Across Black America week of Nov. 10, 2016.

District of Columbia

The White House hosted a Princess Party on Oct. 7 for 115 Black girls to celebrate literacy and Black excellence. The event, which was led by 6-year-old Jordan West, author of “Princess for a Day,” was held at the Department of Education and was organized by the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for African Americans. During the party, West read her book, which fit the princess theme, and which the Education Post reported as an “empowering story of a young Black girl who wanted to throw a party for girls who are homeless or are in the foster care system to ensure that they too, feel like princesses. One of the main lessons that emerged was that young girls of color from marginalized communities can make a difference right now and can recognize their potential to be the change they want to see.” The girls also wrote phrases like “I am smart” and “I am a queen” on coloring paper to help reinforce the positive message being shared. First Lady Michelle Obama also addressed the girls.


Republican Gov. Nathan Deal went after opponents of an education ballot measure known as Amendment 1 in a speech last month, saying if they wanted to help “colored people,” this measure was a good place to start. “The irony of some of the groups who are opposing doing something to help these minority children is beyond my logic. If you want to advance the state of colored people, start with their children,” Deal said in an Oct. 3 speech, Fox 5 in Atlanta reported. Amendment 1, a constitutional amendment proposed by Deal, would allow the state to take over “chronically failing public schools” and put them in a new state-run district. Critics, including the NAACP, teachers and dozens of school boards, say that other states that have tried this approach, found it has not helped failing schools.


A 25-year-old Indianapolis man, who was in Chicago for his cousin’s funeral, was killed Saturday (Nov. 5) afternoon by an off-duty police officer in the city’s predominantly Irish-Catholic Mount Greenwood neighborhood, according to reports. Joshua Beal’s name was trending on social media Sunday morning with a ubiquitous hashtag in front of it, yet another Black man killed by police. Officials say that the officer was “fired upon and returned fire,” but Beal’s family disputes this report. According to ABC7, police say the shooting occurred after a vehicle leaving funeral services at a nearby cemetery stopped in traffic in front of a Chicago firehouse. An off-duty firefighter told the driver that they were illegally blocking the fire lane. The occupants exited the vehicle and a verbal/physical altercation ensured, police said. An off-duty Chicago police officer was inside a nearby business and came to “assist” the firefighter. Another Chicago police officer—a sergeant—who was driving to work reportedly stopped when he observed a man with a firearm in his hands. After the man “failed to drop his weapon, shots were fired striking the individual multiple times,” police said. The sergeant was the shooter. The incident is under investigation.


A Black candidate for Linn County Sheriff found one of his campaign signs was defaced with white graffiti reading “KKK.” Democratic candidate LeRoy McConico told The Kansas City Star that he’d noticed some of the signs he placed throughout the county had been tampered with, but the Ku Klux Klan lettering was the most severe offense. “There’s some people that just got some dark hearts,” he told the local news outlet. “They saw an opportunity to do something in the dark.” Current county Sheriff Paul Filla, who’s also running for office, told KCTV that he’s disappointed that this happened to his opponent and that his office is investigating the incident.


A Baltimore man was sentenced on Nov. 3 to pay $1 million in restitution for puncturing a fire hose at a burning drugstore during rioting last year, federal authorities said. Gregory Butler Jr., 22, was also sentenced by a federal judge to 250 hours of community service and three years of supervised release for obstructing firefighters at a CVS Health Corp pharmacy, the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Baltimore said in a statement. The drugstore was set afire in April 2015 during unrest after the funeral of Freddie Gray, a Black man who died from an injury suffered while in police custody. His death heightened a U.S. debate on police treatment of minorities. Butler had admitted to twice puncturing the hose with a knife. The incident was caught on video and the burning pharmacy became a symbol of the unrest in the largely African-American city. U.S. District Judge J. Frederick Motz ordered Butler to pay $100 a month during his supervised release. Failure to pay could be a violation of his release, a spokeswoman for U.S. Attorney Rod Rosenstein said in an email.


