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California

Following multiple years of the Oscars being called too White, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has invited a record 683 new new members to join of which 46 percent are women and 41 percent are people of color, reports the Huffington Post. The new round of invitations was handed out as part of the Academy’s effort to increase diversity in its ranks. If all individuals accept their invitations, the demographic of the Academy could shift from 75 percent male to 73 percent and from 95 percent White to 89 percent. While the difference in numbers seems small when written out, it’s a step in the right direction. It’s important to note that the members of the Academy are the ones who vote for the Oscars, meaning they ultimately decide who gets nominated and who wins. If the organization is more diverse, the hope is that diversity will be visible in the list of nominees and winners. Other members of Hollywood, such as Michael B. Jordan, who was snubbed for his role in “Creed” at last year’s Academy Awards ceremony, and Ryan Coogler, who directed the “Rocky” spinoff, were also among those who received invitations. Others said to be invited include Idris Elba.

Arizona

Phoenix police think they might have a serial killer on their hands. And the killer seems to be targeting Blacks and Latinos. Horacio de Jesus Pena was gunned down in his driveway in early June while returning home from his job at a group home. Pena’s death apparently matches four other chillingly similar murders since April. All the victims – male and female, ranging in age from 12 to 32 – were shot dead outside their homes, near their cars, on weekend evenings in the working-class neighborhood of Maryvale. According to news sources, those details and the lack of obvious motive in each case led investigators to link the slayings, but multiple law enforcement sources confirmed there is also physical evidence tying them together. In response, Phoenix police have stepped up uniformed and undercover patrols, reviewed shootings in surrounding counties and issued a public appeal for information that has so far yielded pretty much nothing new. Police are asking the public to remain vigilant, and some residents are staying indoors in the evenings. The Phoenix chapter of the Guardian Angels is said to be out on patrol a few times a week. According to police, the first homicide in the pattern happened on April 1. Diego Verdugo-Sanchez, 21, was visiting his pregnant fiancée’s family and had stepped out to lock his car door when he was killed. Pena, 32, had just gotten out of his car at his family home on June 3 when he was ambushed. Two days later, on June 12, the killer struck again, opening fire on two Black women and a Black girl listening to music outside a home. Angela Linner, 31, was killed, along with 12-year-old Maleah Russell. Maleah’s mother, Stefanie Ellis, was critically wounded and remains in the hospital.

Florida

South Beach is a very trendy place to be seen. But that may not be true if you’re a stripper. Contrary to some celebrity blog reports, NBC 6 in Miami is reporting that former rapper Akinyele Adams was not looking to open a franchise of the King of Diamonds strip club on the strip known as Ocean Drive. However, it looks like he couldn’t even get the idea into the door at a commission meeting. And he is crying “foul” and even racism. According to the news station, the location being discussed is 1330 Ocean Drive. Last week, the city attorney informed commissioners and the mayor that he had received notification of an individual that had acquired the naming rights for the King of Diamonds strip club, and that person wanted to open some type of business establishment at the location. Ocean Drive is a coveted spot. Adams, who was once a manager at the strip club, says the new business will be a soul food restaurant, although there were rumors he wanted to open a strip club. He claims any sort of backlash is “a modern day lynching because it is a Black-owned establishment.” Residents heard the rumors about a possible strip club and were not having it, according to various news sources. “Residents were under the influence that we were going to do a strip club with nudity or something like that, but we’re not doing no type of nudity. We just want to be like every other restaurant out here that’s gonna have beautiful people, beautiful food,” Adams said. According to NBC 6, the city manager said that it is illegal to open a business that features adult entertainment on Miami Beach. Adams added that he will do everything by the book. But the budding entrepreneur couldn’t even get his foot in the door to introduce his concept… the commission meeting was for residents only.

Georgia

Atlanta police are investigating the murder of Kisha Brown, an aspiring actress and dancer, who was shot in a northeast Atlanta parking lot. Jokisha Brown (her real name) was shot while she was sitting in her car outside of a strip mall on the 2100 block of Cheshire Bridge Road on July 1. According to WSB-TV (Channel 2), friends said that Brown had gone to the area get her makeup done. She was shot through the front passenger side window. Police have not named a suspect or motive. “We’re actually interviewing witnesses on the scene. We do have a number of people who were on the scene when the incident occurred. We are collecting evidence, a number of shell casings,” Atlanta Police Capt. Ben McGee told reporters. July 2nd would have been her 36th birthday. Friends started a memorial Saturday morning at the scene of the shooting. Brown leaves behind a teenage son. Just a year ago, Brown had been the victim of a violent and elaborate abduction from her Gwinnett County home. She escaped by jumping from a moving car. Gwinnett police investigated Brown’s ex-boyfriend, Alfredo Capote, in connection to that incident. They are currently looking for him to talk to him about Brown’s murder, according to Channel 2.


