Eric J. Chambers (94571)

Alabama

A young child is dead after drowning in a baptismal pool at a church in Decatur. No criminal charges were filed, as police have ruled the 2-year-old’s death as accidental. Brayden King reportedly fell into the tank at the Pentecostal House of Prayer, about 75 miles north of Birmingham. King was found in 33 inches of water. According to Reuters, the mother had wanted a son for years. She also has two teenage daughters. “Twenty two months ago, he gave her a song. And 22 months later, he was taken away,” said Bishop T.D. Strong, the church’s pastor. “I’ve been preaching 30 years and pastoring for 20 years; this is the first time in my ministry that I’ve been speechless.”

California

A Santa Ana woman is suing BP (British Petroleum), allegedly charging that she was fired for wearing an Afro-centric hairstyle and clothing. According to Courthouse News, BP fired Melphine Evans after telling her to stop wearing her hair in braids and dashikis because they made her colleagues “uncomfortable.” Named in the lawsuit filed in Orange County Superior Court are BP West Coast Products, and BP Products North America. Evans says she was fired after 10 years with the company after a series of overtly racial complaints and replaced with a young White male. She says that her complaints were met with comments that she “was the problem” and other insensitive remarks. Evans filed with the California Dept. of Fair Employment and Housing, but that case was dismissed. Although those that fired her accused her of not getting along with others and “bullying,” her recent performance review praised her for being a “people person. She engages her entire organization and is sincere in her desire to ensure all are valued and heard.” Evans is seeking damages for race and gender discrimination, harassment and wrongful termination.

Hollywood-based Eric J. Chambers, a four-time Emmy winner, has released a new book: “Dining With the Ancestors: When Heroes Come to Dinner.” When composing the book, Chambers asked more than 200 Black celebrities, politicians, athletes and other notables who they would like to have dinner with from African American history and what would they ask them. Some of those whose answers are in the book include Bishop T.D. Jakes, India Arie, Gladys Knight, Yolanda Adams, Taraji P. Henson, Sheryl Lee Ralph, Donnie McClurkin and Cedric the Entertainer. Chambers first asked the question in 2004 when interviewing Yolanda King, the eldest child of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and his wife Coretta Scott King. Yolanda sang the praises of her own mother during the interview that aired nationally on the Word Network. Now he has a show airing on the CUT Network (Chambers Urban TV Network). “This is such a unique way to teach Black history,” said Professor Alazar Tesfamariam, the Black Studies Department Chair at Chambers’ alma mater, San Diego City College. “I’ve never seen anything like it. This is going to be a one-of-a-kind, fun way to learn about Black history heroes, past and present.” The book is scheduled for release on December 10 at a celebrity gala in Hollywood. Chambers plans a book tour, visiting elementary and high schools, community colleges, HBCUs, state universities and Ivy League schools. He plans to bring along celebrity heroes to some events. A portion of the proceeds will go to the Harvest Of My Dreams Foundation’s History Literacy Program, which teaches and inspires African American youth and young adults, as well as offers scholarships for higher learning. More info at www.DiningWithTheAncestors.com.

Florida

A woman in Broward County has been arrested after placing her infant in the trunk of her car to avoid getting a ticket for not using a car seat. Police signaled for Breona Watkins to pull over for a broken headlight. She continued and did not pull over right away. Police believe that’s when she told a passenger to put the baby in the trunk. According to the CBS television affiliate in South Florida, when she finally pulled over, the officers did not know the baby was in the trunk until they heard him start crying. Police said when the baby was found, he was lying near a number of items that could have caused him injury, including some bush cutting shears, a rusty tire iron and a used gas can. Watkins’ grandmother, who is trying to get custody of the baby, said Watkins is a good mother who just had “a lapse in judgment.”

Illinois

According to the Chicago Sun Times, Illinois is the worst state in the midwest for African American men to find jobs. Fewer than 48 percent of civilian, non-institutionalized Black men in the state are employed. In fact, according to the article, only three states in the country have lower employment rates than Illinois: Arkansas, Mississippi and Alabama. According to statistics from the Illinois Dept. of Employment Security, Black men have taken a hit in employment rates especially since 2006, when the employment rate was at 58 percent. By 2011, it was down to 45 percent, more than 10 percent lower than in 2006.

