African American news for the week of May 28, 2015.
The family of Rumain Brisbon, an African American man, has filed a civil rights lawsuit against the Phoenix Police Department and Mark Rine, a Phoenix police officer, as well as the city. The lawsuit is seeking $10 million in punitive and compensatory rewards in the wrongful death of 34-year-old Brisbon, who was reportedly unarmed at the time of his death. Representing Brisbon’s interests is LaShawn D. Jenkins, who outlined seven charges, including wrongful death, assault, deprivation of civil rights, intentional conflict of emotional distress, excessive force/police brutality, and negligent training and supervision. According to the Arizona Informant, Rine shot Brisbon in front of his child as he returned from McDonald’s with food for his family. The autopsy report reveals he was shot in the back and that his spine was severed. Police say Rine was following up on the report of a burglary in the area, and that when Brisbon was seen exiting a vehicle and the officer ordered him to stop, Brisbon ran. When Rine caught up to him, the two struggled and Rine shot Brisbon.
The Los Angeles NAACP named Gloria Zuurveen, Ph.D. as its Ida B. Wells-Barnett Journalism Award recipient during its 2015 Annual Roy Wilkins Freedom Fund Awards Gala. The event was held last week at the Millennium Biltmore Hotel. Zuurveen received the award for her strong commitment in crusading journalism that has given voice to the voiceless in PACE NEWS, a weekly-adjudicated newspaper she founded in 1995. Zuurveen has been instrumental in calling attention to critical issues that directly affect the welfare and lives of African Americans.
In San Francisco’s financial district 10 topless protestors gathered to speak against the increasing number of women and children who have been victimized at the hands of police. The demonstration was part of a national day of action calling for an “end to state violence against all Black women and girls.” Hoisting makeshift signs the women called attention to the shooting of Yuvette Henderson by Emeryville Police in February, allegedly after she was caught shoplifting at Home Depot. Also on signs was the name Aiyana Stanley-Jones, a seven-year-old girl shot by a Detroit SWAT team officer during a 2010 raid on her grandmother’s house. “We wanted to be able to say ‘enough is enough’ and draw on traditions from Nigeria, Gabon, Uganda, and South Africa, from women who bare their chests and other parts of their bodies in protest,” Chinerye Tutashinda of the BlackOUT Collective told BuzzFeed News.
District of Columbia
Univision, one of the top Latin-oriented media conglomerates, has bought The Root, a leading Black news source. Graham Holdings Co. sold the online newspaper for an undisclosed amount. A press release from Univision said it “hopes the acquisition of the leading Black news site in the country will help expand” its audience as “demographics in the country continue to shift.” Like Univision, The Root aims to serve a significant segment of America’s diverse population,” said Isaac Lee, president of news and digital communications at Univision, the leading Spanish broadcaster in the U.S. A. press release said that The Root will maintain its editorial voice, while also now having access to additional resources. Henry Louis Gates Jr. and Donald Graham launched the Root in 2008.
DJ Irie will host the 11th annual Irie Weekend in Miami Beach June 18-20. The annual charity event for the Irie Foundation features a golf tournament with celebrity guests, as well as concerts. So far, hip-hop artist Flo Rida has made a commitment to be a part of the events, with Wyclef Jean putting on a concert as well. The Irie Foundation is dedicated to improving the lives of South Florida’s at-risk youth through educational and extracurricular opportunities, as well as scholarships. Activities for kids at the weekend event include a golf clinic, where organizers hope to teach youth about commitment, hard work and dedication. More info at www.irieweekend.com or via phone at (786) 837.3270.
A DeKalb County man who teaches middle school was arrested last week after allowing his students to engage in sexual relations in class. Quentin Wright, 25, of the Champion School in Stone Mountain is facing four misdemeanor counts of contributing to the delinquency of a minor. According to court documents, Wright gave the students condoms and let them know about times when the classroom would be vacant. An investigation started when the mother of a 14-year-old read text messages between Wright and her son. Wright was taken into custody was his bond and set at $16,000. The DeKalb County School District has fired Wright.
Several Chicago police officers have gotten involved with young ladies in the communities by escorting those without fathers to a police-sponsored “Daddy Daughter Dance.” WMAQ-TV reports that the event was designed for fathers to have a formal evening with their girls, but it also included girls who didn’t have fathers; officers stood in as their escorts. “They actually got to see us to find out that the police are nothing but people,” said Commander Larry Watson. “We just happen to have uniforms on.” In addition to area police, the National Organization of Black Enforcement Executives planned the event and hopes to make it an annual occasion.
A restaurant in New Orleans is under fire after a customer received a receipt with the “n” word written on it. An image of the receipt from Huck Finn’s Café was posted on Facebook last week with the words “nigger 100% Dislike” under an order for a catfish platter. According to WWLTV.com, a woman was at the eatery with three co-workers. When they saw the receipt, they made management aware, but the server was not fired at that time. When the receipt went viral, the server was fired and the restaurant’s management posted an apology on its website that “Huck Finn’s Café is shocked and appalled at the actions of one of its employees…” adding, “The unfortunate actions of this one employee do not mirror the mission of Huck Finn’s Café firm non-discrimination policy, and we are extremely apologetic for an inconvenience this may have caused.”
A new video was released last week that shows part of the arrest of Freddie Gray, the Black man who died in police custody in April. His mysterious death resulted in riots and unrest in Baltimore and led to the arrest and indictment of six cops. The video, posted on the Baltimore Sun’s website, was shot by a bystander. It shows Gray being shackled by his hands and feet and then being loaded into a police van. He was placed inside the vehicle head first and on his stomach. He died a week later from spinal injuries suffered while in police custody. In addition to the state’s attorney’s office charges against the six cops involved, the U.S. Department of Justice is also investigating the Baltimore Police Department for brutality and civil rights violations.
