An employee at a lingerie store has been fired after reportedly telling two Black women to leave. Kimberly Houzah was shopping at a Victoria’s Secret in Oxford on Dec. 7, when she and another Black woman were asked to leave, according to a Facebook Live video she posted. Houzah said a third Black woman, who she did not know, had been caught shoplifting, and store management then turned their attention on her. “[The employee] didn’t check my bag, she didn’t accuse me of stealing, but because another Black person happened to get caught stealing, we gotta be affiliated,” Houzah said in the 10-minute-long video. The video has been viewed nearly 1 million times and prompted a response from the lingerie company, which said the employee who asked the women to leave has now been fired. “Victoria’s Secret is adamant that all customers regardless of race be treated with dignity and respect at all times,” the company said in a statement.
Hayma “Screech” Washington has been elected as chairman and CEO of the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, also known as the Television Academy. Washington is the first African American to hold the position of CEO in the organization’s 70 years of existence. Founded in 1946, this professional honorary organization is dedicated to the advancement of the television industry in the United States. The group presents the Emmy Awards each year, the ceremony that honors achievement in U.S. primetime television. Washington is a former Walt Disney Co. executive who has won seven Emmys as an executive producer for “The Amazing Race.” His works include sports programs, awards and music shows, which he produces and directs through his own company. “This is a time of considerable change for our industry and I am deeply committed to ensuring that the academy is at the forefront as we move toward a more inclusive future,” Washington said.
Candice Bridge, Ph.D., the University of Central Florida’s first Black female chemistry instructor, just received a prestigious grant to study rape-investigation methods. According to Atlanta’s Black Star news, Dr. Bridge received $324,000 from the National Institute of Justice to review methods for catching suspects of sexual-assault crimes outside of DNA evidence. The grant will give Bridge access to exclusive tools utilized by the FBI and government laboratories. “This grant will enable us to conduct research into a unique new means of identifying perpetrators of sexual assault when traditional DNA evidence doesn’t exist. It’s a line of research that has become even more important as rapists attempt to elude capture by covering their DNA tracks after an assault.” UCF also granted Bridge an award which will allow her to study the ways the body breaks down lubricants before forensic investigations can occur; it also says that she will create a website through the Orlando Public Defender’s Office that will give defense lawyers and prosecutors more information on forensic science analysis.
A north Florida movie studio that produced silent-era films catering to an African-American audience has been designated a national historic landmark. Florida Secretary of State Ken Detzne said that Norman Film Studios in Jacksonville has been given the honor. The studio is now owned by the city of Jacksonville, which is working to partially restore the location. The studio’s late owner, Richard Norman, was among the first filmmakers to produce movies that catered to African Americans in the 1920s. The silent-era movies often starred African American actors in positive, professional fim roles, such as lawyers and pilots. The National Historic Landmark program honors places that are nationally significant or historic.
Shirley Caesar, best known these days for a 2010 sermon spawning the “U Name It Challenge,” is behind an injuction filed for by her attorney, who says the posting is the unauthorized use of her sermon and song. CBS 46 Atlanta reports Caesar, a Grammy-award winning gospel artist and preacher, says the video in question was posted by Atlanta DJ Suede (born Keenan Webb), in November, after the #UNameItChallenge went viral. The judge in the case decided that the video, which has been viewed almost 4 million times and placed on iTunes, “violates the brand, image and name of a Christian pastor [Caesar],” especially because of its depiction of alcohol. Late Dec. 9, Caesar and her attorneys filed for a contempt charge against Webb, Jullian Boothe and Empire Distribution, after they failed to take the video down. The outlet also reports that Judge Glenda Hatchett alleges the song jeopardized a deal her client, Caesar, was working on with rapper Snoop Dogg. They said the proceeds from that deal would have gone to help the hungry. Snoop’s version is clean.
An unarmed Black driver struggled with an Iowa officer and a police dog before the officer shot the motorist as he tried to get away in his pickup truck, paralyzing the driver. Dashcam video released Dec. 8 shows Jerime Mitchell managed to get back inside the vehicle with officer Lucas Jones clinging to his body by the open driver’s side door. The video shows Jones shooting Mitchell at close range after the truck starts to roll. The video seems unlikely to resolve a debate over whether the Cedar Rapids policeman acted appropriately during the Nov. 1 shooting of the 37-year-old Mitchell. A Linn County grand jury decided Dec. 5 not to indict Jones. County Attorney Jerry Vander Sanden said the video shows that Mitchell resisted Jones, and the officer fired in self-defense. Mitchell disputes that account, arguing that the officer was the aggressor. His supporters have blasted the prosecutor for ending the secret grand jury inquiry without obtaining any statement or testimony from Mitchell, who is hospitalized with a bullet lodged in his neck and unable to move most of his body. After keeping the dashcam video from the public during the investigation, the Cedar Rapids Police Department Poice Department released it to news media Dec. 8.
