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California

San Francisco 49ers owner Jed York pledged $1 million to improve racial and economic inequality and building a stronger relationship between law enforcement authorities and the communities they serve, according to news sources. York announced the donation Sept. 8, following quarterback Colin Kaepernick’s pledge to give $1 million to help underserved communities. Kaepernick announced his pledge last week after he refused to stand for the national anthem to protest racial oppression and police brutality in the United States. York said the team will partner with the Silicon Valley Community Foundation and the San Francisco Foundation in this effort. He says both organizations have “proven track records” of affecting change.


Black Lives Matter, which two years ago grew out of street protests and a social-media hashtag, has quietly established a legal partnership with a California charity in a sign of the movement’s growth and expanding ambition, reports the Associated Press. The formal relationship is between the national Black Lives Matter network and the San Francisco-based International Development Exchange. Since November, the nonprofit charity also known as IDEX has been acting as a mostly unseen financial arm of Black Lives Matter, with the ability to receive grants and tax-deductible donations on the group’s behalf. More recently, the relationship has evolved into a contractual partnership that will run through at least mid-2017. IDEX is managing the group’s financial affairs, allowing Black Lives Matter to focus on its mission, including building local chapters and experimenting with its organizational structure. The partnership connects the national protest movement, which has chapters in nearly 40 U.S. cities and several more abroad, with a small charity that has worked with the needy on several continents. IDEX collected about $2 million in contributions and grants in the year ending June 2015, according to federal tax records.


Known as one of the leading Black film festivals in the world, the Hollywood Black Film Festival (HBFF) will be back in 2017 after a brief hiatus. The upcoming edition will take place from Feb22-26 in Marina Del Rey. HBFF’s 2017 call for submissions is seeking features, shorts, student and documentary films, as well as web series. The festival is also accepting film submissions for the Film Diaspora sidebar competition, idea submissions for Project Stargazer and scripts for the Storyteller Competition. HBFF accepts film submissions from all filmmakers; however, to be eligible for the festival’s competitive program, one of the film’s creative principals, i.e. the writer, director or producer must be Black or of African heritage. Submission rules and regulations as well as complete information regarding eligibility for the 2017 festival are now available at http://www.hbff.org/submit. Questions regarding submissions may be directed to programming@hbff.org, storyteller@hbff.org, projectstargazer@hbff.org or by calling (844) 560-HBFF. For general festival information: info@hbff.org. The deadline to submit is Nov. 1Visit the official festival website at http://www.hbff.org.

District of Columbia

The family of Marcus Garvey is seeking support from the public for a petition to secure a posthumous presidential pardon of the civil rights pioneer. At least 100,000 signatures of support are needed by Sept. 28 via the White House’s “We the People” platform to trigger President Barack Obama’s administration’s response to a request for the pardon of Garvey, who was indicted for mail fraud by a U.S. court in 1923. Recognized as a forefather of the Civil Rights Movement by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X and numerous scholars, Garvey advocated for the development of economic opportunity as a source of Black empowerment, launched the Black Star Line fleet and founded the Universal Negro Improvement Association and African Communities League (UNIA-ACL). At its height, the UNIA had 6 million members in 40 countries. The subject of a politically motivated investigation by the FBI, Garvey was indicted for mail fraud in 1923 and sentenced to five years in federal prison. While President Calvin Coolidge commuted the sentence in November 1927, Garvey was deported back to his home country of Jamaica, effectively ending his movement for racial justice in the U.S.A. A request for a presidential pardon petition urging reconsideration of Garvey’s unjust arrest, trial and incarceration was filed with the Justice Department on June 24. Supporters of the pardon request can add their signature before Sept. 28 at https://wh.gov/iLvaQ and share using #justice4garvey. Learn more at www.justice4garvey.org.