Nevada

The Kinfolks Soul Food Festival will be held for the first time this year in Henderson, a suburb of Las Vegas. The annual event, scheduled for Saturday, Oct. 18, attracts big name recording artists, as well as the best in soul food from area chefs and restaurants. Some of the food that will be cooked on the premises includes yams, greens, BBQ and more. In addition, the day-long festival offers vendors that will provide information on health and wellness, technology, family intervention, financial literacy, and more. Slated to perform are Kelly Price, Lyfe Jennings, Stephanie Mills, MC Hammer, Morris Day & The Time and Mint Condition. The festival takes place at the Henderson Pavilion, starting at 3 p.m. For more information, visit www.ilovesoulfood.com

New York

Last week, Tracey Lewis became only the second Black female firefighter in New York City history to be promoted to lieutenant. Born and reared in the Brooklyn’s Flatbush neighborhood, Lewis says she was always fascinated with being a firefighter. She told the New York Amsterdam News, “As a child, I was intrigued with the FDNY. I would always watch the fire engines race down the street and be in awe of the man driving the back end of the truck, the tiller rig. I always said that I would be a firefighter.” During college, she was a member of the New York Fire Department’s cadet program, and after two years as an EMT, she was accepted as a firefighter. She has served for 14 years.

Ohio

The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals last week upheld a federal court decision that restored early voting rights in the state in time for the midterm elections in November. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) challenged a new state law and directive that would dramatically slash early voting. “Once again a court has stepped up to safeguard the vote for thousands of Ohioans who want to participate in the midterm election free of obstruction,” said Dale Ho, director of the ACLU’s Voting Rights Project. “This decision protects the people’s voice at the polls and the integrity of our elections.” The ruling restored the first week of early voting, known as “Golden Week,” in which voters are able to register and cast a ballot on the same day, as well as evening early voting and multiple Sundays. The ACLU filed the legal challenge on behalf of the Ohio Conference of the NAACP, the League of Women Voters of Ohio, the A. Philip Randolph Institute and several African American churches.

South Carolina

A South Carolina trooper has been fired and charged with a felony after shooting an unarmed Black man during a simple traffic stop. The trooper’s dash cam showed him shooting the man, and then hearing the man cry as he lay on the ground, “Why did you shoot me?” South Carolina Trooper Sean Groubert then told Levar Jones that it was because he “dove head first” back into his car. Jones told the officer that he was just reaching for his license. However, Groubert shot him multiple times, although fortunately, Jones lived and is recovering from wounds to his hip. The incident occurred Sept. 4 and since then, Groubert has been fired and charged with felony assault. The incident occurred when Groubert allegedly stopped Jones for a seatbelt violation.

Tennessee

A restored one-room schoolhouse in Brownsville where Tina Turner attended classes opened on Sept. 26 as a museum honoring the singer’s career and recalling her childhood in this small West Tennessee town. More than 100 people attended the opening ceremony, ribbon cutting and tour of the Tina Turner Museum at Flagg Grove School, located on the grounds of the West Tennessee Delta Heritage Center in Brownsville. The museum features gold-and-platinum records and glittering outfits and dresses worn during performances by Turner, whose Grammy-winning singing career includes hit songs “Proud Mary” and “What’s Love Got To Do With It.” Turner, who currently lives in Zurich, Switzerland, did not attend the ceremony, but she recorded a video that was played for those in attendance. She thanked those involved with the project, which she supported from its start. “My spirit is with you,” Turner said in the video according to Associated Press. Television personality Robin Roberts and musicians Melissa Etheridge, Ann Wilson of Heart, Mike Love of the Beach Boys and the Oak Ridge Boys sent video tributes. Turner, whose given name is Anna Mae Bullock, attended the Flagg Grove School while growing up in nearby Nutbush, located about 50 miles northeast of Memphis. The building was located on farmland owned by Benjamin Flagg, who saw a need for a school for the area’s Black children and began building it in 1889. The school is representative of the one-room schoolhouses for African American children that sprang up in the rural South after the Civil War. Private donations, including a sizable one from Turner, and public funds helped pay for the $300,000 restoration of the school, said Sonia Outlaw-Clark, executive director of the Delta Heritage Center.

National

A coalition of national Civil Rights organizations have declared its support for U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder’s announcement that a study will be conducted by the Justice Dept. to examine racial bias in law enforcement. The coalition includes the National Bar Association (NBA), the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, the A. Phillip Randolph Institute, the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law and the Rainbow PUSH Coalition, among others. The federal initiative will enlist a team of criminal justice researchers to study racial bias in law enforcement in five U.S. cities. It will focus on training to reduce bias and ensure fairness in law enforcement. Barbara Arnwine, Lawyers’ Committee president and executive director and Tanya Clay House, public policy director, originally convened 14 national civil and human rights organizations and leaders to issue a Unified Statement of Action to Promote Reform and Stop Police Abuse on Aug. 18. Two of the coalition’s recommendations have come to fruition: an independent and comprehensive investigation by the DOJ of Michael Brown’s shooting death and the use of body-worn cameras by Ferguson police officers. The group continues to call for the use of police officer body-worn cameras nationally and commends the White House’s recent announcement of testing of body-worn cameras by the U.S. Border Patrol. Five additional groups, including the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives, and more than 340 independent signatories, have joined the open letter which was sent to the White House and the DOJ.