Roseville School Board Vice President Alfredo Francesconi has generated outrage in the Detroit area because of offensive Facebook posts. The posts were not written by Francesconi himself but were shared by him and described all Muslims as terrorists and claiming that Black people didn’t vote in the election, according to The Griot. He claimed that he only shared the posts because he agreed with the content. But these posts are not the first time that Francesconi has found himself in trouble for his social media use. He has been accused of making racist Facebook posts before, with one post reportedly reading, “No I’m not going to kill the gays, make slavery legal, and take away women’s rights. I’m not a Muslim.” On Dec. 5, residents of Roseville held a protest outside the school board meeting, calling for Francesconi’s ouster or resignation
New York firefighter Jason Stokes pleaded not guilty to arson charges earlier this week, after being accused of setting fire to his own home. On Dec. 6, the county district attorney announced that Stokes was not only being charged for burning down his Endicott home, but for also trying to pin the blame on the Black Lives Matter protest movement. According to Raw Story, Stokes’ wife and children were upstairs sleeping on the night of the August 2015 incident, when he supposedly set the fire, complete with a series of rigged “booby traps” like cans filled with flammable objects and gasoline. The words “Lie with pigs, fry like bacon,” were found written on the house. Stokes’ family escaped the house unharmed and no other injuries were reported. He remains in jail on a $10,000 bond.
Some may be surprised at the organizations that joined the Sioux Tribe at the Standing Rock reservation to stop a pipeline from running through sacred burial grounds. The line would also have reportedly impacted the area’s water supply. In addition to a variety of tribes, military veterans and actress Jane Fonda, and the Hip Hop caucus (HHC) stood in solidarity with peaceful protestors at Standing Rock and also released a music video, “Stand Up/Stand ’N Rock” with Taboo of the Black Eyed Peas. The clip also features Native American rappers Drezus and Supaman. To watch the “Stand Up/Stand ’N Rock” video, visit PeoplesClimateMusic.com.
A collaborative of organizations and institutions has launched a small business lending program to help African-American and minority businesses create and maintain jobs for residents and build community wealth. With a focus on bringing capital to underserved groups, the National Urban League’s Urban Empowerment Fund (NUL-UEF), Morgan Stanley, National Development Council (NDC) Urban League of Greater Cleveland (ULGC), and Cuyahoga County have come together to offer the Capital Access Fund of Greater Cleveland (CAF). The fund is a three-year program that provides minority business owners with access to capital, offering 50 loans totaling $8 million, as well as pre- and post-loan counseling to ensure the success of those small business borrowers. With a goal of creating or maintaining a minimum of 300 jobs within those three years, CAF already has completed eight loans totaling $1.4 million which has helped create or maintain 70 local (Cleveland) jobs.
A teenager who recorded a video of a Black student eating chicken wings, and who made racist commentary during the video, could face criminal charges. Northampton County District Attorney John Morganelli said that he is considering ethnic intimidation and harassment charges against the 14-year-old Saucon Valley High School student who recorded the video. In the video, the student recorded a 16-year-old Black teen eating chicken wings, with commentary from the 14-year-old student claiming that the Black teen was “broke and on welfare.” The student also used the N-word in referring to the older boy. Morganelli said that after seeing the “reprehensible” and “repulsive” video, the Black student attacked the White student at a football game. The Black student is now facing charges of assault along with other charges.
Dorsey Montgomery, the foreman who also was the lone person of color on Michael Slager‘s trial jury, told “The Today Show” on Dec. 8 that most jurors saw “no malicious intent” in Slager’s fatal shooting of Walter Scott, an unarmed Black man. The trial concluded on Dec. 5 in a mistrial after jurors failed to come to a unanimous decision between convicting Slager of murder or manslaughter beyond a reasonable doubt. During his interview with Matt Lauer and Tamron Hall, Montgomery revealed he initially was set on the murder charge, but after further review of evidence and the defense’s claim that Slager was operating in self-defense, he decided otherwise. “After we looked at the evidence and read the laws, and looked at the things that were presented to us by the judge, we had to come to find out that he didn’t do anything malicious . . . so based on the law, that would be classified as manslaughter, involuntary manslaughter,” Montgomery said.
Several Black employees are filing a classaction lawsuit against CNN and its parent company, Time Warner, claiming that they experienced discrimination in the workplace as well as retaliation for speaking out about it. Attorney Daniel Meachum specifically pointed to lead plaintiff DeWayne Walker’s story of discrimination and retaliation while noting that a list of those involved in the suit would be made available, saying, “As a result of the current discrimination lawsuit filed on behalf of DeWayne Walker vs. CNN, Time Warner and Ted Turner, we have uncovered stories involving abuse of power, nepotism, revenge, retaliation and discrimination.” This is not the first time Walker has sued CNN; he filed suit in January claiming that he had been consistently passed over for promotions that were given instead to White co-workers. Walker claimed that he was targeted for retaliation, after he complained to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission about being passed over. According to Rodney Ho of the Atlanta Journal Constitution, three other employees have filed suit against CNN: Stanley Wilson for wrongful termination, Ricky Blalock for racial discrimination, and Omar Butcher for both racial and religious discrimination.