Illinois

A group of Chicago artists are speaking out against the routine violence in their community. So Chi Voices creates music which its members hope will help to call attention to the alarmingly high murder rate in Chicago. Over Labor Day weekend, 13 people were killed and 65 people were shot. The long, bloody weekend wasn’t an isolated occurrence. August marked the deadliest month in nearly 20 years in the city with at least 90 homicides. Community members, including So Chi Voices, say that despite the violence, they’re being ignored by local authorities, which is why the collective is so important in helping them to lift their voices. “Chicago-based So Chi Voices is a musical movement,” co-founder Julie Nichols said in a statement to the Huffington Post. “[We’re] a collective of artists committed to uplifting our community through music. Our mission is to introduce progressive change and positivity to the community, turning pain into purpose.”

Michigan

The Supreme Court on Sept. 9 denied an emergency request from Michigan to reinstate a ban on “straight-ticket” voting, a mechanism that allows people to vote for every candidate in a party’s ticket by marking a single box on a ballot. The court’s order indicates that at least two justices, Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito, would’ve allowed the ban to go into effect. This development can be seen as a victory for voting rights advocates, who have argued that restricting straight-ticket voting would exacerbate wait times and create confusion at the polls with the likely result that many Michigan residents, especially Black voters, would not get a chance to vote at all. In a statement, Republican Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette defended the straight-ticket ban but accepted the high court’s pronouncement. “It is my duty to defend Michigan’s laws, in this case a law that stands in 40 other states,” Schuette said. “Now the U.S. Supreme Court has spoken, and I will respect that decision.”


A 14-year-old Black teen, Tanorris T. Lee, has been charged as an adult for assault with intent to murder, as well as three firearm offenses after a 17-year-old was shot five times on Aug. 30. The victim sustained one gunshot wound to the neck and two to the chest before running home and then being transported to a local hospital in Old Town Saginaw. According to news sources, Lee was arraigned on the morning of Sept. 8 via video conferencing call and was brought before Judge Barbara L. Meter, who presides over the juvenile court. According to Chief Assistant Prosecutor Christopher Boyd, his office decided to charge Lee as an adult “based on his violent past and the fact that the victim in this case was shot multiple times.” Lee faces a maximum penalty of life in prison, without the possibility of parole. District Judge M. Randall Jurrens set bond at $1 million.

Mississippi

U.S. District Judge Carlton Reeves is no fan of the Confederate flag, and judging by his ruling on Sept. 8, he’s also pretty critical of the entire state of Mississippi. Reeves, a Black man and native Mississippian, ultimately dismissed a lawsuit that would have declared the Confederate battle emblem in his home state’s flag to be unconstitutional, saying there’s no part of the Constitution “which guarantees a legal right to be free from anxiety at State displays of historical racism,” reports the Huffington Post. Reeves also used the ruling to make his distaste for the flag (which he called “repulsive”) and Mississippi’s continued use of it abundantly clear. Reeves added,“Since the Civil War, this nation has evolved and breathed new life into ‘We the People’ and ‘all men are created equal’ but Mississippi is known for its resistance to that evolution. Part of that resistance stems from electing demagogues and those with empty rhetoric and false courage. The result is a state increasingly isolated from the rest of the nation.”

Missouri

A prominent activist who protested in the streets against police discrimination has been found dead in north St. Louis. The body of Darren Seals, 29, was discovered early Sept. 6 in a burning car, police said. He had suffered a gunshot wound. Seals was a factory line worker and hip hop musician. He was drawn to activism over the 2014 death of Michael Brown. Disturbed after seeing Brown’s body lying in the streets for hours after his death, he began to speak out in the media and help organize protests, becoming a leading voice within the movement. His work has been covered in national news outlets such as The Washington Post and Al Jazeera. Seals, who was also known as King, shared his own story of racial discrimination broadcasting a video on Facebook Live in which he claimed that Ferguson police drew guns on him and his younger brother. Police are investigating Seals’ death as a homicide.


