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Alabama

Voter suppression is alive and well, and a case in Alabama’s Black Belt proves it, reports The Root. When the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency announced the closure of 31 driver’s license offices in 2015, a journalist in the state showed that the state’s “Black Belt”—the region of the state that takes its name first from the color of its soil as well as for the high concentration of (economically depressed) African Americans who live there—was especially hard hit. In fact, Alabama.com reports that of the 10 counties with the highest proportion of Blacks, the state closed driver’s license offices in eight. Journalist Kyle Whitmire reports that the closures came on the heels of Alabama requiring photo ID at the polls, a change the state enacted immediately after the Supreme Court gutted the Voting Rights Act in June 2013. This is significant because DMV offices are where most people can get the most common form of photo ID. After being sued by the NAACP last month, the United States Department of Transportation investigated and found “that African Americans residing in the Black Belt were disproportionately underserved by ALEA’s driver licensing services, causing a disparate and adverse impact on the basis of race.” Under an agreement struck between state and federal agencies, ALEA agreed to reopen and add more hours of service to the Black Belt offices. The Root says that many believe this is just one of many acts of suppression that Blacks in Southern states will continue to face moving forward, especially in light of the new administration and possibly a more conservative Supreme Court.

California

Colin Kaepernick took steps to give back in a new way by donating most of his massive shoe collection to Bay Area homeless shelters. Kaepernick had so many shoes that he was forced to convert his garage into a closet. But the San Francisco 49ers, quarterback didn’t just donate hundreds of pairs of shoes … he also donated clothing and books to shelters and orphanages at the end of the football season.

Georgia

Queen Latifah is in Atlanta, the so-called “Hollywood of the South,” to work on Lee Daniels’ new Fox series, “Star.” But apparently carjackers could care less about Latifah and her “star” status. All the south Fulton County thieves know is they saw an opportunity to do what they do: jump into a driver’s seat while someone was pumping gas and hightail it to somewhere else. According to Fox 5, Fulton County Police said another driver was driving Queen Latifah’s vehicle alone when someone stole her car. The incident happened last month at a Shell gas station on Fulton Industrial Boulevard. Police said the driver of the 2015 Mercedes Benz S63 was pumping gas when a white BMW pulled up beside him, then he heard the vehicle ignition start and saw Latifah’s vehicle speed off. Authorities then made contact with the owner of the vehicle, identified by Queen Latifah’s real name, Dana Owens. Police said Atlanta officers tracked down the vehicle to an apartment complex in Southwest Atlanta; security said they spotted three males near the vehicle, as well as a white BMW and a Dodge Charger (a similar vehicle was reported stolen in College Park). Police said in their report, Latifah inspected the recovered vehicle, and found lemonade and fruit punch bottles left behind by the thieves.

Illinois

Four young Black people—two males and two females—were charged with hate crimes last Thursday in connection with a video broadcast live on Facebook which showed a mentally disabled White man being beaten and taunted, threatened with a knife and forced to drink from a toilet. The assault went on for hours, until Chicago police found the disoriented victim walking along a street. The suspects, who were caught and jailed, can be heard on the video using profanities against White people and President-elect Donald Trump. Police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi said investigators initially concluded that the 18-year-old man was singled out because he has “special needs,” not because he was White. But authorities later said the charges resulted from both the suspects’ use of racial slurs and their references to the victim’s disability. It’s also possible that the suspects were trying to extort something from the victim’s family, police said. The man’s parents reported their son missing Monday and told authorities they later received text messages from people who claimed to be holding him captive. The victim was a classmate of one of the attackers and initially went with that person voluntarily, police said. In addition to hate crimes, the four were charged with kidnapping, aggravated battery and aggravated unlawful restraint. Three were also charged with burglary.

Indiana

The 29th annual National Council on Educating Black Children will be held April 15-17 in Indianapolis at the Hyatt Regency on Capitol Avenue. The convention objectives are to introduce, showcase and provide access to: proven programs, materials and strategies throughout the country that are successfully increasing African American male achievement and development. Attendees and speakers will include Rep. Robert C. “Bobby” Scott from Virginia, Stedman Graham and world-renowned education professor, Linda Darling-Hammond, considered the leading voice for equity and social justice in schools in America. More info and registration info at: http://ncebc.org.

