howard, a 17-year-old golf player, has officially become a member of the LPGA (Ladies Professional Golf Association), making her the youngest ever. She is also the fifth Black American woman to join the LPGA Tour. While her popularity is still very low, all of that will likely change as Howard continues to advance. She has won 78 trophies, including first place at 41 out of 66 events. She was named to Tiger Wood’s Junior Golf Foundation in 2003 and 2005, and recently made national TV appearances on the John Walsh Show for Amazing Kids, Comcast SportsNet, NBC4 and George Michael Sports Machine. She’s also been featured on ESPN.com and in the New York Times’ Play magazine.
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Operation SAFEE Flight recently held its second annual Educational Expo and Fly-In at the Orion Jet Center at the Opa-locka Executive Airport. Guests were invited to become fully immersed in the aviation experience with hands-on flight-learning simulators, discovery flights and interaction with leaders in the South Florida aviation and aerospace industry, including community leaders, students, United States Coast Guard (USCG) professionals and aviation enthusiasts. This year’s event offered participants a unique opportunity to witness the unveiling of the EA Build and Soar GTM Supercar that is to race a Bombardier Lear 31 Jet. More than 4,000 South Florida students participated in the interactive aviation-related demonstrations, exhibits and learning activities.

Louisiana
PepsiCo, which owns and distributes Mountain Dew, has finally dropped its endorsement deal with rapper Lil Wayne, just two days after his publicist issued what many called a “weak” and “late” apology to the family of civil rights icon Emmett Till. Lil Wayne had been under fire for using some lyrics in one of his songs comparing what happened to Till to a woman’s vagina after a violent sex act. After weeks of bad PR, PepsiCo apparently felt the pressure and eventually issued another statement to the media saying that Lil Wayne’s lyrics “do not reflect the values of our brand,” and that they had parted ways.

New York
Pioneering African American Rap artist MC Sha-Rock has been appointed as national adviser for the Cornell University Hip Hop Library. Sha-Rock is relevant to the Hip Hop culture, music and industry. In 1976, she began her career as a b-girl/break dancer in the Bronx. In the Hip Hop community, she is known as the “Luminary Icon” or the “Mother of the Mic.” She stands as the foundation for female, emcee’s. She is a former member of the legendary Rap group, The Funky 4 Plus One More. In 1981, they appeared on Saturday Night Live and became the first Rap group to ever appear on national television. MC Sha-Rock is a recipient of the Honorary Award from the City Council of New York and The Women’s Distinction Award by The Hip Hop Culture Center in Harlem. She has been featured in countless magazines and books written by authors and Hip Hop historians.

Ohio
Ohio recently swore in its first African American County Treasurer, Mark A. Parks Jr., who served as the interim Cuyahoga County Treasurer since mid-December 2012. His appointment began one month prior to taking the formal oath. He is the first African American county treasurer in any county in Ohio. His responsibilities include managing the billion-dollar investment portfolio for Cuyahoga County, collecting its property taxes and distributing funds to municipalities.

Pennsylvania
Mark Ciavarella Jr., a 61-year-old former judge in Pennsylvania, has been sentenced to nearly 30 years in prison for literally selling young juveniles for cash. He was convicted of accepting money in exchange for incarcerating thousands of adults and children into a prison facility owned by a developer who was paying him under the table. The kickbacks amounted to more than $1 million. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court has overturned some 4,000 convictions issued by him between 2003 and 2008, claiming he violated the constitutional rights of the juveniles, including the right to legal counsel and the right to intelligently enter a plea. Some of the juveniles he sentenced were as young as 10 years old. Ciavarella was convicted of 12 counts, including racketeering, money laundering, mail fraud and tax evasion. He was also ordered to repay $1.2 million in restitution.

Virginia
The U.S. Army and the Thurgood Marshall College Fund have completed a cooperative arrangement designed to ensure students have greater access to the education, resources and training necessary to become leaders in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) related Army career fields. Through the program representatives worked with more than 452 high schools, community-based organizations and other local groups to provide information about the U.S. Army Reserve Officers’ Training Corp (ROTC) program. Over the six-month campaign, TMCF representatives provided information to more than 628 school administrators, counselors, parents and students. The information highlighted the two-, three- or four-year Army ROTC scholarships available to high-achieving students. Army ROTC scholarships are awarded based on student merit and grades and include up to full tuition scholarships, options for room and board in place of tuition, additional allowances for books and fees for cadets, as well as a monthly living allowance.

Compiled by Juliana Norwood