Police in Suffolk County are looking into threats made against an African American family in Lindenhurst as a possible hate crime. Ronica Copes told WPIX-FV (Channel 11) news that she received the hate letter written in all capital letters warning her that she did not belong in the neighborhood, which is 84 percent White. The letter suggested that she should move. “To the coward who committed a hate crime against an innocent family in Lindenhurst—there is no place for intolerance in Suffolk County,” said Steven Bellone, an executive with the county government.
Former reality show star and a member of Public Enemy, Flavor Flav, was arrested in Las Vegas, where he lives, on multiple charges, including DUI, possession of marijuana, holding an open container of alcohol, speeding, expired vehicle registration and driving with a suspended license. Police pulled him over for driving 73 mph in a 45 mph zone. Flav was arrested last year in New York for speeding, and at that time he also was in possession of a suspended license. This was not his first arrest in Las Vegas. He was arrested on domestic violence charges last year.
Mariah Carey’s show, “#1 to Infinity,” has been so successful during its first two weeks at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas that the massive casino has added another month to her residency. Her show began May 6 and has ran throughout the month. No shows are scheduled in June, but she returns July 8 for nine shows. February 2016 dates were added last week.
After he completed a court-ordered prevention program, former NFL running back Ray Rice had domestic violence charges against him dropped, according to state prosecutors. Rice played with the Baltimore Ravens until 2014, when he was suspended after a graphic video emerged of him knocking out his then fiancé in an elevator. As a result of the video and domestic violence charges, Rice’s $35 million contract to play with the Ravens was terminated. The case drew national attention and caused the NFL hierarchy to look at so-called “light penalties” it issued for domestic violence cases against its players. Rice was given a two-game suspension when the incident first surfaced, but after it went viral, he was suspended indefinitely. Ironically, Rice filed a wrongful termination suit after the Ravens cut him from the team. He won and it’s reported the settlement was about $1.6 million. Rice is now considered a free agent after the indefinite suspension was overturned. The lady he punched, Janay Palmer, and Rice have since married.
The Life Education and Resource Center, along with the Center For Bio-ethical Reform (CBR), recently presented the “All Black Life Matters” project on the campus of Fayetteville State College. The CBR Genocide Awareness Project was there to reach the African American community to talk about abortion. “CBR has always been burdened by the fact that the abortion rate in the African American community remains tragically high. Black women account for 36 percent of all abortions despite constituting only 11 percent of the female population,” said Greg Cunningham, CBR director. “Black activists also popularized the over-arching term ‘Black Lives Matter,’ but we co-opted that too with the pro-life slogan, ‘All Black Lives Matter – Born and Unborn.’”
As the U.S. Justice Department announced it would investigate the case of a Cleveland police officer’s acquittal in the death of two unarmed Black people, hundreds of people took to the streets to protest. At least 71 people were arrested, mostly for failing to disperse from an alley in Cleveland’s warehouse district on the city’s west side. According to reports, the two people shot and killed—Timothy Russell and Malessa Williams—led police on a long and dangerous chase on city streets. The chase ended when several officers fired 137 shots into the front of the car, killing the two suspects. One officer was singled out, although 13 different cops fired shots on the scene. The officer, Michael Brelo, was facing 22 years in prison if he had been found guilty of the charges against him—two counts of involuntary manslaughter. Brelo was charged because, according to prosecutors, he waited until the car was at a standstill and the suspects were no longer a threat to jump onto the hood of the vehicle and fire 15 rounds.
Cleveland-based HWIC Filmworks has added Chuck D, former member of Public Enemy and a political activist, to the cast of its YouTube show “Heights Girl.” D has taken on the role of Dr. Steve, a crisis therapist. “Heights Girl” is an urban-based drama about a 20-something African American and her life dealing with the streets of the inner city. “HWIC Filmworks has really stepped to the forefront of making riveting films and they’re one of the few companies that can actually get me to act,” D said. “As soon as I found out they were doing this project, I wanted to be a part of it.” The show is free and can be accessed at www.HeightsGirl.com.
State Trooper Matt Oakes received praise on Facebook from the mother of an African American college student, after the officer made sure her son was safe while waiting for assistance on the road for a flat tire. Twenty-year-old Joseph Owusu, a Virginia Tech student, got a flat tire. Oakes, who is White, stopped to assist Owusu and even sent the young man’s mom a photo to let her know her son was safe. Nada Owusu posted the pic and wrote, “My son has his back tire blown off his car last night on his way home from school. This kind officer approached him, didn’t ask if the little Mercedes was stolen, but rather got on his knees to replace his tire.” While Owusu waited for AAA, Oakes positioned his car with the lights on so traffic would see the disabled vehicle. The trooper stayed with the young man until AAA arrived. “There’s a lot of good in this world and people want to hear positive stories,” Owusu’s mom said.
A cop in Olympia shot and wounded two Black men suspected of stealing beer from a grocery store. The event prompted protests in the capital city of the state. The two, aged 21 and 24, are brothers. They were hospitalized with multiple gunshot wounds. Olympia Police Chief Ronnie Roberts held a press conference, saying that the officer only fired after the two attacked him with a skateboard, adding that the officer said that he issued a verbal warning before firing. About 400 people of different races took to the streets in protest, according to news sources. “There was some sort of confrontation there, and the officer felt threatened and discharged his firearm,” Roberts said. A store employee allegedly confronted the two when they were seen walking out with beer that they hadn’t paid for. They reportedly threw the beer at the clerk and then ran. Roberts said the city attorney will investigate the incident to determine if excessive force was used and if any charges will be filed against the officer.
Compiled by Carol Ozemhoya.