Hopewell Missionary Baptist Church, a historically Black church in Greenville built more than 100 years ago, was set on fire and vandalized on the night of Nov. 1. with the words “Vote Trump” written on the right side of the church with spray paint. None of the church’s 200 members were in the building at the time of the fire. No injuries were reported. Mayor Errick D. Simmons, the first Black man to be elected mayor of Greenville, said the city’s fire department sent four units to the scene after a 9-1-1 call was received at 9:15 p.m. He said they discovered the church “fully engulfed in flames.” Fire Chief Ruben Brown Sr. said the fire was extinguished in about 12 minutes, “but it took an additional hour-and-a-half to do salvage and overhaul and also to extinguish hot spots. Brown also said the heavy fire and smoke damage is primarily in the sanctuary of the church, and he confirmed that the fire was intentionally set.


A mother in St. Louis is demanding answers after a local news station showed her a photo of a police officer with the thumbs up over her dead son’s body. Kim Staton learned her 28-year-old son Omar Raham was found dead in his Pine Lawn home on Aug. 8. The medical examiner ruled Raham’s death an accidental drug overdose, according to KMOV-TV, but Staton says she has not heard from police since his death that day. “I really don’t know, actually, what happened to my son,” Staton said to the station. The photo showed Stanton a blurred cop’s face as he bent down, smirking next to Raham’s body, also blurred. The unidentified cop of the North County Police Cooperative was also signaling a thumbs up to the camera. Staton’s attorney Antonio Romanucci calls it “hideous.” North County Police Cooperative Chief Tim Swope said the department was conducting an investigation, but declined to see the photo of his officer and the body.

North Carolina

County election boards must restore the registrations of voters removed from the polls, U.S. District Judge Loretta Biggs ordered on Friday. The order follows an emergency hearing held on Nov. 2 to address allegations that election officials in Beaufort, Moore and Cumberland counties removed voters from the rolls due to campaign mailers that were returned as undeliverable. The North Carolina NAACP sued the state on Oct.31, claiming the purge targeted Black voters. The Justice Department submitted a statement of interest in the lawsuit on the same day supporting the assertion that removing voters from the rolls en masse is a violation of the National Voter Registration Act. Rev. William Barber, the president of the NC NAACP, said the court ruled against what it called “surgical, intentional racism.” “Racism is about policy,” Barber said on a call with reporters. “It’s not just about feelings, it’s not just about language. It’s when you use your power or attempt to use your power to undermine the rights of people and you target it toward African Americans.” The civil rights group argued that these cancellations were an attempt by the Republican Party to suppress the Black vote. “What they’re doing is race-driven. It’s immoral, illegal and it is unconstitutional. The courts have spoken,” Barber said. “We’ve not seen this kind of intentional suppression since the days of Jim Crow.”


An 8-year-old Black girl has caught the eye of administrators at the University of North Texas and won a $10,000 scholarship to the school. Jordin Phipps got the scholarship and early admittance because of a motivational video she was in. Her mother, Nicole Smith, who is a North Texas University alum, took the video of her daughter reciting her class’ motivational catch phrase while wearing a university t-shirt. “I am smart; I am a leader. Failure is not an option for me,” Jordin confidently states in the video. “Success is only moments away … I have the attitude of a North Texas Eagle.”


Hampton University leaders are concerned that their campus is being threatened by a Virginia Department of Transportation plan to widen Interstate 64 leading into the Hampton Roads Bridge Tunnel (HRBT). According to ABC News, VDOT officials recently met with university leaders to let them know that they may need to acquire some of the school’s land as part of the proposed I-64 widening near the HRBT and part of that land includes Strawberry Banks, and the iconic Emancipation Oak. The historic tree stands near the entrance of the Hampton University campus. According to Hampton’s website, the young oak served as the first classroom for newly freed men and women, also known as “contraband” of Union soldiers during the Civil War. In 1863, under limbs sprawling over a hundred feet in diameter, members of the Virginia Peninsula’s Black community gathered to hear the first Southern reading of President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation.

Compiled by Carol Ozemhoya.