Rapper and “Love & Hip Hop: Atlanta” guest star Sas was shot in the head July 2. However, he is expected to recover from his injuries. His real name is Lyndon Ahlik Smith. News sources say he is currently receiving care at a hospital. He managed to send fans a couple of Instagram posts from his hospital bed. In one picture, he is sitting up in a hospital bed with dried blood clearly seen caked on the pillow behind him. He also posted a short video. “The doctor just told me I got a bullet in the back of my head,” he said in the clip, aiming the camera toward the wound briefly. “They said I got a thick skull. Y’all pray for me though. I appreciate all the love and support. God got me. Allah got me. I ain’t tripping.” There’s not a lot of information available about the circumstances around the shooting. Sas was formerly in a rap group called Da Raskalz Cru, alongside his brother Scrapp and late cousin Dolla. Sas is the second cast member to be shot at. During season 2, Benzino was hit by gunfire as well when he was headed to his mom’s funeral. The man charged with the crime was Gail Scott, his own cousin, who claimed self-defense.

Iowa

Emmy Victor of KCCI-TV in Iowa and her cameraman Zachary Hayes were reporting from an officer-involved shooting when a woman charged at them and began hurling verbal insults. Victor is Black and the woman is White. The woman began yelling at Victor, screaming racial slurs. She yelled, “Get out of here you stupid” n word. The woman wasn’t through. She pushed Victor and knocked over Hayes’ tripod. Another woman came along and pulled the woman away. Later, the pair was told by police that the woman was the mother of the shooting victim, identified as 28-year-old Michael Disbrowe. During the whole ordeal, Victor and Hayes kept their composure. The station’s general manager stood by his team. GM Brain Sather said in a statement: “The safety of our crews is critically important as they cover stories affecting our communities. This morning Emmy and Zach demonstrated the utmost professionalism in the face of a very difficult, emotionally-charged situation.”Disbrowe, a White man, was killed by police when he refused to put down his weapon.

Louisiana

A Louisiana district attorney said on Friday he has no intention of charging a 30-year-old mother arrested for whipping her three boys after she found out they had burglarized a neighbor’s house. Schaquana Spears was arrested June 20 in Baton Rouge and charged with two counts of cruelty to juveniles – felony charges. A sheriff’s report said she allegedly whipped her 13, 12 and 10-year-old boys. The report said lacerations on the 13-year-old’s arms had bled and lacerations broke the skin on the 12-year-old’s arm. The report said the 10-year-old was whipped too, but much less than his brothers. But East Baton Rouge Parish District Attorney Hillar Moore III told The Advocate, “At this time I have no intention to prosecute. It would take something significant to change my opinion.” Spears found herself in the national spotlight after being arrested and then was held up as a model parent by high-ranking state officials. In interviews with the media, including one on nationally televised “CBS This Morning,” Spears said she whipped her children to make sure they do not take to a life of crime. She said the children’s father was in prison and that she didn’t want them to end up there, too. She whipped the boys June 17 after she found they had stolen a hoverboard and other items from a neighbor’s house, Brenden Craig, her lawyer, said. Craig said in a telephone interview with The Associated Press that he was pleased with Moore’s statements. The Louisiana Department of Children and Family Services has said a judge found it was in the best interest of the 13-year-old boy to be placed in the custody of child services and that he was later transferred to the custody of a relative.

New York

Apple is said to be in talks to acquire Toda, the music streaming app supposedly more favorable to artists, and fronted by rapper Jay Z. Jay Z brought in artist co-owners such as Alicia Keys, Calvin Harris, Arcade Fire, Chris Martin, Beyonce, Daft Punk, Jack White, J. Cole, Jason Aldean, Kanye West, Deadmau5, Madonna, Nicki Minaj, Rihanna and Usher. The Root says talks are ongoing, but may not end in a deal, that Apple is really interested in the exclusives Tidal has been able to get including Kanye West’s “The Life of Pablo” album and Beyonce’s “Lemonade” video among others. Jay Z bought Tidal in 2015 for $56 million, and though it floundered at first, the site has come roaring back in recent months with exclusive partnerships with some of music’s biggest artists, including Prince. Tidal was the only legitimate source for the pop star’s entire music catalogue after he died in April of this year. Music streaming is seen as the next frontier. There have been rumors that Apple plans to to discontinue its iMusic store in favor of Apple Music, which has garnered a few exclusives of its own, including a deal with Drake. In a heated competition with Spotify, a Tidal deal could bolster Apple’s arsenal against the bigger music streaming company.

