Alabama

The lone surviving Ku Klux Klan member convicted in an Alabama church bombing that killed four Black girls in 1963 is up for parole after spending 15 years in prison for murder, but civil rights activists spoke out last week against any early release, reports the Associated Press. Members of the Birmingham NAACP and other groups held a news conference across the street from the historic church to protest the possible early release of Thomas Edwin Blanton Jr., 78. Blanton is serving a life sentence for being part of a group of Klansmen who bombed the 16th Street Baptist Church, a gathering spot for demonstrators during the civil rights movement in Birmingham. Alabama’s parole board is set to consider Blanton for release. But Hezekiah Jackson, president of the Birmingham chapter of the NAACP, said freeing Blanton now during nationwide protests over police treatment of Black people would send the wrong message. “It is our further position that it would be a travesty of justice,” Jackson said. Prosecutors and members of the girls’ families also are opposing Blanton’s release, and some are expected to speak to the parole board during the hearing scheduled in Montgomery this week.

California

There are reports that a child born out of wedlock in California has quietly made a claim on Prince’s estate, and has DNA tests to prove he really is Prince’s son. The Santa Monica Observer newspaper says there was independent genetic testing conducted at a Santa Monica lab that verifies that an unidentified man in his 30s said that Prince has a 99 percent probability of being the man’s father. The story is that the mother allegedly had several liaisons with Prince in the 1980s. Prince, whose government name was Prince Rogers Nelson, died from a fentanyl overdose at his Paisley Park, Minn., home on April 21. He died without a will and it was thought that he left no living children and no obvious heirs to his massive million-dollar estate, other than one full sister, Tyka Nelson. According to the paper, the claimant, who reportedly never met Prince, has negotiated with the singer’s estate and preserved his privacy up until now.

Iowa

Braiding hair for pay without a cosmetology license used to be a crime in the state, but as of July 1, the law has changed. Before the new law was implemented, however, hair stylists without a license could face a misdemeanor charge and sentenced to prison for up to a year. The law was challenged by two women activists: Aicheria Bell and Achan Agit. After grabbing the attention and the support of the Institute for Justice, they were able to file a civil rights lawsuit against the state. Previously, the state required hair braiders to complete 2,100 hours of cosmetology training and pass a cosmetology-licensing exam. It was a costly process, and made it difficult for women who wanted to start a hair braiding business. After the lawsuit was filed, Gov. Terry Branstad responded by removing the stipulations.

Kentucky

A White judge berated jailers in Lexington when a Black woman prisoner appeared before her without pants. The unidentified inmate was brought to Jefferson District Court on July 29 in the morning without a jumpsuit prompting a judge to call the jail and ask, “What the hell is going on?” reports WDRB-TV. An attorney for the woman told Judge Amber Wolf that the jail “refused to give her pants and any kind of [feminine] hygiene products that she needed,” according to a video of the hearing. The defense attorney also said inmates were being denied showers. The video shows Judge Wolf taking out her cell phone and calling the jail to speak with Metro Corrections Director Mark Bolton, telling someone she wanted to ask him, “Why there is a female defendant standing in front of me with no pants on.” The woman, who was in jail for not completing a diversion program on a 2014 shoplifting charge, said she had been in jail for days without pants, despite repeated requests. After the jail officials brought the woman clothing, Wolf called her back to the bench to apologize. Wolf released the woman from jail with time served and a $100 fine.

Michigan

A woman on social media last week publicly called First Lady Michelle Obama “ugly” and the b-word. Mrs. Obama was trending at a high level after her rousing speech to support presidential nominee Hillary Clinton. A lady who is reportedly a resident of the state and goes by the name of Lisa Greenwood, wrote on her Twitter, “@FLOTUS Beautiful? Seriously, she is an ugly Black bch.” The backlash was swift and powerful. Followers did their research and found where the woman worked and contacted her employer. Within a day, Greenwood was fired. Home Financial swiftly responded on social media as well, Tweeting “Home Point Financial does not agree with nor condone such comments…”


Six more people have been charged with crimes for their role in allowing the water in Flint to become tainted with lead, a deadly poison, according to the Huffington Post. Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette announced the charges against the six state employees on July 29. “The families of Flint will not be forgotten,” Schuette said at a press conference. “Those who committed crimes will be held accountable.” Friday’s announcement brings the total number of Flint water crisis criminal charges to nine, plus two civil suits against private companies that consulted on the city’s water situation. The new people charged are all current or former employees of either the state Department of Environmental Quality or the Department of Health and Human Services. The charges stem from the state’s failure to follow proper treatment protocols after switching the city’s water source to the Flint River in 2014. Contrary to federal regulations, state officials failed to add corrosion inhibitors to prevent the river water from leaching lead from the city’s pipes.

