African American news for the week of Oct. 16, 2014

California

The San Jose Police Dept. has suspended all off-duty work with the San Francisco 49ers due to allegations that it possibly interfered with the case of 49ers player Ray McDonald, who was reportedly involved in a domestic violence case. San Jose Mercury News reporter Robert Salonga wrote last week that McDonald allegedly called a San Jose police officer around the same time a 911 call was made regarding a domestic incident. The cop was said to frequent 49ers’ games and arrived on the scene before other officers did. “We feel that it is in our best interest to suspend all San Francisco 49er secondary employment-related assignments until further notice,” police chief Larry Esquivel wrote in an internal police statement obtained by the Mercury News. The police department usually has 17 officers employed as off-duty security at 49ers games. McDonald was arrested at his 30th birthday party at his home on Aug. 31 on suspicion of felony domestic violence against his pregnant fiancée. The case is pending.

A San Diego woman has founded the Heartbeat Music Academy to promote scholastic achievement and music education. Tyra Hawthorne set up the program for underserved and homeless youth in the area. The entrepreneur and former U.S. Marine says that music helped her overcome childhood tragedies, and she wants others to have the opportunity she did. The non-profit organization offers programs to area kids such as music education, performance, healing through music and lyrical expression and music production. For more info on the academy, go to www.heartbeatmusicacademy.org.

Rev. Al Sharpton, founder of the National Action Network, will host the 2014 African American Vanguard Awards reception today at an invite-only event. Created by Lord, Bush and Randolph LLC. (LBR), the awards were designed to recognize African Americans who have made a positive impact on the city of Los Angeles and surrounding communities. Some of the honorees expected to be in attendance include Grammy nominated R&B singer/songwriter, actor, author and TV producer, Tyrese Gibson; Congresswoman Karen Bass, Compton Mayor Aja Brown; and apostle Beverly “BAM” Crawford, to name a few. In addition, the event will celebrate Sharpton’s 60th birthday. The event is sponsored by SEIU Local 721 and Macy’s, and will be held at the California African American Museum in Exposition Park. “The National Action Network of Los Angeles is pleased to partner with Robert Bush of LBR on this event,” commented Rev. Tulloss, western regional director of NAN-Los Angeles. “We are grateful that our national leader Rev. Sharpton has taken time out of his busy schedule to join us as we pay tribute to the most powerful and influential leaders in Los Angeles.” The honorees will be featured in the 2014 Most Influential African Americans Los Angeles Edition commemorative magazine, set to be published in November.

Florida

Fox Sports has reported that Florida State University administrators and the Tallahassee Police Department made moves to “hide and hinder” evidence in the sexual assault case against star football player Jameis Winston last fall. Winston, the team’s quarterback, was accused of sexual assault in December 2012. No charges were filed at the time; however, in November 2013, the Florida state attorney’s office opened an investigation into the accusation. The investigation was closed by the end of 2014, with no charges filed. Fox Sports has announced that it conducted its own investigation, examining “thousands of pages of documents” related to the case. According to Fox Sports, it “found that when Tallahassee police heard a reporter was looking into the alleged rape, they turned the reports over to FSU administrators, who had the documents by November 2013.” The Tallahassee police also forwarded its reports to the Florida State police chief, as well as a high-ranking official in the athletics department. The reports subsequently ended up with Winston’s attorney, Tim Jansen, who then questioned two key witnesses before the state attorney was even notified of the accusation against Winston. Florida State attorney Willie Meggs reportedly told Fox Sports that “that fact alone hampered” his ability to conduct a proper investigation. The Fox report also alleges that the school’s police “ran interference against reporters, attempting at one point to suggest there was no investigation of Winston.” As a result of these reports, the university has launched a Title IX investigation into the alleged sexual assault case. Winston remains active on the football team.

Georgia

A lawsuit was filed last week in Atlanta at the Fulton County, Georgia Superior Court against Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp and five county boards of election on behalf of Third Sector Development, the parent organization of the New Georgia Project (NGP), the national NAACP and the Georgia chapter of the NAACP. The lawsuit seeks a writ of mandamus to require the secretary of state and county boards of election to promptly process voter registration applications submitted by eligible voters in time for these citizens to cast a regular ballot in the midterm elections. Early voting began Monday, Oct. 13. The lawsuit was brought on behalf of the NGP, which held a massive voter registration drive from March until September of this year that resulted in more than 86,000 applications. According to the NGP, the majority of those applications came from young people of color who were attempting to register to vote for the first time. But as of Sept. 4, 2014, more than 40,000 voters, most of whom are minorities who applied to register through the NGP drive, were missing from state voter rolls. The state and counties have neither explained why the applications are unaccounted for, nor have they contacted these voters about their delayed or missing applications, as required by Georgia law. Georgia voters who are confused or concerned about the status of their voter registration application, should contact the non-partisan Election Protection national coalition’s hotline at (866) 687-8683.