South Carolina

Family members of the people killed in an attack on a South Carolina church last year have sued the U.S. government over an FBI clerk’s mistake that allowed the purchase of the gun used in the shooting. Wrongful death lawsuits filed by relatives and survivors of the shooting and reviewed by Reuters allege that at least one of the background check databases maintained by the federal government had information that should have prevented the firearm sale. “At the end of the day, those who were wrong are accountable,” one of the plaintiffs, Arthur Hurd, said in a telephone interview on Friday. Hurd’s wife, Cynthia, was among nine people killed in the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston in June 2015. “Our government should stand up and do for the people what is right,” Hurd said. Dylann Roof, 22, has been charged in state court with murder and attempted murder, while federal prosecutors have charged him with 33 counts including hate crimes, obstruction of religion and firearms offenses. Federal Bureau of Investigation spokeswoman Susan McKee said the agency does not comment on pending litigation. The FBI runs federal background checks for gun dealers in more than 30 states, including South Carolina. If the agency does not report back to the retailer with a yes or no decision in three business days, U.S. law allows a gun to be sold. FBI Director James Comey has said that Roof was able to buy a gun in April 2015 because of errors in his federal background check.

The examiner who conducted Roof’s check did not see a February 2015 police report in which Roof admitted to unlawful drug possession, which would have barred him from buying the weapon, Comey said last year. That information did not come to light because Roof’s record listed the wrong arresting agency, federal authorities said. Lawsuits filed by the shooting victims’ estates on Thursday reject the claim that the FBI did not have access to the arrest report that would have required the gun sale to be denied. “Federal law precluded the government from allowing the firearm sale,” said lawyer Mullins McLeod, who represents three of the Emanuel victims’ estates. “The victims’ civil suit against the FBI seeks to hold the government accountable to the law and demonstrate it is not above the law.”

Texas

Liyjon Desilva, reportedly homeless for three years, has graduated from high school with honors. And, the 20-year-old has a college scholarship as well. DeSilva talked to reporters about his three years of living on the streets as a learning experience. His mother died when he was just 5 years old. He was passed around in his mother’s family but found himself sleeping in the streets. But one day he took it upon himself to show up to class at Lee High School. “What else was I supposed to do?” Desilva said. “It was either that or be a low-life. I could have thrown everything away. I have a chance, why not keep going?” Desilva has kept a positive attitude despite the difficult circumstances. “I love to sleep on parking lots because I could see the stars, the sky,” Desilva said. “There was one where I could see the horizon of the city. I had a broken heart. As it mends, it’s stronger now. I can trust people. I don’t have to look in everybody’s eyes cynically.” When his secret came out at school, Desilva found a supportive community called Communities in Schools willing to help. “We had one of our counselors call and say there’s a report we found him sleeping in the park,” principal Jonathan Trinh said. Jessica Smith helped Desilva find a home, and on May 27 he graduated among the top in his class and was awarded a full scholarship to college. “(He is) intense, driven, resilient, bright, funny and kind,” Smith told reporters. “There are tons of people out there who want to help, and kids out there who need it.”

Wisconsin

She was considered armed and extremely dangerous. Her name is Shanika S. Minor, and shortly after she was just added to the FBI’s 10 Most Wanted List, she was arrested in North Carolina. According to multiple news outlets, Minor, who is Black, was wanted in Milwaukee for allegedly shooting and killing a pregnant woman over loud music. The argument started over loud music – and it allegedly ended with double-murder, reports NBS News. Minor has been charged in connection with the March 6 killing of the expectant mother and her unborn child. In addition to being place on the Most Wanted list, the FBI offered a $100,000 for information that lead to the arrest of Moore, 24, of Wisconsin, had not been seen since March. The victim was five days away from her due date. The victim was identified as Tamecca Perry, a mother of two.

National

Gabby Douglas and Simone Biles grace the cover of Teen Vogue. The talented gymnasts are just a little more than a month away from heading to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, to represent the U.S. at the 2016 Olympics. They each opened up to the publication about their individual journeys. Reflecting on her first Olympics appearance at the age of 16 back in 2012 (which turned out to be a historic one), Gabby says the feeling of reaching one of her biggest life goals was a dream come true. Although she made history as the first American gymnast to win the individual all-around title and lead her team to a gold medal, while also becoming the first woman of color to do both, Gabby admits she wasn’t always so confident in her greatness. Serena Williams helped Gabby overcome the negativity she was subjected to from the public following her win. For 19-year-old Simone, setting her sights on one day making it to the Olympics was not in the plans. “It’s never been a goal,” she says. “I take things one step at a time. If I thought of gymnastics as a job, it would put too much stress on me. At the end of the day, if I can say I had fun, it was a good day.” While she’s proud to look up to her fellow teammates, Simone also says realizing her own strengths played a big role in helping her take things to the next level. As for her number one goal in Rio this August, Simone’s first priority is staying healthy and her second dream is to bring home a consecutive group gold for the United States.

Compiled by Carol Ozemhoya.