Missouri

A St. Louis TV reporter was fired after he posted a crass “lead diet” joke on Facebook around the shooting death of 18-year-old Michael Brown. After it was announced that Brown’s mother, Lezley McSpadden, was invited to appear at the Democratic National Convention, reporter Bobby Hughes joked on a July 22 Facebook post that McSpadden would “talk about the new lead diet she’s endorsed. Five servings and you can lose 200 pounds in two years easily,” the St. Louis American reports. Hughes was responding to a post by a cop, Lt. Jerry Foster, who wrote, “Why not let them speak. It is the Democratic Criminal Party. How fitting.” The statement drew an immediate backlash: Black police officers in the area through the organization, the Ethical Society of Police, immediately called for Hughes dismissal, and the following morning, the Fox affiliate’s Black employees were planning an “emergency meeting” with the station general manager, according to the St. Louis American. By Friday (July 29) afternoon, a KTVI spokeswoman confirmed Hughes no longer works for the station.


Robbie Montgomery, the owner of Sweetie Pie’s restaurants in the St. Louis area, has sued her son, Tim Norman, alleging trademark infringement over his use of the name at three of his restaurants in the St. Louis area as well as California, reports the St. Louis Dispatch. The suit, filed earlier this week in federal court in St. Louis, alleges that Norman illegally used the trademarked Sweetie Pie’s name at a restaurant he opened in North Hollywood, Calif., in Florissant, Mo., and near the St. Louis airport. The Montgomery family and restaurant was the subject of “Welcome to Sweetie Pie’s” on OWN for a number of years. It stopped airing original episodes in January. According to the Dispatch, collection documents filed in court earlier this year by the Missouri Department of Revenue claim the two restaurants located in the city owed more than $80,000 in back sales and withholding taxes. Montgomery’s lawsuit claims Norman misused the brand’s signage and promotional materials for his locations and diverted “substantial sums” of revenue from the Manchester location toward his restaurants.

North Carolina

Last Friday (July 29), an appeals court struck down a law that would require voters to show photo ID at the ballot box, saying that the law intentionally discriminated against African American voters. The three-judge panel said that the law passed by the state legislature targeted African Americans “with almost surgical precision.” “We cannot ignore the recent evidence that, because of race, the legislature enacted one of the largest restrictions of the franchise in modern North Carolina history,” Judge Diana Motz wrote. Republican leaders suggested that the decision was made in order to give Democrats a better hold on the swing state, where Hillary Clinton has been polling much better with African Americans than Donald Trump. Voting rights activists have lauded the decision. “This ruling is a stinging rebuke of the state’s attempt to undermine African American voter participation, which had surged over the last decade,” Dale Ho, director of the Voting Rights Project at the American Civil Liberties Union, said in a statement.


At the dedication of a memorial Friday honoring the first Black U.S. Marines, John Spencer imagines his mind will recall what it was like to become a Montford Point Marine. “I’ll think about the trials and tribulations we went through to prove that we were good Americans, that we loved our country and were willing to fight for it,” said the 88-year-old Spencer, who served 20 years in the Marines and 10 years in the reserves. Spencer is one of 45 Montford Point Marines who attended the dedication of the national Montford Point Marine memorial at Lejeune Memorial Gardens at the Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune. The $1.1 million memorial includes an anti-aircraft gun and a bronze statue of a Montford Point Marine. About 20,000 men trained at the segregated Montford Point camp from 1942 to 1949 following President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s executive order that led to the desegregation of the Marine Corps, the last branch of the U.S. Armed Forces to admit Blacks. In 1948, President Harry Truman signed an executive order that officially ended segregation in the military. In 2012, Montford Point Marines received the Congressional Gold Medal for their role in desegregating the military.

Ohio

An attorney was charged with contempt for wearing a Black Lives Matter pin while representing a client in an Ohio courtroom, raising questions about freedom of expression. Andrea Burton, 30, of Youngstown was removed from the courtroom in handcuffs, charged with contempt of court and sentenced to five days jail, according to WFMJ-TV (NBC). The attorney, however, was quickly released while an appeal got underway, according to the Washington Post. Burton told the judge that she was not anti-police and in fact worked with them daily. But the judge declared she was in contempt of court when she refused to remove the pin. The judge, Robert Milich, told the CBS affiliate WKBN that his opinions about Black Lives Matter had nothing to do with his decision. “A judge doesn’t support either side,” he said.

Oklahoma

The Caddo County Sheriff’s Office released video last week of an April incident in which an inmate was restrained by jail staff and died of strangulation. In the video obtained by The Oklahoman newspaper, 41-year-old Darius Robinson appears to lunge toward jail staff before being tackled to the floor at Caddo County Jail, about 60 miles southwest of Oklahoma City. An autopsy report from the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner in Oklahoma says Robinson died from asphyxiation caused by “manual compression of the neck.” The report classifies Robinson’s death as a homicide. The report also says Robinson became violent and agitated, and that jailers placed him in a neck hold to subdue him. At press time, there were no charges filed against the jail’s officers.

Virginia

Democratic Vice Presidential nominee Tim Kaine and his wife, Anne Holton, were married at St. Elizabeth’s RCC in Richmond in 1984 and have been parishioners there ever since. According to The Root, the church is considered a “Black church.” The couple has been parishioners of St. Elizabeth’s Roman Catholic Church in what is described as a “poor predominantly Black working-class neighborhood …” since the early 1980s, writes the media source. Kaine has been a practicing Catholic for his entire life. Kaine also sings in the choir.

Compiled by Carol Ozemhoya.