Nevada

Embattled singer Chris Brown and former “Love and Hip Hop L.A.” character Soulja Boy are taking their online beef into the boxing ring in Las Vegas in March. Soulja Boy revealed on Instagram last week that boxer Floyd Mayweather is training him for the fight, and 50 Cent followed that up with a post confirming that Mike Tyson will be training Brown, and Tyson can be heard on the phone using the n-word. Soulja Boy has also put up a video promoting the fight on social media this evening, and on Sunday, he posted a cartoon of himself in a boxing ring with Brown knocked out. Brown also confirmed the bout on Instagram and posted a somewhat self-deprecating video about it on Sunday morning. This beef allegedly started over a woman. Soulja Boy supposedly liked and commented on an Instagram picture posted by Brown’s ex-girlfriend, Karrueche Tran, and it all went on from there. Mayweather will also be promoting the three-round bout through his The Money Team Productions. The fight will reportedly be televised in March from Las Vegas.

New York

Alaila-Lee Lawrence, a young entrepreneur from New York City, has created Sorrel Drinkable Lightbulbs—all-natural, refreshing drinks that come in bottles that are literally shaped like lightbulbs. Sold exclusively through her company, Clovesz, the drink is made of sorrel—a hibiscus red flower that grows in Jamaica that is high in iron, Vitamin A, Vitamin C and potassium, and thus can reportedly help people with high blood pressure, low energy and weak immune systems. The lightbulb container idea comes from Lawrence’s goal to get closer to reaching her true purpose of spreading love, health and “brighter futures.” In addition to the sorrel, the all-natural drink also contains natural spices and comes from a Jamaican family recipe. It is brewed, bottled and sold through restaurants and markets in the Long Island and Brooklyn areas. The single mom, just 21, built her brand singlehandedly, including the brewing, bottling, designing, labeling and marketing of the product. For more details, visit www.clovesz.com.

Ohio

Ohio Gov. John Kasich (R) on Jan. 4 signed a bill reining in law enforcement’s power to permanently seize property from people who have not been convicted of a crime, and in many cases have not even been charged with one. The bill, HB 347, addresses the controversial practice known as civil asset forfeiture. Police say they use the tool to target the financial proceeds of criminal enterprises, because it allows officers to confiscate cash and property from individuals whom they suspect of being involved in illegal activity, even when officers may not have clear evidence of the supposed crime. But critics say the broad application of civil forfeiture has made it ripe for abuse, and has given rise to a system of policing for profit that lets departments pad their budgets with assets seized from innocent civilians. The new law, set to go into effect early this year, will take care of a number of key concerns about civil forfeiture in Ohio. Owners are often left to fight costly legal battles in which they must effectively prove their innocence in order to reclaim their property, thereby inverting the American legal principle of “innocent until proven guilty.” Although the new law does not prohibit initial seizures of cash or property under $15,000, supporters believe the legislation will discourage police from haphazardly seizing property without evidence that it is actually involved in a criminal enterprise.

Texas

A Texas city violated the Voting Rights Act and the 14th Amendment by purposefully trying to dilute Latino votes, a U.S. district judge ruled Jan. 6. Pasadena will become the first jurisdiction to have to clear changes to its election laws with the Department of Justice since the Supreme Court’s 2013 Shelby County v. Holder ruling, according to the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, which brought the Texas lawsuit, reports the Huffingto Post. The 2013 Supreme Court ruling freed states with a history of voter discrimination from having to get DOJ approval to change election laws. Following the decision, scores of states and localities rushed to pass voter ID and other measures that voting rights advocates say disenfranchise minorities.The Texas lawsuit, filed on behalf of Latino voters in Pasadena, accused Mayor Johnny Isbell and members of the City Council of manipulating the districting system in order to keep Latinos from gaining seats on the council. It’s not yet clear whether the city will appeal.

National

Senate Democrats are already preparing to fight against a “Muslim registry,” if President-elect Donald Trump makes good on his campaign promise to create one. According to the Washington Post, Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) is preparing to introduce a bill to battle the registry, with Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders, Brian Schatz, Patty Murray, Jeff Merkley, Ed Markey and Mazie Hirono as co-sponsors. “Our legislation would block Donald Trump and subsequent administrations from infringing on religious liberty by creating an immigration-related religious registry,” Booker told the Post. “Forcing people to sign up for a registry based on their religion, race or national origin does nothing to keep America secure.” Booker went on to say that he knew introducing the legislation would be a long shot because of Republican majorities in both houses, but he felt it needed to be done and added that he hoped the bill would find bipartisan support. Freedom of religion, he argued, should find support on both sides of the aisle, after all. “While I know that this effort faces difficult prospects in a Republican-dominated Congress, this is an issue of fundamental American values, freedom of religion, and nondiscrimination,” Booker said. “It’s important that we make a stand.”