Illinois

Families associated with the women who have characterized the Aunt Jemima brand are suing the pancake and syrup maker for a hefty piece of past and future sales. The lawsuit was filed in federal court in Chicago by descendants of Nancy Green, the original Aunt Jemima pictured on the container, as well as heirs of Anna Short Harrington, whose likeness was also used on the bottle. The $2 billion lawsuit claims that the ladies were key in developing the recipe used to make the first-ever self-rising pancake mix, and also that Green was the one who came up with the idea to use powdered milk to enhance the flavor, according to USA Today. “Aunt Jemima has become known as one of the most exploited and abused women in American history,” said D.W. Hunter, a great grandson of Harrington. However, Quaker Oats, which owns the brand, disputes what the image on the syrup and pancake mix containers symbolize. “The image symbolizes a sense of caring, warmth, hospitality and comfort and is neither based on, nor meant to depict, any one person,” read a statement from the company, which is now a subsidiary of PepsiCo. “While we cannot discuss the details of pending litigation, we do not believe there is any merit to this lawsuit.” Although the families of the two women say that there were contracts that said the two would each receive a percentage of the sales, no such paperwork has been presented. The case is pending.

Massachusetts

A report out of Boston says its police department has engaged in widespread racially biased street encounters with the city’s citizens. The four-year study of Boston Police officers and their encounters with civilians are summarized in a report released last week by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and ACLU of Massachusetts. “This data from the Boston Police Department is clear and compelling: Boston needs to adopt reforms to ensure fair and effective policing,” said Carol Rose, executive director of the ACLU of Massachusetts. The report endorses the idea that the Boston police force, in general, has targeted both communities and people of color at far greater rates than White communities or people. Preliminary analysis by a BPD-selected researcher of more than 204,000 department reports of police/civilian encounters from 2007 to 2010 found that Blacks were subjected to 63 percent of these encounters, even though they made up just 24 percent of Boston’s population. The analysis also showed that crime, whether measured by neighborhood crime rates, arrest records or alleged gang membership of people subjected to police encounters, cannot justify or explain away the evidence of racial bias. A copy of the report is available at: https://www.aclum.org/stopandfrisk.

Michigan

A Farmington teen has been offered 14 scholarships, including the Detroit Rainbow PUSH Excel/GM Scholarship. Aubrey Perry says she realized early on that in order to be able to go to a good college, she would have to do more than get good grades, participate in school activities and keep her nose clean. “The summer between my junior and senior year, I really got serious. Though I was in the National Honor Society and the Link Crew, I knew that if I wanted to go to a major university like Michigan State, I’d have to start participating in the type of activities that matter to admissions directors—and especially scholarship selection committees,” Perry recently told BlackNews.com. The teen stepped up her game and added community service to her list of activities. She also applied for as many scholarships as she could find. She says she applied for more than 100. To date, she has been awarded a total of $17,000 worth of scholarships, with the smallest $75 and the largest $5,000. The $17,000 has only covered part of her tuition at Michigan State, where she is now a freshman. To follow Perry’s journey, check out her blog at www.aubreyperryblogspot.com.

Missouri

Violence erupted in and around St. Louis again last weekend, as thousands gathered for organized rallies and marches protesting Michael Brown’s death and other fatal police shootings in the St. Louis area and elsewhere. Reports from a variety of media say that about 17 people were arrested during the protests, including author and activist Cornell West. Adding to the fire was a new case of a Black man being fatally shot by police. The most recent happened last week on St. Louis’ south side when police say an off-duty officer working for a private neighborhood security patrol shot and killed 18-year-old Vonderrit D. Myers. According to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, the officer, whose name hasn’t been released, fired 17 rounds after police claim Myers opened fire. Myers’ parents say he was unarmed. Many of the protesters marched to a major thoroughfare, partially blocking traffic and chanting “Whose streets? Our streets?” as a police helicopter hovered overhead. A national campaign dubbed “Ferguson October” brought together a diverse crowd. “I have two sons and a daughter. I want a world for them where the people who are supposed to be community helpers are actually helping, where they can trust those people to protect and serve rather than control and repress,” Ashlee Wiest-Laird, a Baptist pastor from Boston told the Post-Dispatch. Wiest-Laird is White and her adopted sons, ages 14 and 11, are Black. “What I see happening here is a moment in time. There’s something bigger here,” she said.

Tennessee

Despite personal tragedies and setbacks, Gospel singer Donnie McClurkin continues to make an impact on the inspirational music industry. At last week’s 45th annual GMA Dove Awards, he won Traditional Gospel Album of the Year for his “Duets” album. The awards were held at the Allen Arena on the campus of Lipscomb University in Nashville. McClurkin, who has won Doves before, as well as Grammys, Stellar Awards and NAACP Image Awards, was unable to attend the event because of the Festival of Praise Tour that he is on with Fred Hammond. McClurkin, 54, has recently lost several close family members (mother and father within 10 months of each other) and been diagnosed with throat cancer. His “Duets” album, released on RCA Inspirational, features performances with Tye Tribbett, Erica and Tina Campbell, Tramaine Hawkins, Dorinda Clark-Cole, Preashea Hilliard, Justin Savage, Marvin Sapp and Israel Houghton.

Compiled by Carol Ozemhoya.