A former police officer committed multiple criminal offenses and acts of “reckless disregard and moral turpitude” when he pointed a semi-automatic rifle at Ferguson protesters and said, “I will fucking kill you,” a state commission ruled recently, according to the Huffington Post. Lt. Ray Albers, who had worked as an officer in nearby St. Ann for two decades, was part of the chaotic police response to the unrest in Ferguson in August 2014. Officers from more than 50 different law enforcement agencies were brought in to deal with the protests after unarmed teen Michael Brown was killed. Albers’ misconduct was undeniable. A video of him raising his gun on Aug. 19, 2014, and threatening to “kill” individuals filming his actions went viral, and he was forced to resign from the St. Ann Police Department that month. When a livestreamer known as Rebelutionary Z asked for his name, Albers replied, “Go fuck yourself.” Now, Missouri’s Administrative Hearing Commission has ruled that Albers’ wrongdoing was sufficiently egregious that he can be disciplined by state authorities. The state Department of Public Safety has cause to discipline Albers for “committing the criminal offenses of assault and harassment” and for “committing an act while on duty involving reckless disregard and moral turpitude,” the commission ruled last month. The Administrative Hearing Commission has the power to find that a police officer can be penalized for crimes, even if criminal charges have not been filed.

Texas

Seventeen-year-old Vanae Wright and her friend Leilani Green were eating at a San Antonio Whataburger last week when sheriff’s deputies racially profiled and arrested them on trumped-up charges, the lawyer for one of the teens alleged Sept. 6 as video of the incident began to circulate online. Wright and her friends had bought food one evening and were about to sit down and eat, when deputies arrived, responding to reports of a fight in the restaurant parking lot, according to Vaughn Wright, Vanae’s father. Officers found nearly 100 people in the Whataburger parking lot, when they arrived, James Keith, a spokesman for the Bexar County Sheriff’s Office, told the Huffington Post. When some of the people in the parking lot ran into the restaurant, deputies followed. “When the kids ran in, I guess the police didn’t know who was who, and instead of them finding out, they just automatically attempted to clear the whole restaurant,” Vaughn said. A video shows Vanae sitting by herself in an empty corner of the restaurant, with BCSO Deputy Cynthia Hernandez standing next to her. Hernandez throws Vanae’s food on the floor and places her in handcuffs. The video also shows Green walking over with Vanae’s hat and trying to put it on her head before being arrested by a second officer. The sheriff’s department says the Whataburger manager asked everyone to leave the restaurant, and that Vanae Wright was ordered to leave but refused. She remained seated and was arrested for criminal trespassing, Keith said. Green was arrested after interfering with the arrest, Keith said.

But Daryl Washington, who is representing the Wright family, said the manager never asked everyone to leave the restaurant. Washington alleges that the officers singled out Wright and Green and unlawfully arrested them because they are Black.

Washington

A teenager was riding her bicycle through a mall parking lot, when an off-duty officer working for a private security company pulled her over, threw her to the ground and shocked her with a stun gun, reports the Associated Press. Caught on surveillance video, the 2014 encounter with the girl, who is Black, has drawn outrage. She initially was charged with assaulting an officer before the case was dropped. Now, she’s targeting his Washington state police department in a newly expanded lawsuit. The suit claims the Tacoma department’s policies lead officers to attack residents, including minors such as Monique Tillman, then 15, and violate their civil rights. Police supervisors routinely approve “abusive, excessive and unnecessary uses of force” and retain abusive officers, according to the expanded suit filed last week. The original claim targeted Officer Jared Williams, who is White, the mall’s owner and the security company. It grew to include the department, after it acknowledged that the officer acted within the scope of his police duties despite being paid by a private employer, said Tillman’s lawyer, Vito de la Cruz. The teen’s attorney said he believes the officer’s actions were racially motivated and that she now fears law enforcement. The lawsuit seeks unspecified damages and asks the court to order the department to limit the use of reasonable force and discipline officers who use excessive force.

West Virginia

Three Black college volleyball players at West Virginia Tech University showed their support of Colin Kaepernick’s act of defiance by kneeling as “The Star-Spangled Banner” played at the start of their game on Sept. 7. Keyona Morrow, who is the vice president of the university’s Black Student Union organization, said she and her teammates participated in the protest because they agree with Kaepernick’s stance in speaking out against the systemic oppression of Black people in America. “Everyone should be treated equally, no matter their color, age, sex, anything,” Morrow told WCHS news. “Everyone needs to be treated the same way.”

Compiled by Carol Ozemhoya.